INTERVIEW: Interview with Steve Perry, lead singer/guitar from the Cherry Poppin' Daddies
By: Alex Steininger
Alex: Who are some of your musical influences?
Steve: It's a revolving door, I have different influences each time. Some Swing and old ska. I really like The Skalities, and the Specials. Fletcher Henderson, and 40's music are also big influences.
Alex: Is there any modern day bands you like, but don't influence you?
Steve: The Mighty Mighty Bosstones are great. I haven't been listening to new music lately. The whole idea of a hybrid sound...I would like to do something like that and make a new sound.
Alex: What are your band goals for 1997?
Steve: We are going to be on the road for most of the year. We also plan on having a new record coming out around March. A third of it has already been recorded. Right now we are doing a U.S. tour with Let's Go Bowling and Reel Big Fish called "Come Out Swingin'."
Alex: On the road, what do you do to cure boredom?
Steve: Well...the obvious body smells and make jokes. I kind of sleep in the van, because each gig is so fucking far away! Man, you would really have to ask the others in the band, the ones that ride in the other van. We have two vans. One is the party van, and the other van is the one I travel in. I'm kinda...I'm the more quiet type.
Alex: What is your favorite city to play? Why?
Steve: New York. I grew up there and have lots of friends. Also Chicago and New Orleans are great. The bars don't ever close. It's amped up and you feel something is always going on.
Alex: What is your favorite album you have recorded?
Steve: I like the 2nd one the best (Rapid City Muscle Car.) It's just a weird record. It goes all over the map. It's very psychedelic. Not psychedelic like Hendrix, but it's psychedelic to me because it is such a diverse album.
Alex: What is your favorite album of all-time?
Steve: I think the Wipers-Over the Edge. I listened to it a lot when I was a kid. I liked the album a whole bunch. That one in particular would have to be my favorite album of all-time.
Alex: What does into good music making for you?
Steve: For me there is so many paths to make good songs and music. The instrumental parts with no backing vocals, I love those. The instruments blowing. Pop music has no instrumentals. I am very picky about what is good music.
Alex: What in the music business is fun, and what just fucking sucks?
Steve: A little traveling is fun, creating new music and sounds...something from nothing is also great. What sucks is there is no new ska bands. Record companies are afraid to try anything new. They are so set on selling pop music. All these pop bands being marketed out there. Pop music sucks. The business is as fucked as ever. There are no chances to break in anything with a new sound. There's Goldfinger, but what are they really? If you strip it all down their a fucking pop band. Record companies just don't want to try anything new. That's a weird answer. Also, my friends aren't in the business. In school we used to hang out, but now that I'm in the music thing, my friends aren't. There into other things, so we don't keep in touch, and lose contact with each other. Being in the music business takes away from the other side of my life.
Alex: If you could change anything on any album or anything in your musical career, what would it be? Why?
Steve: That's a really good question. Um...that would be brutally change the name. You don't know how much of a fucking hassle the name has caused. Chicks didn't like me, they thought I was the biggest sexist on earth. I couldn't even get a date. It taught me a lot about people.
Alex: Yeah...when I walk with my "Cherry Poppin' Daddies" shirt, people start saying, "The Cherry Poppin...oh...that is so sick!"
Steve: Yeah...people are so uptight about things like that. At first our old manager couldn't even get us gigs because of the name. So he talked us into changing our name to "The Daddies." Then six months later he quit. He was a good friend of mine. After he quit, he came back to me and said, "Steve...when I told you to change your name, that was the biggest mistake I ever did."
Alex: What are the highest and the lowest points in your musical career?
Steve: The highest point, well...I haven't had a career high point. When I run into someone and they tell me that the one song I sing means something, well that is a great feeling. We have never been on MTV, nothing like that. The lowest point would be when our bass player, who started the band with me, quit. I asked myself, "should I stop?" He just didn't want to do it anymore. I hadn't played with anyone else. Let me tell you, he was the Cherry Poppin' Daddies.
Alex: How did the Cherry Poppin' Daddies form?
Steve: I lived in a house with ten other guys. There was three bands who practiced in the garage. I was in one of those bands. We had a show, and people dug it. So we kept going.
Alex: What is your favorite song on "Kids on the Street?"
Steve: Hmm...it depends. "Costa Nostra" lately. I like to play Silver-Tongued Devil live. I love to use the metal steal pedal. We don't play it that often live, though. "Always have Paris"...it rocks.
Alex: What is your favorite song you have ever written?
Steve: I think for the Daddies it would be "Skyline Drive." I don' know why, it is weird. I haven't written a song I think is super great yet. I would like to write an awesome song. I sometimes get tired of hearing my songs. It's like hearing your voice on the answering machine. I hate it when I go to parties and they are playing my CD. I can pick out everything that is wrong with it. And I sit there and go, wish I had a voice that day. We record a song in one or two tries. We don't have a lot of money to go into the studio and take forever.
Alex: What other bands have you been in?
Steve: Saint Huck. They were a different age & time period. The music sounds dated. We were kinda a heavy jazz band.
Alex: Is there any road experience that stand out?
Steve: Not really. For me the road...to handle it I just zone. Your asking me at a bad time, right when I am about to leave.
Alex: If you could tour with any band, who would it be and why?
Steve: Well...we have already toured with the Bosstones. They are really, really, really nice people. Opening for them was very easy. They weren't rock star dick heads. The Damned would be great to tour with. I idolized them. I don't know if I would want to play or watch? Fishbone...we played with them a lot. I like their music a lot...not as much as in the past.
Alex: What made you want to be in a band?
Steve: It is still interesting. It is still a blast. The initial magic hasn't faded. In college I didn't fit in. Nothing was fun. Everything just seemed so lifeless to me. I wanted to be creative and have fun. I wasn't into the 9-5 thing. That was for everyone else, but not for me. I couldn't do it. And I liked music...mostly punk music. So starting a band was what I had to do.
Alex: What are your thoughts on the Portland Scene compared to Seattle, and other big city scenes?
Steve: Portland is A LOT better! In Seattle there is a lot of problems. It is the L.A. of the Northwest. Portland has grit to it. Seattle is washed and cleansed like a poodle. Portland is a mutt, and I love mutts!
Alex: What is your favorite local band?
Steve: Poison Idea was great, but I don't think they are still around. Wipers would be my all-time favorite. The Jimmies, but they are from Longview. Pond is great, but they aren't exactly my bag. I don't really have a favorite...not right now. But there are a lot of bands in the scene that are just press whores.
Alex: Kinda like this whole Hazel-Everclear thing going on. Lots of back talking and slamming to get in the spotlight.
Steve: I am not the biggest Everclear fan in the world. Who gives a fuck about Everclear? Well...obviously people care, or they wouldn't be this big, but really their just another fucking pop band. Like it matters.
Alex: On your three albums, you have some songs where you talk about an abusive father, is this fiction or truth?
Steve: No, my father is not abusive. I grew up in a very weird town. It was a very poor, run down, loner class town. There was lots of violence and sadness. It hasn't left me. We are far from mainstream for that middle class bully. So I write songs about my people, and I speak of things I saw growing up. I'm trying to say...my songs have a tendency to be compassionate, there is no bullshit, only truth. Melodramatic or not, it's the truth and I am trying to show the truth to the people who don't like the mutts. The songs are about people who don't have a shot. Alcoholic, work in a mill type of people. That moves me. Everyone wants to be a rock star. I give people hope to fight on. It's the snotty, middle class cliques that are against it. Fuck them. They are what ruin everything. Hipsters are bullies.
Alex: How did you come up with the nickname "MC Large Drink?"
Steve: It was just a stupid idea. We were sitting and talking. Then someone came up with the idea. The horn section was going to be in a big fry box, someone was going to be a hamburger, and I was going to be the drink. We were basically going to be a happy meal. It was very funny at the time. I don't know? But I have been known to drink a few down, so the name just stuck.
Alex: With all your talents and your great sound, why haven't majors caught on to you? Is it more you wanting the indie freedom?
Steve: Yes...we have a lot of freedom on our own indie. The majors, well...we just don't fit. Turn on the radio, there is nothing like us on the radio. We are a rock/horn/ska band. We are so diverse. We are too diverse. The record companies want to know what they will get, and they don't know with us. They want pop songs. I write songs odd. There is a lot of lyrics, and people want only a few lyrics. So they can understand. They want simple sugar coded pop songs. Hey...I write pop songs myself, and I hate them, that should tell you how bad things are. Elvis Costello, he is pop, and I love that stuff. Why be so diverse when they want tiny, tiny sing along pop songs? They want music with no ruffled feathers, and I can't do that.
Alex: What made you change your musical style from "Rapid City Muscle Car" to "Kids on The Streets" so much? Was it just a natural progression?
Steve: I like to change. It isn't that different. Each album is very diverse. I don't really understand the question.
Alex: What I mean is, why is it so much rock stuff compared to Rapid City's more swing sound.
Steve: "Kids on the Street" was about something. The record has a focus. The reason you may think it doesn't sound so diversed is because I play more guitar, and my guitar ability is very limited. And my limited ability made it sound darker (the songs and ideas.) The record really went all over the place. We recorded it in a couple of days. For "Rapid City Muscle Car" we had our own studio for part of it. The new material is brightened up and happier.
Alex: You mentioned the "Come Out Swingin' Tour" with Reel Big Fish and Let's Go Bowling. How do you feel about this tour?
Steve: I am very excited. I have never met Reel Big Fish. I have known Let's Go Bowling for years. They are very nice. We played a few years ago with Bad Manners in Sale Lake City.
Alex: What does the finger behind the CD on "Rapid City Muscle Car" mean?
Steve: I don't know. It was something I did on stage. I saw it on a video tape and thought it was very funny. It is way worse than giving an up right finger. It is pretty angry.
Alex: So is Space Age Bachelor Pad Records (the label they are signed to) owned by yourself?
Steve: Yes, Howard, our manager, and started the label. It is basically us on the label, but we also have Buckhorn and Billy Jack signed on the label. Buckhorn is very heavy jazz. They are instrumental. Billy Jack broke up. They were the second band on the label. Buckhorn's drummer lives in San Francisco, so they aren't very serious. They play a show once in awhile.