D.Y.S., Dag Nasty, ALL, Down By Law... all these bands saw Dave Smalley on vocals. On August 12th the new Dag Nasty album "Minority of one" comes out, ten years since the last Dag Nasty record. It has the classic "Can I say" line up, and it rocks! Reason enough to do this interview with Dave, don't you think?
Hey Dave, where are you at the moment and how are you doing?
Right now I'm in Scotland, in Glasgow. I'm doing ok, but am super tired from an almost six week long Down By Law tour. Ready to go home!
First off let me tell you that I think the new Dag Nasty record is totally great. I keep on listening to it over and over again, and it rocks! I did an interview with you in early 2001, maybe you remember that one. Back then I thought your answers where really fascinating and different from all the others I got. Now I think there will be lots of questions from so many different people, do you think that it could be too much after a while?
Thanks man, that's great to hear your reaction! It means a lot, especially from someone who knows their roots. No, it's no problem to answer questions because most of the time the zines are run by cool and thoughtful people, and that's what got me into punk rock in the first place.
Brian produced the record together with Steve Hansgen, formerly in Minor Threat. Who came up with the idea of those two producing the record?
I can't remember right now. I think they thought of it together. It worked out well, so I hope they are able to keep doing albums together.
How would you describe the role both Steve and Brian played during the recordings?
Well, Brian is the main songwriter for Dag Nasty, so most of his input was on the creative side. Steve, along with Don Zientara, was heavily into the all-important technical questions, as well as letting us know when a take was "the one" and also inputting on the creative side too. It was a very positive experience.
In the 2001 interview I talked about you told me that Dag Nasty recorded two songs for a compilation with the classic line up back then. Did you re-record those songs for "Minority of one"? What's the title of these tracks?
At that time, we had recorded "Incinerate" and I forget the other title, but we did re-record the vocals for the second one, and I changed the words, and it is called "Wasting away" now. We remixed “Incinerate” as well.
"Minority of one" comes out on Revelation, "Can I say" and "Wig out..." were currently re-released on Dischord. Did you ever think about releasing the new record on Dischord as well, because that's where the first Dag Nasty album came out? What were the reasons that you signed with Revelation?
We really just wanted to sign with a label that was cool, independent and with roots, but big enough to properly promote the album -- and Revelation fit that description perfectly. I think they've done a great job, really. The thing with Dischord is that it is a D.C. only label, and since only one member of Dag (Brian) still lives in D.C. now, it wasn't really even a possibility -- although of course we love Dischord deeply.
Who wrote the songs and lyrics for the new record and when were those songs written? Were they all finished before you entered the studio or did you come up with new ideas during the recording sessions?
Brian wrote all the music, with the exception of "Twisted again" and "Minority of one", both of which I wrote the music for and Brian tweaked to a good place. He is just an amazing songwriter and guitarist. I wrote almost all the vocal melodies and lyrics, with the exception of "Average man" which Colin wrote the lyrics for. Most of the music was finished before we entered the studio but I am a lyricist who sometimes tweaks up until the last minute, looking for feel as much as anything. So I'd say I had a shell for all the songs, but only about 2/3 were totally finished -- the rest I wanted to leave to the spirit of the studio. I think it worked well.
In my eyes the new record is classical Dag Nasty stuff that influenced tons of bands in the past. Where do you see the new record now compared to the old classics? And where do you see it in a couple of years?
Oh man, you'll have to answer that one. I think we just wanted to make a strong record that we could all be proud of, and not just make some crappy reunion-type thing. I think, I hope, that this will be seen as one of the strongest Dag records ever (I bet it will be – Stefan).
Revelation said that "Minority of one" "...is Revelation Records most anticipated album in the label's 15 year history (...), expect this to be the label's greatest achievement to date." Would you agree? I guess the expectations of Dag Nasty fans are very high, do you think you can fulfill them (well you fulfilled mine 100%, that's for sure!)?
That's very cool of them to say -- I am also really excited about it. Like I said, the main thing for us was to make the best record we could make -- and in the case of this band, with the history it has, that meant our own expectations were high as well.
How would you describe "Minority of one" in your own words?
It sounds like a Dag Nasty record to me. It really represented the time of life we are in, with a lot of introspection but also a lot of power. It just feels right to me when I hear it, and I hope it will be meaningful for the fans.
What did you feel when the four of you were together again in a studio recording Dag Nasty music? Did you feel something like the famous "chemistry"? Who came up with the idea of doing another Dag Nasty album in the first place?
Well, it felt pretty good actually. There really is a musical chemistry with this group. Brian's guitar playing and songs really move me, and I think that some of my best efforts come through with his songs and Colin and Roger's amazing rhythm section. I think we all feel like that, and just had to find the right time when everyone could do it, and when Inner Ear was available. Ever since we had recorded those two songs for a benefit comp two years ago, I think everyone had wanted to do a full length album again.
Did the four of you stay in touch over all those years? I guess Roger didn't play in a band for a long time, so was it hard to convince anyone of you to do a new record?
No, actually surprisingly it wasn't really hard to convince anyone to do it -- but it was hard to find the same time when everyone could do it. Brian's schedule is the hardest, because he had to be there from the songwriting side, then all of pre-production, then throughout the entire recording. And since he's in one of the biggest punk bands in the world, that time factor was the hardest thing. but spiritually everyone was very into it.
With the re-release of "Can I say" and "Wig out at Denko's" and of course with the release of "Minority of one" there will be a huge demand for Dag Nasty I guess. Do you see the possibility to tour with the line up that recorded the album? I could imagine a tour would be kinda difficult because Brian plays with Bad Religion (Warped Tour etc.), you are on tour with Down By Law, and Roger is married and working as a lighting engineer. So will there be a tour in the near future?
I hope and pray that there will be. We owe it to the fans who have stayed with us over the years. Most people never got to see Dag Nasty in any line-up, and certainly very few with the original album line-up. So I really hope we can tour someday. Again it's a question of time, as you noted -- different bands touring and different work and life schedules. If we tour it will have to be done right, lots of practice and being ready, really a band at the peak of its game. None of us wanted to do a lame reunion thing on record, and we wouldn't want to do it live either. Most live reunions suck, so we'd have to do our best to make that not happen.
Hopefully it won't take another ten years until the next Dag Nasty record comes out? Are there any plans for future albums?
Yeah, I hope not too! I believe we are supposed to make another record with Revelation at some point, and I hope we can do it at some point in 2003.
On the new record you didn't play guitar but concentrated on the vocals, right? Why didn't you play some guitar as you sing and play guitar in Down By Law?
That's right. I think my feeling is, if you've got Picasso in the room, you don't need anyone else to pick up a paintbrush, you know? Brian is one of the all-time great rock guitarists, so I sort of think anything I would add would be unnecessary. I am strictly a rhythm guitar player, and use the guitar live as almost a muscle, and at home mainly for songwriting -- in Down By Law, Sam does all the really difficult parts and leads.
Internet users could watch the recording process of "Minority of one" as you posted studio diaries on your website. Who came up with the idea and what about the reactions from the fans?
I don't remember -- Brian, I think, but Steve's wife helped coordinate everything technically; we couldn't have done it without her. It was a lot of fun to do, and I think really helped capture the spirit of the album and recording. Fans seemed to like it a lot. I hope so, anyway. Whoever thought of it should be given a punk rock medal of honor -- like, say, a spiked dog collar.
Who came up with the idea of getting tattooed together? I guess all of you now have the flaming head from “Can I say” on their bodies, right?
We all wanted to do it, but in the end Roger decided not to! He will pay -- next time, we'll get him drunk and tattoo a picture of Axl Rose on his bum (Wow, that’s really a hard punishment – Stefan).
You played in so many classic bands in your career. Which band means the most to you personally? Which record you played on are you most proud of and where do you see your priorities in the future?
Thanks so much man. I guess the political but true answer is that all of the bands I've been in have meant something important to me, and hopefully for the fans as well. I don't think you can compare them, in many cases -- for instance, one can't really compare DYS to Dag Nasty or Down By Law or All. Each of those bands represented a different time and era, and I've been lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time, and worked with some amazing musicians. That's all any musician can ask for, I think. For me, all of them were special as a singer and songwriter, for different reasons and at different points in time. I just have been a lucky musician to be in a band with some great players.
"Minority of one" is dedicated to "the memory of our friend Robert J. Roule". What can you tell me about this dedication?
Rob was a good friend of Roger and Colin, especially, but a friend of all of ours. He was a funny, great guy who was just so much fun to be around -- he died far too young, and we all miss him a lot.
What made the recording sessions for the new Dag Nasty record different to recording a Down By Law album (well, except for the fact that the line up is different)?
Hmm, good question. I think one thing was just the different players and their different recording habits and moods. One thing also is that in Down By Law, I usually have to worry about more, since I have the unfortunate role of organizer! Here, I just got to sing, which is all I ever really wanted to do in music anyway. The main thing, and I think this is true for both bands, is that the recording was fun but also with a serious sense of spirituality behind it -- not spirituality in the religious sense, but a deep feeling that what we were doing was the right thing to do, and that at least for us four, it was important to do this.
What do you think about that Dag Nasty tribute album which came out quite a while ago? Which band/artist did the best job in your opinion?
Haven't heard it, but I am super touched by the fact that people still care enough to do a tribute album -- that means everything to me, really. I would love to hear it.
Ok, I guess that's it. Hopefully you liked this interview? Do you have anything to add?
Thanks Stefan - sorry this took so long -- on tour etc, etc, excuses excuses. The questions were some of the best I've seen, so thanks so much for the thought and caring that went into them. Hope to talk with you soon brother. Peace.