Descendents are the best story ever.
They come from a different time in punk. They come from a different world.
You have this idea that started in seventy-something, and to see it still going?
That’s totally cool!
A lot of what people listen to obviously owes itself to the fact that those guys made records all those years ago.
I remember hearing the Descendents for the first time and thinking, Whoa, these guys listen to the Beatles.
There was a sense of melody and songwriting.
What instantly drew me into the Descendents was how much melody they had. How catchy their songs were.
They were like the punk rock Beach Boys. Their harmonies were great.
And this, like, shameless love song aesthetic, you know?
None of the other bands had the balls to do that.
Everyone was screaming about Reagan or whatever.
I think the Descendents are possibly one of the most underrated bands that too often don’t get the credit for essentially creating pop punk.
They’re a part of the foundation, the fabric.
This sincere connection of pop and angst at the same time without it ever being this thuggish tough-guy thing.
You have this singer who looks like a fucking geek singing about getting screwed over by a chick with the gnarliest band behind him.
It was great.
And they worked very few days off.
They’re always, always pushing themselves.
Almost militant work ethic.
It would be insanely sweaty in the room. It was gross.
They're the most precise band I think.
They were real players, and prided themselves on playing their instruments very, very well.
With a fury, man. It’s right here in my heart to see these guys again. This is Milo of the Descendents and, I’m sorry I’m Bill.
Bill is the brainchild behind the Descendents.
It is trippy that they were a drummer-run band.
Our whole goal was like, “Yeah, it’s cool, there’s this thing called ‘punk rock.’ Now let’s take it somewhere.” When I said, “I wanna go be a nerd scientist geek,” then they said, “Hey, see you later.” And all of a sudden they formed ALL.
Since this band’s inception in 1978…
You’re not gonna get one person… You’ve probably never heard of them…
...on this planet…
“They’re formerly called the Descendents. They’re now simply called ALL.”
...to say they like ALL better than the Descendents…
"Folks, give a nice warm welcome to ALL!”
...no fucking way.
People literally didn’t know who they were. They’re like, “Who’s ALL?” And I was like, “Well, it’s Descendents. Same band, different singer.” So there’s a different singer, big deal, whatever.
There’s no other band like them. Doesn’t matter which one they are.
The caliber of songwriting and subject matter that is so close and relatable to has not wavered for 30 years.
I don’t think there were any other bands that could do what they did.
It’s good to see that those guys are getting credit for what they, in a lot of ways, created.
“But the show is far from being over…”
It’s just their time for people to understand that the Descendents had a big place.
Male VO: “Welcome the Decendents!” [crowd cheers]
Milo: "It’s been a long time for us, so… wow."
VO: [radio weather report]
Bill Stevenson: So going back to before we had the bands.
Before Descendents, before ALL, before Black Flag.
So, there was fishing.
Of all things to have brought would-be future punkers together.
Keith Morris: My history with Bill goes all the way back to the Hermosa Tackle Box, which was a business that my father owned on Pier Avenue down in Hermosa Beach.
My recollection is him working for my dad when he was about 14 or 15 and asking me, “Keith, what music should I be listening to?” Billy just struck me as that goofy kid that maybe needed some guidance, maybe he needed somebody to point him in the right direction.
I guess I was giving him a list of things to do to lead to freakdom or whatever.
Little did we know that Billy was going to grow up to be the drummer of not only the Descendents and ALL, but Black Flag in between.
See, we grew up where all of the music around us was Top 40.
The Dooby Brothers or the worst of Fleetwood Mac.
Most of it was pretty bland, pretty boring, and there was no bright spot.
With the exception of The Last.
Joe Nolte: Basically, I, like a lot of others, was really dissatisfied by the state of rock music. I was like 20, had been brought up on the Woodstock myth, and I couldn’t wait to get out there and start going to all the great shows only to find that, as the early ‘70s developed, all the really good people died.
So I discovered there were these bands with silly names like the Ramones.
That was my big cue.
I threw a bunch of soundproofing in the garage, and at that time we came up with the band name The Last.
Keith: Through the Nolte brothers, we happened to meet characters like Frank Navetta.
Total kook, total freak.
Dave Nolte: Frank came to my school, America Martyrs, in sixth grade, and I was friends with him straight away.
We both had interest in music. We both started playing guitar at the same time.
Joe: They were just typical kids.
The next thing I know they’re deciding to start a band.
“Yeah, we’re gonna call ourselves the Descendents.” Dave: Frank came up with the Descendents. He had the funny spelling.
Thought he was clever.
Joe: Mid ‘77, we’re hanging out and this big kid on this bicycle that’s three or four sizes too small…
My brother David goes, “Oh my god. I know that guy.” Dave: I had met Bill before. He was in my Spanish class, so I already kinda knew what he was like.
And I thought if he could play any instrument he’d be great to be in a band with, because he had just the right attitude.
Bill: Really I think I was a bother to Dave. I would come over every day and be like, “Hey, you wanna hang out?” You know, the friend that just keeps coming over?
And you're like, "Oh it's cool."
And then Joe really, I think, thought I was bother.
Dave: At that time, The Last was making their first album, and I gave him tapes like rough mixes.
And that, he really got into that.
He was really influenced by our drummer, Jack.
Bill: Once I heard The Last "She Don’t Know Why I’m Here"
I was a totally groupie of The Last.
I thought they were the greatest band in the whole world.
Joe: What happened was Bill was intrigued by what David and Frank were doing.
Dave: Frank made a demo of his songs, and Bill took a tape and overdubbed backing vocals on it.
Joe: David and Frank got the tape back and said, “Oh my god.”
“He may smell of fish,”
“and he may seem kinda weird,”
“but this is the guy. He’s better than we are.” Dave: That was truly the beginning of the band right there.
Bill: Frank got me into punk rock proper:
Ramones, Dickies, Sex Pistols.
Keith: Those guys were like twins.
The double-whammy-ultra-mega duo, Navetta/Stevenson.
Bill: Yeah, we really hit it off and we would go fishing every day.
I was in awe of all these great songs he’d written, and he would play them on the acoustic guitar really hard, Johnny Ramone style, all six strings.
He had this bitter resentment that just drenched every step he took and every word that he spoke.
His songs were just filled with that envy of people that are better looking and more successful.
It was just really inspiring to just be around someone that just hated everything that much. It was just great.
Bill: It was not that long afterward where it was trash day and I was bringing my trash out to the curb.
And one or two houses down, somebody had stuffed this bass guitar, it was sticking up out of their trash can.
And at that point I had only played drums, and I was like, “Whoa!” And I went and I got that bass.
And I wrote “Myage” on that.
I thought, “Well, Frank can write songs, so fuck it, I can write songs.” Dave: Soon after that, we were rehearsing in Frank’s brother’s garage in Long Beach.
Tony Lombardo: I lived on Walnut Street in Long Beach.
Frank’s brother lived on Walnut Street in Long Beach.
I played in my garage. I played the bass by myself.
Bill: I guess Frank had heard somebody playing bass down the alley, and he’s like, “Dude, I think…” — Frank has a really high voice, so when I do Frank I gotta go into the Frank voice:
“Dude, I think there’s some dude down there that plays bass.
Let’s walk down there and see.” Sure enough, Tony… Tony: They came over when they heard me, and they were standing there and asked if I wanted to jam with them.
Bill: He appeared to be somewhat older than us, but I have to say he looked and acted very young for his age.
Tony: I was in the band when it was ‘79. I was
34 years old when I started the Descendents.
And they were 15.
Now he looks at me like, “Oh my god, this guy’s a fucking freak. Beep!” Bill: It all worked out. There’s me and Frank being completely ridiculous and asinine, and Tony was in some ways the voice of reason or the elder ambassador that would yield a modicum of propriety or reasonableness to our stupid arguments.
Joe: What happened with Dave and Descendents, he was playing in two bands.
So he couldn’t commit to practicing with the Descendents, so they kicked him out.
Dave: It’s not really the Descendents as you know it today.
But I was there just before it happened.
Joe: The birth of the Descendents as a live entity corresponds with the epiphanal birth of the Minutemen.
Mike Watt: We were called Reactionaries then, we weren’t Minutemen yet.
And the opening band was somebody from Hermosa Beach.
One guy was kinda our age or even older, but the other two were really young.
Their guitar man had fishing boots, rubber fucking… I hadn’t seen cats like that in other bands.
Bill: Milo was the biggest Descendents fan.
At a certain point he would make me pick him up and drive him to practice, and he would just sit and watch us practice. I mean I would pick him up every day.
Milo Aukerman: I think one day I was watching them practice and I said, “I think I could probably sing ‘It’s a Hectic World.’” And they said, “Okay. Just go and do it. The mic’s all set up.” Bill: We were just in there, and in between two songs Frank just goes, “Fuck it! Let’s just get Milo to sing these fuckin’ things!” And we were like, “yeah!” So Milo just got out of his chair and started singing and that was it.
It was like Frank saw the obvious that none of us could see.
Mike: One thing about the old days was that the people involved were very individual.
They were all characters.
Frank’s image was kinda neat. It was kinda A-frame, with his legs and his guitar up high.
And he was kind of a shorter man, but he was a hard-charger.
Greg Cameron: The second show I ever saw of the Descendents was at the Dancing Waters in San Pedro.
They broke into the set and he was playing guitar so hard and so angry that his pants fell down.
He was an odd character, for sure.
I can remember standing in line at a Misfits show, and all of a sudden he just sat down on the ground and started holding his head like his ears were ringing or something.
And said something to the effect like, “What am I doing here? Where am I?” So that was Frank.
Bill: Oh, to understand Frank. I don’t know. I know he had a rough familial thing growing up. Just a lot of familial discord.
And I think that can fuel a fire pretty well.
I never sat and went, “Wow, what made this guys so weird?” I mean, I didn’t really have any familial discord, I just didn’t have any familial at all.
Mike: Tony was a really good bass player. Intense about opinion.
Chuck Dukowski: Tony brings a unique style of bass playing.
Every time their on a chord, it’s a run.
Robert Hecker: He was such a solid monster, you know?
He had that kill bass tone.
That growling bass sound. It was just kill.
Mark Hoppus: Tony Lombardo, his bass playing on those albums of the Descendents is only entirely influential on my playing.
Just that eighth-note downstroke powerful foundation of the melody.
His playing is phenomenal.
Tony: This is duct tape with fishing weights.
I used to wrap this around my wrist, and I would play—all downstrokes, mind you.
After you took those weights off, you felt lighter, you felt faster.
Might’ve been psychological, might’ve been a little bit to it.
Oh, cool. Headband.
Mike: They all had an image, but Milo, his image especially I guess people didn’t expect of a dude in a band.
Milo: “While I’m writing songs about girls, I’m also having these things where I need to rip things apart.”
“So I have to write these songs about girls, but I also have to, like, rip it up.” Mike: He just became this thing that was powerful.
The hand in the back pocket and sing. This intense projection.
I don’t think he thought about it. He just was what he was, but it came of being kind of a “thing” that I loved.
Dave: Most other singers were macho or whatever, or put on some vibe like, “I’m a fucking weirdo.” But it wasn’t that way. So kids could relate to it. I did.
None of us were fucking getting laid—we were listening to hardcore, you know?
Milo was like our spokesperson.
Milo: We were starting to get into faster paced music and drinking a lot of coffee.
Bill: Give me my coffee.
Tony: Caffeine. It makes you hyper.
Bill: Come to Stevenson.
Tony: In general, it makes you want to play faster.
Bill: My glasses are fogging up just thinking about it.
People have it easy now, because you can get killer espresso on every corner.
They don’t realize what it was like back in the day to try to be overly caffeinated. You had to want it. You had to work for it.
Ten spoons of instant coffee into water, so it was like mud.
And then put a bunch of sugar in there. It would give you the most hellacious farts known to humanity.
Mike: The scene was so small in those days, stuff just didn’t come to you. You had to make it happen.
Bill: Bands would get together and rent VFW halls, or rent Eagle’s Clubs, or Knights of Whatever.
The clubs that were doing punk rock at the time, the ones in Hollywood, they weren’t down with us guys with no punk rock appearance.
Kevin Lyman: Looks? There was no image or looks for that band.
Back then it would, like, The Addicts had a look, the Buzzcocks had a look.
But the Descendents? They just looked like whatever they slept in the van they would come out and play in.
Zach Blair: These were these nerdy guys that didn’t give a shit about an image or trying to fit in with somebody’s click, and not even trying to fit in with their own click.
Chris Demakes: Working man’s band. Jeans, T-shirt, BOOM.
Steamrolled you from the time they hit the stage.
Tony: We were just about the music. And kicking ass.
Kicking ass musicially!
Then you can walk out feeling proud.
Bill: "We were real fat people.
I weighed about 240 pounds, and Frank weighed about 190 pounds."
Interviewer: “240?” Bill: "Yeah. We eat hamburgers and stuff.
People thought, “Oh, they do this funny thing.”
"But we really into that. We were into that."
"I wrote that song about going to Der Wienerschnitzel, because we were all into it. We were like “YEAH!”"
Bill: I just decided to not write normal songs.
“I Like Food” and “Wienerschnitzel”, I thought that was the way of the future.
Like, “Yeah, these songs are more cool than normal songs.”
Mike: Then they made an album called Milo Goes To College.
And we were blown away by it.
Bill: By the time we recording "Milo Goes To College", the pendulum had swung somewhere in the middle.
There’s a lot of melodic and pop elements to it, but it also has that bitter resentment I was talking about with Frank.
Mike: The songs are like these little films, the movies, these little adventures.
They’re intense. “Catalina”, that’s the big swan song on there, and it’s the epic voyage. We’re gonna go out fishing and shit.
Bill: You didn’t get bored because Tony’s coming from way over their, and I’m coming from way over there, and Frank’s over there, and Milo…
Dave: Yeah, I think the Milo record is their “Sergeant Pepper".
Chris Shary: From the moment that I heard the beginning it was like, This is the music that I have been waiting for.
Trever Keith: We made no secret that Descendents were an influential band for Face To Face.
Fat Mike: I heard “Kabuki Girl” on Rodney on the Roq and, kabam! There it is!
Tim Mcllrath: The Descendents were definitely one of my gateway drugs to punk rock.
Mike Herrera: I wanted to do what they were doing.
I wanted to sound like they were sounding.
Doni/Zach: It resonated with both of us so much, and spoke to us so much that it was almost like this revelatory… Holy shit!
Joey Cape: Yeah, it was just an instant love affair. It just changed my life.
I realized that you could make a punk record and have that kind of pop sensibility but also be intricate.
Dave Grohl: If the Descendents had made "Milo Goes To College" in 1999, they’d be living in fucking mansions.
That’s a fucking amazing record.
Joey: And don’t even get me started on the artwork.
Chris: It just started off to taunt Milo. I mean it was just to taunt him.
Roger just did these drawings on pieces of paper and would pass notes to Milo just to piss him off.
Jeff Atkins: Bill shows up at my house and says, “Dude, I need Milo!” I go, “What do you mean? He’s with you.” He goes, "No I need the cover for the album. You gotta do it.” I go, “Roger does the drawing.” He goes, “No, you gotta do it."
I said, “Okay, what kind of Milo do you want?” So I draw him a Milo. First, it was the crew neck T-shirt.
Then I drew the polo shirt Milo.
Then I drew the Milo with a tie, because he goes to college.
And he goes, “Oh, that’s it.” And it becomes the cover of the first record.
Milo: Bill’s known me since high school, and he knows that I’ve got this whole dichotomy of desires.
I want to rock out and be a punk rock guy, but I also have this really strong ambition to be a scientist.
Interview: “So what do you wanna be when you grow up? A biochemist?” Milo: “Yeah, I’d like to cure the world of all known diseases and solve the world’s hunger problem and solve war."
"I figure I should be able to do that in 20 years or so.” Bill: There was never the idea of Milo not being a scientist and staying in the band.
He was always real clear about being into his science first and foremost.
Mike: After that, Billy becomes part of Black Flag, and Descendents kind of went on hold.
Kira Roessler: Bill has the little boy.
He’s this very high energy guy.
Childlike in all the best sense of the word.
But who else he was was this incredible work ethic, just “I will lay down my life to make this great.”
Playing in a band when you are not the leader is a huge challenge, and it’s a wonderful exercise in how to be a better player.
Milo: Bill was recording with Black Flag and he invited me up to do backing vocals for “Loose Nut.” And he pulled me aside and said, “Hey, I got these songs, but they're not Black Flag songs.”
“They’re really more Descendents songs.” And I said, “Let me hear them.” So, it was just an instrumental track and he sang over it and sang “Silly Girl” to me, and I was like, “Wow!”
Milo: He said, “I can’t do these in Black Flag,” and I said, “Well maybe we should do them!”
He and I and Tony. Frank had already took off, so it was Ray.
Bill: At some point, Frank just took off.
He put all of his equipment in a pile, and lit it on fire. And then moved to Oregon.
Genius, right? Frank’s a genius.
But he and I had a very deep friendship in the end and that says it all.
Tony: We recorded "I Don’t Want To Grow Up" in two weeks.
We learned the songs and recorded it in two weeks.
Milo: We could’ve put a lot more practice time into it, but I think that the songs themselves are really good songs.
We play them all better now.
Bill: I got a taste of touring in Black Flag, and I wanted to take that and spread that laterally to what the Descendents would or could do.
Tony: Bill came. He had just left Black Flag.
And he had a road trip all lined up.
I had just bought this house and the job and the girl… It was a mistake. I did it. It’s my fault.
Bill always says, “Well, you quit.” And it’s true, but how long has it been? Twenty-six years?
I’ve seen murderers get off sooner than that for punishment. Is my attitude showing?
Tony: I feel like I was almost born a Descendent.
It was the perfect vehicle for me to express my inner emotions and attitudes.
It was the best time of my life, and I’d still be doing it if I could
Doug Carrion: Billy, I, and Milo all went to the same high school.
That was Mira Coasta High School."
Some time goes on, and I get this weird note on my door.
And it says, “Hey, this Bill. I’m thinking about doing the Descendents again.”
"Tony can’t do it, so I wanted to know if you wanted to give it a swing.” So we practiced getting me brought up to speed.
As soon as school was ready to stop, Milo jumped in the van, and we started doing shows.
Dave Naz: "Milo Goes To College" is the record that you identify the band with the most, maybe, but with "Enjoy", wow. I don’t want to say they polished their sound, but they took it to another level.
Richard Andrews: I was a jazz musician, and I was at Radio Tokyo cutting my own demos.
And the owner of the studio said if you want to learn how to engineer, I need help.
And finally I’m good enough and he’s ready to give me some clients, and he says, “There’s this record that I want you to do.” And I’m like “Alright, a record! I got a fucking record!” And I go in to do it and it’s the Descendents and they’re farting.
Richard: I’m a classically trained musician. I learned to play piano at four, and I went to a conservatory for two years, and I went to Berklee College of Music and know all this stuff, and Bill’s like, Stick the microphone closer to my ass so you can hear this fart.” It was terrible.
Dave: I think that album best represents them.
There’s a lot of farting, and that goes on when you’re hanging out with those guys.
Richard: But as time went on, I discovered that it’s not about what you know, it’s about are you expressing yourself authentically through the music.
And these guys totally brought the idea of authenticity to my fore and it changed my perception of all music.
And to have that bing moment from punk rockers was a real mind trip.
Robert Hecker: I love the "Enjoy" line up so much.
I think “When I Get The Time” is so amazing.
I regularly lump it in my top greatest pop songs of all time with “Hey Jude” and “Under Pressure.” It is perfect. It is a perfect song!
And maybe if it didn’t have a toilet paper roll on the cover, it could’ve sold 20 million copies.
Doug: We left at the same time, but we left for different reasons.
I wanted to keep experimenting and that’s it.
It was like, “Okay cool, you’re taking the ship north, I’m going south! Roger!” And for Ray, I don’t know.
He’s not really the kind of guy who would have that heart-to-heart with you.
A man of few words.
Interview: “Ray’s bummed. He has good reason to be, too.” Ray: “I’m not bummed.” Interview: “You’re not bummed anymore?” Ray: “I’ve never been bummed.” Interview: “Maybe just irritated?” Ray: “No. You kidding? No.” Doug: I don’t think he wanted to be in the center of the tornado of the Descendents.
Milo: So Bill and I are sitting there wondering what to do now.
We don’t have a band anymore.
And he must’ve had a friend up in Utah, and he called him up:
“You wanna do this bass gig with us?” And said, “I can’t do it.” But Karl was listening in and said, “Give me phone!"
“I’ll do it!” Which was great because he came down and they locked in completely.
Karl Alvarez: Well, musicians are a lot like people in that sometimes they have a chemistry thing going on.
And I think Billy and I had a certain connection.
But I can’t help but think, “Well, yeah."
“Because I practiced bass to his records.” Milo: So Karl says, “Hey, I think I know where we can get a guitar player.” Karl: I met Stephen when we were twelve years old in 1976 in Bryant Junior High School in Salt Lake. I literally learned to play with him.
Stephen Egerton: Karl joined the band, and I called to congratulate him, and that’s when I found out they needed a guitar player, too.
Karl: When I met Stephen, he lived in the closet of a one-bedroom apartment, and he owned a bicycle, his skateboard, a guitar, and not much else.
He didn’t have much money. And the punk rock thing was tailor made for guys like us, because it’s like, “Oh, all right."
We’re not gonna get anywhere in society anyway because we’re bottom of the pile. All right!
Very easy to embrace the idea, right?
Stephen: For me, meeting Bill, beyond my massive love for Descendents’ music was my massive love for Black Flag’s music, and he had been in both.
So, the idea that it was Karl, my oldest friend and I joining this band that was so huge to us, it was like living on a cloud.
We were like, "Uh, just what happened?"
“Uh, we just joined the Descendents. This is gnarly.”
Bill: Stephen harnessed the job of trying to expand some of the melodic boundaries.
And Karl is a creative dynamo.
So it was like, “Oh man, we’re gonna get some music done now!”
Karl: We moved into Descendents Central Headquarters, which was a storefront on the PCH in Lomita, California.
We lived in a little room with three bunk beds that Doug, Ray, Milo, and Billy had built.
We had practice space in between the back room and where the office was and that was our life.
Those first tours were very grueling in the way that it is when you're not used to it.
Stephen: There’s no money. We’re playing these little, tiny shows.
Karl: And staying on the floor of whoever. It’s the typical punk rock house where it’s 3 in the morning, the music is up on eleven, and people are drinking and shouting, and you’re trying to find a place to sleep, and this girl has this brain-damaged mouse that can only run in a circle in the middle of the room.
This is the kind of madness that was normal.
So sleeping in the van was real popular.
Bill: Karl, I’m not sure if the word ‘savant’ might apply, but he is highly skilled in very specialized areas.
And then normal people shit, he’s not as much into that stuff.
Milo: In late ‘86, we started working up songs for the "ALL" record.
Bill: Well, the idea of ALL...
My friend, Pat McQuistion, put it into motion when we would be fishing at night.
Orca was a 16-foot boat, and we would fill it up until there was this much room on each side before it was going to sink.
And I’m like, “Pat, we gotta go in.” And he’s like, “No. ALL!” Seriously, I would have to force him to not sink the boat with fish.
Milo: And Bill thought, “Yeah, ALL! That’s cool!” And so he started bringing in this concept of ALL and were like, “Yeah, ALL!” Bill: The preposterousness of it might eclipse the realism of it which is going for greatness.
Going for the utmost possible, the total extent, where nothing is left undealt-with.
Bill: Descendents doctrine predicates Milo has to quit the band every couple years. It’s just part of the story.
Milo: The band was fun I hadn’t achieved ALL, basically, in music or in science.
And I got the opportunity to go try to achieve ALL more in science, and I decided to take that opportunity.
Bill: I toured him to death. We did all those tours in a row, and he said, “I got to focus on my studies and do something real.” I mean, we were making five or 10 dollars per day and that’s it.
We had nowhere to live, so you can see how a guy with that kind of brainpower would say, “You know what?”
“I don’t have to sleep next to Bill’s drum set in the practice room.” Milo: Part of it is that I never really considered music a career, and so whenever I would leave the band it was like, “I’m doing this for fun, and my real career in this other thing.” And actually, the more that the music started to seem like a career, the less I seemed to like it.
In ‘87 I left the band, and we did the final tour.
There wasn’t like, “Well, I’m gonna go do this for a while and come back to the band.” It was like, “I’m embarking on my life’s career to do this.”
Karl: At the end of the day, his gift is science and he chose that road, and I think that’s great.
But from the standpoint of the guy in the band with him, there’s that moment of, “Oh fuck. What do we do now?”
Joey: Somewhere in the late ‘80s, things got really lame.
Their answer was to form ALL.
Mike: I think Billy didn’t push so hard to become “new Descendents.” I think he wanted ALL to be a new band.
Dave Smaley: I get off the plane, and they’re all in the van.
They drove me to Alfredo’s, we ate at Alfredo's, and we fucking practiced.
I’d been in a plane for 30-million hours.
Alfredo’s, practice, go!
Bill: Here’s your spot on the floor. Here’s your microphone. Yeah.
Dave: We’ve got three Descendents, a Dag Nasty, and a Black Flag. ALL!
Bill: I wasn’t writing for a band name.
I was writing because some girl was treating me poorly, and I was expressing myself about it. Catharsis.
It had nothing to do with Descendents, ALL, Dave, Milo or anything.
Mike: I know it was Billy now in charge totally.
Richard: ALL is Bill, Bill is ALL. The concept of ALL, you focus what you want like a dog on a piece of meat and grab it and you don’t let go until you’ve eaten the whole thing plus the bone.
Mike: He wanted to try this thing where everything was very focused, and nothing is derivative. No creeks or streams coming off the river.
Just Niagara Falls.
Karl: Bill is very patient, and part of the byproduct of that is he will make you go over the part as many times as necessary to get it down.
And I think most people aren't used to that.
Stephen: He would just push and push and push and it could be really hard.
Dave: I don't know what you're talking about.
Just because I had to sing "Just Perfect" for like four hours in the studio before he got the take he wanted.
Bill: He probably told you that it was excessively meticulous?
Dave: I said, "Dude, I'm really hungry. Let's take a little break and I'll come back to it."
He comes back with this big Snickers bar.
He tapes it to the other side of the glass:
"When you're done you can have it!"
And I'm like, "Oh my god! Are you fucking kidding me?
All right, fucking push play!"
Richard: It was constantly a battle with him.
He had ideas of the way things should be.
Of the way the sounds should be. Of the way the mix should be.
Of the way the songs should be sung.
And it had to be his way. It had to be his way.
And he was usually right, I gotta say.
Greg: People literally didn't know who they were when I'd say, "Hey, are you going to the ALL show?" They're like, "Who's ALL?"
Milo was kind of iconic. He had his own logo.
And with ALL it just never took off the same way.
Dave: I was on the road for 9 and a half months in one year.
And I remember, we were doing laundry, and Bill started talking about the next tour.
We were gonna get back in two weeks, and he was already planning the next one and the next recording, and he looked at me and said, "You're not staying, are you?"
Bill: We just went out and out and out and out, and I think he did what any smart person would do and moved on.
Karl: There's that instant thing of, "Who do we get as the singer?” And the obvious choice was the boy next door literally, because Scott was practicing with his band next door to us.
Scott Reynolds: I had nothing back then. I had no money. I was living in my car.
I couldn't even get a shower. I was basically a bum, a homeless bum.
And to be on tour playing music was the whole reason I left home.
Even though I am too disorganized and right-brained and underachieving to ever be the poster boy for the quest for ALL.
Karl: Scott's got a great voice. I think he'd got a better range than most of these guys I see on American Idol.
Stephen: You can just throw him anything in any key and he can just sing. He's just awesome.
Bill: It was like we had discovered some great gem sleeping in his car outside our practice room.
Richard: It seems like on each album, Bill would have the song that he knew was gonna bring people to the band and bring people to the record.
And "She's My Ex" was one of them.
Stephen: That was where Scott got his first taste of how absolutely particular Bill was.
Scott: I've never been in a band where phrasing was so fucking important as this band.
Karl would do some of that, too. Not as bad a Bill. Oh God, Bill.
He'd just stop the tape. And it's terrible because you're going "She'll always be..." and then all of a sudden the tapes stops.
And you're like, "What?" And he's like, "You're flat."
And he goes back. So we got all done with this thing after days on one song, and he goes, "That's awesome. We're done." And I'm like, "Phew!" And he goes, "Okay, let's double it."
Stephen: "When Dave was in the band, we intentionally didn't do any of the Milo songs."
And then we went ahead and introduced a few into the set with Scott.
Scott: The first show I ever played, one dude was yelling, "You're not Milo!" the entire time.
Male VO: Hey! Where's Milo! You're not Milo!
Scott: A lot of what we did was we called in the Descendents crowd, come see this band.
And they'd go crazy when we'd play "Suburban Home," but I don't think that a lot of people that might have liked what we did got to hear it, because the Descendents/ALL thing, we just pounded it down people's throats.
Milo: It bothers me because every single record they ever put out, I just think why isn't this top of the charts?!
If I could take a fan and shake him and just go, "No! That's not the way it is! That's ridiculous."
Scott: To this day, I still get a lot of that, "You're not Milo," and I love the Descendents, don't get me wrong, but we never found our niche because we were always trying to get back into that other niche.
Reporter: “In our first story tonight, since this band's inception in 1978,"
“they've released over a dozen albums, they're headed for Australia, Japan, and even Europe”
“to tour and yet you've probably never heard of them.”
"They're formerly called the Descendents, they hail from Los Angeles, California."
"They're now out of Brookfield, Missouri and simply called ALL."
Mike: You know, they got this thing, "We're gonna tour a lot."
“Why not start from the middle?" So they move to Missouri, this little fucking town and, "we're gonna tour from here!"
Karl: That was a financial necessity.
Because L.A. at the level of poverty we were at was not that easy of a place to be.
We were living in a practice space for crying out loud.
Stephen: I mean we made nothing. It was just impractical for us to live in California, and we weren't there that much anyway.
So Bill came up with the idea, "Hey, my dad has this house out here in rural Missouri where he grew up."
And it worked out to be really good for us because it enabled us to have bedrooms and neat shit like that.
"To have your own room, that in of itself is just like, "Wow, this is rad!""
"Where I guess a lot of people my age would sort of be wanting to have a house."
Karl: The chemistry developed and it was basically go out and tour, make a record, go out and tour.
We got to know each other better than I think families do, and I think it very much is a family.
Bear in mind all this while that our fortunes rose and fell together. We were all living in the same place.
Kind of like The Monkees on the TV show, only with dirt and smell.
Scott: When I was in the band, it was when we were at our most urgent.
We really needed it to succeed.
We were broke and filthy and we lived like animals.
If you listen to Percolater, this is where the rift started with us, because our philosophies began to diverge.
When we went to record the "Dot" video, it was apparent that Bill was dissatisfied. He wasn't happy.
Bill: At that point I was idealizing we would put our foot forward visually with a song that had more of an eighth-note drive to it.
But on that record I didn't have any good songs, so it's like, "Okay, a lot of lip from you, Stevenson! Where's your good song? And it's like, "I don't have any."
Scott: The four distinct musical camps, and I think they're all very strong in their own way, made for a pretty eclectic collection of songs.
Stephen: I think people didn't react well to not having a consistent sound and knowing what the band sounded like.
Scott: If you consider music our child, our baby, you got four different parents.
What are you gonna do? It's gonna fuck up eventually.
At the end I just wanted so badly to go do something else.
Stephen: We had a great run with Scott.
Bill: He has the best sense of humor and he's so sharp-witted and just so fun.
Scott: Every decision I've made since I left the band has been the wrong decision.
On the one hand, I wanted my independence. On the other hand, ironically, that's why I'm a bar back now.
Karl: Chad was really good to have come into play at that time because he was very laid back.
Chad's very laconic to the point of speechlessness.
Chad: Uh... it was killer. Uh, I was a huge ALL fan... uh...
I grew up with Descendents and stuff... uh... and whatnot...
Stephen: Chad had been sort of a fan that we just got to be friends with.
Karl: We didn't really know he was that good of a singer.
Bill: It was like wow, man. Listen to those pipes!
It's quite striking really, if you've never heard him and then you just hear him sing, it's like whoa!
Stephen: I'd say there are few people with more of a lucky, natural gift for singing than Chad.
Doni: Bill told me about Chad. He said Milo Got great.
It took him a while. Chad Was great.
Milo: Bill said, "Hey, we're trying this guy out for ALL, what do you think?" And I heard his voice and was like, "Yeah! Get that guy!"
Bill: "Breaking Things" was an accomplishment for us. I think I was harboring some yearning for that kinda Black Flag power in the guitars."
But I don't think it has the intrigue of musical diversity that "Saves" or "Revenge" has.
You're comparing and contrasting these things, but it doesn't' work that way, cuz ultimately it's just us expressing our ideas in our bedroom and then playing them in a garage together and there's no direction for that.
There's no rudder. So the records come out how they come out.
You have to keep moving forward as a band. And sometimes in order to get from point A to B there's that middle point where the result might not be what people expect or what they want, but it's part of your journey.
Because, otherwise, are we gonna just do "Milo Goes To College 19.0"?"
We don't wanna do that.
Karl: It was the 90's, they were just throwing money at anyone who could hold a guitar.
Interview: Have majors been talking to you and trying to steal you away from Cruise?
Bill: “Not blatantly, We’ve been in the music thing and long, long time.” Karl: It was weird for us because suddenly all these doors were open.
Bill: So it’s funny, people are like, “Oh, the major label…” and it’s like, no, we don’t think about that stuff."
The major label bought this stuff.
Stephen: The money that we got from the major label deal, we just built the Blasting Room with it.
Which was the single smartest thing we ever did, really.
TV: "Next up it’s a live performance by ALL, who stopped by the studio earlier this week and played a few songs off their eighth album Pummel.
Conan: "Ladies and gentlemen, Pummel is the new album from my next guest.
Give a nice, warm welcome to ALL!”
Bill: "We write about things that we have gut feelings about."
"Not stuff that we've analyzed intellectually and want to write a doctoral thesis on."
Karl: "In summation, we write about the way you feel more than the way you think."
That was the last boom time the major labels shall see, so we got our licks in.
And I think we got out of it a lot lighter than a lot of people.
Stephen: We'd gone through our normal touring cycle, started writing a bunch of songs, and just right after that Milo approached Bill.
Karl: Said he had a bunch of songs and wanted to do stuff. Simple as a that.
Mark: The Descendents were reforming. That blew our fucking minds!
We were gonna get a chance to see the Descendents actually play, because I had never gotten a chance to see the Descendents play.
Brett Gurewitz: I got a call from Bill saying, "Would you want to do a Descendents record, not an ALL record?" And I was like, "Hell yeah I would!"
Milo: It was pretty exciting at that point because we just had so much material.
It was like, how are we gonna pare this down to the critical number?
But part of that equations makes you think it's gonna be a fucking great record.
Grohl: When "Everything Sucks" came out, it was, "Okay, this is it! They're gonna fucking happen!” People are gonna finally recognize that the Descendents are awesome!
Herrera: Every song was amazing, and it sounded so huge and so present. The guitars were right there in your face.
Bill: That's when Karl really, to me, stepped up his songwriting. He just killed it.
Scott: I can't say enough about what's upstairs with that guy.
Chad: He just has this huge bank of knowledge.
Tony: I consider Karl a better bass player than me.
Mike: A little more out of the box. A little more out there.
Doni: This guy's killing it night after night after night.
Tim: Just him playing, making every other bass player just cry.
Karl: I mean, fuck, I've been doing this a long time.
Zach: Stephen Egerton is a guitar player's guitar player.
Tim: To see the chords that he pulls off.
Dave: He plays these really cool, demonic-sounding leads.
Stephen: What I do is filtered through a lack of true knowledge of music, just an incredible love for it.
Dave: He's a genuine sweetheart of a guy.
Scott: I used to call him Poppy, because if I had a problem, I could go talk to Stephen.
Mark: It's really gratifying when you meet people that are your heroes and they're actually as cool and friendly as you hope they're gonna be.
Joey: He's also very smart. Runs very deep.
It's weird that all those guys are in one band.
It's almost unfair.
Mike: It seemed like they were embraced by the punk community again.
Jim Linderg: Descendents were just total heroes to us growing up.
I literally had the tennis racket, pretending to be in the Descendents.
And then our band got really popular in the second wave, along with Offspring, Rancid, NoFX, and Green Day.
Karl: This was an interesting thing because it was a convergence of pop culture and what Descendents had always been doing.
Dave: That's when you really saw people appreciate the Descendents the way they should be.
Brett: Milo is a great, integral part of what the Descendents are.
Tim: He's the anti-frontman. He's the underdog. The nerd.
Milo: A lot of the stuff that we do with our music is based on having people throw food at you in high school.
Those are the people we address a lot of our songs about, saying you may think I'm a loser, but you're the loser, really.
Tim: He's the antithesis of Axl Rose or Bono fronting a band.
Brian Baker: He's seminal. He's a seminal American punk rock singer.
Bill: It was one year of fury and then he wanted to resume back into his science stuff.
Mark: Why won't the singer of my favorite band sing in my favorite band?
What are you fucking talking about you're not gonna sing in the Descendents?
You'd rather go off and do smart shit somewhere?
Why would you do that to me? It's hard for people to understand.
Greg Graggin: When you study biology and you go on to pursue other things, you don't leave punk rock behind.
But then again, you do change your worldview a little bit.
Stephen: At that point we just dove right back into it with Chad.
Chris: Mass Nerder was a huge, huge album for them, because it was coming hot off the heels of "Everything Sucks."
Roger Manganelli: If it had said "Descendents Mass Nerder" on it, it would have been "Everything Sucks" all over again.
The songs were so strong.
Bill: Well, on Mass Nerder we decided to take a little bit of a different course, and we started opening for bands instead of doing our own headlining shows.
We thought we'll suck it up and see if we can play to some of these younger kids, because there aren't that many people 40-year-olds that are gonna come out and see us because they have kids.
They're at home watching "Mad About You."
So we thought if we could get in front of some of the younger kids they might like us.
It might postpone our obsolescence.
Chris Demaker: Our band was the ska punk thing of the late '90s, and we were riding that new band, young band popularity, and here we have ALL opening for us and going out musically and crushing us every night.
But our fans, some of them got it, but a lot of them just didn't get it.
Brett: ALL never had the commercial success of Descendents. They just never did.
Even though, as a label, we did the exact same thing for one as we did for the other.
Stephen: I think by Problematic we could see the shows were shrinking.
They were smaller and smaller crowds.
Chad: It is frustrating. You want to just keep getting bigger and bigger and bigger. You just gotta deal with it.
Joey: I think that you never really get past when a band changes to something else.
Chris: Yeah and that's all the power of a name.
Bill: We all know that ALL is the band guilty of not being the Descendents.
Scott: Forever people have been saying, "I like the Descendents, and I don't like ALL."
And to me, I get that. I absolutely get that. I don't give a shit, I'm not angry about it.
But the point is that I'm in the middle of it and I agree.
Chad: I don't look at it that way. Musically it is this THING.
And whether it's ALL or Descendents it's the same thing.
Karl: Very simply to me it's a different singer. But I'm not the guy buying the records.
Stephen: Milo really connects to an audience. It's very peculiar to watch.
Dave: Milo is Milo and you can't replace him. The great singers you can't replace.
Milo: "People have kind of idealized that whole period in th early 80's, and I think that explains a lot of it."
Bill's my best friend and it just bums when these things that he did that I thought were amazing and world-changing didn't explode into the stratosphere and make his band as big as it should have been.
Grohl: "Believe me, it's hard to be in a really big band and then start another band."
It's a weird position to be in. You do it for the love of playing music.
You don't do it because you want to be better than the last band you were in.
You just want to keep playing.
"So for a band like ALL, it was just never gonna be easy."
Bill: But so what? Who cares? If 50 people like your band then 50 people like your band.
There's nothing wrong with that. That's not shameful.
Where is it said that every band has to be huge like Michael Jackson? Where was that written?
Bill: "When you quest ALL you’re questing something much grander and greater than getting up and going to work at Winchell’s."
Brett: If you took the Stooges “Raw Power” and did it with a kid who was raised on “Help Me Rhonda” what would that sound like?
Brian: It would sound like Bill. Exactly.
Richard: You know it’s Bill. Bill was… Dave: I’m sure that every person who gets interviewed for this movie is gonna say the same fucking thing.
Joey: Bill, I think, is a true anomaly.
Chris: He’s a conundrum. He’s totally a mystery to most people.
Grohl: Oh God, Bill’s so weird.
Bill: “He is Bill Stevenson. We can rebuild him.” Chris: Dude, you wrote all these amazing songs. They’re so insightful and you’re so brilliant.
Why are you talking like a homeless man?
Bill: "Do you like to eat dogs?" "Yeah, I do.”
"How come I never see you eating them then?"
Karl: A mathematician brain trapped in a caveman’s body.
Kim Shattuck: He’s built like a wolf with all that hair.
Stephen: He can be very intimidating.
Bill: “You fucking shut up! I’ll fucking kick your face in!”
“What’s the deal here? I don’t record you when you talk.
What’s the deal?” “Yeah, because I’m not Bill Stevenson.”
“You’re not fucking filming me, are you?”
Robert: He’s the greatest drummer on Earth!
Grohl: He’s a legend. He’s a fucking drumming legend.
Dave: The great drummers are the ones who have their own signature:
Keith Moon, Stewart Copeland, Neil Peart.
And you can put Bill Stevenson in that category.
Grohl: Watching Bill Stevenson play the drums, he’s in his own fucking world, man.
Mike: That kind of drummer ain’t that common.
Grohl: I fucking worship that dude.
Chuck Dukowski: He’s really a great player, both an inventor and absorber of ideas.
Chris: You can always see the hamster wheel going up top.
Stephen: Remember in The Terminator movies how if you’re looking at something from the perspective of the Terminator?
That’s what I think happens in Bill’s brain. You say something to him, and he goes… and he starts thinking about all the various ways that might impact everything.
And so during that time, he may be doing this… Karl: But, man, the stuff he expresses through music has always moved me.
He’s more reliably delivered goosebumps to me than almost any songwriter.
He will not bow under to be clever.
He will not bow under to making a cheap rhyme scheme.
And he will take the trouble of making you very uncomfortable in the name of making you feel something.
Bill: I don’t know a lot about politics. I don’t know a lot about important socio-economic things.
I just don’t. I feel like it’s my job to only write something if it really matters.
Even if it only matters to me.
Stephen: The great thing about his songs, everything must absolutely be tied to a real experience in his life.
Bill: I don’t ever have a guitar on when I write a song.
Right when I wake up in the morning, the first 30 seconds, the melody will come with the lyric, something that I have been ruminating upon in the subconscious.
For instance, “Even though you’ll never come clean you know it’s true; those sheets are dirty and so are you.” Okay, that was a complete thought. A melody, lyrics, and chords in my head.
The way you hear it on the record, I heard that when I woke up.
I didn’t strum around or plink around. It was just like, “Oh that’s "Clean Sheets". Done.”
Bill: The song has to come out of me in order for me to be healed or to stop, grieving or that kind of thing.
The last song I wrote that was murderous was “One More Day.” Camera Guy: Do you want to talk about your dad a little bit?
Bill: Ugh, I’ll try. I get very upset. Eh, I don’t wanna talk about it.
Camera Guy: That’s alright.
Bill: I don’t want to talk about my dad.
Stephen: His father was a complicated man in many respects, and I think they had a very complicated relationship.
Bill: I was born when my father was 50, so when Milo Goes To College came out he was 69.
He was a good man, but he was very cruel, very cold.
He would sleep for one hour in the morning when he got home from work, and then he would go to his other job.
And then he would sleep for one hour in the evening after giving me dinner to go to his night job.
So he would sleep for two hours a day, one hour in the morning and one at night.
He did that for a lot of years.
My mom put us into financial ruination, because she was an alcoholic.
So he had to catch up, and he stepped up to the plate and did what had to be done so we wouldn’t lose our house.
I had so much admiration for him because of that, but at the same, he was such a cold man.
And that made it really to have a father-son relationship.
Stephen: There’s no questions that his father did his best.
But he was very demanding. He had high expectations of Bill.
Bill: He had a good plan for me, and I think it worked, but he about killed me trying to implement the plan.
Stephen: At a certain point, Bill figured out there was anything in the world that he couldn’t figure out how to do.
He embraced the grassroots, build it from the ground, DIY ethos.
He lives, eats and breathes that.
There’s certainly some parts of his upbringing that bring him to that place.
Stephen: When his dad got really sick, he brought him out from California to Colorado, and their relationship unfortunately didn’t end well.
Bill: We never had a good relationship, and I tried to take care of him when he was sick.
I would carry him to the bathroom.
I would have to roll him over to change positions to sleep, because he couldn’t move.
You know, carry him and all this stuff.
You know, I did that the last year and a half of his life, and he hated me every single second I was doing it.
Stephen: They moved him to a nursing home, and he died within a couple days.
Now, I’ve always felt that it was pretty likely that Steve didn’t want to die in front of Bill.
So “One More Day” was just… His relationship with his father was so complicated.
Bill: The song offered me closure, but it took a few years.
Time heals all wounds I guess is what it is.
Bill: Everyone at some point in their life wakes up and goes, “Ugh, I gotta get a real job.” At the point where we were opening up for Pennywise making $300 a night, it was like, “Hey guess what-we need a new plan.” Stephen: Bill was married. I was married. Karl was becoming unmarried.
Karl: I had just been divorced, you see, so it didn’t matter to me.
It’s like, “Oh, we got a big, empty hall to play to. Big fucking deal.”
Bill: We were trying to figure out how to pay the bills and still be in a band, and we had children coming along.
Once you have kids, the priorities immediately just reshuffle themselves.
Kids: Our dad smells. He farts a lot.
He’s awesome. And he kicks my butt at basketball.
He doesn’t care what people think of him, which is a good thing.
Bill: "I already had a pretty good foot in the door in terms of producing records, so I started saying yes to more production work.
Stephen: There was no intentional hiatus. It became kind of impractical.
And maybe that would’ve changed, but I decided to move to Tulsa.
My inlaws were here, and I wanted my family to have extended family close-by.
Descendents or ALL? Descendents! Descendents!
Karl: When we started the band, none of us really expected to make a dime out of it, and we were just happy to be able to afford the burrito the next day and gas to get the next town.
Hit a point where people have wives and children and they start having expectations.
Suddenly I had no wife and no band. Two things that I thought were permanent factors of my life were gone.
Stephen: I sent songs to Bill. Said, “Hey, here’s a bunch of new stuff.” The way I saw it, if nothing else we could still make records.
But by the time I was sending him stuff, I think he was starting to head into being pretty sick.
Tim: We were doing a record almost at the height of Bill’s illness.
And we didn’t know what was going on.
We just knew he was really unhealthy and getting unhealthier.
Dave: Every time I saw Bill he was looking worse.
Zach: Everybody could tell something was a bit wrong.
Karl: I thought it was a nervous breakdown, because he’s a workaholic kinda guy."
Brett: The last time I had spoken with him, he seemed like he was in outer space or something.
Chad: He started getting mellower. Started putting on weight.
Milo: He wasn’t going to the studio anymore.
He was sitting in front of the TV like a vegetable and getting incredibly large.
He peaked out at 385 lbs.
Tim: We were worried about him but completely clueless as to what to do.
Greg: I heard this story about how the neighbor saw his dog out front and went and knocked on the door to check on him, and Bill was out of it. Called an ambulance, and the next thing, he’s in the E.R..
Mark Neagle: I got a call from the E.R. doc that there was a guy downstairs who was in pretty bad shape, who had a pretty large pulmonary embolism, which is a blood clot that traveled up to the lungs and got stuck.
This was a clot about a foot and a half long. It was enormous.
I recall at the time showing someone the CT scan, “Hey, look at this.” And they were like, “Oh, did you get the autopsy?” And I was like, “He’s alive!”
When it became apparent that he was gonna live through this thing, I started talking to him and said, “You said you were in the music industry. What did you do?” And he said, “I was in a band, I played the drums. Some people would call it punk rock.” At which point, I’m very interested. I said, “Anybody I would’ve heard of?” And he said, “Black Flag. And the Descendents. And ALL.” I was like, “You’re hallucinating.” And then I looked down at the chart, and it said John W. Stevenson.
And I said, “So you’re Bill Stevenson.” And he said, “Yeah.” And I’m like, “I know who you are!” Because he’s looking at me as some dorky doctor, not as someone who, back in the ‘80s was a huge Descendents fan or anything like that.
Milo: I went and visited him and he was better but still out of it a little bit.
Mark: It became apparent when he a came back to see me that everything was not okay.
And that was when he had the MRI done of his head that revealed he had a meningioma, which is a benign tumor about the size of a tennis ball right in the middle of his head, compressing both frontal lobes.
The cure for the tumor is surgery.
You can’t do surgery on someone when they’re on blood thinners.
And when somebody has an enormous blood clot in their lungs, you have to wait.
At five months, I said, “I know if we’re gonna get him any better,” and boom, he was in the operating room in three days.
There was no guarantee that taking this tumor out was going to bring back his personality.
He might get worse, or he might make no recovery.
Zach: For us, he’s this unsinkable person.
Tim: I couldn’t imagine not having Bill around.
Mike: It’s fucked up.
Bill: So they put me under, and they sawed my head open, and they removed a 6.5 cm meningioma out of my skull, and bolted my head back together with titanium plates. And here I am.
Mark: We were all prepared for a long rehab process, but that didn’t happen.
Zach: He survived two things that would kill a normal person.
Bill: When I came up out of the anesthesia, I lifted my head out of the pillow and I remember going, “Yeah! Yes! I knew I wasn’t getting old!” Milo: He called me two days after they removed it, and he was on cloud nine. It was like a veil was lifted.
Chad: It was like BAM! That’s the Bill I met when I joined the band.
Bill: Because it had grown exponentially in a parabola over years, I had acclimated to that pressure and I just thought that’s what a person’s head feels like.
And that that’s what I was gonna be like. I was gonna be an old, lame, huge, fat guy.
So it was so cool when they got it out of there. Everything just became really easy.
Brett: It was literally a rebirth. His personality was back where it had been gone.
Dave: He’s really rejuvenated and excited about playing and excited about life. And he should be.
Karl: And he’s drumming better than he has ever.
Mark: It’s almost like a novel.
Bill: I woke up, and this Black Flag fan had saved my life.
And he lives a block from the studio.
It was so awesome. He made being sick really kick-ass.
Mike: But I think it put in him, if there could be such a thing, even more drive, more earnestness.
You know, I gotta get done what I gotta do with the time I have.
Bill: I’m a lucky man. I’m lucky to be here, and I’m happy to be here.
And it’s just rad. It’s rad to not die.
Stephen: With Bill’s health issues now resolved and the massive debt that was incurred when Bill couldn’t work, with medical bills stacked on top of that. I think Milo was like, “Maybe we ought to take a few shows.” Reporter: “At FunFunFun Fest today we have the Descendents!” Milo: I really wanted to see him back on the drumset.
I wanted to be able to turn around and watch him doing the Bill thing.
Milo: Which, sure enough, that’s how it’s been. It’s been incredible.
I look back and he almost always has a smile on his face. He's back there like… As you might expect from someone who almost lost their life twice. He has a new reason to live.
He’s living it back there on the drums with this big shit-eating grin on his face.
Stephen: Milo figured out, “I can do this in this limited way and it works for me, and it’s cool."
Just blast in there, have a ton of fun, and then go back to my science thing.
Karl: It’s fun, man. It’s easier now because a lot of the problems that might have existed personally and professionally don’t exist now. We certainly all have separate lives, and we get together and do this music. It’s a little bit like a time machine.
Part of you is still existing in the time and space where you wrote the song.
Bill: We can bring our kids to our show and be like, “Check me out!
I’m rockin’!” Miles is like, “Yeah, my dad shreds on drums!”
Milo: I figure I gotta do it now before, A) I’m too old, and B) they’re teenagers and what to have nothing to do with me.
Dave: They still sound amazing. Just as powerful as they have been.
It’s nice to have the audience really dig them.
Joey: They’re maybe even better than they were, which I don’t understand.
Doug: It’s not like, “Wheel out the geezers and let them play!” These guys are doing it!
That’s difficult music to play! And they’re blasting!
Scott: I didn’t even watch any of the show. I sat just facing the audience the entire time, because I just couldn’t get over it. It was like fucking Van Halen or something.
Mike: They’ve got such passionate fans. They’ve got fans that will die for them.
Fan: The best fucking songs. They were some of the fastest players.
Fan #2: How cool is it to have a song about fishing?
Fan #3: Descendents really spoke to me, and I felt like they must be exactly like me because this song is exactly how I felt.
Fan #4: They wrote the stories of a lot of people’s lives.
Fan #5: It was like the soundtrack to our youth.
Fan #6: I can’t tell you enough about what they’ve done for me.
Fan #7: If I had a child, his name would be Milo.
Fan #8: He’s a scientist and punk rocker. What cooler thing can you be?
Grohl: Thankfully there was a point where popular bands were influenced by bands that actually meant something.
The Descendents were a positive influence on generations of musicians.
Mike: I got to put out a Descendents record on my label. How fucking awesome is that?
Mark: As far as I’m concerned, they invented pop punk for me. That attitude and that musical sensibility.
I won’t say that I entirely ripped it off, but heavily influenced.
Grohl: Those lessons that we learned from them back then were important.
To this day I bet you I can play that whole fucking "Milo Goes To College" album, note for note.
That’s how I learned how to play the drums.
Bug: There’s no other band like them. It’s doesn’t matter which one they are. There’s just not another one.
Chris: They were ahead of their time. They were making music that these band’s that hit in the ‘90s wouldn’t have been making probably if it wasn’t for ALL and the Descendents.
Tim: Much of the world may not realize that it all started with the Descendents.
Milo: It’s just been a bunch of best friends who come in and out of each other’s lives.
Milo: I just wanted Bill to get some fruits from his labor, his toil. Because he has toiled for many years.
Mark: I think he feels himself a bit of a square peg, and the way he made his path in life was by forging it on his own.
Had he been a poser, he would not have been who he was.
Chuck: Humanities big gains, including rock bands, are about group efforts.
If an individual can find a group of people who will share that enthusiasm and hard work and focus and keep that going, you get incredible productivity from it.
Bill: It’s a good time right now for us. We’re having fun.
And Milo and I, when we were walking in Austin, I remember going, “Oh, so if we want to hang out, all we have to is book shows and we get to hang out.” And he’s like, “Yeah! Why didn’t I think of that?”