Interview: Darius Koski of Swingin’ Utters

Every once in a while, I’ll have a day where I feel like I am just getting too old to love what I love.  I wonder if I should turn it down a notch.

Face it, a lot has changed in 20 years since I was an adolescent teenager just looking for my piece in life.  I picked my crowd, chose my music, and did not have one single regret about any of it.  Hell, I still don’t.

For those of you who really know me, you can see that not much has changed with me in two decades.  I dress the same, act the same and listen to a lot of the same music I did back when I was a teen.

Still, every once in a while I just feel like I am starting to slow down.  Then I think about the bands that have carried me along my punk rock path who are still alive and kicking and suddenly, I stop feeling sorry for myself.  These bands I speak of have been around as long, if not longer than my appreciation for music has, and year after year they release new material and tour.  They’ve aged, become family oriented, made sacrifices and still are able to do what they love to do the most.

Then there’s little ol’ me feeling sorry for myself…  I should kick my own ass right now.  I should be stoked I haven’t lost my own roots and continue on with what makes me who I am.

One of those bands I speak of is Cali’s Swingin Utters.  An O.F.W.C (Original Fat Wreck Chords) band, the Utters decided to drop an all new album last year called Here, Under Protest (check out my review HERE) after a 7 year hiatus.  They may have taken a time out and done their thing for a while, but they jumped right back onto their 20 year career without missing a beat proving age does not mean a damn thing and it’s all about the attitude and passion, you know the things that make you happy.

I got to see the Utters last year at a small (read: tiny) venue in Cleveland last summer and had an absolute blast.  I felt like a kid all over again.  I was happy to be hanging  with good friends while surrounded by great music.  It was a reminder to me that it does not matter how old you are or feel, you are who you are and never should question or change that.

Recently I had the chance to chat with Darius Koski, one of the bands vocalists/guitarists of the Utters.  Darius was kind enough to answer a few questions for me:

BHP: I guess the first question would be, what took so long to drop new a Swingin Utters album?

D.K.: Raising our kids, working, some of us not interested in touring anymore… it was part burnout, part apathy, and partly just kind of losing track of time. We sat down and talked about what we wanted to be: a band that played long weekends here and there, mostly in California, and didn’t do much recording; or more like the band we used to be, which was a touring band that came out with records every couple of years at least… so we chose the latter.

Whose idea was it to throw in Orson Welles saying “here under protest is beef burgers” at the beginning of the first track on Here, Under Protest?

That was Spike’s idea. We’re kind of obsessed with “Celebrities at their Worst” CDs.

Was there a lot of material in the last 7 years previously written that was to be used on the new album or was this all newer songs?

There were a few older ones… “Kick It Over”, “Good Things”, “Time On My Own”, “Blindness Is Kind” and “Effortless Amnesiac” were written maybe 5-6 years ago, and “Heavy Head” was, for the most part, written about 20 years ago–I kind of messed with that one a little bit, with the lyrics and melody, etc. but it’s basically the same song I wrote back then.

Seems as if everyone took turns writing songs this round on the album more so than past releases. Can we expect to see that as a trend to continue with future releases?

Sure! We don’t really plan stuff like that, but I always encourage people to write. I know Jack’s writing a lot right now, and has a lot of stuff waiting around to be finished; I’ve got a load of stuff, and Johnny does as well. I need to work on Spike a bit, and then we’ll all have some songs on the next one. I think that’d be great, to have 4 different writers on the next one. It’s usually mostly me and Johnny.

How did it feel to get the band back together and on the road last year for a more long range tour?

It’s been great, and I’m really happy we’ve started up again. I’ve missed it. It’s a lot harder now that we’re older, though.

I am sure hitting the road these days is a lot harder now that you have a family. Are they cool with you touring?

My relationship with my wife has always incorporated touring–we got together while we were recording Streets of San Francisco, and went on our first US tour 2 months into our relationship, so we know the drill. My kids have gotten relatively used to it as well, but it’s a little bit tough for them at times I think. My wife’s got a lot more shit she has to do when I’m gone as well, so that sucks for her, but we manage.

Here, Under Protest was an impressive release. I was stoked to hear another folk jam thrown in towards the end of the album. Have you guys ever thought about just dropping an all folk-heavy album?

Not at all, really… That’s what me and Johnny started Filthy Thieving Bastards for.

So when can we expect a new Filthy Thieving Bastards release?

As soon as the Utters decide to take a little break. We’ve got plenty of songs for an album.

What’s going on with your solo material?

Not much. I need to work on it. I need to do something with those fucking songs.

20 years on the scene… Wow, seriously that is impressive. Did you think you would last this long?

Never really thought about it, but it’s pretty crazy that we’ve lasted this long, been as successful as we’ve been. Just to put out a record was a big deal for us, so we’re pretty lucky.

I know you have said in other interviews that you really do not listen to a lot of new punk bands these days. Is there anyone that has caught your ear lately?

Punk-wise, I like the Spits (not new, I know), Modern Action, Sharp Objects… I think the Cobra Skulls are good… Off With Their Heads.

What are some of your all time favorite punk bands?

Black Flag, Sex Pistols, Buzzcocks, Generation X, Stiff Little Fingers, the Clash, Ramones, X, Wire… I don’t know about a million others. Those come to mind pretty quickly…

What is the term “punk” to you these days, if anything?

Just doing what we know how to do, living our life… I don’t know. I’m punk rock, but I’m not a preacher. I don’t really like talking about “punk rock” and how it “changed my life”, or anything like that. As far as being any sort of real movement, or being “shocking” or anything… I think those days are over. It’s just about doing/saying what you want, DIY, etc.

Was there any certain time that you think back to in the scene that you will never forget? Maybe a favorite show?

Just the early days of our own band. Those were really fun times. Ahhhhhh, to be young again…

How did you get Jack from One Man Army / Dead To Me to jump on board with the band? I think he is a great fit.

I just waited for him to disband One Man Army, then I asked him. I knew he’d say yes, because we’d talked about it… I just didn’t want to be partly responsible for ending One Man Army or anything… He was done with the band and it seemed like he was kind of looking for a way out, but I wasn’t gonna be the one to give it to him! Yes, he’s a perfect fit.

Any comments about Ben Weasel’s blowup at this year’s SXSW?

I think he sounds like a little piece of shit that needs to be punched in the fucking face. I’ve always kind of thought that, though.

What’s next for the Utters? Can Cleveland expect to see you return soon?

I’d love to be back in Cleveland sometime next year, maybe in the spring? We’ll be back soon. Europe in September, some Dropkick (Murphys) dates in October, and a little Texas/west coast thing in November. I’d like to record again within the next year as well.

Any last words you care to mention?

Buy our record!

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