The average lifespan of most punk bands usually never makes it past a handful of house shows. If they really have their act together they might get booked at a local club and maybe even put out a record. It’s all fun and games until an amp gets stolen, an ego gets bruised, or somebody gets sent to rehab, and that’s the point when it seems everybody calls it quits.
So how the hell have The Secretions kept it going strong for nearly the past two decades?
A genuine devotion to their music and fans would be the most obvious answer, as anybody who’s been to one of their shows can attest this group gives it their all every time they get on stage. Following that it’d have to be their inherent ability to make you feel like one of their oldest friends, a surprisingly welcoming attitude that can be a rarity in this community’s ever enclosing social bubble. At the top of the list though would have to be their dedication to keeping the unpredictable, chaotic, adventure-seeking spirit of punk rock alive, an ethos that’s ever-present in every song they write, chord the play, and tour they travel. While wrapping up the final leg of their West Coast Tour the guys sat down for an interview about the latest on the road and their new album Greasyhotmeatcheezy.
I know you guys are sporting some different wheels for this tour. Tell me about your friend Lemmy, I’ve been reading he’s seen better days.
Mickie: We bought Lemmy, our 1991 Dodge Ram Van from a band called The Broke after they lived up to their name and broke up. The guy we bought it from ripped us off and moved away immediately after without us knowing. He left us with a $300 repair bill so we’re hoping that we’ll eventually find where he lives now and shit in his mailbox. Rumor has it that Lemmy used to belong to the east coast KISS cover band Hotter Than Hell, the band that was secretly used as KISS doubles in the movie Detroit Rock City.
Danny: Lemmy has been a great van and a hell of a workhorse for many years now, but he’s now approaching 300,000 miles so we decided to give him the summer off and concentrate on fixing him up when we get back. We rented a Ford 15-passenger van with a much higher rollover risk to make the tour more exciting. It was one of those faceless boring white vans, but it did have AC and super comfy seats which was essential for the 100-plus degree days we had for most of the tour.
I wanted to ask about the picture I saw your guys’ twitter of the claw machine filled with $20 bills. Where was that? What’s the deal?
Mickie: That was a claw machine in Barstow CA at a Bob’s Big Boy restaurant. Every stuffed animal in it had either a twenty or fifty dollar bill rubber banded to it. The thing that struck us the most amusing about it is that it was out of order. It was a kind of abstract metaphor for the state of the U.S. economy.
Any of you guys been on the “ramen and a forty” diet since the tour started?
Mickie: On past tours we’ve lived on the “Dollar Store Diet,” consisting of dollar store snacks, PB&J “vanwiches” and gas station food. This time Paul and I decided to pay a bit more attention to proper nutrition–it ended up giving us extra partying stamina so I think we ate twice as well and partied twice as hard! Danny did end up unfortunately getting sick with a 104 degree fever and the beginnings of pneumonia but he’s hardcore so he toughed it out.There always seems to be at least one person in the band who ends up getting sick for part of the tour. It happens. If you are creative with food and a decent chef you can eat surprisingly well on ten bucks a day, it just takes a bit of effort and planning.
Can you explain to all the fine folks out there about the awesomeness of Capitol Dawg and how it has curiously become a part of the band’s history?
Mickie: I started going to Capitol Dawg because they had Chicago Style veggie dogs, which until now have been rare in Sacramento. I eventually convinced the owner to start serving garlic fries, which were some of the best in town. All of the Secretions love hot dogs, and cheap beer, and Cap Dawg has both, which eventually led to all of us eating there a lot. With the release of our CD Greasyhotmeatcheezy, it just seemed like a no-brainer to have the CD release party there along with hot dog and drink specials. The owner is also a big supporter of local music so he asked if we could sign a photo and post it in the restaurant, which was pretty exciting for us.
What have been some of the highlights of the current tour?
Mickie: The house shows for sure. After playing sleazy dive bars for the last 15 years it’s really getting old. Also, in this crappy economy no all-ages venues even have a chance of staying open without alcohol sales so the kids have nowhere to see shows. Punks have been forced more and more to do shows in their houses, garages, basements, or backyards. House shows usually circumvent all the things that I hate about venues: asshole security, high door prices, high drink prices, promoters ripping off the bands, and age requirements. All that’s left is people having fun watching music and playing music. You might think that with no set door price that you would get paid less, but most of the time people are so generous with donations and buying merchandise that we end up getting paid way more than we would playing a bar show.
Danny: The house show in Flagstaff, Arizona was easily the best show of tour. It set a bar for fun and excellence that was never topped. The Green Stripe House in Seattle came very very close, as did the Zombie House in Portland. Flagstaff was just so much crazy chaotic fun that we wanted every single show to be just like it.
Switching gears to focus on the new album…often times you hear veteran bands complaining about changes in the scene, but I take the song “Back In The Day Punk” as a proverbial middle finger to that sentiment. Do you feel change is an inevitable part of punk? Is it vital to its survival?
Danny: I’m glad you see the song that way because IT IS a middle finger to my “over 35″ punk rock peers who do nothing but complain about the current state of things and talk about “the glory days” like they had everything to do with it. Older punks can be some of the most self-righteous people on the planet. That song is pretty much me trying to capture where I am in my life at this point. I’m not an angry 17 year old who hates his parents anymore. I’m 40 years old, I love my family, I love my fiance, I enjoy doing yardwork, have a good job, and just happen to play drums and sing in one of my favorite punk rock bands. That song is directed to the guys who are my age and think that being a punk rocker still means hating your parents and drinking in the park at night. That was all good and fun in my teens and even in my 20’s, but I think a 40 year old trying to pass themselves off as a rebellious teen is laughable and pathetic.
Change is without a doubt vital in order for punk rock to survive. Not so much in musical styles or in venues for bands to play, but on a much deeper and personal note. A 17 year-old punk should be pissed at everything. That’s what’s great about being a young punk. But that attitude definitely needs to change as you get older. I don’t expect a teenage punk to find joy in the things I do. However, I totally understand why a teenage punk would have a blue mohawk, spikes, studs, and chains. I also respect the intelligence of those kids enough to realize that they can see the difference between an “old guy” trying to be a kid and a 40 year old who plays punk rock music and is comfortable being who they are.
How have you seen things change in the music scene in the Sacramento (or greater Bay) Area?
Mickie: The quick answer is that after being in the punk scene here for 20 years, I’ve noticed that it goes in waves in a never-ending circular fashion. It starts out with people complaining that there are no shows to go to. Some of those folks get sick of it and start putting on shows. The scene gets better and more people start contributing. After weeks, months, or sometimes years, some people get burnt out on putting on shows and quit. Then a bunch of clubs will get shut down due to mismanagement, vandalism or police harassment and the scene will start to suck again and it starts all over.
Danny: Just recently, there has been something that I have never seen before. There were so many people getting off their asses, putting on shows, and starting bands that there wasn’t enough people to go to shows. There was a show to go to at a house, bar, or music venue almost every night of the week. Shows started doing badly because there was simply TOO MUCH going on and not enough people to support it all. As a result, R5 Records closed, 16th Street Café/Javalounge closed, and Shire Road Club closed. Pretty much all Sacto has left are house shows and bar shows. No one else wants to take a chance with the underground all ages punk scene. There is much more money and less risk in putting on mainstream punk and generically appealing indie rock and folk music, so that is what is thriving in major venues in Sacto these days.
I noticed tracks like “Green-Eyed Killer” harks back to a classic 50’s rock n’ roll song structure and feel. Is this just a natural direction for some songs or is it influenced by anything in particular?
Mickie: I have always been heavily influenced by early rock n’ roll guitar slingers like Eddie Cochran, Chuck Berry, and Carl Perkins, and I can’t help writing a song like that every once in a while. “Computerhead” is another song with an old school rock n’ roll twist, but “Green Eyed Killer” was a direct homage to fifties’ rockers songs about girls who drive them wild. More specifically, that song was written about the woman I ended up marrying, who wished that there was a song like that for her.
Who is Tony Silva? The entire song “Tony Silva Rides The Bus” is about the guy! What’s your relationship with him?
Mickie: Tony Silva is a kid who comes to our shows. He lives in Woodland, CA, which is twenty miles away from Sacramento. When we met him he was 15 and didn’t really have any way to get to shows when his parents couldn’t take him. He would spend hours on the bus just to come to our shows and just Sacramento shows in general. That’s a lot of effort and dedication, and if that doesn’t deserve to be immortalized in song, what does? Tony is 18 now and has become a good friend and is still a strong supporter of the Sacto scene. He still doesn’t have a car!
Interview by Sean Logic
Photos by Samantha Sommatino