That current Joe Keithley interview, alas, has been spoken for now in English as well as in German, and will be running in some form or another in the next issue of Big Takeover magazine (presently running part two of my big Art Bergmann piece, fyi). I will do SOMETHING to support the show in just a second - putting up a patchwork of old DOA interviews with a couple new quotes to disguise the fact that most of it was conducted ten years ago - but before that, let me make an interesting note: the Fight Back festival will serve to reunite TWO of the bands that played a historical 1978 Georgia Straight Battle of the Bands competition at the Body Shop: NO FUN (in the form of David M.; RIP, Paul Leahy) and DOA.
Some notes on that event from the Triumph of the Ignoroids back cover:
You'll note if you read the fine print that "David M. of No Fun lent the 4-track" on which Triumph of the Ignoroids was recorded. (The same 4-track was also used for some Subhumans practice sessions, I believe it was, for the "Oh Canaduh" single; that tape appears to be lost, though David directs you to bug Colin Griffiths if you want updates on its location; David does not have it). I don't have the wherewithal to do justice to M.'s telling of it, but he has frequently recounted the story of playing that battle of the bands, which also featured, besides DOA and No Fun, another local fave of mine, Doug and the Slugs. Three great bands, and none of them won; to hear M. tell it, the band that did win was a forgettable embarrassment who went on to do pretty much nothing in the Vancouver music scene. (He's told me the name a few times and it just doesn't stick, because I never hear about them elsewise). M. has said on Facebook that he will, in honour of the occasion - a couple weeks past being the 40th anniversary of that Battle of the Bands - play MOSTLY songs that No Fun played that night (which I believe include "Snog" and "Paisley Brain Bolts of the Mind," though he might also do some version, I think he's said, of "Mindless Aggression," since it has some relevance to the punk scene in Vancouver, appearing on both the Vancouver Complication compilation and in Bloodied But Unbowed, and thematically fits with the whole idea of "Fighting Back". He has something he wants to say from the stage, too, but has not spilled what that might be ).
And yes, as you see, David M. has grown a beard. I think it makes him look a bit like Rade Serbedzija, don't you?
But anyhow, as promised, here's a sort of "compilation" of interviews that I did with Joe Keithley. Bits of this have appeared in Razorcake, the Georgia Straight, Ox Fanzine, and the Chinese rock mag Painkiller (I think; they never sent me a copy, but some of what follows was designed to be read by Chinese audiences, as you might figure out). I stole a quote or two that will appear in Big Takeover, too, and tweaked it a bit so it feels a bit more current.
Allan: So speaking of the Rickshaw, one of your shows there, not so long ago, was released as Welcome to Chinatown. Why pick that as an album title?
Joe: I thought it was a big reflection on Vancouver in one sense, because the town is changing, and there’s a history: Vancouver was founded as much by Chinese labourers as it was by, y’know, white people - English people, Scottish people, Welsh coalminers and that kind of thing. And the shows were recorded there, at the Rickshaw, and we were hunting around for the title. We had other shows recorded, from Calgary and Edmonton, but when we focused on the title, it was, “okay, let’s do the ones from the Rickshaw.” And that’s basically where we grew up playing music, it was all within two blocks: every bit of trouble we could get into was all in that neighbourhood.
The Smilin’ Buddha is the one famous punk club from that area that I know, but are there are any other venues that were in that neighbourhood?
Yeah, there’s Gombado’s, was one. We used to practice at 343 Railway. And that’s actually about a block from the Japanese Hall, which was where our first show was, basically.
If we could talk about the Buddha - I don’t know the backstory. Why was it called the Smilin’ Buddha? It’s such an Asian name!
Yeah, I don’t know how they came up with that. I think the thing was operating since 1947, maybe even before the war, but not much. That was the original “neon” block. There are cafes, the Balmoral Hotel - that still has a neon sign. But I have no idea why they called the Smilin’ Buddha that, other than it was, you know, a block from Chinatown.
My impression is that there’s a bit of a divide between the punk scene and the Chinese community in the neighbourhood, actually. The only time I usually see Chinese people when I’m at a punk gig in the eastside is when they’re walking around the punks who are smoking on the sidewalk in front of the venue. Did you ever see Chinese coming in to shows back in the day?
Well, I mean, their kids in that area, of course there were Canadian punks of Chinese descent going to shows, right from day one. Maybe they weren’t the majority of people - the majority of people who went to punk shows in the early days were white people. But besides that - I never felt there was hostility or anything. We lived in that area too, like, the late, great Dave Gregg lived at the other end of the viaduct, the other end of Chinatown. That was our stomping grounds.
Shall we talk about Dave…?
Absolutely. Dave was a wonderful guy, a really creative guy, a super-sharp sense of humour and - if you pissed him off - sarcasm, right? And he was easy to piss off, because he had, a lot of times, a really set idea of how to do things. But usually he would come up with an idea of how to do things the right way. He was a complete trooper. I didn’t see him much anymore, but I’m going to miss him the same way that I miss Dimwit. When he was really together in the early days, when he was in DOA the first six or seven years, you could count on him for anything, he would just get stuff done. And a lot of ideas that DOA came up with were from Dave and I, late at night, travelling back and forth across North America in the van. Usually him driving, eating sunflower seeds… He was a total trooper, a total talent. He was a raw talent when we first got him, he had a penchant for forgetting arrangements, but after awhile he got solid as a rock, and he was great onstage, too, of course.
I was startled when I saw the rock video for “War” [DOA’s cover of the Edwin Starr anti-war anthem] and realized he was singing the lead a lot on that song.
Yeah, that’s right, that one I would do the verse, and then do the backgrounds in the chorus, and he would do the lead singing in the chorus. It was quite a transition for me. And I didn’t play guitar at all on that song, so later on when we became a three piece I had to figure out how to play the guitar and time ALL the vocals for that song. It was a bit of a learning curve! But it’s funny… we were driving along somewhere, and I always loved that single, ever since I was a kid; and Dave also knew the Temptations version, which I wasn’t really familiar with. I just knew Edwin Starr’s, that had been the big radio hit back in 1967-68, when I was about 12. And one time me and Dave were driving along, and we heard it, and it was, “wow, that would be a fantastic song to cover.” And that’s kind of how [DOA’s 1982 EP] War on 45 came about, because we had that and then [DOA manager Ken] Lester said, why don’t we play [the Dils’] “Class War,” as well. And Stars on 45 was a big album at the time, where they amalgamated Beatles songs with a disco beat behind it. So that’s how we said, “well, it’s War on 45.” You won’t believe how many people told me, “Joe, when I got that 12 inch record, I played it on 33, and I thought, ‘DOA’s finished, listen to how slow they’re playing!’ They didn’t realize it was supposed to be played on 45. One guy the other night told me that, and he said, “I know you’ve probably heard this before,” and I said, “no problem, I always enjoy hearing that, it’s just so fuckin’ funny!”
I don’t think I ever had that problem!
Some people listened to it for days before someone else would come around and say “listen, idiot, put it on 45!”
“The Last Beer," on Fight Back - was that written about Wimpy? Or – I mean, there have been a few people in DOA who have died over the years, but lately there’s been Wimpy, Dave Gregg, and now Brad Kent…?
And Dimwit. Those four, and – it was a tough song. I wrote it in about fifteen minutes, and I cried the entire time. I got the riff, I wrote the lyrics, put it down and went to sleep, and came back the next day, listened to the tape, and went “hm, that’s pretty good.” And I honed it up. I have a hard time talking about those guys.
I think the last time I saw Wimpy at all was at the 2013 DOA farewell show at the Rickshaw, where he got on stage with you and sang “Takin’ Care of Business.”
He was a great guy, and Dave, and Dimwit. [And Brad] had gotten straightened out and was going good, working on music again… Brad I hadn’t hung out with in a long time, but he taught me how to play electric guitar. We were like folkies, we lived out in the country, playing Bob Dylan and Woody Guthrie. And he came along – he was also from Burnaby, and he listened to us jam and said, “What are you playing that shit for, we’re gonna rock! Joe, you play rhythm, we’re going to play a Status Quo song. I’ll play lead!” He taught me all that kind of stuff – he was a great guy.
Yeah. I believe I met him once, but I never got to see him play. I was thinking about going to see his gig with Monster Baby, and then they were off the bill because he was sick. And then...
If we could go back to Dave Gregg, I was hoping that we could go back to that photo that Bev Davies took of him kneeling with the guitar on fire. What’s the story there?
Yeah, that’s a great one, that’s at San Francisco in 1985, I’d say, at a club called On Broadway, which is upstairs from the Mabuhay Gardens, right in North Beach, in the old strip club area of San Francisco. And the funny thing about that is, Dave would douse it with gasoline, and light it on fire, and then people would scream and holler. But the problem was, he’d done this a number of times, and the wood was really drying out. He throws it on the ground, lights it on fire, and it breaks into about six or seven pieces. So the people in the audience go, “great, what a souvenir!” They grab the pickups, they grab part of the body, grab the neck, and - afterwards Wimpy [AKA mid-period DOA bassist Brian Goble, also singer for the Subhumans] was going, “fuck, Dave, you really lost your cool, it would have been cool if you’d just left it, let the fans have it, but you had to beg them for the parts back!” Hahahaha… and he’s going “fuck you,” right. And then he took the guitar, he got most of the parts back, and they put it together with a steel band around the outside of the body, like on the thin edge, to hold it together. It was a Frankenstein! I don’t know what happened to it.
It was playable?
Yeah, he reconstructed it! He put some money into it and rebuilt it, right.
What kind of guitar was it?
It was a Fender Strat - because Dave idolized Hendrix, just like I did. And what I do now, I do the teeth thing and over the head [ie., playing the guitar with his teeth and behind his back]? People think, “oh, it’s a Hendrix copy,” but really it’s a tribute to Dave, because that’s what he did in DOA.
If I could ask... I was thinking about the film American Hardcore, and their thesis seemed to be that one of the things that really caused the political energy of punk to dissipate, in the mid-80’s, was Reagan getting elected a second time. I’m not so sure about that, but... Things certainly seem to lack an edge these days.
Yeah. I don’t think the artists are as powerful or as passionate – that was a unique time. But I don’t think that the politics of punk or hardcore punk – whatever you want to call it – dissipated because he got elected a second time. Fuck, the one more term of Reagan was even worse! He became more obnoxious as time went on. It sorta like intensified the thing, right? I think what happened – why the hardcore scene split and changed – is that you started to get a lot of bands like the Cro-Mags, or whatever, that started to get a real skinhead thing. And not the SHARPS, but the dumb ones, right... And so that made for a period where – like, we were playing these shows all over the place where it’s just like, fuck, we had nothing but fighting with these fuckin’ guys, these racists, right? And sometimes they’d hold a mini-racist-type rally in front of the show. And I think at that point that’s when a lot of people didn’t want to go to punk rock shows anymore. Rather than getting pushed around in the pit and having a great time, and somebody would eventually pick you up if you fell, it changed and you’d fall down and somebody would try to put the boots to you. And I think that happened much more so in the United States than it did in Canada, ‘cos I remember we had nothin’ but fuckin’ troubles in San Francisco, in Denver, in Houston... in a half-dozen other towns down there, where the racists would just come and start shit. To us, that was the antithesis of punk rock... I mean, think of the shows we used to do here. It’d be the Pointed Sticks and DOA and U-J3RK5 – that’d be a big variation! That’s a quite a few years before 86-87, but having this variation, and having a kind of fun aspect to it, and also a political liberalizing/ revolutionary nature, that drew in a lot of different elements that made it really really interesting. When the music kind of hardened, when it crossed over to the hardcore and you got a bit more of the metal influence, and drew this kind of “dumb factor,” shall we say, that made it a lot less interesting and a lot less pleasant to go to these shows. So that’s to me kinda what happened. The whole underground thing about being political never really died, it’s just never quite come to the forefront like it did in those days...
To me, that’s kinda the message for younger artists today, that if you get these kinda pop-punk bands and bands on the Warped Tour and MTV and Much Music – if they got off their ass and really pushed some stuff, if these guys kinda used the power and the energy the way guys like Jimi Hendrix did, when you’re a really popular artist, you can change a lot of things. I think that if you have that ability, fuck, you should use it!
Joe gets his star on the sidewalk, photo by Bev Davies, not to be reused without permission
Joe gets his star on the sidewalk, photo by Bev Davies, not to be reused without permission
How do you label yourself, politically, anyhow? Do you consider yourself an anarchist?
Basically, I’m just a free thinker that believes in promoting people power. I don’t really nail myself down - I believe in democracy; I’ve got a great deal of respect for anarchist theorists, who have come up with some really unique ways of looking at the world and tried to help people with their lives, and help their towns, and stuff like that, but I definitely am a voting/ democracy guy. That leaves me out of the anarchist bunch. But there’s definitely respect there, depending on what form they come in. The ones that are thinking and have done good things, they’re really misunderstood and castigated in the press, but there’s a great deal of difference between the punk that gets drunk and throws a bottle and calls himself an anarchist and Bakunin or someone like that.
If I can ask a question from the old days, relating to DOA’s old slogan, “Talk – Action = O...” I’m pretty fascinated by the history of the Squamish Five (an activist group responsible for bombings and vandalism, arrested in 1983. Subhumans bassist and songwriter Gerry Hannah, a friend of Joe’s, had gone underground to join the group, after having left the Subhumans some years previously).
It’s pretty interesting, for sure.
And of course, they went by the name Direct Action. I was talking to Glen Sanford, the filmmaker who made the documentary about Gerry, Useless, and he says he saw around town variations on that, reading, “Talk – Direct Action = O.” I was wondering if we could talk about that...
Well, just to clarify how that came about, “Direct Action” came before our slogan, because it was in 1979 and 1980 that two banks and three government buildings got firebombed, right? The police and CLEU – the Coordinated Law Enforcement Unit, the same people that botched the handling of the Air India case, along with the RCMP – they never really came up with an answer to that, or if they did they made some kind of side deal with whoever was involved and it never came out in public. But this group would send communiqués to the Sun, the Province, and the Straight, and they called themselves Direct Action. And then we saw the slogan, it was on the front of this anarchist magazine called Open Road – a pretty good magazine – and Ken Lester thought this is perfect for DOA, and we kinda just asked them if we can use this slogan, and they went yeah, sure sure, type thing. I guess it was War on 45, when it appeared on the back cover, and then we started using it a lot after that....
How much were you actually a supporter of the Five, though?
Well, if people are being really downtrodden, sometimes they gotta fight back, but to me, the most effective guy ever at fightin’ back was, y’know, Mahatma Gandhi, for example, or a guy who fought back against extreme conditions, and had peaceful protests that sometimes went violent, look at South Africa and apartheid: Nelson Mandela. So – to me, that’s the kind of action where they would just take a strike and try to make the government change the rules, and to me I kind of always envisioned that, as opposed to going and blowing stuff up.
I really admired how DOA and other local bands rallied around Gerry, though. (DOA released the Right To Be Wild benefit single and wrote the songs “Burn It Down” and “Trial By Media” in reaction to the Five’s arrest). I mean, it sucks that people got hurt. But it was good to see the scene supporting its own.
Absolutely, we did lots of fundraisers for him and put out the single... When we got the story we were in Detroit. We were just sittin’ around, “Oh, what’s Gerry doin’”, and about two hours later Ken phoned, “Gerry’s been arrested on this highway in Squamish,” that kinda thing, and then there was all this sensationalist news coverage – they had the cache of weapons they had stashed, or whatever. We didn’t know what was really true, so it seemed at the time that they would have a really hard time getting a fair trial. And that was a lot of the impetus for doing fundraising for them. Now, don’t get me wrong, the points they were making – talking about Litton weapons systems being morally wrong, about people destroying the environment and propagating violence against women – yeah, those were the right causes. They were fighting against things that were totally fucked. And people still are – this is the whole anti-war thing, anti-globalization thing, the degradation of the environment – these are things that, if anything, have gotten worse, not better. But I would not say then that I thought, “this is the way to go fight the man!’ I never really felt that way, but I thought Gerry’s one of my best friends, and we should go support him. And they made some good points.
I actually interviewed Terry Chikowski, the guy who was blown up at Litton.
Yeah, he was in hospital for quite awhile.
I know Gerry wasn’t part of that particular action, but still, it’s heartbreaking, because I mean, I thought this would be moving to you in particular, because one of the main effects is, he can’t play hockey anymore, as the result of his injuries. He used to be a coach. [Joey Shithead is a known hockey enthusiast and sometimes player].
Yeah. That’s a lousy thing, you’re takin a real chance, right. I mean, they phoned a warning in, but I mean, things like that are always screwed up, right, someone diverts the phone call the wrong way or they don’t call in time or they don’t take it seriously, or whatever, right? You can’t take a chance on blowing somebody up... You gotta get a whole bunch of people to agree with you, to change things. If you can empower people and get them thinking and working together, you can change the fucking world... But there’s gotta be respect for other people and their lives.
I agree, but with songs like “Burn It Down,” I mean... is this what you thought back then, in the time after the Five were arrested?
I don’t know if I totally remember, right? Everything’s just kind of an impression as it goes by... It was like a big event; we never had anything like this happen in Canada for years. It’s hard to say EXACTLY what I thought then, but I don’t think I believed it was right at the time, to blow things up.
"Burn It Down" doesn't appear on your set very often these days.
We actually practiced that one. It may come out soon – we haven’t played it in a long time. A lot of people ask for that one.
Jon Card was telling me that for awhile around that time, the Vancouver police were really targeting punks – he said that they actually kicked Ken Lester’s door in, looking for weapons.
Yeah, when that firebombing stuff happened, like, in ‘79 and ‘80, then mysteriously, you couldn’t play anywhere. All the clubs we used to play at like the Windmill and the Buddha and a few other ones around town, all of a sudden said, ‘no no no, can’t book you, can’t book you.’ So then we started doing shows at little halls out the ‘burbs. It was never completely confirmed, but the police suspected this as being the anarchist gathering place. I guess this is early 1980, late ‘80, or something like that, and what was Richard’s on Richards was called the Laundromat, for about eight, nine months or somethin’ like that. And it got to the point where I know a bunch of people who claim for sure that the police rented a place across the street, like, the CLEU guys, and videotaped everybody goin’ in or out, so they could get a profile of everyone who would go to this kind of anarchistic punk rock gathering. It was like a DOA show, right. But as far as being directly hassled – I kinda only vaguely remember the thing about Ken’s place, but I can see that happening.
DOA by Bev Davies, 10th Street Hall San Francisco, April 11th, 1981; not to be reused without permission (Bev says "Joe is wearing his built like a Mack truck" shirt).
DOA by Bev Davies, 10th Street Hall San Francisco, April 11th, 1981; not to be reused without permission (Bev says "Joe is wearing his built like a Mack truck" shirt).
Did you have any problems with being investigated or such?
I never got directly hassled. I mean, I wasn’t around town a lot. In those days we toured constantly. We always suspected our phone was tapped, type thing. Maybe it was, maybe it wasn’t.
There was a period right after that when the mood was pretty intense, locally. Where it seemed like shit might actually start happening, around the time of the “General Strike” single and just before...
I still believe that was a good period, when people really expressed themselves, and I was very proud to be part of that – and I still believe if you can upset the apple cart, that’s a good thing.
Do you think that the Squamish Five getting arrested had anything to do with taking the wind out of the sails of political punk? It wasn’t a very inspiring thing to happen. Stand up against the man and go to jail.
No, to me, because not long after that – that happened in January of ’83 and the potential general strike thing happened in BC in ‘83, and in ‘84 and ‘85 and through the ‘90s, for us personally, as DOA, we started going to Europe a lot, and the places we would play would be these big factories that punks and leftists and anarchists had squatted and turned into their own place and didn’t pay any rent on, right, and they had these fantastic places where they’d have concert halls and workshops and little mini-schools and libraries, and we were goin’ fuck, this is the way to go, if you could do this in North America, right? And it was really confrontational, too. We stayed in this one place in Denmark where you couldn’t get in through the front of the building. You had to walk in through the back alley, and then climb over this wall, and inside the first wall was a big pile of rocks and bricks. I looked and said, “What’s that for?” and the guy said, “That’s our first line of defence, when the police come.” (Laughs). Then we walked across this big open courtyard and climbed up this big steel ladder, and went into the squat, and they could pull the ladder up and bolt the door closed. He said, “That’s the second line of defence, when the police come – then we just rain this shit down on their heads!” Y’know, when they come to try to kick them out. And to me I went wow... And a lot of them were punks, or were slightly sympathetic to it. So in certain areas, it got more confrontational, and it had a real point. And like I said, these guys had a real productive nature to it – it wasn’t just about chuckin’ a brick or somethin’ like that.
Is it still that confrontational?
Not so much anymore. The squat scene is not as big as it used to be. It used to be more fun to play there, cos we’d play these big giant squats, or little ones, or anything in between... The music scene is the same as here. The punk rock scene is still goin’, but is not as volatile. Things are more calm than they used to be, so things are not as much fun. We used to say, with DOA – our template for like a good place to visit was like, we hated anyplace that was really organized, because there was no chance of chaos or anarchy. We always liked Germany, Italy and England, because the punks were always in some sort of confrontation or doing these anti-nuclear demonstrations, and you just kinda got caught up in it, right? You have to have chaos in order to have a good DOA show, is what I’m sayin’. That’s the mathematical formula.
Tell me about the back cover of Something Better Change... What’s the story there? (The cover shows a very pissed off guy charging a falling cop with both fists raised).
I don’t know who took the photo, I don’t know who the guy is, and I don’t know who the cop is, but it’s like... when Charles de Gaulle came to Quebec in 1968 or ‘69 on St. Jean Baptiste Day, and went, “Vive le Quebec liberte,” like, Free Quebec, like, a “fuck you Canada” type thing, a riot broke out and I guess the RCMP tried to bust it up and were unsuccessful, obviously, at least based on that photo, so... It’s a fuckin’ great picture, and Kenny came up and said, hey, it’s a great picture, and it kinda fit in with the theme, ‘cos the photo on the front is pretty cool – let’s stick this black flag up on there, so you got the anarchist flag type thing, so it kinda tied in.
John Armstrong has the joke in his book, Guilty of Everything: “How many punks does it take to change a lightbulb?” And the answer is, “Punks can’t change anything.” Do you feel like DOA has been able to accomplish anything politically?
John’s a really funny guy and he’s got a great wit and sense of humour and stuff like that, right, so, but to me, comin’ from being an activist for half my life or more, you CAN change things – it can be incremental, small changes, right, where you go out and do a kind action to help somebody, or you go out and you raise some shit. As far as things I’ve been directly involved in, I remember goin’ to a bus fare protest with Gerry and I and a bunch of our people, and we sat there and blocked the buses on Burrard Street and stuff like that, and the bus drivers got fuckin’ pissed off, and yelled and swore at us, and then we’d go on the buses and not pay, because of the fuckin’ fare increase, and they’d all be mad... Stuff like that, to me, is really effective, because it got, like, a lot of notoriety. I’m not sure if it slowed down the fare hikes, but it certainly made people a lot more aware that transportation for people without money is a right. How can you get to work if you have no money, type thing, how can you get to school? And stuff like that I thought was really cool... Then there was one show we did – Randy Bachman organized it, I guess this was at the Commodore, I guess about ‘88 or something like that, ‘87, maybe – it was us and Randy Bachman and a couple of other bands, maybe even 54-40, and it raised a bunch of money and the money went to Oxfam, and they used the money to help buy an ambulance to put in Soweto, South Africa. Okay, we didn’t change the world, we didn’t raise ten million dollars like Bob Geldof or something like that, but this is a way of showing people that you care, or if you do a little thing, that can help people along... I can’t think of half the things we did. Another one we really liked – Terry Jacks was doing this thing, like about ’88-‘89, about uh, pollution from pulp and paper mills in British Columbia, and about how cancer rates were higher in the areas with the mills and crustacean life was getting mutated because of the effluence in the water and the air. So we ended up organizing this benefit – (former Quintessence Records employee) Dale Wiese, it was actually his idea - and I contacted Terry, and strangely enough we ended up meeting with Bruce Allen, and we did this show with Bryan Adams, BTO, Terry Jacks and DOA, a REALLY strange combo, and that helped create so much press... I’m not sayin’ we did it alone, I’m not tryin’ to claim this at all, but eventually even the (right-wing) Social Credit government tightened up the rules on the kind of effluence that could come out of the plants, or the amount. And to me, that’s kinda how you change things. People thought, wow, is that ever weird, DOA with Bryan Adams, and yeah, is that ever weird, but it had a very good effect, cause we were able to parlay Adams’ superstar status into a good cause...
One last question – working with Cecil English.
Yeah, good point, thank you. We went through a bunch of choices – we threw around some bigger names we thought we might be able to get to produce the album; it’s for DOA’s 40th anniversary, so let’s make this a good one, right? And one of the guy’s names that came up was Cecil. I hadn’t talked with him for a long time, but he mixed a show for us at the Smilin’ Buddha. And it came up – “let’s do some recording” - and Cecil was into it. I’m real glad, because he’s got a real ear, a real skill level. He did stuff like, for each song, he’d listen to the notes a little bit, we’d play a bit, and we’d have six different snare drums with us. And he’d go, “Paddy, why don’t you try this one here, or try that one.” We’d play the song with that snare drum, and he’d go, “no, that’s not right.” And he’d get us to tune it up again, and he’d go “yeah, it suits the mood of the song.” Like, for “The Last Beer,” let’s get a melancholy-type snare drum, and for “Killer Cops,” we want a super-aggressive, I’m-gonna-rip-your-face-off-type sounding snare drum… And most people not being drummers or musicians wouldn’t pick up on that. But to us it made a lot of sense. He had all sorts of good suggestions about parts – “you guys gotta try this.” We’ve worked together on seven or eight albums, and we don’t always see eye to eye, but we gave everything a go, and tried it. He came to a bunch of pre-rehearsals for the record, too, to see what things would be like.
The album has a really nice cohesion to it.
It took us awhile. We had the first five, which Cecil and I mixed – well, Cecil mixed, and I put in my two cents; I didn’t do the mixing. But we got the first five, we kept going at them for weeks and weeks, going round and round, changing things – changing the order of the songs, or the vocals need to be louder here, or we need to change the sound of the bass. It was an interesting process. We really focused on those five, up to the end of “Just Got Back from the USA,” and when we were finally happy with them, we mixed everything else. It went really quick, because we had our templates. And the one song we kept coming back to was “Killer Cops.” That’s a great mix, that we compared, we A-B’d everything to that. Cecil has made some really wonderful records – Last Scream, Wrong, stuff for the Dayglos. It was really fun to work with him again.