Explosive, unrelenting, bombastic high speed torrents of adrenaline-ravaged insanity. Grinding heaviness plunges head-on in a tumult self-described as "crossover." When it comes to ultra-fast delivery, DRI (Dirty Rotten Imbeciles) reigns supreme as kings of speed. Since they formed in Houston in early 1982, the Imbeciles have gained a steadily growing following among both hardcores and metal-heads. From their 1982 7" debut, simply titled "22 song EP" to the recently released "Crossover" (Metal Blade/Death), DRI has honed their assault from a speedy riot to a virtual brick wall of force and power. Vocalist Kurt Brecht howls away as axeman Spike Cassidy grinds with unbridled force. The wrecking ball rhythm section of drummer Felix Griffin and bassist Josh Pappe thunders in a fast ferver. Hard and fast rules, dude.
What was the feeling when you guys formed?
Kurt-It was a blast for me. It was the first time that we had all been in a band.
Spike-It had something to do with boredom, there being nothing to do in Houston, Texas, at the time. I was into playing guitar and listening to a lot of heavy, guitar music, so I was dying to get into a band. It was when hardcore first started, with Black Flag, the Circle Jerks, TSOL and a lot of the real fresh bands from '81 and '82.
What was the initial Houston scene like?
K-There were two good clubs, the Omni and the Island, and they'd have touring bands every couple of weeks and a local show every week.
S-We all knew each other.
K-...and not too many suburban kids, mainly the downtown punks.
S-We played almost every weekend. Every time there was a show we wound up playing. There weren't a lot of local bands--just us and Doomsday Massacre--we would switch off opening for whoever came through and eventually they started letting us headline.
Why did you move to San Francisco?
K-Verbal Abuse was also a Houston band and they had moved there. Nicki, their singer, came back and we gave him a tape, which he gave to Tim Yohannan at Maximum Rock 'n' Roll. Tim called us up and told us that we were right for San Francisco and he invited us to play a Texas show that Verbal Abuse, MDC and the Dicks were going to play... We did the show and ended up staying around for awhile.
S-We wanted to get out of town. We were working hard in Houston but going nowhere, so we jumped at the chance to move to San Francisco, which was one of the punk capitals at the time.
Wasn't DRI part of the SF "Vat Scene?"
S-Toward the very end. After we moved to SF, we were there for about six months to a year. We really weren't there when everyone was squatting heavily. It was gloomy.
Josh-I kind of liked it!
K-You could hear all the other bands, Condemned to Death, MDC and the Dicks practicing. We all influenced each other insofar as coming up with songs that sounded like something you might have heard the night before and not realized it. The vat was an abandoned Hamms beer brewery, that's now been leveled and is currently a parking lot.
Tell me about the Rock Against Reagan tour.
S-It was okay since it was our first tour. We played a string of free shows and got food plus money for gas.
K-The first couple of shows we did on the way to the East Coast, where MDC was already on tour, were pretty terrible since the gigs were set up only a few days before we played them, but it went alright after that. That tour, in the Summer of 1983, got us out there in front of people, and after we did that we were able to book our own tour back to SF.
What involved you guys with Rock Against Reagan?
K-MDC invited us and it seemed like a good way to get on the road.
S-Exposure. Also, at the time, we were a lot more politically concerned. I don't think that we preached enough between songs, which is what they wanted us to do.
K-They wanted us to talk more between songs about what was going on. Most people didn't like the preaching and would rather read a book on it anyway.
S-Now we don't get along with them too well.
Do you question the sincerity of that whole school of politico-hardcore?
J-Everybody's a hypocrite, but when the hypocritical aspect of something affects us, we kind of get bummed out, especially since our first record was on their label. It just didn't work out in the end. MDC made a lot of promises, didn't come through with them and never really bothered to tell us what was going on.
K-And the same thing happened to a lot of other bands on their label, which didn't seem to bother them too much.
Do you guys realize that you have a reputation as a communist band?
S-I don't know where that came from.
K-Well, if you say, "capitalists suck," a lot of people are going to call you a communist.
J-We're not anti-American, but we are against certain things.
K-It depends on what you think is capitalist. If you think capitalsim is making a profit, then I'm not against it. But, if it involves exploiting other people and fucking them over bad, I have feelings about that.
K-Well, look at what's going on in Central America with big-time companies totally exploiting people. I think that's fucked up, but how can you really know exactly what's happening? I'd rather be living up here than down there. At least you're protected here.
J-Everybody's got their own definition anyway.
S-Some people will have things to say about us because we do things like make a profit off of shows, but simply, you have to in order to make a band work.
K-People will say that you should just get enough for gas and a little bit for food if you can't eat at someone's house...
J-And these are people that never lived in the vats or in a soup kitchen or anything like that. We all lived in a van for a year.
K-And what happens when you get a flat tire? I asked a guy that question once and he simply said that you go home. Well, how do you get there?
J-Touring is home, especially when you don't have a place to live.
K-Anyone who thinks like that just isn't living within reality.
G-The scene will support, yuck, yuck, yuck...
S-The first year we were together we ended up paying a lot more money than we were taking in. We're still in debt and we're certainly not living the good life that everyone must think we are.
How would you describe the progression from "22 Songs" to "Dealing With It" and then to "Crossover?"
K-It's a gradual, natural evolution. It sounds heavier now due to better sound quality. We always had slow, heavy intros... They just didn't sound all that heavy. S-AM radio in your bathtub!
How did the "Crossover" cover come about?
S-We were actually working on something else, but when we found out that virtually the same concept was being used by somebody else, that got dropped and we needed something quick.
J-So the only thing that we could agree on was having the logo on the front since it's always been on the back, and we also wanted it to look a little different than our usual logo.
S-We gave it a spit shine.
DRI in space!
K-Expect further variations.
Jungle motifs... How did you guys actually come up with the logo?
K-My little brother Eric and I were in art school about the same time that we started the band, and we had to create a company logo, so he asked if he could do a record company and they said yes, so he designed it, got a good grade and we decided to use it for the band.
What is the statement of "Crossover?"
J-That's just what we were labelled, so it kind of stuck.
S-We took it from everyone else in write-ups and all that kind of stuff.
K-It's music that's accessible to both hardcore and metal crowds. Now, there are larger crowds and things are a lot more interesting.
It's funny, DRI was one of the bands that was around during a seminal time for crossover, when bands like Negative Approach first started playing that style of music.
S-Bands that would be considered to have crossed-over now.
K-The only people that seemed to be against it were the punks. I guess they thought that the metal-heads coming to the shows were ignorant of political issues going on around them. At least they're getting educated.
What's the next step for DRI?
S-We're trying to get better distribution for our records to reach people who couldn't deal with the underground scene.
K-People will now go into a regular old record store and see our records. They may not buy it, but it will be there.
Why do you think a large independent or a major label would be interested in an atonal thrash band like DRI?
J-They can make money off it; the market's right for us now.
K-They look at our past history, see how many records we've sold and realize that we could sell even more records given better distribution. We've sold about one-hundred-thousand, which is the point where majors start to get interested.
S-Given the push of a major, we want to keep the band moving along as strongly as possible. The band is pretty much all we have. None of us has any money, jobs or anything like that.
K-I have a job making jewelry, but there's no way I could move up in what I'm doing. I'll never be the boss or the manager or anything like that. I'm stuck where the boss wants to keep me.
What's next for DRI?
S-We seem to be getting back to our original influences, which is a lot of old rock. Who knows what will creep into our newer material? Only time will tell.