An interview with guitarist Robert Earl Dixon, bassist Marc Schleicher, and drummer Jason King
by Sheril Stanford
You two are from Mississippi and, Marc, you’ve moved a lot…
Marc: Yeah, I’ve done a lot of bad things. I had some problems in New Jersey…
Would you like to go into any detail about that, or…
Marc: I try to be vague about it, so if people recognize my name… I’ve cut and dyed my hair so I don’t have the problem of certain people trying to get certain stuff from me.
I see, so if someone ran a credit check on you…
Marc: Oh, it’s not legit credit companies I care about.
It’s people with shot guns?
Jason: You might want to hush up about this, man.
I was looking at your press stuff. Reviewers like you guys a lot.
Jason: Yeah, Brett (Milano of The Boston Phoenix) tried out for us a while back and we didn’t want him to play. He hates us now.
Rob: Yeah, he likes pop music. He’s really old too, I think. He should cash in his 401K and buy an RV or something.
A lot of the guys in the big Boston papers have been around awhile.
Rob: They should stick to like, Huey Lewis and ABBA; that’s their stomping ground.
Marc, a local review said you threw the WBCN Rumble.
Rob: Marc ruined everything.
Marc: Yep, I was the culprit.
I wasn’t there. What did you do? You, like, peed on somebody or something?
Marc: We have a song making fun of trailer trash, kind of a poke to the ribs to see how far you can go to make people cringe. And I think Steve [Morse, Boston Globe] cringed a lot, but he didn’t want to admit it, so he said we were stupid.
Rob: And he said people didn’t like it, which was bullshit, cuz people loved it. We had an amazing crowd response.
People love that shit. But did you wear dresses?
Everybody: Nah, we don’t look good in dresses.
Marc: We look like a bunch of auto mechanics ready to take someone out back with a tire iron.
What’s with the name? Have you made up a story about that?
Marc: Yeah, a couple of guys from the south named Billy Quintaine and Johnny America do a lot of fixin’ people good. If you look at ’em wrong, they drag you out of the bar, beat you, drag you back in, buy you a drink, and then do it again. They throw lit cigarettes into baby carriages.
Jason: Well, the other story is that there is no story.
Marc: We just liked the way it sounds.
Do you know what it means?
Jason: We do now.
Rob: A character on Tales from the Crypt was named Quintaine.
Marc: He was an outlaw who didn’t know he was dead. We liked the name.
What about Americana? It makes me think of patchwork quilts.
Marc: Well, I think the word adds sort of a not-happy vibe. Makes you think of Ford 150s and wives beating their kids at the supermarket.
So which one of you guys is the cropduster?
Rob: Me and Jason used to work for cropdusters.
Jason: One of the cropdusters would drink while flying, no shit. That’s what one of our songs is about.
Rob: They fly under powerlines. Ya gotta duck down, ya gotta run out of the way. It’s scary. You’re out in the field, ya have to line ’em up. You’re knee deep in a rice field, boots full of water, snakes crawlin’ up your legs, and you’re holding a piece of styrofoam insulation to reflect the sun. You work the plane, and once you see it lined up, you run out of the way. You gotta know what you’re doing.
Jason: The good thing about working around those chemicals all day, you can drink two beers and you’re shitfaced.
Marc, what’s your equivalent to cropdusting?
Marc: I just used to take care of stuff… I lived in Jersey for awhile. I got in a fight there. I smashed a guy in the face with a bowling ball, and I don’t even know if that guy is alive. There’s just always problems somehow… I went from Jersey to Detroit, then stayed with some cousins in Arkansas, and then moved up to Boston and met these guys.
You can’t get too famous or you’ll have to get plastic surgery.
Marc: No, these guys that I used to hang out with are still trying to figure out what’s going on. I mean, we’re not gonna be playing at a Neil Diamond concert, so we don’t have to worry.
How long’s the band been together?
Jason: A year and a half.
Rob: Me and Jason have known each other since we were tin.
Jason: Yeah, about tin.
Rob: Yeah, we did high school proms and played like, Dokken and Iron Maiden covers, and traditional songs like “Born to be Wild.” We were about 15.
How did you meet up with these two?
Marc: I was living in Lowell and my friend Dave was dating Rob and Jason’s roommate. They were looking for a bass player, and my band was on the edge of dissolving so… We just got along….
Rob: We’d sit in the space and play Van Halen songs.
Marc: We also used to prank people. We’d get shit faced and… I remember this guy was looking to be a singer, so I called him and said, “My band sounds like Godflesh meets Ministry meets Napalm Death and we kicked out our last singer cuz of drug problems; he had a problem with us shooting up. Why don’t you come down, do some speedballs, see how it goes…”
When did you start playing?
Marc: I’ve been playing bass off and on since I was 15. I started playing with these guys and Rob was such the guitar-esse. It’s funny, every band I was ever in I’d always be tellin’ the bass player what to do and when I got into this band, Rob knew what to do.
Who does the writing?
Rob: We all do.
Come on, everybody says that. Alright. You guys are inspired by Tales from the Crypt and your stuff has that real creepy feel to it. And not just the lyrics; you do that thing with the rhythm, that deep, bass groove and the drum pauses and stuff.
Jason: Yeah, we’re waiting for a serial killer soundtrack.
What do you listen to for music?
Marc: Bone Machine; that’s one of my favorite albums.
Jason: Birthday Party.
Rob: Nick Cave.
Jason: Jesus Lizard and Dwight Yoakum. Pretty much everybody else sucks besides that.
What do you think of Albini as a producer?
Jason: He does a hell of a job with drums. But you never can tell ’til you get in there.
Who produced the disc?
Rob: We’ve been working with Bill T. Miller for a long time.
Jason: Yeah, we lovingly call him BTO. He’s been rantin’ and about getting his plug, and now he’s gonna get it, goddamnit.
Rob: Bill T. Miller of Kings of Feedback fame. We recorded at Euphoria in Revere.
Jason: Oh yeah, we like Revere. It had to be done in Revere.
Marc: We were waiting in Revere to make a phone call, and the people there… it’s just like America’s fuckin’ finest.
Jason: Now somebody from Revere’s gonna whip our ass.
Marc: That’s why I carry a sock full of quarters with me. We have a pretty big van. We’ll take ’em for a little ride.
How do you guys come up with songs? What inspires you?
Rob: I think it comes from childhood experience.
Jason: We had pretty weird childhoods. We’ve seen some shit that just doesn’t go on in other places. We’re from a weird fuckin’ place. Most of the people down there haven’t been out of the state. You’re dealing with a totally different emotional state, unless you get to the big city. We live in a town that’s a one mile square block.
Rob: 1,500 people in the middle of nowhere.
Jason: Like, my dad’s friends would go gamble their farms away. Crazy shit like that. A little town called Drew. Part of it is that there’s just nothing to do. Just to entertain ourselves, we did some real horrible shit when we were kids. Not out of spite or anything; we were bored.
Rob: Like setting things on fire. We burned down some forest.
Jason: Obviously, that wasn’t right, but we were bored.
Marc: We used to have dart fights.
Rob: Yeah, and we’d shoot each other with BB guns.
Jason: We used to have brick fights in the backyard. We’d throw bricks and try to kill each other.
You have some issues with waitresses at Bill’s?
Jason: She just, uh, deserved to have a song written about her.
Marc: It wasn’t a bad thing… It was a pretty good thing.
Rob: It just came out bad.
Jason: Yeah, she was a fi-i-i-ine waitress. A very commendable waitress. The lyrics of the song aren’t really about her, we just named the song after her. She’s not here anymore, I think she’s a [deleted at band’s request] in [deleted at band’s request].
Rob: Don’t put that in there! That’ll identify her. You don’t know how many girls have called our house to see if it’s them. We don’t wanna let on who it is.
What are you doing to promote the disc?
Rob: We’re going on tour late September, early October. We’re gonna do at least the East Coast.
Marc: We’re hoping to tour with Vehicle Birth.
What about around here?
Jason: We’re playing Northampton and Providence. Last time we played in Providence, it sucked. Nobody was there. I swear to God, the show we played there before was great, but it’s such a total David Lynch town.
Rob: We played this club last summer in Portland, and we went into this bar that had a huge sign that said “No more checks cashed without approval from Mom or Taco.”
Jason: It was like, God almighty, we’d stepped into a time warp.
Marc: Northampton is kind of weird too. You step out of the car and it just feels like there’s some Rod Serling vibe going on.
Do you guys have real life jobs?
Jason: I calibrate race cars. It’s too complicated to explain…
Rob: I’m a cab driver.
Marc: I, uh, deliver things to people who need them … I work here and there, take care of some side projects for people.
I take it you don’t work for Federal Express or UPS.
Marc: I take care of things…
Marc: My dad’s trying to get us a tour with the Rolling Stones. As soon as he gets out of the hospital.
Jason: Did you hear the message he left on the machine about Elvis? He’s got the Elvis show lined up because he always comes around in the summer.
Rob: He called from Bradlees and said he was on his way to the hospital and he was buying slippers and a punching bag.
This explains a lot. Is your dad in like, Bellevue?
Marc: Nah. He’s getting out tomorrow. You’ll see him down at Store 24, buying some Hoodsies.