DS Feature: Stacey Dee (Bad Cop/Bad Cop) – The Fall and Rise of a True Punk Rock Lifer

The music scene in general, and the punk scene more specifically, is notoriously riddled with tales of immensely talented artists who were taken from us way before their respective times should have been up. Many of them turned in to tragic figures, at least in hindsight, due to their respective early passings due to having succumbed to addictions, accidental overdoses, insurmountable mental health issues, or some combination therein. For specific examples, one needs to look no further than the present entry on their This Week In Punk History calendar, which marks not only what would have been the 46th birthday of the great Tony Sly, but the one-year anniversary of the death of Teenage Bottlerocket drummer Brandon Carlisle.

And yet, as long as the list of tragic, gone-before-their-time punk rockers is, there is a small but growing list of punk rockers who’ve waded through the muck and the mire that is drug addiction and come out the other side all the better for it. A non-scientific survey of this writer’s memory bank finds current and former members of Social Distortion, NOFX, Dropkick Murphys, Street Dogs, Strung Out, The Loved Ones, Fake Problems, and no doubt countless others who have put down the bottle or the baggie or the pipe or the needle in years past and still continued to make powerful, meaningful work. Hell, even the inimitable Fat Mike got rather notoriously sober over the last year, if only for a while.

That small-but-growing list can add to it one of the more powerful female figures in the current punk scene: Stacey Dee. After starting to play guitar at the comparatively late age of twenty, Dee spent years in bands like The Angry Amputees and Compton SF and Blacktop Idol and Park Royal before finally striking gold with Bad Cop / Bad Cop. The four-piece all-female “freight train of fuck yeah!” signed to Fat Wreck Chords, released one of the best albums of last year (Not Sorry), and have toured fairly regularly, including the seven-week, nationwide run as direct support for The Interrupters that they’re currently about halfway through.

Yet just as quickly as the BC/BC freight train started to pick up significant speed last year by way of their opening spot on the Fat Wreck Chords 25th anniversary tour, there was, in hindsight, the very real possibility that things could have derailed for Dee in rather dramatic fashion. A combination of years of Xanax abuse coupled with increasing amounts of alcohol, painkillers, and, as it turns out, bad cocaine in Minneapolis resulted in a bottoming out that left Dee at a crossroads: get clean and fast, or lose everything and faster.

But let’s back up. Because while stories of redemption after years of despair and descent into the abyss (and this is certainly one of them) pull at the heartstrings, it sometimes helps to start the tape at the beginning to provide context and understanding. Stacey Dee grew up in California, the daughter of a working-class singer-songwriter father. “I grew up in a very rock-and-roll, drug-infused party house,” says Dee, adding that while she considers her parents great and “fun as shit,” they also did little to impose boundaries or discipline. This marks the first of a couple of themes from childhood that would rear their heads going forward.

As should be apparent, Dee grew up in a musical household, and learned piano and drums at a relatively early age. Upon reflecting on that childhood, Dee reports “knowing that from the time I was four or five years old, if you had asked me what I wanted to be, I was going to be a famous singer… I always fucking knew.” That said, the guitar playing and the songwriting that not only marked how her father made his living but would eventually come much, much later; Dee didn’t start playing guitar until the age of twenty. So if you know from the age of four or five that you want to be famous in music, why not pick up a guitar early on? “I was real poor growing up, but I came from an affluent area,” she explains. “I couldn’t have nobody like me because I was poor. I couldn’t have it. So all of my energy went into making sure people liked me, and that was a problem I had up until this last year, even.” Instead of focusing on what she knew was her passion, Dee focused from an early age on being accepted by other people. Herein lies the second of our recurring themes…

After the breakup of a long-term relationship, Dee finally picked up an acoustic guitar at the age of twenty and armed with a few newly-discovered barre chords, she followed her instincts by moving to Santa Barbara, an early baby step toward taking a gamble on herself, and to support what would eventually become her career. She would return home from Santa Barbara three years later with a budding confidence in her newfound talent for songwriting and a desire to be “that girl in the punk rock band,” but also with a decent taste of the ‘real world.’ “I got this pretty good job for a twenty-three year-old kid — I was selling floors, making almost 50 grand a year, which wasn’t bad,” states Dee. While the job provided a certain comfort level and while she and her boss remained friendly, they also engaged in a fair amount of butting of heads. As Dee tells it, “one day, he came downstairs and he was mad at me about something. And he was like ‘I want you to lock all these doors, go upstairs, and write me a letter about how you plan to better yourself as a human being!’ And I wrote him a letter of resignation, and decided that day that music was going to be my life.”

And so began a life of splitting time between semi-stable temp jobs and a series of bands with varying levels of success, perhaps most notably The Angry Amputees. A European tour with said band brought her in contact with the man she’d eventually marry and move to the UK to be with. After a stay across the pond, the pair eventually moved to Los Angeles, where their marriage would start to deteriorate. As is the case when any relationship goes belly-up, there are obviously myriad things that can be pointed to as the catalyst for the demise of Dee’s marriage. For starters, says Dee, “around 32 or 33, a really bad thing happened in my marriage and it wasn’t my fault. I’m still trying to find what my place in all of that was, but it was really damaging.” Moreover, there was perhaps more importantly what Dee perceived as a lack of spousal support of her musical aspirations. Remember that point about growing up with a lack of boundaries and structure and normalcy? Dee’s husband, she says “wanted to be a firefighter and he wanted me to be a nurse and have that whole white picket life, and I wanted to be that person so bad. My whole life I wanted to be that person. And this is going to make me cry, but I never had that life, so I don’t know what that person is.”

And then there were the drugs, specifically benzodiazepines. “Somebody in my family had started getting a prescription for Xanax,” says Dee, an event that marked the beginning of what could conceivably had been the end. “I had been looking for a doctor to give me a fucking prescription for Xanax since I was maybe 18 years old… I would go sing on people’s records if they could fill me a prescription of Xanax or get me a bottle. But then I decided that I wanted to check out. I finally found a doctor in the entertainment industry in Los Angeles and she would give it to me; I could get whatever the fuck I wanted.”

After a period of time where she was “getting launched on drugs,” Dee and her husband finally called it quits in the year 2011. Commenting on what it took to get her to leave, Dee reports that she “felt like I needed to get out of the way of my marriage so that…we could both be happy,” adding rather matter-of-factly that “it was very sad.” As one might imagine, the drugs didn’t stop with the dissolution of her marriage, particularly as she had recently torn her ACL after falling off a stage. “When I first moved out of my husband’s house and got my own little apartment,” she explains, “I was just sitting there popping Xanax and painkillers and taking Benadryl on top of that.” After realizing that, perhaps, she shouldn’t be living on her own, Dee reports that she “moved to Inglewood, California, and let the quality of my life really just go down. I was living in the basement of this house for four years. I barely left. The only time I would leave was to do music.”

While a divorce and a growing reliance on drugs could have made 2011 the worst year on record for Dee, it also coincided with what could have been the most pivotal positive moment, though it might take some years to realize. The “music” that Dee would leave the house to do was, increasingly a new band. Bad Cop / Bad Cop, you see, started that same year. As should be obvious if you’ve listened to the band or, more specifically, you’ve seen them live, it should be no surprise that this new project caught the attention of some of the punk scene’s heaviest hitters, most notably NOFX’s Fat Mike Burkett, who’d also shown an interest in a prior Dee project, Compton SF. Burkett signed the band to his genre-defining label, Fat Wreck Chords, and produced their stellar debut full-length, 2015’s Not Sorry. And though the band’s level of success continued to increase and she “should have” been happy, Dee’s drug use would continue. “I kept telling myself that I was this broken artist and that that was somehow romantic, you know what I mean?

By the time of Not Sorry, Dee was the closest she’d get yet to seeing that dream of becoming “that girl in the punk rock band” approach fruition. The bar would raise again by mid-2015, as Bad Cop / Bad Cop would earn the opening slot on Fat Wreck Chords’ 25th anniversary tour, where they’d be sharing a stage with such legends as Strung Out, Swingin’ Utter, Lagwagon and, of course, NOFX. And while the tour would raise the band’s status yet again and be the latest in a string of increasingly monumental events for Bad Cop / Bad Cop, it was very nearly the end of their run too. The culprit, of course, was drugs. “I had been partying a lot,” explains Dee, noting that she increased her drinking and “had added cocaine to the mix,” that already included abusing her prescribed Xanax and Klonopin (a total of 120 pills a month) and snorting painkillers. The band were becoming increasingly stressed out, in part because their opening slot meant that they needed to arrive notoriously early to the respective venues. By the time they reached what, by all accounts, was a rough night of August 18th in Minneapolis, things bubbled over. “Every band fought,” states Dee, adding that by the end of the evening, “from what people tell me, because I don’t remember, I fought everybody. I was like “fuck this, fuck you guys, fuck music, fuck this, I’m not playing this game anymore.

Things went from bad to worse, and quickly. Dee explains, with a great deal of heaviness in her voice: “I got taken away, driven to the hotel. I tried to kill myself. I took handfuls of pills, I took an X-Acto knife that I had that was dull, thankfully, and was like AHHH (*makes hacking motion towards forearms*)! I called my dad to tell him I was done. Fat Mike called me and begged me, he said “Stacey, what are you doing? You can’t do this. I love you, stop it!” I got flown to Vegas, continued to party, left my band in Minneapolis to where they had to drive back. They couldn’t play any fucking shows. They couldn’t make any money. And I left them in the lurch, you know what I mean? It was a point where I hated them and they hated me.

Dee eventually made it home, where she was joined on September 4th (coincidentally her fellow Bad Cop Jennie Cotterill’s birthday), by her band. At that meeting came the ultimatum: get help, or they were done. Though feelings may have no doubt been hurt, Dee’s bandmates (Cotterill, Myra Gallarza and Linh Le) stood by her side. Her parents stood by her side. Fat Wreck Chords stood by her side as a label, and Burkett and both his former wife/ label co-owner Erin and his current wife Soma stood by her side personally. Burkett’s bandmate Aaron “El Hefe” Abeyta and his own wife, Jenn, offered to help. “Friends from out of the woodwork” offered to help. And so, with that support, Dee got clean on September 7th. She went to detox for ten days, and emerged bruised, battered and broken…but alive.

And while it would take some time to learn how to think and feel and see and function again without drugs, particularly benzodiazepines, Dee wouldn’t have much time to wait. “I had this acoustic thing booked five days after detox and I was like “there’s no way! I don’t remember any of my songs! They’re gone!” she explains, adding that BC/BC drummer Myra Gallarza gave her the supportive push she needed. “I managed to remember three or four songs, Myra came and picked me up because I couldn’t drive! It was like I was disabled.” She made it through that set, and the band’s first subsequent set sober, and relatively unscathed, relying primarily on muscle memory to get her through

Fast-forward just over a year, and Bad Cop / Bad Cop is as successful as ever. They’re presently halfway through a seven-week full US tour (their first), and are playing killer shows in front of high-energy packed houses night in and night out as direct support for Epitaph/Hellcat Records’ The Interrupters. In the process of getting clean and going to counseling over the last year, Dee has learned not only a lot about herself, but has learned how to become positive. “Every tour since I got sober has been so great. We have the best time together, we laugh. I’ve said this before and I saw this in a book recently, but we are a freight train of ‘fuck yeah!’ We love everything. We don’t talk shit. Once you let a tiny crack open to let negative in, it will infiltrate you quicker than you know.”

Once they get off the road, Bad Cop / Bad Cop will dive right back into the studio, in anticipation of the June 2017 release to their follow-up to Not Sorry. The writing process is progressing, as Dee points out that Cotterill is presently writing and singing better than she ever has. For Dee, however, it’s gone a little slower. “I’m having a hard time. Songs don’t come as easily now, because when you’re negative, you have shit to bitch about. But I think through all the self-awareness, the things that I am writing are better and more meaningful and will help other people if they want to listen. That’s the one thing that I’ve been frustrated about in my recovery. It’s not happening fast enough, but I just have to be patient.” Learning to be patient means going against how the drug-addicted brain is accustomed to functioning, but as a beacon of newfound positive energy, Dee has given herself more than a fighting chance, and is incredibly mindful of having to do the work and stay the course; that the band is on their most successful tour as she’s newly sober is not coincidence. “It’s almost like you’ve gotta tell the universe you’re open for more things to come. As soon as you’re closed off and guarded about taking those chances, you’re not going to get the opportunities.”

Head below to read the full transcript of our conversation. It’s well worth the time, we promise!

Dying Scene (Jay Stone): So thank you. Thank you for taking the time to talk to us. I’ve wanted to talk to you for a while, but you guys don’t come here much…or ever…so thanks! This is the first real big Bad Cop / Bad Cop tour…

Stacey Dee: Yeah, we’ve only done three weeks, four weeks tops over the last year. We’re doing great. We’ve said at the end of three or four week tours that we could do another two weeks, easy. As long as we’re patient with each other and don’t get frustrated and don’t get selfish, then we’ll be fine.
Has everybody been in bands that did long tours like this before, or is this the longest haul for everybody?
It’s the longest haul for everybody. I was in a band called the Angry Amputees that toured a lot, but never more than a month. So this is the longest official one.
Where did the idea come from? Did it come from The Interrupters or from you guys…
Well, we were about to sign on to do a tour with The Decline from Australia. We were like, look, we’ve done a couple things, mostly in a little bit of the Midwest around Riot Fest, we’ve done some stuff with our friends The Murderburgers and The Atom Age, and we need to do the whole US. It’s time. That tour with The Decline picks us up at our front door and drops us back off at our front door. It was perfect. We could get to all of these places, go down to play Fest. And then literally the next day, we got the offer from The Interrupters, and we were like “fuck, dude, of course.” We decided to go. This was a much better deal. It’s almost like you’ve gotta tell the universe you’re open for more things to come. As soon as you’re closed off and guarded about taking those chances, you’re not going to get the opportunities, and it’s going to be more painful to turn them down, because you’re too guarded. So once we said “we’re going to do this no matter what,” that offer came in and it was perfect. This tour is the best tour we’ve ever done.
It looks like a lot of fun, following you all on social media.
We’re having a ball. And musically, the styles go together so well. People come and listen to some punk rock and then they dance to some rad ska/punk songs. It couldn’t have been a more perfect bill.
It’s totally like a throwback to when Epitaph and Fat were both sort of coming up simultaneously, and there hasn’t been a tour like this in a while.
There hasn’t. It seems like us, The Interrupters, PEARS, Masked Intruder, we’re all kind of doing this resurgent thing now. It’s so cool to be a part of that.
Does that actually resonate with you? Now that there’s this thing that’s sort of growing again…
Yeah! Because I was there through all the bad times too. I was there when it was great, and I was a young kid just hoping to be in it, and it didn’t happen for all those years that I was fighting for it. From, like, 2000 to 2010…
Right…the barren wasteland…
Yeah, yeah! But I stuck around, man, and found a really great band with these ladies and got another opportunity. It’s so cool.
Why’d you stick around that long? Ten years is a long time…
I started playing music a little bit late. I say that because I grew up playing music my whole life. I’ve been writing songs since I was in the fourth grade. I played piano, I played drums. My dad’s a singer-songwriter and I grew up with him recording us — he’d play guitar and I’d sing. And I had little singing groups in my neighborhood. I was real poor growing up. I came from an affluent area, and I couldn’t have nobody like me because I was poor. I couldn’t have it. So all of my energy went into making sure people liked me, and that was a problem I had up until this last year, even. You know what I mean? So I really dove into not letting people know that I had this part of me that was this artist. I was just this social kind of girl. And then I got into a long-term relationship that took me away from it even further. And I knew who I was on the inside, and as soon as that relationship was ending, I was like, “dad, will you show me how to play the fucking guitar? I’m ready!”
How old were you at that point?
I was twenty. But again, it’s not like I didn’t do it….
It wasn’t completely foreign to you.
Yeah, and in fact, I felt like I knew more about music my whole life than anybody else in my town. I just felt like it was in my makeup, my DNA. So when I finally picked up a guitar and moved away to Santa Barbara, I knew that was also going to be a place for music that was going to help my career. I always have followed my instincts and that was right on. It couldn’t have been more right on. So I moved there, found some friends, learned some barre chords, came home and said “dad, I think I’m a songwriter.” And he was like “yeah, whatever…” So I said “let me play you this song I wrote,” and he’s like not really paying attention, and I start playing it and he jumps up and says “We’ve got to record that!” He was so excited (*both laugh*). And that began me playing acoustic shows on my own. I still wanted “That.” I wanted to be the girl in the punk band, I was going to be the girl in the punk band. When I came back from Santa Barbara and I had all this stuff, I got this pretty good job for a twenty-three year-old kid — I was selling floors, making almost 50 grand a year, which wasn’t bad. Me and my boss were great friends, but we kept hitting heads. One day, he came downstairs and he was mad at me about something. And he was like “I want you to lock all these doors, go upstairs, and write me a letter about how you plan to better yourself as a human being!” And I wrote him a letter of resignation, and decided that day that music was going to be my life. No more bullshit. And so that ten years, I never gave up on myself, because this is what I decided to do.
What did you do in the interim though while you were trying…
I had Angry Amputees, I had Compton SF, I had so many bands…
No, I mean like odd job stuff.
I worked a lot of temp jobs…a LOT of temp jobs. I got married in 2005 when I was in the Angry Amputees. I went on tour and met (a guy) and we fell in love and all that stuff. Then Angry Amputees kinda fell by the wayside and I got into Compton SF in San Francisco. Even Fat Mike was interested in Compton SF at the time. And then I moved to fucking London, and that was a huge decision. I was scared that I was giving up everything, and I did. But I started a band over there with Lee and Loz from Snuff, which was killer. I got to do voiceovers and make real good money doing that over there.
Really?
Yeah! I worked for a bunch of different temp agencies for the entertainment industry, for like Sony Pictures. I worked for the manager of Gorillaz. All these different weird jobs… I moved back to LA a year later and our marriage started getting weird. I started taking Xanax and getting really fucking launched on drugs. And our marriage dissolved. 2011 is when I left. And the one thing that I never gave up on was music, and it never gave up on me. Every time I felt horrible about myself or life, my guitar was sitting right there and it was the only thing that I had.
How long after that did this start?
Bad Cop / Bad Cop started in 2011.
I was going to say, there seems to be some overlap…
Yeah, that same time. I had other bands at that time… and my husband at the time wanted to have a backup plan. He wanted to be a firefighter and he wanted me to be a nurse and have that whole white picket life, and I wanted to be that person so bad. My whole life I wanted to be that person. And this is going to make me cry, but I never had that life, so I don’t know what that person is.
So this is more normal.
Yeah, this is normal. I grew up in a very rock-and-roll, drug-infused party house. Great parents, fun as shit. No boundaries or discipline.
But had there been boundaries or discipline, maybe we’re not here right now. Maybe you’re a nurse. And bored.
Ha! Right, and bored. Super bored. Wishing I did. Wishing I had taken a chance on myself.
Do you think that that’s sort of where some of that courage came from? From the way that you were raised?
Yeah, and knowing that from the time I was four or five years old, if you had asked me what I wanted to be, I was going to be a famous singer. And I grew up to do something in that. So I always fucking knew, and I believe that if you ask anybody in the world what they wanted to be when they’re a little kid, that answer is probably the truest, most honest and happiest thing that that human being could be had they lived up to it.
Before life wore them down!
Yeah, and got in the way. Right. If we were to start a civilization over, I’d be like “What did you want to be?” Maybe you’d be great at sowing the land. Maybe you’d be great at being a doctor. Who knows? If everybody got those spirit chases…
Speaking of that, I just got Laura Jane Grace’s book in the mail yesterday, and I was reading it on the train this morning on my way to a conference, and the very first part of the book was a memory that she had of being four or five years old or whatever and seeing Madonna’s “Material Girl” video, and thinking that “I want to be like that. I realize that I can’t be like that because I’m different – I’m a four or five year old boy, but I want to be like that.” So just even those first couple of pages of the book are about that sort of arc, where whatever it was stuck at the age of four or five or six or whenever “Material Girl” came out, and now look!
Oh, that’s amazing. She’s so killer. I fucking love that. I love that so much.
You talked about the self destructive part a little bit, and getting on Xanax. I work as a drug counselor outside of this “job.” You’ve mentioned sort of publicly through social media that you got clean, by my math, in September of last year.
Yeah, September 7th!
Which is my birthday, by the way!
For real? (*both high five*) Awesome! And you’re a Virgo too. Me and Jennie and Myra are all Virgos. I’m September 22nd, Myra’s the 21st and Jennie’s the 4th. And this is the second band I’ve been in where there’s been three Virgos, which is bizarre.
I think at one point you posted how many days you had been clean, and I sorta backed up and did quick math and said “holy shit, that’s random, that’s my birthday.” So that’s really cool.
Yeah! It was a turbulent situation. I didn’t know how bad my life had gotten out of control. My memory is really bad because of the drugs that I took; I can’t remember a lot. But I know that around 32 or 33, a really bad thing happened in my marriage and it wasn’t my fault. I’m still trying to find what my place in all of that was, but it was really damaging. And then, right after that, a man who I had known since I was four years old died. I called him my older brother. (*pauses*) I decided then that I was done. I’m checking out. And somebody in my family had started getting a prescription for Xanax, and I’m going to be very honest and say that I had been looking for a doctor to give me a fucking prescription for Xanax since I was maybe 18 years old.
Did you try it back then?
I had tried it and partied with it here and there, and I always liked what a benzo did. A Valium or whatever. So I’d been waiting. I would go sing on people’s records if they could fill me a prescription of Xanax or get me a bottle. But then I decided that I wanted to check out. I finally found a doctor in the entertainment industry in Los Angeles and she would give it to me; I could get whatever the fuck I wanted.
Like candy…
Yeah. You paid $150 to see her, no insurance.
Really?
Yeah. It was crazy. I started with 1 milligram “footballs” to the 2 milligram “bars,” and 90 of those a month. I’m 100 pounds taking three to four bars of Xanax a day. Luckily, I was able to do music. But I had a lot of guilt and shame and sadness and I kept telling myself that I was this broken artist and that that was somehow romantic, you know what I mean? It ruined my marriage. I couldn’t find my way out, but I felt like I needed to get out of the way of my marriage so that (my husband) could find the person he was supposed to be with and I could, and we could both be happy. And I figured taking myself out of the equation would be the only way that could happen, so I did. And it was very sad.
I had fallen off a stage and busted my ACL for the first time when I first moved out of my husband’s house and got my own little apartment, so I was just sitting there popping Xanax and painkillers and taking Benadryl on top of that. People would say “oh, Xanax makes me black out,” and I would think “oh, I’ve never blacked out.” Looking back, I remember waking up with, like, chocolate all over my face! (*both laugh*) I remember one night just going like this (*smears hands over her cheeks, as if putting on sunscreen rather than chocolate*), and then waking up and being like “what the fuck is on me?!?” Then looking in the mirror and literally seeing chocolate face! I had burn holes in my couch, in my bed, in my blankets, everywhere. And I was too numb — and too dumb — to see it. I did some real crazy, scary things that made be realize at the time that I could not live on my own anymore. So I moved to Inglewood, California, and let the quality of my life really just go down. I was living in the basement of this house for four years. I barely left. The only time I would leave was to do music.
Realizing that it was a fucked up situation, or were you in too much in a fog?
Too much in a fog. I remember looking at the place and driving down the driveway and being like “really? I’m going to live here?” But then looking at the place and thinking “okay, I can do this.” It was okay for what it was worth. My roommate, Will, was great. I started rescuing a shitton of animals out of (*inaudible*) Park, because my sad soul saw the sadness in other things and wanted desperately to try to fix them. So, it was on the Fat Tour last year. I had been partying a lot, I had added cocaine to the mix, and some more alcohol. I told my doctor that I wanted to get off the Xanax, and she was like “well, just take less.”
Like a typical doctor would say.
Right! And so I said “well take me down to 60 a month but then give me 60 Klonopin,” so instead of having 90 pills a month, I had 120. But somehow it made sense to her and it made sense to me. So on the Fat tour, I’m doing Klonopin and Xanax like normal, snorting painkillers, snorting cocaine, tired as shit because we had to drive state to state to be somewhere to load-in by 2pm. It was really tough and we were all aggravated. And then comes Minneapolis, and every band fought! And it ended, from what people tell me, because I don’t remember, I fought everybody. I was like “fuck this, fuck you guys, fuck music, fuck this, I’m not playing this game anymore.” Patty from D4 just told me this story at Punk Rock Bowling, but I was in his face like “fuck you! You’re the one!” And he was like “I’ve been you, Stacey, so I can sit here and talk to you.” I didn’t know how bad it was, and I didn’t wake up from fighting everybody until I was on my back in a puddle with my ACL ruptured…
Again…
…again, yeah. So I got taken away, driven to the hotel. I tried to kill myself. I took handfuls of pills, I took an X-Acto knife that I had that was dull, thankfully, and was like AHHH (*makes hacking motion towards forearms*)! I called my dad to tell him I was done. Fat Mike called me and begged me, he said “Stacey, what are you doing? You can’t do this. I love you, stop it!” Because we had gotten in a big fight, and he’s a good friend of mine. It hurt my ego. And that was one of the things that I had to check real hard getting sober. This ego bullshit is for the birds. I thought I was some hot shit all of a sudden. So I got flown to Vegas, continued to party, left my band in Minneapolis to where they had to drive back. They couldn’t play any fucking shows. They couldn’t make any money. And I left them in the lurch, you know what I mean? It was a point where I hated them and they hated me. Also, when I left for the tour, a day in to driving to Boston, I got a call telling me that my little cousin had died.
Yeah, I heard that on Ryan (Young’s) podcast (Anxious and Angry).
Yeah. That was the worst. But I was still so fucked up that I didn’t really feel it, but I just kept buying pairs of sunglasses. Everywhere we went, I’d spend $50 on four different pairs of sunglasses. Weird shit that your body does when it’s under stress.
 
When you’re trying to cope, yeah.
Yeah! My cousin died, so when I got back from Vegas, I got in to my boyfriend’s place and I was still drinking and taking a bunch of painkillers and Xanax, super constipated, the worst pain in my life, my knee is broken, my spirit is broken. I had to go to my cousin’s funeral and I came home and texted Jennie that I was home and I was the happiest I had been in a while, and she was like “FUCK YOU!” And that’s when all the letters started pouring in from the band, saying “if you’re not getting help, we’re not only not going to be in a band with you, but we’re never going to speak to you.” So I called Fat Mike and said (*frantically*) “what do I do? What do I do? What do I do?” And he’s like, “can you just not drink for a month?” And I was like “dude, easy, not a problem.” It wasn’t drinking, it was the pills. And the girls were like, “nope, that ain’t gonna work. You need HELP help. You need counseling, you need therapy, you’re fucking sick!” The label and everybody jumped in. After I found out that El Hefe and his wife Jenn were trying to help me, everybody at Fat Wreck Chords was trying to help me, my band was trying to help me.
Best friends that I had been fighting with were coming out of the woodwork to try to figure out what to do with me. And I had no idea that anybody was fighting for my life, you know what I mean? The all were, which was great. And I said, “look, I don’t think I need rehab. I need to get off of this shit safely, because I don’t want to go back. I don’t want this life anymore. If I can get off this safely, I promise you I’ll get into therapy and we’ll see where we go.” And I did. My band came to my house on September 4th, Jennie’s birthday, to have an intervention, and say (*pauses*)… later, I got my ACL done up, and this is just to show the severity of the anger that was going on in my band, but Linh had come up to me when I was in this tirade, and I was already mad at her for stuff and I didn’t know why, but I felt aggression toward her. So I swung at her, and she’s a black belt in karate. Bitch put me on my back so quick! (*both laugh*) And it ruptured my ACL. I was real blamey to her when I was still sick, but coming out of it, I did that shit. That was nobody else but me. She would never fucking do that to me. I take full responsibility for every single thing in that. So I went to detox, shit was weird. When I got out of detox it was even scarier, because my senses…Xanax is a drug, like any benzodiazepine, that really affects your brain and your nervous system. So I came out and my body was stiff.
How long were you in detox for?
 
Just ten days. And they wanted to keep me longer, because people go through this psychosis when they’re coming off Xanax. I was hearing shit that wasn’t there. The only thing I didn’t have was the seizures, because my friends jumped in and looked up the foods I needed to eat to build up the GABA acids back in in my brain, because I was scared I was dying. When I got out, I couldn’t be on my own. I made my 66-year-old roommate stay with me 24-hours-a-day until my mom could get there, because I was like “this is a fucking do-or-die situation, mother. Get here now!” I was afraid that I was going to be one of those people that woke up in the middle of the night and said “I need to go run in the woods!” and never be seen from again. Shit was melting off the walls, and these negative alien heads were popping up. I kept seeing faces, and they were all negative. I was stiff with anxiety. I kept having night terrors. Night terrors like a friend of mine had razor blades on his fingers and was cutting me. It was a scary time. I had to work on being able to smell again, to being able to hear right again, to sing again. I had no confidence. It was gone. I had to play a show a week after I got out of detox and I didn’t think I was going to be able to do it. But Myra pushed me. I had this acoustic thing booked five days after detox and I was like “there’s no way! I don’t remember any of my songs! They’re gone!” I managed to remember three or four songs, Myra came and picked me up because I couldn’t drive! It was like I was disabled. I was like this tiny…
Like a baby deer.
Yeah, like a helpless baby deer. But she was like “you’ve gotta do this. This is you, this is your life. You’ve gotta do this, don’t give up on yourself.” And she got me to that first acoustic show, got me to my first band show.
How were those shows sober?
Amazing! It was a whole new feeling! It was a whole new happiness again. I wasn’t taking things for granted anymore. I felt what I was singing, you know? It felt really good, and it was all muscle memory, because I couldn’t fucking remember shit. I messed up a couple songs at first but I didn’t care. Nobody cared. Everybody was just excited that I was playing again. The help of my mom, my boyfriend Hunter, Don, AJ who tours with us, and my bandmates and my other best friend Jenn, if they didn’t step in again and pull me out of that shit…I was a shell of who you see right now. I had to rebuild everything. It had me on my knees, Jay. I was so sorry for everything that I had EVER done. But I came to the realization that the past is in the past and as much as I might feel bad about it, I can’t do anything about it. All I can do is live my life today and be who I am now in the future and try to share my happiness and positivity. Because before, I was such a broken person. And my therapist, who I did find, the day before I turned 40 years old, I woke up and I said “that’s it! I’ve got to put on my big girl pants!” And I woke up and I found a doctor…and outpatient program. I thought I was going to have to spend $400 a week and that it was going to be all these classes – I had no idea what any of it was. I walk in and it’s this little office and this wonderful, wonderful woman comes out and I think it’s the receptionist, but it’s this bad ass doctor. I found this strong black woman from Memphis, and I walked in there saying “can my mom come in too??” And she’s like “no, I think you can do this on your own.” And I walked out like “okay…I can do this.” I went to a meeting that night, and I went to Amoeba Records in Hollywood, which was unheard of for me to be able to do that sort of stuff. And to do it so soon? She got me in to understanding what being positive was. My mom kept saying “Stacey, you’ve got to be positive,” and I was like “I don’t know what the fuck that means!”
That’s a foreign concept if you’re not that person.
And I’ve never been that person! The first therapist I went to talked about boundary issues, and I had to stop and ask her what that meant. I had no idea what boundary issues were, because I never grew up with them. So this last year has been filled with the scariest bit most amazing things. It’s like I got struck by lightning. It’s like I got told how to live. I go by what my spirit tells me to do. I try to keep other people’s words and names out of my mouth. Like, the girls, even at Christmastime last year, there was still some stuff going on. They weren’t mad at me anymore, they saw were I was on this very honest, spirit-driven path where I don’t want anything bad. Because if you’re true to your spirit, you’re never going to have a major problem in your lifetime. Why would you? Nobody is really out to get you, we create these things. Anyway, they were still having some stuff, and I sat them down at New Years, and I was like “look, I used to be weird and jealous and judgemental of all of you guys. You guys thought that I was this strong little shithead but I wasn’t, I was jealous of all of you guys. I didn’t think that there was a place for you guys in any of this, it always had to be ‘me me me me me.” My ego was not interested in that shit anymore. I was like, “I love you guys. You guys saved my fucking life. You might be mad at me now, but this shit that happened saved my life. You guys did that. So if there’s any way I can make your lives better… I’m not interested in the bullshit thing, and in being on tour and two of us walking away and talking about another one. There should be no problems anymore. If there’s an issue, let’s get it out now and decide if we can move on.”
So you become basically the band therapist.
Totally! So now our spirits are jiving. We’re so happy.
How has this tour been sober?
I’ve got goosebumps talking about it! Every tour since I got sober has been so great. We have the best time together, we laugh. I’ve said this before and I saw this in a book recently, but we are a freight train of ‘fuck yeah!’ We love everything. We don’t talk shit. Once you let a tiny crack open to let negative in, it will infiltrate you quicker than you know. I’m not saying that it never gets to me. Maybe a day every three months. But for the most part, I try to look for the silver lining in every fucking situation. Like, if you’re arguing with somebody and you’re blaming everything on them, where are you in this? Can you see what you’re doing?
How does that go over with them, because I could see it going okay for a while, but I could also see it going over like “okay, fucking therapist…”
No, it’s better. It healed us as human beings on an individual basis. Because now we can all use that in our own lives outside of the band.
So they’re really latched on to the whole process with you.
The whole process. What we’ve found together, and taking accountability, and not making excuses, and not blaming anybody else and looking for your part in every situation and keeping other people’s names and words out of your fucking mouth. There’s no reason for it. We think we feel good sitting in that funk and talking shit sometimes, but it does nothing for anybody’s spirit. It does nothing for the good of this planet or the good of this world. I’m more interested in that, because it feels better, and it’s more powerful than any bit of negativity. Tons of negativity can be beat back by a pinkie nail of positivity. That’s where I’m at.
Has that impacted how you guys play live now?
Totally! It used to be like “you can only have two drinks before you play because you fuck up and you’re always messing up,” you know what I mean? And now, if anybody messes up, it’s like “whatever, we’re fucking rocking.” It’s all energy.
You’ve always had a dynamic live show anyway.
Yeah, but now the camaraderie is through the roof. It’s honest. We’re not up there putting on stunts or tricks for you. We’re not getting dressed up in costumes. We’re us, quintessentially. We love each other and we believe in each other. We would not want to live our lives in that van for months at a time, leaving our loved ones and our pets and all of that for such a long time if we didn’t believe and love and want to be with each other, and want the best for each of us. I want their success as much as I want my own, you know? I want to see everybody that’s on this way of life shine, because it’s an example. When you’ve got this person that’s as happy as we all are, it just spreads.
Hopefully!
It does! Like me and Soma, Fat Mike’s wife, she’s a great friend of mine, and we talk about this. She’s sober now too. We talk about the degrees of separation from happiness. Like once you make somebody happy, then they make somebody happy, and then you’ve created this little world of happy, rather than a world of shit. So I see that there’s a way that this world can be fixed, it’s just we need everybody to make that decision.
If only everyone played along.
Right. Because I know that when I was sick and broken and sad and all of that stuff, I couldn’t see it. I thought that’s always how life was, that it was always going to be against me. That there was no way to be happy and positive, and I didn’t think it was cool to be happy and positive. I thought it was cool to be sad and sick and depressed.
 
Especially in a punk band.
Totally. Music in general. But I see the power and the invincibility of being positive now. I would much rather be living on this side of life. Me and Aimee were talking about this, about how the way I see my old side of life was like a dirty back alley, and I don’t ever want to go back to that.
Does that affect how you write? Are you still writing now?
I am. I’m having a hard time. Songs don’t come as easily now, because when you’re negative, you have shit to bitch about. But I think through all the self-awareness, the things that I am writing are better and more meaningful and will help other people if they want to listen. I’m real excited about the stuff that we’re writing now. Jennie is writing some of the best songs that I’ve ever heard her write, and her voice sounds amazing! The way that we’ve always worked is together, and when we get off this tour, we’re diving right back into it together. But it has been hard. I’ve cried about it a few times. That’s the one thing that I’ve been frustrated about in my recovery. It’s not happening fast enough, but I just have to be patient.
It’s not a race!
It’s not a race. And hopefully I’ll be here for another thirty or forty years!
Exactly, hopefully you’re just getting started. Like with Fat Mike, I really, really like the new NOFX album, in particular because it’s different, and because he’s different, especially since Tony (Sly) died. So I didn’t realize that he was completely and totally wasted through writing and recording that whole album. It’s really insightful and he knows that he’s got to cut the shit, and so I sort of assumed that some of that stuff came after he had actually finally cut the shit. And he said, “no, that’s actually the first time I’ve written and recorded completely fucked up.’
He was so fucked up. And I was saying that I can’t wait to hear the record that he makes when he’s not fucked up. But it’s going to take some time. So I told him at the time, if you’re going to make a record now, don’t stop (using) now because you won’t be able to write. I haven’t been able to write, so I don’t know if you’ll be able to. I mean he’s a better songwriter than me for sure, but you know? But the cool thing about the NOFX record, and some of the things I’ve written in my past too, is the idea of self-fulfilling prophecy. Like “I Don’t Like Me Anymore” or “California Drought.” It may not be during that record, but that door was cracked open for that to be a possibility. And I’ve written songs so many times about things that have actually happened in my life ten years later.
As your way of processing things, probably?
I don’t know? It’s like, once you say it out loud, now it’s out. The chances of it becoming true are pretty high then. Because now it’s already out there in the world…
And you can make it happen because you’ll be able to relate everything back to that song…
Yeah, exactly.
 
Boy…we’ve covered a lot of ground…
Yeah! Totally. And after this tour, we’re going into the studio immediately. The record’s gotta be done as soon as possible to have it out for June next year.
Is that Mike’s goal or is that yours?
All of ours. It’s really great. We’re all on this page. I told Vanessa (Burt, Fat Wreck Chords PR guru) that that girl who played Kate on “Lost” (editor’s note: Evangeline Lilly. Editor’s admission: I’ve never seen a single minute of “Lost.”) – she had never really acted before in her life. I saw an interview where she was going through this time in her life where she was just up for doing these outrageous things. And she somehow got this audition and she fucking went for it and she got it, because she was in the mindset where she was open to the outrageousness. And she got it. I’m into that. Let’s see what we can do. Why not? Like, I want to play “Saturday Night Live,” I want to do all these things that other people do. Why not?
 
But when you’re the girl from “Lost,” you’re relying on yourself. You’ve got three other people that all have to be in alignment.
Yeah! And we’re right there. And the women at the label…Erin (Burkett, Fat Wreck co-founder) is amazing. I look up to and respect her like no other. What she’s done for punk rock music, man, is something else. And she’s a lovely, wonderful human being. She’s so great. And Vanessa, and Soma, Mike’s wife… those women are bosses. Like Jennie and I were talking about that we want to start this new thing called “BLISS” – Boss Ladies Summit. Where, every year, we all get together, the raddest boss ladies, with no bullshit — leave your bullshit at home. All we’re doing is jiving as strong women. To go camping or go to Mexico or something. We want to try to start a business like that somehow.
That’s rad. That has legs, I think.
Right? I think it does. Jennie’s like “we can do this! We can have it a festival situation eventually.” Like four days, people can come to a city and go to shows. Be real femme-based, but not like the Lillith Fair!
I was just going to say, not like the Lillith Fair! (*both laugh*) Tough women!
Exactly!
 
I’ve got a friend who’s over talking with Aimee as we speak for a different site that’s totally run by two women — they’d be totally into that too. (Editor’s note: check out Mable Syndrome here).
Totally!
Thank you a lot.
Thanks for letting me talk about it. Because I haven’t talked about this much.
 
Yeah, in researching, I haven’t found you talking about it anywhere.
I haven’t much. There was one in England, but I didn’t really get into all of it. So thank you. Because I really appreciate getting it out. And I’m not scared to tell my story.
You shouldn’t be, because it’ll probably resonate with more people than you realize.
I hope so. Because the people that have heard me on “Anxious & Angry” as such a sad, broken person who still had the strength to help other people, now has helped herself. She took her own advice. (*pauses*)  Ah! You’re making me cry!
I have that effect on people. I don’t try to! (*both laugh*)
It’s great. It’s great to be insightful like that.
And I’m glad that you’re able to talk about it. I know that it’s weird at first, especially as your feelings are coming back.
Everything is coming back. My eyesight! I felt like I was going through the rabbit hole in ‘Alice In Wonderland’ – just being pulled apart and put back together. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done.
As we tell people, the good part about getting clean is that your feelings come back. And the bad part about getting clean

(*in unison*) is that your feelings come back!

And they all come back at the same time.
And they slap you in the face. I had to be on my knees, being like “I get it! I get it, God! I’m done now! That’s enough! I’m never going to do that again, I promise!” Fuck that. I’m too scared to do drugs again!
 
Had you ever tried to stop before, or did it just take you bottoming out?
No. I had to bottom out and it took everyone stepping in and telling me I needed to get help. I thought I was going to be on that shit for the rest of my life. I really did. It’s so great not to be.
In talking to (Fat) Mike about when he stopped, and he wrote that song about “The Bottom’s Not That Bad” or whatever it’s called, all it took for him was showing up late to his kid’s birthday party. Which is obviously not getting arrested, going to jail, getting hurt, et cetera. But for him, it was bad enough. So hopefully it lasts for him.
 
I tell him all the time…”You, on positivity and being sober, I’m not saying you’ve got to be stone sober and go to NA and live that life, because that’s hard. But look how you rule now. Wait til you rule honestly. It’s unbelievable what you’re going to do. Unbelievable. I love that man. I love him so much. Him and Blag Dahlia. Mike has been a person that’s always been in my corner, for whatever reason, and I’m really, really lucky for that. I owe him and Erin and Soma a shit-ton. I owe them my life. I’m here right now because of that.
And you don’t take it for granted.
Hell no.
Because there are a lot of people in this scene who do.
Way more than they should. So when I meet somebody like that…
It takes them bottoming out to realize it though. Because otherwise (trying to take care of them) is just noise…Until they’re ready to have somebody grab them by the throat and look in the mirror, it’s just words, and you can only hope that you planted a seed that a year later or whenever, they’ll think back to and say “oh, shit, you were right about that.”
 
There are so many words that people have said to me that I’ve hung on to since getting sober that I’ll probably never let go of. Those are the words that really cut through and stuck with me to get me through this. Because man, this year’s been some shit. The band’s toured for like six months, and that’s amazing. It’s all I ever wanted to do, and I’m finally doing it.
And you’re doing it sober.
Yeah, I’m doing it sober and I’m not getting in my own fucking way.
Maybe there’s a parallel there…
Absolutely! That’s the absolute reason. To see my role in all this, I’m fucking grateful for all of it. It’s too cool.

Add Bad Cop / Bad Cop to My Radar   Add to My Radar

Leave A Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.