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Only crime.

MOST OFTEN, SUPER GROUPS (from Traveling Wilburys to Velvet Revolver) come across like plastic surgery on a corpse. There's a decent idea of how all the parts are supposed to look, how they're supposed to fit, but it's hard not to think that when you're looking at its perfect nose or its perfect teeth, it's dead. It'd be better just buried. Only Crime isn't a doctored and prettied-up band made by some record executive's scheming to make a buck on name recognition. Through a series of circumstances, Good Riddance's lead singer, Russ Rankin, figured it would be better to start anew. He enlisted Aaron, the guitarist from Bane. Donnie and Zach of Hagfish joined the fold. Small problem, though. No drums. During a light conversation, Bill Stevenson, a mechatronic gorilla and one of punk rock's most respected drummers, (Black Flag, Descendents, All) said he wanted in. The result? Thankfully, it works. To the Nines, their first LP, is heavy without the metal. Think Blast! Think early 'Flag. Think no fuckin' around. Think ugly, alive, and hungry. The opposite of plastic surgery on a corpse.

What's a freedom you have in Only Crime that you didn't have in Good Riddance?

I think mostly experience, things that, had I known then what I know now, I would have done differently. Now I get a chance to. A lot of it's not even musical. A lot of it's just the way I interact and get along with my bandmates. In Good Riddance, I've been, for whatever reason, guilty of being a bad bandmate or a bad friend or let stupid things about music cause resentments. I have a lot of experience that I didn't have back then because things happened so fast for Good Riddance. So to be able to have a clean slate, that's one big thing about it.

So you don't have a lot of baggage?

Good Riddance doesn't have a lot of baggage as far as bands go, but the baggage that is there I see now that it was probably preventable--a lot of it on my part--and I'd like to do what I can to prevent it from happening to this band. Also, this band is much more, I don't want to say serious, because we're a fun group of guys, but on stage it's more serious. There's no goofing around or joking, there's nothing really silly or funny about it. It's pretty much like going on stage with one purpose: to lay waste and destroy everything.

Good Riddance was based a lot on politics. Did you approach Only Crime differently?

I'm always going to be interested in politics. That's just my nature. If I can weave it in I'll do it, but my main goal is to not be so lyrically overt. I've made a point to write metaphorically, leaving things more open ended, using words as instruments instead of things to beat people over the head with.

Is it liberating that way?

Yeah. It was a challenge for sure, because I'm used to doing things a certain way and this forced me to up my game and get outside the box and look at writing lyrics from a different place. I did a lot of thinking about the songwriters I most admire, and all of them--Shane MacGowan, Darby Crash, Richard Butler from Psychedelie Furs, Tom Waits--use almost poetry in their lyrics, making it so the listener could hear the same song five different days.

How'd you get Bill Stevenson?

It was all him. Aaron from Bane and I started the idea for the band. I called Zach the next day and he was on board. For months, the three of us were calling and emailing each other, "You know any drummers?" We wanted somebody good, somebody that wasn't into drugs and alcohol, and we wanted somebody our age, kind of an older guy, somebody who would understand what we're trying to do. The well was dry. Good Riddance was getting ready to record at the Blasting Room, which is Bill's studio, in January of 2003, and I was on the phone with Bill making sure that we were going to get picked up at the airport on time. I told him that I wanted to start this new band that sounded like Slip It In-era Black Flag, and then out of the blue, Bill goes, "That sounds like something I might want to sign up for." I thought he was fucking with me because I never would have even thought to ask him. He's the best drummer I've ever heard, and he's a good guy, but I never thought that would happen. He really, really wanted to do it. I called up Zach and Aaron right away and they thought I was fucking with them. I think he just reached a place where he realized that he wasn't going to get any younger. The Descendents weren't touting very much. He was swamped with production work, and he would rather sit behind a kit than behind a mixing desk for as long as possible. He liked the music--at least the way I described it--because he always felt like Black Flag never finished what they started and there weren't a lot of other bands out there that were doing it right. Our goal was really heavy music, but no metal, which is impossible to find these days. Every band is playing metal badly.

Is he going to be writing songs for you guys?

He was involved in the writing process, and he also plays guitar, so he's got a box of riffs that we're rifling through right now for our next album. Most of the material on this album was written by Zach and me, and then thrown into the blender when we all got together. Bill was really involved with my vocals, which is what he did with Good Riddance as well, and I wrote a lot of his drum parts, which is a really weird thing to do when you're telling Bill what to play and he's encouraging you to do it. This band is much more collaborative than anything I've ever been involved with. It didn't jive with the control freak in me at first, but then I'd look around the room and see who I'm in the room with, and if I think I, by myself, know better than the five of us collectively--then I'm a bigger fool than I thought.

What's the worst fall you've ever taken? There was a pool right by the beach in Santa Cruz at this old, burned out hotel. It was called Main Street pool--a gnarly, kind of squarish pool with four feet of vert. Really unforgiving. I used to skate there with no pads or helmet because I was young and didn't know any better. One day, I was skating by myself, and I slammed and hit my head. I came to probably about an hour and a half later, lying in the deep end. I thought, "Well, OK, that happened," and I kept skating. The next day, I woke up and all of a sudden all of this clear, watery stuff came out of my nose. I don't know what that was.
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Author:Taylor, Todd
Publication:Thrasher
Date:Feb 1, 2005
Words:1205
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