LEFT OF THE DIAL As legend has it, there was a time when you couldn't walk the streets of Berkeley without running into him. He accosted you from posters adorning bar bathroom doors; he lurked around corners, plastered to telephone poles. He was mischievous, sometimes foul-mouthed, usually up to no good, but he always meant well. He wanted you to rock out. He was Pyno Man, and he was everywhere.
"Pyno Man was basically just the dream anybody has of being great, but instead of working a regular job and having fantasies about doing crazy rockstar things, he's actually trying it all the time and failing. So he's out there on the street acting like a rockstar, but everyone just thinks he's crazy," explains John Seabury, artist, creator of Pyno Man, and bass player for the relatively short-lived but locally legendary East Bay garage-punk outfit Psycotic Pineapple, for which the wild-eyed, mohawked, anthropomorphized pineapple served as mascot. "To me, that was logical."
A staple of the East Bay punk club scene of the late '70s, Psycotic Pineapple held court at the Keystone in Berkeley, sometimes playing SF's fabled Mabuhay Gardens with friend bands, like the (underrated) power-pop maestros the Rubinoos. PP songs were about youth and drugs and sex, and you could count on them for an insane live show. But something in the band's demeanor set them apart from the prevailing punk attitudes of the time: There wasn't much they took seriously — least of all themselves.
"We didn't really call them punks at that time, because that just wasn't what we would call people who played music like them. They were just outlaws in a way, because they brought this sort of pop aesthetic to punk music. They were thumbing their nose at it and wrapping their arms around it at the same time," says John Cuniberti, a producer, mastering engineer, and longtime friend of the band who helped the guys finally re-issue Psycotic Pineapple's sole album, Where's the Party?, on CD in 2012 — something that led to the band playing its first live show in more than two decades, which inspired Cuniberti to make a documentary about the band in the process.
There was something determinedly fun about Psycotic Pineapple, says Cuniberti. "I was working with the Dead Kennedys at the same time ['70s], and it was political, straight-up social commentary, songs about death and war and all these things. These guys played pop songs about relationships — really well-written pop songs, the songwriting was always very compelling to me — but they were rowdy, and they did it with an 'I don't care if you like us or not' kind of attitude. There was an outrageousness to it."
The band put out its lone record 1980, packed with 11 gleefully irreverent tracks that ran just over 25 minutes altogether. In 1981, something happened that no one could have predicted: Guitar player Henricus Holtman suffered a brain aneurysm, hindering his dexterity on his right side. The band stopped playing live. While most members remained involved in the local music scene — Seabury's art adorns posters and t-shirts for a ton of other bands — Psycotic Pineapple mostly became the stuff of Bay Area folklore. But the fans were still out there. More than 30 years after PP disbanded, about a year after the band's official reunion show at Bottom of the Hill, the music somehow doesn't sound dated at all. They'll headline the Gilman this week for the first time, with Pinole's own Bobby Joe Ebola and the Children MacNuggits (whom could be said to follow in PP's footsteps in terms of ethos, if not sound) opening.