Milo Aukerman (The Descendents)

Interview with Milo Aukerman conducted by Greg Svitil in the bathroom at Nightingale’s in Fort Collins, CO, Fall 1996.

Greg: Tell us all about the new Descendents records.

Milo: It’s called Everything Sucks, and it’s got 16 songs on it, and they’re all really rockin’ kind of; we just pulled together a lot of stuff from all the band members. I kind of called Bill up earlier on this year, around April, and said ‘hey, I got these songs, and what do you think?,’ and we just kind of agreed upon a plan of attack to do it, and I think it’s just a great record, I like it, obviously. But, you know, it’s got a cool cover of how much everything sucks basically, keeping with the title. I like it. This is basically the same line-up that was on the 1987 Descendents records. So I call it semi-original. It’s a lot of the same people doing the same things, basically.

Greg: How did you hook up with Epitaph?

Milo: After Bill and I talked, we just started — I think that there was mutual interest on all sides, obviously, and it just worked out, that we wanted to play music and they wanted to facilitate. That’s basically how it came about. It’s like like, we wanted to do this music, and we talked to them about it.

Greg: Did you know Brett from way-back-when?

Milo: We’d played shows with those guys, and it’s funny; I’d never met Brett until recently. But we’d played shows with them, and I knew some of the other guys in the band, the drummer, and I still haven’t met Greg Graffin; I’d like to meet him sometime. But yeah, we played shows with Bad Religion. But Brett’s a really nice guy. Just having just met him, I think he’s a really cool guy, and obviously he knows his stuff. He’s just a really hard worker. He works hard for what he does.

Greg: Have you gotten any skepticism from people as to why the Descendents are getting back together when the Pistols and Misfits are reforming, and also for being on Epitaph?

Milo: Yeah, I mean, that’s inevitable, and I just don’t pay any attention to it, ’cause all that matters to me is how I feel about it. And I know Bill and I were first talking about this, at that point there was nothing more than just ‘hey, let’s make music together,’ and there was no ‘okay, we’re gonna put out a record, have a deal on Epitaph, blah blah blah blah blah, destroy, conquer the world.’ It was more along the lines of ‘let’s do these songs.’

So to me that’s what it all boils down to. That’s kind of what Bill and I have always been about, is whenever I call him about music, or whenever he calls me about music, it’s always like ‘hey, check this out,’ and we just grew on each other’s music, and whatever else happens is secondary.

As far as people wanting to be cynical about it, they can be cynical about it, but I’m not gonna be cynical about it. It’s their prerogative, if they want to be that way.

Greg: Where have you been over the past seven years, or ten years, or however long it’s been?

Milo: I’ve been studying biology, and just trying to research biology, which is a really fun thing for your brain, but it can also be kind of frustrating as well. So I’ve dealt with the ups and downs of that. Anything you do, obviously, there’s up and downs in music as well, so I just tend to bounce back and forth between these two extremes because I find them both fulfilling in certain senses, if not unfulfilling in other senses. It’s my curse in life, is to kind of bounce back and forth, I think.

Greg: I noticed you played “She’s My Ex” (an All song).

Milo: Yeah, I think the concept is just, we want to play whatever music we want to play, and if that includes some of the other songs that those guys know and that I’m familiar with, then why not? Basically, I know a lot of their records by heart. I know a lot of the All records by heart. So there’s no harm is doing something just because it’s good music, and it’s music that we all enjoy playing. So we have no hard and set boundaries as far as that goes.

Greg: Were there reasons other than you going to school that made the Descendents break up the first time?

Milo: I think it was somewhat of a convenient thing for them to branch out their sound a little. Obviously they still have that hard and fast element to them, but the All guys took that opportunity to play in a different direction, and as such moving in that direction they changed the name, and I don’t think there was any kind of thing like ‘the name died with me.’ I’m not even an original member myself. The band started in 1978 with Bill and Frank and Tony, and I joined in 1980. So God knows, I have no claim on the name. It was mainly that, when I went off to school, they chose that as a good juncture point to kind of go away, try something new. I think it worked out well, because they sustained a pretty rockin’ thing all the way through the whole period, so that was cool.

Greg: Do you envision the Descendents lasting as long as they did the first time around?

Milo: When Bill and I talked back in April, it just started out as ‘hey, let’s do some music,’ and then it went from ‘hey, let’s do some music’ to ‘hey, let’s do this record.’ And then once it was ‘hey, let’s do this record,’ it was like ‘well, you know, we should play some shows to promote the record.’

That’s where it stands right now. It stands at that, and it’s basically a day-to-day thing. And I should mention, of course, that All is still up and running, and it’s just a matter of trading off during certain periods. All is gonna put out a record next spring. Again, it just comes back to this ‘one big happy family’ kind of thing. It’s all people that just like to make music, and it doesn’t matter what the exact line-up is, as it just happens that, when I called Bill about it, we thought ‘well, it’s appropriate, and now we need to call this ‘the Descendents’ again,’ and do it that way.

So All is still up and running, and as far as the Descendents, we’ll just have to wait and see, play it by ear. I mean, I’m still doing science, for example.

Greg: Are you pursuing any sort of Ph.D?

Milo: Yeah, I got a Ph.D.

Greg: Oh, you got one.

Milo: I’ve got one, and I’m just trying to make a go in academia. And I’m finding it just a little bit discouraging, ’cause there’s not a lot of academic jobs out there. So maybe that has also contributed to my desire to just kind of test the waters, or just to kind of dabble in something new.

What I’ve always done is done something for a while, and then burn out of it, or felt like ‘you know, this isn’t doing it for my anymore,’ and then I’ll move on to do something else. So I think that’s kind of why I bounce back and forth.

Greg: Are there any particular newer punk bands that you really like?

Milo: Oh, Bill turned me on to Hagfish, which I really like. I think that they’re great. They just have that snotty sound that I really like. But they also have great melodies, which to me, having the snotty singing but great melodies is just a great combination. I listen to some Jawbreaker, old Jawbreaker, new Jawbreaker.

Greg: Did you hear they just broke up?

Milo: Yeah, I heard they just broke up, it’s kind of a drag. I don’t know what that would do to you, but I know that a lot of people do this whole ‘sell-out’ biz, and I just don’t have any patience for that. ‘Oh, you’ve sold out’ or whatever, ‘because they’re on a major.’ I thought that the last record was great. Really liked it. And I know, people want to denigrate something because it’s on a major. I don’t know, I just had to draw my two cents there.

Greg: Anything more you want to add?

Milo: The record’s coming out in two weeks. I guess by the time this zine’s out, it’s out, so it’s September 24. We’re gonna be touring around, so come check it out. Science sucks, music sucks, everything sucks.

Greg: Milo, thank you so much. This is great.