Milo of the Descendents on his new EP, Trump, and Ronnie James Dio
by Interviews

Milo of Descendents is on the attack. As you know, a VERY, VERY important election is just three weeks away. Milo, like many of us, feels that democracy itself is at stake. To express these thoughts, he has released an EP under the name RebUke- it is three uke-tunes blasting Trump and it rocks. That's out now via Epitaph and Fat.

To get the low down, Punknews' John Gentile spoke with Milo about the new EP, Trump, how cool Dio is, and the future of the Descendents.

I really dig how aggressive the ukulele sounds on the EP. Was that by design or was it out of necessity? Well, I actually have a variety of ukuleles. But I did acquire a six string ukulele which is actually called a guitarlele and once I got it I really loved it. It’s the main one that I’ve been playing for the past few years. It has a deeper, richer sound than a regular ukulele. I thought that this was something I could really sink my teeth into. I could actually make chords that are a little aggressive. A lot of songs that I would write on the guitarlelel I thought that they could be a Descendents song, but then I thought they could just stand on their own. So, I’ve really been bashing this thing around to sort of get an aggressive sound out of. That’s what inspired this. I enjoyed playing this guitarlele so much.

In the press release for the record, you said something along the lines that politics is the to-go to topic for punk, so you’ve stayed away from it in general. But, now, you feel like this is what you have to express. There is this concept that “musicians should live the politics to politicians and scholars.” But, I disagree- if anything, I’d say musicians can sometimes encapsulate issues more truthfully than other people. What’s your perspective, having now released this EP centered on politics? I would like to think that musicians can be as smart as the next person. In terms of just making an intelligent comment about politics, I think there is plenty to be said for musicians that stay in touch with current events and read the news and books, so I think they are entitled to make equally valid comments. One thing about music, is that it’s supposed to express emotion. I’m not doing anything different on this record than on any other record. These are emotions that I have to get out. That’s what I’m doing with these songs. I’m not trying browbeat anyone. I’m not even trying to expound a political point of view. I’m just trying to get my emotions out. And unfortunately, I’ve been very emotional about politics for the past FEW YEARS! I was thinking maybe I shouldn’t go political, but then I realized that I have to express myself and get my opinions out and if that happens to be a political point, then I have to go with that. I don’t think anything that I’m saying is a manifesto or political platform, it’s just my emotions of the past few years.

The new EP has a song called “Royal Flush,” that riffs on the Sex Pistols. The same day your song released, news broke that John Lydon said he’s voting for Trump. As a mega Sex Pistols fan, this really disappointed me. When our musical icons say stuff that is kind of whacked out, what should we do? Should we “cancel” them? Should we just accept that no one is right all the time? They can have their opinion. I fully think they can have their opinions and their opinions are valid even if they don’t jive with my opinions. I’m not gonna say we need to cancel anyone. I don’t even know what to think about cancel culture. We live in a free society and everyone can express their own viewpoints. That’s why I made this record, so I can express my view points. It’s disappointing but I’m not going to be shaking my fist saying “cancel this guy!” I did reference the Sex Pistols, but I also referenced Rainbow with Ronnie James Dio, so it’s kind of a double reference.

There’s a parallel between Descendents and Dio, to a degree. Dio traversed from doo wop to country rock to hard rock to metal- he was able to change with the times while remaining unique at his core. Likewise, the Descendents have changed over the years and survived, but they are still very much the Descendents. Ronnie James Dio was a hero of mine. We revered him, the entire band the Descendents revered him through the Black Sabbath period. I got most familiar with him through Black Sabbath and went to see him as a solo artist during the Holy Diver which was amazing to see him at his peak. And then I went back and checked out Rainbow. And you’re right, Rainbow could be considered to be completely different. He’s doing more of a folky, proggy thing I suppose. He was such a versatile artist. The lynchpin of whatever he was doing was his amazing voice. Stephen dug up his early doo wop stuff and that was amazing. Such a thick aggressive voice. Even when he’s doing something folky, it still sounded aggressive. I wish I could sing like him!

Actually, along that line of discussion, there is always this thing- who’s better, Ozzy or Dio? Ozzy or Dio? People play the same game with Descendents and ALL- who’s the best singer. Do we have to pick a favorite, or can we just love ‘em all?

I love Ozzy and Dio. The early Ozzy stuff- Paranoid, Master of Reality. He was in his prime when he was perfect for them at that point. When they got Dio involved, they involved how they played songs as well. When they played with Dio, it was like a different band almost. He helped mold the band into something that would be suitable for him. So if you listen to Heaven and Hell, and it’s comparable to something like Paranoid. I would never be able to choose between them.

A lot of people on the left were unhappy with Biden as they wanted someone like Sanders or someone else. I see a lot of young people and far leftists saying that they’re not going to vote for Biden or not vote at all, because the system is fundamentally broken. Yet, recently, Danbert Nobacon posted that he’s going to vote for Biden even though he doesn’t like him, because he’d rather fight Biden’s policies than Trump’s. What’s your perspective? I don’t see it so much as a vote for Biden or against Trump, I see it as a vote for democracy or a vote against democracy. And if I’m being hyperbolic, and I really don’t feel that I am being hyperbolic, but I really feel that democracy is at stake at this election. You have a guy in the white house saying he needs another eight, twelve, sixteen more years in the office. Everything he says makes it clear that he wants to consider himself a monarch. I don’t think it’s hyperbolic to say that, with his words and his actions. So, when people say they don’t like Biden, I think, well, how about democracy, then, how about that? Let’s think about that as being on the ticket for this election. I can’t stress enough how important it is.

There’s a stereotype that all democrats are educated, out of touch people that don’t really know how the world works. By contrast, there’s a stereotype now that al Republicans are white trash with no education. Despite these stereotypes, is there a connection between education and decision making? I wouldn’t wan to paint such a black and white picture. I don’t believe it is that black and white. I do believe that it is important for people to be informed and not misinformed. People say “I’ve read this or that”. But, get the truth- it has to be the truth or some propagandized version of the truth. If people are informed, I don’t care what side of the isle they are on, we can have a democracy. But, when people shut their ears, or say this guy is my savior, or not really look at what he’s done, or what he tells them he’s done, get the facts, and then we’ll talk. Like I say on the record, “I’m willing to hear your side, but no dice if you’re never gonna give me proof.” I’m willing to listen to either side, so long as it is fact based.

Three weeks before the election, how are you feeling? I vacillate. I’ve had moments of hope. But, your moments of hope are dashed by what you see the plans are. these are plans verbalized by the President about how he wants to invalidate all mail in voting. He knows that mail in voting skews democratic, so he invalidates mail in voting to cut out the majority of democrat votes there. Then, his next step is to get his new Supreme Court justice in there. Then, the election gets tossed to them. It’s really quite demonic, the way it’s laid out. I look at the polls, and say “things are looking good,” but then I see their pan on the ground to disenfranchise millions of votes by throwing it to the courts or whatever their latest plan is gonna be. A big thing for me for the pat four years, is watching and being completely powerless to be able to make things fair. Watching what is happening as a complete travesty, a complete episode of cheating, and not being able to do things in an above board way and it drive me crazy seeing it happening right now before the election. It’s so painfully obvious what they want to pull on the American people. That’s when I get down on the dumps about it. We talk about the rules that keep people from cheating, and then we see they’re not rules, they are just democratic norms. And if they are just norms, and not rules, they sure as hell are going to break them, because no one is going to hold them accountable. They are going to pull all the tricks they can, because the “norms” are based in good faith, but they don’t have any good faith. So, democracy really hangs in the balance on this election.

I’m not sure if you know, but there is an academic debate raging over you right now. Some people say the release should be 45 Not AN LP because “L” has the phonetics of a vowel. Some people say the title should be 45 not A LP because “L” is a consonant and is also short for “long-player.” Is this a battle worth fighting?

I’ve vacillated between the two! I think a goggled it and found examples of the two. But, I do want people to think about what it means. “What does he mean, 45 not a LP?” The fact is “a LP” might make people spell out “long player.” So, “45 not a long player.” But, I can see it going either way.

Lastly, can you update us on the Descendents? Two of the three songs on this record were recorded as Descendents and could be potentially released pretty soon, so there will be competing versions. There will be a uke version of “Not You” and “Hindsight.” And then there will descendents versions, which is kind of fun for people to compare and contrast. We have recorded as Descendents a bunch of other songs that Stephen and I have written over the past few years. We have like twenty or twenty-five songs fully recorded. But, the thing is, we need more contributions from the other two members. We can’t really put a record out as the Descnedents until we have contributions from bill and Karl. That’s what we are waiting on. Bill writes great songs, but he’s a perfectionist. We’re siiting there like “Bill, you can write a mediocre song, it’ll still be better than my songs!” Because when he does, It’ll end up being the best song on the record. We could put out a record out right here and now, but it’s gotta have everyone’s input. I would imagine we could put that record out late this year or early next year, once everyone is firing on all cylinders. We’ve committed to not letting people dangle for not too long. Stephen and I had this creative outflowing over the past few years and I want to make sure those get documents. It’s going to happen for sure.< /b>