Originally formed in the Philadelphia area in 1983, The Dead Milkmen solidified their place in American music with their upbeat and energetic punk rock always with satirical and clever lyrical ammunition. Classic examples from their catalogue include “Bitchin Camaro” and “Punk Rock Girl,” the latter of which gained major MTV video play in the early 90’s. Media highlights include the band being selected to play Spin Magazine’s first anniversary party in 1988 ( to which a helicopter whisked them from Philly to NYC to play). At the time of their hiatus in 1995, the band completed eight studio albums and numerous national and international tours.
The Dead Milkmen have announced the CD release of their first new album in over sixteen years, The King In Yellow for October 25th (with soft release available now). The album will be available via Amazon, iTunes, emusic and other outlets. This will be the band’s first studio album since initially bowing out as a band with Stoney’s Extra Stout (1995). Fast forward to 2008 where The Dead Milkmen reform to play FunFunFun Festival in Austin, TX. Energized by the experience the original band members, Rodney Anonymous, Joe Jack Talcum, Dean Clean along with new bassist Dan Stevens performed shows in Baltimore, Boston, Brooklyn, Chicago and Philadelphia, while working on new material.
We are very excited to offer Blow The Scene readers an in-depth interview with Dead Milkmen founding member Rodney Anonymous. We also featured all of The Dead Milkmen in our massive Riot Fest Photo Gallery last week, so be sure to check it out.
Joshua BTS: Thank for taking a few minutes with Blow The Scene. Very much appreciated.
Rodney Anonymous: You Know, it’s a real hassle for me. You call somebody and you talk to them for a while.
Joshua BTS: Ya. Right.
Rodney Anonymous: Y’Know, you hang up..My leg is killing me , so I was just going to be hopping around the house anyway.
Joshua BTS: Right on. So let’s dive right in. Dead Milkmen have a new album coming out on October 25th, which is entitled the King In Yellow.
Rodney Anonymous: It already came out! See, this is why I am always in such a fowl mood. Everyone’s like, ‘Oh you got this…’ Technically..and I’m not bad mouthing you here, but technically, it already came out. And nobody noticed it! [laughs] I have to explain something- the last time we released a record, it was done on those cylinders that Thomas Edison used to record on [laughing]. So we kind of didn’t know how to do them now. So we thought ‘Oh! We’ll throw it out there digitally and everybody will know it and buy it.” But I don’t think anybody did. So my theory is that we’re just going to keep re-releasing the same record until it sells enough where we think, “Ok, people have heard it.”
Joshua BTS: [laughing] Gotcha! So this was a soft release?
Rodney Anonymous: Ya totally a soft release. Which is the way I think everything should be released. I don’t think you should charge for stuff, I think you should follow the Radiohead model. I mean obviously we pay for studio time, [Laughing] and everything, so you want it to recoup something. Ya, so we put it up there, people could buy it, people could get it, it was soft release. Yes. Doesn’t sound very punk rock does it though?
Joshua BTS: [laughing] I guess not. That’s a good point.
Rodney Anonymous: You know, I was playing with Niki and the Sparrows [Laughing] for a soft release down by the pond with our acoustic guitars and our bongos.
Joshua BTS: As far as the recording for this record, you chose to break it into two sessions for the tracking and mix at a separate studio. Why the choice the break up the recording session? Was this the plan from the get go?
Rodney Anonymous: I don’t really know why. I think we saw both studios and kind of liked them. And we didn’t want to offend anybody by saying, ‘Well, you know we’re going to do the whole thing here or there.’ We thought it would be fun. Fun because two different producers got to look at us like there something seriously wrong with us. The first, Jason over at Buddha (South Street Sounds)- We went over there and Joe’s amp was making this horrible buzzing noise. And he was like, ‘There is a horrible buzzing noise coming from that amp.’ And I said, “I don’t really see that as a bad thing.’ So he got it right away. Now Brian (Miner Street Studios)… Brian got it when I was playing my keys, and Brian was like, ‘It seems to be very much out of tune.’ I was like, “Basically anybody who wants to here this in tune, is not in our key demographic.’ And I saw this light go on over his head like, ‘Ohhh!’ And they both have great stuff about them. One was a great one to start off in a in, a little basement studio, and absolutely fantastic. Jason was like, “Oh, well we’ll close the music shop upstairs’ I said, ‘Please don’t do that!’ He resonded, “We could get some ambient noise!” And again, I viewed that as good thing. I think that deadness of studios is like morgue..Well actually I would record at a morgue..
Joshua BTS: [Laughing] That could be cool!
Rodney Anonymous: [Laughing] Ya. It’s like Bob Jones University, a morgue.. but not fun. That’s going to be my example from now on.
Joshua BTS: I caught you guys last week at Riot Fest and thought you sounded great, full of energy.
Rodney Anonymous: I am glad you thought it sounded good because I was having a great day. Which meant I should have stopped and gone home. [Laughing] I was having a really good day like at Anti-Fest and FYF-Fest, really good day, and knew something was going to go to hell. We get out on stage and nothing was coming through the monitors. I was hitting my keyboard and not able to hear anything. Someone had unplugged my sustain pedal and plugged it back in in the wrong spot. So I’m stopping my hand down and the note is not being held, so I was having a miserable time.
Joshua BTS: Ahh
Rodney Anonymous: Ya but I am glad everyone seems to have likes it.
Joshua BTS: I did notice that, it sounded good, but when you first came out, you guys were kind of looking around at each other like a deer in headlights, which I noticed in the pictures also. You were in auto-pilot. So that explains that.
Rodney Anonymous: Showed up at 8 o’clock to sound check, because people are paying to go see you. This is my new theory- Every time I play a show, I am going to buy a ticket. Just so I have paid to see this band dammit! And with a ‘it better be good’ kind of attitude. So we show up and we get there and we are waiting around forever. Sometimes you show up for sound check and it’s spot on and boom everybody is ready. Sometimes you do a lot of waiting and this was one of those situations. We only got a little bit of time in but at least I will say this, Dan Knapp who as often as we can, does our house sound, did a really good job. I noticed from the audio from the crowd videos and it sounds really good. But it was like after having a bunch of shows with really good sound, I said, ‘Jeez, only in Philly would we be cursed.” Last year we played at that FM fest.. Come one Kathy!! Make a decision a jump! Hang on a minute, the cat is trying to figure out if its going to jump up on the desk. There we go! There you are! She has to go through me to get to the desk. [laughing] There you go you lazy ass cat. So ya, last time we played in Philly we had Black Landlord open for us which was fantastic and then we played at the World Café and that show was kind of rough. I should just stop playing Philly altogether or just play little free gigs.
Joshua BTS: I know you were originally formed in Philly, are you spread out now? So you have a central base that is elsewhere?
Rodney Anonymous: I live in Center City, or Olde City, or I live, actually I guess what’s called “Midtown Village” now. And they had a meeting. The reason why its called the Village.. See I didn’t know there was a meeting or I would have gone and suggested some sort of horrifying name. Well this used to be part of the Gayborhood, which I loved, cause I thought that sort of keeps the wrong sort of people out. The type of people who would never go into neighborhood called the “Gayborhood,” will never come here. I don’t know if you’ve ever read Richard Florida’s “Rise of The Creative Class?” Actually, it’s weird too.. cause “Conceptual Personae” by Kameel Bahia, she kind of points out something similar as well, which is Gay people tend to be the economic canary in the coal mine. Gay people move and the neighborhood takes off and becomes nice and families move in and it becomes dull and then the gay people move out. But I do know one or two gay dull people, I guess they are bucking the trend. So this became Midtown Village once families moved in. First it was the The Village and then..OW cat! What are you doing! Now trying to climb up on my face..[laughing]..So they have this meeting and they are like “We can’t be the village, so they went with “Midtown Village.” So someone obviously said “OK!” And this is like at the business man’s association, so I wouldn’t have got to yell anyway. Which I would never do anyway. Long story short, I live in Midtown Village. Joe lives out in West Philly. He lives out around 50th and Kingsessing Ave. I walked out there before. It’s really nice out there by Baltimore avenue. My friend Tim has a book store out there, which is The A-space, which is killer! He’s like “look in the basement!” Now normally if a friend of mine says “go look in the basement” I won’t go, cause I’ve learned you may never come back out. But his basement was chalk full of books, and for me that was Heaven. I was like, “Awwwwww!” So ya, I went out to Joe’s house and hung out with him a bit on Saturday. Dean lives in Media, Dan is living in Eddystone. So we’re a little scattered, but not much. I’d be happier if we all lived within like a block or two of each other. You know, people grow up and grow older.
Rodney Anonymous: We have this six-rehearsal rule, which is that we should rehearse at least six times for every show. We have been doing a bunch of shows lately so I think this is down to about 4 rehearsals for Athens. We always like to include new stuff that we haven’t done before. That’s why you definitely have to rehearse. Otherwise you get bored. Personally, I could play the same set. I wish we had a set set-list that was just nailed down, but that can get repetitive and the other guys think it’s better for the audience. The other guys get bored easily saying ‘Lets throw this in or that in,’ so the compromise is, ‘Ok.. but we have to practice a lot!’
Joshua BTS: That’s good for the fans though, especially if they are going to a lot of shows, they get to see new material.
Rodney Anonymous: Well it’s pretty spread out. It’s unlikely somebody would have been in LA and then was at the Georgia.
Joshua BTS: True.
Rodney Anonymous: Someone like that is obviously coming to see the band because they are hearing messages in their head and they want to shoot us. So I am ok if those people don’t show up [laughing]
Joshua BTS: Gotcha.
Rodney Anonymous: This cat is no longer settled on the desk, it has settled on me [laughing]
Joshua BTS: Right on. So you are a cat person I take it?
Rodney Anonymous: Yes I am. We have 2. Hemingway was a cat person. That’s my excuse for manliness of it. Errrrr the manly man.
Joshua BTS: There you go.
Rodney Anonymous: A lot of writers were cat people. [Laughing]
Joshua BTS: How long have you had your cats? Were they rescues or did get them from friends?
Rodney Anonymous: My wife was the Feline Behavioral Specialist for the Pennsylvania ASPCA. So we now have two rescues. The one that is clinging to me now was rescued from like a really bad situation, so she knows I cant say no to her. [Laughs]
Joshua BTS: [Laughing] I got ya!
Rodney Anonymous: I hope this cat never gets a hold of my credit card.
Joshua BTS: [Laughs] Ah, an issue near and dear to my heart. I have been rescuing pit bulls for about 7 years.
Rodney Anonymous: They just had a whole day of come in and get a Pit Bull. And it’s weird, the history of them, they were really considered a baby-sitter pet. They were called ‘the Nanny dogs.’ People always trusted their children with them. The odd thing is, it’s really hard to make a pit bull an aggressive animal. You have to fuck with its head a long time. It’s rare they get one they couldn’t reform. Speaking of, the one cat she couldn’t reform, we have right here.
Rodney Anonymous: Well, we all work and I can’t take off my job to tour. We’re doing a show in Athens, GA, and then home for the rest of the year and to work on some stuff.
Joshua BTS: Cool.
Rodney Anonymous: Which is good for me because I like to stay up on Friday nights and drink wine and just play weird stuff on the keyboards and make new sounds and stuff. So that should be fun. And I am way backed up on song writing. I’ve got all these song ideas laying around in bits and pieces. I’ve got to send some stuff over to Joe, I have an instrumental and I never write instrumentals. I have something new my friend from Angel Spit was responsible for, back and forth on email, which is called ‘Better Living Through Petty Theft.” So that stuff I have to send around to everybody. Cause I want everybody to add their parts bit by bit and then that will mutate. So that’s what we do now, we send stuff all around to each other and it mutates and we meet up and start playing it in the rehearsal space. Saying “Hmmm, well it needs this, or it needs that.”
Joshua BTS: I know you said you have day jobs which prevents heavy touring. What does the day-to-day look like for the guys in Dead Milkmen.
Rodney Anonymous: I guess really all of us are in IT. Joe works from home. Deen gets to work from home one day a week. And I work in a regular office and I guess Dan works in a regular office too. I don’t know a heck of a lot about Dan’s new job. But it’s something I theorize is the best job of all of us. It seems to be pretty good, I know he works for the university system so those are always good jobs. It’s funny I know about Joe’s job and what Deen does but I only a smidgen of what Dan does. But if you were to ask my wife what I do for a living, she can’t tell ya. So I know more about my band than my wife knows about me. There you go.
Joshua BTS: With you being here in Philly, you ever make it out to any of the local shows? Or are there any bands that really excite you and get you out of the house?
Rodney Anonymous: I go to every I Love Industrial that I can. Those are fantastic, which aren’t usually local bands, but they are killer. Probably the best sort-of organized thing that I will never miss in Philly. And the only one I ever missed was the one Faderhead played at and we’ve been obsessed with Faderhead. I hate to use the term Industrial-light, as I have been engaged in conversations of whether or not Faderhead is genius or if he’s pulling our leg. It’s weird. But if you go to his website there is this whole list of rules about how to hang out with him. I heavily recommend you google “Faderhead, How To Hang Out With.” It is the most amazing thing you will ever read, you’re head will explode. And in there, he talks about 11 rules. Rule number 11 is about taking his picture. And if you are going to take his picture, make sure you have a camera because somebody in Philly wanted to take his picture and they didn’t have a camera.
Joshua BTS: Nice
Rodney Anonymous: This was the one time I didn’t go to I Love Industrial. So I go anytime anyone is playing that. I really, really love Black Landlord. I saw Black Landlord play recently with something at the Piazza. And my fiend Wild Bill went with me. And you know they open up with a song about smoking pot and “I was too busy jerking off on a sock.” And it’s funny. The crowd had never heard the song and they’re looking at each other and Max just goes, “It’s real people.” [Laughing] So that was great. They just smuggled themselves into this big fest and this DJ was like, “I hear this next band is a little crazy, a little bit folky” and he walks off and Max was like “thank you Salvador Dali” From then on, it was like the most punk rock thing.
My friend Rob’s band, Live Not On Evil, I will go see them play. They could be playing on top of a toxic chemical dump and I’ll go catch them. There are a ton of bands and a ton of new bands I will go see. Gang is one. We have a lot of bands that come in and out of the scene. One band I’ve wanted to see but didn’t go was for the name, Time Hitler and The Assholes From Outer Space. Just because there had to a meeting and I wonder what names they rejected. There had to be a meeting and hands had to go up. So I wanted to see them because they have to be good because of the name.
I tend to like industrial and Gothic music, so that is what I will go see the most but I really like to see everything and as many people as I can. I always try and get people to Philly to play. I say, “Look, come here to Philly, you can sleep on my sofa!”
Rodney Anonymous: Here’s the thing. You could go to the Dead Milkmen site, which is DeadMilkmen.com. I always suggest sending people other places, like these weird Dresden Dolls sites that really want the Dresden Dolls to get back together. I am a big Dresden Dolls fan. I don’t suspect they will ever get back together but I figure in the meantime. We covered a Dresden Dolls song and was checking out this site for Dresden Dolls fans and we covered their song in Boston. I thought maybe they’d really like our reworking of this. So I see they are talking about it and found a clip and I am all excited. They hated it. They though it was awful. I was like, “Oooooh.” So ya, you could go to DeadMilkmen.com, which is great because on the message board, we all seem to argue with each other on it. We really get into it like, “No! You have no idea what you are talking about!” Which I know most other bands don’t do. We’re also like horribly honest about things. Like if I don’t feel like doing something I will write about it. You don’t really get that in a lot of other spots I’ve noticed. Other bands censor what they do and we really don’t.
Joshua BTS:That’s interesting!
Rodney Anonymous: We have no desire to be successful. [Laughing]
Joshua BTS: Hey, that makes for the best art.
Rodney Anonymous: Personally I would much rather and go and read inner-fighting. This way you have an idea if a band is going to break up. You are reading arguments back and forth you go ‘Woah, I better go see them” [Laughing] And if they are not feeling well, they could keel over at any minute. I wish The Ramones would have given me some warning. You know like some “Oh, I’m just not feeling good today.” Then, “Oh I better make sure I catch them!” I am glad I got to see The Clash because Joe Strummer went without warning. And he was looking healthy.
Joshua BTS: As we wind down here, any final thoughts or plugs?
Rodney Anonymous: Let me give a shoutout to Paul Krugman. I had to interview him once and he was really really nice, and then he got a Nobel Prize right afterwards. Maybe if I’m nice too I’ll get a Nobel Prize! Ah you know they just had the Nobel Prizes, so I guess I have to wait until next year. But also, Oliver North was a real asshole to me right [Laughing], so if anybody sees him, tell him to call Rodney and apologize.
Joshua BTS: I’ll be sure to include that! [Laughs]
Rodney Anonymous: That’s true, I’m not kidding! Ya, Good talking to you.
Joshua BTS: It was a pleasure doing the interview and we would love to follow-up with your future endeavors.
Rodney Anonymous: Just watch America’s Most Wanted cause I’m bound to wind up on there sooner or later. Actually I think that show is off the air now. So I guess my next best thing would be Project Runway or America’s Next Top Model. One of those..or both!