Photo: John Falls
Back when the compact disc had just started to become the standard for music consumption, D Generation were busy making a name for themselves in the New York City punk scene. Possessing a sound that combined the best of the New York Dolls and The Dead Boys, the band’s shows made a significant impact on anyone who was sagacious enough to attend. Unfortunately, due in part to faulty marketing (like the fact that their albums never quite made it overseas) and bad luck, D Generation were held back and never attained the commercial success that many of their peers did. After three albums, the group — who had eventually had enough of each other — disbanded in 1999.
Now, after more than a decade, the boys have returned with less makeup but just as much attitude. To celebrate, they played Turborock in Spain, a hometown reunion show at Irving Plaza, and a couple of gigs in California. Rock Edition had the chance to speak with original guitarist and founding member Danny Sage a little while before their show in San Diego. Check it all out below.
How was the band’s recent show in New York? I heard it was really wild.
It was amazing. It was probably in the top five shows we’ve ever done in like 20 years.
Yeah, it was really, really good.
Was it hard getting back on stage after all these years?
No, the band feels the same. We have the same kind of chemistry and everything. It was really easy to just go back and do it again. I think everyone felt good about it.
New York City has changed quite a lot.
Yeah, New York’s a fucking train wreck now. I think they’ve made it into some kind of suburban Midwestern fucking mall or something. But, as far as the five of us playing on stage, it was like nothing ever changed; it was magic.
I know that Richard [Bacchus, guitarist] hasn’t always been in NYC — he was in North Carolina for a while — but have you stayed in NYC since the band broke up?
I moved to Hollywood for a couple years. My ex-wife is an actress and we lived there together for 3 years. I like California, but I was really homesick, so we moved home — or, I should say, I moved home.
Where has everyone else been for the past few years?
Well, Howie [Pyro, bassist] lives in LA, but Jesse [Malin, vocalist] and Michael [Wildwood, drummer] live in New York. I live in New York. We were all born and raised there, and it’s just really hard to leave — no matter how much [Michael] Bloomberg keeps fucking it up and making it really awful. It’s still my home, and there are still days where I am just blown away that I live there and was born and raised there.
I love living in New York. Unfortunately, by the time I was old enough to know about a place like CBGB, it was already gone.
Yeah, that’s a shame, and there’s nothing to replace it.
I mean, I’ve seen pictures of it.
[chuckles] Yeah, that’s not quite the same as being there.
You guys must have some unreleased songs and rarities stacked away, right?
Probably. We’re talking about a bunch of things. We’ve been talking about putting together a compilation of stuff that was already released and a lot of odds and ends that were never released. We’ve also been talking about going into the studio in late winter or early spring to make a new record.
I don’t mean this in a bad way, but why make a new album?
We all still write, we all still play, we have a lot to say, and we still have this great chemistry together — there’s no reason not to make a fucking record!
How old were you guys when the band was first signed?
Early twenties, mostly.
After your band’s debut album was all said and done, you were picked up by Columbia Records, right?
Yeah. For the first album we were signed to EMI, which was arguably as big as Columbia or Sony. We never shied away from big labels or big money or any of that. I wasn’t playing that game like all those other kids who were trying to be on indies. They all wanted to be on indies because nobody was offering them shit. I wanted to be on the biggest record label. I wanted to sell records everywhere.
It wasn’t intimidating being so young and signed to these monster labels?
No, that’s what we had dreamed of doing since we were little kids. I went all through school trying to figure out how the fuck to get out of school quick, get a fucking record deal, and be on my way. I wasn’t shy. It was like robbing a bank without using a weapon.
Obviously, the band came to an end in 1999. The group’s last show was actually recorded, correct?
We recorded it…
But it was never released. Why?
Yeah. It was recorded using The Rolling Stones Mobile Studio, which is kind of funny and kind of interesting. To me, the way I look at it is like, I would only ever do anything with this band if it was the real five people. So if it’s not that lineup, I’m not that interested in it. Both Jesse and I listened to the tapes and sat with them for a month in late ’99 at RPM Studios on 12th Street. We started listening to the tapes, and — at least to me — it’s not the real band, so I’m just going to let it sit in my fucking closet.
Back to the NYC show for a second: I’m curious what the crowd was like. Did a lot of young kids come out to see the band?
Yeah, that’s the weird thing. The crowd at Irving [Plaza] was — well, it’s hard to say because there were 1,200 people — but the people I saw were mostly younger and people that I had never seen before. I mean, there were definitely some people backstage that I knew, and some people in the VIP section that we knew, but it seemed like there were 800 people who have never seen us before out on the floor. I was really happy about that.
Yeah. I was looking at some fan sites and stumbled upon a comment from this young girl, who was probably about 16, that said how much she loved being able to finally see you guys live.
That’s great! Real is real. No one asks Jack White how old he is, or any of these other motherfuckers. Age doesn’t even come into play.
You guys were signed to huge labels, made some great music, but never had the same commercial success that bands like Green Day or The Offspring had. Why was that?
I don’t think anybody knows, but I can tell you my guess: we didn’t fit into a clean little niche. I think we’re very weird in a way. We’re a lot of things mixed together, and at the same time, not a lot of things. Not to slight any other bands, but we just don’t have this easy to define thing about us. Especially ten years ago, people loved asking us, “What kind of band are you? What genre of music do you play?” I would say, “We play rock ‘n’ roll.” That could mean nothing or it could mean Jerry Lee Lewis or fucking Metallica. We never concerned ourselves with that. So I don’t know what the answer is, but I think a small part of it is that we’re from New York City, and we’re really stubborn and ballsy. We were really outspoken, and I think some people love that, but ten years ago, people were scared shitless of that. It’s only recently that people dig New York City. We used to play all these different places and people would just be put off by the fact that we were from New York.
Yeah. You know, it’s like anything. I think success also has a lot to do with luck and timing and marketing. The cool thing about us is that we just do what we do; if people like it, that’s great, and if people don’t like it, they can go fuck themselves. The irony of it is that most of the bands that sold more records than us, such as the bands you mentioned, love us and treat us great. The guys in Green Day treat us like fucking kings. They’re actually really good friends of ours.
Do you guys have a specific plan for how you’ll approach things once you get back into the studio?
I think we’re just going to pick up where we left off. I think it’s going to have to be chaotic and messy. The great thing is that it’s the five of us and we don’t really have to talk about it; it just happens. I think we’re just going to get in there and just do it. That’s what we always used to do. It’s just really natural. I don’t want to sound like a hippie, but when the five of us are together, it’s something that just happens. It’s a really volatile band; the personalities are really volatile when we’re together. It can be like a train wreck, but you always get something good out of it.
And packaged with the new album can maybe be some of those rarities we were talking about before.
Yeah, exactly. Like I said, there’s all types of plans that are being talked about. I tend to think that there will be a couple of different releases: a straight up compilation for people that are missing [one of our] records, a best of, an unreleased thing for super fans, and a brand new record.
That sounds cool. I was listening to ‘No Lunch’ on Spotify earlier this week. It’s a shame that the band’s other albums aren’t on there.
Yeah, that all has to do with Sony. We’re not making a nickel off of it anyway, so whatever.
I take it that you don’t use Spotify.
I don’t. I’m not really good at that kind of stuff. Also, the little bit of research I’ve done shows that I have to sell something like 800,000 spins in a month to make minimum wage. It always seems like the nerds and the fucking geeks and the business people make all the money, and the guys like us that are slugging it out don’t make any money from our own art. Whatever — I don’t really sweat that either. I can’t waste my time thinking about it.
Where else will you guys be playing this year?
We have this big festival in Texas called Fun Fun Fun Fest. That’s supposed to be really cool. There are a couple of other dates, but I’m not sure if we can announce them yet. Promoters want you to wait on them. Really, that’s about it for this year. We’ll regroup and do some more stuff next year.
Cool. So this is only the beginning.
Yeah. We’ll probably also go back to Europe; they were pretty hot for it.
Pick up D Generation’s classic album, No Lunch.