Interview: The Dead Milkmen x Northside Fest

Left Bank caught Joe Genaro of The Dead Milkmen outside of Warsaw(not Poland) at the Northside fest and asked a few “standard” questions. Also with a cameo of Toby Goodshank who just happened to stop by. Interview with Vox and Guitarist Joe Genaro

Words by Alex Norelli

Alex: If you could turn anything into an instrument, what would you and why?

A tire, that’s not too loud, you can hit it with an iron, you might get something out of it. Or maybe you can poke holes into it and then play it like a flute, I don’t know if that’s possible.

Alex: If you were a rare earth mineral what would your qualities be and where would you be found?

We’d be very, very toxic, and you wouldn’t want to deal with us, and we’d probably be found in children’s playgrounds.

Alex: Have you ever had a lizard in your backyard?

I’ve never had a lizard in my backyard that I know about. But as a matter of fact, when Ryan and I lived together in ’83, ’84—no it was ’83—our other roommate had a lizard that got bigger and bigger, it grew really fast. We didn’t really have a backyard per se because it was basically a concrete patio. The lizard would climb up the blinds of the window, inside the house, it wouldn’t leave the house, but it would just roam around, and our roommate would leave it out, for who knows why. And, we’d just see it at random times, just still, not stuck, but just hanging out on the window blinds. And I’m pretty sure that lizard is the inspiration for the Big Lizard song. We didn’t have a backyard, but whatever.

Alex: And what about the lizard as an image to you, I mean there’s Jim Morrison, the Lizard king?

You can let your mind go wild with what lizard could stand for. But that was a lizard, it was a real lizard.

Alex: And what are you reading/listening to right now?

I’m reading a book that Rodney has lent me thats called The Left Hand of Darkness(Ursula Le Guin) that’s pretty cool.  It definitely gets your mind going.  On philosophicalness.   I like nonfiction, I like to read about science, I like to know things that I normally wouldn’t encounter. I like to read about politics, even though it depresses me and I complain about it.

But I like to read about whats “supposedly” going on in the world.

The music I’ve been listening to during the day is pretty much all classical.  I like Bach, organ music, lately I’ve been listening to a lot of organs. But not just Bach, I like Scarlatti, Cesar Franck. I’ve been getting into piano players. Thing is I’ve been discovering these old records, you know, old classical stuff. I like French impressionist music, Debussy, Satie. Barber.

Alex: Would you ever combine classical instruments into your sets?

No, I’m not really very good a musician in that regard. But I also like Toby Goodshank, I’ve been listening to his new album, I like all of his stuff.

(At this moment, Toby Goodshank just happens to arrive) Toby and Joe say hello and he sits in on the interview.

Joe: I just saw this band Andrew Jackson Jihad.  I heard about them when I played in Arizona a few years ago.   They sort of came up in conversation. Mischief Brew’s another band i like thats similar to Andrew Jackson Jihad.  

Joe to Toby: Well he asked me who I was listening to, and I said Toby and there you were.

Joe: I like the new Camper Van Beethoven album, they were contemporaries of ours, and we played a few shows with them here and there, they’re from California.  They’re hard to describe, they like an amalgamation of genres.

[Classical] is what I like to listen to. Its just, for some odd reason I sort of gravitate. If I decide I want to listen to music now, more often than not I want to hear something like that, rather than a band or rock album.

Alex: What is it like to play music for so many years, how do you keep it fresh?

One way we keep it fresh is we write new songs. In our past incarnation, when you play a show night after night and that’s what you do for a couple months on tour you really wanna have a rather large repertoire or you’re just gonna get so sick of your songs.  Part of it is a balance, because you gotta realize, there’s certain songs you absolutely have to play. And thats both a blessing and a curse cause (A) you have an audience that wants to hear these and you don’t want to disappoint them, and a curse cause it could get dreadful to play those songs. But you mix it up, you can play other songs in the set. And if the audience really appreciates it, their energy helps you through. Like its hard for me to practice a song like Punk Rock Girl on my own, there’s almost no reason to do it. But when you play it to an audience and you see they’re having a good time it makes it all the more worth while.

Toby: And stuff like Rodney’s ever changing intro to Bitchin’ Camaro…

Joe: That is it, he doesn’t do the same thing twice, and not knowing what he’s going to say in that song. We used to have a lot of banter but now we just go Bam Bam Bam with the songs and a lot of the banter was sorta lose and unprofessional anyway, but that is the one song I look forward to hearing whats going to happen, because I don’t know, I don’t get any forewarning. Even in our practices—and believe it or not we practice that song—we don’t know what he’s going to say and sometimes that’s the funnest thing to practice. Not knowing how we’re going to get to the end of the song.

Alex: If you could play a show anywhere in the universe, no limits, where would you like to play?

I’d loved to play somewhere in Iceland, just because the name of that country sounds so cool.   The pictures of it look so great. I don’t know where but somewhere you could see something beautiful wherever you look, and be visually striking.



Cheers to The Dead Milkmen for taking the time to chat with us. Image copyright The Dead Milkmen. Rock on.

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