Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Drunks With Guns Interview

This was originally written for/published by Z-GUN magazine.

An Interview with Mike Doskocil of Drunks With Guns

"I do root for the thieves in life. And the con men. Seemed like every year some fool would buy the St. Louis arch. Ha. Idiots. Almost as funny as that one drunk idiot would try to swim the Mississippi every year. And drown. You can't swim that river. Not after the Missouri flows into it. Ask Tim Buckley. The current has undertows that'd take down an empty barge - that's why they gotta tie 'em together when they're empty. Idiots. I seen trees as big around as a bus get sucked under and pop out of the water during flood season like a toy boat in a bathtub. Rushing downstream at thirty knots. We used to sit on the banks in the summer, turn up the car stereo (Black Flag, Circle Jerks, Germs, mostly) and drink beer. Found a body one night. It musta been in the water for months, 'cause it looked more like a log. Only way you could tell was by the pants. Pants on a log. Yep..."

I'm sitting in a rented sedan on a cold side street in Columbus Ohio, with Mike Doskocil of the late Drunks With Guns. I’m parked between two semi-trailers and next to a gray snowbank, listening to the cars whizzing through the slush a half-block away. I'm working on a longneck, and Doskocil pops the tab on a fresh tallboy. The inside of the car smells like beer. I wipe foam off my upper lip and ask if Wilko Johnson was an influence on his guitar playing.
"Nope," Mike tells me. He takes a big gulp, looks out the window, and continues, "the guitar sound was just a Les Paul Hondo copy - the headstock said 'Hard-o' - going through one of those box looking Crate 70's solid state 1X12" amps. No pedals. No nothing. And we'd tune down as low as the strings'd go before going slack."
There you have it, all it took was a single drumkit, a downtuned bass, a knockoff guitar going through a lone footlong speaker attached to a budget amp, and they were off to the races. Of course, the whole shebang was topped off with a set of pipes so obnoxious that it would send even the most hardened aficionado of noisey antisocial scuzz scurrying from the speakers with his pointer fingers jammed brain-deep into his earholes.

The general consensus amongst those disturbed enough to be familiar with Drunks With Guns in the first place, falls into three general camps. The first camp figures that the Drunks With Guns must be a clan of drunken, inbred, shitkicking Neolithic throwbacks – not to mention card carrying members of every hate group under the sun - that spend their nights (they sure as shit don’t work during the day) hooting and hollering and speeding around in a rusty approximation of a pickup truck while swilling moonshine from ceramic jugs looking for anyone that looks like they attended college so they can beat them within an inch of their life. Furthermore, only dyed in the wool masochists listen to their records, and only when they can no longer get their kicks slamming their scarred penises onto a hot stovetops while gouging swastikas in their chests with rusty apple corers.
The second camp figures that the Drunks are a quasi-novelty that sounds like Flipper caught in Godzilla’s slipstream, all semi-comprehensible antisocial verbiage belted out over a guitar that sounds the way burning plastic smells. The lack of fidelity is so ghastly and the sheer aggression is so one-dimensional that they would be a low rent unfunny joke if the lyrics - a psychopathic rendition of audio-fied redneck id - didn’t sound so convincing.
The third camp, the ones that have their thinking caps on tightest, know that bigger acts will get more ink, flash in the pans will come and go, but for the tried & true connoisseur of aural scum, Drunks With Guns are looked at with the kind of deep reverence usually reserved for the most hallowed of Saints in the most rigorous religious sects. It’s a difficult spot of real estate to lay claim to, and it’s a thankless path to walk, but luckily for us, some brave souls try their hands at it. With the exception of a very precious few (Fang have held up like a grass hut in Krakatoa, and even the almighty Stick Men With Ray Guns sound like a quaint little southern rock outfit if you care to a/b ‘em to the Drunks) not many could hold a candle to the repellent swagger of Doskocil & company in their prime. To wit; The Drunks are the bee’s knees.

Lyrically, the Drunks sound like the transcript of a lost cause’s psych evaluation. Take “I Got The Gun”… Doskocil (or his alter ego, or another character altogether) goes to the drag races (“Sunday! Sunday!” he helpfully intones) at the Keil Auditorium, while “fucked up on beer and drugs” and takes time to “give drugs to little kids, hanging out at the playground.” This doesn’t sound like The Fugs, trying to freak out some squares and ruffle a few Madison Ave. types’ feathers - this sounds like a monolog on the tail end of a looooooong and scary bender. The narrator also tells us “now, I got the gun – bitch!” and that “we’re gonna have some fun, whore!” He mentions something about a girl in a blue bikini (that I can’t quite make out, but I doubt it is polite), before reminding us that “now, I got the gun!” The song collapses and it sounds like “beer and…” What did he say? Was it, “is for”? “Porn”? “Bars”? Then the final yell of, “GET ME DRUNK!” followed by the sound of snoring over feedback. Musically, it’s a lurching arrogant beat that barges around in a lazy seasick wobble. This spew is interjected with Doskocil (or is it someone else?) occasionally interjecting dark, but near incomprehensible sentiments, agreeing with the main vocalist with lascivious “yeahs” and some soul that deserves a big tax-free mansion on the hill with a butler serving cold pitchers of ice tea; making the sound of speeding racecars with their mouth. You take your Dylan records, smartypants – I’ve only got so much money and so much time, and I’d much rather spend the later listening to this. Any dimwit can spew stream of conscious guff and sound halfway acceptable, and some of the more gullible amongst us will mistake it for profundity, but the Drunks were going out on a limb with that one, and they knocked it out of the park.

Drunks With Guns were preoccupied with beer. Their first singles were released on “Cheap Beer Records”. Empty beer cans surround them in photos, like the cloud of filth that envelops Pigpen. “A Beer” is the second-closest thing to an epic to spring from their pens (their actual epic, the mudfuck supreme “Wonderful Subdivision”, I’ll get to later), and it consists of Dosckocil repeating “A Beer” in different pronunciations, enunciations, and variations, until the individual syllables becomes just, well, noise. “A Beer” becomes “A Bar” (as in, “the camper was eating a honey and peanut butter sandwich when he got mauled by a bar”), which morphs into “My Ear”, then to “My Hair”, the song putters out, starts up with a blast of trebly guitar fills, and Dosckocil reminds us “I’m talkin’ about beer!” before puttering off again, and the song seems to arbitrarily end. Kaput. If you think it’s easy to write a song this with the overlap of simple/genius being that big, try it sometime.

It would be easy to conclude the Drunks With Guns were a bunch of obnoxious drunk dumbasses, screwing around in their basement trying their damndest to scare you with some shuck and jive penny ante shockin’ sentiments, with some halfassed feedback, & simple songmanship masquerading as something greater then the sum of its parts. But, here ‘tis; I can’t vouch for the others members (I’ve never met ‘em), but take it from me, Doskocil is articulate, witty, unpretentious, fast, and above all; extremely intelligent. If he was a little slow on the ‘ol uptake, I’d chalk it up to too much John Barleycorn and the fact that sometimes people that don’t need air-cooled cerebellums sometimes make some pretty goddamn good stuff and leave it at that, but Doscocil is a smart cookie. Not only that, but funny, and anti-social (and, like many anti social people, paradoxically, he is quite friendly). But Drunks With Guns slipped us a mickey, intelligent discourse about American absurdity, just cloaked in noise, humor, grit, and intentional obnoxiousness.

"You know what who I was going after with the Drunks With Guns? Well, fer starters, the first 7" was songs from this other band the guitarist was trying to get off the ground before Fred [the drummer] and I came along. The second 7" I wrote most of, and co-wrote the rest. The 3rd 7", 'Alter Human', was all mine. Anyways, the Drunks With Guns were ripping off the first two PiL LP's - especially 'Second Edition' - No Trend's 'Teen Love' 12", and their 'Too Many Humans' LP and the first two Alice Cooper LP's. I guess we were taking allotta Black Flag/Circle Jerks/Germs ideas and slowing them down to almost 'stop' speed."

“Was it a conscious reaction to hardcore?”

"The reaction to hardcore was totally by accident. We started playing the songs at 'punk' speed, and it stunk. So we came up with the idea that if we couldn't be the fastest or loudest, we'd be the slowest and loudest... Then there was seeing Flipper in Kansas City at the local VFW, summer of '83 or '84 I believe. The thing with punk is there was always these skinheads that were the arbiters of what was 'punk'. And the four of us could really give a shit, y'know? Even though I'm sure there were plenty of peeps that thought I was too punk for them. What are ya gonna do, y'know?"

I mention to Mike the variety of stories I'd heard about Drunks With Guns, mostly centered around him, usually accompanied by heads shaken in shocked bewilderment.

"Sadly, most are true. Yes, I was shot. No, I wasn't abused as a child. Yes, my first wife's dead. Yes, she's responsible for the DWG having broken up. She got between me and the drummer (Fred). My fault. She told me they were just friends. Whatta liar she was. And an actress. Never date an actress. Not if she's any good."

Mike gathers from my expression that he should continue.

"Like I said, Deidra was a girl I had been seeing, then she ended up with Fred, and then a year later came back sniffing around me. i didn't know but her and Fred were evidently a 'thing' while she was in Med School in KC, so when she ended up back at my place in STL (after dropping him and dropping out), he left the band, for all intents and purposes. Stan and I tried to record afterwards ('Alter Human' sessions), with me doing the drums recording, but it ended with me punching his lights out during the aborted attempt to remix over his comments about my drumming inabilities, when everyone knows I'm three times the drummer he'll ever be. Haven't seen him since the fall of '86. Saw Mike Deleon, bassist number 2, a year ago in STL that's all good. Still email Tom Wilkerson, bassist number 1, so that's good, too. See Fred once every ten years, or so it seems. Last saw him in San Francisco in '97, so I reckon we're due. Oddly enough, I think Fred and I are cool now that Diedra's dead, she OD'd in bed, next to her pimp in 2001."

"I gotta ask you about this, it’s gotta be my favorite of yours – it’s just a real mindblowing supernova of a song… What was the genesis of 'Wonderful Subdivision'?"

Mike nods thoughtfully. "Probably in reaction to hearing No Trend, who blew me away. Stan always wanted to sound like Rush, or some other godawful 70's dinosaur band, like ELP. So when I came with these dirge disco tunes, they came out with a lot more depth than had I just done them on my own. I believe if there was genius, it was the in the bass, especially Jim, bassist number three, who played on the 'Thirst for Knowledge single'. There's yer genius!"

"Was the Hell House real?"

"You bet! It was this house in the Tower Grove neighborhood of STL, Tony Carr and Chuck Declue lived there, so did Fred. We rehearsed there for about six months. Had a party there after the 45 Grave show. Don Bowles was in the attic with 2 li’l girlies. Good times. But the place was definetly haunted. I only went down in the basement once alone. Not a good place. Musta been 100 years old, at least. And whatta dump! But, yeah, we rehearsed on that dirt floor basement. The cover pics of the first 7" were taken downstairs there."

"When did you first hear punk?"

"It had to be when I saw the Godz - a Columbos, Ohio band, strangely enough, where I now live - open for Angel, Casablanca Record's answer to KISS (Kiss/black, Angel/white), at the American Theater in St. Louis, March of '77. Their singer came out, no joke, with the scream 'Hello St. Louis!!! You got some great COCAINE!!!’ Just a total disregard for decorum! Then they proceeded to tear the roof off. The singer/bassist, Eric Moore, and the Guitarist, now friend of mine, Mark Chatfield, ended the set touching tongues in this psuedo/gay French kiss. I'd see Richards and Jagger do the same thing on SNL nine months later. But when they did that, the hometown crowd showered the stage with bottles, cans, anything and everything. They had no option but to bring up the house lights at that point to get the barrage to stop. Whatta show! 'Fags! Queers!' And of course, anyone that went outta their way for that kinda disapproval back then was my instant hero. Their first LP is still on my DID top ten list!"

"Did you ever tour?"


"But you played live..."

"Sadly", Mike sighs, "again, there were only four live shows: our debut in New Values, a local punk clothing store's basement in the summer of '84, opening for 45 Grave in September of '84, opening for Battalion of Saints, and opening for Samhain in October of '85. That's it." Mike reflects, and adds, "Personally I think the Battalion of Saints show our best. We just really nailed it, did 'em all like they were done on the records. Note for note."

"I live a couple blocks away from Danzig in LA. I was stuck in traffic outside his house once, and saw him outside washing his new Jaguar sportscar. No shoes, no shirt. Just a bucket, a chamois, and leather pants."

"My best antedotes are from working in the French Quarter, '98 through '99. I worked at the Tower Records on the video side. We used to give free rentals to all the local cops, firemen, and famous folk with places down there. John Goodman always bought us lunch. First class guy all the way. The singer for Soul Asylum, Dave Pirner, another cool dude. Good weed. But Lenny Kravitz? What an ass! One time, he brought a movie that was like ten days late. I told him the free ones were when they were brought back on time. He blamed his assistant while I told him I'd need a manager to coverride the amount on the account. I then proceeded to act like I was phoning my manager. Mr. Kravitz stood there for like fifteen minutes waiting for a three dollar override, in his barefeet, sunglasses - who walks barefoot in the French Quarter? It was a Friday afternoon, too, so all these people were coming up saying, 'is that who I think it is?' And I got to say, 'Yep, he's too cheap to pay three dollars for a ten day late rental.' He finally blew up after like fifteen minutes. I woulda gone ballistic a lot sooner, in his defense, screaming and acting the twat. Whatta dipshit that guy is! And that Kung Fu guy from Europe? Claude VanDamme? He rents his OWN movies! Whatta jerk that guy was! 

We share a hearty laugh at the muscles from Brussel's expenses, and Mike’s expression goes to, not wistfulness exactly, but something along those lines. "I miss New Orleans. I'll go back there again some day..."

I slept that night in a cheap motel a stone’s throw from the interstate, lulled to sleep by the distant of traffic. A week later, and I was back in California, where the weather is a good fifty degrees warmer and the company not nearly as good, I was drinking my morning coffee and got an email from Mike, who told me; "Here's my list of bands you GOTTA go out and get the CDs of: 12 Volt Sex 'Stereo Quattro', (Las Vegas, 2000), the Cunninghams 'Zeroed Out' (Seattle, 1997), the Sensational Alex Harvey Band 'Live', (Scottland, 1975). I've always been a HUGE Sensational Alex Harvey Band fan, since first hearing/seeing them on Don Kirshner's Rock Concert in '75. I taped it to cassette and then wore the tape out. 12 Volt were friends of mine when I was playing in that Irish pub/drinking band in Las Vegas in 2000. They did the [full length] 'Stereo Quattro' for a major label, then their rep at the label got fired, the label never released the CD, and they broke up. It is one of the greatest pop records never heard. They're a real cool punk-pop band in the vein of Cheap Trick, but they're for cool people, not all the Blink 182/Green Day idiots out there. Ditto for the Cunninghams. They got signed, recorded that 'Zeroed Out' CD, released it, toured with INXS that summer, then broke up. Which is a shame, the CD is flawless. The production, mixed by the genius Tom Lord Algae, will tear your head off. Best of all: the vocals are tight, NO ProTools at all, the guy could hit NOTES! No whining/complaining, the lyrics verge on poetry (same with Jimmy from Bootbeast: he majored in Englist lit). Best of all: both 12 Volt and The Cunninghams wrote, recorded, and released the greatest LP's of their respective decade, then broke up! Perfect. That's what I always wanted to do: put together a band, record the perfect LP, tour once then break up! On a sad note, I just learned that Seven Pearson, the singer for the Cunninghams, hung himself four years ago. Guess he couldn't stand NOT being the rock star he so deservedly deserved. Or he was keeping up with INXS's singer (they did become close friends after touring together). Either way, just knowing Seven is dead makes his lyrics penetrate that much more effectively. So, if you get the chance, grab 'Stereo Quattro' and 'Zeroed Out' on ebay. They both go for under three dollars each, and everytime I play them for friends, they're floored. That's what I believe all good rock music should do: floor the listener. Take their head off, so their torso spurts blood up through their cartoid artery, arc over the coffee table, and splash on the living room floor. Right? Am I right?"

Personally, I think he’s right.