By alexander laurence
The Dirtbombs are really just Mick Collins. Collins (formerly a member of the influential band, The Gories) founded The Dirtbombs in the late Nineties and his distinct voice and guitar work are the cornerstone of their sound. The band has two drummers and two bass players, in addition to Collins. The Dirtbombs have a surprisingly diverse sound, from garage rock, punk, and glam, to classic soul and R&B. Mick Collins has helped to make it cool to be from Detroit. He is a mysterious figure and rarely gives interviews.
The Dirtbombs began putting out singles seven years ago. Their first album was Horndog Fest in 1998, which collected many of their singles. Following the release of Ultraglide in Black in 2001, The Dirtbombs gained international interest. They have played all over and have gained a large following.
With Dangerous Magical Noise the band has released their first classic. The album consists of mostly original tunes and shows a new direction for the band. I got to speak with Mick Collins in New York City right before their sold-out show at Bowery Ballroom. This is rock and roll at its finest. I was lucky to hang with one of the coolest guys in music. Check them out when they play near you!
AL: You have been touring all year?
Mick: This is the second leg of the tour. There are about four or five legs, I think. We are playing with The Sights for most of the tour. Up until January I think. We have played off and on all year. We have been on tour two weeks since the album came out.
AL: Have you played in Europe before?
Mick: Yeah. We are playing in Canada. We are going to England for a week. Then we are going to Europe for a few weeks early next year. They are all going to be big shows.
AL: Jim Diamond is not with you on this tour?
Mick: No. He is Australia producing an album. He'll be back when we go to Europe.
AL: What is the lineup like right now?
Mick: Ko from KO and The Knockouts is playing fuzz. Troy Gregory from The Witches is playing bass and taking over for Jim Diamond. We have had the same drummers for a few years now.
AL: What songs should people expect to hear?
Mick: The hits. We are not going to play every song off the new album. We are going to mix it up like we always do. We play some singles and some stuff from the earlier records. We play the new record and a few new songs that haven't been recorded yet. That sort of thing. We have been calling them out every night on this tour. We don't have a setlist before the show. We decided all that onstage.
AL: How did go about making the new record, Dangerous Magical Noise?
Mick: This was our pop record. The idea was we wanted to make a pop record. It's not the bubblegum record. I have been promising that for a few years. That is coming soon.
AL: How did you go about writing songs?
Mick: I listen to the radio and see what's happening. I wrote a bunch of songs that seemed that they should be on the radio. It's my band. I write some songs and we go into the studio to hear the songs.
AL: How do the songs start for you? Do you have a guitar part or some lyrics?
Mick: Yeah. It comes together. I get the song one way or another. I'll have a lyric line or a chord change. Maybe I'll have a guitar lick that I want to use. I'll write the song around that. When we have time to make an album, I'll teach them the song and we'll roll the tape.
AL: Jim Diamond's studio is pretty famous now. So many bands have recorded there now. Are most of the songs on this album live takes?
Mick: Just the drums really. Once they get the drums down, they will go home, and Jim and I will work on the album. We do all these albums the same way. I play all the guitars. I played a lot of the fuzz guitar on this record because we don't have a fuzz guitar player right now. Jim and I do it all now.
AL: What about some of these personnel changes?
Mick: Tom signed a record deal so he's not with us anymore. That is basically it. I have had this lineup for about four years now. People keep talking about "the revolving door." We had a group, and a stable lineup, but no one noticed. It's the Detroit way, for one person to be in a few different bands.
AL: We were just talking about the WFMU record fair that is going on this weekend. Do you collect a lot of vinyl?
Mick: Yeah. I am not going this year because I have to buy a car. I have get something more practical than records this year.
AL: Are there any records that you liked this year?
Mick: Nothing specifically.
AL: What about records from the past?
Mick: I really like the Ass Baboon and Venus record. On this tour we have been listening to the new Outkast record. I am having fun playing with The Sights. We also played with Whirlwind Heat earlier this year.
AL: What was it like playing the Siren Festival this past summer?
Mick: It's fun. But it's a big hassle because you are only on stage for thirty minutes. It takes about four hours of logistics just getting your stuff in and out of there. They work out for the better in the long run. Many people will come out to see you at a festival when they wouldn't go to see you at the club. We made a lot of new fans. The Siren Festival was actually organized very well.
AL: What do you think of this focus on Garage Rock in the past three years? Many of these bands that I have interviewed mentioned The Gories and The Dirtbombs are main influences on what they do. What do you think of this?
Mick: Most of them are not garage bands anyway. They don't sound like garage bands to me. They might think that they are garage bands, but it's not really my concern.
AL: How would you define "Garage Rock" or "Garage Bands?"
Mick: Most Garage Bands are really like 1960s punk bands. A real garage band is like a 1960s punk band heavily influenced by R&B. These bands nowadays calling themselves "Garage Bands" are not. They don't have it. They have vintage gear. They copied a bunch of Humble Pie riffs, and that's the extent of it. That isn't Garage. Television was not a garage band. They are an art rock band. Actually the Dirtbombs are more like Television than anything else.
AL: How did you involved in music?
Mick: I have been involved with music all my life. I have always been a music fan. I was in a jazz band in high school. I played trombone. I am the only musician in my entire extended family.
AL: What do your parents think about your music?
Mick: They don't. They know about it, but they really wish I stayed in IT.
AL: Do you have any hobbies outside of music?
Mick: I read a lot. I collect comic books. I like Grant Morrison. I like his work.
AL: Do you have any advice for people who want to start a band and are influenced by The Dirtbombs?
Mick: That would be a deathwish. Put your music online. Start playing shows.
AL: Do you like playing in New York City?
Mick: Yeah, I do actually. We were just talking about that in the van. I like playing New York City a lot, but I don't like doing stuff with the gear. I don't like traveling with the gear. If we could play different places and have the gear already there, and leave it all behind, that would be great.
AL: Do you have a lot of guitars?
Mick: Cheap ones. I can't afford real expensive ones. I would be afraid to take it onstage and breaking it. None of them cost more than one hundred dollars.
AL: How should people come prepared for the shows?
Mick: They should bring earplugs. We play for an hour.