Recently I have been listening to Me First and the Gimme Gimmes new album Are We Not Men? We Are Diva! For those who don’t know Me First and the Gimme Gimmes are a punk rock supergroup consisting of Spike Slawson (formerly of the Swingin’ Utters), Fat Mike (NOFX), Christ Shiflett (Foo Fighters), Joey Cape and Dave Raun (both of Lagwagon) who only play cover songs. This has got me thinking about who I would have in my dream fantasy band.
The first thing I had to think about is what kind of band it would be. Obviously different musicans are better at a certain style, for instance if I was going for a ska punk band I might go for the Aaron Barrett of Reel Big Fish on vocals but if it was a street punk band I’d definitely go for Mike McColgan of the Street Dogs. I’ve decided to go with a straight up punk rock band featuring a singer, a lead and rhythm guitarist, a bass player and a drummer.
Every great band has a great drummer. In the punk rock world there are many great drummers, you have the obvious choices like Travis Barker of Blink 182 and Tre Cool of Green Day. Then you have more underground choices like Warren Oakes (formerly of Against Me!) and George Rebelo from Hot Water Music and more recently The Bouncing Souls. My choice though is Bill Stevenson from The Descendents, All, Black Flag and Only Crime. His drumming style has been a blue print for many bands and the likes of Dave Grohl and Josh Freese have cited him as an inspiration. As well as drumming for all of those incredible bands he also serves as a producer at his Blasting Room Studios in Colorado and has help make albums for the biggest names in punk rock.
If any member of a band can go unnoticed it is usually the bass player. The bass player often lays down the beat and rhythm of a song and even though they may go unnoticed by the fans they are a vital cog in any successful live band. Some of the contenders bass player in my band were Ken Casey from Dropkick Murphys, Mike Herrera from MXPX and Jay Bentley of Bad Religion. To be honest know this was a bit of a no-brainer. It had to be Matt Freeman of Rancid and Operation Ivy. For me he is not only the best bass player in punk rock but the best bass player ever. His solo in Rancids song Maxwell Murder is one of the greatest I’ve ever heard, it amazes me how anyone can play an instrument so well. He can also play in any style of band, whether it be a straight forward punk band, ska or Oi! or even psychobilly, he plays upright bass and sings in the band Devils Brigade.
I’m going for two guitarists in my band. Lead and rhythm. The job of a rhythm guitarist is to provide a pulse in time with the singer and other instrumentalists and to provide the harmony. The job of a lead guitarist is to play the melody lines and do the fills and guitar solos. My choices are both skilled enough to do both so it doesn’t really matter who does what in my band. I could have picked two of a lot of different guitar players. Notable expections are Lard Frederiksen of Rancid, El Hefe of NOFX and Pete Steinkopf of The Bouncing Souls. My choices for guitars are however James Bowman of Against Me! and Marc ‘The Kid’ Orrell formerly of Dropkick Murphys. The biggest reason I picked Orrell was for his live performances. He is one of the most energetic performers I’ve ever seen but wherever he is throwing himself he still manages to keep playing perfectly. I think that James Bowman underrated guitar players in the punk scene. Often overlooked for Against Me! front woman Laura Jane Grace I think that Bowman is the heart and soul of that band. He also has a really powerful voice and is excellent for backing vocals.
Now for the lead singer; I personally prefer a singer that doesn’t play an instrument, especially for live performances. Not having to stay behind a microphone stand enables the bands front person to interact with the crowd a lot more, which is a massive part of a good live performance. Some of my favourite singers are Roger Lima from Less Than Jake, Sweeney Todd of The Dead Pets and Wil Wagner from The Smith Street Band. My number one pick for lead singer is Jason DeVore from Arizona punk band Authority Zero. I really love his voice, its one of the most versatile around. He can sing punk and reggae styles with ease. I was so impressed when I saw Authority Zero live, it was at the end of a very long tour for them, DeVore’s voice must have been hurting but I still sung his songs exactly how they sound of record. That amazed me and made him shoot to the top of my list for great punk singers.