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November 20, 2000

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With moist eyes, Kid Dynamite's Dan Yemin and Matt Ryan '00 talk about Yemin's future. With a doctorate in Psychology and experience in other bands such as Lifetime, the prospect looks positive for Yemin.

"It’s true. We broke up." Talking with Kid Dynamite guitarist Dan Yemin was bittersweet for me. Being a longtime fan of his old band Lifetime and having recently gotten into Kid Dynamite, I was obviously excited about a chance to chat with him. On the other hand, knowing that Kid Dynamite, like Lifetime, is now also a thing of the past made it a little saddening. Thankfully, Yemin lifted my spirits. The future looks bright for him. And despite all the moping about the demise of hardcore punk, he is still refreshingly excited about it all.

After just two years and two albums, the group’s singer, Jason Shevchuk, decided to drop out of the band. Shevchuk was an integral songwriter in the band, making it virtually impossible to keep Kid Dynamite going without him. The band’s songs stand out today as being particularly fresh and, at the same time, familiar. They managed to write the type of songs hardcore punk seems to need most right now. Their songs can inspire jaded old-timers and remind youngsters of punk’s roots. Yemin explained the writing process in some depth.

"I usually never come in with parts. I come in with the whole song. I teach it to the rest of the band and hammer out the arrangement. While we’re doing that, [Shevchuk’s] in a room with his fingers in his ears coming up with vocal parts. While we’re playing the song over and over again, he is (in his head), coming up with phrasing and melodies. He’ll either merge that with stuff he’s written already or write lyrics specifically for what we came up with. The whole process goes quickly once a song gets to the band, but the process of me getting it ready for the band does not go so quickly. There’s a little more pressure than there was in [my previous band] Lifetime. We give songwriting credit to the whole band, because everyone helps with arrangements, but I come up with the parts and transitions. Lifetime was more of a triumvirate thing. I’d bring stuff in, but by the time Ari and Dave got done with it, it was 100% better."

When asked if there was any guiding idea or style Kid Dynamite hoped to achieve, Yemin responded, "I never sat down [before Kid Dynamite] and said ‘I’m going to write different types of songs;’ I write what I write. But, your aesthetic vision for the band guides the process of what you filter out and don’t include. I decided Kid Dynamite would have more of a range. It has the melodic stuff, but also wanted some things really abrasive. Regardless of what I did, people were going to compare it with Lifetime. But when you’re mourning the end of something, you want some sort of aesthetic break. Also, I think wanted to pay a little more tribute to the music that brought me up. Although I doubt I’ll ever be a part of a songwriting team as amazing as Lifetime, I did get a little uncomfortable being in a punk/hardcore band with all the songs about relationships and girls. It made [me feel] uncomfortable. You know, so much hardcore stuff has become vacuous. Content-free. Ari’s lyrics were not content free, but I wanted something that was a little more issue-oriented and angry."

The age of the band members probably accounts for some of the reason why Kid Dynamite blends the old and new so well. Their appeal also spans many different ages. "There was a big generation gap in the band. It was weird to know someone was raised on what you consider new. For example, the historical meaning of Minor Threat and the Clash is a lot different for me [I’m 32] and Jay [he’s 23]. I have no pretensions of doing something original. I think it sounded fresh. I wanted it to be really immersed in the roots of punk and hardcore, without sounding retro. Pay tribute and, in doing so, breathe a breath of fresh air into it. The response to the music, for 12 year olds to 32 year olds, was great."

The excitement shines through not only on record, but also at shows. "We had such a great time, especially in the early days when the band was fresh. On the weekends we’d play with bands like Kill Your Idols and Gray Area on the east coast. Before we were touring, we were still committed to jobs. It was like being a child again because I’d spend the whole week looking forward to the weekend and playing. It was a really exciting time. Having this new band and a lot of older bands interested, in us was great."

As for the future, Yemin is planning to complete some non-music projects. First up, taking the licensing examine for professional psychology. "I have my doctorate in Psychology. The last hurdle before practicing. I want to work for myself, so I don’t have to work for an idiot. [I’ll] also have [a] little more control over how my time has been spent."

This shouldn’t sidetrack his music plans, though. Yemin already has a new project in the works. "I’m also getting another band together. I think it will be more open-ended. More like the two songs on the new album that have other people singing on them; extending that concept for a whole album. The reason that came out on the last album is because there were people whose voices I wanted to showcase but hadn’t always had to opportunity to. I always thought something that was amazing about hip-hop records is that they get all their friends jumping in. It creates a really amazing family-like vibe. That’s something hardcore always purports, but it doesn’t always come across. Not the generic 50-guy backup vocal bull[bunion]. That’s played out. But when people first started doing that, it created a community vibe. I want everybody in hardcore whose voice I like to be on the record. I have some songs that I’d like to give people, and others I’d like to have more people together for, playing off of each other. Like that song ‘Three’s a crowd’ on the new record. We played that song live last week [and] it was the most amazing thing ever. It was our last show; there was Kill Your Idols, Grey Area, and Fast Times. All my favorite East Coast bands. Ally and Andy came up on stage to sing with us and it just came off so perfectly."

"It’s like Wu Tang. When their first record came out, and you heard everybody bouncing off each other, it was like ‘holy [bunion]’ " I’m sure kids will be saying "holy [bunion]!" as well when they hear future bands Yemin plays in. For the time being, I suggest checking out Kid Dynamite. If you’ve never listened to much hardcore punk before, it’s a great place to start. For those that think nothing good has come out since ’88, wake up! Kid Dynamite proves that these days hardcore can still be moving and fun.


Matt Ryan