Nada Mucho Interview
Q&A with The Mistreaters
By Sybil Rohlf
I miss Milwaukee. Having lived on the west coast for only a year, I still longingly remember the city’s seedy neighborhood bars, unbearably smoky coffee shops, and wealth of creative young people. I also miss the music, the music of the Mistreaters in particular. Gritty and grimy, dirty and loud, their songs get under your skin and stay there for days – much like what the city has done to my subconscious.
The Mistreaters are right at home in a town full of hard workin’, beer drinkin’, blue-collar American citizens. They’re managing, along with several other Milwaukee bands, to bring back truly raw rock-n-roll – the kind that pounds your heart right out of your chest before they’ve even made it through their first verse. Having Milwaukee as a back-drop, it should come as no surprise that this welcome change from today’s over processed, radio-friendly pop rock is happening in the Brew City.
The Mistreaters – Christian Mistreater on drums, Dusty Mistreater on guitar, David John Henry Mistreater on bass, and Christreater supplying vocals – released The Mistreaters Don’t Do Drugs and Stay in School as a demo in 1999. Since then, they’ve contributed to a number of compilations, released a full-length album, Grab Them Cakes, and several 7-inch singles. Including my new favorite 7”, Personal Space Invader, which was put out by Washington State’s Estrus Records, home to other garage rock outfits like The Mooney Suzuki and Soledad Brothers.
On a recent trip back to my former hometown I caught the band live at the Cactus Club, a hot and sleazy venue that seemed even smaller than I remembered it. The crowd tightly gripped cheap beer and moved feverishly to the music. The fans love the band, and you easily got the feeling that the band loves their fans. Chris spent most of the show out in the swarm throwing himself around, screaming the lyrics and at times rolling around on a floor so full of spilled beer and cigarette butts that I felt a little creepy just standing on it. After the band sped through a few crowd favorites, I was able to round up three of the band members to chat briefly about the Detroit music scene, upcoming albums and tours, and the stigma of being a cheesehead. The formentioned Chris, too drunk by the end of the night to join us for an interview, simply said, “Everything is great, I love being in the band.” The rest of us gathered in an alley behind the club, chatting around a tape recorder perched on a garbage can. It felt strangely appropriate.
Nada Mucho: I know you have played with several Detroit bands. What are your thoughts were on what’s going on in Detroit right now? Is it affecting the scene in Milwaukee at all?
Mistreaters: I wouldn’t say it’s affecting the scene in Milwaukee. All of the same bands have been playing together for three-four years. I like all the bands coming out of Detroit. Well, not all of them. I like Kid Rock. It’s having an effect on the Milwaukee bands in that it’s making them angrier.
NM: Why’s that?
M: Because they’re not getting any respect. Any recognition, rather. People don’t respect anyone unless they’re out of Detroit. Well, that’s not true. You can’t fault the bands from Detroit, but I think it’s just making everybody try harder.
NM: You don’t feel that because of their success, maybe you’ve had more success?
M: It’s really hard to tell stuff like that. I mean, we’ve played with bands from all around the country and they all do well [in Milwaukee]. There just happens to be a lot of bands coming from Detroit.
NM: Have you ever played in the Northwest?
M: We played at that Fallout record store in Seattle, Satyricon in Portland, in Bellingham, and at a coffee shop in Olympia to one person. We also did a tour of the west coast and Texas.
NM: Tell me about the new album.
M: It’s going to be more rockin’ than rock itself. We’re writing songs for it and then when we’re done writing songs for it we’re going to record it. So, it’s theoretically rockin’.
NM: Do you have an expected release date yet?
M: Yeah, Spring. We don’t have a label yet. So it all kinda depends. We could do it with a label, but it might not come out right away, so we are waiting. [Editor’s note: The Mistreaters signed with Estrus in late July.]
NM: What about the new single?
M: Yakisakana is the label. They put out a single for friends and fellow Milwaukeeans Kill-a-Watts and another Wisconsin band the Evolutions. The label refers to Wisconsin as their “adopted land” on account of all the good rock-n-roll bands here.
NM: I noticed you guys have recorded with a lot of different labels, how did it come about that you’ve worked with so many?
M: People just ask us. It’s all part of the Internet – they email us and then we say yes. It’s electronic mail, I found out. And we got those garage rock mafia cards, too. We’re charter members. We usually don’t do interviews; you’re very lucky. Usually we have people do interviews for us.
NM: Now that I live in Seattle and people find out I’m from Milwaukee they always ask me two things. The first one is what beer do I drink from Milwaukee, so that’s what I’m going to ask you guys.
M: Pabst. No, you can’t drink Pabst. (Miller) High Life. Blatz. Whatever they’ll sell us for a dollar a bottle. But not Pabst. Unless it’s in a can and it’s 50 cents, then I’ll buy it. Otherwise it’s strikebreaker beer and I can’t do that. They treated their employees pretty badly. They robbed pensions. So you can’t drink that shit anymore. I like Blatz and I like Schlitz. And whatever kind they made on Laverne and Shirley. Cause we’re from Milwaukee! We live in a barn and we herd cows.
NM: You guys ever go cow tipping?
M: I can’t hear you with my cheese hat on. Let me remove my cheese hat. We live in a barn ‘cause we’re from Wisconsin.
NM: And you all eat cheese right?
M: Every day! Nothing but cheese.
NM: Anything else you guys want to talk to me about?
M: Music fans and people in general don’t realize how good they have it here with all the bands working their asses off in the name of FUN. Maybe we should be interviewed when we’re sober! Or drunker! I don’t want you to get the wrong impression of us. Is that the last question you had, really?
NM: I asked you if you ever went cow tipping.
M: That was the question about Wisconsin? I’ve never touched a cow in my life. I saw a cow at the state fair once. It’s not all barns. I’ve got a story. This one time I was riding this horse. It was like when I was a kid. There was this big line of horses all these people going horseback riding. And my grandparents put me on, and I’m like, okay, I’m on a horse, and so, I’m behind this other horse, and my horse, for some reason feels the need to bite the other horse in the ass. Like, constantly. And I’m pulling on the reigns saying “stop it”, you know, and the lady on the horse in front of me kept lookin’ at me like I was doing it. And I was like, lady, I don’t know, the horse is doing it. That’s my story.
NM: That’s a great story. Anything else you guys want to talk about?
M: Uh, we’re not farmers. We’re like every other city but we’re not so full of ourselves. You know, you’re from here.
NM: I am, but it’s funny those are always the questions I get asked when people find out I’m from Milwaukee.
M: That’s just ridiculous. You should start slapping those people. Yeah, you’re from what, Seattle? Do you like grunge music? You should ask those people, are you from Seattle or do you just live here? Where’s your flannel dude? I thought everybody that was from here wore flannel. People are real dumb. Maybe it’s not that. It’s just like cheese is our heritage. We’re not talking shit – we’ve met cool people everywhere. Seattle rules!
NM: Well, we’d be excited if you guys came back.
M: Yeah, we want to. If you’re lucky.
NM: If I’m personally lucky?
M: Yeah, if you’re lucky, personally, not Seattle. Good luck making this into an article.
(Editor’s note: Band photo by Amanda Friedman, live photo by Dan Barret.)
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