POP QUIZ: Flipper drummer Stephen DePace

Flipper | Photo: Edward Colver
FLIPPER interview by: Jess Braam
CONCEIVED: 1979
WHERE: SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA
REUNITED: 2005
BAND MATES: Bruce Loose(vocals), Ted Falconi(guitar), Rachel Thoele(bass).
MUSICIAN NAME: Stephen DePace (Drummer)

In your memory, what was the first punk band ever?
I have to say Iggy & The Stooges. For me that was the first Punk Band. I think Iggy kicked it off around 1969 or so. I also believe that Punk Rock goes beyond any one style of fashion or one style of music. If you only think of Punk as someone sporting a liberty spike and stud covered leather jacket with patches of their favorite hard core bands, then you are missing the point. Punk is not a uniform, it’s an attitude and the courage to get out and rebel against the shit music that the industry wants to sell you, or the way the government wants you to bend over and take it, or the way mainstream society expects you to look. People can decide to be what they want, so you can choose to be what everyone wants you to be, or you can blaze your own trail. Blazing your own trail, and doing it the way you want to do it, is Punk Rock.

What made you want to be in a band?
The Sex Pistols show at Winterland in January of 1978. I wanted to be in a band before that, but seeing that show is what made me go do it. We had the Mabuhay Gardens in San Francisco, which was the city’s punk club, and that was all I needed to find the people to play with, and the place to play.

Who is the better band of brothers, the Ramones or the Meat Puppets?
Meat Puppets, and we are taking with them about trying to do some shows together this year. Let’s make it happen!

What does it feel like to know you are looked up to by aspiring and accomplished bands alike?
It feels great, like we have accomplished something that will live on. Not only have we influenced countless bands, but countless individuals have expressed gratitude for our music having gotten them through tough times, and given them great memories of some of the wildest shows ever.

What is your favorite kind of fish?
Salmon. And like salmon, we have been swimming upstream for 33 years now. We have spawned many new bands, but we don’t die from spawning. We are Flipper and Flipper Still Rules!

Ultimate band to open for?
I would like to open for the Red Hot Chili Peppers on their current world tour. There, I said it. It’s out in the Universe. LOL

Why do you want to open for the red hot chili peppers?
I have known Flea and Anthony since they started in the Peppers. In the early days we hung out a lot, and I went to a ton of their shows, with my housemate, D.H. Peligro, drummer from DKs. He ended up playing with them for about a year, just before Chad Smith. I have always been a fan, and I think it’s amazing that they stuck it out, and have survived and thrived in spite of all they have been through. As far as why I would like to open for them, it’s because I do have that respect for them, and they are one of the biggest bands in the world. Who wouldn’t want to take the opportunity to play on a big stage like that, at least once.

Best band to open for you?
Violent Femmes opened for us in the early 80s, and Green Day opened for us in the early 90s. Can you believe it?

Favorite bands you have opened for?
Melvins / Iggy & The Stooges / Sonic Youth / GWAR

What do you think about Green Day and the success they’ve had while still claiming punk?
Once you start doing epic power ballads and Broadway plays, I think you give up the Punk thing. The term Punk, is used for marketing by the music industry.  Punk Rock in America, was originally the rebellion against what we called “corporate rock,” which was the status quo in the 1970s. Big commercial rock bands that had no connection to the kid in the street. Music had become so technical, and perfect, and sterile. If you were a kid and wanted to play in a band, it seemed unattainable because you felt like you had to be so technically proficient, that it would take you years of schooling, before you could even try to jam with someone. Punk Rock needed to come along to tear all that down. Johnny Rotton in 1978, said that the goal of the Sex Pistols was to destroy Rock n Roll. That is what he was talking about. You didn’t come out of the gate sounding like “Dookie.” You wanted to sound raw like “Search and Destroy.” If you were a kid and wanted to play in a band, at least you had a starting point. Punk Rock was about, “Anyone could do it.”

What was your favorite gig?
There have been so many amazing gigs that we have played, it’s impossible to name just one as a favorite. But one of the stand outs was, Bad Brains / Flipper / Gang Green, in the early 80s at the Rock Hotel in NYC.

What is your favorite Flipper album?
GENERIC FLIPPER, and it so happens that this album is celebrating it’s 30 years @ 33rpm anniversary in 2012. HAPPY BIRTHDAY GENERIC FLIPPER!!! A limited anniversary edition on colored vinyl, will be available sometime this year.

What is your favorite live album? Favorite Flipper live album?
The first live album I got into was Iggy and the Stooges, TV EYE.  Another classic is Lou Reed’s ROCK N ROLL ANIMAL.
As for Flipper live albums, of course Public Flipper Limited is awesome, not only for the music but the fold out Flipper game board cover on the vinyl album will give you countless hours of fun! What other band gives you a full on board game to play while you listen to classic live Flipper recorded between 1980 & 1985. The story of how PFL got it’s name is classic too. Public Image copied the Generic concept for an album they released in 1985. We had this double live album planned for release, and I came up with the idea to call it Public Flipper Limited, so as to pay back the complement. The sincerest form of flattery and all….

Next serious studio session for a new album?
We are planning to write new songs beginning in January and will be recording in spring or summer, with a new release planned by fall 2012. We will also be releasing “Kali” which is an album of never before released studio recordings from early 80s. This album is epic and classic Flipper!!! Also releasing a Live at CBGBs album from 1983.

Describe what CBGBS was to you.
CBGBs was AWESOME for me. We played there many times and every show was sold out and packed to the gills. It was a magical place to play. The sound on stage was the best anywhere. I have no clue why, since all the equipment looked like it had been to war and back. And I guess it had… We had a huge fanbase in NYC in the 80s. We played everywhere, but the favorite spot was always CBGBs. The first time we play was a two night stand, and we got lucky with parking spot directly in front of the club. The club manager from the prior gig, had given us a truck load of beer and booze to take with us. So we ended up setting up bar and serving drinks to everyone in front of CBs. That was classic… We left the truck parked out in front overnight, and when we came back the next afternoon, it was covered in graffiti. Welcome to the Bowery…

Describe your first “rockstar” moment.
Playing a gig at the infamous Studio 54 in NYC around 1983 or so…

Tell us your favorite punk story.
Getting shut down under threat of violence by gorilla sized bouncers and thrown out the back door of Studio 54, once they realized we were a PUNK BAND.

Which of the 7 dwarves are you?
The one that nailed Snow White. You didn’t know about that one, did you… ha ha ha

Was snow white easy or did you have to work for it?
Me being so small, I could easily slip under her dress as we danced and sang Flipper songs into the wee hours of the night. She never seemed to mind…. The toughest thing was keeping the other dwarves away. They all wanted a piece of my action.

How has technology changed your career?
The only thing that has changed for me is the way we record. The last studio record we recorded, “Love” was done on Protools, start to finish. We have also done mixing and mastering of old analog recordings in digital as well. We used to do all of that in analog on recording devices the size of a washing machine. Doing edits on tape with a razor blade, and rewinding over and over again during mixing. All of that is done inside a computer now. We used to walk away from recording sessions with these big heavy tapes, and now all the albums you ever recorded can fit on a pocket size hardrive. If we could afford to record on tape, we probably would, but digital is so much cheaper and more efficient. And you don’t have to store those big heave tapes anymore.

What is your legacy?

All the recordings that we have released over 33 years. All the shows and tours we have done, as well as all the memories of all the crazy shit that we have lived through. All the fans and people we have touched with our music and insane shows. Having given our friends and fans the memories of those crazy shows and the stories to tell about them. I will close by saying this of our legacy… “FLIPPER SUFFERED FOR THEIR MUSIC, NOW IT’S YOUR TURN.”

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