After a few months of trying to catch up with each other, I finally set down for a conversation with Bill Burkle of Detroit punk group, Hoppin' Mad. For those of you who haven't heard the band, they are an old school straight ahead punk group with some of the wittiest love songs you've ever heard. This is illustrated in their new release Don't Waste Your Time. Here is the conversation...
Samuel Barker: To begin, who are the members of Hoppin' Mad, and what do each of you do?
Bill Burkle: Bill - Vocals/Guitar, Jay - Drums, and Noah - Bass/Vocals
Samuel: Does being a 3-piece make it easier to tour or just to get together?
Bill: Yeah, i'd say so. we don't have a big tour bus so, it's easy with the 3 of us. And it's always hard to get everybody together at the same time so, with fewer members there's less to work around
Samuel: How many years have you guys played together? How have things changed since the beginning?
Bill: We've been together since 97...we formed from the ashes of mine and Jay's previous band. The only thing major that's changed is the fact that we've got a new bass player. When we started playing more shows and touring our old bassist had to split due to commitments with his family here in Detroit.
Samuel: So through everything the band has been able to keep relatively the same line-up?
Bill: Yeah, luckily
Samuel: That's odd in the punk world.
Bill: Tell me about it. Jay and I have been playing in bands together for about 10 years, and the biggest thing we've always had a problem with is bass players
Samuel: So being in bands for nearly 10 years, are you as much or more into your music now as you were in the beginning?
Bill: I'd say I'm into it more but, I'm not as naive as I used to be about it.
Samuel: Do you feel experience is as important as talent when it comes to succeeding?
Bill: Experience helps. I think organization and focus is the key
Samuel: The new album reads like a history lesson in punk, from the vintage guitar sounds of the queers and others to the lyrical set-up similar to that of MTX or The Descendents, do you feel it's important to know where the music came from?
Bill: Oh, most definitely. That's what bother me sometimes
Samuel: Do you ever feel that it's sad the kids today don't know much about the early bands in the punk community?
Bill: A lot of the new punkrockers don't acknowledge the roots. They think it's all about Fat Wreck Chords. Nothing against Fat but, that's not where this all started. See, I didn't even like all the new stuff until not too long ago. It was too metal for me...I didn't consider it punkrock. People were calling it punkrock and I was like "WHAT?!?!?!" It was too clean cut
Samuel: What do you think of bands like Blink-182, Fenix, TX, and Bad Religion doing these huge venue shows and appearing on MTV?
Bill: First of all, what the hell is Bad Religion doing opening up for Blink 182. The bands are definitely playing for a bigger audience nowadays so, I guess that has to be taken inot consideration but, it won't be the same at a show...it can't. What happens to in your face punk fucking rock shows
Samuel: Well, it has a lot to do with the lack of knowledge with the kids today, and the decline in music quality for Bad Religion...Right, a punk show was always intimate and the bands and fans were sort of a team
Bill: This is true. And I'm not a HUGE Bad Religion fan and I do like Blink 182 but, it just doesn't seem right. Hopefully these bands that are getting to a bigger level will remember where they came from and what they set out to do.
Samuel: I look at it how Ian Mackaye said it "We want to share the energy with the crowd, it's no fun if 'they're up there, we're down here, nice show, lets go' and nothing is changed."
Bill: Right on! I have the most fun when i can get right in someones face with my guitar with their fist up in the air...nothing like it
Samuel: As a fan, there's nothing like that moment either. Who would you name as some of the more influential bands in your life?
Bill: Although, the Ramones are my favorite. Screeching Weasel and the Descendents are the ones who shaped my outlook. I realize that there would more than likely be no such thing as Screeching Weasel and a hell of a lot of other things if it weren't for the Ramones.
Samuel: Well, a lot of the DC scene broke out around the same time as the Ramones, so it sorta snowballed at once.
Bill: Yeah, that's a whole other side to punkrock. Old school hardcore.
Samuel: The Ramones are as I call it "punk ROCK", because it's basically rock n' roll
Bill: Yup, I love that revved up 50's sound.
Samuel: Well, with all the girl problems in the songs, is it safe to say that the guys in Hoppin' Mad are doomed to be single?
Bill: Haha...it sounds that way but, not really. We just like to bitch about girls, cause girls like to bitch.
Samuel: True enough but you gotta love them
Bill: Yeah, and I've got a cool girlfriend. She's real helpful with the band. She runs our merch.
Samuel: See, it's only fair that guys have the right to voice how chicks break their hearts too, do you agree?
Bill: Oh, most definitely...we got feeling, too...oh, boy
Samuel: This is the man way of getting back at Alanis Morrisette dammit!
Bill: Haha. Yeah, Alanis didn't ehlp the male pursuasion much.
Samuel: No, she didn't
Bill: She gave women a voice...damn her! Haha.
Samuel: yeah, but it shows that men are more than testosterone laden, porno watching, beer drinking savages, we have a little heart to go with everything.
Bill: Yeah, us good ones are a little bit more than that.
Samuel: So if you could book a show with another band, ANY band, who would it be?
Bill: There are plenty of bands that I'd love to have the pleasure of sharing the stage with...Back to the Ramones, Descendents, and Screeching Weasel. I'd probably pick Screeching Weasel though cause I've never seen them live. I have a feeling that that'll change though.
Samuel: That's kinda like a teen magazine question, maybe we should run through those for all our teenage fans. Real Quick! Boxers or briefs?
Bill: I like both actually, but prefer neither.
Samuel: what's you sign?
Samuel: What's the ideal romantic evening for you? Actually, that's more Playboy than Teen magazine, but you ask what you know.
Bill: Well, I like to cook so, cooking up a nice hot dinner is great! it doesn't have to be candle light or anything. good food is very orgasmic and romantic.
Samuel: Well, I'm out cheesy Teen Magazine questions, so back to rock questions, I'm sure your saddened by this.
Bill: Most definitely. I feel silly. Haha.
Samuel: Well, interviews can be silly. I don't want this to be just info, I want it to be entertaining.
Bill: well, i give one hell of a lap dance
Samuel: Needed money for bills really bad I take it?
Bill: Yeah, I had to file for bankruptcy and that was my only choice. The old women pay big bucks but, it's "hard on" me emotionally
Samuel: It's not you, it's society that's fucked up.
Bill: Bingo isn't the only thing they enjoy.
Samuel: The blue hairs are still freaks, even moreso, they've seen all the normal stuff, so they need the freaky shit to get off. That's why there are so many "mature" women porn sites.
Bill: Always finding new ways to get your kicks. Oh, I only go to teen so, i don't know anything about the mature women.
Samuel: Oh man, how do you miss them, they're everywhere? No fun at all to come across, but they're out there in force.
Bill: I just avoid them...I deal the aging women enough at my day job.
Samuel: Ha Ha! Alright, back to band questions. Is it rough being in Detroit which is mostly known for Rap Rockers and Punk/Ska bands?
Bill: Not really...although I don't know how it turned out that way. I'm not a ska fan so, when i book shows i usually don't go to them. There's room for all of us. There's a lot melodic new school wannabe stuff. and a reasonable amount of good poppunk bands so, i'm usually happy. It's mosly the Korn, Linp Bizcit wannabe's that piss me off.
Samuel: Any bands you personally enjoy playing with?
Bill: Of course..Ruth's Hat, Big Wheels, Caulfield, Capture the Flag are cool. FudgeGun was an awesome band but, they broke up. Oh, and the Trash Brats are GREAT!
Samuel: Man, there's a lot of them.
Bill:Yeah, I guess there are. All of us have a really good friendship going. We play with Ruth's Hat quite a bit. We played a show with them in London, Ont...it was our 1st stop on our tour and we just partied all night at one of their houses...it was awesome. There were about 3 of us with acoustic guitars and about 7 of us singing ont he porch drunk off our asses and we pissed the neighbor off. He supposedly knew karate but, he looked like a wussy. Actually, Gavin from the Big Wheels played bass with us for our tour. Chuck couldn't do it and that was about he time the bass player situation happened. Our CD just came out and we wanted to tour so, I asked Gavin if he'd want to hit the road with us and he was way into it.
Samuel: Damn, busy time.
Bill: Yeah, we're really cool with Chuck still though...we understand. He had taken time off from playing in bands to start a family and then Hoppin' MAD came together he was all excited again, but just couldn't commit. So, now Noah from Caulfield is playing bass for us. It's all intertwined. We're trying to make the scen come together and stronger but, there's too many tight asses in bands, and the "we're too good for you" type.
Samuel: Yeah, but it sounds like it's getting pretty communal.
Bill: Yeah, it's going good. Like family, we all want each other to succeed, and help each other.
Samuel: What else is a community there for right?
Bill: That's what I'm saying. We're all doing the same fuckin' thing, so why can't we do it together. Plus, I want to be able to help touring bands cause it's hard for out of town bands to find reliable help with shows. So, if we can get something strong and good going here it will be more beneficial for bands on the road.
Samuel: Well, to finish up, what can we expect from Hoppin' Mad in the near future?
Bill: Well, we just got www.hoppinmad.com up and running so that'll be a great way to find out more info. in the future so, everyone should try and check that out. We're planning a bunch of weekend trips out on the road so, watch out for that. We've got a couple new releases in the planning stages.
Samuel: So you're keeping the band moving forward?
Bill: Definitely. I'd like to put out a 4 song 7" with a couple of our shorter harder songs on it, and there's been some talk that we'll be doing a split 7" with this band from Florida called More or Less. I don't know if he'll release it but, it should be really cool if we get the idea off the ground. we also ahve a four way split CD in the works. The 4 way split will involve 4 bands and 4 labels.
Samuel: So we have a lot to look forward to in the future. Good to have you visit with us, and be sure to check in and keep us informed.
Bill: Thanx, yeah it's been fun! I will be sure to keep you on the up and up. Take care!
Samuel Barker is Senior Editor. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.