LOS ANGELES, January 19, 2014 — Stacey Dee plays guitar and sings in the Los Angeles-based punk band, Bad Cop / Bad Cop. She may be the most interesting woman in a punk rock world filled with interesting women. It was recently announced that Bad Cop / Bad Cop had signed with Fat Wreck Chords. Last May, Wells On Music hung out with Stacey Dee in a cemetery in West Los Angeles. Originally released in three parts, the following is the original interview in its entirety.
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Kevin Wells: What made you want to start playing guitar?
Stacey Dee: I grew up with my father [Edward Dee], a singer-songwriter, and he played guitar my whole life and I always sang. He always tried to get me to play the guitar, obviously, because he wants his daughter to play guitar too. I grew up with him playing guitar and me singing as soon as I could open my mouth and taping it. So we used to record together all the time at three or four years old. And then I played piano for a while, you know, taught by ear. I played drums before guitar.
I always looked at the guitar like, “I am never going to be able to play you, ever.” I used to walk around the room when I was a little kid and play every other instrument. Then I was in a town and to get out of a bad situation and change my life around, I finally went to my dad and I said, “Dad, I think I’m ready now to learn to play guitar. Will you show me?” He showed me A and E and how to strum because a big part of playing guitar is not so much your left hand, but your right hand, your rhythm hand. So I started strumming and strumming and then I moved to Santa Barbara.
I came home a few years later and said, “Dad, I think I’m a songwriter.” And he was like, “Yeah, right.” I said, “Can I play this song I wrote?” So I started playing it. He was in the kitchen and wasn’t paying attention to me. As soon as I started playing, he came over from out of the kitchen and looked at me and was like, “We gotta record that!” I was like, “okay, awesome.” That’s how I started playing guitar. I mean, I was meant to play the guitar from the moment I was born. It was just something I pushed off until I was ready. And then when I was ready, I just jumped right in to writing songs, rather than learning other people’s songs because I had no time to waste at that time.
KW: What was the first instrument you started playing?
SD: The drums, actually. At four, they set up a trap kit, just a regular kit before my brother was born, in his room. My dad’s band was jammin’ in there. I went in and sat down at the drums and started doing that first beat. I had no idea what I was doing. And my dad ran out of the room and yelled at my mom, “Sue, you got to get in here. Look, she’s f**kin’ playing the drums!” I always knew as a kid, for some reason, I knew I could play them, but I didn’t know how to play them. In my head it felt like I knew how to play them, which is weird. You know what I mean? I don’t know what else to say. I don’t know if past lives exist. I play a lot of stuff, though.
KW: What bands made you want to play in a punk band?
SD: The first show I ever went to, my parents took me to The Go-Go’s. I was like, 6, and I fought my way up to the front of the stage. I wasn’t supposed to be there, but people just let me go because I was this little kid. I rested my head on the stage and watched Jane Wiedlin play guitar and sing and I was like, “That is what I am going to do with the rest of my life.” She was the main reason. I always liked punk rock energy and being from the Bay Area, I was always a big fan of NoFX and Green Day when I was young, before Dookie, Fifteen, and Crimpshrine, Op Ivy. I was into the Descendents and Bad Religion, the Odd Numbers and Toy Dolls and things like that.
I just really liked being able to express myself. I kind of related to Billie Joe [Armstrong], in a way. He wrote songs about love that were still rad and catchy and it didn’t have to be a love song. And he writes other good songs that might or might not be his. That’s up for debate. Of course, I loved Cindi Lauper. I love Cindi Lauper. I love some of the s**t Madonna has done, obviously, back in the 80s. I like how she progresses. I also listen to a lot of soul music and I listen to a lot of hip hop. I listen to a lot of different stuff. I don’t know. Go-Go’s, Joan Jett, Pat Benatar. F**k, I love Pat Benatar too.
KW: Which bands are you in that are active right now?
SD: Right now, Bad Cop / Bad Cop is the one that is probably the most active. We just got off tour. We went out to the south west and did Way Out West Fest. We recorded at Hurley and put out a 7”. They paid us, they recorded us and put it on a dropcard with NoFX and Hot Water Music and bands like that. It kind of gave us some more momentum. The City is another band that’s been active. It’s kind of on hiatus right now. We’re working it all out. It’s kind of like a little more grown-up punk with a bluesy feel to it, but with my vocals. And then Knives and Gasoline is me and Noel “Deeskee” [DeMello]. It’s just me and him and we’re playing on May 17 and we’re about to start writing another album, I believe, pretty soon in the next couple months or something. Bad Cop is probably going to record again in the next couple months. We’re writing, I’ve got like eight songs. We’re gonna have a writing day.
KW: When you write a song do purposely try to write for a specific band?
SD: Bad Cop is a little more harmony driven, all girl poppy punk, I guess. So I will write songs that will have Jennie [Cotterill]’s vocals and mine as well because we sing with each other all the time. Or I will leave a space for her to write her part or a couple verses of it or whatever and we’ll switch back and forth on the chorus or pre-chorus or something. With The City, I know if it’s something that’s a little more grown up or harder, like Hot Water Music-esque, a little more…I’m just gonna say grown-up. It sounds weird to say that, but it’s just a little more bluesier. We do rad covers. We do some Against Me! covers, we do Devil Went Down To Georgia. My keyboardist can play all of it, all of that Charlie Daniels s**t on keys. I got a stand-up bass player so it’s a whole different kind of aesthetic when you look at it, but we’re still all girls. It’s weird that I almost always play with all women. I’ve always had a female drummer, except for when I had my band in London.
KW: Is that on purpose?
SD: No, it just happens. Jen Kirk-Carlson from The City, has been my musical partner for the last, at least, 10 years. Without her, I would not be the artist I am today. I owe her so much for giving me the confidence I have on stage and in life. We’ve done everything together; Angry Amputees, Compton [SF], The City, she was in Bad Cop, she started it with us. She was the bass player and she is a drummer.
She’s another one that’s like me. We play everything. So we can. She’s like, “I got a harmonica, I’ll get you a set of harmonicas.” So now we got harmonicas, flutes. Anything we can get our hands on. It’s hilarious. But I do write for specific bands, like Knives and Gasoline will never be written for Bad Cop. It couldn’t fit. It’s just way too different.
KW: Do you sit down to write for one band and end up writing songs for another band?
SD: I just write whatever comes to me because that’s how it works with me. If it comes to me, I have to write it and get it out. Then I’ll send it to whichever band I think it should go best with and hope they are into playing it. Then we work the real song structure out electrically. If no one is into playing the song then I save it for the solo album [laughs]. I still write almost every song I’ve written on that same Sigma Dreadnaught acoustic guitar my Dad taught me how to play E and A on.
KW: How many bands have you been in over the course of your musical life?
SD: First, I started playing solo acoustic by myself in coffee shops, playing with my dad and doing little things like that. Then I began playing in the Angry Amputees with JoAnn Gillespie, John “Dalty” Dalton and Erik Brim. We practiced throughout the night, from 10 pm to 2am almost everyday. We wanted to start playing immediately. It was only a matter of months before we were on the Van’s Warped Tour, playing alongside amazing bands on the come up and a lot of our heroes, or mine anyway. We won a “Bammy” for Best Punk band in San Francisco as well. We were on Dead Teenage Records at the time and did the Tony Hawk’s Underground video game thing too.
The Amputees were the bigger band that toured all the time. There were a few line-up changes. That’s when the Amputees got Eric Gonzales and Jen Kirk-Carlson. And we started touring even more all over the country and parts of Europe. We all lived together in a warehouse in San Francisco’s SOMA district. We built four bedrooms, a kitchen, two bathrooms, and a free standing studio in the middle of the warehouse where we practiced seven nights a week, unless we were on tour or had a show.
Some of the best times of my life were spent in that spot. Bands that came through SF stayed with us and we would play music into the wee hours of the early morning. Eric still has the space. We named it “Camputee.” After we all left, Eric kept it and started his own business called “Camputee Press,” and is killing it as one San Francisco’s finest screen printers. The truth is the Angry Amputees will always be a band. We are all family and if the right show comes along, or if we want to do a reunion, we still play.
When the Amputees started to die down, Jen and I started Compton SF, which became a really fun popular band in San Francisco. It was Me and Jen Kirk-Carlson, Josh Layton and Michelle Schuknecht. We played a lot of shows up and down the coast from Seattle to San Diego. Compton was a f**king killer band. However, during Compton’s reign, I moved to London as I got married and that’s where my husband lived. That is where I started a band called Park Royal. When I moved home, I started Compton back up with Jen and the addition of some other great musicians; Squeaky, Jodi Durst and then Jerry Only.
When Compton began to wind down, Jen and I began paying acoustically as The City. We started opening for all of our friend’s punk bands. We recorded a five song EP, as well, and after a while, we added a keyboard player, Charlene Pack, to the City and the whole dynamic changed. Jen went back to drums, I started playing electric guitar and Char was on the keys. After a few years, we met a kick ass chick named Linh Le that plays bass, and asked her to play with us. She plays upright bass as well as standard bass. With The City, the upright really works as the songs lend themselves to that sound.
I began Knives and Gasoline around that time, as well, with Noel “Deeskee” DeMello. I have known Noel since I was four or five years old. His Grandma babysat me. I looked up to him our whole lives. He would always DJ my parties or put dance mixes together for me [laughs]. At some point in our lives, Noel and I split up for about 10 years. I went the punk route and he became a very well-known hip-hop producer here in LA. The man is a genius! When I moved to LA, I knew he lived here so I called him right away, asked where he lived and 10 minutes later I was at his house.
He put me to work right away, playing and singing on tracks he was working on with other hip hop artists. A lot of people I grew up listening to as well. It was really cool to kind of come back to my roots in hip-hop again with him. As much as I grew up on punk, I grew up on hip-hop just as much and have a true love of it. After writing s**t for other people, he and I decided to make our own record the way we wanted to make it. So we wrote, Love Songs for Crime Scenes together. We played everything ourselves, except cello and bongos. It was an epic experience and a great record. As an artist, I am really proud of what we did.
The record is real, about our true lives. We weren’t trying to sound like anyone else. We just wanted to make something amazing for us. Then it got picked up on Grimm Image records and we started going to work. However, me loving punk rock so much, during the time Knives and Gasoline started, Jen and I began another new punk band called, Bad Cop / Bad Cop. I played guitar and sang, Jen moved from drums to bass and we asked Myra Galarza to play drums. We wanted to do a 3-piece power pop-punk band. I wanted it to be really snotty and write funny songs about puke and poop. But then one day Jen brought Jennie Cotterill to practice and everything changed.
Jennie also writes amazing songs and is a great singer and artist. She jumped right in and started singing harmonies with me and I was hooked. I love writing and singing with Jennie. She brings a whole different feel to the songs I write for Bad Cop and Bad Cop couldn’t be a band without her. Plus her songs are amazing, her art is amazing and she is amazing.
KW: Can you talk about the Returners?
SD: This may sound ridiculous, but I even put out a hip-hop record with my group called The Returners, which was me, 2Mex, Die, and Deeskee. Our record, Make up your Break up, came out as a digital release on Sage Francis’ label, Strange Famous. It was the first time I ever rapped in my life [laughs]. I told Noel, “I wanna try to rap,” because I had been going and writing stuff for other artist’s records and playing on their records and singing their hooks and writing their hooks. I said “F**k it, can I just try to rap? I wanna try.” I grew up listening to it just as much as punk and I wanted to try it. So, I did.
Noel told me on Friday, “I need this back on Monday.” I said, “S**t!” I went home and tried to start rapping. At first, it was awful. It was like Doug E. Fresh meets Nas and it was awful, but sang in a white girl voice [laughs] so bad. And then I just stopped and I listened to it in a different way and brought my own style into it with kind of like a sing-y rap-y kind of style and that really worked. I sing on a lot of underground hip hop artist’s records here in LA. Lots of people that I don’t even remember who they are until someone points out a song or a video. Funny thing about Hip Hop, you can make a record with a whole gang of people but never be in the same room with them. I find it hilarious.
F**k, I forgot I was in a band called Blacktop Idol, as well, with Dale Anderson, Dean Carlson and of course Jen and sometimes Clint Gonzales. That was a really great band too. Gifted musicians, I just sang [laughs]. S**t, I also did a split 10” with one of Blag from the Dwarves’ side projects called Candy Now. It was my first solo release and it came out in Germany and only on vinyl. Blag wrote the songs, he gave them to me to do something with. The songs are so well produced and working with Blag is amazing. He has great ears, is a great songwriter, a great coach and a great friend. He rules. He even has one of my cats from when I moved to London.
I also play solo acoustically. So, f**K, what is that…ten or more bands I’ve been in? A lot. I can’t say no. I am a lifer.
KW: Can you tell me a little bit more about Park Royal?
SD: Park Royal was with Lee Erinmez and Loz Wong. They were in Snuff with Duncan [Redmonds]. They are amazing musicians. I played guitar, where Loz usually plays guitar, and he moved to bass and Lee, who usually plays bass, moved to drums. So we were a three-piece. It was really cool to play with them because they are such accomplished musicians and are great at what they are capable of doing. We were together for about a year and we practiced once or twice a week. People kept saying, “We can’t wait for you to start playing out,” while rehearsing. We couldn’t come up with a name for the longest time and then we looked on the plaque on the side of the place where we practiced and recorded and it said, “Park Royal,” after a lot of crappy names, we saw the plaque and decided, ‘Park Royal” has to be our name.
The best band that never was. We played two shows in Camden Town in London. One was with the King Blues and Capdown, which are two successful and great bands out of the U.K. If you don’t know them, you should look them up because they’re great. Capdown is one of the UK’s most amazing punk bands, and the King Blues are some whole other s**t, they are also amazing. Then about a week later, across the street, we played with the Misfits. Then I moved home two days later. We played two epic shows with radical bands at venues across the street from each other and then I moved back to California. We have a nine song demo that we did in three days. I sang all of it in a day and it was killer. It was kind of different, yet cool. It’s still punk, but it’s, uh, it’s cool.
KW: Are there any plans to release it?
SD: We’ve talked about it and we miss each other like crazy, but I doubt we will release it. When we were in a room together, it was effortless. Loz would play something on bass and I’d be like, “That! Whatever that is, keep playing it!” It was magic. I would play something along with it and I would hear a melody instantly. The man has vocals like an angel. He sang backups with me. We got “The Mod,” who was also, I think, in Snuff at one point, to play keys and sing backups on our demo. He was nervous [laughs]. He said something to the effect of, “I don’t want to sing in front of you. Go in the other room, you’re intimidating me.” So I went in the other room, but then I snuck back in to watch him sing, which was perfect, of course. We ended the day with all three of us singing together doing three part harmonies. That whole experience was instrumental to me today. They were such better players than I was. I learned a lot from them.
KW: Your various bands are all pretty different from one another, if you had to choose a style, which would you pick and why?
SD: That is so hard to say because I love music so much and being a songwriter, I feel you can’t throw away any song that comes to you because you are blessed to get a song to begin with. “Blessed,” whatever that means to you. If a hip hop song comes to me, I’m going to be in love with that. If an Indie song comes along or a folk song, it doesn’t matter, as a songwriter, you write songs and the s**t needs to come out. But punk rock will always be my boyfriend. I love hip hop, love hip hop just as much, but punk is my life. You know, to me, punk and hip-hop come from the same place. I have always thought that the cultures between hip-hop and punk rock were parallel. PH Balanced.
KW: How much time in a year would you say you spend on the road?
SD: I’m getting back to it. I hadn’t for a long time because I was married and then I was kind of tied down and going out for long periods of time wasn’t really an option. But now that I’m not and I’m free to do the things I’m doing now, Bad Cop started up and we’re doing more and more stuff. I take trips up and down the coast all year long with The City or Bad Cop and Knives and Gasoline. That’s constant. I’ll be in San Francisco a few times a year. Or we get up to Portland and Seattle at least once a year or out to Arizona or something, just to do it. But I haven’t gone on a big tour across the U.S. in eight years or so. Crazy. I have that gypsy spirit in me, damn it, I would live on the road if I could bring my dog and cats. When I see a really cool van or bus, my mouth waters.
KW: Are there any plans in the works to do so?
SD: I would love to and we shall see what comes to us. We have shows booked out into October already, and that’s just in California. I told Bad Cop the other day, “I want us to have a bus with our faces on the side of it and it’s gonna be awesome and there’s gonna be rainbows and ponies and cookies and we’re gonna get rad!!!” [laughs] So I don’t know, we’ll see. I am always up for it. I would be just as happy with Jen and I hopping in my car with our acoustic guitars and going across the country playing wherever we could. We would have the best time ever!
KW: If you could go back to when you started playing music, what advice would you give yourself?
SD: You A-Hole, you should have f**kin’ picked up the guitar earlier, you stupid b**ch. [laughs] You had it in you the whole time, you were just scared, so, don’t be scared ever again.
KW: What is next for Stacey Dee?
SD: Lots of shows and writing new music! Bad Cop plans on doing as much as we can. Jen Kirk-Carlson and I are thinking of doing an acoustic project again. I’ve been writing so many songs that if whatever band doesn’t want to take the songs and use them, then I plan on doing more solo stuff on my own. I’ve been thinking about it for a long time. I want to do some of the songs on electric guitar and some of it acoustically, like Billy Bragg-style. Something about that just really appeals to me right now. Having the courage to get up and do it by yourself is so scary, but you have to do what you’re scared of sometimes in life. I would guess that Bad Cop, The City, Jen, Knives and Gasoline, and my solo stuff.
I have been working on a project with Fat Mike from NoFX for a while and plan to continue to until its completion. Mike has taught me a lot about singing and song writing, has believed in me, and I thank him for all he has done.
Lastly, I am in a movie called Speed Dragon that is at the Cannes’ film festival May 17th and will be premiering here in L.A. in the next few months. I played the lead guitarist “Vikki.” I am looking forward to the L.A. premier. I think all of that is enough to work on for the rest of the year.
KW: Is there anything else you want your fans to know about your musical projects?
SD: I just want to thank my fans for being into any of the musical endeavors I’ve been involved in and thank all of my band mates, present, past and future for believing in me, as well. I write from my heart and I sing with everything I have. “Go hard or go home!” [laughs], That’s a quote from Linh Le my bassist. I am learning to live my life to the fullest and I hope everyone gets to do the same. And if I even reach one person with a song that I wrote, I did my job. I want my fans to lives their lives, fly it, get out there, do whatever they have to do to make themselves happy because life is short and it’s shorter every day you get older. Kids, believe in yourselves and try really, really hard. Don’t give up. Don’t give up! Your dreams really can come true. They do. If you work really hard, you’ll get whatever you want. I promise! Also, I want to thank Monster Products and Daisy Rocks Guitars for their support. Word!
Kevin J. Wells writes about Major League Baseball and punk rock music. Follow him on Twitter @WellsOnBaseball