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THE BRIGADE were interviewed April 25 at the Alexandria Hotel in LA. Present for the interview were Hud, Al and Joy from Flipside, Steve and Thomas from Ink Disease and various other people. Interview taken from Flipside 49.
Mark: Bob is playing bass for us now. We kicked out our other bass player. He was in Plain Wrap but they broke up and then we found out Bob was our long lost brother.
Shawn: We asked our mom if we had any other brothers and she said, "Yeah, there's this guy Bob Gnarly Stern that plays in Plain Wrap". So when they broke up...
Al: I can really see the resemblance!! (Bob has a quarter inch hair cut like Shawn).
Bob: I did this on a lost drunken weekend in San Diego.
Al: You've also changed your name, well at least shortened it...
Mark: We figured the band's changed, the music changed...
Shawn: It hasn't changed that much, it's just kind of a new stage for us.
Al: I'm sure people reminded you, "How long can you be 'Youth' Brigade."
Shawn: Yeah, and it was a good time to do it. With the new record coming out...
Al: Is this the first "Brigade" interview?
Shawn: Yeah! You got it.
Mark: Basically we got old--we just got done carrying our equipment up one flight of stairs! Let's go have our nap now! Ha.
Shawn: Some guy actually called us the Geriatric Brigade after the "What Price" EP came out.
Al: I've heard all these comparisons of your new material to Duran Duran or U2.
Shawn: I like Duran Duran and U2!
Al: Do you see your direction going that way?
Mark: I don't see it sounding like anybody really, that's the good thing about it.
Shawn: What separates the good bands from the great bands, and there are a lot of good bands around, is when they take all of their influences and make a unique sound out of it, their sound. We have a lot of diversity as well. If you listen to "Sound and Fury" you have everything from the rap part in "Men In Blue", to a song like "Jump Back", to a cover a Doo Wop song like "Duke of Earl" then onto "Sink With California". We don't play in any set category. Categories are so stupid, but I understand the need for them because we want to as human beings to simplify things to get a better grasp on them. But I don't think it's necessarily right. That's what punk rock is all about--being individuals and not setting yourself into any categories. Doing what you feel, what you believe in.
Al: Judging you from your latest release, the "What Price" EP, are you going more in that direction...
Shawn: Oh yeah, I mean there are no songs as fast as say, "Modest Proposal," but there is a lot of variety. We could have done another record like "Sound and Fury," but certain elements in that have changed and we have progressed.
Mark: The new record, "The Dividing Line" has a lot of variety on it as well.
Shawn: It's got a couple of six minute songs on it! Jane Weidlin is on one song, so is Michael "Lord" Sinatra, and Russell produced it (who used to be in the Extremes). Megan is on it and both of our other brothers are on it.
Al: What does Jane do on it?
Shawn: There's this one little part in a song called "The Hardest Part" where there are characters talking about the hard part of their life, so she's a ditzy blonde actress named Candy.
Al: Is there a change lyrically in the new material?
Shawn: Yeah, I guess it's not as "angry" lyrically, if you could call it anger, as before. We try to look at things broader... It's something that struck me when we were over in Europe, some kid in Yugoslavia told me that the thing that separates the English and the American bands for him was; the English always talked about things that they can relate to as the English civilization, England, Maggie Thatcher and different Socialist parties and the coal miners strike etc... Things we can all relate to in a general sense, but they're real specific about it. But in America, he says, you speak about things that the whole world can relate to. That, to me, made a lot of sense. American bands talk about things on more o a humanitarian level, than on a petty political or social level that only relates to their country.
Anyhow, I just sort of see America, this country as having a potential to do great things--but it hasn't lived up to its potential. A lot of people have given up on it, but I haven't. That is probably what our next record (which we will record in England), will be about, I'm writing material towards that idea--which I have been going to school and studying a lot about. This record, "The Dividing Line" is more of a reflection of our, or my observations of Europe and just living in a Western Society. This society has simplified everything into a dualistic nature: right vs. left, good vs. evil, black vs. white, east vs. west. Which to me is too simple for this complex world--we can't live our lives this way, and it is the root of a lot of problems. What I always come back to is ignorance, a lot of people don't want to educate themselves or inform themselves and be intelligent, they just want to listen to a nice simplified version of the world. We've all got bits of everything involved in our lives. So we just can't simplify it--especially in this time.
Most people don't think about it, but we're living in, not only the last 15 years before the change of a century, but the end of a millennium--the year 2000. To me that is a really big year. I've gotten more into spiritual things, not religion. I'm not like a Born Again Christian, but things like prophecy, Nostradamus, Edgar Casey and things like that. And it makes sense, we are living in a very intense time.
Al: Are there any specific songs in reference to this?
Shawn: Well "It's Coming", which isn't on the album, but will be on an EP, has got specific references to Atlantis, the shifting of the axis (of the north and south pole)...
Hud: You've read Ruth Montgomery!
Shawn: Ruth Montgomery exactly! When I came back from Europe, Michael (Sinatra) said, "I was told to get you all involved in this." And I said well...but we talked about it and he told me about past life and reincarnation... I've always been border-line atheist, but I always thought if there was any kind of creative force--God, whatever you want to call it--I just couldn't believe that there was a force that would create us and just let us go around murdering ourselves. I couldn't believe that we were just put here as pawns in some sort of big game. So it was real difficult for me to deal with that. Michael has been involved with this for awhile with Chase (ex-Boneheads), Craig Lee, Jane (Gogo) and a lot of different people. I didn't come off and say, "Oh no, you're crazy!" For some reason I was real interested and open minded. He recommended Ruth Montgomery books--especially "The World Before" and "The World After". They were fascinating...
Al: What do the rest of you like to write about?
Mark: I don't write lyrics. Well I did write "The Story," which is the story of Youth, um, the Brigade. You'll just have to wait and hear it.
Bob: I don't know, I just like to write about life. About positive songs, not negative.
Shawn: Well, it's sort of hard for Bob--he just came in and I'm sort of the dictator...
Mark: Lyrically--but not musically at all.
Shawn: And I'm the singer--but he writes really interesting things, its just that some of them echo sentiments that I was doing a few years ago so for me its... but we go over things, and throw it back and forth. It's hard for me to compromise because I was an English major so I'm always picky about things.
Al: If this band is your vision lyrically, Shawn, what is the basis of what you want to get across.
Shawn: Well just like what we were talking about earlier, sort of the existential, we have the responsibility to act the way we would want to see others act. If everybody would have that attitude, and act accordingly then this world would be a better place. What I'm trying to get across is that we can, as a human race, live together in peace and harmony and survive, and still enjoy ourselves. I'm not trying to preach to anybody, just to put out my philosophy for others. If you go back to the spiritual thing our whole purpose for being here is that we are here to learn, and repay karmic debts, and that's what it's all about. I'm trying to learn as much as I can and put that back out to everybody. Hopefully that will help people.
Al: Do you guys feel the same way?
Mark: Yeah, I pretty much feel the same way. There are none of Shawn lyrics that I disagree with, otherwise I don't think we'd be doing them. I mean, I don't write lyrics because Shawn is good enough to write them all. I believe in what he says.
Bobby: And I agree... For my attitude I write a lot of songs for my fool-around band "Bob Gnarly and the Failures", and we do a lot of humorous things like Plain Wrap used to.
Al: Youth Brigade still has a lot of humor live with the rapping and break dancing...
Shawn: Yeah, we'd never take ourselves so seriously that we couldn't enjoy it. If we didn't enjoy it we wouldn't do it. There's humor on this record. I mean we are serious about what we do, but, we still enjoy ourselves.
Al: You are doing a European tour this summer, are you worried about the new anti-America sentiments going around?
Mark: I'm gluing my Canadian passport to my shirt.
Shawn: Some people thought that's why we had to postpone the tour...did you see the president's speech?! "Here's Nicaragua (in red) and here's its sphere of influence." Then all these countries turn red! That's such a crock of shit! The State Department didn't even want to back up his statements! It's sad that the American people have to listen to shit tike that.
Al: Do you think you'll get hassled?
Shawn: It doesn't bother us, we don't support Ronald Reagan's policies...
Al: But you'll be right in the middle of it all, being from America.
Shawn: I don't really blame them. There are already troops all over Europe, especially Germany, it's like an occupied country. I would resent the fact that America goes around placing bombs in all these countries saying it's for their protection. But how often are these bombings happening in America? The terrorists aren't attacking America directly, they are all caught in the middle of it. The whole thing is kind of sickening!
(Later, after a brief Brigade sound check)
Al: We were gonna talk about your record label, BYO (Better Youth Organization) Records, and how you are maintaining your independence.
Shawn: Yeah, Glenn Friedman was saying that we were the only independent label that hasn't gotten co-opted, or gotten money from another source, like trying to deal with a major, or started on your own and maintained. Like SST did the whole thing with MCA and Unicorn. Lisa (Frontier) did a deal with Island. Alternative Tentacles was never anything that the Dead Kennedys started on their own they had Faulty.
Mark: Now John Loder does all the Dischord stuff...
Al: Have you guys always distributed your own stuff?
Shawn: Yeah! Even when we went through Tab (Rex), we still did distribution and collected money. He just acted as a middle man, we already had our own credit at the pressing plant...
Al: But will you continue that way?
Al: Scratch that.
Shawn: That's what I said to Glen, if any major record label offered us a deal that was worth our while and served our best interests we'd probably take it.
Mark: If we could get a distribution deal why not take it? Independant distribution sucks.
Shawn: It is a real headache. But still it comes down to, if we signed a deal with an independent or a major to take over our pressing, then we no longer control or know how many records are pressed or sold. It's a trust thing. We put out 11 records in almost 4 years, and this year alone we are planning to release 12 records, so we are more than doubling our catalog. Plus we're talking to Russell Jessup about starting another label to do experimental, new age dance, that doesn't fit into the rock and roll category.
Mark: Industrial kinda stuff...
Al: What is the status of BYO as an organization?
Shawn: It's still, pretty much a record label. Babbelon [OBIK: Babylon mayhaps?] (Mark and Rich Meany) does shows now. BYO can't because we have 2 lawsuits going--from the Palladium (girl 'fell' of balcony) and from that Roller Rink where Minor Threat played, the guy that got stabbed.
Al: What are some of these new records?
Shawn: The new SNFU, our new thing, 7 Seconds, "The New Wind"...
Mark: With Steve Youth's baby on the cover!
Shawn: Steven Tyler Marvelle Jr. The new 7 Seconds stuff sounds really good. The Smarties from Hanover, Germany, they call themselves a skate punk band. Then there's Hungry For What from Switzerland, who are kinda like early Clash. We might pick up the Front from San Diego, and re-press their record. Junior Gone Wild from Edmonton, who are kinda like the Byrds or Bob Dylan. We're trying to broaden everything out so we don't always get pigeon-holed.
Since day one BYO and Youth Brigade have been about promoting the positive aspects of punk rock--promoting kids who are rebelling but have something to say. We (punks) are the only ones in our generation right now who are trying to change anything--at least predominantly. There are other people but it's a pretty big--I don't want to call it a movement, but a scene or something...
But I don't know, I don't know if I want to do this for too much longer. I want to make films. BYO will always be around. It's all forms of communication. Music is a way to get our message across now but there are other means, one is film. My dad makes films, he's a director and a writer, my uncle is a director, my step mother is a set designer and director, so we have a lot of connections.
Mark: The Brigade is gonna do a video.
Shawn: We've always wanted to do videos, it was just a matter of money. We have the warehouse now, that's where Suicidal Tendencies did their video (Shawn makes a throwing up sound).
I mean I know Mike, he's a nice guy, but I just think the band is kinda negative. Everything surrounding them is negative. Our purpose is positive, there is enough negative in the world. I would much rather see a band like DOA or Social Distortion or Dead Kennedys get popular, they are much more significant and should reach a wider audience than Blaaacccck (another throwing up sound) Flag, or Fear, or the Mentors, who are really negative bands with nothing positive to say. They just dwell on negative things. Some may call it sarcasm, but sarcasm is a hard thing to do and sometimes I doubt it. I'm not saying that we should hide from it, that's not the point, but you can point out the bad things in the world in a positive way, and offer ideas or solutions--but not necessarily solutions. I mean anybody who idolizes Charlie Manson, to me, is really sick in the head. Even though I don't believe it for a second. What kind of image is that for 14 year old kids? I think you have a responsibility if you're in a band, because you influence kids whether you want to or not.
Al: You probably feel the same way about metal bands?
Shawn: I don't care for it. I can respect the bands for their musical ability, but I don't like the music. It's bombastic, it's boring, it's pretentious. Some of it is alright, but I wouldn't buy those records, I wouldn't play them. I'd rather listen to love songs. Love is something that is gonna make the world a lot better, not singing about the devil or some pseudo-Christian band. I don't believe in all the organized religion, so to me Jerry Falwell is just as evil as Ozzy Osbourne. It's the same thing. If you don't adhere to their ideals and their philosophies, you're nothing but heathen and you'll go to hell. Same f you worship the devil.
Our culture has been dominated by religion up until this century. Now you've got science taking over, especially in this century. You have a big reactionary backlash against it, because it is too hard for people to deal with. Like I said, they want to simplify life--your good you go to heaven, you're bad you go to hell. It's just not that way...
Al: What do you want to achieve as a band before you'll go into films?
Shawn: I didn't set any time. This album is done, and there is the next one I want to do... I have all these ideas, and I want to help these other bands, and I want to keep the organization and the record company going--but unfortunately I spread myself too thin and we don't get everything done. It's taken us three years to get another album out for our band, it's ridiculous.
Mark: The last year hasn't been so good for the independent market so it's good anyway...
[OBIK: for more info on millenialism, prophecies of doom, Edgar Cayce (spelled Casey in this interview) and other kookery, try this wonderful website.]
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