RADIOACTIVE SUSHI FOREVER! A chat with hardcore legend Dave Dictor

Home Interviews RADIOACTIVE SUSHI FOREVER! A chat with hardcore legend Dave Dictor
This Article Is Brought To You By : Cold Ones And Rolled Ones With Ami Lawless
Written By: Josh Mosh
May 25 2011

mdc, dave dictor sings

MDC really needs no introduction.  One of the pioneers of the US Hardcore scene in the early 80’s MDC is still pushing ahead 30 years later with several of the original members still intact! Recently they returned to Denver for an amazing show with the SUBHUMANS.  Dave was cool enough to let me hang out in the back of the van and shoot the shit for awhile before the show.  Here is how our conversation went…

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Dave:…All that kind of stuff.  That’s what you were walking up on me on.  All the logistical bullshit of being in a band.  It’s like a marriage, you are as strong as your weakest link which is cliché but it’s kinda’ true.  And one guy can make it miserable for everybody.  Not that we are miserable, but…Al has shit he is going through, he has dentures and they broke and blah, blah, blah.

Thrashhead:  Totally get it.  Some of us have health issues, it’s hard on tour.  We’ve even gotten home from tours and had to make line-up changes based on personalities etc…

Dave:  Oh yeah, people on the road are not who they are at home.  And I’ve noticed through the years and through the tours and dealing with people is their addictions get worse, especially with alcohol.  Or really with everything.  It’s almost tolerable in the beginning and then it’s like…

Thrashhead:  Let me ask you about that.   You don’t drink do you?

Dave:  No, I don’t. 

Thrashhead:  I quit drinking a couple of years ago too.

Dave: I quit hard drugs and alcohol 13-14 years ago.  I used to have a clean date but I realized I smoke marijuana so…It’s not too clean (we laugh). 

Thrashhead:  Was it just that you drew the line one day or was there an event?

Dave:  Well I busted by the Portland police and I was raising my son who was 12 years old.  I got out of jail and my son was sitting there with me in my apartment that was totally tossed by the police.  I had been selling methamphetamine, not a lot, but, I had a little scale and I bought quarter ounces and broke ‘em up into eight-balls and grams and this and that.  And my son said “are you gonna’ stop because I’m ready to go live with one of my Aunts”.  And I thought I had been doing a good job, I bought him a computer…blah, blah, blah, ya’ know.  And he’s like “all the computers in the world aren’t going to change that we’re living in fear that our fucking apartment is going to get tossed for someone wringing our doorbell at 2 in the morning looking for you”.  Their good buddies and they need an eight-ball right now “Can I get some” and my son was like “I don’t want to live like that, I don’t want to witness you getting more into your drug and everything else”.  So it was really…I had good insurance at the time and I went to in-patient re-hab where I stayed 17 days and at first I was just kinda’… “I’ll check it out and see” and after awhile I had a cool…he wasn’t really a councilor, he was like an assistant councilor or something.  He just like one of that guys that drives you around and he had a life similar to mine and I could really fuckin’ relate.  He’s looking at me like “your 40 fucking years old, where do think this is going?  Where do you think your teeth are going to be in 5-10 years, where do you think your kid’s gonna be?  If you think he’s disappointed with you now where do you think he’s going to be in 10 years?”

Thrashhead:  Did you see Casey Royer from DI just got busted?  He O.D.’ed in front of his 9 year old son.  His son had to go next door and call the cops.  TMZ had it, the entertainment papers grabbed hold of it saying “Ex Social Distortion drummer”…it’s too bad.  I saw him last summer and was talking to him.  He was cool as hell…

Dave:  I never bumped into Casey but I am kind of like friends with the ADOLESCENTS  guys…We were always like brother bands or something.  We were from the Bay Area of California and they were from the LA area.  We actually toured for about a month with the ADOLESCENTS back in 89 or something like that.  I got to know Rikk Agnew and different guys and although Casey wasn’t around he was like one of their main bros, he was in every other story they told.  I was just reading ‘American Hardcore’, I picked it up at one of the gigs.  It makes me out to be the…the gay Chez Rivera of hardcore, ya’ know I’m like…well whatever ya’ know.  I’m not all that gay!  (laughing) I really haven’t had a boyfriend my whole life; I’m a very unsuccessful gay person.  But anyway…

Thrashhead:  Have you seen the UK Hardcore book? Ian Glasper is the author…85-89 UK Hardcore.  A lot of the bands talk about how they were bored of the UK punk scene and their two big influences, the two bands that every band names are MDC and DRI.  They talk about when MDC came over and wiped the floor with UK bands…They figured out that they needed to pick up the pace!

DaveCool.  (laughs).  Yeah, we’re on tour with the SUBHUMANS and I totally noticed from their first gig to now they are a lot faster!  (laughs)  It just happens ya’ know.  You go on tour with people and…They’re watching us in front of them and they’re confused, a few slower sets and then it’s “let’s just kick ass man!”  I’ve got to look for the UK Hardcore book. 

Thrashhead:  MDC has toured fairly consistently over the last few years.  Now a tour with the SUBHUMANS, this is a good bill for you guys.  I think your styles compliment each others bands well.  Lyrically and politically you are coming from a similar place.  How did this tour come to be?

Dave:  We played with them 28 years ago, 29 years ago in London so I’ve always known Dick.  Through the years we kind of lost track, but we’ve played with CITIZEN FISH in the early 90’s and I kind of saw him at Holiday’s In the Sun, we played there in like 04 or 05, we’d just be hanging around.  That’s a great festival in England…GBH, EXPLOITED, LEFT OVER CRACK, the BUSINESS, lots of different ends of the scene.  Now they’ve stepped it up with STIFF LITTLE FINGERS, some major acts.  I think even BAD RELIGION played it last year.  We’ve been just constantly friends and we did a couple of shows and a fella’ named Jay Crash from Portland he started working with us and he’s very forward and, something that I am not so good at…So he’ll just say “You guys and MDC, it would be a great ideas, blah, blah, blah…”  And Dick was like we’re doing it with CITIZEN FISH and that would be really good for us and because CITIZEN FISH doesn’t get the numbers the SUBHUMANS do, CITIZEN FISH can do about 100 kids in Charleston or whatever and with MDC the numbers do help because like you said, we’re not exactly the same but we do compliment each other.  And we did that tour about 2 1/2 to 3 years ago.  And that worked out really nice, the temperaments in the bands, the respect factor, the old friendships involved, it was very cool. And then in the last year or two they gave us like 4 gigs on the west coast.  We played San Diego, LA…last year we played Gilman Street in Berkeley, Sacramento, Reno, some other things…but smaller things, 4 dates, blah, blah, blah.  Then I heard they were coming and I wrote them an email and said “we want to do it, this is what we’ll need, x amount of dollars”…It was kind of a reasonable amount, more than the standard of taking a little band on with you, but not much more.  I just kind of felt that our merch would carry the day.  The door covers the van rental and expenses; the merch is what we can send everyone home with, the driver with a thousand bucks in his pocket…

Thrashhead:  Like I said lyrically and politically you compliment each other and in MDC you obviously think politics are important to your stance, to your music.  Why?  Do the kids listen?

Dave:  There are certain amount of people listening, a certain amount of people here for fashion, a certain amount of people here for whatever.  You compare it to 1980, 81 or 83, 85 and it’s the same thing to a certain degree.  People just have that angst, young people filled with energy, they are rebelling…Are they really getting everything?...The way you want them to?...Sometimes you wonder that.  But I am very pleased at…I think a lot of people do pick up some stuff.  Every tour I hear, like 20-30 times “ ‘Chicken Squawk’ really helped me become a vegetarian”.  I hear that and it’s such a fucken’ compliment.  To write a song like that and just realize…I don’t know if it’s sweeping the nation, but on the individual, on person in every scene.

Thrashhead:  The shotgun approach, throw it up there and see what sticks.  With one or two kids it’s going to stick and make difference. 

Dave:  Yeah.  To me being a 35 year long vegetarian it’s just really cool to not be a part of the death industry and the way they treat animals in this country.  I don’t go around putting my finger in people’s faces.  People hunt their deer, whatever.  It is their personal choice to a certain point.  But the way animals are treated in mass consumption is pretty gross.  For anyone not to be part of that industry is pretty cool.  You can say “The government sucks, Sarah Palin sucks” and that’s pretty easy but what are you going to do about it?  Drinking three 40’s, then doing some oxy-codeines, might be one way to deal with it and then trying to do something positive.  I don’t even know what that something positive is anymore…tables at a gig.  You speak about it but it in the 80’s we were very in the streets, very sit down and protest.  I had a girl that got her jaw broken; the horses ran right over her.  The girl had her jaw broken, a 15 year old girl that totally looked up to me and MDC and they took her away in an ambulance.  I was like “Fuck!” ya’ know…it’s the real world.  Just because we’re earnest and we’re going to sit down and do a peaceful protest doesn’t mean the cops are going to react in some sort of nice way.  They are going to beat the fuck out of you and run over you with horses and motorcycles.  So at a certain point I stopped thinking that I’m going to change the world.  If I change one person here or there or some people…  I’m just part of this community…I’m abstaining from taking part in luxury and riches of this thing.  I don’t want a Volvo station wagon, and I don’t want some $100,000 job.  I don’t want to take a Club-Med vacation with my wife for my 10th anniversary or just piss away some money in some Caribbean spot.  I want a sustainable thing that doesn’t fuck with the environment, not so consumptive.

Thrashhead:  Some of the Punk Rock “stars” seem to be living that.  You’ve been very outspoken about some of the bands and the record labels…The song on the, not the last album but the one before.  I forgot the name of the song but you mention RANCID…

Dave:  RANCID, yeah I do mention and Timmy Yo.  I do mention RANCID…

Thrashhead Did you get any backlash for that?

Dave:  I didn’t get any backlash. 

Thrashhead:  Did any of those guys hear the songs?  I doubt RANCID still has time to listen to MDC. 

Dave I’ve gotten no backlash what-so-ever about that.  Though I spoke to Fat Mike on the phone, I’ve known him for 30 years or 25 years.  I’ve always had kind of a weird relationship with him, though not a bad one.  Standing in the back of the gig in 87 or 88 and I remember him go “melodicore is the future” or something like melodic music and punk or pop-punk with melodies is…We could see the writing on the wall.  We could see the GREEN DAYs and the OP IVY’s and I remember he made that comment.  And I agreed with him.  I could see that the next generation of punks that came out I 86, 87, 88, they didn’t want to hear about dead cops and Reagan…Ya’ know the masses, they wanted to bring it back down to “my doodie looks funny” and “this is a song call ‘Velveeta’, she’s the cheesy girl.  It really started slowing down to the likes of STIFF LITTLE FINGERS and the BUZZCOCKS and the CLASH.  Hardcore was off the hook, it was hard, fast and it kind of burnt itself out.  After the BAD BRAINS who’s going to do what in hardcore?  They kind of…watchin’ HR do those back flips.  (laughs!)  I’m not gonna’ do a back flip!  But that’s where we came from and…Anyway, I’ve gotten no backlash.  I think we live in a small shadow of the world of RANCID.  The thing is I like Tim Armstrong and I like Matthew Freeman, they’re the two main characters that were in OP IVY and in RANCID.  I’ve not heard from them for 15 years, so it’s not like my song made them not talk to me cuz’ they’re already kind of living in their…

Thrashhead:  Making videos with Kelly Osbourne…

Dave:  And Pink…and the schmoozers…And unfortunately, for me, taking very few of their friends with them.   In the beginning bands like GREEN DAY took like SCREECHING WEASEL or PANSY DIVISION but that didn’t last long.  Then all of a sudden they are in that world…To a certain extent I understand, I don’t agree with it, but I understand it.  They look at things like they have to be growing or their dying.  So every year they have to capture that crop of…every 3 years they have to capture the new crop of 15, 16, 17 year olds.  And for them to do that they have to be commercially viable and it’s very tricky and GREEN DAY turned it into a fucken’ art form.  That’s how they’ve been able to stay on top for 10 to 15 years the way they have in such a visual…They’re playing New Years Eve on NBC ya’ know.  That is amazing to see and all that and I am not even that against it I just wish more of the scene had gotten a boost up.  Maybe I’m missing some stuff, maybe I don’t know all the times GREEN DAY or RANCID paid Gilman Streets rent, I know they did a lot of benefits for them there.  But for a band like mine where I get a lot of kuddo’s from those kind of people I’ve never gotten one gig.  We never got one gig out of them.  We did play with RANCID once or twice but that was back when we were still headlining and it was like their first year of touring.  We played Europe with them a few times; nobody knew who they were really.  And that’s the sad part to me, because part of what I’ve been doing…I’ve always wanted us when we had our little record label, when we had one, R-Radical Records, was all about bringing the DICKS up and bringing DRI up and just trying to help the scene move along.  Then it becomes it’s every band out for themselves kind of thing.  And part of it is, now for RANCID or GREENDAY to give someone an opening spot, that opening spot is worth to a record company, to open for GREEN DAY on tour it’s worth five thousand a gig.  Just from the product placement.  For a new band, whoever the fuck, to have that spot in Seattle, in Vancouver, in Montreal, in New York, is worth five thousand a gig.  So someone might look at them and say “you might want your good friend MDC or whoever but it costing the label money”.  And on the other hand too, how much money do you really need? 

Thrashhead:  Well that’s the Ozzfest model…Anyone can play just pay the going rate for a spot. 

Dave:  Straight up cash will get you in the door.  Fucking rank ass bullshit!  To gain recognition…”Fresh off the Ozzfest” and all that kind of bullshit.  That’s how all that is.  It’s tricky, I’m not hateful about it.  Just looking back, if I was sitting here with Tim and Matt I would say “why didn’t you get us a gig?”  For a few years MDC went to funk, like 96 to 2000 but other than those years…

dave dictor

Thrashhead:  Matt even played in MDC…

Dave:  They brag on the stories how they were our roadies and Matt played bass with us.  “Touring with Dave was like being in the Army…”  We were touring on very little, Europe on $20 a day and it had to be done in a kind of a way that was not wasteful because there was not a lot of money.  And if you wanted everyone to come home with $500 at the end for 4 weeks in Europe you just do it.  You suck it up and a lot of things we did ourselves and these were days before GPS, before computers, before Mapqwest, before all that ya’ know.  Depending on the level of the locals and all that rot.  At the end of the day I understand how bands want to earn.  Like I said we’re on this tour and we are going to earn like a $1000 or $1500 for a month on the road.  I’m honored to be able to do that.  Would I mind if it was 3 or 4 thousand?  No.  Would I mind being in the DROPKICK MURPHYS league of bands where you’re bringing 800 to 1200 people a night and you’re making $1500, $2000 or $3000 a night?  I would love that, we’re just not in that we’re just still just playing PYRATE PUNK gigs and they come up to me with $64 at the end of the night and say “well we tried to do the best collecting and we gave the band from out of town a hundred but here’s $64 for you”  I shrug my shoulder and say ok, I make my choices and my choice in this is to support the PYRATE PUNX and support touring bands.

Thrashhead:  Whenever you’ve come to Denver you’ve always been really cool and few times you’ve played the DIY shows as well as the bar shows downtown.  The last couple of times you’ve come through you’ve played the Blast O Mat.  We played with you there both times.

Dave:  Yeah, we just discovered that.  We didn’t really know about it.  Yeah we played the bar, which is 3 Kings, which kind of exiles the Kings, but it’s not a made gig it’s not like you can  get $7-$800 but that is just purely on 162 people paid 8 bucks each and “we paid the soundman and took out this for the posters and here’s the rest”.  The bar and its resources we are able to make money where as an all ages gig, like Gillman Street, $1200 coming in the door there is no bar, or like the squats in Europe, they can give all the door money to the bands.  That usually not the case at an all ages place, you’ve got to cover it top to bottom; sound system, sound man, damages, bathroom, rent…Are you playing tonight? 

Thrashhead:  No…no.  We broke up.

Dave:  Oh... You looked familiar from the Blast O Mat.  I’m a little claustrophobic...from being in MDC.  When I’m on stage I don’t mind so much, but if I’m in a room full of 150 sweaty bodies in a little tin shed, I’m like give me 30 seconds, 90 seconds and I’m out of there. 

Thrashhead:  That’s the way I am on tour.  Night after night, your in there every night.  When I’m tour I like to hang out in the van until it’s time to play sometimes.  Because I cant take it anymore! 

Dave:  I was wondering when we go on…

Thrashhead:  Is there any hope for the human race?

Dave:  I don’t think the way we…With 7 or 8 billion people on the planet and continuing the way it is, 30, 40 60 years from now…For all I know 3 years from now  things are going to combust in a fucking awful way.  How many people are going to be left on this planet, a billion or half a billion, but I don’t see how it can go on like it’s going…consumptively and abusively of the environment and it’s just sad to see all these species getting knocked down.  I belong the National Federation of Wildlife…polar bears…their finding hardly any young polar bears, they’re not able to make it.  Species after species; tigers, this that and the other thing.  There are two herds of actually migrating elephants in the world left.  It’s just all coming to the end.  Does that mean were not going to be able to wear orange and blue and green shirts like STAR TREK?…ya’ know, and maybe that’s going to be the future of the Earth and there is going to be some catastrophe and the numbers are going to be scaled way, way, way down and then some kind of life goes on afterwards.  I don’t even feel like I’m changing the planet, but I’ve got nothing better to do.  I could be doing other things but this is…at least I’m not part of, I’m not hiding from it, at least I am a voice out there saying “this is wrong!”.  And tour with the SUBHUMANS where we’re playing to 3-400 people a night and it’s splendid to be up there in front of people and talk about it all.  Radioactive sushi for ever and ever.


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all images copyright Dave Dictor and/or MDC. Images used under fair use for journalistic purposes.

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