Self Sabotage: Los Angeles Band on Gang Life & How Hardcore Saved Them

Photo: Oginee Viamontes

Self Sabotage is a hardcore punk band from Los Angeles, California. Formed in early 2021, this five-piece group shares members with many acts from the SoCal scene including Corrupted Youth, Naked Aggression, False Confession, and Resist & Exist.

Their debut EP, My Mind Is A Ghetto, came out in September 2021, and since its release the band has played on the East Coast, Mexico, and has their sights set on a West Coast tour later this year. Self Sabotage also recently dropped a single called "No Direction" that was premiered via No Echo.

Introduce yourself and the band! What does Self Sabotage represent?

Nick: I'm Nick Saracho and I do vocals in the band. Self Sabotage represents different things to each of us. To me, the band represents a way out; a vehicle to get outside of myself and my head and a way to deal with life. It’s also representative of all the missed opportunities, poor choices, and self-inflicting damage I’ve caused myself over the years. 

Photo: Oginee Viamontes

Craig: Hi, I’m Craig Onac and play guitar for Self Sabotage. Self Sabotage represents pretty much everybody's own actions that caused harm to themselves. I think everybody can relate to some degree. A lot of people have that demon whispering in their ear. I have been self sabotaging since I was a wee little kid. You live, you learn, forget and repeat...at least for me anyway. I sure do it well. So, I am true to the name as can be. 

Photo: Oginee Viamontes

Roman: I’m Roman Gomez I play drums. Self Sabotage is drinking and drugging till 5 in the morning knowing very well I have an interview to finish for No Echo.

Photo: Oginee Viamontes

Alain: Sup, I’m Alain Simental and I jam the bass. Self Sabotage represents a way to express myself musically. I love that this band has let me express myself without any limitations.

Photo: Oginee Viamontes

Eugene: My name’s Eugene Villanueva and I play guitar for Self Sabotage. To me, Self Sabotage represents experiences (past or present) of the individuals in the band, whether it be mental health, drug addiction, personal issues, reflections of our reality, etc.

Photo: Oginee Viamontes

I’m a sucker for a good ole origin story. How did you all find each other and decide to create the band?

Roman: Nick and I had already been longtime friends; and one day I decided to stop by Nicks lockout just to catch up and hang for a bit before he had to practice with his other band, Marred. The band ended up bailing with the exception of Alain, the bassist from Marred. He walked in and picked up a guitar so naturally I went and sat behind the drum kit, and we had our first jam. Needless to say, the musical chemistry was there and at that moment I pointed at Nick and told him, “Alright we’re starting a band, and you’re gonna sing”.

Alain brought Craig into the band as our guitarist and moved over to bass. We had jammed maybe once or twice with this full line up before heading over to record a couple of live tracks. These were supposed to be just for reference, but I ended up submitting them for a comp. I’m impulsive like that. The band kind of went quiet after this due to work schedules and Nick’s school schedule at the time. That was until I got approached about playing the BornxRaised/Dead City show. 

Nick: Yeah, my band Gottlieb had finally got our own space and so I took full advantage and started having a bunch of bands come in and jam. Fast forward and now we have like 8 or 9 bands sharing the space which is rad. That was always the goal, creating a space for ourselves and subsequently, a big ass family. 

Craig: I used to jam with Alain in a band called Bruised Gender. One night while sippin’ a nice cold Modelo in the dark COVID struggle, he called me up to go to the studio to jam with him, Nick and Roman. Didn’t know Nick and Roman yet but I was dying to play so I decided to go down and jam with them. We all clicked pretty well together. Made up a song or two and we all got pumped up on it and started this band. A practice or two later we ended up playing our first show a month or two later for like 2000 peeps with like a five-song set. That pumped us up even more to get somewhat serious [laughs] so to this day we’re still self-sabotaging! 

Eugene: I was the last person to join the band. Prior to joining, Roman asked if I could fill in for a couple of shows one weekend since Craig was out of town playing Punk Rock Bowling. We didn’t get a chance to practice as a band before performing and they had another guitarist filling in as well, so it was kind of a shit show. Upon setting up for the show with Portland’s finest, Defiance, Alain was coming from playing a show at Punk Rock Bowling with False Confession. Alain rushed onto the stage trying to set up as quickly as possible since we had already been stalling for a while.

As I helped him set up, I shook his hand and we introduced ourselves to each other, and that was the first time meeting our bass player. It was instant chemistry between us, Alain is super down to earth and very easy to get along with. I met Nick one time when he gave me a ride after coming back from tour with Corrupted Youth and Roman had filled in on drums. And prior to joining the band I’ve only seen Craig through passing while our bands played together throughout the years. 

Alain: I’ve known about Craig and have seen him play many times throughout the years. First time I saw Craig play he was playing guitar in Dr. Know at a backyard gig near my neighborhood in La Puente, California probably 2003/2004. That was the first time I heard a guitar sound the way his sounded. So loud and so crisp. Fast forward 10+ years, Craig and I started a band with our good friends Tony and Jacob called Bruised Gender. It was a fun project while it lasted but nothing serious. Around the same time my friend Fernando recruited me on bass to start a project which is now known as Marred. That’s where I met Nick, our singer for Self Sabotage, and he was on drums. We rehearsed on and off for a few years.

One day, Marred canceled rehearsal, so I hit up Nick to ask him if he was still down to jam some riffs. I showed up to the studio and Roman and Nick were there chilling. That was my first time meeting Roman. I picked up a guitar and Roman hopped on drums. We jammed for a bit and there was definitely a connection. We wrote the first 3 Self Sabotage songs that day. Nick became the singer by default because he was just sitting there. After jamming a few times on guitar, I decided to hop back on bass and get Craig on guitar. He had been hitting me up to jam for a while so this was the perfect opportunity to get something new started and the rest is history.

The name of the band Self Sabotage almost feels like a personal statement. What are some self-sabotaging moments you’ve done to yourself throughout the years that may have caused any personal or creative hinderances?

Nick: The name kind of is a personal statement. When we were throwing names around this one stood out to me and felt like it could be relatable, at the very least to my friends and I. Missed job opportunities, partying too hard and missing work, dropping out of school at 16, running around on the streets, etc.

One moment that stands out to me is when I was in a band with Roman a while back called Aggression Equals Action. We had just started to play shows and get some traction and I ended up relapsing, causing the whole project to fall apart as I went back into detox for the millionth time. That pretty much sums up how I operated, vice over everything and everyone, even my own well-being or thing that I love. 

Eugene: There are different levels of self-sabotaging moments that each member experiences, and mine, which I feel is so minimal compared to others, has always been procrastination, bad decision making, and giving priority to less important situations. I always downplay any situation I get myself into or has been brought upon me and just go with the flow. Doesn’t sound too bad, but I’m sure it may have some subconscious detrimental effect on me. 

Not sure if this is a self-sabotaging moment, but when the band played a couple gigs in Mexico, each member of the band had, had something happen to them. Craig misplaced his passport and couldn’t go, Alain and I missed our first flight to Guadalajara, Roman partied too hard and missed his flight and Nick bought the wrong flight tickets going from Guadalajara to Mexico City. Regardless, we made it all work and still had a good time.

Roman: After playing one of our first gigs in Tijuana we partied all night and probably collectively slept 2-3 hours before having to wake up and scramble to get out of the luxurious hotel on the strip of Revolucion. After we got ourselves together, we all thought it would be a great idea to have breakfast before we crossed back into the U.S.. Instead of breakfast we drank about 90 beers in 6 hours before our gig in the sewers of San Diego with Hong Kong Fuck You. Needless to say, it was not our best performance but that in essence is Self Sabotage.  

Photo: Dominique Dungo 

There are so many great outfits coming out of LA right now. What is it about the punk/hardcore scene there that makes you excited to be a part of it?

Nick: Los Angeles is definitely thriving, always will. The sheer diversity of both people and bands that you’re surrounded by is amazing. Los Angeles is a melting pot of cultures. I love seeing bands using their platform to positively impact their community or bring attention to issues that are important to them as well as their communities.  

Eugene: I’ve personally been going to backyard punk gigs since I was 13 (2003) and have been playing since 2005. What’s exciting to me is seeing the many changes in the scene throughout the years.

I’ve seen many people come and go and I’ve also met many people who come from different places and are residing in LA. But it’s always a pleasure to see those who have been there since the time I’ve been in it and even before me. It’s also super interesting and exciting to see the different styles of hardcore/punk bands throughout the years and from different regions.  

Alain: I’m just grateful to be a part of a scene where the bands are diverse in every way and are able to impact our communities in positive ways. Love that we can work together to bring live music to the community without having to go through traditional promoters or venues and keep it local to people who are a part of our scene or supportive of what we do. 

Roman: Seeing other people find space to express themselves freely is something I thoroughly enjoy seeing in the punk scene. All walks of life come out to our gigs and seeing these people show up and are supportive of the art that comes hand in hand with punk. Whether it be photography, graphic design, painting, graffiti, or playing an instrument; the DIY ethos growing is what encourages me to stay pushing and continue to participate in this movement. 

Photo: Oginee Viamontes

Never will we forget the BornxRaised/Dead City Punx show in Frogtown, Los Angeles that helped the trajectory of the L.A. punk scene. How did that show change your lives as a band? 

Nick: Yeah, that was a wild one for sure! The DIY shows leading up to that were also pretty gnarly, like La Fayette Park. That Frogtown show was actually our very first show as a band and we really hadn't practiced. It solidified the idea of Self Sabotage being a band and I think really motivated us to write and play more. There’s a high that comes from being on stage and playing music and that Frogtown show was like a hot rail straight to the dome. 

Roman: Well, it showed me that music was very much so alive and well. It catapulted us from what we were doing before, straight into being fully involved with Self Sabotage and I’m glad it happened. It ultimately helped keep me sane. The band is therapeutic for me, and these are my best friends. We get to share that 15-minute rush together on stage and not many people know that feeling. 

Your 2021 demo, My Mind is a Ghetto, hits home on themes of mental health, regret, crime, and classism to name a few. Mental health being a prevalent theme throughout this piece, what is some advice you’d give to fans out there who are struggling with their own mental well-being?

Nick: Mental health is a prevalent theme throughout my life, both personally and professionally, so I guess that’s why it bleeds over into the music. Man, that’s a tough one. I still struggle with my own mental well-being to this day, it’s a constant battle. So that would be the first thing I would say, you aren’t alone in what you’re experiencing. It took me a long time to realize that and sincerely believe it. Trust in the process!

Growth, change, and healing do not happen overnight even though we would like them to. I went through many different experiences trying to find what worked for me, drugs, booze, detox, locked psych wards, residential programs, medications, therapy, etc. It felt like it was all pointless and nothing was working, until one day I found what worked for me.

It’s important to acknowledge that not everyone has access to the same resources, and I’ve encountered a lot of people who subscribe to the “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” mentality and that’s bullshit. Just don’t give up because there is a solution out there. 

Eugene: I always feel like I don’t know enough or I’m not good enough to give these kinds of advice because I feel like I haven’t been through enough. But even though there are different levels to it, problems are problems.

What helps me get through the toughest situations is understanding and accepting that there are no wrong feelings and embracing all your experiences, good and bad, as a part of growth. Working out, hiking, or any other physical activity is important for reliving the physical stress that one experiences. Hope y’all ain’t lactose intolerant, cause it's gonna be cheesy up in here.  

Roman: Talk to someone, feel your emotions, and go do something active like lift weights or hike. 

The track “Soy Asesino” off the demo really stands out to me. You talk about your past with gang affiliations and street life. What was it about that moment in time that helped you get to where you are today to live a more positive life?

Roman: I grew up in a household where a lot of my family was from a gang. They were active members who were cycling in and out of the prison system. I was never in a gang, but I was around it my whole life. I was conditioned by my father and my closest cousins who would brandish weapons and flaunted tattoos of the neighborhood they were from across their back. Fearless, proud, and aggressive—three words that describe the men in my family that I looked up to.

I was mostly just a quiet kid observing what was going on around me, always wrong place wrong time. The first time I had ever seen a .22 pistol it was put in my hand by my cousin, and we were all passing it around and playing around with it; pointing it at each other and pretending to shoot it. This was normal at my family parties on my dad’s side.

Months later, I remember finding a handgun hidden beneath a broken piece of floorboard and next to it was a bag of what I assume to be meth and a meth pipe in my bedroom. I was probably about 13-14 years old when I had seen this.

Growing up I had an absent father because he was in and out of jail. So, the song “Soy Asesino” doesn’t glorify the life of being a gang member, rather it was what my perspective of that life was like growing up as a kid with those kinds of role models around me, no direction. 

Photo: Dominique Dungo 

Nick: Yeah, and I think it’s important to tell these stories. Stories of trauma and how they cope with the tools they have available to them (or lack thereof). Sometimes the ways in which people cope with their circumstances aren’t healthy. But it’s also more complicated than just selling drugs, being violent, or representing your neighborhood although some people like to believe that's where the problem stops.

Aside from these being the experiences we encounter on a regular basis either through family, friends, or in our communities, bringing attention to this is important because there is a larger issue at play here. There are systemic inequalities that create these environments where people are forced to literally fight to survive and these systemic issues not only push people towards these types of activities or lifestyles, but actively holds them down and keeps them there. And that’s not right. 

Eugene: I grew up with family involved in gangs and have had a friend who was killed by gangs as well. It was a common thing to hear and witness gang activities while growing up in Boyle Heights. Hearing gunshots almost every night during the summer days is normal, so common that we’d play games with friends to try to differentiate the type of gun that caused the sound or if the sound was made by fireworks.

The gang life was heavily romanticized as a kid and had influenced many friends to be part of one growing up. But if it wasn’t for punk music, I would probably be a gang banger. I shifted my attention and energy to learning how to play an instrument and learning about punk bands as well as going to gigs. It was punk, family, and friends that got me to where I am today.

Photo: Oginee Viamontes

Growing up with absent parents must’ve been tough by not having any guidance as a kid. How did you persevere by teaching yourself how to be a man?

Craig: Me personally, I grew up with my grandparents and they took good care of me. My mom wasn't around much, and I didn't meet my dad until I was 13. So that was always a bother in my head. When I turned 16 my grandmother wanted me out and wanted my mom to step in.

My grandparents couldn’t handle my fuckin' trouble making ways. So I ended up moving in with my mom. I only lived with her for about a year before she got arrested and we got evicted from our apartment. I wound up dropping outta school because I was pretty much homeless. So long story short, I ended up having a baby girl when I turned 18, and that pretty much saved me from being a total fuck up. I had to man up and be responsible for her. That pretty much sums up how I became a man. 

Photo: Dominique Dungo 

Roman: When you're a latch key kid you look to your peers, and you gravitate to the people your age that are into the same things as you. I learned to be who I am by hanging out with my cousins who showed me the ropes. I mean, we were pretty delinquent punk kids, but I think we turned out alright. I’m not in jail and I haven't committed any serious crimes, so I think as long as you got a good/hood head on your shoulders, you’ll naturally find your way and figure it out. 

You were telling me how you and couple of the band mates are starting up an independent label. Talk about what the process for starting that up has been like for you guys. Also, what are some of the challenges and successes you’ve had come from this experience? 

Nick: Yeah man, it’s been an interesting one so far. We are still in the infant stages of getting the label up and running. YouTube has been my best friend along with the internet for learning and research. When Roman and I had the discussion about starting up a label I remember thinking I don’t know the first thing about starting a label, much less running one. But I think that's where the punk ethos comes into play. You don’t know how to do something? Figure it out. Need something done? Do it yourself.

So, it’s been a lot of research and asking questions, and stepping outside of my comfort zone in terms of trying to network in a professional capacity. Luckily, people and bands have shown us an insane amount of love and support since we announced what we are doing. One of the biggest challenges for me has been time management. Between work, 3 bands, the label, helping at shows, and getting ready to apply for a nursing program I’m kind of all over the place.

As of right now, we’re funding everything out of pocket so resources in that area are limited and can be a challenge but being broke has never stopped us before, we just get resourceful. It’s definitely a labor of love. We have some cool stuff coming your way though so I'm excited for what’s to come. 

Roman: Starting the label has been sort of surreal because we are working with a lot of bands, I personally grew up seeing in backyards in Los Angeles. And now they are working with us on a more professional level. It’s definitely strange but rewarding to be able to sit down and work with these bands. We’ve only gotten started so we haven't got much to show just yet but soon you will be hearing a lot about Nothing Less. 

What is it about the DIY ethos surrounding the punk genre that makes you feel the most rewarded?

Nick: The simple fact that we can accomplish and literally do anything we set our minds to. And the inclusive nature of that ethos, its empowering. DIY punk has shown us we don’t need to rely on traditional methods or systems; that we can create our own path, our own community, and our own world, and celebrate who we are as individuals. 

Roman: It’s the community for me. All of my favorite artists are in this community and its rad to see all of them getting the recognition for their work. Out here its sink or swim and DIY or nothing; and we all swim out here. 

Photo: Oginee Viamontes

No Direction was quite a treat. Not only is it a rager but a great tease for your upcoming EP! Can you give any insight for the EP that’s due for release later this year (title, release timeframe, concept, etc.)? 

Nick: The EP is self-titled and will be four songs. It comes out swinging with the self-titled track “Self Sabotage." Conceptually, the EP is a look at myself and some of my defects, past and present. One track explores my current fear/resistance to change while another dives into my role in past relationships that were codependent. We originally discussed releasing it in September, but it looks like we will be releasing it in mid-July now [laughs] in true Self Sabotage fashion. 

What are some of Self Sabotage’s goals for the remainder of 2022? 

Nick: We are hoping to get in a small tour before the year is out and hit some neighboring states. The band will also be focusing on writing and recording from now until the end of the year with the goal of putting out one more EP and getting started on writing a full length.

We will be playing CY Fest in September and have some cool local shows lined up that haven't been announced yet, so keep an eye out for those! 


Self Sabotage on social media: Instagram | Bandcamp  


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