Proud to present the very first interview on Apathy and Exhaustion, which is with one of my favourite punk rock song writers of all time, Mark Lind. Strap in folks. It’s an epic. And this is just part 1…
So, Mark, you’ve been doing stuff in the broader punk scene for a good long time now, be it bands or record labels etc. This has included The Ducky Boys, Dirty Water, Sinners & Saints, The Unloved, Far From Finished, your solo work, and most recently, the Warning Shots. To summarise, you’ve been pretty damn prolific, and you’ve written a hell of a lot of songs, even if we only consider the stuff you’ve actually released. In fact, this year is going to be (I believe) the 21st birthday of The Ducky Boys. So that’s quite a long time. I’ve broken this down into rough sections to make this a bit easier.
1. What was your first exposure to punk rock, and how did you get into it?
My brother Rob (White Trash Rob) is two years older than me, and he went to Boston Latin High school, which meant he left the insulated area of Charlestown, where we grew up. Basically, if you’ve seen that movie, The Town with Ben Affleck, that’s about Charlestown. His family is actually based on some old friends of ours. As I was saying, Charlestown was very insulated, and everyone in Charlestown basically like the Rolling Stones, U2, Guns n’ Roses, and maybe the Pogues or something like that. The Clash was kind of popular with them, but when I was young I always remembered them as the band that did Rock the Casbah, because that was a music video that came out when I was 5 or 6 years old. But, anyway, my first exposure to punk rock was when Rob left to go to this other school. He met a lot of people there, like his wife, Deidra, he met her there, our friend Josh Weinstein, it’s where he met Buddha (Blood for Blood), and basically he got exposure to the world outside of Charlestown. Some of the bands that he got into, basically he got into Metallica and Slayer – stuff like that, and even Guns n’ Roses, and that’s when he started playing guitar. But then he very quickly found punk rock and I know the bands he was into were The Misfits (although there was very little available by them at the time, commercially at least), Dead Kennedys, Slapshot, The Anti-Heroes, and I’ll say The Bruisers, but they were kind of the next segment, so those were the bands that he was into, and I only heard them from his room. And, some of them I really liked – obviously, what 12 year old is not intrigued by Where Eagles Dare by The Misfits? But, um, they were things that he was into, not really what I was into.
Later on, Buddha made a tape for me that had The Anti-Heroes, The Bruisers, Slapshot, The Wretched Ones (I think), and that cassette became the catalyst for me getting into punk rock. It was that, and then in 1992, Mike Mosden and I started a Misfits tribute band (laughs), our guitar teacher was the drummer. We just played the shit that was on Collection 1, cuz you could only get that, and maybe Walk Among Us and Legacy of Brutality back then (you couldn’t get Collection 2 or Static Age or stuff like that). So we just played stuff like Bullet, Horror Business, Where Eagles Dare, and Skulls and stuff like that, so yeah 1992. Then I started going to see the Bruisers with Rob and Buddha. They were unbelievable, I mean, I can’t really put it in words. I assume it’s like what most people in the 70s felt when they went to see the Sex Pistols or the Clash or the Ramones – they probably looked at those bands as superstars, and then immediately went and started their own bands. That’s kind of what the Bruisers were like for me. The fact that they were just normal guys that lived locally didn’t even register. They had 7ins out, they had a cassette out and then they put out Crusin’ for a Brusin’ on cassette and CD. As far as I was concerned, they were the most famous band in the world – they were like Guns n’ Roses to me. They all wore these jackets with ‘The Bruisers’ on the back, and sometimes they’d show up, like I went to see a Madball show when I was like 16, and some of The Bruisers rolled in, and I saw the jackets and I was starting to freak out. Rob and Buddha were like “Relax! They’re just people”, and I’m going “Nnnnnnh! It’s the fuckin’ Bruisers! I wanna talk to ‘em!”, but I was terrified. Which is funny, because now I know all those guys and, you know what? In a lot of ways, they still are that band to me, and always will be, because, I can be friends with Jeff, Al, Richy and Dan, but when it comes down to it, they were the band for me, in that they made me realise that I could start my own band.
And, so that then led into the whole punk rock revival thing that happened in the 90s, and obviously Rancid, even Green Day… and yes, even the Offspring… and NOFX and all those bands did play a role. Anybody that’s my age, and had a punk band in the late 90s and says that they didn’t (play a role) are fuckin’ lyin’!
When we started the band, we didn’t know any other punk bands in Boston apart from The Brusiers, until that Runt of the Litter compilation CD came out. It had like the Unseen, The Freaks and Showcase Showdown on it, and so I started to go and see those bands, and realised that there were other punk bands in town. There was a very, very small audience though. There was maybe 75 people at a show? Then I went to see Showcase Showdown open for Rancid, and there was 500 people there, and that was around the point at which Boston punk really started to take off. Um, I’m goin’ off course here…
2.The Boston music scene has something of a rep for producing a lot of heavy hitting bands (e.g. Dropkick Murphys, Converge, American Nightmare, Blood for Blood, The Brusiers, The Bosstones to name but a few). What was it like to have access to such an enriching / engaging punk scene as a youngster?
Well, there was no scene as such. As a kid, the bands in town that played and were popular were Sam Black Church, Tree, Only Living Witness – they were more like metal bands. There were no punk bands. The Bruisers existed as a punk band, but with all due respect to them, and the impact they’ve had on the scene, but they were just a little too early. I mean, I saw those guys play to like 20 or 30 people most of the time, and they’ll tell ya that those shows sucked, but what they didn’t realise at the time was that they were inspiring these young bands to start, and things would come full circle for them – they’d go on to gain quite a bit of popularity. Not only because Al eventually joined Dropkick Murphys, but because all these bands that started around 1996 all worshipped the Bruisers.
So to be honest with you, there weren’t a lot of shows. The Bosstones were already too big – I’m sure they played around, but they were already on the radio by the time I was 16, so there was no chance of seeing them at a local club. Blood For Blood were isolated to the ‘tough guy’ hardcore crowd. The thing is, in the late 90s in Boston, there were a lot of popular bands, but there were also a lot of isolated scenes, which didn’t really cross over. The first band that crossed some of these boundaries was Blood For Blood. There was the punk scene, which included bands like The Showcase Showdown, Dropkick Murphys, The Trouble, The Ducky Boys, Pinkerton Thugs, The Unseen and bands like that. Those were the ones that were drawing a crowd. Later we had Darkbuster, The Explosion, and The Kings of Nuthin’. There was no crossover between us (the punk scene) and the ska scene, which at the time had Big D & The Kids Table (who were probably the flagship band). Ska was huge because of the Bosstones, but we just didn’t crossover. The bands didn’t play together.
It was the same with the hardcore scene. The ‘tough guy’ scene, which is where Blood For Blood was, and the straight edge hardcore scene. The two just did not mix. Everything was very isolated. If you think about, things were very successful back then. There were probably a couple of thousand people following each type of band. It was a massive music scene. There must’ve been 10 – 15,000 people that were interested in local music back then, but very few of them were interested in different styles. There were some exceptions, it wasn’t unheard of. For example most people didn’t even know Rob and I were related until we formed Sinners & Saints. The Ducky Boys existed in its own category, it’s own scene. We got really popular in that scene. Blood For Blood existed in their scene and got very popular in that scene, but they didn’t cross over with us. Obviously, eventually Dropkick Murphys got everybody, but The Trouble started to crossover right before they broke up, and hardcore kids were starting to come and see them. But, Blood For Blood, in my opinion, were the ones that finally broke things open because they had been considered to be a stupid ‘tough guy’ band (obviously I knew they were more than that), but when they put out Revenge on Society, all the straight edge hardcore bands and pretty much anybody that played heavy music wanted to play with Blood For Blood. I mean that album took off. It sold like 30,000 copies in a very short period of time, which was huge for little bands like that – nobody gave any coverage to Blood For Blood: no local magazines, no local newspapers, nothing. Everything for them was word of mouth. Dropkick Murphys did eventually get the coverage, but that was because they could not be ignored anymore; they were just huge. But it was really Blood For Blood that really broke things open, and they crossed over into the punk scene, by touring with Dropkick Murphys, and then putting out Livin’ in Exile. So Boston has always had really cool music, but it wasn’t as if it was all cross-pollinated and everybody was hanging out and stuff like that. It was very much isolated to the scenes that it came from.
3. Mental health is a bit of an important issue to me, and I feel strongly that it needs to be talked about more. I used to hide my own depression and anxiety from people, and feel the need to apologise for it. These days, I’m more of the opinion that I’m not going to be ashamed anymore. Society is after all, at least partially responsible for my condition. It’s certainly to blame for the stigma attached to these kind of conditions. Any thoughts on why so many working class young people (particularly young men) drawn to the punk scene have these issues? Why do you think it’s important to discuss mental health issues – I get the impression from your lyrics (and no offense if I’m wrong) that you’ve had some issues of this kind yourself.
Well, you are definitely not wrong about that. I have had mental health issues, but I don’t know to what extent. I’ve never been diagnosed with anything other than extreme anxiety, and I am on medication for that. The thing is that I think there is nothing worse for people than the medication that they put us on for these sorts of problems, like anxiety and depression. It’s funny, because NOFX just released a song talking about how doctors are the new drug pushers, and although they are being funny with what they are saying, they agree 100% with what they are saying. I myself am prescribed Zoloft, which I take every day, and Xanax 3 times a day (1mg or whatever per dose). That shit is terrible for you. It makes you an addict. You can die from trying to wean off of Benzoes, so I don’t really know if it’s a good thing or a bad thing. I’m better for it, and definitely easier to deal with Jay (from The Ducky Boys) is really the guy to talk to about this, but I was unbearable when we were younger, I mean, I got shit done, but I was a fucking bastard. I drove those guys like a slave driver. I was a fucking asshole. That was a manifestation of the anxiety, and I would lash out in all sorts of ways. Those people that dealt with me back then probably thought I was fucking nuts, but I wasn’t, I was just anxious.
I think in a lot of ways, it’s down to society. We (humans) have advanced so much in the last 100 years, but our brains haven’t – evolution doesn’t move that quickly. So we can’t cope with the amount of things that are going on around us. We’re just constantly getting hit with so much information. In my opinion, there is some level of intelligence required to be anxious too, y’know, because ignorance is bliss, and if you have any level of intelligence and you are trying to deal with all this shit coming at you on a day to day basis, you are gonna end up as anxious as hell.
I guess I’ve been depressed, but I’m not on the medication for depression, I’m on them for anxiety. I’ve never had times when I couldn’t get out of bed and go to work and stuff like that. I’ve always just soldiered through it, but that’s part of my father’s genetics. My brother Rob is more like my mother. He’s in some ways crippled by his mental issues, but I’d let him speak for himself on that. I sometimes wonder if I didn’t have such a high level of my father’s genetics if I would be in the same boat, but my father has always been the type of guy that would get up, go to work, get up, go to work, and I do to, and it doesn’t affect me like that. Sometimes though, I’m a total basket case at work – I can’t take any more and I have to pop the Xanax and shit like that, but it’s never interfered with my life to that degree.
Songs are an exaggeration. They always are, just by nature. That’s a quote I’m going to attribute to Bono, as he claims to use music to exaggerate his pain. So yeah, songs are always an exaggeration. People kept coming up to me after the Chasing The Ghost record and asking me if I was OK. Now, I’d broken up with the last girlfriend I’d had – I’ve now been single for 5 years, which is fucking awesome – I broke up with her in April, and Chasing The Ghost was written in April and May, and recorded in June. But it didn’t come out until the next year… So people kept coming up to me all like “Are you alright? Are you OK?”, but I’d really just captured the vibe of what had been going on with me at that time, and what people feel when they are in that situation and they are unhappy about it. That doesn’t necessarily mean I was unable to function or anything like that. Sometimes you exaggerate so that people can understand it, and that has definitely taken place. I don’t want anybody to feel that I’ve exaggerated anything in order to deceive them – that’s never the case. Anything on any of my records is me. Sometimes it’s an enhancement or overblown version of myself or what I’m thinking. (As a song writer) you do that deliberately, because you want to listeners to be able to relate in their own way too. A lot of times, people will relate to a song writer because the song writer says what they either can’t say or are afraid to say. So, my philosophy is just go for it, let it bleed. On the song, My Epitaph, I say “It doesn’t pay to bleed” because I do bleed on those records and I do let it all out… and I’m not making money off of music. Comparing myself to bands that I know for a fact are full of shit… they are making a fortune. But to me, it’s more valuable to be yourself, even if it’s an exaggerated version of yourself, and hit people where they feel it and where it matters to them, and I do bring these things into the songs. Mostly anti-suicide songs, because one of the very rare side effects of some of the medicine that they put you on is that you can have suicidal thoughts. In the US, they have commercials running all the time, telling YOU to go and ask your doctor about getting that medication. I pray to God that they don’t do this in other parts of the world, because that’s insanity to me. Anyway, they run down the list of side effects, and they always say “this could cause depression”, but from speaking to my doctor, that’s so rare, but they have to put it in there as a disclaimer.
The song Nobody’s Home (from Chasing The Ghost) is about how I nearly slit my wrists with a box cutter one night, and I don’t know why I was even doing it, but my ex-girlfriend got in touch with me (and this is like a decade ago) and I told her what was going on, and she told me “you are a fucking idiot, stop taking the medication you are on right now and contact the doctor. I’ve read up on this stuff and the side effects.” She was right. Two days later I couldn’t even remember what I was so upset about. So I’m concerned about people out there making that same mistake, which is why I go into anti-suicide songs a lot. I can think of a few off the top of my head besides Nobody’s Home, such as Hey Liberty, and A Little Bit Longer which is a new Warning Shots song. In fact I’m sure there’s probably at least a dozen of them. It’s important to me because if I made that mistake, and I’m pretty self-aware, somebody else out there is gonna make the same mistake and actually go through with it, and I don’t want that to happen.
4. As people in the UK might not be overly familiar with the relationship, you are ‘White Trash’ Rob’s brother (Blood for Blood, Ramallah etc.) – I’m not sure on the age difference. How influential was growing up with Rob on the music you write?
Rob is two years older than me, and pretty much every good band that I’ve discovered has been as a result of him directly, or if not indirectly. He didn’t introduce me to Rancid, in fact, and when he first heard them he said: “this is just pop music with Mohawks”. He was right, but, um, I wouldn’t have checked out Rancid if he hadn’t introduced me to the Dead Kennedys and the Misfits. I never would have gotten a guitar or a bass, or even started a band. I’m not sure how much he has been an influence on my own music, day to day, but the fact that I even play the guitar or have a band is a DIRECT result of his influence. I can tell you that the side project that I did with Bob, Ebenezer Blood, in a way that was part grunge and part Rob Zombie style ‘nu metal’… I was into White Zombie when I was a teenager (shrugs), sorry. Full confession. People do have various tastes. Ramallah was a huge influence on that project. Which is more to do with the fact that I just love Ramallah rather than anything to do with the fact my brother is in the band. I’d like them even if they were some band I heard on the radio.
We are very different in the way that we write. The way that I try to put it to people is, and I have to make reference to other musicians here, and believe me, I’m not trying to be pretentious here, but my approach is more like what I understand Connor Oberst’s (Bright Eyes) approach to be. From my perspective, he’s a guy that makes up songs, and he has a band play with him, and probably gives the band a lot of leeway, and as long as his song turns out to be his song, he’ll be happy with it, and that’s how I am.
On the other hand, to me, Rob is more like what I would imagine Elliot Smith to have been like. He played every instrument on his records, or maybe used a drummer here and there (he could drum on his own), but Elliot Smith would make these lush, orchestral albums. If you listen to From a Basement on a Hill, or XO or even Figure 8 those albums are so intricate and so well thought out that it’s nothing like the way me or somebody like me would write a song, or how Tim Armstrong would write a song and then jam it out with his band. Elliot Smith’s songs were composed. In another time and place he would’ve been like Mozart, and Rob is like that. So, we are very different in the way that we do things. I’m fine with that. I like what I do, I love what he does, but I would not be able to do the stuff that he does. To be honest he could do the stuff that I do if he wanted to, but he doesn’t think he can. It’s funny because he’s so friggin’ talented, and he makes comments to our mother about the new records that I make, and how blown away he is, and this guy can write circles around me, but whatever (laughs) it’s a friendly competition. We support each other’s music.
Somehow it works when we play together in Sinners & Saints. He offers me a lot of leeway on the bass, and that’s where we can really collaborate. It’s never a full-on collaboration, even with Sinners & Saints, we both bring our own songs to the table and meet in the middle somewhere, but he’s usually much more specific about what he wants. It’s impressive just to see him work. He will correct a drummer on the kick-pattern they are using because he knows that the backing vocal that he’s gonna add 6 weeks from now is not going to work with that kick-pattern. And it just blows my mind, because I don’t think of things in those terms, and he does, and it’s very Elliot Smith-like. So I don’t think he has any direct influence on how I work. If anything, I see how he does it, and know that I’m not capable of it, and that I don’t want to be doing that. I want it to be more of a plug and play situation with the band, like “here’s a song that I made up, what do you guys have to add to it?” – like let’s be a band. Whereas Rob can easily work on his own, and I think he prefers to work on his own.
5. Do you have any cool or funny stories about the shit you guys used to get up to growing up? I have a mental image of some serious mischief (oh to be young and fearless again…).
We have always been very opposite. When we were kids, Rob was a very angry kid, and I was a pussy, basically, and I still I am! Rob was really violent, and I had to be, because I was the one he was fighting! But, he was angry and violent, and started drinking when he was like 12, and smoking. I never even had a sip of alcohol until I was 21. Probably because I saw what it did to him.
We were complete adversaries until it got to the point when we each started having our own band. I mean, it mellowed, probably around the time I was 14 and he was 16, we were cool with each other, and when we started our bands, that when – we’ll he’s probably my best friend – so that happened as we became adults.
Now It’s funny because, all the things he wrote about on those early Blood For Blood albums, if you listen to them compared to the Ducky Boys, Blood For Blood was very nihilistic, and Ducky Boys was very hopeful. Now, those roles have kind of switched, and the rose coloured glasses that I was looking at the world through when I was a kid have proven to be a complete lie. Not that I didn’t believe in the songs then, but I’ve since been proven wrong. My words have developed and changed over time to become less positive, and more along the lines of where he was as a teenager. That’s just what happens when you’re beaten down by life, and you’re working. Time is just slipping by because you’re putting 50 hours in at a shitty job, but you’ve got to do it to pay the bills, and life just passes you by – it’s very defeating. It can crush even the most optimistic person.
Rob on the other hand, when he got clean and sober, he became a different person, and I can’t begin to tell people how amazing he is. He’s just so even-keeled and thoughtful, and he’s not who he was when he was a kid. It’s still in there, but he’s changed and developed as a person more than anybody I’ve ever known. That’s I suppose, not a funny story, but that’s pretty much the way it was (laughs). We were pretty much bitter enemies until we reached a certain age, then we became friends, and now he’s the only person that I can say understands where I’m coming from. He’s not so easy to figure out. He’s very, very good at reading people, and I’m terrible at reading people, which is why I always end up in shitty situations, but he’s a very complex person: still a mystery to me. I still worry about him sometimes, but he’s got me completely figured out. He’s the only person I can go to if I have something on mind, whatever that may be, who can make sense of it.
So, funny stories, well when you get the two of us together maybe… And he does those Nodcast videos, and will also be doing a podcast. There’s been a couple of he’s done with the two of us. I don’t think he’s released them yet, but when we get going, then thats when the stories start to fly, because we can just rattle back and forth telling stories from when we were kids and shit like that, but without him being here to piggyback off of, I wouldn’t have any interesting stories that could be given full justice!!
The Ducky Boys
6. So was the Ducky Boys your first ‘proper’ band? What led to you guys getting together?
Yeah, it was the only band I’d ever been in. Apart from before that, Jay and I would jam cover tunes, but that’s the first thing you do when you are learning to play your instruments, but that wasn’t a real band or anything (see the stuff above about the Misfits covers band). Ducky Boys was the first band that we ever had, and thats part of the reason why I’m so hard on myself and hard on those old records (the very first two), because, that’s us actually learning to make up songs. All we wanted to do was start a band to play at the Rat (classic Boston venue – Tony). I’d seen Rob play at the Rat and thought ‘that’s awesome, I want to play at the Rat’. That’s all we intended to do. Now, we had nothing to do one fall, so… we started a band. The songs you can hear on No Getting Out are the very first attempts I ever made at making up songs, and the very first attempts that any of us made at playing original songs. So most people are in several bands before a band catches on. We were in the right place at the right time – when the Boston punk thing took off. And here we are 21 years later, and people still want the Ducky Boys to play, and still want music by us.
This is not the path I would’ve anticipated going down in life. I don’t know what I anticipated! I suppose life is just what happens, and this is what happened. We started the band, and it just popped, and I don’t know why – but it did. We got really lucky. It’s really mind boggling when I think about, because how many people does that happen to? When we started in 1995, to think of bands 25 years prior to that which people still wanted to hear, like the New York Dolls and stuff – I’m not comparing us to them or the Ramones or anything like that, by no means – but, people still want to hear us 21 years later. 21 years before we started was 1974, so the bands that kids were still listening to 21 years later… it’s weird to think that there’s still a demand for what we do, and that people still give a fuck.
I think in a lot of ways, the reason that there is still a demand (and still is for the other projects I’ve done) is that the voice of the band has been me, which is unique – have a unique sounding voice, which is a nice way of saying weird sounding, but it’s (I think) an honest sounding voice. Also, I think that the lyrical content has gone through an arc, and that people that started listening to us when they were the same age that we were, like, we were 18 when we started playing shows, and the kids were between 14 and 18. So most people were in my age group, and I think we’ve grown in a way (Ducky Boys and the other projects) that people have been able to remain interested in it, because it’s always representing what is currently going on in their life, because we are all the same, and we are writing about what is going on in our lives. Um. That at least is my only guess at how this has happened, I don’t know. Otherwise it’s baffling to me!
7.Can you talk the people through how the Ducky Boys sound has changed over the years from an Oi! Influenced sound to a more rock n’rolly (sorry for this vague description from me) street punk sound? Was this a result of changing tastes in what you were listening to at the time?
Well, it really comes down to the fact that we learned how to make up songs. People like No Getting Out and people like Dark Days – thank you if you like those records, I appreciate it. We weren’t confident about what we were doing; we didn’t know what we were doing. (laughs) I shouldn’t say we weren’t confident, because we thought we were the shit at the time, but looking back on it, I know we didn’t know what we were doing.
I think the change in style has just been a natural progression from learning to put together very basic punk rock songs to just learning more as time went on, and that’s pretty much it. There was no kind of decision that we were going to change the band, or make it different, it just kind of went it’s natural course. Of course, when I look at the history of the bands (I’ve played in), I don’t just look at the Ducky Boys, I look at ‘em all, because for me, they’ve always just been whatever songs I had at a particular time, and I would assign them all to that band. So as far as I’m concerned, the entire body of work is a progression, and you need all those other pieces in there to really get the full picture. If you don’t realise it, there was also Dirty Water, Sinners & Saints, and the Unloved, and most people only tend to know who the Ducky Boys are, they might see it a bit as “Whoah! What’s kinda changed here?” But, it has just been a natural progression.
To me, the only band that has been a deviation in format is The Warning Shots, and that’s because we envisioned the project and what we were gonna do… and we’re seeing it through. It’s not me saying here’s a song that I made up, and what to play. I’m not saying I’m the only guy that’s contributed over the years, in Dirty Water, Andrew wrote half the songs, in Sinners & Saints it was me and Rob, and in the later years of the Ducky Boys, Doug wrote some fantastic songs. For the sake of this conversation, I’m talking about the songs that I’ve contributed, which have been the majority of them. I think there’s about 150 or something like that recorded at least. They follow a progression, and it is what it is. I don’t know what to tell people. We didn’t change for the purposes of changing. In fact when we did Three Chords and the Truth, we wanted to make sure that we kept the type of energy and speed which people had been used to from Dark Days. We didn’t want to lose that, so if anything, there were conscious decisions to maintain some of our older sound, but that’s about all the thought that went into it – the songs just are what they are. But I would split the Ducky Boys into three separate ‘lives’ almost, each spanning two albums each.
8.I only became aware of the Ducky Boys around the time of Three Chords & The Truth (2003, Thorp Records), but I’ve stayed tuned in since, and I back tracked through the earlier stuff soon after. I get the sense that this band is really personal to you. In a world of posturing and bullshit, there’s something about the Ducky Boys that has always struck me as deeply personal and very honest. That being said, what’s your favourite Ducky Boys record and why?
In response to your comment about being honest, thank you, because that’s all it’s supposed to be. The Ducky Boys has always been just – with some exceptions: the last two albums and the Chemicals EP, Doug has been very actively involved in the writing, but he probably has a different take on his stuff than I do on mine, so I’m going to speak to my contributions – I have always just tried to be me, with no pretence. Although, sometimes, going at things and saying there is going to be no pretence is pretentious. I do recognise that, but um, this is just my story.
I wouldn’t really know how to start doing something different, and it’s funny because I’ve had people that will say shit like… I’m going to get frank with you here. One of the guys from [REDACTED by request] took a crack at me once, saying that I just put out the same record over and over. I’m like “really? That’s funny because 21 years later people still want to hear my same record over and over, and nobody gives a fuck about you guys anymore, huh?” That was my response at the time, but I played on 2 of their records and actually kind of like ‘em.
My outlook is that you find who you are in life and in music, and you be who you are. I’m not gonna put on a new hat every time I do a new record. That particular member of that band, he happens to want to do different things. So every time he does a new record, it’s something entirely new, and I think it’s weird, but I wonder if he has a sense of identity, but to me, this is just me being me, and yeah, it is gonna kind of sound the same, because I’m the same person. But for example, is anyone gonna criticise Paul Westerberg (the Replacements)for the same thing? I guess the difference is, he’s famous and I’m not, and that makes it OK for dipshits in other small-time bands to take a crack at me. But, I know who I am, and I’m gonna be myself, and that’s not just in music, but in daily life. I don’t’ need to reinvent myself. All I want to do is get better at making up songs, and I think that’s what’s happened. Somebody can be very cynical and say I’ve put out the same record over and over, or maybe they could be a bit more open minded and say “wow. They’ve really put some time and effort into improving what they do, because the songs have gotten better”. People still want them, so there’s gotta be something there. Like I said, I don’t know how any of this happened, but it did, and to me, the only thing that makes sense is just to be yourself and then people will see that. Not at the type of level where you are making millions of dollars, but I’m not looking for that (shrugs). I’m just looking to play for the people that get it, and that’s it.
Actually, I didn’t answer your question about my favourite Ducky Boys record, I mean, I could probably go through each one and tell you a bit about each one, but I guess I’d have to say my favourite one is Three Chords and the Truth, and the reason for that is because I knew what I wanted to do, I knew we could do it, and we hit that ball out of the park. That record is, well, I will confidently stand behind that record and let it be put up against any big band from that decade, and I feel confident in saying that it’s as good, if not better than some of the most famous bands in punk rock (shrugs). That might be arrogant to say, but if you don’t like what you are doing, then why bother doing it, right? Everything just connected on that one, and that’s the one I’d say is probably my favourite. It has good songs, y’know, each one, they stand on their own, and they’re sequenced perfectly too. So before you even know it, you are pounded over the head with three songs. I think we got that just right, and if we do make another Ducky Boys album, I want it to vibe the same way that Three Chords and the Truth did. I don’t want to rehash what Three Chords and the Truth did, but I want the songs to be as strong as those ones were, and I want it to deliver with lightning quick speed.
So we’ve left the Ducky Boys at this point where, we played in March at the Dropkick Murphys 20th anniversary show. Couldn’t say no to that! And Doug is very very talented with home recording, and we could actually make a record from our practice space, put it out, and nobody would know it was made in a practice space – he’s that good.
Because the Ducky Boys is something I’m so used to at this point, if Doug said let’s do it, I could probably have a new record for you in three weeks. But Doug, he’s a little more thoughtful, he’d say let’s make a record when you need to, not when you want to. When you need to. I know what he means by that. Sometimes you just have to express yourself in music. He’s right. That’s the way it will be, if indeed there is to be another one. So if I need to make another one, it will have tones of Three Chords and the Truth for sure.
9.Over the years, the Ducky Boys have played some quite high profile shows and tours. How did doing that compare with playing smaller local shows?
We’ve been very fortunate to have done both. The great thing about playing a small show is that you can really hear the crowd givin’ it back to ya. I can think of one show at TT the Bear’s (venue) in Boston that we played, and it was shortly after Three Chords and the Truth was out. And we opened with the three (songs) that open that album. By the time we went into Pass You By, the crowd was singing louder than I could hear us through the monitors. That’s also happened at the Sinners & Saints reunion show, and the Dirty Water reunion show. Those moments are awesome, because you are getting this immediate feedback. It’s weird, because these are songs you’ve made up in your bedroom or living room, and they are clearly in all these people’s minds. They know the words and they are shouting them back at you. It’s so fucking weird. It’s so cool. It’s an odd feeling.
Playing the bigger shows is different. It’s easier to play the bigger shows, because people have this weird flock mentality. If we open for the Bosstones, Dropkick Murphys or Rancid or any of those bigger bands, you can immediately start gpoing (pumps fist) “Hey! Hey! Hey!” into the microphone and people just go with it – like I said, flock mentality. At a smaller show, they just might not do that. The crowd has a mind of its’ own when it’s under a certain size!
I like playing both types of shows to be honest with you. But I like playing VFW halls, because you’re there on the floor, and the kids are right there with you.
10.Ducky Boys are currently on hiatus – are we likely to hear much from you in the near future? I hope so – Dead End Streets (2013, State Line Records) was a real banger.
I can’t say for sure that there will be, but I’d be very surprised if there wasn’t. We are all getting older now, and the other guys in the band have lives. We won’t be able to do it like we used to, but I think we will make more music and play play again. We are all friends, sometimes we want to get together and what’s better to when you get together than playing music or playing a show. So… we’ll see. But I’ve definitely not been writing the way I used to. I used to make up new songs every day. I have hundreds of demos. I’ve dipped into them over the years – some songs didn’t come out until ten years after I wrote them. But… I don’t really write any more, I don’t know why. Maybe it’s because there is no sense of discontent in my life right now. I’m kind of happy. It could be that, or that I’ve said everything I have to say for now. I don’t really know.
11. Dirty Water was something of a side-project in between Ducky Boys records in the early 2000s, and seems to be something of a missing link between the older Ducky Boys sound and the one you’ve developed since with Three Chords… and beyond. Was this a band you saw as an opportunity to test out a different style of song writing with? I know the s/t EP is one of your favourite recordings. How influential has the experience of playing with Dirty Water been on you as a song writer – it feels like it might have been pivotal in some way?
Actually, at one point I thought Dirty Water might replace the Ducky Boys. As I mentioned earlier, I could split the history of the Ducky Boys into three separate lives, each spanning two albums each. After that first run of the Ducky Boys I was so burnt out from touring and being trapped in a van with somebody I just couldn’t deal with. I hated the Ducky Boys. I hated it. So we started Dirty Water.
Dark Days opens with the song Dirty Water, and all the Ducky Boys shirts used to say “Dirty Water Rock n’ Roll” on the back. I didn’t name the band Dirty Water, Andrew named it. So yeah, the idea was that it would take the place of the Ducky Boys. The only problem was that we got along even more poorly than the guys in the Ducky Boys did in certain respects. So it didn’t last. It lasted like a year, but it wasn’t intended to be a side-project or anything – it was intended to takeover!
But yeah it does draw in the space between Dark Days and Three Chords and the Truth, and part of that is because Doing Time, Ashes, and Obsessed With You were going to be on the follow up to Dark Days. Are You Dying? was the only song I wrote for Dirty Water, the other ones existed before that. Andrew wrote Dead Dreams, Second Son and This Plague which are great songs. But we didn’t last.
We did play a lot of shows, and we were a great live band. We practiced three nights a week, and we played like 72 shows in 53 weeks as a band. But it wasn’t meant to last because we couldn’t get along.
12. Were you listening to a lot of stuff like the Hudson Falcons and Bruce Springsteen at the time?
Little known fact… actually I introduced the Hudson Falcons to GM Markets, and that’s where they ended up putting out their first couple of CDs. I love the Hudson Falcons. Short answer to the question though, is no. Bruce Springsteen and the Falcons were not a direct influence on Dirty Water. Although I think that Bruce Springsteen has always been a big influence on my stuff. There was parts on Dark Days, where if we really want to get into the songs and dissect them, I can point out things that are very influenced by Bruce Springsteen – that’s where you’d probably start seeing it. If it’s on the Dirty Water record, it’s just because it’s ingrained. With respect to the Hudson Falcons, I’m always listening to them, so they probably do actually have a bit of an influence. Not necessarily conscious, but they are one of my favourite underground bands and they have been for the past 17 years, so any time we’re compared to them in any fashion, it’s a compliment.
Mark Linskey is one of the people I respect most in the music world. There’s a lot of full of shit people in the music business. Mark Linskey is not one of those people. He is the real deal, and we share a lot of similar influences, and he’s tipped me off on some great music. I don’t know if I’ve ever done the same for him, but I hope so. I think in a lot of ways we’re fishing from the same pond. One thing I would really love to see is Bruce Springsteen jamming with the Hudson Falcons, because there is no one on the face of the planet that loves Bruce Springsteen’s music more than Mark Linskey. Mark is one of the only guitar players that I know that can ‘jam’. I mean like he can just ‘go’. He does his bit replacing a slide guitar with a beer bottle – he can extend a solo for ten minutes, and that’s exactly what Bruce Springsteen can do. I’d love to see it. Springsteen is known to get up on stage with local bands, and they’re from New Jersey, so I’d love to see some local Jersey show some time and hear that Bruce got up there, and then see footage of it. That would make me really happy. Um, as I’m sure it would make Mark really happy (that’s what would make really happy). But as a fan of both, I’d love to see those guys trading back and forth on guitars.