Mick Collins - Dirtbombs.  Live at the Independent, San Francisco.I recently got the opportunity to interview Mick Collins from The Dirtbombs, and we waxed poetic about Movement 2011, Detroit music, records and the flight risk of Detroit musicians. Being new to Detroit’s rock scene, I learned a lot from him, but I think even some of the most die hard Dirtbombs fans will find this interview to be very informative. The Dirtbombs will be performing at Movement 2011, so make sure to come and check them out!

DU: So, you guys are playing at Movement 2011. Is this the first time you’ve played an electronic music festival?

MC: Yes.

DU: What can we expect to see there, will you approach it differently than you would a rock show?

MC: Yeah, for starters they asked us to just play Party Store, but had they not asked for just Party Store, we have a number of songs over the years that are like, super dance songs, really dancy kind of thing that we would have played anyway. So it won’t be a standard Dirtbombs show. We may stretch one or two things out, but it will really just be the album.

DU: So you guys are planning to jam out a little, will you have a lot of electronic instruments on stage?

MC: We kinda can’t help it, because so much of the record you know, there’s a lot of hand claps, a few things off an 808 that we’ll certainly be using. I wont say it’ll be totally electronic, but there will definitely be some things on the record that we don’t normally play live.

DU: What does it mean to you to be a part of the Detroit underground music scene, and how does that work into the experience when you’re performing outside of Detroit and around the world?

MC: Only once or twice has anybody ever really mentioned the fact that being from Detroit means we listen to some techno. We once played a show in Eutrecht, I think, where they had a DJ come in and all he did for the entire hour before we went on stage, he did an entire Detroit techno set. So, we just told him to keep playing. When we walked out on stage, he was still going strong, it was like Death Star or something, X109. It was pretty funny. The audience totally didn’t understand, but they get it now. That was in Eutrecht in the Netherlands, I think, but that was a while ago.

DU: Do you find that Detroit’s underground music culture is celebrated all around the world, wherever you go?

MC: Absolutely. I can’t think of a city that I’ve been to yet, that didn’t acknowledge the contribution of Detroit artists to dance music.

DU: Are you guys all fans of Detroit Techno? Did you grow up listening to it? Did you go Motor, or any parties?

MC: I can’t say it has any influence on The Dirtbombs necessarily, outside of the one record, but I went to shows all the time. I used to go to parties. I used to see Rolondo spin quite a bit actually, and I’ve been to Motor a bunch. I’ve seen almost everybody, I’ve seen them all spin at one point or another over the years. This is in the liners notes of the Party Store remix album, the first record I ever got put on the radio was actually a house record I cut in 1988.

DU: Is that record hard to find?

MC: It never actually came out on vinyl, but if you remember Fast Forward with Alan Oldham on WDET, he played it. It saw air play a year before my first rock record did. Dance music was always something I did. There’s never been any separation between them, music is music for me. In 2008, my first actual dance 12″ came out the same week as the previous Dirtbombs LP. It came out on Mohagani Sound, Moodymann’s label.

DU: Has anyone ever remixed any Dirtbombs songs?

MC: Actually, Moodymann did. He did two songs off the album in 2008, the album was called We Have You Surrounded. He did remixes on two songs, and I did a remix on one, but I couldn’t find a label that was interested in putting it out, because everybody wants to say that The Dirtbombs are the standard sound. Everyone wants to make out like I only make one kind of music, and I don’t.

DU: What other types of music have you experimented with?

MC: I did a jazz soundtrack to a movie, about a decade ago now. I play a little bit of everything.

DU: What movie was that?

MC: It was called The Sore Losers, and I believe it came out around 1999. All the jazz numbers on the soundtrack are me.

DU: Recently, two Detroit area record stores were featured in Rolling Stone’s top 30 record stores in America, People’s Records and Encore Recordings. Did you frequent any of these record stores? Do you have any memories from those two stores? Do you remember any cool, or rare records that you found?

MC: Many, actually. I have been to Encore a bunch, and I used to hang out at People’s daily. I practically worked at People’s. Many, many records, I can’t even put a count on them. The one record that springs to mind right now, for some reason, is a track called Paper Tiger by Sue Thompson…

DU: I know that record, because I have it!

MC: Really?

DU: Yeah, the reason why I have that record is because on the other side of that 7″ is a song with my first name it. Norman… ooooooh

MC: I found that at People’s, just sitting there. I was helping out, cleaning records, and I put it on and everybody thought it was terrible, and they were like “Take that off!” I’m like, “What are you crazy?” So I just bought it. I’m trying to think of something else… A lot of old soul records, I’ve got through People’s. Not a lot of rock, a bunch of classical music.

DU: Esquire recently featured Ben Blackwell in their Last Night in Detroit songwriting contest. Will you guys be performing that?

MC: I haven’t heard it yet actually, but I know it exists. He told me about it. If we rehearse it and it sounds good, it wouldn’t be the first time somebody else’s song made it into a set. A bunch of people think I wrote the song I’m Through With White Girls, which I didn’t write, so we still get requests for it. Even though now everyone knows I didn’t write it, so we don’t play it anymore, but if the song’s good enough I’ll totally play it.

DU: The song is called Bury My Body At Elmwood, and it’s my favorite song on the EP. There’s five songs on the album, one of them is from Brendan Benson and another is from Ben Blackwell, and they both come from the same…

MC: That’s a great title.

DU: …yeah, it is. It’s an awesome song. But they are both coming from the point of view that they both left the Detroit scene for Nashville, and there’s good things and bad things about Detroit that they’ll always love and hate, and Elmwood was really cool because he goes into singing about all the people that were buried there, and how Joe Louis use to run through there, and how it’s the only place in Detroit that preserved the original landscape that was there before the city rose to power. It’s a really powerful song. So, speaking of these two artists, and Jack White. These are guys that left the Detroit scene, and talk about dealing with scumbag club owners, and shady promoters, and fans that always want a handout, and they get jaded. Do you feel the same way? Do you think that the music scene in Detroit will get better with the progress we’ve made so far?

MC: The thing about the music scene is that it’s always been the way it is. You can’t really say that it changes one way or another, because it’s always there. It’s been constant, it’s the same way now as it was before 2001 when everyone started looking. There’s always been a bunch of bands, there’s always been a bunch of places to play, and there’s always been the same folks in every band, it’s always been that way. As far as getting better, I guess there’s some new clubs opening up, so anytime there’s more places to play that’s a good thing. There may be a saturation point in a city that’s as economically hit as Detroit, but really it’s always been good. It’s always been good. I can’t say it’s ever been bad.

DU: So you don’t share the same frustration as Ben Blackwell and Brendan Benson.

MC: No, no no. I wasn’t frustrated about anything at all. I play in a band, and I have a fanbase that’s pretty large. It may not be large in any one place, but when you stack all the cities together, it’s a pretty good fanbase, and I was OK with that. The thing is, there’s no way to make a living at it from just Detroit, you can’t be that parochial about it. You just have to get on the road.

DU: I appreciate your insight, do you have anything else to say about the upcoming performance at DEMF?

MC: I’m looking forward to it. It’s three weeks away, and we haven’t even rehearsed yet. I have a new bass player, so as usual with every Dirtbombs show, we have no idea what’s going to actually happen, when we count off.

DU: That sounds exciting actually. That’s the stuff that good shows are usually made of. I appreciate your time, and look forward to seeing you at DEMF.

MC: Thanks a lot!

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