Doug Vizthum (left) performing with Bad Karma at the Court Tavern in the 90s

Doug Vizthum was a lifer at Bobby Albert’s Court Tavern, working the door, bartending, booking shows and of course performing countless times with bands Pleased Youth, Bad Karma, Lunar Ensemble and others. A recent Florida transplant, our music reporter Bennett Kelly discussed new music, old Brunswick, Florida “meatballs” and more with Vizthum over the phone in October. 

Doug Vizthum: Hey, what’s going on? Let me turn this thing off here. How you doing?

Bennett Kelly: Good, how are you?

New music from Doug Vizthum

Doug Vizthum: I’m doing alright, another fancy day in Florida here. Let me close this door so… Going out, there he goes. He’s going to go out, and then he’s going to scratch at the door to get back in. My dog. So what’s going on?

BK: Yeah so thanks for agreeing to an interview.

Doug Vizthum: No, thank you for doing it. That’s fine. So what’s going on?

BK: Yeah, so we’re going to do this interview, which I’ll transcribe and publish, and then I’ll also include it in the year-end review in December. So we’ll get a little run from both. And for today, I thought we could do a little history and then talk about the music that you’ve got, too.

Doug Vizthum: Okay, great. Sounds like a plan.

BK: Cool. And I think we’ll go probably like 30 to 45 minutes. It might even go, we’ll see how it goes. I hope you got time.

Doug Vizthum: Sure. I have time, man. I’m on lunch right now, I punched out. I work from home, so it makes it a little easier. That’s why I can do stuff like that.

BK: Yeah, exactly. Same. All right so, talking, let’s kick it off. The one question I’m kind of asking everybody in this project is when and where was your first performance in New Brunswick?

Doug Vizthum: My first performance in New Brunswick? My first performance in New Brunswick was at the Court Tavern.

BK: Right. Where else would it be?

Doug Vizthum: Yeah, pretty much. In a real band, I’m not talking about just playing, doing whatever I did in high school, which was kind of goofy. First real band I had was Pleased Youth, and we played April 1, 1984. We opened up for D.R.I. at the Court. 

Because we booked D.R.I. at the Court, I don’t know if you know who D.R.I. is. They’re a big hardcore, speed metal band. They turned out to be a speed metal band later, but they were a thrash band earlier on. We booked a gig because me and Paul Decolator, who was in Pleased Youth with me, we used to book shows, and then Paul did a lot of shows on his own later, but we did a lot of shows. So that was the first show we ever played, and that was at the Court.

BK: The last time we talked for one of these was in summer of 2021. And since then, first of all, my condolences for losing two of the most integral people at the Court, Bobby Albert and Marc Lanzoff. So I just wanted to ask, there was a story time phase for their passings in one of those Facebook groups, where people were sharing memories. So I’m just wondering if there’s any that you wanted to share or any remembrances of those two.

Doug Vizthum: No, Bobby, I mean, the remembrance is just I was very close with him, you know? It was just terrible what happened. He had Alzheimer’s towards the end and dementia. His mother had it, too. And he watched, he took care of his mother when all that stuff was happening, which was brutal, I mean, to be honest with you. His wife Eileen had to and their son Cassius had to deal with him, you know, going out, in and out of consciousness most of the time. He was not very aware towards the end. I didn’t realize how bad it had gotten until I was speaking to somebody that I know about it because she was dealing with him as a social worker. And she passed on my number to him, and he looked like he wanted to call, but he never called, and I never talked to him at the end. So that was kind of bad. 

I mean, when you think about what he did for New Brunswick and what he did for the music scene in New Brunswick, believe me, what he did for the music scene over the years was pretty monumental. You’re not going to see anything like that coming out of there anymore, because there’s no place to basically nurture talent anymore. 

BK: And then with Marc, he passed in February of this year, but we were able to do that profile of him last summer.

Doug Vizthum: That’s very nice. It was a nice tribute to him. I mean, Marc, you know, God rest his soul, was kind of a difficult human being [laughs], to say the least. People have very strong opinions of Marc. I always loved Marc, you know what I mean? I’ve known him forever. I goofed on him a lot. I did a lot of messed up stuff to him [laughs], but I always loved the guy. And, you know, it’s not easy seeing somebody like that go. 

He was very good to the people, he would be difficult to deal with at the door, but if you were going to have somebody collect money, you don’t want anybody more than Marc there. Because Marc was very good at his job. He gave shit to people who were on the guest list, he did a lot of really unnecessary stuff [laughs], but in his own way, he was watching after the bands at the end of the day. 

I mean, I have a lot of great memories of Marc over the years. He’s always been sweet to me. That was pretty sad, seeing him go too. It was tough having those guys go one after another. But let me tell you something, though, man, heaven’s got a new doorman and you better have your shit in order [laughs]. That’s a lineup.

BK: Yeah. You better have exact change at the pearly gates.

Doug Vizthum: At the pearly gates. That’s it, exactly.

BK: Here’s a question, and feel free to not answer, but I was wondering about your parental life and childhood. I know we have that story where your mother actually took you to the Court for the first time, which is pretty cool. 

Doug Vizthum: Yeah, mmhmm.

BK: But what were you into in the late 70s as a teenager? Were you on a mission to make music at that point, for instance, anything like that? 

The original Court Tavern, before it moved across the intersection in 1981 to its current location. Photo by George Red Ellis. And the same spot in September 2022 by the author.

Doug Vizthum: I just love music, you know what I mean? I grew up in a house where my sister was always encouraging me to listen to music. She gave me all of her 45s, she gave me a lot of her albums. She saw me bring home the first single I ever bought, I think, the Ohio Express, like “Chewy, Chewy” or “Yummy, Yummy.”

“Always got a mouthful
Of those sweet things to say”

I don’t remember which, it’s one of those. But she saw me bring that home and she was like, What the hell you listen to this for? Here, and she gave me like Jimi Hendrix “Electric Ladyland.” So she was always giving me records. 

She gave me the Velvet Underground “White Light/White Heat.” She was up in Boston by the college. She actually was a neighbor of Jay Leno, of all things. But she knew music going on, and I guess the Velvets were up there for a while, and she knew them from that. So she always liked Lou Reed and she was like, Here, check this out. So I had that record work my mind, you know what I mean? And by the way, I still love bubblegum music. She didn’t change that for me, but she was like, Here’s some other stuff to listen to. 

And I mean, I had it difficult growing up, for the most part, because my family basically fractured, and there was a whole thing. It was not difficult coming of age back then with a divorce going on and all this crazy shit happening in my life. And it took me a lot of years to get back on my feet, which is basically how I ended up meeting Paul Decolator in the end. Because I lived around the block from him, I was staying with a friend of my sister’s up in North Brunswick and he lived around the block. And I met him at the Court of all things when, I guess his first band, NxJxF, had played. And I met him and I went back to his house and we ended up, he called me, he said, Come on over, and we started hatching plans to start this band. 

At first we were just gonna do NxJxF [New Jersey’s Finest] because I guess the one guy, the drummer moved to Salt Lake City, and we were going to get NxJxF back together. And then Harpo [Paul Harnett], the singer from NxJxF, he joined the Navy. And then we were like, Well, I guess that does that. So we ended up starting a whole other band, and that’s how we ended up with Pleased Youth. 

And we brought Andy over who was in NxJxF on bass, you know, and we ended up finagling Dave Scott, who’s from AOD [Adrenalin O.D.], as our first singer. So we ended up starting that band, and we played a lot of shows, man. Within the first two years that we were together and broke up, we played everywhere. We played every VFW, everything, you know, every punk rock gig you can imagine, you know what I mean? Even did a small tour of the Midwest. 

We did a lot of stuff, and then we came back from the tour and broke up, which was pretty devastating for me. Because we had a record deal to Buy Our Records, and we already had a recording budget for our next record because they released our first album. And we were supposed to record a second one. And then everybody broke up the band. Two of the guys were like, I’m done, forget it. And then Decolator just basically blew it off at that point. So we just fractured and let that go. 

And then from the ashes, I started Bad Karma. And then I was in Bad Karma, we were basically the house band at the Court for years. We played a lot of shows all over. Never really released anything outside of that 45 that we came out with, which was a complete disaster. Besides that, we didn’t release anything until I put out that compilation. Years and years later I came out with that compilation record. But we did a lot of stuff. We played a lot of shows. And just basically we were unsung heroes for a long time. And it’s what it is. We tried to get record deals and there’s nobody taking. I thought we were a great band. 

Bad Karma performing “Just For The Hell Of It” at The Court Tavern in 1996. Vizthum at left

And in the meanwhile, while I was doing that, I had another band called Lunar Ensemble. And Lunar was, at one point John [“Lunar” Richey] had an open audition for all these people and it ended up being like the Underwater Submarine Band. There was like fifty guys in a room making a shitload of noise. And then we figured out Tom [DiEllo] is a really good bass player, so we took Tom as a bass player and we had other people lined up. And at that time, Martin Atkins was in the band with us. So Martin sat there and endured this shit, too. I don’t know if you know who Martin Atkins is, but Martin played drums in PIL, in Ministry, in Killing Joke. He had his own band, Pigface. After Lunar Ensemble, he moved to Chicago and that’s how he ended up hooking up with Ministry. But he was in the band. And we released a record with them. 

It was one of those things where it was like, more arty. It was spoken word over music, but it was a very good band and never really got anything going besides putting out the record. And we did more records. We got four records out and we did a lot of records. And really, it was like one of those things where you’re not going to go anywhere that far with it. It wasn’t real poppy, it was more artistic and more improvisational. But I learned a lot from playing in that band because of that. Like learning how to make up songs on the fly. I became very good at that because it really broadened my musical horizons a lot, too.

It was originally Lunar “Bear” Ensemble because there was a guy named Bear [Richard Graham] who was a percussion player, really great percussion player. He’s a nut, but he’s a great percussion player. And then he moved on and then it just became Lunar Ensemble, and I was in Lunar Ensemble up until 2015 maybe, I don’t know. We had one last record called “Acts of Love” and then later on we kind of broke up and whatever. I don’t want to get into that stuff because that was an acrimonious breakup. But I’ve since gotten along pretty a lot better with John, and that was good. “Acts of Love” was a really good record. It wasn’t on a label where we got a lot of distribution.

It is what it is. The same thing as what I’ve been going through for ever. I put out music and you know what, at the end of the day, it’s what I do. I gotta create. I have to keep creating. I’m not going to stop creating just because I can’t get a record deal, whatever. I have a long legacy of music, you know what I mean? 

BK: The last band was Mr Payday?

Doug Vizthum: Yeah I was also in that band, Mr Payday. We put out three records on our own. I did the whole thing on that record label, same record label that put out the Bad Karma comp. We put out three records with Mr Payday. And that was a great band and we should have gotten a lot more press than we did. And it’s what it is at the end of the day, you know what I mean? It’s like, I know I did what I needed to do. I like the music. 

And then moving down here, the writing was on the wall with that band because my bass player, my drummer already had started another band. The pandemic didn’t help either, you know what I mean? We were going to go back and record more, and every time we would go to do something, something pandemic-related screwed it up. Certain people didn’t want to play, didn’t want to go out. So at one point, those guys started their own band, which is Cathedral Ceilings, and they went out and created their own band. Which is what it is, you know what I mean? I wasn’t particularly thrilled that they started another band without me, but it’s what it is. It’s what happened. 

And I moved, you know, like I said, I moved down here. And to be frank with you, Florida is not exactly the music capital of the world. Not at all. There’s no place, there’s no musicians around here that I could find, nobody around. So I ended up doing everything on my own. I mean, I have my own recording, all that stuff I played for you is just me playing everything. Outside of the drums because I have to fudge that. I do whatever I need to do. I have drum loops. I took drum loops from other songs. Don’t tell anybody [laughs].

BK: Everybody does.

Doug Vizthum: The one song has definitely got a very famous band with drums, and there’s actually the drums and there’s a bass hit and there’s actually, the singer is on it, too. But I created drum loops out of one of the drum pieces in the song and slowed it down, really slowed it down a lot. I actually had to go to Kirk Miller, a friend of mine who’s like the soundman for Ween. He was also the soundman at the Court. And he helped me EQ the drums right. Because when I slowed it down, it screwed up everything. So he was like, Let me fix it for you. So I sent that over to him and he fixed it. I’m lucky I still have a lot of friends that help me out with stuff. And he helped EQ it. So it sounds good. 

That’s that “Sunshine State” song. And I don’t want to reveal who that famous band is because they’ll definitely sue me. Not that they’ll sue me. They probably won’t. Only because there’s no money in suing me, because I haven’t made any money with that song and I probably won’t. But I still don’t want to be baiting them into suing me either. They’re known to sue people. I’ll put it to you that way.

BK: Let me ask about some of these songs. I was gonna say, I think I know the real reason you moved down South, and that would be to play more slide guitar. You got a lot of slide on these.

Doug Vizthum: Well, I’ll put it to you this way with the new stuff that I’m doing, because I’m going to have a record out. The working title for it is “Gunfight at the Golden Corral.”

BK: [Laughs]

Doug Vizthum: And basically what I’m doing is using Florida as my muse. It’s pretty reasonable. There’s a lot of stuff to do down here with as far as, you know, cause there’s so many kooky things happening. But Florida is my muse at the moment. Like that other song, the second song that I sent you called “Monkey Jungle.” That song in particular, I mean, when I was a kid, we used to go to Florida, and I used to go to a place called Monkey Jungle. And the catch line for Monkey Jungle is “The people are in cages and the monkeys run free.” Because you basically walk through these corridors, these fenced-in corridors, and the monkeys are just running around. So I took that and I made the song out of it. 

Originally the song was going to be called “Liquor and Guns” because everywhere you go down here, it’s like, Liquor Store! Guns! You know? People are nuts down here. And I’ll put it to you that way. You know, I lived in New Jersey, so that’s dangerous, too. Florida’s a pretty dangerous place, to be honest with you. But I lived in Jersey, so how bad could it be? You just make sure you don’t mouth off to people because somebody could probably shoot you, because mostly everybody carries a gun down here. It’s crazy.

BK: Yeah. “Sunshine State.” I like that, it’s real swampy, so I like hearing how the Florida stuff is influencing your music. I was thinking if they did another True Detective show, and set it in Florida, I feel like “Sunshine State” would make a good theme song for it.

Doug Vizthum: Yeah, no, I’m hoping something happens with it. But listen, at this point in my life, it’s very cathartic for me to make music. I can’t see not making music in my life. It’s something I’ve always done. I’ve been doing it since I was in my teens. So I’ve been always making music one way or another. I’ve always done stuff. I’ve been playing guitar since I was like twelve years old and I’ve learned a lot of other stuff over the years. I learned how to play the mandolin. There’s a lot of stuff on those songs that I sent over to you. Besides, I’ve been playing slide since I was a kid, too. I always like slide.

BK: Yeah. Does that come from the blues at all? You got any blues influences?

Doug Vizthum: Yeah, listen, it’s mostly from guys like Joe Walsh, which, I’m not talking about Eagles Joe Walsh, I’m talking about Joe Walsh. Believe me, Joe Walsh gets a pass on the Eagles just because he’s Joe Walsh. You know what, I can’t say anything wrong about him taking a payday for that. He made a lot of money and good for him. He deserves it. He’s great. I always love Joe Walsh. 

And I always listened to guys like Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page. There’s a lot of older blues stuff and I’ve gotten more in touch with music history over the years. When I was a kid, I had what I had. You listen to what was on the radio or whatever records you had. So, I mean, the new frontier of music, where you can go find anything you want online, makes it a lot simpler to go dig into stuff from the past and figure all this stuff out.

When I think of guitar players, I love guys like Ike Turner. He’s an amazing guitar player. There’s guys like Johnny “Guitar” Watson, you know, that guy was a great guitar player. He’s like Frank Zappa’s favorite guitar player. So you can go back and you can hear a lot of stuff that you didn’t know from back then. You can dig deep, as deep as you wanted without having to spend a shitload of money on records and you don’t know if the record is any good. You can go find all this stuff if you want it. You can listen to it online, do whatever you got to do. 

Yeah, I mean, I have a lot of different influences over the years. I’ve always loved country music since I was a kid. I have a very odd background in music because I always loved that, and I love funk, and disco. Even back then, people would be like, Why do you listen to that stuff? Because I like it, whatever. It’s music. I love music.

I always loved music back then. I love a lot of different stuff. I always love glam rock. I loved punk rock when it started, I loved that I was right there checking it out. I remember buying the New York Dolls first record when it came out on eight-track. I remember buying [The Stooges’] “Raw Power” because I looked at the cover and was like, This guy’s really nuts looking. 

BK: I thought the Monkey Jungle song had some good funk elements. Like a Meters beat to it. Any interest in The Meters?

Doug Vizthum: You’re pretty close on that. It’s actually, the drum beat is from a song by Lee Dorsey. That I don’t mind saying because I mean, nobody’s coming, whatever. Everybody has used that beat. A lot of rappers use that beat. It’s called “Get Out Of My Life, Woman,” that beat. So I took the beat from that and I pieced that song together out of that. So that was pretty cool. 

BK: Can I guess, can I do a random guess of what drum beat you might have sampled for “Sunshine State?”

Doug Vizthum: Sure.

BK: Is it the Beatles, “Tomorrow Never Knows” by any chance? Reminds me of a demo version of that.

Doug Vizthum: No. But I felt like you’re very close, though. It’s not a Beatles one, though. And it’s going to be hard to figure out because to be honest with you, it’s a very obscure song by that band that probably no one in their right mind is going to guess. So that’s all right. I’m glad you guessed, though, that’s cool. Because I’d like people to guess because I don’t really want to give that up, what it is. Like I said, I just don’t want to have any hassles. Not only that, but the singer for the band is actually in there and also there’s a bass hit in there. There’s one bass hitting because it’s all slowed down and low. It sounds like it just rings out, which I didn’t expect it to happen. I didn’t realize the bass was in there until afterwards. I was like, It’s a happy mistake. That was the first song I actually did when I was down here. I worked on that song a long, long time. The songs now are coming along a lot faster. 

I figured with this record, I’m going to do about eight songs and then I’m going to release it. And I’m already up to about six, and I got two more in the pipe that I’m just kind of working on right now. I have an instrumental that I’m working on, too, that’s going to close out the record. It might close out the record. I might have that other one, that “Purple Heart Highway” one might end up closing the record because I like that song a lot.

That’s the one that has an acoustic mandolin and acoustic slide. At one point in that song, it sounds like a cello, but it’s not a cello. It’s basically a baritone guitar through a Marshall with a volume pedal so it sounds like a cello in it, which is if you don’t have stuff, you learn how to make it, you know what I mean? 

That’s one of the best things I’ve learned down here, is just I can make anything out of anything if I need to. That’s an important thing when you’re making music because you don’t want to just settle. You want to have things sound the way you want them to sound. And if you can manipulate stuff to make it better, you will. And I’ve done that quite a bit with stuff. The other day I bought an old wooden soda box, because I went to my friend Doug Schneider, who used to play upstairs at the Court. He used to play acoustic and he’d have this thing on his foot that he used to make noise.

I was like, What was that thing you had? Because I couldn’t remember off the top of my head. He said it’s a soda box. So I went out and bought an old soda box and I have it mic’d, so I can basically stomp on it. You learn stuff like that. You learn how to work with what you have. And that’s one of the best things about doing your own home recordings is you can figure out things, you know what I mean? If you can work it out, it’s all for the better.

BK: Well, it sounds like moving to Florida has been inspiring for your music.

Doug Vizthum: No, I mean, I might end up doing something later. I might end up finding a band down here, you know? I mean I had a record half-written for Pleased Youth on the way out, when I was getting ready to move to Florida, and I was moving it along and moving it along, and then I couldn’t get it finished and it basically got abandoned. But I have a record cover for it. I have a bunch of songs and I might finish that down here if I can find people to play. I really would rather do it with Pleased Youth. But being everybody’s in Jersey and I’m in Florida, it does not make it easy. But I would like to finish it. I mean, I have some of it recorded, my demo recordings that maybe I could punch up down here. I might do a more punk rock thing. Just because I’m doing this Florida thing doesn’t mean I can’t change pace and do whatever I want to do down here, you know what I mean?

It’s just for the time being, I was like, let me just use Florida as a muse for this record. And then later on, if I decide I want to do something else, I can do whatever I want. I mean, the future is, if you’re creative, you can do whatever you really want and not have to be beholden to anybody. 

BK: What’s your release plan for this Florida project?

Doug Vizthum: Well, right now I want to finish what I got, which I’m hoping after the first of the year I’ll be finished. It’s moving a lot faster now because I’ve gotten better at what I’m doing making stuff here. My son helped me shoot a video and I’m probably going to, when he comes back down, he’s going to reshoot some stuff. I’m going to shoot a video for “Sunshine State,” so that’ll come out at the same time that the thing gets released. So I have something at least to go off of, you know what I mean? 

I want to release everything all at once. So that’s my plan, I’m hoping maybe either by spring of next year I should hopefully be done, if not earlier. I mean, I wanted to get it done by the end of the year, but I’ve still got a lot to do and I got half the lyrics done. I have another song on there. I don’t know if you heard that rockabilly type song that I…

BK: Yeah, I did. I liked that one.

Doug Vizthum: Well, that’s a song called “Meth Island.” 

BK: [Laughs]

Doug Vizthum: This is why I love being down here, because there’s stuff you just can’t believe. So where I live, I’m right by Daytona Beach. There’s a little river by us called the Halifax River. And there’s these little islands on the Halifax. Well, I guess these guys went over to the islands and they built all these tree houses and they had a trampoline out there, and the locals all dubbed it Meth Island. You can’t make this up. I didn’t make it up. If you look up Meth Island, Port Orange on Google, it’ll bring up the whole story of Meth Island, which is amazing. And then the cops finally came in and had to shut it down, and the cops were like, You know, I have to say, it’s pretty ingenious! [Laughs] So that song basically writes itself, you know what I mean? Pretty much. So I have that song, that’s called “Meth Island.”

And then I have that other one, I don’t know if you heard it, but that other instrumental type thing I sent over to you, that louder, bluesy instrumental, that one is called “Cotton Mouth.” It’s about a snake. Because God knows, snakes are everywhere down here. Believe me, I walked out of my garage, there was a big black racer running around out there. And I’m like, Oh, boy, look at this guy. Luckily, I know snakes, kind of, but the cotton mouth is almost like a water moccasin. But they go on land, too, and they’re highly poisonous, and they’re from down here, too. This is where they run, for the most part, is around this area. I’ve seen the black racer. I walked out of my Florida Room, it’s like in the back, it’s got a sliding patio door. So I opened up the patio door and I see a snake running around. I’m like, oh, shit, look at this guy. I knew it was the black racer again. So I end up having to knock him with a broom out the door to get him out.

I have my door open because I got dogs, and I let the dogs out. But I have a screen opening. Since I put the screen up, I haven’t seen anything nutty like that. But I have like a big heavy screen that goes across the door so the dogs can get out. I don’t get a bunch of insects and shit in there, which is pretty good. But the black racer was running around out there and I was like, get out of here. So he got out of there pretty quick after I hit him with the broom a couple of times. 

But snakes are part and parcel of Florida. I mean, that’s part of it. Between that and the lizards, which I like, they look like little baby dinosaurs. They’re funny. I love the lizards. They’re cool. That’s a better thing from down here. The snakes, not so much. And believe me, it’s an interesting place, Florida. I mean, you go outside like today. I’m sure it’s cold up in Jersey, right?

BK: No, it’s beautiful out this week.

Doug Vizthum: What’s the temperature?

BK: It’s like 72 and sunny.

Doug Vizthum: It’s about 78 today, is the high. And it’ll stay like this all the way. Sometimes it’ll drop, but for the most part the funny thing is when it gets like this, you see people walking around in winter coats. I see people walking around in winter coats when it’s 95 degrees out. These people are out of their fucking minds, to be frank with you. I mean, I watch it and I’m just like, what is wrong with you? It is really hot. I’m driving around in my car with the air conditioning on. And people keep telling me, You’ll get adjusted, you’ll be wearing coats when it’s in the 70s. I’m like, yeah, I don’t think so. I wear shorts every day. I don’t care at this point, man. It’s pretty reasonable for the most part. The summer is really brutal. The only thing I can say is the summer gets extremely hot. Even worse than Jersey because the humidity is really terrible. 

BK: You coming back to Jersey anytime soon? Any plans?

Doug Vizthum: Well, eventually. I come back at least once a year to come see my son. I had to come back for some other bullshit recently. So I had some tax stuff that I had to come back and talk to my tax lady about just to get that taken care. I mean, if I go back next time, I’ll probably, because I keep driving and I kill myself driving. That ride is amazingly bad. I might fly next time. But I like to bring stuff back. Some stuff you can’t get down here that you can get up in Jersey. 

BK: Like what, Taylor ham?

Doug Vizthum: No, you can get that down here. You can get it. You can get the big rolls at, BJ’s, they have ‘em. But there’s other stuff that you can’t get down here. There’s just weird stuff that you can’t get down here. Like for instance, they got good kielbasa up there. They don’t really have anybody, they don’t have any Polish people down here with smokehouses. I’ll put it to you that way. And there’s Italian stuff you can’t get down here. You would think that all the Italians down here, you’d be able to get good Italian stuff, like meats and cheeses. Good luck, you’re not going to get it. 

And then there’s Amish stuff me and my wife love, because we used to live by Columbus, and I used to love going to Columbus and going to the Amish and getting stuff. Or going to the Amish market up in Kingston by South Brunswick. I loved going there. And I mean, you can’t, there’s no Amish places down here. The Amish decided they don’t feel like coming down here. I guess they figured there’s somebody taking a shot at their horse or something [laughs]. 

Who knows? But there’s no Amish down here. There’s Amish up there, and you get the Amish stuff. So, I mean, there’s a lot of stuff in Jersey you can’t get down here. So I like going up there. Last time, I had my car chock full of stuff when I came up.

BK: How about humor? Are there any funny people down there?

Doug Vizthum: Yeah there are funny people. I don’t think they’re intentionally funny, though. I’ll tell you what there’s a lot of down here, a lot of meatballs, and I’m not talking about the edible ones. There’s a lot of dumb-dumbs driving around with their pickup trucks with their Let’s Go, Brandon stickers. It’s like, yeah, okay. Because that’s where that originated from, from the Daytona 500. I don’t know if you know that or not.

BK: Yeah.

Doug Vizthum: These are people that say, Joe Biden, that Joe Biden did everything… Joe Biden did a lot. He actually runs a drama-free government, unlike what we got from that four years of that knucklehead who’s now being indicted. They’re all still running around waving their Trump ‘24 stickers. So they love that Trump, even though he’s going down for the count. Never count him out until the end, but I’d say this time he’s going down because there’s too many people flipping on him. So that happens, and good luck.

BK: My cousin has a nickname for Florida, he moved from Vermont down to Florida about ten years ago. He calls it DeSantistan. 

Doug Vizthum: Oh yeah, well that’s it. They have the big flags that say DeSantis Land, and it’s like the Disney thing, Disneyland. It says DeSantis Land. Yeah, that guy’s already running aground down here, though, because all the people that he screwed over down here are pissed off at him. I don’t know if you know that or not.

BK: Are you in Disney country where you live?

Doug Vizthum: No I’m to the east of that. I mean, that’s more towards the center of the state. And actually Orlando is pretty in the middle as far as [political] stuff goes. Where I’m at is more, it’s really right-wing. Orlando is more diverse. I would have preferred to move there. I didn’t realize when we moved down I was getting dropped right into the middle of the confederate state here. But that’s pretty much where I’m at, you know what I mean? And whatever. It doesn’t really affect me because I don’t really care. I just look at these people like what a bunch of rummies. So there’s not much I can do except just laugh and be like, Oh, yeah… I don’t say nothing to these people because they don’t have a sense of humor at all. And I don’t mess with them. The only people I mess with are people that I already know that are down here, that are like that. And I know that they’re not going to turn around and shoot me. So yeah, there’s a lot of nuts down here. A lot of nuts.

BK: Well, glad you’re down there representing the New Brunswick/New Jersey scene.

Bad Karma’s “I’d Rather Be Sleeping” served as the opening song to the Fritch Clark documentary “The Last Bastions of Rock”

Doug Vizthum: Oh yeah. It’s what it is. Like I said, basically I started making music on my own as a necessity because there is nothing… I mean I could probably find people from Orlando to play music with. But Orlando is about 45 minutes to an hour away, in some cases even further. So I just kind of figured, you know what, I’m going to make my own music. 

The one thing I could say about making my own music is I don’t have people second guessing what I’m doing. That was something that always kind of aggravated me when I had a band and I bring something in, they’d be like, I don’t know about this one. Yeah, you don’t know about this one, how bout writing your own fucking songs. 

BK: [Laughs]

Doug Vizthum: At the end of the day, making my own music is a lot more satisfying because it’s going to rise and fall on its own merits. And it’s my merit, nobody else’s. It’s all 100% me, which makes me feel like I’ve accomplished something. So I feel good about that.

BK: Good. Well, yeah, I mean, I really like all the tracks so far, so keep doing what you’re doing.

Doug Vizthum: Everybody that’s heard it has been pretty supportive and whatever. If people like it, good. If they don’t, then listen to something else. Listen to whatever shit you like. I don’t care.

BK: Yeah. The Eagles.

Doug Vizthum: At the end of the day, I like what I like, you know what I mean? And I’m making my music the way I want to make it. So if something’s wrong with the song, then it’s on me. I don’t care. It’s like, I like what I like. So I’m making the music the way I like it. It’s very good and it’s very satisfying, at the end of the day.

BK: Great. Well, glad to hear it. And we’re just shy of an hour, so I think I’ll let you go now.

Doug Vizthum: I think I gave you plenty to work with.

BK: Yeah, for sure.

Doug Vizthum: One thing I can say is, the one thing I didn’t do that I really wanted to do, is have a memorial for Bob outside of the Court Tavern. I had said it on Facebook that I wanted to do, you know, just have a pop-up, just people show up and do the thing, and nobody carried the ball. In other words, if it’s going to happen, it’s going to have to happen because I do it, which is kind of depressing in a lot of ways that nobody else found their way to actually doing. Now, if somebody would put it together, that would be great, because Bobby deserves a tribute more than anything else for what he did. You know, they’re not going to put a statue up for Bob Albert. They’re not going to say, Hey, Bob Albert, man, he really created an incredible music scene where all these bands, you know. Like The Smithereens. It helped The Smithereens. The Smithereens would have been around anyway, but they helped them grow into the band they were.

And the same thing with Gaslight Anthem and Nudeswirl. When they were getting somewhere, getting semi-popular. It helped these bands get to where they’re going. Inspecter 7, Hub City Stompers. There was a breeding ground for them, too. And, I mean, those guys would have, they all would have existed. But I don’t think that they would have had the nurturing that they got. That’s why Bob is important. You know, New Brunswick treated him like shit, to be frank with you. They never treated him the way he should. They treated him like garbage, and they should have treated that man a lot better, and they never did. They tried to run him out of business. They tried to take his thing from him. What bullshit. I mean, New Brunswick is just a fickle place. Go talk to, is Cahill still the mayor?

BK: You bet. Yes, he is.

Doug Vizthum: Yeah, ask him where he met his wife. Where he took his wife on their first date. He went to the Court Tavern.

BK: Interesting.

Doug Vizthum: Yeah. Yeah. So to me, the Court is a very important place. Back when Bob owned it, notwithstanding the “rebirth,” and the taking of the name with no friggin’, no rights. They had rights because they bought the building, and nobody was debating it with [Bob]. Because you know what? The man had Alzheimer’s and was messed up, and he couldn’t really fight with [new owner Mike] Barood over it. He didn’t have the money to take him to court over it. So [Barood] just took that name and ran it into the ground

So, you know, whatever. At the end of the day, the Court’s gone. New Brunswick has no music scene outside of basement shows. You know, there’s nothing the town has ever done for live music except destroy all the venues, which they’ve done repeatedly over the years. They ran out the Roxy, they ran out the Melody, they ran out the Budapest, they ran out the Plum Street Pub. Any place that had live music. We had all these venues to go see live music. There’s none left. Anyway, listen, I’ll let you go. I know you’re busy. I’m busy. I got to go back to work, unfortunately for me.

BK: Yeah.

Doug Vizthum: Listen, you have a great rest of your day. If you need anything else from me, just let me know, okay?

BK: Yeah thanks, will do. I gotta ask you one other thing, but just for like a link. So I’ll text you.

Doug Vizthum: You got it, man. Hey, listen, thank you very much. Appreciate it.

BK: Yeah, my pleasure. Thank you too, Doug.

Music Reporter at New Brunswick Today | | Website

Bennett Kelly reports on music for New Brunswick Today. He is a two-time winner of the Best Arts & Entertainment Coverage award from the NJ Society of Professional Journalists, for his features on the New Brunswick music scene in 2021 and 2022.

Bennett Kelly reports on music for New Brunswick Today. He is a two-time winner of the Best Arts & Entertainment Coverage award from the NJ Society of Professional Journalists, for his features on the New Brunswick music scene in 2021 and 2022.