Dan Yemin / LIFETIME
Interview by Jordan A. Baker
If it still seems a little strange to be reading a new feature about LIFETIME, well, I would agree with you. Before Pastepunk even launched in 1998, LIFETIME was already broken up and a memory. Although immensely popular in the Mid-Atlantic/Northeast region where the band originated, its national legacy was still a few years away from being cemented. Thanks to the stunning ascent of KID DYNAMITE, which featured LIFETIME staple, Dan Yemin, the band’s history never strayed too far from public consciousness. In 2005 the organizers of Hellfest did the unthinkable – they figured out a way to make the members of LIFETIME an offer they couldn’t refuse. As we all know, Hellfest 2005 collapsed in shocking disarray days before it was supposed to start and LIFETIME in turn played a host of weekend shows to extremely excited kids in Philadelphia. With those shows going exceedingly well, a spark was lit and LIFETIME decided to continue building off such momentum by playing a series of shows on the West Coast in January, and will play the SXSW music conference in March. This interview is one-half of a piece with Dr. Dan Yemin, conducted by Pastepunk contributor Matt St. John and Punknews.org News Editor Justin August at one of the LIFETIME shows in January (in San Francisco to be exact). You can read the other half here (not yet posted – coming soon!!).
Pastepunk/Punknews.org: A lot of people talk about how Lifetime brought a lot of positive vibes to a scene that wasn’t so positive at the time…
Dan: In the early 90’s?°¦
Pastepunk/Punknews.org: Yeah, and I was wondering what you thought you guys did that was so different from what was going on at the time?
Dan: Did you ever hear what was going on in 1990 on the East Coast? Oh good lord it was awful; a lot of goatees and baseball bats. I mean, there were literal hard guys making music, and then a lot of poser hard guys making music, and it was right when that label In Effect was kind of at its height. They were sending all of their hardcore bands to this one studio, Normandy Sound in Providence that made everything sound like metal. So you had JUDGE, who did a great 7 inch, and then put out an album that sounded like?°¦metal. It was really slick and kind of annoying. RAW DEAL, great hardcore band with a great demo recording an LP that sounded like an Iron Maiden record or a Slayer record. Then there was a lot of just like?°¦thuggish posturing. I mean, I am into MINOR THREAT and 7 SECONDS. I’m into BLACK FLAG and that kind of negativity too, but not like?°¦ I mean, I know there are people in the East Coast that had tough lives, but a lot of it just didn’t feel right to me.
Pastepunk/Punknews.org: There is a real difference from being negative and being an asshole?°¦
Dan: Yeah, and that is the other thing. There are different kinds of menace, you know? Menace that comes from true desperation?°¦I’m into it. Menace that comes from being a fucking hoodlum cause your dad beat you and you got a chip on your shoulder, then I’ve got no interest in it. I mean, I don’t come from that kind of background, and that it is a privilege?°¦I know that. But it didn’t make any sense to us at the time. It didn’t feel good. So we kind of put on affectations in the opposite direction, and like we’ll put flowers on everything, and if people are going to call us pussies, then that is awesome. We just weren’t behind that stuff. By the way, and just to put out there: I really like JUDGE and KILLING TIME. I just didn’t like the aesthetic: the “metalifying” of hardcore. I mean, we saw it happening right before our eyes. I don’t know if you guys are in your twenties, but you kind of take it for granted that metal is like 80 percent of hardcore, but that was like a new phenomenon at the time. We were like, “come on. Give me a break. This won’t last.” Oops. (laughs)
Pastepunk/Punknews.org: What was it like for you guys getting a lot of shit from that scene? Was there a group of kids that were always down with Lifetime, or were you guys always fighting?°¦
Dan: Oh we never fought. I mean, we fought to keep the pit safe, that kind of stuff. That was more like breaking up fights. We fought to keep it fun. I remember the first time we came out to California, no one had even heard us. Our 7 inch hadn’t even come up yet. People were stage diving off of the speakers, huge circle pits. We were like, “that would be great if this is what happened at home. Everyone just smiling, jumping on each other, and running around in circles. Not like karate kicking?°¦” I mean, it was just when the karate style of dancing had been invented, and we were like, “This is fucking bullshit.”
Pastepunk/Punknews.org: Where did the kung-fu dancing come from?
Dan: I’ve heard that Chaka, from BURN ashamedly takes credit for it; just being young, and not really caring who he ran into. But there were a lot of scary dudes in New York at that time. A lot of really scary dudes. I was scared a lot of the times.
Pastepunk/Punknews.org: I lived by Atlantic City for a little bit, and I went to some hardcore shows, and it still has some pretty scary dudes?°¦
Dan: Yeah, they only come out for certain kinds of shows, so generally if you don’t go to stupid shows, then you aren’t going to run into them. Those people don’t come to see PAINT IT BLACK because in the words of some dude that I just happened to walk into a conversation?°¦ There had been some big brawl at the church, and people were talking about it. Oddly enough, it was at a 7 SECONDS show, and there was some stupid beef about how someone talked about someone’s girl friend, and then someone beat someone up. Then someone called the cops, and charged them with assault. I dunno, some stupid shit; kindergarten shit. So, 7 SECONDS and KILL YOUR IDOLS were deciding if they should just go home or play, and I was like “You know it’s weird that these people don’t come when we play,” and then some kid with a sideways baseball hat was just like, “oh, that’s cause y’all are commies.” Then I was like, “really? Huh. That’s hilarious.” I mean, God bless! If that is why people like that stay away, then I’m a commie; I am a communist homosexual, and you can stay home. You and your ice pick can stay home.
Pastepunk/Punknews.org: We were reading the Alternative Press article that was written about 6 months before Hell Fest?°¦
Dan: Yeah, they actually did a great job with that. I was pretty impressed. Really flattered.
Pastepunk/Punknews.org: In it you say that Lifetime isn’t going to reunite unless it is for a really good cause. Is money for these shows going to like Shirts for a Cure, or any other charities, or did you like change your mind?
Dan: That was the reason we reunited in August. It was all about charity. The story behind that was the whole Hell Fest thing, which always seemed like a pretty ill-advised endeavor to me. Again, it was a lot of stupid stuff; I mean it’s called Hell Fest. There are a lot of stupid metal-core bands. I mean, there is good metal-core, but most of it is stupid. The stuff that is good is really good, but most of it is retarded. And the mascara shit is above and beyond retarded. Anyway, Hell Fest had been offering Lifetime fairly large sums of money for a few years trying to get us to play. We always said no, like “that’s just not a good reason.” But they got me in my fucking weak spot this year, they said “we will donate, in addition to paying you, we will donate $25,000 to charity.” That is a lot of money.
Pastepunk/Punknews.org: Was that just to Shirts for a Cure?
Dan: No, actually Shirts for a Cure was not our charity. We picked different charities. I mean I love Mark, but it felt like; if you have an opportunity to do something like that, you should spread it around. We had already done a lot for Shirts for a Cure. We had already kind of kicked off the whole ?°»bands helping out Shirts for a Cure’ thing, and I’m so proud of that. I love Mark, but he is doing fine. There are other people who need our help more. We did give him a shirt design which is apparently selling quite well. But we picked different charities. We couldn’t decide on just one, so we picked four. I mean we are all very different people; all left wing politically, but some of us wanted to do more radical stuff, and others wanted to have more mainstream interests. We ended up donating the money to four charities, and I was psyched about it. We ended up raising a lot of money. One is something called The Out Fund, which is sort of a broad based grant initiative that provides grant money to different endeavors that are promoting gay rights interests. There is another one; an old hardcore kid from our days in New Brunswick named Rich Cunningham started a labor organization called New Labor. There is a large migrant worker population in the New Brunswick area that are not citizens, and it is organizing them into a bargaining force that can’t be taken advantage of. You know, negotiate more effectively for equal pay and fair treatment for migrant laborers in New Brunswick. Then there is the Nature Conservancy, and a Grey Hound adoption organization. Then after that it was like, ?°»man, that was fun. You wanna do that some more? Do you wanna like play again?’ Thank you Hellfest for shitting the bed. Thank you for being retarded and irresponsible, and getting the plug pulled because we would never be playing together again otherwise. We would have had this kind of absurd, alienating experience playing in front of 9,000 people, in front of a barricade and a security force. Then we would have been like, ?°»Wow. That was cool, but really weird.’ Then we would have gone home. But this was like this thing where we played some real intimate shows. Like big shows, but intimate shows. People were like falling on our heads, and we were close to each other, and it was great. We were like, ?°»That was great.’ Then we were calling each other the next day, and we were like, ?°»What are we gonna do?’ I was really nervous because I’m divorced, and I’m in a relationship now that is really awesome. PAINT IT BLACK is my first priority musically. I’m in another band too that has an album coming out this month.
Pastepunk/Punknews.org: ARMALITE? So good?°¦
Dan: You heard that? Thanks man. So it’s like, what am I gonna do? I can’t say no to this. I love this music and these guys, but at the same time I don’t want to be divorced again, and I don’t want PAINT IT BLACK to take the back seat to anything. I don’t want to be the guy that is always disappointing everybody. But then I thought about it, and thought two of the band members have kids, and everyone is married and has like mortgages and shit; what’s wrong with just asking for what you want? So I said, ?°»I really want to do Lifetime again, but my relationship comes first, and Paint it Black comes second, and that has got to be the deal. I don’t want to do anything unless we can all do it.’ That was the deal, and everyone was cool with that, so?°¦
Pastepunk/Punknews.org: What do you think of all the really bad bands that say, ?°»My biggest influence is Lifetime,’ but they don’t sound anything like you guys?
I think a lot of people were influenced by what Ari was doing lyrically, and that’s cool. I mean, we talked about this in an interview last night, when people say they are really influenced by Lifetime, were not quite sure what they were listening too. Lifetime was a fast as shit punk band. If I had to describe what we were doing it would be what happened if Billie Joe from GREEN DAY was singing for the GORILLA BISCUITS. Or what would happen if somebody in a hardcore band just listened to Elvis Costello, Billy Bragg, and Bruce Springsteen as their vocal and lyrical influence. That’s what Lifetime was doing and I don’t know what “emo” is. “Emo” was RITES OF SPRING and EMBRACE, and everything after that is?°¦ I don’t know what it is. But it’s not eyeliner and it isn’t faux-melodrama, and it’s not like, ?°»I want to be buried in your back yard.’ But to be fair, if people found things in what we were doing influential that we don’t understand, you can’t not be flattered. Take what you want and then go with it, and make music that you love, inspire people, inspire yourselves. It’s like nobody has to pass my test about whether or not their influences are really, truly derivative of Lifetime. Our intentions were not anywhere in the arena of most of the bands that say they were influenced by Lifetime, but that’s ok. I don’t begrudge them, and what I do think is that I am really happy that people are saying, ?°»Hey, we are really influenced by this band that we grew up loving.’ How can you not be flattered by that? You would have to be a mean, bitter, son-of-a-bitch to not like that. I mean thank you guys, thank you to all of you for being really flattering and kind. Just cause it’s not music I would make doesn’t mean they aren’t influenced by Lifetime.
Part Two: READ PART TWO AT PUNKNEWS.ORG (Coming Soon!!)