I just read another review of Filmage (the killer Descendents/ALL documentary) that quoted me as saying that I agreed with the people who feel that the Descendents were and are a vastly better band than ALL. It’s beginning to get on nerves because that isn’t what I said, or at least it isn’t what I meant. I don’t believe that the Descendents are a better band than ALL. I believe that they are MUCH better at being the Descendents than we were. If that doesn’t make sense, keep reading. I’m here on Tumblr to “tumble” a bit about it.
When I said whatever I said in the film (the exact verbiage escapes me), I was trying to express that I thought it was a miscalculation on our part to expect the people who so deeply love the Descendents to feel the same enthusiasm for ALL. I think we shot ourselves in the foot in that regard. We weren’t playing on the same field as them (or we shouldn’t have been anyway). I’ve never believed that ALL is simply the Descendents with a different singer. It wasn’t to me. I can only honestly and accurately speak about my tenure with band, but I always felt we had our own unique energy; something completely separate from the Descendents. I believe that if you played Allroy Saves for a Descendents fan who had never heard of ALL, it would be extremely unlikely that that person would ask, “Is this the Descendents with a different singer?” it’s just not the same thing. To me, the two entities are as different from one another as The Minutemen from fIREHOSE. Which makes sense since 25% of the creative personel is different. Good bands are the sum of the parts, and good songwriters take into account the strengths and weaknesses of the musicians with whom they are working. That’s why I’d much rather listen to Milo singing Coolidge than me, but I think I might find Milo singing Cyclops, or Breathe less satisfying than when I sing it. Totally different vibe, not just vocally but musically as well.
Anyway, my point in the movie was that we kind of floated in between the two band philosophies, trying to appeal to the Descendents fans, while leaning toward, but never fully committing to, the odd off-time circus jazz that ALL seemed like it wanted to be. And I still feel like that was a mistake. ALL (at least the version I was a part of) never really stood a chance in the shadow of the Descendents. They are just too good at what they do. But we never should have put ourselves in that position in the first place, because we had a completely different energy. Fat Mike said to me once that he never really got into ALL because we were too uptight, too concerned with playing music that was flawless, and hard to play; not punk rock enough (I’m paraphrasing). And when he said it, I thought, “Yeah, I can see that. He’s got a point.” But the thing is, uptight was kinda our thing. We practiced for several hours every single day (sometimes twice a day), even on Christmas. For a while we even practiced with a drum machine coming through the P.A. because we felt like we weren’t steady enough tempo-wise. On days off on tour, we would almost always find a place to practice. As a matter of fact, things really started going south between me and the rest of the band (especially Karl) when I started skipping practice. That was an absolute deal-breaker. I think I could have killed somebody in the process of robbing an orphanage for money to feed my heroin addiction, and I would have caught less shit than I did for skipping practice. That’s not a complaint. It’s a compliment actually. Our anal retentive sensibilities added to the eclectic influences that were bouncing around between the four of us make me feel that if we had accomplished all that I really believe we could have (and probably should have), we would have made a record so uptight and absurd that Fat Mike would have found it as unlistenable as a dentist’s drill. Our Sergeant Pepper’s would have been so ridiculous that it probably would have driven the most hardcore anti-ALL Descendents fans out of their ever-lovin’ minds. They would have hated it with heat of a thousand suns. Which would have been ok with me. We weren’t as popular anyway. Opportunity missed.
So my point in the movie was that the Descendents are the very best at what they do. They have no rivals. And ALL (the version that I was a part of anyway) simply couldn’t and shouldn’t have hoped to compete with that. We had our own business to attend to, which we only partially realized before things went sour. I don’t think the nature of the musical style, or whatever want to call it, that we were hinting at back in 1990-91 had nearly the potential for popular success that the Descendents’ music does. It just wasn’t as accessible. But I think, had we been able to play and create free from all the other superfluous concerns that plagued us back then, we probably would have made my favorite (and Fat Mike’s least favorite) record ever. And our audience would have been even nerdier and less punk rock than it already was. Ha!
I’m not sure why it’s so important to me that I explain all this. But it’s been stuck in my craw ever since the first time I read that I like the Descendents better. So whoever took the time to read this, thanks! I feel better now. Also, I’m not bagging on Fat Mike. I get along fine with him (though I don’t know him very well), and he’s always supercool when we cross paths. Also, White Trash, Two Heebs, and a Bean is a tremendous record, for what it’s worth.
Anyway, thanks for reading this! ……… Scott