An interview conducted with Dan Potthaust of MU330 during the summer of 2003 when the band played the Kingston Peel. The interview appeared in Rancid News #3.
RN: So was it fun touring with Chris Murray then?
Dan: Yeah, yeah it was great. Chris is a great guy, I’ve been a fan of his for years, so uhh… Yeah and it was really fun not only to play with him, but to also play with him overseas you know. So, we had a blast it was cool.
RN: Cause was that your first solo tour over here, or have you been here just as yourself before?
Dan: No umm that was my second tour of the UK by myself, but I guess, shoot MU330’s been here like seven times, so I guess I’ve been here nine times (laughs). So it’s only been my second solo tour… [cue autograph hunters]… so yeah cool [pause] What was I talking about? Oh yeah tours… First time here I just did UK, I did like ten shows in the UK, but this time I did some shows in the UK and then went to Switzerland and played shows too, and one in Italy as well. So yeah it’s been cool. I wanna come back soon too. Maybe in the winter.
RN: As solo stuff or as MU330?
Dan: Well probably with solo stuff in the winter, and then with MU330 next summer. But uhh I definetly wanna come back to play solo stuff. Back home in California I’ve been playing with a band, so playing my solo stuff but with a backing band. So I’d like to figure out how to get everybody over here to play solo shows with them, but it’s hard because then it becomes really expensive to rent a van, and all the equipment and fly four extra people so I have to figure out to do it!
RN: So is that what you’re wanting to focus on at the moment?
Dan: I just want to play music (laughs) Whether it’s with my bands or by myself like I always see it, well if the band can’t tour then I’ve got to keep playing music. I’ve got to! It’s just something that I’ve always done.
RN: You can’t forsee yourself ever stopping touring and playing music then?
Dan: No, no, no! (laughs) No, never! It’s hard sometimes but I can’t… I think I would go crazy. Any time that I’m at home for more than three months at a time I start to lose my mind just a little bit, so yeah no I don’t think I can see it. (laughs)
RN: Are you one of those people that when they get back home or whatever you’re just completly restless?
Dan: Yeah definetly. When I’m at home I play guitar and sing every day, there are no days off.
RN: So what’s the future plans for MU?
Dan: We’re writing, we’re writing a new album just at the moment and we’re going to Japan in October, and we’re actually… one of our albums is being released in Brazil, so I’m hoping that when I get home that we can maybe sort some things out and fly down to Brazil and play, so that’s kind of whats on the plate right now. There are no big tours planned after this one’s over for a little while. But yeah right now we’ve basically been working round people’s in the band other commitments.
RN: One question I’ve always wanted to ask was how you found Asian Man?
Dan: (laughs) Well I guess we found Asian Man before it was really Asian Man. Umm when Skank & Pickle went on tour in the United States in the early 90s they’d come through St Louis and uhh we were the one ska band in the mid-west so we’d always open up for them, and they’d stay at our parents house or, and we basically just hung out, did some tours with them, got to know, and then they started their own label called Dill records, and they released ‘Chumps on Parade’ on Dill, and then they, that kind of split up and Mike left and he went and started Asian Man and we just left, and went with him, and he’s put our stuff out ever since. So it’s less like we found this label to put our stuff out, it’s more just that I’ve known Mike for ages and he’s just a super cool band, and happens to have a really cool label that we’re really happy to be on.
RN: So it’s basically just that you’re friends?
Dan: Yeah, there are no worries as far as business kind of stuff. Everything’s on the level and their are no hidden agendas on either side you know, everything is pretty out in the open. We’ve been lucky… I love it!
RN: Yeah cause you guys have, you seem to have done pretty well on Asian Man in terms of getting your name out there?
Dan: Yeah I don’t know. It’s weird there’s this perception in the UK that Asian Man is this huge label, and this big label that’s just, and umm it really is a cool label, in that it’s run by a couple of people out of garage but really like, like as far as promoting, and becoming a big band, it’s not really something that Asian Man can do, because it’s a small label, and we’re kind of prove of that (laughs). We’ve put seven albums out with Mike you know and with only a couple of employees there’s only so much that you can do, and we know that going in, and we know the scoop, and it works out great because we’re doing what we wanna be doing. We don’t have aspirations to conquer the world! (laughs)
RN: Are you guys big enough to be living off the band yet?
Dan: Umm well all of us work when we get home. (laughs) Basically, we’ve been doing the band now for fifteen years now I guess…and yeah… well if we tour constantly, if we tour all the time like how we used to, like 250, 260 dates a year. If we do that then yeah we can survive on it, but people go crazy when you start doing that, so we just pick and choose I guess, and we play, we do I think two or three tours a year, usually overseas stuff, and in the meantime everybody kind of has their own things going on. Yeah it’s not a money making thing for us at all! That never has been our strong point!(laughs) We’ve figured out how to put out lots of albums, but never how to actually pay rent. (laughs)
RN: But that’s kind of what music is supposed to be about?
Dan: I suppose. I don’t know I go back and fourth on it. I’m really proud of what we’ve done, and I still am, and you know we played last night in Folkestone and we played in a small community centre with no stage and you play, people are flying into the mics, like Rob, our trombone player says, ’strap on your helmets’! And I felt like it was one of our best shows that we’ve ever played. It was awesome, it was so cool, and so fun. And it was just like ‘Ok that’s why we do’, and so it’s like, ‘That’s alright then if we’re not able to support ourselves after fifteen years of touring, that’s cool cause we had an awesome time last night and we’re in England and we’re playing shows, and there’s no way that I can complain about that’!
RN: I guess the fact that you have survived for fifteen years is kind of like testament that you have survived in a weird way?
Dan: Yeah I think the reason that the band has held together for so long is just that everybody in the band is such good friends. I mean we’ve all just, we all just really love each other alot, and it’s what we do, it’s what we know. Sometimes when I tell people how much we used to tour and stuff they’re like, ‘My god how’d you do it’, and it was just that was normal. That was our normal routine. So it didn’t feel like a lot of work!
RN: Yeah cause you haven’t really had any ‘major’ (read: the band hasn’t split) line up changes?
Dan: Well yeah we’ve had line up changes but the rythm section, the drum, bass and the guitar, and Rob on trombone actually, the four of us have been the same almost from year one. Rob came in a year or so later, but the core of me, ted, and chris has been forever, but then we’ve had different singers, and different horn players rotate in and out. But yeah it’s been the same drum, bass and guitar since 1988. (laughs) We were an eighties band dude!
RN: Is it strange then when the ska scene just totally blew up with the Mighty Mighty Bosstones and whoever, and then the fact you survived it?
Dan: Yeah it’s funny cause I don’t know, I’m not talking about the Mighty Mighty Bosstones at all, but there are other bands that got really big around then, and then broke up after it, and it all fell apart when the bottom dropped out of it. So it was obvious that these bands were doing it for one reason, whereas we were doing it because, we’ve always played ska because we just love it. And just, when we get together, when we go into a room and play, that’s what we sound like. It’s not some pre-conceived package or whatever, that’s just what comes out of us. And of course we’re still together, and of course we’re still playing ska, and of course we didn’t break up or go play another style of music.
RN: Do you find it weird then that out of all of the kind of sub genres in punk that ska gets the least respect?
Dan. No! (laughs) No, not at all. Why do I say that? Because I think that one of the worse thing that happened when ska got really big that there was just this influx of so many bad bands. I mean I sound like a jerk saying that, but it’s the truth. Like we would play in the States, and every time we played in a town there would be six or seven ska bands, and it just got to be so cookie cutter, so formula, that… so yeah if you were an outsider and you thought ‘ok lets check out ska’ and you saw six or seven ska bands chances are that six or seven of those ska bands weren’t going to be any good! (laughs) And I think that with any genre, whatever it is, you’ve got to write good songs, you’ve got to write good melodies, or at least an attitude, or just something that makes you stand out from other bands, but there were just so many cookie cutter bands that came out when ska got big that I think it just turned alot of people off to it.
RN: Now that ska’s smaller do you think it’s doing better then?
Dan: I don’t know. It’s hard to say. Right now I don’t know many bands in the USA that are playing ska to be honest. There are a couple of bands like the Slackers, who’ve been around for years, Chris Murray, and of course Mustard Plug have been around for ages too. But I don’t know many new ska bands in the States at any rate. I think there’s a few bands in the UK that are just amazing, and are just going off. Just last night we played with Ye Wiles, and it was just so good, I mean they’re so original, and cool songs, and it’s so far from cookie cutter that it’s just ‘Alright someone’s doing something cool and original!’ And it’s the same thing with CapDown too. It’s like they’re taking it to a level that other bands have never taken it too. So cheers to them!
RN: You’ve got Adequate 7 as well tonight?
Dan: I still haven’t actually seen them!
RN: Oh you’ll like them. They’re amazing! So that’s weird, is ska just non-existent in the States now, or is just cause you’re on tour permanently so you don’t get to hear about it?
Dan: Well I don’t know, I don’t know, we… I just think I don’t know that many bands in the States. Cause I mean it’s been a little while since we’ve done heavy touring in the states. We’ve concentrated on touring places like Japan, and we played Korea a couple of times last year, and of course Europe and the UK, yeah I don’t know but it was so dead for us in the States for a little while for us. Like we had a few good places where we could go and play, like we had St Louis, Chicago, a couple of places in Texas, and Florida but like it was just really hard for us to go on tour and then for us to be able to make ends meet, so umm I don’t know. I can’t really speak too much for the US scene at the moment.
RN: So well do you think it’s cool that bands like Less Than Jake are becoming big at the moment. Or do you not consider them to be a ska band, cause I know quite a few people don’t?
Dan: Ahhh man I don’t know. (laughs) Less Than Jake, I mean I’ve known that band for a long time, and good for them, but I see it as a totally different thing to what it is that we’re doing you know? Because I think they’re attitude is that they want to be as big as is pysically possible. They would say that they want to get their music to as many people as possible, and you know cool, and I think for them it isn’t about dollar signs for them. I think it’s probably true that they do just want to get their music out to everyone that they possibly can, but at the same time, some of the things that… some of the steps that they’ve taken to get their [pause] some of them, they’re not up my alley, but then again you know they’re not working at, they’re not working at concessions selling coke like I am. But I don’t know, I was just reading an interview with Less Than Jake in a zine, and it was just like, they were talking about their radio songs and talking about taking the horns off, and I just can’t see us doing that. (laughs) But you know I don’t think for them that it is for dollar signs I think it is for the music to get as far as possible. But I don’t know I just couldn’t imagine mixing two people in the band out of a song, but then again I’ve always done music on an independent level through mike, so I can’t even fathom what they’re world is like in regards to dealing with major label record people and the shit that they have to deal with. So yeah good luck to them, but it’s not the way I wanna go!
RN: So you’ve basically just always made music for you and your friends then?
Dan: Yeah, I mean the late eighties, early nineties when we were playing that was it absolutely. There were no other ska bands, there was no ’scene’, and like, we played it because we loved the music. We loved it because we got into the Specials, and we loved Madness, and like Bad Manners, and we were just like, this is the coolest stuff ever, and it was only a small circle of friends that were into it, there was nobody else in the world who knew what we were wanting to play. So we’d play these shows and people would just be like, ‘what the hell is this’! And you know there was, over time, it got bigger and bigger, and then of course it crashed and nobody liked it again, and we felt like, ‘wow cool, this is how it was when we first started out!’ And it’s just like do you change because of that? And of course it depends on what your motivations are!
RN: So it’s better?
Dan: Well you know, saying that it’s better or it’s worse that’s basing the whole thing on whether you think it’s cool or not, but for me, it’s ska music.. well I guess our albums are better cause we’ve got better at writing.. but whether the scene is better. I don’t know, I don’t understand the ska scene, I don’t understand the punk rock scene, all I understand is when the five of us get in a room and start playing music. So (laughs) I don’t know whether that makes any sense.
But yeah I’m always flattered when people like our stuff, but you know at the end of the day, it doesn’t bother me if the whole of the punk rock or ska community was to say, ‘MU330 is shit and we don’t want to listen to them again’. I’d still put out records because… actually alright I might not put them out, but I’d still record them because I love to write and record music, and I’m always going to write and play music. Always.
RN: Does it ever weird you out how people get into your music. Like the girl that came up to you earlier from Kent, that’s like a big deal in the UK?
Dan: No, no that’s awesome, because I remember being that crazy about music. I remember before I had ever met skank and pickle I was so excited that they were coming through St Louis, but they were playing in a bar that was twenty one and up so no kids could get in. So I went to the show, and just brought my guitar and I acted like I was in a band and I just walked into this bar and nobody said anything, and I just sat in the back in a corner, and just pretended I was supposed to be there. So I know what it’s like to be big a fan, to be super psyched to see a band!
[cue the boy who'd come from kent: This is the guys demo from over there he's too scared to come over and actually talk to you though!...]
Dan: Tell him I said thanks.
RN: So have you ever come across an MU330 tattoo?
Dan: I have. Not many though, I bet that Alkaline Trio could boast many more tattoos than MU330! But I remember once we were in Kansas and this big skin head guy came up and he showed me.. he lifter up his shirt, and on his arm he had this tattoo of one of our first t-shirt logos of this running man, and he’s wearing like boots and braces, running through this chequered circle. (laughing)And it was the worst looking tattoo that I’ve ever seen, it was really blurry, and poorly rendered and I looked at it, and I said ‘wow that’s something’. But yeah actually you know that’s really the only MU330 tattoo that I can remember. (laughs)