Debaser: Derek Dunn of .357 String Band
Decider lets the local musician promote himself in exchange for a little public humiliation
People are always asking us to help plug something of theirs—an upcoming show, a new record, some book they wrote. Because we’re not in the pandering business, we think there should be a trade-off. Debaser allows these folks to plug whatever they want, with one caveat: They also have to tell us something embarrassing about themselves. This week, Derek Dunn of .357 String Band tells us about his band’s show Saturday at Turner Hall and a thoroughly humiliating story about falling drunkenly on top of a bartender in Little Rock, Ark.
Decider: Let’s talk about your Turner Hall show. Is this your biggest local gig to date?
Derek Dunn: That remains to be seen. It’s certainly the largest capacity venue we’ve played in Milwaukee. I’m hoping it will be our largest show.
D: Do you have anything special planned?
DD: I wouldn’t say there will be anything specifically different about our set. Maybe some newer songs or arrangements. But the show is really more special because of its line-up. We’re really excited about having The Black Diamond Heavies and Joe Buck Yourself.
D: You just got back from a European tour. How did that go?
DD: It was fantastic. It was our third time being over there in the past year and a half. It was a 28-day tour and we had just gotten done with a 58-day tour five days before it, so we were a little bit exhausted. We figured out that in four months, we were home 15 days, so we were road-dogging it pretty hard this last fall. But Europe is one of my favorite places to tour. It’s fun going through Holland, I’ll tell you that.
D: Your music seems so quintessentially American. Do they get it in Europe, or is it a completely foreign thing to them?
DD: I think it’s both. They appreciate it the same way Americans appreciate Irish music when people from Ireland find it passé. People treat us as a novel import over there. But at the same time, they’ve seen our movies and heard our music, so it’s not that big of an Atlantic Ocean anymore. A lot of people there that are into the scene understand it and have listened to all the same stuff that we have.
D: You sing a lot of about hard livin’ and whiskey drinkin'. Do fans expect you to live up to the songs off stage?
DD: I think that’s something any artist has to deal with. If you’re in a literature class, the first thing that you’re taught is when an author writes “I” in a book, it doesn’t mean the author says that, the narrator says that. People don’t seem to be willing to grant musicians the same rights of authorship. What I’m writing about, it’s based on my life, but the facts aren’t based on my life. Obviously, if any given country musician lived half the stuff they said they lived, they’d be dead or in jail.
D: Okay, we let you promote your show. Now it’s time to embarrass yourself.
DD: We once played a show in Little Rock, Ark., and I was on top of the bar walking from one end to the other, and looking down trying not to step on people’s drinks, and I walked directly into a fan. I was wasted. I walked directly into it, and it started smacking me in the face, enough that I lost my balance and started to fall. I figured, “If I’m falling anyway, I should act like I’m jumping.” So, I started to jump, but as I leapt from one end to the other end I slammed my head directly into the edge of a huge I-beam. I saw a bunch of stars and then went black. The next thing I saw was the bartender’s face as my face was smashing into it. Basically, to avoid slipping off the bar, I managed to smash my head and fall on top of the bartender. He was actually a good sport about it. He still let us crash at his place that night.