INTERVIEW: Junkyard finds new life three decades after MTV

Junkyard, Tim Mosher, Brian Baker, Bad Religion, David Roach

Junkyard in 2017. Courtesy of the band.

Junkyard guitarist Tim Mosher says he was washed up at 25.

That was 28 years ago.

Danko Jones, Junkyard, Zed
8 p.m., Friday, Feb. 7
Bottom of the Hill
Tickets: $20. (21+)

“It was 1992 and (my band) Broken Glass had been dropped by our label. We were all done,” says Mosher, by phone from his Reseda workspace in the San Fernando Valley. “I was in [guitarist]Brian [Baker] and [singer] David’s (Roach) apartment all the time, so it was natural we’d be picking up guitars and playing. Baker and I wrote a song together. We were just sitting and making a bunch of racket.”

What they were making was Junkyard’s comeback, 25 years before it happened.

The guys are now in their 50s. Like other refugees from the ‘80s MTV era, they’ve enjoyed a 21st Century revival on the road around the world. Junkyard plays Bottom of the Hill in San Francisco on Feb. 7 with Danko Jones, one night after appearing on its Hollywood home turf of the Viper Room.

Unlike so many contemporaries, new music fuels Junkyard’s revival … kind of. The band just watched its second album since 2017, Old Habits Die Hard, hit Billboard’s hard rock charts. But the album was recorded back in 1992.

Broken Glass, for which D.C. native Mosher sang and played guitar, opened for Junkyard over the years, playing the same style of music and drinking in the same bars.

But 1992 was a transitional year in Hollywood, as decades of being the center of the rock music universe came to an end. An industry rainstorm from the North washed away nearly everything in its path. Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, Alice in Chains and others shifted the landscape so radically that Hollywood bands were changing styles and moving to Seattle.

Like survivors from the storm, Mosher, his bandmates in Broken Glass (including Marc Diamond, who later joined shock-punk legends The Dwarves), and their Junkyard friends, lost their record deals. Junkyard had fared better, with a couple of MTV-friendly hits bringing comparisons to Guns ‘N Roses. After healthy sales of a self-titled debut in 1989 and 1991’s follow-up, Sixes, Sevens & Nines, Junkyard was dead in the water as the new rock wave rolled by.

“It was a very weird time,” Mosher says. “That the label thought that Junkyard would have to be dropped was insane, with how the first two records did. But there was only one game in town, and that was the major labels, and they stopped looking our way.”

Junkyard finished enough material, with Mosher’s help, for a third record that, without a label, wouldn’t see the light of day until November 2019.

So, without ever officially disbanding, the guys moved on. Baker, also a D.C. native who first gained fame in Minor Threat, joined Bad Religion. Bassist Todd Muscat got into television editing (he now works on Talking Dead.) Mosher briefly played with Steve Jones from the Sex Pistols, then joined Junkyard drummer Pat Muzingo and current Bad Religion guitarist Mike Dimkitch in Suckerpunch. Mosher shaped a career writing music for television, including the theme from The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson.

But unfinished business still lingered for Junkyard.

“It was real stop and start,” says Mosher, who officially joined in 2000. “Everybody was doing career things and family things. Our profile was slowly rising. There was never any real game plan because that’s not how we do things. Brian and I circled back. Baker would come back and we’d play at the Whiskey or something if he was in town doing a Bad Religion record.”

“At some point, Baker [who is still loosely associated, but doesn’t tour, with the band], David and I started writing again. We wrote “Faded” [the first single from 2017’s High Water, which Mosher produced] and it did really well. We were shocked by that. So, Brian would be on tour and he’d send me pieces of songs, and Dave and I would go in and work on them. [High Water] charted and did a lot better than we thought it would. It did about 10,000 units, which in our world is about what you can do now. As far as streaming – we don’t even know what the fuck that means. But now we have management and a real booking agent. We’re good for 30 or 40 shows a year now.”

Though smaller in scale, the touring-recording carousel spins for Junkyard again. Mosher says a new album may come near the end of 2020.

“I’d like to have all the guys in one room,” Mosher says. “Baker has written some stuff. He’ll be involved, probably less so than on High Water.”

Guitarist Jimmy James (The Hangmen) took over Baker’s full-time slot in 2017.

That Junkyard can be a functional band, charging through middle age, is a testament to ground plowed by aging superstars like the Rolling Stones, Mosher said. Expectations of veteran rockers have changed.

“Knowing us isn’t as exciting as not knowing us,” he said. “I mean, we’re boring. We might get crazy and have a Bud Light or something. But our hardcore fans are still pretty aggro, punky type of fans. The punk is always going to seep through. There’s a subgenre we call punk and roll. It’s not hardcore.”

Junkyard fans were known to be raucous. Thirty years ago, it was one of the only MTV Hollywood bands whose fans would mosh and stage-dive. That energy still appears occasionally, as do some younger fans.

“We played the M3 Festival and there were all these 16-year-old kids there,” he says. “It was like ‘Did you get grounded and have to come here?’ They said ‘No, we have the record.’”

A strange thing may be happening. Is Junkyard–known for a fan base ranging from Hell Angels and Lynyrd-Skynyrd-heads to old punkers and former big-haired lovers of MTV—becoming a family-friendly attraction of the semi-retired?

Mosher laughs at the suggestion.

“People come out for a weekend and see Junkyard,” he says. “They make little vacations or events out of our shows. They have disposable income, now that they’re not spending it on kids and college. We almost have a Deadhead-type thing, this subset of Junkyard mania. It’s a very weird little thing; but I love it.

“Now it doesn’t seem to be so ridiculous to go out and play. Back then, 29 was old. Not anymore.”

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