We are very excited to offer Blow The Scene readers around the world our Dropdead interview. With 20 years of DIY, no bullshit, pissed off, personal/political, HC/Thrash, Dropdead are nothing short of American punk institution. With decades of musical proliferation under their belts, you’d be hard pressed to find a band that has stuck to their guns with more persistence than Dropdead.
Dropdead formed officially in January of 1991 in Providence RI. Having met in 1989, and playing together for a year before this as Hellocaust, a lineup change saw Bob [current vocalist/lyricist] and Ben[current guitarist] switch instruments, a name change, and a great increase in speed and intensity. Musically the influences drew from bands as diverse as Confuse, Siege, Larm, Crass, Swans, Infest, SSD, Pandemonium, Icons of Filth, Gauze, Septic Death, Discharge, Anti-Cimex etc. The first show happening within a few months of April 1991 with Born Against and Rorschach. From then on, no looking back. The band continues to this day with a strong Do-It-Yourself work ethic, booking their own shows and releasing their own records. Over the years, Dropdead has played hundreds of shows, recorded two LP’s, some splits and EP’s, toured the USA and Europe numerous times, as well as Australia and Japan.
Now in 2011, Dropdead reaches it’s 20th anniversary year and is still moving forward with fresh energy and ongoing appreciation for the underground DIY community. Several projects are underway, including yet to be announced releases, and some gigs in the USA and Europe.
Dropdead were kind enough to offer Blow The Scene readers an exclusive high quality stream of their half of the Dropdead / Look Back and Laugh Split (2004) at the bottom of the interview!
Joshua BTS: Dropdead just released a Split 7″ with Converge to celebrate both band’s 20-year history. I snagged a copy of the split 7” and had the pleasure of hearing “Paths of Glory” live at your recent Philadelphia performance on May 21, and I must say fantastic work! The new track shreds. Can you give us the skinny on this split? How did it come about? And what is story behind the track? Is this new material or something you’ve been holding onto for some time? And what are the lyrical premises of the track?
BOB: We have been friends with the Converge guys for several years and it just so happened that DROPDEAD was celebrating our 20 years as a band around the same time as Converge…Kurt Ballou has been our producer on the last few records so it made perfect sense to do a split with them. They are really good guys and have very similar politics as a band so it worked out great…the song “Path of Glory” actually came from an unfinished session we started at God City a few years back…Kurt got in there and did some beefing up on the mix and I went in and added the vocals…and we got a pretty good song out of it. The lyrics are essentially about never ending wars for oil and our discontent over the mounting body count on both sides…
Ben: We had a line-up change last summer, after about 15 years without one, and over the months after that and leading into the new year I was thinking a lot about the band and where we’ve been, where we were going, and our relationships as friends. I knew we had these songs on tape, recorded under duress years ago. The general vibe for all of us on it was to abandon them to time and dust. Since they were songs we’d written on the path to what was hoped to be a new 12″, and Devon played on them and wrote them with us, I felt if they were to come out at all that he should be on them. I contacted Kurt to see if I could get in the studio to finish tracking the 6 or 7 songs out of the 11-12 we did and get em up to par. In talking with Kurt we realized both bands were hitting the 20 year mark at the same time and he mentioned doing a split. Everyone was into it, and so here it is.
Joshua BTS: Dropdead had quite the lineup of awesome fest appearances this summer kicking off July 7 in the Czech Republic at Obscene Extreme 2011, then July 27 at Dudefest 2011 in Indianapolis, then IeperFest in Belgium Aug 12, and the upcoming California Discord Fest in LA on Sept 25! All featuring amazing lineups and all of this after just wrapping up a stint of performances with Converge and Trap Them and prime billing on the notorious Maryland Death Fest. Whew! It would seem Dropdead have reached a plateau were you can now sit back and pick and choose through some of the best music fests in world. Did you see this coming back in 91’ when the band was first getting off the ground? And any inclinations to attempt some longer tours like the days of old?
BOB: Honestly…back when we started I never thought we’d be playing shows on the same stage as Entombed, Brujeria, Exodus and big bands like that…even now it’s pretty fucking surreal sometimes, but I don’t really feel any different than a guy who’s been playing garage shows all his life. I don’t take it too seriously and try to have fun with it…it is nice to be respected as an equal by bands that I really dig…I mean that’s a perk for me. I feel like 20 years of sticking to your guns has paid off in that way…As far as doing six month tours like the old days…I doubt it. We are all in our 30s and 40s now and I know myself personally…I don’t think I can sit in a van for months at a time like that anymore. That’s a young mans game Ha Ha!!! No..but seriously…I don’t see why we cant continue playing quality shows for short bursts for as long as we continue to feel it and write good music, I love this band and the guys in it are some of my best friends…so I’m in it till the ride is over!
Ben: Back when we started, I think we were stoked to be playing music at all, nevermind playing shows or recording. Nowadays, it’s harder for us to get the time to get in the van, age has it’s own set of circumstances you have to navigate life-wise. Nothing I’d like more than to get in the van and drive off into the unknown, but that’s looking like a thing of the past. We can swing about one weekend a month without fucking things up at home.
Joshua BTS: Dropdead have had lyrical focuses on topics such as using one’s voice and taking dissent to the streets in the name of animal rights and against many of the ills of the world-wide corporate strangleholds. 20 years later, and the lyrical themes are just as, if not, more relevant today. We’re on the brink of catastrophic global food shortages, the environment is still being plundered with reckless abandon, and millions upon millions of animals are still being tortured and slaughtered for so-called “science” and for unnecessary and detrimental food sources. Many are calling the current situation an “environmental apocalypse.” Not to mention man’s inhumanity towards man with sweatshop labor, child labor, ongoing wars, genocide, slavery, etc. Industrialized civilization is trying desperately to sustain the unsustainable, with depleting oil reserves and attempts to extract what few resources are left with incredibly detrimental methods such as the Oil Sands/ Tar Sands refining in Canada (which is currently the largest industrial project in human history.) I believe music and lyrics have a strong place in this context, but do you ever feel like the message has reached its zenith and it’s time to do something more? Even well-known activists such as Derrick Jensen (Author of Endgame I & II) and others are calling for more direct action as “talks” and “compromise” tends to fair poorly for those that go against the corporate will. What role do you see the music community playing as the struggle intensifies to preserve what life and resources remain?
BOB: I often feel that sometimes I am preaching to the converted or worse…preaching to people who just don’t care and it can be depressing. I do think that communication as a musician is really important though and a show never goes by where we aren’t approached by people telling us that what we say has made an impact on them. But I do also feel that the time for words HAS come to an end and that people really need to consider physical means to stop the mass destruction and war that is taking place around the world. The bottom line is- it’s going to take a revolution and it’s not going to be pretty. Look at what’s going on in the middle east as an example. But to save the planet it’s going to have to take an enormous force of will on the part of the people to take away the power that the greedy corporations and power players of this planet have amassed. I worry sometimes though that Americans are so consumed by mass media, and techno toys like smart phones and laptops and games systems…that young people in particular are just being lulled to distraction by all this…and are too consumed to rise up. It’s like the John Carpenter movie “They Live” or some Orwellian storyline we are all living. It’s scary…people need to pull the plug and face reality…
Joshua BTS: Are there any grassroots organizations or movements you support that you think more people should be aware of?
BOB: I am personally involved with a group called Resources for Human Development. We are an organization that helps people with mental and physical disabilities. It focuses a lot on expression through art and music…but also building self esteem and helping people overcome whatever handicaps they have. I have been involved in mental health work for almost 15 years or so and it’s something that gives me a lot of satisfaction…as a band we have supported many causes and movements through the years…from the Animal Liberation Front and Earth Liberation front…to Anti Racist action and many feminist groups. I think people should research any group they join and think for themselves in the end…but it really does give you a sense of empowerment to work for a just cause…
Joshua BTS: I know it’s been mentioned several times across the Web that Dropdead have some written materials you all have been sitting on for a while. Is this indeed the case? And any plans of putting out another full-length or EP in the near future?
BOB: We have…from the session we did at God City I mentioned earlier that the song “Path of Glory” was pulled from. We are going to be going back in
the studio to finish up at least 6 of these songs which we plan to use for splits with both Japan’s Systematic Death and Austria’s Ruidosa Inmundicia, both bands that we have toured with and think kick ass.
Ben: I’m stoked on those projects. There will prob be one more split as well, still working on that. I consider all of them to be part of our 20th anniversary year, and I think people will be stoked on the songs.
Joshua BTS: How do you currently approach the writing process for Dropdead? Is there a captain of the ship who steers the direction for each song or is more a collaborative, organic effort?
BOB: It’s always been pretty much Ben and the boys writing and working the riffs and then me writing the lyrics and arrangements. We all have very similar
political views so we never really bump heads on content…
Ben: I think I’m about 90% responsible for the riffs, but everyone contributes.
Joshua BTS: How do your belief systems play into the inner-band workings of Dropdead? Will you not print t-shirts on certain brands who use sweatshop labor, or produce of vinyl through certain companies, etc.? And are you more selective about the bands you will perform with depending on lyrical concepts and general attitudes?
BOB: We are very conscious of who and what we are supporting…I think we all make an effort with the band and in our everyday lives not too support destructive systems and companies. We definitely make an effort not to play with bands that we think are sexist/racist/homophobic etc but it doesn’t always work that way especially when we get invited to some of these big fests with metal bands on them that don’t really have any kind of politics…so its a bit of a trade off to get our message out there to a larger audience. We do draw the line for example at times when a show is too corporate or may support things we don’t agree with…an example of this was we recently turned down an offer we got to play the Scion Fest. The promoter was a really decent guy…but we just couldn’t see ourselves playing beneath a banner for the Toyota corporation. It’s a fine line you have to walk if you’re going to practice what you preach.
Joshua BTS: I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that few bands, if any, have had such a far-reaching impact on the underground scene, particularly fast-paced hardcore punk and crust in the last 20 years as Dropdead. From lyrical focuses and artistic impressions, to the music itself, there are a plethora of next-generation bands beginning to emulate you as part of a current resurgence of interest in this niche of hardcore punk. What is your take on this impact and what role do you see Dropdead playing as the next chapters of punk history are written? Will we see Dropdead shredding into the 2020’s? I certainly hope so.
BOB: I don’t know what to think of it all…I mean…to me we are just four guys in a band with something to say…we have never been about trying to lead a movement or be self important. We play hardcore punk because we love it… we write about the subjects we sing about because we think it’s important and honestly I can’t picture us up there singing “baby baby ” lyrics or “let’s party down!”…I’ve always been adamant that if we are gonna be a band we should at least have a message…and after 20 years this is what it has evolved into. I do see us continuing to tour and write music with meaning for as long as we all find happiness in doing it. I love these guys so I’ll do it as long as they’ll have me!
Ben: I don’t think we’ve ever been a “crust” band per-se. I always considered it angry political hardcore, for whatever a label is worth haha. I think every band has a lifespan, and bands come and go. No band is the be-all or end-all nor should it be the only thing in one’s life. We’ve been having fun, made lots of lifelong friends, and been fortunate enough to have done a lot of things and been all over the world. It’s pretty humbling that people still care we’re around actually to be honest.
Joshua BTS: I know the early influences of Dropdead zip back to bands like Crass, Icons of filth, Gauze, AntiCimex, Siege, and Infest. With all of your amazing touring and show experiences recently, any newer bands that are striking your interest?
BOB: I’m really a big fan of Ruidosa Inmundicia…their energy and message reminds me of Los Crudos in their prime. I’m really excited to do a split with them…they are super nice people too.
Ben: Scapegoat, Magrudergrind, Brainoil, Ruidosa Inmundicia. All good solid bands.
Joshua BTS: Always like to throw one for the gear-heads! Any special pieces of equipment to garner up that huge Dropdead sound, whether it be cabs, heads, drums, mics, etc. that you find pivotal when recording and brutalizing audiences throughout the world?
BOB: Both me and Ben are big fans of Crate heads…I think that is one of the things that gives DROPDEAD such a mean sound. Ben is running two full stacks and he sounds like a goddamn freight train derailing in your face when we play live…
Ben: Crate Solid State heads, EMG pickups, EV speakers.
Joshua BTS: I know you guys are music buffs, especially with Ben running two of the raddest music shops in New England (the Armageddon Shops). Apart from the extreme realms of the music world, what are you guys listening to? Anything really out-there like a Shalamar collection you recently dusted off?
BOB: I listen to a lot of Dark Ambient /Martial Industrial/and Black Industrial music like Lustmord, In Slaughter Natives, Melek Tha, and lots of Cold Meat Industry type of bands. I’m also a big world music fan like Natasha Atlas and Nahawa Doumbia…and I dig alot of hip hop. I’m really all over the place musically… I’ve been listening to alot of early Public Enemy and Gunshot UK recently!
Ben: I tend to listen to old heavy rock and blues stuff, Alice Cooper, Howlin’ Wolf, Buffalo, Leaf Hound. I get so music-ed out at the shop all the time when I’m not there I generally listen to NPR or BBC news programs, read, or watch movies when I’m done working.
Joshua BTS: Here is where I like to shift gears into some light-hearted Q & A. I think people often forget that bands, especially those that deal with serious social topics such as Dropdead, are just people who enjoy many of the little pleasures life has to offer, as we all do. So here come a few fun ones.
Being a vegan band, I got ask- What are some of your favorite spots to grab a veggie meal both home and abroad?
BOB: I LOVE curry so I am always psyched to go to England and experience some of the many amazing curry houses they have in places like Bradford and the like…here in Providence we have a place called The Bombay club that I’m a big fan of and also a Cambodian restaurant called Apsara Asia.
Ben: Fu Wah, Sabrina’s, The Green Line in Philly. Bite Cafe in Chicago. Rasoi in Providence. One thing I’m serious about on the road is to have at least on solid healthy meal a day, and good strong coffee. I will make detours to make sure we’re all stoked on good food, more so than to go to record shops or bars or whatever.
Joshua BTS: Any wild or hilarious situations arise on your recent spat of shows? I know the Converge crew are a fun bunch, and I am sure you bumped shoulders with plenty of crazies at MDF.
BOB: I thought the crowd action at the Obscene Extreme Fest in the Czech Republic was highly entertaining…people dressed as giant chickens and robots and half naked fat men running around while we played. It was alot of fun and took the edge off my nervousness at playing in front of such a huge crowd. The Brujeria guys came running on stage wearing their bandanas
and waving their machetes while we played too which was AWESOME!
Ben: I saw a guy walking by at OEF, pants down, poop hanging out of his ass, poop on his face and hands doing the walk of shame. It was like a slo-mo shot in a movie as he shuffled away out the main gate…
Joshua BTS: What do your daily lives look like? Do you work regular 9 to 5s or are you able to stay afloat doing the music thing?
BOB: well like I said earlier in the interview…I do mental health work…Ben is currently running two record stores in both Boston and Providence…Brian is currently unemployed as is George. I also have two other bands that I play in called Lolita Black and I Destroyer…so I don’t have a lot of free time but as the old saying goes “I’ll sleep when I’m dead”.
Ben: I run two record shops, take care of my grandmother, plus do label and band stuff in between. I also try to carve out time to not work every day to stay sane. I’m a workaholic.
Joshua BTS: Guilty pleasure time. What would you say are some of your current most guilty pleasures? All is fair game- food, books, video games, or even cock n’ ball torture, whatever floats your boat. Let us have it.
BOB: That’s easy…reading. But my guilty pleasure is reading horror and sci fi and in particular zombies and end of the world scenarios! When i do have time to finally wind down and lose myself to some mindless entertainment it’s usually with my undead friends…ha ha!
Ben: I read old pulp fiction stuff to escape from the shit of daily life. REH, ERB, etc, plus I dig having campfires in my backyard alone or with friends. It’s cathartic.
Joshua BTS: Apart from the awesome line-up of shows, what can fans expects from Dropdead as we approach and enter 2012?
BOB: I think more songs of intense and meaningful hardcore punk and a continuing motivation to make a change through our music. I’m hoping at some point we can get some creative time under our belts and write some new songs…
Ben: I’m hoping more shows, more bummed out people that want just music who get us saying our bit, playing music with the my friends in DD, and a few splits with the rest of those unreleased tracks.
Joshua BTS: Best place/s online for fans to keep up with Dropdead? I know search engine results often mix-up results between the real Dropdead and that awful glamcore band with a similar name.
BOB: Currently we have an official “Facebook” page that Ben is working on that should have any upcoming shows and band news on it…this is the link: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Dropdead/253671617997061?sk=info
Ben: That’s probably the best, Facebook cut access to our old FB page, so we started over. For band stuff you can email (any of our first names) @ dropdead.org as an email. Band records and whatnot use the search box on Armageddonshop.com and type “Dropdead“, we do mailorder everyday.
Joshua BTS: Thank you very much for taking time with Blow The Scene readers today as we look forward to covering your future endeavors. Any final thoughts?
BOB: Thanks for the interview and thanks to all the people that follow us for your support and giving us the motivation to do what we do! Cheers!!!
Ben: Yeah, sorry again that this took so long, but we really appreciate the opportunity.
Interview by Joshua T. Cohen
Bob – Vocals
Brian – Drums
Ben – Guitar
George – Bass
Click Icon to Stream Continuous High Quality Mp4 of Dropdead tracks “What Could Be,” “Boxed In,” “Brick By Brick,” “A Final Question,” “Words Of Truth,” “Another Stone”
Dropdead / Look Back and Laugh – split 7″ (2004, Armageddon Label)
[wpaudio url=”http://blowthescene.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/01-Track-01.m4a” text=”Dropdead side in full” dl=”0″]
Buy this split EP at The Armageddon Shop.
Dropdead – Full set – May 21, Broad St. Ministries with Converge, Trap Them, Burning Love, and Cop problem courtesy of our friend Sunny at Hate5six.com.