Dean Sabatino started playing music in elementary school and joined The Dead Milkmen in 1983. The band is still touring shows and making new music and they’re playing Sacramento April 21 at Harlows. The band’s most recent album is Pretty Music For Pretty People was released last year. We talked with Sabatino over the phone about the band’s journey and new music.
What’s the weirdest place you’ve played?
We played some strange ones. The one that usually comes to mind is we played this place in El Paso, Texas that turned out to be outside of town on a pig farm in an old metal quonset hut. I think they had one power outlet that came from an orange electric cord which was about 100 yards long plugged into the farmhouse off in the distance. I think there was one microphone. We got there and there was basically nobody there. We weren’t sure if anybody would show up to the show…
But people came out of woodwork and showed up for the show and we played the gig. It was quite smelly too - pig farms don’t smell really nice.
That probably would’ve been in 1986. That was pretty early on. Our first record came out in 1985 and we did a tour of the US that summer. The fall of 1985 was when “Bitchin Camero” took off on college radio, after that we started touring quite a bit more. I think that’s when that was.
What’s the secret to your longevity as a band?
We took some breaks, but we’re still having fun doing it. We’d taken a long break and we played some memorial shows when our original bass player passed away in 2004. We didn’t think anything passed that. We weren’t really planning on doing anything. It wasn’t for a couple years later when folks who put on the Fun Fun Fun Festival, down in Austin Texas, started lobbying us to come play the festival...
Once we [played Fun Fun Fun] we had such a great time doing it, afterwards we kind of looked at each other and went, “you know this is kind of fun, maybe we should consider doing some more of this.”
One of the key things we talked about right from the get go if we were going to play again we wanted to make sure we wrote some new songs. We didn’t want to be the oldies act playing our old songs. We decided if we were going to do it we were going to write new songs and put out new music.
We try to keep it as fun as possible. It’s not like our full time job anymore... it’s now our major hobby.
What’s a song you’d like to recommend some this new album?
“Big Words Make The Baby Jesus Cry,” it ties in with our older material. We’re making reference to things that are going on right now. Back in the 80’s we were railing against conservatism and Ronald Reagan and that kind of stuff… it seems like things are still happening in that regard. We’re kind of making a little commentary on the Tea Party conservative type things you see on the news media these days.
What can people expect from a live Dead Milkmen show in Sacramento?
It’s been a long time since we played in Sacramento. We play a lot of songs because they’re short. We have a lot of fun with the crowd. Rodney likes to talk with the audience. I’m sitting back behind the drums... about mid-set we usually launch into “Bitchin Camaro” and I never know what Rodney's going to say night to night in the spoken word part of it. I just sit back and laugh and laugh. That’s always fun.
It’s great to see our fans who have always been very loyal. It’s great to see old fans and it’s nice to see we have some new fans as well. Quite possibly our new fans at the children of our old fans.
What musical accomplishment are you most proud of?
It’s hard to stay together as a band. Keeping four people together like this… it takes a lot of work. I’m proud that we’re still friends and still get along and still have fun doing what we do.