(This story originally appeared in Music magazine, May 17, 1984.)
By Bob Andelman
The name refers to a military state of readiness, the highest level of nuclear war anticipation.
DEFCON-1, a term made familiar to millions in last summer’s film War Games, is an attention-getting sure thing.
Encountering DEFCON-1 is something less than walking into a war zone, though. An off-the-wall, amusing, rocking demilitarized zone, maybe.
Lance Rodgers is the front man for the band. He is a man to be reckoned with and respected, first because of his size, and second for-the many talents he possesses. Along with lead guitarist Larry Lynch, Rodgers composes most of the original music performed by DEFCON-1 and writes all the lyrics.
Take a look at excerpts from his song “Third World Girls””:
Snell Isle spoiled child
Raised in a rich style
With some alien “help” to raise a preppy clone
“Mummy & Daddy” just didn’t have the time ..
Third World, Third World Girls They’re the ones with his
They’re his refugee redemption
Third World, Third World Girls Cambodi bodies not too
Loves their sensual karate.
© 1984 All Rights Reserved
Other curious compositions include “Low Rent/High Life” and “Grovel For Love.” Of the latter, Rodgers has a vivid ending to the llve version done on his knees before a dancing, gyrating female.
To introduce “Sex” at Club Detroit a few weeks back, Rodgers barked, “This song is for those Tyrone girls over there … Heterosexuals—Dance!!”
“Some people take Lance the wrong way,” admitted keyboard player Chad Dobransky. “Well, he’s not crazy—he’s just very vivid. They can’t understand how a guy his size moves so fast.”
DEFCON-1 has 10 original songs in their club set, only one of which is slow and/or serious: “Gray Blankets.” For the rest of the evening they cover Thomas Dolby, Elvis Costello, Talking Heads and early Joe Jackson.
Even as Rodgers adds the vocal colors to much of DEFCON-1’s work, Dobransky presents a flavorful sound on his synthesizers. The rest of the band fills out with Monte Video on bass and recent addition Bob Breault on drums. They are a strong outfit, leaning heavily toward power-pop strains.
Previously known as Doc, the band originally featured Rodgers on drums and congas with a woman singing lead. That didn’t work out and Rodgers moved from occasional to full-time front duties.
Between them, Rodgers and Dobransky make the band a visual humanscape. The larger Rodgers is nonetheless fleet of foot, while Dobransky in a character in the Rick Nielsen mold, like a cartoon, bald on top, wearing a pencil-thin mustache on the tip of his upper lip and an equally narrow necktie.
Dobransky’s home is both endearing to his personality and to his band. There are his record, hat and cork collections on display, dozens of mirrors on the walls from his days as a liquor salesman, nearly 200 of his trademark ties, and a bomb shelter (with its two-foot thick walls, “it’d be the ideal place for a band to rehearse”) in the front yard.
The living room is a tribute to his friend Rodgers, featuring a trio of black and white photographs by the singer, airbrushed with color. The sharp images of old cars and female legs with off-color hues are impressive, as are the homemade Christmas cards Rodgers sent his friend.
Rodgers has found many outlets for his abilities. Some of his paintings will hang at the Tampa Museum this summer, the result of being noticed at the Gasparilla arts festival, and he also designs all the DEFCON-1 promotional materials. That includes the: individually hand-painted buttons the group sells for a dollar and a monthly new wave calendar the band sends out.
Promotion is an important part of DEFCON-1 and it is all done in-house by the band members. They blanket bulletin boards and liquor stores with flyers announcing heir gigs. On his coffee table Dobransky has “The Entrepreneur’s Manual” by Richard M. White, Jr.
“It costs the club owner $20,” Dobransky said of the publicity blitz, “and it’s the best 20 bucks he ever spent ’cause we hit everywhere.”
As Doc, this band once peaked as opening act for the B-52s at Tampa Jai-Alai last year. But as DEFCON-1, they were “Rock Stars” for 2,000 screaming, supercharged, nubile young ladies at a Girl Scout Jamboree at the Florida State Fairgrounds recently.
“All the girls were between the ages of 12 and 17,” Dobransky said. “In the contract was written ‘No obscene gestures and movements’ … Bob Breault changed his shirt between sets and they attacked him … We’re all signing autographs and I remember thinking ‘These are the kids that buy records!’ … I was so pumped up.”
Copyright 2017 Will Eisner: A Spirited Life by Bob Andelman