Silly song

Right now, The Mr. T Experience is just about to end a European tour in support of their new album Revenge Is Sweet and So Are You. Before they departed, however, I spoke with guitarist and singer pop punk icon Dr. Frank. He is also a graduate of UC Berkeley with a B.A. in History.

Fishrap: OK--What gives, why haven't you guys played Santa Cruz in 2 years?

Dr. Frank: I used to spend a lot of time there, because my girlfriend attended UC Santa Cruz. She's from England and she did "Study Abroad." Umm (hesitating)... There are a lot of hippies in Santa Cruz. Frankly, I would find it difficult to live there.

Fishrap: Yeah, there are definitely a lot of hippies.

Dr. Frank: Especially in America's Universities. There's a 7 Seconds song that says "We're going to succeed where the hippies failed." All I can say is thank God the hippies failed! They had terrible taste in everything, not just hair and clothes, though that was abominable too. The '60s were terrible, the whole way of thinking started a trend that's led to the destruction of American Intellectual Culture. What passes for it these days is a very wishy-washy, touchy-feely substancelessness.

Fishrap: I can definitely relate to what your feeling, bro.

Dr. Frank: The main thing that my girlfriend noticed was that it was a time warp. Every class was influenced by feminist literary theory. She couldn't believe it was so 70s. They outgrew that in Britain a long time ago. You think about the type of education that our fathers had, and no one that I know probably could have passed any of their classes. There's been a dumbing down of American Culture, and I think the 60s is to blame. I wish it would have never would have happened. If you go along with fuzzy thinking of hippies, you basically make the decision to go along with it or be branded as an evil spawn from hell. It is true though, that the 60s radical types that control the universities are dying off. You don't meet too many of today's generation now that looks at them with anything but disdain.

Fishrap: Okay, we got off track. Did you have any aspirations of being in a punk band in high school?

Dr. Frank: I always wanted to be in a band but I didn't really know how to go about it. When I did it, I didn't know what to think about it. It quickly became clear that what we were looking at was more of a hobby than a career. In the past, for the most of it, it was a hobby, like fishing. There's only room for so many professional fisherman. The rest of the people just go out and maybe dream of being Orlando Wilson.

Fishrap: A professional fisherman?

Dr. Frank: Yeah, you ever see the TV show fishing with Orlando Wilson? My analogy is intended to convey this: You have a band, you're on a track that's not professional and sort of the junior version of the real music biz, you just do that. You have your ordinary life, you have your job or whatever, but then there's one weekend a month you pretend to be a rock `n' roll star. Then a weird thing happens, your band gets active and you have the choice of whether or not to have it be a hobby or profession.

Fishrap: At what point did you say to yourself "I could probably do this for real?"

Dr. Frank: It was always really. . . iffy. I quit my job to go on tour to support The Dickies, and we recorded the album "Love is Dead" I worked for UCB in an administrative job, doing computer stuff. I said this is a stupid move, but I'll quit and look for work when I get back. When we got back from the tour, more tour possibilities came up, so it wasn't until well into 1996 that I realized "this is my job" and that was kind of weird. I never expected to be a professional punk rock guy. It could all end tomorrow.

Fishrap: Probably Not...

Dr. Frank: You never know. It's precarious, the thing with little bands like us is that we support ourselves by touring. We never make real money off the records, unlike huge rockstars that get big advances. If our last tour had gone badly, we would have been in big trouble.

Fishrap: So I hear you're a big country fan, it definitely shows on the new album.

Dr. Frank: I listen to a lot of George Jones and all the '50s guys. When country was country, they were hillbilly bands. That was the era when it had a lot in common with rock `n' roll. It influences my songwriting, the structure, what you make the lyrics do. So even the punk rock songs that don't sound country, all owe something to it. For instance, George Jones... songs should be a series of surprises. You read the title, and the song sounds like a joke, then you listen to it, and you get a tear in your eye. That's one of the greatest things.

Fishrap : Like "Even Hitler had a girlfriend" (A MTX song)

Dr. Frank: It's a silly song, but it means a great deal to some because it describes their situation. The thing that was missing before was that there wasn't a group of people to listen to it, and now there is. I never thought that would happen.