Derf Scratch, founding bassist for the notorious Los Angeles punk band Fear, died due to complications from a long-term liver ailment July 28 in Camarillo, Calif. He was 58.
Born Frederick Charles Milner III in Ft. Monmouth, N.J., he grew up in Temple City, Calif., and worked in a number of nondescript L.A.-area rock bands — after getting a real estate license, he said in a 2004 fanzine interview — before joining the first incarnation of Fear in 1978.
At once a pummeling, profane, anti-social punk group and a self-reflexive joke, Fear roiled audiences with such abrasive originals as “I Don’t Care About You” and “Let’s Have a War.” Its aggressive, audience-baiting stage tactics were displayed in director Penelope Spheeris’ 1981 documentary “The Decline of Western Civilization.”
Scratch was a close friend of comedian John Belushi, and the pair frequently could be spotted hanging out in L.A.’s after-hours club the Zero. At Belushi’s insistence, Fear was booked on “Saturday Night Live” on Halloween 1981; the band’s performance was truncated after moshing by a group of specially imported slam-dancers got out of control.
Not long after the completion of Fear’s first full-length album “The Record,” released by Slash Records in 1982, Scratch was fired because of ongoing disputes with lead vocalist Lee Ving.
Scratch went on to front an eponymous outfit and the group the Werewolfs. He was seriously injured in a 2006 car accident following an L.A. gig with the latter group.
He is survived by his wife.