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ARMANDO BROWN, FOR THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER
Social Distorton fans watch the band's short film for 'Machine Gun Blues' at the Music Box in Hollywood on Thursday, after which they were treated to a live perfomance.
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More Photos: Social Distortion Video Premiere

April 21st, 2011

THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER

Thursday night Orange County rockers Social Distortion premiered the short-film version of their single "Machine Gun Blues," from the band's acclaimed seventh studio album, "Hard Times and Nursery Rhymes," to a sold-out Music Box in Hollywood.

After holding a contest with 20 radio stations from across the country, L.A.-based KROQ/106.7 FM and its listeners won the competition by sharing the trailer for the video via social networking sites in massive numbers. Following red-carpet arrivals and the video's premiere, fans were treated to an 11-song set by leader Mike Ness and his group. The event was also streamed on all 20 of the participating radio stations' websites as well as at Rollingstone.com.

People cheered during the intro to the video, as each member's face and name – including guitarist Jonny Wickersham, bassist Brent Harding, drummer David Hidalgo Jr. and keys man Danny McGough – appeared on screen. Directed by Jeremy Alter and written by Ness and Antone Pardoe, "Machine Gun Blues" is set in Depression-era L.A. and follows Mike "Sick Boy" Ness and his "Blood and Sparrow" crew of gangsters as they knock off a bank and are immediately involved in an action-packed car chase and dramatic shoot-out with federal agents.

"We basically got to be 10-year-old boys and run around with guns," Ness shared with the crowd after the screening.

Earlier, outside the venue, Ness admitted that though his band has shot a few videos in its day, he's never really been much into them.

"But we did this as more of a short film – I always like the more conceptual videos," he said. "To just have the band playing (in a video), anyone can see that at any show. It needs to be interesting. It was really neat to write (the script), and it took the song one step further. It was really a very easy thing to write because I knew the sentiment and emotion of the song – because I wrote the song. So it took like 15 minutes."

This extended clip is just one of many "firsts" for Social Distortion lately. With the release of "Hard Times" in January, the band has taken an entirely new approach toward its business, including performing on television for the first time in its 30-year existence – it appeared on "Jimmy Kimmel Live!" in December and "Conan" in January. The band is also doing extensive touring, not only in the U.S. but overseas.

"It's been a year of change," Ness explained, cracking a grin. "Some of these things are things we wanted to do for a long time. We want to establish our longevity, first of all by making a great record. And the record we did make kind of set up the next 10, 15, 20 years for us. We also just realized that maybe it wasn't cool to do TV back then, but maybe now it is."

Social D also signed on with L.A.-based indie label Epitaph Records for this record, which has proven to be perfect fit, Ness says: "They listen to our ideas. In the past we've been on labels and it was always kind of their ideas and we kind of went along with it like dumb musicians: 'OK, well, I guess that sounds cool.' Now (Epitaph) calls me up and says, 'What do you think?' It's a great relationship."

Label owner and Bad Religion guitarist Brett Gurewitz was on site for the screening and posed for a few photos with Ness on the carpet.

"Working with Mike is really a dream come true," he said. "I've always been his peer and contemporary, but I've also always been a fan. He's been one of the artists from my home scene that has inspired me, so having the chance to finally work with him on the new record is a great honor and a great opportunity to collaborate with someone I've had immense respect for."

Ness also shared the moment he knew that Epitaph was a perfect fit for his band.

Since nearly seven years passed between new albums, Ness says working on "Hard Times and Nursery Rhymes" renewed his passion, added fuel to his fire and left him feeling free.

"It's very liberating and it builds confidence, and you start to really like the direction things are going," he said. "We're not doing weird, commercial, sell-out stuff – we're doing things on our own terms and reaching more people, and more people are reaching back. It's a very organic way of doing things and we still believe, even at 30 years into this, that there are hundreds of thousands of Social Distortion fans out there who just don't know they're fans yet. We want to reach them."

The band will have that chance as it embarks on a major U.S. tour next week and then heads across the Atlantic for six weeks throughout Europe starting in May.

Following a quick introduction by KROQ personality Stryker, Social D strutted on stage to Muddy Waters "Mannish Boy" and after a slight nod to the crowd by Ness, the group blasted into "Bad Luck," followed by "So Far Away" and another of the band's staples, "Ball and Chain." Ness shared that he was called "the angriest man in rock 'n' roll" when he wrote "Down on the World Again." To him, he says, "I thought it was just another day."

Of course the band didn't leave "Ring of Fire" out of its set – though written for the late great Johnny Cash by his wife June Carter Cash, the track suits Ness' life perfectly. Social D also did the single "Machine Gun Blues," which Ness admitted might have been a bit redundant since we had just watched the video, but the crowd certainly didn't mind.

Before going into what he says is his favorite song on the new album, "California (Hustle and Flow)," Ness told the crowd, "Rock 'n' roll has been good to me. When I die, I hope my gravestone says: 'You've been good to rock 'n' roll too.'"

Setlist: Bad Luck/ So Far Away/ Ball and Chain/ Gimmie that Sweet and Lowdown/ Down Here (With the Rest of Us)/ Reach for the Sky/ Down on the World Again/ Prison Bound/ California (Hustle and Flow)/ Machine Gun Blues/ Ring of Fire.

Contact the writer: 714-796-3570 or kfadroski@ocregister.com


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