Surf's Up! Meet Phil Shaheen: Drummer for The Tijuana Panthers
The Tijuana Panthers as mild mannered citizens. I Photo courtesy of the Tijuana Panthers.
Tijuana Panthers - Creature
What was the first instrument that you ever played?
I played the trumpet in elementary school. I thought guys who played the trumpet were really cool. My grandfather was really into swing music and used to play it around the house a lot. I thought Benny Goodman and Gene Krupa were just the coolest.
Do you still play?
No, I wasn't dedicated enough. I never practiced. I wanted to be outside surfing, skating, or whatever.
Where did you get the name the Tijuana Panthers?
It’s based off my neighbor, Max, who is around sixty or something. When his house burned down, he was throwing...
Wait how did his house burn down?
I think it was a bag of charcoal in his backyard that ignited. I actually saw some smoke coming from his backyard that day, but I just thought he was burning some trash, which he did quite often. When I came back the whole house had burned down and he was sifting through the remains. He threw everything he found in a dumpster with the exception of this little porcelain panther which he gave me to fix. Max was really attached to it. He had gotten it in Mexico and he used to tell this story about how he stabbed a guy in Tijuana.
He stabbed a guy? Why?
I don't know. I think he thought that guy was trying to rob him, so he pulled a shiv out of his boot, stabbed him, and then ran away. He said he was hopped up on a lot of pills a the time. I'm not even sure if this story is true. It's probably not or if it is it's embellished considerably. So he gave me the panther to fix, but I haven't given it back yet. It's really sad, I'm the only one who can tell the story anymore. Max got throat cancer and now he can only talk through a voice box in his neck.
The Tijuana Panthers transformed into creatures of the night. I Photo courtesy of the Tijuana Panthers
That's really sad.
Yeah, it happens.Did you watch a lot of 1960s surf movies to get your sound?
Oh yeah, we're big fans of those movies. Chad and I used to be in this band called The Pencils and we only played 1960s surf songs. They were almost all instrumentals, though. The song "Crewcut" came out of that band.
Do you guys surf?
We used to all the time, but now we live pretty far from the water. It takes me awhile to get to Ventura, but I do when I get the chance.
Is "Girls Gone Wild" based on a true story?
(laughs) No, it's not. Chad wrote that song when he was working. He works the graveyard shift at an all night diner, and so he always sees those those Girls Gone Wild commercials on TV. I think he'd thought it would be fun to write a silly song about it.
What is the creature of the night in your song "Creature"? Is it you?
That again is Chad. A lot of songs are about Chad. He wrote that song about working the graveyard at that restaurant. We thought it would be funny to turn it into a spooky song, rather than just a song about someone who works late.
No, they just did it. We met them right when they were starting to be a big deal. We became friends with them pretty fast. I mean we were obviously stoked they chose our song. They have some very cool songs so it was pretty dang flattering that they wanted to cover one of ours.
Tijuana Panthers - Red Headed Girl
Was "Red Headed Girl" also about Chad?
Yeah, he wrote that about a dance he went to in junior high. I don't know how he remembers this stuff. My brain was not like that. Apparently he saw a red headed girl at a dance and she was just standing there waiting to dance with someone, all bummed out. A lot of his songs are written around junior high school days.