The Dead Milkmen are often referred to as the godfathers of Philly’s hardcore scene, and with good reason. Since the 80s the hardcore and indie music scene in the city has gone from strength to strength, and there are more places than ever before to discover some of the most talented acts in the city. Having originally split in 1995, the Milkmen reformed, much to the glee of die hard fans, back in 2004, despite the tragic loss of original bassist Dave Schulthise, or Dave Blood, to use his original band moniker.
True to Form
Despite reuniting in 2004, it’s taken a while for the Milkmen to release brand new material, with the last offering being 2011’s ‘The King in Yellow’, which was regarded by many as return to form, if not a little more cynical and cutting – but since when was that a bad thing? Recently, the band have been busy at work on a follow up, due to be released independently this fall. The fact that these two records have been self released raises some interesting points about the industry as a whole – thanks to easy to access music technology, software, and the internet, we’re seeing more and more independent, and even previously well established acts, take the route of self release. Whether it’s Radio head’s ‘In Rainbows’, that trustingly allowed fans to pay what they thought the album was worth, to the Dead Milkmen’s digital releases, it’s certainly both heartening and at the same time discouraging that the industry proper seems to be little more than a production line for disposable one hit wonders. This isn’t lost on the Milkmen either, who had their fair share of label and industry related problems during the early years of their career.
Labels Ruin Everything
The advent of social media and the internet, and it’s potential for bands of all shapes and sizes, certainly isn’t lost on drummer Dean Sabatino. In a recent interview for Philly.com, he mentions how the band have embraced social media as a tool for communicating with fans: ‘All this social media stuff is kind of cool because back in the day, we only had a newsletter. This makes it much easier. Plus, it ties in with the old Punk Rock DIY ethics. Bands have much more control over how they interact with fans now. Labels ruin everything.’ This is certainly true, and labels are also aware of the power of social media, having recently been causing trouble by purchasing you tube views for their main acts. Of course, on the flip side, it’s now much harder for independent bands to make a living without label support – although of course whatever is made from merchandise and shows goes straight in their pocket, as opposed to a label taking a slice. Additionally, this has led to an increase in focus on live shows, which is never a bad thing for Philly music lovers. Despite their come back, things haven’t always been easy for the Milkmen, and the death of bassist Dave Blood came as both a shock and tragedy for the band just as they announced reunion gigs in 2004. While not an addict, Schulthise committed suicide by drug overdose in March 2004, leaving a note which according to his sister, stated : ‘He could just not stand to go on any longer.’ As a result, the come back gig in November of that year dedicated it’s proceeds to a number of mental health charities. While certainly a sudden turn of events, drug use is often associated with mental health issues or depression, but as Schulthise wasn’t a known addict, no one saw it coming. Signs of dependence are usually apparent after some time, and as noted by drugabuse.com, can become one of the most destructive issues in a person’s life.
The new material is likely to be released this coming Fall, with a number of shows to boot. The timing couldn’t be better for the Milkmen, with Philly currently having: ‘..the most honest, most prolific punk scene in the country.’ according to vice.com. Having the chance to catch legends in the flesh isn’t an opportunity we get everyday, so be sure to catch the original sardonic practitioners of punk rock later this year live, and pick up the album at any number of online stores.