Interview by DJ Johnson
Patrick Goodwin has been in the spotlight for a long time with the indie punk powerhouse, Pansy Division, where he is known as Patrock. That band has been pretty quiet for a long time, so Patrick hooked up with guitarist Steve Perrone, bassist Nick Ulman and drummer Jeff Potts and decided to do something a little different. They did. Dirty Power isn't punk, it isn't metal, it isn't a lot of things. It IS power. It IS reminiscent of the kind of power that used to blow speakers in the early 70s. It brings to mind keggers and bong hits and strobe lights and the need for the even bigger speakers the music deserves. Every track on the Dirty Power debut is a song, not just a "track." All killer, no filler, as the saying goes. You can pick any bunch of songs, like "LSD," "Symptom Of The Unitard," "Hey Superman," and "Dirty Power," play them for a friend and convince him that this is a band he must have missed from the 70s.
"What?! You never heard Dirty Power?! Fuck, man, I used to have Dirty Power LUNCH pails in '73, whattaya talkin' about, you never heard of Dirty Power!!?" Go on, try it. It's fun!
How good are they? Well, for starters, the CD was just released in March and already they've been written about in glowing terms in countless newspapers and magazines. They've even been featured in Billboard Magazine. Before we, the public, even knew they existed, they'd already had a pretty interesting time together. Now that the CD is out, things are moving much faster for this band on the brink of success.
Cosmik: I keep listening to try to figure out exactly what it is that makes Dirty Power so addictive. It's not just me, though. It's some pretty basic down to the point hard rock, but a lot of people are beyond hooked. So tell me, what do YOU think is going on here?
Patrick: I don't know, we're less interested in just the style. I think a lot of bands feel that they set themselves up in a style and they have to keep to that style, and so the songs actually fall by the wayside. I write choruses. I like to write choruses, I like to sing choruses, and I usually think of hooks when I'm writing a song. What comes first is writing a good song, and then comes interpretation of what we've written. We definitely like the big, loud, distorted rock guitar sound, and I like pretty much yelling my vocals. I still try to write a decent song with what we do. I guess a lot of bands now that are in our genre aren't really writing songs, they're just sticking to their style, and it's usually just riff upon riff upon riff upon riff, but there's nothing that really grabs you by the balls and makes you want to sing it. I guess that might be the reason people get into our music.
Cosmik: Yeah, I can see that. They're complete songs. A lot of other bands, it just sounds like muscle flexing.
Patrick: I mean, even Motorhead was a pop band, really. Verse, chorus, verse, chorus... You know, they're very structured, and I guess we do the same thing.
Cosmik: I was listening to it and trying to break it down, which is one of our problems, we critics, we spend too much time trying to figure these things out, but I guess that's our job. But I was thinking that if anyone else recorded the same stuff it'd probably be like "oh hey, cool retro band," but when you guys play it it's more like... it feels like it's FROM the early 70s, not like it's being derivative of the early 70s sounds. It sounds like...
Patrick: It should have been released at the same time.
Cosmik: Exactly. Does it feel like that to you, as opposed to "let's play some old sounding stuff"?
Patrick: You know, I don't know if it necessarily sounds like that to me, but I would say the bulk of my musical influences, and ALL of our musical influences, pretty much come from that era, so we're all huge into Sabbath, AC/DC, Thin Lizzy, Kiss and all the other stuff people think they hear in the record, we're really big into. We didn't necessarily set out to emulate all that stuff, but that's been a big blueprint for what we do. I guess the sound came out that way because of what we listen to, and Jack Endino as well, he's really into the same exact stuff that we were going for. I think all together, without thinking about it, we came up with this record that sounds exactly like the stuff we want to hear from our record collection.
Cosmik: I read somewhere that you weren't going for any particular sound when you got together, but I have trouble with that. I've never heard of players of your caliber getting together to form a band and not having some kind of an idea of what you wanted to do.
Patrick: It's actually true. I had two songs written just from writing stuff over the years, and me and Jeff and Steve were this surf band for a while, which was mostly Steve's band, called Planet 7. Jet was always bugging him and saying "I want to do something heavier." I was wanting to do something different as well, because I've always been into the big rock thing. We really didn't know how it was going to turn out in the end, whether it was going to be super, super heavy or have hooks or... You know, we really didn't know what we were going to end up doing. We just started playing stuff together and I started writing songs and honestly never thought about who we were going to try to emulate, or what kind of a sound we wanted to make out of what we were doing. I just started writing songs, and the distortion just kept getting louder and so that's how it ended up.
Cosmik: Once you realized what the music sounded like, did you start to adapt toward it? Embrace it a bit and maybe take on a 70s frame of mind at times?
Patrick: Yeah, I guess we did, once a few songs started to take shape, we thought "Let's try to work out a few of the Thin Lizzy-type guitar things, and see if we can nail the 4/4 AC/DC stuff," you know. It's just that you come up with an idea and it has that kind of vibe to it, so we would run with it, but at first it wasn't like we set out to intentionally do that. We just started fucking around with things and then it'd be like "This kind of reminds me of... So let's keep it there, because it'll sound better. Let's not fuck it up." [Laughs.]
Cosmik: You recorded the CD in Seattle with Jack Endino. What brought you to that choice?
Patrick: The guy who was involved in putting our record out in the first place, a guy named Sluggo down in San Francisco, I've been friends with him for a long time, and he came to the first couple of Dirty Power shows and he was thinking "Wow, these guys are getting better and better and better," so he said "I want to put out your record," and we said okay. He said he wanted us to record it with Jack Endino, because he's been friends with Jack for quite a long time. We were like "Oooh, well, okay." We weren't sure how we could do that because we were thinking of money, and that would cost a lot of money. But he was very adamant about us working with Jack, and we wanted to, but we were afraid of spending all the money. We were just a little timid about it. But we finally said yes, and he was going to put out the record, so he funded it and we came up to Seattle and recorded it with Jack. I guess Sluggo had played Jack the demo that we did, and Jack really loved it, and once we started working with him it was perfect because he knew exactly what to do. When we got to the studio he wasn't there yet, and I'd met him before... not for any length of time, but I'd met him. But once we got in the studio, he got there about 20 minutes later and he was like "Set that up, move that over there," and it was like business for a day and a half. We didn't know exactly who he was as a person. It was just get in and get out, he was just determined. No time for anything funny. We didn't get to know him as a person until a day and a half later or so. He was really into it by the end of it. He really dug the record. He worked really hard, even though we had such a short period of time to do it.
Cosmik: How short?
Patrick: I think altogether, recording and mixing, it was just under eight days or something like that. And it was in two sections. Initially it was five days, but I got sick during it and I couldn't sing, so I came back up to do vocals and then we mixed the album.
Cosmik: Well, the album's just barely out of the gate and you're already getting all kinds of attention. I read that this was going to be a fun project band for a while during a Pansy Division hiatus. Pardon me if I've missed any memos, but is that still the thing?
Patrick: Uh... No. This is definitely taking over most of my life at the moment. I don't know what the future of my status in Pansy Division is going to be. We're about to release a new record in August, and I'm going to tour with them. It's all going to revolve around how much more involved I get with Dirty Power. It did start out as something to do while Pansy Division wasn't doing anything, but Pansy Division not doing anything turned into almost three years. Over that period of time, this became my main focus, and that's not changed at all, so this is mostly my deal. I write the majority of the songs and I take a big responsibility for it, so I need to follow through.
Cosmik: Pansy Division's also been around so long that it's probably as well known as it's ever going to be. Very well known on the indie level.
Patrick: Probably gone as far as it's going to go, you'd think. At least I think so.
Cosmik: Everyone on the indie level knows who Pansy Division is. All the people who know where the indie record shops are and where the shows are. But it feels like Dirty Power is on the verge of busting out.
Patrick: People keep telling us that. We're not sure what's going to happen, and right now we're actually... I don't know if you know this, but we're not officially affiliated with Dead Teenager anymore, even though the album only came out a month ago.
Cosmik: What's the situation there?
Patrick: There were a couple things involved, but we basically decided it wasn't the best place for us to be, so we took the album and we're going to go elsewhere with it. There are albums still out there in the stores right now, but it's going to get a re-release pretty soon.
Cosmik: So reading just barely between the lines, you're looking for a major label to shop it to?
Patrick: No, not necessarily, we're just looking for somebody who wants to get behind it, basically.
Cosmik: You didn't feel that Dead Teenager was behind it?
Patrick: Well... a third of Dead Teenager was really behind it, but it was just a situation we needed to get out of. I really don't want to talk about it very much because I don't want to... I'm in fear of talkin' shit, basically. [Laughs.]
Cosmik: Okay, we'll let that one go for now. Obviously you're seeing a different crowd, for the most part, than you're used to seeing with Pansy Division.
Patrick: The people who come to Pansy Division shows are looking for something completely different from what Dirty Power is going to deliver.
Cosmik: It seems to me that, from what you see in heavy metal chat areas on the Net, they are, by nature, a rather homophobic and hostile crowd. I don't know if I'd want to subject Pansy Division to a crowd that would be at a Dirty Power show.
Patrick: Oh, we've been in those situations several times, with Pansy Division. Opening for The Vandals was just as bad, with an entire theater full of kids screaming the word "FAG!" over and over again and raining us with quarters and anything they could find. I've been in several situations where the audience was waiting to lynch us, but the funny thing is as soon as you go out in the crowd they don't even acknowledge you. It's like they have safety in numbers when you're on stage and they can do anything they want to you WHILE you're on stage, but once you're walking out in the middle of them, they're dead silent.
Cosmik: They're thinking "This person could throw a left hook." By the way, I don't want you to get the impression I was suggesting you're derivative of Sabbath earlier. The only Sabbath connection is that you're heavy, there's depth and it's still melodic, but if you'd been around in 1972, I would have been buying your records and not just Sabbath's. With that bit of connection I'm sure a lot of people feel, do you sometimes have to check yourselves in order to stay out of familiar territory and keep it your own?
Patrick: There's only been a couple times when it's been like "God, that riff sounds almost exactly like War Pigs," or something, but when that happens we just say "Nnnnaw, let's not finish this one." For the most part, if it's something that takes on a similar sound, not necessarily where a riff is copying something, but if it comes up with a particular kind of vibe, then fine. I hate to use the word "Vibe," but [Laughs]
Cosmik: It's the word that works sometimes.
Patrick: Yeah. It's like the Black Crowes. Their first single sounded exactly like "Tumbling Dice," by The Rolling Stones, but it was still a damned good song. So if it's something like that, I'm in favor of going with it as long as it's not complete and utter plagiarism. If it captures a moment, I'm usually in favor of running with it. I don't think it's a sin or any kind of blasphemy to do stuff like that, so I'm more in favor of running with it than pulling back and saying "We can't do that, it sounds too much like..."
Cosmik: Well, if you did it on this album, it must be bands I'm not aware of, because it's mostly just vibe. Yeah, I DO use the word "Vibe," and I don't apologize for it because I think it's the only word that really works a lot of the time.
Patrick: Sometimes it is. It's like "Huh... What does the thesaurus say about "Vibe"?
Cosmik: "See 'Vibe,'" probably. Hey, what was the Independent Music World Series, exactly?
Patrick: Oh, DiscMakers, which is a CD manufacturing company, they do this thing every year that's called the IMWS. You enter your CD and they listen to it, they pick the finalists, and they send the finalists to Billboard Magazine, and Billboard's people go "Oh, this is good, this is good and this is good," and they put six bands together to do a showcase in front of judges. It's basically a battle of the bands thing. The funniest part about it was that Sluggo entered us in it. We played it in February and he entered us in it five months before that, and we had no idea. He did it completely over our heads, and even HE had almost completely forgotten about it until we got this phone call one day saying "Hey, this is so and so from the Independent Music World Series, and we need you to showcase in Los Angeles, and" blah blah blah blah blah, and we were like "WHAT?! What the hell is this?! What are you talking about?" So Sluggo called me, and I called everybody else, and we're like "Uh, hmm, okay sure!" So we went down there and it was just totally silly, because everybody was just schmoozing up a storm and doing their best to impress the judges. We just went up there and played 15 minutes and won it. We almost didn't care at all because it seemed so cheesy, but it was pretty funny.
Cosmik: Were the other bands in your genre?
Patrick: No, not at all. There was some rapper named Nitwit, and a folksinger, and some guy who sounded like Beck, a Salsa band... It was really incredibly eclectic.
Cosmik: And here comes this heavy duty rock band that plugs in and shakes the rafters for 15 minutes, and you win it. That's one for the books. And it was $35,000 worth of stuff? Is that true?
Patrick: Yeah, we just got a crazy amount of gear. It was like this 24 track hard disc recorder and a whole bunch of microphones, and Fender instruments and all this stuff. And all from this thing we didn't really enter, at least not ourselves.
Cosmik: So $35,000 dollars for 15 minutes of work. I have a calculator here. You were making $2,333 dollars per minute. How bout that?
Patrick: Yeah! And all we could think about was all these other bands going home saying "Some shitty metal band took [our prize]." [Laughs.] Complaining about us. "GOD! I can't believe it!!! That was HORRIBLE!!!"
Cosmik: The folk guy thinking "Those judges wouldn't know depth if it bit them on the ass."
Patrick: Oh yeah, exactly.
Cosmik: That's pretty great, but it's gonna completely screw your income tax. Now that you've got all this equipment, what do you do with it? You don't need the recording equipment.
Patrick: We're selling most of it, and we just bought a van. We needed to invest in a van, so it was perfect timing.
Cosmik: Not the usual metal box everybody else tours in. You have a comfortable van to tour in now.
Patrick: Exactly. That's what we did. It's a really comfortable van. We'd been riding around in Pansy Division's van for a long time, and it's got this wooden bench seat in it, with a loft bed, and if you're sitting in the back of it, it's super uncomfortable. But if you're up in the loft bed, it's a total death trap. [Laughs.] You're just waiting to topple over or go flying through a window or something like that! It freaks me out to even try to sleep up there so I don't. But the van we've got now is really nice, so we're stoked.
Cosmik: Well congratulations. How weird is that? Pennies from Heaven, you know?
Patrick: Yeah! We didn't think anything of it at first. It's so weird now.
Cosmik: A lot of bands spend ages writing the first album, then they have a short time to do the second and they can't deliver. You said you only had a couple songs going in, though.
Is that right?
Patrick: I had the song "Drag You Down." It's something I wrote almost 8 or 9 years ago. That was the first song that was there. Nothing else had been written, so I just started coming up with riffs, and me and Jeff would start screwing around with things. It took us quite a while to come up with a full set of material. Also, during that time when we first started the band, I got chicken pox really bad. That was another wedge in trying to come up with stuff, was that I got so sick that I couldn't do anything. It was a good solid year before we played our first show, so it took us that long to come up with a full set of songs.
Cosmik: Have you had time to come up with more since then?
Patrick: Yeah, we're trying to focus on working this record until we shouldn't anymore. We've got one new song in the set, but the thing I hate is when a band goes up there, and they've just come out with a record, but they've been writing more songs and they want to play those instead, so you go to the show expecting to hear the songs from the album you just bought, and you never hear half of them. I hate when bands play a set that's half brand new, unrecorded songs when they've just put out a record. So I'm trying to avoid doing that as much as possible. We do have songs in the wings waiting for the time to come to record the next record, actually, so I think we're prepared enough, and we'll have enough time to put it all together.
Cosmik: I guess the timetable for the next one would be up in the air anyway, since you're looking for a new label.
Patrick: Yeah, we want to get this one re-released, hopefully by August. We have the masters, we have the artwork, we have everything. We just need someone to re-press it and distribute it, which wouldn't be a big deal. Then we want to do a full U.S. tour and a European tour, and I would say we'll be getting into the next record... hopefully by spring of next year.
Cosmik: It completely changes things when you're looking to start re-start.
Patrick: Exactly. It's happened with plenty of bands. I think it needs a proper start.
Cosmik: Well, the way that we're running your reviews, some people may think this is your fourth or fifth album anyway.
Patrick: [Laughs.] Really?!
Cosmik: Yeah, because we keep running reviews of the thing. Well, what can we do? Our writers kept turning in reviews without knowing about the other reviews, so we had this stack of Dirty Power reviews. So hell... screw it! Run one a month. [Laughs.]
Patrick: Yeah, "How many albums are they gonna put out with the same cover?"
Cosmik: "Is THAT what they look like? Damn!" They'll think that's someone in the band's ugly mug in all those magazines. Did you ever think when you started this thing you'd be written up in dozens of magazines, including Billboard, before the CD had barely hit the racks?
Patrick: Not at all. I thought people would think we were a total joke, actually. We're not punk rock enough and we're not metal enough, so we're just teetering on either side of that fine line. We're not a stoner rock band, we don't sound like Scandinavian metal or rock. We don't totally do the whole Back Yard Babies/Glucifer/Helacopters thing, so people don't know how to classify us, because we don't run that one genre that everyone's familiar with. A lot of the stoner rock bands sound the same. Anything that's on Lookout will sound somewhat similar. So people don't know what to do with us half the time, it seems like. I thought we'd run into a lot more people saying "I don't know about this record," or even when we started doing shows, I didn't know how to book us. I didn't know what bands we should play with or who I should go to to get a show. A lot of the people I know are in the punk rock scene. We were a little timid, coming out, because we didn't know how people would react.
Cosmik: Now we know. At least so far, all things are going better than you ever imagined. It was quite a risk, as a player, I think. Do you have any words for your fans who are also musicians, because we have a lot of 'em in our readership.
Patrick: I don't have any words of advice at all, because it's all circumstance and luck and chance. Well... I would say listen to songs. Stop listening to styles. That's my main thing. Everything I hear on the radio is just so bent up in the style of what they're doing that the actual song falls apart. People are doing the riff stew kind of thing, which is to say that they're really into showing off their prowess, and they say "Oh, I can do something with this song that can make it..." something that isn't really about the song. People are trying to be smarter than they actually are, and I think it's backfiring on a lot of them. I wish people would stop using Pro Tools in an evil way. [Ed.Note: Pro Tools is a software package for recording studio use that can do many good things, but it can also make an drunken, off key singer sound like Sarah Vaughan.] The reverse beat is going to be like having gated drums. There's going to be so many things that came out from 1999 to 2003 with people using Auto-Tune on the vocals, and people are going to be able to go "Oh, that sounds so year 2000." It's going to be like listening to big, dumb, gated drums from 1986 on every rock record. People are going to fall into that trap. I can spot 'em a million miles away now and hear that Auto-Tune thing, and it drives me nuts. Those are my two things I'd advise. Don't abuse Pro Tools and when it comes to songs, just play! Forget worrying about style, worry about the song. People are just way too conscious, I guess, of what they're doing. So my best advice for you musicians is to BE COMPLETELY UNCONSCIOUS!