Featured photo © Heather Harris.
DEAN SABATINO of The Dead Milkmen Q and A
with DONNA BALANCIA, Editor of CaliforniaRocker.com
DB: What have you learned over the years?
DS: Relax and have fun.
DB: What is the difference in your attitude today compared with when you first started out?
DS: We’re content to do things our own way now and not worry too much about the fame. We release our own records now and play when we want to and are able. Its not like we’re on the “release a record-tour for months and months-write a new record- record the record” schedule. The next album will be out when we are happy with the songs we have ready and not before.
DB: If you could write a song right at this second what would you call it?
DS: “I haven’t Packed A Thing!”
DB: Did any of you ever find that Punk Rock Girl for real?
DS: We have been in touch with the real punk rock girl from the video. Her name is Miriam and she lives in NYC. She used to be in a band called God’s Crotch.
DB: Who owned the “Bitchin’ Camaro?”
DS: None of us have ever owned a Camaro… I suppose “Bitchin’ Ford Focus” doesn’t have a very musical sound to it.
DB: Why was the band considered “humorous” or “funny?” I never saw you as “funny” frankly, I always thought you guys were making very important social commentary. Am I right?
DS: I would agree with you. We packaged some political/social commentary up in a potentially “humorous” wrapper. Certainly back in the 80’s it seemed like there were some very “serious” bands….but now I sense more playfulness and some humor in more music.
DB: Are there certain songs that you do not play today because of politically correct-ness?
DS: Well we don’t play a song or two from the old days. Times change. People mature a little bit. We have better songs now.
DB: Are there new songs you’ve added to your repertoire that are politically incorrect?
DS: Not that I’m aware of.
DB: Have you changed lyrics to any of your songs?
DS: Not due to any outside pressure. Rodney will substitute a line or two once in a while to possibly make a more topical current event reference when we play live.
DB: With Pretty Music for Pretty People, you talk about the state of music today. Is it the corporate mentality that drives the vast amounts of dumb music or is it that executives see people WANT dumb music?
DS: I think some folks are lazy and will listen to anything they corporate mentality push at them. Some folks don’t want to take risks on new music or open up to a new and different sound.
DB: How are young aspiring artists — or older aspiring artists — able to survive in music these days? Is there a distribution method that helps artists make a little money off their recordings? What is your preferred method of distribution?
DS: We release our own recordings now via our website and through Amazon and iTunes. Buying a disc or MP3s directly from the band is the best way.
DB: How important is Record Store Day for you this year? How important is it in general?
DS: We’re not too connected to Record Store Day directly. There have been releases of two of our older records but those were from a company that licensed the vinyl rights from our back catalog label. We’re fine with it for now. Last year you could get a green or yellow version of “Big Lizard In My Backyard”. This year they’re releasing Blue and White versions of “Beelzebubba”.
DB: What is the age of your fan these days? Are fans from the 80s coming to see you, is it mostly them? How are younger fans discovering you?
DS: We get all ages of fans now. Our older tried and true fans come out to see us and we get younger fans too. Possibly the younger fans are the kids of our old fans!
DB: Who was the biggest influence on the band from early on?
DS: I think the Punk movement in England, NYC and Southern California were our main influences and the DIY philosophy – that anyone could start a band and make music – that was our starting point.
DB: If you considered that your band plays a “genre” what would that be? Do you consider yourselves really “punk?” We know you’re not pretty music for pretty people, but your fans aren’t bad-looking ha!
DS: I have always used “Punk Rock” to describe us to folks who are not familiar with us.
FOR MORE on the Dead Milkmen, read In Their Own Words at EastCoastRocker.com