Interview: Chicken (Dead To Me) talks recording plans (EP with Laura Jane Grace!), sobriety and more

We recently caught up with Dead To Me Vocalist/bassist Chicken on the Asbury Park stop of their Fat Wreck tour with Useless ID, The Flatliners, and Lagwagon. He filled us in on the band’s upcoming recording plans (spoiler alert: a new EP recorded with Laura Jane Grace!), his sobriety and his favorite Fat releases of all time.

Read it all right here.

DS: First and foremost, why do they call you chicken?

Chicken: Well, my first name is Tyson. And there’s a food company called Tyson Chicken, so when I was like 11 years old everyone at soccer camp started calling me Tyson Chicken Chunks. You can find them in the frozen food section.

Has it lead to any Marty McFly-like complexes?

No, it hasn’t actually. Because the thing is with nicknames is that you don’t get to pick your nickname. I just went with it, man. Everyone started calling me Chicken Chunks, and over the years it got shortened to Chicken and now it’s just like fuck it man, everyone calls me chicken now. It doesn’t bother me.

Have you ever, or would you ever play a Western Addiction song in your setlist?

We have played a Western Addiction song, last year at Fest we played a Western Addiction song in our setlist.

What song have you played?

We played “Charged Words”. I think that’s the only one we’ve ever played. He played it at like a little secret set at the Fest last year. Like one of those unannounced ones, and we played a Western Addiction song. It’s not something we do regularly, I don’t know. But it’s fun, I love it.

Granted, it’s only been a year since you put out your last album, but have you guys been planning on writing any new tunes?

Yeah, we have a bunch of new songs. We’re trying to record really soon. The plan is supposedly, in a perfect world if all goes according to plan, we’re supposed to record an EP with Laura Jane Grace. And then summer of next year we’re gonna record another full length and I’m sure we’ll do that with Matt Allison.

You’ve been very vocal about your past problems with drugs, and you just mentioned during your set that you are six months sober. On the opposite end of the spectrum there are a lot of punk acts pretty vocal about their love for controlled substances (cough – Fat Mike – cough). Is it hard to play shows with bands who partake in those activities?

Yes, and no. I mean, you know the thing is, I’m right there with them. I love drugs and alcohol, but that’s the problem. The thing is that it ultimately leads to me not taking care of myself. I have no off switch. Once I start, I can’t stop and then I end up doing terrible things that make me lose respect for myself, and lose respect for other people. That’s not how I want to live my life. I don’t want to be that guy. I don’t want to be that clichéd punk guy who is like “I’m a punk, and I drink whiskey and I get fucked up all the time.” I think that’s such a cliché, and I don’t wanna be that guy, you know what I mean? Punk rock changed the world to me and I don’t want to be that guy who is drunk all the time and wasted. Any asshole can do that. I want to be different than that. I want to be one of those guys who can maintain and stay sober. It is hard on tour, but in some ways it’s not. Like, I get to do my favorite thing every night. I get to play my set every night for half an hour or forty-five minutes, so that always keeps me going and helps me stay strong. And the amount of love and positive feedback I get back from the kids is so awesome, that helps me stay sober too. And also every morning when the rest of my band is hungover, it makes me feel really good that I’m sober because I don’t have a hangover.

You get to laugh at them.

Yes, and laugh at them.  And yell really loud.

Has being clean affected your writing and live shows at all?

Yeah, yeah. I honestly feel like I write way better songs when I’m sober. Like, there’s a lot of stuff I would write when I was wasted or really high. I got really into methadone once and I wrote all these really slow songs. I was super high on methadone for months and I was writing all these songs and I went back and listened to them when I got clean and I was like, “Those songs suck, they’re all really, really slow and they’re not that good”. It’s kind of like, if you could romanticize drug use and drinking when making art, like a lot of my favorite artists, like Charles Bukowski and all these other authors, they’re all kind of famous drunks. It’s easy to romanticize it, but the reality is for me it just doesn’t work that way. I write way better, I’m more clear headed, I can get across ideas that I wanna get across when I’m sober way easier then when I’m drunk. And I play better live.

What is your favorite Fat Wreck release?

Oh god, of all time?

All time.

That is such a hard choice. I don’t know, but can I name three or four?

Go for it.

Today’s Empires, Tomorrow’s Ashes by Propagandhi, The Greatest Story Every Told by Lawrence Arms, Situationist Comedy by Dillinger Four, and I have to say a NOFX one because of Fat Mike and it’s his label so I’ll say The Decline. Those are four really solid ones that if I got to go to Fat Wreck and they said “You can only grab four CDs. What would you grab?” I would probably get those four.

If you could add one more Fat band to this tour who isn’t on it now, who would it be?

Oh man, I would probably say Dillinger Four. Dillinger Four and Lawrence Arms because both those bands are our buddies and I know we would just have so much fun with them.

Who is your favorite band to sing along to when you’re alone driving around in your car?

That’s hard. It’s between Wu Tang Clan,The Clash, and Naz.

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