Sunday, November 15, 2015

Chinas Comidas: An Inside Look – Rock’n’Roll in Washington State [1980]

Text by Mark Wheaton / FFanzeen fanzine, 1980
Introduction © Robert Barry Francos / FFanzeen, 2015
Images from the Internet

This self-interview was originally printed in FFanzeen, issue #4, dated May/June 1980, page 21. It was written by Mark Wheaton, the keyboard player of the Seattle-based band Chinas Comidas.

Part of what makes this article of added importance is what would explode in Seattle a decade after this article, because the focus on the city tends to start in the early 1990s, but this plainly shows that punk was not something that began with Nirvana, or even Mother Love Bone, or any other grunge band. It was alive and well for quite a period before “punk broke.”
Chinas Comidas, whose name is Mexican slang for “Chinese Food,” moved to Los Angeles in 1980, as stated at the end of this article, and then broke up soon after. – RBF, 2015

Let’s be upfront here: It’s true I’m a member of Chinas Comidas. But I’m also a fan of Chinas Comidas, and have been long before I joined the band. The current line-up includes: Chinas [aka Cynthia Genser – rbf, 2015], vocals; Rich Rigginsguitar; Brock [Wheaton, Mark’s brother – rbf, 2015], drums; Dag Midtskog, bass; and myselfkeyboards. We’ve been together, as such, for a little over a year. Chinas Comidas actually started around 1976 and has gone through several personnel and style changes since then. The content and intent has been refined, but basically has remained the same.

Originally, Chinas herself would sing with a loose-knit group, who also backed Barry Minkler, known as Red Dress. This Chinas-Red Dress band existed on and off through 1977. Brock joined the band in the Spring of 1977, originally as a last minute fill-in. By 1978, Chinas Comidas and Red Dress had become two separate groups. Chinas Comidas started to take a “rock” direction. I began to do the sound for Chinas Comidas in 1978. At the end of that Summer, the band began to establish a local reputation and had even ventured to San Francisco’s Mabuhay Gardens. The group disbanded and re-organized that Fall. It was during this time that the first EP was recorded. Rich played guitar and overdubbed the bass part, and a keyboard player came in and did those parts. At the end of the session, we decided that I should play the keyboards; so I got a piano and synthesizer and began to learn how to play.

Dag was, at this time, in a band called Violent World. Violent World included Electra-Blue, an amazing person who had previously been in Seattle’s only true heavy metal group. Mondo Band. Violent World was much more punk. Unfortunately, the band fell apart and I asked Dag to come to an audition. I was working at a used record store and Dag worked across the street at a florist shop. After a few rehearsals, we had developed a very tight, rocking sound.

Our first gig was New Year’s Eve, December 31, 1978. Actually, it was 3:00 AM, January 1, 1979. It was an intense, frantic show. Following that debut at what was to become less than a year later The Showbox Theatre (a New Wave showcase), we played at a Country tavern called The Rainbow. We opened for the Ramones. This was followed by a show with Red Dress at a new performance place called WashingtonHall, one of those echo chambers where nothing can really be done to get a good sound. It was like the first show where we really felt like a band. A local critic saw fit to review the show and he blasted us mercilessly. He even confused us with Red Dress, whom he hadn’t even seen. Our local supporters returned the blast with a flood of irate letters and even some editorial comments in other rival papers.

As yet, Chinas Comidas had not really played for the younger, punk crowd, most of who thought we were some kind of folk-group or something.

We recorded our second record, which was also our first with the current line-up. While we were waiting for the test pressing to come back, we did a show with the Dils and D.O.A. It was very well attended and as the punk crowd then found out, we weren’t a folk act.

Shortly after the Dils show, we went to New York. We arrived with no gigs and very little money, ending up three weeks later having played at Hurrah’s and Tier3, and in Philadelphia with the Dead Kennedys. We also recorded two new songs at Soundmixer, on Broadway. It was a quick session, but we got “Sweeter Than Ever” and “Criminal Cop” finished, the later sung by Rich.

Returning to Seattle, we finally released “Snaps” b/w “For the Rich,” and played a few club gigs around town, including a performance at the And/or Art Gallery with Red Dress.  

In late October, Chinas Comidas ventured south to L.A., where we played with the Germs, at the Hong Kong on Halloween. We stayed in L.A. four weeks, played the Hong Kong three times and the Whiskey once.

Upon returning to Seattle, we played a gig with L.A. performance artist Johanna Went at the Roscoe Louis Gallery. Chinas went to New York for a short visit and in her absence we did a gig without her as an Exquisite Corpse (our label) artist, opening for Ultravox, at the 800 seat Showbox Theatre.

In February, we returned to L.A. for an extended visit.

The Music Scene in Washington State According to Mark:
  • 1973-75: Tomata (Screamers); Whizz Kids
  • 1976: Chinas Comidas; Fruitland Famine Band; Meyce; Mondo Bando; Red Dress; Telepaths; Tupperwares; Uncle Cookie
  • 1977: Jim Basnight; Chinas Comidas; Feelings; Fruitland Famine Band; Knobs; Lewd; Mondo Bando; Red Dress; Telepaths; Uncle Cookie
  • 1978: Chinas Comidas, Cheaters; The Enemy; Features; Feelings; The Girls; Henry Boy; Lewd; Loud Ties; Moberleys; The Radios; Red Dress; Telepaths; Violent World
  • 1979: Blackouts; Cheaters; Chinas Comidas; Citizen Sane; The Cowboys; The Debbies; The Enemy; Frazz; The Girls; Heaters; Jitters; Lewd; Little Koreas; Macs Band; Mad Shadows; Moberleys; Red Dress; Shivers; The Spell; Student Nurse.

Local Records:
  • Uncle Cookie: “Hamburger” b/w “Kidnapped,” “Little Orange Babies” – 45
  • Jim Basnight: “Live in the Sun” b/w “She Got Fucked,” “Precedent” – 45
  • Telepaths: “Frozen Darling” b/w “I Must Perform,” “Telepaths” – EP
  • Chinas Comidas: “Peasant/Slave,” “Lover/Lover” b/w “”Disease,” “Snake in the Sun” – EP
  • Clone: “Jacuzzi Fluzzi” b/w “Afterthought,” “Run Right Through You” – 45
  • Ian Fisher (Cowboys): “Girls Like That” b/w “Riot” – 45
  • Pink Chunk: “Louie, Louie” b/w “Kitchen Cantata” – 45
  • Accident: “Kill the BeeGees” b/w “True Detective,” “Nothrees” – 45
  • The Enemy: “I Need An Enemy” b/w “Want Me,” “King Tut.” – 45
  • The Lewd: “Kill Yourself” b/w “Trash Can Baby,” “Pay or Die” – 45
  • Student Nurse: “Lies” b/w “Snow,” “Disco Dog” - 45
  • Snots: “So Long to the ‘60s,” “New York Loveletter” b/w “It’s Later Than You Think,” “Edge City” – EP
  • Feelings: Destroy Destruction – LP
  • Chinas Comidas: “Snaps” b/w “For the Rich” – 45
  • Chinas Comidas – “Peasant/Slave” b/w “Lover/Lover” – 45

Upcoming releases threatened: Blackouts; Moberleys; Jitters

Of course, this overview ignores or forgets numerous commercial Tavern groups, country rock, etc.; many have records available either locally or nationally.



  1. Thanks for remembering us and the kind words. It was a tough time since disco seemed to be what people were into at the time. I imagine we were responsible for selling a lot of hearing aids in the Seattle area. A big hello to any who remember us from those awesome days. Mark Maye - Mondo Bando

  2. Mondo Bando 1976 on youtube