Interview with Dave Chelsea-Seifert
By: Ted

Over the course of twelve years, Dave and I painstakingly assembled this deep and insightful interview into the mind of one of the most renowned members of the Ted Chain. (Dave, that is.) It is an interview that touches two millenia and digs deep into the tortured soul of a traveller through the hardships of life as he "throws pretzels to the wind". Filled with pathos and ethos, you will not be left unchanged by the power of its words. Seeking for a deeper meaning will be handsomely rewarded. Brace yourself for the onslaught....

How did you get started in music?

Well, my parents were very into music themselves, so I was constantly exposed to it as a little kid. Consequently, I was "into" music since I can remember. I remember singing songs that I heard my parents listening to on the radio when I was three or four, and I listened to the 1812 Overture and Jesus Christ Superstar over and over again. I even had this kind of play that I acted out to the 1812 Overture where I was a soldier on the frozen battlefields of Russia, etc., etc., and I ended up getting riddled by shrapnel and dying during the cannon explosion finale. (This is completely unrelated, but my first roommate at St. Mary's College, Walt Pletcher, instructed me in the finer points of having sex to the 1812 Overture, complete with simultaneous orgasms during the aforementioned cannon explosion finale. This is when I was still a virgin, and he was basically telling me how I could have unbelievable sex if I did it to the 1812 Overture and followed his prescribed routine exactly.)

I started bugging my parents to buy me a full drum kit when I was in 4th or 5th grade, and of course they told me that there was no way in hell they were going to buy me a full drum kit, especially since I had never played drums before. I think that partly I was trying to emulate my older stepbrother who played drums, but I also think that there was some kind of natural attraction there too, since I still love listening to and playing drums to this day. Anyway, my parents bought me a drum pad instead. Now, if you've ever played drums before, you know that a drum pad sucks if you want to play drums - it's not loud at all, and what the fuck are you supposed to do with only one drum? So I started making up drum kits with pots and pans and trash cans that I would play in my room.

Around the same time my parents signed me up to play clarinet in my elementary school's band. This was the first time that I actually officially played music. I liked playing the clarinet, and I also like playing in an orchestra (or band or whatever it was). I didn't really like practicing every night, though, so part way through my second year on clarinet my parents made me stop. They had to pay to rent it, and I was only practicing about half as much as I was supposed to, so they felt like I was wasting their money. It had gotten to be more of a chore than a fun thing by then, so I didn't really mind too much.

Clarinet is a pretty popular band instrument, how was your embouchure?

I have no idea what the fuck an embouchure is, but I consider that question to be sexual harassment. I don't have any recollection of why I played clarinet. The kids who played the sax were the coolest kids in the band in my eyes, and I thought clarinet was pretty good too because it was like the saxophone's musical cousin.

Did you do any singing in elementary school?

In 6th grade my school had the 6th Grade Chorus, which all 6th graders had to participate in. 6th Grade Chorus rocked! I remember we sang a couple of songs by Rush ("Closer to the Heart" was one of them.), "Oklahoma," and "White Christmas," which we also did sign language to simultaneously (I can still sing "White Christmas" in sign language for some reason.) We sang a lot of other songs too and traveled around to different schools performing. This was when I really got sold on singing. I loved the power of it and how I could just become completely overcome by the emotion of the music. I also loved making music as part of a group; it was cool how all the different sections came together to make something greater than the sum of the parts.

That's deep. Were you involved in any bands outside of school during this period?

After elementary school and 6th Grade Chorus ended I didn't do anything musical until 11th grade in high school, at which point I started doing two very different kinds of music. The first of these was to join the choir at St. Matthews United Methodist Church, where my girlfriend and a bunch of her, and eventually my, friends went to church. I was an atheist, but I loved to sing, so I just kept my mouth shut about the religious stuff.

So much for preaching to the choir....

That was great - I loved singing in the church choir. The music was really beautiful and powerful, and we practiced once or twice a week and performed every week, so my singing improved a lot. That was pretty neat - I could hear myself getting better. I was even able to sight read, although I can't anymore. So I did that for two years until the end of high school.

On the far other end of the musical spectrum, I got into punk rock during the 10th grade. Every teenage kid has energy to burn, and I was pretty pissed off about a bunch of different things at that point in my life, so I was inspired by the DIY spirit of punk to start singing in a punk band.

I had been writing poetry for a while, so I started writing a lot of songs too - some surprisingly good, but many embarrassingly bad. I bought a microphone at Radio Shack, plugged it into my dad's tape deck, and started recording vocals for all the songs I was writing. My friend played guitar, and at some point he left his guitar amp at my house for a month or so. I would run my mic through his amp, crank up the hardcore on the stereo, and sing along to my favorite bands. One summer I let another friend who played drums keep his drum kit at my house for a couple of weeks. This was my chance to really play drums! Of course when I tried to play them, all I made was a mess. Learning one piece of the kit at a time was out of the question. My ADD-fueled teenage impatience demanded that I sit down and immediately pound out the world's wildest, most bombastic drum solo ever. After four or five unsuccessful attempts to do this I wrote off drums and went back to singing.

This whole time I was trying to find people to actually start a band with. Most of my friends weren't into punk rock, and some of them were but didn't want to start a band. There were a few false starts, but nothing happened until I got to college.

How could you totally write off your experience with Band: Saw and Greenbeast? Were things really that bad?

I guess I tend to overlook them because they weren't really around for that long. Plus, Band: Saw kinda sucked. Band: Saw was the result of one of my attempts to form a band with some of my high school friends the summer before college started. I was the only one in the band into punk. The bass player was into classic rock, and he would always whine that it hurt his fingers and wrist to play so fast. Roger and Paul, the guitarist and the drummer, were total metalheads. That was when speed metal was pretty new still, and they were into Metallica, Metal Church, Megadeth - all the M bands. We were pretty bad, though, and we only were a band for a couple of months, and we never played out, so that's why I don't count it as a band really. More of an attempt.

Greenbeast was a lot of fun, though, and I think it's the most creative band I've ever been in. But again, it didn't last for long. We started at the end of senior year in high school, and we actually tried to keep it going when I went away to college. I went back home to practice with them the first three weekends, but it got to be too hectic, so we called it quits. We played two shows, both in the same week - one was a friend's party, and the other was at a dance at the Knights of Columbus.

We were way ahead of our time. We had a DJ before any rock bands ever had a DJ (We were all really into hip hop.), and we had a didjeridoo five years before anyone in the US even knew what the fuck one was. This guy Eric's uncle lived in Australia, and he sent one to Eric as a high school graduation present. It was pretty intense. Eric would mike the didj and then run that through a distortion pedal and a wah-wah pedal, so it had this really sick, twisted, deep droning sound. It sounded kinda nasty and menacing, and then we had Paula scratching. She liked to use the stuff that the Bomb Squad was doing for Public Enemy back then, so that was pretty hard and dense. And then we had a drummer who was a fucking maniac. He laid down these really heavy, head-nodding rhythms. We used to joke that since he played so hard and sweated so much we should just say that he played bodily fluids. So our sound was pretty rhythm-heavy, and a lot of songs were instrumentals, which I actually liked better than the songs I sang on, because they would always get a really good groove going. When I did sing, the vocals were more like raps or chants. People always used to say that we were environmental, like we were Midnight Oil or something, but actually none of songs were about the environment. We gave out information on Greenpeace at our two shows because I was really into that organization back then, but that's about as environmental as we got.

I still miss Greenbeast. That's one band that I wish hadn't broken up.

Tell us about your musical experiences in college. Did it start out as you had expected?

I don't think I really had any expectations of what my musical experiences in college were going to be like. I didn't necessarily assume that I was going to be in a band. I didn't really have much idea what college was going to be like at all. This is really going to test my memory, because that was twelve or so years ago, and that first year was a blur.

When I first got to St. Mary's I started hanging out with some people from my orientation week group and a few people that I just ran into in the dorms. A couple weeks into the first semester a few of them, Susan Ack, Ed Seighman, and Charlie Riordan, joined/formed a band called The Apathetics, which was to become a member of the illustrious Ted Chain. They were kind of progressive pop, I guess you'd say. Two of the members I didn't really know - Keith Richmond and Rob Barlowe. Everyone who was friends with the band members would hang out at their practices, and so my group of friends got introduced to other people that way, and we all started hanging out as one larger group. Darrin Danner, who was Keith's roommate, and [Ted] were people who I met that way.

There were a few bands on campus then, but none of them played the kind of music that I was into: punk and speed metal. One day during lunch or dinner I was sitting with Darrin and Keith, and we started talking about how we should form a thrash band to fill the void. Darrin played guitar, and Keith could play bass (even though he was The Apathetics' drummer), and I'd always wanted to be a singer, so we had three-fourths of the band already. I made up a flier to post around campus advertising for a drummer, but the night that I was about to put them up, Darrin and Keith told me that they had recruited Andrew Kastello, who played in the school's jazz band and lived a few doors down from them. I was skeptical that anyone who even listened to jazz would be appropriate for a band as hardcore as ours was going to be, but they assured me that he knew how to rock and that he wanted to play punk. This was sometime in October of my first year. I know because I remember going to a Halloween party after one of our first practices.

Andrew's versatility was well known at the time. Did he prove himself immediately?

Geez, I don't really remember. I wasn't terribly musically sophisticated back then. (I'm still not.) I think I was just excited that I was in a band with three people who all liked the same kind of music as I did and who could play pretty well. I remember Andrew hitting the drums pretty hard (punk rock=hard and fast=good), and his drums parts had a lot of syncopation, probably the jazz influence there. I also remember him counting us off by smacking his drumsticks together and shouting the beat over them, which I thought was pretty punk rock. Did I mention that I wasn't very musically sophisticated back then? He definitely put to rest any fears that I had about him being a lightweight.

When I go back and listen to our stuff now, though, I'm very impressed by Andrew's drumming. He had a metronome's timing and did some pretty cool, intricate fills. And, again, the drum parts had kind of a darting, staggering, syncopated quality that I like a lot.

How did you come up with this band's name (Let's See Dick)?

Well, I would first like to state for the record that I think See Dick was an incredibly stupid name and that I agreed to it only out of desperation for lack of a better name. I'm not sure if we picked it at the same meal that we decided to form a band or later, but we picked it when we were eating in the dining hall at school. That week was alcohol awareness week (like that's really necessary at a college), and there were posters everywhere that said, "See Dick drink. See Dick drive. See Dick die. Don't be a Dick." Not very politically correct, if you ask me. Anyway, as I said, we were desperately trying to think of a name that we could all agree on. We might have been drunk.... Initially we were just See Dick, but we changed our name to Let's See Dick so that the band initials would be LSD. I'm still not sure if I'm impressed or embarrassed by that move.

Let's See Dick then evolved into Absolute Value with a single personnel change. Was it a peaceful transition, or was there a lot of in-fighting?

(written while listening to Archdiocese and eating chocolate chip cookie dough)

I guess I'd have to say that it was somewhere in between. At that time Darrin and Keith were roommates, and like many roommates, they would get into bitchy little snits with each other on a semi-regular basis. So they were starting to get on each other's nerves, and that tension was starting to find its way into the band dynamic. At that point The Apathetics (Keith's other band that he played drums for) were the more accomplished band. They were playing a lot more gigs, and I think that they actually got paid for some of them - something which Let's See Dick/Absolute Value never managed to achieve. So, I think that Keith just decided to focus on the more successful band at the time, which also had the benefit of being the one that didn't have his roommate that he sometimes found annoying in it. Plus, we all had to kill a kitten as part of our band bonding ritual, and Keith didn't want to do it.

I seem to remember reading on Keith's old website, which isn't up anymore, a few years ago something to the effect that he started thinking that he was too cool for us so we dumped him, but I don't remember kicking him out at all.

Anyway, we found Eddy Seighman, who was The Apathetics' guitarist, to take Keith's place on bass without any real interruption. We actually continued as Let's See Dick for a while with Ed before changing our name to Absolute Value. Once Eddy joined the band we all clicked right away. He, Darrin, and I were already friends before the band even started, and he knew Andrew too, since all of us punk kids hung out together, so the transition went quite smoothly..

"I Can't Dance to Any of These" was one of the Ted Chain's biggest selling albums, primarily because you guys actually sold some copies. What sort of inspirations did you draw on for the lyrics to these songs?

(written with "Detroit SWAT" on the TV in the background while drinking caffeine free Diet Pepsi)

When I was writing when I was in Absolute Value, whether it was a song or a poem or a prose piece, I was writing about something that I wasn't comfortable with as a way to accept it or come to terms with it, or sometimes to help finish that process if it was something that I was really struggling with. A lot of times I would write the songs from the point of view that I was trying to understand, often assuming the identity of a person in one of these roles that I was conflicted about.

One of my friends in high school, actually someone that I had been friends with when I was younger but who remained an acquaintance, killed herself. She took a bunch of pills and later died of the pneumonia that resulted from the overdose. (That's what I remember the explanation being, but now that I write it that doesn't make a lot of sense. Who knows?) "Never Again" was obviously my reaction to this - just feeling completely overwhelmed, my sense of loss, sadness, anger - at her and the circumstances that led her to do something that horrible and drastic. "It's Easy" was more of an angry and disappointed response to what I saw as suicide being an easy way out. I don't feel that way now, but I was still reacting to my friend's suicide when I wrote it. "Two Seconds 'til Death" was partly an examination of the conflict that someone considering suicide must feel and also of the conflict that we all sometimes feel when the correct moral decision isn't obvious. I wrote it about a kamikaze pilot who has just received his assignment, during his flight, and as he is plunging toward his target.

My friends and I in high school and college all had a lot of baggage and some pretty serious issues. Punk's not happy music, and it doesn't usually attract happy people. At least three of my friends in high school had alcoholic parents, and one of my high school friends and a couple of my friends at St. Mary's were alcoholics themselves. I found out later that another one of my friends at St. Mary's was being abused by her boyfriend, but I never knew about it until after the fact. "Slip Through" was about wanting to help my friends fight their demons but feeling powerless to do it for them. "Rage Out" was simply a statement against the mindless, Fuck Shit Up mentality that was/is all too prevalent in punk rock and how counterproductive it is. "Voices" was a rant by a misogynistic, racist, paranoid speed freak right before he blows his head off. In this song I was basically just exploring the dark side and destructive impulses that we all have within us.

Boy, I guess my friend's suicide did a pretty good number on me, huh? No less than four songs on one album where suicide figures prominently. There's your inspiration.

The rest of the songs on the album were either covers, joke songs, or written by Darrin about Susan.

Susan posing with
the Bun-O-Matic

Back around the time of the release of "I Can't Dance To Any Of These," the tabloids and even the mainstream media were commenting on Absolute Value being obsessed with weight loss. As one paper put it, "They have a Bun-O-Matic at every one of their recording sessions and offer Fibre-Trim to their guests. 'Get-thin-quick' is their motto and boy does it show." Having been on the inside, I know these accusations are absurd. None of you were even overweight. Set the record straight for us. How did this series of rumors get started and then perpetuated?

(written while watching "Family Guy" and eating chicken nuggets and french fries)

Oh, God. Okay. Like most things sensationalized in the media this was a nonincident blown out of proportion. We recorded the musical tracks for "I Can't Dance to Any of These!" at Andrew's family's summer home. Before his parents bought it, his uncle owned it, so it had been in his family for a really long time. We were there recording all day long and into the night, and there were long periods of down time while you tinkered with mics or listened back to tracks and complained that we played things out of key or off-tempo or whatever.

So at one point Eddy was wandering around the basement and found this cheesy, as-seen-on-TV exercise gadget called a Bun-o-Matic. It was like the 70's version of the Thighmaster. Remember those Jane Fonda workout videos from the 80's where she was pelvic thrusting while laying on her back? Well, this thing supported your legs and back while you pelvic-thrusted your ass to perfection. It was totally cheesy looking, and I'm sure that it didn't work worth a damn, so Ed brings it upstairs and shows it to all of us. Of course we all tried it out and used it for the rest of the recording session. We loved how kitschy it was. Then of course we had to drag it to the next show that we played so that I could work out on it on stage, what with the sexy pelvic thrusting and all. Eddy, Andrew, and I insisted during practice earlier that day that Susan should use the Bun-o-Matic during the show that night, but she wisely declined. I think that I probably looked sexier anyway.

Also during the recording at Andrew's house Darrin found a box of chocolate Ex-Lax in the medicine cabinet, and he tricked me into eating everything that was left in the box, which was about half of it. Okay, he didn't actually trick me - he dared me. Anyway, about 45 minutes later a torrent of feces erupted from my body, and I was basically on the toilet for the rest of the recording session. And yes, I did actually record the vocals for "Never Again" while sitting on the toilet with a very long mic cord.

The show during which I used the Bun-o-Matic was in Lower Charles Hall at school, and for some reason the entertainment reporter for the local paper in Leonardtown or Lexington Park or one of the nearby towns did a story on the show (I guess covering the musical talent at the college or something) and interviewed us afterward. The Bun-o-Matic made its way into the story, as did the story about the Ex-Lax that Eddy made sure to tell the reporter. The thing is, I know that Eddy told the reporter that it was Ex-Lax, but the reporter wrote that it was Fibre-Trim. It may have been coincidence, but there was a big, half-page ad for Fibre Trim in the same issue that the story was in. So maybe they had a contract with Fibre-Trim to work the product into stories or something. I don't know. Anyway, it was Ex-Lax and not Fibre-Trim.

"Absolute Value: Live In Charles Hall" was recorded 4/19/1990, but was never released due to technical problems with the recording and during the performance. I believe there were five new original tunes on this recording, Message to a Deaf Person, Speak No Evil, Nathan's Note, Tomorrow, and Legacy. Can you give your rabid fans a tour of the landscape of these unreleased original works?

(written while watching Seinfeld [the one where the story regresses through time rather than advancing forward] and eating "Pirate Swords")

"Message to a Deaf Person" is about how sometimes people are not going to see your point of view or join your cause no matter how persuasive your argument is and the best way to win them over is to walk the walk yourself and show them by example the advantages of your way. This song has the distinction of being the only Absolute Value song that I wrote the music to. Granted, I can't actually write music, so I had to hum the melody and make Darrin try for twenty minutes to match it on his guitar, but I actually came up with the melody instead of just writing lyrics or fitting words that I had already written to someone else's music. "Mother's Milk" by the Red Hot Chili Peppers had just come out, and you can definitely hear the influence.

"Speak No Evil" was my response to my girlfriend cheating on me. It was a battle between feeling fury and betrayal and trying to take the moral high road by not lashing out against her and using it as an experience to grow from. This song was kind of funny because we had just had a band meeting and decided that we were going to change directions with our music - leaving hardcore behind and becoming more of a progressive band in the vein of Depeche Mode or Jesus and Mary Chain. Then the very next song that we wrote was our hardest and heaviest yet. Also, a couple of months after we wrote "Speak No Evil" Andrew bought the new live Agnostic Front album, and the music for the verses of this song was identical, note for note, chord for chord, to the intro of one of their songs. None of us had ever heard their song before, but it was amazing that they were exactly the same.

The lyrics for "Nathan's Note" were a letter written to Darrin by his then four-year-old nephew Nathan that we used verbatim. It was little kid babble, but it sounded prophetic. The music for this song was probably my favorite of all our songs.

Ed wrote the music for "Tomorrow" and told me that he wanted me to write lyrics about "how fucked up everything and everyone is" or something to that effect - a very "Ed" sentiment. He and Darrin also switched instruments on this song. I loved a lot of our song intros, and this one is no exception. The dissonant notes in the beginning and then the way the guitar savagely rips into the beginning of the verse are great, and the syncopated backbeat of the drums and the way the bass comes rumbling in sound awesome.

I wrote "Legacy" as a reggae song in high school. Considering what it's about I'm not sure that it would have worked very well as a reggae song. I wrote it from the point of view of a man who has just murdered someone reflecting on how violent behavior has been passed from his father to him and from him to his own children. It turned out to be our fastest, most furious song. I think the music fit the subject perfectly. When I scream, "I just pray for death!" the last time and then the music, which was already roaring at breakneck speed, increases in tempo to this amplified whirring hum and then slams to a stop all at once still sends shivers down my spine.

It must have been nice to be able to switch from a band with a somewhat dubious name (Let's See Dick) to something a little more respectable and almost erudite (Absolute Value). What was the motivation behind the name "Absolute Value"?

"Erudite"? I don't accept charity, Ted, although I do appreciate the offer. Well, compared to Let's See Dick I guess anything would sound erudite. I think that we were all pretty much in agreement that Let's See Dick was a really bad name, and we needed something better.

"Absolute value" is a mathematical term that refers to a number's distance from zero, regardless of whether it is a positive or negative number. The absolute value of a number is always positive. I was taking a math class at the time (my second semester, I think), and the term struck me as a great concept to be applied to life in general. To me "Absolute Value" refers to extracting something positive out of every life experience, even painful or unpleasant ones, that everything in life that we experience has a positive absolute value that we should choose to focus on.

I'll return to the issue of my friend's suicide to illustrate this. You can see the loss of someone that you care about and the tragedy of suicide as an experience that takes something from you, as evidence that the world is unjust and uncaring, that anyone who is close to you will eventually be lost, that people are weak, etc., etc. Or you can choose to view it as a reminder that you should cherish and enjoy your friends and loved ones because you never know how long you will have them in your life, as an impetus to be more empathetic and sympathetic to other people's pain and despair, and as a moment to reflect on the strength and resilience of other people that you know who are depressed themselves but find the strength to go on every day.

To me it seems to be a lot more useful and a lot more pleasant to see the absolute value of things rather than their possible negative value.

Someone once said that practice makes perfect. I've heard a few of Absolute Value's practices on tape. They didn't seem all that perfect. Screaming middle-aged men can be heard on some of the more obscure tapes. What sorts of problems did you face when it came to practice time?

We rarely had a regular practice space and never had a permissible practice space. Whenever we had a scheduled practice, which was two or three times a week I think, the question literally every time was, "Where are we practicing today?"

In the beginning we used to practice in the performing arts building - I can't remember the name of it. It was the same room that The Apathetics practiced in. This worked well for a few months, but I think that it was a drama rehearsal room and they started needing to use it at the time that we practiced, or maybe someone else started using a room nearby, and the sound of our practices was interfering with their work, so we were asked to move.

When that happened we started using another room in the same building on an intermittent basis. It was a music rehearsal room, but it was available only by reservation, and of course we never bothered to reserve it and probably wouldn't have been allowed to, had we tried. A lot of times we would go there hoping to find it empty, and there would be some willowy woman practicing her violin or something, and we would have to lug all of our equipment across campus somewhere else - or better yet, someone who had booked it would show up midway through our practice, and then we would have to pack everything up and decide whether we wanted to end practice early or try to scavenge another practice site somewhere else. On the occasions when we did find the room empty and were able to actually complete a practice probably half the time someone would come in part way through the practice and tell us that we were so loud that it was making it difficult for them to concentrate on their own rehearsal. These rooms were intended for classical and jazz music and other music that was part of the school's curriculum, so they weren't really sound proofed. So anyway, we would always be very apologetic to the person and promise to turn our amps down and reassure them that we wouldn't be much longer. Then as soon as they left the room we would all turn our amps up. Ed especially derived sadistic satisfaction from this. I think that during our second year this room began to get used by a class or other musicians on a regular basis, because we stopped using it altogether. Occasionally we would see if it was empty out of desperation when we couldn't find anywhere else, but it seemed like it never was.

I felt a little bit bad for the people in the performing arts building who would ask us to turn it down because, first of all they were trying to prepare for a recital or exam or something and then all of a sudden this godawful punk rock starts blaring so loud that they can't even hear themselves think, much less play. Then, they finally get the nerve up to ask us to stop, and they walk into a room full of seven or eight punks who all turn around and start staring them down. This was pre-Nirvana, pre-grunge, pre-"alternative" when punk rock and punk rockers still actually gave people the willies and made them nervous.

Anyway, around this time we started using St. Mary's Hall on a fairly regular basis. St. Mary's Hall was one of the auditoriums where concerts would be held and movies would be shown. That was a good place to practice. It had a proper stage, and it was in one of the less densely populated and traveled areas of campus, so it never seemed to disturb people. Still, no one was supposed to be in there if there wasn't an authorized event scheduled, and so Public Safety would occasionally come in and shut us down if they heard us while they were doing their rounds. I'm amazed that they even left the place unlocked when it wasn't in use, and eventually they got wise to this and started locking it all the time, so we had lost another practice space.

After we lost use of St. Mary's Hall and whenever we couldn't use one of the rooms in the performing arts building we usually bounced around inside Dorchester Hall, the only all-male dorm on campus and the dorm that all of us except Susan lived in. Various practice spaces inside Dorchester included the 2nd Right study lounge, the 3rd Right study lounge (when this psycho named Tackler wasn't driving golf balls down the hall and through the glass panes of the study's door or throwing the study's furniture out of the windows), Darrin and Keith's (and later Darrin and Ed's) dorm room (yes, an entire band in a typical 15'x15' college dorm room - with furniture already in it keep in mind), and the Rec Area in 1st Center.

Toward the end of our last year the Rec Area in Dorchester was our most common rehearsal space. We would set up between the ping pong table and the couches in front of the TV set and start bangin' away. We ALWAYS got shut down by Res Life there, though, so it was merely a matter of how many songs we could get through before they ground through the enamel of their teeth and into the dentin and came storming downstairs in a rage. If you have practice tapes with us getting yelled at, then they were probably recorded here. They would usually let us go for the better part of an hour. Reflecting on it now I think it's hilarious that we saw nothing wrong with just showing up in the Rec Area, a huge space where people would be watching TV or using the community kitchen, walking through to the laundry room or whatever, plugging in and starting to play ear-shattering hardcore punk in the middle of the evening or afternoon. I'm amazed that they let us go as long as they did. I guess part of it was that either we did that or we didn't practice at all, and that wasn't really an option.

We even tried to practice in the Dorchester courtyard once and also on the grass next to the driveway that led to Caroline, PG and Dorchester dorms. Public Safety shut us down within two or three songs each time. Considering how many amplifiers we plugged into any available wall socket with extension cords over the years I'm surprised that we never tripped a breaker.

Absolute Value played many different places for many different events, and while I'd like to think that the "Live In Charles Hall" recording when I as "Mr. Producer" ended up ruining the entire performance by practicing you guys to death was your favorite gig of all time, I'm sure there are other more fabulous gigs that you'd prefer to remember and discuss.

(written while listening to Marginal Man)

The Earth Day concert was great because it was a really big, high-profile gig for us. It was by far our largest crowd - several hundred I guess, biggest production, good cause, highest stage (which was kind of disorienting and intimidating actually), and we shared the stage with Outcrowd, who were a great band and really big locally. So that was our greatest in terms of scale.

Our greatest show in terms of proficiency and quality of the performance was one of the last two house parties that we played I think. There was one really short period, maybe even just one weekend, where we played two parties right near the end of the last school year that we were together. During both of these shows we played every song that we knew, one of the times in alphabetical order - maybe because we were the only band playing and we were out in the boonies so there was no reason to limit how long that we played. At one of them we played on the screened in porch while everyone else was on the lawn. I felt like the Blues Brothers when they played the country and western bar in the movie. Anyway, I remember that after one of them one of us said, "We didn't make any mistakes." None of us could recall screwing any part of any of the songs up - no missed notes, wrong chords, or forgotten words. That was the first and only time that happened. Anyone who ever saw us play remembers that we always fucked our songs up, even while recording them. I'm off tempo, the transition from verse to chorus got messed up, or something. I was known for forgetting words and making them up or singing lines in the wrong order. Tess Valliere used to always yell, "Dave mumbles the hits!" during our shows. So we were all very proud of "the show when we didn't make any mistakes".

But the greatest shows, and the ones I would have to pick if I had to narrow it down were all of the parties that we played at Butthole Central. There weren't a lot, but there were more than a few - maybe half a dozen. Butthole was a punk rock house behind Monk's Inn in St. Inigoes, near St. Mary's. It was an utter hell hole that I photodocumented before I left SMC because I knew that I would never be able to describe or remember it adequately. Once a month or so they would have huge, awesome house parties that attracted hundreds of people. At first it was just punks, but after the rugby team and the punks started intermingling everyone on campus started coming. Most of the time the music was just Mike Broglio DJing from a booth that he set up in his bedroom doorway, but we would play there every few months. That was where our first show was.

Those parties were so much fun to play! All of our friends were there. The crowd was right there in your face. I would splash beer over everyone watching us and the rest of the band, and the crowd would splash beer back on us. People would invariably take the mic and sing along with the choruses. There was no pressure, so we would play songs that we were still in the process of writing to see how they went over. The parties always ended at 3:30 a.m. with Charlie Riordan slurring along to "The Band Played Waltzing Matilda" by The Pogues and hoisting his beer high with whoever was close enough for him to throw his arm around.

Undoubtedly, one of Absolute Value's most embarassing moments was when I played bass for you guys in Lower Charles Hall. I really didn't fit in very well with my "glam metal" stage presence (as the aforementioned Tess said, "It was like Sesame Street. Which one of these things is not like the other?"), but I was able to play the songs, once Darrin reminded me what we were playing. Fill us in on some more of the most embarassing moments for Absolute Value.

(written while listening to some classical crap that Robyn left on the radio)

You played bass with us during a show? I truly have absolutely no recollection of that. I guess that you weren't too embarrassing, because I would have remembered it if it was a complete debacle.

I only have one embarrassing moment. We were a punk band, which kinda presupposes a certain lack of polish and musical accomplishment, so I was never too self-conscious about how we sounded. We decided to do a reggae version of Joy Division's "They Walked in Line". It's a great song with good lyrics about losing yourself in conformity. It was tricky to adapt it to a reggae meter, but after a few tries we got it down and it sounded pretty good. We all felt confident playing it that night at Lower Charles and thought that people would be surprised and impressed to hear us a) do a reggae song and b) twist the cover version around like that.

Needless to say, it didn't go so well. I think that I started having my doubts just listening to the guys playing the opening of the song, and as soon as I started singing the first verse I knew that it was going to suck major balls. The rhythm and the melody weren't really synching up, and my vocals sounded like shit. The amp that I sang through in practice had a thick, slightly muddy sound that suited most of our songs well, but the PA that night had a really clean, thin sound that just exposed the fact that I didn't really know how to sing the song well and a wavering in my voice started creeping in after it became clear how horribly wrong things were going. Later that night or the next day there was a group of punks that I didn't really know. They were friends of Geoff Wright from Big Toe, I think. One of them walked right up to me and sneered in this completely insulted, deprecating way, "Joy Division NEVER wrote a reggae song!" and then stormed away.

Another time we were playing a house party off campus in someone's backyard. I remember that it was freezing and drizzling because Darrin and Ed were both worried that they might get electrocuted and also that they wouldn't be able to play because their hands and equipment were so cold. It was really muddy in the yard and there was a big mosh pit, which was unusual for us to have. So everyone was having a great time sliding around and slamming into each other, and we were having a great time watching everyone and feeling pleased that we had a proper mosh pit at one of our shows. Since it was so slippery people kept falling down and sliding into us and people in the crowd who weren't slamming. After one of the songs Darrin jokingly said, "You all need to stop thrashing - you're going to knock our equipment over." He said it tongue-in-cheek, partly to say, "You guys are going crazy. All right!" and partly to be mock-scolding them. It seemed pretty obvious to me what he meant, but everyone just completely stopped slam dancing. No movement except a few nodding heads for the rest of our set. After the next song he told everyone that he was just kidding, and we wanted them to dance, but to no avail. It sucked.

Let's move on to Depression Era, and I feel compelled to point out that Depression Era is *not* a Ted Chain band. At the time when I was recording you guys, I felt that the members of the band wouldn't have looked very kindly on the tongue-in-cheekedness of the Ted Chain. They always seemed so "serious." What did you think of these guys?

You're right - I don't think that they would have "gotten" the Ted Chain. Which is kind of ironic, because they actually had a lot in common with the Ted Chain. They had all known each other for years and played in other bands together, and they were always goofing off with and making fun of each other.

However, they were very serious about being successful musicians. I don't mean "successful" in that they were willing to sell out necessarily, but they wanted to be accomplished musicians and to be in a working band. That's not surprising, I guess, because they all were in another band at the same time as Depression Era that was a working funk band that played parties, weddings, etc. and they had all previously played together in other bands that had worked quite a bit - several shows a month, weekly gigs and stands at clubs, etc.

Jose, Ted, and Brutus (yes, Brutus) were great guys, and I had a lot of fun with them. I don't want to make it seem like I didn't get along with them, like them, or respect them both as musicians and band mates. Of all the people in the Ted Chain that I knew they were definitely the most proficient musicians. They did, however, have a slightly cheeseball side to them that they were utterly unaware of, even when I tried to point it out at times. For instance, at the beginning of "Leader of a Nation", which was Brutus' song, I was supposed to say over the instrumental intro, "I would gladly pay you Doomsday for a warhead today," in a voice like Wimpy from the Popeye cartoon. It was a take off of his "I would gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today" line. I thought that it was a very cheesy line, and I would have been mortified to actually say it during a performance. I told Brutus that I thought that it detracted from the seriousness of the song, which was about global warfare. He was just like, "What do you mean?" He didn't understand what I was saying at all. I don't think that he even intended the line to be ironic or tongue-in-cheek.

Another example was that Jose, the guitar player, kept going on and on about this new guitar that he was saving up to buy, about how it had this three-toned metallic, purple finish, and the edges tapered to just 1/4-inch thick, and it had this awesome shape - you know, a flying-V or some shit. He went on and on for weeks and weeks. When he finally got it, it did look pretty cool, but it was like he was holding the Holy Grail or something, and at the end of every practice he would wipe it with a cloth to get the smudges off. It was very Spinal Tap, but if you had told him that he would have just gone and pouted.

That all being said, they were great guys. We liked a lot of the same music, and we had fun playing and hanging out together. I learned about some pretty cool bands from them. They had all lived through some pretty intense shit. Jose's brother hung himself in the shower, and Jose was the one who found him. That happened when he was in Depression Era. Brutus had been a Buddhist monk in Thailand, and he had his wisdom teeth removed without any anesthesia at all. He simply meditated the entire time. He was also dishonorably discharged from the Army for throwing a live hand grenade at his drill instructor. So you can see that they were pretty interesting people to be in a band with.

Give us a tour of the five songs on the Depression Era demo.

"Scars" is about the murder of a brain-damaged man by a mob of people from his neighborhood who hated him because they projected their guilt and insecurity for various things onto his muteness. He was unable to speak to people, and they mistook his silence for arrogance and haughtiness. They obviously knew that he lacked the capacity for speech, but they would tell themselves, "He thinks he's better than me because he knows that I'm having an affair." That kind of thing. So a group of them beat him to death one night. He was utterly innocent and walked up to them smiling. It is written from the point of view of the man who dealt the fatal blow while he is sitting in prison years later reflecting on the incident. The title seemingly refers to the scars of the man who is murdered. He was born with brain damage because his mother used drugs while she was pregnant, and he never knew his father, and he lives his whole life with these burdens. In the end, though, it is apparent that it was the people who killed him because they couldn't bear themselves who really bore the deepest scars. This was my favorite song of all of ours. It was nine minutes long, and some people who listened to it on tape seemed to get bored by it, but I always thought that there were enough changes in the music and vocals throughout the song to keep in interesting. Definitely rap/metal, but not in the Limp Bizkit vein.

"Leader of a Nation" was written by Brutus as a plea to world leaders not to plunge us into war again. It sees war as the result of egotism, makes the argument against war on the basis of compassion for our shared humanity and human suffering, and then simply asks them to make the right choice. It had the stupid Wimpy intro, but other than that I liked the music. A straight metal song. Ted and Brutus loved 24-7 Spyz, and this seems reminiscent of them at times, especially the rhythm section.

"I'm Alive" is about how some people need intense experiences like drugs, fighting, rough sex, self-mutilation, etc. to really fully experience and appreciate life. At the time I wrote it I felt like that myself. Now thankfully I've both come to draw that same feeling from mundane experiences and am also able to see the intensity in the mundane and commonplace aspects of everyday life. Musically, this song was pretty straight ahead funk with a sexy, slinky groove actually, and then at the end it kicked into a rockin', feedback-drenched outro. The vocals fit with the music, but were very unfunky, in terms of the lyrics, the melody, and the way that I sung them, so it was an interesting juxtaposition. We didn't play the song very well on the demo, but when we hit the groove in this song and didn't mess up any of the changes it was awesome.

"'Til Death Do We Part" is a letter written by an abused wife to her husband the night before she plans to kill him. Speed metal/rap again with great galloping, churning sections. Ted has these cymbals that were called Chinese cymbals, and they had a great, loud, flat sound kinda like you were banging two trash can lids together, and he made ample use of them in this song.

"Death Don't Matter" is about how insignificant most of our problems and preoccupations are compared to the really major problems that are out here such as homelessness, drug addiction, abuse, etc. It contrasts the suburban home owner who complains about bills with the homeless man who can't even eat the food given to him by passersby because he doesn't have any teeth. This starts as a very slow, somber song, with keyboards as the lead instrument. The guitar comes to the fore during the first chorus, and the song kinda rocks out into a crescendo, and then becomes more subdued again toward the end. There were a lot of changes in dynamics in this song. Jose was a great guitarist, and this song showcases it.

After creating this fabulous demo tape, what sort of live gigs were you guys able to land?

(written while my son and two of his friends destroyed the apartment and each other)

We landed two gigs, but only played one, and that wasn't even really a gig. There was also a near miss.

We signed up for the Gong Show at the old 9:30 Club, which was exactly what it sounds like. There were a lot of legit bands, but there were also always a lot of joke bands that were created just for the Gong Show, like Skatley Crue, which won one year with ska covers of Motley Crue songs. Virtually every band got gonged within 45 seconds of starting to perform. The thing is, we didn't know any of this when we signed up. We thought that it was a legitimate talent show-type event, and we were very serious about winning it. So we got up onstage and got gonged inside of a minute. They may have let us get through an entire verse and chorus, maybe not. I remember yelling, "Don't even think about it, motherfucker!" or something equally childish and embarrassing to one of the judges just before we got the boot. It was pretty cool to actually be onstage at the 9:30 Club though, to stand on the same stage that so many of my favorite bands had stood on.

In the summer of '91 we sent demo tapes out to a bunch of local clubs in hopes of landing a few gigs. One day when Brutus was out, Cynthia Connolly, who was the booker at d.c. space, left a message for him. He called her back when he got home, but she didn't answer and never called back. She probably wanted to book us as an opening band but ended up booking someone else when she didn't get in touch with us right away.

Finally, we got an offer to play at a party down at St. Mary's at Butthole Central. We were really excited, because it was going to be a long set in front of a friendly crowd with lots of free beer involved. We loaded all of the equipment into Brutus' pickup truck, and Brutus and I rode in that. Ted, Jose, and Brutus' girlfriend Elin rode in Ted or Jose's car. We were on our way down with Brutus and I in the lead vehicle when we came to a stop light. I remember Brutus looking in the rear view mirror and saying over and over again, "Please stop. Please stop. Please stop." Unfortunately, they didn't. Ted, Jose, and Elin's car smashed into us. That, in turn, caused one of the amps to smash through the rear window of the pickup and into the back of Brutus' head. Brutus was rushed to the emergency room, where they removed the glass from the back of his skull and gave him 15-20 stitches. Needless to say, we never made it to the party. Brutus later gave me the bloodstained Lucy Brown shirt that he had been wearing that night, and I considered it to be one of the most touching gifts I've ever received.

Was this then interpreted as a sign that Depression Era was not to be? Or did the band continue in some form before finally breaking up?

No, my decision to move to San Francisco was the beginning of the end. Shortly after I announced that to the guys Brutus decided to move to North Carolina. Or maybe it was vice versa. He might have decided to move first. It was sixteen-odd years ago. Once Brutus and I both left the band Jose and Ted called it quits.

Let's talk about our project, Rancid Oatmeal. After we were finished recording, you had told me that it didn't come out anything like you had anticipated. What were you anticipating?

I think that I was expecting something like Ween or the Butthole Surfers - sorta twisted rock with goofy lyrics and some strange sound effects thrown in. I wasn't expecting a stream-of-unconsciousness, sample loop, improvised, continuous song format. It almost seemed like ambient music of a sort. I definitely was expecting something less "avant garde", less mellow, less spacey. But I like what we created, and the fact that it was so different than the type of music either of us had ever created before is cool, because it showed me a side of myself that I hadn't known existed.

There were many musical firsts for you in Rancid Oatmeal: screaming off a balcony, running a dispose-all, playing guitar, licking a microphone, did any of this surprise you?

I'm pretty sure that I had done all of these things before Rancid Oatmeal, especially licking a microphone. You may recall that during the recording of Depression Era I put the mic completely inside my mouth and started moaning. I had just never been foolish enough to record myself doing them before. And when I speak of foolishness I'm thinking specifically of recording myself "playing" guitar. I can say that I had never stood on a balcony screaming, "Cunnilingus!" while wearing a bathrobe and a neck brace. That was a first. And it was exhilarating! But did it surprise me? No. Nothing that I do really surprises me.

After all those wild and crazy years in DC, what drew you to, in the words of the great Swedish band, Hello Saferide, "the promised land / The only place in North America not yet destroyed by the government", that being San Francisco?

After I left St. Mary's I had been living and working in Washington, DC. One of my coworkers had gone to University of CA at Berkeley, and she kept telling me that I seemed "very Bay Area" to her and that I would love San Francisco. I must have really struck her that way, because she would frequently mention it. A few months later another coworker had cheap round trip tickets to San Francisco that he was selling due to a canceled business trip. I hadn't taken a vacation in a long time, and my first coworker had convinced me that I would like SF, so I decided to check it out.

I had a fantastic time and did indeed love the Bay Area as my coworker had predicted. San Francisco was just so different from DC, and the West Coast was so different from the East Coast.... The weather was different, the plants were different, the ethnic groups and nationalities and languages I heard being spoken on the streets were different. They called shrimp prawns. Everything was just so completely different than I was used to that I realized there was a very big world outside of DC that I was missing out on seeing. I loved DC, and at that point I could have lived the rest of my life in the DC area. I decided that I should see a little more of the country and live a few other places before I settled down in DC. Since I had been out to San Francisco already and knew that I liked it, I decided to start there.

As far as what I liked and what drew me there/here, one thing was just the energy and activity and ideas here. There were a lot of people here who were really committed and devoted to a lot of projects or programs, whether that was making a better life for their family in the US, the creative arts, the music scene, political campaigns or movements, coming out of the closet as gay, leaving their fucked up life behind in their hometown and starting again fresh - people here seemed to be living their lives with much more invested than I found in DC by and large. People came here to San Francisco to do stuff, to accomplish things or at least give it their best effort. DC as a whole, with exceptions obviously, seemed to have a lot of people who were there because they either had a government or military job that brought them there, often temporarily, or they were just born there, and that's where they had stayed. Again, I was a very likely candidate for the last group. And that's all fine, but SF had much more vitality than I had seen up to that point.

In terms of music and culture, what's not to like about SF? When I left DC there had been two places, the 9:30 Club and d.c. space, where you could see punk bands with any regularity and maybe 3-4 other places that hosted punk shows more sporadically. It was a really hoppin' time if there was more than one punk show each week - not necessarily good punk shows or bands that you really wanted to see, but just punk shows period. When I first came to San Francisco you could see at least two punk shows on any given night, every night all the time. There wasn't anything cultural in San Francisco that wasn't also in DC somewhere, but there was much more of it in greater variety and easier to find and enjoy.

Let's back up a bit and talk about your brush with fame and fortune in the early '90s. After you left St. Mary's I hear you were involved with a DC punk outfit.

I was the roadie for the Holy Rollers. They were a band on Dischord Records. I helped with load-in, set-up, break-down, and load-out at all of their local shows and worked the door and sold merch when necessary. I also roadied on a tour of New England they did in '91. I had a chance to roadie for them on a tour of Canada and the Pacific Northwest, but I wasn't able to get the time off at work, I think. That was a shame, because they did a mini-tour w/ Nirvana during that tour. Bleach had just come out, and it was pre-Smells Like Teen Spirit. I could have shot heroin with Kurt Cobain or had an affair with Courtney Love.

How did that come about?

Well, at the end of my sophomore year at St. Mary's I had already decided that I wasn't going back the next year, so I started looking for a place to live on my own. DC was where everything I was interested in was happening, so I decided I was going to live there, and so I looked in the classified ads in the City Paper for a group house or roommate situation. I was already a fan of the Holy Rollers. I had their first 7" EP, and I had seen a couple/three of their shows. When I called about one of the ads that looked somewhat promising the guy I was talking to told me that his band practiced there a few times every week, so he wanted to make sure that I was okay with that. When he told me it was the Holy Rollers I just about flipped. I was really excited! I liked the band a lot, but I think I liked the idea of having some kind of way into the DC scene even more. I drove up to DC from St. Mary's one weekend to look at a few of the places I had located, but I had already told myself that I was going to live in the house with the guy from the Holy Rollers unless the place was on fire or there was a crime in progress or something like that. There wasn't, so I did. They didn't have a roadie and asked me if I was interested. I was starstruck and thought it would be an even better way to get into the music scene and maybe meet some of my idols, so it was an easy sell.

Did you meet any of your idols?

A few. My biggest bona fide idol that I met was Bobby Sullivan, the singer for Soulside, who were my favorite local band at the time. I met people in many of the big DC bands at the time and some other people who were fairly famous in the DC scene but weren't necessarily involved in making music or in bands at the moment. The biggest effect of that was that it completely eliminated the sense of awe that I had for famous people. Not in a disappointing way, but they became humanized. When someone is sitting on your futon looking at your books it's hard to see them as anything other than just an ordinary person. The biggest humanizing experience I had was when Bobby Sullivan was hanging out in our back alley once and gunshots rang out nearby. In our neighborhood gunshots rang out almost daily, and my housemates and I were so used to it that we didn't even raise an eyebrow unless there was a sustained exchange of gunfire. So these gunshots start going off - pop, pop, pop! And Bobby Sullivan, whom I had adoringly gazed at up on stages throughout my high school and college years, ducked down, completely lost his shit, and ran up the stairs to the back door of our house while we all laughed at him. Marc, my housemate in the Holy Rollers, once invited me to a barbeque with Ian MacKaye but I think I already had plans. I never met Ian. That would have been cool though.

Tell us about the New England tour. What was that like?

It was a great experience. A lot of fun, obviously, but the biggest impact it had on me was to improve my overall view of humanity. I was really impressed by people's generosity and friendliness to strangers and how people would focus on our similarities rather than our differences. I had heard all about how touring punk bands often get put up at people's houses - I mean, I had watched Another State of Mind half a dozen times. But to experience it first hand was great! Here were all these people who in many cases had never met us before letting us sleep on the floor of their dorm room, getting us guest passes to the college's dining hall, cooking us fantastic meals at their own expense. Of course there was some self-interest there, since we were going to be entertaining them, and if they didn't do those things then the band wouldn't be able to play for them, but people also really went above and beyond the call of duty. I came back with fanzines, and albums and t-shirts that folks just gave to me, and a few times people who I had literally just met a half hour before spent an entire afternoon hanging out with me, showing us around town, invited us to their parties and gave us free beer and...other things.

Hmm...yes, other things indeed. I suppose there were a lot of typical sex, drugs, and rock 'n' roll tour experiences.

You might be disappointed, actually. There was plenty of rock 'n' roll and a healthy (or perhaps unhealthy) dose of drugs, alcohol and otherwise. Unfortunately, the tour was utterly lacking in sex - for me at least. And it wasn't for want of trying either. I just wasn't very smooth back then. There was this girl at Bennington College who I really tried to hook up with only to find out that she was a lesbian.

The good ones always are.

I spent a good chunk of our time at Bennington tripping, and that was pretty fun, although not much fun to hear about if you weren't tripping with me. There was another college, for the life of me I can't remember its name, but it was for extremely gifted kids who went to college early. So there were all these fifteen, sixteen and seventeen year olds at this college. They were obviously really smart, and pretty interesting people, but they were also remarkably twisted, which isn't that surprising considering what it must be like being that smart and also being unleashed from parental supervision with even fewer social skills and less maturity than the average college student. The kids we hung out with talked about having orgies and blood-sex-play parties like it was what every normal college student did. We went to Untermyer Park in Yonkers, NY, an abandoned park which was the site of satanic rituals and where David Berkowitz, the Son of Sam, was alleged to have practiced black magic. In New York City we hung out on the Lower East Side and Alphabet City back when they were really scary. I lived in DC back when it was murder capital of the US, much of it happening in my neighborhood, and I was scared stiff by Alphabet City and the Lower East Side! But I should have gotten booted from the roadie guild on the basis of how little sex I got.

What were some memorable shows from the tour?

Two really stand out. The first was at SUNY - Purchase in upstate New York. It started out as a bust. The venue on campus that we were supposed to play at was locked on the day of the show. It was supposed to be an afternoon show in a small performance hall, but somewhere there was miscommunication, and the room hadn't been reserved. We never really got a clear answer from the student who set the show up what happened. When we got there the room was locked, but the guy said he was sure he could talk to someone and get everything cleared up. So he went off to do that, and since we wanted the show to start on time we started setting the equipment up outside the hall, thinking that we would just bring it in already set up once it was unlocked, then plug in and start. The guy wasn't able to get it unlocked however. So he scrambled around and got permission for the band to play in the quad outside the student union. While he fell down on the permit for the hall, he had done a pretty good job of publicizing the show, and there was a pretty good-sized crowd that had stuck around. So everyone grabbed a piece of equipment, and we had a parade across campus with 50-60 people each carrying a cymbal stand or an amp head or a PA cabinet. The location on the quad was actually much better, because there was a lot of traffic in and out of the student union, whereas the first place was tucked away in some corner of campus that many students never visited, and the sound also carried all over, so I'm sure some people were drawn by the sound of the music. Anyway, there were at least a couple hundred people in the audience. There had also been a screw-up with the money the band was guaranteed - as in there wasn't any. So the "organizer" of the show passed the hat through the audience, and we actually made a pretty good amount. So a completely shitty experience turned into a really good show.

The second show was in New Haven, CT I think. It was at a Chinese restaurant that had a redneck bar up front and punk shows in the back. The show started after the restaurant closed but the bar was still open, so you had the Chinese staff milling around and then the rednecks kept walking through because the bathroom was right behind the stage. You don't think of Connecticut having rednecks, but these guys were dyed in the wool, tobacco-spittin', flag-wavin' rednecks who were none too happy about the fact that their bar was being commandeered by a bunch of faggot punk rockers. This was during the first Gulf War, and I remember one guy had a shirt with the American flag on it and the caption, "Just try burning this one, Asshole!" They would kind of grumble and mutter as they walked through, and a few guys shouted put-downs at us once they were safely past and close to the safety of their friends at the bar. The stage itself was just a plywood riser about one foot high in the back of the dining room, and they just moved all of the tables and chairs in that section out of the way and stacked them off to the side. We played there with Adrenalin OD and Seven League Boots, Bobby from Soulside's new reggae-rock band after Soulside broke up. That was definitely the most unique venue and diverse crowd on the tour.

You also interned at Knitting Factory Works, an avant-garde jazz label. How was that?

It was fairly uninteresting, tedious work by and large. I put earplugs in little ziplock bags with tiny insert sheets to sell at shows at the Knitting Factory club. I screened demo tapes sent in to the label. I compiled a database of program managers at college radio stations. It did expose me to a lot of great music that I wasn't very familiar with though. Until I worked for Knitting Factory Works I had never heard of Amy Denio, Charles Gayle, John Zorn, or the Jazz Passengers. All incredible musicians. And it opened me up to that whole scene and genre, so that when I returned to San Francisco I was able to seek out that music here too. One of the best shows I've ever been to was Charles Gayle at the Oakland Museum of California. It was a free jazz show that was one of the best punk rock shows I ever saw. He walked onstage from the wings, took two or three steps, bent forward, put the sax to his lips and started screaming before he even reached center stage. He just fucking destroyed. It was such an intense, violent, passionate performance! His group tore themselves apart. Half the strings on the bass player's bow were broken and flopping around like limp spaghetti strings by the end of the set. Gayle is an old dude. He rocked harder than most of the hardcore bands I've seen. He was wearing a suit, and it was drenched with sweat. Completely balls to the wall.

Do you still consider yourself to be a "punk rocker"?

I retired from being a punk about ten years ago, although I still enjoy punk and other interesting/unusual music, underground culture, and political activism - all things that signified punk for me. It's hard to call yourself a punk when you wear a suit to work every day and work for a big national company that is partly responsible for the gentrification of The Bowery in NYC, one of the sacred sites of punk rock.

So what's the difference to you between liking punk music—and other things that you consider "punk"—and being "a punk"?

It's a matter of commitment. When you're a punk your life revolves around and is consumed by those things. When I was a punk, punk rock and underground culture and political activism were pretty much everything that I did and consumed. I mean, there were times when I was in a band, worked as a roadie for a band, went to at least one punk show a week, worked as a professional activist, did extra activism in my free time, and listened to hours of punk music every day. Or I worked in a punk record store, wrote for a punk fanzine, had another job that allowed me to be a professional activist, volunteered at a social service information hotline, and hung out every other day at the punk club/bar half a block from my apartment. That was being a punk. Now I have a corporate job, spend almost my entire day working and spending time with my wife and son. I scold my son if he doesn't brush his teeth properly and wrestle with him on the living room floor. At most I listen to four or five hours of music a week, total - of all genres. The last punk show I went to was almost two years ago! I'll attend maybe four political demonstrations or rallies a year and make the occasional phone call to a legislator. That's the life of a straight guy who happens to like punk. There's a big difference.

Dave's Bands

Absolute Value
Rancid Oatmeal

Interview Questionnaire

This is a standard interview questionnaire that is suggested for use in interviews by the Ted Chain. Dave was more than happy to bare all (as it were).

RECEIVED: February 11, 1999
FULL NAME: David Lawrence Chelsea-Seifert (ne Seifert)
NICKNAME(s): Sally
HOMETOWN: Washington, DC
BORN: May 18, 1970 (coming up soon - mark your calendar!)

CROUTONS OR BACON BITS: those little Grape-Nuts-like
soy kernels flavored with liquid smoke, whatever the Hell that is
DO YOU DRINK:  not anymore
enough hair to make shampoo worthwhile

ever get cocky, just remember that I know what you look like naked...
DO YOU MAKE FUN OF PEOPLE: yes, far too often
FAVORITE COLORS: sh*t brown and orange (real answer:
but who's counting?
ONE PILLOW OR TWO: Robyn's - I haven't slept on my
side of the bed in 4 years
PETS: my boss, but I don't let him know that

FAVORITE TYPES OF MUSIC:  in equal proportions:
punk/hardcore, ska/reggae, jazz, hip hop, and miscellaneous 
(speed metal, classical, country, early Motley Crue, etc.)
DREAM CAR: a second bike
TYPE OF CAR YOU DRIVE NOW: a green Bianchi Campione
d'Italia - Oh! You said "car"...
that I systematically destroyed through neglect and abuse 
before selling it for $450 to the first person who came to 
look at it
TOOTHPASTE: this question assumes that I brush my
FAVORITE FOOD: fried chicken - I still eat it in my

pisses me off that my dad won't use my married last name
FAVORITE TOWN TO CHILL IN: other than SF? New York
City, but I'm not sure that "chill" is the right term 
for New York
FAVORITE ICE CREAM: mint chocolate chip, close second:
red bean
WHAT IS YOUR BAD TIME of DAY: I don't think that I
have one, but maybe you should ask Robyn about that
FAVORITE TIME OF YEAR: any day that it gets above 70
degrees, the fog breaks, and it isn't windy or rainy - 
I think that's September 19

ADIDAS, NIKE, OR REEBOK: Converse Chuck Taylors
LEAST FAVORITE SUBJECT: geometry (made no fucking
sense at all)
OF MOVIE: well, I've been thinking for ten minutes so far
and haven't come up with anything, so that must tell you 
FAVORITE ALCOHOLIC DRINK: cheap beer - Pabst, if I had
to pick a brand

MOST HUMILIATING MOMENT: getting diarrhea in the
middle of 8th Ave in Brooklyn. I left my shorts and 
underwear in front of some unfortunate person's
basement apartment, wrapped a towel around my waist,
and waddled home as fast as possible without bringing on 
another episode
put Clinton in office
and a full set of teeth

February 1999 - May 2011

Copyright ©1999-2011, The Ted Chain