It’s been 12 long years since Californian legends DESCENDENTS last released an album, in the form of 2004’s ‘Cool To Be You’, so it’s no wonder that the punk world is buzzed for upcoming seventh album, ‘Hypercaffium Spazzinate’, out in July on Epitaph. They’re following that by returning to the UK to headline the Thursday at Blackpool’s Rebellion Festival on 4th August. Ian Chaddock looks back at their early days then catches up with drummer, founding member and former Black Flag sticksman Bill Stevenson to talk about what the band have been up to over the last decade or so and how it feels to be back.
F FAMILY “FOUR MONTHS AGO MILO BOUGHT MY AN ESPRESSO MAKER, SO NOW ORMED back in 1978 when three young teenagers delved into the LA hardcore punk scene, it was a baptism of fire for Bill Stevenson, Frank Navetta and Tony Lombardo, as Stevenson told Big Cheese back in 2011. “I remember that one of the big turning points was when we opened up for the Germs. Their fans hated us so much and thought that we were total wimps. They were throwing stuff at us and hitting us. That may have kind of made us evaluate the idea of maybe having a little more aggression in the sound. It was around that time that Milo started coming to practise all the time to watch us.” Recruiting the bespectacled Milo Aukerman as their vocalist for 1981’s ‘Fat’ EP, 1982 would be a landmark year for Descendents, releasing debut LP, ‘Milo Goes
to College’, now regarded as a hardcore/ punk classic. Aukerman told Big Cheese in ‘11, “I remember being already off at college, when my roommate said, ‘Hey, my friends have your record, let’s go check it out!’ I was thinking to myself, ‘Wait a minute, how do these guys know about my band?’ It was the first time I heard the final mix, so when they played it I was totally absorbed listening to it. Uncomfortable too. The record didn’t have an impact at least initially, but seems to have increased in importance through the years, and I’m proud of that.” When Aukerman headed to college, Stevenson joined hardcore punk heroes Black Flag. “When I began filling in for Black Flag and then joining the band later, I was under the notion that I could do both. But it proved not to be the case. I ended up focussing on Black Flag for quite a while. It wasn’t planned out because I was too young and stupid to plan anything.” Although Descendents were on hiatus from ‘83 to ‘85, they returned in style with two albums – 1985’s ‘I Don’t Wanna Grow Up’ and 1986’s ‘Enjoy!’. It was a time Stevenson told Big Cheese in 2011 was a “wonderful time”, DESCENDENTS IN THE EARLY DAYS despite line-up
changes and mixed reviews. “The touring that we did in the mid ‘80s was some of the most fun touring ever. I don’t know, we were still young adults and we were just out there causing trouble in every possible way.” Fast forward through 30 years, more lineup changes and three more albums (1987’s ‘ALL’, 1996’s ‘Everything Sucks’, 2004’s ‘Cool To Be You’), not to mention Descendents playing and recording with different vocalists and going by the name of ALL, and now we’re looking at a summer that finally sees their recorded return. With Aukerman and Stevenson being joined by Stephen Egerton (guitar) and Karl Alvarez (bass) since 1986, the long-standing Descendents quartet is set to unleash another mighty slice of hyper melodic punk on the world with ‘Hypercaffium Spazzinate’. 12 years since ‘Cool To Be You’, Down For Life talks to Bill Stevenson to find out what’s been happening.
I’M EVEN MORE OF A CRACKHEAD THAN I WAS BEFORE.”
DOWN FOR LIFE
Your last album, ‘Cool To Be You’, was released on Fat Wreck 12 years ago. How do you feel about that record now and what are your memories of that time in 2004? Bill Stevenson (drums): “Each of our releases tend to sort of ‘mark time’ for me. Personally, I think of a somewhat dark time, and me trying to reconcile myself with ‘grown up’ type stuff. For example, ‘One More Day’ is about my father passing away.”
You’ve had some really hard times since ‘Cool To Be You’, including some incredibly serious health struggles and the loss of original guitarist Frank Navetta. Did these things make you closer to your Descendents family and more determined to write another album? “Both Karl [Alvarez, bass] and I have had lifethreatening health issues over the last decade