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Backyard Babies | Total 13 | interview | Dregen | rock | Lollipop
Total 13 (Scooch Pooch)
An Interview with Dregen
by Jon Sarre
The millennium has come and gone and the world hasn't ended. All that angst over computer meltdown, rapture and race war kinda lent an unwelcome chill to the New Year's bubbly, but now, might as well let it out, let it all hang out, celebrate, indulge, revel in decadence, cuz this whole New Age shit plain sucks, time to rock'n'roll! Party like it was... uh... 1985. Since no one actually wants to be back in the big-haired wilderness of '85, hook up with the Backyard Babies' Total 13 (available from the good people at Scooch Pooch).
The Babies follow in the foot-steps of their late'n'lamented countrymen Hanoi Rocks, living'n'breathin' the trashy glamour of a vice-ridden New York Doll only without lookin' like they took cosmetology lessons from Brett friggin' Michaels (a mighty good thing, since what's the use of bein' an excess drippin' rebel if ya gotta out-accessorize the typical Hollywood tramp ya wanna love'n'leave so ya can beat the statch rape charge). Judging from a talk with busy Backyard Babie Dregen, the band has more important stuff to worry about, like Swedish Grammies, public fornication busts, life beyond The Hellacopters and the odd connection between Social Distortion and hair-metal.
How's it goin'?
It's goin' good, we're on the last bits of the new album.
When's that gonna come out?
Well, we'll try to have a single out by the summer, but we've got Total 13 out in the States right now and it's doing really well, so it's just a bonus to have a new one ready to go.
Scooch Pooch takin' care of you?
Yeah [they've] been great... the guy's really fun, it was a choice between them and SubPop.
The Hellacopters are on SubPop now and you used to be a Hellacopter.
Yeah, I played with them for the first two albums.
But that was a side gig for you, right?
Yeah, exactly, cuz we've been goin' since 1989 with Backyard Babies.
You guys have been around longer than The Hellacopters, right?
Yeah, Nicky [Royale], the singer in The Hellacopters, had his band before, Entombed, you know, the death metal band... when we released our first record with Backyard Babies back in '94, it was during the whole grunge boom, or whatever, and we lost our record deal... the same thing happened with Entombed, so, well, me and Nicky started kinda a side-project.
Hellacopters sorta fit with SubPop, don't ya think? You guys almost sound more like what SubPop was against, y'know? Early Mötley Crüe, Faster Pussycat...
That's funny cuz how we formed The Hellacopters was basically just we lost our record deal and SubPop was involved in a way, cuz they did the whole fucking grunge thing... in Europe, or at least the Scandinavian labels, they really freaked out, they dropped every rock'n'roll band and thought that grunge music was really... I mean trends come and go... they thought it was some new innovation... like fucking techno music! It was good of SubPop in a way... cuz rock wasn't fun anymore.
Sure, you started getting shit like Warrant, Ugly Kid Joe, Mr. Big, even the Crüe started to suck, they were all doin' those ballads. You guys have ballads on this new record you're workin' on?
We always try to do good slow songs, but it just doesn't work out.
Kinda slow dance love songs for junior high dances? That's what [power ballads] are made for...
We actually have one song on our new record called "Painkiller"... It's not a ballad, but it's very slow, dark, it's got cellos and strings on it.
It's a mixture between [something unintelligible, sorry] meets The Velvet Underground in a more New York Dolls kinda way.
So it's heavy and dirgy, but trashy too?
It sounds arty.
Well, we try to keep away from that, but this is our third album and this time we spent three months in the studio. I'd never have believed that a few years ago! We've been here forever... but it's better... it's more... fun.
When I listen to you guys, I pick up something that I never thought of before. I know you guys toured with Social Distortion... Nicke [Borg, BB's singer] sounds like Mike Ness kinda and I realized that Social Distortion, from where they come from, I'm talking about their first coupla records, they actually have more to do with Hollywood glam than punk rock... I never thought of that.
We were playing a festival, this is back in '92, and a fan came up and said, "You guys sound a lot like Social Distortion" and I had never heard 'em...
When I heard Mommy's Little Monster, it came out in '81 or '82, I probably heard it in '86 and I placed it in more of a context with Black Flag and the Circle Jerks and not with the bands across town in Hollywood, like Mötley Crüe or, I guess Hanoi Rocks, who were from your part of the world. I never woulda caught that, so I guess you guys got that without really knowing, huh?
It's an interesting point, cuz we did a month tour with Social D in Europe... and then America... I think they liked us, cuz they brought us over... I'd never been to America with The Hellacopters...
I talked to Kenny and Strings last time they were in town [Portland, OR], but the way it worked, cuz this is takin' off, you just didn't have the time, right?
Oh yeah, there were no hard feelings...
That's not what they said...
[Which is untrue, I was just trying to get Dregen going, he either didn't understand or wisely ignored my attempt]
Yeah exactly... not from me either...
No, they were saying just the opposite...
[Dregen again fails to take the bait]
I felt bad about it...
[I try one more time]
They were sayin' they were glad you're gone.
[Dregen changes the subject]
But it's just that Backyard Babies has always been my band, it's always been about songwriting... it's not the same guitar-blusey kind of vibe, it's more like Ramones and Hanoi Rocks.
Hanoi Rocks has been a huge influence?
I would say musically, it's more like The Sex Pistols, Clash, Kiss, New York Dolls, the Stooges, but for us... it was like we were gonna make it, not being from England or America, at the time there weren't many bands from Scandinavia, there was only Hanoi.
There're more bands getting press on this side of the world now... obviously that's a good thing, but there's almost like this fad for Scandinavian rock'n'roll...
Yeah, sure, but it could be the same thing that happened with grunge music... people in America, if they get an album now and they see it's from Sweden or Finland or another Scandinavian country, you already get a positive reaction, so it's important to keep up the quality and not over do, because there's a lotta bands that aren't that good, but they get signed just cuz Scandinavian rock'n'roll is the flavor of the month.
The thing about it is all the bands [coming over] are different, you can't even say much more than that you're all from the same four countries.
The good thing about the scene here is everyone's friends with one another... everybody hangs out at the same places, gets drunk together at the same pubs. It's not competitive.
You won a Swedish Grammy. So what's that like?
It's amazing. I mean, it's something I never would've believed. It's great. I never thought that punk rock would make that much sense here. The kids are... I mean there's a punk rocker everywhere.
Are the Swedish Grammies televised like the American Grammies?
Yeah, it's the biggest.
Did you have a celebrity presenter and who was it?
It was the girl who won Miss Universe, the Swedish girl. That was pretty hot.
Is she a fan?
I don't know. She was kinda dodgy when I tried to talk to her. I thought maybe we could get together... for a cup of tea.
You guys had no idea about this, right, but you were there... in the audience?
Who else was in the running?
There was this Swedish hardcore band, Refused.
Oh yeah, they broke up.
It was Backyard Babies, Refused, this metal band called Hammerfall, and The Soundtracks Of Our Lives.
So who got arrested in New Orleans? [According to the band's press bio, one member, unnamed in the release, was busted in New Orleans for "lewd and unlawful behavior, aka public fornication"]
I dunno... we've got a bad line here...
You're having trouble with your telephone?
I don't remember, suddenly there was a lot of fucking flashlights and I was handcuffed and thrown in the back of the fucking car...
You know that's on the first page of your press kit, right?
Oh fucking hell, they love that, the press!
Of course they do... So $40 [the amount of the fine Dregen, as it turned out, had to pay], you got off alright. I just got stuck with a $1000 fine for throwing a cigarette butt out a car window.
I got off easy.
Watch yourself when you come to Portland.
(5850 W 3rd St #209 Los Angeles, CA 90036)