Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Five (Or More) Questions with... Andy Shernoff

Mr. Andy Shernoff

Let me start by saying that Andy Shernoff is an extremely nice guy. I conducted a telephone interview with him just over a year ago that I sat on way too long. I put it on a shelf for a couple of months, and when I finally got around to transcribing it to written word, I was dismayed to find it had completely vanished off of my digital recorder. I was horrified. Not only because I had lost the interview, but because I respected Andy, and I knew that he is an extremely busy person.

I had taken up 30 good minutes of this rock and roll legend's time, and I had nothing to show for it. With my tail between my legs, I sent Andy a reluctant email. I figured it was best to own up to what had happened, and take my beating as he saw fit. I honestly didn't know what to expect. It was the very first telephone interview I did with with somebody who was famous, and it sat on a shelf for quite some time... I didn't know if Andy would chastise me, curse me out for being such an bonehead, or give me a lecture about wasting his efforts. I expected a little bit of all three. As it turned out, it was neither of those.

"Don't sweat it, Troy." was his reply. "We'll do it again, and it will be even better next time."

I was in shock... A cordial response wasn't even on my list of possibilities. Here was a rock and roll icon... The bass player for my all time favorite band, The Dictators... Killing my stress with a genuine act of forgiving kindness. Holy apeshit!

Another telephone interview never came about. In fact, just like I did with our original interview, I put the entire idea on the back burner. I figured that I had used up my one and only chance to pick at Andy Shernoff's brain, and his response saying that we would do another one was just his way of being nice while bowing out. It was a friendly gesture on his part, and I just chalked it up as a valuable lesson learned. C'est la vie... Bad things happen to those who wait, and in this situation, I was the king of the boneheads.

Andy Shernoff, as I said, is a rock and roll icon. Most notably, he is the brains behind The Dictators, the incredible band of misfits that epitomized the punk scene in the early '70s. He is considered a legend by most who followed that scene, and his notoriety as a bass player might only be over shadowed by his ability to write songs. Classics such as "Pussy and Money", "Minnesota Strip" and "Who Will Save Rock and Roll?" were all formulated from the mind of Mr. Shernoff.

He has collaborated with some of the biggest names in punk rock, including the Ramones and The Fleshtones, plus a slew of others including The Bel-Airs, Manitoba's Wild Kingdom, The Resistance, The David Rotor Method, and The Master Plan... Plus many more.

As a producer he has worked with the likes of The Smithereens, The Figgs, Guided By Voices, Sibling Rivalry with Joey Ramone & Mickey Leigh, The Sick Fucks, and Prisonshake, to name a few of the many.

Perhaps most recently you have heard his bass and vocals on the "California Sun" promotional video Major League Baseball put out for the 2010 All-Star Game.

In his younger years, aspiring to be a rock and roll journalist, he founded the sarcastic Teenage Wasteland Gazzette, which featured the writing of Lester Bangs, amongst others. Without Andy in the rock and roll industry, there would be a huge void left with nothing to fill it.

So, knowing his stature, I felt happy to even had had the chance to have a one on one with him. He is amongst my friends on Facebook, and about a month ago I dropped him a message  saying "Hello, I hope all is well in your world." His response back to me was, "All is good here, Troy. Did we ever finish that interview?" I was caught off guard, but immediately rounded up some questions and sent them to him via email. Once again, his kindness took me by surprise.

This past Sunday, he sent me responses to the questions I asked him. Today, I am delighted to share them with you...

Five (Or More) Questions With Andy Shernoff...

Musically, and generally what are you doing these days, Mr. Shernoff?

Well, last year I did toured extensively with my solo show and my band The Master Plan but a hand operation and an illness in my family has been keeping me closer to home. I've been using the time at home to write new songs, the best I have ever written! It might sound presumptuous to say that I am at my creative peak when I am over 50 years old but I'll let the music do the talking. The first fruit of my labors will be an animated video for my song "Are You Ready To Rapture?", a collaboration with the brilliant cartoonist Brian Musikoff. We expect to have it released in July. I'm just starting to perform solo again, though this time I'm using a crack back-up band. I always have my hand in a few production projects, my favorite is Daddy Long Legs a bluesy, harmonica driven trio from Brooklyn with great musical skills and the heart and soul to back it up.

Who would you say is your single most musical influence?

I've been a super rock fan since I was a kid so it is impossible to pick one musical influence. I am an amalgam of every record I've worn out over the years. As a kid, Brian Wilson was my guru until I discovered The Who and then it was Pete Townsend. When I started The Dictators, the second MC5 record was my template, later it was Bruce Springsteen who really moved me. Today my greatest inspirations are Nick Lowe and Leonard Cohen. Those guys are exceptionally skilled craftsmen.

You once mentioned that you hated the album Manifest Destiny. Do you still feel that way?

I think it was a misguided album, an ill-advised reaction to the commercial failure of the first Dictators album. It was an attempt to give The Dictators a commercial sound to garner radio support and play the music business game... a job I am totally unqualified for. Remember it was 1977, the world was changing, we were in the midsts of the punk rock revolution and we went took a step backwards rather than forward.

How much more Dictator's stuff is there in the vaults? Will there be another odds and sods kind of thing like Every Day Is Saturday coming out?

I cleared out the vaults for Every Day Is Saturday. So that's it for Dictators music.

Will there be more stuff from The Master Plan?

I love playing in that band but we are literally scattered all over the country which makes it difficult to get together. We did release a record last year called Maximum Respect for which we did a cool video. I urge everyone to check out...

Teenage Wasteland Gazette has achieved holy grail status. What can you tell me about how that came about? Do you still own original copies?

When I was in college I had dreams of becoming a rock writer. Today rock journalism is kind of a joke but believe it or not, it was actually a respectable profession in those days. So I started a fanzine in which I parodied mainstream publications like Rolling Stone. I made up bands and concerts and started finessing the approach and attitude which eventually led to the first Dictators record...... And somewhere in my parent's attic there are a few copies safely stored away.

When I spoke with Ross The Boss (lead guitarist for the Dictators) last year, I asked him how he came up with that amazing riff at the beginning of "Who Will Save Rock and Roll", and he merely passed it off on you saying that you had it on your demo... What led to YOU coming up with that ridiculouis riff?

I actually wrote that in my head when I was on vacation in Mexico. I didn't have a guitar with me so I had to wait until I returned home to finalize it..... I remember envisioning a siren over some Pete Townsend power chords.

Again... Thank you! Thanks for being such a great sport!

Anytime, my pleasure Troy!!     


Anonymous said...

Did not know that Lester Bangs wrote for the teenage wasteland gazzette. Nice article!


TurtlexBoy said...

Troy,I belive you will get a kick if you read the lyrics to Anal Cunt's "Dictators are cool". Only dictator fans will get the joke.