South Bay punk pioneers gather to honor producer Spot
by Ryan McDonald
When Wyn Davis thinks of Spot, what comes to mind is a man roaring down Pier Avenue on roller skates, the nominal safety bestowed by knee and elbow pads rendered irrelevant by the loss of peripheral vision from the camera he held tightly to his face.
Davis is an owner and founder of Total Access Recording in Redondo Beach, where now-legendary albums like the Descendents’ “Milo Goes to College” and Hüsker Dü’s “Zen Arcade” were recorded, and on which Spot served as producer and engineer. For Davis, the image of Spot on roller skates suggests the attitude he brought into the recording studio: taking music that was so deliberately different from the sounds that dominated the airwaves of the late ‘70s and ‘80s and letting those differences shine through.
“He was fearless,” Davis said.
Spot, real name Glenn Lockett, served as the producer and engineer on many of the most notable punk records to ever come out of the South Bay. He died earlier this year in Wisconsin, where he had been living, of pulmonary fibrosis. On a recent Saturday, on what would have been his 72nd birthday, some of Spot’s many friends gathered at Total Access to celebrate the life of a person they remembered as brilliant, kind, and authentic.
Janet Housden, a Hermosa Beach native who would go on to play drums with the band Redd Kross, spent six weeks on tour with Spot driving around the county in a van that Spot had nicknamed Aurora after Shirley MacLaine’s character in “Terms of Endearment.”
“Spot was one of the only adults in my life, and looking back, I’m really, really glad, because there were a lot of really horrible role models around back then,” she said. “Spot was … always Spot. He never worried about what anyone thought was cool,” Housden said.
In a 2018 interview, Spot, who grew up in Los Angeles, recalled ending up in Hermosa Beach in the mid-70s after growing fed up with trying to make it in Hollywood as a musician. He joined the staff of the Easy Reader, working as a photographer. Along with his music production work, Spot proved a gifted photographer who captured the beachside bonhomie and bohemia of the South Bay. Some of his photography was collected in a 2014 book “The Sound of Two Eyes Opening,” and he was the subject of a retrospective at Hermosa’s Pacific Coast Gallery in 2018.
He was also an occasional music critic, whose Easy Reader reviews irked Greg Ginn, a Hermosa guitar player with a mail-order electronics business, who would go on to found Black Flag and SST Records, the label that put out many of the records Spot produced. The two met at Garden of Eden, a vegetarian restaurant in downtown Hermosa, and Ginn suggested they go listen to some punk records.
At the time, Spot was also helping out at Media Art, a new recording studio at the corner of Pier and Hermosa avenues. Spot didn’t have a background in recording, but he earned a place by impressing the owners with his willingness to do whatever was needed.
“I just walked up the stairs and said, ‘Well I hear you’re building a studio. I’m looking for a studio to do something in.’ It was way in its early stages, in the grunt work of doing construction and building it. But when I saw what was up there, I immediately saw the potential of what could be there,” Spot told me in a previous interview.
Although most famous for his work at a soundboard, Spot was a supremely talented musician. Steve “Mugger” Corbin, a roadie for Black Flag, remembered Spot listening to jazz records and then playing along by ear on his clarinet. Later in life, Spot put out records on which he played every instrument. And while still at SST, he relished opportunities to jam. Bill Stevenson, drummer for the Descendents, said that he and Spot would sometimes leave SST for the Descendents’ practice space, where they would come up with vaudeville-style tunes.
“He had just so much music inside of him. He had more music in his fingernail than I have in my whole body,” Stevenson said.
Dez Cadena, a guitarist and singer for Black Flag, recalled walking up to Media Art while Spot was working there, and bonding with him over their shared love of the eccentric musician Captain Beefheart. While on tour with Black Flag, they made an extended joke of talking in an imitation of Beefheart’s deep, throaty rasp, then chanced to catch Beefheart perform while the band was in Chicago.
Spot was a musical omnivore who arrived in Hermosa with his taste more attuned to jazz than punk. Hewould help shape SST’s identity as a purveyor of the avant-garde in years when punk was becoming increasingly uniform and standardized, less an ethos than a narrow kind of sound. Cadena’s father, Ozzy, had been a record producer at the jazz label Savoy, and booked acts at the Lighthouse on Pier Avenue.
“He loved Spot, but he would go, ‘I don’t know about him,’” Cadena said, dropping into his father’s authoritative baritone to laughs from those gathered for the memorial.
For Spot, however, Cadena the elder provided perhaps the most important advice he ever received about producing: Don’t try to make the music something other than what it is. That advice, honed in the minimalism of jazz recording sessions, seemed in danger of extinction amid the bombast and overproduction of ‘70s radio hits, but it found new life in the DIY ethos of punk. In another interview, Spot described this to me as the “econo” way of relating to recording, a nod to a famous lyric from the Minutemen, the San Pedro punk band who worked with Spot on multiple albums.
At Saturday’s memorial, Mike Watt, the bassist for the Minutemen, appeared visibly saddened by the loss of Spot, calling him “a kindred spirit.”
“If you like anything I do with music, you gotta thank Spotski,” Watt said.
Ryan McDonald, along with Chris Berry, is working on “I Want to Be Stereotyped: An Oral History of South Bay Punk, 1975 – 1991. Follow the project on Instagram @i_want_to_be_stereotyped_book ER