Dan Kubinski: Punker than you
The Decapitado singer-bassist moves on from Die Kreuzen
To call singer-bassist Dan Kubinski of Milwaukee’s Decapitado a scene veteran doesn’t do justice to his stature in local punk history. Since co-founding the legendary Die Kreuzen nearly 30 years ago, Kubinski has always managed to stay a few steps ahead of his peers, and his newest band finds him applying the energy and force of hardcore and industrial music to old-school metal. In advance of Decapitado’s surprising appearance today at Summerfest, Kubinski sat down with Decider to discuss the Milwaukee punk scene and just how in the hell his band got booked at Summerfest.
Decider: Do you still keep up with the Milwaukee punk scene?
Dan Kubinski: I am somewhat out of touch with the punk scene, although I’m familiar with and have played with bands like New Society Of Anarchists and 40 Oz. Fist. There are some other bands—I don’t know if you would call them punk—but I really dig Red Knife Lottery and Cougar Den. Also, there’s a band that is half from Milwaukee and half from Madison called Zebras who are really cool. They’re totally insane and unclassifiable.
D: How has the scene changed since the Die Kreuzen days?
DK: Well, there really wasn’t a hardcore-punk scene here when Die Kreuzen started. We had a band and we wanted to play shows. There were only a few touring bands—like Black Flag, D.O.A., and T.S.O.L.—that came through every so often. So, since we were pretty much the only hardcore band around, we would play with them at this place called The Starship. When The Starship closed up, we really had no place to play. It was up to us to find VFW halls and church basements—whoever would let us rent a hall and throw a show. It seems similar to that extent; I know there are a few houses in Riverwest that do shows. It’s probably still underground, and you have to be “in the know” like we did back then. But I really don’t know.
D: Decapitado has a much sludgier, stoner-metal sound than the work you did early on with Die Kreuzen. At what point did you ditch hardcore and head in this direction?
DK: I suppose you could say that DK became quite bored with hardcore early on. I mean, we liked the original punk idea from ’76 to ’77, which was be yourself, throw the fuckin’ rules to the wind, and do what you want to do. We toured relentlessly in the early days, and night after night we played with three or four bands that all sounded exactly the same. It would be, “Here’s a song called ‘Fuck You’” or “This next one’s called 'Reagan’s An Asshole.'” It was the same thing over and over again, and while we thought it was cool that the punk scene was happening and that the kids were out enjoying themselves, it was beginning to all sound the same. It was becoming as stagnant as anything else in the pop world. So we wanted to expand and follow what we believed to be punk rock, which was be yourself and don’t give a fuck about what anybody thinks. And that’s the theory that brought about October File, Century Days, and our final album, Cement. We kept getting more psychedelic, yet harsh. We always did everything we could to take another step forward.
D: Is Decapitado your first flirtation with metal?
DK: Decapitado has never really considered itself a metal band, but I guess where we all met musically was Slayer. I mean, we don’t sound anything like Slayer, and it was never really about starting a metal band. We were just bored and started throwing some ideas together. I really dig what we’re doing.
D: It’s been about five years since the release of Decapitado’s Blacked. What has been the holdup on the next album?
DK: Well, we went through several lineup changes. Our original bassist hurt his back and ended up quitting, so I ended up picking up the bass. Our old drummer quit shortly after the release of Blacked. Our original and current guitarist Andy [Skeels] has quit and returned since the album came out. While Andy was gone, guitarist Takis Kinis and drummer Mike Olson joined us. Takis quit, Andy rejoined, and we are finally in full swing again with the current killer lineup. We have a 7-inch coming out at the end of July and a couple more that will be released this fall.
D: How did you get booked at Summerfest?
DK: The Casio Interstate Groove Garage stage added Decapitado as a friend on MySpace, so I checked out the page. I found a blog that said, “Want to play at Summerfest?” Of course, I responded. Less than 24 hours later, I got an e-mail telling us that we were on. So to anyone that says MySpace is a complete waste of time, I don’t know about that. I do about 95 percent or even more of my bands booking and communication through it.