No Use For A Name

author PP date 26/06/09

12 years. That's longer than most bands manage to even exist, but yet that's the time that it took for seminal melodic punk band No Use For A Name to return to Danish soil. They played precisely the same venue in 1997, so either the band hasn't grown at all, or they should've been coming back more often. Anyways, we grabbed on the chance of interviewing the band's frontman Tony Sly in a small room backstage at Loppen to find out as much as I could about the band in the 25 or so minutes that I had been allocated for the interview. Unlike most bands we interview live, Tony took the whole situation extremely casually, offering us a beer each and generally appearing somewhat disinterested in the whole interview-prcess, that is until we begun talking about the band's more recent stuff like the new album, "The Feel Good Record Of The Year", or the one before that. Bassist and backup vocalist Matt Riddle was in the room as well, contributing to the discussion with his opinions and humour. and thanks for doing this interview. If you could just start by introducing yourself to the readers and maybe giving a short recap of what's going on in No Use For A Name right now?
Tony: My name is Tony, I sing and play guitar in No Use For A Name. What's going on in No Use For A Name? We're out in Europe playing some festivals and doing shows in between to fill in the blanks. What else is happening in No Use For A Name...we're taking a short break after this tour, after July 5th, to work in a new guitar player because Dave is leaving the band. And that's about it. Why is he leaving the band again?

Tony: He's joining a band called Bleeding Through. Oh yeah, I read about that. How do you feel about that?

Tony: know...indifferent. [silence]. It's a mixed bag man. Have you guys actually played here in Denmark before or is this the first time?
Tony: No, we've played here but not for like least ten years, and it was this venue. I think you were not in the band yet (looks at bassist Steve). You were?

Matt: Swingin' Utters, '97. Do you have good memories from that time?

Tony: Yep. There was a lot of drinking on that tour because the Swingin' Utters drink a lot. (laughs) What do you expect for tonight?

Tony: Some of the same. A bit different songs, because we've had a few album since then (coughs), but it will be generally the same. I'm gonna just ask a few older questions to start things out if you don't mind. Back in the day when you formed the band, how did you come up with the name? Was it just one of those things that you couldn't figure out a name and therefore...?
Tony: Well actually, it's really bad. We don't like the name because it's too long, I think. It goes on a list of bad names. Like we were thinking of bad band names the other night, and our name goes on the list, we've decided. You know like Pearl Jam. Horrible name, right? You don't think about it because you can't... but if you disassociate yourself with the name and just try to take away all they've done and just put it on a piece of paper. Pearl Jam. It's awful. You know?

Matt: Swingin' Utters? Horrible, horrible term.

Tony: Uhm... yeah, it's bad, that's bad.

Matt: Swingin' Utters. Lets call our band this. [laughs] You've been releasing music for over twenty years now overall. What have been some of the best moments that you can remember from your career, some of the best ups perhaps?
Tony: Well, there's so many, it's really hard to just pinpoint one or two. Or even a few, because there's so many. You can go from anywhere from playing big festivals in front of thousands and thousands of people to playing a club of 200 where you just click and everyone had a good time and everyone had a good night. Or you could go with being told that you were the first band on Fat Wreck Chords to sell a hundred thousand records. Or that..

Matt: Going to certain countries for the first time, that nobody else has been to yet, it's great, you know.

Tony: Yeah. Going to Moscow, going to Israel, going to Greece, Romania and Croatia.. and Serbia this year. You know there's just a lot of things, a lot of highlights over the career of this band that would take me like a book. What about maybe some of the downs, some of the bad moments?

Matt: There are so many [laughs]

Tony: You know what, there's a lot of those too, you know what I mean? There's probably a little bit more better than bad because we've been a successful band. We've had more ups than downs because we've been really lucky. Lucky first to be around in the mid 90s when all the punk rock like Bad Religion and things like that were exploding. We rode that train, and I think we rode it long enough to still be around and still be relevant in today's world, you know, with putting out new records and just being a band.

Matt: So many bands from our era and our genre aren't around anymore. So even when things are bad, you'll say "yeah this sucks" but you know what, look what we've done? You always have that at the back of your head.

Tony: I always go back to the real optimistic side if I think about the bad stuff... it's always overwritten by the good stuff. The bad stuff is usually meager, miniscule things that don't really matter. Or they blow over. I think the most important thing in a band is that you have to know the people that you're with so much that you actually know how to push their buttons to make them mad, but you also know how to make them happy. So I think that as you get older, you need to stop pushing the buttons that make them mad because it's ridiculous. It's like, you know somebody so well you can do it either way. I can make this person happy or really mad. And you have the choice, so that's kind of like how I think we get along so well, explains the longevity of the band. What is your favorite NUFAN record and why? You're probably going to say the newest one because that's what everybody says.
Tony: Well, I will, because of the way that it sounds. I heard it the other day and I was like "wow this really kicks ass still". But right now that's just my favorite album, but my all-time favorite might be "More Betterness". I just like the way it went down, I like the way it was done. It was really a big that one. Do you have a least favorite album?

Tony: Probably "Keep Them Confused". The previous one? Why's that?

Tony: Yeah. I just think that it was a weird time. I felt like I wasn't up for it at the time, whereas the last--the new one--I felt like I was really up for it. Once I had like five songs written, I was like "yeah, this album's gonna be good", you know? When I had five songs written for "Keep Them Confused", I was like "I gotta make this better somehow", and I felt like I never got to that point. And I think that just carried through the rehearsal, and then ugly things happened, and then into the studio where even uglier things happened. So it just... at the end of the day, we were just mixing this album, trying to figure it out, like mixing songs 18 times and things like that, and just going "why don't we like the way it sounds?", well it's because we don't like what we've put down on the tape in the first place, that's why. You spend that much time trying to mix something, you obviously don't like it. Who have been some of your biggest influences and inspiratios throughout the years, if you take it from the beginning to the middle era to now?
Tony: Well, Bad Religion has always been my number one, and that's beginning middle and now. But you know, my favorite band of all time is the Beatles. I like The Misfits too, I like pop punk. Do you like Fall Out Boy?

Tony: [Steve laughs] They're not pop punk.

Matt: That's barely music, man.

Tony: That's just an arena rock band. It had to be asked right?

Tony: Right, right. I put them in the same category as Nickelback and stuff like that because that's what they are. Last year you released "The Feel Good Record Of The Year" - when I heard the title for the first time, to me it suggested that you guys kind of knew that it would be well received and it was going to be a good album. Did it surprise you how well it was received and when you wrote the album, did you immediately know that you had written some of your best songs to date?
Tony: Well I wasn't that surprised actually, because I thought it would be well received. But there's that in the back in your mind, you know, "oh no but it probably won't be", and then that's weird, because you're just like really like wow. If it wasn't well received I'd be really shocked. So it's a good thing that it was. But I think that through the whole writing process, rehearsal and recording the vibe was really positive.

Matt: It was a really good time.

Tony: A lot of with had to do with Bill Stevenson and Jason Livermore at the Blasting Room, because once we got there, we weren't even done. We were just ready to record a record as a band. And so we came in there, wheels turning, and everybody was, you know, on ten, and so were they. And so it was just like a meeting of all things that are good.

Matt: Definitely the best recording experience that we've had, for sure. So how did you choose the title?
Tony: Well, we had this long list of titles, and that one at the end of the day felt like the safest because for one, when you get into the studio you kind of start losing your mind a bit and you come up with all these ridiculous titles. We had them all written on the wall, a couple of hundred of them, and we could've easily used any of them, and it would've been scary because the label would've said "no you can't use that", but then at some point, we're gonna go, yeah we are gonna use that. Because in the studio, you lose your mind. When we were done with "More Betterness" we had gone through so many titles that one of them was "Everyone Has A Fucking Opinion". [all laugh] It was printed on the cover, on the mock up, and the label just said "oh you can't call it that" and I was like "okay, cool". But then for this one, there were some titles that were kind of along those lines and so we had to back off a little bit and remember the last album that we just kind of went "yeah lets call it Keep Them Confused" like that. Lets put it on an orange cover with three people on the beach. I mean that was it, we kind of had to remember that and I was like "well, I want it to be a catchy title, I want it to be a title that means something" so I was like "The Feel Good Record Of The Year" is good for one, because it's what all movie critics always use when they name a really soft movie, like a drama that makes everybody feel good at the end of the day, it's "The Feel Good Movie Of The Year". That, "The Feel Good Record Of The Year", you don't really hear that too often, but I thought it was funny because the lyrics are so not that way. It was such a contrast. There's a lot of irony calling it that and having the lyrics be the way they are. But the other thing was also that every review had to have it at the top of their title, no matter what they said about this record. They could say it's shit, but they first had to put that "The Feel Good Record Of The Year" [all laugh] and then they can say whatever they want about it, but they have to put that up. On the record I thought that the sound is a bit heavier and a lot faster than for example "Keep Them Confused" or "Hard Rock Bottom" for that matter. Was that like a conscious choice, or was it a natural step?
Tony: I think there was definitely.. yeah, we wanted it to be heavier. One of the reasons that we went to the Blasting Room in the first place was to get a heavier sound. And not worry about the polished part of it, and to let things go. Like tuning guitar chords and just all the ridiculous stuff that goes on. Taking strings off guitars and just having two strings to play your octave chords. Things like that, we just didn't want to go that far with it. We wanted to be basic. And so the idea was to make a basic, heavy-sounding record. But whatever Bill did with it and Jason did with it while we were there was incredible. Because I listen to it right now and I say "I don't remember performing that well" [laughs]

Matt: It's one of those records actually when people come over that you and me know that haven't heard the band, and you want to show them your band, that's the album I'll show them. You know what I mean? That's how you know you did a good job. It has such a good sound quality. It is a hurdle for a lot of people, they won't like a record just because it doesn't sound good, and not know that. So luckily, sonically this record is amazing, and the songwriting is amazing, so it's one of those ones that you can show somebody, you know? I think that's a good way to describe it. The new record and also "Keep Them Confused" are a bit more politically charged than the other records, in my opinion anyway. Is that just a consquence of the Bush years or something else?
Tony: It's that too. But it's a lot of things. It all started I think... I was just getting more interested in politics in general in 2004 when Bush won for the second time. Because that's when it really woke me up. It wasn't the first time, or the 9/11, although there were some songs about 9/11 on "Hard Rock Bottom", but I think that when he won again, it was just like "oh God, now thinks are gonna get really bad. Can things get worse?" that was the question and it was like "yes they can". And here's another four years where he's gonna have time to do that, and it's really gonna hurt the world. I didn't know it was gonna hurt the world this bad, but now look where we are. Look at the deep hole that we're in, that we have to climb out of. How do you feel about Obama then?

Tony: I think he's the right choice. But I think that the hole is deep. So it's impossible for anyone to climb out of but if anyone out of him, HIllary Clinton and John McCain, he's the best choice. Because Hillary Clinton is already in the cabinet and McCain would've been... [sighs] okay but it's too much of the same politics that we've had before. We needed a drastic change, and having an African-American as the president of the United States is also a big change for us because that's something that never would've happened fifteen or twenty years ago, ten or fifteen years ago, because of underlying racism that still exists in our country. We've come a long way with that, we went from bringing slaves from Africa in ships to the East Coast to having an African American president. I think that's great. Let me just take a specific song from the new record, the song "Under The Garden". Correct me if I'm wrong, but for me it sounds like you guys are talking about people who don't really care about what's going on in the world at large. Is that something you guys maybe feel strongly about?
Tony: Not so much people that don't care, but people that will say things but they're just not very effective because of their status. It's definitely just the separation of the lower class and the upper class, and the elimination of the middle class which is sort of happening in our country. But if you go to other countries that are living right on the poverty line, like in South America, you'll see that there's no middle class anymore. You have the rich, the super rich, and the poor. People are losing jobs so frequently at such an alarming rate that this is happening all over the world. That obviously can't be a good thing. You guys have been on Fat Wreck Chords for seven albums now, I mean they also re-issued your first albums as well. So you must really like it there? What's it like being on the label as a band?
Tony: On their label? Well, it's always been good. They've never pressured us to put records out or to go on tour or anything like that. There's never been any pressure so it's pretty mellow.

Matt: It's easy to talk to them because they're our friends. So we can talk to them however we want. There's no calling and arranging a meeting, you just call them up and go "ummm" okay and that's it. So it's really easy that way. You guys obviously have a whole bunch of albums by now. Is ever difficult to choose what to play on a tour or on a given night? I mean is it difficult to balance between the newer and the older material because there's obviously people who are fans of certain eras, and then people who like everything as well?
Tony: It gets harder and harder every time you put out a record. But there was a point where I felt like we didn't have enough songs to play, and now we have too many. So I don't know when that happened, but throughout the years I was just like "oh we don't have enough songs to play" and we'd play covers and throw in things like that. And now there isn't enough time to play them all. Somebody's always going to leave one of our shows going "gosh, they didn't play that song". Even if we play for an hour and a half, or two hours, somebody's still gonna leave and go "they didn't play that song". How many albums do you think that you still have under your belt? Do you ever feel tired and think about what's going to happen in the future?
Tony: Well I think that as soon as you're done with a record, you realize that the only bummer is that you'll have to make another one. Because you go through so much when you're making a record that it's like "Oh god, I can't image making another one right after. So you have to give yourself time to regenerate the batteries. I think that's kind of what's going on right now. Just regenerating. And then you have to recover from the touring cycle. Not just your liver, but also your ears and things like that. I don't know, when I get home, it's always record by record for us. We've never really been like "oh we're gonna put out like 5 more" because you can't say that, because that's a lot of work. You know what I mean? So you gotta go one-by-one. We're gonna make another record, yeah. Has there ever been a moment where you've just though of "well, maybe we should call it quits" or have you always been willing to go on and go on forward?

Tony: Sometimes. It seems that we just keep hurdling those times though because it's just like: "wow, whats the point?" At some point it's just like, you know, this is what you do. So many bands break up and they get back together and they do the reunion thing like three years or a year and a half later after they break up.

Matt: That is ridiculous.

Tony: I don't wanna do that. Besides, you're just putting a massive gap between... okay, what if we broke up now and then we got together five years from now. We'd all be really old, I tell you that.

Matt: The break-up would've been a hiatus.

Tony: Right. So I just think that's dumb. I don't think there's any point in doing that if you know that you're gonna get back together just so you can draw more people or sell more records, which you're not gonna do, because records don't sell. Actually that's my next and last question. You've been around for so long that you've seen a lot of things in the music industry, you've seen it changed a lot. What do you think about it today and do you think it can actually survive?
Tony: Of course it can survive. There'll always be music. I always look at it like "this is what I do". I have music in me so until the day I'll be just be playing music, in some way shape or form. Just because I love it so much. It's the one thing at the end of the day besides my family that really just feels natural and important enough for me to keep giving it more, you know, so I can get more out of it.

RF:net: What do you think about music downloading? Is that something you're bummed out about?

Tony: Well I mean if it never happened, we'd sell a lot more records and every other band would sell a lot more records but it's technology, and when they said it was the tip of the iceberg, they weren't kidding. It's crazy.

Matt: I think that made it to where people don't wanna buy whole records anymore, you know? Which in turn made's hard to find a full record that you like anymore because people don't concentrate on full albums, they concentrate on songs.

Tony: It's hard for bands to conceptualize a record as a whole as well. When we were doing the last record, in the beginning I was like "this sounds a little conceptual with the lyrics and stuff" but then I was like "what's the point?". And we put fourteen songs on it, and I was just like "what is the point", we should've broken into two, put one out now", you know what I mean? Call it the "The Feel Good Record Of The Year" and "The Feel Bad Records Of The Year", I don't know. [all laugh]. But both would've probably sold the same amount of copies each and we'd be doubling the sales. [laughs].

Matt: Dammit!

Tony: Yeah, so there's some thought for next time. Our next album will be 7 songs and then we'll put out one a year later with seven songs. What do you think Fat Wreck think about that?

Tony: I don't think they'll have a choice [all laugh]. They'd like it! Mike would like something like that because he knows that's the way things are. Lagwagon's last album was like seven songs. And then Joey re-used most of them for his acoustic record, you know. So it's like yeah you just keep doing that kind of stuff and you'll get back up to where you wanna be. [laughs] Well other than that, I don't really have any more questions left so I'd like to say good luck tonight, I hope it will be a good show, and thanks for doing the interview. Have you got anything else to add for the fans, the readers?
Tony: Well, it's our first time back in Denmark for a long time, so I like it. Everybody's been in Christiania all day getting stoned. I'm not a pot smoker and neither is Matt, but everyone else has been high his balls all day. [laughs] I don't even know where they are now. I mean they could be part of the...I think they might live here now. We might leave tomorrow and they might say "you know what I'm good, I think I'm just gonna live here for the rest of my life. So we'll see what happens, I don't know.

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