No Age are Randy Randall (guitar) and Dean Allen Spunt (drums/vocals), two LA dudes who, with their special brand of experimental punk rock, blur the lines between what we think of as music and art.
Actually, they don’t really blur the lines so much as kick the crap out of the lines so that they’re all bent and broken and you can’t tell from the pieces where one thing starts and the other finishes; and that’s no mean feat. While many straddle the art/music fence, very few do it without getting huge splinters in their balls. In fact most bands who attempt what No Age have been pulling off since 2005 end with their head disappearing up their own butt. Randy and Dean can’t even locate the terminus of their alimentary canal let alone lose their heads up it, and their latest album, An Object, is testimony to that.
Monster Children spoke with Randy on his return from No Age’s recent European tour.
Welcome back to America!
Where did you guys go?
The tour started here in LA and we did the West Coast with Chris Johanson and Gary Panter, two awesome artists. They have their own band and we did this great West Coast tour with them; then we did the rest of the US, met up with Doug Aitken and did this station-to-station train project, nine cities across America, and we also broke off and did our own shows. So we did about a month and a half of America. Then we came home for a day, and then we went over to Europe for about five weeks, starting in the UK and then Belgium, the Netherlands, Italy, Germany, Helsinki… It was the best.
What was the highlight of the European tour?
Well, one of the things that stood out was we played a thirteenth-century, historical basement. It was like this cavern that was discovered in Italy, in a town called Padova. They found it in the ’70s, did some research and found that it was built hundreds of years ago, and for whatever reason they’re able to have shows there. We’ve played a lot of basement shows, but that was the oldest basement we’ve ever played.
How’d you do with the Euro chicks?
Well, I’m married and I’m a couple of weeks away from becoming a dad, so…
So you didn’t do so well.
No. All women are sisters or daughters to me. That’s the official word.
Copy that. Have you read Morrissey’s autobiography yet?
No, but I just ordered James Brown’s autobiography on Amazon. I’m not sure which would be more fun to read: Morrissey or James Brown.
You’re talking about the Godfather of Soul, that James Brown?
Yeah! That’s actually the name of the book: The Godfather of Soul: An autobiography. Foreword by Reverend Al Sharpton. I got it for a dollar. I was like, ‘Oh shit, he actually wrote a book!’
It’ll be amazing for sure.
Have you seen that clip of James Brown on the news?
The one where he’s off his head talking gibberish?
Yeah, he’s totally out of his mind. I hope this book is like a long-form version of that. But I haven’t gotten Morrissey’s yet; it’s on my list.
I mentioned the Morrissey autobiography because you don’t eat meat, right?
Yeah, Dean and I are both vegan.
Do you ever get a hankering for a nice big rib eye?
No, no. I became a vegetarian when I was like 12, and then I went vegan when I was 21. I’m kind of into the idea of ‘live and let live’, but at the same time people should eat whatever the hell they want to eat. I don’t tell people what to eat and they don’t tell me; I have a pretty mellow philosophy with all that stuff.
What if your partner in crime, Dean, cracked one day and was like, ‘Sorry, dude, I gotta eat some fuckin’ meatballs right now.’ Would that be the end of No Age?
No way! More power to him. I think it’s definitely everybody’s trip to do what they want to do. It’s funny, our two friends we go on the road with—our front-of-house sound guy and our driver/merch guy—they’re both vegetarian, and they’ll eat the gnarliest, stinkiest French cheese, and they’re like, ‘Sorry for stinking up the van with our cheese, dudes.’ And I’m like, ‘Hey, it’s fine. I fart all day long in the van and I don’t apologize for it.’ You eat your cheese and I’ll fart, everybody’s happy.
I guess I should ask the serious questions Campbell wanted me to ask. Here’s the first one: coming from a skate/punk background—which bands and skaters influenced you aesthetically?
I think Fugazi and Dischord Records were a huge influence, but also SST Records, and not just the bands, also the label and how they did stuff. And that’s where we got the name No Age from—it was a compilation of instrumental music that SST put out in the ’80s. That label, more than anything, is what defined us. If you look at the roster at SST you had Meat Puppets, Hüsker Dü, Sonic Youth, Screaming Trees, Black Flag, you know, Minute Men… It’s just this wide array of music. So SST were a huge inspiration for us, their artistic legacy was a huge influence.
Speaking of Black Flag, do you think Henry Rollins is the Sammy Hagar of Black Flag?
Yeah. I just said that.
Well, I have to be honest and say I don’t know that much about Van Halen.
And I should be clear that I don’t have an opinion on Rollins. That was just something someone said to me once.
Actually, do you know Thomas Campbell?
Well, we were hanging out with him in Portland a couple of years back, and we were driving somewhere to get food and he was like, ‘Dude, check out this song. Don’t the drums sound like Dale Crover from Melvins?’ And we were like, ‘Yeah, it totally sounds like Melvins…’ And he’s like, ‘It’s fuckin’ Van Halen.’
Yeah! Van Halen have a song called ‘Sunday Afternoon in the Park’…
And it sounds like Melvins?
Yes. I totally tripped out. I had to rethink everything I thought about Van Halen. And I downloaded a bunch of their stuff—most of it was shit but that one song.
Here’s another question from Campbell: How do you feel about the speed in which music is produced these days? You seem to like to slow things down a touch with your packaging and presentation, making your records a more tactile object as opposed to a digital minute.
Wow. Good question.
I know! It’s like he’s a proper journalist while I’m an idiot.
Okay, well, I think for us, we’re fans of physical albums, but at the same time I’ll stream a song on YouTube or I’ll pull something up on Pandora or whatever, but for us when we think about selling something it’s hard to sell—in my mind—a download and feel good about it at the end of the day, you know what I mean? I don’t know if I’m just that kind of old-school, but holding something physical? I can buy that or I can sell that. I can feel good about owning that record. On a purely commercial level it seems legit to sell a real thing. And also artistically, you know? You make something in three dimensions. With this album (An Object) the idea of tactile qualities and physical presence, you know, like the name suggests—this is an object. It’s kind of defining and simplifying the idea of what records and what art can be, in an almost Marcel Duchamp, readymade sort of way. Everything can be art; art can be an object. Everything we fetishize in records and music, at the end of the day it’s really just an object.
And you work with Brian (Roettinger) to develop that visual side of the band; how involved are you guys in that?
Yeah, that’s been a huge collaboration since the beginning. The first releases we did, like the five EPs that became Weirdo Rippers, we worked through all that stuff with Brian, and it’s been this really kinda hands-on collaboration; I don’t know if most bands work at that level with their graphic designer. For us we just spitball ideas, and Brian never really pushes us in any one direction—it’s kind’ve a group effort, you know?
We all just put ideas out there and add to that pot, that discussion, and (An Object) really went through a lot of different genesises.
Must be fun!
Yeah, it’s a lot of fun! You know, we’re a collaborative band and we’ve worked with a lot of different artists and musicians over the years, and I think it helps Dean and I—it helps stir the pot of inspiration. Working with other people keeps things fresh.
What was it like getting a Grammy nod for your packaging for the Nouns CD?
That was insane. It seems so surreal, that whole time period around 2009. We weren’t expecting anything, and it’s only now in 2013 that I can look back and think, ‘That was crazy!’ We were super excited about the fact that anyone noticed. It was a bonus. We never did it for any of those reasons, but that the fact that anyone really saw that we were around…
Like on the Grammy radar.
Yeah, that really shocked us.
What other bands/people, visually, do you look at as far as the design and visual influences go?
Damn. Well, there’s so much stuff and I think it all comes from a lot of different directions… I know Roettinger is a huge fan of Factory Records, you know, Joy Division and all those kind of albums, Brian is an authority on that stuff graphically. For us, we’re kind of open to all sorts of things, but the people Dean and I keep talking about are like Paul McCarthy, Mike Kelly…
I can’t deal with Paul McCarthy. He freaks me out.
Yeah, it’s completely freaky! He had a huge retrospective at the MOCA in like 2000, 2001? And I went to see it and it was completely… I left feeling like I was possessed, like I had this new view of life, you know?
Fuck that. I can’t go to his shows. Puppets with knives and shit? I honestly think that if Paul McCarthy weren’t making art he’d be storing bodies in his basement.
Next question: what’s your favourite album cover of all time?
Oh man, favorite album cover… That’s a tough one. I’m looking around my walls right now and… do you know I had a My War skateboard deck? It was a reproduction; you know that Black Flag album?
Yeah, it’s a puppet with a knife. Now you’re fucking with me.
Haha! Yeah, it’s really disturbing. I had it up on the wall in my office and my wife told me I actually had to take that down. We’ve been learning how to cohabitate more over the last year and that was the one thing she wasn’t down with. I’ve also got a poster for the movie Alien but it’s the Turkish promotional poster.
What was Alien called in Turkey?
Sounds pretty scary.
Yeah, and the lettering is all in drippy blood writing.
Wait, you haven’t really said what your favourite album cover is.
Oh yeah! So not really My War I guess. You know what I really like? And it’s another Paul—Paul McCartney—and the album is RAM. Do you know that one?
Yeah, my folks had it! It’s kind’ve a collage-type cover.
Yeah! And it’s kinda crudely painted on… I don’t know what it is but I go back to that record again and again, and not only do I like the music on it but I think that design—for someone coming out of the Beatles—was very kinda, ‘What the fuck?’ I feel his kid designed the thing.
It’s a gatefold album, right?
Yeah. And I feel like it’s got some sort of, you know, ‘Paul is Dead’ sort of stuff happening with the design. There’s a picture of two beetles having sex on the back and all this other stuff; the art isn’t kinda what you’d expect. It’s a fucking awesome album.
Last question: what’s next for you guys?
Well, I got the baby on the way, my first child with my wife.
Thank you. That’s about two weeks away, so I’ll be home for the holidays. And then we got the tour in Japan in January and then a few other shows and then hopefully we’ll get started on a new record sometime before summer. So I think for right now we’re just going to mellow and hibernate.
Cool. Are you having a boy or a girl?
It’s a boy.
Thank God. You don’t want daughters.
Well, I actually had it set in my mind that it would be a girl for some reason, and then when I found out it was a boy I was like, ‘Oh, okay, that’s cool too.’ I was looking forward to being the dad to a daughter, you know, the dad waiting with the shotgun when the boyfriends come over? But I guess it wasn’t meant to be.