US punk rock supremo’s The Dictators are back after a lengthy hiatus. The blood brothers have re-united and are on the tour trail once again, adopting the same ‘punk-or-nothing’ approach they originally claimed over twenty years ago. This issue, Vicious Kitten speaks to main man Andy Shernoff – the guy responsible for putting the fun into punk rock ! …
Vicious Kitten: Let’s start by talking about the Dictators most recent single. ‘I Am Right’ sounds as though it wouldn’t be out of place on the Manitoba’s Wild Kingdom LP ?
Andy Shernoff: When we were choosing songs for the single we wanted an aggressive tune. ‘I Am Right’ fit the bill. It is not necessarily representative of the band’s direction. In the future, we will be recording a range of rock and roll songs, from rock anthems to pop tunes to surf instrumentals, as well as the aggressive tunes.
VK: The band played Europe recently – how was the response ?
AS: Two years ago we were invited to go to Spain. At the time we hadn’t played outside New York City much less done a tour in almost 10 years. We had a great time and were very pleased by the response. Kids who were barely alive when we released our first record knew all the lyrics to records that were never even released on CD. Last year when the same promoter invited us back, a Swedish promoter who heard we would be in Spain asked us to do a Scandinavian tour in conjunction with our Spanish tour. We played more shows in that month than we played in the previous 10 years. We were also very encouraged by the larger audiences on our second trip to Spain than the first. We have since been contacted by a larger booking agency to do a proper tour of Europe (maybe next Spring) and we are about to start our 3rd Spanish tour in 3 years.
VK: Can we look forward to any further new releases? A new album perhaps ?
AS: We recorded 2 new songs for a promotional single to be released for our Spanish tour in September. We feel it is the strongest material we have ever done. One of the songs will be featured with the band in a movie called ‘Final Rinse’. We expect to release them on an EP in America in the fall.
VK: Have you been doing any producing/recording with any other bands of late ?
AS: I just finished 2 bands popular in America. One is called the Figgs and the other is called Killer Kowalski. Before the Dictators tour Spain I will be recording a few aspiring Spanish bands in Madrid. The recording studios in Spain are not up to American standards so I will definitely be put to the test.
VK: You must have some special memories from the CBGB’s, Max’s, Coventry days. Does one particular moment stand out ?
AS: The first time I saw the Ramones at CBGB’s, Blondie was opening. There were maybe 15 people in the club. Blondie was horrible, there was no hint of the potential that turned them into one of the biggest bands in the world. The Ramones on the other hand were earth shattering. They played 10 songs in maybe 15 minutes. At the time, it seemed more like a performance art piece than a rock and roll band because every other band on the planet was lost in the Spinal Tap world of 15 minute drum solo’s, smoke bomb’s, and rock opera’s.
VK: To many, ‘Master Race Rock’ stands up next to ‘Search And Destroy’ or ‘Kick Out The Jams’ and is THE Dictators signature anthem – would you agree?
AS: It’s great to be compared to those classic’s. However, I’d like to think our new single ‘Who Will Save Rock And Roll?’ is the Dictators signature anthem, but time will tell.
VK: Can you name a favourite Dictators tune and why ?
AS: It’s always the newest song……..‘Who Will Save Rock And Roll ?’
VK: ‘Minnesota Strip’ is the VK crew’s personal favourite – a killer track. Any meaning behind it ?
AS: Fans of the movie ‘Taxi Driver’ know that in the 1970’s Times Square was a dangerous neighbourhood, (not the theme park it is today). At the time, the police were surprised to discover that a lot of the young white hookers working 8th Avenue near the Port Authority Bus Terminal were from the mid-western state of Minnesota. So they started calling that area of 8th Avenue the Minnesota strip (I just knew a good song title when I heard it). The cops theorised that there was a pipeline of pimps in Minnesota sending innocent runaways to predatory pimps in New York City, hence the line “They got a pipeline to the city”. I also mention the Burger and Brew which used to be on the corner of 42nd Street and 8th Ave, and the Terminal Bar which was a bar so scary and intimidating I never had the guts to walk in.
VK: A large portion of The 80’s saw Ross The Boss in Manowar and Mark Mendoza join Twisted Sister, a time when we heard very little about Andy Shernoff. Was this time period spent writing and producing, and working with other bands ?
AS: The music business goes in cycles. In the 90’s you hear very little about Manowar and Twisted Sister. But to answer your question I started developing the skills that allows me to produce records today.
VK: 1990 saw you re-emerge under the ‘Wild Kingdom’ banner, who subsequently released the very underrated Manitoba’s Wild Kingdom ‘…And you?’ LP. This album had the right ingredients to be a worldwide smash, and contains some of the heaviest songs you have written. Were you disappointed by the overall lack of response it received ? Perhaps some critics deemed it too heavy to be accepted ?
AS: I don’t think that record was ever released in Australia, but in America and Canada the song ‘The Party Starts Now !!’ did get a lot of response on radio and MTV. It was actually a radio hit in some areas of the country. As a result of heavy radio play, the record company got excited and gave us more money to make a video than we actually spent on the record !! At that time, MTV had a show every afternoon where viewer’s called in to vote for their favourite videos. ‘The Party Starts Now !!’ was voted into the top ten numerous times. The one problem was that the band never toured.
VK: ‘The Party Starts Now !!’ was also included in the Schwarzenegger flick ‘Kindergarten Cop’. How did that come about ?
AS: I had a publishing deal at that time and the song just happened to fit the scene so the publisher brought it to the attention of the movie producers.
VK: What is Mark Mendoza doing with himself these days ?
AS: Mark has been producing heavy metal bands.
VK: What did you think of the ‘Dictators Forever, Forever Dictators’ Tribute album released last year on the Spanish Roto label ? Spain would have to have one of the best scenes around today.
AS: Flattered……and Spain is a very cool scene.
VK: Did you ever hear the Screaming Tribesmen’s take of ‘Stay With Me’ off their 1989 EP ‘Take Cover’ ? Medew and Co. did it justice.
AS: That was great ! I saw them in NYC when they toured America and got to meet the great Chris Masuak.
VK: What excites you musically these days ? Who have you been listening to ?
AS: I hate to sound cynical, but I think the rock and roll era is over. Everything that can be done with three chords has been done. Very few new bands excite me. What do I listen to ? The Beatles….they did it all first, so everything else pales in comparison.
VK: What was the first concert you attended ?
AS: The Who at the Fillmore East.
VK: Name your five ‘desert island discs’ ?
AS: This week’s answer is;
The Beach Boys – ‘Today’, The Beatles – ‘Revolver’, Rolling Stones – ‘Exile on Main Street’, The Who – ‘Sell Out’, Bob Dylan – ‘Oh Mercy !’
VK: I remember a few years back Johnny Kannis stating that Wild Kingdom would tour Australia – can we expect a visit by the Dictators down under soon ?
AS: Maybe after we get our new EP out.
VK: A message for the Vicious Kitten readers/Dictators fans out there…..
AS: Cars, girls, surfing, beer, nothing else matters here !
(Archive Source: Vicious Kitten Fanzine Issue 6: August 1997)