Barry Kooda Steps from Behind the Stage to Rock Again with The Nervebreakers

Most know Barry Kooda from his days in The Nervebreakers, a local punk act that good fortune smiled on in an awful big way in the '70s when they opened locally for The Boomtown Rats, The Police and even the grand triad of classic punk, The Ramones, Sex Pistols and The Clash. Kooda followed that period with a string of his own bands, most notably the Barry Kooda Combo but, nowadays, even though The Nervebreakers will be throwing it together once more this Saturday at DaDa for Kettle Art, he spends most of his time behind the scenes and is especially skilled at concert rigging. For a while, he did it on some pretty big tours. Now, he's behind the scenes for our own locals.

What were you like as a kid? I spent as much time as possible in the woods exploring and got in to music in my teenage years for the same reason everyone does. To get girls.

In the late '70s, just after you got out of the service, in between opening for Ramones and Pistols, it was said there was a "happening" going down for real punk in Dallas. True? Can you take us there for a couple minutes? I got out of the Army in 1974 and the Nervebreakers started probably in late '75 or '76. I'd hooked back up with [Nervebreakers'] Mike Haskins, who was already working with Thom Edwards and Carl Gieseckie, and he and his first wife, Karol, got a big house in Irving that Carl and I shared with them. That's one of the places that the Nervebreakers had a rehearsal room. From there, I moved into the Plantation View Apartments and got a job as a maintenance man/manager. That's where I met my wife-to-be, Laura.

So, you were back from Vietnam, and settled in with your girl and a new band. Yes, and the band was writing and rehearsing regularly, and then shared an office and rehearsal space with friends in another band, The Toys. There were no clubs that would hire us doing the music we did, which was a mixture of originals and off the wall covers that most people were not familiar with, so we explored other avenues. We played foosball parlors and roller rinks and occasionally would rent a VFW hall to put on our own shows, often with another band like The Toys.

What bars were the first to bite? The gay bars were, as usual, the first to pick up on anything on the cutting edge, so we started getting in to venues like Magnolias. Later we were able to find gigs at some clubs like the Binary Star and a couple of others and spent a year or so playing every Tuesday night at Fanny Ann's to massive audiences reaching into the high teens and occasionally 25 people night. The members of the Vomit Pigs, The Dot Vaeth Group and others were making their way to the DFW area and were making their marks as well. From there it grew slowly and steadily with clubs opening like Studio D, DJ's, The Twilite Room, Nairobi Room, The Hot Klub, Zero's, Ground Zero and others.

It sounds like there was a handful of bands that were all helping to prop each other up. Who did you enjoy watching the most back then? I think Mike Brock, also known as Mite Vomit, of the Vomit Pigs was one of my favorite songwriters. I liked those guys and all the offshoot bands from them. Also the Dot Vaeth group like Superman's Girlfriend, Snakes On Everything, Graceland, Infants. Platinum Paul and The Skuds were one of my favorites.

How about some new talent around the neighborhood that have caught your eye? Anybody come to mind? I don't pay much attention now, but Bobgoblin was one of my faves and, of course, Reverend Horton Heat, The Old 97's and Eleven Hundred Springs. I do like The Gore Hounds who are an ongoing concern and really creative and interesting.

Fill us in on the kind of work you're focusing on now. It might not always be onstage, but its very near one. I started working as a union stage hand with I.A.T.S.E. Local 127 in 1994 and am still a member, although I now do only entertainment rigging. I've also toured the U.S. and the rest of the world working for The Eagles, Van Halen, Christina Aguilera and Fleetwood Mac, although I haven't been out on tour since 2008. I mostly do local rigging for corporate events and burlesque shows. I always thought it was funny that when we opened for the Police's first show in Dallas, Sting knew who I was from the Rolling Stone photo and I didn't know who he was but the closest I got to him since was sweeping the stage before his show in Dallas. That rock star stuff is pretty fleeting.

Well, speaking of awkward ... with another reunion coming up Saturday, does the transition from behind-the-scenes back to performer again ever feel awkward? Or is it seamless, like riding a bike? It's getting easier as I lose Local Yokel status and am slipping into relative obscurity. After my band Yeah! Yeah! Yeah!, from Texas, not the one that sucks, and quasi-celeb status playing with The Cartwrights then a few Buck Satan and the 666 Shooters and Al Jourgenses, I ran into a lot of people who knew me from the stage and wondered why I was working for a living, so to speak. I still play some with The Cartwrights and The Barry Kooda Combo, but most people on job sites just know me as a rigger. Although those occasional recognitions are flattering, it's more embarrassing and awkward for me to have to explain why I'm not the big rock star they had assumed.

Going back to the night you opened for the Sex Pistols at The Longhorn, any thoughts on Malcolm McLaren from that night? It's been said that McLaren was taking "fashion notes" from Tex and you guys, and from the venue itself. He was a marketing genius. There's no doubt about that and I'm sure the cowpunk theme was highly marketable, but a lot of people think he built the Pistols like a boy band. I don't buy that. They had a lot more to offer than he could ever have been credited for. To me he was the British version of Kim Fowley. Great director. Great eye for what works. But they both had to have a good, marketable product to work with.

This Saturday, take a rare chance at a glimpse into local punk history as The Nervebreakers reunite for one show only at Club DaDa for Kettle Art. Check out the promo video for the show here.

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Alan Ayo