Lindsey Best for AOL I had a great time at Coachella this year, but I think…
- Posted on Jun 16th 2011 12:00PM by Lonny Knapp
Fat Wreck Chords
Descendents formed back in 1978. What was the L.A. punk scene like at that time?
We were teenagers, and we were in high-school. Punk rock was happening around us and it was pretty exciting. I remember going to see the the Germs, X, the Go Go's and the Screamers on one bill. It was like discovering a whole other world. I think punk rock was as mind-blowing to us as Sinatra, Elvis, and Duke Ellington was to our parents.
The band's has a more melodic and technical approach than many of your contemporaries. How did you come to create that sound?
We played with a greater degree of precision than a lot of bands that had more of a sloppy aesthetic. We had some specific influences that led us in that direction. If I was going to give you a recipe to make Descendents in your oven, it's one third the Last, one third Black Flag, and one third the Alley Cats. Actually, the Last and Black Flag went to our high-school but they were a bit older.
When bands such as Sum 41, Blink 182, and Simple Plan co-opted the style you created, did you want to take it back?
You could let your ego take credit for whatever mall punk band is popular, and say, "Hey, that's our sound and they've ripped it off, gentrified it, and got rich." Or you can say, "That's so homogenized -- I wash my hands of it; they've obviously never heard a Descendents record."
In 1987, when singer Milo Aukerman left to pursue a graduate degree in biochemistry, you and the remaining members formed the side project All. The bands have more or less the same lineup, and play the same style of music, so, how do differentiate the bands?
There are inherent differences. Descendents is a much more popular band than All, and All is the band that's always guilty of not being the Descendents. It's almost like the Descendents can do no wrong, and All could do no right.
Descendents have influenced so many bands, and the contribution to your genre can't be understated, however, in over 30 years you've released only seven records. What's with that?
A distinctive quality of Descendents is that it's always been about having fun. If we go a long time without a record, that's what we do. There's no schedule expectations imposed by managers, labels, or even by us. I don't want my tombstone to say, "Here lays Bill Stevenson, he put out forty s----ty records." I'd rather be remembered for seven great Descendents records.
The last Descendents record, 'Cool to Be You,' dropped in 2004. Do you have any plans to record and release new material?
We haven't talked about recording yet, but I wouldn't rule it out. But it has to come about spontaneously. It has to start with some sort of exchange of musical data where all the guys are excited about what the others are doing.
In the early to mid-'80s you were simultaneously a member of Descendents and Black Flag. At that time Henry Rollins was the singer and the albums from that period, 'Slip It In' and 'My War,' became hardcore classics. At the time, did you sense you were part of something special?
I was so full of my own ego, and I thought everything I did was so important, that I kinda I missed the point. I didn't realize the cultural significance of what we were doing. I was looking at through to narrow of a microscope.
I've seen footage from Black Flag shows where Henry Rollins is trading fistacuffs with a fan. The entire hardcore scene seemed quite violent for a time. What was going on?
I don't know what caused that s---. The punk scene was just weird for a little while. There where all these speed metallers, meth heads and heshers sprouting out of the punk scene. But Slayer and Metallica hadn't come along yet so they had to beat each other up at our shows.
As co-owner of the Blasting Room recording studio, you have produced acts such as NOFX, Rise Against and the Lemonheads. How did you get in to producing?
My tentacles just stretched out in various directions. From a very young age, I was obsessed over music. I'd find myself deconstructing records as I listened to them. I took a real interest in my own records. I learned to engineer so I could exercise some control over how my own band sounded. Then other bands would come to me and say, "I want some of that." When I started a family, I couldn't go on tour for six months out of the year and come home with no money anymore -- which is what All did for like ten years. So, I found myself leaning towards production, because it was more of a stable paycheck.
You've often referred to your "eternal quest for all." What is that and have you found what you are looking for?
I'm on a quest for all because I don't want to settle for some, or wallow in none. But I had a hiatus. I was seriously ill for two-and-a-half years. I was laid up and had to have neurosurgery and narrowly escaped death from three different vantage points. But as of last summer, when they took the grapefruit sized brain tumour out of my head, the quest has resumed. Two years ago, I was 45 going on 70, now, I'm 47 going on 20. It feels great to be playing drums again.
Descendents play Yonge-Dundas Square tonight (June 16) @ 10:00PM-10:40PM