Lars Fredericksen Talks Growing Up Oi! and the Tragic Death of Runnin' Riot's Colin McQuillan
Lars opens up about his salad days and The Old Firm Casuals' tragic European tour.
Photo by Jake Davis
Lars Frederiksen, 43, is an accomplished punk musician, wrestling fanatic and skinhead. He’s also, as it turns out, a really nice guy. Living in the San Francisco Bay Area and being a fan of wrestling, hardcore and Oi!, I’ve bumped into Lars at a variety of different events. His music is one of the reasons I became so heavily involved with punk in the first place; bands like Rancid served as a gateway for kids like me to dig up some of the genre’s more obscure bands, and by sixth grade, a Lars Frederiksen and the Bastards patch was firmly stitched on my studded jacket to let all the other kids know that I was a certifiable punk rocker.
His new(er) Oi! band, The Old Firm Casuals, has really come into their own with their latest LP, This Means War. Some of the group’s earlier material found itself falling into the usual trappings of a generic Oi! band, but the new stuff feels more natural and free of any restraints. It almost sounds like the spiritual successor to Lars Frederiksen and The Bastards, with a little bit more of that infamous “skinhead element” to it.
I put on my middle school punk jacket, laced up my boots, and called up Lars to talk about being bullied as a kid, The Old Firm Casuals, and the worst tour of his life.
Noisey: I was watching some Old Firm Casuals videos on YouTube and I came across this comment that was left by a guy claiming he grew up in Campbell and went to school with you. He mentioned that you used to get picked on in middle school for being into Oi! music. Any truth to that?
Lars Frederiksen: Yeah! Well, I was a little skinhead and nobody knew what skinheads were. I mean, most eleven-year-olds don’t know what a skinhead is, but my brother was bringing home music and I always looked up to him. All the music I was exposed to was because of him, so by seventh grade I was a skinhead walking around yelling “Oi!” at people and wearing boots, bleached jeans and suspenders to school. They would call me “Farmer Tom” and shit like that; I I would be like, “No, I’m into Oi! music!” and they would say, “What the fuck is that?”
Whatever was popular at the time was what kids were into. I think the only thing I could see eye to eye with them on was like the Stray Cats – they were kind of cool. All these kids knew about skinheads and punk rockers (and mostly just punk rockers) was what they saw on Donahue and after school specials—you know, every stupid sitcom had their punk episode. Oi! and punk was always the shit for me.
Courtesy of the author. Ain't he just precious?
One of the lyrical offerings on the new This Means War LP that caught my attention was “Off with Their Heads.” Can you tell me what inspired you to write that one?
Pure rage. You think that once you have kids it calms you down or something; it sort of did in some aspects of my life, but in other aspects it just made me more aware. Like, why are we as a country allowing these certain things to happen? So, in that song I deal with rape, religious terrorism of all kinds, and big corporations. Anyone who’s arrogant enough to think the United States, as a nation, is number one, obviously hasn’t done their research. Big corporations and politicians like Mitt Romney, Bill Clinton and George Bush are outsourcing the jobs, our schools suck, and we ship everything to China or Mexico to be made. We’re kind of a spoiled, lazy nation to some degree. I’m not saying everybody in it is, but as a whole we are to some degree.
Do you think becoming a parent has made you more concerned about these types of things?
Yeah. I can’t say there’s an element of fear in this, but I’m just angrier. I write about whatever I see. These are just my opinions. But I’m not like FOX News, I base my opinions on facts. I’m a working class kid. I grew up in low income housing. Our family and the Baileys were the only white people on the street – even though with the Baileys, there were like thirty-five of them because they were Irish Catholic, hah! But we got along with everybody. A lot of us hung out with the cholos or the black kids 'cause they were just as gnarly as we were. We didn’t hate each other because of the color of our skin, we hated each other—maybe—because of the block we grew up on. The one thing we had in common was that we were all fucking poor.
Corporations are evil things. They are not here to protect us, they are here to take from us. They destroy the environment, they destroy your town, and they destroy the family. All they care about is making money. Look at Wal-Mart. Check out the ten richest CEO’s in the United States and see how many are from Wal-Mart, and they don’t even treat their employees correctly. They put everybody on part-time so they don’t have to pay any benefits. If that’s the America that you think is so wonderful, then I think you’ve got a hole in your fucking head.
The song is also about how, if I catch someone red-handed molesting a kid, he should get shot in the head, straight up. People might think that’s wrong for me to say but I don’t give a fuck—there is no room for that, because kids can’t defend themselves. I’m not talking teenagers and people who have a conscience. I’m talking about little kids, pedophile priests, and the church. I think if you’re fanatical about your religion and you want to kill somebody because of it, then you should be killed! Here’s the dilemma: I believe in a criminal justice system that works, but I don’t think ours works. People always cut straight to, “Do you believe in the death penalty?” Well yeah, I believe in the death penalty in a justice system that works.
Why did you decide to add piano on the LP?
Every band I’m in has a core base of guitar, bass and drums, but I always bring some extra element to it. With the Bastards, I brought in slide guitar because I love Rose Tattoo and they were a huge influence on The Bastards—as was the Anti-Nowhere League, as was Motorhead or the Blasters or Billy Bragg. So with the Casuals, I wanted to mix in what I loved about Sham 69’s use of piano. I also always loved how Stomper 98 mixed in the sax. Some other Oi! bands have used sax in the past. For me it’s all about Franky Flame and stuff like that. Oi music is rock'n'roll, man. Yeah, sure, a certain segment of the population listens to it, but as long as I’ve been doing this, I’ve found that you can’t really edit in the creative process. I want to keep The Casuals a stripped-down Oi! band, and it always will be, but I also want to bring different angles to it every time. I mean, The Ramones made the same record thirty times—but they’re the fucking Ramones!
There seems to be a big change from the early Old Firm Casuals recordings to the most recent stuff. Can you talk about that a bit?
Well, I think we started to know who we are, in a way. I mean, Paul is so good as a drummer that you can write anything and he’ll be right there for it, so there were no limitations. We wanted to set our own tone and grow. I’m glad we’re sort of coming into our own. I mean, it takes a while for any band. If you think about Honor is All We Know compared to the very first Rancid record, it’s night and day. For me it was always about taking our time and writing songs that we are proud of. I don’t want to make the same record over and over again. I want to do different things and see what we can do. So I do think we’re coming into our own.
Old Firm Casuals' recent European tour was stacked with some amazing bands, but you guys encountered some major obstacles. Can you tell me about that?
Yeah, that was probably the worst tour, emotionally, that I’ve ever had in my entire life.
Wow. How many tours have you been on?
Tours? Fucking hundreds . . . Maybe a thousand? I know I’ve played at least four- or five thousand shows. I’ve been playing in bands since I was seventeen, and gigging steady since I was eighteen or nineteen.
And this was the worst one?
Easily. Five or six days in, we were just getting into our groove with our new guitar play Gabe, who plays in the Sydney Ducks. Then, after the sixth show in, our drummer, Paul, went into a truck shop at 6AM and came out with a compound fracture in his arm.
How did he manage to do that?
In Germany and in some other parts of Europe, truck stops charge you money to take a piss—you have to put coins into a turnstile. It was like 6AM, and we were headed to a festival in Slovenia when we stopped to take a piss. I would always hop them because I’m not going to pay for a fucking piss. Casey hopped it. Paul tried to hop it, but got his foot caught and went straight down on his arm. He got a compound fracture and dislocated elbow. It was gnarly. The bone was sticking out of the skin. A compound fracture is one of the gnarliest breaks you can have. The only thing worse is a double compound fracture! The bone hasn’t even started to heal yet, and this happened back in August. So because that happened, we ended up having to get three different drummers: Gens Kaiser, Ray Dust and Robin Guy. They saved us and we really appreciate them.
Scan of Paul's facture, courtesy of Old Firm Casuals. Ouch.
So, we get to Rockford, where we had basically our first day off in three weeks, and I got the phone call from Watford Jon, the singer of Argy Bargy. He called me at ten in the morning, and these guys know I sleep until about noon, so I looked at the phone and was like, “Oh, maybe he just wants to get breakfast or whatever?” Then Steve Whale called me, and I started to wonder what was going on, but I was kind of half out of it. Steve Whale called immediately again, so I picked up the phone and he says, “You got to call Watford Jon.” And I go, “What’s up?” but he only says, “You need to call Watford Jon right now.”
The tour was Old Firm Casuals, Control, and Runnin’ Riot. I knew that all of the Runnin’ Riot guys and my guys went out the night before to see Agnostic Front in London, so I thought maybe someone in my crew was hurt. I just said “What happened? What the fuck happened?”
Then he just says, “Colin’s dead.” And I just lost it.
I called Jon and he was obviously beside himself. Colin’s wife Nikki flew from Belfast that day. It was probably one of the saddest moments of my life.
As well as singing for Runnin' Riot, Colin was kind of my go-to guy on that tour; he and I would talk every day and handle things. I'd written this song for him, and told him, “Colin, I can only hear your voice on it,” so we were going to do that song at the end of the tour. The whole thing was going to culminate and end in ten days in Dublin, and Runnin’ Riot is from Northern Ireland. Runnin’ Riot was one of the best bands happening. They wrote great fucking songs, and Colin was one of the best singers I’ve ever come across. Colin was a friend. It’s not easy losing a friend. Runnin’ Riot supported Rancid the first time we went to Belfast. I’ll always remember those times. Me and Colin would go see the Linfield football club play, because that was his team. It’s so hard to talk about. There’s a big, huge, gigantic hole in our scene now, and it will never ever be filled. He was that important to our music, our scene and our culture. I just don’t have enough nice words to say about him. His personality would just brighten the room, and he brought that with him to the stage.
I remember we were at a show once and the first band was running late. Colin was just like, “Oh, we’ll play first.” And I like, “No Colin, you’re playing second. That’s how it’s billed. That’s respect.” And he was just like “No, no, no, Lars, we’ll go on first. We have no problem with it. We just want to play.” That was always his attitude. That’s the kind of guy he was. He was an influence on my band, but also on me as a human being. He was that caliber of a person.
Photo of Colin McQuillan by Nick Henderson / Courtesy of Runnin' Riot
Wow, I can’t even imagine losing a member of a tour like that.
It’s never happened to me before. I haven’t talked about it much. He was only forty-five fucking years old when he was taken. It’s a big hole for me, that’s why I’ve never talked about it in interviews or anything. It’s my own personal stuff. I’m looking forward to seeing his wife on my next tattooing trip to London that’s coming up. She’s flying into Belfast so it’ll be good to see her cause we’re really tight.
When Colin passed I wanted to pull the plug on the tour. There was just way too much going on. It was fucking gnarly. We normally have a guy who comes out with us, Chris Powerhouse, who takes care of a lot of the bullshit. He’s our tour manager. He couldn’t make it, so Paul took over those duties. Then Paul leaves with a compound fracture and a dislocated elbow, so now it’s all down to me. All these people are coming to me for answers, and all I wanted to do is play some stupid fucking dumb music and go on to the next gig. But then, Colin’s wife Nikki, who I love very much, said to me, “Lars, you can do whatever you want to do, but Colin would have wanted you to go on. I’ll be there every step of the way with you.” Knowing that I had her support, and knowing that’s what the rest of the Runnin’ Riot guys wanted me to do, I was OK with carrying on. Honestly, we did the whole rest of that fucking tour for him. It was all in his memory. I’m going to play every fucking show for him.
I think about him every day, and I’m never going to forget him.
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