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From the Wilderness: Catching up with Dave Radon
In a feeble attempt to add something to the conversation about Radon that Aaron Cometbus and Travis Fristoe haven’t already traversed in their excellent 2013 essays on the band, nor did Var and Jennifer No Idea in their interview here, nor did Megan Pants in her 2007 interview in the print version (given its online premiere below this spiel), let me begin with a personal anecdote.
This past July, I was driving eastbound on I-10 in Florida on the way to pick up my tour mate in Gainesville for our show that night at Rockey’s Piano bar. I had somehow taken the time zones for granted, so my leisurely lunch in DeFuniak Springs screeched to a halt as I realized I was primed to strand my buddy Evan at the Megabus depot in the middle of the University of Florida campus. I silently cursed myself, not only because I’d assumed I’d planned for this eventuality, but also as particularly angry red blotches crept across the peninsula on my phone’s Doppler radar app.
Outside of a massive surprise expense to my car, Pensacola had treated me fairly well. Now, would Central Florida’s oft-called “oasis of sanity” let me down? The weather, my tardiness, a vague stomach ache, and creeping pessimism suggested so. Before my car’s path intersected with the county-sized mobile carwashes that were Florida’s summertime storm cells, before I needed to slow to a crawl, before I needed to deal with the inevitable bleeping my car made when it thought its oil pressure was unduly fucked, I reached Northern Florida’s crossroads—that intersection of I-10 and I-75—cruising southbound toward G-Ville, and I glanced to the left and saw those three iconic words: WE BARE ALL.
I smiled and even laughed a bit to myself. Even as I crawled through the torrential storm cells, hazards flashing, wondering if I’d make it to Gator country in one piece, I couldn’t stop smiling as I thought about little green men coming out of paint cans and phosphor-gypsum Radon222 rising to the sky, high enough to see some imaginary, wonderful beach I hadn’t seen in twenty years. What a benediction. Visions of sweaty house shows in ninety-year old Victorians danced in my head.
To be clear, before this billboard sighting, I had only been in Gainesville three times, only once (an ethnomusicology conference at UF) for more than a couple hours. Radon, a band I had never seen perform, was so emblematic of a city that I had never lived in that even a trashy billboard (from which they nabbed an apt title for their compilation of 7”s) smacked my brain into gleeful submission instantaneously.
Dave Rohm admitted to me recently that almost every Radon song he wrote had some stolen phrase (or turn thereof) in it. Granted, none—if any—of these lifted phrases and concepts could have been stolen by any other band. As you’ll read in the interview below (re-posted from Razorcake #38), Rohm’s son, when he was a toddler, would babble “a little lie, a little little lie” from the back of the family car. After Radon surprised their faithful with Metric Buttloads of Rock!, a proper comeback album in 2006, hundreds of bearded punks were yelling “a little lie, a little little lie” from the back of the sweaty bar.
The liner notes on both 28 and Metric Buttloads of Rock! are hilariously tongue-in-cheek (does yourband list their back-up, Hüsker Dü-reference-heavy album titles? Noteworthy in the notes for 28 was the alternative title Chapel Hill or Bust, a self-effacing reference to their greatest setback). I hope they don’t keep sitting on Everyone’s a Badass Until There’s a Bee in the Room.) The lyrical inside-jokes were, and still are, fantastic, and it’s easy to feel like you’re in on them. Maybe they could lend themselves to a thick discourse analysis about life in Florida that caves deep into existential territory, or maybe they’re just root-down funny and brilliantly executed.
Listening back through Radon’s catalogue (of which all official releases Dave posted on Bandcamp this year), one quickly meets their friend Vikky, who’d shift to the third person to jokingly threaten her friends in public (“You ANGER Vikky! You make her mad!”) before wailing on them. One dives into the mind-dump blog of their friend Patrick “Bad News” Hughes, whom they immortalized on “Turn in Your Balls.” We take a moment in the cubicle next to Dave’s southern-fried coworker-lady who in(?)-directly supplied him with witticisms along the lines of “being broke as the Ten Commandments” and “slapping the taste out [one’s] mouth.” The new record will undoubtedly contain several unintentionally cryptic tropes through which the initiated will delight in sifting.
Has this all been by design? Yes and no. Talking to Rohm, one quickly gets the impression that he never even learned how to force these things. In fact, Radon never learned how to do a lot of things. It’s phenomenal what a band can achieve, even unwittingly, when they disregard the ostensible rulebook of punk, or in Radon’s case, are gleefully unaware of what’s even in the rulebook. It took them six years (SIX!) to get a set of ten (goddamned Florida classic) songs properly pressed and released for the impatient clusters of their friends (who had spent one night a week finding their way to the latest Radon show in the early ‘90s) as well as their fledgling new fans (who had been afforded this mysterious band by the fledgling internet by the late ‘90s).
Not that Radon ever “did” the internet well; it took until 2014 and their first new album in eight years for Rohm to activate a proper Radon Facebook page. I do recall them having a scantily-updated Myspace Page (at least after their 2006 activity ebbed), which no doubt provided plenty of fodder in light of this Razorcake interview that appeared in the same year. Even in the wake of Metric Buttloads of Rock, it took until last month for the band and No Idea to finally fucking reissue “28,” that aforementioned set of ten classics. From an outsider’s perspective, it would seem like Radon are marketing geniuses who worked in obscurity the way that Picasso worked in oils and Brakhage worked in filmstrip. But, in oddly satisfying reality, Radon are exceedingly ordinary dudes who’ve always done what they could (exceedingly well) with what they knew.
Imagine my shock when I revisited Razorcake #50 and discovered that Megan Pants had, indeed, done an interview feature on Radon in Issue #38. I contacted Todd Taylor, and him being the gracious dude he is, asked if I’d like to write a Radon update (of sorts) to accompany that interview’s online premiere to bump the band’s new record and reunion show(s). Megan Pants did approach several of the nagging questions about the band in her 2007 interview (particularly regarding the middle-aged Rasta jogger Timothy Lightfoot, about whom I would be unsurprised if Radon get asked more than anything).
However, nobody got into detail about the band’s still-contused timeline. The long and short of it is: Radon existed proper from approximately 1991 until 1994, when band members began leaving Gainesville. That four-year span was when the band wrote and recorded most everything that saw the light of day during the Clinton era, including the Radon 7”, the In Your Home7”, that full-length (28 or just self-titled, depending on whom you ask), and scattered single appearances. The best example of the latter may have been “Wasting Time,” which appeared on the collectible 7” that No Idea issued along with their zine (an absolute riot of a time-capsule of DIY culture that no doubt inspired Razorcake). And, that was that. Like their contemporaries Spoke, Radon dissolved before seeing any of the seeds they sowed grow into an internationally-recognized scene on the backs of Hot Water Music, Less Than Jake, and Against Me!
Make no crass assumptions; nobody involved seems bitter about it. Rohm returned to Gainesville in 1997 for graduate school, departing again in 1999 after pulling the band back together (minus bassist and part-time vocalist Wilson, who had already moved to Colorado) under the moniker Radon222 for a couple of ramshackle years. He is the first to admit that they were notoriously shitty at both seeing projects through and keeping in touch when they weren’t all living and routinely bumping into each other in Gainesville (this has persisted well into the internet age). Wilson was usually the best of the three at the activities which constituted the “DO” in D-I-Y culture, and he was thousands of miles away by this time. The almost surreal level of nagging misfortunes that befell the band over the course of the 1990s didn’t help either. For example, as you read on, you’ll see Megan Pants addressing the band’s major wreck en route to open for Archers of Loaf outside (!) of Florida. One of the first burning questions I asked Dave once we were in touch recently was what happened that kept 28 from seeing the light of day for so long. Was there one similarly tragic incident or just a tragic comedy of errors?
“It was actually recorded over a few weekends in the summer of ‘92 (I think? I may be wrong.). It took a while to get pressed for a bunch of reasons. The tapes were lost in the mail on the way to United Records and returned to No Idea all messed up. It was all mangled and charred. Var (Thelin) was holding it with some metal tongs showing it to me. I think he had to send them off to be repaired and then try again. I gotta give the No Idea crew credit for pushing stuff through. It wasn’t easy to get shit done back in the day. And they were really young and making things happen all the time. They still are (except for the young part!). Var has been pushing this scene into existence since he was a teenager.”
Dave went onto proudly link Radon’s new bandcamp page and tell me about the three shirts they have for sale online. He wasn’t capable of stuff like this back in the day because he “was more focused on college and stuff.” Speaking as somebody whose academic career and artistic avocation are consistently challenging each other for my time, I can relate and deeply appreciate that.
At any rate, after Rohm left Gainesville for Atlanta permanently in 1999, things didn’t coalesce again for the trio until 2005, when they seemingly emerged from nowhere to record their “comeback” album Metric Buttloads of Rock! and tacked on live bassist Mike Collins to free up Wilson to shred proper. This is the quartet that will be performing their slew of high-quality new songs as well as the sweaty-house-show classics for their fans both new and old at FEST13 this year.
Sounding truly like the person who contributed so much to Gainesville and left it behind, approaching the town for reunion shows doesn’t feel at all unfamiliar. In fact, it still fascinates him:
“Gainesville hasn’t changed too much for me at all, but real estate developers and city planners are always looking to mess it up. Gainesville will always have the Swamp Aesthetic and looks like nowhere else. It’s forever young with new college kids every year renting the same old houses. Still is basically a town of teenagers and rooms under old oak trees that my friend Tyra says are ‘bearded’ with Spanish moss. Very unique. The trees are beard-core…”
…the city is trying to ram through a new plan to put six-story buildings around downtown. That would suck it up real fast. Gainesville has a couple of Victorian-style early 1900s neighborhoods with cool wooden houses surrounded by giant oak trees. The city doesn’t seem to be willing to protect them from developers. They’ve already torn down some of the oldest homes to put in the shitty new government building. A lot of towns are fighting this kind of thing right now versus real-estate developers and overly anxious city planners. It’s just like Joni Mitchell said.”
Clower still lives in Gainesville, and in Rohm’s words, “a lot of their old friends stuck around and got their shit together.” Rob McGregor, who helmed most of the band’s recordings two decades ago on a tumbledown living room setup, has a successful recording studio, Goldentone, run out of one of those classic Victorians.
Ever since the band cobbled itself back together in the late ‘90s and finally released 28 (most likely to match its catalog number at No Idea; let’s go with that), Radon have been the quintessentially obscure pre-internet punk band using weapons like bizarrely intelligent humor, deceptively sharp musicianship, and gleefully tuneless vocals (which Rohm and Wilson used to usher in the ‘90s before Stephen Malkmus made it cool) to climb atop the mountain of “greatest” obscure pre-internet punk bands. Two decades have passed since Radon ceased to be the primary concern of anyone in the trio (at least next to families and careers), but their legacy is every bit as quintessentially Floridian as strip club billboards on I-75 sandwiched between blatant reminders of God’s fire-and-brimstone vengeance. No matter how far Dave, Brent, and (on occasion) Bill wander, their music is just as intimately and stealthily woven into the fabric of Gainesville as they ever cared it to be. Whether those masses decked out in Blue and Orange know or appreciate the cosmic beauty of that irony is unimportant. Anybody who’s discovered and unraveled their music, as anyone who will in the near future, can almost immediately understand why, whether or not they’ve even been there before. Few bands have ever played more “final shows” than Radon has, and no band has earned more of a right.
Radon has been the soundtrack to some of the best nights of my life. It’s never been planned out that way, but it’s not exactly arbitrary either. They complement late-night talks over beers, roadtrip mixtapes, or dudes on, shirts off fests.
They have a certain wisdom that would make sense after more than fifteen years together, but it’s been there all along. They understand that there’s a balance in life, and that balance is evident in everything they’ve recorded.
The night of the interview this balance manifested itself in the seamless transition between talking politics outside the show to trying to play around toppling men sliding down the half pipe which was being used as a stage, and ending up with dancing (not in the moonlight) to Thin Lizzy.
They’ve survived hurricanes, lightning storms, and parenthood.
They’re Radon, and they’re not science fiction.
This interview originally ran in Razorcake #38, 2007. It is sold out. Bummed you missed this issue? We recommend getting a subscription.
Megan: Who is the middle-aged Rasta jogger guy?
Brent: His name is Timothy Lightfoot. That’s really his name. I was his social worker, dude. I used to work at HRS years ago. He’s a very, very nice man who happens to be schizophrenic. He’s Ethiopian. He runs like crazy, nonstop, and he holds his hand way up high in the air. I asked him, “Timothy, why do you hold your hand way up high in the air?” and he says that there’s an angel that’s going to land on his hand.
Mike: You say that as if it’s not true.
Dave: Actually it was a pigeon dropping that landed on his hand.
Bill: Going on the schizophrenic thing…he was interviewed in a zine and said that he was cursed by a woman, which is why he runs and runs. I saw him three days ago. But, he said he was cursed by a woman in Jamaica that he went out with and she put this curse on him that he’s always going to be running away.
Brent: He’s just one of those characters that demands a song be written about them.
Megan: How is he kind of like Pac Man?
Bill: He’s not running through the streets of Babylon either.
Dave: All Jamaicans, from what I’ve learned, think that the U.S. is Babylon.
Megan: I didn’t want to know about Babylon; I wanted to know about PacMan.
Dave: He’s running up and down the blocks.
Megan: Does he magically appear on the other side of town when he gets to the edge?
Brent: He looks nothing like PacMan. Maybe the dots are like the people he passes and he gobbles them up.
Bill: Maybe they’re vitamins. I’ve seen him buying vitamins.
Dave: I think Bill’s been eating vitamins. Multiple vitamins. Thanks for the heads up.
Bill: …I don’t know where that is. You too, man….
Dave: Somebody unplug Bill!
Megan: What’s the difference between a metric buttload of rock and a mosaic of musical monument?
Brent: One was created by Pat Hughes and the other was created by Bill Clower.
Bill: One was created by these guys and one was created by the Ozarks.
Brent: Bill is fucked up. Someone on the internet had, “the equivalency of the metric buttload is ten super assloads.”
Dave: It’s a buttload every day for a fortnight. Ask a Canadian, that’s our answer.
Megan: This is your first time playing outside of Florida. How does that happen since you’ve been together for more than ten years?
Brent: You know how that happens? You have a show…
Mike: You finally get a real musician in the band, and you get real gigs.
Brent: We tried before, but it ended in catastrophe. There was a very, very bad wreck in South Carolina on I-95 on our way to Chapel Hill to play with Archers Of Loaf. We didn’t quite make it. It was bad. I went to see Dave in the hospital. Number one, I didn’t recognize him.
Megan: His head had swelled, right?
Brent: It was huge. It was like Dave’s face had been stung by twenty bees.
Megan: What was actually wrong with you to make you swell?
Dave: Just the impact.
Bill: He flew fifteen feet. The other passenger flew thirty. When we told him we said, “Hey Dave, you flew fifteen feet.” He was like, “Whatever.” “Amanda flew thirty.” He was like, “She won.”
Brent: I walked away without a scratch.
Dave: Good job, dude. Way to keep it stealthy.
Brent: After that, life just started separating us. We started moving out of town and never wound up getting the chance to go out of state again till now.
Bill: I went on tour.
Brent: That wasn’t the question, buddy.
Megan: Were you supposed to go on tour with Grey Goose, but then you couldn’t because of some legal problems?
Bill: Yeah, the timing was really bad for me to get put on probation and not be able to go to Europe because we had just talked our friend into giving us three grand to put out the album and go on tour in Europe, but by the time I could…I still want to badly. I really owe that guy, and, geez, I guess I’ll have to go to Europe to make it up to him.
Megan: What was it for?
Bill: Oh, I got in trouble with the law.
Megan: Dave, how old are your kids?
Dave: I’ve got two kids. I’ve got a one-and-a-half year-old and a six-and-a-half year-old.
Megan: How does that affect you in music, not just in scheduling, but when you realize that they’re going to start understanding the lyrics, does that actually impact what you do?
Dave: “I should not be doing this. I should not be doing this.” I enjoy it too much, and I know that they would want me to do what I enjoy, so I do. My six-and-a-half year-old, two years ago, was saying some crazy stuff in the back of the car, and I used it in one of our songs. He kept saying, “a little lie, a little lie, a little, little lie.”
Bill: He’s a chip off the old block.
Dave: I’m hoping to steal more stuff. They’re going to pull it out against me and shove it right in my face. “But Dad, you did this, and you did this.” We’ll get there when we get there. Hopefully, I’ll have it figured out by then.
Megan: Do you play it for them?
Dave: My older child is a Radon fan. He’s only heard “Radon,” the song, but he likes it.
Brent: He’s already a rocker, too.
Bill: There’s no way he could go against them. He’d probably be more disappointed if you didn’t play your music and write songs now. “This is what I did before I had you.” “Well, what happened when you had me?” “Oh, well, you know….”
Dave: I’m hoping he’ll be rebellious and start playing some really dark metal.
Bill: I mean, when he’s thirteen and you go, “Hey man, you wrote this line for me in the back seat of the car,” and then play it for him; he’s going to think that’s the coolest thing in the world.
Megan: Unless he wants royalties.
Bill: You’d better get him to sign a waiver now.
Brent: Dave’s son is best friends with the son of…what’s her name? From the B-52s?
Brent: Her son and Owen are best friends.
Dave: They’re going to start a band and it’s going to be called Skull Shack or Phantoms of Doom. So, they’ve got a band.
Mike: She lives in Atlanta?
Dave: No, she lives in Chattanooga; we drive him over there every day, man. Welcome to the band, buddy.
Megan: How do you guys work around everyone living in different states?
Brent: Better than I thought it would. We work better together now as a team than we ever did when we lived in the same town.
Bill: If we know people are going to come to the show, then we know we’re going to pay those expenses, then we can do it.
Mike: I feel like it’s all come together in the last twenty-four hours or so.
Dave: Brent emailed me a part of a song, and we didn’t hear it until we were in the studio, it was “Four Inches of Heaven.” I don’t know how we pulled that one off.
Brent: The internet makes it a lot easier. We can record parts of a song at home and mail it to one another.
Bill: I’ve always been the kind of drummer that I love…they spoil me. I sit down, and they already have the song.
Brent: Luckily for us, Bill is technically right where we want him to be, and he always does more than we expect.
Bill: With lots of guys that I’ve played with, it’s the same thing, but there’s a lot more arranging. With these guys, it’s just there.
Brent: One day, we’ll be in the same room and write a song together.
Megan: When did you start writing the songs for Metric?
Brent: We recorded it in June. We started writing the songs before we played Fest IV, so it was about a year in advance.
Bill: I got done with my legal problems in April, and by June, my birthday, we’d recorded the album. In April, when I got out, there was a tiny clip of “Here’s our idea.”
Dave: Fest was a huge inspiration.
Brent: The closer it got to having studio time, the more incentive I had to work the songs out.
Megan: How long had it been since you’d written Radon songs before that?
Brent: The last time we’d recorded together as Radon was 1995. So, it had been ten years.
Dave: Wasn’t it ’93?
Brent: It was ’93, so twelve years. Mike was seven years old.
Mike: I was a sophomore in high school.
Megan: How do you approach writing with that timeframe—not that you don’t hear a similar sound now—of ‘90s bands?
Brent: Yeah, definitely Soundgardern. Screaming Trees. Grunge is coming back.
Bill: We started in ’91, so I wouldn’t say we sounded like ‘90s.
Megan: A lot of the things that were coming out in the early ‘90s.
Bill: We were definitely into that.
Megan: I don’t think that’s a bad thing at all. But, when you’re looking at ten or twelve years down the road, how do you go into the writing process? Is there a balance of “Do I still want to sound like that? Do I want to sound like something now?” Because there are bands that still sound that way now, so it still fits, but is there anything in you that says, “Well, that’s what we sounded like then, but now we should sound this way”?
Brent: When I write songs, the music that inspires me the most is actually early- to mid-‘80s. So, early Replacements, Articles Of Faith, Hüsker Dü, things of that nature. When it comes out, I guess it sounds like early- or mid-‘90s, but I would say that I’m more influenced by early-‘80s post-hardcore than anything else.
Mike: People who write music don’t really actually think about what it sounds like.
Bill: You just are what you are and that’s how you’ve been writing since you’ve been writing. You just do what you do.
Brent: Until you realize it sucks and it ends up on the cutting room floor. There’s a lot on the cutting room floor.
Dave: I’d say we throw out about half of the songs we write.
Megan: I just think that there are some bands that have a definite sound that doesn’t change throughout the entire course of their career, no matter how long it is. But, then you have people like David Bowie.
Megan: It changes so often with what’s going on now. Obviously, they’re aiming for a radio audience.
Mike: It’s the producers, too.
Bill: If someone gave us twenty million dollars to record, there’s some things that we’d change.
Brent: A lot of things.
Megan: You’d hire Mike Collins.
Mike: You wouldn’t have to go to work during the day.
Brent: Like The Beastie Boys. I can see they’ve got all of these ideas in their heads that they would love to flush out if they had the time to, and they do have the time to.
Megan: What do you guys do for jobs?
Bill: I manage a pizza/sports bar. I make hundreds of dollars of years. Years. Over years, I make hundreds of dollars.
Mike: I win contests.
Megan: What kind of contests?
Mike: Contests where I win things and I sell those things. Maybe you’ve heard of Thunder from Down Under. I haggle.
Brent: I sell commercial real estate.
Mike: I’m a pilot.
Brent: You’re a private investigator.
Megan: Are you a scientist?
Dave: I used to be. I studied engineering and got my MBA (Masters of Business Administration). After that, I started working for this really cool battery research company, in the marketing department, not in the engineering part of it. That ended recently. We sold our patent portfolio to Ray-o-vac and now I work for the telephone company.
Megan: Doing what?
Dave: Spreadsheet work and staff stuff. Really boring stuff.
Bill: What’s your official title?
Dave: Channel manager.
Megan: Does any of that affect your music?
Dave: I wrote a song about a lady who sits next to me at work. She’s got quotes in a couple songs.
Brent: “King of the Shitlist” is about her.
Dave: Being able to exorcise that from my brain was very satisfying for some reason. And I really want to play it for her one day. I want to write more songs about people I work with.
Brent: Work motivates me to write more punk rock and to stay young.
Mike: Tell me about your work. I know what you mean about work.
Brent: I love my job.
Mike: I thought you were talking about your coworkers.
Brent: We won’t go there. That’s why I love my job. Oh yeah, her picture is on the CD cover of the album. We’ll tell you all the secrets about Radon.
Megan: With you just mentioning staying young, in the Coffeebreath interview you guys did with Replay Dave, you brought up the 2001 T-shirt design, and you brought up Logan’s Run. I actually had a friend of a friend say something about how I was in trouble because I was going to turn thirty soon, and there’s a Logan’s Run for punk rock. Once you turn thirty, you have to voluntarily leave or they’re going to come and get you.
Dave: Be careful.
Megan: They haven’t gotten me yet. How do you feel about age playing a role, not only in music, but in the punk rock community?
Brent: When I was younger and really into punk—it kind of shaped my whole existence—I still wasn’t experienced enough in the world to know what was right and what was wrong. I sometimes straddled the fence between punk and mainstream society. As I get older, I realize more what’s right and wrong and I subscribe more to the punk ethos now more than I did twenty years ago.
Megan: One thing that’s happening in L.A. right now that’s pretty cool is that there’s a huge variety of people.
Mike: It’s like that everywhere now.
Megan: That’s awesome. With age range, too. There’s people who haven’t been going to shows in fifteen years that are coming out, but then there’s also fifteen year olds. But the interesting part is that they’re interacting. It’s amazing to see.
Mike: It’s better that there’s a thirty-five year old dude talking to a seventeen year old kid, and totally understand him, and they think about the same things.
Megan: And another thing is that a lot of people, now that they are older, are getting their shit together and doing things like starting nonprofits and starting venues.
Dave: I’m going to start an under twenty-one club. I’m sick of seeing these old fucking fogies at shows.
Megan: Dave, who’s Gretchen the realtor?
Dave: She sounds like a hardcore German type of realtor. She probably lives in a nice little house…I don’t know.
Brent: What is that?
Megan: It came up when I was doing research. It’s an artist named Dave Rohm in Atlanta, and he did this art thing.
Dave: He’s in drag?
Megan: It wasn’t a drag show, it was performance art.
Dave: He’s from Miami Beach, and I’m from Miami. They did a piece on him in the paper, and in his picture—he’s in drag—and at the bottom, “David Rohm.” In the Miami Herald!
Megan: And the picture I had was small, he was in drag, and it was taken from pretty far away.
Brent: Skeletons in the closet!
Dave: He’s got multiple personalities that he does as a performer.
Brent: Now you’re talking about yourself in the third person! That’s scary.
Megan: Did you lose your record collection in Hurricane Andrew?
Brent: I did, most of it.
Megan: What’s the one record you miss the most?
Brent: It was an EP by Bad Brains called Destroy Babylon.
Dave: You’ve whined about the Battalion Of Saints record to me, too.
Brent: Yeah, but that one’s easy to get. I can still get that one. That Bad Brains EP was really rare.
Megan: Have you gone and gotten the one that’s really easy to get?
Brent: I have the Battalion Of Saints CD now. I don’t need the LP.
Dave: That’s bullshit right there. I like the LP.
Megan: I always think that it would be something weird that I would end up missing.
Brent: I had about five hundred records until the hurricane. Then, when it was all said and done, I had forty.
Brent: Angelic Upstarts, that’s another one.
Bill: I just got back…this really doesn’t have anything to do with the question…I just got back our first test pressing.
Megan: You originally wanted to be two guitars and a drummer, right?
Brent: That was Dave’s idea.
Megan: How long did that last?
Brent: Until I said no.
Dave: He didn’t share my artistic vision and now we’re tortured by bass sounds always.
Brent: We’ve wanted to go to a four-piece for twelve years, at least. We actually played with a couple of different guys and it wasn’t until Mike Collins.
Mike: Last night.
Brent: At Fest we decided we wanted to ask Mike if he wanted to be in the band.
Mike: I didn’t know what was happening. I didn’t know if you were quitting.
Bill: That’s why I told him that he could only tell you with all three of us around. I find him like an hour later and he’s all, “So…I’m in Radon?” “Motherfuckers!”
Brent: We needed to find someone who was a good fit both musically and personality-wise.
Bill: It was instantaneous.
Brent: Since Chattanooga.
Mike: I’d better get my per diem today.
Bill: Brent was like, “What do you think about going to a four-piece?” And I was all, “Man, I’ve been thinking about this too.” “Well, what should I do?” “I think you should play guitar.”
Dave: Brent’s always played guitar on the records, every record we’ve got.
Bill: So, we’re getting a bass player. “What do you think about Mike Collins?” “Yup.” That was it.
Brent: It was pretty much unanimous. The man can rock.
Mike: You should have asked me in ’95.
Brent: You were six years-old, dude.
Bill: We’re all from Miami. We all went to the same high school.
Brent: Not Mike Collins.
Bill: He’s an honorary Miamian.
Brent: He’s a Marinoan.
Bill: It made sense.
Brent: This is going to be a great interview, Bill.
Megan: So Bill, what’s it like to be struck by lightning?
Bill: Well, it wasn’t really that big of a deal.
Megan: Were you just walking down the street?
Bill: I was walking to catch the bus to work. I missed the bus. It was a nice day out, actually. A little overcast, not too hot. It was July. It was barely sprinkling, and then I was on the ground. What’s it like? Well, the first instant…I stopped under a tree, a big tree, and thought, “Oh, you’re not supposed to do that when it’s raining.” I’d never thought that before. I walked about five more steps and here’s the answer: in my eyes, it looked like I was watching a movie that was shaking, and then there was a car coming. The next thing I knew, it felt like I was sinking into the ground, like quicksand. I was falling to my knees, but it felt like I was going straight down.
Megan: Like melting?
Bill: Next thing I know, I was down and out, but I wasn’t out for long because it was like a movie had skipped a frame. The car was here and then it was there. I didn’t know what happened. I hopped up real quick, thinking I tripped. “Oh boy, that was embarrassing.” Then I was like, “What’s that smell?” I smelled smoke, and looked right above me.
Dave: That was your pubes.
Bill: The lightning came out of my cock, struck me in the eye…. It was no big deal. I skinned my knees. I ran home, got a ride to work, and was actually early. I was going to catch the next bus, but my roommate’s like, “Man, fuck that. Call out sick. Call out struck by lightning.” No, I actually couldn’t wait to get to work and be like, “I got struck by lightning.” It’s a part of my legend.
Brent: We’re witnessing some real dumpster diving right now.
Dave: Fuck all this punk rock bullshit, “I’m dumpstering doughnuts behind the doughnut shop.” This is real.
Megan: On Metric, you have a soundbite of George Bush talking. He’s saying that he saw the plane going into the first tower before he went into the classroom. Do you know if there’s actual footage of the first plane going into the tower?
Brent: The footage was taken by a City of New York public works crew. There’s no way he could have seen it at that time. The thing about that soundbite that is even more relevant to me is that this is a President that was briefed for weeks and weeks about a pending terrorist attack using planes as a weapon, and after learning that a plane hit the WorldTradeCenter, his response was, “Wow, that’s one horrible pilot.” The guy’s lying about many, many things about that event. And to think that it was a pilot that goofed after being briefed for months about Al Queda and planes as a weapon. There’s just a lot of things that they’re not being straight with the American people about. One of the worst jokes in history, too. Unbelievably bad.
Brent: His script writer wrote that as a joke.
Megan: You talk about questioning immigration policy, phosphate mining in Florida, American foreign policy, but you also talk about the benefits of a smaller-penised lover, holding your penis at night…why do you think it’s important to have both of those parts?
Brent: Because America’s foreign policy is driven by men with small penises. It’s important to do both. It’s important to write protest music about things that move you, but it’s also important to not take yourself too seriously.
Megan: I agree.
Dave: That’s bullshit.
Megan: You’re right. I don’t agree. Fuck that!
Brent: The people who influenced us, some of them were very politically serious—Bob Dylan, Op Ivy maybe, as far as my own personal politics—some of them were just god damned hilarious—The Meatmen.
Mike: It’s pretty normal. If you’re a smart person, you’re going to laugh at the stupid shit.
Dave: And if it’s the same thing, it all starts to become one…
Mike: You start to not respect them because it’s obviously not them. You can tell with these guys when they write a song, it’s just them. They can write a song that’s serious as hell or emotional as hell or about a four-inch penis.
Dave: Spoken like a member of the Hair Beard Combo.
Megan: You also have some really lyrical lyrics. “A line goes up from your cigarette. It breaks into a panic and vanishes.” That’s pretty poetic.
Dave: I was worried that would come across as, “Wow, that’s really fucking dumb. Why are you trying to pull that kind of shit in this song?” But, I had to go with it because I liked it.
Megan: I think if you had a whole song…
Dave: Line after line like that?
Megan: It would be dripping with bullshit—when it’s pretty normal language surrounding it, but then you have that, it pops out—but it’s not.
Dave: You’ve got one sentence of Rites Of Spring, then two verses of whatever the hell it is. I really wanted to write that.
Mike: What song is that from?
Dave: “Write Back or Get Smacked.”
Megan: I just assume that lines like that come from reading, so what do you read?
Dave: What comes to mind is Jesse Michaels, and then I found out that his dad (Leonard Michaels) was a writer, and I’ve been reading his dad’s stuff. I read W.C. Handy’s autobiography, which I could go through in a second, Johnny Rotten’s autobiography, and I’m really into Pat Hughes’s blog, which we wrote a song about.
Brent: I read a lot about politics. I’m kind of obsessed with politics. Mike?
Mike: Non fiction.
Megan: About the Miami Dolphins?
Brent: Can you even name something you’re reading now?
Dave: Is it called Nonfiction?
Mike: I just read a book about manic depressive disorder.
Megan: How was that?
Mike: Pretty fucking depressing.
Megan: Ups and downs?
Mike: A bit of a roller coaster.