INTERVIEW with DANNY SAGE
INTERVIEW with MICHAEL WILDWOOD
INTERVIEW by STEVE OLSON
D: What’s up, Steve? How are you, man?
I’m really nervous to interview you guys.
D: [Laughs] I don’t blame you.
Okay, I’m kidding.
M: It’s really professional.
We’re trying to make due with technical difficulties we’re experiencing here at Thompson L.E.S.
D: I hear you. That’s all that counts.
It’s like the Suzi Quatro song “Can The Can.”
D: I think I know that song. Oh, yeah, I do.
Did you have a crush on Suzi Quatro, Dan Dan?
D: I did when I was little. I had a crush on all those girls.
So did I. I just figured we might be similar.
D: I had a crush on Pinky and Leather Tuscadero both.
What about Joanie?
D: No, not so much, I think Michael liked her.
M: I did not.
He liked Chachi. [Laughs]
M: I thought I was Chachi.
Okay, Dan, where are you right now?
D: I’m at my friend’s house in Florida.
Listen, here’s how I interview people.
M: This isn’t it?
This is it, but there are no set questions.
M: We want to talk about Mellow Cat.
We’ll talk about why you didn’t get a “Who’s Hot!?”
D: What’s Mellow Cat?
M: It was the cartoon in Skateboarder Magazine.
It’s Michael Beam.
D: Really? I don’t remember that.
M: That’s my attempt at being smart.
Mellow Cat was this drawing they did in Skateboarder back in the ‘70s.
M: Yeah, I used to like to draw.
D: Wow. I remember so much about that magazine. I used to paw over it, but I don’t remember the cartoon.
It was like a hippy dude with a beard.
D: Weird. I don’t know why I can’t picture it.
His name was Mellow Cat Man. He was actually stoned out of his mind, drawing…
D: I was so anti that kind of thing then that I just blanked it from my memory.
I can dig that. Tell me where you guys grew up. This is a question for both of you.
D: We lived in a lot of different places because we moved like every two years, but we started in the city then we lived in Long Island and then we lived in Queens and then we moved to Long Island again and then I moved back to the city when I moved out from my mom’s house.
M: Same here.
Who is older?
D: Michael. [Laughs] You always ask that. Who looks older? Who has more grey hair?
M: Danny. I have more grey hair, but Danny looks older.
Yeah, but you’re down with Maybelline, Danny.
D: Yeah, I am. I’m down with all of that shit.
Likewise. Why did you guys start skateboarding?
M: We got skateboards for Christmas in the early ‘70s.
D: They weren’t good ones, they were those plastic ones, but then I got a Bunger and it was really cool. It had Road Rider 4’s and Trackers, and no one had that kind of shit. I bought it used off of a kid. I remember it was light blue. It was really cool and really clean. It was so cool and then everything went really quick after that. Then I wanted a Fibreflex and then I got a Fibreflex. My first couple of good boards I had to buy used off people. You couldn’t even find them really. You had to know somebody who had one and then see if the kid wanted to sell it.
Why would the kid sell it, because he’s an idiot?
M: Yeah, and it wasn’t like everybody was really doing it. People would try to do it and then they would just lose interest like everything else.
D: It was like my first pair of Creepers. You couldn’t even find them in New York. It was the same thing with skateboards. Nobody had a real serious skateboard.
Where did you find your first set of Creepers?
D: I was walking down 8th Street and this girl was walking the other way and she had a pair of blue suede Creepers. This was like 1980. I said, “Wow, where did you get those?” She was English and she was working in New York as a nanny and she said, “Oh, I brought them from England with me.” I said, “Well, do you want to sell them?” She sold them to me for $45 and they weren’t even my size. They were too small for me, but I bought them anyway and I’d just squeeze my feet into them because I wanted them so bad.
I love that.
D: Yeah, it was pretty stupid, but I had blue suede Creepers and nobody else had them.
Creepers weren’t over at Trash & Vaudeville yet?
D: No. I would go there and I don’t think they had stuff like that until a little bit later.
I got my first pair of Creepers in 1979 at Posers.
D: What’s that, a shop in L.A.?
Yeah, it was run by some English cat.
D: Oh, wait, I think I remember that.
I love that you relate skateboarding to Creepers.
D: Well, yeah, because it was the same kind of thing. It wasn’t that big of a thing. It’s not like everybody did it, so you had to kind of go out of your way.
Exactly. You had to look. You had to investigate.
D: You couldn’t just Google it, you know?
How did you guys get into rock n’ roll?
M: What I didn’t get through osmosis from Danny, or from listening to stuff in the house or on the radio, was spoonfed to me by Danny. We were listening to way more advanced stuff than any other kids when we were really little.
D: Music was always in our life and in our house. Michael was even younger, because I’m older than him, and I’d been listening to records since I was three, four, five, six years old and he was two, three, four years old. We knew older kids that were into hard rock bands and shit that kids weren’t into. We would hang out with kids that were five years older than us and they were listening to Led Zeppelin.
What kind of hard rock?
D: It was Led Zeppelin and Sabbath. I remember kids listening to Deep Purple and Bad Company, but the funniest one was this family, the Richards. My mom was friends with them and, actually, Michael was friends with one of the kids. They were a big Irish family and one of the older kids, he was 20, and he got sent to Rikers Island, so they were giving his shit away, and I wound up with his copy of Led Zeppelin 2. I was only in second grade. I liked the Beatles, the Stones, Neil Young and stuff like that. I took Led Zeppelin 2 home and I thought it was the coolest thing ever.
M: My mom and Mrs. Richards took Shawn Richards and me to visit his brother at East Meadow Jail one time. They put us in a kids’ room while they went to talk to him. It was crazy.
I took my kid to see Harry in prison.
M: That’s different. You’re like a cool dad.
[Laughs] My kid came out of the jail and said, “Oh, It’s not that bad.”
D: [Laughs] That totally didn’t work. We had babysitters that were into music too. We had a guy who babysat for us who had a Ludwig drum kit and he gave me drum lessons. I remember a kid on his street had a Stratocaster, and I thought that was the coolest thing in the world.
What year was that?
D: It was ‘72, ‘73, ‘74.
When did you guys first get your instruments?
D: Michelle, my stepmother got me a guitar from an Englishtown Flea Market in Jersey, and I was playing piano.
M: Danny was playing drums for a while and I took guitar lessons in ‘76. They were just showing me “Jingle Bells” and stupid shit on guitar, so I got bored with it. Danny was downstairs playing to Hot Rocks on drums. Somehow, along the way, I quit playing guitar because it was too hard and they were just showing me boring shit and not rock n’ roll stuff, and then Danny started playing guitar again. Danny had a band and because he’s my older brother, I would always want to go and check them out and watch them rehearse. He had a drummer who was a total flake. He would either show up three hours late or not at all. One day, I was just sitting behind the drums trying to play to punk covers.
M: It was Clash songs. I remember Danny and Paul the bass player turning around and going like, “You should play drums.” Most people can’t just sit behind a drum set and just play it and I could do it just off the bat. After that, Danny needed a drummer, so he asked me to go with him while he was writing songs, so we would go to the studio in Queens, just us, and try to play songs that he wrote. We called it a band, so that was our first band together.
Did that band have a name?
D: It was called The Exis. [Laughs] I think I was trying to be into existentialism. I was 16, and I thought it was cool. We were on the Maximum Rock n’ Roll radio show on WNYU. Actually, I was on the radio before that in a band called the Possessed. That was in 1980.
Were you possessed with rock n’ roll or punk rock?
D: Then it was punk rock. I was really into Black Flag and the first X record and the first Circle Jerks record. It’s funny because, even though I’m from New York, all of my favorite punk bands are from California.
That’s so weird to me because I’m from California and all my favorite punk bands are from New York. [Laughs]
D: [Laughs] Yeah, that’s weird. I don’t know why, but I like all those records so much. They were super aggressive and fast and really loud and they had really good songs. Those bands just seemed way more together than people on the East Coast at that time. I mean the first Dead Kennedy’s record is light years ahead of everything else. All the L.A. bands were great. The Germs were great. I have that white 12-inch of What We Do Is Secret. I thought Pat Smear was great. I think all of the L.A. and California guitar players were better than the New York guitar players at that time.
That blows my mind. I’m over here tripping because I totally thought exactly the opposite.
D: [Laughs] That’s funny.
So you’re in The Possessed and then the Exis. That’s in the early ‘80s? Give me a timeline.
D: That was like ‘80, ‘81 and then Jesse asked me to be in Heart Attack. I was in Heart Attack in ‘82 and ‘83. In ‘83, ‘84, it was the Exis, and then we made Hope with Jesse.
M: You were in Hope with Jesse and I joined Hope later in ‘84 into ‘87 and then we broke up and Danny and I tried to get some shit together. I played with him and then we started playing with Howie.
How did you guys meet Jesse and Howie?
D: I knew Jesse since 1979. Jesse and my friend Jack Flanagan auditioned Lyle Hysen for Heart Atttack in Lyles’ basement. Jack is a guitar player in the band, The Mob.
That was a big New York band. So you have Jesse and Mikey. Tell us about Jesse and who he was.
D: Jesse was the singer in Heart Attack. He was a friend of mine and then we played together in Heart Attack. After a year or so, that didn’t go real well. They started getting real hippy punky, like Crass. I wasn’t into that because it was super political, but we were always friends from when we were little. We used to talk about making a band that was a punk band, but a little bit more rock n’ roll with two guitars. In about 1990, we all started to do stuff that became D Generation, but that didn’t get off the ground for like a year.
How did Howie come into the scene?
D: He was in a band called The Freaks. We met him because Jesse was driving their shit around. Jesse had a van service. I think.
M: Yeah, you were with Jesse and you were driving the Freaks to a gig and we met Howie and he played bass.
D: Yeah, we just became really good friends and then we all started playing together.
M: For a while, Danny, Howie and I played together. Then Jesse and our old friend John Carco, because we all used to be in Hope together, wound up making the whole band together and we were playing some songs that would become D Generation songs. Then that band imploded or exploded or just fucking died. Then Jesse and Howie went together and I stayed with Danny and they named the band D Generation and started playing, and then they called me a couple of months later.
M: It was April Fools Day, 1991. They were opening for L7 and they called me to play a show, but I was pissed at how the whole thing went down, so I was being a dick. I was like, “If you pay me, I’ll fucking play.” I really wanted to play, but I think they paid me $100 and I played. Danny was already talking to Jesse and was going to be in the band, but I didn’t know that. Danny was in the band a couple of gigs later.
D: Jesse and I went to Los Angeles and we were staying at our friend Troy’s house. We had a whole bunch of L.A. friends, like Ricky Mahler from Circus of Power and Jason O’Gullihur, so Jesse and I were staying out there for ten days. I had gotten an offer to be in this band in Los Angeles, but they were a real straight rock n’ roll band, like Humble Pie. They were signed to Warner Brothers and they asked me to play lead guitar. I was sitting there learning all their songs and going to meetings with their managers and doing all this stuff, but every night I was hanging with Jesse. I was like, “I don’t want to be in this band. It’s not my kind of thing. I don’t want to live in California. I don’t want to be in this band, but I have nothing else to do.” Jesse and I just started thinking of how we could play together again. I said, “Well, I’m going to go back to Brooklyn to pack up our shit and move to Los Angeles to be in this band because I have nothing else to do.” So we flew home together and, between LAX and JFK, we made this plan. We decided it would be me, Michael, Howie, Jesse and Rick. By the time we got to JFK, we agreed that’s what we would do. .
M: Can we talk about the “Freedom Of Choice” video that Olson is in?
This has nothing to do with Devo.
M: Danny and I were obsessed with Devo and we were obsessed with skateboarding and we loved that video and we know you, so what does this interview not have to do with that?
It has a lot to do with it, now that you brought that to my attention, but this is an interview on Michael and Daniel. What was it like playing music with your kid brother, Danny?
D: When it’s great, it’s great and when it’s horrible, it’s horrible. Mostly, it’s good in a playing way because we both have a really similar feel and sense of timing.
M: Yeah, we’re like telepathic. We’ll know when we’re going to play something, but sometimes we don’t get along.
That’s why I asked that question.
D: That makes it good sometimes on stage, too. If you’re pissed at each other, it brings it to a different level.
Do you try to one up your brother?
M: It’s not competition. It’s just sheer anger.
D: It’s not competitive. I can push Michael a little, like at Irving Plaza, he cut his hand open really bad right before we went on stage. There’s a big dressing room, divided into two rooms, so I took him into the other room and sat down with him and I was like, “Look, you really fucked your hand up and it’s really bad, but you better fucking play good. If you don’t play good, the whole band won’t play good.” I told him all this shit, and then we went onstage and he played great, but I was really pissed. I was also worried about him too.
But not that much. The show must go on.
D: Well, I was more pissed, but he played great.
So you’ve got D Generation in 1992, and then what happened to both of you.
D: We just started playing and the gigs were crowded.
What was your first gig?
D: I think it was at the Continental, but there really wasn’t a real rock n’ roll, punk rock scene going on then.
M: No, it just kind of formed around the band.
Really? It just formed around D Generation?
M: Well, we looked like a real band and we all hung out, and we slept in our clothes and dressed a certain way and we had that kind of cohesive thing that any real band has. I think people just saw it and some people adopted that theme. It’s not like it was some mind-blowing look. It was just your basic rock n’ roll look, but people wanted to be a part of it and it just turned into a thing. There was a small scene of other bands trying to open for us and do whatever. New York was really dead at the time. It sucked here. We were mostly making fun for ourselves. I don’t think anybody was looking ahead or thinking it out. We were just bored. There was nothing to do. There was no music to listen to for us.
D: There were some hardcore bands left over and there were bands, like the Lunachicks, but there wasn’t any kind of scene. There was a scene around us that we kind of made and that was it.
How was it to start a scene like that for you guys?
D: We just wanted to play. I don’t think we were thinking about that. I think we were just thinking about the bigger picture, at least I was. I was thinking about getting a record deal and getting on my way.
M: Yeah, although the scene was around the band, we weren’t really part of it even though we were the focal point of it. We just were and there was all this shit around us.