Interview with Bill Stevenson (Drums)
By: Alex Steininger
With the release of MILO GOES TO COLLEGE, the Descendents were put on hiatus. Not satisfied with that at all, the three remaining members of the Descendents started looking for a new vocalist who was willing to keep up with their grueling tour schedule. Finding someone who fit right in, ALL was formed. The same loveable pop-punk as the Descendents, it started from where the Descendents left off, and quickly emerged with its own identity.
Alex: First off, how would compare All to the Descendents? How are they different, and how are they similar?
Bill: They're all the same everything, except for a different singer. So I'd say they're about 80 percent similar. What ways could I quantify that? I don't know. They're basically the same thing. It's like the same group being shot at from two different camera angels.
Alex: What are some of your musical influences?
Bill: The influences were the Alley Cats, The Last, and Black Flag. Those are the three biggest ones. Since nobodies heard of them, that sucks, but it's all the more reason to mention them. I think people could find their records at swap meets and such, as they only pressed like a 1000 or less of some of them. Black Flag, everyone knows them, but Alley Cats and The Last are rare birds.
Alex: What are your band goals for 1998?
Bill: Is that what year this is, 98? Our band goals are to tour. We want to play a lot this year. I guess, from what I've heard, we made a pretty decent record. Anyone that knows anything about our group seems to like the album, and a lot of them say it's our best ever. So, this is a good chance to expose people to our whole thing. It could be a way to turn people on to it, that otherwise may be listening to Blink or something. You know, the people that wouldn't know better.
Alex: Is there a single or a video planned for the album?
Bill: We made this cool video for super cheap, which is for "World's On Heroin." It's a cool song that tends to conjure up the visual stuff. It's a cool video, but I don't think they'll be playing it next to the Bon Jovi video. You never know though, maybe some people will play it? I always tend to like the videos that are simple. We made a video, one time, for $400 and I thought it was really cool.
Alex: What do you guys do on the road for fun?
Bill: The best part of the day is playing, and the second best part of the day is hanging out after our set with our crew and the whole band. If the drives aren't too long, we also get some time to see the city, which is really cool. It's fun to locate different record stores or pond shops. But, particularly on the West, it seems the drives are long enough to where it becomes the only thing you can do before you have to do sound check.
Alex: So, do you have a favorite venue or city to play?
Bill: My favorite city is probably, at this point, LA. We just had a really great show there, and it felt like a hometown gig. I think when we moved out of LA, because it got too expensive to live there...we have been doing this since the time when Def Leopard was on the radio. You know, everyone hated us and we were making like $70 a night. So we moved out of there for someplace cheaper, and then I think LA resented us for that. So they began treating us like we weren't from there. But now they realize that we will always be an LA band, and we just had to live somewhere where it wasn't so expensive.
Alex: If you could tour with anyone, past or present, who would you want to tour with?
Bill: This has been a good tour here, Hagfish and Zeke. Another one of my favorites are the Lemons. Shades Apart is also another band I would love to take on tour. I like touring with Pennywise, it's always fun. Wretch Like Me is great to tour with, and I wouldn't mind touring with No Means No. I wonder why we haven't toured with them yet? Huh!
Alex: Do you ever see a Descendents/All tour happening?
Bill: Nah. It's too much like occupying the same space. It's already confusing enough, so that would just really fuck it up.
Alex: Is there any road experiences that stand out in your mind, either good or bad?
Bill: (laughs) Well, the day before yesterday the truck caught on fire. That was...a fire! Well, let's see, what's been the best? Last summer we played these huge festivals in Europe. There was like tens of thousands of people at them. That was pretty cool, but very shocking. It was like the whole world was there. People were camping out and sleeping there. There is this huge festival thing in Europe. I think it's where Warped Tour got it's idea from.
Alex: What do you enjoy and hate about the music industry?
Bill: It's the same thing that I hate that I enjoy. Which is the energy and the combustion in it. You know, the amount of excitement that can occur around a certain event. But that means once the event is done, everyone hates it too. We've been in both the good favor and the bad favor of the punk scene like four or five times over the years. It seems the winds will change direction and you won't be cool again, or the winds will blow your way and you'll be cool again. Last year we were like the coolest people in the whole world, even know we were playing the same music we always have (laughs).
Alex: It's kinda funny how the cycles revolve.
Bill: (laughs) Yeah, it's like, "WOW! We're cool again?!?! Thanks for telling me." It beats playing the Satyricon for nine people. We used to play the Satyricon for like nine people.
Alex: Is there anything you look back on during your band's history and wish you could change?
Bill: I wish we hadn't learned how to engineer by using the band as a guinea pig. That's probably the biggest thing. We decided early on that we were going to make our own records, from all the bad experiences we've had with engineers and such, but we had a long way to go to get where we are now. We make good records. Fuck, we make good records for other bands. We made Hagfish's new record, as well as many other bands. But I wish we would have had an engineer we trusted, rather than learn along the way.
Alex: What are the highest and lowest points the band has experienced so far?
Bill: The highest point is actually now. As far as isolating All, yeah, the highest point is now. The lowest point is like, with both bands, playing in front of fifteen people. 1985 and 86 were the worst, and 88 wasn't so hot either.
Alex: When you started up were you a buzz band or a band nobody paid attention too?
Bill: NO! We had nothing. Everyone hated us. We were never hometown favorites. Matter-of-fact, we'd come home and play the Anti-Club, which holds about a hundred and eighty people. If we were lucky, we could fill it.
Alex: What made you want to be in a band?
Bill: I always had an ear for it. I would sit with my Kiss records, or whatever it was, and deconstruct them with my head. I felt like I was very intrigued by the mechanics of music. I think that lead me to the engineering aspect as well. I remember thinking as a kid, when I was 11, that something didn't sound right about "Love Me Do" by the Beatles. It always bugged me. It wasn't until eight or nine years ago that I figured out what was wrong. The thing is, the bass on that song is really far out of tune from the rest of the track. It's really sharp. It's something that the casual listener wouldn't notice, but when you listen to music like I do, or like a lot of other people do, you're really listening hard and it's obvious the bass is out of tune. It's blaring. When I was a kid I didn't know what it was, but I knew it was wrong. It was that kind of curiosity in my mind that made me think it would be fun to be involved with the making of music on some level.
Alex: With your engineering in mind, have you guys ever thought of starting a record label?
Bill: We have a record label now, we do, and Wretch Like Me, who is going to play tonight, they're are first release. Our label is called Owned and Operated.
Alex: When is your first release due out?
Bill: It's out now. It came out like three months ago.
Alex: What goes into good music making for you?
Bill: Accidents. Something that just kind of fell together, and then everyone agreed it was great. The more you fuss over it, the more wrong it is. The songs that we threw have thrown together the fasted in history are the songs that have made me the happiest. Like, just something that was thrown together, it has this very impulsive feeling for me. Two great examples would be "I'm Not A Loser" and "World's On Heroin." Both were kind of thrown together, or combusted.
Alex: What inspires you guys to write songs then?
Bill: Musically, just the search for total quality that hasn't been stumbled upon yet. Lyrically, the search to ex-or-size different kinds of concerns. Whether it be a disgruntlement about the guy at the fast food joint that forgot to put a burger on my burger, or some chick that fucked my best friend.
Alex: What do you want the listener to get out of the music?
Bill: Some kind of release, to blow off steam of some sort. Some kind of release.
Alex: The last album you were involved with was EVERYTHING SUCKS by the Descendents. Now you're doing an All album. Have you decided to do a trade off each year, releasing All one year and the Descendents the next?
Bill: We'll be doing records with both, but I don't know if it will be that literal of an exchange. It's more like All is the band, the focal point, and the Descendents are a hobby or a side-project that is sprinkled in.
Alex: You've basically answered this already, but do you consider All and the Descendents two different identities, or are they just the same band with different vocals?
Bill: It was born out of sheer functionality. Milo didn't want to do this full time, so we needed to start another band so we could continue to do music all the time. He just wants to be in his laboratory all the time. The bands have their own identity to the extent that Chad and Milo are two different people. Not to anymore or less of an extent. That's why I call it 20 or 25 percent. But, depending on who you ask, someone might say the singer is everything. And in that sense, the difference may be greater. But I don't subscribe to that, because that's too 70's rock. To say the vocalist is everything revolves around that 70's idea. But there are similarities and there are also differences, so you need to leave it at that.
Alex: Why did All go with Epitaph? Was it due to contract agreements made when the Descendents signed, or was it because of the way they treated the Descendents?
Bill: When we signed with Epitaph it was for both bands. It was a thing of knowing Brett forever, and so I just sat down and said, "Well, we want to make records!" At the time we were leaving Interscope. We weren't happy with Interscope at all. So we sat down and told them we wanted to make both All and Descendents records whenever we want, at our choosing. Brett and I worked out a deal like that, so it was really flexible and we could basically do whatever we wanted.
Alex: Is there anything I left out that you would like to cover?
Bill: No, I don't think so. I think we got it.