The Descendents Resume Their Quest For ALL

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

At forty-seven years old – after a few twists, turns and significant health concerns – Descendents drummer Bill Stevenson is happy to report that he's in the shape of his life – a fact that will come as no small relief to those who are aware of the events that took place over the last two years. “The one really big event that I've had happen in the last couple of years is that I got very, very ill – extremely ill,” says the drummer as he begins his chronicle of a journey that took him to the brink and back. “I found out that I had a brain tumor and had neurosurgery to have it removed.

“The neurosurgery was pretty scary,” continues the drummer. “I mean, they sawed my head open and then bolted it back together with titanium plates so some of my acute memories over the last three or four years are still re-building themselves – but my recovery has been nothing short of miraculous; in an eighteen-month period, I went from being forty-five going on seventy to forty-seven going on twenty. This brain tumor that they removed last June was really killing me slowly – but it wasn't carcinogenic [Stevenson was diagnosed with a benign meningioma –ed] so once they got it out of there, I snapped back but, not only did I snap back, it's like I got twenty years younger! It's so crazy!”

Such news would be exciting for anybody, but the added benefit in this case is that the cancer scare pushed the members of the Descendents to get on track and seize both the day and their careers. For the first time in over five years, the band has begun taking on more live performance opportunities than they have in years and, to the band's surprise, have been very warmly received. “When I got my diagnosis, we all kind of got huddled up around each other because I almost died two years ago,“ explains Stevenson. “Because of that, we were all in closer-than-normal communication and then, when I didn't die, we were all so stoked that the next offer we got for shows [which was in Australia –ed] we just took right it right up. I called Milo [Descendents singer Milo Aukerman –ed] to see if he'd be interested and he said, 'Yeah – let's do it! I mean, we might not be around next year, let's do it! Let's play some shows!' We had the Australia thing booked but then out of nowhere we got an offer to play in Devo's place because one of the guys in Devo had injured themselves and so, on nine days notice, and so that was the first show we played in however many years because it came out of nowhere, quickly. I don't know how they thought of us for that one; I guess maybe they thought, 'Okay, who's the 'other' most nerdy band we know? Okay, let's get Descendents to do it!' So we practiced for that really quickly and figured, 'Well, we're probably going to suck, but we'll do our best,' and we played – and we had so much fun the crowd just gave us so much energy that it was just like, 'Wow! This is so cool! These people really, really appreciate what we're doing!' You could see it in their faces! We had such a good time, and Milo and I just talked the whole day about it. We decided that all we needed to do if we wanted to hang out together again was book shows because we don't live in the same state anymore, but he's been my best friend since we were kids. So it was like, 'Duh! If we want to see each other, let's just book some shows and we'll get to hang out!' So now we get to hang out once a month. It's really fun that way, and I think we surprised ourselves when we filled in for Devo – we were really excited after that, saying, 'Wow! That went really well! We kicked butt, everyone liked it and we had fun, let's do more of that!'

Such a glowing reception has come as a pretty significant surprise to Stevenson, but he's certainly most  appreciative. He even goes so far as to say that he finds it validating when he goes onstage to perform for crowds which are exponentially larger now than they were when the band was trying to break out in the Eighties. “See, it's really great to see these crowds, because we've even written several songs about how tiny of a band we are,” laughs the drummer. “The song “Descendents” has a line in it that goes, 'The proud, the few Descendents, rockin' alone tonight,' because we really did used to play to nobody, and then it also says, 'couldn't sell out a telephone booth.' We also have our song, “Hurtin' Crue,” which is about this show we played in Lincoln, Nebraska, and nobody came! The only people there were the opening band – this cover band – and their girlfriends; those were the only people at the show. So yeah – it is kind of novel to be playing these massive shows. Usually what happens – and it happens the same way every night – is we go out onstage, I get behind the drums and Milo goes up front and then he looks back at me and says, 'What?!' and I'm like, 'I know! What?!, right?' because there's just this sea of people! [laughing] Then we start playing.”

With the excitement in the band rekindled and the shows going well, the next most obvious order of business would usually be to record another album but, according to Stevenson, the band isn't quite ready to re-enter the studio just yet. In their thirty-three-year history, the band has never rushed blindly into the studio until a batch of new songs has been hammered flat, and that sort of quality control remains strictly enforced – although they haven't ruled out the possibility entirely. “We haven't gotten that far yet, but it seems like we're having a good enough time that I could see us actually stumbling our way into some recordings,” hints Stevenson when asked about the possibility of a new Descendents record. “With us it usually starts with some exchange of songs because, with Descendents, it's four songwriters – it's not one or two guys – so nothing really happens until every member comes forward with two or three songs that make the other's go, 'Whoa! Those are rad, let's record those!' Otherwise it's just outside talk like 'The Descendents should make another album…' No, The Descendents shouldn't just make an album, does the world really need a tenth Descendents album? No – The Descendents should only make another album if they've got kick-ass songs! We'll get to it, but we're not there yet.”


Further Reading:

Hey! Rotate This. 018. – "The Rest Of The Story With Bill Stevenson."

In addition to being confirmed to perform at NXNE music conference, The Descendents have a few other select dates set for this year. Go here for the list. 

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