Punk Rock Bowling interview: Descendents/All guitarist Stephen Egerton

Stephen Egerton (second from right) and the Descendents play Punk Rock Bowling’s outdoor stage Saturday at 10 p.m. Egerton will also perform with All, Saturday night at 1:15 a.m. at Fremont Country Club.
Chris Bitonti

You’re pulling double duty at Punk Rock Bowling with Descendents and All. Is that fairly common at festivals these days? Well, it is happening a little more frequently. Since Descendents are really only able to do a couple shows at a time because of work schedules, we’ll sometimes add a couple All shows around Descendents shows if we can, just for fun more than anything. That way we’re already all in one place except for our singer, and we just fly Chad [Price] in. We just did that in Europe—four All shows and two Descendents shows over a week in Europe. It’s fun.

When you’re playing All shows, do you ever still have to deal with fans who are upset they’re not seeing Descendents? It’s less that way than it used to be. It had more of that feel to it before we started doing Descendents shows again, but now that Descendents are out there playing occasionally, most people have gotten the chance to see us if they’re able. So now, the people who come to see All are people that actually really like All. The shows are smaller, but that’s just fine by us.

If [singer] Milo [Aukerman] said he wanted to give up being a scientist and do Descendents full-time, would you still continue with All? I would think so. But, you know, neither of them are really in a position to take on a full-band form, be a full-time thing. And Milo abandoning science is strongly unlikely; he’s proven far more likely to not play music, though he’s always drawn to do some of it in some context. What we have now is really ideal for him, because he does his science thing, and he still gets to do his music thing, too. We just kind of do it on a limited basis.

I think for a long time it was going to be one or the other, because the rest of us were full-time musicians. Now, Bill [Stevenson] produces a lot of records. I mix records. Karl [Alvarez] has stayed busy playing more—he was in The Real McKenzies for a long time and All Systems Go for a while. So everybody is busy enough now that we can be part-time with Descendents and it’s fine.

I think if Descendents were able to be full-on we would probably still do All shows, because that music just developed differently over time from Descendents. I wouldn’t say it was an active thing, that we were trying to sound different from Descendents. It was just us writing what we write and playing what we play, and it developed differently. There’s a lot of cool songs in there and a lot of things we enjoy playing, so I think it would continue on.

Who’s going to be on vocals for the All show here? Chad [Price] will be with us. We’ve done some things with Scott [Reynolds], who we’re still good friends with and Dave [Smalley], who we’re still good friends with, but I think we will more often be doing shows with Chad if we do shows with All.

All never really broke up. There came a time between us being a pretty small band and not being able to fill huge clubs with people, and children started coming into the picture—families and children. Eventually we couldn’t really justify being full-time with All; we weren’t in it to make money, and we certainly weren’t accomplishing making money (laughs). It just kind of got back-burnered, but the band never really broke up. And Chad really is our singer. So we’ve done a few things with Scott and/or Dave just out of interest or just for fun.

The Descendents documentary Filmage will screen at Punk Rock Bowling. Were you involved in it beyond your interviews that are included? The guys who made it—the two sort of main guys who put it together, Deedle [Lacour] and Matt [Riggle]—are good friends of mine. They’re in a band called 41 Gorgeous Blocks, which is the first band that ever recorded at my little studio here in Tulsa. So I met them when I was doing a stint as crewman for a band called MxPx, and we hit it off and became friends. They’ve always worked in the video and film production industry, and at some point they approached me and said, “We wanna make this thing. We’re huge fans, and we want to get the definitive documentary.” And we said okay. I wasn’t involved in any part of making it other than doing interviews, but it was me that went to the rest of my guys and said, “Hey, these are my buddies, they want to do this, they’re really good, let’s do it.”

What do you think of the finished product? I think they did a fantastic job. They really caught the band in the way that I see us. It’s of particular interest to me, because even though I’ve been in the band a very long time, I am actually a latecomer to Descendents—I wasn’t there in the beginning. I thought I would have already dragged every story out of Bill, Frank [Navetta] and Tony [Lombardo] and Milo that I possibly could have over my years of friendship with them but even I still had a lot to learn about the band and how it came together. So that was really a lot of fun. And to be able to look back and view some video footage I had never seen before, of the original lineup playing, that part was a blast. I love it.

You referred to yourself as a latecomer to the band, but you’re still about to hit 30 years with Descendents. Coming up, yep.

Is that surprising to you? Yeah, you know, it is really strange to still be such a force for people. I am always amazed at that, because when we were starting out there were all these bands, bands playing all over the country and certainly hundreds of them in California, and for all of us that were playing at that time, there was never an expectation of success. I mean, success at that time meant doing the music at all, success meant playing in a club or whatever or maybe going on a short tour and getting to play with other bands in other cities, that was what it was about. There was no money, there was no fame, there was nothing—there was just getting to do it because you were into it. That was the only reason anyone bothered. So for that music to have impacted people enough that they still care about it all these years later is really something to me. And it is incredibly fortunate that we’re in a position to still play it and that we’re all still alive, except Frank unfortunately.

That this can continue in the way it has is amazing to me. I love it, that it can still happen. And the people—we’ll play shows now and there are young people discovering this music. It isn’t just a sea of old punkers. It’s young people being turned on to this music somehow.

Who do you think is more punk rock, 19-year-old Stephen doing it then or 49-year-old Stephen still doing it now? From the core I am a die-hard music fanatic, that’s really what I am. I am nuts about music; I always have been. I’ve never wanted to do anything else. I don’t know how to do anything else. So the punk rock part of it serves a time that I was in. There were certainly myriad reasons that anyone would be interested in something like that, because it was going against what everybody around you was doing.

Now the need to look a certain way doesn’t hold anything for me, I don’t really care about that, I don’t worry about making some sort of statement in that regard but musically speaking I still do feel exactly the same way. So all of the things that drew me to that are still there.

But now I’m a dad, life changes, we’re 50. Punk rock gave a lot of us a place to work out our issues and figure out who we were as people, It taught us how to be better, and a lot of the smartest people that I’ve ever known came from that scene, and they’re still smart today. They’re still changing the world, and they still see the world in interesting ways.

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