Glen “Spot” Lockett, In-House SST Records Producer and Former Austinite, Has Died

American punk innovator also explored Celtic and bluegrass

Spot on March 14, 1892 during the recording sessions for Big Boys' Fun Fun Fun (Photo by Bill Daniel)

Glen “Spot” Lockett, the longtime Austinite who early in his life produced some of the most legendary records from the birth of hardcore punk rock with SST Records, died Saturday at the age of 72.

Lockett’s longtime friend Joe Carducci confirmed the news to the Chronicle. Living in Sheboygan, Wisconsin in his last years, the producer passed away from complications related to fibrosis of the lungs and a stroke he suffered last year.

As a California native, he was involved in music from an early age and played in the punk band Panic, which would evolve into Black Flag. As the in-house producer and engineer for Long Beach-launched SST Records, Spot was a vital piece in the making of that band’s biggest records as well as those of the Descendents, the Minutemen, and Austin punk heroes Big Boys. His production credits page on Discogs, including Meat Puppets, Hüsker Dü, and Misfits, reads like a hall of fame of the early days of American punk rock.

Spot relocated to Austin in the mid-Eighties and continued production work at local studios while also starting bands such as the Muleskinners and Delorean Mechanics, and pursuing his love of Celtic and bluegrass music. In 2000, Chronicle writer Ken Lieck reviewed his solo record Unhalfbaking:

Being one of those damned (and damned few) people who can seemingly pick up any instrument ever created and assume an immediate fluency at playing it, the infrequently appearing solo albums by famed punk rock producer Spot (Black Flag, Hüsker Dü, you name it) always make a fine listen for any musician or student of the musical arts. Thankfully, Spot's sense of humor and years of experience have combined to make his explorations and updatings of the hornpipe, jig, and all those old traditional musical forms with funny names far more than just a fine academic study.

Among the many circles in which Spot became part of in Austin, friends remember his appreciation of the performances by the Gaelic League of Austin at the now-closed Lovejoys Tap Room on Sixth Street. Former club owner Chip Tait says Spot was at his happiest “playing banjo, guitar, or pretty much anything with strings” and became part of the close group of friends and employees at the bar.

“He always lit up everyone’s day and would play music with so many different people,” adds Tait. “He crossed a lot of boundaries and there were a lot of different versions of Spot. A lot of people wouldn’t know he was a gifted Celtic musician and took that very seriously, along with all the other kinds of music he played. He was a good friend to everybody and liked to keep quiet … you had to really work to get [the SST] stuff out of him because he wouldn’t talk about it very much.”

Lockett’s importance in music history belied his eventual precarious financial state – he was part of a string of musicians and producers who clashed with Black Flag and SST honcho Greg Ginn over business matters.

Before moving into music production, Lockett worked as a photographer and music critic for the Hermosa Beach news weekly Easy Reader. In 2014, Lockett published the photo book Sounds of Two Eyes Opening, documenting California beach, skate, and punk culture from the late Sixties through the early Eighties. Former Big Boys guitarist Tim Kerr remembers Spot as an all-around talent with his photography and writing work, almost on par with his musical accomplishments.

After the two met at a 1981 Black Flag show in Austin at Raul’s, Kerr and his bandmates tapped the producer to helm their 1982’s Fun Fun Fun album. “Spot worked for you and could do whatever you wanted. He would suggest things, but he knew how to get things sounding the way you wanted,” says Kerr. “He was all about getting the sound you wanted coming out of the amp rather than relying on a bunch of stuff inside the studio like adding all kinds of reverb. Then he’d mic it up close and then find a sweet spot farther back … I learned how to do that from being around him.”

Kerr kept in touch with Spot after he moved to Sheboygan in 2008 to be near the Celtic music communities in Wisconsin and Illinois. During their final conversation last year, prior to Spot’s stroke that severely limited his speech, Kerr says Lockett expressed a wish that he would have explored more varieties of music beyond the punk, Celtic, and bluegrass styles.

“He felt like he stuck to one sort of music too long, and I was really surprised to hear that because Spot was so all over the place with his music and was so different from everybody,” Kerr says. “It surprised me that he felt he had gotten locked into a particular style or anything like that. To me, Spot was always free with it. He didn’t worry about any rules of how things were supposed to be.”

Joe Carducci, a longtime friend of Spot since his days working in record distribution in the early Eighties, was among the group of friends who helped manage his care from afar over the past year. Carducci invited Spot to perform at his Upland Breakdown music festival in Wyoming for several years and recalls a standout 2010 performance, which embodied the way he was continuing to advance and excel as a musician.

“Around 2010, he was playing guitar better than ever. It’s like he was splitting atoms on the neck,” says Carducci. “He was getting into free jazz treatment of Celtic music, or some kind of Spot combination of rock & roll, blues, jazz, and Celtic.

“When he got into Celtic, I thought, ‘Jesus, Spot is like swimming upstream backwards through the history of American music.’ The way he was playing with a flat pick on his guitar and throwing in micro notes where one note was called for. He was breaking the time signature in an interesting way.”

In a Facebook tribute, Gary Floyd of legendary Austin punk band the Dicks said Spot could quickly capture the spirit of fellow boundary-pushing musicians: “He ‘got’ the Dicks. He definitely ’got’ Glen and his guitar style. He turned up the guitar and listened …turned it up a little more. He was a fan and us of him… He was a joy to record with. He did what we wanted and we trusted him to interpret us in his skillful manner.”

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