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The Vandals’ Joe Escalante on Why He’s Running for Public Office in L.A.

Fumiaki Yamazaki

As Noisecreep covered last week, Joe Escalante of the punk band The Vandals, is running for elected office in California. Escalante, an entertainment lawyer and radio talk show host by day, and musician by night, is campaigning to be a judge in Los Angeles County. Escalante, 49, earned his law degree from Loyola in Los Angeles.

He’s a conservative, is currently a volunteer temporary judge and has logged hundreds of hours behind the bench since 2009, presiding over small claims, traffic, unlawful detainer, limited civil, and limited criminal matters.

As we reported, to officially become a full-fledged judge and earn a paycheck for presiding over cases, Escalante must be elected to the position. The election is June 5 and Escalante is reaching out to voters via an official campaign Facebook page.

Noisecreep spoke with Escalante about why he is running, what he hopes to accomplish, and of course, to talk some music, too.

Tell us about your volunteer work.

I work as a volunteer temporary judge and two years in a row I was awarded special recognition for extensive service of 40 or more days per year. I am known for volunteering to serve in the courts they have trouble getting others to go to, like Compton, Inglewood, East Los Angeles, Whittier, Bellflower, and Downey.

What inspired this run at the election?

I’m still smarting from a defending frivolous lawsuit for eight years so I want to effect change. I beat Fulbright & Jaworski and a giant media company that actually owns LexisNexis as well as Variety. They have 900 attorneys in their firm and I beat them in Federal Court, representing me, the band, the members and the record label. Also, as the campaign begins, I’m already learning that the process has its own set of abuses and corruption. For instance, there is something called the “Election Slate Mailer.” This is actually just a mass mailed flyer that tells the voter to vote for this set of candidates because they “share your values” or some other claim.

The problem with most of these slates is that the participants are not chosen because the candidate shares anything in common with the voter, the spots are literally sold to the highest bidder. So again, something I want to change, and that’s whether I win or lose. I just want my campaign to make a difference. I want all the other candidates to see why this is wrong, too.

Fumiaki Yamazaki

Your faith guides you as well.

Yes. I’m a daily communicant. I’m a Catechism teacher at St. Peter Chanel in Hawaiian Gardens, and I work there in the food program every Monday night. And I started an informal pro bono legal program there in association with the priests four years ago.

So you really are a man on a mission. You think you can win this thing?

I do. I’ve watched too much corruption go on around me for too long and I really want to make a difference. When voters look at a ballot, they should know who they are voting for and I’m working hard so that they can get to know me. Once they do, I think they’ll realize I deserve it.

What’s happening with The Vandals?

Well right now everyone is keeping busy. I have what I’m working on, our drummer is out with Sublime, and another guy is working on The Aquabats. But when we get booked for the right shows, we are there, playing as hard as ever, in Japan, Australia, the States wherever. Some of the shows I’m proudest of recently were ones we did for the troops overseas. Regardless of what anyone might think about the wars we are in it should not affect how we treat the troops and we love playing for those men and women.

Watch The Vandals’ ‘Oi to the World (Live)’ Video

You guys were some of the original West Coast punks. How did it all start?

We started in Huntington Beach in 1980. We all listened to the Damned, the Buzzcocks, the Clash, Devo, Sex Pistols, and especially the Ramones. All of those bands really influenced us.

But you were telling us about a special summer camp that really helped with your playing.

I was a ranch hand at place in Northern California called Mountain Meadow Ranch. It was a camp that caters to some pretty well-to-do people. Back in the late 1970s, Ricky Nelson’s kids, Gunnar and Matthew, who later formed the band Nelson, were going there. Ricky sent up a drum set for them to practice on while they were there and I used to sneak into the barn to play to play when nobody else was around. Fat Mike from NOFX went there too and we got to know each other back then. Pretty interesting stuff.

Well it sounds like you’re focused on the election and ready to shake things up.

Like I said, the most important thing for me is making a positive change. Cleaning up corruption, giving the voters a fair shot to know the truth about all the candidates – I want to make a difference. That’s why I’m running. That’s why I hope people will give me a chance.

For more information on Joe Escalante, head over to his official campaign Facebook page.

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