Interview: Chicken of Dead To Me

San Francisco punk rockers Dead To Me recently dropped a new album titled Moscow Penny Ante on Fat Wreck Chords.  The band, having been around since 2003, has had their fair share of changes with musicians coming and going, but never really lost their sound.  Their ability to mix up a bunch of genres like reggae and ska into their punk rock groove always stood out to me.  Having caught them twice this year, you could say I dig them a little.

Having toured the US in 2011, the band will be heading to Europe for a tour in 2012.  I seriously do not think these guys, between touring and recording, ever take a break.

Photo by Katie Hovland

Recently I had the opportunity to chat with bassist / vocalist Chicken.  He was more than kind in doing an interview with me.  Check it out:

BHP: So, how’d 2011 treat you guys?

Chicken:  This year has been great for us! We have toured pretty much non stop and we recorded a new album and released it. So needless to say we have been very, very busy. It’s a good thing.

I’ve been lucky enough to see DTM twice this year, once in SXSW.  Any comments about that magical evening in March?

That night was crazy. I learned how to play guitar listening to Screeching Weasel, so I was pretty bummed out about what happened. I just wish the whole thing never happened. It was a bummer too because the other bands that played (Dead To Me, Banner Pilot, The Flatliners) all worked really hard to get to Austin for SXSW and we all played great sets. Unfortunately, no one remembers because of the whole Ben Weasel fiasco.

DTM played CMJ in NYC recently.  How did it go for you guys?

CMJ in New York was so much fun. Fat Wreck did a great job of putting together an amazing evening of awesome bands. We had a blast! We played two shows in one day in NYC, and that is super hard to do. Just getting around NYC with all our gear is a nightmare, but we pulled it off. We played a free show in SoHo at the Chrome Bag store with kegs of beer and lots of drunk New York hipsters. Good times.

Your band’s style mixes up a plethora of punk rock goodness that spans from almost a street punk to a reggae-vibe.  Was this style how DTM always was since its inception or has the band experimented throughout the years?

We have always just wanted to write songs that we want to hear. If it has a little Reggae vibe to it, then so be it. We love bands from all different genres like Hip Hop, Reggae, Hardcore, World Music, etc… so we just want to be able incorporate all of our influences into the songwriting process.

Fat Wreck Chords has been there for you since your debut.  How does it feel to be on their roster?  You actually worked for them for a few years correct?  Being employed by Fat Mike on two different levels…nice.

Yeah, it is awesome being on FAT. I used to work in the mail room there and it was so much fun. It was like a family vibe for sure. We did tons of stuff together, not just work. We would play in bands together, go to shows together, go out to eat all the time and all that. Now being in a band on the label, I consider it an honor. When I call the label and have questions about this or that, I am talking to people that have known me personally for over ten years now, so I trust them completely. It’s a great feeling for sure.

DTM’s new album Moscow Penny Ante dropped a couple months back.  It is a great release by the way.  What can you tell me about this new release?

We are all really excited about our new record, Moscow Penny Ante. I love the job Matt Allison did producing it and am so excited to be playing new songs live, it rules. We have been touring so much over the last two years that this batch of songs is a very good reflection of the live spirit of DTM. It is much more cohesive than African Elephants and has a little more straight forward delivery I think.

Does the title have any reference to your country of origin?

No, I grew up in California. The title is taken from a term Malcolm X used to define his crew of small time thugs in Harlem, NY. I feel like a small timer in a sea of boys in bands that want to be big time and I could care less. I am happy with everything we have been able to do and I’m riding this thing until the wheels fall off. I never though in a million years that because of songs I wrote in my bedroom, it would take me to places as far away as Moscow.

What was done differently on this album that stands out over previous releases?

I feel like there as an overall confidence in song writing on this new record that wasn’t as apparent on previous releases. We got experimental on African Elephants and I love that record for that, but on Moscow Penny Ante I felt way more confident with what my melodies would end up sounding like and how I wanted the guitars to sound.

Will the band be taking a break anytime soon.  Seems like you boys have been touring all over the world this year?

What is a break? I’ve never heard of that before.

Aside from DTM, your drummer Ian does some amazing artwork on used vinyl.  I am kicking myself in the ass for not buying one when you played in Cleveland.  How long typically does it take him to turn a beat up vinyl into a work of art?

I am sure he will be bringing some with him on our European tour in Jan/Feb 2012 so come to a show and try to grab one before they sell out. His pieces can take anywhere from an hour to twenty minutes to three hours sometimes. It depends on what materials he has laying around and how much time he has available to work on something.

Would you agree that punk is not dead?

It never has been and never will be!!

Did you ever think that you would be where you are now 20 years ago?

I definitely used to dream about playing in a touring punk band all the time 20 years ago. I knew with all my heart that it was what I wanted to do. I feel so insanely fortunate that I am able to do it now. I have literally traveled much of the globe and met amazing people world wide. I feel very lucky to be on FAT and lucky to have been able to play with some of my all time favorite bands over the years. It’s like living in a dream, it rules.

Awesome.  Well that’s all I got…anything you care to add?

Thank you for the interview, we appreciate it! To anyone reading this, come hang out when we come t Europe in early 2012, it’s gonna be a blast!

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