As the Summer festival season approaches, and the dates for Hits & Pits 2.0 begin to loom for Australian audiences, we sat down with Bad Astronaut bassist, Marko DeSantis to chat about Black Flag, childhood music and preparing the band for the future.
By Katie Nagy
Are you excited about playing Hits And Pits 2.0?
Hell yeah, on so many levels. For starters we get the honor of sharing a stage with such legendary modern music innovators as Black Flag! Also, it’s rare that we ever play as a band, it’s only our 3rd time touring ever (we originally conceived this band as a studio-only project and planned on never playing live!) so we’re just thrilled to set up our gear and play music for people; we are practically blood brothers with Kris Roe & the Ataris, so it will be nice to reconnect, and we can all agree that we love Australia!
How did the band get started?
Joey (singer), Derrick (original drummer) & I had all grown up in a small town (Santa Barbara, CA) playing in various bands together & found ourselves all in separate bands that had achieved professional success & had busy schedules. The three of us missed jamming just for the hell of it. So in early 2000, we started meeting up as a trio and making up some weird songs that
didn’t really fit for our other bands (Lagwagon, Sugarcult, etc). We eventually recorded at a local recording studio owned and operated by Angus Cooke (cello) and Thom Flowers (guitar), which resulted in our first record (Acrophobe) at which point the band expanded to include Thom, Angus and keyboardist Todd Capps; all guys we grew up with from our local music scene. We made more songs when we had breaks in our schedules, we’d gather and record more, eventually that turned into a string of 3 full length records and one split-EP.
What were your early musical influences and have they changed throughout the years?
I’ve always loved lots of genres, I identify myself as a rock n roller, but I also love reggae, vintage soul, electronic dance music, some hip hop, etc. My evolution started with Cheap Trick, Kiss, AC/DC, Devo, Stray Cats & the Police, then getting into Iron Maiden, Motley Crue, Ratt, Ozzy, Metallica; then got into punk Descendents, Black Flag, DRI, Misfits, GBH, Ramones, The Clash,
etc. Then grew to appreciate classic rock like The Stones, Led Zep, Aerosmith, etc also loved early Guns & Roses, Hanoi Rocks, The Cult, early Janes Addiction, etc; In the 90’s I got into The Pixies, The Replacements, Sonic Youth, etc and all the bands they spawned such as Jawbreaker, Nirvana, Wilco, Green Day, The Posies, Elliott Smith, Weezer, Jimmy Eat World, Built to Spill; also eventually the 2000’s rolled along and there’s just too much to list. I love music.
Describe the moment you first knew you wanted to play music as a profession?
Rock bands were my superheroes as a kid; I spent my youth hanging out in record stores, going to shows, reading rock magazines, and teaching myself to play music. Once I started playing in my own bands, I knew I had found a way to live in my authenticity and do what I loved.
How has your music changed over the years?
It’s become more eclectic, more confident, and less out of tune and out of time!
What are the best and worst things about touring?
Best – getting to travel, play many shows, explore different cultures, meet interesting people & have new experiences on a regular basis.
Worst – missing out on things at home (especially hard since we are all dads!) Also there tends to be a lot of “hurry-up-and…wait” situations.
You’ve said that your last album which was released in 2006, Twelve Small Steps, One Giant Disappointment, is the last album the band will ever make – is this still the case or do you think at some point you could find a reason to go back into the studio?
Well, I believe it was John Lennon that said, “Life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans.” After Derrick died and we finished the last album, we figured the band was over for good. Then one day in 2010, Joey & I were talking and brought up the idea of doing some shows, since the band had never tried playing live. We did it, it was fun and people liked it. Then we did it again a year later, now here we are coming to Australia to do it again! We have certainly talked about doing another record, I would love to record with this band again & it’s not out of the question, it’s just that we are all so busy with our lives and other projects that I’m not sure when we’ll find the time!
How have the band dynamics changed over the years?
When Derrick died, that was a real low point for us, but we’ve all grieved and moved on. You have to. Now we are back to our usual ways of alternating between maniacal laughter, music geek diatribes, playing music and having nervous breakdowns, arguing, then laughing some more.
How do you think the music scene has changed since you first started and do you think these changes are a good or bad thing for bands such as yours?
We designed this band to be something unusual, eclectic and atypical to begin with; I mean we have a legendary punk singer playing in a band with a fucking cello! The music scene seems to have grown in that direction naturally over time, fans are more accepting of weird things and multi-genre sounds, so we may have unwittingly been ahead of the times; then again, a broken clock is right twice a day!
What made you decide to begin playing shows again after the loss of Derrick?
When I would tour with Sugarcult and Joey with Lagwagon, we would both meet passionate Bad Astronaut fans all over the world; people who would rip their shirts off to show us tattoos of our logo and our little astronaut caricature. We started to feel like all these songs we made deserved to be shared and played live.
This is your first trip to Australia, is there anything you’re hoping to see or do while you’re here?
I was there once before with Sugarcult 5 years ago, and I loved it! I will be drinking flat-whites, hugging koalas, trawling record shops for rare The Saints and Radio Birdman vinyl, and jumping in the ocean as often as possible.
How has the fans reaction been to the changes the band has gone through and how appreciative are you of the support you have received from them?
I think our fans appreciate that we are willing to play live, even though we had originally said “no live shows”; it’s not likely that we’ll ever play the same city twice, so people usually make the effort to see us while they can.
Do you still enjoy playing music together despite the challenges the band has faced over the past years?
Of course, why else would we do this? It’s a labor of love, the pay is low to nothing, especially split between the six of us!
What can the Aussie fans expect from your up coming shows?
A few songs from each record, and all original members (except Derrick, who will be replaced by the great Erik Herzog; another amazing drummer from our local scene.)
Where do you see the band future heading and are there any specific goals that you have for the band that you have yet to achieve?
I’d love to make a live album; also an all new album; also score a movie!
Many thanks to Marko for taking the time to chat to us. Bad Astronaut will perform in Australia as part of the Hits & Pits 2.0 Festival. For more information and ticketing, go to: http://www.hitsandpitsfest.bigcartel.com/