Rodney Linderman - 2002

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Rodney Anonymous was the lead vocalist and chief lyricist for The Dead Milkmen, a wonderful old band from Philadelphia, TX that played the punk/pop/rock/ska/funk music for all of us to enjoy, except for the jaded PRICKS who were too COOL for songs like "I Tripped Over The Ottoman" and "The Infant of Prague Customized My Van" (a title that I recently learned was a takeoff on Ministry's "Jesus Built My Hotrod"! In retrospect, I TOTALLY should have caught that). Rodney was the guy in the Dead Milkmen that kind of rasped and talked his vocals, not the British-sounding twee guy who sang actual notes. You'd know Rodney from "Smokin' Banana Peels," "Bitchin' Camaro" or "Beach Party Vietnam," NOT from "Punk Rock Girl." His humor could be hit-or-miss, but that's mainly because he always seemed to be joking. You can still hear his smartness shining through on every album. Here! Enjoy a few of his fine lyrics (assuming he wrote them of course). Each of these songs is on a different album:

"Serrated Edge" - Up on the hilltop where the vultures perch/That's where I'm gonna build my church/Ain't gonna be a priest, ain't gonna be no boss/Just Charles Nelson Reilly nailed to a cross

"The Fez" - `Scuse me! While I puke and die!

"Instant Club Hit (You'll Dance To Anything)" - Don't try to tell me that you're an intellectual/'Cuz you're just another boring bisexual/(girl speaks) "I met Andy Warhol at a really chic party!"/Blow it out your hairdo `cuz you work at Hardee's

"My Many Smells" - Sometimes I smell/Just like the bathroom/After Grandma used it/And she'd been eating prunes

"In Praise of Sha Na Na" - I don't care about Joan Baez/But Sha Na Na can wear my fez - at least it rhyyyyyy-hyyyyyymed!

"How It's Gonna Be" - Then you'll look around and see how it's gonna be/Yes, my friend, you're screwed for all eternity

"The Infant of Prague Customized My Van" - Saint Andrew was flayed alive and his tongue ripped from his head/Yet everyone who saw him agreed that he looked even better dead/Saint Catherine Laboure is tucked away in a tiny church in Paris/Though she looks pretty neat I'm afraid they cheated, she's filled with carbolic acid!

"Peter Bazooka" - Tuesday! Yes! It was Tuesday I saw my congressman walking out of the titty bar.

Then they broke up and he formed a serious "American Gothic" band with his wife called Burn Witch Burn. But now they're broken up too! So hat's his story? Well, his real name is Rodney Linderman, and he agreed to an email interview. You'll find my questions in bold and his answers in plain text.


What were the real-life social dynamics of the Dead Milkmen like? Onstage, all four of you seemed to be laughing and smiling a lot - were you all basically similar people? Or was one, say, the "jock" of the band, and one the "punk" of the band, etc.....? What elements did each member bring to the band?

Well, being a Marxist, I'll focus on the socio-economic dynamics of the Dead Milkmen. I'll give you the alphabetical rundown:

Dave. One of the smartest people I ever met. Great at analyzing the hidden aspects of any news event (except when he was tripping. Then it was "Moonmen.Everywhere!"). He has a degree in Economics.

Dean. Just an all-around nice guy and instigator of trouble! "Hey, Rodney, you should piss in that trash can. No, I don't think those people'll call the cops - this is Texas." He has some sort of Art degree.

Joe. Joe is a genius. An evil genius. Joe smiles all the time, but that's only because he's inwardly amused at the folly and stupidity of others (whom he considers "somewhat less evolved" than himself.). He's also the kindest person alive. When we first moved just outside Philly we were both dirt poor. Someone broke into the house and stole about $200 out of my room (If you've ever worked as a male prostitute, you know how long.). Joe later replaced the money and left a note that was supposed to be from the person that stole it. It read something like, "I'm sorry that I took your money. I've found God. Here's your money back." He did this so that I wouldn't think it was him who replaced the cash. That way I wouldn't feel obligated to pay him back. At the time, Joe barely had enough money to eat. Joe has a degree in Radio, Television, and Film (Which I always found funny, since Joe never listens to the radio, watches TV, or goes to the movies.)

Me. I'm pretty much a dick. I don't know what the rest of the guys were thinking when they said "Rodney, you have the least amount of education of the four of us and, probably, the lowest IQ - why don't you be the lyricist." "Well," I said, "I don't wanna be no lyricist, but I will write the words."

Did you write music in the band as well as lyrics? If so, toss out some tunes you came up with - did your musical style differ from Joe's in any way?

Off the top of my head, I can think of "Wonderfully Colored Plastic War Toys". I wrote the music for that, but Joe wrote the words. Think that I wrote all of the words and music for "If You Love Somebody, Set Them On Fire". The truth is that I worked so closely with Joe that I have trouble saying who wrote what. When I was in Burn Witch Burn I thought about crediting Joe with some of the song writing since he's such an influence on my writing - that and the fact that I still owe him $200.

Did anybody ever take offense to the band name or the songs? Was there ever any violence against the band, or did everybody pretty much take it as a joke?

Well, Joe took the name of the band from "Song of Solomon" by Toni Morrison. So, when we hit it big, Toni wanted a piece of the action. We managed to fend her off, until she got in tight with Oprah. Have you ever seen Oprah when she's angry? She's like a charging bull. Steadman was nice, though. Very apologetic. I did get a letter once from the programming director at some college station who had banned us because he thought that Tiny Town was serious. I wrote him back explaining just what sarcasm was and how it worked. He wrote me back saying he didn't care, we were still banned. I wrote him back once more saying "Fuck you." It was not unlike the Julie Burchill / Camile Paglia Fax War. You can read about that here:

When you played shows with "serious" bands, did you ever experience any hostility or condescension from them because of your band's more humor-oriented attitude?

Most of the "serious" bands had grown up on The Dickies, The Pistols, The Ramones, etc. So they seemed to be OK with our "humor". Either that, or they just didn't understand us. Most musicians are notoriously stupid.

What was the "peak" of the Dead Milkmen's success? Was there a certain point you hit, a certain event, anything like that - that was the absolute HIGH point as far as... well you see what I'm asking.

The first time we ever played live on the radio ("Yesterday's Now Music Today" on WXPN). The next day, my mother called me and said "Son, your father wants to speak to you." I thought "Oh, shit. He's gonna kill me." But he told me that he was proud of me. That was the first time in 19 years that that had happened. After that, everything else was gravy.

Did you come to feel that you OWED your fans "humor"? Especially since your one departure (Soul Rotation) was critically panned? (Not by me though - I think it's really good!)

I thought we owed them the best album we could make. Our manager, conversely, thought that we owed them an album every six months. As for humor, I still think that some of the songs are actually very sad. They're about junkies, being broke, broke junkies, etc.

At one Dead Milkmen concert I attended, you introduced "I Hear Your Name" by saying that it was your favorite Dead Milkmen song of all time. Is that still the case? What are your favorite Milkmen tracks and albums? And conversely, are there any that you are particularly unhappy with as you look back?

I love just about everything that Joe sings. Except, of course, for that "Honey Jar" song on the Butterfly Joe CD. Bull-Fuckin'-Pukey! After the second album we made a lot of shit. "Sri Lanka Sex Hotel" Jesus, what was I thinking? The problem is that you find yourself in an endless cycle of touring and recording. I sincerely apologize to any of you who payed for any Dead Milkmen record recorded between 1986 and 1991.

You guys seem to still be on good terms. Do you think there's any chance of a reunion? If not, how come, damn you?

I hung out with Dean and Joe about two weeks ago. I haven't seen Dave in years. I always get asked about a possible reunion. My answer is this: I would love to do it, especially if we played some place large and FREE, like Clark Park. Joe and Dean have no desire, I'm sure, to waste their time on a Milkmen reunion, and I guess I really can't blame them. I don't know what Dave thinks. Dave what do you think? The problem is that any reunion would be a huge pain-in-the-ass. We'd have to relearn songs that we haven't played in ten years - all three chords! Plus, by law, we'd have to cover an Echo and the Bunnymen song.

How did you meet your wife? Was she a Dead Milkmen fan?

I met my wife at a Mikey Wilde / More Fiends show. If you don't know who Mikey Wilde or the More Fiends are then click here.

Yeah, it's that same Julie Burchill / Camile Paglia Fax War thing again. That shit cracks me up. Um, where was I? Oh, my wife. No she wasn't a Milkmen fan. In fact, she had no idea who I was, which is a good thing because she (and try to follow this, folks) was my ex-girlfriend's ex-boyfriend's ex-girlfriend. As my friend, Matt, used to say "If I saw that in a movie, I'd walk the fuck out."

How did Burn Witch Burn begin? And explain the concept behind your "American Gothic" approach.

I was getting bored with punk. I love the pentatonic scale, so I started playing Irish music (Although I prefer Gypsy music. Actually, I'm addicted to Gypsy music.). About this time, two wondrous things happened. One: I found out that my wife could sing and play the violin (I'd known her for a year before I made this discovery). Two: Vienna (my wife) and I ran into my old friend Bill Ferguson at a picnic. Bill is one of the most gifted musicians I've ever met. Bill said that he'd grown bored with the guitar and was concentrating on his mandolin playing. Burn Witch Burn was born a few weeks later.

Oh, the "American Gothic" thing. Well, I love gothic music, but I noticed that every goth bands seems to of."English". Look, folks, if you want REAL goth, then look to the hills of Appalachia. Much more frightening than the English moors.

Is Burn Witch Burn still an active project? If so, what's the latest? If not, are you working on any new musical projects?

Sadly, Burn Witch Burn is no more. We only made one CD (and contributed to the Jim Carroll comp.), but I'm very proud of it. It's like nothing else. And, for once, that's a good thing.

New music? I've done some solo stuff that I put up on the web, but mostly I just putter around the house babbling to myself.

So you're in the same town as Dancing Ferret Discs! Do you like a lot of their bands? When and how did this bigtime goth fandom thing start for you?

Dancing Ferret, ProjectFest, and Dracula's Ball. Philly is the greatest place on Earth. Patrick, of Dancing Ferret fame is great guy. As for his bands, I'm a fairly big Cruxshadows fan. I also like The Dreamside. Philly owes Patrick a huge debt. Or some hookers. I dunno.

The goth crowd has been very kind to me. Many of them grew up on the Milkmen. I took Joe to see Tapping the Vein and all these people were going "Wow, it's Joe!".

Like yourself, I'm a big Nick Cave fan. However, the bio "Bad Seed" paints a portrait of him as being extremely self-important and downright MEAN to a lot of people. I still love his music, but I don't like the IDEA of him as much now. Does a performer's personality affect your feelings towards his or her work, or do you feel that the two should be treated as separate?

"Love and Death" by Woody Allen is one of my favorite films. But the actual thought of Woody as a person makes my skin crawl. Legal or not, there are some lines that you just don't cross. Well, that's life in the Age of Irony (As Umberto Eco said to A.S. Byatt, "One can no longer say `I love you truly, madly, deeply.' You must say `As Barbara Courtland might say, "I love you truly, madly, deeply"'"). Hey, Martin Luther King cheated on his wife, but he's still the greatest private citizen that any country ever produced.

You experienced a serious illness recently. What exactly was it? How serious? Did it make you take stock or change your lifestyle at all?

My thyroid went berserk. I had to stay in bed for a month-and-a-half. Oh, and I lost the ability to reason for a while. I missed a bunch of really good shows, too. I kept saying to myself "When I get well, I'm going to be more productive." I ain't done shit.

Your web site! Discuss! Your motives, your hopes, your goals -- what does it mean to you?

My web site is called "Rodney Anonymous Tells You How To Live". It's loosely based on Oprah's magazine in the sense that it's a huge, pointless vanity project. It's located here:

But, by the time anyone reads this, it should've moved to

My hopes are that most of Philadelphia will check in with it at least once a week to find out what's going on. But I'd like it to grow into a huge site about books, and music, and politics. Most sites like that are Bullshit. So I'd like to avoid that. I'd like to feature interviews with authors, musicians, and politicians.and Ben Schumin (who? Click here:

You seem to be a big history buff. What is your favorite period of history and why?

The late 1700's through the early 1800's. You know, "The Age Of Enlightenment". Philadelphia was known as the "Athens of America" then - and it will be again. We definitely need another "Age Of Enlightenment".

Although your songs aren't very political, you always made lots of political comments during the concerts I attended. I'd love to hear your thoughts about the "great job" that our current President is doing.

Look, I'm all for hiring the retarded, but is President really the job for them. George W. Bush's administration gave 43 Million Dollars to the Taliban. Think about that.

Since we've failed to find bin Laden's body, we must now invade Iraq. Young men (as well as many women and children) will die so that we can take out Saddam Hussein (Whom we placed in power, by the way). And why? Because, as George W. said, "After all, this is the guy who tried to kill my dad." It's an old fashion Hillbilly feud! Is American foreign policy now based on the fuckin' Dukes of Hazzard?

And before any of you Democrats say "Yeah, you tell `em" I want you to know that I see no difference between the Democrats and the Republicans (I'm a Green). I really loved it when the Democratic and the Republican congressman got together to show their support for keeping "under God" in the pledge. Bunch of fucktards.

As I'm an obsessive NYC dweller and you are a Pennsylvania dweller, I'm curious to hear the sorts of things that went through YOUR head on September 11, 2001. What was your reaction?

I was in shock, so my first thought was "Well, they won't be releasing the Lord of the Rings trilogy." (The second book was titled "The Two Towers.") I know how awful that sounds, but crazy shit like that goes through your head. The day before, I'd explained all about what a bunch of assholes the Taliban were to a co-worker. When the planes hit the towers, he turned to me and said "Hey. Do you think those guys that you told me about yesterday were behind this?"

I read an older interview with you where you discussed your attitude towards Napster and file-sharing and, although I have never used any of those file-sharing services, I totally agreed with what you were saying. I was wondering if you could finish up the interview by briefly summarizing your feelings towards people like Metallica who complain that file-sharing is stealing their revenue.

I can sum up my feelings about Metallica and any other artists who are complaining about file-sharing in three words "Boo Fuckin' hoo." It costs about $5 to physically make a CD. Many "artists" then put two good songs and 10 tracks of filler material on that CD. The record companies charge $17 for the finished product (which they accurately refer to as "product".). I would stop downloading music tomorrow, if the record companies promised to take any profits they might gain and give the guys at the CD pressing plant more than the minimum wage that they're paying them right now.

As a musician, my job is to get is to get people to hear my music. Period. If you got into music to make money, you made a big mistake. I remember an interview with one idiot who actually said "Now I'll have to tour more often." My heart bleeds for you, dipshit. The average American will still work harder in a single day than you will in a month.

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