It's ten years on and Dirty Rotten Imbeciles are still thrashing ahead. Formed in Texas (now based in San Francisco), in '82, D.R.I. are largely responsible for the "crossover" scene that they helped develop throughout the 80's; hence their third album title: "Crossover."
Even though D.R.I. started out as more of a punk-hardcore band on their first 7" EP (Dirty Rotten EP) over the course of their next releases ("Dealing With It," "Crossover") they fused elements of punk, hardcore, metal and thrash to create their own unique sound. The next releases, "Four Of A Kind" and "Thrash Zone" soon followed and actually helped pave the way for other bands successes and broke down the walls between punk and metal and helped to bring a unification between the two genres. After three years in the making, D.R.I. are back with their new L.P. "Definition," released on their new label Rotten Records. Founding members, Spike Cassidy (guitar) and Kurt Brecht (vocals) are joined by two new members, John Menor (bass) and Rob Rempy (drums). You can expect to see a new video for the song "Acid Rain" off the new album. Quotes Brecht: "Acid Rain is all about what we are leaving on Earth for our children. What will they think of the world and its pollution, radiation, acid rain and what we've left for them?
I recently spoke with Spike and Kurt by phone and then went to see their show at Flash's in Cleveland with Testament and Pro-Pain. Spike and Kurt were kind enough to let R.O.C. set up one of its information booths at the show. The following interview brings out some of their concerns with censorship and life in general.
ROC: What's your first thought when you hear the word censorship?
Kurt: Nazi Germany, bookburnings, extremes.
ROC: How do you feel about the PMRC and the possibility of Tipper Gore becoming the 2nd lady?
K: It makes you wonder if you even want to vote at all, for the lesser of two evils.
S: Yeah, what basically cancelled out Clinton for me is when he took Gore as his running mate. I wasn't very happy with what Bush did, but with Clinton taking on Gore and what not, I just said forget it. I don't even want to vote and if I had to I'd probably vote for Bush; because at least he's not as into the censorship thing, which I think may get way out of hand if Clinton and Gore get in there.
K: Even though Clinton is a musician.
S: Ya know, he could care less about censorship because he's not gonna get censored.
ROC: Yeah, I saw Clinton's big saxophone debut on the Arsenio Hall show.
K & S: (laughs) ...yeah, we saw that too.
ROC: Yeah, but he didn't play a D.R.I. song, what happened?
K: (laughs) He did but they censored it.
ROC: How do you feel about Mr. Bush's slant toward the so-called New World Order?
S: Hummmm. Well I don't like that much either, I mean I guess it's got some good points and what not. I think there should be some sort of world unity, but I don't know if we should let Bush be in charge of it.
K: As long as it's not a militaristic forced world unity.
ROC: Bush had more of a Nazi plan in mind.
K: Hitler wanted world unity too you know, like I said, it's like a lesser of two evils. I've never met a candidate that I was totally gung-ho about, and I've never seen a president that I was totally gung-ho about.
ROC: It's obvious that Bush has panicked throughout the election.
K: Yeah, he won't even do a debate, that's pretty weird, huh? He doesn't have too many fans out there.
ROC: If you had the opportunity to say anything you wanted to Tipper Gore, what would it be?
S: Stop trying to erase history and our future!
K: And read the...
S: ...Bill of Rights? (laughs)
K: (laughs) ...and leave us alone, leave us the fuck alone!
S: Yeah, read the Constitution, read the Bill of Rights, read it all over again.
ROC: Didn't D.R.I. have censorship problems in the past?
K: Uh...the typical ones, like you can't have curse words on MTV, that sort of thing. Our old label, Metal Blade, never really tried to censor our lyrics or anything like that. I guess we weren't popular enough for them (the PMRC) to really bother with.
S: Yeah really, I wouldn't say we've been hit by the censorship thing hard at all, but we've kind of anticipated it and we knew that we were writing or had curse words in our lyrics and kinda figured if anything it would help sell the record, putting the sticker on it, so we wouldn't bother trying to change anything. Just keep doing what we were doing.
K: It (warning labels) never kept us from saying "Kill the President" or anything like that, I mean that's just not something we wanted to say, so we're not about to say it just to get publicity.
ROC: Have your shows ever been picketed by any particular group or organization to the point where you couldn't play?
K: Well, we've been picketed by Christians, but not to the point where we couldn't play a show. In fact, the cops drove them off.
S: Yeah, they were there passing out little flyers saying we were Satanists.
K: Or that rock & roll is leading 'them' to hell.
S: And that we had anti-Christ lyrics because we said 'God Is Broke' in one of our songs.
ROC: Have you had any problems with the cops while on the road?
K: Usually they're not bothering us, its more like if the show or fans get out of hand or like if the fans are throwing bottles around the street.
S: Or noise ordinances where we're too loud or something. We get complaints. The cops will come and shut it down, but usually it doesn't have anything much to do with the band, it's mostly just the whole show itself. The cops have come up to us and tried to get us to "shut down" because until the band stops playing, it's gonna be hard for them to shut down a show. That's always fun because we never usually abide by them, we just kinda ignore them until they unplug us themselves or whatever.
K: Yeah, we just keep playing. Just how we look we get hassled and searched a lot when crossing borders, and like in the deep South, 'redneck states' and cities. We come driving through in our van and stop somewhere like a gas station, and the cops will come and circle around and hassle us or tell us to get out of town or keep moving.
S: (in a 'neck' tone) We don't want your kind here. (laughs)
ROC: Why did D.R.I. change record labels? What happened with Metal Blade?
K: Metal Blade traded us to Enigma and they went out of business, they were having financial difficulties. We were able to get out of our contract with them through a loophole. We were free agents and Rotten Records decided that they would put our stuff out rather than us immediately sign back with Metal Blade or on another label for like another six album contract or something.
ROC: Even though Rotten Records is a small independent, would you have the same distribution. Do you see this as a better move for D.R.I.?
S: Yeah, I think it'll be a step up to tell you the truth.
K: It's total attention. There is not like a bunch of other bands on the label that are more popular than us, that they would figure deserves more attention. We're getting a complete push, with nothing else in the way. Relativity Records said their gonna give it (the new LP) a really good push and distribution, so we'll see.
ROC: On the warning labels again, as musicians how do you feel about them? Does it bother you in any way?
K: It doesn't bother me.
S: That's like I was saying before, in fact it probably helps sell the record if anything, because once the kids see it they know, 'Ah I'll probably like this.' (laughs)
K: Yeah, everybody wants what they can't have.
S: It might keep it from getting into a select few stores across the country, but if the stores say 'oh it's got a label, we won't sell it,' then they weren't selling it to begin with.
K: Our fans probably wouldn't be going to that store anyway.
ROC: ROC fights for the removal of warning labels and boycotting the record chains that will not stock or sell albums with the label on them.
K: That's good, great!
S: I think if they keep it up, so many records are going to have the warning labels that all the stores are going to have to start carrying them again.
ROC: When chains in some states refuse to stock labeled albums, don't that make it harder for bands like yourselves to be distributed?
S: Well...with us, it's going to be hard to tell, especially since we haven't had an album out for as long as its been, but we don't anticipate any big problems.
K: Yeah, and you'll be able to get the record through our mail order (Rotten Records), and also possibly at our shows, so one way or another you're going to be able to get a D.R.I. record, even if it's not at your corner store.
ROC: Well, I guess that's one way to fight it. How do you feel about kids not being able to buy certain albums just because of their age?
K: I think they'll get it one way or another. They'll have their big brother or big sister or somebody just walking into the store. You know, the same way I'd get cigarettes or beer when I was a kid. You just wait there and say, 'pssst, hey buddy will you buy this record for me.' and they'll do it ya know, because nobody is into the censorship thing.
S: If they really want it, they'll be able to get it.
ROC: How about certain record stores being hassled by the cops and "citizens groups" just because they stock or display certain albums?
S: Well that seems to be in little 'redneck' towns and places like that.
K: The same places where they would hassle you for having long hair or anything else that's out of the ordinary for that city. We don't have that problem, I don't think like in San Francisco or L.A. It's pretty laid back and everything's almost acceptable.
S: I mean, we feel sorry for 'em and all that, but there's not much we can do. The kids have got to talk their parents into not voting for the morons that run the place.
ROC: Any thoughts about the Ice-T/Body Count "Cop Killer" incident?
S: Ah...I have to take sides with Ice-T. I don't think he should've had any problems about what we was saying, I don't think he was really....
K: ...I'm sure he knew he was going to have a problem and that's why he did it because he's a smart businessman. It's helped him out alot, and he can still do it live, and he could have left it on the record. The label wouldn't have put it out or whatever, he could have still put it out some other way, but he knew he'd still be able to play it live and it would make a lot of controversy, and he'd get a lot of press out of it and stuff like that.
ROC: Why do you think certain segments of society are so afraid of certain types of music and try to repress it?
K: I think they're afraid for their children. That their kids will grow up the 'wrong' way or whatever. Since I don't have any kids I don't really know how that would affect my thoughts, but my parents never really tried to censor anything that I read or that I listened to; I think they were smart enough to know that it wasn't gonna make me wanna go out and kill somebody or kill myself no matter what I listened to. As long as you're smart enough and you're not mentally disturbed. Anybody that would go and kill themself because they think that Ozzy or (laughs) anybody else is telling them to do it, on a record, is probably going to kill themself for some other reason anyway.
S: ...and just looking for a reason.
K: Yeah, or their parents just thought that was the reason because that just happened to be the record on their turntable at the time of the suicide, or something. I think it's pretty ridiculous! I don't think any band can 'control' their audience or that they would want to. You know, control their audience into killing themselves or anything like that, or changing the personality of their fans. Most bands I've met just want to play, go on tour, put out records, they're not into mind control or trying to get anyone to commit suicide.