I apologize for my overexcitedness. Mr. Spike Cassidy is one of the founding members of Texas/California hardcore/speed metal band Dirty Rotten Imbeciles (or D.R.I., as you probably see it on peoples' shirts). For in-depth DRI album reviews, please see http://www.markprindle.com/dria.htm and be aware that the debut record Dirty Rotten LP is one of my top 5 favorite albums of all time. It's one INTENSE hardcore album! I have been a huge, huge fan of this band since 1988 and was all excited to bustin' when Spike agreed to take time out of an evening of his life to answer some moronic questions from some asshole.
When that asshole was finished, I asked some questions too. But it took FOREVER to get Spike on the phone! I first requested an interview like three months earlier, and he responded by email saying, "Sounds great! We'll set one up when we get back from tour!" Then he didn't answer any of my emails for a long time because he was too busy. Then out of the blue one day, he said (via email, of course; this is the `90s, after all), "Okay, let's set something up!" We tried and failed like three times (I thought he meant Thursday night when he really meant Friday night, and TWICE, we responded to just- sent emails asking "How about right now?," not knowing that the other had left the computer IMMEDIATELY after sending the email. So finally I got him on the phone at 9 PM on a Friday night (6 PM his time) - and he let me pick at his brain and chew the fat on his ear for an HOUR AND A HALF!!!! You'll see my questions in bold and Spike's answers in regular print.
It took long enough!
Kiih! Uh-oh! We got cut off!
How's everything going?
Good! How about you?
With what? What's going on?
I have a lot of things going on. I do all the managing and stuff here, and we've got a tour coming up, so I have to book 30 hotel rooms, secure all the club dates, etc. etc. I've also been busy working with our new record label Beer City. They're going to be releasing our whole back catalog, so I've been working on the first disc of that.
You're adding bonus tracks and whatnot too, right?
Bonus tracks, video, CD enhancements, all that kinda stuff. That's actually another reason I've been busy; I've been searching through archives and archives of live video and audio, deciding what to put on there.
Are you gonna put demos on them too?
The Dirty Rotten LP reissue has some demo stuff from back in the day when we actually did demos. But after like four or five records, we didn't do any "demo" demo stuff anymore. I guess we have practice demos recorded on ghetto blasters, but nothing of any good quality like our early studio demos. But we'll use some of it anyway!
Are you allowed to re-release the ones that originally came out on Rotten?
Yep, we'll basically be releasing the same ones that Rotten is still bootlegging, but with lots of extra bonus tracks and video footage. We've added all this stuff so we can say, "Don't buy theirs - buy ours!" Same price, but you get more.
Wait, so you and Rotten will both be putting out the same CDs? Is that legal?
No! He's bootlegging! He agreed to stop and he never did. He keeps adding us to his new catalog every time he updates it.
How did you get mixed up with this guy in the first place?
He was our manager.
Yep. We were stupid enough to trust him and give him too much control. And he was smart enough to put himself in the driver's seat where he was the record label, the band manager and the guy who handled the money. I actually co-owned the label with him - it was a 50/50 deal. Yet, in twelve years, he paid $500,000 to himself and less than $5000 to me.
Oh my God. Can you get your money back?
I'd have to sue him. But, having worked 12 years for less than $5000, I obviously can't afford a lawyer!
How did he get away with doing this?
The whole time he was lying to me, saying there was no money. Saying that all our profits were going back into the company, when actually just mine were.
So what is the plan now? Are you gonna record a new album? Or are only the reissues scheduled for now?
Our plan is to do a new album. Although it's going slow.
And how will you be handling the reissues? Putting out a few a year or something like that?
The goal is two or three a year, but I don't think it's gonna happen. Maybe two a year. The first was supposed to come out in the middle of this month, but it's already been pushed back to mid-next month. Which isn't that bad. But we wanted it to be out before this tour, which starts in two weeks.. So unfortunately.. And also, we're trying to record a new release, but it's moving really slow.
Because Kurt lives in Texas?
Yeah, because we all live in different states. We have no way to practice and if we do, it costs crazy amounts of money to fly people in and rent studios. And we have no drum set because our drummer lives in Florida, so we have to rent a drum kit. The list goes on and on. Hotel rooms, rental cars - it's crazy. But it's something we need to do, so we're trying to work while we're on tour kinda. During soundchecks we work on stuff, and we try to get together for a few days before a tour to practice some new material. To be honest, in 1998, I wrote eight songs. That's when the album after Full Speed Ahead was actually due - 1998. So I made demos of these new songs with me playing everything. I have a drum machine, I play guitar, I play bass, I even sing! Our singer just has to listen to it, and it's all right there, exactly what he has to do. Everybody got the tape in 98 and here we are going into 2003, and you know how many of those songs we're playing in concert? One.
Eww. What is their problem?
I don't know! But they don't work on this stuff. I can only do so much. I sent the tapes; all they have to do is listen to it and figure it out. But they don't have time or they're too lazy or not concerned, so it's going really slow.
Which one are you playing?
The new one is called "Against Me"; we've been playing it for about 2 years. And we're working on two of the other ones from that demo, but like I said, it's going really slow. I'm also starting to write new lyrics again and some more new music too.
What does it sound like? Is it like the stuff on Full Speed Ahead?
Ahhhh, actually it's more like Dealing With It.
Yeah, that's kind of the mood I've been in, so -
Cuz you're pissed about new things! Like the band not learning your songs!
(laughs) Yeah, I guess so! Nah, it's just the way I write when we start a new album. When it comes time to do new material, I always start by writing some really aggressive fast songs. Because it's simple for me to do - it's easier than the more complex, longer songs, so we get more stuff to work on right away. And then after we have a bunch of fast ones down, we say, "Okay, let's do a couple songs that are more involved and technical, not as fast." But when I was envisioning this album in my head in 1998, I wanted it to be more fast than slow. More Dealing With It than Full Speed Ahead. Especially since that was the title - "Full Speed Ahead" - and, to my ears, there really weren't that many fast songs on it. I love the album; it was just the wrong title for me. So I wanted to take a step back and play more of the old style stuff; make the album maybe 80-90% fast, which is what our fans like anyway. It's what we like to do too! Of course, ten years ago when we were doing albums like Four Of A Kind, we were consciously trying to write a few things per album that were slower or more acceptable so we could get our video on MTV and airplay on the metal stations. But we're at a point now where there's no outlet on MTV that would play us or that we would wanna get played on anyway, so we have no concern about trying to be a part of that world. We don't get airplay now, we don't expect it and we'd much rather play what we want to play and let the underground cable stations play it. They won't say "It's too punk for us!" So we really are heading back towards our roots.
So are you saying when you did stuff like "Suit And Tie Guy," that's not the kind of thing you really wanted to do?
Well no. I just mean that we'd write a bunch of fast short songs, then we'd say, "Let's do a song that we think is more commercially acceptable yet still sounds like DRI and isn't complete crap!" "Suit And Tie Guy," you just mentioned. That's one of those songs - one that we really like and that isn't too far from the standard DRI style, yet might be considered more acceptable for airplay. It's still fast, just not as fast as our 15-second songs - which aren't gonna get played anywhere!
(laughs) Wait, so you're saying you don't think you'd achieve massive mainstream success with "Reaganomics"?
(laughs) Too short, too fast - not gonna get played.
Every time I've seen you guys in concert, I'm always interested in hearing some songs off of the latest album, just because, you know, it's the LATEST ALBUM and I've never had a chance to hear any of the songs live. But there's always a bunch of people in the crowd screaming at you to play nothing but stuff off the first two albums. Does that piss you off? Or have you gotten used to it?
That doesn't really piss me off. We've grown to accept it and we'd rather play a show where most of the people got into it and had fun than one where we play what we wanna play, and they stand there and boo. But that's not a problem anyway, because we like playing the old fast stuff! Because it gets the crowd going and that's what gets US going. There are some songs we don't play that we would like to play, but it's more of a. choice type thing. We play so many songs - we do like four songs from each record, and you can't really play any more than that when you're trying to cover seven different albums.
Something that I've found interesting for as long as I've been into the band is how the production on every single DRI album sounds completely different from the others. Why is that? I mean, for example, Definition and Four Of A Kind sound COMPLETELY different from each other. Are you purposely trying to come up with different approaches? Does any one of the albums sound better to you than the others?
It's a combination of a lot of different things - the studio where we're recording, who the assistant producer or coproducer is, how big the budget is, things like that. All of that stuff makes a big difference. I think what you're hearing on Definition is the result of co- producing it with Jim Faraci, who had worked previously with Ratt and other big rock bands. He also did In Trouble on Metal Blade.
In Trouble? I've never heard of them.
They were a Christian rock type band.
Ah - just like DRI!
For some reason, I don't remember why, we wound up using him and I think that's why the Definition album ended up sounding like that - it's like big rock production. It just didn't fit DRI. It wasn't punk enough, angry enough or abrasive enough - it was just nice and clean big rock.
I actually don't really mind the production because I find it interesting as a change of pace. It's interesting that he made all the instruments the same volume in the mix, so the drums are really loud and you can really hear everything that the bass player is doing, as opposed to Four Of A Kind Or Thrash Zone where you have heavy guitars in each speaker playing really loud. The only problem is that he somehow made your guitar sound fuzzy and high pitched - it's hard to hear what you're doing!
That's big rock. I totally agree. And that really bothered me, being the guitarist; in co- producing it, I'd made myself the least heard instrument.
Was he trying to make you more palatable for radio play or was that just all he knew to do?
It was just normal for him or whatever. I don't think he had wheels turning in his head like, "I'm gonna get DRI on the radio." Although he may have gotten - no, he didn't get any points. I remember - we paid him a straightup fee. He was just doing what he was used to doing.
Luckily you made up for it with Full Speed Ahead!
Full Speed Ahead was the one where I finally said, "Come on, look -." We had used all these coproducers for years, but they'd been too hands-on. That was the first one where I said, "No. I'm doing it my way this time. All I really want you to do is engineer, but you're getting co-production credits, so just do what I tell ya! Work with me!" Because a lot of times over the years, people would say to me you can't do this and you can't do that and I didn't know why. Why not? So after getting all that experience, I finally learned, "Yes, you can! I can do this! Move outta the way!"
Because it was really cheap and I saw your name on it, not this one - I bought the Damaged CD you produced. And THAT thing is heavy as HELL.
Yes it is! In fact, I think "brutal" is the word I would use for that one. Pounding. If you listen to that CD through headphones, you feel like you got run over by a truck! It's like OH MY GOD! I really like the way that came out.
Have you produced any other bands?
I did the first Acid Bath CD as well. My three favorite CDs that I've produced are Damaged, DRI's Full Speed Ahead and Acid Bath's first album. Acid Bath is probably my absolute favorite.
Were these bands that you liked and proactively approached or were they DRI fans that wanted to work with you?
Those were bands on Rotten Records. I actually had to go to Australia to record Damaged and ended up sleeping on the studio floor for five weeks. I never saw a penny for it, and I paid for the studio time with my credit card.
Yep. Same thing happened with Acid Bath. I went down to New Orleans to record them, and they didn't have any money so I had to buy their food everyday. I worked my ass off for that album, and again saw no money at all for it.
So where DO you get your money?
You mean aside from DRI?
Yeah, do you do web site stuff?
Yeah, I do some freelance work setting up web sites. If somebody needs a couple pages to show their company, I set it up for them. I do a lot of the technical parts, purchasing and setting up the domain name, getting the web server set up, actually building the page if it's not too complex. Now, when they want something really complicated or technical with Java and all kinds of Flashes and stuff like that, I get help from people and pay them.
So was your work affected by the dot.com collapse?
No, not at all. It actually helped.
It helped? How?
Oh, okay. That's interesting.
The whole dot.com crash was a weird thing anyway if you ask me. All the companies that crashed were stupid! They just didn't know what they were doing. Like the one doing groceries delivered to your door and blah blah blah. They were losing money on every order, and were expecting to lose money on every order for a few years until it started doing good for whatever reason. But that's like gambling, just rolling the dice and hoping it'll pay off. But they weren't very smart about how it was done. The ones that survived had prospective customers already - people who go online looking for something specific and they just don't know where it is. Like they want a DRI record so they go to the DRI site and there it is. We don't try to sell stuff to people who don't like DRI, you know? People who know us and like us go there; we don't have to buy expensive advertising to get people to buy stuff.
That dot.com boom was insane! And there was so much arrogance. People spending thousands of dollars of investment capital on stupid parties and -
Yeah, that's what I mean. Like there'd be a new startup company and the first thing they'd do is spend ten million on an office building. Then they'd fill it with furniture and people to answer the phones and pretty soon, their expenses were ten times what they were bringing in. Companies that operate like that SHOULD be out of business!
I didn't see anything about this on the site (www.dirtyrottenimbeciles.com), but I remember a while back you mentioned that your wife had had a baby?
How's that been going?
Great. He's about 2 and a half now.
Yep! The terrible two's. That's another thing that's been keeping me busy.
I can imagine. I just have a dog and even THAT takes up a lot of time.
Well, add ten more dogs to that and you'll know what it's like! Yeah, it's very time- consuming and whatnot, especially when I'm off tour because then the wife does most of the working. So I'm at home watching the kid and whatnot, and I can't be doing anything else. I can't be booking motels or anything like that.
I don't suppose you've introduced him to the music of DRI yet?
No, he knows all about DRI!
Really? At two and a half?
Yep! He walks around and sees the logo and says, "Dad's band!"
And when I'm on tour, Mom plays videos of DRI, and he sees me and says "Dad!" and jams on his little guitar.
That's so cute!
Yeah, he's great. Sometimes I'll break out the guitar to do a little maintenance, and we'll set up some pots and pans for him to beat on while I play guitar. And we got a little wireless microphone so he can sing over the stereo and he goes "Err Arr!" and does punk vocals while I play the guitar.
That's awesome! That's like the perfect kid for you!
I'm trying to decide which way to steer him, musically. I'm leaning towards drums or bass; that way he can fill in for us when the next guy quits.
Kurt's got a kid too. He's about a year and a half older than mine, so he would be about four now, I think. And he's turning into a little singer himself. He did a sound check with us once - got up there and did "Five Year Plan!" So we figured we'd just have them take over DRI in 15 years when we retire. Might as well - we have a singer and a guitarist!
That's great! Is any of this on the site? I thought I looked in all the sections, but I didn't see any photos.
I threw up a picture when he was first born, and then again when he turned two years old. But we don't want to put up a lot of family photos and stuff. It's a DRI site, not a family site. There's enough there anyway; you could spend a week going through everything on the site. So we figure we don't need to put up pictures of our relatives.
Gotcha. How many emails a day do you get?
We average a hundred a day. It's crazy. When I go on tour, I actually post something on the site that says "It's hard to answer email while we're on the road, so please try to limit your correspondence until we get back." Because if we keep getting that many while we're on tour, it adds up to about 3000 letters -- and our mailbox only holds a couple hundred, so they all end up getting deleted and I never get a chance to read em! So thankfully the number tends to go down to 20-30 a day while we're on the road.
What is everybody emailing you about all the time?
A lot of it is junk. We get a lot of forwarded jokes from fans; they enter our address into their email books so everyday we get these stupid jokes and pictures. We get tons of them! Then every time somebody gets a virus, it opens up their mailbook and sends it to everybody in there, so we get one of them. It's a lot of work! I spend hours every day just answering email.
Why? I couldn't believe it when I emailed you and you emailed back. You were talking about how busy email was keeping you, and I was just like, "Well, stop writing back! I understand that you're busy!"
Yeah, but how many bands email you back? Email is good! People can ask questions and we can answer them personally. Plus, through email we've made a lot of great contacts in all parts of the business -- record labels, booking agencies, all kinds of stuff. Even touring. We went to Europe and Japan because of a relationship started by email. So cutting that out would be a big deal. We're thinking of making a business-type email address for those people, so it won't fill up with fans asking, "Hey man! When are you gonna play the Cow in Texas again?" But the email address would leak anyway - it always does. So we just do the best we can. But I really wish people woul look through the site before sending us questions. I mean, there is so much information on there, but people don't read it! I even have this little thing that pops up when you click on our email address, saying "Don't send stupid emails!" If you want to know when we're playing your town again, go to the tour dates section! This is a web site! It's not just a big email link! Sometimes I feel like just taking the site down and replacing it with an email link, since it seems like people don't read what I took the time to put there. You know, I mean, "When is the new record coming out? Who's on it?" It's all on the site! I mean, I love to answer fan emails, but if I open one and it's something stupid like "Who's in the band now?" and I have 300 to go, I'll just delete it. But if I only have 20 or 30 emails to go through, I'll write back, "Thanks for writing. Please check the web site and you'll find the answers to your questions there."
You sound so angry about it! Are you sure you like getting email?
I do! I think it's a great thing. But it does get frustrating getting the same questions over and over again from people who don't look at the FAQ page to see that their answers are right there.
Who designed the little moshing guy symbol?
That was done before we even decided on our name! It was in 1982. Eric Brecht - Kurt's brother and our original drummer - and Kurt were both going to art school in Texas. And one of Eric's projects was to design a corporate or company logo. At the time we were starting a label, Dirty Rotten Records, so he decided to design the logo for that. And it was perfect! It stands for slamming, thrashing, moshing -- permitted. There's no line going through it. It's not anti-anything; it says THIS is happening here! That's what it stands for. And I really believe that it has aided our success. It's eyecatching, it's simplistic, people liked what it stood for. It's been very beneficial to us. It wound up almost spurring all the Olympic symbols when everyone was designing all the things with five rings. And also, this was right before they started using all those stick symbols in traffic signs and all that. So we were like, "Hey! They're ripping off our DRI guy!"
When I was growing up, even when I was too young to get into punk -- I mean, too young for ME to get into punk (because I didn't get into it until I was 15), but even when I was a little kid, I always knew that DRI were one of THE best hardcore bands. Everyone wore your t-shirts, and you were revered as one of the few hardcore bands that I ever heard people mention. It was always Suicidal Tendencies, Dead Kennedys and you guys. I'm just wondering - were you a huge success from the minute you released the first album? Or did it take time and word of mouth? Or touring? How did you become such a leader of that movement?
It was a combination of all that stuff. We weren't a great success from the start, but that first record is what started it all. And it was almost like an accident that it turned out like it was. We wanted to make a demo in a studio, because our other ones were made in our bedrooms. And we wanted something that sounded good enough to sell at shows. But of course we couldn't afford to go into a studio - we had no money! So we held a garage sale and sold what we could to save money, then we went into the studio and recorded a demo as cheaply and quickly as we could. We were in and out in 4 or 5 hours. And that demo is what became the 22-song LP. Our first album. But when we were done and it was time to press it to something, we didn't have any money left! So we got a couple hundred bucks together somehow, but we could only afford to put it on a 7-inch. They told us that if we wanted a 12-inch, we could have only made 200 copies. With the 7- inch, we would lose sound quality, but we'd be able to press 1000 units. So that was the way we went. So it was almost an accident that all the songs came out on a 7-inch like that. So we started giving them away, selling them at shows and giving to labels. And as soon as that came out, there was a big buzz for it. It became an instant collector's item, so we had to repress it on a 12-inch. It was just supposed to be a demo, but it ended up as a must-have.
So how much are those first pressings worth now?
The original 7-inches go for $200-250 on ebay. We've got a big problem now though. Someone in England started bootlegging them. They look almost identical, except if you look right around the label where the numbers are etched into the vinyl. Those tell you what record plant made the record. But on the bootleg, the manufacturing plant numbers are crossed out so you can't find out where they're being made and stop them. I've had a few people already call me saying, "Hey! I got a copy of your first single on ebay! I paid $225 for it!" And I say, "I hope it's not the bootleg. Are the numbers by the label scratched out?" "Umm.. Uh oh." I've heard three times from people saying they got it on ebay, and only of them got the real one."
Do you have one?
Actually no! But I have the mother - the test pressing they're all made from. It's twice as thick, real heavy.
As far as you know, were you the fastest band in the world at that time?
We were probably one of the fastest, but other bands were doing stuff that influenced us to play that fast.
Oh, let's see. The Neos from Canada..
The Neos? I've never heard of the Neos!
And Gang Green from This Is Boston, Not L.A.
Oh yeah, they did play really fast.
A few of the bands on that compilation really influenced us, actually.
I didn't realize that came out before your first record. I thought that was later. That's interesting. So a couple years later, when you decided to cross over to a more metallic sound, did that result in you losing a bunch of your strict hardcore fans? Or did it widen your appeal to a larger audience?
Both. It depended on where we were at the time. In certain cities it was bad because big cities had a big separation between punk and metal at that time. So that created lots of fights at our shows. San Francisco where we lived had that problem at the time. The hardcore punks, Nazis and anarchy punks out there all hated it because it was, whatever. bringing new people to the scene that didn't look like them or act like them. But then again we would play in the middle of nowhere, Kansas or something and it would be great because those towns were so small, the punks and metalheads got along anyway. In Europe they'd really freak out over that crossover scene, because they thought we were trying to be big rock stars. They'd boycott our shows.
Why did you decide to cross over?
Before DRI, we were all into Black Sabbath and stuff like that. We always liked that kind of music; it just wasn't as fast as what we were playing. What really influenced us to change our sound was the evolution of speed metal. Metallica and Slayer! After Dealing With It, we went into seclusion for writing. Well, I did anyway. And amongst writing all that stuff, someone came up to me -- I think it was Felix our drummer -- and gave me Metallica's first record and Slayer's first record, and I thought they were awesome. I was also listening to Venom at the time! (laughs) "Teacher's Pet" and stuff.
Hey, I like Venom!
But Metallica and Slayer were the best. Their lyrics sucked, but their music was awesome. And fast! I thought this was great. I really enjoyed it and it soon came out in our writing. Except we wrote lyrics that we thought were more important.
Hey, slow down - are you saying that "We'll kick some ass tonight" wasn't important social commentary?
(laughs) Yeah, exactly! I think over the years speed metal's lyrics became more socially conscious, but at the time..
Are there any new bands out there that you're really into? Have you heard this noisy Dillinger Escape Plan-type stuff?
No, I have to admit -
Or have you just been listening to lots of children's music? Raffi and stuff?
One thing I don't get to do is listen to much punk and metal when I'm at home. I'm a little out of touch with the brand new stuff because it takes time for it to get filtered down to me.
Are you into other kinds of music besides punk and metal?
Sure, I like some reggae, some hip-hop -- gangsta rap and I actually (laughs) really like classic rock!
Hey, don't be ashamed. I like classic rock too!
I'm definitely not ashamed. I also like some jazz, and oldies. Especially with the kid. He likes stuff from the `50s and `60s.
Is there any chance we might hear any of those influences come out in your music? Actually there were a couple on Full Speed Ahead where it seemed like Kurt was sorta "rapping."
Really? Well, a few of `em, yeah! "You don't see the BLOOD! You don't see the PAIN!"
It definitely wasn't on purpose.
No, I don't mean it sounds like "Rap Metal." I'm not comparing you to Korn or Limp Bizkit or any of that crap.
I like some of that stuff!
Yeah, like that Limp Bizkit "Rollin' rollin' rollin'" one. And I like most of Korn's stuff.
Seriously? I guess I only know the hits.
I love how it's tuned so low and heavy.
You guys did that on Full Speed Ahead too, right?
Yeah! We tuned down to a C on five or six songs, just to be heavier.
Well it worked! I remember listening to it for the first time and thinking, "Jesus Christ, how did they make this sound so heavy? Then I tried playing one of them on my guitar and realized, "Ah! They've detuned!"
Yeah, those songs are definitely some of the heavier DRI songs there are. The record itself is as heavy as DRI will ever get. We won't do it again.
We were into it at the time, but I don't know if we'll ever do it again, because it ended up just causing a lot of hassles in the long run.
Oh, you mean like trying to play those songs live?
Yeah, having to tune down for one song is a pain in the ass. So it's like, "Okay, we can't play those live, forget it." We ended up taking along an extra guitar tuned to C, just for two songs. We really don't have room for that, especially nowadays since we're so "back to the roots" and low-budget. We go out now with one road manager and one crew guy in a van. And we're gonna pack in another guitar for two songs?
Does that frustrate you that you're back to touring in a van after all these years?
No, we actually enjoy it more now!
Yeah! I know that sounds strange, but we were never a concert rock band. We never enjoyed playing big huge shows behind barricades 50 feet away from fans. We were never into it. We would freeze. We'd choke and play terrible. We're into playing in small clubs that are packed, where there's 50 people running around on stage. We love it when the crowd is half the show and people are watching them more than us. We like being background music to a pit. We're comfortable in that situation; that's what we're really all about -- not huge stages with spotlights following you around like you're Van Halen or something. So as we got more and more popular in the late `80s/early `90s, we decided to not let that happen. We decided to take a step back, fall out of the limelight and stay in our groove of small clubs.
Stay in your groove and what?
Oh! I thought you said "Smoke buds!"
(laughs) Well, that too, I guess. Those club shows are just so much more fun. We still play big shows now and then. Like, we just went over to Europe and played some big festivals with like 4000 people watching, spotlights and all that. It was actually fun to do because we hadn't done it in a while. We'd actually NEVER played festivals in Europe. But then we played another club show and were like, "Yeah, this is how we wanna do it."
So what's the deal with this "DRI's Greatest Hits" CD I keep seeing everywhere?
I am so glad you brought that up. Because this is something I have to say to everybody who bought that thing - SORRY!
(laughs) What is that thing? It only covers like three albums!
That whole situation just reiterated why I hate the music industry and dealing with record labels. Cleopatra Records contacted us through a middleman who called us and said, "Cleopatra wanna do a DRI greatest hits CD. Are you interested?" We said, "Sure!" He said they wanted thirteen songs blah blah blah and they'll give us so much money and that was it. Okay! Sounds good. So we signed a contract.
Then Cleopatra realized, "Oh. But we only wanna do your first two records." So it would be the greatest hits from the first two records!? How can that be called "Greatest Hits"? We have eight albums! "No, we just want stuff from the first two." So rename it! Call it "Greatest Old School Hits" or something. Don't make it a false statement! "Okay blah blah blah."
Then they decide they wanna do the first THREE records and also they realize that 13 early DRI songs is only gonna add up to 18 minutes! Well you should've thought of this a long time ago! "Oh, well we just want these short fast songs." Okay, you have them - if the CD's too short, that's your problem. And they're like, "Look, we're taking 17 song whether you like it or not, and we don't care if we're breaching our contract." We could have sued, but we let `em do it because we didn't want them putting out a CD by us that's 18 minutes long!
So we agreed. And the agreement stipulated that I'm supposed to send them the songs - pull the songs off our CDs and send it to them, along with all this artwork, interviews, photographs. I sent them all this stuff - a ton of stuff. And they called and said, "Okay, we've got everything. So we'll assemble the CD and the artwork, and then forward it to you for approval." Okay, great!
It never happens. Next thing I know, our fans are saying, "Hey, I bought this Greatest Hits CD and it's crap!" And I'm like, "Oh god, you gotta be kidding me." So I call Cleopatra and they say, "We ran out of time, sorry." The artwork is total crap. It looks like a bootleg thing someone did on computer. The songs are in the wrong order, they're labeled the wrong names, and they didn't use any of the stuff I sent them. Everything I would have checked and approved and said, "This is wrong. Do this. Do that," I wasn't given a chance to do. They probably didn't send it to me because they realized that I wasn't gonna let em get away with it. So they put it out and it's complete crap. The songs themselves are there; there's nothing they could do to destroy them. They sound exactly the same as on the original CDs, but they're labeled wrong, they're in the wrong order and the artwork is terrible!
But who would buy a "Greatest Hits" CD that only covers three out of eight albums?
A lot of people have to have everything a band puts out. So they buy it. And some people know the name DRI, and might have heard one or two songs at some point. And they'll say, "Hey, I'll buy the greatest hits, because I can't afford all their albums or I don't want to buy all their albums." Like I'll do that if it's a band I don't want every album by. Like.. Oh.. I can't think of anyone right now.
Oh yeah? Who's that?
There's no way in Hell I'd sit through every Foreigner album, but I bought the greatest hits CD and it's great!
Exactly, most of the songs you like are gonna be on a greatest hits CD, so people buy them. But this DRI Greatest Hits CD doesn't even cover half of our career. And, especially for people just becoming introduced to us, it's a shame. It's something I'm really sorry about. Originally, we were including it as an official DRI release, but now we're just gonna disown it. We've always said we have nine releases - 7 studio, 1 live and 1 greatest hits. Now we'll just go back to 8 total. We don't want to take any responsibility for that. It's terrible. We should probably just do a real greatest hits release that covers all the records. Actually, we do have our own that we sell on our mp3 site.
What's the url for that?
It's on MP3.com. The DRI site on there has 32 mp3s that you can download completely free. Four from each record. Because we figure some people will have certain records, but not the others. You know, like we'll hear, "I have your first four, but not the last four `cuz I heard they sucked!" Well, here you go. Listen to these for free and you decide for yourself whether they suck. Then it's always, "Wow, these are great!" So they buy `em. We also have four compilation CDs for sale up there - something like "8 from 2" or. hang on, let me look it up on here. I can't remember. Ah, here we are. "Short and Sweet" - that's just fast and short songs! It has a dozen or 14 songs." Then there's one that's old school - just early stuff. So yeah, we have our own greatest hits cds that are mp3 cds. So you can play them in your car stereo or home stereo, or you can put them in your computer and see that there are also mp3 files on there that you can save to your hard drive, email to your friends or use to compile your own CD. Actually, if you take the 32 free songs from the site and burn `em to an MP3 CD, you have a great Greatest Hits CD for free.
How much do your MP3 discs cost?
Seven or eight dollars. As low as they'll us sell them for.
On a different topic, as big a DRI fan as I am, I am apparently missing some bonus track from the LP version of Definition. I have the cassette bonus track and the CD bonus track, but not the LP one.
Yeah, part of the Rotten Records deal back in those days was to add bonus tracks to stuff that didn't sell as well, so they added bonus songs on tape and vinyl. That's something we'll be doing with Beercity when we re-release all those CDs - the tape and vinyl bonus tracks will go on cd.
So what is the LP one I'm missing?
Uhh. I'm not sure. "You"?
No, I have "You".
Let me check.
I almost shouted, "I love `You'!" And that certainly wouldn't have come out the way I intended!
(laughs) Ah! Okay, this is weird. Wait, I have these right here with me.
The CD bonus track is "Dry Heaves."
Oh fuck, it says it right on it. "Out Of Mind."
What does that sound like?
Our drummer wrote it. It's actually a different sort of sound for DRI. Let's see. the bonus track on the cassette is "Hide Your Eyes."
Oh! I like that one!
The drummer wrote that one too! So yeah, if you like that, you'd probably like "Out of Mind" too.
I remember that. I haven't heard it in ages because I never listen to cassettes anymore, but I do remember how it goes.
Both of those will appear on the Definition CD when it's re-released.
So how does the new DRI tribute CD sound to you?
Awesome! It's got like 30 bands. 37 songs. Wow! Some bands did two or three.
Are there any particularly interesting takes on your material, or are most of them pretty faithful to the originals?
Some bands completely did their own versions. I listen and go, "What song is this?" I can't even tell what song it is! Then I recognize a lyric and "Oh, it's THAT song!" But that's what I really like! If you're gonna cover a song, why make it sound like the original? I appreciated the off-the-wall versions where bands really made the songs their own. Some slowed `em down or sped `em up - those are the versions I really like. But there's both. A lot of them actually sound like DRI with a different singer. Like, basically true to form, but you can tell it's a different recording because it sounds like a different singer.
So I guess you were probably pretty happy when Slayer covered "Violent Pacification"?
That was the ultimate compliment - to be covered by the band that was the biggest influence in my playing and writing career. That was incredible.
Do you still listen to Slayer? This last album was the first one I wasn't into very much.
I like everything they've put out. What was their last one, "God Hates Us All"? There's been a few where when I first heard `em, I was like, "Nothing great, nothing new," but the more I listened to them, the more I really liked them.
Actually, it's possible I just haven't heard it enough yet. But to me, as intense as it sounded, it just didn't seem to have the memorable riffs that I associate with them. It just seemed like a lot of pounding and screaming. Like Pantera or something.
We did a few shows with them recently in Europe. Played in festivals with them two or three times. And I of course sat there on the side of the stage and watched their whole set every time. They're still incredible.
Have you heard Happy Flowers' cover of "Reaganomics"?
They're kind of a goofy noisy band. I'm pretty sure it was just a bunch of feedback and guitar noise with them screaming "Reaganomics killing me! Reaganomics killing you!"
I don't own it, but if I can find a copy, I'll forward it to you.
I'm actually trying to decide what to do with this now. I originally put cover songs by bands on the web site, but all the ones from the site ended up on the tribute. Should I put them ALL up on the web site? I might do something like that. I might put it all on a page for people to listen to in a format that isn't the greatest quality, so you can hear `em but not want to record `em.
Yeah! Neil Young did that with his newest album. He put it all on the Web in mono, so I was able to hear the whole thing before it came out, but I still wanted to buy it so I could hear it in stereo.
Yeah, that's a good idea.
Okay, I know I've kept you for a long time. So let me ask you just one more here -- on your site, you have a survey asking fans to name their favorite DRI album, song and video. What are YOUR answers to this survey?
My favorite album I'd still say is Full Speed Ahead, just because it's the newest and least played in my head. The first one I've heard millions of times. I like it, but when I hear Full Speed Ahead, I still get goose bumps from it. I'm not as burned out on it. I'd actually still really sit down and listen to it! Recently we were in South America doing an in-store appearance, and they were playing Full Speed Ahead, and I was like, "Wow! I don't remember this song or this part!" And I really can't do that with the others.
What about your favorite video? How many have you done? I've only seen "Suit and Tie Guy" and "Acid Rain."
We've done eight total. "Beneath The Wheel," "Abduction" - Actually "Abduction" is one of our better concept videos. It's got a little storyline about an abductor stalking a little girl at school. It's pretty cool. Has DRI playing in a gymnasium.
Before "Smells Like Teen Spirit"!
Yep. I guess my favorite video would be "Syringes In The Sandbox."
Are these videos on the web site anywhere?
Not right now. When you buy our two videotapes that we have for sale, all the promo videos are on them. I'm trying to put these on the website. I need to convert them from VHS to mpeg and avi. Someone's supposedly working on it.
What happens in the "Syringes In The Sandbox" video?
It has a kid that goes to the park with a basketball because he wants to play. And on his way, he passes all these drug addicts and prostitutes. Finally, he gets to the park and there are syringes in the sandbox. The lyrics tell the story about a kid who played in the sandbox the previous month and now he's got AIDS. It's a tragedy. I like the song, and it has good video footage for the concept part. Plus, it's more up-to-date than "Suit And Tie Guy" or "Beneath The Wheel," which are kind of `80s-type old school video. This is a newer one; it's grainier and visually up to date.
My favorite DRI song I would have to say is "Five Year Plan."
Is that song directed towards an actual person?
Yes, it is about somebody in particular, no names to be mentioned. Kurt wrote the lyrics. It's his five-year plan about a friend of his; they were no longer friends because of some stupid things that happened. One person got screwed over, and now he's saying, "Your time will come. You'll get what you deserve. From me or karma or whatever." Of the songs on the poll, I like playing that one live the best. The crowd gets into it the most.
Does it? That surprises me. I would have thought it would be one of the earlier songs.
Like "I Don't Need Society" or something?
"I Don't Need Society" is short and fast. "The Five Year Plan" is fast, but it also has the slow mosh part, and the song itself is twice or three times as long. So people have more of a chance to get into it before the song is over. With "I Don't Need Society," you see them running into the room and the song's over by the time they get up there! But with "Five Year Plan," by the time the slow mosh part comes in, you can hear the whole club singing, "I win you lose!" And you can hear all the feet moshing around in a circle. It's awesome! Gives you goose bumps!
Okay, so I've really kept you too long now. So I'll close with the same question I ask everybody I interview, just because it interests me personally. This is a pretty scary, strange time in American history, and I'm just curious to hear your thoughts about it.
I follow the news as much as I can, but I'm not a very political person. Kurt is - he's up on the politics part. I tend to stay away from it. Still, I think what's going on is terrible. The 9/11 thing is what changed the world for Americans. But terrorism has been going on all over the world for years and years. Just not so much HERE. With 9/11, I think people in America are finally realizing what's going on in the rest of the world. And I don't mean this to come across the wrong way, but I think that we may be making too much out of it?
No no, I totally agree.
I mean, there's obviously reason for concern and things should be done. But it's going too far - people are TOO scared. I think we're playing into the hands of terrorists, because that's what they want! It's working! I think maybe we're overreacting a little too much. Okay granted, after 9/11, we probably didn't react enough. What we did was just, going in to get Osama Bin Laden. But we failed! It didn't work! That was really bad.
In general, I just think it's been this way all over the world with snipers and anthrax and stuff - the little terrorism things - forever. Granted, we should do something about it, but be realistic: we don't need to go to war with everybody in the world over it. And I agree that oil probably has something to do with our play against Iraq right now. Trying to stop "Sodom Insane"! That's actually a song I wrote for that '98 demo.
It's a bit wrong on our part. Bush is probably going in there for the oil as well as what he's saying, and I think we need to have allies in this mission and we DON'T. I think we should stop trying to be the world's policeman so much, especially if our foreign policy involves marching into foreign countries even if we don't have the allies. Now what happens on our own land is a whole other story and whatnot. If Saddam wants to attack the U.S., then sure we should go to war over it. But I think we're doing a little too much in world policing, and if we're gonna do that, we have to have allies that agree with what we're doing. I still think this country is probably the greatest in the world but that doesn't mean I have to be happy with everything that goes on.
What do you mean, "I'm not a political person"? You obviously hold opinions on these issues!
To a point, to a point. But you'll never see me get behind a pedestal and preach to people about politics. Freedom of speech is important to us, and DRI state our beliefs on what is right and wrong. Sometimes putting down our government or country is okay. That doesn't mean we're anti-American or anti-governement. We're American, we love America; we love our country. But we don't need to agree with everything that happens here. And if we don't agree, we're able to say so. That's what freedom of speech is all about. And with our music, that's what we feel should be written about. Nobody wants to hear about tulips and flowers in speed metal!
Thank you so much for taking the time to speak with me. I was disappointed to see that you're not planning to come to NYC this tour.
In the spring!
Yep! We just added a "part three" to our "20 Dirty Rotten Years Tour."
It's gonna be mostly east coast. East seaboard shows in the spring. April is the tentative date; it's all kinda working around the hardcore festival in Massachusetts in april.
Fantastic! Okay, it's been an hour and a half now. I should really let you go!
Oh wow. Okay.
Thanks again for your time, and have a good evening!
anyway, very enjoyable interview.
in gr. 10 i used to wear a DRI armpatch...one of the cooler symbols for an amerikkkan punk rawk band...
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