Sonny Vincent was playing in New York City when punk was in its purest, most relevant form. Before Legs McNeil was selling Please Kill Me T-shirts and before Lisa Kristal was in charge of the CBGB brand, he played places like Max’s Kansas City alongside bands like Suicide, The Cramps and Teenage Jesus & The Jerks. His band The Testors were involved with a stable of artists that would go on to influence the Bowery and beyond.
The city was booming with Warholian influence. Those involved with The Factory and The Velvet Underground were reaching to the next wave, kids nostalgic already for the garage ramblings of The Count Five and stylish promise of The Dave Clark Five. The Testors released a 7” (Together/Time Is Mine) and would go on to tour nationally with the Dead Boys. Guitarist Cheetah Chrome brought to New York the remnants of his foray with Rocket From The Tombs connecting the dots between the Cleveland sound and New York.
The Testors would eventually call it quits in 1980, though Vincent has continued to play regularly. Throughout the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, Vincent played in several groups, including some with Chrome. He reached back to the beginning, working with Maureen Tucker and Sterling Morrison of The Velvet Underground. He also played with Captain Sensible of The Damned and Scott Asheton of The Stooges, connecting dots further with the punk sensibilities of Detroit and England.
Now 50 years later, Vincent reunited onstage with the original members of The Testors to celebrate the (now nonexistent) Max’s Kansas City. The Testors’ Complete Recordings
(1976-1979) were released last year on Alien Snatch Records. Vincent released a new album, Spiteful,
featuring a new super group including Glen Matlock of the Sex Pistols, Rat Scabies of The Damned, and Steve MacKay of The Stooges. Vincent's career is laden with musicians that were integral in defining punk, and he himself has made a point to champion original punk energy.
We chatted Sonny up before his show at State Street Pub this weekend.
NUVO: So you and I have something in common, and it is that we both have played with Cheetah Chrome. Obviously Cheetah was in the Dead Boys but he was also in Rocket From The Tombs — I find it neat that you worked with the similarly named Rocket From The Crypt in 2003 and you’ve just realized those recordings this year on the album Vintage Piss.
Yes! We recorded it in San Diego, and then we did a big tour and it was very creative. We made the songs all in the studio and it went really well.
NUVO: Will you be playing any of those songs on this current tour, or are they reserved for working with Rocket From The Crypt?
No, we will be playing a couple of songs off that album.
NUVO: You also released Spiteful last year, which features Glen Matlock, Rat Scabies, and Steve MacKay. Who is playing with you on this tour?
On this tour I handpicked the musicians, I travelled to Barcelona to audition a drummer and a guitar player that I was interested in, and I also went to Little France and found the bass player. So basically I could’ve grabbed some dudes in New York and everything but I was very interested in customizing or handpicking these guys, so you know even though we’re doing a U.S. tour and we have to fly everybody over—it’s worth it to me. It’s a killer lineup.
NUVO: Where all are you going on this tour?
It’s mostly certain sections of the States, I just got done playing Goner Fest in Memphis, Tennessee. We went down south, and to North Carolina, and right now we’re in Rochester, New York and then we’ll be in Providence, Rhode Island. We’ll mainly be in the East.
Are you planning to record another album after this tour, or do you have other recording plans?
I have some stuff that I recorded up in Canada a couple years ago that still needs the vocals, so I may go back and work on that. I have a couple projects in the works, but I’m not sure which I’ll go back and work on.
NUVO: When you recorded Spiteful you used all vintage equipment. Will you be touring with the same equipment?
Well, we melted a lot of that stuff down—it wasn’t really road worthy. We totally melted down a 1965 Vox amp and then a 1970 Vox amp. We’ve still got good stuff but you know… the vintage stuff didn’t really hold up.
NUVO: You played Max’s 50th Anniversary recently — how was that?
That was great, it was sold out. It was nice for me to play with the original lineup of Testors because you know, it was really special. I really enjoyed it, and now it’s kind of out of my system. I don’t think we’ll do any more but maybe, who knows.
NUVO: What do you think of festivals like CBGB Fest, do you think that’s something you would ever want to play?
I don’t really keep track of that stuff because nowadays those things are a little bit different than I think people would expect. I think people play those festivals that had never been to CBGB’s and it’s not a true CBGB’s fest.