Mad Caddies is a 6-piece punky reggae-ska band from Santa Barbara, CA that have been playing under the name since 1995. For more than 20 years, Mad Caddies have created original material with 6 studio records, a couple of EPs and Live albums. On June 15th, they will add a cover-album to their repertoire with the 12 track Punk Rocksteady record that shows the band re-framing the past 40 years of punk history into a lighter tone of new perspective.
The album features guest appearances by Aimee Interrupter of The Interrupters and Joshua Waters Rudge of The Skints. The album was recorded entirely at Motor Studios in San Francisco, CA, under the “spiritual guidance” of NOFX’s Fat Mike. It includes covers of songs by Misfits, Descendents, Operation Ivy, Propagandhi, Bad Religion, Green Day, Against Me!, Snuff Lagwagon, Bracket, No Use For A Name and more, all to be released via Fat Wreck Chords.
Wanting to touch about the creative approach of that record, in addition to new material, The Pier had a chance to speak with guitarist Sascha Lazor and bassist Graham Palmer for about 35 minutes following their set at Back To The Beach Festival. What you’ll read below is a condensed version of our discussion — To read a breakdown of the record, click HERE!
Interview: Mad Caddies
The Pier: Pretty exciting with Punk Rocksteady coming out June 15th — How did this project come together with Fat Mike & Mad Caddies making this album a reality?
Sascha: It’s been a party conversation for a long time about doing it. Just one of those things that we talked about forever whenever we’d see each other, under the influence. [haha] Eventually, it worked out with timing.
The Pier: How do you come up with a track-list or songs that you want to cover with a cover album? How difficult or fun was that?
Sascha: We started going over our favorite bands and songs. I would name something, the band would name something, Mike would name something and certain songs would obviously work. The simpler the song, the better it works. Certain bands were trickier. Like we knew we wanted to do a Bad Religion song, but Bad Religion songs have a lot of chords and a lot of melodic movement and they’re not the easiest to turn into ska or reggae. So songs by Green Day are really easy, Snuff was easy because its 4 chords. But songs that have like 4 or 5 chords that move are a little bit more difficult.
So we would just go through bands that we wanted until we found songs that sounded good done reggae or ska, or in the case of the Misfits song ”Some Kinda Hate,” a more soul kind of vibe.
The Pier: You mention how some songs work and some songs didn’t, were there any cover-songs that didn’t make the album cut?
Sascha: We did a cover of Agent Orange’s “Bloodstains” and that was a klezmer balkan reggae kind of vibe that didn’t make the album. One of my favorite bands is Snuff and there were about 10 songs that could have worked. We had about 8 conversations, just about Snuff alone. And we finally picked ”Take Me Home” for the album. I did another version of a Snuff song that I really liked that I’d like to put out at some point. And then there’s an Agent Orange song that I’m not sure what will happen to it, but it’s recorded.
The Pier: How long was the project from concept to creation? When did the wheels start moving forward on this?
Graham: Mike mentioned it years ago, but really, it started last October. Mike called us and said: “You guys are doing this, I’m producing it and I’m going to make sure it happens!” It ended up taking about 4 months around the holidays. We did the pre-production and original recording in Motor Studios in San Francisco and that process was about 3 weeks, but we had it done and tracked by February 2018.
Sascha: Yeah, but we did it right between Thanksgiving & Christmas and it’s the worst time of year to do a record around the holidays.
The Pier: So you have Aimee Interrupter of The interrupters & Josh from The Skints featured — How did it come together with getting them on the album? Were the songs picked for them or were they thought of after the song was recorded?
Graham: Aimee was Mike’s idea. She came down and was like “What songs do you wanna do?”
Sascha: We knew we wanted to get some guests on the album and get some different bands involved. The Interrupters are awesome and Aimee’s voice is amazing, which worked great for the NOFX song, ”She’s Gone.” And then we did an Op Ivy song — Originally, Mike said No Op Ivy or Rancid songs because you can’t do it justice and I was like, Bullshit! So we picked an Op Ivy song that’s one of their punk songs, ”Sleep Long,” not one of their ska songs. And that song, when we started thinking about it, just made sense. The song has a lot of lyrics on the verses and it’s a super fast punk song. When we re-did it, it came out more like The Specials “Ghost Town,” and kind of dark. We were like “This would sound really good on the verses with a cockney accent.” And we started thinking who we could get. We know The Skints, we’ve toured with them a couple times and had just gotten off a tour with them. So we texted Josh and told him we’re doing this Op Ivy song and asked if he wanted to do vocals and he said: “Yeah!”
So the song has Josh from The Skints, Aimee from The Interrupters and it’s also got drummer Jon Asher from The Expanders which is one of the best reggae bands in Los Angeles; so that’s like an all-star song. Its really cool to have all 3 of them on one song.
The Pier: Very cool! Any other guest appearances featured on the album?
Sascha: Fat Mike is on there a couple of times, singing. He does a couple of cameos that I think people will get a kick out of. Once they hear the song and the part and what he sings…
Graham: It started out as a joke but we ended up keeping it. [haha]
Sascha: It’s on the Propagandhi song, we’ll just say that… We also have this amazing musician, our buddy named Bazz who’s worked with Mike on his Cokie The Clown project, he played saxophone and keyboards on a lot of songs.
The Pier: Has revamping these covers made you see writing music from a different perspective?
Sascha: It did for me personally, yeah! Definitely! Especially trying to take songs like Bad Religion — I went through about 5 Bad Religion songs trying to make it reggae and a lot of them don’t work because there’s too much movement and there’s a lot of reasons for that. Mike actually taught us a lot about tempos in songs and when melodies sound good and at what tempo. Certain things that I kind of overlooked my whole life that Mike showed me.
The Pier: How would you describe Fat Mike to people that don’t know him personally?
Sascha: He’s awesome. He’s pretty much how you see him on stage, just slightly more amp’d up, but that’s pretty much how he is. He kind of says what he means, doesn’t hide anything, whether that’s hemorrhoids or whatever! He gets pleasure out of seeing people looking shocked, I think. [haha]
Graham: He wants to work; you know? I mean he likes to have a good time, but he wants to work and expects things out of people.
Sascha: He is a hard worker and he has a reputation for partying, but people don’t see that he can party harder than people half his age and wake up the next morning and get shit done. That’s the reason why he’s been so successful and continues to put out music and get into so many other projects that he has going. That’s something that a higher power gives you that you can’t learn. You either have that or you don’t and most people don’t.
The Pier: Totally! Tell me about the cover-art for Punk Rocksteady. Who designed that and how did that come together?
Graham: Sascha had some general ideas and Fat Wreck Chords has a guy that sort of put our ideas to paper and we kind of went back and forth. We wanted to do something that had both reggae aspects and punk rock aspects. So obviously the color scheme is reggae with the sound system and then there’s the punk rock lettering and the kidnap safety pin kind of thing.
Sascha: Someone at Fat Wreck Chords suggested the title. We were just trying to think of what’s punk and what’s reggae, and Punk Rocksteady is just simple and it completely works. If only the album went as smooth as the cover did! [Haha]
The Pier: Where are you guys are with recording new original material?
Sascha: Well Chuck has been writing tons of songs. We all have tons of songs and that was our original intent was to work on those, and then this opportunity came up with Punk Rocksteady and kind of sidelined original material. Realistically, I’d like to have something out by winter time. We’re not trying to focus on a full album, we’re just trying to focus on 1 EP. It shouldn’t be that difficult to finish and put out, but our focus has been Punk Rocksteady the last couple of months. As far as material, we have tons of it, some of which I haven’t even shown the band yet!
The Pier: How has working on Punk Rocksteady influenced the songwriting for new material?
Sascha: Yeah, I typically don’t write complete songs. I come up with ideas that the band will expand on and I have a lot more ideas now from this cover record. I mean the bands been around for 20+ years and we’ve only ever done 2 or 3 covers in our entire career.
The other thing I was going to say too, Punk Rocksteady is coming out in June. We’re going to be doing some remixes of Punk Rocksteady. Scientist, the dub producer, is going to remix a song or two, I’m going to remix a song or two and we’re going to do a 4 song EP and just put it out digitally. Just keep the momentum going. I’d say August – September. We’re definitely going to do Green Day’s “She,” Op Ivy’s “Sleep Long,” NOFX’s ”She’s Gone,” and maybe one more.
The Pier: That’s incredible! I’m excited for the album, much less a remix of the covers! Last question before I set you guys free. Graham, I understand you have a winery that you started about 6 years ago – Will you guys be issuing in a Mad Caddies signature wine?
Graham: You know we’ve talked about it for years and we certainly should! We have a local brewery, too, that we’re involved with and we’ve done some co-sponsorship type of things and we wanted to get a beer out in time for Punk In Drublic tour but it didn’t happen. But alcohol and music go hand in hand, so why not?
The Pier: Thank you so much for the time fellas, we look forward to Punk Rocksteady dropping June 15th and it seems like this will only be the catalyst for new Mad Caddies material to come.
Watch: Mad Caddies – “She’s Gone” (NOFX Cover)
Watch: Mad Caddies – “She” (Green Day Cover)