Where URGH! They Now – Steve Bartek from Oingo Boingo Speaks!

So excited to have Steve Bartek – legendary Oingo Boingo, guitarist, film composer, orchestrator  and conductor – as the first official respondent to Your Older Brother’s questions about URGH! A Music War. I asked these questions of Steve on his official website SteveBartek.com in the forum area and he replied at 5am one late/early May morning. My questions & Steve’s replies below, with minor edits for punctuation:

Your Older Brother: What led to the decision to be in the film, how it was presented to you & the band? Did you have any specific hopes for how the film might expose Oingo Boingo to a wider audience (wider exposure)?

Steve Bartek: AH – URGH was put together by our then record company IRS record and then manager Miles Colpeland – so – we were in it – no choice to be made really – wider exposure for a beginning band

YOB: Did you get to choose what song was used in the film?

SB: the song choices i think were Danny’s but i can’t be sure – we were on the whiskey stage with with the Surf Punks and the Alley Cats and the Go Go’s i think, i remember Darby Crash upstairs in the dressing room hanging out a bit stoned.

YOB: Who did you feel were your contemporaries at that time? Or was Oingo Boingo as out on your own as it seemed?

SB: We never felt like we quite fit into the scene, personality wise and music

YOB: Is there a single moment from a live show that stands out?

SB: My most important moment on live stage is a blur in my memory except how great i felt. I was in a band – Buffington Roads – and we opened for Love at the Kaleidoscope in Holllywood when i was in High School – and i got to play flute with the headliner for an extended jam on one of their tunes.

YOB: Did you have an older sibling who turned you on to music?

SB: Yes i have an older brother who took guitar lessons, so i would sneak into his room and play his guitar when he wasn’t around – finally he encouraged my Dad to buy me my own guitar -so yes he was source of encouragement.

YOB: Who was your metaphorical “older brother”? Who inspired you & supported you?

SB: i think we all have different heros at different times in our development – when started on flute i wanted to be Herbie Mann. then on guitar George Harrison, Jeff Beck, Charlie Christian, Django Reinhardt, and at school it was Stravinsky and Messiaen and Harry Partch.

I was very lucky to have met so many musicians in LA that were also a network of inspiration and source of support for just making making music one’s life – and even my parents who kept me from going on the road when i was 15 with the Strawberry Alarm Clock – supported me changing my major from pre-med to music the first year of college.

Thanks again to Steve Bartek for braving the pre-dawn hours to answer my questions. I love his story about sneaking in to play his older brother’s guitar – classic! I know that Steve has been a musical influence on me personally – in my view, many of Danny’s songs came alive thanks to Steve’s deft and frenetic guitar.

The helpful webmaster at Steve’s forum also provided the full setlist from the night of the filming:

Forbidden Zone
Ain’t This the Life
Only A Lad
You Really Got Me
Teenage Monster
California Girls
Nasty Habits

And now there’s been a bit of discussion about what might have been filmed in addition to “Ain’t This The Life” and “Imposter” – there’s a vid of the “Imposter” performance floating around YouTube – but it’s thought that while audio was captured for the above songs, only “Life” and “Imposter” were filmed. (I found multiple YouTube videos of “Forbidden Zone”, “I Was A Teenage Monster” and “California Girls” as well. Search & enjoy!)

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6 thoughts on “Where URGH! They Now – Steve Bartek from Oingo Boingo Speaks!

  1. Hi Tom! The first mention of Steve's name is linked to his website and I mention & link SteveBartek.com a little after that, but I'll be more explicit and put it in the Links section as well. Thanks for the suggestion!


  2. Well aren’t you lucky! Man I commemorate the first time I heard Oingo Boingo. They started it all for me. I found this CD on the floor at the beach and it had a mix of songs, a lot of them were Spanish but number 7 was Weird Science. At the time I had no idea what the song was but I would listen to it literally all day and night for years and I was about 12 at the time… also I didn’t know what the internet was, so I couldn’t just type the lyrics into Google like we all do nowadays. So one day I was flipping through the satellite radio stations channels on my T.V. and Weird Science was playing. My heart dropped and I immediately wrote the song down and my New Wave quest begins there! Also I remember Igor Stravinsky… such amazing memories!


  3. That's pretty cool! It's funny how we find music & bands sometimes. I've had a few different times of "discovering" Oingo Boingo, from this memory in my URGH! link to the movie Weird Science to taping a friend's album of Only A Lad in college and listening to it on a Hawai'ian family vacation.Thanks for sharing your cool story. 🙂


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