Kevn Talks To Stomp and Stammer's Jeff Clark...

Ain’t Waitin’ on Tomorrow
Kevn Kinney Shares His Thoughts on a Rejuvenated Drivin’ n’ Cryin’

by Jeff Clark for Stomp and Stammer

November 12, 2012

During the second half of the 1980s, I’d go see nearly every local show they played. Scarred But Smarter remains one of my favorite albums by an Atlanta band. Even through the mid-90s, after they’d evolved into a more standard-issue rock bandamid some major label ups and downs, they retained my respect.

But after that, I just kinda lost interest. By the turn of the century, it seemed to me that Drivin’ n’ Cryin’ were just treading water, going through the motions, shifting lineups, recording no new music, resigned to playing chili cook-offs and street fairs for inattentive crowds that only really cared about pumping their fists to “Fly Me Courageous” and “Straight to Hell” one more time. It seemed to me that they were trudging down the same path as, say, the latter-day Atlanta Rhythm Section or Georgia Satellites, once strong Atlanta bands now stripped of key members and inspiration, simply carrying on because it pays the bills and they don’t know what else to do.

Then I’d listen to the solo albums Kevn Kinney – who by then had moved to New York City – was releasing during that period, reminding me what a truly gifted songwriter he continues to be, and I’d be baffled as to why he was even keeping the Drivin’ n’ Cryin’ warhorse running, other than income – around the south, at least, the group could still draw throngs of the old faithful.

In 2009 Drivin’ n’ Cryin’ released The Great American Bubble Factory, their first full album in 12 years. A somewhat thematic, Springsteenesque song cycle about blue-collar struggles in the withering economy, it never really gelled for me but it was reassuring to see the band trying again.

Today, three years later, against all expectations, I find myself more psyched about Drivin’ n’ Cryin’ than I’ve been in probably two decades. They’re on a roll right now, recording and releasing a series of stylistically coherent EPs in rapid succession that are some of the best things they’ve ever done. The first, Songs From the Laundromat, mixes bluesy rock with a heartfelt R.E.M. tribute and a cover of a terrific song by emerging Dutch songwriter Tim Knol. The second, Songs About Cars, Space and The Ramones, is even better, six compact jolts of spirited power-pop and reckless punk, including songs originally by Kinney’s pre-DNC Milwaukee band, The Prosecutors. Due in January, Songs From the Psychedelic Time Clockis informed by the folk-rock and garage bands of the ’60s. At least one more EP is in the pipeline a few months after that.

Kinney himself seems genuinely re-energized about the band, too. While in Atlanta recently recording Psychedelic Time Clock amid regional gigs, he stopped by my place for a lengthy Sunday afternoon back porch conversation about all sorts of stuff…

Listening to you talk about your schedule lately, it’s dizzying. Is it always like this – flying back and forth from New York for shows all the time?

“Yeah, it is always like this. Now they have AirTran flying straight to LaGuardia. So it’s not that bad. LaGuardia’s only 15 minutes from my house, so… I just resigned myself to the fact that I have to do it. You know, I gotta take everything that comes. I rarely say no to anything.”

I’ve noticed!

(laughs) Now I’m just trying to move everything in a better direction. We’ve got a new booking agent – we’re with William Morris now, we got away from the other people we were with for years and years. We’re finally getting better gigs and things like that. And then, working on the Anton [Fier] record [Kinney’s recent album with Fier’s group the Golden Palominos, A Good Country Mile], that was a lot of work – rehearsing every Tuesday, doing a show every Monday, recording on the weekends or whenever we could sneak in, whenever we could get into a studio. It took two years to make it. And that parlayed into the Drivin’ n’ Cryin’ thing [Bubble Factory], and Anton came and produced that, and so, um, you know, I just feel like I’m runnin’ out of time. You know what I mean? I have to get some shit going before I have a stroke, you know! (laughs) It’s definitely comin’, man!”

He says as he smokes a cigarette. So, what does Drivin’ n’ Cryin’ mean to you at this point in your life? I’m sure it doesn’t mean the same as it meant in the early years...

“Well, it’s a lot closer to what it was in the early years, these last couple years. ’Cause with the EP idea, it’s a lot more… um… I’m having more fun with controlling the content of what’s happening. And just having fun as a band. When you start a band, you know, you want it to be fun. You wanna make posters, and just seeing the poster – like, ‘I saw your poster!’ And that’s cool, right? And then you see your name in the Loafing, and all your friends save it for you. ‘I was reading the Loafing and they loved you!’ Whatever, it’s all the little things that got you excited. And pretty much, it kinda wears off a little bit. And then your ego takes over, and then you got tons of people chiming in your ear and all that.”

It looks like you’ve lost some weight.

“I have. Six months ago I decided to push myself as far as getting fit, getting healthier. Like, I was up to 270 pounds. Last Fat Tuesday, me and my friend Scott, I was like, ‘Dude, this is fucking ridiculous! I can’t do this!’ I’m on this diet, and I have a trainer, this guy in Atlanta. When I was in high school I was 300 pounds. And then I became a Prosecutor, the punk rock era, did a lot of speed, and went down to 140, 130, something like that. Lost a hundred and some pounds.”

You don’t necessarily want to go on an amphetamine diet now!

“No, this is 100 percent organic natural diet, outside of the cigarettes and the coffee. I’m also working out, I’m doing a lot more walking, and loading. I’m gonna wait ‘til next Fat Tuesday and then I’m gonna weigh myself again and see what happens. I can’t quite fit into a large Converse shirt yet, but I can actually get into the extra large, so that was an accomplishment for me. I mean, I was just in the XXL racks at Walmart, and I was like, ‘This is ridiculous!’ And it was part of the showbiz thing, you know. I was looking at photos of the band, and there’s me, and I’m like, this has got to be a little bit disappointing for anyone who hasn’t seen Drivin’ n’ Cryin’ in a while. I mean, it’s showbiz. As much as we’re trying to pretend that this is art and shit, part of it’s people remembering who you were, and being excited about who you are, and if you look like you’ve given up, they have to filter that while they’re watching you, and I see a lot of sadness and confusion sometimes when I walk out there. It’s not all as honest as it is in Holland where, like, I’ll get off stage in Holland and they go, ‘Kevn, I must tell you very much that your show tonight was fantastic. Perhaps though maybe you should do some sit-ups.’(laughs) This guy said that to me after a show! ‘Perhaps maybe you should do some sit-ups.’(laughs) Right on, brother. I totally get you, man.”

You obviously seem significantly reinvigorated now.

“Well, we got this new guitar player, and when we got him… I mean, this has really all been happening in the last seven or eight months. You know, I was overweight, and the band was just…loud. I wanted to go back to the trio formula. But what happened was, the first day we did it as a three-piece, Tim [Nielsen, DNC bass guitarist] brought his friend Sadler [Vaden], he drove him up from Charleston, ’cause Tim moved to Charleston. So [Sadler] sat in with us at the end of the night, and then in the morning we were all having breakfast, and after the breakfast I was like, ‘Hey, we’re on our way to New York…you wanna join the band?’ (laughs)‘Cause his band had just broken up, ’cause he was moving to Nashville. His band used to open for us – they’re called Leslie. And he was like, ‘Man, I don’t have any clothes.’ I said, ‘We’ll go to Walmart and get you some underwear, and my wife works at G Star, she’ll get you a shirt when we get to New York…’ So he was like, ‘Alright! Let’s go!’ And that’s when I started feeling like…I mean, this kid is really nice, he’s really energetic, and he’s excited about doing it, he’s excited about music, and I’m just in love with him. I just think he’s fantastic. And between him and [drummer] Dave Johnson, you know, they always have a great attitude. They don’t struggle with the demons that me and Tim have. Me and Tim, you know, we’ve been siting next to each other for 27 years. It’s nice to have some sort of distraction!”

There was quite a break from recording, for Drivin’ n’ Cryin’, prior to The Great American Bubble Factory. You focused more on solo albums, and your Sun Tangled Angel Revival project.

“I didn’t know what else to do with Drivin’ n’ Cryin’. We were still doing some shows, but I lost my voice for two or three years. I had a cyst on my larynx. So it prevented me from speaking. So I couldn’t do interviews, and I kinda dropped out of the circuit. I couldn’t talk, I couldn’t do radio, couldn’t make a record. In between Sun Tangled Angel Revival, I think, and Bubble Factory. I like Bubble Factory – I liked it. I don’t listen to it, but I like it. It was great to finally get [former guitarist] Mac [Carter] on a record, because Mac had spent so many years with us, and worked really hard with us, and did a great job. And Dave’s been with us forever. It was a good, you know, mini rock opera of American… because that’s where I grew up. I mean, it’s true to form. I grew up in the land of things that used to be. I spent my entire childhood growing up having my father point to things that used to exist. The factory that used to exist, and the cool deli, and the cool shoe shop, and all that shit. It was all about the past in Milwaukee in the ‘70s. ‘Cause it was just like Newark. It was horrible – cold and closed. It was just closed. Empty shops everywhere. Downtown was totally empty. I used to roam around downtown Milwaukee and you could walk through what was the first shopping mall in America or something like that, this indoor thing. Now it’s pristine, but it used to be bums. So that record kinda got that out of my system, like ‘Here’s the factory record.’ Anton really liked a lot of those [songs]. It was fun to have Anton working with us again. I figured I needed closure with him, as far as the Whisper Tames the Lion record [Drivin’ n’ Cryin’s second album, from 1988], ’cause he felt bad that that was kinda hijacked from us. The band is barely on it – it’s basically me and the Golden Palominos. Which is cool, but it was stressful.”

And it was the band’s first big major label album. What an introduction to the music industry, huh?

“Everything about it was wrong. Kim Buie [then an Island Records A&R rep] wanted us to use Anton, and we liked the Golden Palominos, but Peter Case…it was about that week that we figured out we were getting it, and he was like, ‘My wife just worked with [Fier] – you donot wanna work with him.’ And I was like, ‘Aw, I can handle anything.’ And then it was like, ‘Holy fuck!!’ I’d just had a baby, and I’m up in New York, living in this apartment with the band. I’d worked at enough record stores and newspapers and stuff to know [there are] lots of bands that made one record. Luckily we got to do another one! Because that really should’ve been it, as much of an asshole as we were to Island Records. And we were grandfathered in. We didn’t really even get signed by Island. We got signed by Kim Buie, who was working with Capitol. And then she got fired by Capitol, or quit, but she said, ‘The next record company I get with, I’m gonna bring you with me.’ So she kinda made that part of her condition. So we weren’t really that welcome there. Until we made them some money eventually, you know. So we’d go to Island’s [office] in New York, it happened almost every time – ‘We’re here to see Lou Maglia’ or whoever. ‘Oh, we’re not signing bands right now.’ It’s like, ‘OK, but we’re [on the label]. ‘Alright, well, have a seat.’ (laughs) You know, they weren’t like, ‘Drivin’ n’ Cryin’s in the house!’ It was like, ‘And you are…?’ Just like that Saturday Night Live skit. (laughs) So it was always a humbling experience. The best thing about going to Island Records was so you could see Keith Richards’ wife walking the dog, ‘cause he lived in the same building there, 4th and Broadway or whatever.”

Now you’ve started your own label for these EPs, New! Records, putting them out yourself.

“Seven months, eight months ago, I just wanted to start my own little label, I wanna make these EPs. I wanna sell ‘em for five dollars at shows. I started with Songs From the Laundromat, ‘cause that’s the name of the fold-out in Scarred But Smarter. If you get the lyric sheet from the original Scarred But Smarter, it’s called ‘Songs from the Laundromat,’ and then all the lyrics are in there. So I was like, let’s go back and, you know, go in and do a session, and keep it simple. But I’m gonna plan all these out so… I have a list of songs on my door, of song titles that I either wanted to work on, or songs I forgot about, and every day, leaving my house in Brooklyn, it’s like, ‘OK,’ and I check off the ones that I did. I’m tryin’ to group ‘em together where they make a little sense. So I’m getting down there. I’m gonna start cleaning out the closet, I’m gonna start writing a lot, and keep it going, and do this EP thing where I’m constantly working. I hate to throw the word Beatles out there, because it’s become irrelevant to ever use The Beatles as a reference point. But those Beatles records, they didn’t spend six months on ‘Paperback Writer.’ If you look at those track sheets, it’s probably Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, mixed it on Friday, and then they would release it. They’d have the record out.”

Sure, and two to three albums a year in the early years. A lot of acts did that then, it was more the norm.

“It was also all part of their panic mode that they’d be forgotten, you know. If you don’t make a record in two years, they’re gonna totally forget you. I guess what I’m trying to say is, I decided that I wasn’t the kind of person that needed eight months to make a record. I don’t have anything that orchestrated in my head to do. I’m just really off the cuff. I like it raw and fast and fresh and done.”

Did you feel like Drivin’ n’ Cryin’ were in a sort of rut?

“I mean, we don’t ever do the same show twice, ‘cause we don’t do setlists, you know, but it’s got a formula, kinda, to it, where it’s gonna crescendo with this, [and] it has to end with ‘Straight to Hell’ or the bar owner gets mad. ‘Cause if we do it first, then people will leave. Now we’re trying to do different types of shows where we don’t have to do it. We’re evolving our way into where we can open with it, or it isn’t our chain... What I’d like to do next year is do more residency things. Like maybe do the EARL once a month for three months or something, where I kind of deconstruct us a little bit. You don’t get ‘Straight to Hell’ or ‘Fly Me Courageous’ in those bars. I’m never gonna play it in there. There’s no reason to. I think I did it on my birthday for Peter [Buck], but Peter loves it.”

If I were Peter, having to play ‘Losing My Religion’ at every show for God knows how many shows, I think I’d understand wanting a break from it.

“Well, I think when you have like a working class kind of background, and you have paid money to see bands…like if I go see Aerosmith tonight, and they don’t play anything but their new record, is that cool, or is that not cool? Well, I think it’s cool if they play the EARL and it’s seven dollars and they just do Booboo, or whatever that record was, Kissin’ Booboo? {Ed. note: Honkin’ on Bobo]. But if my girl wants to see ‘em and I’m payin’ $60, then I better hear some ‘Sweet Emotion,’ I ain’t lyin’ to ya. So I’m always torn between what’s cool and what’s not cool, and how much did they pay to get in. So, this is what I’ve been talking about, is to redo us – don’t do the show where we charge $20 to get in. The Tabernacle show we’re doing in December was booked before, and it’s gonna be great.”

You do that every year there.

“Yeah, that I have been trying to put the brakes on every year, those things. We did the Thanksgiving thing, that was every year, and I felt like fucking Tom Turkey! Everybody was like ‘Yeah, Drivin’ n’ Cryin’, that’s the Thanksgiving Atlanta band!’ I don’t wanna be that! Now I’m the Christmas guy! I don’t wanna be the Christmas guy either! For real? (laughs) So as these EPs come out, I’m gonna do more EP shows. Like, do the Star Bar and just do the EPs, and that’s it. And maybe ‘Scarred But Smarter’ or something. But I look at setlists from Whisper Tames the Lion shows, and we didn’t do ‘Scarred But Smarter,’ because I thought that was the sellout song. Everybody was screaming for it every night. ‘Scarred But Smarter!!!’ So I was like, ‘I’m not playin’ that, man… That’s why you paid to get in? Well,

fuck you, man…’ Now I look back and I’m like, ‘Why didn’t I play ‘Scarred But Smarter’ in 1987?’ It depends on where you’re playing and how much you charge. You can’t charge somebody $20 and they come all the way from Lilburn and it’s a big deal and then you don’t play ‘Straight to Hell’ – who’s kidding who? I took their money.”

I think a lot of your fans nowadays, Drivin’ n’ Cryin fans, are not necessarily the sort of people that go to the EARL or 529 or the Star Bar.

“Right. In Georgia.”

They still talk about how awesome 96 Rock used to be. They’re classic rock fans. They probably don’t even know that you’re doing these EPs now. But they know that Fly Me Courageous rocked, man.

“So it’s up to me to kinda stop that for a little while, maybe try to reinvent what I’m doing. It’s up to me to not take the money. And see, it’s not even that much money anymore! But it’s kind of a prestige thing. People like it when I do the Tabernacle, ‘cause it validates them in some way. It’s like, ‘You’re still viable, man!’ (laughs) But really, you’re not. But you are, because I think we’re a good show, I think it’s a really great show. This, of all years, is gonna be great. Shovels and Rope and Drivin’ n’ Cryin’, and that’s it. Not an oldies act. And the Drivin’ n’ Cryin’ with Sadler, I have a new energy onstage, and my vocals are a lot better, and we’re doing a lot of songs from the EPs.”

You also said you have trouble saying no to things. And it seems like Drivin’ n’ Cryin’ has become a band that’ll play anything, at least around here. A lot of them are like neighborhood festivals, or state fair kind of things. 

“Yeah. It’s just a trade-off from like 1987. There’s only one well that I can draw from to finance these EPs and finance what I wanna do. So I kinda have to, or I did have to…you know, they’re getting fewer and farther between. Our old booking agent was pretty much satisfied with that. And William Morris is not. So it’s changing. You know, we were the band that, when everybody else cancelled, they called us. (laughs) The Chili Cook-Off, you know. And so, ‘You wanna do the Chili Cook-Off? Seven grand!’ I’m like, ‘…Alright.’ But once we get our touring connection back going, we can do more things, and try to lay off playing those kind of things here, and do what I wanna do. I would rather do a series of shows in smaller venues. I wish there was a Cotton Club venue here still. Smith’s Olde Bar, the upstairs load-in, it’s just hurtful. (laughs) I don’t look forward to loading in at Smith’s Olde Bar. And I hate to say that, but it really does wig out my head, like, ‘Fuck, I can’t do those stairs, man.’ If it rains, you’re just screwed, man, it’s fuckin’ dangerous. But I mean, that Cotton Club venue, something that size. The EARL, when I did my residency at the EARL, it was like me and Dave, Rick Richards, Tom Gray, and we did three Sundays in a row, we might’ve done four, but I mean, we couldn’t get nine people in there! That’s when I came up with the formula: if you’re playing at 10, and you pull up at 9:30 and get a space right by the club, it’s probably not gonna be a good night! (laughs) And we made some great music! I’m making Rick Richards play minor keys and stuff, playing with Tom Gray, it was a really great show, but we didn’t have more than eleven people there, ’cause the EARL, people aren’t gonna be like, ‘Drivin’ n’ Cryin’s playin’ the EARL!’ The EARL [crowd] doesn’t give a shit. I mean, I don’t think they do.”

The younger crowd.

“They don’t get it. In Atlanta, I would like [them] to, but I can do that in every other city in America, I can do the cool bar, and have fun at it. I can’t really do it in Atlanta. (laughs) I’m not welcome here!”

I think the hometown hipster crowds are always most likely to shun the old hometown bands, too. It’s like moving out of your parents’ house for the first time. You want nothing to do with them. You want to be on your own. 

“I mean, I wrestle with the fact that I see firsthand all the alternative world that was created on the Nirvana side of the world. Everybody got like a kick up, you know, that was on the right side of the fence. We were not on the right side of the fence when that happened! (laughs) We were in the…whatever side of the fence. We were on the Poison side of the fence (laughs). I didn’t realize that.”

That was just because of Tim’s hair.

“Well, Buren [Fowler, onetime DNC guitarist] and Tim, yeah. But you know, I always thought of Drivin’ n’ Cryin’ as a fun thing to do. ‘Cause I always had the folk thing I could do. I never felt like I was compromising myself too much, ‘cause if you really look at my career, if you look at the folk records, the solo records, to me, I’m in control of those. And the Drivin’ n’ Cryin’ thing, it’s a collaborative thing. You have to share. It’s like making a painting. Painters don’t spend all day doing that, and then I come in and go, ‘Um, I’m gonna put this rocket ship here, ‘cause I’m really into rocket ships.’ ‘Well, I don’t really want a rocket ship on my painting.’ No, but it’s a band. It has to be the perfect storm to make the perfect records – we all have to be on the same page.”

Don’t you guide Drivin’ n’ Cryin’? It’s your ship.


 It’s not a democracy or a full collaboration.

“Not really, no. But I’m saying, in the Smoke era, I lost a lot of control. Whether I tried to give it away, or it got taken from me, whatever, but I lost a lot of control over it. And then I just kind of resigned, ‘cause I was tired. Just tired of it. Where was I going with all that? Oh, why we were on the other side of the fence. But here’s the irony of all that. You know, we definitely were not part of the LA cock-rock scene. We were more like Soul Asylum, I think, maybe. We were like the indie band that got a major label, and then were threatened with having it taken away – ‘If this next record doesn’t sell, you should do something.’  So then you try to up your game, and use producers, and write the hit or whatever. And then you have a family, so you’re trying, you’re wrestling with all these things. But I’ve done a lot of festivals where I see Poison pull in, with the Poison bus, and Motley Crue and all this shit. I’ve also seen Smashing Pumpkins, and it’s six trucks, three tour buses, and, I mean, really? It’s not as indie as it appears to be. And even Jack White, does he have a tour bus? I mean, he ain’t drivin’ the van like I am. I got a van full of six guys and a trailer that I’m loading and unloading and then playing.”

You pull a lot of R.E.M. song titles and bits of lyrics for the words of your song about them on the Laundromat EP, telling a little story…

“There’s a review of that song somewhere that alluded to it having random lyrics. But when I wrote it on my GarageBand in the morning, when they broke up, like a week later, I just wrote it for myself, just for fun, to play for my wife. And the opening musical part is a hybrid of all the songs Peter played with me on. It’s ‘MacDougal Blues,’ ‘With the People’ and ‘Indian Song.’ Those are the three songs Peter helped write. It’s an amalgamation of all those. And then every lyric is like, ‘There’s a reckoning in the morning, I’m on my way to work…’ That means when I first moved to Georgia, my girlfriend got a job at Record Bar, bought me Reckoning, and I listened to it at work – I was working at a sewage plant in Roswell – so every morning I was listening to this record. And then, ‘Feeling Gravity’s Pull’ is one of my favorite songs – it’s one of my favorite riffs ever. The first time I saw R.E.M., I think they opened with that. And in Milwaukee, I mean… my roots are more like garage rock and Joy Division, Bauhaus, all that stuff was my Milwaukee music. ‘Cause Milwaukee is like England. Cold and rainy and dark! So Teardrop Explodes and Echo and the Bunnymen, all that, that’s where I came from. So when I saw [R.E.M.], I was like, ‘Oh, man – that’s like Teardrop Explodes or something!’ I was so excited. So, ‘I felt the gravity pull me back to earth.’ I moved to the city, I don’t know why I moved to Atlanta, you know, I moved here to get a job. And that was like the first cool band where I was like, ‘I think this is gonna work.’ Because I had the same misconceptions about the south as everybody. Thought it was all country music and Molly Hatchet! And then I saw this cool [band]. So then the second verse [‘the clicking of projectors reminding me again’] is about the first time we toured with them. And standing at the light board when the lights go off, and you hear the projectors – click, click, click – for the stage [backdrop]. ‘Welcome. Peter says ‘Hi,’ or something. It was the Green tour. So that’s what that memory was. And then the last verse is about people interviewing me over the years, and going, ‘Man, you must be into the Allman Brothers, Skynyrd, Black Crowes…’ And I’d be like, ‘The biggest Southern Rock band I know is R.E.M.’ Even in ’91, they were bigger than the Allman Brothers or Skynyrd. And the ‘kult kudzu’ circuit was amazing. That was Southern Rock, to me, when the 688 world came in. It was all these North Carolina and Athens things. And I loved early psychedelia, like Beau Brummels, so the jangle thing for me was like, this is heaven! I’ve never owned a Skynyrd record in my life. We opened for them on their reunion tour, when it was just about everybody still – Leon and Artimus and Ed King. The Drive-By Truckers made a rock opera from them, but it pretty much destroyed my credibility! (laughs) I had no idea! I just thought they were a band, I didn’t fuckin’ know they were an entity. But they were real, they played great music, they were nice people, they loved the Beatles…”

In the age of R.E.M., Lynyrd Skynyrd wasn’t so cool anymore. 

“Yeah, I never grew up like that, so I didn’t know.”

Then again, I always felt like “Honeysuckle Blue” was a total Skynyrd song.

“Yeah! But I don’t think I wrote it as a Skynyrd song. But, oh, absolutely. But my point is, it was 1992, it was after Fly Me Courageous, It was the Smoke era. Which, I

love the Smoke record, because it’s absolutely just primal scream therapy. I was having a nervous breakdown. So I think it’s a great record. People hate it. Oh my God, did they hate it!”

I think Island Records hated it, too.

“Absolutely they hated it. (laughs) It was not a good year! But nobody would tour [with us]. We couldn’t open for anybody. Everybody turned us down. I mean, we were up for 30 different tours that summer. And Lynyrd Skynyrd were the only ones that kept calling us. And you know, they were really nice.”

You probably got some new fans out of it, though. I have a feeling you have some Skynyrd fans in your crowd.

“Yeah, probably. I guess so. I just thought they were like the southern Aerosmith or something. Just a big rock band. ‘Gimme Back My Bullets,’ I mean, that’s some great shit. I’m way beyond caring about being approved.”

I remember DNC playing “Acceleration,” which is on Cars, Space and The Ramones, at your shows a long, long time ago.

“’Acceleration’ and ‘Moonshot’ are both Prosecutors songs. ‘Acceleration’ was the first song I ever wrote…that I let people hear, of course. ‘Greaser’ about a superhuman hoodlum still has not seen the light of day! We recorded ‘Acceleration’ for every Drivin’ n’ Cryin’ record, and it never made the cut. We have one from Smoke where Rick Richards plays the guitar solo, and it’s frickin’ badass. I have no idea why it didn’t make it. We played it a lot in the early days. My ex-wife is moving, so we cleaned up her attic, and she found all this Drivin’ n’ Cryin’ stuff. I have it all in one suitcase now. There’s a lot of early setlists, and I think ‘Acceleration’ is on most of ’em. ‘Acceleration’ was on the Frank French record [1987’s Everything Looks Better in the Dark, credited to Kevn Kinney and Frank French]. I think the rough idea of it is pretty much the same. The Prosecutors did some reunion shows here opening for Die Kreuzen, and Frank was our drummer [for those]. And we were making the Everything Looks Better in the Dark record at that time. We were best friends in Milwaukee, the Prosecutors, Die Kreuzen, the Tense Experts. We played every show together. So when I moved down here I was like their embassy. They’d stay at my place at North High Ridge [Apartments], and the entire living room would be a T-shirt factory. Screening shirts all day long. And then when Tim saw that, that’s when he said, ‘We should start a band.’ Seeing that Prosecutors show opening for Die Kreuzen. That was at the Metroplex, 1983, ’84. He told me I was gonna be in a band with him.”

Other than you, Tim’s been the one constant throughout the years for Drivin’ n’ Cryin’. You seem like such different people. What keeps you with him?

“There’s just that thing that every band has, of what makes the band Drivin’ n’ Cryin’ and what makes the band not Drivin’ n’ Cryin’. And the thing that makes it Drivin’ n’ Cryin’ is the fact that there are two totally different people that somehow come together. He pisses me off just enough to inspire me to want to do stuff. He encourages me. I mean… I’m just trying to think of bands that wouldn’t be the same. When Joe Perry wasn’t in Aerosmith, did you ever see that era? It was horrible. And it was the same songs. It was Steven Tyler, but it wasn’t Aerosmith. I was close friends with Johnny Ramone for most of my adult life. I knew Johnny Ramone through trading baseball cards with him. I didn’t even have a band when I met him, or maybe I had the Prosecutors, but we didn’t ever talk about it, though. He knew me as a construction worker/baseball card collector. But I knew him and Joey fuckin’ hated each other. But it worked, for some reason. And me and Tim don’t hate each other. But he definitely… you know Tim. He pushes your buttons, and sometimes it’s a good idea and sometimes it’s not a good idea. But he always looks great, he loves to play live, and he’s really into it. He’s really into the whole thing. He helps road manage, he really helps the whole machine run. But I dunno… he’s a pain in my ass sometimes. (laughs) And I know I’m a pain in his ass! I know he would so love for me to be a rock guy, fuckin’ sellin’ it, you know. I’m sure he looks at me sometimes and is like, ‘Really?’ Somehow it works. Without Tim, it’s not Drivin’ n’ Cryin’. We started it off together. We’re both Who nuts. Everybody in the band is a Who nut. Sadler, Dave, me and Tim are likeQuadrophenia heads. That’s our thing. We’re constantly trying to be The Who, in some weird way. Dave is a little more Kinks, I’m a little more Who/Ramones, Tim is Who/Clash, but we’re all Who.

And then DNC opened for the Who on their Quadrophenia tour in 1997.

“We were very happy to get that tour. But we got it at the last minute because it didn’t dawn on the Who that this was a visual [show]. We kind of got it the old school way. We sent their manager our record, and the manager actually liked the record that Kosmo [Vinyl, onetime Clash manager] produced [1997’s drivin’ n’ cryin’]. Then when the opportunity came a month or two later, they needed a band to play until it got dark! ‘Cause it was a visual thing, and they went, ‘Oh, shit! We’re doing all amphitheaters!’ So our name came up. Pete Townshend had no idea who we were, at all. It was fun though, because we started in Montreal, in an arena, so that was the first place I got to see it, so that was awesome, ’cause it was indoors. And then as we traveled down closer to the south, and we get to Atlanta, Pete Townshend’s like, ‘Who areyou guys?’ (laughs)

Are you going to see them do it at Gwinnett Arena?

“I just found out I’ll be here. I’m definitely gonna go… I’m gonna try to bring my son. Have you ever seen his bands? He’s got three. He’s got the Husseins, Ralph and Manic. He’s the drummer in Husseins and Ralph, and the bass player in Manic. His name’s Tyler. He lives in a little punk rock apartment with his punk rock girlfriend.”

See, all those bands are hip with the EARL/Star Bar crowd.

“This is the first time I’m telling anybody that! I don’t wanna ruin it for him!”

Maybe it’ll help you seem cooler.

“I don’t think so – I think it’s gonna work in his disfavor! (laughs) He had me over for dinner the other night, and you know, we had some Publix chicken and some potatoes, sat on the porch and smoked and drank beer, and he goes, ‘Hey, dad, you wanna listen to a record?’ I was like, ‘I would love that. Let’s go sit on the couch and put something on.’ So I sit on the couch and he plays me Nick Lowe, Jesus of Cool. He’s like, ‘You ever heard of Nick Lowe? You know who else is good? You ever heard of Wreckless Eric?’ I’m like, ‘Yeah… I like Wreckless Eric too!’”