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Influential Punks Flipper Reuniting with Jesus Lizard Singer

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Flipper back in the '80s. (L to R) Ted Falconi, Will Shatter, Bruce Loose, Stephen DePace (Photo by Edward Colver/Courtesy of Flipper)

San Francisco punk band Flipper, once described by Henry Rollins as being “heavier than anything,” announced Friday that they will reunite for a series of shows this fall with a new singer: former Jesus Lizard frontman David Yow.

The band will tour Italy in November with Yow, and will possibly play shows in San Francisco and Los Angeles with this lineup around the same time, according to drummer Stephen DePace.

Started in 1979 by former members of local punk band Negative Trend, Flipper became the scourge of the early ’80s punk scene, refusing to follow the pack of fast-and-violent hardcore bands of the day. Instead, the band made its reputation as being the band punks loved to hate by playing long, slow dirges that were driven by bass riffs, DePace’s plodding drums and Ted Falconi’s out-of-control guitar sound. Their sound would influence bands like Nirvana and the Melvins, and they would later be referred to as the godfathers of grunge music.

The band broke up in 1987 after bassist Will Shatter died of a drug overdose, but reunited in 1990 with new bassist John Dougherty just as grunge was about to break into the mainstream. Two years later they were signed to Def American Records by founder and massive Flipper fan Rick Rubin; around the same time Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain would be photographed wearing a homemade Flipper t-shirt, sparking a renewed interest in the band.

The band released their comeback album American Graffishy in 1993, but a car accident the following year broke singer Bruce “Loose” Calderwood’s back, forcing the band to abruptly end. In 2005, the band reunited again with longtime backup bassist Bruno DeSmartass — DePace says Dougherty died of a drug overdose in 1995 — and played several high profile shows before DeSmartass dropped out and was replaced by Nirvana bassist Krist Novoselic. Flipper would go onto to record two albums with Novoselic: 2009’s Love and the live album Fight.


Thanks to spinal surgery, Calderwood had been able to keep up with the band’s taxing tour schedule around that time, but another back injury in late 2009 made playing regularly difficult again.

DePace says that a promoter in Italy reached out to the group earlier this year about playing three shows there in November, but Calderwood’s back issues were impossible for the singer to overcome. Unable to give up on the idea, DePace says inspiration struck early this month when at a Chrome show in Los Angeles, Yow joined the legendary San Francisco group for a song.

“Then I saw David Yow with Chrome, and I was like, ‘Maybe I could ask him to do it?'” DePace says. “He was really into it; he said he was honored to be asked.”

Now a working actor and painter, Yow spent many years fronting seminal post-punk bands Scratch Acid and the Jesus Lizard, who garnered reputation as a mammoth live band, due in part to Yow’s nonstop stage-diving. (Watch Jesus Lizard perform “Monkey Trick” at CBGB’s in 1992 on YouTube.)

The band will begin rehearsing in August without Yow, who lives in L.A., according to DePace. The full band should be practicing by September.

Below is the band’s official statement about Calderwood leaving the band and Yow replacing him:

Bruce Loose is retired from Flipper! He has suffered from a broken back since 1994. It has gotten to the point now where Bruce finds it impossible to continue with performing and touring.

We want to thank Bruce for being part of what was a hell of a run from 1979 to now!

With all the ups and downs and craziness that is all part of the punk rock package we managed to make “music history” with this band. For that and all the fun we had, we are eternally grateful.

Bruce is moving on to do solo projects and Ted Falconi along with Steve DePace are going to carry on with long time 5th Flipper, Bruno DeSmartass on bass and we will be performing 3 shows in Italy with David Yow, formerly of Scratch Acid and The Jesus Lizard.

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