Monday, May 26, 2008

The BirdDogs - Interview! Pontiac blues-punk!

photo: Daniel Throesch
The BirdDogs - stick to the roots.

By: Rich Tupica

If Led Zeppelin were in the final stages of rabies during their prime they likely would have sounded much like the Detroit-via-Pontiac band The BirdDogs. The band’s first release, 2007’s ‘The Great Baptist Witch Hunt’, is stocked with dark-blues riffs, guitar solos, shouts and lyrics that in no way paint a picture of love or understanding. Rusty sharp objects, killing people, the devil and going fucking crazy is what Robbie Buxton, 29, lead vocalist and guitarist, preaches while kicking out three chord punk, followed by Stones tinged American roots tunes.
The band is currently recording their second full length record at their home studio and are always gigging around Detroit.
Be sure to check out one of their shows before Buxton follows through with some of the demented shit he howls about.
Here is what he recently had to say, read on.

Full name, age, hometown?
Buxton, 29, born and raised in Pontiac, Michigan.

When did you first start playing music?
"I didn't pick up a guitar until after high school. I had little to no musical talent at that point. The only thing that really existed was a love for rock & roll. At a very young age I would sneak into my aunts bedroom and listen to vinyl - things like T-Rex, Zeppelin, Nugent and Beefheart. I always dreamed of playing guitar but it wasn't something I was too ambitious about. I suppose I was 19 or 20 when I really got into it. My folks had this old acoustic sitting around. The strings must have been an inch off the frets. I took it home and played the thing every night after work. I remember sitting on the floor of my bedroom listening to Hendrix and The Yardbirds, trying to pluck out something that sounded right. Once i developed my knowledge of the guitar i got into
the banjo and mandolin a bit as well.

Young dude: Robbie jamming out many moons ago.

Were you in any bands before The BirdDogs?
"For the longest time I played alone. Other than picking up some chords from an instructional book I was completely self taught. I was pretty wrapped up in my own little world musically. One day I purchased a four-track cassette recorder. I started goofing around with that and it wasn't long after that I started thinking about how cool it would be to have a band to record. I put out some fliers at music stores and I formed a band called Out By Fall. We played one show. It was pretty bad. The only thing that came of that mess was our drummer Jarvis, who wasn't a drummer at the time. He played bass."

How did the BirdDogs form? How long have you been together?
"We formed in late 2005. We had two guitar players in Out By Fall. It was decided that my writing and playing were too 'bombastic' and that it just wasn't going to work out. Everybody went separate ways. I was really bummed but I went right back to work with my four-track with some new ideas. A few months later Jarvis called me out of nowhere. I invited him over and he brought me a bag of tomatoes from his garden. I showed him what I had been up to with my four-track. He wanted in on it. He was the first person who really believed in what I was doing. I remember seeing an old drum kit at his house and I asked him if he'd be interested in playing drums instead of bass. He had very minimal training on drums but we both had the patience to help one another develop. I had access to this run down carlot in Pontiac. We set up our equipment there and played just about every day over the next year. We added Ben on bass in late 2006. He is a longtime friend of mine. He was sick of the bands he was playing in. He came out to one of our first shows as a two piece. It wasn't long after that he joined the band. Recently we added a tambourine player. He deems himself as Mr. Nicely."

Where was your first show? What do you recall about it?
"Our first show was at this bar north of Clarkston called The Deer Lake Inn. It was horrible. At this point we had a handful of originals, a couple souped up Big Bill Broonzy covers and I believe we also covered something off the Soledad Brothers' self titled. There were only about seven people there. They hated us. The bartender kept coming over telling us to turn down. We sold one of our demos for a few bucks. We were both so broke. I remember taking that money, buying a couple 40s."

photo: Daniel Throesch
BirdDogs: (left-right) Jarvis Logan, Ben Littles, Robbie Buxton.

How would you describe your band's sound?
"I'm not sure what we sound like. We're still figuring that out. It's hard to pin us. We have so many different influences. Our first full length was sort of a blend of everything. You can hear blues, punk and country in there, it's quite an interesting mix. We even threw in an old hymn I remember hearing often in church as a child. These days we are much more focused in our endeavors. The next record is really shaping into something we are all very proud of. We are more comfortable with each other. I am really growing as a songwriter and we're all starting to understand the concept of recording a good record."

What are some other Detroit area bands you are digging?
"Right now I'm recording and co-producing a tripped out record for Friends of Dennis Wilson. I'm really into their music. They are so fucking intense. They put so much into what they do. I also dig stuff like Heroes and Villains as well as some of the other X! Records stuff. I've been listening to my Blanche records as well. There's too much to list really."

How many shows have you guys played so far? Any tours or records you guys have planned?
"As for shows, it would be difficult to count. We spent a lot of time playing to nobody starting off. It's nice to see folks coming out to shows now. As for a tour, it's in the air that we might head out west this fall. We're playing the Deep Blues Festival out in Wisconsin again this summer, we'll probably add a few dates to that trip. We are currently working on our second full length that we are calling 'The Satanic Troubadours Audio Almanac'. We're all very excited about our work in the studio."

Have you been following the presidential race? If so, who are you rooting for?
"I follow what's going on but it's hard for me to pick or choose. It's all so very rotten and corrupt."

photo: James Thomas
Goodnight!: BirdDogs at The Belmont

What are you doing when you're not playing music?
"I've built my own 16-track analog recording studio. I record a lot of Detroit Bands when I'm not recording my own. Aside from that I'm painfully boring. I won't burden you with details."

The BirdDogs go from minimal to bluesy rock within the same tune, what are some bands that helped to influence that sound?
"When we first started recording I remember sitting around the studio listening to a lot of Fat Possum vinyl, stuff like Junior Kimbrough, RL Burnside, Robert Belfour and T-Model Ford, whom we will have the privilege of sharing a stage with at the Deep Blues Festival this year. I fell in love with the simplicity and rawness of those recordings. That's just those guys being who they are. That's really what we want to capture with our recordings. We want you to know who we are when we're recording. We will continue recording in such a manner but we're growing. Our sound is constantly changing. The next record will be a bit more complex. We've really started studying music. Going into record this time around we've all been listening to records like 'Their Satanic Majesties Request' by the Stones and a lot of The Beatles albums. We're now adding instruments like dulcimers to our work now. We're anxious to get it out."

Who writes the songs in the band?
"I write the songs. I'll come up with a ditty on the guitar or a few chords, then comes a few lyrics that I later construct into a full song. If the idea is solid I take it to the band at rehearsal. If it feels good we go with it, if it doesn't then we move on. We used to record songs pretty quick after their conception. Nowadays we're spending more time breaking things down, trying different things, building things up and tearing them down. Ben and Jarvis have much more input with the song structure now."

Why are you called The BirdDogs? Is there a story behind the name?
" We just wanted something that sounded old. Gene Vincent has a song that I love called 'Bird Doggin'. That's where the initial idea came to me."

Are you guys going to college?
"None of us currently attend college. I went to school for a couple years studying architecture and construction technology, prior to that I attended seminary school for a short period of time. Currently I play guitar and sing in a rock'n'roll band, I also work in a junk yard - go figure."

photo: Rebecca Solano
BirdDogs: Mr. Nicely is center!

You guys self-released a record. Who recorded it and how can people get it?
"We recorded it. We have a 16-track reel to reel. Ben and I did the majority of the recording, engineering and mixing work. We sent it out to Saff Mastering down in Chicago for the final touches. We began recording immediately after adding Ben to the lineup so what you hear on the record is basically us getting to know one another. We tried a lot of different things as we had no real pressure in the comforts of our own studio. There's a minimalistic feel to it yet we did things like reversing the tape to lay down a few backwards guitar tracks. If folks are interested in obtaining a copy of 'The Great Baptist Witch Hunt' they only need to contact us on MySpace."

What is a goal the band is working on right now?
"We'd like to get out on tour more often. We always have a huge response when we play out of state. We've also just started recording a new record. We'd like to have it out by late summer."

The BirdDogs are:
Jarvis Logan - Drums
Robbie Buxton - Guitar, Vocals
Ben Littles - Bass
Mr. Nicely - Tambourine, Yelps & Howls


Upcoming BirdDogs Shows:

Jun 21 2008, 6:00pm
The Bohemian Nation Home
Detroit, Michigan

Jul 18 2008, 12:00 (noon)
Deep Blues Music & Film Festival
Lake Elmo, Minnesota

Jul 19 2008, 11:00pm
4th Street Fair
Detroit, Michigan

Jul 25 2008, 9:00pm
The Lager House
Detroit, Michigan

This work is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.
Please write for permission to use any text.

Monday, May 19, 2008

The Dial Tones - Interview!

The Dial Tones!

By: Rich Tupica
Rock’n’Roll in Detroit seems to have switched gears in recent years. Where organ driven garage bands like The Hentchmen left off, a new wave of more odd and noisy sounding bands like Tyvek and Terrible Twos have formed. The Clone Defects are finished, but Timmy Vulgar has continued making noise with the weird-synth driven Human Eye.The Dial Tones have decided to stick to the influences they grew up on, the late ’90s, early 2000’s batch of bands who were more Captain Beefheart than Devo. Their ‘oldies’ are The Sonics, Keggs and The Gories.
They have a batch of songs recorded by Detroit fixture Jim Diamond and are hoping to get them pressed on a record in the near future.
Lead singer and guitarist Eric Allen, 22, recently dropped some knowledge about his band The Dial Tones, read on.

What is there to know about Eric?
"Well, my name is Eric Allen. I’m the oldest and, therefore, the dad of the band. Hence, my nickname being 'dad.' I’m 22 and I sing lead vocals and do a slight bit of strumming. I was just singing but everyone got tired of my incessant use of the cowbell and tambourine. Next are Nick Knight and Kyle Schanta who are both 19. Nick plays drums, wags his tongue a lot and is into the coolest shit. Schanta sings vocals as well, plays a mean lead guitar and writes the best songs. Then, last but not least, we have the kids of the band, Darrell Haas Party, Kyle Danger Davis and Muskrat, who are all 18 years young. Darrell is a classically trained pianist that we gave a couple of Hentchmen records to and told him to forget everything he knew before and learn this stuff. He’s a man/boy genius. Kyle Davis plays lead guitar and sings a lot of vocals too. He is our resident blues aficionado and is also an amazing songwriter. Muskrat is Muskrat. That’s all there is to know. He’s a great kid and I’m really glad he’s in our band and not someone else’s. He is the quiet backbone of The Dial Tones."

What's your hometown?
"My hometown is vastly different from the rest of the guys in the band. I’m from Royal Oak so I’ve kind of always been exposed to Detroit and all of its glories since it's only about 4 miles down the road from me. I’m sure you know about Royal Oak. It’s the town everyone wants to live in unless you live here. It used to be cool when stores like Repeat The Beat, Wendell’s, Cinderella’s Attic and Dave’s Comics were around, but now it’s kind of just like a coffee shop and restaurant mecca. As for everyone else, they are from New Baltimore, which means a trip east on I-94. It’s pretty much a cultureless vacuum up there. There isn’t much to do except hang out at Wendy’s or this park on the water. That or you go play your guitar, piano, drums in your basement and become phenomenal at them. So I’m kind of lucky in that I’m so fortunate to have amazing musicians in the band. I got too distracted by beer and other things to ever become that good."

The Dial Tones in the early days - 2007.

How did The Dial Tones meet?
"It’s kind of weird that someone from Royal Oak would make it out to New Baltimore - Chesterfield to jam with some kids, but I guess it's some sort of musical cross-pollination. I played in a punk band when I was like 18 with a mutual friend of Nick's and when we would play shows all these weird kids would come down from New Baltimore and hang out. So I have known the guys since - shit since they were probably 12 years-old.
Nick and I just became best friends really because I was over punk at 16 and he was starting to get into a lot of the bands I loved. We started playing together about a year and a half ago, banging out The Sonic’s 'The Witch' as a two-piece. He was also jamming with Muskrat and Kyle Davis separately and we decided to combine it all together. That incarnation of The Dial Tones lasted for about six months and we added Darrell as an organ player in June of last year.
It kind of changed the sound a bit from more like Chuck Berry and powerpop to what our original intentions were to be a 1960s garage band like The Sonics, JuJus, Count Five, Keggs and all that fun shit. Topping it off we brought Schanta in because he’s the nicest guy in the world and he was always hanging around anyways. It turned out to be a smart move because he’s a fantastic songwriter as well."

The Dial Tones with Nikki Corvette

What do you plan to do with the Jim Diamond recordings the band recently finished?
"The plan is to release them as soon as we can. I’ve been talking with a lot of labels, pestering Ben Blackwell and others looking for some sort of a deal or help. In such tight economic times it's rough to ask someone you know to dump 700 dollars into a vinyl 7 inch, but I’ve made some headway in the past few weeks and I think you can count on something being out before the end of summer. If no labels come through I can see ourselves putting it out this summer. We’re no strangers to D.I.Y."

You guys have a lot of Detroit influences, what else inspires your tunes?
"I’ve never really been out of Detroit, save a trip to Ireland and a few other small things, and I kind of don’t really want to know what else goes on outside of my city. I guess that sounds kind of close-minded, but as far as I’m concerned Detroit has always been our biggest inspiration. Seeing The Fondas made Nick and I start this band. The Terrible Twos, The Muldoons and The Go make us want to be so much better.
I remember I took the guys to see The Go at Cityfest last year. They had never seen them before since they are a lot younger and I remember looking at their faces when The Go were playing. It was priceless. We haven’t been the same band since. I remember when we went and saw The Terrible Twos open for The Black Lips a few months ago. The guys - their faces just all lit up with the hugest smiles and it pushes us that much more to be better. People like that and Mick Collins, Ed Gillis, Dan Kroha and Jack White just continuously make us want to push it out farther and farther. As for what inspires the tunes besides the aforementioned bands, it’s -surprise- things in Detroit.
I’m constantly looking around when I’m driving for things to write about. We have a new song called 'Al Wallace is a Black KKK Rat' because I have seen that written on walls all around the city. Another new one is called 'Ghetto Bird' which is a loving homage to Ice Cube’s song of the same name and the copters that constantly fly over my apartment. We have another new song called 'Alleged Party' which is about Kwame inviting The Dial Tones over for a party at the Manoogian."

Eric Allen, wearing Gucci.

What are you guys up to when you're not playing music?
"We all work jobs and, except for myself, go to school. Haas is going to State this summer and currently works at Petco last time I checked. Nick is going to Grand Valley soon and works at a Chinese restaurant that Kyle Davis worked at a few days before he was let go. Davis hangs out with his girlfriend a lot, rakes leaves and saves bunnies for money. Muskrat just lost his job due to hard economic times and is looking for a job. Hire him he’s a good kid if you have a job.
Kyle Schanta goes to Wayne State and makes pizza at Pizza Hut and has a nice girlfriend Taylor he likes a lot. As for myself, I work full time at Real Detroit Weekly as an editor and writer and put a lot of time into that. When I’m not there I’m usually hanging out with my wonderful girlfriend, playing my free Xbox 360 or drinking a fine beverage from Bells, Kuhnhenn’s or Motor City Brewing Works. Do I get my free beer now?"

How many shows have you guys played? Any plans to play outside of Michigan?
"We have played a lot of things that are loosely considered shows. We’ve done a lot of glorified practices in basements, parks and shit like that. All together I’d say we’ve probably done 25 shows in like a year of existing. I’m really proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish in the last year alone and I think it can only go up from here. We’ve got a ton of stuff coming up, we just played with The Black Hollies, which was probably our best show yet. We are also playing with Mike from Hentch’s new band Speedy Greasy and some of the dudes from Rocket 455 in June at Northern Lights.
As for playing out of town, we’ve gotten a lot offers to play out of state from people willing to put us up and stuff. It will eventually happen someday I’m sure, maybe just weekend trips or something, but my job is demanding in that I can’t really be away that long. We are also all kinds of poor. Right now though we are more concerned with getting better local shows, opening for our heroes and doing some headlining stuff with bands we dig."

Do you follow politics? Do you have a choice for president and why?
"It’s funny someone was just telling me that The Dial Tones, White Panther thing - some of us wear their pins, John Sinclair is a hero of mine and I guess our strong resemblance sound wise to the MC5, has really turned them off about us. In all honesty, our songs have absolutely nothing to do with politics. I guess some of the new songs have a political tinge since two of them are about cops and one is about Kwame Kilpatrick. Regardless, we aren’t the MC5 or The Clash. We aren’t going to shove anything down anyone’s throat.
I don’t really know what everyone thinks politically in the band. I think its safe to say that none of us are exactly happy with what is going on in the world. I follow politics pretty closely, although not as much I should. I graduated from school with a minor in political science so I’m interested in all that shit. In the upcoming election, I will vote for Barack Obama because not only does he best represent my views out of all the candidates, but he seems genuinely concerned with changing the establishment of Washington D.C. This is something that has been apparent for a long time and I’m excited that a main party canidate is trumpeting such change. I will probably kill myself if John McCain wins, that is if he doesn’t die first, which is quite possible because he’s older than dirt."

What is a typical day like for you or you and the Dial Tones?
"I’ll try not to dwell on myself for to long, but a typical day for me is to go to work at Real Detroit where I write about bands, businesses and people. I get a lot of free stuff because people apparently care about my opinion. It is nice to spotlight music that I think is good and I’ve been able to talk to a lot of awesome musicians like BBQ, The Black Lips, Eddie Gillis, Against Me!, AIDS Wolf, The Kills, Jay Reatard and so on and so on.
I think I’ve touched on everyone else’s jobs in other questions and they pretty much all do their work and school thing and then go wreak havoc on New Baltimore. We all go to a lot of local shows and hang out together when we get a chance. We all are pretty big record nerds so we spend a lot of time on that stuff and way too much money as well."

What is a pet-peeve of yours?
"I can generally say we don’t like people who aren’t modest. We have aspirations for this band, but we aren’t willing to take a Machiavellian approach to it and burn bridges in the process. There are some people we know that just really have a problem with this. It’s always their way or the highway. I don’t think any of us have the time or patience for that kind of attitude. This modesty 'situation' that is considered our 'pet peeve' really showcases the best thing about our band.
We have this kind of gang element to us in that we were best friends before we were in this band together and we are willing to do anything for each other. So situations arise with someone who doesn’t know their place and we feel like we have to show them where it is. I just made us sound like Agnostic Front or something, but it’s true. We would do anything for anyone in our band."

Who do you think is better, Elvis or The Beatles?
"I really don’t know - The Stooges - nah, I won’t be a dick. I think we would all probably agree on The Beatles. Although they both pretty much stole from black people. The Beatles eventually went on to make really interesting music of their own after their obsession with Chuck Berry was over. Elvis never really got over that and plus he never gave credit where credit was due."

The Dial Tones are:
Kyle Davis
, 18 - Lead Guitar and vocals
Kyle Schanta, 19 - Lead Guitar and vocals
Eric Allen, 22 - Rhythm guitar and vocals
Muksrat, 18 -Bass and vocals
Nick Knight, 19 - Drums
Darrell Haas, 18 - Organ and Piano

This work is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.
Please write for permission to use any text.

View My Stats