An Interview with D.R.I.
WW: On June 10, 2016 you guys released a new EP entitled, But Wait…THERE’S MORE!, the first D.R.I. release since your 7th studio album, Full Speed Ahead, which was released in 1995. How has the reception been so far?
Kurt: Great! People seem delighted that we made it back in the studio. We hope for a full length in the future.
Spike: Everyone wants more. An EP was not enough. They want a full length record.
Harald: It’s been really positive so far….some good reviews in Decibel Magazine and pretty damn good reviews from folks on YouTube who commented. The only negative thing anyone has said is that they think it’s too short. They like what they heard ..they just want more of it!!
WW: But Wait…THERE’S MORE! was produced by long-time collaborator Bill Metoyer, who produced your studio albums Crossover, 4 of a Kind, and Thrash Zone. How did you guys hook up with him originally? How was reconnecting and working with him again after all these years?
Kurt: He was the Vice President of Metal Blade Records and the engineer for most of the bands recording in LA back then. We kept in touch so he was the first guy we thought of asking.
Spike: Bill is awesome. He was working with Metal Blade Records when we signed with them way back in the day. But at that time we already had Dealing With It recorded. So he worked with us on the next few releases after it. Over the years I always kept in touch with him. He helped with other studio work and I helped him with his website. It was a no-brainer to work with him on the new EP. It was old school sounding songs. He had a studio we could record in in Southern California. We had a two days off in that area when we were on tour. So we jumped all over that opportunity.
Harald: I’ve known Bill for awhile and he’s the coolest ever to work with…very laid-back & mellow. Him & Spike have a lotta history together going way way back. He was the in-house Metal Blade producer and he’s done some totally classic albums in the past like Slayer, Trouble, C.O.C. and The Mentors to name just a few!
WW: In March 2006, Spike was diagnosed with colon cancer, followed by surgeries and subsequent treatments. How is Spike doing these days? Is he still cancer free?
Spike: I’m doing great. Well at least compared to when I had cancer. But now I’m cancer free again. I do have medical related issues that are no fun, but I’m able to do the band thing, which is great.
Harald: Spike is doing pretty well these daze and has had a clean bill of health for a while now. He’s really lucky to be alive and, even when he was sick, he was a total trooper on the road!
WW: I noticed that you guys have a pretty full tour schedule ahead in support of But Wait…THERE’S MORE!, including a tour of Australia in 2017. Will it be your first time over there?
Kurt: Our third time there, actually. We love it!
Spike: Really nothing much has changed. The tour schedule is just as busy as usual, but there is a bunch of international shows on the horizon in 2017. We are going back to Australia. We hope to make it to Hawaii and Puerto Rico. And a European tour is also in the works for 2017.
Harald: Yeah we tour quite a bit on and off throughout the year. We’ve played Australia a couple times before and for me personally it was the coolest place we’ve ever played! I mean people were so appreciative and nice there. I actually walked downtown looking for some jerks …tripping on how cool everybody was by asking a couple people for directions or for the time. Every single person I met was soooo cool and I couldn’t find any assholes there whatsoever!
WW: I also noticed that you will be playing in Canada for the first time in 20 years, since being unable to cross the border and having to cancel your Canadian tour dates while on tour with Acid Bath. How did that come about? And what legal loopholes did you have to jump through to make that happen?
Spike: Yeah, around 20 years ago the Canadian border adopted a new policy of not letting in people with a criminal record. And a couple of us already had a DUI , or a minor drug charge so they stopped letting us in. We had many Canadian promoters say they could get us in, and a bunch tried, but no one ever got us in. Not until Amnesia Rockfest. They were the only ones who hired an immigration company, made us get finger printed, and prove we weren’t all that bad. The last charge on my record was in the 80’s. I’ve been a good boy since.
Harald: Yeah we had some issues with playing Canada because their Government was so uptight about stuff we did when we were kids. This time we had way cool immigration specialist working there butts off to get us up there and we finally made it. We played this HUGE gig in Montebello right outside of Quebec called The Amnesia Fest with Lamb of God, Anthrax, C.O.C., Sepultura , etc.and it was totally AMAZING! I read there were like 100,000 people there….3 days..5 stages and 150 bands! Really great response from folks that have waited so long to finally see us!WW: Originally, you guys started out in Houston, TX in 1982, before relocating to San Francisco in 84′? What originally prompted that move?
Kurt: We heard the scene was bigger there and you gotta go where the grass is greener. California was better for networking. It was easier to jump on a tour or find a new bass player, get a record deal, that sort of thing.
Spike: I think it was in 83′ when we moved to SF? Anyways, we wanted to tour. We were always playing the same clubs in Texas over and over. We liked to play live. We had a record out. We were ready. We met a few bands from Texas that had already moved to San Fran. It was the thing to do if you were serious about being a band. There were free places to live, practice and eat. Granted they weren’t the nicest conditions, but we were willing to do what was needed to tour. We basically squatted in an old beer brewery, and ate at soup kitchens.
Harald: That was before my time…but I know DRI moved out there cause they heard they could eat free at the soup kitchens from Verbal Abuse and MDC!
WW: Shortly thereafter, you found yourselves touring with the Dead Kennedys on the infamous Rock Against Reagan tour. Do you think you guys were more political back then compared to now?
Kurt: Not really more political…We always have some political songs mixed with funny songs about our society.
Spike: Yes, definitely. In the beginning, we were heavily influenced by the political hard core bands of the early 80’s, both musically and lyrically. But by our third record, Crossover, things changed. Kurt, our vocalist, who wrote all the political lyrics, was living in Mexico and not around for a lot of the song writing. I wound up writing most of the lyrics on Crossover, and as usual most of the music. In fact, I wrote 67% of the music and lyrics on Crossover. Kurt and Josh split the remaining 33%. So there’s a big change right there. After that record we added more humor and tongue in cheek lyrics. I remember thinking we were starting to preach too much anyways. We didn’t want to be taken too serious. How could we be with a name like the Dirty Rotten Imbeciles?
Harald: Well it was a completely different world back then…definitely more political and hardcore punk was just starting out. I think we’ve kinda become more of a FUN band than a serious political band and I’d like to think I had something to do with that!
Kurt: For me it was the hardcore bands I saw come through Houston traveling in their vans. Black Flag, Misfits, Minor Threat, TSOL, etc…
Spike: Starting out, some of the biggest influences were the Dead Kennedys, Black Flag and Circle Jerks. But the bands that we started to listen to after that, the ones that influenced the crossover thrash were Slayer, Metallica and Exodus.
WW: When did you start notice that “metal” started creeping into D.R.I.’s sound and what do you think caused it? The addition of drummer Felix Griffin? Relocation to San Francisco? Or numerous reasons?
Kurt: Numerous reasons, really. Bands like Slayer and Metallica were attracting punks with their blinding speed. We were already playing fast so all we needed were some more metal sounding mosh parts and we all sort of met half way.
Spike: It was always there. It just became more obvious in the later days. I was in bands playing rock and metal, before I was playing punk…before we started D.R.I. Not that I was great at it, but I was able to get by. I played clubs, bars, and even on a record before DRI. DRI tried to play some rock and metal stuff right from the start. It just came off as punk cuz it had to be dumbed down for the other guys to play it. They were all just beginners, and just learning. None of them had ever played in a band. If you listen to our first demos, before the first record, before we sped up, you can hear it. There is Deep Purple, Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin influences even on the first D.R.I. record.Once we started to play as fast as we could, all that was unintelligible. You couldn’t hear those influences anymore. Listen to Sad To Be written in 1982. That song is pretty much full on speed metal played by a hardcore punk band. Relocating brought change over time. That is when we started to listen to all the metal bands in the Bay area and Los Angeles. The addition of Felix helped bring it out more.We were able to do double bass parts, and slower grooves. So yes I guess numerous reasons. Every little change contributed.
Harald: Well the cool thing with Crossover was the Thrash bands like Slayer and Metallica started influencing the punk bands (Suicidal, COC & DRI…) & the punk bands started influencing the Thrash bands. It was a natural progression I think.
WW: In one interview (http://www.razorcake.org/interviews/interview-with-dri-someone-told-me-we-single-handedly-ruined-punk-rock-forever), I read that Kurt stated that “Someone told me we single-handedly ruined punk rock forever.” Did you suffer a lot of backlash from disgruntled punk rock D.R.I. fans? Do you think they have grown more accepting these days?
Kurt: There was a short, violent period of backlash. This was a short lived problem. People are more accepting now, yes.
Spike: I wouldn’t say a lot…if anything, a little. But definitely some people have said that we ruined punk rock, or hardcore. Whatever, as long as we did something and weren’t just going unnoticed! As long as we were doing what made us happy then so be it. Punk rock and hardcore was supposed to be no rules. Anything goes. Anarchy. It’s all good, as long as you were rebelling against the norm. We were doing that in our own way. But punks began saying you can’t like heavy metal, you can’t have long hair, you can’t do this, you can’t do that. It was not anarchy anymore. It was not do whatever you want. It was a strict set of rules you had to abide by or you weren’t punk? Wtf?.
Nowadays there are still people who like the first record or two, and hate the rest. But for the most part, the majority say they like it all…definitely more accepting nowadays.
Harald: There’s always gonna be people out there that don’t want you to progress or change your style too drastically…but I think it’s kinda boring when some bands totally repeat themselves album after album. So it’s hard to please everybody. Lots of folks think the new material is way more punk again, so that’s been interesting to see.
WW: Do you guys still have the DIY approach to the band? If so, could you explain which role the members play?
Spike: We have to be one of the most DIY bands around. We manage ourselves. We book our own shows. We do our own merchandising. We drive ourselves around. We promote ourselves. The only thing that is not our own is the record label. And we are full hands on with a small independent label that does not tell us what to do. Harald and Walter and I drive. Harald writes the set lists. Walter hangs the backdrop. Kurt does all the merchandising and I do everything else.
WW: What happened with Rotten Records?
Spike: It was a total scam. Our old manager, Ron Peterson, asked me to start a label with him, 50/50 partners, saying it would be an investment in my future. After ten years of me investing, and him secretly paying himself and me getting hardly anything, he decided it was only his future, not mine. I walked away with nothing.
That’s what you get when you trust managers, and that’s why we manage ourselves now.
WW: Beer City Records just released your But Wait…THERE’S MORE! EP, along with numerous reissues and re-releases of earlier albums. How did you guys hook up with them? Do you think they have helped contribute to the band’s legacy by keeping the name alive during down times? As well as by making hard to get earlier releases back out on the market?
Spike: Definitely. They are awesome and have really helped us transition to the new millennium of record sales and the digital world. We put out the old releases with a ton of bonus material, and people seem to love it.
I found them by looking for a label to take over after Rotten. They were one of the few labels willing to do what we wanted…willing to take the old catalog, and give it a reboot, willing to let us do what we wanted and not just tell us what we were going to do…like a recording schedule of new releases.
Harald: Beer City have been great. They are a small record and skateboard company outta Milwaukee and they’ve done a real cool job with all the reissues & stuff! Rotten Records folded when our Manager wasn’t honest with Spike on the accounting and shit.
WW: Obviously a ton of fans have tattoos of the D.R.I. logo designed by Kurt’s brother Eric. Any clue how many are out there? I guess it’d be impossible to even guess! Haha! Do any of the band members have the skanking man logo tattoo?
Kurt: Our bass player has one.
Spike: No idea how many tats are out there. Its not like they have to ask permission to get them or something. I know we have hundreds, and hundreds of photos already. maybe a thousand. I’ve seen a thousand more that I do not have a photo of. There’s got to be way more that we have not ever seen, or have photos of.
We used to try and post them all, but its gotten so out of hand, there is no way to keep up. Every day there is a new one on Facebook. We have a ton of photos to post still.
Harald: I am totally blown away by how many people have way cool DRI tats. I’ve seen 100’s on the road and we’re totally honored people think it’s such a cool iconic logo that they have inked their skin permanently with it! My very first tattoo was a skanker and I never had one before I joined the band back in 1999. Now I have about 20 misc tattoos all over my upper arms. Walter is completely covered head to toe with tattoos, but I don’t think he ever got a DRI one (yet…hint hint !!).
WW: How do you go about coming up with set lists for the current tour, given three decades worth of material to sort through, new material, and some super short oldies but goodies songs!
Kurt: It is tough but Spike knows which songs run well together. We play songs from each record and switch up the set each tour.
Spike: That’s another one of my jobs. I put the songs in an order for us to play. Then Harald rewrites them and gives us all a copy on stage. Its really not all that hard to figure out what songs to play. I’ve done polls on Facebook asking whats your favorite DRI song. We hear what songs people yell out at shows. We play all the Video songs, the Hits and now the new songs. We have about 40 songs that we can play live currently. Every night we play about 35 of them, in 90 minutes or so. We change the order around so its a little different from the last time we played a city. We rotate in and out the 5 songs we dont play so we dont forget how to play them. We have a handful of songs we are going to try and start playing that we have not played in years. I would like to have 50 songs that we could play at any given moment. That would be great!
WW: Have you had to restructure and lengthen some of the early songs?
Spike: Not really. We do have different versions of some songs, like I Don’t Need Society and whatnot. There is two different versions recorded on two different albums. We play the later versions. Besides that we play them pretty much like the record. A few songs are a little different. The drum beat is different than what another drummer did…or I add more bends, and licks that weren’t on the record. Stuff like that. Once in a while we play an extra verse of the song Who Am I because we are not sure when it ends.
Harald: We try to play the songs people wanna hear…certain tunes kinda have to be in the set or people kinda freak out. We try to mix it up with a good mixture of old and new stuff . We play something like 34 songs in a 90 minute set usually so people are pretty satisfied!
WW: How has D.R.I.’s audience base changed over the years? Anything you particularly miss about the old scene? Like about the new one?
Kurt: No! Our shows are much better now! We were not very popular when we started.
Spike: Its a lot more diverse today. We have ages from 8 – 80. Sometimes a few generations of fans in one family at a show: a kid, his father and grandfather. Its amazing. We still seem to be able to draw the teens and the young adults which is always good. We actually get harassed by the kids wanting us to play all ages shows when we don’t.
I don’t know what I miss about the old or what I like about the new. Never really thought about that. I’m just happy we are still here, and able to do what we do.
Harald: The coolest thing now is when people start bringing their kids to our shows and it’s great to see a new generation of younger folks digging what we’re doing. If the younger crowd didn’t come to our shows we probably wouldn’t have such crazy pits as we’ve been so blessed to have thru the years!
WW: The band’s current lineup is spread over a couple of states. How does this work out with regards to practicing, touring and recording?
Kurt: We practice separately. We recorded while on tour.
Spike: It doesn’t work. We are unable to practice without flying people around so we do not practice as much as we would like. Maybe 5 or 10 practices a year? Everyone has to practice at home on their own. We play a lot, so we do not need so much practice. We probably have shows in 9 out of the 12 months of the year.
Recording we don’t do much of…but I think we are going to try and release an EP every other year or so now.
Harald: We get together and practice before tours so we can remain tight as a musical entity. I personally think this is the best we’ve ever sounded!
WW: Where / how did you guys find Walter “Monsta” Ryan? And why is it so hard for you guys to keep drummers? Haha…
Kurt: We demand a certain level of playing. Our schedule of travel is also demanding. You have to be good and dedicated and we have to get along on a personal level. Walter is a drummer we have known for some time. He filled in for our old drummer in a pinch, saving a tour a few years ago. We already knew he was a pro and knew most of our songs. If anybody can get us back in the studio then it is Walter. He is really pushing us in that direction, and not in a gentle manner.
Spike: Walter has been in many bands in the SF bay area where we have lived for awhile. Back in 2011 our old drummer Rob wound up in the hospital midst of a tour. Walter jumped in and kept the tour going. He fit in good with us, and formed a bond.
I don’t think its hard for us to keep drummers. We have been together for 34 years. We had 3 drummers over the first 3 decades. Rob lasted like 23 years.
Harald: We’ve all known Walter for years and he is a great addition to the band. He actually filled in once before when Rob was sick. He’s a great drummer and such a cool person to travel with. Of course he has an amazing resume of bands he’s played in too.
WW: Bass player Harald Oimeon (along with Brian Lew and other contributors), recently released the hard back book entitled Murder in the Front Row: Shots from the Bay Area Thrash Metal Epicenter. I was wondering if there were any shots of D.R.I. in the book, and how you originally met Harald.
Kurt: Yes, a shot of me and one of Spike as well. We knew Harald as a photographer at many of the metal shows. Then he was a roadie for us on the 4 of a Kind tour.
Spike: Yea we are on one page in the book. I think its page 182, but I might be wrong. Harald imposed himself on us, and elbowed in like he did with every other band in the Bay Area. It was his mission to take photos of every band, at every show, and he almost did.
He had his leg broken at one of our shows down in Los Angeles when the barricade gave out and he was caught in it. That might have been the first show he took pics of us at, I don’t know. Soon after he was at one of our shows up in SF bay are with his leg in a cast. I think that might of been the first time we met. Soon after that we couldn’t get rid of him. He was always around taking photos at practices and shows. He was there one day when we were planning a tour and needed a bass tech for it…somehow he got the job. Eventually he became the bass player, and we have regretted it ever since.
No, but seriously, Harald is awesome! You just have to tell him it is for the sake of metal, and the metal gods would approve, give him a hot dog and a slushy and he will be happy to do whatever you want him to. Music is his life. Metal is his music. He is the most dedicated and reliable person I know. Did I mention he knows how to play bass?
Harald: Yeah there’s a couple of shots of Spike & Kurt in there. You can barely recognize them! I met D.R.I. when I started taking photos of them and I became a bass tech for Josh & Chumley back in the day and it’s been a wild ride for me. I love touring and meeting so many cool people on the road! It’s hard to believe it’s been over 16 years since I joined the band!
WW: You guys have toured worldwide, from Japan to Europe to South America. What are a couple of your top tour destinations that you have been to before? Any dream destinations you have yet to go to?
Kurt: Brazil is great. Indonesia, Australia. I would like to play in South Africa, Israel, India, Russia and China.
Spike: Oh you’re asking the wrong guy. I don’t like being a foreigner. I like the USA. I like being in my homeland…or at least places they speak English. England is cool. Canada is awesome, now that we can play there again. I like Europe, Japan and South America too. Don’t get me wrong, just not as much. Europe is usually fun, being in a different country that speaks a different language almost every day: Germany, Italy, Spain, France, Belgium, Holland etc…and coming home with 20 lbs of coins you cant spend. Japan has the most polite people, very friendly. South Americans are wild. They have crazy shows down there. They go nuts. Very enthusiastic.
One of my favorite places lately would have to be Australia and New Zealand. I had never been to New Zealand before so that was a first and very cool. Australia is great! I’ve been there 3 times, twice with D.R.I. and every time was incredible. The last time around, in 2014 was really fun.
I still want to be able to play in Russia, China and maybe even Africa. There are a few more places like these we have never been to that I wouldn’t mind playing.
WW: Well, with a brand new EP out and lots of upcoming tour dates on the horizon, it looks like we’ll be hearing a lot from you guys in the future! Anything in particular we should know about or look for…besides the new EP! Haha.
Kurt: One 7″ vinyl color is only available at our live show.
Spike: Just more of the same from D.R.I.. The usual. We will play 70-100 shows a year all over the world. Next year in 2017 we are going back to Australia, Hawaii, Puerto Rico and all over Europe.
Harald: No…we just do what we do and I think we do it pretty damn good and we are pretty consistent with the quality of our live gigs. The crowds have been great and we are totally blessed to have such enthusiastic dedicated fans!
WW: Final words of wisdom to your legions of fans?
Kurt: Thanks for your endless support! Thrashard!
Harald: Thank You so much to all the people and clubs that have supported us thru the years…I can’t see us giving up for quite a few years! We’re gonna tour til we die !!
Spike: If you’re online and have missed a DRI show because you didn’t hear about it until it was over, join Bands in Town here:
They will send you a notification when DRI books a show near you! If you joined our emailing list at a show, you need to join bands in town too. The emailing list is being phased out.
Come check us out on Facebook:
Or our official web site:
Thanx to all the imbeciles everywhere for making it possible for D.R.I. to be who and what we are for this long. We know without you, the fans, we are nothing. We really do appreciate you, and are forever grateful.
Kurt Brecht – vocals
Spike Cassidy – guitar
Harald Oimoen – bass
Walter “Monsta” Ryan – drums