Interview with Sean Decker (Babydolls)


Some bands don't have to accomplish much to earn a reputation because quality is always more appealing than quantity. L.A's Baby Dolls is a fine example. They emerged out of the backstreets in Hollywood during the late eighties, released only one demo but it was enough to become immortal among tapetraders and people devoted to the glamunderground. Today, 10 years later, glamfans still freak out to the odd goth/glam of "Zombie Dance" or "Baby Doll". As glam is returning to the strip, some of the former Babydolls are once again re-focusing on music

Glitzine hooked up with former Baby Dolls vocalist Sean Decker. A very nice, intellectual and eloquent man. He, if anybody, knows the answers to why one of the more promising glambands of the late eighties defunct after just one tape, where they are today and where they wanna be tomorrow.


"There is so much I could say in regards to that band and time in my life. I was quite young really, and that band seemed to take on it's own life. It was more 'glam' than I may have liked (both musically and image-wise) in that I felt it was too pop-orientated. I was interested in doing something darker. Looking back, I can say that it was a definate learning experience, and I would be lying if I were to say that it wasn't fun at times, because it was.

In regards to the formation of the band, it took place in 1989. Eyajo (the keyboardist) was an aquaintance of a friend of mine (who died tragically). The two of them were to have put a synth-oriented project together, but after his death Eyajo and I began speaking, and the Babydolls were spawned.
"

Baby Dolls managed to cut their own nische within glamrock, a genre that often is looked upon as an orgie in cliches. They mixed goth, punk, pop and glam in a sweet-tasted, rare and refreshing cocktail. For some reason, The Dolls were labeled as "Gypsy Glam". A Term never used before or since.

"The original tag was actually "Hollywood's Number 1 Gypsy-Glam Candy Punk-N-Roll Band," although I suppose the shortened version stuck with us as well. That came about actually early in the band. Eyajo, myself and Brian were on a road trip returning from Arizona, and being quite bored Brian and I begin entertaining ourselves with a conversation regarding some of the more ludicrous band monikers of the time. Warrant's was something like "L.A.'s Number 1 Muff-Diving Team" (tasteless, I know), the words 'electric' and 'gyspy' and 'candy' seemed to proliferate every flyer on the Strip, and thinking this was quite funny, we came up with the longer version. What we didn't count on however was the rest of the band latching onto it so dearly, and it unfortunately became a staple of the band. (The same way 'Stupid, Sleazy, Sixteen' did; a song that was initially written as a barb at someone and was only to be played once..., we hadn't counted on our audience loving it as they did, but I digress.) I believe the "Gypsy Glam" part originally came from Ejayo, and that what he was attempting to describe with it was that musically we were quite nomadic (hence the term 'gypsy') and didn't limit ourselves to writing one type of song, which was evident on not only the EP but our live performances as well. We were able to quite successfully shift from a song like "Babydoll," which was basically a 50's peice, into straight punk, and then again into more pop-oriented material."

Yeah, Baby Dolls were special and stood out from the rest. The Strip in the late eghties was crammed, every band or musician with any potential seemed to head to Tinseltown in search of fame and fortune. Competition was stiff as Glamour Punks, Tuff, Bad Blood, Swingin Thing all reached their prime during this era. Somehow, Baby Dolls managed to make a mark on a scene that later suddenly died.


"I suppose we made quite an impact at the time, although my vocals were atrocious then and I didn't consider us that good. We had a rigorous rehearal schedule and my monitors, etc., were poor quality, so it put a lot of strain on my voice (on top of the fact that I was singing through my throat at the time.) In regards to the band, through hard work and copious promotion we played just about everywhere in Southern California; the Whiskey, The Roxy, the Teaszer, Red light; it goes on and on. There definately was a scene back then and an interest in that type of music. Labels courted us frequently, but as anyone in the industry knows until the contract is signed it is simply talk. We filmed videos for "Zombie Dance" & "Glam Slam," did a number of telvised interviews and film appearances, were featured in more interantional magazines that I can count. We did indeed have a large following, both locally and internationally. Larger than I had expected. We were to tour Japan towards the end (through Monster Productions) but the band self-destructed, and after I left they attempted to replace me with a new singer. Poetic justice I suppose in that he wasn't received well at all, and they disbanded shortly after that, Daniel and Eyajo forming the Astro Vamps for a time. I must say that to pursue my own mucial desires away from them was the best thing I could have done at the time. My only regret is not having done the tour. It was to be for two weeks, 5000 seat amphitheaters. I harbor no ill feelings towards them though; hell, we were all just kids really. Daniel still lives in L.A. and we speak from time to time. I'm not sure what became of the rest of them, in particular Brian, whom I would love to speak with. He was a good friend and amazing drummer. "

The journalists at the time seemed to emphasize on the fact that Baby Dolls were five different individuals. Eyajo was supposed to be the synth element, Surfer Dan was the punk. Both later formed the awesome Astro Vamps. Sean was labeled as the glamourboy of the bunch. One wonders if this was correct and if it made colleboration difficult?

"I suppose they were correct in these assumptions, although regardless  of my looks I was a certain amount of trouble...there was unfortunately at  the time quite a bit of pointless drama between us and certain other bands (the Glamour Punks in particular), so in regards to retaining our credibility (something that all of us as foolish children thought important) I did my share of fighting, regardless of my 'glamourboy' reputation...it all seems so foolish now. This is one of the reasons that I seperated myself from musicand the Hollywood 'scene' for such time. I simply wanted to play, and  avoid the 'Melrose Place' drama. As far as the collaborative difficulties between the band, in the beginning I think the differences complimented it, although musically I wasn't happy, and I think that took it's toll."

I can imagine the rockdrama on the Strip in the late eighties. So many bands that all thought that they were the "next thing" within a flourishing genre. None of them knew or expected that those days soon would be over and not a single one of the actors involved ever grew outside Los Angeles. Destiny showed no mercy against the cocky glamrockers. Sean continues...

"There was a bit of rivalry but the reasons for it seldom had to dowith the number of bands. It generally came down to, and I don't want this tosound misogynistic, but girls. To illustrate my point, the term "HollywoodPyscho Bitch" was so prevelent (as were several that fit the description) that a club was actually opened with that exact name. For some reason certain people enjoyed causing drama between certain bands, ourselves and  the GlamourPunks in particular. It went like this; someone would tell Mandy  that I had said something derogatory about him, followed by the same person telling me that Mandy had said something about me, and it would snowball. There were actually a few occasions that were a bit humorous, in that someone would say,"Mandy was at the Whiskey last night and was talking trash," when in actuality Mandy and I had been at a party the night before drinking together. But yes, I must say that over time such gossip took its toll on our prospective relationships with the Punks, which was unfortunate. In retrospect I truly wish that none of it had transpired, for the simple fact that Dizzy (bass player of the Glamour Punks) passed away a few years later, he and I becoming fairly good friends just before hand. Deep down, he was sensitive; a gentleman with a good heart, and I would have liked to have known him as an individual and a person longer than I did. In regards to there being a glut of similar bands (at least visually) at the time, you are quite correct, but the scene was very incestuous, in that it seemed almost everyone had played with every one else in one shape or form,and most often at least on the same bill. I can remember one gig at the RedLight where the line-up was incredible; Wikked Gypsy, Juicy Miss Lucy, Bad Blood (one of the best bands ever I think, signed or otherwise), the   GlamourPunks, the Dum Dums, the Babydolls. That night was a pleasure, and I can recall that whatever differences that some of us may have had were put aside.I must say that at times it was enjoyable, although it never compared to the comraderie of the San Francisco scene."

Someone should write that down and sell the rights, what a soapdish! Anyway, personally I think Baby Dolls had great potential. They had a strangeness that might have attracted some even during the era of grunge and punk. Why did they release only one tape? What went wrong?

"I appreciate your enthusiasm. We actually had a vast amount of material, and I felt that the songs improved as time went by. That demo Idon't feel captured the band for the most part, in that we grew musically quite quickly. Six months after that was released it seemed almost  quaint when compared to the newer material; songs like "Clown Room" in particular. I believe there were plans to go back into the studio eventually, but we were so busy playing live, rehearsing, promoting and the like that it never came to fruition. Also, the tape was received extraordinarily well, which at times had the wrong effect I am afraid; the packaging was so professional that a good deal of the time the major labels thought that we were already signed to an indie. Regardless, it did garner us quite bit of interest. We were to play in Hawaii (we didn't go because of hefty fines exacted upon vulgarity on stage, and my mouth while playing live sometimes puts Sebastian's to shame);a two-week tour of Japan was in the planning phase..., the list seemed endless, as was the fan-mail we received from Europe, Japan, South America. Ican remember being quite amazed by all of it. I think we sold (simply through grass-roots promotion and word of mouth) almost 15,000 tapes.

As far as what went wrong, it came down to the point I think that we just didn't like one another any longer. Egos were high. Those times were chaotic, dangerous, nihilistic, but not in a very expressive or cathartic way. I was unhappy with the musical direction and that of the band. The things I was interested in doing, which I suppose you could say were quite a bit more dark, 'goth' if you will..., I was unable to do in that situation.   Minor chords and lyrical introspect were discouraged to say the least. Instead of remaining relatively grounded I think some in the band got swept up into their own hype as well, and friendships disolved due to it. Also, my nihilismat the time ran high; I was unhappy..., often self-destructive, and I think that it took its toll on the other members. I suppose though in an optimistic sense I can say that I made a plethora of mistakes at a time when they weren't as damaging as they could have been, which is good I think.
You're expected to make foolish decisions when you're young. What went wrong?
I was tired of being blonde!

What a waste of talent and potential. It's quite an accomplishment to sell 15.000 of your first tape. Sad that something went wrong down the street to success. It often does though as young rockbands earn recognition. Baby Dolls didn't however leave the scene without putting a mark on it. After the departure many of the members joined other successful bands (Astro Vamps, The Zeros).

"The Babydolls certainly weren't the end. Daniel & Eyajo went on to form the Astro Vamps, who I believe were fairly successful in their own right, playing with Christian Death and the like. At present Dan has turned his attentions towards painting and animation, although he has also continued to write music. The little I have heard I thought quite good. I'm not sure of what happened to Eyajo, except that he returned to Chicago. Brian went on to drum for the Charm School Dropouts. As far as the Zeros, I'm not sure in regards to that. After I left the band, Brandi and Brian soon departed as well, and as far as any members that joined the Babydolls afterwards and what they did
later I am not aware. It seemed to have become a revolving door
."

Well, Baby Dolls continued with another line-up after Sean had left. The Second unit didn't make any comparable impact though and later modified into Astro Vamps. Todd Wiltse later joined the Zeros and is now in The Mistakes. Andi Hill played with Astro Vamps, Jaimz Gang and is now with HollyWood Teasze.

Sean formed another impressive band - Sister Smack - less gothpop and more glam/sleaze hr. The Band sounded like Vain or a more melodic L.A. Guns.


"Upon leaving the Babydolls several offers poured in from other glam bands in Hollywood and elsewhere in regards to taking upon vocal duties. I really wanted to distance myself from that type of music though, and aside from a project with Fly (drummer from the Glamour Punks), Tweety (who went on to play w/ Big Bang Babies) and Bumper (from the Atomic Bombz..., did anyone have a normal human name?), which never left the planning stage, I basically bided my time, waiting for the right guitarist to come along. In '91 Kyle answered an ad, and upon our initial meeting Sister Smack was on. He had moved from Australia, and aside from becoming a friend I still hold dear he was an amazing guitarist and songwriter, and things between us moved so smoothly in regards to the writing process that I could not have been more pleased. We both had been influenced by bands like Vain, Tiger Tailz, etc., but as far as the end product it was a culmination of our interests, and definitely something I had wanted to do prior (while I was in the Dolls). I wrote the songs in regards to basic structure, melody and lyrics, and Kyle would structure his own guitar around them.

Things blossomed, although I do wish that we had played together for a greater period of time. Our goal was to have a permanent violinist and cellist in the line-up. We recorded 'Sweet Addiction' in North Hollywood in less than two days, with one take for bass & drums and only one rehearsal with the rhythm section (Tiny from Rude Awakening and Blaine from Juicy Miss Lucy). I must say that even though my voice has improved dramatically since then, I still feel that the majority of songs upon it are quite good, and Kyle's playing was of course flawless. That time was enjoyable, even though finding a permanent rhythm section was almost an impossibility then, since grunge was becoming such a driving force. Sadly, due to citizenship issues, Kyle returned to Australia, eventually playing for Meridian. We still do correspond, although not as often as I like."

Sister Smack's tape was impressive indeed but unfortunately they appeared in a cold musical climate. Lipstick had changed to goatbeards and spandex to flannels. It was painful to watch all glamoriented bands die or change to a more appropriate style ("sell-out" that is). Did fate treat Sister Smack gently?


"To me the project was quite succesful, in that is was fulfilling artistically on a personal level, as well as being quite enjoyable. Kyle was a wonderful person to collaborate with, in addition to our friendship. You are quite right in saying that the musical climate was not very receptive to bands with the aesthetic leanings we had. At that time the Seattle scene was all the rage. So many musicians I knew cut their hair, grew goatees and started wearing flannel, and sadly enough attempted to imitate what was happening instead of following their hearts. The glam scene in Hollywood had definately become a microcosm, and although Kyle and I auditioned bassists and drummers for what seemed an eternity we weren't able to find individuals that suited our needs. We were quite mandatory in regards to professionalism, talent and image, as well as realism (as I still am) and simply were not able to find those who possessed such qualities. I'm not sure things have changed that much either in regards to the lack of such people in Hollywood; I am still atthis point searching for a guitarist to complete my current project and have not yet been contented with anyone I have found thus far. Regardless, concerning Smack, we received an enthusiastic response from particular journalists, as well as the small number of people that the tape was delivered to, but since we were unable to acquire a suitable rhythm section we never did play out live, and that itself was damaging as far as limiting our audience. A label in Australia was apparently intertested in signing a deal with us after Kyle's return, although I can't quite recall what became of that."

Which brings us to 1998. All the destructive music that demolished the music which Baby Dolls and Sister Smack were a part of, is long gone. Make-up and larger-than-life performances, are once again on everyone's lips. It's all right to smile again. During the devastating era, Sean practised a lot of other arts. To find an income but more important, to find himself.

"My first passion has always been writing; fiction, poetry, prose, etc. I distanced myself from Hollywood (although I have remained) for nearly six years, completing a novel (Imitating Angels) which is garnering some interest from certain New York book houses. At present I have several other personal literary works in progress, as well as staff-writing for Universal Studios and various free-lance work (mostly genre related). To me the medium (in regards to poetry & prose) is undeniably spiritual, something sorely lacking for the most I feel in the present social clime. In addition I suppose I am a bit of a loner, and such affords me solitude.

I also pursued modeling not long after Smack, landing a gig with R&L in Manhattan, potentially to become the (then) Calvin Klein underwear model, although due to a death in the family I returned to California for a bit of time, and for some reason things slipped through my fingers in regards to that. Fate works in strange ways I suppose. I still do a bit of modeling, runway and print, mostly for Terri King, Retail Slut, Detour and various other magazines. The vapidness of it bores me however, and I don't believe that such an industry should be romanticized. It is far too self-congradulatory.

As far as music at present, my new project (with the exception of a guitarist) is this close to ignition; Ian (from Near Death Experience) and Raven (who actually wrote that song "Bringing on the Heartbreak," and yes, we do tease him about it, although it is a rather good pop song) have rounded out the rhythm section. I had a brief meeting with Daniel from the Dolls, although I think musically we are far too distant at present to do anything together that would satisfy us both. A possibility may lie in the form of a guitarist I knew briefly years ago, who went on to play for London After Midnight and Taime's new project The Newlydeads, although at present he has as of yet to move back to L.A.; a really good guitar player as well..., someone that I would definitley not be 'settling on,' although at present the search continues. For myself musically it is nearer more to Smack than the Dolls in regards to aggression, although you can expect something quite atmospheric and textured as well, melodic 'goth' if you will; dark-glam, poignant. Think late Skid Row having a torrid affair with Switchblade Symphony and the Nymphs, with a bit of electronica thrown in, if such a thing is possible. I do detest describing such a thing however; it's better for one to draw their own conclusions, yes?

Why it took so long for me to become interested in such a thing once again isanother question entirely. It has just come around. There are times when things move almost in a linear fashion, and this is one of them. As for the present? To be able to once again get on stage with the experience I now possess, with songs and lyrics that I care for, that is what seems to be in position at the moment. And besides, the Palace awaits
."

Sean's project is called Flesh Orchid. Mail him for further details: sdecker@nts.net or visit his website