Interview: Descendents

Published in Drum Media (WA) | 17.01.13 | Issue # 321


It’s still a few more weeks until Descendents touch down in Perth for their first appearance in the city, but Daniel Cribb finds guitarist Stephen Egerton sunbaking and boogie boarding at Cottosloe beach.

Without a mop of hair to hide under, there’s no mistaking the recognisable Stephen Egerton. But a Descendents fan taking a leisurely stroll along the WA coastline a month out from the band’s first ever show in Perth would probably dismiss their idol as an incredible lookalike. After all, what on earth would one of punk rock’s most influential guitarists be doing in the state weeks before the show?

“[My wife] grew up here and she lived here until she was 11 and then moved to the States,” Egerton tells. “We try to come [to Perth] every two years. You know, like, Descendents came over to Australia two years ago and we sorted of added our last trip to that. The funny this is, I come here, and I never go to shows or anything – I actually know nothing about the music scene here, because when I’m here I’m quite disconnected from my normal music life. I’m in a completely different mindset.”

It was indeed in 2010 when Descendents, after being a band for 32 years, announced their first-ever Australian tour. But though Egerton ventured to Perth, the rest of the band flew home after the Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane legs of the No Sleep Til festival due to frontman Milo Aukerman’s time-consuming and demanding work commitments as a biochemist.

East Coast fans were in disbelief when the band announced they were making that trip in 2010, and, at that point, the thought of a headline tour two years later was an unfathomable concept – the fact that Perth made it into the schedule was even more surprising. “Three of the four of us have families. We had to sort of get our kids up to an age where we were able to get back to playing some shows. Also, all of our kids were like, ‘What’s the deal?’ They took some interest in what we had done and were like, ‘Well, you guys were in this band, are we ever going to see you play?’ It was actually No Sleep Til who were the first people to come say, ‘Hey, why don’t you come and play, because you’ve never been to Australia?’ and that coincided with our drummer, [Bill Stevenson], having some very major health issues a few years back, so we were glad that he was alive and we were talking a lot.”

Another element that saw Descendents on and off hiatus over the years was Aukerman’s work commitments. Well, Aukeman grew up, went to college, and finally, after dealing with everything that sucked in-between, got a promotion. “I don’t think that it had occurred to Milo, or any of us, that we could [do short tours], because we had always toured in one way – months on end,” Egerton explains. “There was really no precedence for us doing weekend fly-in kind of shows. That was just something that we never really considered, and Milo was doing his work thing. Now he’s more in an administrative role, in a way… he can shift his schedule around a little bit.”

Before heading into the Indian Ocean, Egerton delivers a quick update on the next Descendents record. “There’s an expectation amongst all of us that we will do another one. What we haven’t been able to do is really commit to any real timeframe for it because everybody is working, and we’re going to have to fit this in. It’s not like we can all just take two months off and go play and rehearse. Karl and Bill live in the same city, so they’re writing songs, and Bill can facilitate demos for those songs, I can do them on my own in my studio, and Milo has stuff in his house now. So everybody’s writing a lot right now and everybody’s got a fair amount of songs – there’s probably close to enough to make a record, and we definitely want to do one, but we can’t really nail a timeline… I’d like to think it could come out some time this year, so it’ll be our normal nine-year cycle that we like to do,” he laughs.

Daniel Cribb

Drum Perth (Jan 17, 2013)