Still Loud, Still Snotty
Cheetah Chrome and Johnny Blitz Revive the Dead Boys for a New Album celebrating 40 Years of Punk Power
As one of the first and greatest American punk bands, the Dead Boys never played by the rules. It should be no surprise that on the 40th anniversary of their landmark debut album, Young, Loud and Snotty, they stage not a reunion, not a revival, but something just as loud and just as snotty.
There was never a big plan to do a reunion, original Dead Boys drummer Johnny Blitz says. It just all fell into place. When we started out it was just Cheetah, and I in my parent's basement, so now we're back together with a few extra guys..
The road to the Dead Boys began in Cleveland in the early 70s with the legendary proto-punk band, Rocket from the Tombs. When the group split in 1975, Chrome and Blitz hooked up with vocalist Stiv Bators to form the band Frankenstein, soon changing their name to the Dead Boys.
In July 1976, the Dead Boys relocated to New York, quickly gaining a reputation for their combination of the proto-punk fervor of bands like the Stooges and the New York Dolls with a new level of energy and musical violence. Their 1977 debut LP, Young, Loud and Snotty, was a landmark album in the birth of hardcore punk and produced one of the first great punk anthems, Sonic Reducer. After one more album, the band split in 1979. They reunited for a few gigs in the 1980s, but following the death of Bators in 1990, the band members went their separate ways, except for two brief reunions in 2004 and 2005. The new return of the Dead Boys began last year with guitarist Cheetah Chrome.
I've had my solo band for the last ten years, and it's evolved through different people until I hooked up with Jason "Ginchy" Kottwitz down in Austin. With the 40th anniversary of Young, Loud and Snotty coming up, Jason suggested I take some time off from the Cheetah Chrome Band and do a Dead Boys celebration tour. There were reasons why the other guys couldn't do it, but Blitz and I were free, so why not run with the ball?
With Kottwitz on guitar and Detroit punk legend Ricky Rat on bass, Chrome and Blitz recruited Jake Hout from the L.A.-based zombie Dead Boys tribute band, the Undead Boys, for lead vocals.
The first gig with Jake, it was like, 'You got it, man!' Chrome says. I had friends in L.A. saying, 'Keep this guy! Keep this guy!'
With the line-up in place, the group brought the house down at a showcase performance at this year's South by Southwest music fest in Austin, Texas. Writing in Paste Magazine, music critic Robert Ham named their set as one of the 10 Best Sets at SXSW 2017. The group played the entire LP (of Young, Loud and Snotty) with sweat and fire, Ham wrote, wiping away all four decades of the past in the process.
Fresh from that success, the urge to capture a new take on the classic album was a natural next step.
The original (Young, Loud and Snotty) was actually a demo, Chrome says. None of us had been in a studio before, and we figured we would go back in and do it right, but the label said no. It has stood up, but 40 years later we can do a 'What if?' What would it have sounded like if we could have gone back in? So that's what this is about. It's not better. It's just different.
In re-recording the songs, we tried not to think about it too much, Blitz says. You always get in trouble when you do that. You start overthinking shit and it complicates everything. The next thing you know you're spinning around like an idiot.
We tried not to change very much, Chrome adds. We have better guitar sounds, more studio experience now, but that's about it. I didn't want to lose that spontaneity, so we're pretty much doing our live act. We did leave out the one cover from the original album, 'Hey Little Girl.' That was only on there because the label wanted an extra song and it was just filler.
The spit and spirit that Jake Hout brings to the vocals is one aspect of the new recordings that make Chrome and Blitz particularly proud.
Stiv was like an instrument, Chrome says. He was fuckin' amazing. He was the best I ever worked with. I've been singing the Dead Boys songs myself for 20 years because I couldn't find another singer I trusted enough to hand it to. With Jake there's a resemblance to Stiv, but he's totally his own guy. Stiv would be very proud of our choice. He'd be glad we waited this long.
We're planning on being touring fools for this record, Chrome says. People ask me, 'You still playing?' and I say, 'Are you still shittin'?' It's not something you can just stop doing. When Blitz and I are playing, it's like we're 20 years old again; of course I feel a lot worse the next morning. It's still just as loud and snotty, we're just old now.