|About THE BONELESS ONES:
Formed in Berkeley, California, in 1984. Initially, they weren’t even a musical group—more a cadre of Pro-Am aspiring punks aligned to a single skate-or-die goal. The genesis of the moniker goes back to Fox and cohort Takaki pilfering boneless stickers from grocery store meat departments. They plastered the ‘boneless’ red decals everywhere. Then, still, without a band, they designed a logo. When a skate photo of Fox, Takaki, and ripper Joel Chavez appeared in East Bay fanzine Cometbus, they were mistaken for a real-life band. Naturally, Chavez’s trick—called a “boneless”—combined with youthful guerilla marketing tactics had paid off. The Boneless Ones were officially born. Obligatory lineup changes eventually coalesced into Fox and Takaki bringing in Joe Satriani-educated guitarist Luke Skeels and Fang drummer Tim Stilletto. Not long after, the quartet wrote and recorded Skate for the Devil with Kevin Army. The rest, the adage goes, is history.
Skate for the Devil was constructed with spontaneous spirit, fresh-faced grit, and a middle-finger attitude. Whatever was to come after classics like “Keg Kept a Flowin’,” “Love to Hate,” “Miss Fresno,” and “Skate for the Devil” had to have the same impetus, a similar tongue-in-cheek constitution, and above all, continued adoration for all things skateboarding. Not for nothing but Thrasher Magazine called “Skate for the Devil” one of the greatest skate rock songs of all time. So, high bars had been set. With heavy hearts from the passing of Skeels (R.I.P. October 26, 2020) and good friend Eddie Jennings and palpable nostalgia in their minds, The Boneless Ones reconvened not as a reunion band but as an entity driven to create anew. Indeed, Kontos (originally in the band’s ’86 and ’87 configurations) and Locicero provided indispensable firepower and aptitude to the overall songwriting sessions. The Boneless Ones pulled four unreleased tracks (“Tied to a Stake,” “Church of Violence,” “In the Cold,” and “Faces of Death”) from a long-lost ’87 demo while the band minted up-to-date songs in “Back to the Grind,” “We Ride the Night,” “Blood on the Streets,” and “I Wish You Were a Beer,” the follow-up to “Miss Fresno.” Back to the Grind is real, and it surpasses all expectations.
Back to the Grind is an album steeped in Bay Area roots—the vibrant Berkeley scene, Ruthie’s Inn, et al.—but it’s not a retread musically. Yes, old songs have been retooled. Yet, it’s the new songs where The Boneless Ones overwhelmingly shine rebellious, wax dynamic (fast and slow), and hit harder than metal to concrete. The guitar hero antics of Skeel are still imbued in Locicero’s contributions, and the tongue-in-cheek humor of the group’s formative years remains intact. There’s no confusion in direction, however. This is skate rock/cross-over music, as poignant today as it was in the mid-’80s. That’s evident from the old-school gallop of “Church of Violence” and the shout-out grind of “Crossing Over” to the launch-ramp pulse of “Good Friends” and the Vanishing Point-informed “Blood on the Streets.” For a bunch of guys with miles on their backs and stories to tell, Back to the Grind illustrates that it’s never too late to resurrect and persist once more that which matters most.
“We wrote the whole record in the spare bedroom at my house,” says drummer Chris Kontos. “I was on electric drums. I kept it caveman. I didn’t want a Machine Head or Gojira-level drumming style on this record. The record needed to be played on a steering wheel—like air drums. Craig was really hitting on some Rikk Agnew [Christian Death, Adolescents] moments on this record. He also understood the skate theme that we were going for. The modern [recording] tech going straight into my computer really helped our playbacks. We finally had a quality pre-production from that. We all had our parts down by the time we were ready to go in and record.”
The Boneless Ones are, if anything, chroniclers. Musically, that’s tangible throughout Back to the Grind. Lyrically, Fox has lived a life, and all that comes with it. Themes of brotherhood, lost love, reflection, and skateboarding—a scene in which the vocalist remains very active—are woven throughout the lyrical outlay. Indeed, “Back to the Grind” hits on never letting go, while “Bones of Rock” pays homage to rock ‘n’ roll; heartbreak is tackled on “In the Cold,” and “Good Friends” honors the unfortunate passing of a friend; “Crossing Over” takes on the tenets of Bay Area cross-over music, and the bands that inspired it. Back to the Grind is a testament to the last 35 years of Fox’s life.
“There’s two different styles I write in,” Fox says. “There’s storytelling songs and songs that tell a story. I wrote a lot of the new songs from the heart—things that have happened in my life. They’re ‘life songs.’ I’ve lived my life, and I have stories to tell. I’m conscious that not every song needs to be a long and drawn-out novella. Some of the songs are playful, fun, and joyful. But there’s a very serious side to us, too. Both sides are important to us, and I think they define what The Boneless Ones were and are now.”
Kevin Army and his trusty 8-track recorder did the job on Skate for the Devil in ’86. The Boneless Ones (and technology) have moved on, however. The group enlisted producer Zack ‘The Wizard’ Ohren (Machine Head, Fallujah) and Oakland-based Sharkbite Studios to properly capture Back to the Grind. The sessions were rigorous yet productive. On the first day, Kontos got through 10 of the 13 songs, while Fox nailed the vocals in two days. The Boneless Ones then brought on Grammy Award-winning mixing engineer Matt Winegar (Fantastic Negrito, Primus) and mastering guru Ed Littman for Ed Littman Mastering to ensure Back to the Grind would boom and grind from loudspeakers at skateparks to streaming playback.
“Zack was good,” says Takaki. “He was there with us from the get-go. You always know where you stand with Zack—he speaks his thoughts. So, he helped us clean up our act. Chris was incredible. His playing is so physical. After the drums, we did bass and rhythm guitar. Now, we record everything individually. I work in movies, so I understand the theory, but this is the first time I recorded the bass by myself. The recording was so much different from the first album. We definitely pulled favors to get the music recorded 1,000 times better than it should’ve been.”
Where The Boneless Ones go from here is determined by fun and feels. That’s how they started, and that’s how they’ll continue on. Certainly, the years of covert marketing via Hollywood movies (Diary of a Wimpy Kid [as Löded Diper], The Bounty Hunter), skate videos (Monster Energy Drink and Thrasher Magazine “Magic Maka Bus” with pro Grant Taylor), and appearances in other mediums have helped The Boneless Ones stay front and center. The tradition carries on with music spots in downhill skater documentary Nick Broms: What’s the Rush? and HBO Max series Dead Boy Detectives. Renowned artist Mark DeVito (Metallica, Motörhead) completes the Bay Area circle with a raging cover piece and a cool new slime-green logo design. The kegs keep flowin’, the party’s never dull, and most importantly, the grinds are always gnarly with The Boneless Ones’s Back to the Grind.
BONELESS ONES online: