THE DISTILLERS
interview and imagery by debbie

IF PUNK ROCK WAS A FORTIFIED STRONGHOLD, THESE KIDS WOULD BE MANNING THE GUN NESTS. AMIDST THE VOCAL SHELLING FROM BRODY ARMSTRONG AND THE RAPID-FIRE DRUM BURSTS OF ANDY OUTBREAK, TASTES LIKE CHICKEN'S DEBBIE PENETRATES THE RAZORWIRE TO HAVE A WORD WITH TWO OF THE DISTILLERS.

[IN THE WOMEN'S BATHROOM]

debbie: How did the changes in the band lineup come about?

Brody: We were on tour and it didn’t work out with Kim and Mat. So I got Andy and Dante from the Nerve Agents to fill in during the Rancid/AFI tour. We loved Andy, so we wanted to keep him. He was in both bands, but Nerve Agents broke up. So he’s now full-time in The Distillers. Dante didn’t work out, and then we found Ryan. He worked at a comic, record and toy store in Fremont. (to Tony, the road manager) Is that right? Fremont?

Tony: (nodding) Fremont.

d: Fremont? Where is that? Virginia?

B: California.

d: I knew that. Now, don’t get me wrong, I love the first album. But Sing Sing Death House is so solid all the way around. What has changed about you guys and your approach to making music between the first album and this new one?

B: Well, I think Andy is a better drummer than Mat (Young) was; not to dis Mat or anything. Andy’s like this fucking powerhouse. He just slugs away and he’s really innovative. A drummer is usually like the backbone. I play off Andy and he plays off me. So it works out really well. And Ryan’s only been playing bass for like, a year, and he’s really good. So it’s like a family now.

d: So there’s this whole energy transfer thing going on between all of you guys at once?

B: Yeah.

d: The songwriting on the new LP is really intelligent. I was just blown away by how you were expressing these very sharp emotions using this really intelligent vocabulary. Honestly, I had to grab the dictionary a couple of times while I was listening to it.

B: (laughs)

d: You’re using words like "Dionysian", "acerbic", "vitriolic", and "revenant". Is that an aspect of the lyrics you strive for, or does it just sort of happen?

B: No. It just happens. I really wanted to work hard on my lyrics. The last record is more abstract. That’s the first record I ever made, so I was just sowing the oats. I’ve just been reading a lot and I’ve got a lot of smart friends. (laughing) It helps, ya know?

d: (laughing) Yeah. What are you reading?

B: A lot of ghost stories and fiction. I have a good mythology dictionary, which is where I got “revenant” from. And, on the last record, “oldscratch” as well. So a lot of that stuff is in there. It’s like my little secret stash.

d: What main goal has stuck with you since before--

[ENTER: LOUD SQUEAK OF A WALKIE-TALKIE, ALONG WITH A NEWPORT SECURITY GUARD]

Security: (with a true air of authority) What’s going on, folks?

B: We’re just doing an interview. It’s a little loud out there.

[EXIT: SECURITY GUARD]

d: Uh, okay. What main goal has stuck with you since you started making music?

B: I guess to just keep playing music; to just keep outdoing the last record. I think we’re pretty ambitious. I want to pay my parents mortgage. You know what I mean? All I’ve ever wanted to do was play music and go on the road and make records. It just worked out that this was the perfect opportunity. Just to work hard. We work our asses off.

d: Hell yeah. Touring is no joke. You know, I was surprised with how--

[RE-ENTER: NEWPORT SECURITY GUARD]

S: (with even more authority) I’m sorry. Your interview is over. We gotta go “doors”.

d: Uh oh. We’re moving.

[NOW IN AN ALLEY OUTSIDE]

d: How do you deal with the popular image of punk music and kids who are into it for the wardrobe, not the message?

B: Well, I guess you just help those kids find a message. Help them assimilate in the real wage. I don’t meet a lot of kids like that. And, if I do, I don’t really notice and I don’t really discriminate. Everyone starts somewhere. I hate all that higher-than-thou bullshit about, “I’m more punk than you.” It’s bullshit. I don’t care. It doesn’t bother me.

d: This is kind of embarrassing, but do you have any advice for someone who likes punk music but doesn’t know much about it?

B: Buy a lot of records. Buy a lot of old school records. Find out who the bands you listen to are influenced by. Go through the lineage. You got your English punk, you got your American punk. You got your East Coast American, your West Coast, your Ramones, Circle Jerks, Black Flag, and X. Then there’s a big mix in between.

d: Who would you say are your essentials, then?

B: Discharge is my first. I love Black Flag and all those guys. And Ramones, of course. And then I like Blondie,.. a little lighter.

d: (laughing) The old CBGB’s Blondie.

B: Yeah.

d: Do you ever read the press on the band?

B: Occasionally. I try not to.

d: Is there anything that you absolutely hate about it?

B: No. If you get over-embroiled in it, you’re probably gonna get yourself pretty pissed off. At the same time, we get a lot of really great reviews. It’s not important to how the band functions or to what we do. That’s just many people’s opinions on what they see. A lot of people project stuff on you, but that’s okay.

d: Yeah. I probably shouldn’t be asking that question, considering I am the media.

B: (laughs)

d: We’re not the “mass” media. We just try to have a good time. Honest. Is there anything in your life that you think would shock and surprise your fans?

B: (long pause followed by laughter) I don’t know! I don’t think so. Like I said, that’s people projecting certain things on you. Everyone’s their own person. When you meet someone for the first time, that’s not the whole book. That’s just the first page.

d: Being an Aussie yourself, what quirk about Australia do you think American pop-culture and TV has just bastardized beyond belief?

B: Victoria Bitter. No, that’s what I drink. What’s the other shit?

d: Foster’s?

B: (grabbing her head in disgust) Foster’s! Ugh! I can’t even remember the name. No one in Australia drinks Foster’s. It’s piss.

d: But it’s got the big can!

B: It’s piss.

realtoon: (who has been standing by the whole time) But it’s Australian for beer and bottled in Canada.

B: (laughs) What do you drink here that’s low on the totem pole?

d: I’m from a Miller family. tastes like chicken’s mascot beer is anything Miller, preferably High Life or Red Dog. That’s just our beer. But low on the totem pole-- actually, that is low on the totem pole.

B: (laughs) Not even the punks who hang out on the corners drink Foster’s. We drink VB, Victoria Bitter, which is way better. That and “shrimp on the barbie”, because I never had a fucking shrimp on the barbie until I moved to this country.

d: (laughs) Oh, God. I’m sorry. I apologize for America.

B: (laughs) No, no. It’s totally cool. The image that’s portrayed over here-- that we live in the Outback and stuff-- we don’t.

r: Crocodile Dundee ruined you guys.

d: Yeah. No wallabies in the backyard? What the hell? OK, this is our staple question. We ask everybody this. Do dogs have lips?

B: Do dogs have lips?

d: We got into an argument years ago, and it’s just gone on since then.

B: I think they do. Just really little, real thin ones.

d: Hell yes.

B: They gotta have something over their teeth. They lick their lips. I think they do. I think you’re right.

[ENTER: ANDY OUTBREAK, THE DISTILLERS' DRUMMER]

d: (to Andy) Hey, what’s up?

Andy: Hey.

B: This is Andy.

A: Yeah. We met earlier.

d: Is it hard keeping up the pace with true hardcore punk acts like No Doubt and Sugar Ray?

B: (laughs) Aren’t we obsessed with them?

A: Yeah.

B: We’re kind of obsessed right now.

d: With who?

A: No Doubt.

B: Every time we go to a hotel, we’ll be watching tellie just to see that one video. What is it? “Hey Baby”?

A: Yeah.

B: We’re all like waiting, begging, praying that it’s gonna come on. We’re just totally obsessed with it. It’s so retarded.

d: Hey, you gotta keep your eye on the competition.

B: (laughs)

d: What musical influences do you guys have outside of punk rock?

A: Well, like Nirvana or The Pixies. All kinds of stuff. Oldies, like Sam Cooke.

B: I like Smokey Robinson.

A: Smokey Robinson, yeah.

B: We also listen to PJ Harvey; a lot of driving music. You need something a little more relaxing in the car.

A: I really like Queens Of The Stone Age and Rocket From The Crypt.

d: (gasping) Fuck yeah! Is there anyone you guys wanna tell to “fuck off”? Like anybody who’s pissed you off in the last few months?

A: Peter And The Test Tube Babies.

B: Yeah. That guy can fuck off. That guy’s a dick.

d: Did he fuck you guys over or something?

A: No. He was just a dick to us. He was a total asshole. We played this thing, Holidays In The Smoke, in London--

B: --at the Astoria. We were upstairs in this tiny dressing room. We’d been up since the day before, because we had to get on a ferry to go across to London. So we’re all fucking exhausted in this tiny dressing room. There’s like, ten bands playing, from GBH to Peter And The Test Tube Babies. We’d done ten interviews. We’re sitting there, trying to relax, and in comes this fucking guy; this fucking English lad guy with these ten huge duffel bags. He just throws them in the fucking room and is just looking at us. He’s like (in a cocky English accent), “Who the hell are you?” And we’re like, “We’re The Distillers.” And he looks at the list. He goes (in Brit-speak again), “You gotta get the fuck out, now.” We’re like, “What? Who the fuck are you?” He’s like, “I’m Peter of Peter And The Test Tube Babies.” He’s all disgusted that we didn’t know it was him. We were like, “Fuck you, man!” We ended up sleeping on amps and shit. That was the worst night of my life.

A: It was the worst “rock star” experience I’ve ever had. Who the fuck is this guy?

d: Yeah. Who the fuck is he?

A: It was worse than meeting Michael Jackson. Michael Jackson probably would’ve been a nicer guy than this fucking guy.

r: Well, that’s the trend. The smaller you are, the bigger you think you are.

B: Right.

d: Well, piss on him now. Our readers will know to stop buying his records.

B and A: (laugh)

d: Do you guys have any final comments or anything you want to say?

B: (bouncing up and down) Oi!

A: (laughs) Oi!

VISIT THE DISTILLERS HERE.