WACKO on COVID Clown Parties, Hate Pages, & Dream Composition; NPU/BCP 12/10

WACKO has this special kind of magic that goes beyond the band. It spreads through the community. For the Long Beach scene, WACKO is kind of the bow of the ship. It’s always been about having fun, being a party, & sharing love & positivity.

-Saint Papa Michael

I met up with WACKO by their touring van to chat over spliffs. WACKO is Zoin Xavier Jakeem (guitar/vox), Dakota Yam (guitar/backing), Droozie Lane (drums), Lüc Robitaille (bass), & Lüc’s 74-year-old father, Saint Papa Michael (announcer).

ZXJ: The clown is an archetype. Archetypes are almost the same as primal ooze; they’ve been around since before time. The clowns you see involved with WACKO & the Traveling Riot are just an expression of us engulfing that archetype within ourselves.

The day I realized I was a clown, we were all clowned up filming a skate video. Our merch girl Natalie gave us costumes & this person came up to us & said, ‘Are you guys clowns? Or are you just dressed as clowns?’ I thought about my whole life in that moment; I realized we were clowns. She told us she’d been in a traveling circus for 15 years & when she saw us at the taco joint, she knew we were real.


In our collective, we all pretty much live on top of each other. When one of us got COVID, all of us got COVID. We threw COVID-only clown dance parties & that’s kind of where it brewed up… By the time shows opened up again, we were a shitload of clowns embracing our clownage. & here we are.

ZXJ: I was at least 14 years old when I first laid eyes on Lüc; Fear played a gig with our local punk band Joe’s Garage. Everybody at that show knew each other except for Lüc & Michael. Lüc was in yellow Doc Martens with a patched-up blue denim vest & a big afro. We were like, ‘That fool is the punk rock Ronald McDonald. Who is that fucking dude?’ We’ve been friends ever since.

Nate Delgallago.

The first time WACKO went on tour, we went to Reno to play a show our friend Jacki booked. I knew them through grindcore shit on Facebook, but we’d never met in person. I introduced them to the band & Jacki’s like, ‘Oh, I forgot the PA at my house. Are you down to come with me to pick it up?’ I said yeah, got in their car, then they said, ‘Yo, I want to be honest with you. My dad & I have been watching live videos of punk bands from Southern California for the past 10 years, & we have seen this fool Lüc in all of them.’ They bonded over talking about this guy with the afro dancing. Jacki was like, ‘& here he is, in the flesh!’

Unlikely influences?

LR: King Diamond.

SPM: I would have to say the Lücstir. There was no choice. These guys have inspired me too, & all of their friends… They’re like the fountain of youth for me. I’m an old hippie, you know? I’ve always been since I discovered hippiedom in 1967, the summer of love! This is like the reincarnation of that energy.

DY: Dexter Romweber from Flat Duo Jets. That band was the first time I’d seen blues & folk played in the energy that I related to & wanted to expel from myself.

DL: The Coneheads from Indiana. They sounded so uniquely different for the time that they started out. I’m really big on Midwest punk & music that comes out of the middle of nowhere.

ZXJ: Mine are all super random. Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass are one of my favorite artists, Jonathan Richman too… I liked how the FBI raided (Dead Kennedys’) Jello’s apartment & charged him with terrorism conspiracy for his own lyrics. Also how Crass became one of the biggest UK punk bands from starting a commune & their own label. Aside from those four, I’ve never had much room for inspiration beyond the people directly next to me. I like everything from painting to videography to all kinds of music; country to jazz to whatever the fuck we play. For all those, I have somebody who’s either a best friend or damn near best friend who I think makes those pieces of art best. I haven’t really had a chance to draw inspiration from other people since I was literally 13 years old.

DL: I feel like when you’re super focused on one style of music it informs your playing. You’re playing straight ahead, more or less. It can be good music, but when you listen to different genres, it subconsciously leaks into the music you’re making. Ultimately makes for more interesting sounds, to me.

ZXJ: One of my favorite interview questions is how we would describe our music; this is the part of the interview where we interview you. If you had to describe us as deep as sub-genres can go, how would you describe us?

For starters, let’s just broadly label it hardcore. Powerviolence comes to mind, but the breakdowns definitely head into sludge territory. I heard that a lot during your set; it’s almost droning, but you only do it for a minute at a time. Then the tempo picks up & you go right back into punk.

ZXJ: How would you define that in 3 sub-genre terms?

Lüc stepped in before I could answer.

LR: Hard-sludge-violence!

Directed by Zoin Xavier Jakeem & @dominicmvp.

ZXJ: Our best descriptions come from people talking shit. We have a hate page that reposts all our knocks. My favorite post on it is a description of our band from the Denny’s video saying, ‘Fuck WACKO, this isn’t hardcore. This isn’t even power violence or fastcore, this is just a middle school jam band; fuck this band.’ (haha) I love that.

LR: We don’t run that shit. We are not admins.

ZXJ: Another comment on the Denny’s video said, ‘I feel bad for these kids. They came to this show looking for a punk band & instead found a four-piece space-jazz odyssey.’

DL: Strangely complementary.

At this point in the interview, a passing train honks & the band instinctively yells back at it, as if in conversation.

SPM: One of the powers in WACKO is authenticity. None of the members are posers; they’re not trying to be anything other than who they are. Whether on stage playing their instruments or off stage having fun, it’s the same people doing the same thing.

Christopher Cortez.

ZXJ: Damn near very WACKO song was written in a different way. The coolest way, definitely, was how Lüc wrote Human Fertilizer. He had this dream years before WACKO was a band: Lüc, Gartex & I were in it, all playing the instruments we play in WACKO with an unknown drummer. Years later, when the first incarnation of WACKO was me, Lüc, Alan, & Gartex, he recorded a demo of it all by himself, drums, bass, & guitar, & brought it to the studio. It’s the only song we ever told Alan what to do.

LR: It was a mid-autumn 2014 dream. I’d say I transcribed what I’d heard, I didn’t really write it. For the record, I’ve had dreams with music more frequently when I haven’t consumed THC three hours before bed. If there are any potheads out there who’ve thought, ‘Why can’t I write this song on the tip of my mental tongue?’ try not smoking before bed. Your dreams may be more vivid & able to transpose from.

DL: There was this wrestling show we played in South Central… We were told we’d be playing with wrestlers, but they didn’t have a ring. So they just walked around the backyard bashing each other. This one guy had an entire door, with the doorframe & doorknob, & threw the other guy through it. It was beyond wrestling.

ZXJ: I knew the two getting fucked up were consensual about it, but there were people who, understandably, thought it was way too fucked up. There was this pyramid of fluorescent lightbulbs on a laundry table…

SPM: They lit it on fire & threw each other on the burning table.

DY: They flew in one of the wrestlers from New York & because I’m a giant person, he tried to get me to wrestle. He started around the same age I am right now; said he’s the happiest he’s ever been in his life, just flying around state-to-state getting fucked up by fluorescent lights every night.

Wrapping up, why do you play music?

SPM: Can’t not do it.

LR: Born this way.

DL: I don’t have anything better to do, which is an understatement. I love playing music.

DY: I have many hobbies & interests, but music encapsulates me the most. I’ve been into it since elementary.

ZXJ: Ever since I could think about aspirations, all I wanted to do was play music. I’d see Trix cereal commercials with the rabbit in a band & think, ‘I want to do that.’ It’s crazy, ’cause all my wildest eight-year-old dreams have come true & beyond. Music’s the only thing I want to do.


When Joey Jordison from Slipknot died, it made me think back to Duality. My grandma was babysitting me when the music video came out. It starts in slow-motion & all these greasy-looking kids bumrush this house. They break in & have this lit fucking house show… I thought it was some fake music video shit. But in the back of my mind, it was all I wanted to do; this unreal thing that I didn’t even think existed. & here I am doing it & it’s fucking so sick.

Even as a child that was not even aware of the art scene, let alone weird punk crazy house show happenings, I knew what I wanted. I’d been trying to start this band for four years before it actually happened, & thank God it happened the way it did. & thank God the members that were in the band were in the band for the time they were, & thank God that the members that are in the band right now are in the band at the time they’re in.

Traveling Riot on the road, Cadena.
Stream WACKO’s 2020 EP on Spotify.

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By Hector Zaldivar

Professional magician. @hexzald