One of the first things you notice when talking with Kirk Morrison and Doug Etcher is the intense look of excitement in their eyes — especially when talking about the music that they both love, punk rock.
“The Ramones and the Clash are really where all punk rock is rooted,” says Morrison, as we chat over a pleasant autumn lunch in Hamtramck.
Morrison and Etcher are two-thirds of Detroit tats-and-riffs power trio the Dead Heroes. The band formed in 1998 after guitarist-singer Morrison, a vet of the punk trenches since the early ’80s, hooked up with bassist Tom Hardy and original drummer Mike O. through a Metro Times want ad.
Etcher came on board shortly after O. bailed in late 2001, bringing with him a snotty youthful ’tude that mixes well with the two seasoned punks.
Today, the boys are even more amped-up than usual. For one thing, they are anticipating the first official CD release of their head-blowing Let It Ride, which is out this week on the mighty Toledo indie Sin Klub Entertainment.
With 17 shout-alongs plus a bonus track — a cover of “Love You To Death” by Detroit seminal ’80s punks, Heresy, Let It Ride, clocks in at a vigorous 38 minutes. Taking cues from such ’80s Brit-punk groups as Discharge, Motörhead and GBH, the Dead Heroes’ songs are taut and terse in proper hardcore punk tradition. Recorded and mastered at the Loft by Andy Patalan, the record took a few years to complete.
If there is such a thing as “classic punk,” the Dead Heroes are ace representatives of it. While gratifying the old-timers intimate with the hard racket of days past, kids are now starting to pick up on the band.
But introducing such a what’s-old-is-new sound to the new anarchy crew can be tough. Etcher explains, “When I try to turn some of my friends onto the old stuff, they can’t get past the lack of shine, or the rough recording or image. I say, ‘Hey! Just listen to the music and feel the passion.’”
“I don’t consider myself to be a punk snob but there is something truly wrong with a guy in Good Charlotte wearing an Exploited shirt,” adds Morrison. “That just doesn’t make sense.”
Honest and optimistic, the Dead Heroes look to the future as opposed to punk’s original cry of no future. Passing on influences and respecting musical roots is important to the trio. Whether it’s donning T-shirts from one of their favorite bands, or doing something more direct like having ex-Heresy front man Tim King join them onstage for a few songs (which he will do this Saturday), they wear their influences like punk-rock badges of honor.
Still, they do realize that it’s today’s kids — those of the “emotionless microwave generation” — who will hopefully carry on this style and preserve it for the future punks.
And Anderson and Echter laugh about the aging process, about how their songs are actually speeding up as they mature. And they love playing live, taking the music to the kids and doing as many all-ages shows as possible.
For the band, this record is a long time coming. They’ve toured the country three times without a record to support. With release of Let It Ride, they now have a reason to hit the road, which they are planning to do early next year.
Working in a tradition (such as hardcore) that’s not the most popular genre in pop is testimony of the band’s genuine love of what they do. Morrison is sticking to what knows best, what he’s learned firsthand. He gets childlike and energized as he talks about going to his first Detroit punk shows in the early ’80s.
“I saw a lot of shows at Blondie’s, Falcon Lounge, Todd’s,” he recalls. “One in particular that stands out is seeing Negative Approach at this house-club called Bud’s Place out in Farmington Hills. There weren’t many places for punk shows then.”
The Dead Heroes don’t partake in any scene; they’re devout fans of the form whose hearts are in the right place.
Etcher puts it best when he says, “I was a fan of the Dead Heroes before I joined. So to me this is still so exciting to play with them.”