I wrote a few words about Tony Sly my first of many encounters with one of my heroes. I had not seen Tony in years, but we had been in contact a year or so back, trying to get him to come play some shows in Colorado.
I reached out to him on facebook a while back, but sadly got no reply. I got to his personal facebook page and it says to me: “Friend Request Sent.”
I am saddened that Tony will never be on my show, but I’m honored to have met him, once upon a time.
“Making Friends” was the soundtrack to summer the very same year I graduated high school and decided not to go to college. I was 17 years old. I had found NO USE FOR A NAME, the same way many of us had thanks to the Survival of the Fattest compilation from Fat Wreck Chords.
I was immediately attracted to the anger and humanity reflected through NUFAN’s songs. Listening to it now, it’s hits me in the same way. It makes me move. It makes it okay to have felt the way I did as a confused little teenager trying to find his place in the world.
In those late teenage years in Shreveport, I found myself helping to write and run a small punk rock/hacker zine called, KGB PROPAGANDA. Thanks to the early days of the internet, I found it was really easy to email your favorite record label and ask for interviews with your favorite musicians! Fat Wreck chords were by far the easiest and most willing to let little old me ask musicians dumb questions. They set us up with TILT, GOOD RIDDANCE, THE ATARIS all in a relatively short time. My heart about stopped when they approved my interview with Tony Sly and NO USE FOR A NAME.
I interviewed Tony Sly not long after the release of “More Betterness” in October of 1999. No Use was playing the main support for the Dance Hall Crashers / Limp tour. I climbed in the car with a stranger I had met through the local punk rock chat board I ran. We quietly made the three hour trek to Dallas, Texas.
I was nervous. I had only at this point interviewed three or four bands at this point. I didn’t have a clue what to expect. I made it all the way to the door of the venue to find out that I was not on the guest list as promised. I walked away defeated, but only to encounter a familiar looking guy wearing a tour laminate. I walked up to the young man and shyly asked if he knew where any of the No Use For a Name guys where. To my embarrassment, I was talking to Tony Sly.
He was nice and it didn’t seem to bother him that the kid who was there to interview him, had no clue what the hell he looked like. (It was the early days of the internet.. and photos were not as readily available and I was, just barely 18.) We chit chatted for a short little time, and we decided we would do the interview after the show. Their tour manager at the time got my information and went and put my name on the guest list. I got back in the line and waited again, for what must have felt like hours….
I got myself on the guest list thanks to the Tour Manager who had to rip the box office young lady a new one. I made it in and the show was great. I followed Tony outside after their set where I climbed into their RV. We drove a few blocks around the Deep Ellum area of Dallas, so the band could load out their gear. I WAS IN THEIR VAN TRAVELING AROUND DALLAS! The little girl in me SQUEED!
I remember Tony offering me a beer, but I was 18 years old and straight edge at the time (who’da thunk, right?) He offered me his half drunk Sprite, but I declined.
I remember being totally at ease during the interview. I remember feeling very welcomed by Tony, and then later Rory and their then brand new guitarist Dave. There I was on one of my favorite band’s RVs! WOW! It was one of the greatest moments in my young 18 year old life.
During that interview, I learned a lot more about doing interviews. I learned follow up questions. I learned to listen and be yourself. Tony made me feel at ease. Also, he taught me to respect women, and not be too excited when they take off their shirts at concerts.
It was made even better after the tape recorder stopped and Tony and the guys proceeded to load me up with goodies. I got a few free t-shirts, I got a TON of free stickers, posters and other goodies. I’ve managed to hold onto them through out the years, but my prize gift from that night was a ACT II Halloween Popcorn ball. Tony wanted to give it to me as a snack for the long, three hour ride back home.
Needless to say, that popcorn ball still sits unwrapped on a shelf in my apartment. Many guest ask me with bewilderment why I have a 13 year old Popcorn ball sitting on my shelf, and I always retell this story with great joy.
Still after all these years and all these interviews later, I find myself reminiscing about that faithful night in Dallas. I still have the tour poster and autographed CD booklet. I still often wear my NUFAN hoodie that was purchased that night.
I look back and I wonder, If those guys had not been the nicest guys in the world, and so welcoming to a young, dumb kid such as myself… Would I have stuck with it? Would I have kept interviewing bands, and later booking shows, tour managing or once again interviewing bands again? I don’t know.
I do know that moment with Tony Sly helped set me down a path that I’m on today. I was elated to jump off that RV with all those goodies. The real reason I even started interviewing bands, was so I could meet my heroes. I could join them and maybe one day be one of them. And here I was in Dallas, Texas; treated like an equal, friend, part of the family.
Here is that interview we did that faithful night in October. I remember thinking, “This is all I ever want to do.” Thanks to you Tony, I’ve tried to make that happen.
Thank you Tony for being so amazing and inspiring.
In the short time I’ve been doing interviews and working for KGB, I’ve done quite a few interviews and met quite a few bands. The night I met No Use For a Name will be one of the memories that I carry with me forever. The guys in NUFAN are the most down to earth, coolest guys that I met. They took me into their Van and let me hang out and interview the guys. Even after the interview was said and done, the guys didn’t kick me out of the van, It was quite the opposite, they wouldn’t let me leave! I would really like to thank Tony Sly making my day, and I’d also Like to think Russ A.K.A. Sgt. Mohawk for taking me to the show. With out you Russ, this excellent interview may have never taken place. If you guys have not done so already go check out MORE BETTERNESS out now on Fat Wreck Chords.
Damian: Now your new album, More Betterness, came out last week, How has the fan response been?
Tony: Really good. We actually put up a message board thing on out new website, Nouseforaname.com, and Its been good. And Like the first day, we got over like one hundred messages saying how much they liked the album and everything.
Damian: Now I heard it was originally going to be called “Endless Bummer.” What happened to that?
Tony: Actually it went stale because it was a parody name of the Beach Boy’s Endless Summer, you know, the soundtrack to the movie? It just got a little stale because it was a parody and we all decided it sounded more like a Weird Al Yankovich album instead of a No Use For A Name album, so we changed it.
Damian: What, do you not like Weird Al?
Tony: No, I love weird Al. Its just we’re not Weird Al.
Damian: Well to me the new album seems a little bit slower, a lot more emotional than the previous albums. Any reason for the change?
Tony: I think it is just the way, cause I wrote all the songs, ya know? Its just the way I was feeling at the time, so. I mean, I wasn’t feeling slow, but I was feeling pretty emotional about some things. So the lyrical content, It that’s what you mean, tends to lead towards the emotional side of things.
Damian: How did Cinder Block become involved on the “Fairytale of New York” track?
Tony: Well she has a great voice and I thought she was perfect for the song. So we had her come and do it. It was that simple. She is a good friend. She has a great voice.
Damian: They were just here a few days ago and I asked her how she felt being on the last two albums, for some odd reason I thought what’s-her-name from Dance Hall Crashers was her… Anyways. Where is that song originally from?
Tony: Oh the Pogues. How did she feel about singing on the new album?
Damian: She liked it. She said it was really cool and she enjoyed it and she liked the way it turned out. The other guys in the band said some real good things about you guys.
Tony: We’re going to Europe with them in a few weeks.
Damian: Yea, how come your not on tour with them now? They are just a little bit ahead of you…
Tony: I don’t know. I guess we were doing this tour first.
Damian: There’s a sound bite on the new record that people have been asking about. It says, Go! or something like that.
Tony: Oh yea. That’s this famous soccer announcer. His name is Garious Gaytour [Spelling of this is more than likely wrong.] He’s from Mexico. That game was from the ’94 World Cup and that was him announcing a goal at the beginning. A couple of us are big soccer fans. So we decided that would be kind of cool. I play soccer on a soccer team at home.
Damian: Really? What’s it called?
Tony: Its called Sunnyvale FCC. [Also this is more than likely wrong spelling or interpretation.]
Damian: Are you any good?
Tony: Um, No. I’m a bench warmer.
Damian: What’s your position when you do play?
Tony: Yea. Strike.
Damian: Somebody told me it was Ian McKaye on the sound bite.
Tony: Oh, but there is an Ian McKaye sound bite on there. Yea, Right before the song “Lives Can’t Pretend.” There’s a guy going, “GO! Yes Go!”
Damian: Oh. Yea. That’s what I was talking about. I got mixed up.
Tony: The beginning of the album is the Mexican soccer announcer, but the thing before “Lives Can’t Pretend” is Ian mcKaye. Its taken from their album right before a song on their album.
Damian: Now I’m not going to ask to many Foo Fighters questions. I’m sure ya’ll are tired of it.
Tony: Actually. Surprisingly, not that many people have asked.
Damian: Really? I expected a shit load of people.
Tony: Me too! The first week it happened we got a lot of phone interviews about it, but after that, seriously I think that people think the same things and maybe they just go, you know, “what are they going to say? What can you say about it?” It sucks, but it doesn’t suck, ya know? – I’ll answer the question for you, even thought you didn’t ask it yet.
Damian: Oh that’s cool. You can keep going.
Tony: Okay. Its unfortunate that Chris left the band because Chris was a good friend but Dave out new guitar player, is, I think he is phenomenal. We really like his style of playing and he fits in the band super good and he’s such a cool guy to be with.
Damian: Well that answers one of my questions. Is the new guitar player staying?
Tony: Yea It seems that way. It looks that way, I mean he is like, he loves the band. He’s totally stoked on No Use For a Name. he listens to our CDs all the time. Well mainly because he’s learning all our stuff, but he wants to know every song that we have. He’s great, and super into it. Its nice to have a breath of fresh air in the band.
Damian: Alright, um, back to the Foo Fighters thing. Your name has been on everywhere from MTV to radio. Has this been helping ya’ll? Is it bringing more people to your shows?
Tony: Well I don’t know. We haven’t been headlining these shows, but we have been doing really, really, good on these shows. We’ve been selling more T-shirts and CDs than ever on this tour. I don’t know if that’s it or if its the hype of the new record or if its just whatever. I don’t know if people like the color of our t-shirts or something. I don’t know what it is. We’re certainly doing better. Things are on the up and up right now. I don’t know if its due because of that, but any press is good press.
Damian: Well I know a lot of people in the club came just to see NUFAN and left as soon as you guys left the stage. Do you like that? or is that bad?
Tony: That’s been happening every night of this tour. Its cool, It sucks. The Dance Hall Crashers are good friends of mine, but you have to understand that its 2 totally different crowds. Kids who come to see us, I don’t think want to dance around to Ska songs. Well some do. But a lot of them don’t and lot of the kids who come to see them don’t want to sit through some punk band either. There were a lot of people in the back that were just waiting to see the Dance Hall Crashers, too at the same time. Its a good mixture of two different types of crowds and I think it benefits both bands pretty well.
Damian: So how long have ya’ll been out on this tour?
Tony: Almost five weeks.
Damian: Five weeks and then three more days left for this part?
Damian: Where to after that?
Tony: Europe for five weeks.
Damian: Is that the Fat Wreck Chords tour?
Tony: Yes. Yes.
Damian: Is that coming back here to the states?
Tony: Yea, It is. be a different line up. Its going to be us and Good Riddance, I think. I keep telling people that Good Riddance is going to do it, but they are not confirmed yet. So we’ll see. Nobody has booked anything, yet. They are not confirmed yet. But its like 80% there. Its going to happen.
Damian: So for the people who have never seen you guys before, what can they expect from a NUFAN show?
Tony: Depends. It depends on the night. It depends because our bass player tore his alkalies heal [Not sure quite what he said so this too may be wrong.] and he’s on morphine and tequila, then your going to have a different kind of show. It depends on the crowd. It depends on the scene, you know? That kind of stuff. I don’t know what people expect every time we’re out there. We always give it 100%. No matter what because we know people pay to come and see something. If you want to hear a band you can go and hear their records, but if you want to see some action, You want to see them jump around and stuff like that. And plus we love jumping around because its fun. You get a little exercise in there, though you’d never be able to tell.
Damian: How did you feel about tonight’s show?
Tony: Tonight’s show? Tonight’s show was kind of a medium. It was pretty good for the most part. What I hate is when there’s a really high stage and blinding lights like that. You can’t see anybody. 50% of a way I judge a show is by the crowd response and the other 50% on how we play. I think we were at, on a scale of one to ten; we were a six tonight. And on a scale from one to ten the crowd was a seven.
Damian: So you guys have been on tour for five weeks now. How do you get up everyday and play a show for a bunch of kids you have never seen and might not see ever again?
Tony: Every night is a different city. Its always exciting to play anywhere. You have memories like the time we played here at The Galaxy with NoFx. It was a great show and I knew that the kids tonight would be the same kids going off. I looked forward to it. When I woke up this morning I was like, cool. We’re playing Dallas tonight. You know? Then tomorrow we’re going to wake up and go, “Cool we’re playing Phoenix.” Cause I like Phoenix, there are things I like about Phoenix. There’s only a few places in the world were you wake up in the morning and go, fuck. We’re playing Mobile, Alabama or something [Laughter] . Or what?
?: Or Lubbock.
Tony: Lubbock? Where’s that?
?: Texas. [Laughter]
Damian: So, what keeps you sane on the road? What keeps you going?
Tony: Clean laundry. Decent food. Decent sleep. Just playing live, too. Its a reward that every 45 minutes, every day. Its our reward for waiting around all day in a stinky old van.
Damian: Do you guys get any flak for being on Fat Wreck Chords? Fat is one of those labels that some people really don’t like.
Tony: You mean bands don’t want to be on it?
Damian: Fans, just people who don’t like it…
Tony: Are those the bands that can’t be on it, but If they had the chance they would be?
Damian: Probably. Well I’m on the Internet a lot and people are always talking shit about Fat. “They suck. Blah blah Blah. There all just a bunch of New School, pop-punk busses…”
Tony: Well, see your going to have those people, cause those are usually your aggressive, angrier punkers that can’t handle that kind of stuff. I defiantly have to protect the label on that one because they have done so many thins for the band. That I owe them so much. Mike, Erin, everyone that works there at Fat. They have done such a great job promoting this new record and I hate to hear that kind of stuff, but there is always going to be that kind of people out there that don’t like what someone else is doing. So it doesn’t really matter because at the same time the few, that little group of people, then there is this other, huge group of people that are totally into it.
Damian: Any craziness happen on this tour?
Tony: As far as…?
Damian: Like girls taking off their clothes, getting harassed by the cops…
Tony: You know what? That happens sometimes. Like girls will flash their tits while we’re playing and stuff. I hate it. I think that it is sooo degrading. Then you see a bunch of guys reaching up to grab her and pulling off her dress and stuff. Its really, its borderline rape. So its not really that cool. Things like that. As far as crazy things go, nothing really crazy has happened on this tour yet. We have only like three or four days for something crazy to happen. This tour has been what we would call, PG-13. Right Dave? This is Dave.
Damian: So how are you enjoying the band so far?
Dave: I enjoy it to the fullest extent. I’m really really digging it. Having a great time.
Damian: Of course your not going to say anything with him right here.
Dave: No, I’d say it sucked if I thought it did.
Damian: Okay, I’m almost done. Got a couple of lame questions here…. Y2K is coming are you guys prepared?
Tony: Prepared for what?
Damian: Prepared for whatever happens. Basically is No Use For A Name Y2K compliant?
Tony: Um, No. It depends on what you’re talking about. How all this bad shit is gonna happen. Its a bit much considering that its only a number. I think things are going to be fucked up for a couple of days at the most. Maybe some computers will shut down, some companies might have problems because of the double zero thing. Other than that, I don’t think its going to do too much damage. People will be really surprised how a week after it will be back to normal. I don’t think the planet will blow up or anything like that.
Damian: So if you were not here right now, Not in No Use For A Name, were do you think you would be?
At home with my wife, my cats.
Damian: No Kids?
Tony: No I don’t have any kids. You know, I would probably have kids. If I wasn’t In No Use For a Name now, because I’m 28, I know that’s really young. I’m as homebody as it gets for a guy that goes on tour. I don’t really have a hard time with it, but I love playing Every night. So It kind of keeps me going, but I’d probably be at home with my wife.
Damian: So last question here. How much longer do you think No Use will live on? Or do you not want to think about that?
Tony: Okay. I’ll wait until we get to this point. That’s all I know cause I think about it sometimes. I’m gonna wait until I feel like I’m being looked at like an idiot up there. Like to the point where its like, “God man. Those guys are still around?” the first time that someone says that, I’m out of here….