Friday, 6 June 2014

Dan Sartain

There's no real evidence for it, but it is scientific fact that listening to Dan Sartain's music will make you a better person. The Alabama rockabilly-punk-blues troubadour has a new album (his eighth) - the brilliant Dudesblood - out now on One Little Indian.

Dan Sartain by Hayley Grimes

Hi Dan.
Dan Sartain! That's my name! Don't wear it out! Sorry... I've been watching a lot of David Lee Roth interviews.

Right on, that's cool. I've got my hopes up for this now.
He's so funny man. He's got lines for days and days.

The new record sounds like you've gone and written some hits, and it's got a cover of a Knife song on it. The last guy that covered the Knife got famous... Was that you plan?
Who was that? What song?

That guy José González covered 'Heartbeats', and it got used on a Sony TV ad, and he got really huge.
I know the song but I haven't heard the cover. Advertisements are kind of the monetary success that you hope for these days. It used to be that that was the most uncool thing ever, you know? Bands would really pride themselves on rejecting corporations and things like that. Then later on, to a lesser extent, you would hear bands kinda brag about this. Like, somebody wanted one of their songs and they said "no!" It's still cool to tell politicians "no", especially if it's a lame politician. Why started that..? Woody Guthrie, I think, then Bruce Springsteen perpetuated it when some politician wanted to use his song and he said no. Nowadays the people who do advertisements have better taste than the people who run the radio. You see and hear Iggy Pop on advertisements, you don't hear him on the radio! At least not over here.

He did that car insurance ad over here, did you get that?
It was really funny! He's like "I don't trust car insurance to just anybody!" Haha! People were mad about that. People are mad over here, this week, people are grumpy because they used some Pixies song on an iPhone ad or something like that. You just gotta get over it, we can't have it both ways where music is free and musicians aren't compensated for anything. Maybe musicians don't deserve to make as much money as they have in the past...

Pixies and the Stooges both reformed for money, it's not like these bands don't exist as businesses. But yeah, that José González cover was definitely the first time a lot of people heard the Knife. How did you get from you last album to this new one?
The last album was kind of a... I don't want to call it a 'concept album', because when people say that they usually mean Tommy by The Who or something. The last album wasn't a concept album in the traditional sense, I was just trying to write a record for the Ramones, and I was thinking largely about Richie Ramone, who was their drummer in the mid-80s. He kind of got offered the job out of the blue, and with the job came a lot of writing, and lifting a lot of weight, because Joey was sick at the time and everybody was kinda mad with Johnny but they all wanted to keep the band going. So in a lot of ways, in his short time with the band, that guy was the driving force of the band. I just wanted to imagine, "What if I got that kinda call?" To join one of your favourite bands and be a major part of it. I kinda fantasy-casted myself as one of the Ramones, and wondered what kind of album I'd write. Obviously it's impossible now. So I did that, but it was hard coming out of that. When we started to put the wheels in motion to do this album, I had contacted Richie Ramone. We did a song together, and we talked about working some more, but it didn't flesh out. At the time it wasn't a fantasy anymore, writing an album with the actual person. So I could write an album of mine with him in mind, with that speed and intensity. I still had those songs, so instead I got DJ Bonebreak from X. X are a huge influence to me. They hit me harder and a lot longer than the Ramones did. I saw this documentary that had footage of them doing 'Johnny Hit and Run Paulene', that I later found was from The Decline of Western Civilization, and I thought they were the coolest people in the world.

It changed you!
Definitely. I've always loved them. So while I'm cold-calling heroes of mine to see if they'll play on this record, I wondered what DJ Bonebreak was doing. I figured he would charge a lot more, because he was the only constant member, and he's played on side-projects, and everybody in the band seems to love him. The fall out with each other, but they love DJ! And I can see why. I sent him the tracks, and we would speak briefly, and he always sent something back that was better than what I was envisioning.

And that's how Dudesblood came to be?
Pretty much! I wasn't planning on it being so marimba-heavy, but I figured that if I have this guy at my disposal, and he's so good at all that... I started thinking of different stuff. The Knife song, I love that. I listen to songs on repeat, and it drives people around me crazy.

That's because you're a fan of really short songs.
Yeah! Haha! I don't listen to much prog. But I would play that song on repeat until I realised there was something morbid and weird that wasn't on the surface about it. It dawned on me what it was; the singer wasn't the subject of the song. It's a female voice saying the stuff, but I put two and two together, and learned more about the band, found out the were a brother and sister duo, then it kind of made sense. I still don't really know what the song is about. I've been told it was about a stalker, but I assumed it was maybe about a letter or something that the sister got. Or some drunk person chewing her ear off backstage, and they were just kind of mocking this person! I dunno. But it's not straight ahead storytelling.

So did you try to write hits for this record?
Kinda. Obviously a song like 'Dudesblood' or 'Smash The Tesco' aren't really going to fly with some markets. In one I'm screaming "Fucked in the face with a chainsaw" and the other I'm screaming "I'll throw a Molotov right through the fucking glass". The song 'You Gotta Get Mad To Get Things Done' was absolutely recorded with the radio in mind. It features Misty Miller on vocals. She's a young singer from London with a seemingly bright future ahead of her. It features DJ Bonebrake on drums and marimba. He's a full on legend. I wanted that song to have something for old punks and young bucks in one setting. I'm kinda in the middle of that. The label liked the Knife cover for the first single. Can't say I saw that coming, but I don't find that decision to be disagreeable. 'You Gotta Get Mad' was the "I want to keep my job song", though. I was trying to think like Tom Petty or Elvis Costello or something. It's not my favorite song, but it feels like the most presentable one. To answer your question, ever since the first Swami album, we have wanted to be contenders for whatever it is everyone else wants. I failed at sports before I was a musician. I look at music like a sport, a competition. I want to win, but I have to eat it like a pro when we don't.

Since you talked about fantasising about writing for the Ramones, is there a movie you'd like to write a soundtrack for? Maybe something where the actual soundtrack sucks.
Rumble Fish. I love that movie, and I hate that soundtrack. Stewart Copeland? Did he watch the movie he was making the soundtrack for?! I mean, I understand he was being adventurous and using an instrument people hadn't used to score films with, but man, it just ruins the film. I would love to do that, even on a fan edit level, do an alternate soundtrack to Rumble Fish. God, it's so good! Matt Dillon in his prime?! Mickey Rourke in his prime?! Who was the girl from the Fabulous Stains... Diane Lane! Nic Cage looking cool and young?! Rumble Fish is a perfect movie! I mean, it has Tom Waits in it, and I'm not the biggest Tom Waits fan, but if you have Tom Waits at your disposal and you're making a movie like that? I would way rather there was a Tom Waits soundtrack than what Stewart Copeland did. Stewart Copeland's soundtrack is just goofy on that, and it takes me out of it, and it doesn't match the scenes at all. That's a good question and one that I'm happy to have a definitive answer for.

You did an 'Ask Me Anything' thing on Reddit, and seemed quite surprised how nobody was a dick to you. Why?
It's the internet, you know? I'm guilty of it too, because I'm a fan of stuff. I was just on the internet just now, ripping on Van Halen. I love David Lee Roth, and people always act like those two need each other. I was like "No, it's a one-way street! David Lee Roth's solo stuff is better than Van Halen because it's him in his prime going off the chain!" I thought people were just gonna be like "How many dicks do you suck?" I dunno, a lot? Haha! I expected them to go crazy on me.

That reminds me of a lyric on the new record... Have you actually stuck your penis in a glory hole?
Hahaha! No comment! I will say this, with the last record, and this record, things have just become funny. I'm going to need to write a sincere record. Since that last record, and this record, everything's kind of a joke.

But why? You play punk rock music.
Yeah. I guess not. When I was doing the whole Ramones thing, I felt like a lot of bands did that. There have been whole record labels of bands that rip off the Ramones, but oftentimes the miss how funny they were. Joey was pretty sincere in a lot of those love lyrics, but to us it was just funny how there's this giant guy with a funny accent who's really sincerely in love. I think people often miss the mark with them. Even the Misfits, people always associate Danzig with being a stupid tough guy, but those lyrics were pretty funny. I don't think it's that funny to see him carrying around cat food, because I think that dude is pretty funny, and he has a good sense of humour, and it's probably a lot of other people misinterpreting him.

As if Glenn Danzig doesn't feed his cat cat food. 
Right! Haha! 

What were the Toe Rag versions you did about? 
What's that? Sorry, I'm at the store... 

You're not at Tesco, are you? 
Hahaha! No. I was hoping that would come up. That song, 'Smash The Tesco', is about my English friends who have a tendency to want to riot. Last time I was over there, they were rioting against Tesco. We were in Bristol, I think, and the students were smashing Tescos. I think it's cool, I mean, I wish Americans would riot more. Against consumerism, against Americanism. But when I'm actually in the UK, Tesco is actually a kind of a relief! Like, it's not that much of a threat. They don't make the Daily Sport any more, but I'll go in there and get some sport magazine with titties, and maybe some sunflower seeds, and a chocolate egg with a little toy inside it. It doesn't seem like that big of a deal, but out in the street they're like "Fuck the Tesco!" and they're smashing the shit out of it. It's funny to me; I live in a town that's pretty much nothing but strip malls. It's awful! If my English friends could see that..! Tesco is so quaint, and necessary, compared to Walmart, which is obscene. Walmart is so big, and such a huge cog in the wheel, that they don't even chase after you if you've shoplifted less than $10 worth of stuff. Like it costs more in manpower for them to fill out the paperwork to catch a shoplifter if they've stolen less than $10 worth. So basically anything under $10 is free at Walmart if you have the guts to take it. They aren't going to go after you. I stole some sewing needles this week. I needed to sew up my jacket. Haha!

Have you ever eaten horse? Or any other domestic creature? 
Yeah, I have. Over in Europe. I had horse on a pizza over in German, and it was really good. At an Italian restaurant. 

That was a thing that upset people about Tesco; they sold horse meat but told people it was cow meat. Beef, I mean. 
Oh wow! They did that somewhere here too, they found out there was horse meat in something. But then I remembered eating horse and it was pretty good! Haha! 

You'd think it would be harder to get horse meat. You'd think they'd be harder to keep, and breed, and catch, than a field of cows lying around. 
They're lean too. It would take some work to get meat off of a horse.

What do you think of Record Shop Day?
For my own interests, it's good. I'm more of an enthusiast about movies really. I stay away from music blogs and things of that nature. I get more from movie blogs, and I get into rumours, and making-of things, and I probably believe things that aren't true, and I probably perpetuate lies I've heard on the internet about movies. I understand the fan-dom behind it, it's cool.

Is it fair to say that you're bigger in the UK than you are in a lot of other places?
Yeah. It's been like that for a long time. It makes it harder to get money, because it all goes back into the production of it, and buying plane tickets. Sometimes you just want to save some money or tour with local musicians. When I'm over there I feel like I'm being spoiled and humbled at the same time. Sometimes it'll be the best of anything I've ever had, and sometimes you don't get my creature comforts, and you're being a whiny baby because you don't get orange cheese and yellow mustard. 

A mutual friend of ours, Bryan McGarvey, told me I better not mention the Third Man thing, or you turning records into ashtrays. So tell me about that.
I didn't like the record that I did with them, and I would up with hundreds of 'em. I feel like there was a little bit of a lack of quality control with them. With that label. 

Is that Jack White, or the people he employs? You'd think a boutique label like that would be on it.
Jack gets the final say, as far as I know. It's weird, because I'm friends with all those guys. There's a couple of guys named Ben, one of them used to play with the Soledad Brothers and the other Ben was from the Dirtbombs. I know those guys from touring and I know Jack from touring, and they've always seeked me out! I mean, I liked the White Stripes when they came out, and I still like the White Stripes. Some of it. But I was never like "Oh wow, I gotta get my music to these guys!" I kept getting calls from them, and they seemed like cool, nice guys. I've played music with all those guys. It's cool that Jack is getting people into collecting records, but I just felt that mine wasn't very good. I think it's a little ridiculous, I mean they can spend their money however they want, but that people are spending a lot of money on these limited editions. I have these records sitting around, these tri-coloured records, these Halloween editions, all this stuff, and they're just sitting in my closet and I'm ashamed of them. Kind of to prove a point I just melted them into bowls and put them on eBay. I made like a thousand dollars, selling these guys melted records. Idiots. I had the standard versions, and I sold those at the merch tables for like $5. I you made me laugh I would just give it to you. $5 is an investment or whatever, but to spend $50 on a melted record? You're an idiot.

People who call themselves 'record collectors' are the worst. Buy the music, don't collect the item. You don't need the same thing three times.
Yeah. I went through a thing a few years ago when I was collecting a lot of action figures, and it became obsessive. Those people are the same way. With toys, the only good thing is that you can touch them and hold them and stuff! These guys want them in the package, and the package to be pristine. 

And it has to have the right barcode on it, before they can put it away in a box in a cupboard that nobody will ever see.
Yeah, exactly. They would label these people as 'card-benders'. They would go into the retail shops and find the toys on the pegs, and they knew that they were collectors' items, and they would bend the cards, so that when the collector would get to it they'd be like "Aargh! I can't buy this, the card is bent!" I became one of those people. Eventually I just became a troll. An internet troll and a real-life troll of toy collectors. I found that you could buy these toys, take them out of the box, keep the toy and put in a different toy from a charity shop or something, then take it back to the store and get a full refund. Haha! They would put these charity shop toys back on the shelf, so you'd go back into the store and see the wrong toy in the box. Haha! I was in this toy collector community, and they'd post pictures of these on the internet and say "I can't believe how somebody could do this" and I'd be like "I know, it's terrible". Hahaha!

What are your plans for the year, after the record comes out and after this tour?
Well, when I got out of toy collecting I got a vintage car, a '57 Plymouth. I always loved the car but I'm getting to where I can't keep it up any more. It sucks but I gotta let her go. I think I sold the car to this guy in Australia, and I'm kinda dating a girl in San Fransisco. I'm a little too early for my midlife crisis and a little too late for my quarter-life crisis. I think I already had that. I hope I did, anyway. If that wasn't it, I'm fucked. But I'm selling the car and I'm gonna try and move out west. I'm buying a mototcycle. I've never been on a motorcycle before. 

Be careful, man.
Yeah. Yeah. Well I quit smoking, I quit drinking and I quit hard drugs. I gotta increase the likelihood of an untimely death, that I've worked so hard for. If things keep going like this I'm gonna live forever and I'm gonna see all my friends die. Now I'm looking at living in a world where Ghostbusters die, and where members of Devo die. You know? I'm not OK with this! Beastie Boys are dying. Dude, I gotta do something to get outta here before I see everybody I love go away! Haha! I may as well get on a fuckin' motorcycle and drive to San Francisco. I'm way too safe in a car!

Dudesblood is out now on One Little Indian.