MTV videos

California come one of the Lookout! label's most popular and long running bands The Mr. T Experience. They were in the U.K. recently playing a few dates, so we caught up with them when they hit the big S.W. in late October of 1996. Monks present include Monkay, Missing Monk and the Mondo. Let's see what went on then...

Monk- Let's start by having a brief history of the Mr. T Experience... Tell us a bit about your rather substantial past.

Dr. Frank- Well, uh, it started as a joke in late 1985 and sort of accidentally turned into a band. Over the next few years we did essentially some little record every year and sort of regularly broke up after each ‘thing,' either a record or a tour. We had a few disastrous tours that we did and, well, originally it was four guys and gradually people quit and were replaced by new people over the years, and the current line-up has been the same for about two years now. People who have replaced the others who've quit are now Joel and Jym. Jym's drummer, Joel's bass player and I'm Dr. Frank the singer/songwriter guitarist guy.

Monk- And are you a real doctor?

Dr. Frank- No. It's a nickname that people started saying jokingly because I used to have, uh, ‘intellectual pretensions' and I suppose I still have those, but I also had academic aspirations so they used to make a joke out of it. The name stuck when I used it as my ‘air name' when I was a college radio disc jockey. So people just started calling me that, and I answer to it now. I even answer to ‘doctor.' I spent a good deal of 1994 in a hospital because my father was ill and every time I heard the word ‘doctor,' which you hear a lot, I kept looking up!

Monk- So when you first started, did you think that 10 years or so of persistence would pay off as well as it has?

Dr. Frank- Well it hasn't paid off particularly well because, uh, literally my expectations were that we would play some crazy party and that would be the end of it, and that's what we did. We played a party, uh, one of the guys who used to play in the band and my birthdays were a couple of days apart so we had a birthday party for ourselves and forced our guests to listen to our dumb band and I really thought that that was the end of it, so yes, I cannot even believe now that it's still happening, but for whatever reason, I think it goes beyond anybody's comprehension that you can keep doing this thing for ten years.

Monk- Are you glad about your present situation in the music scene, or are you still hoping for something more?

Dr. Frank- I'm pretty happy with exactly the way it is in most ways. I'm not an aspiring pop star or anything, but it would be nice to sell a few more records and have a bit of a pay off, I don't mean monetarily, but pay off in terms of having your music heard by people a little more than it is. Compared to practically any other sort of mid-level punk rock band our performances are dismally pathetic. Like your average Fat Wreck Chords band sells many, many, many times as many records as us and, uh, I like to think that people who like us are generally a better quality crowd which I do like and I wouldn't trade our crowd for a No Use For A Name crowd for instance, but the only thing I wish is that we could get a little bit more ‘out there' just because you put a lot into it and then you know that there's like 15,00 people who are ever gonna hear the record. Out of the entire world there has to be a few more people who I would get a kick out of them hearing it. I don't know if it would be to the good of humanity or anything for them to hear it, but the type of band we are and the people who are into us are perfect. The kids that go to our shows are way better than your average group of people, I think.

Monk- So you're not really making a living off the band then?

Dr. Frank- No. Well, yes in that we don't have to have other Chaturbate jobs now, but it's not like a lot of money, we just keep so active that that's all we have time to do and all we can do. It's not doing badly though, like I'm not complaining in any way. It's not even a matter of money, it's a matter of it just being cool that there's 15,000 kids or whatever who buy each of our records. I'd just like it if there were 5,000 more. That's all I want, 5,000 more! We can do it if we keep at it, like you tell two friends and I'll tell two friends and so on!

Monk- So how come you've stuck with Lookout! for so long?

Dr. Frank- Well I'd say that the honest answer to that question is that most of the time we've been on Lookout! literally no one else would have us. The answer now is that it's been a good situation because I like being on Lookout! for the fact that all the bands on that label are really great and it has the best roster of any label that's around now, I think, like all sorts of different kinds of groups, but they're all great. It's a good thing to be a part of and I think that generally it helps us in intangible ways because people think that it's kinda cool that we're still on it, but the main reason why I think it's good to be on Lookout! is that they forgive us for screw-ups a lot. Unlike other labels they're always gonna let us do another record. It's like we've got this kind of agreement where they don't get mad at us if we don't sell many records, and we don't get mad at them if they don't sell many records. That works pretty well and there are very few other labels, even independent labels that will do that, you know, like if your record doesn't sell then you're out of there. So it's good that they're all friends of ours and it's a nice situation overall.

Monk- What do you think about the current gun problem here in the U.K.?

Dr. Frank- Yeah, well I'm a bit puzzled by that because I was under the impression that hand-guns were already completely banned in Britain, now I find out that they're gonna ban them even more than completely and, uh, I have always, you know, Britain has always been used as an example of do-gooder, gun control fanatics who run a-muck. The police can't even have guns. I mean, it's a horrible thing that happened, but it doesn't seem entirely logical to me. It doesn't seem like it addresses that particular problem, not that the U.S. is a shining example of responsible, uh, you know, dealing with the sort of problems that cause maniac shootings. I mean, this happens in America practically every day.

Monk- So do you see guns on a regular basis?

Dr. Frank- Yes. Yes I do. I live in Oakland. I think that having a gun, if you need to have one, is a good thing to do. I actually don't currently have one because I'm away from home so much that I would be scared to leave it at home, but I would feel very uncomfortable having a government that would make it illegal for me to own one in case I ever needed it for any reason. I think that Britain, compared to most places is a fairly civil society, but I don't think the reason is because of gun control. I think that it's a cultural thing and, especially these days, I can't believe that the police don't have guns. That seems to be asking for trouble. I suppose you could say that if they have guns then they're gonna shoot people more, but the police rarely shoot people in America.

Monk- Um, do you have a problem with having your videos on MTV, or are you pretty passive about the whole commercialism of punk rock?

Dr. Frank- Ok, well firstly, my only opinion on our videos on MTV is that I wish they'd play it more. They played it twice and, I mean, which is more than anybody ever expected, but it'd be good if they played it more. There's nothing evil about a band being played on television. That's the thing that people don't seem to understand. Television is not evil, television is good, you know, television is great! In Britain you don't take full advantage of television. You've only got four channels and you're gonna have a fifth, which congratulations, but you know, T.V. in America is a wonderful thing. Yeah there's a lot of nonsense, but if you're gonna make a complaint about MTV that makes sense to me and is legitimate it's that small bands like this one don't get played enough and you could be upset about that. I know that commercial radio never used to play punk rock and I would consider that to be a problem because the people who wanted to listen to it had to go elsewhere. It's the same thing with MTV because if MTV plays a stupid, amateur, loser band then that's not a bad thing, it's a good thing. I mean, the fact is it's not that good because they only played it once or twice, but probably more people saw that broadcast than ever saw our whole band in the entire history we've been together. Um, as for it being a passive attitude towards it, I don't suppose, I mean I really think music, rock music especially, and punk rock included in that is a commercial product and if you're just out solely to make money then you certainly wouldn't handle your career the way that we have, but if you are then I approve of that and you've got to do whatever you can do to get people to know about you and I think it's a fair game. People are a little bit too, uh, they have a kneejerk reaction based on years of a situation when a band like MTX had not a prayer in the world that more than their family and friends would ever know about them. It's not really like that now though. People are upset though, you know, ‘cause we got a rat's head in the mail with a letter that said ‘SELLOUT' and a little sign, a rat's head! We don't have as much of a problem with it as a lot of bands though because a lot of people who we've alienated by that sort of thing already hated us anyway. We already alienated them years ago, you know, we've never given them anything to believe in in the first place. But I'm not particularly worried about winning back the love of the rat guy, although I'd like to meet him because he sounds like an interesting character! The rat head guy can hate us all he wants... but still there's nothing wrong with being on MTV. It's a miracle that this band ever got on MTV and it far surpassed anybody's expectations.

Monk- Did Lookout! pay for that video?

Dr. Frank- Well they advanced the money. I mean, it wasn't very much at all. It was a lot in our terms, but we didn't have to scrounge for spare change for it. Any expense we ultimately paid for. They have the ability to pay for everything all at once, and then you spend the rest of your life paying it back. That's the way the world works.

Not necessarily great

Monk- What's the most you've ever spent on a record?

Dr. Frank- The most I've ever paid for a record? Uh, I know that there are good records that I would pay a lot for that I haven't actually seen for sale. It's not gonna impress many people but there's this record that came out in the early ‘70's, "The Odd Couple Opera" which was Tony Reynolds and Jack Klugman singing. One side is pop songs and the other side is ‘The Odd Couple Opera.' They had it at the radio station I used to work at, and I've never seen it for sale. I've never really paid that much, you know, I'm not really a collector. I have a lot of records that a lot of people think are rare and everything just because when I was a kid I used to go out and have nothing better to do with my money than buy records but I'd never pay very much for them.

Monk- If your house was on fire and you were inside it, what would be the first thing that you'd make sure was put safely outside before the whole place burnt down?

Dr. Frank- I think that you're gonna ridicule me or whatever and the entire reading public who reads this stuff is gonna think I'm a total dork, but I think I'd probably take a photograph of me and my girlfriend that I really like I'd leave the JasminLive records behind because I wouldn't even have a record player once it's burnt down. Actually, uh, nah... in case she ever reads this I'm not gonna go back on that picture thing, but also if I could run back into the house and take something else I guess I'd take my guitars that I'd hate to be consumed in a fiery holocaust and then, you know, if there was a bottle of whisky in there then I'd probably take that as well because I'd probably need it.

Monk- What's your ultimate line-up for a one day festival twelve years ago?

Dr. Frank- Well I saw what I would consider to be an amazing line-up when I was a wee lad. I went to see in San Francisco, a bill that consisted of the Clash, the Cramps, the Mutants and the River City Rebels. Oh, and the Dead Kennedys were on that too actually, which was one of their earliest shows ever. At the time it didn't seem like anything special, but now when I think about all those bands sharing the same stage...

Monk- So what about nowadays then?

Dr. Frank- Well I think that probably a more interesting thing would not necessarily be a great bunch of bands but a bunch of bands who were completely incompatible who would hate each other and make their audiences hate each other that would cause some sort of ruckus! Maybe the Raincoats and Slayer or uh, Screwdriver and Fishbone. Maybe then your good countryman Tom Jones. That would be a bill to remember!

Monk- Um, have you ever got so pissed off with an interviewer that you've either ended the interview in two minutes flat or just attacked the bastard?

Dr. Frank- Well I'm not really an ‘attack the bastard' kind of guy which you probably think I am. You know, sometimes people are a little unimaginative in what they have to say and I do have a problem with people who've come to do an interview and they don't know anything at all about you and it's clearly just some sort of ploy to get into the show for free, and it's just kind of a waste of time, but I'm always nice to them. It's just that deep inside I'm filing their name away in a list of people that once I become ruler of the world I will enslave and work to death in my fields... you guys are doing alright now, so don't worry!

Monk- Huh... how did the split with U.K.'s Goober Patrol come about?

Dr. Frank- We did a little U.K. tour with them in the summer of ‘92 and we got to know them then and the idea of doing a split record came up, and then years later after delays on my part because I'm just lazy and lame and I couldn't find a track, so finally I ended up sending something to them, like three years after it was originally proposed. I wish we could do more things like that, you know, I really wished that we'd done more shows with Goober Patrol on it because I really like them. They've changed a lot from four years ago.

Monk- So what do you think of their Fat Wreck Chords signing?

Dr. Frank- Well it's probably a good thing for them. I think that they actually managed to come through pretty well out of signing to Fat Wreck Chords and managing to sound not completely like NOFX although there are some NOFXisms in there, but I guess that's inevitable. My taste in punk rock, like in everything else, I appreciate more kind of weird and off-beat things, like people who just about manage to use punk rock as a way to get their crazy vision across. There's something too regimented about a lot of bands, like sounding the same... just so you don't get the wrong idea, you know, there's nothing instinctively wrong with a label like Fat Wreck Chords. They're a successful label, and bands that are on that label are luckier than us ‘cause they will sell more records, so as a band it seems great but as a music fan I much prefer things being a little less professional. That's why I like Lookout! Records and that's why I‘m never gonna make any money. I can like practically any record that Lookout! puts out. A lot of them are brilliant, but even if it's not I know it's gonna be something kinda weird and off-beat and crazy and funny more interesting than just about anything else that's gonna be out, and that's what more labels should be doing. I think that Goober Patrol will get heard a lot more, you know. It would've been even cooler if they were on Lookout! ‘cause then we really would've been able to tour together.

Monk- Do you think that Maximum Rock ‘n' Roll has become a stale, directionless piece of punk rock literature that spends more time on in-scene bickering than the music itself?

Dr. Frank- Yes. That pretty much sums it up. It's a lot less interesting than it used to be, and the decision made to marginalise by cutting out coverage of various kinds of bands was really a bonehead thing to do more because it just used to be really important and now it's almost completely irrelevant. It's not even that fun to read anymore because they got rid of their most interesting columnists, like all of them except for Mykel Board who's the only one left that's kinda interesting. There's good stuff sometimes in there but the stuff they cut out, frankly, is a lot of the stuff I'm interested in. I think that there probably is a lot of good being done in the Finnish Anarchist Hardcore scene or whatever, but that alone does not make me wanna plough through that magazine. I dunno, they've got a crazy attitude, although it's very typically San Francisco, like pseudo lefty, anarchist, hippy kind of politics. Whatever boots you're wearing or whatever haircut you have matters in San Francisco. It's just a bunch of hippies anyway! Always was from the beginning, and probably always will be.

Monk- Did they do a lot for you in the past then?

Dr. Frank- Well I think it's exaggerated how much they help bands, um, they certainly can hurt a young band that nobody knows about. I'm friends with, or I used to be friends with a lot of the people there and I used to write reviews for them and work on the radio program, and every time I make a joke at their expense it's really, uh, unfortunately people like that simply don't have a sense of humor and there's a lot to make fun of them about, but every time I do people think it's just sour grapes over bad reviews, which it really isn't because really it doesn't matter what a review in Maximum Rock'n'roll says. A lot of our kind of mediocre records got undeservedly good reviews and I do think that they have an attitude, like a chip on their shoulder, but it's almost completely irrelevant and the sort of person who would pay so much attention to an MRR review that it would determine whether or not they bought a record is the kind of person who's already gonna hate a band like us, so no, it doesn't affect us at all and in fact the good reviews didn't affect us very much either. I think that everybody instinctively knows when they look at the reviews it's all a matter of who's friends with who and whoever Tim is mad with at the time always gets a bad review, Tim makes up with them and suddenly the reviews are good. It's just the way it is.

Not necessarily great

Monk- How much respect would you give G.G. Allen, and have you bought a copy of his funeral video yet?

Dr. Frank- Not much and no! We were once on the same bill as him but we didn't play the show. We showed up at a place called ‘The Icepick' in Michigan to learn to our dismay that we were on the same bill as G.G. Allen! We were like "Ok, as long as we can play first and get the hell out of there!" We didn't want to deal with all the blood, and hope he didn't do a sound-check... But anyway we got there and had a look at the place and it had KKK slogans on it, and it said ‘If you ain't white you ain't right' and I just didn't feel particularly comfortable there so we just kinda got back in the van and drove away! We didn't play the show but the people at the show were all like, "From now on only send us hardcore bands and no more pussy bands," and then they got in their car and followed us across the state of Michigan but we managed to avoid getting beaten up by them, I don't know how, but they followed us for a week! That's the price you pay to avoid playing with G.G. Allen and looking back on it now I still believe we did the right thing. Jym was in a band that had to play with G.G. once, so it can happen, but I'm not interested in that guy at all. He was only sort of what generously could be called a musician, right? It has nothing to do with music. I don't know what it is. It was like a sort of art project gone wrong!

Monk- Did you see his corpse photo on the cover of MRR?

Dr. Frank- No, I didn't see that but I think it was pointless, like everything else they do is pointless. You know, what are they trying to say with that? One of the few things that they have accomplished in the recent years at MRR is giving that guy more of a career than he ever would have had, you know, it's a big achievement!

Monk- What do you think of the following punk rock reformations:-(a)The Sex Pistols?

Dr. Frank- Well I think that it was inevitable that it was gonna happen. I think that I'd have some interest to see it if I wasn't such a lazy, ‘stay at home' kinda guy, you know, I might've made the effort to go see it just to see, but um, I imagine that they're a great band. They were a good rock'n'roll band. I saw them when I was just a little kid and if they had long hair they could've been AC/DC! They're just as good as anything right now, but frankly it doesn't interest me that much.

Monk- (b) The Misfits?

Dr. Frank- That's another one that you could've set your watch by although, um, I'm surprised that it worked out the way it did without Glenn Danzig because of course, you know, he'll make a mint from whatever they do but it really would've been bigger than anything he's doing now. Once again though, I saw the Misfits for real and it was one of the most violent shows I've ever been to and was kind of exciting, but I just don't see what the point of re-treading all that stuff is. I actually would be more interested in the Sex Pistols if they said, "We've got a bunch of new songs, here's what we're doing now." Sure it would be awful but still it would be kind of interesting.

Monk- And Glenn's voice kinda made the band...

Dr. Frank- He did have quite a distinctive voice. It was the voice, it was the whole gimmick of the cheesy horror comic aspect of it. There's a reason why that band was so loved and, uh, so influential but in a way it's not totally pointless because they'll make a lot of money from it, and making money is important and everything, but as far as a band goes, there's way better things I'd like to be doing with my time than go see whatever the current version of that twenty year old band is.

Monk- (c) The Descendents?

Dr. Frank- Uh, pretty much all of the above there you know, you could've predicted that easily. As All slipped lower and lower you knew that at one point Bill Stevenson was gonna do the obvious thing and, uh, I've heard the record and it's not bad, better than expected, although I didn't hear it and the best of circumstances and I still can't remember any of the songs, and that's not a good sign, ever. I always liked the Descendents although I always considered that "Milo Goes to College" was the high point and then it was a sort of deterioration from there, and I think that this is just continuing that process. Again, I don't think that the point of it is, "We are the Descendents, we are making a definitive statement, we are coming back to do what we do best," it's just a cashing in thing. As I've said there's nothing wrong with that but there's no particular reason to be interested in it either. I would go to see by accident, but not on purpose, like if I happened to be playing on the same bill or if I had a girlfriend who wanted to go. You'd better go in that situation!

Monk- So you're gonna say the same about (d) Screeching Weasel then?

Dr. Frank- Pretty much. I mean, I know those guys and I like those guys, and I think that Screeching Weasel was a really good band. If they ever actually do do shows, everyone and their mother's gonna want to go. That's the thing, I'm just not interested frankly, unless it's so great that it overcomes that. Clearly the story of Screeching Weasel re-forming is that Ben Weasel, after a couple of years of not really getting it, is finally getting it through his thick skull how to cash in, how to make the most money he can, and that's what' he's gonna do. That's cool. He's been planning to do that for a long time and now he gets his wish. I've heard that record too, although I didn't listen to it too carefully, and it was really good. It sounds really god and will probably be a lot of people's favorite record of the year, and a lot of people will add it to their collection of other Screeching Weasel stuff. It sounds like a Fat album a lot less than you'd think because Fat didn't have anything to do with it. Screeching Weasel recorded it and everything, and just gave it to them. It does sound a little different, but I thought it sounded good. Again though, it was an inevitable thing and people will like it a lot more than anything else out at the moment. If they do more than just this album I'll be pretty surprised.

Monk- Do you know if they approached Lookout! at all?

Dr. Frank- The way that they ended up on Fat Wreck Chords is because of a really, really ugly tug of war between everybody upset at each other, and basically Ben just got fed up with Lookout! and decided to do the Fat Wreck Chords thing. It was originally gonna be Lookout! but it just didn't work out that way.

Monk- What instrument would you like to introduce into the band, if any, that you haven't already done so?

Dr. Frank- A keyboard would be great. I often thought that would be really cool but I'd always hate to add another member to the band because we used to have four members, but now there's three it's 25% easier. Having another person would just take us back where we started from, but yeah, a keyboard would be good. I always had dreams of having a horn section, like the Saints, but that's never gonna happen either but I hear horn parts of a lot of our songs in my head.

Monk- How many years will you give the human race and the planet before it all falls to pieces?

Dr. Frank- Oh, I don't think that there's gonna be an armageddon, and nobody can say how many years it might be if there was, but I think that the human race is gonna be around for a while.

Monk- So is it gonna end with the Aliens?

Dr. Frank- The Aliens?

Jym- You know, THE ALIENS!!!

Dr. Frank- I dunno. I think that ‘The Aliens' are greatly exaggerated too. I think that things will just continue as they are. That's the thing, everybody keeps saying how things are getting worse and worse and worse, and in many ways that's true. But also though, our century has had the worst things that have ever happened in the history of humanity and it probably won't ever get as bad as that again. Nowhere to go but up. I think that the depths of evil occurred in the ‘30's and ‘40's in Europe, and I don't see it as a decline from that. I see it as an improvement from then. I could even go out on a limb and say that I think the human race is good. Good will triumph... I can honestly say that that issue has never come up in an interview before!

Monk- What's your most political piece of lyric writing?

Dr. Frank- Well none of it really. A lot of the punk rock bands who do what they consider to be political material always seems to me that they're doing something their high school Social Science teacher would approve of. "Good kids, you're thinking about these things and that's awfully mature of you!" The vision of geo-politics under your average 17 year old is not necessarily a brilliant thing in the world. It's far more interesting when people like them, and me, write about stuff that they really think or feel. It makes better music and more interesting stuff. A lot of it is just ill-conceived rhetoric that doesn't rhyme anyway, so um, I'm just content with love songs.

Monk- What's in store for the future of the Mr. T Experience?

Dr. Frank- Well you know, what always is, which is just more of the same. We're gonna do more shows, more interviews like this, more records. Yeah, try to keep doing those things that we like, and the intention is to try and get more people to hear us and just keep destroying the hallowed fabric of punk rock. Destroying as we create. I imagine that the next year will hold a lot of those things. There'll probably be an album out in August, although there's probably gonna be EP's first and some sort of Dr. Frank solo record, although I don't know how substantial that's gonna be yet. There's a lot of stuff going on though.

Monk- The end is almost nigh, so one last thing we'd like to know is if you had the ability to see into the future and saw things that would destroy the world, would you try to change these things before they happened?

Dr. Frank- I know from many ‘Twilight Zone' episodes and ‘Tales From the Darkside' that often when you try to change the future you only make it worse, however, if the whole world were being destroyed I don't know how it could be much worse so, uh, well if you know you've got no future then there's a great freedom in that, right? There's all sorts of things that you could do. I mean, I've got ten pounds in my pocket that I don't necessarily want to blow on that fruit machine in there, but if I knew that there would be no tomorrow, uh, fruit machine here I come! I think that the main change that would probably happen if I were to see into the future, uh, with my luck it would all be wrong and I'd end up blowing my ten pounds and I'd end up screwing up my life, just like the Woody Allen movie where no one tells him about the prison breakout. Then I'd be stuck, worse off than I was before. You've depressed me now!

Monk- Ok, well before we depress you anymore, give our readers a sweet message and say your goodbyes...

Dr. Frank- Well, I have a traditional ending that I often give at interviews. It's a message that I think people have to hear. It's not heard enough anymore because it's been years since it was in the charts. It was an answer to the question, "What is love like?" and the answer is, "Love is like Oxygen. If you get too much you get too high, but not enough and you're gonna die. Love gets you high." That's it. Thanks a lot.