Pierre Kezdy at Wrigley Field, Chicago, IL. Photo by Katie Hovland
Pierre Kezdy at Wrigley Field, Chicago, IL. Photo by Katie Hovland
New Music

Godspeed: A Homage to Pierre Kezdy of Chicago punk veterans, Naked Raygun – multi-artist interview

13 mins read

Mark your calendars as summer heralds the arrival of an ensemble tribute album, honoring the legacy of Pierre Kezdy, the prodigious bassist of Chicago punk veterans, Naked Raygun. Set for release on July 28, 2023, ‘Godspeed… A Tribute to Pierre Kezdy is an assembly of leading punk rock voices, featuring names such as Face To Face, J. Robbins of Jawbox, The Bollweevils, Hot Water Music, Josh Caterer, The Methadones, and more. A harmonious collective, these artists unite to remember and respect Kezdy’s substantial contribution to the punk music scene.

All profits from the sale of the album will be directly donated to the Kezdy family, further cementing the tribute as a heartfelt celebration of Pierre’s inspirational journey and indelible imprint on punk music. The tribute album will be available digitally and on vinyl, with pre-orders available now via Big Minnow Records.

Hot Water Music’s Chris Wollard reflects on Naked Raygun’s enduring influence on the band’s musical direction, stating, “Naked Raygun are one of the few bands that became a permanent landmark in how we, as a band, see and approach the music we play”. Similarly, Josh Caterer of Smoking Popes shares, “Naked Raygun is one of the bands that shaped our concept of what a punk band could be; not just raw energy and angst and cool riffs, but well-crafted songs with real wit and intelligence”.

Hot Water Music by Dave Decker
Hot Water Music by Dave Decker

The initiative, led by Put It Here Productions and Big Minnow Records, carries forward the legacy of Naked Raygun and their late bassist Pierre Kezdy, who succumbed to cancer in October of 2020. The album features a bouquet of cover songs from artists who share a deep admiration for Naked Raygun, having been significantly influenced by their music.

The album draws upon the talents of a diverse range of bands, all of whom have recorded renditions of their favorite Naked Raygun songs in homage to the band and the late bassist. J. Robbins of Jawbox and Government Issue, also shares his thoughts on the tribute: “Naked Raygun was a formative influence on my concept of punk music. Covering NR is difficult because I regard the original versions of their songs as essentially perfect and I didn’t want to do just a pale imitation”.

J. Robbins
J. Robbins

A record and merchandise signing event will further commemorate the release, taking place on August 26 at Rogue’s Corner, featuring Naked Raygun’s Jeff Pezzati, Eric Spicer, and Bill Stephens. As we await the arrival of ‘Godspeed… A Tribute to Pierre Kezdy’, the punk community stands together, paying tribute to one of its most esteemed members, proving that legends may pass on, but their music endures.

Adding a layer of depth and personal connection to this tribute album, we are pleased to host an exclusive multi-artist interview with several of the featured bands. They will be delving into their experiences, their inspirations, and their thoughts on participating in this project to honor Pierre Kezdy’s musical legacy.

Check it out below.

Godspeed compilation

Please share with us the story behind your involvement in this project. What led you to join forces and contribute to this tribute album?

Daryl (The Bollweevils): Naked Raygun is the catalyst for my entry into the Chicago punk scene. They are my gold standard and good friends. Pierre and his family are special to all of us, and when asked to do anything to honor him and help his family, my response is always yes. The love we all have for Pierre, his family, and this band is beyond measure. That love is what made me want to be involved in this record.

The Bollweevils
The Bollweevils

Curt (The Usuals): As a lifelong fan (I saw Naked Raygun for the first time in 1988), I was fortunate to develop a relationship with them both professionally and personally over the years. After Pierre’s passing, I felt that there was something more I could do to help out in carrying on his legacy. After I discussed the concept of this album with a friend of mine (Patrick from Big Minnow Records), we decided to bring this project to life. Organizing and playing on this record is nothing less than an honor.

Patrick (Grey Trash Aliens): Naked Raygun was a staple of the Chicago punk music scene and was what we wanted to live up to playing music. I always loved the hooks that they came up with and it was an honor to cover one of my favorite songs. Curt (The Usuals) and myself had a blast putting this together and it was a privilege.

Tony (Stress Dreams): I love Naked Raygun to my core, but Pierre holds an extra special place in my heart. I officially met him in Seattle while touring in my old band, Shot Baker. We met up with Raygun for a string of west coast shows and as exciting as it was to tour with Raygun, we were also emotionally and financially destroyed due to some rough touring and bad breaks on the way out west. Pierre was such an amazingly nice guy and invited us to his hotel room to hang out after the show. When he caught wind that we were broke and without a place to stay, he insisted we stay in his room. Further, he insisted we take the beds and that he sleep on the floor. We tried interjecting and argued that this was totally unnecessary but he just laid on the floor, half under a table. With his boots still on he pulled his Carhart jacket over his head and said “Don’t worry, guys. I’ll be asleep in no time.” This guy was an absolute superhero to us. To tour with Naked Raygun was completely surreal but to be treated with such dignity and kindness by one of our heroes was among the most humbling experiences I’ve ever had. So yeah, when I was asked if my new band wanted to be a part of this, I was absolutely honored.

Stress Dreams
Stress Dreams

Josh Caterer: I remember seeing Naked Raygun at the Riviera when I was in high school and being completely blown away. They seemed like the coolest band in the world to me, everything a punk band should be…raw energy, huge guitar sounds, and really intelligent songwriting. It would be hard to overstate the influence they had on Smoking Popes when we were starting out. So it’s an honor to be part of this project and I’m really excited to have the chance to interpret one of my favorite Raygun tunes.

Steev Custer (Death and Memphis): Pierre was someone I considered a close friend. My wife Arielle and I lived about ten minutes from the Kedzy’s in Evanston and I would frequently go to their home and play bass with Pierre and hang out with Heather and the kids. When Curt Harrison called and asked Death and Memphis to contribute to the project, I jumped at the opportunity to honor my friend and the music that has had such a monumental impact on my life.

As one of the bands participating in the tribute album honoring Chicago punk veterans Naked Raygun and their bassist Pierre Kezdy, what does it mean to you to pay tribute to such an influential figure in the punk music scene? How has Naked Raygun and Pierre Kezdy personally influenced your own music?

Daryl: Pierre was one of the best friends a person could have. He has had me and the band over for dinner and holiday parties and we created a deep friendship. It means the world to me to be involved in this record because as I stated previously, we loved our friend dearly and would move heaven and earth for him and his memory. Pierre’s influence on our music comes from his bass tone. It’s the epitome of Chicago Punk Bass tones. We all strive for that punch which he played so effortlessly.

Curt: Watching Pierre play was always an amazing experience for me and the chemistry he had with his band mates on stage seemed so natural, what a band should look and feel like live. Ever since starting my first band in the late 80’s, I’ve always tried to capture that same chemistry and energy that Naked Raygun is able to fill the room with. Getting to know Pierre on a very personal level, this project isn’t just paying tribute to an inspiration, it’s paying tribute to a friend.

The Usuals
The Usuals

Patrick: As a bass player, it was always Pierre’s cool style that I tried to capture when I first started playing and I still strive for the cool licks and tone that he had. I was able to meet Pierre a couple of years before his passing and he was so humble and a really great guy. He just made you like him from the beginning.

Tony: I’m floored. I can’t believe we’re included on this record. Raygun has always been a massive influence on my music projects. They’re just so goddamn good. When Shot Baker was recording a record on Riot Fest Records, Mike P from Riot Fest was giving me suggestions on how to improve our songwriting. After numerous recommendations, I finally asked “do you give Raygun this many suggestions?” (they were also releasing music on his label). Mike looked at me deadpan and said “listen, you don’t fuck with Naked Raygun’s songwriting.” And, of course, the bastard was right.

Josh: To me, the most inspiring thing about Naked Raygun has always been their commitment to their own artistic vision. They don’t sound like anybody else and they’re not afraid to push the boundaries of their genre. I think they’re the perfect example of how punk rock can work on multiple levels, with music that hits you in the gut and lyrics that are very conceptual and literate.

Steev: When I was 17, my friend Art had a punk rock radio show on WCFS in joliet. I remember sitting on my bedroom floor listening to the show and hearing Naked Raygun for the first time. Their sound was perfect, and I connected with it instantly. I was obsessed. There has never been another band that has had the amount of influence on my own music as Naked Raygun has. Pierre was a looming, menacing figure onstage, but a welcoming, genuine, teddy bear of a guy in real life, I asked to record a version of “Treason” for this album because it was one of my favorites that Pierre had written himself, and I agonized over our recording of it in hopes that our interpretation would honor his vision of the song.

Can you share any personal anecdotes or stories about Naked Raygun’s music and its significance to you?

Daryl: My first show with The Bollweevils was opening for Naked Raygun at The Metro’s 9th Anniversary Gala. We had our “Red Tape” release that I was throwing out into the crowd after our set. Pierre comes back to our room backstage (the smallest space for us opening bands) and says how he enjoyed our set and was hoping to get a tape from us. Mind you, Raygun were our superstars and we now had one of our heroes asking us for a tape! That was huge for us. He was so kind and his sincerity shined like a star. To have Pierre tell us we were good was definitely fuel to start our climb up the punk rock ladder. We had the endorsement of one of the greats!

Curt: Naked Raygun albums are GENIUS! Each time I listened to one of their records for the first time, including their last release, you never know what to expect, but you know without a doubt it’s gonna be a musical journey. They are able to blend many styles and influences into their own writing in such a way that their songs are never repetitive, bland, or boring. Raygun being so open to musical exploration like they are, has made me more comfortable writing my own music, and to think outside the box.

Grey Trash Aliens
Grey Trash Aliens

Patrick: I remember the first time I heard Raygun… We were driving and Adam (guitars Grey Trash Aliens) said check this band out and I was who is this? What was the first song I heard? You guessed it, Fever Island.

Tony: I recall sitting in a friend’s basement in a hoity-toity Chicago suburb as a troubled kid with a cigarette and a bad attitude listening to “Understand?” and really listening intently to the lyrics for the first time. I remember getting to “Entrapment” and the message hitting me like a ton of bricks. Here was this absolutely beautiful coming-of-age song addressing the futility of trying to stay young and it’s exactly where my head and heart were at the time, though I didn’t have the words to describe it. It’s like I was supposed to hear that song in that way, in that basement, with that friend, and with that cigarette. It was a very moving moment and I may have even welled up a bit. That’s romantic youth for ya.

Josh: I had a cassette copy of Jettison which is a great album start to finish, but I used to listen to the first track “Soldiers Requiem” and just rewind it and listen to it again and again. Something about that song was absolutely captivating to me. Not a lot of songs I could listen to 10 times in a row, but that was one of them.

Josh Caterer Trio, by Katie Hovland

Steev: I had the honor of being Pierre’s bass tech for a few years, which really was nothing more than hanging out and laughing with him before the show, watching the band perform from side stage and handing Pierre Red Bulls while he was on playing. I would buy tickets to every show and inevitably, three days before the show would happen, Pierre would call and tell me to sell my tickets because he had me on the list. I still love to go back through old texts from Pierre and laugh at his immature jokes.

With 100% of the profits from record sales going directly to the Kezdy family to honor Pierre’s legacy, how does it feel to be part of a project that not only celebrates the music of Naked Raygun but also supports the family of a beloved musician? What does it mean to you to contribute to Pierre Kezdy’s enduring influence and the punk music community as a whole?

Daryl: This is a labor of love. This is supporting our family. We loved Pierre and we love his family. Nothing else can be said except this is all about love.
Curt: The punk rock community is like a pit. When someone goes down, all hands are on deck to lift people up any way they can. Love and support is the name of the game and I believe that’s what we’re all doing here.

Patrick: It feels great to be able to help Heather and his family out. Curt and myself are going to be ecstatic to be able to hand Heather off something that will not only help financially but also help Pierre’s legacy carry on.

Tony: It feels good. And I hope his family makes a fortune. Big respect to Curt and company for dreaming this up and making it a reality.

Josh: Pierre gave of himself to help create truly inspiring and important music for so many years, I think it’s very fitting for us as a community to honor that and to do something to give back to help support his family. It’s very meaningful for me personally to be part of this.

Death and Memphis
Death and Memphis

Steev: When compared to all that Pierre gave to us, it doesn’t feel like I can ever give back to him and his family enough. Naked Raygun’s music, influence, and friendship is a blessing that I don’t feel I can ever truly repay.

Apart from this particular project, are there any other notable endeavors or initiatives within the punk rock community that you find particularly inspiring or that you would like to highlight?

Daryl: I am a board member for the organization Punk Rock Saves Lives. They do great work. Check them out. They do bone marrow registration at shows and also offer insight into mental health. They do a bevy of things to support the punk community.

Curt: I couldn’t agree with Daryl more on this one. PunK Rock Saves Lives is an amazing organization that our band definitely stands behind. On a personal level, we’re animal lovers and support our local animal rescue/shelters. We’d love to see everyone do the same within their communities.

Patrick: I agree with Daryl and Curt. I personally like the Riot Fest Foundation. Pretty awesome with what they do for the community.

Tony: I’m gonna echo Patrick on this one. Riot Fest foundation does some amazing things. I’m particularly behind their efforts to support Ukraine in light of the unfathomable war crimes conducted by Putin. This motherfucker needs to stop.

Josh: Speaking of Punk Rock Saves Lives, Smoking Popes have the privilege of playing their festival in Denver this year. They’re a great organization and we’re stoked to be involved.

As we look forward to the release of this tribute album, Godspeed… A Tribute to Pierre Kezdy, we’d love to hear some updates on your own respective projects. What can fans expect from your band in the coming months? Are there any exciting releases, tours, or collaborations on the horizon that you’d like to share with us?

Daryl: The Bollweevils just released our new LP on Red Scare Industries called Essential. We have some shows lined up in the coming months. August 12th out in Rancho Cucamonga California with The Adolescents, FEST in late October down in Gainesville, and some other shows in-between that are in the works I am just thrilled that we could be a part of this project honoring Naked Raygun, Pierre, and his family. I miss him.

Curt: The Usuals will have a vinyl release on Siren Records McHenry this fall that is currently awaiting the gods of the pressing plants to bless us with a shipping date (details coming soon). We are playing Snot Fest in Madison WI., on Saturday, July 22, 2023 – so if you are in the area swing through and check it out. Also you can catch us at Punk Rock Paradise, an all day Fest in Blue Island IL. on August 19th. We’re currently working on a few other Chicago and Midwest area shows that will be announced later this year.

Patrick: Grey Trash Aliens will be releasing a new album in the next month on Big Minnow Records. We were able to have the master Sean O’keefe mix and help out. It is called Straight out of Uranus.

Tony: Stress Dreams has a record coming out this summer. It’s self-titled. I don’t know who’s releasing it yet but it’s fucking awesome. Thanks for letting me plug.

Josh: This is the 30th anniversary of the Smoking Popes first album Get Fired so we’re doing a vinyl reissue and some touring to support that. And we’ve also got a couple new songs coming out this summer, including a collaboration with Sincere Engineer that I’m very excited about.

Steev: Death and Memphis’ new e.p. The Time Between Dog and Wolf is streaming on all digital platforms now, and the physical release will be out this summer on Bypolar Records.

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