Heavy, Messy, Anarchic, Rock madness: An Interview with The Imbeciles' Butch Dante
Updated: Jun 28, 2020
If you like your punk with a side of raw improvisation, and the gritty attitude which comes from being formed at the murkier, slightly lawless vibed end of Joshua Tree, then may we introduce The Imbeciles. A heady concoction of creators from “Not especially nice parts of America, and Paradise (South East London),” This transatlantic group has an elusive and fluid line up creating even more of that ‘dunno what’s gonna go down here’ approach to their live performance, and as their UK spring tour has moved to November, it won’t be long until you can see for yourself. Rhythm Guitarist Butch Dante eloquently illustrated more.
When Dante got introduced to rocky royalty as a wee lad, nothing was the same again; there was no turning back. He remembers, “As a little kid music was something that I remember drifting through the back window of my dad’s Cortina - along with the nicotine, solvents, and lead-based petrol fumes - as we crawled along the highways and byways of South East London. When I was seven, my uncle dumped a bunch of singles, and a tiny record player in my room and life changed. The Kinks, Zeppelin, Hendrix, and Tina Turner doing Rolling on the River. I thought she was singing about the Thames and, for a long time, actually believed these homeless people were having Bohemian goings-on over on the Isle of Dogs. I was wrong.”
The winning idea of creating sounds that you would jam to yourself, and anyone else is a bonus is something that Butch and boys believe. “We’ve always tried to make music that we would want to listen to, and it turns out that there are a lot of other people who are into a dose of our kind of heavy, messy, anarchic, rock madness.” But the increasingly parlous state of the world means the message of their music is now also making a lot more sense to a lot more people. “We think humankind has properly wrecked the world, so why don’t we let try to be a little better than that, before the lights go out? Be kind, be eccentric, wear the trousers your mates laugh at, be generous, be mad.”
“Our style is Punk something-or-other. It changes without anyone noticing, like a skinwalker. The last album (The Imbeciles) was very Gang of Four. Lots of Wire. Some Devo. But all mixed with not enough sleep and a flat refusal to let anyone spend too long on actually writing anything. The next EP comes out in August, and it feels much more like the Ruts, The Members, or The Who. Honestly, there are some real bangers on the new record. We’re very, very excited about it.”
One Hand Tommy is the latest track to be released from The Imbeciles self-titled debut album, out now. Each imploding song is short and sweet at around the two-minute mark, with the distorted sound a result of eight frenzied days on the Texan-Mexican border, recording to tape. I explain to our flamboyant guitarist how I think the whole process is quirky. Right choice of vocabulary? “Thank you! We shooting for demented, but quirky is good. The music is collaborative. We went through a patch at the end of last year where, like many bands before us, we started to drift into a bit of a dictatorship situation, so we made some staff changes, and now we’re rolling as a proper collective once more.”
The accompanying video to One Hand Tommy is a homage to Le Ballon Rouge, the classic 1956 French short, where a bright red balloon is featured in an otherwise, grey, dismal post-war Paris, just like Tommy's onsie. The lads are not strangers to using graphics in their craft. “I think the animation has always been our friend even before the whole pandemic thing. We’ve been lucky to find a brilliant animator, Shawn Beam, who takes the ideas and the concepts and turns them into something amazing.” He then goes on to reveal an impressive idea: “We’re planning a full length animated film with him to launch our next album. Like Yellow Submarine but with a lot more death,” Butch expresses.
It seems a most desirable choice of venue for the band to play Tynemouth’s legendary Surf Café on Friday, November 20th. The tiny, rustic venue right on the North Sea, has recently been through a refurbishment and taken over by SSD Concerts, who have steadily grown Newcastle's musical landscape and reputation over the years. The Surf Cafe retains that complete devotion to welcoming all genres and styles. Nostalgically, some of these smaller gigs are ones we remember fondly for life. Dante agrees, “We have always played smaller and more intense venues. In the US, the best shows we have ever done have been in tiny roadhouses in Texas, an abandoned gang house in California, and a punk club/shithole in Vegas. Over here I love pub gigs and places like Music Hall in Ramsgate; f*&£ing brilliant crowd and staff. I’ve heard about Surf Café and we are absolutely pumped to play there.”
Dedicating themselves to loud and messy music, The Imbeciles, don’t worry about making it perfect. “We really are a bit of a train wreck playing live sometimes, but that’s what we think people might like, yeah? If you want a band that sounds live exactly like their album on vinyl, then we probably aren’t for you. Also, and this is a personal one, we hope that people will come and hang out with us at our shows. That’s probably the best bit of what we do; meeting people and just chatting shit before and after the gigs.”
We end our colourful chat with Butch putting in a request for England to let their hair down even more. “UK music fans are absolutely brilliant but sometimes quite reticent about coming up to you after the gig, so I’d just encourage anyone that feels like it to say hullo. We don’t bite, and we love our fans, but we also love people that think we’re shit. It’s all good. Other than that, we have a new album coming out which is being produced by a true industry legend, so that’s pretty sick; we’re about to announce a tour in 2021 with one of my favorite bands of all time; so yeah, it’s going alright at the moment.”
Article by Beverley Knight