For the past few decades, San Diegans have opened the San Diego Reader and skimmed through the local music scene articles in the Blurt section. More than likely you have read an article by Ken Leighton, whose focus has been real news in the local music scene. I traveled up to Oceanside to interview a real San Diego music scene journalist who has a love for his town and supports local business. He led me to a spot called Wrench and Rodent Seabasstropub, where Executive Chef Davin Waite, the founder of The Fish Joint and a Cafe Japengo veteran, served us creative and tasty dishes.

Mikey Beats: You were born here, yeah?

Ken Leighton: My parents even went to Oceanside High School. It’s really weird because I’m non-military, so it’s very rare for someone my age to have been born in Oceanside. I grew up around South Hill; this is my hood. Why I like this place so much is because Davin is from here, he’s homegrown.

[The waitress brings over some fish, and I am pleasantly surprised that the place serves sushi. Judging by the name, I figured the joint serves road kill. This is hardly the case.]

Oh, look at that, you’re making it rain fish. What is that?

New Zealand Salmon.

Mmm, Kiwi Salmon. Ken, you started writing while attending Oceanside High School?

That’s when I started writing on a whim. I started writing about music in my senior year of high school for the Oceanside Blade Tribune, which became the North County Times. I did concert reviews for two years, continued through college, just for tickets, no money. I was set to transfer to USC as a junior but met someone backstage at a Jethro Tull stadium show and went to work for Chrysalis Records as a publicist when I was 20. At the time, Chrysalis had just gone independent. They had Jethro Tull, Robin Trower and later Billy Idol and Pat Benetar. In ’77, when I was 21, I worked for Capital Records in the tower. In ’77, they re-released Beatles Live at the Hollywood Bowl, and I actually wrote a press release for it. I interviewed Bob Eubanks, who was a DJ at the time, and he had put up his house as collateral to do the show.

I bet that worked out.

Yes, it worked out well for him. Believe this or not, I coined the word techno, when I wrote a press release that described Kraftwerk’s music (from Trans Europe Express) that called their music “techno rock.” Robert Hilburn used it in the L.A. Times, and the rest is history. When I came back home, I managed a local band called Incognito, which was when the whole new wave/punk thing started happening, and they ruled down here from ’79-’83. I was their manager and put on shows under the name Big Beat Productions.

Where did you throw the shows?

I did all age dance parties and charged three bucks to get in. I did shows at the Oceanside Beach Community Center, the Harding Street Community Center in Carlsbad, some in Encinitas, La Paloma, we did one in San Marcos and Fallbrook. We did all these shows with some national bands, too. Oh, my biggest one was at Palomar College with 2,000 kids with this band 20/20. So, we did a lot of shows. I did that for like four years.

I love the history of San Diego music.

I started writing a few years after Cameron Crowe; of course, he did much bigger stuff. But he was in San Diego when I was up here and he went on to fame and fortune.

Hey, you’re locally famous, nationally underground my man, at least in my eyes.

[Laughter all around.]

Ha, OK. I wrote for a bunch of local papers. I had a weekly column in Times Advocate in Escondido. Then in ’87 I went to work for the Belly Up for 12 years.

What was it that you did?

Promotion and marketing. We had a magazine then, and I put it out monthly.

What years were those?

’87-’99. Right after that I started writing for the Blurt section of the Reader and have been doing that since 1999. I also hosted and produced Night Talk, North County’s only radio talk show from 1988 to 2002 on AM 1000 KCEO. I deejayed for awhile on KKOS 95.9 and was general manager of my college radio station.

So why did you bring me here?

I have known Davin for years. He is all about using mostly fresh, local fish, and using other local businesses like California Fruit Wines out of Vista. Davin’s success with Wrench and Rodent is similar to that of Roddy Browning and the Flying Pig. The are both quality driven, non-corporate and Oceanside-driven.

Is this place related to Bull Taco at all or do they just have a shared space?

Basically it’s a restaurant within a restaurant, with a relationship with Bull Taco. They are going to build their own brewery. They’re in the process of that and have their own in-house beer.

How long has this place been here?

About six months.

[The waitress comes over with more food and drops two rolls on the table.]

Waitress: That’s the Del Mar Roll, which is a shrimp tempura roll topped with seared tuna, avocado, spicy berry sauce and miso glaze.

Ah, miso hungry!

Waitress: The other is the Hedgehog, which is also a shrimp tempura roll topped with seared yellow tail, roasted garlic, truffle oil, salt and pepper. Enjoy!

I’m about to put a Hedgehog in my mouth.

[I stuff a roll in my mouth and, although tempted to swallow it hole, I destroy it in my mouth with my tongue before chewing.]

How the garlic, truffle oil, salt and pepper mix together is so good. Add that to the crunchiness of the tempura balancing out the soft rice, oh man, this is special.

[I pause to regain consciousness.]

I feel like I just took a reality time out, orally. OK, the Del Mar Roll is now going in my mouth.

[Open mouth, insert food.]

Oh my goodness, I would like to bathe in that berry sauce! I just want to say thank you, Ken, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. Now back to the beats. What is your position with the Reader?

I’m just one of the many contributing writers. I’ve been doing it since ’99 and I write mostly for the Blurt section. Over the years they always wanted me to write about their newsie stuff in the music scene. One thing was when Agent 51 had a song that was copied by Green Day and Warner Bros. and Green Day settled out of court. Agent 51 got a lot of money.

Do you know the amount?

No, I never knew the amount. That was the kind of stuff I did over the years. I always was willing to talk about Ticketmaster, when Ticketmaster had a monopoly and was charging too much for the average ticket buyer. Now that’s changed.

So you never pull punches?

Well, I don’t know about that. I never was afraid; if there was a news story out there, I wrote about it. People don’t necessarily want everything to be talked about. But I maintained that it should be talked about. That’s what I’m all about. Not all of my stuff is investigative stuff. But on the other hand, I’m not afraid to do that stuff.

Yeah, I like that.

[More food arrives.]

For the record, I’m looking at Wings of the Sea, as they call it. They look like fish tails; I’ve never had a fish presented like this. It’s basically like fish chicken wings.

[I dig in with my fingers like they are chicken wings, dipping into the sauce provided that is similar to a buffalo sauce but has a sweet and tanginess to it that stimulates a mini oral orgasm in my mouth.]

What’s this one again?

[I point to a very colorful nigiri in front of me.]

That is absolutely gorgeous.

That’s a Fijian Albacore with kumquat chipotle and sesame seeds on top.

Wow, that’s dedication right there. I am taking a bite and … my goodness. I love my job. What’s your interest in the Royal Dive?

I’m the original owner. We’ve been around for six years and we’re all about original music and all kinds and everything like underground hip hop to rock to metal to punk to acoustic. Every Wednesday night we have our open mic and it starts at 9. From 6 to 10 p.m., Davin provides sushi. So it’s kind of like a catering thing. We aren’t supposed to have food but its catered under him. It’s a craft beer bar with open mic and sushi. He sets it up right on the counter with the refrigerator so it’s really cold.

You hadn’t opened a venue before that, had you?

After being connected in some way with music since the ’70s, working for record labels, the Belly Up, as a writer and as a manger/promoter, I thought having a live venue was the right next step. It’s not easy but to have a big name in a small venue is kind of cool. We are happy that North County is sort of becoming a market all its own like Orange County is to L.A. This month Ape Machine from the Bay Area plays here the day before the Casbah. Earthless did the same thing a few months ago. People in North County sometimes would rather stay in North County. Everyone loves Nate, who does sound, and Willie our bartender, who is a rock star himself. Joe Trapman, who used bring in acts to Jumping Turtle for many years, is also working with us. There are a lot of music venues that aren’t around anymore like Hensleys, Flying Elephant and Beachbreak. Even though it is harder to do live music, when you are one of the few left standing, like musical chairs, it does get a little bit easier, but nothing is that easy.

Nothing’s easy, especially with live music and especially in San Diego. You seem very pro-San Diego, pro-business, very pro local.

Yup, pro-local. I just think it’s good to support local and homegrown people at every chance.

Absolutely, I’m the same way, man. I see people come in from out of town saying, “This is what San Diego needs. I’m telling you what San Diego needs.” I just watch them come in; they’re in here for six months and then they’re out.

In an out.

It’s like, pick up your trash on your way out, please.