When I was in Portland for the B3 contest this month I was kind of bummed. My arm was broke, I couldn’t ride, and I was a judge. Things looked up when fellow punk rocker, Pat Miller told me The Swingin’ Utters were in town. This is one of my favorite punk bands ever, so I used my music editor powers to get us in for free. Feeling a bit guilty about abusing my powers, I decided we should interview the band. I had met Max (one of the guitarists in the band) on the Warped Tour and knew he was a nice guy. We happened to see him on the street outside the club and asked him to do an interview, and this is what he had to say to us.

Pat: I wanted to ask about the types of bands that seem to have influenced you guys, like Stiff Little Fingers, Cocksparce, and stuff like that. How did that come about, were you guys always into that kind of oi! scene?

Max: Yeah, I grew up in Washington DC, so I grew up with a lot of British punk and oi! and stuff. Then I moved out to California when I was 17 and I met up with the punk, oi!, skin head scene. The Swingin’ Utters were into that scene. They were just a cover band doing oi! and punk songs. I like a lot of that old music, but a lot of it is so damn boring to play after a while. They started writing their own material, and by the time I joined the band they had a handful of their own songs. Then we started dropping the covers altogether and concentrating on our own shit. It’s weird because everybody in the band listens to tons of music. Nobody straight-up listens to punk.

Pat: On the newest album you guys seem to branch out, and kind of take a little bit of a different direction. How did that come about?

Max: The only way we really branched out, I think, was with the instruments. Before, we’ve always kinda had a Poguesey influence. We’ve always wanted to do a mix with folksy, Pogues stuff mixed in with punk. We thought it would be an interesting angle to come at it, plus straight up punk-oi! to throw some new flavor into the mix. We wrote it not thinking of trying to do anything different, you know? It had more of my material on this album and I write totally different. That was a natural change, and then we put instruments on there we hadn’t used, like pianos and organs and stuff. This is totally the way we wanted the records to sound all along. We wanted to have more of that mix as opposed to the same old stuff.

Leigh: Who writes most of the music?

The Utters put on an awesome show despite the fact that it was about 100-degrees inside the Phoenix Theater.

Max: Darius and I now write about half and half. Johnny writes some stuff, too.

Pat: What do you think of music today compared to music twenty years ago?

Max: Well I don’t know. I think for sure there has always been like bubble-gummy pop bands that kind of sucked in every era of music. That’s sort of a formula made by the music industry’s kind of bands. But now more than ever there’s nothing but garbage on the radio. At least back in the 70’s, 80’s, and even the 60’s there were some big bands that were really good. You know, the Stones and Beatles kind of bands. Nowadays I can’t think of one band I like. I think a lot of people are totally dissatisfied with today’s music.

Leigh: What made you move out to San Francisco? Did you know the band before you moved out here?

Max: No, they hadn’t put anything out yet. I moved to San Francisco because I lived in DC and it was just such a nightmare. I mean, it was a crazy city and you were going to get into trouble and you would end up in jail. If you hung out in the punk scene something bad was eventually going to happen.

Leigh: You wrote the song “15 and T.” What was that song about?

Max: That was the second song I ever wrote. It was about this g, Dylan Lang. He was like my idol. When I was eleven or twelve, he was like the older, cool guy, punk kid. He was just f***ing the coolest guy I knew and he got me into playing music. We’d hang out all the time, he’d play me all these rad records and turn me on to all kinds of shit. He just told me one day we had to get a band and he just told me to play guitar. I was like, “All right.” I didn’t know how to play any instrument. He could have told me to play drums and I would have been a drummer right now. Thank God he said play guitar (laughing). He was a gnarly alcoholic. I wrote that about him and that time in my life. It was one of the funnest times, but I barely remember them.

Pat: Are there any new bands out today that give you the same feelings as some of the old bands you liked?

Max: Yeah, there’s good new bands. I don’t want to name names it’d be just an endless list. I think there’s some great bands out there. I don’t think there’s that many of them, and none of them are really doing that well. They’re doing well in an underground sense, but there aren’t a lot of really big “radio” bands.

Leigh: What’s it like getting no radio play, but making a living doing what you do? Do you think you could do this the rest of your life?

Max: I want to play music the rest of my life¿there’s no turning back for me now. I’ve gotten a taste of it, and once you’re used to being your own boss and living your life how you want to live it, I can’t imagine going and getting some shitty 9 to 5 job, you know? Now I’m just determined to play music forever and I’ll do whatever I have to do. I don’t know if this (The Swingin’ Utters) is going to be my living for the rest of my life. There’s other kinds of music I want to play, too. I love punk and I love playing punk, but that’s not all I write and all I listen to. I’d like to play other kinds of music. In the Swingin’ Utters we’re going to continue developing our style, but for sure we’ve got a path that we’ve already created that we kind of have to stick to. The one thing that’s rough about punk rock sometimes is that kids expect something from you, and you can’t really do whatever the f*** you want. Otherwise people would be like, “What the hell?” It’s not that we’ll come out with a disco album the next record.

Pat: It’s like a punk band comes out with their first album that everybody likes, and when they branch out a little bit on every other album everybody gets mad like, “Why don’t you play like you played on the first album?”

Max: Yeah.

Pat: But I’m sure it’s got to be boring playing the same thing over and over.

Max: Oh yeah, that’s what I’m saying. And then you’re just a f***ing machine, you’re not a band anymore. And those records get boring to people, too. There’s tons of other shit we want to play and we’re going to continue to do other kinds of shit. When you play in a punk band you’re not totally free. I mean, you think of yourself as free, but we couldn’t do anything that we wanted.

Pat: What kind of influences did you have to make you want to do the music you do now?

Max: I know for me it was like I heard punk and I liked the rebellion. If I was born in the fifties I’m sure I would have been a f***ing greaser.

Pat: Was it like the message behind the music or the music itself?

Max: To be totally honest, now more than ever I appreciate some of the stuff, the political stuff, that some of these bands are trying to do. But when I was really young all it was to me was just about pissing off other people.

Leigh couldn’t ride at the Portland B.S. contest so he did the next best thing-shoot a Swingin’ Utters concert.

Pat: I have just one more question about the whole working class thing. Is that the kind of background you guys came from?

Max: That was like the Santa Cruz scene. We’ve all had f***ing shit jobs. It was about being in a band so you could get away from having shit jobs. I’m sure it’s the same reason people turn pro and shoot to get sponsored¿so they can live their life how they want to live it. It’s not easy by any means. The first few years of us being in a band we were just scraping by. But if you want to live your life the way you want to live it, you have to, at some point, just sever all your ties to whatever it was you were doing before and go out there and do it.

Leigh: Well, we’re going to wrap this up. Is there anything else you want to say?

Max: Yeah, come to our show. Whoever reads this, go check us out if we’re in your town.

Leigh: All right, thanks a lot, Max.

Max: Thank you.at was like the Santa Cruz scene. We’ve all had f***ing shit jobs. It was about being in a band so you could get away from having shit jobs. I’m sure it’s the same reason people turn pro and shoot to get sponsored¿so they can live their life how they want to live it. It’s not easy by any means. The first few years of us being in a band we were just scraping by. But if you want to live your life the way you want to live it, you have to, at some point, just sever all your ties to whatever it was you were doing before and go out there and do it.

Leigh: Well, we’re going to wrap this up. Is there anything else you want to say?

Max: Yeah, come to our show. Whoever reads this, go check us out if we’re in your town.

Leigh: All right, thanks a lot, Max.

Max: Thank you.