The Detonators were formed in 1979 by Bruce Hartnell and Juan Camacho in Redondo Beach, CA., to participate in the emerging hardcore punk rock scene that was exploding in southern California at the time. Just out of high school, the two life-long friends played various parties and gigs with numerous drummers—as punk rock was still fairly frowned upon by most musicians, and finding a drummer willing to stick around long enough to allow the band to build an audience what quite a task in itself.
Korky Ollerton joined on drums in 1981, and with Hartnell on bass, and Camacho on guitar, the band took to putting and advertisement in a L.A. weekly paper, “The Recycler”, for a vocalist. Mike Mooney passed the audition, and with his inclusion, the band set off work on material that was to become their first LP, “Emergency Broadcast Systems”.
Released in 1983, the LP allowed the Detonators to gain better gigs, opening for The Dead Kennedys, Discharge, Minor Threat, The Misfits, MDC, The Dicks, 45 Grave, among others in the hardcore scene.
Touring now became a necessity, since the band was selling their records on their own label, and they found that they were addicted to life on the road, which they found much more preferable to staying in L.A. and waiting for the next decent gig to come along. On the first time out, the band was able to open for the great Portland band The Wipers, on New Year’s Eve 1983 at the 13th precinct.
Mike Mooney did not make this trip, as he quit the group because he found the intensity of performing too much for his liking. Hartnell took over on the vocals; as he was the songwriter in the band, he was the only one who knew all the lyrics. It was soon decided to keep Hartnell on vocals and add him as second guitar, as the prospect of finding a bassist seemed easier than adding a vocalist.
Pat Fargher was brought in to play bass, and the band recorded a single, “Yer Child’s War” b/w “Emergency Broadcast Systems”, again on their own label, Emergency Broadcast Systems Unlimited. This release was able to buy some time for the band by keeping them in the music press for a while, it was soon apparent to the Detonators that in order to get anywhere they needed a bigger label to put out the next record, as the band had no money of their own to take on such an expenditure; several mechanical breakdowns while touring saw to that.
Hoping to gain any kind of backing for touring and to build on their fan base, they settled on National Trust Records in Orange County, and released “Just Another Reason” in 1985. Tour support was not a reality, but the band kept at the road.
It was decided to try to go to Europe, with the intent being to “trade” tours with an established English hardcore band. A deal was set up with the Instigators, from Huddersfield, in the English midlands, and the two bands toured the continent and Britain in 1986,along with rant poet Nick Toczek .A U.S. tour was done the following spring. At the completion of that tour, Hartnell and Camacho decided that living in Los Angeles wasn’t all that great, and moved to Eugene, Oregon. A bassist and a drummer were soon added and the band kept at it, recording “Balls to You”. The move to Eugene was beneficial to the band because, among other things, a decent studio didn’t cost a small fortune per hour, as it does in L.A. This allowed the band to put extra effort into ensuring that a decent sounding record would be released. It was decided to try to do another European tour, only this time as a single act. A label, Double A records in Wuppertal, Germany, picked up the release, and a tour was put together with a Canadian band who also had a Double A release, The Problem Children, from Hamilton, Ontario. That tour took place in April-May 1989.
Upon returning, The Detonators released the “BillionDollarNazis” 45, and again took off for the road. After another mechanical failure, (this time in –40 degree temperatures) the band decided to stop touring as much. Only two more trips would be made, the last one in 1992, with Seattle’s DC Beggars. Several more recordings were done, including an unreleased LP, “1,000 Points of Punk”.Hartnell decided to open a rock club, John Henry’s, and settled in to handles booking chores. Camacho opened several versions of his restaurant, “Sandino’s”, a Mexican/punk rock eatery. Time and money constraints meant the end of touring for The Detonators. The band played sporadic gigs up until 1996 throughout the Pacific Northwest, until Hartnell took a job as an audio engineer at the Hult Center for the Performing Arts in Eugene.
Bruce Hartnell went on to form Los Mex Pistols Del Norte, a 9 piece mariachi/spaghetti western/norteno band that released a cd in 1999 called “Esta Noche We Ride!” on NMT records out of San Francisco, produced by former Rhythm Pigs vocalist/bassist Ed Ivey. The Detonators performed at the 20-year anniversary of the release of the “Emergency Broadcast Systems” LP in April, 2003 at John Henry’s in Eugene with a line up of Hartnell, Camacho, Scott Adamo on Drums (“Balls to You” drummer), and Kirk Black on bass. A single song, “911” was recorded for the comp “Damned for All Time, Vol.4”, that was released in December of that year, with the same line up minus Camacho.
A record release was held in Portland on December 20, 2003 at the Ash Street Saloon, where the line up of Hartnell, Black, Robin (Guitar), and Sean (drums) played to an enthusiastic audience. This is the current line up of the band.