Critical Mass: Thanks for taking the time to talk with Critical Mass, Milo. So the Descendents are BACK touring after 15 years away. How does it feel to be back on the road playing to packed houses full of fans?
Milo Aukerman: I have to admit, I was a little stunned at the level of response. We go away for 15 years, and come back with an even larger audience?? But from a different perspective, it does make sense: there are many out there who never got to see us in the 80’s or 90’s, so people are really committed to coming out for these shows. I’m totally loving it, especially because I watched the extreme toil that ALL carried out for many years, and Bill/Stephen/Karl deserve every bit of the attention we are currently getting.
CM: Can you give our readers a little history on the Descendents and how you got involved with the band?
MA: Bill started the band with Frank Navetta and Tony Lombardo, in 1978. They put out a single in 1979, “Ride the Wild”/”It’s a Hectic World,” and Bill started selling it at high school during recess/lunchtime. I was a classmate of his, and bought a copy of it, and loved it immediately. I heard where they were practicing at the time (The Church in Hermosa Beach), and showed up at a practice, professing my love for their music. They actually had a girl singer at the time, who never showed up to practice. So there was a mike set up, and I said “hey I know Hectic World, lemme take a crack at it!” It wasn’t a “tryout” at all, just me having some fun, but they asked me to join a few weeks later…not that I could sing at all, but I guess I had the right level of enthusiasm! We practiced like crazy for the next year or so, then recorded the FAT EP (1981). Then all the other records after that (dates in Wikipedia)…We played locally in L.A. and San Francisco from 1981 to 1985, then did our first U.S. tour (to be followed by many others). We didn’t go to Europe until 1996.
CM: I see and hear a lot of you in so many young bands these days. Being an influence to so many I have to ask, who are some of your influences?
MA: Beatles, X, Germs, Black Flag, The Last, Bad Brains. Extreme punk (especially LA-based), plus melody.
CM: Back in the bands early days you guy's played with bands that are now considered legendary in their own right. How was the scene different then as apposed to now?
MA: Some of the bills were unreal – Black Flag + Minutemen + Saccharine Trust + Husker Du + Red Cross + us +….etc…That will never happen again! We were the young unknowns on these bills, and that was OK, because the Black Flag/Minutemen guys were always helping us out, putting us on the bill, helping us record, etc. I felt like part of an extended punk family during that period (1980-1983), and it was definitely a legendary time for South Bay punk rock. The DIY ethic really crystallized during that time, thanks to Greg Ginn and SST.
CM: When the bands '95 comeback album, Everything Sucks, came out it was a surprise to see that Frank Navetta and Tony Lombardo played on a couple tracks ("Dog House" and "Eunuch Boy"). Where Frank and Tony brought back for those songs specifically? Or were those songs unused tracks from the 80's?
MA: Bill invited them to contribute songs, to “join the party,” so to speak. Frank came in with “Doghouse.” Tony had a great song that didn’t make the record, “Gotta” – it’s on one of the CD singles. Those were relatively new songs, whereas “Eunuch Boy” WAS an old song; in fact it was the first one I wrote for the band back in 1980 (Tony wrote the music, I wrote lyrics).
CM: The bands last album Cool To Be You came out in 2004, but the band decided not to tour in support of the album. Why not tour behind such a strong album?
MA: Thanks for the positive review! Unfortunately, I really couldn’t commit to the touring; I had recently started my job at DuPont and didn’t have much vacation time to use; nor could I take a leave of absence. We went into that record knowing we would not be able to support the record through touring. Fat Mike was also aware, but still wanted to put it out, ‘cause he was so into it.
CM: With the new tour and the band playing here in Chicago at Riot Fest this October, are there any plans for a new Descendents album?
MA: Not at this point. I’ve got some songs, and I’ll bet the other guys have a ton (they always do!), but trying to figure out how to fit in recording will be difficult. As it stands, I’ve used every vacation day from my job that I can, so there’s no time left for recording…We’ve had to prioritize our activities because of my schedule, and so far the priority has been on doing shows, because there is such a huge demand for it.
CM: I understand ALL are gonna be doing a show with every singer they ever had. Will there ever be a history of the Descendents show where you'll bring out Frank, Tony, Ray or Doug to play a few songs from their time in the band?
MA: That would be fun! Something like that has happened the last few years in Fort Collins; the band puts on an event called Stockage where there has been a reunion of sorts (without me, though). One year Bill played with Frank and Tony, for example (Original Power Trio Lineup!!! YEAH!). Sadly, Frank died a few years back, so the true original lineup is no more. Ray and Doug are still available, so maybe they can show up some time and play on some of the old stuff.
CM: Being a father it must be hard to be on the road. Do you or the other guy's bring the family on the road with you?
MA: We’re actually NOT on the road, these days. What I mean is, we can only do a handful of shows per year, so I’m rarely out of town for more than a few days. Although it would be great to be able to play more shows, there is a silver lining, and that is that I’m not an absentee father or husband. Back in 1996-97 we toured like crazy, and I would come back from tour and be useless as a husband…luckily, I didn’t have kids back then. This time around, my wife and the kids are coming for a few shows, and that’s perfect…any more than that, and they would get sick of it! Bill’s and Stephen’s wives have come to a few shows also, plus their kids. It’s a family environment (aside from the stage volume and dirty lyrics…).
CM: After this tour what can we expect from the Descendents? Are you back for good, or just for now?
MA: “For good”?? Do you realize how OLD we are??? Seriously, it’s been a blast, and as long as we can stay healthy AND the shows are fun AND people want to see us, we’ll keep doing it. On a limited basis, of course. I keep assuming we will eventually fade into obscurity, but so far I’ve been wrong, so I’ve stopped predicting the end.
CM: I know I speak for a lot of fans when I say it's GREAT to see you guy's back again after so long. Is there a website where fans can keep up with Descendents news, shows and buy merch?
CM: Again I want to thank you for taking the time to talk with Critical Mass. It really is an honor for me to interview you, Milo. I'm looking forward to the Chicago show in October. Until then..."Thank you for playing the way you play!"
MA: Thank YOU for listening, and we’ll see you in Chicago!