Photos by Tim Tonooka
MDC stands out among even political bands, as not just SOUNDING more political than most, but in applying their beliefs in everyday practice. MDC got together in Texas four years ago, and they've had the same lineup for the last year. In April '82 they moved to San Francisco. Their "John Wayne Was a Nazi" single was released in April '81, and their LP in June '82.
MDC was interviewed on July 16, '82 at the Vats by Tim Tonooka.
"IT DOESN'T MAKE US LAY DOWN AND GO TO SLEEP"
dave: "John Wayne Was a Nazi" was I think the first song that we wrote. Franc'o and I had been politicos in Texas working on different things. "John Wayne Was a Nazi," it's so obvious. In Texas, John Wayne's revered like a hero. If he could be alive and running for governor, he'd win in a snap. Frank, I, and Ron had just been friends hanging out in Austin, Texas. We figured, "Where can we make our stand where it will be the most felt, where we're doing what we really want to be doing with it?" Just being a local politico wasn't what I wanted. I wanted to put it into art and music, and rebellion, and that's how the group started. I don't knock anyone who's doing things like going door to door, or calling no nukes on the phone, because there's a lot of great people doing that. But we just felt like that wasn't us. We have this real kind of dark image of what the future is going to be. Just world wars and so much hate and repression, and, it sounds kind of weird to say in an interview, but deep down inside, my soul tells me there's so much misery happening, that's it's just a little too late. Everything that's in me point to this total destruction of our life. Amerika, the United States, mabe the whole Northern Hemisphere.
franc'o: It's like the finger's on the button, just waiting for the order to push it. And it's like, it doesn't make us lay down and go to sleep, it makes us pissed off as hell.
dave: And write songs, and put our energy, instead of being a doctor, or being whatever else our sideline interests would be if we weren't politicos, it makes us fucking reach down inside of us and do shit like this.
THE KLAN AND THE POLICE
dave: The Klan showed up at a gig in Texas in about three or four old Amerikan cars one day, a couple guys in fatigues, real scroungeyish looking, almost between hippie and not quite bikers, but just real East Texas white trash kind of Klan people. They came to the gig and they were handing out literature. There's a lot of young kids in the scene, and I didn't want them to pick up on all this hate and shit. I went up to them and I confronted them, and I started burning their propaganda, and there was like a little scene started, it was a bunch of punks and a bunch of Klan, and then it got cooled out by the security guards, and then some other guy came over and punched one of them cold. The Klan are real active in Texas. Some of the Vietnamese refugees there became fishermen, and it was cutting in on the local fishermen, and the Klan came out in support of the white people, and they drove all the Vietnamese fishermen out.
ron: On the Rio Grande border, the KKK patrol the area with dogs and shotguns to make sure that no "wetbacks" get across.
dave: There's been substantiated reports where they say up to a third of the Houston Police Department is Klan infiltrated.
ron: That's where this comes from (back cover of the MDC album): "Blue by day, white by night." Policemen in the day, Klansmen at night.
franc'o: Like Joe Campos Torres. He was just a Mexican guy hanging out in a bar, and the police didn't like him. They handcuffed his hands behind his back and threw him in the bayou.
dave: Knocked him unconscious and he drowned in the bayou. Houston's got a record in the last five years, probably the most homicides of any major police department in the country. They even overtook Philadelphia and Mayor Rizzo.
ron: In Texas, we did a benefit for the Texas farmworkers. They only pay them a couple dollars a day.
dave: And they go to prisons, and they get all these crazy white trash white people who are just twisted, they hate the Mexicans, they hate the blacks, and they arm them and take them out when there's a farmworkers problem going on. It gets SO little national attention it's unbelieveable. Every now and then the camera will go down there, "Three farmworker union leaders were beaten and shot." It's in the news a day and a half, then life goes on. And it's not just based on racism. It's based on economics. I believe even if there weren't different races in this country, rich people would still be using power to thwart poor people
"MY FAMILY IS A LITTLE WEIRD"
franc'o: I think punk has tried to get people together, to say, "Hey, things aren't so cool." Especially if your family didn't have a lot of money and stuff, and you had to come from a broken family but meanwhile you're being fed all this stuff that you're supposed to be Mr. & Mrs. Donny Osmond. It just doesn't work, and it's real alienating to a lot of kids, because they think that they're the weird ones, when actually it's the society that's all fucked up.
dave: That's almost where the song "My Family is a Little Weird" comes from. It was a song I wrote that had to do with growing up in Amerika, like Frank said, though my family isn't word for word like the family in that song. It was just so weird when I was young watching Leave It to Beaver. It wasn't like that at all for my background.
Frank was talking about a new disco song, one that comes to mind, "In The Navy," which subliminally enters in that Coca Cola disco society that in the Navy, it's cool and I'm on the deck of a ship, and the wind's blowing. Of course there's the macho gay element in the song, but it appeals over the whole society. And what's that other song?
franc'o: It's "I Love a Man in a Uniform." This guy has progressed to being in the army, and being proud, and all the girls like him now, because he's in a uniform.
dave: And it's all surface bullshit. It appeals to just a basic sexual thing of, "Oh, he's a man in a uniform, and I'm just a fluff fluff girl."
franc'o: And it just creates the mentality that that's what's cool, and it's being fed all over the airwaves, and a lot of people suck it right up, just like the rest of the propaganda. A lot of the shows on TV are cop shows, it makes you feel like the cops are always right, and anybody who's a stranger on the street or who might look a little bit different from you is automatically a criminal or drug addict or this or that, and definitely ought to be avoided. It keeps people apart from each other. People don't feel like they can come up to each other and talk, because everybody's afraid of each other from what they've been taught on the TV.
"YOU CAN'T JUST PLAY TO THE HOMETOWN CROWD"
WHY MDC LEFT AUSTIN
al: Logistically, Texas is not a good place for a hardcore band to be, because Austin and Houston are the only viable cities to play in. And it's a thousand miles in any direction. The media support for hardcore is NIL. Three years later they're playing the Sex Pistols to do everybody a big favor. It kinda hurts to put out your music and know there are people who are interested, and never get media support. There's fanzines and stuff, but radio isn't interested.
ron: None of the radio stations play hardcore punk. And the newspapers rarely write anything. They prefer to ignore punk rock or they'll label it as nazi goon squads, or berating the police at a safe distance, etc. Even the college station wouldn't play the Dicks or us, and as far as clubs are concerned, when we left, we were having to rent halls to do shows.
dave: We wanted to spread our music to more places than just Texas.
ron: You've got to test yourself too. You can't just play to the hometown crowd, where it's real safe and it's always the same people. You gotta go and check it out in different places, to see if they accept you and your message, so we left. And it's the best thing we could have done, I swear. It's like, if we were still there, we'd be nowhere.
dave: I found myself setting up a lot of the shows, putting all of this energy into a part of the scene that is cool, but I found here, there's people setting up the shows, so we can put the energy into MDC itself, or into new songs.
MDC is a band whose musical influences are VERY diverse, spanning the musical spectrum from classical to jazz to salsa to rock to hardcore, bands ranging from the Who to Black Flag and Minor Threat to name but a few of a long list. But of all their influences, the Dicks, a Texas band, are cited as being especially inspiring.
dave: Their lead singer is a man named Gary Floyd. He's a tremendous sized gay transvestite commie street politico who I met in Austin four or five years ago. I was a college sophomore or something, and he had a little stand in front of the college. He was a real inspiration, just talking politics. He doesn't fit in, he comes from a small town in Texas. They wanted him to just roll up and die, because he's such a freak. Instead he got up and was strong enough to persevere, against all the "You fat queer," etc., that he must have heard a million times, coming from Palestine, Texas, the rural part of Ku Klux Klan country. He was a real influence spiritually and intelligently and emotionally.
"DON'T WASTE TOO MUCH OF YOUR TIME"
dave: If there's anything MDC says, it's take yourself seriously, don't waste too much of your time. People use drugs, and that's okay, we're not holy rollers and we're not straight edge, but just don't fuck up and waste your time. Don't let drugs use you.
I read something that was in a letter in one 'zine about how they hated the school system so bad. They said people are ruling over others, they had to vote in a school election for one person or another, and that's where it starts. You have to choose somebody who is going to rule you. Think about it. Don't let people rule you.
franc'o: Get together with your friends and try to figure stuff out instead of just falling into regular trendy molds. Your friends are the people you can depend on.
dave: And if these friends fuck you up and don't let you be who you are, change your friends. Enjoy yourself, not meaning disregard what we've been saying, like ignore all this and just have fun while there's time, but just enjoy yourself because you know that you're doing the best you can do. Like the fact that I'm not a fucking corporate slave working 9 to 5, and that we live in a beer vat. I sleep in an air shaft and Frank and Al live on foam mattresses on either side, and Ron lives in the van. It's very spartan, but I'm having more fun and more good feelings about my life than I ever did, than when I was 17 living in mommy's house with mommy's car and daddy bringing home the paycheck. Those days were okay, and were part of my growing up, but don't get caught in the bourgeois trip of supporting your new car to support your expensive apartment to support fuckin' big business who support whatever. You can have fun and do what you want to do and feel meaningful. And try to find people who will help you along that way and not fight you. That's it.