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Return of The Dead Milkmen

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By Adam P. Newton

When treasured bands from one’s youth decide to play a reunion show, the brain is plagued with questions. “Will they suck or will it rock?” “Will my memories be tainted by this experience?” It’s understandable to be nervous. But what happens when an iconic, fun-loving band like The Dead Milkmen starts playing shows again? It just might be cause for celebration and a bit of over-the-top, ribald fun, since this four-piece punk act has always kept their tongues wedged firmly in their cheeks. Thus, since Rodney Anonymous, Joe Jack Talcum, Dean Clean, and Dandrew are out on the roads playing shows again, Free Press Houston decided to talk with the guys about getting back together for the first time in four years.

According to Rodney, “The impetus for the playing again was a combination of cash, boredom, and friendship, pretty much in that order. We got offered a decent amount of money to play, though for years now, people have been paying us not to play. It’s healthy to shake up your life every now and then; plus, we all missed hanging out together.”

Sadly though, the band will be both missing and playing without bass player Dave Blood, who passed away in 2004.

“As for Dave, we miss him more with each passing day,” declared Rodney. “He was smart, funny, and wonderfully subversive. We were lucky to find Dandrew, whose playing style and sense of humor closely match Dave’s.”

To some, it might be more notable that The Dead Milkmen chose Austin’s Fun Fun Fun Fest for their reunion, as opposed to the two other, larger, more notable music festivals in Austin.

“You mean the Armadillo Christmas Bazaar and the Old Settler’s Music Festival?” queried Dandrew. “They just didn’t see appropriate. To me, at least.”

Joe summed it up by stating, ”It selected us.”

As with all reunion shows, fans are forced to wonder how the band’s material will hold up in 2008, since it’s been awhile since these songs have been in the popular consciousness.

Joe put it best when he responded, “I feel that our songs are still timeless classics, just like they were when we wrote them. It is probably a sad comment on the state of the world that they do hold up in 2008, though I’m still not sure what some of the lyrics actually mean.”

Or, as Rodney puts it, “At this point, I’m banking on the audience being so wasted that they mistake us for Bad Brains.”

Maybe it’s inevitable, but most bands who has been making music for over two decades are going to be peppered with questions from younger acts on how to survive in the music business.

After Dandrew exclaimed, “There’s a music BUSINESS?!?”, Rodney replied, “Be polite to EVERYONE. Every soundperson, bartender, and bouncer has a story about the band that acted like a bunch of prima donnas. Don’t be that band. No one will remember how well you played that solo, but they will remember whether or not you said ‘thank you’ and ‘please.’”

“Try to retain the rights to your music,” added Joe. “I know people give that advice all the time. I heard that advice a lot, but did not listen. Even if you do not believe in copyright, there is something now known as a Creative Commons license that can protect your music and keep you in control of it.”

At the end of the interview, the discussion focused on whether or not there is anyone on the contemporary music scene that is carrying forth the ethos at attitudes of The Dead Milkmen. Even though Joe asserted, “I don’t really know of anyone carrying forth the ethos & attitudes of The Dead Milkmen. It may be that I’m not looking for them,” it was Rodney’s humorous, yet all-too-true answer that carried the day.

“I pray to Darwin that nobody is out there trying to emulate the DM, the same way that I recoil at the thought of a group trying to be The Byrds. That time has passed. It’s time to be something new.”

I concur – something new would indeed be welcome on the scene. And besides, who needs a new version of The Dead Milkmen when the one we have already is still around playing shows?


The Dead Milkmen will be performing a reunion show at Fun Fun Fun Fest on November 8th and 9th in Austin, TX.

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