The Me You Know Is A Reactionary Me
Being A Burnout in the Face Of Consumerism
Caleb Dawson, Corey Baum, & Jimmy Wildcat interviewed by Jay Armstrong
Consumerism; the very reason art gets demolished by capitalism, the lake of fire those driven to escape by some form of creation must swim through, where wolves and sheep both come to drown themselves in the fountain of faux-youth. You can hear the bitter gnashing of teeth throughout Austin from all the curmudgeonous post-thirty-somethings pontificating over their self-righteousness, people are upset after having escaped their shithole nowhere Trump supporting town only to have those empty-souled clones follow them out, killing the vibe and causing the living cost to be virtually unmanageable. A part of me wants to rally behind the Johnny Rockers, there certainly is much to be upset about as we watch just how powerful money can be when you have something it desires, unfortunately even our disaffected blasé soapbox isn’t original to stand on. Every single community of substance gets consumed by those who believe an experience is something you can simply have instead of something one must create. CBGB’s got overrun, do you really believe Beerland stands a chance? The highest commodity in this world is happiness, for those living drab meaningless lives there’s no price they won’t pay nor distance they are unwilling to travel to bask in its light.
It’s not so much the idea of consumerism which I find intriguing, it is more of what drives those who continue on in the face of it. Rather than pretending I have some sort of cosmic insight into this, I decided to head over to my last spot of refuge in town, Sweetheart Studios, to see which burnouts I could find just stoned enough to give me some honest answers. Our Nashville buds in Banditos happened to be in town for a few days recording so it ended up being the best possible situation to get to the heart of this thing. If you happen to be unfamiliar with Banditos, they are currently signed with Bloodshot Records and spent the last five years perpetually on tour, being on the road as much as they are has made Austin this sort of week long vacation they take a few times a year, playing shows around town while hanging out with all of us still doing the same old thing. We polish up our boots a bit and pretend that Austin is still as great as it was before the increased cost of living started to destroy our scuzzy lives. We’ll have an interview with Banditos coming up online in the near future but staying local seems to be the best way to go about grasping what drives these beacons of madness in this slate-grey world.
I kicked things off with Caleb Dawson (The Bad Lovers, Warm Soda, Sweat Lodge) who after all these years of playing shows and working lame-ass jobs to keep the lights on still manages to remain lightheartedly charismatic. Being one of the greatest drummers in the world and remaining humble about it, Caleb’s the kind of musician we imagine our heroes as being before realizing most were self-centered egotists who were about as enjoyable to be around as Puck from Real World: San Francisco. We’re all sitting in the yard chain-smoking when he strolls up, pants covered in mud, the remaining four of a Lonestar six-pack in his left hand, jumping immediately into a story of how he nearly went to jail a moment earlier in a close brush with the law in a routine traffic stop; something along the lines of no turn signal and enough outstanding warrants to make him avoid certain counties while on tour, he drove away with a warning and another story to tell. He has us all cracking up as he recounts the experience. They say you’re only as good as your material, which may be true for front men, drummers on the other hand figure out how to take the monotony of an average traffic stop and make it magical. Incredible drummers are a rare breed, I wonder if their art is generally reflected in their day to day lives as much as Caleb’s.
(It should be noted this interview was done in December of 2015, there’s a few references throughout these interviews which at the time seemed inconsequential but now take on a different tone)
Are you originally from Denton?
How’d you end up in Denton? I always thought you came down with Jimmy (Wildcat) and those boys?
Jimmy’s originally from Denton?
Well he’s originally from Huntsville which is outside of Houston and then he moved to Denton for college, then here.
Did he graduate?
You’re making that up.
That’s why he flips burgers and works at a recording studio. (We both laugh)
So how’d you end up down here?
Dallas sucks… just came.
You didn’t have a band or anything?
I quit a band and then I moved here with Shock (Austin Shockley of Bad Lovers/Warm Soda/Sweat Lodge) and Cody (Johnson of Sweat Lodge) and we moved here to start a band but Bad Lovers ended up starting before Sweat Lodge did. Sweat Lodge was like already kind of going when Bad Lovers started but we weren’t called that and we like put a record out after that. (Lady walks up to introduce her kid and tell us she brought him over to Sweetheart “to see the birds.” All of us were unaware they even had birds, it was comically awkward. Two stoners living in some faded glory velvet coffin and the kind of mom who takes her son to see birds, silence entered as our impasse’ quickly surfaced between the two parties….. Caleb’s phone rings)
Uh oh, it’s my mom. (answers it while this Martian mother tells me why her kid loves these birds so much. You’d think his being a kid and there being birds to look at would have sufficed but she seemed to really want me to understand what was at the heart of it.)
Do you judge yourself on any sort of standard that falls in line with that traditional ideal of capitalistic success? Do you judge other bands that are past their prime and still doing it?
Take Dead Moon, they’ve been playing forever and don’t have a whole hell of a lot to show for it but everybody that I know who is close to me goes fucking ape shit when they go play shows and that’s enough to make them happy and you know with music just like with any other career you decide to devout your life to, if it keeps making you happy it’s worth doing even if it’s fucking up your life or something like that. If you’re not happy then quit doing it….. if you’re forty and your band is still playing shows that I was playing since I was eighteen, and I’m still playing, and that bums you out and you’re depressed about it you shouldn’t keep doing it for some stupid cause, I mean if it makes you happy like who the fuck am I to say “he’s forty and he’s still doing this shit,” whatever.
What’s the difference between your feelings from when you moved to Austin about age in music compared to now? You know, like I remember being fifteen and finding out somebody was like forty and it was a weird realization from where before I’d kind of had this we’re going through this together kind of vibe like say with Metallica and then finding out “fuck, these dudes have been doing this foreeevvver.”
I don’t really know, that’s a hard question.
Like do you see Lemmy out on tour and you’re like fuck yeah that dude is going out on top or are you like–
Yeah, yeah, there are times when I see bands out who are like old punk bands or something from the seventies or eighties that get back together and go on these tours that are like selling out shows at venues that I’d play, not like crazy shows, and they’re forty and they’re picking this back up after however many years and going on tour playing songs they wrote when they were fifteen and I, a lot of times, have not been impressed and I wish that I didn’t see it because I loved this band so much and seeing them that way half-ass old.
Who are you thinking of right there?
(laughs) Nobody, because I still respect what they’re doing, even if it’s just to pay rent, I respect it, if it fulfills them or it’s just a paycheck. Sometimes I’ll see a band that I’ve worshiped since I was like fourteen and be like damn, I wish I still had the idea I had of them before I’d seen them as seventy-year-old men that are broke and need to go on the road to pay rent for a few months. But then again there’s also bands like that who inspire me to no extent, like the other night I saw The Zeros and they hadn’t played in close to ten years, their band only existed for a couple of years when they were all like fifteen and now they’re in their fifties playing those same songs. While that might depress me or bum me out when I see another band doing that with this one it was like the most amazing experience I’ve had whi- I mean I watch a band play almost every fuckin night and this one was like it made me feel like I was fifteen again. So sometimes it’s inspiring to see an old person doing the same shit they did when they were fifteen and sometimes it bums ya out, I don’t know it just depends, I feel like it’s very uh easy for someone to read on a subconscious level, you watch an old band play and something about their face or something about it you can just tell like tell whether it’s like (pauses)
Alright, well let’s pretend The Ramones – original lineup – if they were still around today and they played Mohawk or Barracuda or Vegas fuckin wherever, if they played any of those places how would you feel about seeing them?
Fuckin hyped; The Ramones never sucked, some of their stuff was ruined by era of production in my opinion but
What’s their best record?
I couldn’t do that. I mean I like all of the first few a lot, and then End of a Century is amazing, a lot of the nineties stuff…. I mean there’s shit in there that’s not like, I mean ya know, they never changed their style up a lot, they’re not The Beatles so it’s pretty much different versions of the same stuff so the records aren’t something I’m gonna listen to, I don’t think they’re bad for someone whose been playing music for thirty years, like they’re gonna put out some dull shit.
Do you feel that way about Bowie?
(waning) I don’t know about Bowie…. Even the stuff of his that I don’t necessarily want to listen to I still like and can really validate it for him always trying to reinvent himself, The Ramones never did that because of that there’s some shit that I’m not crazy about but nothing they ever did sucks…obviously meaning together; that Dee Dee album is beyond terrible, endearing in a weird “hey that’s Dee Dee proving he has no clue about how to rap,” and if you’re a band for anything over ten years and I like you, I’ll never fault you, or even if I don’t like you but I can get behind what you’re doing, I’ll never fault a band for changing to something I don’t like unless it seems like they’re just faking it for the money. I don’t think selling out has shit to do with changing your music, if that gets popular you’re a sellout, like selling out is
How do you know the difference between selling-out and not?
I don’t know the difference.
You know the difference when you hear it right?
Well I mean I know what, how I define it when I hear it, but everybody’s definition of that or anything would be different, I’d say if you sound like you know, who’s an example? (pauses) If it sounds like you began by sounding like it was you and the music came from your heart and then you noticed what was popular and started playing shit to get that sound to get that income.
What about to stay on top?
Stay on top, get on top, not have to worry about money, whatever. I’ve been broke as fuck before, I understand, I don’t give a shit if you, ya know, I’m not gonna stop playing music but what if one day I’m like well maybe I should just go play for country bands and make a shit load of money, there’s no shame in that, it’s no more shameful than fucking flipping burgers or being an accountant or whatever but even though I don’t disrespect them for it, the people that I would (the lady lady walks up to tell us she’s showing her son the birds again….didn’t even noticed they had left… at this point I’m personally starting to wonder where in this worn piece of dirt with a broke down truck and what looks like a carnival popcorn machine in the yard are these mystical birds this women is treating the place like a fucking petting zoo for but whatever. We both light cigarettes) I wouldn’t consider any band a sell-out because they changed their style because they aren’t the same age, they aren’t going through the same life experiences but they changed their style and that happens to make them popular.
I’m projecting here but you’d say the line is when bands pander?
Because you can be reflective of today’s society but if you are playing to try sounding….
This is a universal example, an example of a band that I would use because they aren’t close to me, that I never felt anything about them selling-out, but just a band everyone can understand, Green Day sounded like they did for years, not that from Dookie to whatever flop of a record they put out before they became super famous didn’t change in style and vibe and yada yada yada because they were getting older…. they did change a lot and that’s why they stopped being popular, every record that was them changing because they were growing up and each album got less and less popular and then all of a sudden not only is their sound changing again it’s like wearing eye-liner and matching outfits and Broadway musicals for records.. shit like that is what I’d call the definition of selling out. Having said that I still respect those dudes.
Sure, at the end of the day what’s the difference between what they’re doing and making pizzas? Right? So if
(Mom is now standing next to the table talking to some other strangers in matching North Face relaxed fall outfits about the birds and why the boy just luuuuuuvvvvvs coming to see the birds. What happened to the glory days in this neighborhood of only having to shake off rampant homeless dudes bumming change and smokes and then generally lingering around too goddamn long?!?) Then one of the dudes from Banditos shows up to take one of the other kind of smoke breaks which gets me higher than I’ve been this side of puberty, the interview loosens a bit, we’re caught in a mass of conversation over nothing then there’s a whole lot of “where were we at,” “MAN I’m high,” “What were we talking about?”…. Business as usual for slackers like us.)
The sell-out thing really plays into the whole consumerism idea.
Yeah, okay, yeah, so where does Kiss rank on your all-time favorite bands list?
I don’t do all-time favorites.
Eh, whatever, are they up there?
They’re like my number (long pause)
One of my favorite moments at a Bad lovers show was when you were at The Grand during south-by last year, it was that showcase where every band had to cover a Kiss song, ya’ll opened up with it then you go “that was the best band in the world, now we’re the second best band in the world the Bad Lovers and you guys just jumped in all natural, I lost my shit, it was great.
I’m certainly good at stage banter.
It’s hard to tell how much of that was bullshit or if Kiss was your actual favorite band.
I wouldn’t say favorite, I don’t think they’re the most…. They’re not my favorite. I would rank bands as my favorite higher up on the list that I listen to far less often than I do Kiss, if that makes any sense.
That makes total sense.
There’s bands that I respect on a real intense level that I don’t necessarily want to listen to all the time like (motorcycle comes blasting by stopping the conversation for two or three seconds). Kiss are one of my favorite bands but I don’t, I don’t know, they’re one of the best bands ever but in every other sense of the word they are the epitome of “sell-out.”
Does it bother you when you meet a band and you get talking with the dudes and you realize that they don’t care? People who aren’t searching, not like the kids who just haven’t heard much yet and they’re learning as they go but the dudes who really just don’t give a fuck about anything other than pretty much their own band.
I don’t really give a shit about what they’re into or not. I don’t really have any feelings about someone who’s not hungry for new music or inspiration as a musician, like that person just goes on my zero emotion list. I mean, a normal person or not normal, just a person who is like not in a band and they just don’t really care about music, it’s like weird to me just because it’s always been the only thing I give a shit about, but I’m sure there’s something they give a shit about just as much, but if you’re in a band and you don’t, then I don’t really care… but you probably suck…. (we laugh) …. I want to hear a musician and I don’t want them to copy anyone necessarily but I wanna be able to listen to a song or a record and be like I know they were listening to this Mark Bolen song when they did that with their voice or I bet they were listening to this Neil Young song when they did that on the guitar, I wanna hear their influences and their inspiration.
I guess, on a personal level when I meet someone and I say you must be trying to go for that band’s kind of sound and you mention it to them and they’re not only like, “I’ve never heard of them,” they’re offended that you would compare them to someone they hadn’t heard of, ya know. How’s that experience feel to you?
Just because I’ve always been in a band and been annoyed by various things like that I just don’t ever compare a band to another band. I’m known with all my buds for describing a band as being this-meets-this and I’m pretty damn good at it, people are always like, “yep, that’s definitely those two bands put together.” That’s my specialty but I don’t really like to do that to their face as musicians. It’s not like I’m talking shit about them behind their back because often times it’s a positive thing but I just don’t like to put that in a musician’s head where they’re like “I sound like this, I should keep sounding like this or I sound like that and I don’t want to sound like that.” I don’t want it to affect the way they play.
What’s the funniest thing somebody has told you a band you are in sounds like?
One time somebody told me that The Wolf reminded them of Arctic Monkeys (both of us laugh) and one time someone said the Bad Lovers reminded them of Weezer. I don’t like Arctic Monkeys and I don’t really listen to Weezer, I mean they’re pretty cool, whatever, I like ’em, but we don’t sound like either of those things and those were so far off that it didn’t ever click into my thoughts or change anything about me but I don’t ever want to say something to a band or a musician of any kind comparing them to something that creates a complex for them ’cause then it won’t be them anymore. I’ll tell bands sometimes if I know they’re going for it, and I’ve misjudged that before and they weren’t going for it or they didn’t realize they were going for it, and they got embarrassed. I might tell a band they sound like something from the first Blue Oyster Cult record and they’ll be like, “fuck yeah, that’s what we’re going for.” Usually if it’s like heavy or trippy music they’ll totally be like, “yeah, that’s totally what we’re listening to,” or a lot of punk, I mean there’s punk bands I know who started a band to sound like this band’s one record, like they’ll start their own fucking band off that and while that’s not necessarily creative, I like a lot of bands like that.
So think of the path you’ll have to be on to sustain yourself with this, you’re not always going to be doing one job AND bands, hopefully. Imagine getting there and imagine bands such as Kiss and The Ramones who found a way of staying in there. How do you accomplish that? How does one do that today with how much shit has changed?
I have no fucking clue, most of the bands I know that have gotten that were… it’s lasted a few years and fizzled out or they blew all their fucking money. It doesn’t last forever anymore, there’s always been bands who’ve had their moment of fame and then they’re just normal people again, not to mention all the fucking blues musicians who NEVER got any money for all the songs they wrote and it ended up being famous, so I don’t know. It’s something I try not to think about because it will stress me the fuck out but fortunately for the first time in my life I really enjoy the work I’m doing on the side so I’m not really worried about it. If I can’t sustain it I’ll just keep at what I’m doing or I’ll play for some country cover bands.
What are three bands, that you’re not in, that you hope everyone else will love and should love?
Well, for the record I wouldn’t put any of the bands I’m in on that list but the bands I’m not in, man it’s hard… I don’t just want to name some homies (very valley, more like hoe-meeeez). Let me think….. What’s the best new shit I’ve heard?
I mean, they could have been around for a while, they’re just still grinding it out I guess. They haven’t gotten to that point where you can tell it’s a career.
Crackpipes are one of my favorite bands but it’s definitely not a career for them, they don’t give a shit. Hmm, give me a minute on this one… I’d say Croy and the Boys, the record Corey (Baum) just recorded is the best new recorded music I’ve heard in a long time, I’m super into it. One more… Hmm…
What are two local bands you’re friends with you feel are on to something? Like you really dig the direction they might go in?
Did you, do you, like The Behelds?
Yeah, I think Lochness Mobsters are fucking perfect though. Oh and this band Love Inks…Love Inks… fucking amazing.
(This is part one of three interviews we did on consumerism, the other two conversations with Corey Baum and Jimmy Wildcat will be posted over the next few days.)