Brian Walsby has been plying his musical and artistic crafts for longer than many of us have been able to wipe our own asses unassisted, yet the California native and longtime Raleigh, North Carolina, resident remains humble as he adjusts to life as a father three years shy of becoming a quinquagenarian. I had the good fortune of getting ahold of him before his upcoming tour with the Melvins, and he was kind enough to answer some questions.
In this, the second half of our interview, we discuss topics ranging from the influx of memes on our culture and how he's integrated them into his artwork, how active he currently is as a drummer, the Descendents versus ALL, and his philosophy on punk rock exclusiveness.
New Times: You've pulled from a number of classic comic sources, from Peanuts to "Goofus & Gallant" to Mad Magazine vignettes, however, more recently, you've begun doing your own interpretation of memes, such as the Batman-slapping-Robin meme, which you did probably 50 versions of (the majority of them hilarious). Are the meme works kind of throwaways meant only for the online crowd or will we maybe see these in printed form as well?
DC Comics may make a stink about it, though that hasn't stopped you before. Do you see yourself, as the internet continues to integrate itself into every nook and cranny of daily life, doing more of that kind of work?
Brian Walsby: They are only throwaways in the fact that if I have a funny idea, I can do them really quick and put them up there in Internet land. I have done a lot more of that stuff this year and I think it's great, actually. Never before has it been so easy to share what you do with people, and you can get feedback really quick. Sometimes, it worries me how much time I spend on the internet and how utterly dependent I have become on it but it is a great tool. I have definitely benefited greatly because of it. I have sold a decent amount of stuff just from being on Facebook alone.
No plans for any printed versions of that stuff. I am not in a financial position to do any of that stuff myself and I also don't really know the legalities of these parodies and other swipes that I do. I imagine there are some but they are pretty much in the spirit of Mad Magazine, so I don't know... Has Mad Magazine been sued before? I am sure they have, but I don't really know.
Brian playing drums with Double Negative a couple of years ago.
How are things going with your band, Double Negative? I imagine that it's tougher finding time with everything else you have going on, however I know you just recently played a show with them. Would you ever think of bringing the band on tour with you when you go out with the Melvins?
I haven't been in Double Negative for at least a few years now. Pretty much four months after Willow was born, I played my last show with them.
There was a lot of turmoil in the decision to step down when I did. Basically I was this position where I was trying to please both my home life and my band life, and I was doing a really poor job with both of them. The two main things behind everything was the fact that two of the guys really wanted to pursue the band more seriously at that point, and two of the other guys have children in their lives, and the two never really met. We all have known each other forever but things got really heated and I was really mad for a while afterwards.
I was honestly just mad at myself really. I sort of blamed them for the choices I had made in my life. Not with Willow, but with everything else. They knew it, too. I was supposed to have made this sacrifice and quit the band, and meanwhile I was in this situation and its basically two nice people that really don't have a great relationship and they just had a kid. Yeah, it sucked.
As things have turned out, recently, I have reconnected with Justin and mainly Scott. He had kind of gone through something similar minus the kid part. We have always had sort of a strange relationship, a love-hate thing. But he was one of the only people that got in touch with me to see how I was doing, and that does mean a lot. And recently Scott called me up to ask if I wanted to fill in for a bit and I jumped at the chance. We practiced three times and played a show. Next month there will probably be a handful of shows and maybe a little recording and that is going to be it.
I am also playing with these three other friends of mine (Clay Merritt, Tom Hailey, Joshua Pankte) in this project that is going to yield a really nice recording coming hopefully fairly soon, and I am pretty excited about it. It's a lot different than Double Negative and probably more my speed these days. But the important thing is that we patched up whatever friction that was there and it's like taking care of a little unfinished business. At least that is how I see it. It's been only good stuff, and none of the bad stuff.
If you could assemble a fantasy band comprised of anyone, living or dead, who would be in it? You've got a drummer, two guitarists, a bassist and a vocalist to work with. Go!
Oh man... How do you answer a question like that? Okay let's see... The singer is going to be Scott Walker circa 1966. The bassist is going to be the late Tracy Pew of the Birthday Party. One of the guitar players is going to be Zoot Horn Rollo of the Plastic Band. The other guitar player is going to be the late Denis D'Amour aka "Piggy" of Voi Vod. And for drums, I am going to go with George Hurley of the Minutemen, right after the band recorded the Punch Line record.
What are the three main albums currently in rotation on your record player, mp3 player, CD player, tape deck, etc.?
I have usually these week long obsessions with some band. It changes all of the time. So the last three obsessions I have had have been the Blue Oyster Cult, the Beach Boys, and Slayer.
You said in an interview once that, "anyone who's offended by this [your comic send-ups] probably deserves to be." Has there ever been an instance where you've regretted writing something negative about someone? Did they ever directly contact you about it? If so, how did that play out?
I used to have these run-ins with people years and years ago, but nothing really worth mentioning because it's nothing I want to gloat over. I will admit that back then there was some sort of a little thrill when I realized that mere paper and pen could produce such spectacular misunderstandings but not so much anymore. Now those things are just business as usual.
That doesn't really happen anymore, even with the internet. I don't think I have any done anything that bad. It's not like I am drawing cartoons where I am saying that I wish someone would drop dead of a horrible disease or whatever. It's pointing out funny things that are basically representing something that has some truth in it, something that goes back to satire in things like Mad Magazine.
I stand by that quote, too. It's really not that big of a deal, or at least it shouldn't be.
What is the trait you most deplore in yourself? In others?
In other people: sheep like mentality. In myself: I am going to go with being too hard on myself.
You've got a couple of sweet ALL shirts for sale on your website. What's your favorite "era" of theirs, if you have one, and where does Milo fit into that? Also, are you excited for Filmage?
I can't wait to see it! I am, for sure, a fan of the Descendents and ALL. I am not sure why ALL always gets the short end of the stick since, aside from the involvement of Milo Aukerman, it's been the same three musicians since I think 1987 or so. Both have had good records and at least one record I am not crazy about, but they are usually very consistent.
My least favorite ALL period is actually the first one, with Dave Smalley. I met Dave once a million years ago in Reed Mullin's kitchen and he was a really nice guy, so it's nothing personal. The first record they did with Scott Reynolds is my favorite ALL record. I liked them with Scott; he reminded me of a short red-haired version of Popeye onstage for some reason. And Chad Price is really good too. So it's a toss-up between Scott on Allroy's Revenge and Chad on Problematic.
Those are the best records they have done.
It's weird to me how both bands are always tagged as some happy go lucky cookie-cutter pop-punk band when both acts have some really dark and experimental sounding stuff. Take "Uranus" by the Descendents: That is an amazing piece of music. Or the too-relatable-to-me Bill Stevenson songs, like ALL's "Make Believe" or the Descendents' "She Loves Me." I mean... I have lived both of those songs. I can totally relate to them and musically. They are top notch stuff.
Another thing I like about those guys is that some of the songs have lyrical concerns of how they are right now. So instead of watching these older dudes singing shit like, "My girlfriend... She farted on my face," or whatever, you have songs about parents dying, marriages ending, fighting to keep a relationship alive when you have children in it, and things like that, specific adult sort of things. I think that is really cool.
Where does Milo fit into all of that? Well, obviously his involvement means it's the Descendents, and that has a certain pull. I think it's cool to see them play in front of all of these people these days. I am glad Bill cheated the reaper a few years back. I am especially excited about him playing with FLAG. All of those guys are a big deal to me. I watched that Moose Lodge footage and Bill was just killing it. Killing it! He sounded perfect. And him playing with Chuck Dukowski? Forget it. In a weird way they are all sort of my heroes. It pleases me to see all of those guys still at it, and very inspiring to me.
On that same subject, now that we're a little more than three decades removed from punk rock's ground zero, how do you feel about it being looked back on with such a respectful affinity now, through documentaries, reunions and such? Is there part of you that kind of says, "Don't touch that, it's not for you. You weren't there, you didn't earn it?" Do you still feel like you did when you said, "I feel that being involved in the eighties hardcore scene is a bit like going to Vietnam -- if you weren't there, shut your mouth!"?
I stole that line from another band, actually. That wasn't, I think, directed at anyone in particular. It was meant to be funny, not serious.
I don't want to be one of the old farts that discounts young people and what they are doing today. You can't help when you are born. But I do know that I don't get too much out of seeking out new hardcore punk bands, because I can't help but feel like I have heard it before.
In some ways, punk/hardcore is no different than the blues as a form of music, because it's something anyone can do, but putting a new wrinkle on it, that is the hard part. But that is just my opinion. I had my sense of revolution back when I was a dumb kid. I had my mind blown by that stuff and the incredible sense of discovery I felt when I picked up my first issue of, say, Flipside in the summer of 1982, I believe. Seriously: mind blown!
The kids today are having their minds blown by whatever they are into right now. They are having the same thing happening with whatever version of Minor Threat or Black Flag is in their town now. How can you discount that? And who cares anyways if you think it sucks?
Besides, there is stuff I wasn't old enough to experience or even alive to experience that I think is great stuff. What is the difference? It's easy to be a snob about those kind of things, and that's one of the things I always hated about punk rock: this sort of "well this is our cool little thing and now that other people know about it, it sucks" sort of thing. This sort of, "we control this and when we are done with it you should be too." Fuck that. "That shit ain't punk!" Well, some things about "punk" have always sucked. Call it what you want, do what you want, whatever. When you dissect and analyze something like that it takes all of the fun out of it.
Okay, my sermon is over.
Lastly, what's the greatest lesson you've learned so far in life, professionally and personally, that you'd like to impart on like-minded kids interested in following in your footsteps?
It is very simple. Work hard and be true to yourself. That is pretty much it. I would like to say thanks to the people out there who have enjoyed my work or the music I helped make over the years. I appreciate it, no one has to say anything or like anything so I really appreciate it. Thanks.
For more information, visit his website at