Sonny Vincent and the Beaten Heart of Punk

[Earlier this year, our mysterious New York liaison Agent Double Oh No interviewed Mark Mothersbaugh of DEVO. Now, he sits down with punk rock veteran Sonny Vincent. Click beyond the cut for the full, exclusive interview!]

Saintly Sonny Vincent on the cover of his Resistor 7″.

On the day when crime dons the apparel of innocence –
through a curious transposition peculiar to our times –
it is innocence that is called to justify itself.

– Albert Camus*

In the 21st Century punk rock may seem a faint yelp from a remote and even somewhat quaint age when people could find solidarity in a hairdo.  Please consider that there really are Punks, people who have lived the fiercely wild and ill-advised life of the rock’n’roll rebel and have paid the price. As even Eddie Cochran knew, when you fight the law, you rarely win.  It doesn’t take courage to be a well-adjusted “winner” in a society bent upon its own destruction.  True courage is the courage to lose.  As Coilhouse is dedicated to exploring what it means for a culture to be truly alternative, it made perfect sense to track down an archetypal punk – someone whose life mirrors the reckless, passionate, uncompromising music he has made – and talk about a life lived on the limen between freedom and captivity.  If you dare to win, then dare to lose.

You won’t read about Sonny Vincent in the pages of Please Kill Me because he was too bitched out from kicking cigarettes to talk on the phone when Legs McNeil called him.  It’s like this: Sonny stood in the maternity ward when punk was born, was forcibly estranged from the infant, and has spent much of the next thirty years watching it grow up from the outside.  Of the more than 40 songs Sonny recorded in the 1970s, he only released a 7″ single, “Time is Mine“ bw “Together,” whose true irony lay in that its author would do time, hard time, and be forever cursed to live out of sync with the times whose ethos he personifies.

Like the relationship of one of Antonio Gramsci’s “organic intellectuals” to actual socialism, without characters like Sonny, punk would’ve been just a ripped t-shirt with some words scribbled on it. In short, Sonny has been too busy living punk to be a punk rock star, although nearly all of its actual stars have paid him the ultimate homage by playing on his records. Yes, that’s right, members of punk’s most influential bands – The Velvet Underground, Sex Pistols, The Stooges, the MC5, New York Dolls, Television, The Heartbreakers, The Voidoids, The Damned, The Dead Boys, Black Flag, The Replacements, Half Japanese, Sonic Youth, Rocket from the Crypt, Devil Dogs, and the Bellrays – have recorded with Sonny, and many have backed him on tour. Despite the respect of such rarefied peers, Sonny is literally unheard of among most fans of punk. He’s like a step-dad whose kid will never know him no matter what he does.

Sonny in a photo booth in Times Square, NYC. 1975.

Sonny’s story must be told before Hollywood ruins it by casting some pretty boy star from E.R. instead of an ex-con who knows the role from the inside. (Surely, Sonny could put you in touch with a lot of talented people who just need a break in life.) Sonny’s life and antics are more than legend – they are real. This is as true a story as you get in an age when it can be so hard to keep track of the truth. Remember: Johnny Cash never did hard time and he didn’t shoot anyone in Reno or anywhere else.

Sonny Vincent sung and slung a guitar in the Testors, who, from ‘76 to ‘79, played Max’s Kansas City and CBGB with acts like the Cramps and toured with the Dead Boys. Even before “punk” meant “rock,” Sonny was in and out of homes for bad kids, committed to mental wards, and was forcibly impressed into a tour of duty in Vietnam courtesy of the U.S. Marine Corp by his abusive Foster Parents.  Since punk entered his life, Sonny’s been arrested in at least four different countries, episodically imprisoned, deported from Canada three times, and he’s fathered eight kids from five women.  This cat has not lived nine lives – he’s lived a thousand.  And he’s not done yet.

This is the first interview I’ve seen where Sonny actually tells us what happened and how it went down. In person and on the phone, Sonny comes across as meek, even a bit shy, about his life – like a dog that’s been beaten too much. Most of all, he’s cautious. So I assured him that, having done the crime and served the time, he may as well live to tell the tale. For much of it, he’s contrite. His is a cautionary tale of an artist rebelling with and without cause, and losing on both sides of Benjamin Franklin’s bourgeois Law of Relativity – both time and money have been lost.

(Full interview with Sonny Vincent under the cut.)

If you’re feeling like punk rock is no longer the way to break new aesthetic ground Sonny’s music will make you remember what drew you to it years ago. It rocks with a heart-heavy passion, savage smarts, and tunes that can reunite you with your own bastard youth. Sonny can make a guitar cry, and his voice, even when he was a snot-nosed kid, is deep and rich, as if David Cassidy were on a punk rock vacation in the Bizarro dimension. Take a listen:

The good news is that Swami Records released a double CD set of Testors demos and live material in 2003. While you’re at it, you can also pick up Sonny Vincent’s star-studded CDs, “The Good, The Bad and the Ugly” and “Parallax in Wonderland.”

I got to see Sonny live for myself a few years back. It’s a shame you were too bitched out to make it to the show that night. Maybe next time, eh?

Vincent in 1975. Photo via NYPUNKROCKNROLL.

COILHOUSE: What were you like as a teenager?
SONNY VINCENT: I was out of control, iconoclastic, against the school, against the system, and constantly in trouble. I wasn’t cruel to other kids. Actually, I was tall and kind of a protector.

Any good memories of getting into trouble?
My cousin was a klepto. He was always showing up with things we didn’t know what to do with, like ladies stockings or a tennis racket. Once stole a gross – 144 tubes – of superglue. We went into the center of [Mamaroneck] a suburb of New York and put glue in every lock: cars, stores, banks, Woolworths, houses. The next day we listened with glee to radio reports: “Locksmiths from the tri-state area had to be called in…” We would throw rocks at streetlights for hours, get high on Testors glue – you know, juvenile delinquent stuff. I did a lot of drugs, but was lucky – lots of my friends got fried from it. It’s not something I’m particularly proud of, but it was fun.

Who did you hang out with New York in the ‘70s?
Usually I would hang with my band. Sometimes we would hang out with The Cramps. Back then, a band was like a marriage; you were tight. It was “us against the world.” Once, Alan Vega asked me to play on one of his solo albums, but I didn’t because I didn’t want to be unfaithful to my band.

When did you move to New York City?
Just before the Testors, I moved to Florida for eight months and met Gene [Sinigalliano], who would become the other guitarist in The Testors. We moved to New York City together. I lived in Hell’s Kitchen and on Avenue B near Tompkins Square Park.

East of the park was a rough, Puerto Rican area at the time.
There was a drug house across the street. I had the door to our apartment secured with a police lock. I told my girlfriend, “I’m making this door very secure. Do not get mad and lock me out.” Then one day I was walking down the street and saw Puerto Rican dudes with my clothes on. They were like, “Hey man, check out this cooool shirt!” She threw all my shit out on the street!

The Testors. From left: Gregory R., Gene Sinigalliano, Sonny Vincent.

What turned you on about punk rock?
I was told that you could play original songs at CBGB and Max’s [Kansas City]. Everywhere else you had to be a cover band – play songs by other people. I also liked that people were playing music with heart and soul without experience.

Lots of punk greats – like Lou Reed, Richard Lloyd, Joey Ramone – were in mental wards. What is it about being an artist, or an artist in America, that led to so many creative people being institutionalized?
Perhaps they don’t fit into the society so well and feel a lot of pressure. They get called “antisocial” and get caught up in it – jail or a mental ward or counseling.

How did you get committed?
That was just a way of not getting locked up. Richard Lloyd did the same thing.

So you were accused of a crime and took the “insanity defense”? What were you accused of doing?
Possession of drugs and destruction of property. I wasn’t into breaking into places. I liked smashing store windows. I had a lot of angst. It’s not like I lived a life of crime. I just got caught with grass too many times and the cops would’ve loved to have just taken us out back and shot us. They were really happy to catch us and got the maximum pleasure out of charging us with whatever they could.

Where were you when you did your two years of hard time for one [marijuana] joint?

Fuck! That must’ve sucked! Were you caught exceeding the speed limit and they searched your car?
Exactly. I was unlucky. There are lots of sweet people in the south, but back then, if you were a kid with New York license plates, you were in trouble. When they saw the New York license plates they made us take everything out of the car and that’s when they found part of a joint.

What was the scariest thing you saw or heard about in prison?
It was like one of those awful movies. The first thing they want to do is rape you. If you are a peace-loving person who is not used to protecting yourself, you will get raped. You have to get past that obstacle through violence. I saw lots of fights and heavy shit. Imagine you’re in jail and some guy comes over to you and says, “Boy, I don’t usually talk to people, because I’m in for life and I don’t like to talk to motherfuckers. Let me tell you: these guys are going to have you hot or cold – alive or dead. The last boy who came in here, they held a straight razor to his throat and fucked him in the ass all night.” I had to do something quick and decisive the next day. I’m not going into it.

How did you get thrown out of Canada? I thought Canadians are too nice to do something like that.
One time, they didn’t want us in and found a spiky arm bracelet and claimed that it was a weapon. Once, when I was touring with Bob Stinson – well, he liked to piss wherever he was – he was pissing right at the border, some guards saw him, and they wouldn’t let us in. I miss Bobby. I really loved him, but he was a totally off-the-hook alcoholic. For a while, I was drinking with him, but it got too expensive. Now I stay away from the harder stuff, though I have a shot once in a while. I don’t get blasted on whiskey anymore. It was like a magic trick: once I gave up liquor, the police disappeared!

I saw that film, “Mannequin World,” that you made in 1981. Did you make more?
Yeah, I have a collection of films that I’ve made and hundreds of 16 millimeter films from the University of Minnesota. They threw them away so I got a lot of stock footage and re-assembled it. I had a few showings in New York and Minnesota.

How did you get banned from the Minneapolis College of Art and Design?
I was there for “Independent Film Festival” week. All of the art came with books to explain it. Before the film came on, there was this placid ambience, like people were afraid to talk. I was used to seeing films in Harlem, where people would talk back to the screen, and in the Village, where people would constantly snicker and make snide remarks. So, people are quietly talking and it sounded like subdued bees – real monotone. I started whistling. Some people applauded, but I got thrown out. I respond to structures that limit people. I thought that art was supposed to be liberating.

You’ve had a career outside the mainstream. Do you have any advice for people starting out?
The music business is a contradiction to me. If someone wants to be an artist I would encourage them to express themselves and if they want to be in the “music business” they should try to please everybody else.

Sonny performing live in D.C. in 2005. Photo via Neil Cooler’s awesome Flickrstream, thanks!

Any thoughts on the punk-looking bands on MTV?
Those motherfuckers owe me royalties. If any of them are reading this, they should send checks made out to Sonny Vincent care of this website! Some of these bands are trying to carry on some tradition, but most are just pretending to be punk. It’s never been clear what punk is and it’s funny for me to use the term. The first time I saw it was on a Ramones album. I didn’t like it until the industry came out with the term “New Wave.” It made me want to be punk.

It seems like no matter how much respect the legends of punk give you – so many of them have played on your records – most people who are into punk haven’t even heard of you. It seems like you’re cursed or are somehow out of joint with time.
It’s strange to spend so much time working on something and to have people not hear of it, but maybe its right for me. One time, after a successful gig in France, I went to a party where they were playing my music, chicks were wearing t-shirts with my name on them, and I didn’t feel comfortable! I don’t know how to react when people I don’t know come up to me and say, “Your music is speaking something from inside my soul.” I don’t mean to undermine it, but I just don’t know what credible thing to say. I can’t just say, “Thanks. Your shoes are wonderful.”

A lot of the figures of punk’s early years are dead. Do you have any perspective on death?
I miss them and I love them. I hope that when you die you don’t go to some endless void, like some television station that’s gone off the air. In our culture, we avoid the issue of death. In ancient cultures, people dealt with it openly. When my friends die, I feel sad because I miss them, but I don’t know whether to feel sad for them because I don’t have any training in death! It’s hard to knock something you can’t possibly know about.

Messages for Sonny from Dee Dee and Joey from beyond the veil.

Do you still think of yourself as a punk?
In everyday situations, like when I’m at the supermarket, I get the feeling like I’m not interfacing with the society in ways that other people do. Sometimes it’s funny. Sometimes I feel special. At other times I feel like, “am I ever going to fit in anywhere?”

What does “punk” mean to you?
The most positive image I have is of a fourteen year old boy or girl in the midwest, whose peers or friends are into the most commercial stuff, but they run around with Damned and Sex Pistols buttons that they make themselves. Or maybe a Testors button because there aren’t any. The kids that dig deeper are cooler. In the real punk scene, back in the day, people dug deep. They knew about the Beat Generation and the jazz scene. It’s always cooler to swim against the tide of popularity and big media. I’m glad I didn’t end up in the history books. I never hired a bunch of back-up singers to play dance music. As an artist, I appreciate the underdog status. That’s what punk was about.

Is there anything that you regret? Would you have any advice for a young Sonny?
One time on the Fourth of July in New York, we got some really powerful fireworks. We taped to the toilets and mirrors in the bathroom of our studio and blew them up. There were these huge holes in the floor and in the walls and we thought: “What the fuck did we do that for – it’s our bathroom!” Generally, I don’t regret so much because I’m not a premeditated type of person and I’ve never hurt people intentionally.

Did you ever get caught in the middle of something?
One time I was running from the police and I dove into a dumpster. They found me covered in garbage. It was depressing and funny. Actually, if I could speak to a younger version of myself, I would give some advice: “If you come into contact with police officers who are abusive assholes, do things to limit the amount of time you spend with them. Don’t argue even if you’re right. If you’ve turned a five minute interaction into five hours, you’re the stupid one.” I was coming from a ‘60s mentality and still do. There was one time when they very nearly killed me. When they dragged me off, my friends said it looked like I’d leaked a lake of blood. There was a blizzard and I was fully fucking drunk since my girlfriend at the time had left me. I couldn’t see out the window because of the snow. We came in contact with another vehicle, but very slightly, like we grazed its tire. We stopped and this guy showed us a scuff mark on his tire. We were drunk and had enough on our minds and it was snowing, so we told him to just leave us alone. We went to a bar to drink these giant pitchers of beer they have in Minnesota. After a while, cops came in. I’d forgotten about the whole thing. They asked me to come with them and I said, “Sure, after I finish my fucking beer.” Shit hit the fan. They threw me in a police car and I started kicking out the window. They pulled me out and called for backup. They hog tied me and beat me so bad that they had to bring me to a hospital. So, I would tell a young Sonny to not be so “mouthy.” There are many cops that put their lives on the line to protect their community. There are also lots who become cops because it’s like a gang or like being a skinhead. These are people who need an organization to give them a gun so they can have power. It’s not like they are strong as individuals. You’ve got to steer clear of those people.

Why did they bring you to Wingdale Mental Hospital?
A friend wanted to get dropped off at a club and dropped him off big time – I drove right through its façade. There was a lot of damage. They could’ve sent me upstate, but I was able to demonstrate that I was mentally spun out. I was lucky the police did come, because the guys that ran the place were very rough.

How old were you when you started running away and when was the last time you left home?
I was running away since I was about ten and never turned back at thirteen. I don’t have a full education. When I was in prison, there was a guy who kept on slipping me books like Nietzsche, John Paul Sartre, and Virginia Woolf. I did a lot of reading in prison, but I was done with formal education in the seventh grade. I’ve been tested many times and I have a mathematical aptitude, but my skills are so low I find myself counting on my fingers like a sharecropper. It must be funny to see. I have a new album called “P.I.N.S.” One of the times when I ran away, I got caught. It’s a crime to run away, so I was arrested. They need to label everyone – like you’re an “arsonist” or a “thief.” I was a “P.I.N.S. case” – a “Person In Need of Supervision.” They brought me to Woodfield, a place where they sort you out until the next place. One option was Berkshire Farms. The kids get up at six in morning to do farm work; like “Boystown,” only very rough. They try to teach kids who never had any responsibility. It was me and mostly black kids. I remember having a discussion with one of the counselors/jailers. I tried to tell him my views and he went, “No man, when you get older you’ll be a racist.” I said, “No, man.” He said, “That’s what you say now, but that’s what always happens. You’re you and I’m me. When you get older, you’ll be completely different.” He thought I’d live in the suburbs and be invested in American society. Well, he was wrong.

Sonny performing in NYC, 2004. Photo courtesy of Kitty Kowalski and Terre T.

*Albert Camus, The Rebel, An Essay on Man in Revolt (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1978) p. 4.

40 Responses to “Sonny Vincent and the Beaten Heart of Punk”

  1. Trahan Says:

    This guy is fucking awesome! Great Interview

  2. Chris L Says:

    I never knew about this guy, and I feel like I should have. Thanks for posting this.

  3. Heather Says:

    this guy is really interesting and brings back some teen memories. I never heard of him before but the whole interview was fascinating. thanks!

  4. Hecubot Says:

    Tales of punk rock glory.

    If you like that stuff you should check out Pleasant Gehman’s books.

    Btw, it was the Bobby Fuller Four that did “I Fought the Law” – not Eddie Cochran.

    If it’s any consolation, Bobby had the more punk rock death. (Mobsters forced him to drink gasoline.)

  5. elise wilson Says:

    Wow, thank you so much for this incredible interview. He comes off as a very insightful and intelligent man, full of so many stories to tell… funny stories, heartbreaking stories, interesting and weird times. Reading this interview made me fill up with emotion. The questions were really insightful as well, and I thank Oh No for coming up with such researched and interesting questions.

    Thank you for an amazing read!

  6. Nadya Says:

    Loved the interview, loved the songs, loved the Mannequin World clip. I didn’t know who Sonny Vincent was either until Mer told me, and this interview was a really amazing, thorough first introduction. I will have to do some more research. Thank you for this.

  7. Saranohthanks Says:

    Sonny sent me this article in an email and it was so interesting to know more about his life. I also was surprised to find out what P.I.N.S. actually meant and testors was a glue company! haha.

    I’m related to Sonny (I’m his niece)and it’s cool to know more so much about him =)

  8. guesswho9 Says:

    ‘Those motherfuckers owe me royalties.’
    That bit made me smile :)
    Great interview, Reminds me a bit of me when I was younger – well not as anywhere near rebellious but does remind me of somethings I would do.

    Never heard of him elther, This guy could make a biography and make a fortune thougth. Even if thats not well ‘Punk cliche’

  9. Bobby Breton Says:

    Sonny Vincent-amazing interview!-truthful, poignant and a reality check for me personally. He reminds/educates us the trappings of the mainstream monster media driven secular bull shit, spoon fed and digested happily by the majority of society. I have had the priveledge of touring with Sonny off and on since 1998 all over Europe- Sonny is a living Legend- impacting the last 2 generations of punk
    Long live Sonny Vincent!
    spread the word!

  10. Max Says:

    Sonny is the last of rock’n’roll heroes!
    Go to any of his shows and you’ll see for yourself!
    Also, his long discography, which I’m proud to own almost in its entirety, is excellent with only very few downs and more than a few tunes to be considered a classic.
    A REAL misknown TALENT!!

    Rock the fuck on, Sonny!

    from Italy
    (please, forgive my english)

  11. doubleagentohno Says:

    Thanks for your supportive responses. Regarding “I Fought The Law,” I clearly miss attributed the song. Your correction will appear in any print publication of the article should one appear (and I hope that this tender rascallion will make the cut!).

    A very special thanks also goes out to Elise Wilson. Your sadness makes me happy.

    It’s wonderful to be able to write for a publication whose staff and reading community is so intellectually and emotionally in tune with me.

    Agent OO-No

  12. Jerem Morrow Says:

    Thank. You. For. This.

  13. twc5964 Says:

    Sonny blew my mind contacting me on My Space and sending me this link.I’ve been a fan since I was 13 years old.I’m 44 now and still jam to his music and a dedicated fan.This well written article really gives an up close and personal insight to him.I still adopt the punk attitude myself and like Sonny-it has caused me a lot of problems in society even to this day !

    Thank you for this article and interview.Sonny is truly a genuine legend. He has no idea how he’s touched some of us with his music. So many lonely nights since 1978 for me and I’d put on my headphones and drift away jamming to the Testors and his solo material.

    He is a rare talented musician that knows how to play good raw rock n roll as it should be.So many times I can identify with his lyrics.Please do what you do best Sonny-keep making music.There are those out there that appreciate your art.

  14. Wanda Chinaski Says:

    Good interview, I like it very much, is really good not read the usual questions!
    I don’t know Sonny Vincent from a long time, but I saw a his live and I can say that he’s a real talent!
    (sorry for my English)

  15. polymagoo Says:

    Ha ha Mr Vincent…

    When will you go back to Germany, we need to see you again on stage !

  16. tat2 dave Says:

    great interview well written and insightful sonny played a hug role into shaping me into the man i am today not sure if i should choke him or thank him but he knows he has my highest praises and always will 262 east 4th st will slways have a special place in my heart

  17. megawattsjef Says:

    very good interview ! sonny is real rocker ! i have a good contact with him by myspace.i contacted him and it’s a great man !
    his new album is very fabulous ! always high energy !
    thank you Sonny ! you are the best !
    it’s a pleasure to read this interview ! GREAT !!


  18. Robbie Says:

    WOW! Great interview, I have read other interviews with Sonny in the past but they just barely scratch the surface, this interview actually took a snap shot of the tip of the iceberg. As im reading and absorbing the information, I get the feeling that there is much more to be said/told, as with all the other interviews with Sonny, I feel he is holding back. I WANT MORE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Unleash the whole story.

  19. One Empty Space: The Art of Kevin Ward » Link Cloud 9-24-08 Says:

    […] Sonny Vincent, original punk […]

  20. Nora No Says:

    Totally CooL!

    Very nice Interview!!!

    Great!!! …and surely wanna hear and read more about it!

    R o c K !!!

  21. sonic angels Says:

    Hey, thanks for this interview, Sonny is a super cool guy ! it’s great to hear about him again in that way ! it was what i needed !thanks again !

  22. chaz0723 Says:

    I think Sonny Vincent is one of the greatest “unknown” musicians there are. Be it with the Testors or on his great solo records. Can’t wait to hear more stuff from him

  23. J. Chromatic Says:

    Sonny’s music is raw punk at its best. There is no denying it. I can’t help thinking that perhaps this interview should be a lesson to all about how one’s past activities can creep up and bite you in the ass. Sonny is a victim of his own self created circumstances. Being an ass towards club owners and other fellow musicians doesn’t help your career. Just look at David Lee Roth and Axle Rose. The talent only goes so far… Not to many people want to come back and suffer their bullshit or Sonny’s. So sadly , many of the musicians that worked with him in the past will not want to work with him again. Sonny also lives somewhere in Europe which is a good thing. His “fresh start” in Europe hasn’t seemed to take off as planned . Perhaps at the tender age of 53 I wonder if his ego is still larger than his prostate..

  24. Eric Swenson Says:

    Just had to respond to the comments by the so called ‘J.Chromatic’. Having started out as a fan of Sonny’s music and then going on to join him on tours I can disagree with these agenda laden inaccuracies. Firstly his music although often is very raw, a true fan knows there are countless ‘classics’ by Sonny that are rich in textures, harmonic value and content (check some reviews on I94bar for more on that!). As far as the statement about club owners and fellow musicians this is ludicrous. I have been there on the road with him and witnessed his behavior in personal situations and on tour. The genteel quality of Sonny’s manner and respectfulness towards other people, along with his intense level of integrity and commitment to his music is noticed by everyone who is around him. The long list of musicians and promoters that love and appreciate him continues to grow and many of them are close friends. On tour he play’s to full houses wherever he goes. There is no need here to cite examples of his good character and kind gestures that I saw nearly everyday. Anyone who has been involved with him will tell you the same. I know Sonny would not come in here and respond himself because it’s not his style. But I can say this on his behalf, whoever this ‘J.Chromatic’ person is, is blowing some wind here, “Wind’ as in one time Sonny asked me “Why are there a couple of people out there who seem to want to drag me down?” my response was ‘Tall trees get a lot of wind brother” Anyway I’m sure he looked in here at these comments and probably he knows who wrote them. I spoke to him recently, he’s in the recording studio and putting together a line up for a new tour. For fans, musicians, promoters and myself this is another chance to witness real RockNRoll personified. As far as age, well… he sure is still kickin’ ass on that stage and the ladies are still hound doggin’ him. So one can only conclude that this ‘J.Chromatic’ is simply just a bitter ‘ass biter’ and people who know Sonny will laugh at his bullshit.
    ROCK ON SONNY!!. You the Man!!!

  25. Carlos Says:

    Sounds like he is describing Dee Dee or Johnny Thunders! Although they were also both sweetherts they wreaked lots of Punk Rock havoc! And then again forefathers Chuck and Jerry Lee had their moments as we all know! Dont know why this guy wants to slander Sonny in this way…but perhaps he doesnt know much about the Punk rock scene. Obviously from his examples of David Lee Roth and Axel Rose he knows more about that scene.I met Sonny once and he seemed pretty cool to me, and after all were talkin about a Punk Rock guy,not a Presidential candidate! Im a big Sonny Vincent fan and Love the Testors!
    Hey Sonny , keep doing it ´Your Way´ and dont kiss up to anybody!

  26. Echo Says:

    If there’s any lesson to get from the interview, it would rather be something like a flavor of psychanalisis…Smart, deep and true at the same time.
    Talent ain’t something one can buy, and since behind every man on earth there’s a little shadow creeping, Mr Chromatic, don’t be so common/flat and crucify the guy for unacceptable reasons. The feeling you’re inspiring so far is jalousy, which is understandable as Sonny’s direct influence extends to the present day.
    Only a few of you REALLY know how tough and demanding touring can be, especially when dealing with one who’s holding integrity as gold.
    Needless to say that the music business is so “charming”…And sorry for you but I know thousands of musicians who’d love to play along with him!

    Thank you Double Agent for this special moment with one of the most dynamic stage performer ever…If you could go further on, all of us would probably be eternally thankful to hear about the birth of punk in its native country and all the TRUE stories, your both talents would probably achieve a great work!

  27. DirtyAl Duncan Says:

    I just wanted to thank you for a great read!!!!Its always a treat to hear someone write from the hart and get to the meat of a artist and a true living unsung hero such as Sonny.Seems youve givin some justice were justice is due!Good Job.Ive been lucky to have for many years now called Sonny Vincent a friend of mine. He continues to be a source of insperation with his unending desire to create good hard rock&roll……Rock On,DirtyAl

  28. Finn Rockwell Says:

    So damn hard to find out any info on the champ, im well pleased to discover this interview. until i heard the swami release i’d given up on hearing any more music from that time and genre of such high quality. and what’s more, after 30 years on he hasnt mellowed at all. for those that have read the article but havent heard the music, you can be assured the music is as genuine as the man.

  29. jim Says:

    I first played with Sonny in 1979. Instead of going on tour with the first iteration of Sonny Vincent and the Extreme, I went back to college. Since then, every ten years or so, he calls me up and completely disrupts my life by getting me involved in whatever it is that he’s doing at the time. As a result, I went to NYC for the first time, went to Germany for the first time, went on tour for the first time, and got more time in recording studios. It’s an honor when he gets in touch with me, and if history is any kind of guide, I’m up for another adventure pretty soon. The only thing I’d do over would be the choice of college over that first tour. Half a year later, I was kicked out of yet another school, and Sonny was getting ready for yet another tour.

    Regarding JChromatic’s comments: Sonny was never in with the in crowd. Truth be told, he did come into our little scene with a pretty big head, and he pissed some people off. But that had, I will always believe, more to do with those who got pissed off than it did with Sonny. I think Sonny has always believed that he could fulfill every promise he makes. Sometimes they don’t work out, but when they do, it’s quite fun. Hell, it’s fun when they don’t. Thing is, it’s the bad experiences that seem to follow him around. I’m so glad to read all the positive feedback here. I always got exactly what I bargained for with Sonny, and I have the memories to prove it. My only regret is that I don’t have more.

  30. Noël Says:

    Last year, me and my son Tim missed a show of Sonny in Paris because troubles between the police and the concert -room owner. A friend of mine told me that Sonny maybe comes to Brussels this year.So we now still hoping that this rumour is true. Me and my two sons are great fans of Sonny since we know his fantastic music.

  31. Leroy Squab Says:

    A compelling interview and a great reminder of what punk really is. I wasn’t familiar with Sonny’s music and the samples were great… I wanna hear more!!

  32. Debbie Says:

    Insightful interview with a legend…………….. Rock on my brother..

  33. syd lotus Says:

    for everyone who loved this article, or sonny vincent, or testors -just thought i’d let you know about a TESTORS featuring Sonny Vincent sneak preview reunion show…

    sonny is a friend of mine and here is some specific text from him:

    “Announcing a ‘Sneak Preview’ performance in NYC of the Testors Reunion”

    Testors featuring Sonny Vincent will be appearing at the Delancey in NYC on April 9, 2011.

    One of the most raw and catastrophic groups to ever grace the stages of C.B.G.B. and Max’s Kansas City, Testors formed in 1975 but the group split up in 1979.

    This will be their first appearance since they were shocking, inspiring and pissing off people all over town.

    “Yeah I worked on these guys for years to get together and finally they have agreed, nothing like playing those songs with the original line-up” – Sonny Vincent

    The Delancey
    168 Delancey Street

    you should definitely come check it out.

  34. nan Says:

    Nice work! Great interview. Enjoyed reading this – especially while listening to the embedded music links. Good effect.

  35. AdRock1 Says:

    Great interview, lots of good nuggets. My only quibble is with the suggestion that Sonny Vincent may have missed some kind of boat on becoming a “punk rock star” (phrase used in the intro)–to me that phrase is oxymoronic. Sure, Joey Ramone and Henry Rollins and people like that are more or less household names, but on the whole, punk was of course a reaction against the very notion of stardom–it was about *not* aspiring to mainstream success. And in this interview, Vincent seems basically comfortable with where he is and what he’s done: “It’s strange to spend so much time working on something and to have people not hear of it, but maybe its right for me.”

    My read is that Sonny Vincent is not better known because, although he’s had a 30-40 year career as a musician, he hasn’t stuck with one band–with one “brand,” if you will, to use another term that doesn’t really fit with the overall topic, but explains how stuff gets stuck in people’s heads. Why does everybody know Joey Ramone? From the Ramones. Why does everybody know Henry Rollins? From Black Flag, primarily. But Vincent seems to have albums out under like half a dozen different band names! That’s completely fine, his oeuvre is still great, what I’ve heard of it–I just think the profusion of lineups and band names may explain his relative obscurity.

    Sorry for the blather. PUNK FUCKEN RAWK DUUUUUUDE! SONNY VINCEEEEEEEENT! (fist pump, kicking over nearest chair)

  36. the testors « punkdaddy Says:

    […] “I was told that you could play original songs at CBGB and Max’s [Kansas City]. Everywhere else you had to be a cover band – play songs by other people. I also liked that people were playing music with heart and soul without experience” – Sonny Vincent, from a superlative interview in Coilhouse […]

  37. punkdaddy | the testors – complete recordings ’76-79 Says:

    […] “I was told that you could play original songs at CBGB and Max’s [Kansas City]. Everywhere else you had to be a cover band – play songs by other people. I also liked that people were playing music with heart and soul without experience” – Sonny Vincent, from a superlative interview in Coilhouse […]

  38. Hiawatha Bailey Says:

    More coolness from Coilhouse!

  39. frieda's whip « the testors featuring sonny vincent – 1976-1977 « Says:

    […] “I was told that you could play original songs at CBGB and Max’s [Kansas City]. Everywhere else you had to be a cover band – play songs by other people. I also liked that people were playing music with heart and soul without experience” – Sonny Vincent, from a superlative interview in Coilhouse […]

  40. kalli biermann Says:

    thanxxx a bunch for this great interview with such intelligent, thoughtful and emotional questions – just amazing. everytime i
    go see and meet my mate sonny at one of his concerts i feel totally touched and rocked by this honesty as a human-being and his
    one-of-a-kind raw punk-r’n’r. he’s so often misunderstood but i know he’ll keep it on – doin it all his very own way.

    see you again up here in hamburg, germany on august 30 @ the get lost fest, sonny