Drugs, Guns, & Deutschland

Oakland native Sam McGuire backpacked around Europe and came home with a punk-rock record deal.

Most East Bay kids backpack around Europe after high school and come back with weak war stories about drinking too much wine and making out with some boy or girl from Sacramento. This week, 29-year-old Oaklander and former felon Sam McGuire returns after four years in Germany with a distinctly different story.

McGuire will headline the infamously ghetto Burnt Ramen warehouse in Richmond Friday, July 21, fronting German hardcore quartet Scheisse Minnelli. The band is on a three-week, 23-date tour of the West Coast to promote its new full-length recording Exist to Get Piss’t on the King Fing’r label, nationally distributed by Hairball8 to indie stores and places as big as Tower Records.

So just how does a kid who used to skateboard drunk on the shoulder of Highway 242 in Concord end up singing for a hit German thrash band on a reverse international tour to his own home turf?

It’s a like father, like son story.

McGuire was born at Merritt Hospital to a “badass” Berklee College of Music jazz-playing dad and an Iranian émigrée mom. Daddy was a world traveler who’d been to Afghanistan and all over Europe, where he met and married Sam’s Persian mother. The family moved to lovely Concord when McGuire was seven.

Growing up and attending Ignacio Valley High, the lad always had intended to follow in his father’s globetrotting footsteps, but by age 25 the only foreign place he’d visited on his own was the county lockup, where he landed on a drugs and guns conviction.

“My landlord was a Hells Angel with an automatic rifle in the house, so when I got caught selling pounds and QPs [of marijuana] I sort of had to take one for the team,” McGuire recalls. “I couldn’t say it was his. I got a year and served nine months. It wasn’t easy, but it wasn’t San Quentin, you know?

“I get out and I’m a felon with an electrical engineering degree from SF State, with an emphasis in analogue equipment,” he continues. “It was hard to find work. Selling drugs was something I didn’t want to do anymore, so I went straight to Iran, met a bunch of family, and did the European backpacking thing for nine months.”

At this point, McGuire’s story is supposed to join reality when he returns home, finds a job, and yada yada. But he had a felony on his record, so he decided to stay in Germany and work.

A frontman for several East Bay punk bands including the Dead Smurfs during his formative years, the crafty McGuire took intensive German-language classes. He befriended some hardcore fans and started jamming in 2003 with German drummer and bassist Dirk “Dudel” Kersten and Markus Däsch. Then McGuire invited another East Bay guitarist, Eric Davis, to Zwingenberg, where Scheisse Minnelli held its first (and possibly most legendary) show at its own house.

“We practiced for maybe two months, and on November 29, my 27th birthday, we wanted to do a show,” McGuire says. “We were living with some Polish construction workers and we got an eviction notice, so we told the guys to flier the local town. They fliered it as a destruction/demolition party and a hundred punks showed up.

“They just wanted to destroy the house,” he continues. “They came straight in and they were like, ‘What can we break?’ I said, ‘Start with the kitchen,’ and they just started ripping the doors off of things. They threw a microwave oven through a window, but didn’t open the window first. The village had no police of its own so they had to call the neighboring town’s police. By the time they got there we had already moved to Aschaffenburg.”

The band’s name came from one of McGuire’s friends: “I had a friend who spoke no German, and whenever he needed to go to the bathroom, he said he needed to go take a Scheisse Minnelli. I wanted to have a fucked-up name, so that was it. People usually love it or hate it.”

Today, Scheisse is barreling toward the Bay Area from shows in Arizona wherein Dudel, the drummer, broke out in a rare adult case of chickenpox. Meanwhile, the band’s replacement guitarist, fellow German Felix Schachner, nurses a lip he split wide open when he kneed himself in the mouth doing backflips into a pool.

Infections and injuries aside, the Germans have been uniquely traumatized by their tour of America. “The drinking age. God,” Dudel says in pretty good English. “And Germans mosh more. Here you have people standing still and staring like you are the … the … the music police.”

Their tour van? A ’95 gold Honda Accord driven by McGuire’s brother. Scheisse’s only equipment is a stripped-down drum kit, Felix’ axe, and Dasch’s bass. “We’re giving Dudel the shotgun seat, since he has chickenpox,” McGuire notes.

The band members expect Exist to get Piss’t to be out just in time to put on their Burnt Ramen merch table. Expect twelve thrashy one-to-two-minute songs with titles such as “Skateboard the Freeway” and “I’m Socially Retarded.”

“‘I’m Socially Retarded’ is really popular in Germany, because the chorus is so easy to remember,” McGuire says. “‘Skateboard the Freeway’ is about the 242 in Concord. It just cuts through the whole town, and I would skateboard on the shoulder of it coming home from friends’ houses. Cars would honk at me. I was always afraid of hitting a rock.”

Sadly, McGuire’s storymaking days may be coming to an end. He turns thirty this November, and back problems may prohibit further freeway shredding. He is considering getting work as an electrician with the help of Scheisse’s first guitarist Davis, who now lives in West Oakland and plays in the band Six Billion Dead. Davis, who plans to sit in on a few songs at Ramen, is proud of his friend: “He’s a real charismatic guy, and I’m really happy at how good they’ve gotten,” he says. “He’s said he was going to make it happen, and he’s the kind of person to make anything happen.”

“Come out. Enjoy. Mosh. Bring us beer,” invites Dudel, even though a keg is planned for the all-ages venue.

It doesn’t get any more punk than that.

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