Q&A: Dean Spunt of No Age
On the la music scene and touring with Pavement
You've been touring with Sonic Youth and Pavement, the alpha and omega of slacker rock. Please tell us it was a thrill.
It's funny, I never grew up never listening to Pavement. Or really Sonic Youth. I had Dirty when I was younger. I never got into it. I got into Sonic Youth when I was, fuck... 18 or 19. I heard the album Sonic Death. And I was like, "oh this is cool". I liked that a lot. Pavement, I never liked. Until, shit, two years ago. I found a CD of theirs at a thrift store, Crooked Rain. It was like, "Fuuuck yeah... Pavement fucking rule!" I didn't know that. Previously, I'd listen to them and be like, "aaaaanh, I don't know. I like puuunk or whatever". So they're great. Sonic Youth are fucking great too.
Still, Pavement are basically a bunch of middle-age dudes reliving their youth. As actual young people, what was it like going on the road with them?
They're really cool. We hung out with them. Played Fussball. Had a beer. We'd show up and they'd eat with us. Some tours, some bands, they won't do that. They don't want to talk to you.
As well as putting out a new record, you've been working on a documentary about all-ages venues in the United States. Do you prefer playing to teenagers?
Yeah, kids are honest. Also, when you play bars and club, which we have to do, I mean, Whelan's in Dublin is great, but if we had to choose we'd really rather play an old abandoned house. It makes it more fun for us, it makes it more fun for people to come and see a show. Not being drunk, being drunk whatever. When you go to a concert at a club, we're here to provide entertainment for you to buy alcohol. It's not where we're at, or what we care about.
Of course, you're well known for performing in weird venues. Didn't you once do a show in a vegan restaurant?
Yeah. It's fun to do something you haven't done. To push yourself. It's easy to play the clubs, the regular venues. You've got to understand that, when we started our old band, we were making music not unlike what we're playing now. The climate was so different, especially in LA. We couldn't play anywhere. No one wanted us. We had to set up our own shows at weird places. That was the nature of the music or the nature of the culture around us. People weren't interested in weird music.
Los Angeles is synonymous with hair-rock and the Sunset Strip. What's your experience of that scene?
When we started you couldn't send your tape to the Whisky A Go Go or whatever. It reminds me of a lot of things that started in the late 70s and early 80s. Punk rock had started, but people in LA didn't want anything to do with it. Most of the time Black Flag would get banned. People would show up and see their show and they were aggressive.
So, what's the Strip like today.
Oh God, it's the worst. Have you heard this term 'pay to play'? They'll find some kid's band from the suburbs and say, "all you got to do is sell 50 tickets at $12 each". They might sell five to their friends, who all live in the Valley. I remember going to see a friend's band in ninth grade. And I remember already feeling that I knew what's going on. It was like, "dude, you are totally being taken advantage of".
Your all-age LA venue The Smell has been profiled in The New Yorker and would appear to be ground zero for everything exciting in LA music at the moment.
In the early days at The Smell, we'd get all this mail. I mean, no offence to the bands. But they were on different pages to us. Guys with glossy photos, real Hollywood bands. They'd send in this promo photo and say, "hey we want to play your club". We would laugh. We used to keep a pile of them. Look at them, draw on them. Not that those bands couldn't play. That's not the way The Smell works. You don't just play there. You gotta put in time, hang out, see what's up. It's not for everyone. It's not a regular club. There's no alcohol, it's kids, it smells, it doesn't sound good. There is a different reason why people go there. Most people think that place sucks. And that's cool, you know.
Everything In Between is out now. No Age play Whelan's, Dublin, on Sunday