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vol 5 - issue 08 (apr 2003) :: untapped
UNTAPPED TALENT: DAN SHAW OF THE TOSSERS
interview by vinnie baggadonuts

WHO ARE THE TOSSERS? THEY'RE A ROWDY BUNCH OF PUNKS, FIRMLY PLANTED IN THE WINDY CITY, BUT MUSICALLY ROOTED IN THE HILLS OF IRELAND. RECENTLY, THEY ROCKED AMERICA'S ASSES OPENING FOR FLOGGING MOLLY AND THE MIGHTY MIGHTY BOSSTONES. BASSIST/ACCORDION PLAYER DAN SHAW WAS KIND ENOUGH TO TAKE A BREAK FROM WATCHING THE RING TO CHAT WITH VINNIE BAGGADONUTS.

Vinnie: Could you give our dear readers a little bit of background on The Tossers?

Dan: Well, we’ve been a band for about ten years. Tony Duggins (lead singer) and Aaron Duggins (whistle player) are brothers. Tony and Bones (drummer) have been friends since childhood. I met them in my teenage years. The original guitar player actually went to school with my older brother. We just started doing what we do. More or less, we were all in other bands, but this was a good way for underage kids to get into bars, do some drinking, and have some fun.

V: I just saw you guys with Flogging Molly here in Columbus. That was the first time I’d seen you guys, and it totally rocked.

D: Thank you.

V: Do you tour outside of the Chicago area a lot?

D: Well, we’ve been a band for a long time. We started the band, then I went to college, which was good because the original guitar player quit. Everyone who has been in the band since then has been a musician I met in college: Clay, the banjo player; Mike, our current guitar player. I met Mike in college, as well. Basically, everyone finished up school, we signed to Thick Records a year after I graduated, and just started touring all over-- from coast to coast, all the way down to Texas, and up into Canada. We’ve done a lot of stupid touring. We were just pretty much doing what we were told. We had a manager/booking agent thrust on us without us having any say in it. Therefore, we had shitty tours. One day we were in New York, the next day Florida, the next day Seattle! Dumb shit like that! “Go to California. You have 21 shows in 21 days.” Then you get there, and you only have two-- one the first day, and one the last day. You have 19 days off in-between! So, we’ve done a lot of not intelligent touring! Then, one day, we were playing in Buffalo, New York. The only paying members in the audience were the three members of the Goo Goo Dolls. They were older, and they were touring for ten years before they got a hit. So, they quickly ordered up a round of drinks, sat me down, and told me how to tour intelligently.

V: Really?

D: Yeah.

V: That’s awesome.

D: Yeah. No one in my band believed that it was really the guys from the Goo Goo Dolls, until the promoter of the show came up to us and was like, “So, did those guys give you good luck? You know, the fucking Goo Goo Dolls? They’ve been around a long time. They know a lot of shit.” And everyone was like, “That was really them?” (laughing) So, that’s pretty much where we’ve been. We’ve been on Thick, releasing records, and trying to do as much as we can. But we have to make money, too. In a nutshell, we’ve been weekend warriors for the last year, year-and-a-half, maybe. We're out and about, trying. We wanna get on a bigger label. We have a new manager-- one of our choosing-- and that’s working out really well for us. Which is why we were even able to do the Flogging Molly/Bosstones tour.

V: So, the music that you play is obviously not pop music.

D: Right.

V: You don’t hear a lot of Irish music on the radio. Is it easier now to gain exposure with that style of music than it was when you started?

D: No. Not really. If anything, audiences seem less receptive.

V: Really?

D: Even on this tour, a kid came up to me,.. I don’t know,.. a 17-year-old girl? She came up to me in Cincinnati, I think, and was like, “Oh, you guys are trying too hard to be Flogging Molly.” And I was like, “Well, if you look at your shirt right there, the date says they became a band in 1997. I used to go skateboarding with Matt Hensley (Flogging Molly’s accordion player), because he’s from Chicago. And you know, we were a band then! We’ve been a band for a long fucking time!” And she was like, “Well, you're trying too hard. And you’re not them.” I was like, “Whatever. Thanks for coming out.”

V: That’s terrible!

D: So, you do get into some of that from time to time. But, for the most part, it’s pretty much the same. You know, even The Pogues never did a whole lot of U.S. touring, because the United States is too big. If they would tour, they would tour the East Coast, and then Chicago. Maybe they’d fly out to L.A. But usually, the farthest west they’d go was Chicago, and then they’d head back overseas.

V: So, do you guys go overseas at all?

D: No. We were supposed to last Summer, and of course that fell through.

V: How has this war affected you personally?

D: Well, it’s lead to some interesting discussions. I mean, we’re (the band) pretty much in agreement across the board that it sucks and it’s stupid. But its not surprising, either. The President’s been saying the entire time that this is what he was going to do.

V: Yeah.

D: You know, his family is a big oil family. He’s protecting his interests. He’s protecting what he wants. He doesn’t want all the oil. He just wants to control where that oil goes, because that’s making his family more money. I’m friends with Donald Rumsfeld's daughter. She lives down the street from me. She’s alright. She’ll tell you all the same stuff, too. It’s just the same shit. It’s not surprising at all. If anything, it causes us a little bit of concern.

V: Yeah, I don’t think it caught me by surprise, but it scares me a little more. Bush seems like more of a loose cannon than past presidents.

D: Well, he is. You know, him and his father and mother-- the whole family-- suffers from some sort of,.. seriously, it’s a diagnosed, treatable, mental problem. It makes you hot-headed. They always want to fight. I can’t remember what the name of it is,... But yeah, I thought it was ridiculous that George Bush, Sr., was elected president. I mean, why in the hell would you put the head of the CIA at the head of the country?

V: Yeah.

D: It’s even more ludicrous that his son is president now. Like Dicky (Barrett) from the Bosstones said at the show: “For the first time, I’m actually smarter than the president of the United States.”

Both: (laughter)

D: It’s true! Another thing I’d like to say: I don’t know what you’ve heard, but I’ve always heard that the Bosstones are jerks. But they are not. They are the nicest, most decent, great people,.. they might be tied with my favorite bands to tour with, and, right now, that’s Citizen Fish and Subhumans-- whom we’re going out with next month. I think a lot of people give them a bad rep because they’re ballbusting pricks. But we’re ballbusters, too. Our first leg of this tour, our bus broke down and we rolled up in a U-Haul. There’s two of us in front, and five of us locked up in the back with all the gear. And there’s a thousand people wrapped around the block waiting to get in the door. We’re there, like 15 minutes before doors, and I’ve never felt like a bigger chump. Ever. As soon as I walked in, Dicky started busting my balls. I get it. People from New York, Boston, and Chicago are ballbusting pricks. It’s all in good fun. I mean, if you set yourself up, I’ll be damned if we’re not going to call you out on it.

V: I don’t know. That might be a universal thing, ‘cause that’s how everyone here is.

D: Really?

V: Well, not in Columbus. But most of us here on the paper. When we do meet people who are like that, we can go back and forth, and it becomes a camaraderie, not a confrontation.

D: Exactly! We've been all over the place, and people think we hate each other. We were doing a live radio interview, and I was answering a question, and then the banjo player started busting my stones about some answer, you know? And people really think we hate each other and are ready to explode into violence at any moment. It’s not true! If you were doing that to someone in a West Coast band in general,.. I can’t remember the name of the band. But we were playing with one, and we were busting their stones, and I thought they were really going to cry! We were like, “Hey, man! Sorry! We were just busting your balls. I really didn’t mean to offend you.” I felt kinda like a heel. But anyway, yeah, the Bosstones are great.

V: I saw them for the first time about ten years ago. I met Dicky, Kevin, and everyone, and they were great. I'd never known anyone to have a negative opinion about them. Then, one year at Warped Tour, it must have just been a bad minute. We were talking to them and asking them stuff, and they were almost ignoring us. I think just because it says press on our passes, that makes people like, “Aw, Christ. These guys are gonna talk to us, but they don’t really know shit about us.” But, we’re so far from press. None of us are journalists. We’re just a bunch of artists trying to do this thing and have fun. And I think we must've just caught them at a bad moment, because they weren’t really welcoming. I guess hearing you say they’re ballbusters and shit could explain it.

D: Yeah, they are. And they’re old!

Both: (laughter)

D: They formed in 1986! Shit! I mean, they’re old! They’re tired of the same old shit. They gotta be.

V: It’s scary to think that some of the kids in their crowds were born in 1986!

D: Yeah!

V: Not that I’m really old, but that made me go, “Whoa!” Knowing that these kids were babies when Devil’s Night Out came out.

D: Yeah. It’s really weird. I run into a lot of that, too. We notice the crowd’s age a lot. At one of our shows, the singer was like, “Well, I wrote this song, blah blah blah.” And he made a comment on the microphone that, “I’m not ashamed to say, I think The Pogues are one of the best bands ever, and Shane MacGowan is the best songwriter ever. I’m not ashamed to cover his music or be influenced by it. I openly admit it. And this song was inspired by a Pogues song.” After the show, the kids were like, “The who? The what?” I’m just like, “Sigh!”

V: But that’s just ignorance. When I get into a band, if they mention any of their influences, I check it out right away. You have to. That’s how growing up was. Getting into punk, I wasn’t around early enough to get into the Ramones when they started, but getting introduced to them through bands from my youth, like Bad Religion. If they cover a Ramones song, I’d be like, “Oh, I’ll have to check them out.”

D: Yeah! The reason why I mention that, too, is that certain other people we were on the road with from another band would not admit to their ever being such a band.

V: They said The Pogues didn’t exist?

D: Yeah, that sort of thing.

V: That’s kinda fucked up.

D: It’s weird.

V: Aside from having a conversation with the Goo Goo Dolls, what’s the weirdest experience you’ve had in the last ten years?

D: Well, once, I worked at the World Music Theater, and Sinead O'Connor was playing there. Me and a couple of the guys who were working were making fun of her and I think we made her cry.

V: Really? (laughing)

D: Yeah, because when we turned around, she was standing right there, and she just ran away!

Both: (laughing)

D: That was really weird, and I felt really weird about that. I was just a snot-nosed little 16-year-old punk. But, whatever. I mean, there’s been plenty of generally surreal moments, but nothing off the top of my head that just jumps out.

V: Do you have a favorite city to play in?

D: Well, obviously, Chicago. Portland, Oregon has always been super-supportive. Austin, Texas, across the board, is everyone in the band’s 100% unanimous favorite place to play.

V: Really?

D: Yes. Austin, Texas. We once played a House of Blues outside arena show in Montreal, and I swear to God it was like doing card tricks for a dog. We’d end a song, and silence. Out of 5,000 people you couldn’t even hear people talking. It was that weird.

Both: (laughter)

V: Do you ever get upset just seeing people standing still during the music? It kinda gets to me sometimes, because there’s so much energy and I can’t figure out how anyone can just stand there with their arms folded.

D: Well, at the same time though, they’re hearing the songs for the first time, you know? See, I’m an optimist. Flogging Molly left after Chicago. So, Detroit and Philadelphia was just us and the Bosstones. When we played Philly, the first two bands just sucked! They were getting booed, people were throwing shit at them, and the bouncers were laughing at them! I was like, “Man, you guys suck!” We got up there, had an hour set, and knocked it to ‘em. But there was literally two people dancing. Two! But at the end of the night, hundreds of people came up to us and were like, “Wow, you guys are great!” This was the first time we haven’t played Chicago on St. Patrick’s Day in ten years! I mean, in Chicago, we’d be tearing this place apart. Then the Bosstones got up there, and it was pretty much the same response. I think the kids were just taking it in as much as they could, because they’ve never heard it before.

V: I just feel bad, because I don't want the band to get discouraged and never come back to my city again.

D: Right.

V: Alright, I have two last questions. What’s coming up for you guys?

D: We have a brand-new record, Purgatory. That will be coming out in April. And, we’re gonna be doing a Midwest tour with the Subhumans. We were supposed to do the whole tour, but we couldn't get to the West Coast dates in time, so we’re only gonna do five dates. It’s Cincinnati, Chicago, Minneapolis, and Milwaukee. There’s another show in there, too, but I don’t know where at.

V: I might be close to Milwaukee by then. We’re moving this whole operation.

D: Oh, really?

V: Yeah. We’re going to be getting the paper out in Chicago and L.A., but it’s a lot cheaper to live in Milwaukee.

D: It is. But it’s a vampire town.

V: (laughing)

D: It just sucks the life out of you.

V: Really?

D: Yeah. I hate Milwaukee.

V: I’ve been there a few times, and have had nothing but good times there.

D: You do a lot of drinking, don’t ya?

V: Well, yeah.

D: That’s why. (laughing)

V: But, I do a lot of drinking here in Columbus, too.

D: Yeah. But the girls in Columbus are good-looking.

V: You know, that’s funny you say that. The last time I went to Milwaukee, I didn't see one good-looking girl there.

D: You gotta come to Chicago for the hotties. Oh,.. or Madison.

V: Yeah, Madison. That’s a college town!

D: Yeah. And all them girls are bisexual.

Both: (laughing)

V: Well, there’s nothing wrong with that. I’ll just watch.

D: Oh, no. I’m just saying, you might go out with one girl, and end up with two.

V: And I would not complain.

D: Exactly.

Both: (laughing)

V: Alright, last question: do dogs have lips?

D: (pauses) I,.. that’s a weird question. I want to say ‘yes’, but I think that’s just an exterior gum. You know, you can make them gnarl and stuff. But that looks more like an actual gumline. If I have to say an answer, I guess I’ll say ‘yes’.

V: They do have lips?

D: Yes.

V: See, we called a veterinarian, and he said the same thing. But I still don’t buy it.

D: Ah,.. what are you gonna do?

CHECK OUT THICKRECORDS.COM FOR MORE TOSSERS INFO.

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