The Dils - Biography
By Oliver Hall
The Dils, who divided their brief career between Los Angeles and San Francisco, were one of the first West Coast punk bands. The band crudely identified itself as Marxist, displaying the Soviet hammer and sickle onstage and singing “I Hate the Rich” and “Class War” on the A-sides of their first two singles. Like many early West Coast punk bands, the Dils broke up before recording an album, leaving behind a handful of singles, demos, and live tracks that were eventually collected on the compilation album Dils Dils Dils (1991 Bacchus Archives, re-issued 1992 Damaged Goods) a decade after the band dissolved.
Brothers Chip and Tony Kinman grew up near San Diego, California in a town called Carlsbad. Chip Kinman told rock writer Richie Unterberger, “Tony and I started playing music together [in high school] because at that time in the late 70s, everyone was looking to Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple and Steely Dan and that kind of nonsense. And we just couldn't stand that sort of music. We were more into like New York Dolls and David Bowie and Lou Reed and that sort of thing. Since we were the only ones in our high school who liked that kind of music, we naturally just kind of started playing together.”
The Kinmans moved to San Francisco briefly in 1976, where they befriended the Nuns and formed the first lineup of the Dils with singer Jeffrey Scott and drummer Josef Marc. Chip played guitar, while Tony played bass. The Dils moved back down south to Los Angeles in 1977, where they played The Nerves’ Punk Rock Invasion show at SIR Studios with The Weirdos. In the book We Got the Neutron Bomb: The Untold Story of L.A. Punk, published in 2001 by Three Rivers Press, Peter Case of The Nerves remembers, “The Dils came out and they were really too weird. They were way out there. This guy Jeff Scott was the spazziest lead singer in the world. On the first song he freaked out and hit himself in the face with a mike, hurt himself and broke the mike.”
It is not clear whether singer Scott and drummer Marc quit or were fired, but in any case the Dils became a trio in 1977, and the Kinmans took over singing and added drummer Andre Algover. This lineup of the Dils made a brief appearance in Cheech & Chong’s first movie, 1978’s Up in Smoke, as one of a number of LA punk groups playing at the Roxy in West Hollywood. While in Los Angeles, the band acquired Marxist manager Peter Urban and released two of the very first punk songs on vinyl to emerge from L.A. – “I Hate the Rich / You’re Not Blank” (1977 What?) and 198 Seconds of the Dils (1977 Dangerhouse), comprised of the songs “Class War” and “Mr. Big.” Algover went back to college after recording “I Hate the Rich” and is replaced by the mysterious Rand McNally on 198 Seconds.
The Dils deliberately alienated LA freak scene doyens Kim Fowley and Rodney Bingenheimer, denouncing the former from the stage of the Whiskey at one of Fowley’s new wave nights and setting the latter’s highly flammable hair ablaze during a set by The Zeros. The Kinmans moved back to San Francisco in late 1977 where drummer John Silvers joined the Dils after an audition at Mabuhay Gardens, the legendary Filipino restaurant and punk club. Silvers drummed with the band for the next year, during which John Cale of the Velvet Underground asked the Dils to record an album for his label Spy Records, but an album did not materialize. The Dils participated in a San Francisco punk benefit for striking miners in March of 1978 and toured the United States in 1979, after which Silvers left the band. Drummer Zippy Pinhead played on the last release of the Dils’ career, the 1980 double 7” set Made in Canada (Rogelletti), which captures the band moving in the roots rock direction the Kinmans pursued with their next band, Rank & File.
In an interview on the “Revenge of the 80s” podcast, Tony Kinman said that the Dils strove to prevent hierarchies and orthodoxies from developing within the punk scene, but “orthodoxy developed very quickly—that’s one of the reasons the Dils broke up, because all of a sudden there started being people standing around saying ‘Punk rock is this, it’s not this, it’s not that, you’re not a punk if you do this,’ and I never really saw the benefit of people restricting themselves.”
After the Dils’ breakup, the Kinman brothers continued to play together in a series of bands. First was Rank & File with ex-Nun Alejandro Escovedo, followed by the industrial duo Blackbird and, most recently, the country and western band Cowboy Nation. Each brother now fronts his own band – Chip’s is called Chip Kinman and PCH and Tony’s is Los Trendy. Posthumous Dils releases include the compilation Dils Dils Dils (1991 Bacchus Archives, re-issued 1992 Damaged Goods) and Class War (2000 Bacchus Archives), the later of which combines live recordings from 1980 with both tracks from the Dils’ first single.