Q&A with the Dead Milkmen's Rodney Anonymous

Posted on August 29th, 2017

The Dead Milkmen performing at Clark Park, Philadelphia, 2017.

The Dead Milkmen performing at Clark Park.The Dead Milkmen performing at Clark Park.The Dead Milkmen are getting ready to release Welcome to the End of the World, their first record in three years and their debut release on The Giving Groove. It’s a little bit twisted, a little bit dark, and we think you Milkmen fans will love it!

We sat down with Rodney Anonymous to learn how the album came together, and to dig into the back story behind the spooky first single, “Only the Dead Get Off at Kymlinge.” (Check it out HERE.)

Let's just jump right in! You wrote five of the six new tracks. Tell me how the songs came together.

We're always writing. In my case, I was having bad nightmares, and I couldn't sleep. I write in cycles. So some of the songs are from what I call the Nightmare Cycle, which is when I was having nightmares and getting up in the middle of the night and writing. Oddly enough, the nightmares seem to stop when I know Halloween is coming, because I feel better. The first song, “Kymlinge” is actually from the Halloween Cycle. I wrote a bunch of songs for Halloween.

When you talk about songs coming from nightmares, were they literally nightmares you had, or did your dreams evoke a theme or feeling?

Since I was a little kid, I've been really, really afraid of pretty much a coup. So I started having bad nightmares where pretty much everybody was on lockdown and there were soldiers everywhere, and it was just not good. That's kind of what triggered that. That's where a couple of new songs like "Brutalist Beat" come from.

So I'd go to sleep pretty early, I'd wake up in the middle of the night, usually have something disturb me, and come down and just write. It was very cathartic to write, so the nightmares weren't as bad after a while.

My friend Kyle, who is a photographer, had told me a thing; I used it on the last record. He said, "Your hands know what to do. You learn it and then you unlearn it." So what I would do is, I would come down and I would just fire up everything down here in the office area and I have a little keyboard and I'd have all my sounds on the computer and I would just start hitting it.

I wouldn't write the whole thing, I'd just kind of make some notes. A lot of times I wouldn't remember and I'd have to go back and go, "Oh yeah, what's this about? What's that about?"

At that point, do you guys share the songs? Are they in demo form?

I make demos ... This is the way I write. I make sort of full demos, and then I throw them out there. We then have a big folder and we throw everything in there. So people can go in and pick and take stuff out.

But I had posted the demo for “Kymlinge” online for close to about a year. I put it up there around last Halloween.

Let’s talk about the title: Welcome to the End of the World.

I went to a post-apocalyptic party, and my friend Donna from Ego Likeness had come out; they were playing, and she said, "Welcome to the end of the world." I have a little studio on my phone, and I went out and started banging out the main riff and the idea of the song.

That night was so weird. Everybody was completely nuts. Any sort of post-apocalyptic road-warrior party, I heavily recommend. It was very cathartic. It helped everybody deal with the election and everything.

I do sense a bit of a political undercurrent here and there.

There's always a political theme in everything, even songs that are about happiness and sunshine are political in a sense of, you know, don't make trouble. It's a really scary time.

The Dead Milkmen performing at Clark Park, Philadelphia, 2017.

Your first single, “Only the Dead Get Off at Kymlinge,” is a tale about the haunted trains that are said to terrorize passengers on the Stockholm Metro.

Joe picked “Kymlinge,” which I thought was a good song to start because it's a ghost story, really. The earliest sort of tales that we all tell, the ones that really stick with us, are ghost stories.

Kymlinge was a rumor that people began to believe. So when people start saying insane things, people believing in something like Pizzagate or something like that—it's kind of how Kymlinge came about. People saw this silver train car running in Stockholm at night, and they'd usually be drunk when they got on it, and then there was the Kymlinge station which had been shut down; they started believing they were taking people there to kill them.

Let’s talk about The Giving Groove: How did you connect with the label and your partner charity, Girls Rock Philly?

Dan, our bass player, had told us about them and I was like, "I really like the idea of charity, and I like the idea that girls rock," because most of the musicians I listen to are very angry female musicians. So I thought that giving musical equipment, music lessons, all that, to young women would be more deadly than arming young men, because I thought that that's where revolution and change might come from. So I was into it immediately. I was like, "Yeah, yeah, yeah."

I love the idea, I wish there were more things out there where people just did it for charities' sake. I want to see what comes of this because I get the feeling that a bunch of young ladies can write angrier, faster, better songs than I can. Which seems to always be the case whenever I hear a young musician, I'm like, "Wow, they're better than I am." That's what I'm looking forward to. To me, that's my favorite part of it.

Dean Clean & Rodney Anonymous at the Girls Rock Philly event at Union Transfer.

Stay tuned for more conversation with Rodney and the band! Pre-order Welcome to the End of the World HERE.