RIP Tony Kinman of the Dils

Local punk and Americana pioneer passes

Tony Kinman (Photo courtesy Chip Kinman)
  • Tony Kinman (Photo courtesy Chip Kinman)

Tony Kinman, who co-founded the influential local punk group the Dils with his brother Chip, passed away this morning, after battling pancreatic cancer.

Born in 1956, Tony grew up with his family in Carlsbad. He and Chip formed the Dils in 1977, becoming one of San Diego’s first working punk bands, playing many of the city’s first punk shows, alongside the Zeros, the Hitmakers, the Penetrators, and others. Locals still talk about the near riots at venues like the Adams Avenue Theater whenever bands like the Zeros and the Dils were paired.

“Our first show was at a pizza parlor in Del Mar,” Chip recalled for the Reader in 2016. “Our posters had Jack Ruby shooting Lee Harvey Oswald. They pulled the plug on us. We didn’t even get through one song. But we kind of expected that. We played the gazebo at Holiday Park [in Carlsbad] one afternoon knowing we were going to get shut down.” The anti-establishment theme continued with singles like "I Hate the Rich" b/w "You're Not Blank" on the What? Records label.

The Dils can be seen performing "You're Not Blank" in the battle-of-the-bands scene in Cheech and Chong’s Up in Smoke, which ends with roadie-turned-drummer Andre Algovar complaining “I can't hear you guys!” without stage monitors. Minneapolis punk band Dillinger Four later covered the tune. The Dils' own live sets included occasional covers like ''What Goes On,'' by the Velvet Underground.

The Dils "Class War"

Drummer Andre Algovar was replaced in 1977 by Oklahoma drummer Pat Garret (aka Rand McNally), who produced their DangerHouse Records single "Class War" (later covered by the Canadian punk band D.O.A.) b/w "Mr. Big." The Kinman brothers moved to San Francisco in the late '70s, where drummer Garret was replaced by San Franciscan John Silvers in early 1978. Their reputation was starting to spread more rapidly, thanks to features in magazines like Creem and opening slots for touring headliners like the Clash.

After recording their Made in Canada seven-inch with short-term drummer Zippy Pinhead, the Dils finished a summer 1979 U.S. tour and were talking to John Cale (Velvet Underground) about a musical collaboration. Before it could come to pass, however, the Dils split, with Tony briefly playing with SF punk icons the Avengers.

Rank and File - Interview

The brothers' 1980s-era cowpunk band Rank and File (formerly the Negative Dillingers) featured guitarist Alejandro Escovedo and Austin drummer Slim Evans. Having relocated to Austin, they landed music in the film To Live and Die In L.A. and, as Chip later told the Reader, were one of the first cowpunk bands, although that label hadn't even been invented yet. Their 1982 album Sundown earned them a Country Band of the Year nod from The Austin Chronicle. Their song "Amanda Ruth" was covered by the Everly Brothers on the Everlys' 1986 album Born Yesterday.

From 1981 through late 1987, Rank and File went through several evolutions. They eventually went metal (kind of) and then disbanded (mostly), and the Kinman brothers went on to other projects like Blackbird (1987-1994 techno-metal) and Cowboy Nation (late 90s through early 2000s wonky western rock).

In 2015, Chip Kinman (then living in L.A., though the brothers still owned a home in Carlsbad) co-founded Ford Madox Ford with his guitarist son Dewey Peek. They signed to Porterhouse Records, which released a two-song seven-inch called "Expect It."

Chip and Tony Kinman collaborated together again for the recently released debut Ford Madox Ford album, This American Blues (again on Porterhouse), promoted with a video for “Dark American Night” that was directed by Jackie Sharp using footage shot in 1988.

Tony Kinman sings "Big Train"

Several full-length Dils compilations have been released featuring their singles, unreleased tracks, demos, and concert recordings.

An interview with Chip Kinman will be featured in May 10 issue of the Reader.

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