Sunday Old School: The Mentors
One of the crazier bands to grace the LA metal scene in the mid-eighties was the legendary trio the Mentors. While gaining their fame in that city, what many may not realize is that the band got it's start in 1976 right out of Roosevelt High School in Seattle. Eldon Hoke, Eric Carlson and Steve Broy relocated to LA in 1979 and quickly became a fixture in the club scene at the height of the punk rock era, and a voice to counter the beginnings of the glam/hair metal movement. Figuring they had a better chance for fame in LA, they moved the band and the roadies into a one bedroom Hollywood apartment. Changing their stage names to El Duce, Sickie Wifebeater and Dr. Heathen Scum respectively, they were ready to launch an all-out assault on traditional metal as we know it. Combining thrash, garage and punk, they developed a huge core audience with their irreverent, misogynistic lyrics delivered in that nice sloppy style that never pretended to be good serious metal. When hair metal bands in spandex were singing about what the cat dragged in, here came three slovenly dudes with beer bellies and t-shirts singing about their secretary hump.
Mystic Records first signed them in 1982 when they first embarked on a US club tour. Cranking out an EP "The Trash Bag" (since it came in a plastic wrapper) and a live one ("At the Whiskey") a year later in 1984, the Mentors club cred got noticed by Brian Slagel and Bill Metoyer, who signed them to Death/Metal Blade records that year. It was their next two albums that put them on the map and would prove to be timeless classics in most old-school metalheads' collections. 1985's "You Axed for It" showed the band on the cover in the garb they were known for - executioners hoods covering their identities and their axes being wielded guitars. Of course, there was also a throng of groupies groveling at their feet. Uncannily, it almost looked like their take of KISS' "Love Gun" album. This record launched a stream of hits such as "Herpes Two," "Sandwich of Love" and "The 4-F Club" (later covered by Pungent Stench). One thing that made the Mentors original was their penchant for interesting tasteless rhymes without too much swearing, and running verses together in a nice sloppy way. They would rhyme sex with kotex and they didn't care if one verse was a lot longer than another, as long as it was shocking and rhymed.
In fact, if you listen to Anthrax's "I'm the Man" you can hear their nod to the Mentors in some of the lyrics taken directly from the track "Golden Shower". 1986's "Up the Dose" took tasteless to a whole new level, displaying an ample woman in lingerie locked in a cage and drove it home even more musically with the tracks "On the Rag," "SFCC" and "Adultery." The Mentors had now officially joined the ranks of the Dwarves and GG Allin and the Murder Junkies with their blend of shock/rape rock and inspired countless musicians like Seth Putnam of Anal Cunt with their irreverency. Even Tesco Vee of the Meatmen mentioned them in the track "Triple B." They influenced alot of bands with their videos, bootlegs and stage shows, which were a decadent display of simulated sex and explicit antics. Eldon Hoke appeared in the science fiction musical "Population 1" with his stage moniker El Duce, along with several videos during this period. No matter what you think of them, they became legendary for making people laugh. The Mentors thrived on being white trailer trash before the term even became popular, bringing crude and filthy shlock to the indie metal movement.
Around this time, the Mentor's music became the cause celebre for the PMRC's lurid campaign on obscene lyrics. Interestingly, it was Frank Zappa who defended them at the hearings, since he himself was one of their targets. (The PMRC was ludicrous enough to put eight of Zappa's albums on the obscene list, even though two of them were instrumentals). Senator Al Gore's wife Tipper even made the point of listening in "horror" to the recited lyrics of "Golden Showers" at the hearings. This actually made the Mentors' albums even more popular through all the exposure they were getting. The infamy also brought them loads of publicity and appearances on The Jerry Springer Show (with GWAR) and on Wally George's show, the latter in which El Duce got thrown off the program by the show's security.
A bit later, they started a club tour with St. Vitus in what would be the one of the strangest double bills ever. In the years after, Broy left the band to pursue an engineering degree while the other two recruited bassist Jack Shit (and a few others) in his absence. While 1989 saw the release of "Sex Drugs and Rock 'n' Roll," a half live LP on Ever Rat Records, the Mentors performances became few and far in between by the close of the 80's - although they did attract the attention of the Revolting Cocks, who invited them to tour. Most of the concert goers on that tour were the 80's industrial Wax Trax crowd, so you can imagine how well that went over for the Mentors, although Al Jourgensen was an avowed Mentors fan.
"Rock Bible" and "To the Max" would prove to be the last two albums for the Mentors with El Duce at the helm. They brought in Moosedick and later Rick Lomas on drums since it was difficult for Eldon, a hard core alcoholic, to both sing and keep timing on the drum set. Being freed up to just sing allowed El Duce to perform all kinds of crass and lewd acts on stage. The early nineties saw both original members go their separate ways to embark on solo careers. Carlson formed the Jesters of Destiny and Hoke continued by himself. El Duce's solo effort "Slave to thy Master" was met with limited success, although it spawned good solid hilarious rockers like "Living on Welfare" and "Undergroomed Lover." He had Dr. Heathen Scum helping him out on the session work and performances surrounding this album and some of the club dates spawned from it.
In 1995, El Duce notoriously interjected himself into the headlines by claiming that Courtney Love had offered him 10 grand to off Kurt Cobain. Love and Duce did know each other from the Seattle club scene, but who knows how much contact they had in LA. Those claims were never substantiated, but more questions than answers remain on this subject. He actually passed a polygraph administered to him, and claimed that he turned down the 'contract' and that someone named Allen actually did the deed. By April of 1997 he was behaving paranoidly, asking where he could get a fake driver's license, claiming people were out to get him. The 18th of that month would prove to be El Duce's last live performance, at Al's Bar in downtown LA. Eerily, Hoke was killed by an oncoming train in Riverside the next day in timing that seemed very suspicious. Many figured that he had collapsed on the tracks while on an alcoholic bender, but others are not so sure he stumbled in front of that train - claiming foul play. The urban legend continues, and we may never know the answer.
The saga of The Mentors actually didn't end there. Steve and Eric rejoined forces with drummer/vocalist Marc DeLeon (Mad Dog Duce) and released a couple of albums in 2005 and 2009 (Ducefixion) respectively, spawning such tracks as "Be a Pervert," "Black Snatch" and "Stripper Poles." Heathen Scum had taken over the vocals until Mad Dog assumed them, and once again Bill Metoyer entered the picture to produce. They are currently headquartered in Bakersfield, California and are putting out a Mentors tribute album to include all kinds of bands, and one third of the 25 bands slated to do tribute tracks have already sent in their material. Mad Dog Duce's son also has a band of his own called the Vaginal Blood Farts, and Mad Dog is still active in his Bakersfield punk band Hossbruten.
I haven't seen much news posted on the Mentors' website since they promised to "post free porn, interactive sex with junkie sluts and online hookers." They do plan on playing a live gig at the Whiskey on December 15th to celebrate 30 years since "Live at the Whiskey & Cathey de Grande" was released. You wonder if you'll ever see them gain a foothold again though, even though this new incarnation has quite a few fans on it's websites. The eighties were a special time and who can really replace the sick, twisted charisma of El Duce? The early renaissance of independent metal will forever live in a time capsule, when there weren't alot of bands and fans got their new music off of the Metal Massacre compilations. The Mentors will always have a place in that beginning era of our metal roots as a cult favorite.
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