Last Summer I was taking a full course load to finish up

Last Summer I was taking a full course load to finish up my degree while all my friends who had graduated on time in the Spring had either moved away or moved on. While most people get depressed in the Winter, I get depressed in the Summer. I feel guilty for not having as much fun as the weather suggests I should be. This is when I started listening to the Dead Milkmen. The band makes being sad and angry very fun, fun, fun and really softened the blow of my bizzaro “Seasonal Affective Disorder.” For that, the band will always have a special place in my heart.The Dead Milkmen are a cult punk band from the 80s that never made it big–because it didn’t want to. How charming! The band enjoyed some commercial success after their single “Punk Rock Girl” entered heavy rotation on MTV in 1988. Paired with the song “Bitchin’ Camaro,” the guys were a hit with the college kiddies and gained a decent following of punk rock princesses and garage band kings. The band broke up in 1995 after signing onto the supposedly cursed Hollywood Records and failed to stretch their musicality. The snotty punks reunited in 2008 and have since put out two studio albums. I spoke to frontman Rodney Anonymous about their new album, Pretty Music for Pretty People, his creative process, and his distaste for touring. The band plays Seattle tomorrow at The Crocodile. How are you today?I’m cranky as usual. I’m at work, so I’m extra cranky. There was an interviewer who actually got me during the half hour a month or so when I’m in a good mood on Saturday. “Oh, I’m actually in a good mood!” I’m usually pretty angry, and just horrible. Well it is Monday.I’m in a bad mood all week long. If you catch me on like Sunday after—I slept for like 20 hours yesterday. I was just completely burned out, and my wife was like, “Sleep, sleep.” How are things in Seattle?Things are great in Seattle. You’re getting ready to tour, and Seattle is your second stop, right?Probably, yeah. I’m looking forward this time because I’ve never got to meet Tom Shear from Assemblage 23. We keep missing each other, and so I’m gonna get to see him. That’s gonna be fun because I have a whole bunch of discs for him. Ancient computer discs.

When was the last time you guys played Seattle?I’m not quite sure. I’m thinking like two years ago. Maybe a little bit more. I’m so vague on it. Like anybody else would know. Because anybody else would be really into touring and playing live, but I’m not. But have you ever been to a bar called–oh, it begins with a V…Vito’s! No, I haven’t!It has the Cougar Room? Well, we found out that apparently there were all these great after-hours clubs in Seattle. But we wound up going to Vito’s, home of the Cougar Room. And we thought the Cougar Room would be full of like women in their 40s and 50s hitting on young men. There’s just this giant stuffed cougar in there. Awesome!It was wonderfully depressing. It was like the most entertaining and depressing. So I found out that there are all these great clubs that we could have gone to afterwards, but instead we went to Vito’s and we didn’t actually get to drink in the Cougar Room, we were just made aware that the Cougar Room existed later on. I read that you’re vegetarian. Have you found any good vegetarian places you like in Seattle?No, it’s weird because the last time we were there we were trusting some of Joe’s friends to take us to a restaurant even though they were from Seattle, they seemed to be lost in their own city. So I just got angry and ate at some coffee place. The thing vegetarian-wise, I’ve been consuming a lot of kale lately. Like kale chips. I have to have it in everything. Kale drinks and all that. People keep telling me, “Oh, you gotta eat here, you’ve gotta eat there.” And often times it’s usually so far away from the club or from the hotel that I never get to eat here or there. So yeah, if people can recommend vegetarian places to eat, that would be fantastic. They have to have a lot of kale though. The kale is keeping me going. I’m vegan, and there’s a pizza place here called Pizza Pi and they have a Mac ‘n’ Yease pizza where they put mac and cheese on top of the pizza, and it’s really awesome.Oh wow. Ryan’s a raw food vegan and he was giving me all these tips on getting healthy. We were in Manhattan, I was doing some stuff up there with Zach—it was like scoring drugs, we were trying to score kale. Running around, trying to get something healthy, and we found this Whole Foods in the middle of Manhattan, and maybe because it was really cold out, it was like in January, it was empty. It was like the only empty Whole Foods I had ever been in. There was a guy there who was making power shakes, and he was making these kale power shakes and we were all excited because A) he had kale, but also because B) nobody apparently has ever gone in and asked for one of these. He’d been there for about five years and hadn’t had to do anything, and he was really happy to talk to people about it. I don’t drink or anything on tour. Seattle’s the last place I bent my rule. I had like half a beer in Vito’s. But when I’m on tour I don’t drink for 24 hours before or after a show, so I usually wind up at the very last show going like, “what’s the seediest most dangerous goth/industrial club you have in town?” And I’ll go there. But generally I do my thing on stage and then go back and go to sleep. So you said you don’t like touring. I read an interview from a few years ago that it was hard for you to get time off from work to tour. Do you guys still all have day jobs? Yeah, it’s nearly impossible. We all have day jobs. I’m at my day job right now. I actually work through lunch and just set myself up an hour sort of fake meeting to do this. We all have jobs. It’s really difficult to get time off from it. And I don’t like to take time off from it–you know, I like the idea of doing little weekend things, but if I use a whole bunch of time off, then what happens is I can’t take time off–I like to take time off on Halloween and spend it with my wife, so I don’t get that much time off later on. America’s predicated on the idea that people who use all their time off tend to not really get raises or promoted, and so I never use all my time off. What does your boss think of the Dead Milkmen? Or does he know?I think he’s vaguely aware that I go on tour. [laughs] I think it’s just like an embarrassment factor, like it’ll embarrass me if he talks about it. He’s aware of how weird my life is because anybody that comes into my immediate circle for some reason starts to get really weird. So I think when his life started getting weird, you know, he began to accept that–I mean, he’s seen pictures of me out there with these fairly large crowds and stuff like that. He’s really kinda weirded out by that. My previous boss that I had here, or two bosses back, he said that I was the least rock ‘n’ roll person that he knew. Cause I’m like really buttondown, so he thought that was kind of odd. Especially when people show him this stuff, he’s like, “That’s really weird. That doesn’t make any sense.” I never watched it, but he was into the show True Blood, and we played in Long Beach at this club where they filmed stuff for True Blood. And I had never seen the show, so I thought it was like this awesome Mexican biker bar. So I came back and I show my boss, like, “Look at this awesome Mexican biker bar!” He’s like, “You know that’s a set from a TV show, right?” I was like, “Well, that would explain the lighting rig, it was huge!”

You’ve also said that after Hollywood Records you couldn’t support yourself financially just doing the Dead Milkmen stuff anymore and had to get day jobs. Yep. Do you think that it would be possible to support yourselves now with music? Or is that something you’re even interested in?I hope not. Because when you’re doing it all the time–I have friends that are full-time musicians, and they do a great job. I have friends who combine being artists and musicians and so so, and it gives them time to do this stuff. For me, I don’t want this to become my job ever again. When it becomes your job, you have to put an album out every now and then. You have to visit the same cities four times a year. I’d actually be much happier scaling back because I’d like to take three or four years off. [laughs] For me at least, and I’m sure the other guys probably feel differently, but for me, I really couldn’t do this again for a living because it really starts to hurt your output. Right now I write songs for the joy of writing songs because I lost that. I wasn’t able really to do that for years. And now I do it and I’m like, “Yay, I’m writing a song! Hooray! I’m so happy!” And I’d hate to have to write a song because you have to put out an album every year, or two years. People should just learn to knock it off. Knock it off and go get a job, you know? Springsteen would have been a lot better. Springsteen would probably still be good if he just went to work somewhere, you know? If Springsteen was making my kale drinks at Whole Foods, he’d probably be writing some interesting songs. Yeah! Speaking of albums, I love the energy on the new album. Did you guys know ahead of time that you wanted to tour this album, and did that affect the creative process? I never want to tour any album. Like, broadcast them live over the web, I’d be okay. I think the rest of the guys really wanted to tour, “Let’s take it out and tour!” But as for me, I just wanted to write something good, just really intent on that. Every lyric I wrote I scrubbed and went over like three or four times. Anything I contributed musically, I was just being really fanatical and very picky about. You know, sometimes maybe overthinking stuff, but I really just wanted to make something good because you never know when you’re going to make your last record. And I just really thought, “Just go out and make something really angry for people who don’t really get angry music anymore.” There’s no angry music that’s really put out there in sort of the mainstream anymore. Nobody’s gonna go kick in something because they got all hyped up at an Imagine Dragons concert. [laughs] Nothing against Imagine Dragons, but you know. I keep asking people when I’m interviewing with them if they get a chance to review the new iVardensphere record, which I think is complete genius. And I think that because of the way things are structured now, I don’t think complete genius gets much of a fair shake. But the new iVardensphere record is absolutely brilliant. So that keeps me going. And every now and then someone will put out something that’s absolutely brilliant and “Ooh, I think I’ll stay a musician for a while!” You’re always really gracious with plugging bands that you like. What artists or albums were on your mind while writing this new album?For this new record, well, this started years ago, iVardensphere put out a record called APOK [I went out to see them] and I thought this show should have been—it was really crowded, but I thought it should have been like ten times more people. And I was complaining to a friend about it. My friend was talking about how the game is kind of rigged in favor of quirky Brooklyn bands. And he says, “I call that pretty music for pretty people.” I have a real hatred for, and again, not for the people that make it, but for the genre of alt-rock and indie music because of the way it’s kind of pushed out. And Philadelphia now has a completely hipster-based economy. And sooner or later it’s gotta collapse and it’s gonna take a lot of stuff with it. So pretty music for pretty people, it sort of implanted itself in my head and sort of became like a theme.But music-wise, I was just thinking of all the bands that I like that should have been bigger than The Beatles. Like in my mind Normal should have been bigger. So there’s some songs in there that reference the Normal. Really great politically angry band, AMBASSODOR21 who I actually gave a mention in one song. Anybody who has a record called Drunken, Crazy, With A Gun should be loved by everybody. But to me, AMBASSODOR21 should be like this huge big band and everyone else should be smaller than them. It shouldn’t be Mumford and Sons, it should be AMBASSODOR21. And again, nothing against Mumford and Sons. I’m sure they’re nice people, but I’d really like to see the music I like get a fair shake. So I was listening to a bunch of witch house. I love witch house. All my friends all make music, so I’m a big fan of Ego Likeness who I got to hear a sneak preview of their record that’ll be out in the summer, and it’s genius. It’s absolutely brilliant, probably the best thing they’ve ever done. I’m a big fan of Caustic who does very aggressive, funny music. Big fan of Angelspit. Zoog from Angelspit is one of the greatest songwriters we have running around right now. And also, he’s got his act together, which is rare for a musician. He gets up early in the morning, does his thing, and he works on his music all day long. How has your creative process changed between Big Lizard and Pretty Music?Oh, I actually have a creative process now. Back then I didn’t. [laughs] Stuff would just pop in—I probably lost more songs. Now I have Sunday–again, I’m gonna talk about Angelspit and Zoog—he has this thing called Church, where on Sunday you sit down and you pick a time—and I would have done this yesterday if I hadn’t slept for 20 hours. But you pick a time and you tell everybody, “Look, don’t bother me, I’m in Church.” What really has changed a lot is the fact that we have DAWS, Digital Audio Workstations. And we can write songs and put in lots of parts by ourselves and shoot them out to the rest of the band and say, “What do you think of this?” And we can chop them up and say, “Okay, this is what it would sound like if we doubled the chorus,” or “I love that part of it.” We just shoot it around so when we get to the rehearsal space, everybody’s been through it, hopefully, a couple times and has thoughts about it. And it’s a lot easier for me. A lot of the lyric writing falls mostly to me, so it’s a lot easier for me to capture ideas now. If I’m walking around and I have a thought I can just enter it into my notepad thing on my phone. Or, I have a small studio on my phone, a studio app, and I use that to record music I’ve heard. I’ve heard a lot of songs in the back of cabs going back from clubs, I’ve noticed. So I do that. And like I show Joe, like, “Look, Joe! I wrote this in the back of a cab!” Or I’ll go see my friend Rob, he’s in a band called Live Not On Evil. I’ll go hang out and talk to him, and usually on the way back from talking to him, he’ll tell me something that sticks in my head and I’ll sort of turn it into a song.That’s great. So, even though King in Yellow was the band’s first studio album in 16 years, I’ve been reading online, and a lot of fans and critics are calling Pretty Music the Dead Milkmen’s comeback because of the return to your classic sound. Does it feel like a comeback to you?A comeback means that I screwed up on everything that came after Big Lizard. [laughs] I think it’s the best thing we’ve ever done. You know, everybody says that about their new record, but if it wasn’t, I would tell you. I think it’s probably the best thing we ever did. But I couldn’t say it’s a comeback, because it’s a fresh new area that we’re doing there. But if it makes people better to call it a comeback, there’s a lot worse things that you can call it. [laughs] You know, I can think of– “This is a total crap record.”You guys are obviously a lot older now that when Big Lizard came out, do you think there’s a way to age with dignity in punk? Or do you think there’s a sort of agelessness to it?I hope not. Rock ‘n’ Roll should be lacking in dignity. You know? I hate that. I hate when someone ages with dignity because then you end up on NPR or Austin City Limits, and I hate those freaking things. You know, it used to be that those places that wouldn’t let me in, bars that would not let me in because I was just a complete troublemaker, and now it’s like, “Come on in, sit down, because you’re old and you’re horrible.” [laughs] “He’s calling for the overthrow of capitalism, isn’t that cute?” God, I want to age with, like, anti-dignity. Just become angrier and angrier the older I get. I hate when all the anger and dangerousness is sucked out of something because the band’s gotten older. I’m trying to think if anybody–I think David Bowie is still kind of dangerous. I like David Bowie a lot. He’s an example of how to get old. First of all, he hasn’t actually aged, which is kind of creepy. I have a feeling that if you were out on the town with David Bowie, he would raise some hell. And the last David Bowie album was really good. Gary Numan is an example of somebody who gets older, doesn’t look older, but his songwriting now is much more interesting. He’s never made a bad record, but his songwriting is very interesting. I’m much more fascinated in remaining angrier, getting angrier versus–There’s still some TV shows I’d like to get invited on so I could get kicked off of. What TV show would you most like to get kicked off of?Well, I don’t actually watch a lot of them, but the late night TV shows. Like when you’re channel surfing late at night, or you wake up late at night and accidently hit the wrong one, like you’re watching mainstream late night talk shows. And those have these bands on that are kind of innocuous, you know? Like, “Now here’s the Happy Clappers!” And they come up, “Oh, is everyone having a good time?” Those shows would be so much fun to get kicked off of. I’m just gonna say I’d like to get kicked off of, I don’t know, like the Jimmy Fallon show. That’d be an awesome one to get kicked off of. We haven’t been kicked off of a TV show in a long time, and I kind of miss that. I miss getting escorted from the building by security. [laughs] I miss these things. Now, “Oh look at him, he’s old and bald, he’s not gonna do anything.” “Oh, be careful, you’ll break his bones. His brittle bones.” So yeah, I want more industry doors slammed in our faces. [laughs] We’re not doing our jobs, I think. I’m failing miserably if I’m not getting people to be angry and upset at me. Right. And that’s one of the things I’m most looking forward to. I want to be that old grumpy grandma. Because I feel like when you get older, it’s more expected and forgiven for you to be angry. Like, “Oh, it’s okay, she’s just old.” Yeah, they have these cool like anti-war grandmas that show up in Philly now and then. And it’s great because if you went out there as a young person with a sort of big anti-war sign, some member of some patriot movement would come up and start yelling at you and give you a hard time, but because it’s grandmas, they can’t do anything to them. We should mobilize that force. Like the people protecting abortion clinics should be grandmas. ‘Cause who’s gonna yell at them? Who’s gonna spit on them? That would be awesome. I guess as our demographic gets older, I should really speak to them about this. “Some of us are old and grey, so we’re not seen as a threat. This is a good thing. Let’s go out and protest.” And plus you can get into things and ask people questions. I saw an older gentlemen, he must have been in his 80s, totally kneecap Rick Santorum one time. This was when Rick Santorum was going around making the plea for—when the economy looked like it was going to do really well, getting rid of social security and allowing people to invest it in the market. And this guy basically got up and hit Rick Santorum with all these facts and everything. First of all, the guy’s an older gentleman so Rick Santorum couldn’t just say, “Shut up and sit down!” which is what he would’ve said to a young person. He had to stand there and take it. And it was beautiful. [laughs] This old guy had him on the ropes and was pummelling him. And I was like, “That is so awesome!” If I’d known it’d work like that, I would have lost my hair like 30 years ago.

I have one last question. The Dead Milkmen started as a fictitious band. What is your favorite fictitious band?

Ooh! You know, it’s funny that you mention that because I was just thinking about doing an entire—trying to come up with songs for bands that didn’t exist. Heaven 17 did this where in Clockwork Orange they say you know, “What band do you like?” I think they say Johnny Shivago or the Heaven 17. And that’s what they took their name from. At one point I wanted to make an entire album of bands that had only existed in movies. But if I had to pick a band that was kind of a fake band, the Banana Splits. What are they from?They had their own like Saturday morning cartoon show. They weren’t a cartoon, they were people dressed up in horrible costumes. I always wanted to pretend that we brought in Snork, the keyboard player who was an elephant, to play. I always wanted to pretend we brought him in like to produce the record and get his nose big lines of cocaine and stuff. [laughs] I always wanted to do a fake Behind the Music about how they got together. I wanted to make a video, but I think the other guys in the band found this too depressing, but I keep bringing up the fact that I’m depressed all the time. But the idea for the music video, it was going to be like the Banana Splits. A band in these animal costumes and they would play, you know, and everyone would be happy. And they would treat them the way they treat animals, so they’d put them in these small cages and ship them from show to show. And they’d be really depressed and bummed all the time. So I thought that would’ve made a great video. But again, horribly depressing.