The Vandals

The Vandals

Very first punk show I went to was when I was 14 — the gig was Doggy Style and the Vandals, the headlining band was Aggression. I had to lie to my mom to get out of the house for the show, but my best friend, Nathan (who was 11 at the time), was blissfully free of any parental supervision and could pretty much come and go as he pleased. He helped me concoct an alibi and the two of us caught a bus from Huntington Beach (California) to the legendary Fender’s Ballroom in the Nazi skinhead-ridden heart of Long Beach.

The show was a pretty incredible first for me — Doggy Style opened and threw donuts and cake at the crowd, Aggression threw T-shirts and vinyl into the slam pit (I doubt any of the records survived) and the Vandals — ballsiest of all for those times — shouted insults at the 80% skinhead crowd and told lewd jokes about Hitler. I was in love.

Almost 14 years later, I found myself backstage with the Vandals, drinking Corona and joking with Joe… I actually knew Warren Fitzgerald from when I was a kid — when I was 14 and he was 16, he was just plain “Wally.” Guitar player for the short-lived “Don’t No.” Dave Quackenbush was somewhat of a disappointment to meet, however — he was really cranky and didn’t say anything to either me or my photographer, except to make fun of us for being “old.” But he did look quite thoughtful during the interview, and I can only imagine what sort of things were going through his mind….

••

Where did the album title ( Hitler Bad, Vandals Good ) come from?

Joe : It’s a David Letterman spin-off. He’s really funny – have you seen him?

Wally : He’s on TV.

Dave [silent, eyes glazed, thinking]: Mobius Strip: One side, three-dimensional object. Or do the edges of the paper count as another side? So are there two sides or three sides? Damn, maybe I should just make one and count for myself. Oh crap, did I just miss a question?

What’s your composition process like? Is it a group process or does one of you come in with a song basically done and everyone figures out how to play it?

Warren : It’s very much a group process. Someone might bring the bare bones of a song in, but we all add our own pieces and make the songs belong to all of us.

Joe : I have my own recording studio — I make demo tapes of stuff I’ve worked on and bring them in for everyone to listen to and use.

Warren : We all bring in demo tapes.

Dave (absently-minded fumbling with a piece of paper, thinking, thinking, thinking): One more twist and you’ve got a Klein’s bottle. Again, one, two, or three sides? And what do you call it when you give it one more twist? I bet no one’s ever done that before. I know, I’ll call it the Quackenbush Tube. Dave’s Pole. The Quackenbush Rod. Dave’s Rod-Pole Thing. Professor Dave’s….

Josh (thinking): Oh My God, Dave’s thinking in secondary dimensions again. Maybe I should hit him.

Who were your musical influences growing up? Who do you listen to now?

Joe : Esther Williams was a huge influence on the band. She influenced all of us in different ways. Let me repeat that. Esther Williams.

Warren : Esther Williams, TSOL, DI – the whole Southern California punk scene in general. But definitely, Esther Williams.

What’s the Southern California scene like now compared to ten years ago? Are there still a lot of Nazi punks there?

Wally : Hmmm…

Joe : We’d like to think we’re doing our bit to keep the Nazi punk thing alive.

Wally : Hmmmm…..

What’s the reaction been to the new record?

Joe : Sales of the CD are great, reviews are great — none of the radio stations will touch it.

What do you get to do now that you’re rich and famous rock stars that you couldn’t do when you first started out?

Joe : Polo, horseback riding….

Warren : Shopping in malls

Joe : I can’t ever find any good clothes in California, so I like to fly around the country in my private jet, shopping for big, baggy clothes.

Warren : I like to go to open mikes, especially in malls. I read poetry, form drum circles, do performance art, et cetera.

Dave (always thinking, thinking, inner wheels turning, turning): So if you get a really, really long strip of paper, and twist it like, nine times, what’s it called then? Could I patent this? And is it still a one-sided object? And how come, no matter how big a piece of paper you have, even a piece of paper as big as a bedsheet, you can’t fold it more than seven times? Wait — maybe if I use tissue paper…

Any last words?

Warren : Buy the new album. Christmas is right around the corner. Makes a great stocking stuffer.

Is that the name of the new album? “Christmas is Right Around the Corner?”

Joe : No, no, it’s Hitler Bad, Vandals Good . “Christmas is Right Around the Corner” is a good title, but Christmas is right around the corner.

Josh : No.

••

Author’s Note: Dave Quackenbush may or may not have been ruminating on polydimensional mechanics during this interview. But I’d sure like to think he was. That man’s a frickin’ genius.

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