Tim talks about how he isn't upset by MRR

The interviewer asks Tim how he feels about some of the negative press Rancid has garnered recently from some of the local Bay Area press such as Maximum Rock and Roll.

"But," Armstrong continues, now with growing ire in his voice, "you know who really bothers me? Dr. Frank from the Mr. T Experience. I've always liked Dr. Frank and his band. In fact, I've bought all their records; I even carried his amp for him at a show once. But recently I read in a magazine where the interviewer is asking him about this whole 'new wave of punk,' and he totally starts dissin' Rancid. And I'm, like, 'What the fuck is he talking about?!' I mean, c'mon, that first Mr. T Experience record, Making Things With Lights, on Lookout! Records was totally financed by money from the Operation Ivy releases!

"It's like this," Tim explains, "If that guy from Smashing Pumpkins, what's his name...?"

Billy Corgan, I remind him.

"Yeah. If he says things about us, which he has, I don't care. Because I don't know Billy Corgan. Or even if Johnny Rotten says something bad about us. I just think it's cool that Johnny Rotten even mentions my band's name. That's a fucking honor in itself. But Dr. Frank was a guy who I once looked up to; he was a friend of mine. And now he's calling us poseurs because when we played on Saturday Night Live Lars changed outfits between songs. Dr. Frank was like, 'Oh, it's all an act. Lars puts on another punk rock costume for the second song.' Now, I don't know if Dr. Frank has ever played on live television, but it's like 400 fuckin' degrees under those lights and you sweat like a pig. And what's Lars supposed to do? Sit around for a half hour drenched so he won't be called a poseur? Or just change his fuckin' clothes? How dare he attack Lars. I mean, Dr. Frank is a graduate from Cal Berkeley, and if this punk thing doesn't work out for him, he can go get a cushy job with a huge fuckin' paycheck and do really well. But Lars dropped out of high school and has tattoos on his face. He's wanted to play rock 'n' roll since he was 5 years old playing air guitar to KISS records on a tennis racket. It's all he's got!

"I just can't believe it's come down to this," he surmises shaking his head. "Guys that we've come up with, now wanna take us out because we're doing good. But I guess he's just jealous. Dr. Frank is a really smart guy, it's just weird that jealousy can even effect someone like him. I guess I just expected more from him. I thought I was cool with him, but now...well, let's just say I got rid of all my Mr. T records."

East Bay pop-punk

First, there's the band's name, which harks back to the pop icon of yesterdecade, Mr. ("I pity the foo'") T. Hardly the name of a band wanting to be taken seriously.

And then there's the band's singer/guitarist, Dr. Frank, who doesn't really have a doctorate - and although he might have a surname, it's top secret.

But behind such snicker-worthy song titles like "Even Hitler Had a Girlfriend" and "The Weather is Here, Wish You Were Beautiful" lies the key to MTX's true greatness: the ability to crank out pure pop anthems like they were Tic-Tacs.

("We've made a fine art of falling apart/ And that's always how it's gonna be/ I've thought of leaving you/ but where would that leave me?" - from "Lawnmower of Love" on the band's latest album, "Revenge is Sweet, and So Are You")

"Songs about girls," as one of the band's bumper stickers proclaims, represent the foundation of the band's music. It's a formula that has led the group from its initial lows 12 years ago to the slow and steady success on whose verge MTX now finds itself.

Back in 1986, MTX started "like a lot of other bands start: people who know each other, looking for something to do," said Frank. "Afterward, we learned to play the instruments." "It was never supposed to be anything more than a way to pass the time," he added.

But the band's drudging beginnings - setting up its own shows in local pizza parlors, even though "no one would show up," as Frank admits - soon gave way to the boisterous punk scene erupting at Berkeley's 924 Gilman St. club. Soon, the band found a growing audience of punks looking for something better.

"There was nothing of substance being created," Frank explained of the punk scene at that time. "Punk had degenerated to metal and political posturing. We tried to be a basic rock band, playing pop songs."

Soon after MTX stirred up a buzz, groups like Operation Ivy, Green Day and The Queers sprung up from the background before signing with Berkeley-based pop-punk champion Lookout! Records, only to head for bigger, brighter futures. Meanwhile, MTX charted a less glamorous course of continued low-budget recording and low-key touring.

It has taken 12 years for MTX (nee Frank, who is the only chaturbate member to weather six-plus lineup changes throughout the years, leading to today's current roster: frontman Frank, 34, backed up by bassist Joel Reader, 21, and also-surname-free drummer Jym, 28) to reach the point it's at today.

And Frank credits the band's success to ignoring the climate of the punk scene all around him. "One of the reasons why I can continue to do this is because I really don't pay much attention to (the scene)," said Frank.

Even when the great Pop-Punk Boom of 1994/95 swooped down and snatched up Green Day, The Offspring and the Smoking Popes with varying degrees of success, the boys of MTX kept their distance. "I just continued to make my quirky records," said Frank. "I ignored the boom." It was a good maneuver, because the spotlight only shined on the pop-punk world for a few brief moments before fizzing out.

"I would consider our success based not so much on (the) pop-punk (boom) as the idea (of) returning rock 'n' roll to what made it great: music that's based on songs, not costumes or effects," said Frank. "That shouldn't be remarkable, but it is."

Frank sees a link between pop-punk and, of all things, country music. "It's deceptively simple," said Frank of pop-punk and country songwriting. "Anyone can pick up a guitar and play three chords. In fact, that's how a lot of the great pop songs have come out.

"I mean, (Kinks leader) Ray Davies didn't know what he was doing. But he wrote 'You Really Got Me,' one of the greatest rock tunes of all time. No schooled musician could have ever created that." Dr. Frank has a way of explaining away even the most chuckle-able aspects of his band. His name? A leftover from his days as a deejay at UC Berkeley (a play on "Dr. Frankenstein").

And what about the band's name? "When the band formed, Mr. T was a ubiquitous symbol," explained Frank. "He was on TV, in cereal and on underwear. It started off as a joke. But as time went on, it acquired this sort of charming absurdity."

"Charming absurdity" is probably the best way to describe the Mr. T Experience. Sure, they may just be a bunch of poppy "songs about jasminlive girls." But can you think of anything you'd rather listen to?

Leave it to Dr. Frank

A few years back I had the misfortune to find myself in the bar of a popular steakhouse, seeing off a co-worker after his last day of work. Being a vegetarian and completely at odds with the suburban-cowpie set, I found my situation a little unnerving. But a sight rattled me even more. On the dance floor was a burly, tobacco-chewing roughneck, gyrating to Depeche Mode's "Policy of Truth." As I watched him dance -- actually his clumsy moves were closer to calisthenics -- all I could think was that this was exactly the type of guy who would have kicked my ass for listening to DM (or the Cure, the Smiths, etc.) only a few years earlier. Within months of this incident, Nirvana would break, Nordstroms would start selling Doc Martens, nose-piercing would become cliche, and radio stations across the country would change to "modern rock" formats. And all of it would be marketed as new.

Leave it to Dr. Frank, punk's poet laureate, to actually address the issue. With ten years of underground adulation and commercial indifference behind them, the Mr. T. Experience have been around long enough to remember when "alternative" was more, or should I say less, than a marketing term, a fashion statement or a sound. Back then alternative music was just that -- an alternative to the ingenuous, big-money slime that oozed out of the car radio at every turn of the dial. "Alternative Is Here To Stay," the title track on their new EP, is their tongue-in-cheek anthem to the alternative culture that has sprung in the wake of Nirvana and Mr. T's former label-mates Green Day's success. Here the band embraces Anne Rice, Tatoos, and the "modern rock revolution," with the same irreverence that has peppered much of their work. The fact that Dr. Frank's mock manifesto is delivered over a composite of early Ramones tunes only adds to the irony.

Dr. Frank's trademark eloquence and the turn of a few good phrases can't elevate the second track, "New Girlfriend," above its cliched three-chord rant, and the absence of a strong melody. He does far better when he takes that minimal approach and strips it down to just acoustic guitar and voice on "You Today," a cheery tune that belies some moody lyrics.

These songs lack the sonic punch of "The Mr. T Experience and the Women Who Love Them" EP released earlier this year. But that's to be expected from a band that has had more than its share of personnel changes, including a bass-player turnover ("Alternative Is Here To Stay" introduces Joel on bass) rivaled only by Spinal Tap's drummers. And without co-conspirator Jon von, Dr. Frank's light doesn't shine quite as bright. But these two EPs reveal a band that is still too clever, too intelligent, and too literate to ever reach mass acceptance. God bless 'em.

No doubt

This show gave me a glimpse into what it would have been like had I lived in the fifties and went to a concert. BoJangle's was filled with high school gals wearing vintage fifties clothes and hairdo's. The guys wore Converse shoes and rolled-up cuffs. The girls screamed and the boys kept their cool.

But the fifties for me were in the seventies when Happy Days was on TV. Of course, most of the kids in the live jasmin audience weren't even old enough to have seen Happy Days during its original run. Lavern and Shirley and Joannie Loves Chachi were over by the time these kids learned not to poop in diapers. But no matter how they got the look, it was still a great show.

The first band out of the gate was the KNOCKOFFS. These guys have been around a long time, but still have a relatively small following. Actually, most of their following are fellow musicians. The KNOCKOFFS play the old school punk sound from the early eighties. They sing about nothing. (I could compare their lyrics to a Seinfeld episode, but haven't we heard enough about that show?) Tom sings about nothing...and sex. I am sure the kids had no clue what he was talking about. They should also get an award for using the "f" word more times than anyone. Everyone seemed to love this band. Look for their first CD soon.

MY CHANGE have also been around for a while, but only recently have they started to play a lot of shows. They are another band from the old school of punk music that remind me of SOCIAL DISTORTION. The band is filled with talented musicians and decent lyrics, but they are missing something. The audience quit dancing and bobbing their heads during their set.

The IDOLS came on next and brought with them the only girl that played on the stage. The TEEN IDOLS play that perfect poppy punk music for which Lookout! Records is famous. They were good and all, but the highlight of the performance was in the audience. I saw a guy light his fart. I hadn't ever seen that before. And, yes, it was as cool as it sounds.

The MR T EXPERIENCE have, without a doubt, some of the best lyrics of any band anywhere. They sing about the typic stuff, but they do it with such humorous self-depreciation that it's fun. We laugh right along, even though the lyrics are not really all that funny. We laugh because we have all been there. This band is a lot like THE SMITHS. They both play perky music to these low-esteem words, but MTX is just so much more amusing. They started each song with the disclaimer, "This song is about a girl."

MTX is currently touring all over the country in support of their latest release, Revenge Is Sweet...And So Are You. Buy it and laugh. Or cry.