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It has often been intuitively said that one should ‘never meet their idols’. Having fallen prey to this advice, not once, but twice last year driving around what used to be favourite bands of mine, part of me was a little reluctant to agree to an interview with Descendents frontman, Milo Aukerman. What if he’s a dick? Impossible to imagine really, but hey, it’s happened before. No not Milo, surely…

To put things into perspective here. Milo is as probably as close as I’ve ever come to worshipping a god, or a religion too for that matter and I’m as devout an atheist as they come. His songs of teenage angst, confusion, lust and rejection were the backbone of my upbringing. Here I was being presented a once in a lifetime opportunity to ask Milo anything I wanted to know about the Descendents. The risk factor was through the roof, as was the rewards on offer, there was a lot to lose and yet even more to gain. Fortunately the fanboy in me managed to override my common sense.

What to ask though… What to ask? You have no idea how hard it is to pose questions to a guy of Milo’s stature. What do you say to a 50 year old rocket scientist who still possesses perhaps one of the greatest voices ever to be associated with the term punk? This guy almost single handedly invented the whole pop punk genre for crying out loud. “Oh hi Mr Aukerman, I really, really like your band.” Yeah that’s not really going to cut it. Then I got a little apprehensive about the whole affair. What if I froze up and got overawed by it all. “I was wondering, you know, if you, like, you know... Oh no?, Ok well, never mind, see you later.”

Luckily all my fears soon went out the window when I heard his voice on the other end of the phone. It honestly felt like talking to an old friend, you hadn’t seen in a while. Just another not quite grown up punk rock kid who’s stoked to be in a band with his best friend Bill Stevenson. I’d never felt more at ease doing an interview and Milo seemed genuinely stoked to be talking to a fan and I hung on his every word. Yep it must be cool to be me..

Congratulations on recently turning 50. Has Milo Aukerman committed adulthood?

Yeah well I guess maybe committing adulthood happened a while ago, but turning 50 is more like oldster hood, or committing senility or whatever the next stage in life is.

But no matter how old you are, you gotta just find some way to keep yourself young and the music always does that for me. Something I always return to, to not feel like such an old fart basically!

Okay so being a biochemist, can I get your opinion on whether or not you believe there is life on Mars?

Wow! Life on Mars, that’s a good question. I guess they need to find some carbon up there. I like to hold out hope that they’re going to find some carbon-based evidence, some small molecules or something unicellular. When the earth first formed it was a pretty harsh environment, but yet somehow some tiny little bits of living matter were able to survive, I just think that with Mars that maybe somehow, something could survive up there too. Maybe Mars now, is at the same phase that Earth was at when it first started. So yeah, I’m gonna hold out hope on that one.

I have this theory that even though you guys never claimed to be straight edge, you perhaps actually were in your younger days? I’m of course referring to songs like Good Clean Fun, I’m Not A Loser, Bikeage and the ongoing coffee references, when your peers and contemporaries were busy singing songs about getting wasted etc…

It was never something that we all really ever bought into. Bill and myself were not really drinking or doing any drugs at all. Frank smoked a little pot and I guess if you want to be a straight edge band then you all might wanna be on the same page. We had a lot of different viewpoints and takes on it and I don’t think any single one of us ever felt that strongly about it, as some kind of political stance for the band. We’ve always been more about everyone can just do what they want and it just turned out that Bill and I just didn’t wanna do any of that.

But as we’ve grown older Bill and I enjoy getting together and having a beer every now and then. We had those songs that touched on those topics, but they were more or less commenting on what happens when you do some of those things to excess. You have a song like “Bikeage” about a girl getting drunk and it wasn’t really disapproving of drinking, but more just on taking it to that excessive level. The whole straight edge thing was just a little too extreme and we just felt everyone could just make their own choices about what they wanted to do.

As I’ve gotten older too, I’ve come to learn that moderation is the key. If there was ever a movement for moderation, that’s the movement I would belong to.

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So while we are on the topic of moderation, lets talk about coffee. Who is the biggest coffee drinker in the band these days and how much are we talking?

I should just mention we are definitely not moderate about coffee. That is definitely one thing we don’t do moderately. These days the biggest coffee drinker in the band would probably be Bill.

For me, the day I drank the most coffee most recently, was the day of the Sydney show down there in Australia when we last toured. Coincidentally that was the most coffee I’d drunk in quite a long time. It wasn’t just coffee too, it was like those 5 hour lasting energy drinks mixed in with a ton of coffee.

I had a lot of fun at the show as you can imagine being that chemically induced. But afterwards, I couldn’t actually go to sleep, I had heart palpitations, hence I didn’t sleep, hence the next day my voice was gone, hence I couldn’t sing the next day at the Brisbane show. I’m gonna avoid that scenario this time around, I think I’m gonna try and be moderate with my coffee drinking. The human voice is so sensitive to a whole variety of physiological things and one of them is if you don’t get enough sleep then you are screwed. I can guarantee you that won’t be happening again. I don’t wanna go all the way down to Australia again and have that lame issue affecting the tour.

See now I thought the adage was that, “thanks to modern chemistry, sleep is now optional”?

I know its just one of those things, you think to yourself I don’t need to sleep. Then you don’t sleep and all of these kids are left disappointed and you go, oh I do actually need to sleep. Maybe this is another Milo grows up kind of thing. You’re trying to go for ALL. Then you go for ALL and then realise oh there’s a penalty to pay for that. If I’m going for ALL in vocals, then maybe I have to not go for ALL with coffee.

So at the height of your coffee drinking career, what was the most amount of cups you would consume in a day?

Well I’d be drinking 5 or 6 bonus cups on average, but that’s usually in pretty close proximity. We’d be doing it as a way of juicing up before the show. So you’d drink 5 or 6 cups of coffee in the course of an hour. If they were spaced out over the day, then maybe it would be not so bad, but crammed all together like that, you get pretty wired.

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Who was the “Silly Girl”? Was she an infatuation or a girlfriend perhaps? Did you two ever get together?

Well Bill actually wrote the song so it was about Bill’s silly girl. He really did write a lot of the heartfelt love songs, I mean I did write my share, but that was one he wrote. I know who she is, it’s a real girl and they actually dated for a while. It was probably the first love of his life. She’s still the silly girl. He’s still in contact with her and he probably still carries a flame for her to this day.

Given a lot of Descendents songs were penned about girls. What is your fave break up or ‘denied love’ song you penned?

I guess I’d have to say, “Hope”. Just because it kind of holds a special place for me because it was the first song I ever wrote for the Descendents. I wrote some lameo songs before I joined the band, that don’t even really count because they were so bad. It’s also the first song about my first girlfriend. Two different firsts make it pretty special and you never really forget the first girlfriend I guess. Also just the way that I wrote that song and how it kind of snaked it’s way into my brain. The chords came first and I just played those chords over and over again because they sounded so cool and then finally I wrote some lyrics for it after the fact. It was just one of those things that really got under my skin, so “Hope” is probably it for me.

Okay so mine is “Pep Talk”? Why don’t you guys play it live any more?

You know what, that is actually one of my personal favourite Descendents songs and its actually one that Bill and I wrote together which makes it unusual. I wrote the music and then I showed it to Bill and he goes “oh here’s a chorus that would probably go with that.” Then he had a verse as well and I ended up writing some more extra lines for another verse. He wrote the first verse, and then I wrote the second verse. He wrote the chorus and then I wrote the music. So it was like a total collaboration.  I think it turned out great too; it has a lot of energy and everything.

We don’t have 100% unanimity from the band to play it live in our set. The other members aren’t as into it or whatever, so its one of those things that you’ve gotta get everyone on board with it.

When ALL started playing shows with Dave Smalley and then Scott Reynolds, did you find you missed being on stage?

I missed it from the moment I left. You always miss being up on stage. There are other things you don’t miss though. I didn’t necessarily miss spending 23 out of 24 hours being in a van driving from place to place getting sick. I was always getting sick on the road there.

Being on stage was something I missed from the very get go. Whenever I’d go see them play I’d be thinking oh I wish I was up there. Then half the time they’d get me up anyways. So that was always kind of fun, as I could get my little dose of rock star life again. Whenever I’d see them play, they’d always welcome me back. There’s always been that open door over the years, that has made it possible for me to drift in and out of that situation. It probably explains why we’ve made such a long stint out of it, as a band, as being able to take a break from it has helped me keep my sanity.

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What are you most looking forward to about coming to Australia besides playing shows?

I’d like to tour around Melbourne some more, as I really liked Melbourne when I was there. Actually I’d like to see some more of Sydney and Brisbane too. Last time we had a little time off in Melbourne so it was great to explore that city a little bit. When we got to Sydney it was a case of fly in, do the show, then for me not get any sleep, then fly up to Brisbane. I felt like I should have seen a lot more of Sydney. So I’m looking forward to experiencing a lot of these big Australian cities. There is a lot of culture to take in and a lot of great people to meet. We had such a great time the last time we were there and I have no doubt this time will be as much fun if not more fun.

How much involvement have you had in the “Filmage” doco?

They’ve interviewed me for it a few times and there is some really good live footage of us in there. I did see a rough cut of it, and to me the main stars of it are Tony Lombardo and Bill Stevenson. Those guys really knocked it out of the park just in terms of the comedy they were able to bring to it and just their personalities are over the top. Which for something like that, is just the way it has to be. If you’re gonna go see the movie, definitely check out Tony and Bill’s performances, they were easily the best of the bunch.

Can you give a rough estimation of when you think the new Descendents record will be ready?

Well we are all writing songs for it. I’ve written somewhere between 8-10 songs. Bill and Karl have also written at least that many too. The main thing is trying to fit it in. We’ve all got our own lives that we are living and we’ve got to try and squeeze it in between our current occupations. Luckily with the current digital technology we can share files back and forth and try to work out songs that way. I think it’s doable, but what it does mean is that it will take that little bit longer than in the past. In the past we’ll just hole up in the studio for the week and get it done. This time though its gonna be piecemeal, kinda bit by bit, so we’ll just have to see how that goes. It may take a year or it may take two years. We’ll get it done.

Milo Aukerman it has been an absolute pleasure. Thank you for your time.

No problem, thank you. We’ll see you down there real soon.

Head over here to check out our looking back feature on the first Australian Descendents tour of 2010.

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