Steve Soto, a mainstay of the Southern California punk and hardcore scenes and the co-founder of two seminal outfits, the Adolescents and Agent Orange, died Wednesday. He was 54.
While a cause of death has yet to be announced, the Adolescents’ Tony Reflex confirmed Soto’s death on Twitter. “With heavy heart I share the passing of Steve Soto, my friend and bandmate since 1979,” Reflex wrote. “I don’t know what to do. Or to say. Goodbye my brother.”
Just this weekend, Soto and the Adolescents wrapped an East Coast tour and had a European trek scheduled for later this summer. “Steve had just returned home from a successful east coast tour with The Adolescents and spent Tuesday evening doing what he loved to do; recording and making music with his friends Greg Antista and Jim Monroe, and was very much looking forward to the upcoming European tour starting next week,” the band and Soto’s family tell Rolling Stone in a shard statement. “Wednesday afternoon he passed away peacefully in his sleep. This has taken us all by surprise. Our hearts and prayers are now with his family and friends. We ask during this time to respect their privacy. Thank you so much for the years of love and support you have shown Steve and all of his bands. It means so much and will not be forgotten.”
Soto was a multi-instrumentalist who enjoyed a prolific career in punk rock. Though he co-founded Agent Orange in 1979, he left the band within a year to form the Adolescents. Between 1981 and 2016, the Adolescents released eight albums, during which time Soto also worked as a solo artist and played in numerous other groups.
Of all Soto’s projects, the Adolescents were the most pivotal. The group’s self-titled debut album, released in 1981 and known as “the blue album” for its cover, enjoyed surprise success and became one of the first hardcore records to be widely distributed throughout the United States. A follow-up EP, Welcome to Reality, arrived later that year – but tensions between band members caused the Adolescents to split months before the EP was actually released.
Soto would go on to reunite the Adolescents at various points over the next few decades. The band released back-to-back albums in 1987 and 1988, Brats in Battalions and Balboa Fun*Zone, though their next record wouldn’t arrive until 2005. The group’s last record, Manifest Destiny, was released in 2016.
In between stints with the Adolescents, Soto remained perpetually busy. After the group’s first split, he joined the Los Angeles outfit Legal Weapon, while in the Nineties he played in Joyride, 22 Jacks and Steve Soto and the Twisted Hearts. In the early Nineties, Soto, whose father’s family emigrated from Mexico, also linked up with other Chicano musicians to form Manic Hispanic, a semi-parodic act that reworked punk and hardcore songs into tracks about Latin culture in the United States (for instance, the Offspring’s “Come Out and Play” was renamed, “Get Them Immigrated”).
Soto’s numerous punk progeny have paid their respects to the musician on social media. Green Day’s Billie Joe Armstrong posted a photo of the musician on Instagram, while the Offspring wrote on Twitter, “We are devastated by the news of Steve Soto’s passing. He played in so many great bands, was a great bass player, guitar player, and singer, but mostly he was just an honest and sweet guy. He was our hero in the Adolescents and an inspiration to us as musicians.”
Rancid summed up Soto’s influence, writing, “When you talk about California punk Rock and Punk Rock in general, Steve Soto will forever be on top of the list of people who put it on the map. He 100 percent helped pave the way for all of us who decided to pick up an instrument and play our version of Punk. You will be missed. RIP.”
The Adolescents – “Amoeba”
The Adolescents – “Kids of the Black Hole”