THE DIRTBOMBS: “Nothing is Off Limits”

By Monica Melrose

I spoke on the phone with Mick Collins of The Dirtbombs about their new album Party Store, which comes out February 1, 2011, and how the internet has changed the music scene.

Monica:  I’ve read that you don’t really like to be categorized as “garage rock.”  How would you describe The Dirtbombs?

MICK: Normally when people ask me, I tell them that we play non-hyphenated rock. Which of course is a phrase with two hyphens in it, but you know what I mean. (Laughs.) I mean we’re just a “rock” band. There was never any intention to be anything other than a rock band and so every time we get lumped in into any genre, in any sort of hipster-induced subgenre of rock, it really just gets up my nose.

Monica: You have two bassists and two drummers.  How did that come about?

MICK:  I just wanted to see what it sounded like. Nobody else had it. That’s really the only reason.

Monica: Well it sounds great…And I know you’re always creating music, whether with The Dirtbombs or other side projects, and you seem to have an endless supply of ideas. What inspires you to create new music?

MICK: I don’t know, it’s a compulsion actually. (Laughs.) More than likely it’s just a mere compulsion. I’m probably hearing voices but I interpret them as music.

Monica: Well that’s a good way of putting it.

MICK:  (Laughs.) Yeah I mean people hear voices all the time, but for me, it sounds like music. I just make sure I write it all down. If it doesn’t turn out to be something I heard already then I assume it’s an original.

Monica: Is it true that you did a soundtrack for a porn movie?

MICK: A porn movie? (Laughs.) No. Well I did do the soundtrack for a movie but there wasn’t any porn in it. Not to my memory, anyway. Unless it had a different ending that I never saw. (Laughs.) I did the soundtrack for a movie called The Sore Losers. There wasn’t any porn in that. I did a lot of songs for another movie called Wayne County Ramblin, which I’m in that, so I know there was no porn in that one.

Monica: Is a lot of your music featured in a lot of different films? Do you see that happening in the future?

MICK:  That would be nice. That pays pretty good, really. I don’t know. We’ve only had one, as far as a major screen release. I had the one song, which is our version of Chains of Love for the movie The Diving Bell and the Butterfly. And that’s really been the only actual mainstream — and that was an art house film, but you know what I mean…It’s the closest we’ve come to mainstream cinema.

Monica: Do you feel that in today’s music industry a lot of musicians have to take matters into their own hands and promote themselves more than they had to in the past?

MICK:  Absolutely. It hasn’t actually changed. You know, I mean the amount of self-promotion that you have to do for a band that is not signed with a major label hasn’t changed… Really you’re doing the same amount, its just that now, you know, no one has the option of getting half a million dollars from EMI to promote for them… And also what has changed is the availability of low cost/free promotion. I’m speaking mainly of the internet.

The internet has just leveled the playing field drastically for that sort of thing. If you have a band, you have instant worldwide distribution. So everybody gets the same amount of distribution, which is the blessing and the curse of the internet. Because, you know, if there are two million bands out there, you’ll have the same amount of distribution.

But how do you know its good? You’ve got to figure that part out. And that’s the part that, you know, that hasn’t really been figured out yet, generally speaking, is: okay how do people find what they’ll like? Given the fact that everybody is in the same place. There’s just one pool now. And before, you know, you could kind of count on going to a place, a fanzine, or you know …a radio show, or something along those lines and know that you would pretty much like everything that they did. Well now you don’t have that. You have the internet. (Laughs.) So you just kind of, like, everybody’s in the same pool now and you have to find, as a listener, you have to work really hard and think about it. Most listeners aren’t willing to work that hard to find what they like. They’ll just keep listening to the same stuff.

Monica:  One of my personal hobbies, something I enjoy, is looking up new music, and I like that its available on the web because you can see who’s coming out with a new album, or who’s performing, and you think, oh wow, I never heard of that band, let me check them out.

MICK: Right. I’m always looking, I’m always listening to new bands, much to my girlfriend’s chagrin. You know, I spend a great deal of time just sitting here listening to records I’ve got, and listening to new bands on the internet. I hear a lot of stuff, but again, its a lot of work sifting through a gazillion bands trying to find the 2 or 3 that I actually would like to hear more from. And again, because the playing field is level, and you take Sturgeon’s Law into account — Sturgeon’s Law is that 99% of everything is crap — you can listen to a lot of bands you don’t like to find the 2 or 3 that you do like.

Monica: Why do you think there is such a discrimination against some groups that have been performing for years and they’re great, and I never hear them on the radio?

MICK: Youth and beauty. Like, look at Justin Bieber. (Laughs.) Quite frankly, it really boils down to youth and beauty. That’s why pretty boys are always on TV. They’re always on the radio. And even back in the day there were some amazing, amazing bands out there, but you know, if they’re not super attractive, mainstream media is not going to care.

Monica: Now I know you have a new album coming out and looking at the listing of the songs, and the name of the album is “Party Store,” the impression I get without hearing the album yet, is that its party songs, songs about having fun and dancing. Is that how you would describe it?

MICK: Yeah, it’s a dance record most definitely. The songs themselves are covers of Detroit techno and classic Detroit techno songs. Techno but done by a rock band.

Monica: Well I’m looking forward to hearing it. What do you think is missing in the music industry today?

MICK: What’s missing. You got another 40 minutes? (Laughs.) Let’s see, I think the primary thing that’s missing is — I’ll be blunt about it — there’s no filter…That’s what’s missing right now…A show like Brave New Waves. Brave New Waves was a Canadian show that all of us border children heard back in the day and it specialized in independent music of all sorts, mostly rock, but all underground music. When radio was the only place you had to go, there were college stations that only played indie bands, that only played local bands, and Brand New Waves only played non-commercial stuff, so you had a sense of what was out there. You knew if that was your thing you would go to one of these places and you know, you still might not like everything but you would like most of it. We don’t have that kind of filter anymore. The internet makes everything so freely available that there’s really no — basically you’re just turning the faucet on, and you know, you can’t find the good stuff when its all everything else that’s out there.

Monica: Yeah, I guess that’s true.

MICK: I mean, if there’s 20,000 bands that sound like Good Charlotte… then you can’t find the one good band that’s out there.

Monica: I know you’re from Detroit. Are all the members of The Dirtbombs from Detroit?

MICK: Yes. They’re all born and raised there.  

Monica: Would you say that living in Detroit somehow influences or inspires your music, or your musical sound?

MICK: There would be no way for me to deny it, frankly. You know, I mean, Detroit music is all-pervasive when you’re in the city, so you know, everything of one sort of another is an inspiration, is an influence. The Dirtbombs are an all-encompassing band. Nothing is off limits.

Check out The Dirtbombs and their new album Party Store this February 1st!

(Mick Collins (front) and The Dirtbombs)