The Reactions' Isaac Baruch with Good Old South Florida Punk Rock and Spilled Secrets

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Of the many legendary acts surrounding the formation and cementation of South Florida's punk rock scene, The Reactions hold a special place the hearts of many. This includes those involved at that time, over the years, and from the fledgling collections of some rather hardcore record collectors. 

Could it be their boyish good looks? Their derailment of Johnny Depp's musical career? Their association with guitar god Johnny Salton? Or was it, plain and simple, their catchy and mellifluously saccharine pop punk songs that to this day make many who've come after sound like pretentious shit? You be the judge as they'll be gracing Churchill's stage this Saturday. 

I, for one, am a huge fan of the band and thanks to an enterprising South Florida expat, those 7" treasures (which fetch rather large dollars on the auction sites) are available again in the format God intended for music. We had a chance to ask founder Isaac Baruch a couple of questions and here's how it went.

New Times: First off, let's get a little background info on the band, its formation, trials and tribulations, hooking up with Johnny Salton and a "where are you guys now" kind of thing.

The Reactions actually formed some time in 1978. Tony Suppa and I had been playing and writing songs for a little bit and playing with different people trying to find that "right chemistry." Joey Maya joined the band next and then the three of us saw Johnny Salton one night playing with his band The Girls at the Blue Waters Club on Miami Beach and we all flipped and said, "We got to get him in the band."

Johnny was, of course, totally into it, and we set up a rehearsal and that was the right chemistry. Our first show was a few days later at the Blue Waters Club and we only had around 5 or 6 songs worked out. The crowd loved it though so we played the songs again and that was a full set!

There weren't too many places to play back then but there was a really passionate and burgeoning punk rock scene being created by a few visionaries for South Florida. Guys like Robert Mascaro who managed the Cichlids and David Parsons with his Mouth of the Rat Fanzine, and bands like the Cichlids, the Eat, Charlie Pickett and the Eggs, the Girls, and Screaming Sneakers, who were all playing a new sound. 

Johnny Salton was already friends with a bunch of these people in this new scene so The Reactions simply joined the new scene and we were damned good so the shit stuck to the wall. The band broke up in 1981 and everyone moved on to do other things, musical and non-musical.

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For this Saturday's show at Churchill's, it's sort of a new Reactions, with Joey and I being joined by Circus of Power members Alex Mitchell on vocals and Ricky Mahler on bass. Both Alex and Ricky were Reactions fans from back in the day having both grown up in South Florida. Alex had a band called The Throbs who were really popular in the Miami punk scene and who The Reactions used to play shows with all the time.

How have the Reactions influenced Johnny Depp's career? If The Kids were still around, would they still fall as number 2's to your rock and roll?

This question is pretty funny! I think you'd have to ask Johnny Depp this question, not me!

I've often heard that a number of the Love You records had some sort of defect. Can you tell us what this was and how it affected playability? Also, was there a 10" record? And if so, what was the press count and is it true that they mostly ended up in Japan?

The Reactions pressed two four song EPs back in 1980 and '81, Official Release and Love You, which are now quite valuable with record collectors 30 years after the fact. 

It has been rumored that there was a defect but we never considered it a defect. Some records were only pressed with a one sided label and if you play the non-labeled side of the record backwards it says, "WE ARE THE EAT." Believe it or not, this is the first time I've ever let this out of the bag! I've even sold multiple copies of these one sided label records on eBay and have never told anyone about the playing of them backwards!

As for a 10", Johnny Salton was the only one in the band with a 10". Oh, you mean the record! Yeah, someone in Europe pressed it and I have no idea about it. In fact, I never had a pressing of it.

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Musically, what have you guys been up to since the band disbanded?

When The Reactions broke up in 1981, everyone went off in their own directions. Johnny Salton went off to play with Charlie Pickett and then the Psycho Daisies. Joey Maya went off to play with The Spinouts and then Battalion of Saints from California.

Tony Suppa left music all together. And as for myself I formed a band called the U.S. Furys and then a band Revolver and then went to California where I formed some other bands! Geez it never ended!

Given the extreme similarity in your younger days, can you dispel the rumors surrounding your paternity of actor Sean Astin?

Actually there is nothing to dispel. I am Sean Astin's father.

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Sean Astin's daddy?
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Sean Astin?

How did you guys hook up with Mike Hooker and Cheap Rewards Records? More importantly, does this decree a resurfacing of the band?

Mike Hooker called me up for band info for his blog. He loved the music and was interested in a possible repress of the two EP's and the infamous "lost demos." It sounded good to me so we ended up going for it. As for a resurfacing of the original band, that's impossible of course, but what is possible is what you'll see this Saturdays at Churchill's.

Any plans for recording new material or maybe some stuff that never made it to tape back then?

As for recording new material, Yes! Believe it or not there is new material and at some point, we'll get it recorded. Until then, get a copy of Saturday's Gone Wild on Cheap Rewards Records and come to the show on Saturday at Churchill's!

The Reactions with Walter Lure, Charlie Pickett, Heartline Fits, Jesus Camp, and Minus One aty 10 p.m. on Saturday, January 28 at Churchill's (5501 NE 2nd AVE, Miami). Call 305-757-1807 or visit www.churchillspub.com.


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