El Dopa grew out of the drug and crime infested ghettos of West and North Oakland in 1995. San Francisco's East Bay, including Berkeley and Oakland, is like a punk rock mecca for some. From the local bars, crappy venues, and house parties in slumlord owned punk houses, a number of legendary underground bands have risen. Some, Neurosis for example, have become leaders and respected examples of artistic integrity and dedication. Those who have used the status and activity of the scene as a starting point for major label careers, like Green Day and Rancid, are looked upon largely as sellouts and traitors. Many, like El Dopa, shine bright before quickly burning up in the atmosphere.
The all-star lineup -- former Grimple member Greg on guitar and vocals, Econochrist's Andy on bass, former Product member Brian on guitar and vocals, and Shawn on drums -- remained unchanged for the duration of El Dopa's existence. In early 1996 the band recorded their first effort, a self-titled 7" EP, for the reputable underground label Prank. The release of the EP was followed up with a brief tour of the Northwestern United States as openers for Neurosis and Bloodlet. The 7" was well received, and the band quickly gained appreciation and a growing following in the Bay Area and throughout the underground punk scene.
Also in 1996, crazy scene photographer Murray Bowles put up some cash to start a new record label in the East Bay. Dubbed East Bay Menace, the label was run with the guidance of Rachel and former Strychnine and Filth member Lenny. Prank were broke and unable to put out a full-length El Dopa album until later on, but the band felt ready to record as soon as possible and tour more extensively. Lenny, being fairly narrow minded and puritanical in his punk ethics, thought that El Dopa's sound was too metal influenced, and was opposed to releasing their full-length record. Once Rachel managed to convince him it was an important record that they should put out, the budget he was willing to offer the band for recording was too small. While it might have been an adequate sum for the mediocre recording quality tolerated by much of the punk scene, the members of El Dopa wanted to work with respected producer Billy Anderson (Melvins, Neurosis). After much wrangling and pressure from Rachel, a deal was struck and the album was recorded and was released in early 1997.
Soon after the release of the full-length album, the band headed out on a two month tour of North America. While setting up for a show at the Rat in Boston, bass player Andy was told that someone had called the club and was asking for "Andy from El Dopa." Confused as to who might know where to find him, he picked up the phone and discovered that the caller was looking for a different Andy, who played in a different, Boston-based El Dopa. Apparently, the other El Dopa were regular performers at the Rat. There were a few other incidents during the tour when one or two random people showed up at a gig hoping to see this mysterious second El Dopa. The band found it funny until they returned home to learn that cease and desist notices had been sent to both of their record labels.
The group decided to deal with the problem by changing their name to 1332, but for most fans, the band remains El Dopa. In 1998, 1332 broke up amidst various personal problems, reuniting for a few shows in early 2001. Greg is rumored to be preparing to play shows with a new band, Brian went on to join East Bay heavy doom/punk rockers Cruevo on guitar, while Shawn played briefly with San Francisco's Men of Porn and appeared on that band's second album. ~ Paul Kott