Wild Kingdom’s Baby Steps: The Chris Bell Interview

The birth of a band is often a murky affair. Basic differences over direction or status often end with original members quickly becoming ex-members (e.g., Best, Pete, or King, Stu-Boy). Manitoba’s Wild Kingdom was no exception. There were two-plus years spent honing their sound as plain old “Wild Kingdom,” and three different players pre-dated Ross the Boss as the guitar slinger.

Here’s our recent e-mail discussion with Chris Bell, who was the Day One guitarist for Wild Kingdom. Along with Andy Shernoff and Johnny Thunders, Chris is another proud product of Jackson Heights in Queens, NY, and was kind enough to share his memories of the band’s earliest days.

How did Andy and Manitoba know you? Had you been in other NYC bands?

I completely owe my introduction to the Dictators to an old friend named Marc Seligman. In the early ’80s he played with New York new wave band called the Cyclones, who released a single produced by Andy Shernoff. When he casually said, “It was produced by Andy Shernoff from the Dictators,” he was surprised I had never heard of them! Anyway, long story short, he lent me “Bloodbrothers,” and the Dictators became my absolute favorite band for those next five or so years.

Fast-forward to 1986-ish: I was in a band with Marc called Inner Rage, and we were interested in putting out a single as well. We bandied producer names about, and I immediately cast my vote for Andy, because I thought it would be awesome to work with my hero.

Andy came down and hung around a few practices, and gave me some fantastic advice about how to play certain parts. He truly was a musician’s musician. Sad to say, the production gig fell through, and we ended up recording the single with no notable producer. My hopes were dashed, but I was happy to get to know Andy as a fellow musician as opposed to just a fan.

Tell us about how Andy offered you the job.

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Filed under Interview, MWK

It’s Shatner’s World. We All Just Live in It.


Dr. Demento has always been way up there on the list of people I wanted to punch. I love the silly as much as the next guy (and there’s 8 years of that in this blog’s archives), but there’s a proverbial fine line between clever and stupid, and he never seemed to know where that line was.

In the classic sense of the blind dog finding a bone, Dr. D’s latest CD of reinterpretations of punk classics is ridiculous fun, and in one fell swoop almost absolves the good doctor for inflicting Weird Al on the world.

The highlight of the CD is the tease track of William Shatner’s version of the Cramps’ “Garbageman,” and it features Dictators NYC alumnus Dean Rispler (AKA the only man in NYC rock history with hair as epic as original Cramps guitarist Bryan Gregory) on guitar.

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Filed under Cool covers, Tomfoolery

20 Years a Dictator!!

December 6 marked the 20-year anniversary of JP “Thunderbolt” Patterson’s first official appearance as a Dictator. His first show ever was at the El N Gee Club in New London, CT. While he checks his pension plan for loopholes, let’s start the collection for his 25th anny rocking chair!

Set list from 12/6/97:


— Salvi C.


Filed under PSA, Thunderbolt

Happy Birthday to Us!!

This here blog of ours turns 8 this week. We’re very proud of our little piece of the Interweb, and much like our role model Keef, we plan on living forever. This will always be the go-to for all things Dictators.

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Crudd. TOTAL Crudd.

Ugly Things 46

I know what you’ve been thinking. “Hey, those knuckleheads over at the DFFD Blog haven’t had much to say lately. Where they been at?” Well, here’s the reason for the long gap between posts. I spent almost a year tracking down the remaining members of Total Crudd, which was RTB’s band prior to joining the Dictators. A dozen interviews with seven members took a while to assemble, but the end result was worth the effort. The story will appear in Ugly Things #46, which will be available later this month. Expect lots of nonsense about epic parties, illegal substances, and a monkey.

If that isn’t enough to entice you, here’s Ross with fellow TC alumnus (and first Dictators drummer) Jim Sugarman from their fourth-grade class picture. (That’s Ross in the glasses.) This kinda stuff is website GOLD. Here also is a story from Jim that didn’t make the cut for the final article:

Here’s the story about Ross’s white guitar. My brother (6 years older than us) bought himself a white Gibson SG and a Fender Vibrolux amp. After a while he decided to go to college overseas, needed money, and sold both to Ross for around $300. You can imagine how he’s kicking himself today.

One of the first times Ross used the guitar, maybe 7th grade, was when we were rehearsing in the neighborhood youth center. We did a blistering version of “Spoonful,” improvising our own solos and generally going nuts. At the end of the song, in marched in the local band that consisted of the neighborhood thugs. Their guitarist went up to Ross and says, “I bet you think you’re hot sh*t!” and started pushing and punching him. Ross calmly put his guitar down someplace safe and proceeded to kick his a**.”

— Salvi C.

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Filed under Interview, Ross the Boss

There’s No Crazy Like Girl Crazy

There’s been a highly entertaining argument going on between the idealists and realists over the Dictators NYC’s first-ever performance of the full “Go Girl Crazy” album, which took place on Dec. 28 at Berlin in NYC.

The Idealists: That album was iconic, and such a personal thing for the original members that only those who made it should be the one who get to commemorate it. Anything less is bad karma. Unless the GGC lineup finds a way to suspend their purse-swinging long enough to play a celebratory gig, I shan’t be attending.

The Realists: Really, Dude? Are you new here? THIS is where you draw the karma line? These guys weren’t even done making this LP before they started their 40 Year Hissy Fit. I agree that this album deserves a gig that’s higher profile than a Wednesday night on short notice in a club approximately the size of my laundry hamper, but you honestly think the GGC lineup is going to make nice-nice long enough to play? The Brewers will win the World Series before that happens. I’ll tell you what–you stay home and polish your monocle. Me, I wanna hear them tackle “Back To Africa!”

This writer was unable to attend the show due to the threat of icy roads, but all my field reports were that the night was a total blast for all involved. Keith Ablow did a fine job pinch-hitting for Dean. Crystal Durant (HDM: “She’s great, she’s beautiful, and she hasn’t spent 1/10th the money Cher has on plastic surgery”) guested on “I Got You Babe” and knocked it out of the park. And yes, “Back To Africa,” which ended with the band shouting “we made it!” was worth the 41-year wait. Let’s hope the band sticks with this concept of doing the full LP for 2017 shows.

–Salvi C.

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Filed under Dictators NYC, Go Girl Crazy! Special, Live

‘Weekend’ in New England

Photo by DFFD123 Had I known there would be Spookyworld lighting, I would have dug my zombie makeup out a month early. #nofilter

Photo by DFFD123
The Dictators NYC at the Parlor in Newport, R.I., on Sept. 17. Had I known there would be Spookyworld lighting, I would have dug my zombie makeup out a month early. #nofilter

This thing of ours ain’t always pretty or easy. Sometimes, like a pitcher who finds out in his first inning that half his stuff isn’t working, a band has to simply soldier on and find a way to make the magic happen.

This was the terrain the Dictators NYC found themselves in in their recent w/e in MA and RI. Indifferent or incompetent sound men, borrowed equipment, and a singer whose voice was working on zero days’ rest added up to a thin hand.

Friday’s gig was at Once, a swanky new place in Somerville, MA, in front of a boisterous crowd that HDM immediately cozied up to by telling us that we all s*cked for being Red Sox fans. We love you too, Big Guy. I hope those cleat marks on the Yankees’ necks wash off with a little soap.

While a ton of fun for everyone who wasn’t on stage, you could see that the guys were a little frustrated by the technical difficulties. This proved to be a foreshadowing of things to come the next night.

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Filed under Dictators NYC, Live, Live Review