by Ken Lester
Wimpy's woofin' about old people on the scene, Mad Dog has "got just about everybody" with his "It's marked in duplicate" stickers, and Bev "I just take pictures of Rampage" has banged her "PUNK" stamp on any willing piece of flesh.
Ian Tiles' Gore street squat is rioting sweat, wall-to-wall graffiti, whole debates scrawled, jokes told, self-conscious outbursts, qnd everybody's looking-pretty happy.
Downstairs: "Free Geronimo Pratt" and "Smash COINTELPRO" banners are the backdrop. Punks are kicking in the walls, poking their heads through to get a better look.
Red Rockers are ready to roll. The Dils blow everyone back, assault without compromise, the sound crashes bodies against the walls, the speakers are falling over. Voices yell for "Class War," "Red Rockers Rule," and "Only the Lonely" (Gene Pitney Lives!).
Is this Vancouver?
The Dils have something--they are genuine dyed-in-the-wool North American rock'n'roll rebels and what's more they're prepared to face the consequences of that label. For two years, for some strange reason, these golly, gee, gosh Huck Finn "American" classic guys have been singing songs about rebellion, the hope and desire for changesóbig changes.
They're pissed, in their early 20s living in America, and what they do is real, it works. Their stance is not a gimmick, they appear ready to carry it through to the end. A band with their moves and looks could easily find an easier route to success than standing up for social revolution.
What the Dils are doing just shouldn't be happening in 1979 according to a lot of rock pundits who'd rather avoid any squalls that might spill over the edges of their new wave pond. But, the Dils have been doing it. Their brand of hard kick 'em out rock and first rate stage charisma have made them one of the Coast's top drawing bands.
The evening before the Gore street party the Dils played to a crowd of 600 people in their first Vancouver performance with DOA and the Shades. They've got two singles out, "Class War" and "I Hate the Rich" and are in the middle of a continental tour titled alternatively as "Passing Gas and Kicking Ass" or "Red Rockers Roll." Once in New York they will be recording what is planned as a four song EP ("National Guard," "Love House," "Gimme a Break" and "It's Not Worth lt") with John Cale producing.
The anger of the Dils, brothers, Chip and Tony Kinman (guitar and bass, respectively) and drummer John Silvers, has every right to be expressed in rock. It doesn't come from other times or other places but from the poverty of living lies in an air-conditioned nightmare. They don't want to shut their eyes and won't surrender their lives no matter how much sugar is put on the bitter pill of the way things are.
This could be the beginning of the eighties.
Tony, Chip and the Dils' manager Peter Urban dropped by the PE office for this interview.
PE: Is there really a contradiction between rock'n'roll and politics? A lot of people say rock is just fun and politics is an alien growth addod on.
TK: People say rock'n'roll and politics don't mix. I say, "Why not?" Why shouldn't it mix? People will sing about what they care about. If people care about life, fine, then they'll sing the kind of songs they want. If some people care about love, and rock stars, and back stage ladies, ad infinitum, ad nauseum, you know, they'll sing about that. If that's rock'n'roll they can have it. They can shove it up their ass. I don't want anything to do with it and most new bands don't either.
It's funny, you know, you'll have five people in a room with a canvas painted black and you'll have people in there say, "Oh, it's not black it's dark purple or grey or white," when it's black. It's the same sort of thing when you find people like that idiot from the Jam, Paul Weller, who says, "Our music's not political, it's social, and we don't sing about politics, we sing about people." You know, what's the difference. Politics is people. To some people politics is probably a shelf filled with books. That's not politics, that's academics and that's economic literature. Politics is people and politics is social.
PE: A lot of people would not see the Osmonds at political when they're pure propaganda for the status quo...
TK: Even the Bee Gees are political. Robin Gibb said a couple of months ago that if Margaret Thatcher wins the election he'd move back to England. She did, and he's moving back. If that's not political, what is? The Ramones are political...they play benefits for cops. If they're not political, then that doesn't say much for bands that have a political disclaimer.
PE: Do you have much trouble with the cops?
CK: The cops are always on the guest list.
PU: We've had lots of cop trouble. As far as I'm concerned all the cops can drop dead. That's the lyric to one of our songs called "Sound of the Rain." The chorus is, "I don't listen to the cops, I wish they all were dead. I don't listen to the planes going overhead. I don't listen to the sound of the loss and gain, I just listen to the sound of the rain."
Back on the track we've had them bust and harass the Mabuhay. Later they did the same thing to the Deaf Club and they finally shut it down on a noise violation. In Los Angeles there was an incredible cop riot that occurred at a big gig. It was 600 people and they sent in 60 riot equipped cops completely unprovoked, even the media said it was unprovoked. They busted heads, 10 people hospitalized, eight arrested. The fact that more people were arrested shows something right there. There were scores of injuries. Whenever you do something different the cops are going to come down to smash it.
TK: A couple of times we've had guns pointed at us by security guards or cops. That's weird, to be on stage and have a riot scatter gun leveled at your chest.
PE: After the police rousted the Smiling Buddha here in Vancouver the argument that doing a benefit for the cops is a good joke doesn't seem to hold much water.
TK: Humour about killing gooks in Vietnam and killing people on welfare, I don't think are very funny and they're standard Ramones humour.
PE: What about the notion prevalent in punk promotions, magazines, etc., that gross violence, porn, bizarre sex, kiddie porn, things like that, are humourous or that they are making shocking, politically relevant statements about repression, hypocrisy, sex taboos, etc.?
TK: I don't think there's anything funny about child pornography or pornography at all. I think there's a bit of sick humour in it in the way de Sade was. Like in his play Marat in which he tried to show the hypocrisy of the rich back then. You know, they had all their values and yet had such a sick notion of sex and an infatuation with pornography. It can be funny as a type of black humour, exposing hypocrisy, but there's nothing funny about child pornography, it's the fucking exploitation of children and it's gross. Exploitation of any kind is gross.
PE: What about sexism in rock, the back stage ladies syndrome you talked about or the upfront view of a lot of musicians that they're just in to get laid.
TK: Anybody who's into music because of that doesn't have a very high opinion of themselves. If you think you have to have a guitar around your neck to get sex...I don't know, we're not into that, a lot of people are, it's pretty gross. I think there's such a funny element to it. Funny in the sense that...what was that song Foreigner did?
CK: "Hot Blooded."
TK: It's funny in the sense, that here's these guys singing a song like that and you listen to it and you have to laugh, literally fall on the floor and laugh because how can people really sing a song like that, it's so stupid. It's sexist, but it's also incredibly, pathetically, stupid. I think sexism is something you can work with fairly easily, with satire or parody, but all too often the parody is on stage only and when you get back stage...
PE: One of the rumours that preceded you up here was that one of you had himself castrated to fight sexism.
TK: I don't know. It wasn't me.
CK: It was Peter, our manager.
PE: Who started the rumour or was castrated?
CK: Actually, we had our brains removed to fight stupidity.
PE: What do you think about the development of Rock Against Racism?
TK: I think the idea of RAR is really good. I think they tend to be a bit sloganeering...but there's a use for slogans. It's definitely one of the best things around.
CK: It's really point blank too. You don't have to go there and hear any sort of speeches or get any literature, just the name of the gig itself, Rock Against Racism, means that by going you're taking a stance, so that's pretty cool. It makes it real simple for people to get involved.
TK: One thing I take exception to in RAR is that they seem to swallow reggae a bit whole. Maybe not so much reggae but the Rasta mentality involved. The Rasta mentality, you know, is one of the most sexist on earth and I think RAR should address that a bit more.
PE: What do you think about acid coming back?
TK: It's being used. In favour of the acid users, nobody is doing it for achieving a religious experience.
CK: Punks take a lot of drugs in SF. The whole gamut from acid to smack, to pot, on the market and they're taking it.
PE: Do you have any opinions against drugs?
CK: Drugs have been part of the culture forever so how can you say anything against them, you know?
TK: It's important to watch the business end of drugs. It can get awful hairy. People should realize that a drug dealer is no more cool than a liquor store owner or a pharmacist. But for some strange reason these people have attained the status of folk-heroes and they don't deserve it at all. They're businessmen. They're worse than businessmen because they'll mouth a political line which isn't exactly harmonious with their business practices.
PE: So you wouldn't agree with the High Times/Yippie approach to...
TK: Now High Times is like Field and Stream. Anybody who gets off on a centre fold of Sensimilla or something, buy it, smoke High Times if you want. "Demystify Drug Use," that's my slogan. Because it's fun and so is TV and there's not really much difference.
PE: What does it mean to be a "Red Rocker?"
TK: You can look at what we've done and what we sing about. We sing songs like "I Hate the Rich," "Class War," etc., and most of our songs express similar sentiments. Our political stand comes down to the fact that nobody, and by that I mean everybody in general and us specifically, likes the way things are right now. I mean we were at the border check eight hours yesterday because we didn't have enough money to come through. Things like that and it's all the same, everywhere like that. Nobody likes it but very few people are willing to say, "I don't like it," and then say, "I'm gonna change it." Most people say, "I don't like it, but what can I do?" And our stand is to point out that there's plenty you can do. And I'm not talking about hustling for fucking politicians. I'm talking about smashing it up and doing what you can to fuck it up.
CK: You know, we're not trying to say, "Look, this is what we want everybody to do. Hey, follow us!" In our music we just try to incite a little, that's all. We just see things and we sing about them and people can really interpret them anyway they want. In the last two years I actually think the message is getting through pretty well. You have to come see us, we don't give speeches. It's hard to talk about our politics because we present them musically and so to talk about them is like taking a fish out of water.
TK: If anybody wants to know what our message is, the message is, if you don't like it, don't laugh and turn your head away, scream as loud as you can and hit, because it's not going to get changed any other way. Especially, and this is a message for punk rockers, if you think you can change anything by laughing about it go watch the Charlie Chaplin film The Great Dictator and see how everybody got a big kick out of seeing Charlie laugh at Hitler. It's a funny film, yet Hitler went on to kill several million people and he never stopped till people stopped laughing at him.
PE: Bands up here, if they have political views, would probably tend to be anarchists but you seem to come from a more orthodox Marxist perspective in interviews I've seen.
CK: I think the only reason people would think that is if they haven't heard our lyrics. Speaking for myself, I haven't read any Marx books at all. I haven't read any Lenin, Trotsky, or any of that so you couldn't say I come from an orthodox view. We just say things that are common sense. You know we see something wrong, we see that people are getting stepped on, ourselves included and we just sing about it.
TK: I don't know about the bands up here who might be anarchists but as far as bands go I've seen very few conscious anything in bands. I've seen a lot of sentiment that hasn't been focused. I see a lot of bands talking about smashing things up, singing about it, but making sure their asses are clean. I'll see a band sing about anarchy but then not give the opening act any money and things like that. Very few punks are entrenched or calcified in a political position and that's probably for the better.
PE: It seems a lot of people in the "political community" are threatened by punk or politically oriented rock because people actually listen to it and are doing things, breaking down the patterns of control. They're afraid people won't be listening to their correct line.
TK: You wanta hear a weird thing? The people that give us the most bullshit for being political are not, for instance, the high school girl who comes to our show, wears a Dils' button, sings along to "Class War" and the only thing she knows about politics is what she learned in high school civics. The people who hand out the bullshit are the people who fancy themselves as political and take exception to what they see as a deviation on our part. To me, those people can't see what's important. Rebellion is what's important. It's more important than anything, it's more important than any kind of political dogma. Getting people to turn around...
PU: The problem with the Left, speaking for myself, is that it has attempted to be too specific, and that's a problem. The band has never said it was a communist band, but we're a political band and the various members have different ideologies, we're Red Rockers, OK? There's no one way. All we're concerned with is that people tear down the things they are fed up with. The building happens later.
CK: You catch a lot of shit for politics. You're always held accountable for everything you do, unlike other bands who can pull shit and no one's going to do anything about it. If you take a stand you're accountable for everything you do.
PE: What do you think about the idea of DEVO, that rebellion is an outmoded concept because it's impossible to win? Surrender and subvert from within.
CK: DEVO are just full of shit you know. That's about all you can say about them.
PE: You don't see anything worthwhile in what they're saying?
TK: Full of shit from A to Z.
CK: The de-evolution concept really stinks. They try to come off as intellectuals in interviews but they sound like college cretins. DEVO's biggest success has been in snaring ignorant journalists. They're pretty much eating shit right now. Their record didn't sell so well.
PE: Are there other bands in the Bay Area doing what you're doing?
CK: Not so much musically, but in action there's always...I mean we just finished playing a benefit in San Francisco with The Urge, they're a new woman band there, the Avengers, and a reggae band called Ibex. It was a benefit for Geronomio Pratt, a Black Panther who got jailed behind the U.S. Government COINTELPRO, counter-intelligence program. It was a really big gig and went over real well. So bands in action will do something but not too many bands in SF sing very politically. KGB has "I Hate the Government."
PE: Do you find the Dils are getting pressured out of places to play because of your views?
CK: No, because there's usually a lot of people at our gigs, so the promoters want us. We don't play for promoters that fuck around like Dirk Dirkson from the Mabuhay in SF or the asshole Brendon Mullen in LA.
In San Francisco there are lots of places to play, independent promotion companies, bands can go there and not play the Mabuhay. You can play the Gay Community Centre or the Temple Beautiful place run by the Rastas, or contact New Youth. You play the Mabuhay and you're playing to a nightclub crowd. You get good promotion if you go independent but not if you play the Mabuhay. Plus Dirkson will give you ones instead of twenties...
TK: "It's a privilege to play the Mabuhay. You should be glad to be here...New Wave showcase."
We also won't play the new Masque in LA because one of the agreements we had when we went to play there was that the door price would be under $4. It wasn't, so we got into a big fight with Brendon Mullen. We were supposed to play two dates, we played the first one and we said, "We're not going to take any money for tonight, you take our share and give it back to the audience." Which he didn't and we cancelled the next night.
CK: The promoters down there are full of shit, they lie to you, they don't advertise and they hit you up with all these expenses when you get down there.
PE: In Europe, developments like the autonomous groups of revolutionary kids in France and Italy actually seem to be doing what you're singing about. Rebellion and attacking the rich seem to have become their lifestyle.
CK: In Europe, the situation is pretty much inflamed. It slaps people in the face. In the States it's pretty easy to be blind to what's happening, especially if you're white. You just never go to the black sections of town. The news is completely biased so it's easy to think nothing's wrong. A lot of people say, "Why are you political? You live in the United States, everything's cool." Everything's not cool, far from it. In the next five or ten years we're going to see something really big happening in this part of the world. This is gonna turn out to be the real Third World.
PE: What does your father think about what you're doing?
TK: He loves it. Well, you know my father's kind of a weird character. He's a thirty year veteran of the Marines. He loves it because we mean what we're doing and he's glad to see us living up to it.
(Fortune Favors the Bold, a Dils songbook, is available from No News, POB 26481, San Francisco, CA 94126. $1.00.)
The Dils' Red Rockers Tour: