Running on the success of their recent album, Coral Fang, the Distillers blew through D.C. in a gale of punk rock glory. About an hour before show time, guitarist Tony Bradley took some time out to sit down with The Hatchet in the red room of the Black Cat.
Hatchet: You’re the newest member of the group. How did that happen? What was the evolution of the group?
Tony Bradley: I actually met (lead singer Brody Dalle) in 1999, and I was her guitar tech ever since last January. Brody wanted a new guitar player before they went to record this new record because she wanted to have a big guitar sound back and have tons of layers.
H: I just read that you covered the “Spiderman” theme. What’s that about?
TB: (For) the “Spiderman 2” game, not for the movie. It was actually misquoted in Rolling Stone, so everyone has the wrong idea. It’s not for the movie, it’s for the game. It would be way cooler if it was for the movie, because Aerosmith did a version of it at the end of the credits for the first one that was this candy-ass version. We would have been stoked if it were in the movie. Anyway, it ended up sounding really good.
H: What’s it sound like?
TB: Well, we were practicing, and we listened to the Ramones’ version to hear how they did it. We didn’t want to do that, but we didn’t want to do the original song. We decided to keep the lyric structure, the structure of the song, but just rewrite the music. So we ended up making it a whole new tune, but with the “Spiderman” lyrics over it.
H: You’re touring up and down the East Coast right now. What’s different about the Los Angeles punk scene, or just the West Coast music scene in general?
TB: I think it’s good for certain bands to be in scenes. You had your L.A. punk scene back in the day, your D.C. scene and your New York scene. It’s cool because those bands become friends and play together. But nowadays, I think things are really different. When you’re playing locally, when you’re a new band, you tend to play with the same bands because they’re your friends and you’re coming up together. But once you get to a level where you’re touring the country and touring the world, (the scene) seems to disappear.
H: So at some point it seems like a convenient label for the press to put on you?
TB: Yeah, and as far as the scenes go, I don’t want to go on tour with punk bands or people you would expect us to go on tour with. I think it’s a dumb idea and it’s stale. I want to go on tour with bands like the Icarus Line and bands like the Lot Six, bands I like personally. We’re kind of trying not to stick to the scene. The punk scene in California is pretty retarded, actually. I think the bands out there, not to mention names or anything, are really close-minded fucks.
H: I know you guys did Warped Tour two years ago, and that’s just huge, and then this tour – it’s not small, but it’s smaller. What are the relative merits of doing each?
TB: Well, we did Lollapalooza last summer, and that was probably bigger for us than Warped Tour was. I don’t know, the big shows are weird. It’s really hard to connect. It sounds clich?d, but it’s the truth. When there’s a 15-foot barrier in front of you and the people are that far away, it’s really hard to connect and get going. I think most bands would prefer smaller shows like this.
H: Coral Fang is a bit of a – I don’t want to say a gruesome album – but it has the blood and the gallows and the rope. This is the band’s first album on a major label. Did you notice any differences?
TB: Well, I think it’s the same game, just in a bigger stadium. You’re the product of a major corporation, pretty much. I mean, I don’t like to think of us like that, but that’s how it is from their point. One of the few reasons we went to the major label was to have resources. I like the idea of some kid in the middle of fucking Wyoming being able to go and find our record. If you’re on an indie sometimes, it’s harder for kids in the middle of nowhere to go find your records.
H: Where do you see the band going on the next album?
TB: I don’t know. I think it’s going to be kind of a lot different. I mean, it’s still Brody’s songs and still Brody’s voice, but we’re all into really different kinds of music and we’re trying to not be subservient to any style. We’re trying to do different things. There are so many great bands out there that are just kicking ass and doing totally cool shit and different shit. We don’t want to be stagnant and put out the same record. Most people get pissed when bands put out a different record, and most bands get pissed when they put out the same record.
H: All right, just one more question. You had mentioned earlier that with the press, it’s the journalist trying to define you. If you were describing the Distillers to someone who didn’t know them, what would you say?
TB: Uh, I don’t know. It’s pretty much rock, just straight rock. I don’t know. I really wouldn’t know what to say. It’s like rock ‘n’ roll like Elvis and the Big Bopper. (laughs).