By: Natu Tweh
Fest 16 was my first encounter with Daggermouth. I was working the stage security shift at 8 Seconds on Friday from Direct Hit’s set up to Banner Pilot’s set. I didn’t know what to expect, except a wild and loud show. I heard friends talk about Daggermouth and how excited they were to see them play together after so long. This shift was insane, and each act took the venue to new heights.
Daggermouth did not disappoint. They were the rowdiest set in my opinion, with so much energy flowing between the crowd and the stage. It was a pleasure to talk to guitarist Kenny Lush for this interview. From the stories he told me, I can tell that there is plenty still in store for the band.
How did you guys come together to form Daggermouth? I know Nick was in Playboy Assassin, you were in the Retreads.
The Retreads yeah. It was kind of like a pop punk band, it had members of the band The McKrackens in there. I don’t know if you ever keep up on your Vancouver history of pop punk, but like the McKrackens they dressed up as the ….. But they’ve been around since the early 90s’ and they’re legendary in certain circles! But yeah, I was in a band with them. Basically I was working in a CD store, kind of a shipping and receiving type deal, and I just knew Stu from the local music scene and he was playing in a screamo band at the time called End This Week With Knives.
Haha what!? That’s a stereotypical name.
It is! And at the time in the 2000s, at least in Vancouver, no one was playing fast anymore. Like every band had swoop hair, metal chords, shit like that. So one day Stu came to my work and he was like, “I wanna start a fast punk rock band, you wanna do it with me?” And I was like sure. And he said, ” I already got the name picked out. It’s either gonna be Stewie’s Sexy Party, or Daggermouth!” I’m glad we chose Daggermouth!That’s kind of how we started. We had our friend JJ who plays on the Stallone record, we got him drumming and Dana was a friend of ours. At the time Dana was really young he was like … I don’t even think he was 19 yet.
Yeah he was a kid. We got him playing bass, and for our first couple of actual shows, Nick wasn’t even the singer. We had this guy named Ron Lo who played in a Kid Dynamitey, Jawbreaker kind of band, they were called Sunset on Broadway. We had him singing for the first few shows, but when it came time to recording — You know when someone is not fully into it? We would be talking and saying, “We should do a tour!” But everyone has a real life, like I think now he has multiple businesses. That’s probably because he didn’t go on tour when he was younger! But yeah, we did those shows with Ron, and after that we had everything recorded for our demo. That’s kind of how everything came together.
Wow. Then Daggermouth forms, 2004 to 2008. Stallone…
Yeah nothing was ever done easy. The label that put Stallone out, Feeding Fish Frenzy under Derrick ended up like — he was from Seattle or Tacoma. He said, “Hey I’m starting a label, do you wanna be my first release?” And we were like yeah that sounds cool! I can’t believe someone wants to put our shit out! So, we ended up doing a CD with him, and then he did the pre-order and didn’t send any albums out or anything! And then he just like skipped town, and last I heard he’s like a rave kid now or a DJ somewhere I think in Texas or something.
So yeah, luckily Dale had a few boxes of CD’s in his closet and he was like, “Here you can have ’em.” Of course you also had a ton of people writing “I didn’t get my CD’s!” Had to start mailing those out, sending those out. Then eventually we found another label, and they put it out for us. We had that, and then we put out Turf Wars. We had about … A million member changes in between the two.
And then boom! Here we are. I remember at the last Fest you mentioned that you had a pen pal in Gainesville and he was sending you stuff from here. You said you were in the middle of nowhere of Vancouver —
Yeah I actually grew up in … It’s actually a 7 hour drive north of Vancouver. It’s a small town called 100 Mile House. It’s like a total, hillbilly fucking kind of town. I like going up there now, it’s really beautiful now. But when you’re a kid growing up there, and you’re the only kid into punk rock and shit like that, it’s real hard. One thing I got, one of those uh, I think I got a Hot Water Music vinyl or something like that. It was Finding the Rhythms, it was like the first pressing on like a couple hundred copies or something. I bought that when I was a kid, and in it it had the No Idea mail order. Like get a catalog, blah blah blah. But the guy, Var I think is his name, I would write him all the time.
Whenever I would get allowance from the parents, or when I got paid because I had a job washing dishes at the local Chinese food restaurant. You know how every small town needs to have that weird Chinese food restaurant. I used to work there after school washing dishes, and I would get money and go to the bank and turn it into Canadian money. That would be like, 50 U.S. dollars and I would send it to Var in Gainesville and be like “Um I really like White Flag and blah blah blah. If you could send me some records that sound like that.” Over the years, you know he always sent me something cool, like an I Hate Myself vinyl and stuff like that. So yeah it was cool to play The Fest and No Idea Records has kind of helped shape who I’ve become over the years so that was really cool to play The Fest finally.
Mhm, it was a rad set. It was so exciting, such a great time.
Yeah man! It’s weird too because it’s not like we were … I never considered us a big band or anything you know what I mean? And we walk in there and they have us playing at like a thousand seat venue or whatever at 8 Seconds and I was like oh my god. This is going to be empty. And there were some awesome bands in that lineup, like I think Red City Radio played right before us and I was thinking that no one was going to stick around for us. Snapcase was also playing right down the road at the same time or right before us, and I was like I don’t even want to be here playing! I want to be watching Snapcase! But then we fucking went off and it was a really fun show.
I’m glad to hear that! I’m also really glad to hear that y’all are coming back!
Yeah I’m stoked to be playing the High Dive this year. Something a little smaller, a little less nerve-wracking!
It’ll help you keep your cool a lot better! It is a smaller venue but it is a nice venue too. Going on, y’all went on hiatus and broke up around 2008 —
Yeah it was around the end of 2008 or the beginning, or at the beginning of 2009 or something but everything was just falling apart. Like at this point we were on our 10th bass player who lived in New York. We were just at wit’s end. The last year or two we were a band were on the road for basically eight months a year I think. At that point more and more stuff was piling on. Stu couldn’t stand me, and I couldn’t stand Stu. I think Nick mentally at this point was just checked out of it. It was rough because it was like, we were at that point where if we keep working at it we could get a decent label looking at us.Even before we broke up, I know that we had a couple of labels reach out to us about putting out a new record with them, so who knows. We could’ve been the next Paramore or something you know!? But then it all went to shit, and 10 years later we’re back at it.
And that time, that 10 year gap without Daggermouth, what was that like for you? Because I know you went back into wrestling, some members went into other bands. After being with Daggermouth for so long, as you said up to eight months touring. After ending all of that, what was that like?
Honestly, it’s like breaking up with a long-term girlfriend that you’re in love with. This band has always been like me really doing — I don’t want to say I do everything or whatever know what I mean? Stu is a hell of a songwriter, and everyone has their part they do extremely well. But Daggermouth has always been like … I’ll wake up in the morning, I’ll check my email, I’ll do mail outs then I’ll go to work and come home and do more Daggermouth stuff. So when finally it ended I was just like, “Man I don’t know really what the fuck I’m going to do.” Like Dan Don the drummer was trying to you know, because we had tours coming up and he’s like “Let’s get another singer, and we can get some other guys and we can keep going.” At the point the band was checked out a bit. Because we were on the road all the time I was always reading wrestling biographies and stuff like that because I was really starting to miss the pro wrestling scene and all that. I wanted to go back to the gym, lose the belly and try to get back into pro wrestling. So I did that.
But it was like breaking up with a girlfriend. I probably didn’t talk to Stu for years. I didn’t talk to Dan Don, the drummer for a couple of years either. I still haven’t really talked to Dana over the years. I’m sure it’s not due to hate or anything, it’s just how it is you know? He’s moved on in life. But yeah it was just kind of weird. Putting all your eggs into one basket and then oh. All of a sudden I don’t have anymore eggs!
Yeah they’re just gone out of nowhere man! So how was it to get back into wrestling after all of that?
It was hard to get back in, but luckily I was still young. I think I was 28 when I got back into it. I trained when I was 19. I did wrestle from when I was 19 to about 22 or 23 and then Daggermouth started and I didn’t wrestle anymore. But then I went back into it and it was hard. Definitely taking the bumps and all that shit to get used to it again was hard. Luckily at 28, my body was still good. Nowadays I do one match and I’ll be royally fucked for like two days. But it was good! I think my time away from Daggermouth, and wrestling and stuff has helped the band in little ways too. I used to be always really worried. One time we got on to this tour in the U.K. and I was worrying. Like it seemed so far and so scary to just hop on a plane and not know what was going on. Then over the years I would get an email in like broken English like, “You please come Korea?”And I’m like yeah sure, when?“This day, this day, this is the money.” Okay sure!
Literally one time … I’ve been to Korea on five tours now wrestling, but the very first time I went, they didn’t send me my plane ticket until literally the morning of. I woke up and I was like, let’s see if I’m going to Korea! Oh shit, they sent the plane ticket! It’s helped me learn to roll with the punches and blah blah blah. I actually just did a tour of Hokkaido, Japan for two and a half weeks in July and that was a really cool opportunity.
Yeah it was really different like I’ve been to Tokyo a few times but Hokkaido is not the Japan that you think of. There’s like small towns, and no one was around it was so weird. There were like these ghost towns and you can’t see anyone! Like the only thing that’s open is a 7-Eleven or other convenience store. No one was around, and then all of a sudden doors would open for this show and then 300 people in a town of 600 people would show up. Where the fuck are all these people coming from!? The best part is that at the end of the show, they all picked their chair up, folded their chair up and put it away. They’re all super polite and help clean up, and then after the show it’s a ghost town again like where the fuck did everyone come from?
I can’t imagine that. People picking up their stuff after a punk show?
[Laughter] Just imagine if at the end of every punk show, if someone just picked up one can of beer on the way out. You know what I mean? Just keep it clean!
We can dream! So, did everyone feel a need to come back together? How did Daggermouth come back to play?
Well, I know Dan Don is probably the main dude behind it. Like over the years, he would be like “Hey do you want to,” — I know that at one point Slam Dunk offered us some money to get back together and play Slam Dunk Fest in the U.K. years ago. We were all, like fuck that. If Nick didn’t want to do it — Nick is the singer right? And we were like if the singer doesn’t want to do it that’s stupid. And then at one point we got offered a tour through Indonesia or somewhere like that. And we were like well if Nick doesn’t want to do it then we’re not doing it without Nick singing. And then Stu and Dana, the bass player who is playing with us now, who is also the bass player on the Stallone album. They started a band called Youth Decay, and Stu was singing in that. Stu has a rad voice and everything, and then we finally got off of Pouzza Fest in Montreal last year. At that point we had all started talking to each other and hanging out. Dan Don’s other band Elder Abuse would come to town and we would hang out and see ’em. I stopped holding grudges and I’m sure Stu stopped holding grudges too. Like we’re all buds, like we’re all brothers and have known each other for a couple of years. At that point Stu Ross who plays in Comeback Kid, he’s in Youth Decay too, was like “You guys should do it, just ask Stu”.And Stu [McKillop] was like “You know I don’t want to play guitar anymore, I just like singing.”
So we had a jam and tried it all out. Stu Ross said he would play second guitar, and yeah that’s how that all happened. That Pouzza Fest thing and then Stu Ross wanting to play guitar. We’ve had a lot of rotations over the years and in the past but now we finally have a solid rotation and it’s been going good. I didn’t really know what to expect with the whole new singer thing but all the things I’ve read have been really positive. It’s not like we found some jabroni to sing. Stu [McKillop] basically wrote most of the melodies, and he’s an engineer he has a studio in Vancouver called Rain City Studios or whatever, and he just recorded the new Comeback Kid and the new Living with Lions. It’s been sweet so far and I can’t complain. Looking to get down to Florida a little earlier this year. Get a vacation, that’s the plan.
Oh definitely that’s the plan. Get a little vacation in before it’s time to play.
Oh yeah! You know I was expecting Jawbreaker to play, but they aren’t sadly. If they were playing, we’d probably be lined up at the same time as them. Like, the band I’m really stoked to see this year is the Lawrence Arms but we’re playing at the same time as they are!Hopefully they play a mystery set or do something else.
They might. Who else are you excited to see?
I really want to see Spanish Love Songs. They’re great and I think they’re going to blow up huge. I know they’re playing the same day as us but like super early too. I know they’re going to be awesome but it’s so early. I don’t really get to see Piebald. I really loved Piebald when I was a kid. Then their last album that they put out, I wasn’t a giant fan of but I’m pretty stoked to see them and I’m pretty sure they’ll play all the hits and faves. The Get Up Kids are playing too this year right?
Yes they are.
Damn I really hope they just play Four Minute Mile front to back and make me a happy man, but that’s not going to happen.
Hey, fingers crossed!
You know it’s kind of funny like, nothing against bands like that, Get Up Kids have evolved so much and I remember seeing them play in like 1997 or 1998. 20 years ago. They’ve been a band forever right? You start to expect people to just keep playing the same shit over and over and over and the same style, but they’ve really evolved. For Four Minute Mile, I remember reading interviews where they were like “Ah sounds like crap.” But that was a staple of my youth. I love that fucking album so much. Like there are certain albums that have changed how things go, and I honestly think that 24 Hour Revenge Therapy is one of those albums. I really think Jersey’s Best Dancers is one of those albums, and I think Four Minute Mile is one of those albums too you know? Where the band puts it out and they’re like, “This is it! This is the record!” Every road trip I will still listen to those three records over and over.
I feel that. Some albums you still can’t put down after listening to them for who knows how long. Also, Spanish Love Songs go on at 12:50pm on Saturday.
Yeah so early! I’m going to have to roll out of bed, grab some Taco Bell and down a Four Loko on the walk over. Gotta start the day early.
That’ll be a great day. So one of the last things I want to ask. Y’all recently put out a song, Ramen Noodle Doodle, your first new song in about 10 years. What was it like going through and putting out that new track?
It was easy, like I was just strumming a riff I had. Whenever one of us has an idea we put it in this Facebook group chat we have going on. Which most of the time is full of stupid jokes, but Stu will throw a riff down and I’ll throw a riff down. We were just kind of jamming — usually what happens is Dan Don will fly in to Vancouver and we’ll have a practice. So we jam around and say let’s work on that. Then the next time we jam we work on something else. We were flying to Newfoundland to do a show, like super far in east Canada as you can get. We were up at six in the morning, or eight around then, and Dan Don came in to jam so we could practice that day. And then we were like, “No one is in the studio, so let’s record the drum track for that new song.” We recorded it and for the following months I would go over to Stu’s [McKillop], he has a home studio and we finished it up there. We’re actually working on an EP slowly but surely because Stu is a busy boy. He masters albums and he’s recording, so he can’t focus on recording just our stuff. But we’re kind of doing it. The drums are done and my guitars are done, so it’s going slowly. Its just hard because Stu will have one day off in a month. So it’s getting there and we’re hoping by early New Year. We’ll have it recorded and then we’ll send it around and see if someone wants to do a 7-inch of it or something like that.
That’s great! I’m excited to hear all that.
Yeah we’re doing that and like, The Get Up Kids sing sometimes people are like, “Well you guys must be listening to different music now that it’s 10 years later, what can we expect from the new songs?” And I’m like uh I don’t know, something from 2005? And you might have changed but I still wear the same clothes I did back in like 2002. I listen to the same music too. You’re not going to have Daggermouth show up wearing dad hats and like a scarf and playing everything through a chorus pedal. It’s kind of funny because there was a period after we broke up that a lot of bands, that were doing really really good, said that we were an influence. Now their styles are slowly changing and stuff like that. I think now more than ever is a good time to just put out a fast pop-punk album. Nothing against anyone, like even the new The Story So Far, I love The Story So Far. The new songs they’ve played, it’s been like a big change and I’m just thinking … I never want to change! I just want to play fast.
On the topic of influence and how you’ve said that bands have cited Daggermouth as their influence. I’ve heard Daggermouth being called a legendary pop-punk band. How does it feel to be considered legends by some today?
It’s definitely weird. It makes me nervous not to put on a shitty show for sure. To go back to wrestling, there are legends like Hulk Hogan, Steve Austin and The Rock. They are legends and are living in mansions and living comfortably. Then you have legends like Sabu, from ECW. He is like one of my favorite wrestlers. He is a legend, and he is living out of a car last I heard. That’s what I think of when I hear legends! When people call us legends, I’m like we’re not The Rock! We’re banged up old men crawling into the venue. Someone told me there was this band, I never really listened to them but their name is Neck Deep. Someone was telling me that when they first started, they were playing Daggermouth covers for the first while that they were a band. It blows my mind, because last time they came to Vancouver they played like a 2,000 seat venue. It was crazy. I’m stoked that a band that’s doing well is influenced by —
Something you had a part in.
Yeah something I had a part in. Something that I got high for and came up with stupid song titles, like The Verbal Uzi. Our song titles were so dumb and we were high when we came up with them. I can’t believe they influenced anyone, let alone some of these bands that have become successful now. I’m waiting for one of these fucking bands that are going at it to throw the olive branch out and bring us along on tour or something. Give us an opener or some dates in a country that’s nice and sunny!
Oh it’s gonna happen. Give it like two years and you’ll be out there in a mansion somewhere sunny.
I’ll probably be in their mansion sleeping on the floor, like yeah I can sleep good for the night!
Well that rounds out this interview. Any last words you’d like to say?
If you don’t want to see the Lawrence Arms then please come watch Daggermouth play at Fest!