Getting in touch with the Re-Volts' frontman Spike Slawson wasn't easy. It's not surprising when you take into account that the guy has three other bands besides the Re-Volts to keep tabs on -- Me First and the Gimme Gimmes, Swingin' Utters and Filthy Thieving Bastards. When Punknews' Zack Zeigler finally did catch up with Spike, he was in Winnipeg, Canada passing out flyers to promote a string of shows.
Despite stopping periodically to flag down a passerby for directions, or to let them know when and where to catch the next Re-Volts performance, Slawson discussed his stance on the "retarded" unwritten rules of punk, how hitting the road adds stability to his life and why musically he's not ready to admit to being happy.
Youâre out of breath. You jogging or something?
No, weâre in Winnipeg passing out fliers. DIY is more than just a fucking word. Getting the word out is a little more difficult these days. Dude, punk is punk again. Know what I mean?
What else have you been doing to get the word out?
Calling radio stations, but itâs mainly [passing out] handbills.
If you do this for all four of your bands you must never have time to sleep.
The other bands kind of take care of themselves. We did a lot of the building and now weâre just kind of seeing what happens with them. With the covers band (Me First and the Gimme Gimmes), we donât have to write anything, so itâs like 20 minutes of practice and a couple warm-up shows and weâre all good. Itâs easy. Doesnât take much psyche space, in other words.
Can you break down what the Re-Volts bring to the table?
The Re-Volts have different energy, but itâs more like my energy. Everything else Iâve been doing is other peopleâs shit. I like it, but itâs other peopleâs shit. The Re-Volts are more of my speed. Thereâs only one release right now, and the CD and 10" are essentially the same thing only on different formats.
When we get back from this tour weâre going to record a split with the Boats! from Sacramento? You ever heard of them?
Nope. Should I give them a listen?
Man, theyâre my favorite band right now. Weâve played with them a few times and they want to do a split with us. Iâm fucking stoked about it. Weâll plan that when we get back into town.
Does there ever come a time where things overlap with some of your projects and it causes dissension?
Well, no, thereâs no real resentment [between bands]. You try to plan as much in advance as you possibly can, and you know what, Iâve had a lot of real jobs. I donât mind hustling at this.
What were some of the jobs?
Dishwashing, prep cooking, a lot of warehouse work, working at Pirates Press Records sometimes too, they put out our 10" record.
Do you have other aspirations in the music industry besides playing music?
No. That is absolutely it. The business itself… who knows what the fuck animal it is, but I do know itâs a dying one. But you can still get paid to go out and play shows. The road is hard on people, but itâs fun playing music in front of people and get paid for it and to not have a job. Thatâs the best revenge man, otherwise Iâd be really spiteful.
So youâre happy when youâre at right now musically?
Iâm working on it.
You have some great gigs going on, what would it take to satisfy you as a musician?
Right now, I think happy is something Iâm not ready to say; itâs just like struggling, you know? Trying to get people to be interested in your band is weird, awkward…
So would people showing up to shows with minimal effort on your end, buying records and overall appreciating and enjoying your music be it?
It would take slightly more than that, but you have to be careful what you wish for. People can take certain ideas and suggestions and maybe not go 180 degrees with them, but maybe 120… [However,] I would like some of the message to rub off, whatever that message is.
Is that the sentiment of the entire band? Youâre on track to get where you want but you have to continue to bust your ass to get there?
Iâd say thatâs where we are. Sometimes we donât know where weâre going to sleep from night to night in San Francisco, so touring is sort of… stable. Itâs a home, a bunk. The Phenomenauts have been driving us around in their bus. Talk about DIY, man. They have this super-elaborate space show which leads you to believe theyâre these rock stars like KISS or something but on a lower level -- but no. They have this workshop-warehouse in Oakland, Calif. where they worked on their space set and choreograph shit. And itâs totally entertaining. Their bus… they work on that too. Thereâs no driver or anything. We drive the thing. Thatâs kind of fun.
San Franciscoâs got a lot of joneses now, itâs got an entry fee, an expensive one. Itâs nice not to be there for a little while. Plus, California is going into the toilet. Iâm not sure if you experience this or not. Where are you at?
The East Coast.
Ah, I grew up in Pennsylvania.
So did I.
I knew it! I noticed the fucking eastern Pennsylvania accent. Thatâs why I asked. Anyway -- did Roethlisberger do it? (Referring to sexual assault allegations filed against Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger)
Anything can happen, but Iâd like to think that he didnât.
I hope not, too.
Wow. You just did a 180 on this interview. Your live show -- what effort do you guys put into that?
We got a couple little lights. I wouldnât call it bells and whistles, but itâs subtle.
And itâs something to add to the atmosphere.
Exactly. Something to set the stage a little bit. Ideally the music will take it from there.
Has your approach to presenting live music with the Re-Volts changed from early on in your career?
Being real is good, but being real plus is good too because people are paying to see you. Being entertaining is not bad, itâs not wrong. Thatâs kind of what it was with the Utters. Just show up and play. But people appreciate the extra shit.
Do you feel hostile towards bands that take the "easy route?" Bands that morph their sound or image to cash-in?
It depends. I hold a grudge but itâs more musically. Personally, I canât knock anyone. I find most things artistically objectionable, the sort of things that overlap with the mainstream.
Youâre a guy who seems to know what he wants and has an idea of what he will and wonât do to get there. Do those qualities make you hard to work with?
Um… no -- with a big question mark on that. I play music so Iâm a cunt, but at least Iâm not a total cunt. Iâm working on not being a total one anyway. Youâve spoken with musicians before, and theyâre cunts. Weâre cunts. Itâs a constant struggle being real. You have to get the inner cunt out on stage and then try not to be one afterwards.
But you seem to genuinely appreciate the people who support you. A lot of bands say they do, almost like a politician says things, and then their actions contradict their words.
Itâs a weird line to cross. Itâs kind of like being a cunt. You donât know when youâre doing it, if you did, you wouldnât be a cunt. Then you want it to be real, but what constitutes that? Does real mean everything has to be this punk-or-rock ghetto where nothing has any color? Does everything have to sound a certain way and you canât own a new pair of shoes. There are all these idiotic rules.
You mean those unwritten rules to being a punk rock musician or fan of the music?
I think those rules are retarded. The people that started them were being themselves, after that a uniform came around and it was the death of it as far as Iâm concerned. I think thereâs an underground network, and god bless the people that started that underground network of clubs, but to give it a name and a uniform I think is fucking ridiculous. Itâs destructive. When you go to those shows, with a band thatâs 25 years old and havenât done anything worthwhile in that long, thatâs the shows where people fuck each other up for no reason.
Do you think success smothers creativity?
Itâs always a struggle just trying to be creative. And then itâs a struggle trying not to be a cunt. Iâd be happy to have a sound man, to not have to lift gear… Iâd love to have someone do that for me, and I donât think it would make me any more or less of a cunt.
I heard one of the Gimmesâ songs on a travel commercial. Do you have anything to do with that or are those decisions out of your hands?
I was asked for my 1/5 authorization to do it and then John Denverâs niece or sister gets a shit load of money, and I get a little.
Will you be devoting most of your time in the near future to the Re-Volts?
Yes, Iâd like to, but paying rent was not my idea. I donât care who you are -- covers pay the rent much more than originals, unfortunately.