By Alan Brostoff
People say that rock and roll is a young man’s game; well, no one told that to the group Patient Zero. These three punks total 191 years on this planet with the youngest being a spry 51 years old.
Get to know this new energetic force as David Cimino (drummer), Rooster Knack (guitar/vocals) and Merle Gregory (bassist) sat down to talk about why they are still rocking, their latest 45s on 14 Drop Records and the future.
GOLDMINE: How did Patient Zero come to be?
Dave Cimino: It was a dream, in the middle of the night. I had done all genres of music and being the oldest and doing everything I was fortunate to do, I just felt punk. So when I woke up I called Rooster and said ”Hey, we're going to do a punk recording. He said, “Really?” We both laughed and we started writing songs right away and getting the music together and that's how it happened, and then it went to vinyl. All over the telephone, we did it all over the telephone.
Rooster Knack: We live 40 minutes apart so Dave would write some lyrics, he would then say “Rooster put the music to this.” I would do that and voice recorded it back to him, and you know that was crazy, but it worked.
GM: Where did the name come from?
DC: Just like everybody out there, you're just seeking a name, you're seeking a name and seeking a name and we're going through all these names, because I said right after we got the songs we went over to record them in a small studio, there wasn't even Pro Tools to use. So we asked “What are we, what are we?” And what was our purpose? We were thinking about medical things and we just came up with Patient Zero. Our engineer came up with the name and we liked it.
GM: On one of your two 45s you guys are all masked up. Did COVID have anything to do with the naming?
DC: Yes, all of it, and the cemetery represents death.
GM: Well, I had the chance to watch your live performance, online, from Dr. Strange Records and you guys tore it up. I knew I had to learn more about this band.
DC: We appreciate that. We want people to know that we are not a joke band, we just jumped in and it feels so good, and it's going so well, and now talking to you, it's like, let's keep the bus going man.
GM: So what does the future hold for Patient Zero?
Merle Gregory: We are only limited to our imagination. We are feeding off of each other. Dave thinks up goofy stuff and the two of us are like yeah, yeah, yeah and then Rooster thinks of something and we are like, yeah, yeah, yeah and then I think up something and the two of them are all yeah, yeah, yeah. Then we get focused on a new tune and it comes out. There's so much talent here and it's so much fun.
DC: We are working on a Dr. Strange song right now. We haven’t put all the lyrics together yet and he’s flipping out about it, so we know it has to be so cool.
GM: To date, the band has two 45s and what is the best way that people can get them?
DC: People can get the 45 through Dr. Strange Records and we are up on streaming services. Maybe we will even get on Pandora.
GM: Is it a goal to get this made into a full album?
MG: That is definitely a possibility.
GM: Can you share with me some of your favorite record stores?
RK: Well, that would have to be Dr Strange. I wish you could come out here and see this place for yourself, it is just fantastic, fantastic. It's got a lot of good mojo in there; I mean you feel good in there it's great.
MG: I'm going to have to throw some love out to the House of Guitars. In a previous band I’ve toured with, we passed through the House of Guitars in New York. Upstate New York, I think. It's near Rochester and going down there in their basement, upstairs is all their guitars. The biggest guitar selection on the planet and then you go downstairs, and they've got, it's like a massive warehouse, with records and CDs to just about everything. So, on the east coast it has to be House or Guitars and for West Coast it’s Dr. Strange Records.
DC: Rhino Records out here in Claremont, California. We used to have a Tower Records, but that shut down. We got a lot of small, independent records stores around here that are all good and we need to thank all of them for existing.
GM: Share with me a little about your backgrounds:
MG: I'll keep it simple. I was just putzing around in the middle of the desert and these two choked me up and said, “Plug in and play bass” and, I said, “Yes sir.”
RK: Well, after I got out of prison ... no just kidding. I met Dave at the place where we used to play benefits at a senior apartment complex. We would just go in and play free for these people. It was a lot of fun for them and that’s where I met Dave and things just went from there. We decided that working together was great. Then we met Merle and now here we are and it’s just beautiful.
GM: I know that, Dave, you said that it was on your bucket list to always put out a punk record.
DC: Yeah, my kids are in their 50s, my nephew is 52. The youngest one is 40. What was neat, was I put them through all the genres of music, from doo-wop to classic rock and this music hit well with them. So, I said “Kids, the old man is about to hit 75 and we’re gonna slow cook this and show you that we still got it.
MG: The thing that is kind of interesting is, when we were all growing up in out teens we were telling our parents, “If it's too loud, you're too old,” and now it’s flipped where our kids are telling us to turn that down, it's too loud.
DC: It’s kind of like punk in reverse. We are all grown up and we know where it’s all coming from. I remember being a kid and rebelling. I remember all my kids rebelling and doing all that stuff that’s punk. We are just coming at it from the other direction. Heck, I even told Rooster that he would have to sing in his British accent.
RK: (doing is best British voice) We tried to write the lyrics with very timely issues and topics and how old people are getting screwed over. Our songs tell a story. They are very serious. It’s terrible what's happening in the world. The old people are getting just shoved out of the way and forgotten. It seems like the powers that be just want the old folks to just die off and shut up and get out. That ain't happening.
MG: We're not done yet and were not going to let you get away with that!
DC: We played this stuff for Bill (Dr. Strange Records) and you know he's kind of like the Godfather of punk. He said that he really liked the sound.
GM: You might have created this new niche: punk rock for the older generation. However, I should be careful saying that because your music plays well for all generations.
DC: That would be great because we knew the beginning of punk and we listen to music with our kids and now we have this: Patient Zero. And we are having some fun.
GM: I know it is hard to think about touring right now, because of COVID, but do you think when things calm down you will hit the road to support the music?
RK: Have we even gotten that far?
DC: I’m talking with agents and I’m talking to labels, small label. I can dig it, but I haven't talked to my other two partners, I don't know what their thoughts are, but for me I’m ready to pack and go. I’ve been on the road for so many years, I would do it right now.
GM: What are you listening to right now?
MG: I listened to everything, literally everything. It could be Chopin to Judas Priest to the Stray Cats to Lee Rocker’s solo stuff. My daughter did that to me. When she was born, she just exploded my whole musical universe, so I listen to everything. I was back into the rock world and then I fell in with these guys, and now I’m back listening to the punk world stuff and I’m having a blast. It is a matter of feeling and how I feel in the moment as to what I listened to.
RK: Nothing moves me like Chuck Berry. I love Chuck Berry. You can hear the influence of Chuck in everything. All genres pretty much. He was so brilliant and so underrated.
MG: I got spoiled my first time out, with being at an Air Force station in Alaska. I was in a band called the Long Gone Daddy's and we played everything from June Carter Cash’s mom all the way up to Judas Priest on an upright bass and it was it was fun. Working with these guys reminds me of that, just having fun.
GM: What else do you want people to know about the band?
MG: We still have things to say, we still have emotions to express. If you are frustrated, listen to music. Write it down, play it, paint it, sculpt it. Don't let that animosity live inside of you. Express it, have fun and that's what we're doing.
DC: Turning 75 was a big goal for me and this band is a big goal for us. I love being here talking with my brothers about Patient Zero.