The Punk Vault

Selections from The Punk Vault [Rights of the Accused]

Rights of the Accused – Innocence 7″ (1984 Little Farmer Music)

Rights of the Accused (or ROTA) for short were a hardcore band from Chicago. The band featured Michael O’Connell (not the same person as my good friend, Mr. O from DG), Anthony Illarde, Jay Yunger, and a couple other fellows whose names escape me right now (the record is at home and I’m not). Before they put this out, they put out a couple of cassette demos (which I would LOVE it if someone has them and could copy them for me), and were on the Middle of America compilation put out by WNUR. This 7″ was put out on the label that belonged to one of the Stepe brothers, who was living in Peoria at the time.

The music was straight up hardcore and they had a humorous side to them much like Negative Element. They played shows all over the city and were a mainstay in the Chicago punk scene for quite awhile. Shortly after this record was released, Wesley Kidd from Political Justice? joined the band as a second guitarist. Not much later still, Brian St. Clair would become their new drummer.

After that they put out an album, Dillinger’s Alley, which was the last of their punk material before they went off in a more rock direction like Kiss. They put out a couple of records after changing their sound and then called it quits, occasionally getting back together for a rare live performance.

As to where they are now? Mike works at Liar’s Club here in Chicago as a bartender. He at one time said he’d get in touch and would dig up some old punk stuff for me but sadly that never happened. Anthony still resides in the city as well. Jay ended up moving to New York and played in White Zombie. I’m not sure of what happened to the other guys who played on this fine record.

The record came with a couple inserts, one of them being a 1 Million dollar bill. There were 2 different covers, both featuring the same artwork but one was all black ink on white cardstock and the other had black and purple ink (the band drawing was in purple).

As always if you were a member of ROTA and/or you have any additional information, please get in touch.


  • I never saw these guys until they got into their shit-rock era, god they were so fucking bad. One time there was a benefit at Exit, and the gag was that every band had to close their set with a song by the band that played next. The Effigies had just played and ROTA were next, and The Effigies didn’t know any of those songs, so John Kezdy said “Well, this is the same thing anyways” and they played “Tonite I’m Gonna Rock Ya Tonite” by Spinal Tap. Cracked my shit up.

  • so fucking sweet! i remember this song from a radio show i used to tape here in ann arbor in the late 1980’s. thanks!

  • saw ROTA open for Slammin Watusis and the like circa 88/89… music sucked, but their stage presence/shtick was pretty funny as I recall, and the approach seemed decidedly tongue-in-cheek… Mike dragged me up on the stage once, reached into his pocket and pulled out some dried/smoked fish that he picked up from a 7-11 and dared me to take a bite, dangling a bottle of whiskey around as a prize/chaser… I took the bite, took a swig, and then managed to spew the intake all over the front row of the crowd… I remember liking the song “Try” when they would play it live, but other than that they were pretty much just good for the laughs…

  • great yet mostly overlooked 7″! they’ve got some more tunes on “empty skulls” cassette (the first one, issued on tape only), plus i’ve got some demo and live stuff – but the 7″ is by far their best!

  • Steve Steppe was the Steppe brother who was in ROTA for a short time. I think he played bass during the time the EP was recorded.

  • oh my god!!!!these boys are real deal.i have known these boys longer than i care to remember,traveled to brloit to see them play,danced onstage(badly) for them at cubby bear and realized they are the most real and honest boys you will ever be lucky enough to say are your friends!!!!!!!!

  • Knew them when I worked at the Cubby Bear. Great guys, cool band. Saw on a web site that Wes did some work for Cheap Trick. Hope they are all well.

  • Yes, Mike works at The Liar’s club. The bar is owned by Herb Rosen who was also a member of the band. Anthony Ilarde is a member of The Chamber Strings. I’ve seen these guys loads of times, the cover song Malibu Beach Nightmare by Hanoi Rocks sticks in my mind. Fun energy.

  • I “roadied” for these guys for awhile, egged bewildered chicagoans on non-halloween eves with jay and mike, and was with bill (herb’s buddy from western springs) when he inadvertently through his egg mcmuffin sandwich at his mother from my car window one saturday or sunday morn. i was a member of the much-maligned “crass punks/peace punks” and had a hand in the nbau anti-nuke protests in the 80s. regrettably, i sold a quite massive punk record collection to a record store in champaign, il. for a pittance! helped pay my rent while i contemplated a crack at the u of i. had all the good, hard to find stuff….i’d be happy to yap about the olden days, if memory still serves.

  • Oh my god! Talk about flashback! I used to love these guys! I think I still own this 7″ too! I’ll have to go and dig it out tonight. I’m glad to hear the guys are still around in some manner. Anyone know whatever happend to Jan Maitland? He played with them for a short time.

  • I went to high school in chicago with jay, too bad I threw away my yearbook he signed! I saw one of the first ROTA shows in a church basement and it was great. thanks for the memories

  • …I knew Steve Stepe (bass) and his bros in ’84-’85 shortly after they left the Chicago ‘burbs for Peoria, IL. Steve road a silver McGill, he had a nice ramp for the time and we all skated the days away…Memories of this record? 1) I think it came with a fake/xeroxed 1 million dollar bill and 2) Steve always laughed at how the artist made everyone look so gnarley on the cover, Steve was as scrawny as Westerberg at the time.

  • I am starting up a Chicago punk wiki/database and here the ROTA almuni list I’ve compiled:

    * Jay Yunger went on to become “J” in White Zombie
    * Brian St. Clair became half of Local H
    * Wes Kidd formed Silent Partner Management, who manages acts such as Cheap Trick & Local H
    * Kidd & St. Clair formed the band Triple Fast Action
    * Herb Rosen is the owner of popular Chicago nightclub The Liars Club
    * Steppe was part of many popular Chicago punk bands, such as Negative Element
    * Anthony Illarde formed Regress with Steppe and Joe Losurdo of Life Sentence
    * Illarde is also a member of San Tropez

    I’m sure there’s more, but an FYI from some quick googling

  • If memory serves, I believe it was Bill Faulkner from Western Springs who played bass as they were transitioning from HC to Joke Metal. Then Herb stepped in.

  • Gotta say this… i bought the later album “Kick Happy Thrill Hungry Reckless and Willing!, purely because the cover artwork looked like a Wolfsbane album I was into at the time. Myself and my friends were blown away by it’s rawness, honesty and party lyrics, and it became a firm favourite, played to death. Always wondered what the story was with the band, “Way Down” is an amazing song… sorry but I like the cheesy rock era!

  • It was Tom Faulkner who played bass for a while. He kinda started the long-hair metal trend for them, I think. I dated their roadie, Rob Schwager, who also produced all of their artwork, including the cover of ‘Innocence’. He’s now a successful graphic artist, living in Florida.

    I had a blast hanging out with those guys..I still see Mike occasionally, he’s still a riot!!

  • I’m sorry, I don’t know what became of Tom. But if I find out anything, I’ll letcha know!

  • Saw them open for the Revolting Cocks at Cabaret Metro in 1988(?) maybe 1989. Very funny and tight. Someone from the audience yelled “You Suck!” The frontman replied “You Swallow!” Still use that one today.

  • I grew up with all these guys. Our band, Nadsat Rebels played with them many times. We were all think as thieves. Jay went on to form White Zombie. Mike and Herb have a band called Beer Nuts that will be playing this Wednesday at Double Door! If you thought ROTA was a riot, you will flip shits when you see the antics now a days.

  • ROTA is playing 4/15-4/16/2011 WAX TRAX! RECORDS RETROSPECTACLE: 33 1/3 YEAR ANNIVERSARY at Metro.


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