Dead Boys legacy very much alive thanks to Cheetah Chrome

Punk rock pioneers and provocateurs the Dead Boys are currently celebrating the 40th anniversary of their landmark first album, Young, Loud and Snotty, with a worldwide tour and a special re-recording of the classic record. Still Snotty: Young, Loud & Snotty at 40!

Formed in Cleveland in 1976, the Dead Boys were one of the first American acts to combine the proto-punk fervor of bands like the Stooges and the New York Dolls with a new level of intense energy. 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 lead vocalist Stiv Bators in 1990, the band members went their separate ways except for two brief reunions in 2004 and 2005. The return of the Dead Boys began with guitarist Cheetah Chrome. “I've had my solo band for the last ten years, and Dead Boys songs have always been included in my shows and over time the right mix of people came together to pull off and at times enhance the Dead Boys sound.  With the 40th anniversary of the Dead Boys on the horizon and a solid band that could interpret and deliver the performance and sound needed to maintain the authenticity of the Dead Boys, I reached out to Johnny Blitz about an anniversary tour and he said yes and we began the journey of what would become Still Snotty.” With Jason Kottwitz on guitar, Detroit punk legend Ricky Rat on bass and vocalist Jake Hout from ‘zombie’ Dead Boys tribute band, the Undead Boys, the DeadBoys 40th anniversary tour started taking shape. “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,” Chrome says. “The first gig with Jake, it was like, ‘You got it, man!’ I think Stiv would be very proud of our choice.”

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. Produced by Plowboy Records head Shannon Pollard and cut in just three days of sessions in Nashville’s historic Creative Workshop Studios, Still Snotty: Young, Loud & Snotty at 40! is an exciting chance to revisit a classic album. Think of it as a “Sonic Expander.” “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,” Chrome says with a laugh. “It's still just as loud and snotty, we're just old now.”

I recently spoke with Chrome about the band’s history, the new album and the current tour.

Cheetah, I saw you back in 1977 at CBGB in New York with the original band. It was intense, but I remember thinking, “These songs are catchy.” Today my 24-year son also gets the music. Why do you think those songs still hold up?

They’re honest and simple. That’s all I can think of of. So many punk bands from back then but how many songs do you remember? I think we just had a knack for keeping things simple, which makes them easier to remember.

The song “Sonic Reducer,” for me, was like the New York Dolls’ “Personality Crisis” or “Blitzkrieg Bop” from the Ramones. It just felt like a new age was being ushered in.

We were just doing what we did. We didn’t really look inward but looking back, I think you’re right. We were making a statement without trying to make a statement. Which is probably how it should be (laughs). I mean, if you have to try, it’s not real.

What are the crowds like today at the shows? Old punks? Kids?

It’s crazy. It’s like 95% kids; young people. Back with the Rocket From the Tombs reunion, the first Dead Boys reunions, it was more older people with some college kid thrown in. But something has happened. It’s all about young fans, which is amazing. They form mosh pits, they know all the words - it’s hard to describe how cool that is.

Re-recording the first album, note for note, had to be interesting for you.

Oh yeah. I love the record and I feel it has stood the test of time. But when we first did we thought it was a demo, then they kind of stuck us and put it out and we were really pissed off because we didn’t like how it sounded. Looking back on it now, it actually does have a great sound, but the reason we did it again today is so we can simply make it better. I can go in and make my guitars sound better. The way I always kind of imagined them sounding. Same with Blitz and his drums. He always wanted more power on his drums and so now he could go in and do that. The other guys obviously didn’t play on the original record but Jake just went in there and channeled Stiv. He didn’t try and imitate him necessarily but he did really study his vocal style and I was unaware of just how far into it he got. It’s kind of eerie in a way. When we sat there and watched him sing in the studio it just blew us away. He had done a lot of homework and he really did justice to those vocals. Somewhere Stiv is smiling, I’m sure. When we heard the first playbacks coming through the speakers it gave us goosebumps.

You’ve done various reunions over the years but this one feels pretty unique.

Yeah, this is a great one. Back in the 80s, Stiv and I got back together and that was really fun. He and I were always okay. I mean there was a little bit of animosity right after the band broke up but beyond that we were brothers till the end. I like to think he’d like what we are doing now.

Do remember the 1978 CBGB benefit when John Belushi at in on drums with the Dead Boys?

Absolutely. John LOVED the Dead Boys. We had a lot of celebrities that loved hanging around us but John was seriously into it. He loved punk. He was a blues drummer so he really couldn’t keep up with us but he had the good sense to play it like comedy. r

Where do you see this version of the band going next, Cheetah?

Well next year is the 40th anniversary of the second album, We come for Your Children, which we uniformly hate (laughs) so maybe we’ll go in and try to make that one better, too. But we want to keep going. We love this band. We’re writing new songs. It feels like being in the band in the old days; the shows feel same with the same crazy, unpredictable fun.

Video with John Belushi on drums:

Upcoming shows:

11/1 – Long Branch, NJ – Brighton Bar 11/2 - New Hope, PA – John & Peters 11/4 – Cleveland, OH – Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame 11/7 – Phoenix, AZ – Club Red 11/8 – Flagstaff, AZ – Green Room 11/9 – Las Vegas, NY – Beauty Bar 11/10 – Los Angeles, CA – Viper Room 11/12 – San Francisco, CA – DNA Lounge 11/13 - Sacramento, CA - Harlows

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