2020 is a busy one for Rhode Island punk/hardcore/grinders Dropdead, who are releasing their first full-length in 22 years—it is, of course, self-titled—as well as launching an extended reissue campaign, including Demos 1991, Discography Vol. 1 (with three additional tracks added to this reissue), their 1993 self-titled LP (which is in our Hall of Fame) and their 1998 self-titled LP. Of note, Discography Vol. 1 was originally mastered slightly too fast, a mistake that’s now been corrected, and the mix is true stereo instead of mono now.
The band is also releasing the new Discography Vol. 2 album, which collects 42 EP, compilation, and other miscellanous tracks from 1995 to 2013. Demos 1991 drops on September 25; everything else comes out on November 27, and it’s all being released through Armageddon Label.
You can check out our interview with the band in our November issue to read all about their new full-length; today we wrangled up guitarist Ben Barnett and vocalist Bob Otis to talk about the reissues.
(For even more Dropdead action, head over to our Apple Music page to see the playlist Barnett guest curated for us.)
Why did the band decide to do all these reissues now?
Barnett: I started this project in 2013 with Kurt Ballou. Worked getting all the original reels transferred and when Kurt had time between projects, getting things remixed and generally tuned up for these reissues. Now is just when everything came together for me, time-wise and inspiration-wise, to get them completed. The way the year slowed down for everyone, I was able to take the time to work on all the layouts, work on sequencing and making sure everything got mastered properly. Been quite a project.
This is a lot of Dropdead to take in. Where do you suggest people start?
Barnett: Honestly, start at the start if you want to see how we got to this new record. Demos 1991, Discog. Vol 1, 1993 LP, Discog. Vol 2, 1998 LP, 2020 LP.
Otis: Probably Discography 1 and 2 if you wanna hear the progression of the band to current day. I think Ben did a great job curating all of that material and putting it in an accurate timeline; he puts a lot of work into these releases.
How do you feel the older material holds up?
Barnett: Some I think really well, especially now with the tape speed corrected on Discog. Vol 1. There’s tracks here and there I’m not sure we needed to record at all, but overall, I think most is fairly solid.
Otis: Well, there isn’t anything I’m not proud of, but it represents different stages of the band, us as musicians and human beings through three decades of development. It is a timeline of four people growing together as a group, developing an ideology of what we represent and, hopefully, evolving along the way. I feel that the core idea of the band is as authentic and full of integrity as when we first started. We’ve grown as a band and people but we still represent the same values.
Was there anything you were particularly impressed with when you revisited it?
Otis: I forgot about a few of the covers we did until Ben pulled them from the archives for the discographies and that was a lot of fun and a nice surprise to hear again. It’s always a good time to cover some of the classic bands that influenced us through the years. BGK, SS Decontrol, Negative Approach, AOA, etc.
What can people expect with Discography Volume 2, and what are your thoughts on that material when you put it all together?
Barnett: Volume 2 spans a lot of years and phases of writing. The first two tracks we recorded at Fort Thunder for compilation use; there was actually a whole demo worth of stuff when we transferred the reel, but only two of the songs had vocals completed. That is followed by a fully remixed Hostile EP session that included tracks for a never released Bacteria Sour/Pushead Fanclub 7″; not sure why that never happened, but it was cool to be asked by Pushead in any case! Then there’s all the tracks from all the split EP releases and stray comp tracks from the last 20 years. It’s an interesting mix of stuff. Some I like more than others, but as far as a document it’s definitely cool to have it all in one chunk. It shows the journey from ’95 leading up to the 1998 album, then where we picked up after we started writing again in the early 2000s. Definitely more diverse sounding than Volume 1, which was all recorded within a shorter time span.
Going through all this old material and sort of walking through the band’s history, how does it make you feel?
Barnett: That’s been the best part. A lot of good memories of the various time periods, plus some of the crazy shit we’ve made it through over the years.
Otis: Accomplished, sentimental, hopeful that the body of work we have built together will inspire and provoke people with the same fire that we created it with.
What do you feel Dropdead’s legacy will be?
Barnett: I have no idea, hopefully one where something we created helped melt a couple minds at some point.
Otis: I hope we are remembered as a band that stood the test of time with integrity, with genuine heart and conviction. I hope that our words and music continue to inspire and that in some way we put some good back into the world.
Give us a quick update on everything else; obviously, you’ve got the new album coming out, what else are you up to? And how is Bob’s health?
Barnett: Well, just had our first practices since March. Probably going to be doing a couple live streaming benefit shows. Our friend Ryan Butler from Landmine Marathon needs a liver transplant, so that’s top of the priority list. For me personally, it’s just getting these reissues completed.
Otis: My health has been good but I took a lot of damage in that motorcycle accident from a few years back. I still deal with issues from the broken ribs, spine and knee injuries, but I’m tough, determined and still as inspired as ever. Hopefully once the COVID epidemic is eventually beaten back we can get back on the road again and play some gigs.
The most important question of all: will you ever release an album that’s not self-titled?
Barnett: That mystery will have to live on a little longer.
Barnett: Mystery solved.