By : Billy Gil | Posted: 07 Nov 2008
Actor Shane West may be best known for courting Mandy Moore in the teen drama A Walk to Remember, but his fans know West has a musical bug: West had a pop-punk band, Jonny Was, which had a song on the A Walk to Remember soundtrack as the band’s previous incarnation, Average Jo.
So it shouldn’t be a surprise that West would pursue further musical endeavors tied to his acting career. West’s latest move has been to front the reunited punk band The Germs, Los Angeles legends whose career was cut short by the suicide of lead singer Darby Crash. West now has big shoes to fill playing Crash in the real-life band as well as the fictionalized version, in the film What We Do is Secret, which streeted on DVD this week from Peach Arch Entertainment. Home Media Magazine sat down with West to talk about his film and his future doing double duty as rock star and actor.
HM: How did you become involved with the reunited Germs and What We Do is Secret?
West: That’s a good question and a possibly long answer. It was a long time ago, about five years ago at this point. I was sent a script, and it was a simple audition. I was always interested in the music scene. I was thrilled that they were interested in me playing as dynamic a performer as Darby Crash.
… It was a labor of love, it was very trying on the patience, and it was very difficult because we lost funding a million times. … Becoming the lead singer of the band happened throughout that time. I became very close to [guitarist] Pat [Smear] and [bassist] Lorna [Doom] and [drummer] Don [Bolles]. … It became a thing where we did a little impromptu wrap party even though we hadn’t shot a scene. Pat asked the “Baby Germs” to go on stage.
... The crowd really dug it, and so did we. We got pretty favorable reviews. … I’ve been singing with the band for about three years now. I’ve been singing with the Germs as long as the original germs existed.
Punk rock existed as a flame that died very quickly, even more quickly with The Germs, because of Darby Crash’s untimely death.
HM: Can you tell me what it’s been like to play with them? What’s your favorite song to perform?
West: It’s pretty surreal, to be playing with these guys. It’s like nothing I’ve ever done before. It’s truly a sense of family with a bunch of misfits of all types, congregated together to enjoy themselves. The true fans have welcomed me.
It took a long time to get past the criticism … of me taking over the reins to sing for this band. A couple of years ago, we did a tour of the East Coast, and the fans got a little more behind me. It went from being about 90% negative to 10% negative. There’ll always be haters — I get it, I understand it — but thanks to this rejuvenation of The Germs, we’ve been able to play places they were never able to before.
My favorite songs, I always love playing “No God,” it’s just a drum roll, the way everything comes together at the beginning of the song, really gets me off. … I’ve always loved playing “The Slave,” it’s about a minute long and a beautiful blast of energy.
HM: What has the fan response been to you in this film?
West: Fan response to the film has been like 99.9% positive. It’s been great. I did a good job; I’m not tooting my own horn or anything like that. We put our blood, sweat and tears into this project, and there’s not one weak link in this film. To have it as a whole positively reviewed makes it worthwhile in that sense that people have accepted it and enjoyed it and we had the backing from the band and the scene and the people who lived through it.
The band is a whole other thing that I am just serious about making work as well, but there are two different sides to the coin. At this point everyone’s pretty happy with the finished product of What We Do is Secret, and everyone is pretty happy with what we’re doing in the band. Now, if we could only get Pat Smear to quit playing with the Foo Fighters and play with the band a little more often …
HM: Are you still going to play with The Germs?
West: I’m going play with the band for as long as they want me. It’s not really something I can go back on and think about too much yet. I’m in the thick of it, behind the lines, and we’ll pretty much stick with it until it’s done.
I think what we’d like to do is get to Europe at some point, so I think that will be our next step. Every show gets better and better, what I like to call ‘organized chaos.’ Our off nights were about three years ago, in the beginning, and now, even without practice, it’s pretty ridiculously cool.
HM: So where do you go from here? Movie star, rock star, both?
West: I’m gonna do what I wanna do. That’s how it think most people can and should live their lives. The thing with The Germs is it’s not very demanding because of everyone’s other exploits. … We play in short bursts, a week or two here or there, that way it makes everyone a little happier. There’s no bickering, there’s never been any bickering. It’s kind of like one happy giant perverted family.
Acting is my career — it’s my life as well. I’m in Peru shooting until December, then another film in January in Russia. So far I’ve been able to balance both things.
HM: Are you still active with Jonny Was?
West: No, I’m not. I’m still friends with everyone, I think it has just sort of run its course in terms of what I wanted to do. I was getting a little tired of trying to sign a major record deal and deal with all the bullshit that comes with signing with a major. I just couldn’t deal with it anymore.
I started working with What We Do is Secret, and The Germs reunited my passion for old school punk rock, which is what I was raised on. My parents were in punk bands in Louisiana. I’m getting towards 30, I felt I didn’t want to do that style anymore.
HM: Were you involved with anything special for the DVD release?
West: Yes. One of the biggest problems is we have great behind-the-scenes recordings of practically everything, but we couldn’t get that on the DVD, so we might be releasing something even more in the future. I’m excited to get it out there, but I do know (director) Rodger Grossman and myself put together a DVD commentary. That’s all that I’m aware of right now since I’ve been in Peru for about a month. But I’ve just been recently getting the interviews and the hype, which is kind of exciting that its coming out so that everyone can see it, rather than just a limited release.
HM: What are some of your favorite films or TV shows you’ve been in that are on DVD?
West: I’d have to say “Once and Again.” That show ran three seasons, and I enjoyed watching the first two seasons on DVD a few years ago. I’m bummed season three hasn’t been released. So that was always a favorite. A Walk to Remember was fun, too.