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"Dumb Little Band" - an interview by Melissa Hurd

This interview appeared in issue #2 of Chicken in Foil zine, released on December 21, 1998. To get a copy of this zine, please send a dollar to Chicken in Foil | c/o Melissa Hurd | 24 Young Dr. | Stanhope, NJ | 07874.

[ For those of you who don't know, the Mr. T Experience is a poppy-punk band on Lookout Records straight out of Berkeley, CA. I'd have to say that they're my favorite band. I've been a fan of the Mr. T Experience since I was about thirteen years old, so needless to say I just about wet myself when I got the opportunity to interview them this Halloween at Coney Island High after their show with The Queers. They are truly some of the nicest guys you'll ever meet (they stayed to finish the interview with us even though they probably could have went home a lot sooner, Joel hugged me the first time I talked to him...etc...etc....). Because there was another show at Coney Island High later that night, the band was more or less kicked out of the club right after they were done playing. This interview was conducted by your editor Perry and I, on the streets of New York City, in the cold, with a bunch of maniacs in costumes running around us screaming. ]

For our "special" readers:
CIF= Chicken in Foil (me and Perry, usually me)
DF= Dr. Frank
J= Joel
Jym= Jym

CIF: OK tell everyone who you are.

DF: I'm Dr. Frank. I'm the singer.

Jym: I'm Jym and I'm the drummer sometimes.

J: Hi I'm Joel and I'm kinda out of sorts right now but I'm pretty sure I'm the bass player.

CIF: You guys haven't always been in the band. What have the different line-ups of the Mr. T Experience been?

DF: The first line up was me, Jon Von, Byron and Alex that was in 1986, and then in 1989, Aaron replaced Byron on the bass, and then in 1993 Alex quit... oh no Jon Von quit in '92 then Alex quit in '93, then we got Jym in '94, then Aaron quit in '94 or '95 and Joel joined in '95 or late '94, and then that is the whole story: Mr. T Experience past, present and future.

CIF: So how long have you guys been around then?

DF: Twelve years.

CIF: Since you've already been in the band for so long, do you plan on keeping it up for a while?

DF: Well you know, I mean I used to always say we're gonna do one more record we're gonna quit, but that never happened. I'm not saying right now I mean it's going all right for us now. I guess there's going to be a point when you can't do it anymore, when nobody's interested in seeing you, and then , you know, I guess, there'll be nothing but suicide left for us.

CIF: Where'd you get the name from?

DF: From he was a black actor in the A-Team, uh...

CIF: No like, why did you name your band after Mr. T?

DF: Yeah I have not a clue. It was a long time ago, I was probably drunk at the time, and uh I don't really know but we're stuck with it now.

CIF: Why are you called Dr. Frank?

DF: I am a doctor of divinity. I have a certificate to prove it. I can put a curse on you and I can save your soul. It just depends on if you're nice to me. You would be surprised how well that line works with a young lady at a bar say "Hey how'd you like me to save your soul honey? I'm a doctor of divinity." They go wild for that one.

CIF: Joel, I hear that you're pretty smart too.

J: Well, thank you. Should I talk about how smart I am and stuff? I'mpleased that... I assume that your referring to the inclusion of my academic accolades on the back of Love is Dead, where it is notated under my other accomplishments that I was a National Merit Scholar.

CIF (Melissa): I'm a National Merit Scholar.

CIF (Perry): I'm not.

J: Congratulations, we should know some sort of secret handshake or something. You (meaning Perry), would not be allowed to make that secret handshake then.

CIF (Perry): Should I stand over there?

J: No that's fine. We'll allow you to breathe the same air as us. Anyway, but like, you know, it doesn't have to be just because you put it on the back of a record. Like I think next time I'll put something about, I'm likes even feet tall and people that've never seen us will think "Wow there's that really tall guy in the Mr. T Experience he doesn't look so tall in the picture." But it is true, it does happen to be true although it would have been just as easy for me to have made it up but, I don't know, I guess, you know lots of people think they're smart, but I have actual documented proof that I am in the top one-half percent of the students in the state of California for the year 1995. And my mother was very proud of me and then I went and dropped out of college to play in a punk rock band and the only good that comes out of it now is people like you ask me about it, in the streets of New York with people going around yelling and acting crazy. It's sort of a distant reminder that my life could have been very different.

CIF: Joel, with all of those web sites and things dedicated to you, do you consider yourself a sex symbol?

J: The age of these particular young ladies who are in homage to me is probably around fourteen and I think that probably my appeal is my non-threatening and I'll just come right out and say it, somewhat feminine appearance.

CIF (Melissa): I had a crush on you when I was fourteen.

J: See, and how old are you now?

CIF: Seventeen.

J: And have you grown out of it?

CIF: Um kinda... Anyway, how did the tour with Reel Big Fish come about and what was that like?

J: They asked us. It wasn't something that we would normally do but it went well. They were nice guys. It was actually part of our unsuccessful plan for world domination. We thought that by playing in front of thousands of people every night with Reel Big Fish, the "kings of the new ska movement", that some of the kids from their camp would come join ours. It didn't exactly work out that way but some good came out of it: I hugged you (me), I signed your jacket (Perry).

DF: They asked us to go on tour with them they were a big band we thought we'll play big places and we'll have a good time so...

CIF: And you kinda did.

DF: No, it was fun.

CIF: Have you actually been screwed over by a girl so many times that you can write all of those songs?

DF: You can write a lot of songs about being screwed over just once but, I'm old. I've been around the block and I've seen a lot of girls. Some of the are bad and some of them are little tasty lovely little pearls.

CIF: Have you ever had a girl throw anything at you?

DF: I've had girls throw stuff at me, I've had girls hit me with frying pans, I've had girls shoot at me. I had a girlfriend who tried to kill me every week. She would hit me over the head with a frying pan. It got to the point where she would be standing around the corner with the frying pan, and I knew she had it so I'd sneak up and grab it from her. I'd hold it up real high so she couldn't get it and she would say "I just want you to die, I just want you to die", and I was like "No, I'm not going to die! You're never going to kill me in your entire life because I've got your frying pan!"

CIF: You had a girl shoot at you?

DF: Yeah

CIF: With a gun?

DF: Yeah she missed though. She wasn't a very good shot. You want your girlfriend to have an astigmatism in her eye so if she shoots at you she'll miss. I'd put her in the not so good category. But she was very beautiful. You know you'll put up with a lot for a beautiful woman. This is the curse of life. I mean it's for a purpose, you know, however, God or nature or whatever designed... it's that way, guys, if a girl's pretty enough, it doesn't matter what she does, and the girl's sort of designed to take advantage of that, and there's nothing really wrong with it but it can get you into trouble sometimes.

CIF: Dr. Frank, what about your solo album?

DF: My solo album is going to come out in the spring and it's gonna be just songs about girls basically. Some acoustic stuff, some electric stuff, some stuff even goofier that Mr. T Experience if you can believe that. I'm really happy they're letting me do it. I hope that I will add something in the next chapter... (At this point Joel has on a pair of dark sunglasses which distracts everyone) He looks really funny in sunglasses. He needs to put on a baseball cap now and then he'll be the complete man.

(Perry supplies Joel with his grandpa-esque hat. Now Joel just looks disturbing.)

J: I think it'd take a stronger man than me to pull off that look and (to Perry) I think you've got it going on.

CIF: What's your favorite beer?

J: I don't drink beer, but if I was to pick one I'd have to say Budwiser, you know the king of beers. I don't like beer though.

CIF: Hard liquor?

J: No.

CIF: Wine Coolers?

J: No, I don't drink those either. I'm relatively clean, you know, I've never had a puff of a cigarette.

CIF (Perry): Me either.

CIF: What's your favorite cereal?

J: Favorite cereal? Um, I dunno, I like Fruity Pebbles.

CIF: My friend Matt said I had to ask you guys this. If you could be an animal, which one would you be and why?

DF: Well, my answer to this question before. I don't know which one I'd most like to be, but I know the one I'd least like to be and that is the poor wildebeest. The wildebeest is the victim of every animal of every nature show, it's like oh no the wildebeest is gonna be the prey. I would prefer not to be the wildebeest. I think it might be nice to explore the microscopic world of the paramecium or the ameba or the microbe. How bout that? I think they must live a very nice life.

Jym: What was the question?

CIF: If you could be an animal what one would you be and why?

Jym: Yeah. You know, if I could be an animal, I'd be, a fish. A goldfish. Cause you know...

CIF: Like a pet goldfish or just a regular, run of the mill goldfish...

Jym: A pet goldfish. I mean you've got nothing to do all day just swim and stuff. It's kind of fun, that's what my fish does.

(According to Joel, the Mr. T Experience will hopefully have a new album coming out around this spring. Whenever it comes out, you have to go buy it because I said so.)