Detroit's garage boogie-rockers The Dirtbombs, minus long-time bassist and producer Jim Diamond, are back with a new album We Have You Surrounded, their fourth. Truepunk caught up the group's heartbeat, singer-guitarist Mick Collins.
Hey Mick, what are your thoughts on the latest record?
"I'm really happy with this record, I think it's the best Dirtbombs record we've done. It's certainly the best made, everything about it works together, that's the thing I was most happy about."
How did the band's two-drummer, two-bassist combination get going?
"There was no major thought about it. No-one else was doing it and I just wondered what it would sound like. Ha! Coincidentally, everyone works together really well. One bassist plays bass lines while the other one plays fuzz all the time. It works pretty well."
Do songs just roll out of you or is it sometimes a grind?
"Well I just sit back and wait for the muse to strike, I don't force a song. It might sit for two or three years until it's right."
You can't lock yourself away until it's written then?
"No, I can't do that because it's never good. When you force it like that it doesn't work, at least not for me. The end result sounds forced. I've written plenty of songs like that, ha, but they generally don't make the final cut."
Was your version of INXS' Need You Tonight an accident?
"We did that as a kind of joke - we thought everyone was going to hate it. The promoter wanted us to do a tour single and we said 'sure' so they gave us a list of classic Aussie hipster-punk rock records and we were in the studio trying to learn them and we thought 'ah, screw this, let's do something funny!'."
Has growing up Detroit given you a multi-faceted approach to music?
"Yeah, everyone here always played in more than one band and played more than one kind of music."
What came first for you?
"There wasn't anything that came first. Music is just all around here, or at least it was. There was a period here in Detroit when the population was around one million when there were 68 recording studios in town."
Are you referring to the late 60s/early 70s?
"Yeah, everyone here it seems was just making music of one sort or another."
The city is very much in decline now though right?
"Oh yeah, most of what we call the rust belt cities fared pretty badly in the economic decline of the 70s and 80s but Detroit probably fared the worst because we really had only the one industry here - automobile manufacturing. Detroit was basically a company town and the company left. The removal companies are complaining because so many people are leaving Detroit. There aren't enough moving vans to go around."
What's your personal experience of that decline?
"Detroit's other reputation is that it's a dangerous place to be and that's certainly the case. It just is, ha, because there's nothing here! It's probably one of the most economically depressed cities in America. I'm sure you've heard about our Sub Prime mortgage crisis here, well that's hurt Detroit as bad as anything else."
Travelling with the band must have afforded you a lot of perspective?
"I've done it mainly for the travel. I like travelling and being a musician was a way to travel for me. If I wasn't a touring musician any money I made would just go towards travel anyhow."
Is there anywhere off the beaten path you'd like to visit, with or without the band?
"I'd like to see Africa and the Himalayas and Angkor Wat. There's no reason for the band to see Angkor but I'd love to go."