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Mad Caddies Bring Ska-Punk to Tempe, Talk Dirty Rice, Fat Mike and More

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When the Mad Caddies take the stage on Sunday, April 13, at Club Red in Tempe, it will be the first time the ska-punk-reggae musicians have played for their Arizona fans in seven years. What can an audience expect after all this time? Well, the Mad Caddies performance they have grown to love will be in full effect, but they will also find that their beloved band is touring with a rejuvenated drive and purpose behind their music after the lengthy hiatus.

"I think that helped us get stronger and better than we ever have been," says singer Chuck Robertson on the Mad Caddies' time away from the spotlight. "And we're stoked to put out a new record."

That new record is called Dirty Rice, with a scheduled release date of May 13. The people anxious to get a taste of the long-awaited music before the album drops have two options: scroll down and listen to the first single called "Brand New Scar" below in this article, or catch their live performance where Robertson says the band will be mixing in a few new tracks to accompany their time-tested favorites.

"We got to explore some new territories and do some different things," says Robertson on the production of Dirty Rice. "All in all, it's a fun record. It's definitely a Mad Caddies record -- no one is going to be shocked by some crazy turn in sound."

Now, the Mad Caddies are coming up on their twentieth anniversary as a band -- an impressive feat in the harsh genre of punk rock, where youth sells. And from a personal perspective, the Caddies evoke a sense of nostalgia dating back many years to when my own punk rock North Star introduced me to their eclectic symphonies. Up on the Sun took the opportunity to speak with Robertson and discuss what he has been doing for seven years, the band's new album, and the group's ever-loyal fans.

The Mad Caddies have been around almost twenty years now, did you ever imagine you would take it this far?

You know, I don't know. It's pretty crazy thinking it's been twenty years coming up next year. I don't know that I ever did imagine doing it for twenty years. Looking back, a decade ago seems like yesterday and then twenty years does seem like a long time away.

When the Mad Caddies were first starting out, was there a specific audience that you were targeting? Is there one nowadays?

We started the band in our late teenage years, so we were trying to make music that we liked. So, I guess we were targeting our peers and that age group of teenagers and early twenties that were into the punk and ska music of the time.

I think now, it's kind of come full circle. We're in our mid-thirties now and making music, and I guess it's still for everybody. [There's] definitely more mixed audiences these days.

We never wanted to completely depart from our earlier sound, so with every record we've always made sure we kept a couple of fast punk or ska songs on there to stick to our roots, while continuing to branch out into new territories.

You have been on [NOFX singer and legendary punk rocker] Fat Mike's record label for some time now. Can you describe that relationship?

It's definitely a family thing at this point. We consider Mike a good friend, and a lot of people at the label are personal friends. It's a small grassroots business that gained worldwide notoriety over the years. It grew into a pretty big company, and then with the downturn of CD sales and digital they had to downsize a little, but I think they are still relevant. They kind of scaled it back so that it's a sustainable business model to this day.

We've always enjoyed total creative freedom, and no one has ever told us what we're supposed to sound like or look like. They just put out the music that the artists want to create.

I listened through Dirty Rice and I really enjoyed it. Both "Down and Out" and "Shot in the Dark" jumped out at me right away -- I liked the horn section in both -- what can you tell me about those?

Yeah, we have multiple song writers in our band -- myself, Sascha [Lazor] (our guitar player), Todd [Rosenberg] (our drummer), and as well as our keyboard player, Dustin [Lanker]. So, we had a lot of collaboration on this record, and "Down and Out" was actually a song that Todd and Dustin collaborated on and brought in our friend Logan to do the lyrics. I like the arrangement -- it kind of has like a '70s rock vibe.

That's actually my favorite song, [and it's] the one I didn't even write the lyrics for. I don't know if that has anything to do with it, but that song turned out to be the standout for me.

Then, "Shot in the Dark" was the only song that came about spontaneously at the end of the process. A few of us went to do see a Dr. Dog concert, and we left half the guys at the studio that night and when we came back the next morning they had that vibe going. We were like, "Wow, this is awesome." So, it happened organically.

I also enjoyed "Back to the Bed" and "Drinking the Night Away."

Yeah, "Back to the Bed" is one of those tunes that is a personal reflection. I think it's something that people can relate to about being out there and not doing the right thing. All in all, you only hurt yourself and you are the one who has to live with the guilt of certain misgivings. So, that was kind of a personal one for me.

Then, "Drinking the Night Away" was just a fun tune that we would sing on tour. It's just kind of a late-night jam session. We wanted to track it live with just friends, so we got a bunch of buddies in the studio and everybody started taking harmony tracks. It was a lot of fun. We wanted to make sure it really felt like a live thing, and it was. It's just a fun song to sing on tour. What can the audiences expect here in Tempe when you come through on your spring tour?

We're really excited to get to the Southwest. It's been since 2007 with Pepper, I think, was the last time we did the Southwest, so it's been seven years. We're excited to get back through there, because there are a lot of great fans there. You can expect a full Caddies show. Of course, we will be playing probably three or four new songs each night, but everybody can expect all the favorites from all the records. We do something off of everything.

We have a pretty nice rounded mix to make everybody happy, and have a good time. Forget about your worries and come party with the Caddies for a night. It's been a long time since we've been out Arizona way, so we hope to see people out there and come say hi. Don't be shy.

The Mad Caddies have been described as ska, reggae, punk and even jazz. How would you describe the music, and can you take me inside the creation process of channeling so many instruments to achieve a final product?

Sure. When people ask me what we sound like, I say that we're really just an eclectic rock band. Yeah, we have horns, and we have jazz, ska, reggae and punk influences, but it's just a rock band that delves into a lot of stuff.

Creating the sound that we have is because it's never been a band where just one person is the main songwriter. We've always been a collaborative band, and so all the different sounds come from everybody's different personal tastes. We all like a wide variety of music that spans the whole spectrum of genres with everything from old-school country, to intellectual hip-hop, to metal and pop. We're all fans of music, so I think that's what the melting pot of the Mad Caddies is.

I feel like we've gotten more mature with each record, and that's good. We took some time off over the last few years, and took a step back to see where we're at. We've been touring for fifteen years straight, and we were like, "We just need to rest for a couple of years."

I think that helped us get stronger and better than we ever have been and we're stoked to put out a new record. We're already ready to start writing and recording another one to release in another year or two. We want to be back at it. That's good to hear, because the gap between your last album, Keep it Going, and the upcoming Dirty Rice was seven years -- the longest in Mad Caddies' career.

Yeah, seven years, and we didn't break up or go away or anything, we just weren't playing that much. We were only doing thirty or forty shows a year just to stay semi-relevant. We just weren't ready to get back in there and create something.

When we got together a year ago, it seemed to start clicking and being natural again.

Describe Mad Caddies' fans to me.

[They're from] all walks of life. At this point, it's really interesting in our career that we're actually seeing multi-generational fans. We're at the point where, if you had kids young when you first started seeing us and you were nineteen or twenty, that we're seeing teenagers turn up to shows with their parents who were fans from back in the day. It's pretty cool that it's coming down the generations.

Generally, a Mad Caddies fan is going to be a friendly nice person. We don't have a lot of fights or assholes [that] come to our shows. It's not a violent thing. One thing I've noticed is that everybody is always having a good time at a Caddies show.

What other bands are you digging these days personally?

My favorite band that I've gotten into the last couple of years is called Dr. Dog, out of Philadelphia. They're kind of an American rock band going on the Beatles thing. They record all their records at their home studio. They do awesome background harmonies, and lots of multi-instrumental stuff. They're a really, really good band. Their record Shame, Shame is one of those that I can throw on and listen all the way through all the time.

Another band out of New Zealand called the Black Seeds is super cool. [They're] kind of a roots reggae, with really good music and really good production. [They have] good positive lyrics without being super cheesy reggae. Those two bands have been in regular rotation for me.

The first Mad Caddies song I heard years ago was "Last Breath". I'm curious about the story behind that song and the references to substance abuse and/or alcoholism?

Yeah, that was back in those days in our mid-twenties. It was a time when people might have experimented with certain drugs and either moved on and don't mess with it anymore, or it kind of started to ruin people's lives. I happened to lose a couple good friends throughout the years to prescription and hard drugs, and that song just kind of touched on being alone and dark. It was a sad time, so it's a more serious song.

We're all about partying and having a good time, but the prescription drugs and heroin and meth and that kind of stuff can ruin your life and eventually kill you. I've seen it happen firsthand, so it's an ode to certain friends that have passed on.

Luckily, I've never had a drug problem other than liking beer a lot [laughs]. As a musician in the touring lifestyle, and the things that come along with it, you're constantly surrounded by it. It comes with the industry, and late nights and partying. It can really wear on you, and I've worked myself into some really bad emotional states throughout the years when you realize, "Oh shit, I've been drunk for a week straight now. What am I doing?"

You have to really keep a balance, and the last few years a lot of us have gotten more serious about health and exercise and eating right. Especially on the road, it can be really tough to find healthy food and make the time to exercise every day. We've gotten a lot better about growing into a middle-aged adult instead of saying, "Ah, I'm just a kid on tour." It's like, "No, you're 35--you're not a kid." [Laughs]

Mad Caddies perform Sunday, April 13, at Club Red in Tempe.

This article originally published with the headline, "Mad Caddies' Chuck Robertson: 'We're Fans of Music -- That's the Melting Pot of the Mad Caddies.'"

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