from LINK 80 to DESA

Updated: 05/25/03

Surviving the mean streets of Oakland, the death of lead vocalist Nick Traina, and many non-fatal line-up changes, it was time for Link 80 to go on hiatus before burnout set in. Fortunately for us, five of the members decided to form DESA, and are on the verge of releasing their debut album. Here is guitarist Aaron Nagel to tell us all about it…

Introduce yourself, tell me what you do in DESA, and what made the guys from Link 80 decide to form this band.
My name is Aaron Nagel and I play guitar in DESA. Let's see, there were a few catalysts’ that caused us Link 80 boys to start a new band. The main one being that we were really just burned out on Link Eighty at the time. We've been a band for more than 7 years and have toured pretty consistently for the past 4 and we just started to feel pressured by this entity that Link Eighty has become. We needed a break. What spawned the realization that maybe we needed a break was Steve Borth’s (L80 saxophone) move to the Rx Bandits. He thought it was time to move on but he didn't want to quit Link Eighty...we just couldn't bare another lineup change (it would make #20 for us), so the 5 of us hit the practice studio and started DESA.

Is DESA a side project and what is the current status of Link 80. If both bands exist, how does the music in DESA differ from the music in Link 80?
I guess DESA can be considered a side-project of sorts although we are putting all our efforts into it at the moment. Link Eighty is in what I guess is that sort of rock n' roll hiatus. ie., we're not playing at the moment and have no date set when we're going to get back to it...but we do have every intention of returning to it one day. The music in DESA is quite a bit different from Link Eighty in some respects but very similar in others. Bottom line is that it's 5/6 guys of Link Eighty so it's going to sound at least "familiar." We do approach it from a totally different angle though in that we have no real direction musically we're aiming for. We don't have a horn section so we've veered away from the ska stuff Link Eighty was way into and having two guitars has definitely made our rock/metal/indie influences surface more.

How have the live shows been going and will you guys be coming out to LA or Orange County to play sometime?
Our live shows have been going very well, I think we've actually just passed #40. Playing live is really more a challenge for myself as I'm the only one doing something very different from what we did in Link Eighty. Playing trumpet on stage for 7 years and then switching to a new instrument definitely takes some getting used to, on top of the fact that our other guitarist Adam D. goes ape shit on stage and makes everybody else look much more boring. We do plan on playing Orange County again soon and by the time the album is out we'll be playing a lot more frequently as well. And by the way if your reading this and have a show for us, we don't do the booking agent thing so e-mail and we'll come right down.

What will the new album be called and what are some of the songs on the album about?
It will be called Year in a Red Room and will hopefully be late August/early September. I'm not really the one to ask about song meanings as far as lyrics go, Ryan’s pretty much the captain of that particular ship.

What is the deep philosophical meaning behind the band name DESA?
I think one of the reasons we named the band DESA is because there is no deep philosophical meaning behind the name. We have a good friend named Desa that we've known since the very early days of Link 80...we basically just really like her name and have always thought it'd make a great band name. Since then we've discovered kinda neat acronyms like "don't ever say always" that we've used to change things around and screw with people.

What is the current music scene like in Oakland and are there many places to play?
The music scene in Oakland has always been pretty much second to that of San Francisco although it's probably better now than it has been in the last 5 years at least. Oakland used to be limited to bars which messed up a lot of the draw for all ages type shows. Now there's starting to be a resurgence in actual venues.

What, to you, is the best and worst part about touring?
The best part of touring is the sheer amount of experience that it provides. You're in a new environment every day, surrounded by new people, new food, sometimes new cultures,'s such a good experience. Traveling just makes you so much more open and adaptable. Being able to travel AND provide for it by doing something you love like playing music is pretty amazing. The worst part of touring is just the physical and mental toll it can take on you after a while. While it's absolutely worth it, driving hundreds of miles, playing a show, sleeping for 3 hours on a floor and then driving all day again gets really really old. On top of that you gotta figure once one guy gets a cold in the winter...everybody has a cold. Then there's things like spinning out in snow, flat tires, broken equiptment, missing band members that make great stories afterward but really suck to be a part of at the time.

Looking back on the Link 80 days with Nick Traina, what are your thoughts on that time period now?
It was great. We were really young and really enjoying the opportunities we had at such a young age. We all lived with our parents and didn't need to worry about making enough money to cover rent on tour, just enough money to cover gas. I'm just very thankful that we had that time.

Have you read Danielle Steel’s book about Nick and what was your opinion on it?
Why yes I have. I have mixed feelings about the book and really don't think much of it now that it's been a few years. Initially I found it very frustrating. Danielle blamed a lot on us and got a lot of her information on our touring from outside of the band. It was frustrating to read what is supposed to be a non-fictional account of what was going on in our lives at the time and see so many biased inconsistencies. I've gotten mail from people literally furious at some of the stuff in the book that just didn't happen...unfortunately for us, people will believe an author that's sold millions upon millions over a 17 year old kid in a punk band, despite the fact that the kid had actually been there. After time however I realized I didn't really care what people thought. I also understand that writing the book may have been Danielle's way of grieving and to a mother that's lost a son, anything is excusable.

Would you ever want to do a live show with both Link 80 and DESA playing?
I would love to. We've actually talked about it a little. We've all been getting very restless since we stopped touring and every day we work these horrible jobs, we wish we were on tour. DESA isn’t really at a point yet where touring would be viable but why not open for a bigger band? Even if it's a band we're all in?

If Britney Spears asked you to quit DESA and join her band for her next world tour, what would you do?
I really enjoy DESA and I wouldn't quit for much. But who says I can't tour with Britney and play in DESA when we get back?

Which member of DESA would be most likely to quit the band and join up as the newest member of the Backstreet Boys?
Joey Bustos absolutely. Joe’s always wanted to be the singer. I think all those years of being back behind the drums has taken its toll and he wants more attention. Plus, he could look the part much more successfully than any of us could pull off.

What are the future plans for DESA?
Well, we just recorded our first album so we're going to wait for that to come out. We’re trying to write as many songs as possible with as few boundaries as possible. Aside from eventual touring and such we really don't have many further plans. Just to go as far as we can go. and please please please can we quit our day jobs?

Any final worlds of wisdom (or messages to fans or others who might be interested in checking out your music)?
The new CD will be out on Substandard records in late August or early September, please keep an eye out for it. And go to my website. yo.


DESA: Their Official Home Page!
LINK 80: Their Official Home Page!
AARON NAGEL: His Official Home Page!
SUBSTANDARD RECORDS: The Record Label for Desa!
ASIAN MAN RECORDS: Find your Link 80 Records here!
THE LIFE AND DEATH OF NICK TRAINA: An Interview with Mike Park, President of Asian Man Records from 1998.
THE HIGHWIRE DAZE HOME PAGE: Return to the Main Page!

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