Thirsty Store


By: Sarah L. Myers

They prefer not to be called New York City’s best punk band, instead settling on the ‘toughest’ label. The Bullys are both. Heavily influenced by the other best punk bands (The Ramones, The Dead Boys, The Dictators), The Bullys combine everything great about the scene they’re helping to keep alive: no-bullshit lyrics, straightforward riffs, and a stage presence hardcore enough to bolster the headline, “The Bullys Will Kick Your Band’s Ass!” (John Holmstrom, PUNK, Winter 2007)

The Bullys were founded in 1997 after lead singer Joey Lanz and guitar player Johnny Heffernan left their metal band. They started their own band, vowing to never write a single love song, and never sing about relationships. They wrote about what they loved - beer, girls, cars, and punk rock. Joey and Johnny grew up together in Queens. The Bullys are the kind of band that could have only come from New York City, a phrase used to describe The Ramones, as well. Marky Ramone even produced their debut album, Stomposition, in 1998.

The Bullys lost Johnny Heff on September 11, 2001. Johnny worked as a firefighter for Ladder 11 in the East Village, and wasn’t scheduled to work on that day. He wanted to work a little overtime and was called to the scene at the World Trade Center. The loss of Johnny resonated deeply and devastated those close to him in the scene. Through it all, The Bullys stayed together and continued to perform, because Johnny would have wanted it that way. Danny Nez joined the band as second guitarist, rounding out their sound with Walt Stack (guitar), Gerry Tuohy (drums), and Todd Feyh (bass).Their new album, BQE Overdrive, is a stomping, rude mess of a good time and includes Johnny-penned songs such as “Pop is for Fags”, and “Against All Authority”.

I’d first seen The Bullys back in May, when they performed at the Joey Ramone Birthday Bash (Thirsty, June 2007). Two months later, I spent an afternoon with Joey and Danny at Manitoba’s - the Lower East Side bar run by Handsome Dick Manitoba of The Dictators. With photos of Iggy, Johnny Thunders, Stiv Bators, Handsome Dick himself, and Joey Ramone hanging all around us, I’ve never felt more at home. A couple of hours later, I had a pretty good handle on what being a Bully was all about.


Danny, what was your history before joining The Bullys? What other bands were you in?

Danny: Oh wow, lots of bands, you know. The reason we hooked up was because Walt (Stack) did the booking (for The Continental) and my band had been broken up for maybe like a week and you guys were playing CBGB’s with Beer Truck (former Bullys guitarist) so Walt had called about a show and I was like, madness was happening. My band had broken up, and they invited me down to the show. So I went down to the show, and I saw them and I was just like, whoa. So I thought about it and I was like, yeah give me a CD, come on! I was really pressing him, like give me a disc! I want to listen to it. Your music’s great! Walt was like, you like it? I was like, yeah, this is fucking awesome! I learned the guitar parts, I broke them down, went to one rehearsal and that was it.

Joey: Actually, Walt was telling me about you for quite awhile and was like, I know this guy, you know. I mean, we were looking for a guitar player for awhile and we tried to carry on with one guitar when we lost John. We just really didn’t feel like bringing someone in right away. I mean, we went a couple of years without two guitars. We were still performing and Walt would change the way he played, you know, try to fill in all the empty spots and stuff.

Danny: Walt is a very underrated guitar player. I think people think because he’s not doing these idiotic riffs, kind of leads. I mean, his taste, his sense of direction and what he’s applying note wise to the melody of the song and the way he plays. He’s one of the best guitar players in years. You know, New York’s best kept secret.

Joey: But Mickey (Leigh) knows how good he is and that’s why he brings in Walt to the show as part of the All Star thing, because Walt is reliable and he knows what he’s doing.


Now that The Continental is no longer hosting live music, where are the All Star shows happening? Are they still happening at all?

Joey: The All Star thing is the Joey Ramone show (the annual Birthday Bash). That’s the only one I was a part of.

Danny: Walt would jump in and do those band nights where everyone would do, like, Rolling Stone covers. They’d be doing that at Trash (in Brooklyn) and I think they’re doing All Star things now. I think they’re putting together a couple of those at Trash. I think they’re trying to pick up a lot of the slack from Continental at Trash. It’s not a bad idea because Trash is cool.


I want to ask you a little about your new record, BQE Overdrive. Which songs on there were written by Johnny?

Joey: Johnny wrote “Skel”, “Pop is for Fags”, “Against All Authority”, “All Pumped Up”, and “Don’t Break My Balls”. And the other ones are obviously Walt.


What is a skel, anyway?

Joey: You know, it’s funny you said that because the way “Skel”, the reason why “Skel” was written was because Johnny and I were trying to think of ideas for songs.

And one idea was let’s try to use some terms that we used when we were growing up, you know when we were teenagers and stuff. And one of them was a skel, which was you know like a dirt bag kind of. When we hung out, we all did drugs and we drank and everything, but there were guys that were a little older than us that were from like the generation before us, and they were like all burnt out and they were really bad. They were on methadone and stuff like that, and this is my memory of it. And you know we just labeled them skels. But if you look in the dictionary it says like lowlife person. It’s actually in the dictionary. What’s funny is that when we introduced the song to the band originally, even a couple of the other guys were like what the hell is that? We were like, it’s what we used to call dirt bags when we were kids.

Danny: Skel is old, old English. It’s fucking great.

Joey: Then like I noticed like, I would be reading the newspaper and they’d actually use the word in articles and stuff. Once in awhile you’ll hear it used. “Skel” has just ended up being the anthem for white trash meth heads!

But basically it was just real easy. The idea came about and then Johnny went and wrote the whole song. Which is what he usually did! He would just, I mean we’d talk about something and then like a couple of days later he’d go, ‘listen to this.’ I’d be like, holy shit! We don’t even have to change anything! I mean, the guitar parts, the bass line, the lyrics. He’d sing the song and he’d have it all on a little demo and it would be like, alright! We have a new song! But amazing, you know? He was an amazing songwriter, just very talented that way. It’s funny, you don’t realize how hard it is to write a song. Even a little stupid song. You know, it’s hard to get something that really works, you know musically and lyrically. And then there’s something else there that you really can’t figure out but it’s there. It’s part of that thought.

Danny: People are in millions of bands. You know, there are millions of bands. But the last chord progression was written in 1932. Basically Robert Johnson did every single thing that was to be done in rock n’ roll. I mean, let’s be honest right? I mean, what’s been done since then? The only thing that differentiates one band from the next is does your personality come through that same A,D,E chord progression that everybody’s been doing for the last one hundred years. That’s “Louie,Louie”. But does your personality come through in your band? That’s what makes bands different. That’s what makes you love a band.

Joey: Look at songs that were recorded by the original artists and really didn’t do well, and then were recorded by, say another artist and make like a gazillion dollars.

Danny: You know, the other day on You Tube, I’m watching that dude from The Libertines and he’s sitting there with a guitar in the Tube someplace in London, and there’s like thousands of people singing his songs and like doing his parts with him. The thing is it’s not the songs. I mean, they’re songs are great, don’t get me wrong, but they love this guy. He’s always up there with a fucking tuba, and he’s out of tune he’s everything else, and people are like singing and they just love him! He just has that thing about his personality that people can be like, whoa. And what is he doing that’s so brilliant that there’s thousands of people sitting there watching an out-of-tune guitar?


And that’s what’s so great about your music, which is so often compared to the great New York punk bands of the 1970s. There’s a simplicity to it like The Dead Boys and The Dictators that can be hard to maintain.

Danny: I can understand how people would think, oh it’s simple, but from my perspective, where I had to learn let’s say, a lot of the repertoire of The Bullys, but -

Joey: Oh, he’s going to get technical now!

Danny: Nah, but, it’s actually like written songs. It might seem, obviously on the surface, as simple, but inside the music itself it’s actually really clever. Turning chords against each other and melody lines and stuff. Yeah, it’s actually like, you know, that half a step that Walt takes on solos - little things, but they jazz up the song that gives it, that makes it really special. I don’t think it’s simple at all! That’s actually really clever.

Joey: You know, we’ve done like Ramones covers and stuff and they’re not real easy to play. People might think they’re real simple, easy songs. But when you really get down to it they’re very tricky. Because they’re so repetitious, you know, and the verses and the choruses are so similar that that makes it even harder because you know, you have to know where you are.

You’ll get lost, because it’s like everything’s the same but this verse is slightly different from this verse, you know.

Danny: That’s the genius of it, man. That’s the genius of it. It seems like it’s simple but it’s really like, I mean it is kind of, compared to like Rush, you know what I mean? You’re talking about, let’s say Ramones. You’re talking about four guys who never picked up instruments that like at sixteen, seventeen, started playing and then cranked out a career’s worth of great rock n’ roll. I mean, I don’t know. That’s not like, I wouldn’t consider that simple. That’s fucking slick, you know, if you ask me.



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