from Suburban Voice #17, Fall 1985
The Descendents provide a perfect blend of punk adrenalin and catchy pop melodies. Originally formed in their high shcool days, The Descendents recorded a 7" EP, "Fat," and an album, "Milo Goes To College," before splitting up in late '82, so vocalist Milo Aukerman actually could go off to college in San Diego. Drummer Bill Stevenson subsequently joined Black Flag until earlier this year, when the band reformed with Milo and Bill joined by original bassist Tony Lombardo and Ray Cooper, who had been with the band as a second guitarist in '82. This lineup recorded the comeback album, "I Don't Wanna Grow Up," before Tony left, unable to commit himself to a tour. Tony was replaced by Doug, formerly of Incest Cattle. Milo was interviewed in COC's van, outside some church in Cambridge. Brian Walsby also joined in and Bill stuck his head in for a few minutes...
SV: Was it destiny or desperation that brought the Descendents back together?
Milo: It was just more like friendship because we all get along really well and there was no desperation involved. It was just a matter of if you're in a situation that you know is not fulfilling your own thing, you're actually fulfilling somebody else's thing, so that you've got to get out of that situation and fulfill your own thing and that was basically the whole idea behind Bill quitting Black Flag and me getting back in the band and we realized that we needed to be together. Me and Bill are best friends. It wasn't anything like heavy desperation or for money. We just wanted to jam out because we missed it.
SV: Haven't there been a few personnel changes?
Milo: The guitar player played guitar with us in a previous life. We actually had 2 guitar players for awhile and then Frank left. Our original bass player could not go with us on the tour and so we have this friend Doug, from high school, who we've known for many years and he was very willing to make it out. Doug is definitely a Descendent at this point.
SV: So you've been down in San Diego the last couple of years?
Milo: Yeah, I've got one more quarter to go.
SV: So are the Descendents back together more or less permanently?
Milo: The summer is kind of like the appetizer type of thing because I have to go back to school for 3 months to do my final quarter and, after that, it's time for the world destruction tour. The album just came out and we're really not going to be able to tour that much off of it. People are really just starting to be aware about the album. When we tour around the end of December, into January, that will be the time we'd really be able to hit a lot of good shows.
SV: How many of the songs on the album are old and new?
Milo: It's a mixture. Some of those songs are 5 years old, some of the thrashy ones. "I Don't Wanna Grow Up" is about 3 years old. "Rockstar" and "No FB" are about 4 or 5 years old. Some of the songs were written when we got back together. We penned them real quick.
SV: So in between the time you broke up and got back together, how do you find that things have changed within the band and within the scene?
Milo: Within the band, I, myself, have made more of a commitment to the band. I know Bill has, too, and Ray and Doug also want to progress with the band because we spent 5 years playing the LA scene, playing to death and going through a lot of bad times when we wouldn't have shows and going through a lot of personality problems and stuff and right now we're at the point where if we're going to make any progress, we've got to make it now. So I think we're all pretty much committed at this point to really making some big steps in terms of playing more around the country and putting out a lot of new material. In terms of the scene, I'm kind of pleased with the scene in that it's evolving and there are a lot of new genres that are developing out of what was initially a hardcore, thrash scene. The speedcore thing, the Meat Puppets-Minutemen arty kind of thing, is really happening.
Brian Walsby: And also that there's not so much of an emphasis on how you look.
Milo: Yeah, I'm hoping that some of the younger kids are able to look at the people that have been in the scene for a long time and see that they're starting to grow out of that whole high school attitude. Hopefully, the violence is being toned down a bit. I remember LA was really a violent scene in the early '80s. It's becoming a little bit less violent now and people are starting to really do what I did from way back and that's just appreciate the music and not really worry about whether I'm going to thrash on some guy's head.
SV: How have the responses been on this tour so far?
Milo: We've had ups and downs. It doesn't really matter how big a band is. I think that promotion is really essential. We played in Atlanta and there was zero promotion and like 30 people in the club. Then we played Raleigh, which is a smaller place than Atlanta, but it has really good promotion and a lot of enthusiastic kids and it's just a wild thing. It's really great.
SV: Who are some of the better bands you've seen on this tour?
Milo: COC is the best band on the whole tour (assorted catcalls). The Meat Puppets have really gotten it. Mostly, we've played with local bands and I've been somewhat impressed with some of them. Honor Role was a good band.
SV: On the first album, I noticed like 4 or 5 songs ended with "age", like "Myage" or "Bikeage." What was that all about?
Milo: There are certain amount of words, like sewage, marriage, that end with an "-age" and, somewhere along the line, it was a joke that Billy, when he was in high school, would walk around and add "-age" to everything, like "Look at that guitarage, go get me a pencilage." It was a little silly thing you do in high school and so, basically, we were just a bunch of high school kids and we decided that that's just what he called his songs. "Myage" was called that because it's his song, it's my song, so it's "Myage." Stupid things like that. We didn't really go much into song titles, we'd just kind of name them whatever.
Brian: One of the great things about the Descendents, I thought, was how each song expressed a kind of feeling that almost everyone could feel.
Milo: When you're 4 kids growing up in middle-class whatever and you're very normal, nerdy kids, in that sense, there's a large portion of kids that can relate. I don't know if any jocks are like that, but there are a lot of kids that had the same thing going on as us. We were nerds and we wrote songs about how hyper and high-strung we were and how people stepped on us and fucked us over and a lot of people can relate to them. The romantic songs are just, hell, you fall in love, you've got to write about it.
SV: What are you studying at San Diego?
Milo: I studied biochemistry.
SV: So what do you want to do when you grow up?
Ellen: Or, actually, do you want to grow up?
Milo: That's kind of what the whole new album was. I went to school for 3 years and went to lectures and took notes and fell asleep in class and I talked to my professors and they were all really boring. And there were a lot of boring people who really turned me off on growing up.
SV: You sort of find out they all have their narrow sights set on a career or whatever.
Milo: Yeah, I worked at this one place that was very career-ladder-oriented, where you work your way up the ladder and it just bores me. So, when we got together, we all sat down and go, well, why are we doing this, and it just came down to we've got to keep grasping after that last little bit of adolescence we have left, even though we're all 21 or 22. We all feel really young and I feel like I'm pretty young, just because this music makes me feel real young.
Ellen: You want to keep a bit of the kid in you. I still feel like that in some ways.
Milo: Yeah, I really can get along with people who are very silly and just have a carefree attitude towards life in general. Obviously, you have to deal with the business side of life, otherwise you're going to starve, but when we get out on the stage, that's our playtime, it's our time to be on the playground and throw spitballs at each other. We want to keep young. Hell, The Ramones are 35 years old and they're still rockin', still playing pre-pubescent music.
SV: Can you see yourself doing that when you're 35?
Milo: I don't know. I have this whole other degree thing going on. I would always like to be involved in the music and be in a band, but, depending on how long I can keep this full-time Descendents thing, that's another thing. I'll keep it up as long as possible until the inevitable burnout stage. At that point, I would have more of a career thing to fall back on, but I could still keep my foot in a musical group type of thing, maybe if it was only part time. A band like The Misfits, they all hold jobs and then go out and do weekend tours. They have job stability, but then they can have kind of a playground, that youthful thing on the weekend, and that's kind of what I may end up doing.
SV: Bill, what's it like going from playing in Black Flag to playing in the Descendents again?
Bill: I don't know, it's not really like anything. Black Flag was maybe something I couldn't attach myself to quite enough, personally, because they weren't my songs. Drumming I applied myself very marginally, but I like playing my own songs and The Descendents are playing my songs. That's a real big thing to me. In Black Flag, we played one of them on "Loose Nut" ("She's In Black"), but we never really got it happening...
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