The Mad Caddies have been taking their show on the road from the Santa Ynez Valley to venues around the world for the last quarter century. Were it not for the COVID-19 pandemic, they’d be in the middle of their 25th anniversary tour of the U.S., Europe, and Oceania. Instead, lead singer Chuck Robertson sat on his lawn with a cup of tea and chatted on the phone with Punknews staffer Tyler B. for nearly an hour on topics ranging from Katy Perry and the Mad Caddies to the racist history of cannabis stigmatization.
[Phone ringing] Chuck: [answering the phone, apparently thinking it was a spam robocall] What’s up Marriott Rewards?
Uhh hey Chuck, it’s Tyler with Punknews. That’s so funny dude, I completely forgot that I was doing the interview and the only people that ever call me are like, “This is Marriott Rewards, congratulations!” [laughs] How’s it goin’?
Pretty good, how are you doing? Is there smoke and/or fire in your area of California? Not currently, we’ve been very lucky to not have any fires locally here but for weeks we were inundated with smoke to the point where it was apocalyptic. Not quite as bad as the pictures you saw of San Francisco but pretty darn close.
How are you coping with not being able to tour due to COVID-19? It’s touch and go, man. All I know is I’m not in it alone and so whenever I get down and feel bad for myself I think about all my colleagues and my friends around the world who do the same thing that aren’t doing it either so I go, “Okay, can’t feel too bad…” But I really miss the dopamine hit of playing live music. It’s been my drug for 25 years.
Have you started thinking about when you might be able to play shows again? Yeah, we’re leaving that up to upper management and they’re kind of following the lead of the bigger dogs--like the Slightly Stoopids and the arena bands we know--and are kind of like, “If they get to play, can we play next summer?” And it sounds like the industry is pretty much saying right now that outdoor shows are gonna start going ahead early next summer.
Next summer…wow. Yeah…but I’m also like, “Dude, that’s only 9 months away now!” [laughs]
Tell me a little about the new EP, House on Fire. The collection of these songs is the first that are mostly my tunes. There are a couple collaborations. Two of them are collaborations and three are personal to me. They were like my divorce songs from three-and-a-half years ago. And they got shelved because Fat Mike wanted us to do the reggae covers album [Punk Rocksteady] that he’d been pestering us for like ten years to do. He’s like, “New, original music is great but you haven’t put out anything in a few years, put out this reggae thing and then put out the sad divorce album after.” I go, “Okay, fine, but then I’m not gonna care about these songs” ‘cause I don’t feel that way anymore. [laughs] But it’s so cathartic for me to finally release these songs that have been so personal to me for so long. And then [there are] two fun, classic Mad Caddies kind of collaborative dixie jazz, classic Caddies tunes. And three that are kind of outside of our wheelhouse a bit. Out of our normal lane, I guess you’d say.
Yeah, I hear a little bit of reggae, a little bit of country, maybe and then some kind of loungey dixie stuff. What role does Fat Mike have in your records? I know he still works fairly closely with many bands on their releases, but you’ve been on the label for almost 25 years now. Is he still involved in a release like this? Yeah, it’s been album-by-album. He helped produce Duck and Cover, our second record and had a heavy hand in [the band’s 2014 full-length] Dirty Rice. He actually kinda helped write one of the songs on the album. And we always loved his input. And to be honest, Mike’s and my birthday are like a day apart, ten years by a day, we’re both really stubborn Capricorns and Mike and I will butt heads sometimes over silly stuff, like production aspects, but one of us will give pretty easily. We’ll do bargaining. Like for instance, on the covers album, he was dead-set against having a Green Day song on there. I’m like, “Dude, they’re the biggest punk band in the world, we have to do a Green Day song!” And he was dead set on the Descendents song we put on there, and no one else wanted to put “Jean Is Dead” on there. None of us had even heard that fucking song. Like, why can’t we put on a Descendents song that’s really poppy and cool that everyone knows? And he’s like, “Nope, that’s the song!” and I’m like “Fine, then I’m doing Green Day’s “She” and you can suck it!” And he’s like “Alright, cool, that’s the trade.”
I’ve heard of some instances, including by his own admission, that seem like sometimes [Fat Mike] gets kind of fixated on a record sounding “punk” enough. But I noticed there isn’t really a punk song on the new EP. Right, no, there’s not a punk song on there.
But he wasn’t gonna push it back and be like, “Go record a punk song for it” before it comes out on Fat. Nah because we’ve never been a punk band, we’ve been a band that plays punk songs but never been totally punk. And it’s been less and less over the years, I mean I’m 42 years old, am I gonna write my teenage angst song over and over? Now I’m writing about other stuff. I still love punk music and I do still write punk songs and it’s funny because I’m writing a bunch of punk songs for my solo project. Which is primarily like Americana and I hate to use the word “country” but people say that. And I’m like, “Ehhh, let’s stick with ‘folk/Americana/indie rock’” [laughs]. But my punk roots will never, never leave me and I love punk rock. There just wasn’t one on this particular album, but the next one for sure. We’re always gonna keep it in there.
Tell me what you remember about your contribution to [the 1999 Fat Wreck Chords compilation] Short Music for Short People. It has both an intriguing title [“Mike Booted Our First Song So We Recorded This Instead”] and narrative. Is there any factual basis? You literally just gave me goosebumps because I’ve not--like, the hair on my arms is standing up right now--I haven’t thought about that song in so long. Are you referring to the [line] “I had sex with your daughter”? So this is such a little, funny thing…only a small amount of people will get this. You have to be a surfer. And you have to have been at a localized break where there’s old crusty dudes trying to tell you what time it is. And this one guy cut me off once and I was like, “Fuck you man, I had sex with your daughter.” So it is a true story, yeah. Some guy got salty with me and I got him back so good, I mean what can you say to that?
And did Fat Mike really reject your first submission and make you record a different song for the record? Yeah! We thought we were being really funny and we recorded a cheesy like, “Hip, hop, to the hippy, hippy hop” thing, I think we did it to like “The Slide” or something, I donno…we did a really cheesy hip-hop song and he was like, “No.” We’re like “Ohhhkayyy.”
Was “Depleted Salvo” [from the band’s 2003 album Rock the Plank] in reference to Mark DeSalvo, who did the artwork for several of your records]? No, no definitely not.
The phonetics are so similar, and he did your first two records but then not Rock the Plank so I had to wonder if there was something to it. Total coincidence. And it’s funny, I really don’t even remember that song, we’ve never played it live or anything. What album is it off of?
I think it’s on Rock the Plank. Which is why all the clues seemed to add up. Okay, that was our punkiest record. And that was the record that [guitarist] Sascha [Lazor] kinda took a backseat to our old guitar player Carter [Benson] who was [in the band] when we used to have two guitar players before I played guitar in the band. That was one of his tunes. And Rock the Plank was a very heavy Chuck-and-Carter album. Sascha was mostly involved on like, “Weird Beard” and “Mary Melody,” like there’s a couple Sascha/Chuck songs on there but it was definitely our heaviest punk record for sure. And Carter was behind all those tunes. He was like the punk dude. Really into kind of mathy rock, like progressive math rock. But yeah…”Depleted Salvo”…I don’t even remember what it’s about or what the lyrics are about or anything because I think he even wrote the lyrics.
It’s like “How can you justify your pain, why do you justify your pain?” Oh yeah, yeah. Oh my God dude you just goosebumped me again. See, we’re so sensitive in this pandemic since we don’t get to go out and hang out with people at bars anymore so any kind of human contact is so exciting. Okay so no--I wrote the lyrics to that song! That’s right. It’s Carter’s music, he wrote all the music and I wrote the lyrics to that song. I can’t even say who it was about, because I remember, but I can’t. It was about a really close friend, about wanting them to break out…it was about a band member actually, and wanting them to break out of their shell and stop being so mopey and realize how lucky they are.
I guess it’s common Mad Caddies folklore by now that Katy Perry’s first concert was a Mad Caddies show [based on a Nardwuar the Human Serviette interview with her]. How did Nardwuar know that? Did you know that? He told us that, but I can’t remember…basically it’s just because it’s common knowledge that Katy Perry’s a preacher’s daughter from Goleta, California, which is our hometown, essentially. I mean, I lived there for eight years, it’s just 20 miles down the road. Where Lagwagon’s from. Her first show was at The Livingroom which was an all-ages, alcohol-free venue that we played dozens and dozens of times in the mid-to-late 90s. I guess that was her first show.
What shows did you go to, what bands did you see in the area during your formative years? We had a killer music scene, we were so lucky. I mean there was nothing going on in the town where I grew up, Santa Ynez Valley, where the band started. Wine grapes, cowboys, hippies, it’s a nice mix, you know. And all the cowboys smoke weed here. They vote for Trump, but they smoke weed, so they’re mellow. [laughs] They keep their guns hidden away. But we had a couple great music venues that were both all-ages in Santa Barbara. We had The Livingroom, which was just like a community center off the side of a church. Eddy Numbskull, who’s been a promoter here for like 30 years, great friend, Numbskull Productions has been doing punk shows all over the central coast for 30 years. He would bring bands in, and a couple different promoters [would also]. We’d get like shoegazing shows, metal shows, I’d go to any show because it was the only thing to do when you’re 15, 16. As soon as I got wheels, when I was 16 I had my own car, it was like “Alright.” Gas was a buck a gallon so five bucks got you a pack of smokes and enough gas to get you to the show and back and another five would get you in so for ten you’re having a good night and hopefully someone had a beer for you in the parking lot. But we saw so many good bands. We had The Livingroom and then we had another place called The Underground. And The Underground was like a famous old like, 70s rock venue where like, the Stones played and Hendrix and everybody, and it was a like, 600-seat nightclub in Santa Barbara. But it was separated with the bar as the back half and the front half so they could do all-ages shows with booze. So then, now it feels like a real show because all the old people are drinking at the bar but you’re there. And you got your soda bar, you can get your Coke or whatever and watch the show. I saw NOFX, I saw Fishbone, I saw the Mighty Mighty Bosstones, I saw every ska band that you could ever think of at the time. Let’s Go Bowling, bands that people wouldn’t even remember from that time…Knuckle Brothers. Skankin’ Pickle. That’s what we did. This is, of course, before the Internet and stuff. I mean it was out there, but no bands had web pages or anything. And I’m like, how did we know when the shows were coming up? And I’m like, “Duh, you waited for the Santa Barbara Independent,” shout out to SB Independent, they’re a rad neutral news source still around in Santa Barbara, they do a weekly free publication. You’d wait for the Independent to come out on Thursday and you’d flip straight to the back, to the Entertainment [section] to see who was coming to town. And when you’d see that little checkered box and you knew a ska show was coming it was like, “Oh my God! Yes!” We saw The Selector, we saw The Specials, everybody came through Santa Barbara, we were so lucky. It was usually mid-week because it was between LA and San Francisco stops on tour. So that’s how we got our start, that’s how the Mad Caddies started because I’m like, for a lot of the bands, “I think we might be better, I think we could do this. We could get a van, we could get a couple hundred people to come to a show and like, cruise around, that’d be so fun.”
I mean, you were right…even those very early songs like “Lee Majors” and “My Girlfriend” were really good, like professional-grade songs and you were all in high school. Closer to the present, what’s the status of [Mad Caddies side project] Ellwood? Ellwood’s just kind of defunct. The thing I learned about a side project is--because I’m currently almost finished with a new solo project that I’ve been working on since the pandemic--what I learned through trial by fire with the side project is you can’t name it something.
What do you mean by that? I mean it has to just be your name. No one bought the fucking Ellwood record and no one would come to the shows or anything. Well, we did one tour in Europe--and this is really interesting--I requested that all the promoters advertise the show as this: top of the bill, “Mad Caddies” in big fucking letters. “MAD CADDIES lead singer’s side project, Ellwood.” Anywhere we did that--we played like a 20-show tour--only five of the shows were [well] attended. And the other fifteen were like 30-40 people. And it was just a financial nightmare and cost us money to go on the tour and stuff. But anyway. We had a good time. It was a great experience. We had to get back in a van. You know, I’ve been in a tour bus for the last 15 years so it was like, “Back in the van, nice!” But anywhere the promoter advertised and said “Mad Caddies-side-project-singer dude, Ellwood” we got what I expected, about 30 percent of the Mad Caddies audience. So if we drew a thousand people in that town for the Caddies we got 300 for Ellwood. And it was super fun and everybody loved it. And anywhere it just said “Ellwood,” with no mention of the Mad Caddies there was however many people saw it on our Facebook there, so…maybe 38. So it was just kind of frustrating and I realized you have to name the band your name. It’s gotta be Chuck Robertson. It’s like Tony Sly, Tom fucking Petty, Neil Young. Sometimes you give your band a name, I’m still torn, I don’t know if it’s gonna be Chuck Robertson & the Contractors or fucking Los Olivos Boys or whatever. I don’t know. I think it’s just Chuck Robertson. They’re all my songs and I got my buddies to play with me and have a super good time but it’s like, it’s my record. And then maybe I’ll have a chance of someone listening to it.
So that [solo project] is all recorded? Yeah, we’re in the final stages. It’s been so fun. It would have been done months ago but my recording engineer has a three-month-old baby and a full-time job. So he can only give us Saturdays. So we’ve just been tracking every Saturday and this Saturday will be the last day of tracking. It’s really exciting. We’re gonna lay down the last song and it’s kind of like an acoustic-y light production, no drums or anything. It’s just gonna be bass, acoustic, and a little guitar and some shakers and stuff. It’s been so fun for me to finally just have total freedom again. And with Ellwood, we don’t argue but you know when you’ve been married to the same dudes for 25 years when you go into the studio, it’s a process, you know. And when it’s just me it just feels like total artistic freedom and it’s just lovely and inspires me to write more Caddies songs, too, when I get to put out the songs where I don’t have to stay in the Caddies rulebook of songwriting.
Is a release already in the works? My lovely manager Adam Kreeft with the Caddies--our booking agent and manager out of Canada--he’s gonna be handling the duties for my solo project as well. And we’re planning, because the new Caddies record drops in October, a month later I’ll probably release my first single around Thanksgiving and then release my record around my birthday, January 19th, somewhere around there. And we’re just gonna self-release. We’re gonna do pre-order vinyl so however many people wanna order the vinyl, that’s how many we’ll print. And then digital, you know. Everybody who I’ve beta tested it with, my friends, everybody loves it. They’re like, “Dude, it’s so cool.” And it’s such a departure from the Caddies, they’re like, “Holy shit.” Ellwood was more like Caddies without horns. And this is nowhere near Mad Caddies. It’s more like the Band, or Neil Young, or Tom Petty or whatever. It’s Americana and it’s got Graham [Palmer], our bass player, playing Hammond B3 organ on a real Leslie [speaker] and piano. We did sixteen tracks of background vocals. We just had fun, we’re like, “Let’s go for it.”
That leads into my next question, what Caddies or other musicians are on it? So it’s Graham on piano, our bass player. And then--this is really cool--somebody joked, “You should call it Chuck Robertson & the Old Dudes,” because my bass player is 62 and my drummer’s 62. Old family friends. They’re the guys we grew up watching play all the classic rock stuff in the park and at our parents’ friends’ barbecues and stuff and they were the cool musician guys. But they never played out of town. But they’re so fucking good, you know? And so now this is like, totally their dream to be like, finally putting out a record that someone might actually listen to. It’s pretty cool. I’m not expecting anything but I just hope people enjoy it. This is a big passion project for me, it’s not about money or anything. I don’t know how people make money off music anymore, frankly. But it’s just so fun. So I’ve got my buddy Frank on bass, I’ve got my buddy Rick on drums, they’re both grandfathers. And then my best friend, Nick, who I’ve known since like the fourth great who’s just such a shredder and he’s doing lead guitar and I’m doing rhythm. It’s fun. And Nick’s been working for the Mad Caddies every summer when we go to Europe. He’s a contractor, he builds houses and he’ll always take a few weeks off in the summer to come tune guitars for us and go on tour and just have fun. So it’s great to finally play in a band with him. I’ve never actually played in a band with him. He taught me how to play guitar back in like the 6th, 7th grade we were all learning together. So it’s really cool.
Speaking of musicians, what was the transition like between [Mad Caddies trumpet player] Keith [Douglas] leaving and bringing on Mark [Bush]? Because I don’t know many people who can play the trumpet like Keith Douglas. Tough fucking shoes to fill, right? Keith always kicked himself in the ass sometimes for doing stuff on the record that he was like, “I’m gonna have to do that every night on tour? Fuck.” And he’s such a perfectionist, you know. The transition sucked. We went through 2 trumpet players before Mark. Or three maybe. And they’re all lovely people but they just didn’t quite fit the band, and Keith was just such a fixture in the band, you know? I always felt that myself, Sascha, Keith and [trombonist] Eddie [Hernandez] were kind of equal as far as the performance of the show, and then you kinda had whoever was playing bass for us and whoever was playing drums, it didn’t really matter. We were the showmen, you know? It was tough when he left. We didn’t kick him out, he left. He was just having some personal things at the time and was with Mariachi El Bronx. He left on good terms, we’re all still friends. He’s my bro. I lived with the dude for seven years, he was my roommate. He’s lovely people. He decided to leave and to do the Mariachi El Bronx thing. And yeah, we kinda burned through a few trumpet players and they’re great fucking people but for some reason or not it didn’t work out because of what they had going on in their life and couldn’t commit or whatever. And then we got Mark and it’s just been great. He’s just so pro. He did the Voodoo Glow Skulls for like eight years. So he’s like, road tested, wanted to tour, likes to do it, has commitment and is a great musician. And [is a] super cool guy. And when he joined the band he was like, “My thing is just kinda like, stay quiet, play good, be chill,” which is like, perfect because we all talk way too much. [laughs]
Did he already play mute trumpet well or learn on the fly, or did he already have all the musical chops? Mark’s got gnarly fucking chops and he’s quietly one of the best musicians in the band, just like our bass player Graham because they both have fucking music degrees. They’re, I think, the only two people in the band with a college degree, let alone both music degrees and are both music teachers. They know theory, they’re worlds beyond the guy who learned to play acoustic along to Nirvana [laughs]. So it’s great to have him, he’s such a resource and he likes to be a team player and help with the production side and creative side, art, and all the other stuff, too. It’s cool. We got lucky, man. It’s hard to find a good trumpet player.
You’ve retooled a couple old Caddies songs like “Distress” and “Preppie Girl,” are there any others you’d considered bringing back and doing a little differently? That’s interesting. I’ll think about that, I would definitely consider it, it’s been fun. Nothing in the works right now. We did a loungey kind of Manu Chao version of “Backyard” a couple years ago but it kind of flew under the radar. We changed the horn line of “Backyard” a little bit and changed the melody, it was kind of fun. But it is kind of fun to retool the songs.
Whatever happened with [early 2000s Caddies side project] Sweet Action? Those were some really good songs like “You Love You” and “What’s Up Now?” You know about Sweet Action? Did Carter ever release…how do you listen to that?
There are some kind of grainy mp3s on the Internet. The sound quality is not good but the song quality is great. Yeah I mean, we finished that record. I still have a couple CDs of it, that’s a fucking good record, and I had nothing to do with it except for helping with…I think all the lyrics were his, all the music was Carter’s, and then I kind of just helped with melodies and like, where to place the words and stuff.
Was it your idea to sing “Did I Tell You I Like Bad Religion?” similar to the tune of “American Jesus”? Well Carter loves Bad Religion and I’m like, “Can I do it just like him?” He’s like “Yeah fuckin’ do it just like him.” I have a bit of a mimic, I can do Jello Biafra like [imitating the Dead Kennedys], “Californiaaa, Uber Aaalles.” And if you’re gonna sing Bad Religion you gotta sound [in a deeper voice] “Just-like-Greg-Graffinnn.”
So no plans for that release ever materialized? You are full of good ideas. I should be writing these down. If you could send me the notes to the meeting, that would be great, I’ll take them back to management on Monday and get you on the group call [laughs]. We need to put that out because it’s a good record, and it’s really Carter’s tour de force. That was the height of his songwriting. I don’t know if he writes songs or plays anymore.
And it’s Derrick Plourde [of Lagwagon, Mad Caddies, the Ataris, more] on drums right? And Derrick fucking Plourde on drums man, our dead buddy. I think the world would be served better if that album were released. It’s a total fanboy record for people of that time period [who] I think would really appreciate it. The songs are cool and the lyrics, I think, he wrote pretty much all the lyrics about some breakup. But it’s a good record and the sound quality [of the actual recordings] is amazing so you’re probably listening to some streamed version that used to be a shitty mp3 file or something.
That’s exactly what it is! We should--you know--we talked about this six years ago and then I had a kid and then I forgot about it. I realize that’s when…it was before my son was born. I was like, “Dude, we should put out Sweet Action.” Because me and Carter were at a Christmas party together, we see each other like once a year around the holidays or something. He’s a hermit. He lives in town, he’s the sandwich king of Santa Barbara County. He owns six upscale sandwich shops and just sits at home and collects all the cash and buys vintage guitars and plays video games [laughs]. I see him once a year. I’ll see him soon, we’re almost at the holidays, I’ll figure out what he’s doing, we’ll talk about Sweet Action again. Carter was like, semi-level genius, he knew about the Internet like five years before any of us. He would have been a billionaire. He tried to get his parents to loan him like $20 grand to buy up every domain name before anyone was doing it and they were like, “You’re fucking crazy.” He showed them years later how much he would have made, it was like a billion dollars. He had like the Anarchist Cookbook when he was 12, you know, super smart guy.
And now he’s the sandwich king. Now he’s the sandwich king.
What can we get for predictions around the next year or two for the Mad Caddies? The original plan before the reggae covers album was to do--and our old manager came up with it, it was actually his idea, which I thought was a great idea--was to do four EPs that all make a double record. And each cover is like a piece of the picture but you don’t get the full album cover until all four EPs all come together as four tiles. We’re still kinda going forward with that but I think we’re just gonna do one more EP that kinda finishes the story of this EP and then kinda think about a full-length. Because we’ve got enough tunes already. If we got back in the studio for a week we could crank out another five really quick. And then we wanted to think about our next full-length. And then I don’t know. So this is interesting, this is kinda what people are talking about high up in the music industry right now is albums are kinda dead. It’s like singles now, keep releasing music then maybe put them together as a vinyl [release] for the people that want a physical release of the collection of songs. But it’s kinda cool if you can keep pumping out a single like every month or two. And at the end of the year, it’s like how many do we have? At least in my opinion, I’m kind of on board with at least shorter albums. Kinda like the old days, like two sides, eight tracks. Because I think so many good songs get lost deep on records that a lot of people never hear. And a lot of my favorite songs that we’ve recorded we don’t play live, they’re like number 10 or 11 on the album. Because it’s like, “You have to put out 12, 13, 14 songs” and it’s like, you’re almost kind of wasting them, like throwing the ashes out in the wind because the ones that get traction are always [earlier]. So I think it’s cool to do shorter albums, less songs. So you can kind of appreciate them more. And do more of them. Instead of putting out a full-length every three…or sometimes Caddies would go five years without putting out anything. So it’s just like, concentrate on putting more albums out that are shorter. And I think it’s better for the fans who are gonna get more new songs and it’s kind of the way people listen to music now, everybody just streams it. It’s like, “What are you on, Spotify, Apple, Pandora?,” whatever.
Is this the first release you’ve done that’s been strictly digital? Yeah, well, Fat’s supposed to print vinyl, we insisted on it. Like, “You have to do it, even if it’s limited edition, you have to do a vinyl release.” So that’s in the works, I just don’t know if they’ve announced it yet. It’s gonna happen.
I know a lot of the book and print publishers have been hampered by supply chain issues during the pandemic, has vinyl and the music industry suffered similarly? Yeah, I’m not sure. I do know all the bands have about, whatever their numbers are, between $3-50 grand worth of t-shirts sitting in a warehouse somewhere for a tour they almost went on. So you gotta have a band garage sale once a month on Facebook to try and sell merch. It’s like, “You guys were gonna buy this if you came to the show, so will you please help us out so we can pay the bills?” It’s been rough, man. I’m a proud person…or stupid…either/or, so I didn’t get the unemployment. I know a lot of my friends are on unemployment, which is great. But I’ve got a side hustle and my overhead’s really low. So it’s like…I’ve been fortunate to not, at least, have to worry about finances. I live a very simple life and don’t want or need for much, as long as I’ve got beer and smoke money I’m good. A lot of my friends have just been struggling though. Luckily, most of my friends here are in the construction trade, so that didn’t really stop ever. Those guys all kept going to work. But it’s all my artist friends who tour, where it’s like all mental health issues. It’s like, “Dude, sittin’ at home. Month seven now.”
When shows first started getting cancelled, Mad Caddies and the Slackers were the first two bands I thought of, it seems like touring is like your lifeblood. And to have that so immediately cut off had to have been tough. Yeah, I mean it’s normally like a busy year for us, like 100 days out of the year split up between tours, that’s like a third of the year we’re normally at shows, at work, doing what we love to do. I joke with my construction friends, like “Hey, is it Bring An Out-of-Work Musician To Work Day yet?” Like, “You don’t have to pay me, man. I’m not gonna work that hard but I’ll totally help you out.” I just need somewhere to be, you know? “Can I come to the job site? I’ll sit in the truck and just fucking listen to Joe Rogan but at least it’ll feel like I’m at work,” you know? I’m like, literally envious of people who have jobs right now. And those people would be so stoked to not have to work if they had enough money to get by. But I’m like, “Nope, I wanna get back to work.” It’s just such a different experience now when I’m at the studio, in the recording studio, which is in our little village in Los Olivos, at our bass player’s house. It’s so sick. It’s like a hundred-year-old property. The studio just feels like you’re in some Louisiana shack, it’s fuckin’ rad. Normally if I’m at the recording studio, you know you’re gonna be there for a while, and they’re usually boring spaces with no windows and it kinda feels like work. This one, it’s the opposite. I’m like, “Oh my God, look, I’m at work! Cool!” And it’s got windows and there are trees outside, it’s nice. Feels so good to be at work, even if it’s only every Saturday.
What’s it like touring with a band like Pepper or the Expendables and bands more in the stoner reggae scene? How’s the reception versus like, the Fat punk crowd? Pepper are lovely, dear friends of ours. We became family on Warped Tour 2003. We were playing the Volcom Stage together. They were in a van and we had our own tour bus and it was like 110 degrees every day. We had freezing air conditioning so we were like “Come on in, boys. There’s only three of you and you can take turns sleeping on our bus.” And we just became instant family. Like, there’s so much love from the Mad Caddies to the Pepper boys. And it helped us so much, because we did a trade. They’d never been to Europe. And we couldn’t draw anywhere on the wall in the Midwest. We do really good on the coasts. So we opened for them for a whole two-month U.S. tour and then they opened for us on like a month-long European tour. And the experience was great. Their fans loved us. And it was like sweeping the floor, like the gratification of seeing instant results. Our crowds doubled in the states after the Pepper tour. All those college girls with the tie-dyed Slightly Stoopid and Pepper shirts showed up and they became Caddies fans. It was like, “Sweet! We crossed over!” It worked out really well. And we’d been trying our darndest to try and get on one of these arena tours opening for Slightly Stoopid or Pepper or something. Like, we’ve never played fucking Red Rocks or something, it’d be so awesome. It was finally supposed to happen. The only show the Mad Caddies played in 2020 was February 22nd, we headlined a ska and reggae festival in Orlando, Florida on a Saturday. But the night we flew in, Pepper was playing on the Friday and we rocked up and got to hang with the boys and watch ‘em crush it in front of like 2000 people in Orlando. We made plans for 2021 to redo it, like “We’re doin’ it boys! Mad Caddies direct support for Pepper all summer at the big fuckin’ arenas” and then “You can take us to Europe” and we’re like, “Yes! We’re doing it again.” And then the fucking pandemic happened.
So that’s shelved. Yeah. But it worked really well, man. The crowds that go to the stoner-college-reggae-rock shows are really cool, open-minded people. It’s not like that’s the only type of music they like. It’s a good audience. And the shows smell so good when there’s that much cannabis burning in the air.
What is your relationship with, whatever you wanna call it, pot, “Red Mary,” like in your song “I’m So Alone.” It seems like it’s kind of a critique of getting high, versus songs like “Backyard” that compare it to a medicine. I’d just call it cannabis. “Marijuana” is actually a very racist term, a lot of people don’t know that. It was meant to demonize Latinos.
I did recently learn that thanks to a Stuff You Should Know podcast episode. Yeah, [“I’m So Alone”] was about my early relationship with cannabis. It was kind of touch and go. I really liked it early on but then I realized, like, when you’re a teenager and you smoke it, it’s like, “Yeah, you can’t get stoned before school.” You save it for when you’re done with the day or wanna work on a song or go surfing or something. Because for me, it affected me a lot more when I was younger, before my body became completely inundated with cannabis. [laughs] And then in my early 20s I kinda put it away for awhile. I didn’t smoke weed much. I would go months and not even think about it. And when I would, I would be like, “Oh man, I don’t know if I like this anymore.” And then I started having health problems in my late 20s. Being overweight--I’m 6’3’’ and I’m supposed to be 180-190--and I was up to 240 pounds. It was between 2003 and 2004 because we were on the road and I was eating burgers and drinking Bud Light every night and not exercising and not eating right. I fell back in love with cannabis because I did these week-long fasts where I didn’t eat for a week and was just drinking vegetable broth and stuff. I lost the weight over a year or two, started exercising, and switched to an organic diet, gave up processed garbage fast foods. Now I don’t touch that shit. I kinda got my younger, in-shape, water polo teenage body back. When I turned 30 I was like, “Holy shit, okay that took two years” but I got it back good again. And I fell back in love with smoking weed. And I realized how much peace and joy it brings me. And there are so many different strains. A lot of people have a bad experience, like “Oh, it made me really sleepy,” and I’m like, “Well, you had pure indica. That’s for sleepy time.” Or “Oh, it made me too jittery, it was like coffee, it made me paranoid.” It’s like, “Well, you smoked pure sativa, so yeah.” And there’s, “How much THC does it have?” There are so many different varieties that are better for different things. This one’s for stress, this one’s for anxiety. This one’s a good appetite suppressant or appetite stimulant. And humans have had this relationship with cannabis literally since we crawled out of the caves. They buried mummies with this shit like 10,000 years ago in China. Dug him up and he’s got his pipe and his hemp right there with him. And I just think it’s such a shame that William Randolph Hearst and the DuPont family took away cannabis and hemp after World War I. It was so racist. It was because all the Jews that fled Germany after World War I were all farming hemp in the Midwest, and [Hearst and DuPont] wanted to sell paper and chemicals. So they made it illegal and ruined all those [hemp farmers’] lives. There’s such a horrible history in our country of racism surrounding cannabis. They demonized the Chinese for opium and Hispanics and Black Caribbeans that had a history with cannabis.
And that was all before the War on Drugs. And that was before the War on Drugs, that was just Reefer Madness. It’s like “Your wife will sleep with a Colored person if she smokes a joint!” It’s like, “Oh my God!” It’s horrible. That’s literally what the thing says. But yeah, I have a very special relationship with cannabis, and it’s a lovely thing. It’s a precious resource and I’m so glad that Obama legalized hemp and I can drive up and down the I-5 now and see hundreds of acres of hemp growing right next to the pistachio trees. It’s like “Alright, we’re getting a little better here.”
Other than Pepper are there any other bands you’d like to hook up with who you have or haven’t played with before? Yeah, I mean we have our dream bucket list of bands we’ve always wanted to play with. A lot of my friends are like ten years younger than me, they’re in their early thirties. They’re huge Pepper and Slightly Stoopid fans. That’s what they grew up on. But then they also grew up on Mad Caddies because all their older brothers had Mad Caddies stuff. So I think it’s a really nice mix of the stoner college reggae. If we’re gonna go deep here, my dream tour right now would be Mad Caddies and Dispatch, I don’t know if you’ve heard of the band Dispatch.
Well I know they had “The General” but that’s all I know. So I missed that whole thing, never fucking heard of them. And then they broke up for like ten years. And then in 2017 they released America, Location 12 and then in ‘18, a year later, volume 13, like two back-to-back full lengths. Oh my God, talk about albums. You can listen to every fucking song. It tells a story and they’re so unique. They got away from the reggae thing, it’s like Paul Simon meets Crosby, Still & Nash. It’s really original and it’s just lovely. And it’s just an interesting story. The band breaks up for ten years and then they come back and put out the two best albums they’ve ever done. They can sell out two nights at Madison Square Garden. But in California if they came, there’d be like 400 people. It’s so funny like that. What was that East Coast band that was so big? Before the reggae thing was big? Not Phish but the other one…
Widespread Panic? OAR? OAR! Thank you. That band was so big on the East Coast, then they’d play like jazz clubs in California. Interesting. But yeah, Dispatch, check ‘em out. Those records are so good. We played the Long Beach Reggae Festival with them last February. We were on right before them on the side stage and I got to watch them play and they just blew my mind. I was like, “Oh my God!” and immediately downloaded both their records that night. That was my cannabis farming music for like the last year and a half. Like, I go to water the plants and I’m just listening to Dispatch. Happy place. If you’re a fan of music, they touch you. If you’re dead, you wouldn’t feel it. If you got a pulse, man…every time I put it on when someone comes over, they’re like “Who’s this? Oh my God, this album’s so good, I’m downloading it right now.” I’m like, “Uh huh.”
I don’t think I could have envisioned this Punknews interview ending with an extended discussion on Dispatch, but you make a strong case. Thanks a lot, Chuck, appreciate the fun chat. Peace, love, and reeeespect!
-The band’s new EP House on Fire is out October 16th on Fat Wreck Chords.