LOS ANGELES, May 6, 2013 — Stacey Dee is perhaps the most interesting woman in the world of punk rock. She has been in many bands with many different styles. To say that she is a punker is accurate, but incomplete. Stacey Dee took some time to hang out with me in a cemetery to discuss her life of music.
THIS IS PART ONE OF A THREE-PART INTERVIEW
Kevin Wells: What made you want to start playing guitar?
Stacey Dee: I grew up with my father [Edward Dee], a singer-songwriter, and he played guitar my whole life and I always sang. He always tried to get me to play the guitar, obviously, because he wants his daughter to play guitar too. I grew up with him playing guitar and me singing as soon as I could open my mouth and taping it. So we used to record together all the time at three or four years old. And then I played piano for a while, you know, taught by ear. I played drums before guitar.
I always looked at the guitar like, “I am never going to be able to play you, ever.” I used to walk around the room when I was a little kid and play every other instrument. Then I was in a town and to get out of a bad situation and change my life around, I finally went to my dad and I said, “Dad, I think I’m ready now to learn to play guitar. Will you show me?” He showed me A and E and how to strum because a big part of playing guitar is not so much your left hand, but your right hand, your rhythm hand. So I started strumming and strumming and then I moved to Santa Barbara.
I came home a few years later and said, “Dad, I think I’m a songwriter.” And he was like, “Yeah, right.” I said, “Can I play this song I wrote?” So I started playing it. He was in the kitchen and wasn’t paying attention to me. As soon as I started playing, he came over from out of the kitchen and looked at me and was like, “We gotta record that!” I was like, “okay, awesome.” That’s how I started playing guitar. I mean, I was meant to play the guitar from the moment I was born. It was just something I pushed off until I was ready. And then when I was ready, I just jumped right in to writing songs, rather than learning other people’s songs because I had no time to waste at that time.
KW: What was the first instrument you started playing?
SD: The drums, actually. At four, they set up a trap kit, just a regular kit before my brother was born, in his room. My dad’s band was jammin’ in there. I went in and sat down at the drums and started doing that first beat. I had no idea what I was doing. And my dad ran out of the room and yelled at my mom, “Sue, you got to get in here. Look, she’s f**kin’ playing the drums!” I always knew as a kid, for some reason, I knew I could play them, but I didn’t know how to play them. In my head it felt like I knew how to play them, which is weird. You know what I mean? I don’t know what else to say. I don’t know if past lives exist. I play a lot of stuff, though.
KW: What bands made you want to play in a punk band?
SD: The first show I ever went to, my parents took me to The Go-Go’s. I was like, 6, and I fought my way up to the front of the stage. I wasn’t supposed to be there, but people just let me go because I was this little kid. I rested my head on the stage and watched Jane Wiedlin play guitar and sing and I was like, “That is what I am going to do with the rest of my life.” She was the main reason. I always liked punk rock energy and being from the Bay Area, I was always a big fan of NoFX and Green Day when I was young, before Dookie, Fifteen, and Crimpshrine, Op Ivy. I was into the Descendents and Bad Religion, the Odd Numbers and Toy Dolls and things like that.
I just really liked being able to express myself. I kind of related to Billie Joe [Armstrong], in a way. He wrote songs about love that were still rad and catchy and it didn’t have to be a love song. And he writes other good songs that might or might not be his. That’s up for debate. Of course, I loved Cindi Lauper. I love Cindi Lauper. I love some of the s**t Madonna has done, obviously, back in the 80s. I like how she progresses. I also listen to a lot of soul music and I listen to a lot of hip hop. I listen to a lot of different stuff. I don’t know. Go-Go’s, Joan Jett, Pat Benatar. F**k, I love Pat Benatar too.
KW: Which bands are you in that are active right now?
SD: Right now, Bad Cop / Bad Cop is the one that is probably the most active. We just got off tour. We went out to the south west and did Way Out West Fest. We recorded at Hurley and put out a 7”. They paid us, they recorded us and put it on a dropcard with NoFX and Hot Water Music and bands like that. It kind of gave us some more momentum. The City is another band that’s been active. It’s kind of on hiatus right now. We’re working it all out. It’s kind of like a little more grown-up punk with a bluesy feel to it, but with my vocals. And then Knives and Gasoline is me and Noel “Deeskee” [DeMello]. It’s just me and him and we’re playing on May 17 and we’re about to start writing another album, I believe, pretty soon in the next couple months or something. Bad Cop is probably going to record again in the next couple months. We’re writing, I’ve got like eight songs. We’re gonna have a writing day.
KW: When you write a song do purposely try to write for a specific band?
SD: Bad Cop is a little more harmony driven, all girl poppy punk, I guess. So I will write songs that will have Jennie [Cotterill]’s vocals and mine as well because we sing with each other all the time. Or I will leave a space for her to write her part or a couple verses of it or whatever and we’ll switch back and forth on the chorus or pre-chorus or something. With The City, I know if it’s something that’s a little more grown up or harder, like Hot Water Music-esque, a little more…I’m just gonna say grown-up. It sounds weird to say that, but it’s just a little more bluesier. We do rad covers. We do some Against Me! covers, we do Devil Went Down To Georgia. My keyboardist can play all of it, all of that Charlie Daniels s**t on keys. I got a stand-up bass player so it’s a whole different kind of aesthetic when you look at it, but we’re still all girls. It’s weird that I almost always play with all women. I’ve always had a female drummer, except for when I had my band in London.
KW: Is that on purpose?
SD: No, it just happens. Jen Kirk-Carlson from The City, has been my musical partner for the last, at least, 10 years. Without her, I would not be the artist I am today. I owe her so much for giving me the confidence I have on stage and in life. We’ve done everything together; Angry Amputees, Compton [SF], The City, she was in Bad Cop, she started it with us. She was the bass player and she is a drummer.
She’s another one that’s like me. We play everything. So we can. She’s like, “I got a harmonica, I’ll get you a set of harmonicas.” So now we got harmonicas, flutes. Anything we can get our hands on. It’s hilarious. But I do write for specific bands, like Knives and Gasoline will never be written for Bad Cop. It couldn’t fit. It’s just way too different.
Knives and Gasoline will be playing with Bad Cop / Bad Cop on May 17 at Los Globos in Los Angeles.
THIS IS PART ONE OF A THREE-PART INTERVIEW
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