Doug Carrion (Field Day / Dag Nasty / Descendents)

Following last week’s interview with Doug Carrion to discuss his new band Field Day, well I wasn’t about to let him go that easily. I mean this guy has history! So I fired a second set of questions over to him and suffice to say – any fans of 80’s American Hardcore out there you are in for a treat! So without further ado, over to you Doug…

Interview by Tom Chapman

Photo by Ken Selerno

MM: Did you and Peter join Dag at the same time? What were the circumstances that led you to joining the band?

Doug: Not at all.  I was in the Descendents and had seen Dag with every singer prior to me joining.

The first time was a Descendents / Dag show in DC at the 9:30 Club with Shawn on vocals, a few months later  Descendents were up in Buffalo / Canada area and Dag Nasty showed up with Dave, we did a few more shows maybe eight. The following summer, Descendents were going to take Dag Nasty out for 30 shows and they showed up with different singer, Peter Cortner.  Every Dag singer has their own vibe, but Peter was the guy that changed the game for me because he’s more of a sensitive poet type, not really a ROCK star look at me, big ego type.  He’s an artist type through and through.

MM: Were you apprehensive about joining such an iconic band, or were you at that point not fully aware of the impact that Can I Say had had/ was having?  

Doug: Dag Nasty weren’t overly popular beyond the East Coast, if that. It may have even been perceived as a step down from being in the Descendents who were slightly bigger, but not huge by any stretch.   Keep in mind in 1987 punk music, Hardcore, post punk – whatever you wanna call it was still really underground. Independent shows, with independent promoters, putting out independent records.   You played music, and joined a band was because you LOVED playing music and recording, there was no career path or anything of that nature. I loved both bands, there has never been any bad feelings or weirdness between either camp, for me personally I just decided to get into one van as opposed to another.  I was still broke and sleeping on the floor regardless of which band Dag or Descendents I was in. To give you context, both bands did their own booking. Bill booked Descendents and I booked Dag Nasty.  It was DIY for sure.

MM: Did you join Dag as a fan of the band, or did you see them more as peers that you were helping out/ joining forces with?

Doug: All the above.  This question leads to the GIANT subject of where I was personally and creatively.  Descendents is Bill’s band, and he was looking to write and explore music that was a bit more dense with alt time signatures and such.  Nothing wrong with that, it was just where he was. I love Bill, Karl and Stephen they’re insane writers and wonderful people. From my end, had I stayed in Descendents I would have wanted to write one and half minute chainsaw pop songs like Milo Goes to College all day long and been happy. On the other hand, Dag Nasty presented the opportunity to go musically in different direction and write with more guitar textures. Post Hardcore, guitar textures, against straight bass lines, with mid-tempo pockets, and a fragile sensitive vocalist.  I wondered what would happen if you mixed these elements?  

MM: Was much of Wig Out already written when you joined?

Doug: Maybe two songs.  The bulk of the music was written in the basement of my mom’s house Hermosa Beach, and then rehearsed at Colin’s house in Bethesda, Maryland before we went into Inner Ear and recorded with Ian.  

MM: I\’d say Wig Out was a great transition record – you have the harder Hardcore sounds of songs like Safe, but there is a definite progression from Can I Say – was that a deliberate step or did it come naturally?

Doug: Going back to a previous question  – we knew how to write a Hardcore song, we were curious what we could do beyond that. Peter’s not a traditional Hardcore singer, no way, that was actually a benefit to the writing process. 300% hands down with zero hesitation I can say we did NOT follow anyone in respect to writing; we opened a portal to the possibility of a new sounds. There was no blueprint prior to Wig Out, everything and everyone was experimenting. Bands had to try new things including Dag Nasty.

MM: Can you remember what the feedback was from Wig Out? I\’m thinking in particular having replaced a very popular frontman at the time…

Doug: Dave was only in the band eight months and never got West of the Mississippi with Dag Nasty. Peter was really the only touring vocalist, and most people that saw Dag Nasty in 87 and 88 only saw Peter.  I’d agree Can I Say is an iconic record, but at the time it was only popular among a very narrow base of fans. Beyond fanzines, friends and music stores, most fans learned about bands by going to shows.  \”Hey, some band from LA or DC or wherever is playing, let’s go so see what they’re all about.\” I might go as far as saying concert goers were more open minded back then and just went to hang out, learn and support a local scene.
MM: Okay, now moving onto a much bigger switch…. from Wig Out to Field Day. It\’s kind of hard to know where to start – from a switch in record label, a progression of musical style, the \”artistic\” band photos on the back of the album…. Can you give us some insight into what happened during this period?

Doug: I’d say it was another transition and an ambitious one at that.  I can’t remember another punk or Hardcore record up to that point that had as many guitar tones and different styles of music on one recording.  The transition from Wig Out to Field Day is huge. We were getting better at playing our instruments, expanding our musical tastes and didn’t see why we couldn’t keep exploring further down the rabbit hole of what could be written beyond a barre chord. We had already committed to not rewriting Can I Say again and even repeating what we had done with Wig Out.  Everyone brought in songs and were open to trying things outside the punk genre. Maybe Field Day could have been a tighter record as far as its focus but who was making the rules that said we couldn’t experiment? It sure wasn’t us. Sometimes bands need to try things, for better or for worse just explore.  It’s art…What does that even mean? It’s music… What does that even mean? The reality is a recording is simply making an audio account of a band and where they are on their musical journey.  It’s a snap shot in time and a batch of songs. Songs evolve and take new life even after they\’ve been recorded.  Zillions of bands change songs, rework ideas, flip parts, rewrite verses, modify keys. Yes a song can be written in stone and yes a song can be fluid, both are well accepted thoughts.

MM: Were you guys aware that with Ourselves, 7 Seconds were pursuing quite a similar path to you guys had taken with Field Day? Did you speak with them much/ at all to share experiences you had about taking bold steps with those albums?

Doug: Very familiar with 7 Seconds. Did we cover the Kevin Seconds story yet??  Here is a very brief overview but this will connect to the timeline for fans.  This is before I was in Dag Nasty.  Remember before I talked about Descendents taking Dag out for 30 shows in the summer? Here’s some more back story. Dave decides he’s leaving Dag Nasty; Brian reaches out to Bill Stevenson to give him the bad news that the band isn’t gonna make the summer tour.  Bill tells him, “Just find a new guy, come out and do the shows it will be fun.“  Brian writes a letter (snail mail) to Kevin Seconds asking him to join Dag Nasty, I think you can find the letter out there on the web.  Kevin Seconds for whatever reason, never responded to the letter, so Brian put out an ad in the local DC paper looking for a singer.  Peter Cortner responded to the ad, auditioned and got the position. That summer Brian showed up with Peter.  Moving forward to Jan 25, 2020 … this year …  Peter and I are backstage at a Field Day show in Sacramento, CA and Kevin’s new band Gimme an F is playing, Peter tells both Kevin and I the story of the letter.

I didn’t know all the details, but Peter in a way was thanking Kevin for not taking the gig.  Peter explained that his Dag Nasty journey was owned in part to Kevin Seconds. That night Peter told the story to the crowd.  If Kevin had taken the gig, there would have never been a Wig Out at Denko’s. Amazing!!  Anyway, back to your question, we were familiar with 7 Seconds but not Ourselves, we didn’t share experiences but we played shows with them and could see what was going on, they too were exploring the boundaries of punk rock.

MM: Reflecting on the Field Day album, is there anything you would have done differently?

Doug: Hmm… Maybe to have not gone as far out on a limb as we did.  We literally blew up the bridge and knew some fans weren’t going to get it. I remember thinking, we love our fans and want them to come along for the ride, but we also respect them enough to accept this being a complete departure from the two previous recordings and we’re gonna get flack.  A really bad example would be a series of books from an author, each book has its place in the larger arch of the story line and that’s the way it is.  Star Wars, Harry Potter, Soprano’s etc.., they really don’t repeat a story. It continues and evolves.  As an artist, I’m constantly evolving.  I’ll get specific, today I wrote what I think is the best Field Day (band) song to date.

Yes, we have a new 7” coming out, I’m hyped for people to hear it, but I’m insanely excited to get into the studio to record the next batch of songs.

I’m excited to write my next song. I still love making music like I did when I was 15 years old. What will it sound like, what will I write about, will it be fast or slow?  I have no idea, but I’m open to the process of creating more music and seeing where the journey takes me.  

MM: One thing that interests me – at the time, the UK Hardcore crowd was lapping up the US Hardcore sound, whereas US bands were covering bands well outside that scene e.g. The Ruts, Wire etc. At the time, was punk and Hardcore all seen as one big melting pot, or was is a fractured scene at all?

Doug: Great question depending on who you ask.  My experience is music is music is music regardless of region, scene, State or Country. I’m also the first person to admit that I’m a lone wolf and have been since 9th grade 13 or 14 years old.  I never subscribed to LA vs San Francisco or DC vs Boston or East Coast vs West Coast, America vs UK, none of that.  I also grew up in Hermosa Beach which was considered to be outside the Hollywood scene, outsiders to the outsiders, we made our own scene.  By the time I started touring, the only scene I was in was with the band I was playing and travelling with; a scene of four that went from town to town making friends and playing music. You could only be part of a scene for one night and then you had to move on to the next show. When I joined Dag Nasty, I wasn’t part of the DC scene at all, they were less than friendly to me because I didn’t go to the right high school or whatever which seemed kinda silly. In fact Peter wasn’t part of that DC scene either, he was from the suburbs which was an entirely different cast of characters. 

Additionally, Dag Nasty were always out playing shows and touring so we really weren’t in DC, to be part of any scene we were a national band that travelled. When I started going to shows as a kid things overlapped like a big melting pot, anything that wasn’t rock was lumped into the punk world. It made for some cool shows that had anything goes from poetry and acoustic acts to performance art or music.  It was just counter culture. As things evolved it became more uniform, you\’d go to a show and find zero variation between bands. Just four hours of the same thing.   Going back to your question, my entire world has been outside the scene.

MM: To the best of my knowledge, Field Day (the album) has never been reissued and is currently unavailable – are there any plans to get it reissued?

Doug: Peter and I talked about that this week, it’s a possibility, but our primary focus is new Field Day (band) material.

MM: After Field Day and All Ages Show that was basically it recording-wise, what led to the break-up of the band?

Doug: By the end of the Field Day tour (which wasn’t that many dates ) about a summer of shows, everyone needed a break, both the fans and the band. The smarter thing would have been to take a year off and then get back at it, but we just stopped, boom, it was over. There wasn’t any specific event, it just seem to have run its course and felt like the right place to stop.

The past – Descendents

MM: How did you get involved with and start playing for Descendents?

Doug: I grew up in Hermosa Beach, CA.  Bill Stevenson, Milo and I all went to the same high school although they\’re two grades ahead of me.  Bill and I had classes together so we kinda knew each other that way.  He was obsessed with music and fishing .. I was obsessed with music, surfing and skateboarding. Descendents were a hometown favourite and I loved getting to see them play live. 

Descendents broke up, Milo went to college, Bill joined Black Flag and when his run with Black Flag came to an end, he was planning on rebooting Descendents to record and tour but Tony (original bass player) couldn’t tour so.. Bill asked me.  Remember before I was talking about the basement of my mom’s house in Hermosa?  That’s where Bill and I first jammed. He came over, asked if I had a place to rehearse, I pointed to the basement, he loaded in his drums and we got LOUD for a few hours. It was insane. After a few hours, we went and got a few burritos at La Penita (yes from the Dag song ) yes it really exists .. it was only half a block away from the house.

Bill asked if I wanted to jam with Ray, I said yep. We loaded up all the gear into his grey VW bus and went to SST for another long rehearsal. After that we just kept hanging out. He was sleeping on my floor and out of his van, just roaming about. Descendents were at the tail end of mixing I Don’t Want to Grow Up. My life and as a Descendent started to build up momentum and by summer kicked it into full gear and I was off touring from June – Sept.  Let the coffee and good times begin.

MM: You played on Enjoy, how was the recording of that record? It\’s got a lot of experimental sounds when compared to I Don\’t Want To Grow Up, where did that come from? Do you think some of Bill Stevenson\’s involvement with Black Flag had anything to do with it?

Doug: Sure, why not? Everything influences everything right? Using that logic his experience with Black Flag would affect his experience with Descendents. Enjoy was recorded twice.  We tracked the songs, weren’t happy with the results, went out and played the songs live on tour, then when back and tracked it a second time. It was done at Radio Tokyo in Venice, CA with Richard Andrews.  

MM: With Enjoy\’s two recordings, I think there were a few songs that never made the final cut. Did you record them both times? And any reason why they never made it onto the album or any other release?

Doug: We did record them both times and I have no clue why some were left off, that’s a Bill question for sure.  

MM: Those unreleased Enjoy songs have surfaced on various bootlegs, how do you feel about that?

Doug: Maybe time to do an official release of the alternative recordings, for the completists out there. Bootlegs are a part of the music world I’ve learned to accept. Like it or not, it is what it is.  The intention is fairly harmless, fans just wanna share music.

MM: Am I right in thinking you did some pretty epic touring in support of that album? Like more than a month on the road – Any recollections or stories of those tours?  

Doug: Usually the tours were longer, like 3 or 4 months, come home for a second and then back out on tour. Most of my recollections are of having lots and lots of fun.. roaming aimlessly around America with no money and a beat up van. The entire touring world was different back then, more underground, lots of days off, and super sketchy indeed. As for the stories way too many to go into.  

The past – Kottonmouth Kings

MM: This may seem to us like a bit of a step into the unknown! What led you to working with these guys?

Doug: I was in Descendents and this tall skinny guy named Brad X showed up to a show.  He said he was in a band called Doggy Style and asked if I would come out to see them play with the Dickies in Orange County.  I had a night off, so I went down to check them out.  They were lots of fun and we became friends.  We would end up on the same shows from time to time one of my favs was Descendents, 7 Seconds and Doggy Style at the Farm in SF.  Just EPIC.  This was the first time I got to see Kevin Seconds rock a room –  he was on point!! Now Brad X had his own tricks and at this show he offered a six pack of beer to the best stage dive  – classic. 

Anyway, we stayed friends and in the 90’s did a punk band called Humble Gods, when that broke up he started Kottonmouth Kings and I was always asked to help in the studio with guitar parts and bass parts, which led to writing, which led to touring a few times. What happened was as KMK did their deal with Capitol Records, I was asked to run Suburban Noize (Brad X’s) record label imprint which was supposed to groom bands and then upstream them into the Capitol system.  Long, long story , but while juggling Suburban Noise, I also did studio work with Kottonmouth Kings.  

MM: Which bands/ acts were your peers at the time?

Doug: I still loved and followed everything like before, punk, funk, jazz, rock, whatever. KMK was at the tail end of Humble Gods. While in Humble Gods, we toured with the Insane Clown Posse and Brad X got the idea to do a track based hip-hop punk rock, weed band.

MM: Was there much of a punk/ hip hop crossover happening, or were you guys ahead of the curve?

Doug: In a way, there have always been things on the fringe . Would you consider the early 80’s version of the Red Hot Chili Peppers a hip hop band or a punk band? What about Beastie Boys? Going the other way, NWA are the most punk rock band around!! Ice Cube? KMK used elements of hip-hop in respect to tracks, beats, 808, and rapping but added the layer of weed, suburban life and punk rock. Hip hop influences everything and KMK was an extension of that, a fusion between two worlds .. the punk world and the hip-hop world.   Insane Clown Posse did the same thing only fusing the horror world and the hip hop world.  By doing everything to track, having a DJ and a drummer it was a show and sounded HUGE live like a dance club at 140db. 


The past – The Rest

MM: Are there any other gems from the past that you\’d like to share with us?

Doug: I think I’ve done enough rambling for one day.

MM:  Given the wide variety of people you have made music with over the years, was there any particular person that inspired you the most?

Doug: They’re all inspiring I couldn’t choose one over another; I look at it as a giant body of work and collaborations.

MM: One final one – if you had a chance to make music with any person – alive or dead – who would you pick?

Doug: I’d want to work with everyone one from Billy Eilish, Bjork, Billy Joe Armstrong, Chet Baker, Miles Davis, Chris Martin, Carole King, Joey Ramone, Joe Strummer, Tom Yorke, Tom Waits, anyone from the Beatles,  I can appreciate a well written song regardless of genre, count me in!!  ALL in for that matter!! I’m addicted to music and the process. Wig Out!!

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