"Pioneer punk rockers The Dictators are still producing for their fans who have embraced the legacy that began 31 years ago. Their debut album, The Dictators Go Girl Crazy, was the first ever punk album to be released on a major label (Epic). Preceding punk legends such as The Ramones and The Sex Pistols, The Dictators progressed the scene opening for such bands as Blue Oyster Cult and Rush. You can only imagine the audience's backlash to their amusingly obscene lyrics and on stage antics. I gave bass player, Andy Shernoff, a call following the 2005 release of their greatest hits album, VIVADictators, and he compassionately shared various Dictators classic flashbacks as well as gave us the low down on what their plans for the near future."
Prior to The Dictators you began a music magazine. What made you decide to start it up?
Reading a lot about Rock n Roll and I was a fan of people. I just kind of had an idea for starting a magazine. I was pretty young; I was like 18 / 19 years old [and] in College. The idea for a magazine was basically all made up. You know what I really wanted? If I started a magazine I knew I would get free records. It was also a creative outlet.
Did you stop the magazine once The Dictators came together?
Yes I did.
How did The Dictators get together?
I was going to school at a State University in New Paltz, NY. Ross was playing in a band near the school and my roommate was friends with Scott. There wasnâ??t that many people who liked the rock n roll that we liked which was Alice Cooper, MC5, and The Stooges. So when you met people who liked MC5 and The Stooges you sort of bonded. Ross was leaving a band so we formed a new band. I said great I will play bass and we got Scott and that is how we formed.Â
Is it true you recorded your first demo at a classical studio?
Yes, at the 30th Street Studios, owned by Columbia Records. I think there has been some rock bands recorded there but it was a huge room used to record classical music.
How did the staff there react to having a rock band?
Recording was different than now. It wasnâ??t younger kids who wanted to do recording as a career; it was older guys wearing lab coats. It was kind of funny. The demo came out great. We are going to release the early demos from 1973 with the bands next release.
What was it like playing your first ever concert with such notable bands as Blue Oyster Cult and The Stooges?
That was down in Washington D.C. Pretty much we had never done a show before so we had very little stage craft. It was surreal though because we were all Stooges fans. We were managed, at that time, by the same guy who managed Blue Oyster Cult but it was a quickie, 20-30 minute set. I think pretty much everyone ignored us. There wasnâ??t any boos or any cheers. We eventually did some crazy opening slab for Billy Preston which was totally inappropriate. Also, there was no punk rock circus these days. There was no CBGBâ??s or they were just getting started. There were no places for punk bands to play; now there is a place in every town.
What was CBGB's like back than compared to now?
I havenâ??t been there in a while but I certainly hope they stay open. It pretty much looks the same except the street is all different. The stage was in a different place. It was closer to the front door. When you walked in it was to the left now itâ??s to the right. There was a pool table and a kitchen. They had good hamburgers which the Dead Boys used to live off of. There were no bathrooms downstairs.
What was one of your most memorable shows to play and why?
I have to admit; whenever I play with Joey Ramone was a thrill. I play on his solo record and we played a few shows when he was feeling a little better. We played new songs in New York and felt things out. Hearing his voice on top of the music is always a thrill. Dictators did some big festivals in Europe that we headlined. But you know, it is almost as fun playing a club as it is at a festival. It is more intimate and the energy is getting exchanged better.
I noticed that in a lot of interviews you did in the 70's the band as a whole commented a lot on being dissatisfied with the quality of the recording?
Yeah, I would say that for the producing of the first and second record. The first one, well we didnâ??t even know how to play our instruments at the time. The second is a little overblown.
Are you satisfied with the recording of VIVADictators?
Yes I am.
Does it make you feel better that you have had the opportunity to go back and improve some of your previous work?
Absolutely, VIVADictators is sort of a Dictators greatest hits album. For the fans we did the hits there. We recorded them how we play them live which are more powerful than the first record.
? Is it true that you would throw White Castle burgers at your fans? Did this really happen once when you opened up for Rush?
We used to do that. I am not sure if that was for Rush though. That was another one of those billings were we were like, were can we put these guys? Rush is like this prog-rock band and we are like these New York punk Rockers. It was pretty inappropriate.
How would the crowd react to that?
I can barely remember. Not to well, if I remember correctly. That was in 1975 and there were no Ramones, no Sex Pistols. There was no audience for what we were doing.
Thank you for taking the time to do this interview with me. Lastly, are there any upcoming artists that you would recommend?
I have an Ipod and have a lot of songs. When I do hear a band and I am always like, "hey I like them...they remind me of.... some old band" This is the thing; rock n roll is three chords. How many permutations can you make with these three chords after fifty years? It is limited and I donâ??t know how much more creative you can get with it, in a traditional sense. I mean you can get into computers and any other instruments and rhythm.