Back in the ‘80s, there was hardcore punk and there was speed metal. Then something happened: bands began to throw genre restrictions out the window and experiment with a brutal, bloody blend of the two. A crossover genre, or “thrash,” was born. One of the most notable bands of this era was Dirty Rotten Imbeciles, or D.R.I. They are often credited with initiating this movement throughout their early years. It all started in the basement of brothers Kurt and Eric Brecht’s family home in Houston. Kurt sang and Eric played drums, with Spike Cassidy on guitar and Dennis Johnson on bass. Although it seems that they pioneered a whole scene with their sound, other bands like Anthrax and Suicidal Tendencies were able to profit greatly from it and “made it” bigger, especially with the MTV generation. However, DRI enjoyed tastes of that kind of success on The Headbanger’s Ball and Beavis and Butthead. DRI’s legacy is nothing to scoff at. They just celebrated 30 years!
Despite many line-up changes and Spike’s fairly recent diagnosis of colon cancer, the band continues to tour to this day. Their brief upcoming tour, dubbed “The ‘80s Lineup Tour,” features the members who recorded the albums Crossover and 4 of a Kind, with Kurt, Spike, Felix Griffin on drums and Josh Pappe on bass (Felix and Josh both played in the band on other albums as well, but those are the only two on which they played together).
Kurt had also formed a publishing company, Dirty Rotten Press, in order to publish his writing and artwork and he formed a side project, Pasadena Napalm Division, during his time off from DRI. He even collaborated with Dave Grohl on his metal side-project, Probot. I was able to get a little bit of his time myself to talk about getting not only a band but an entire genre of music off the ground and what’s in store for DRI and PND.
DRI started off as a fairly straightforward, blitzing hardcore punk band. What made you start to write the more speed metal-influenced material that led to the dawn of thrash?
Kurt Brecht: I would say it was both a conscious decision and a natural progression for us to cross over.
How did moving out to California, where both speed metal and hardcore were dominant and emerging equally out of the underground, affect your style?
Being picked up by Metal Blade Records exposed us to more metal bands like Trouble, Slayer, Hirax, etc… It was cool to see and hear metal bands crossing over to hardcore speed music and we were probably influenced by them as well.
It’s funny you should mention that, because DRI has often been lauded as a major influence by so many notable musicians, including Dave Lombardo of Slayer! So, who inspired you?
I wonder about that myself. Lyrically I think Pink Floyd, Black Sabbath and Alice Cooper may have played a role in shaping my style, as well as hardcore bands like MDC and the Dead Kennedys.
What was it like to be labeled as the forefathers of the thrash genre?
First they labeled us the fastest band in the world, then the “Kings of Crossover.” Someone even said we started grindcore, but to me we are just a band who is enjoying a hell of a ride!
How did Dirty Rotten Records come into being? Was it strictly out of necessity for a way to put out your own albums?
We wanted to have our own label like many DIY bands of the day. It only lasted a short while before we were signed to another label.
DRI has been together for over 30 years. That’s quite a feat! Why is there so much time off between albums, though? Are there any plans to write and release a new DRI album?
We tour a lot but have not recorded lately. We seem to do good anyway and the offers for live shows keep pouring in and we love playing live. It will be hard to stop and record but we do have some new songs and would like to get back in the studio if possible. We might; you never know, ha ha!
I read on Spike’s “blurb” that the answer is “no” because the fans only want to hear the old stuff. As a fan, I disagree. I’d love to hear a new album! Speaking of Spike, can you give us an update? How is he doing in his battle with cancer? How can people make donations to The Spike Cassidy Cancer Relief Foundation?
He has been touring almost nonstop with us and is strong and playing great! I think there is a link on his Facebook page for his cancer fund.
How did you connect with the guys from Dead Horse and Verbal Abuse to form your side project, Pasadena Napalm Division? How has the band conflicted or coincided with the renewed DRI activity? I guess that’s where all those long breaks from DRI have come into play, right?
The guys in Dead Horse contacted me. We have an LP coming out at the end of May on Minus Head Records. DRI only gigs half of the time but Dead Horse plays shows also. PND has a new album to write and shows for promotion of our new release so we are excited about that.
You’re really good about including New Orleans in most of your touring, so please keep that going!
PND and DRI love to play Louisiana!
Was “Silent Spring” the only thing you did in collaboration with Dave Grohl’s project, Probot? What was it like working with Dave? Did you write or co-write the song?
He wrote all the music and performed it as well. I wrote the lyrics and performed the vocals. And, yes, PND does play it live. Somebody has to do it! I love the whole Probot album!
Who came up with that iconic “skanking guy” logo? Was that you? What’s the funniest parody of it you’ve seen so far?
My brother drew the logo. I like when people draw it as a girl skanker.
Is there anything you’d like to add?
Just that this should really be fun doing the ‘80s line-up tour. See you soon!
DRI will be playing at Siberia on Saturday, May 11th, with A Hanging, Fat Stupid Ugly People, and Bastard Sons of Marvin Hirsch. For more information, check out dirtyrottenimbeciles.com