This time around, Dan talks about the definitive future of the band, as well as his feelings on homophobia in the scene and what this whole reunion deal might do to the band's legacy, if there is one.
Why do you think Lifetime is so important to so many people? What did you guys do that was so special?
We talked about the Alternative Press article that did the oral history of Lifetime, and after they did that article, they did a piece on the ten most influential punk records of the nineties. It was like "24 Hour Revenge Therapy," "Hello Bastards," Botch's "We are the Romans;" the answer that I gave to that was the best answer I could ever give in terms of why Lifetime was so special to people.
We were just five punk rock kids that were in love with music...You know what"s great? The first time Lifetime came to California was in July or August of 1991, and two women that we met were friends with the New Age records crew, are still here and they came to both shows this weekend. One of them is still one of my best friends… They are still punks, and that is the greatest thing.
Anyway, I just think because we weren't trying to do anything except make good, honest punk rock. We weren't trying to be anybody at all. I mean who the fuck sounded like that in 1995? We really were not trying to be anything…at all. We were just five punk rock kids that were in love with music, and really just in love with a wide scale of sophisticated music, and not just like hardcore. You can tell when a band just listens to punk, or just listens to the bands that are around now. We were as much into Elvis Costello and Billy Bragg as we were into Minor Threat and Black Flag. We were as into the Psychedelic Furs as we were into Youth of Today. I was as much guitar-wise influenced by R.E.M., the Cure, and Alex Lifeson of Rush as I was by Brian Baker of Dag Nasty and Pete Chramiec of Verbal Assualt. I mean we were just trying to make music that was grounded in everything we loved, and we weren't trying to pretend to be anything. We really didn't give a shit. Of coarse we cared if people liked us. Any musician who says they don't care about that is lying, but we were disappointed "cause people didn't understand what we were trying to do, and they didn't know where to lump us. So they just ignored us. We never fit in with any of our peers bands, but that's alright.
Is Lifetime doing a new album or anything?
Eventually. I mean we are writing.
So it is in the process?
Yeah but you know, it is going to be a slow process. Everybody is in other bands.
Is Ari still doing Zero Zero?
No. He is in a band with his wife on record label Gern Blandsten called Miss TK & the Revenge. It's like Blondie kind of, and you should check it out. He plays drums in that band, and his wife sings. Dave is like in a techno, noise, destruction band called The Schism, and he runs an electronic record label called Run Rock records, and a recording studio. Like, The Rapture just did three months of production in his recording studio. So everybody is busy. So it'll be slow, but I did finish writing the next Paint it Black record, so I am now writing Lifetime stuff pretty effectively. It'll still be fast and it'll be good.
Do you write the guitar parts and you all work it together, or is it kind of like…
Well, at this point we are writing separate. We gotta actually start practicing. We are playing a show at South by South West in March, then we are playing another big retarded festival in May. But it will be cool, you know? I gotta say that I"m not into doing a lot, but I grew up going to see U2 at the Meadowlands, and we are playing the Bamboozle at the Meadowlands. Part of me is like, those things are so weird and industry, but another part of me is like, these guys are working really hard to make us interested in it. They are really accommodating, and I can grow old saying I played at the Meadowlands. That is where I saw U2 when I was 15, and I kind of want to have that experience. I don't want to make it a habit, but…
Lifetime has a pretty big legacy. Do you guys worry that going forward and writing new material might dilute your legacy, or do you just not care?
I"d be lying if I said we're not worried about it. Ultimately we are just like, some guys that do certain things pretty well, and love making music. Like love, love, love making music. I mean this is not like a big payday for me. I have a real job. Paint it Black is a losing proposition money wise, you know? We make music because we can't not make music. We are the same five guys that made "Hello Bastards" and "Jersey"s Best Dancers," and we're gonna make more music, and it is going to be real. I don't think it could not be good. So of course I"m nervous about it, but it's just gonna be what it is. People are going to say it's not as good, and some people will say, "holy shit this is great." Some people will really want us not to keep going cause they don't want us to dilute the legacy, and that's cool, but people are always trying to push other motives onto your music that you aren't intending, and I can't help that. I mean there fucking people who think the first Paint it Black album is better than the second, and I"m just like, "Do you have ears?" But you know people are going to think what they want to think. There are people who want us to play stuff off "Background," and I"m like, "Do you have ears?" You know? It's remixed for the reissue, and it actually sounds good. It doesn't make me want to play the songs again, but it actually sounds good. Dave, our bass player, actually remixed it.
There are people who want us to play stuff off "Background," and I"m like, "Do you have ears?"Why did Lifetime disband?
Some people in the band didn't want to tour anymore. We we're on the verge of having a big commitment, and touring almost half the year, or not doing it at all. It's kind of that way, we were broken into two camps; we are either going to do this, or not do it period. You know like, "We aren't going to do this half-assed."
You guys are putting out the reissue and the original version of "Background." Are you just doing that so people aren't gonna bitch?
Basically. If you say you are going to reissue stuff…well, some people are purists, and it costs another 80 cents to put another disc in there, so why not let people be purists, you know?
You said that you picked the Out Fund as one of the charities that you were going to support with the money that you made from Hell Fest. Do you think that the punk/hardcore scene is mirroring the homophobia in the mainstream, or do you think it is more progressive as a whole?
It is more progressive than the mainstream world, but it has always mirrored the shittiest things about the mainstream world also. I mean I have always had to tell people to not say "the F word," "the F bomb." It is homophobic and insulting. I have always had to do that with hardcore. In some ways, the people my age in the mainstream world are more polite. I mean no educated, 37 year old says faggot because people will think you are a fucking philistine. I don't hang out with people that haven't graduated high school… I mean you know what I do for a living, and so I hang out with mostly highly educated people, and people don't talk like that. It's not necessarily because they are pro-gay, but because they are polite. That is the whole thing about what gets called politically correct hysteria; it's not that these things aren't politically correct, it's just polite. Don't say things that could offend the guy sitting two feet away from you at the next table cause it's shit. I"m gonna retract that now of course because I"m gonna say that Christian Hardcore sucks loud enough for the person next to us to hear it because I don't care. Those people can get offended. But in general it is a decent thing to not engage in behavior that is going to offend the people around you.
What don"t you like about Christian Hardcore?
I think this is more like a Paint it Black question. I mean Lifetime doesn't have that kind of agenda. I mean I'll answer it, but I"d rather it not be the focus of the interview. I think that if someone feels like they need or want an organized framework for their spirituality, that's cool. But I think in this current social, political climate, it would be a good idea for them to be really deliberate about distancing themselves from people that are trying to tell women what they can do with their body, or trying to tell gay people they shouldn't be able to adopt children; that stuff is bullshit. I know Christianity is not really about that, but orthodox Christianity in this country, and in this day and age is about that, and if you are going to call yourself a Christian band, then at least have the courage in your convictions to say, "We are not about that stuff. We are about hating the sin, but loving the sinner. We're about turning the other cheek. We are about treating your neighbor as you would treat yourself." Cool. That is awesome stuff; the good stuff about religion. But all the telling other people how to live their lives is the bad stuff about religion, and this my beef. I have yet to hear a Christian hardcore band take that critical stance.
Did you know when you were playing 16 years ago that this was going to have such a big impact? I mean we met a kid out there who flew in from Jersey to see this show…
Oh you know the answer to that…of course not. Who thinks they're making something that is gonna be like historical when they are doing it, and it would be extremely arrogant to answer in the affirmative even if I thought that. But of coarse not. I mean I graduated college, I was in love with a girl. I went to school in Michigan, and I was in love with a girl there, but there was no punk scene there. Everyone wanted to be in like a Sub Pop kind of band there, and this was like 1989, before any of that stuff broke in 1990, so everyone wanted to sound like Green River and Mudhoney. I basically moved back to New Jersey to start a band, and all I thought was, "It would be awesome to start a band, and have someone like it enough to put a 7 inch out." That was like my dream. Did I know that like…no, I had no idea. It's pretty mind boggling, and then I'm able to be in a relationship with someone that supports it, and that is amazing. It's like, "yeah, go on tour." That's amazing. That's fucking great, and being self employed to be able to go on tour. There is apart of me that would like to tour like 4 months out of the year, but touring is also really boring. I mean 30 minutes a night that is amazing, and then a lot of…the drive here from L.A. today was a nightmare. So anyway, no we had no idea what we were doing. We knew we were making something honest. There was no affectations, and when we started feeling like we were worrying too much about what other people thought, that is when we broke up. That is another thing that made it so hard to be in a band together. See when we were sequencing "Jersey's Best Dancers," we were having conversations like, "If we start with this song, we might alienate the hardcore kids, and if we start with this song, we might alienate the pop-punk kids," and that is a horrible conversation to be having. I want to say to any band that if you are having that conversation, then dig a ditch and throw yourself in it. That is a horrible conversation to be having. That is a conversation for managers and label presidents, and other scum.
Where did you get the name Lifetime?
It's basically because finding a name for a band that everyone can agree on is basically the hardest thing. I mean it's time to play shows, and we gotta pick a name that nobody in the band hates. I was thinking of the first Rollins band record, actually the second Rollins band record; it's the one I like, and its called Lifetime. Ari claims that's not where we got it from, so I dunno. We remember it differently, but that is the great thing about having started 16 years ago. It's like we remember everything different.
With Paint it Black, it seems like you guys have taken a very "Do it Yourself" kind of approach. I mean you play small shows, and…
[...]they're like, "but what if kids get on the stage," and then we we're like, "then it's a party."We play small shows cause no one likes us. I mean, we have not had like grand sweeping, ideological conversations about what we want to do. I mean I think we might end up butting heads, but I dunno. I have no interest in ever working with a major label, but a major label is never going to sign a band that will play 20 shows or less a year. It"s not really a notable concern. But I don't want to do scummy shit, like D.I.Y. is all relative. I mean most bands that tour a lot have a booking agent. I don't have the time to book shows for Lifetime. I have an opinion on and a big mouth, but we all do. We need someone else to handle the other stuff. Paint it Black is much more important to keep under our control because it is much more about my personal ideology. So how we do business has really got to reflect my ideology. Lifetime is just not as worried about it. Like for example, Paint it Black won't play a Clear Channel show, but I"m not going to saddle the Lifetime guys with my opinions about that. It's not something I"m willing to fight over with them. It's not their agenda, it is my agenda. But there are certain things, like when we get here tonight; the guy who runs the Slims is like, "Ok, what do you need, you want the barricade out," and we are like, "no." Then he is like, "What do you want in terms of security," and we are like, "nothing." I mean at the front door, and don't let people beat people up. Then they're like, "but what if kids get on the stage," and then we were like, "then it's a party." That's what we want. I just psyched that we can sell out a place like this in two months. That is just awesome, but I still want it to feel like a hardcore show. I always want people to cross that line, and I don"t think there should even be a line. There is no reason for there to be a line there. I don"t care if people touch me or knock me out of tune. If people get a little ridiculous, it gets kind of annoying. Like with Paint it Black, sometimes people just want to be seen on stage, and then they jump up and they push the musicians out of the way so they can get a clear line for a stage dive? That is retarded, and I'll probably kick that kid in that butt on his way off the stage. In general that line should be crossed. It's just great that it sold out, and it's really flattering. I mean I don't know what our legacy is… I know our legacy for the press; for the people who know what's up with music and critics, which is really important, but we don't know how that translates outside of New Jersey and Philly. We really don't, and you might say that's ridiculous, but we honestly don't. We worry a lot when we book shows, is it too small or too big, but we just don't know. The two shows in Philly and the two shows in Jersey were insane. That line between the band and audience was non-existent. The first Philly show we had do a place with a barricade, but the second one had a stage that was like two feet off the ground. Holds like 1200 people, and the tickets sold out online in like four minutes. Just ridiculous. In between songs, this group of people that were helping out with the show would come out with handfuls of towels and wipe the sweat off the stage. The ceiling was dripping; it was just nuts. I mean it was like amazing though, and probably the craziest show I have ever been to, and I was the band playing. It was great. These shows are great, but California's different… There was always this misunderstanding back in the day that we did not want kids to go off 'cause we were so outspoken against violence that kids thought they couldn't stage dive. No man, we all grew up doing that stuff, and I still do it.
Who is gonna be the special guest at South by South West?
I can't tell you that. It"s ridiculous though. It's ridiculous.
Like, should we all buy plane tickets to South by South West?
It depends on your taste in music… If I had said it now, people would be pitching tents in front of the venue.