Michael W. Dean talks about his band Bomb …..interviewed by Thomas Schulte for the book Thomas is working on.
Q. (Thomas Schulte): What do you remember of the 1988 Detroit show or tour? That would have been for the album Hits of Acid.
A. (Michael W. Dean): I don’t remember that show much in particular. That was a long time ago and I was doing a lot of drugs and alcohol. I remember snippets here and there of all the Bomb tours, collectively I have a lot of memories, but we played over 700 shows in 43 states and six countries, so it’s hard to say. I think I remember that show being in a horrible scary neighborhood (many of our gigs were), on something Mile Road, but not much else.
It’s odd….I sometimes remember things from when I was a little kid better than my time in the band Bomb. But Bomb was an intensely emotional time, and I had a really twisted love/hate relationship with one of the members, the drummer, and he was emotionally abusive….He kind of looked at me like his innocent hick little brother to corrupt and he liked to experiment with my emotions, used me like a mental plaything. So I’ve shut a lot of that out of my memory as a defense mechanism. That guy is a sociopath and I am not in contact with him. I never will be again.
Q. What do you think of the album, now? (Thanks for making the MP3s available at http://michaelwdean.com/BOMB/ but that album has no notes from you.)
A. A review of that album, I think it was in Melody Maker or New Music Express, said something like “Another week in the studio and $10,000 more in studio time and this record would have been up there with anything by Hendrix or Zeppelin.”
That’s a pretty bold statement, and it’s lumping us in with the music that was a couple generations back, but I agree with it. We recorded and mixed all these records in like a half-day, a day, total. Hits of Acid was two ten-hour sessions total. Happy All The Time was three eight-hour sessions, that was extravagant for us. The Warner Brothers record took a month, but doesn’t even sound as good as Happy All the Time, because we had the wrong producer (Bill Laswell). Bill Laswell spent the first four days sucking all the life out of our drum sound.
If we’d had two weeks in the studio with NO producer, Hits of Acid would have been amazing. All our albums would have been. But we were always fighting against the clock of no money. Back then studio time cost money. If we were doing that today, we’d be recording it ourselves on computers and taking all the time we needed with it.
That music still sounds fresh to me. And I use some of it in my radio show for the bumpers coming in and out of ad segments. My show opens with a Bomb song every night and it really sets the tone for me. That stuff is timeless. We had a lot of crazed fans, but in many ways, I was our biggest fan. lol.
Q. In 1990, Gail from Tragic Mulatto called Bomb “real pros.” I recall the ’88 Detroit show as being a druggy jam, more party than professional. By ’90 had things changed for Bomb, or do you think Gail was being facetious?
A. She was being serious. She was a solid musician who had a lot of respect for us. Bomb were all very good musicians and worked really hard at being as good as we could. We’d practice for hours, and not just work on the nuances of each song, but practice the whole presentation, like the segue from one song to another, making the whole set work as a piece. We’d agonize over set lists, change them every night, change them on the fly.
Maybe one show in 50 we’d kind of throw that all out the window and just jam live. I think the show you saw was one of those. Usually happened when we were burned out on tour. I think the Detroit show you’re talking about may have been the time we played two cities in one day, an afternoon show in Toledo and an evening show in Detroit.
Also, by 1990 we’d added our fourth member, second guitarist Doug Hilsinger. He brought us more professionalism and a more melodic direction.
There’s not a lot of video of us, but here’s one song from our reunion show in 1999 that show’s how damn good and professional we were live on a good night:
It’s pretty much the only clip of us live that sounds good and looks OK. Sure, it’s low-rez analog video, but you have to remember, Bomb broke up in 1993, more than a decade before everyone had a video camera in their pocket.
Q. What is your opinion of Tragic Mulatto?
A. I really dug Gail as a person. She was also a very good musician. I didn’t really listen to Tragic Mulatto much, but I liked how simply bizarre they were. I saw them live a bunch, we played with them plus I was out in clubs every night when I was in town. But I didn’t own any of their records. I liked her other band, Polkacide more. They were great fun and good musicians, without flaunting that they were good musicians. Most of my favorite bands fit that description: “Good musicians, without flaunting that they were good musicians”
I liked that Gail and some of the other people in her band (and my band) worked for a living. She and I were bike messengers, risking life and health every day to support ourselves. A lot of musicians were on welfare in that scene and being someone who worked, I liked people who worked.
None of those bands really made a living. We’d tour the world then go back to our day jobs. This was before there really was a solid alternative “circuit” that enabled bands to make a living. We were booking our own shows and sleeping on floors while helping pioneer that circuit, but didn’t really reap the benefits of it the way other bands did later.
I built that, man.
Also, being from San Francisco was hard. It gave you a certain amount of artistic hipness, but wasn’t a place to “make it” from financially.
If we’d been from New York or Los Angeles or Seattle, it would have been different. In this interview, Krist Novoselic from Nirvana said “If Bomb had been from Seattle, they would have been huge.”:
A few San Francisco bands made a living for a minute, but to stay sane you had to internalize the mantra “This will not last forever.” Too many people thought it would, and were devastated when it ran out. A lot of them are not living as nifty of a life as I am now. Some are homeless, some are in crappy bands trying to still make it at 50, and some are dead.
On the other hand, some are still in their cool bands kicking ass, like the Melvins, and some are doing cool animation in the film industry like Mike from Steel Pole Bathtub. (Both those bands were label mates with Bomb on our indie, Boner Records. And both got signed to major labels and got dropped around the same time as Bomb.)
Bomb made a modest living the 18 months we were on Warner Brothers, but when we got dropped, I was strung out, lost my band, and was suddenly alone in a cold, empty room. I sold everything quickly, got high for as long as I could. Then I got off dope a year later and started to look at what to do with the next phase of my life.
Q. You seemed to have changed your life direction from self-destruction to impressive accomplishments in technical writing, software, and podcasting. How and why did this change come about?
A. Well, Bomb broke up because I wouldn’t quit using heroin. The other guys weren’t happy about that. About a year later, I got into recovery, I’ve been clean and sober since 1994. I really had no skills other than playing rock, screwing anything that moved, and being a bike messenger, and there really aren’t many old bike messengers. The longer you do it, the more likely you are to be maimed or killed. Even if you don’t get killed, it sucks for anyone over 30. It’s a young man’s game.
So I went back to college for two years at age 30, learned computers and learned how to make a resume and hold a job. I actually took classes in that. Then I worked for about four years as a temp worker in offices, wearing a suit doing administrative assistant work and data entry. While doing that, I worked on learning to do my own thing, that lead to me being a published professional author for a decade. But after writing a half-dozen how-to books, I got sick of it and decided to do talk radio. I was already doing podcasting as a hobby by around 2006, so it was a natural progression.
My radio show The Freedom Feens is seven days a week and syndicated nationwide on 32 radio stations. As far as I know it’s the only radio show that started as a podcast. A lot of radio shows later become podcasts when they lose their radio gig, but I’m the only one that went the other way. I worked hard at making that happen. I work hard at everything I do. I set goals, I study a market, and I learn to get into it. Then I get into it, do the best I can, work as if I’m making ten times what I’m making, and try to make my permanent mark in that world.
I’ve always thought radio was kinda magical, going back to when I was a kid. It’s kind of the last thing on my bucket list, though I’d like to live another 40 years. Even though radio is a dying technology, it’s still kind of immediate and mystical to me. I love the thought of someone driving across the desert in the middle of the night and hearing me rambling.
I also know that computers are kind of magic, kind of an interesting mix of science and voodoo. I jumped on them in the early 90s as something I was looking for without knowing what I was looking for. Especially the Internet. I always wanted that, even before it existed. That’s why I’ve gotten into software design. I’m especially proud of Derrick Slopey and my project, FeenPhone.
It’s free software for radio people or podcasters, it transmits much higher quality audio than Skype over the Internet with very inexpensive gear. We built it because I needed it for the Feens show, but a lot of other people are using it now too.
Q. Tell me about your current projects and plans for the future. I am especially interested in your BipCot NoGov license. What promoted you to make it and who adopts it?
A. Plans for the future, for now, just to keep doing what I’m doing. I love doing radio. It’s so much more immediate than writing books, and far less hazardous than touring with a rock band. And it’s more efficient: I reach as many people every night from my home doing radio than the number of people who bought Bomb records, total, since the first Bomb record came out.
The BipCot NoGov license kind of started as a joke, or maybe the more accurate term would be “as commentary.” It’s a license to replace copyright, patent, and government licensure. It makes fun of the silliness of those things actually existing. I mean, what meaning does copyright actually have when every copyrighted movie and album is pirated in unlimited digitally perfect copies within an hour of the media hitting the public for sale? And what is government licensure other than rent seeking and enforcement of inefficient monopolies?
It’s all The State. And The State, worldwide, really is just a dinosaur thrashing in the tar pits as it goes extinct.
Copyright and patent are relics of a bygone age, are not enforceable and interfere with human progress. So I made a license that anyone can use that allows reuse of the media or service by anyone EXCEPT governments. It threatens no “government guns” for violators. It is not copyright-based, it is entirely shame-based.
I love the idea of government employees agreeing contractually to be shamed by name, in public, if they violate a license.
FeenPhone was the first project to be BipCot licensed, but a bunch of people have actually adopted the license now, they’re listed on the website, here:
Thank you for the interview Thomas, I had fun!
–Michael W. Dean, 8/11/15, Casper, Wyoming.