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Five Questions | Andy Shernoff of The Dictators, on Going Solo - The Local East Village Blog - NYTimes.com


Five Questions | Andy Shernoff of The Dictators, on Going Solo


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shernoffWikiCommons

As a founding member and primary songwriter of the Dictators, Andy Shernoff was a key figure in the downtown proto-punk scene of the 1970s. He and the band released three albums during a furtive period that also saw the rise of Television and the Ramones. Since then, he has worked as a producer and a songwriter, and played in Manitoba’s Wild Kingdom alongside Dictators bandmate “Handsome Dick” Manitoba, the owner of the eponymous bar on Avenue B. The Dictators released a new album in 2001, and Mr. Shernoff contributed significantly to Joey Ramone’s only solo album, “Don’t Worry About Me,” released posthumously in 2002. After a hiatus, he has returned to music with a new single and video, “Are You Ready to Rapture?” The Local spoke to Mr. Shernoff, who will perform a 7 p.m. set at Lakeside Lounge every Wednesday this month. 

Q.

What made you want to get back into playing?

A.

I worked in the wine business for about five or six years. And then I got itchy for music again. I wanted to play. But I didn’t want to form a band – I wanted to just do something a little more adult. I knew that if I ever wanted to get new fans, I had to write new songs. But I was not a performer, I was a musician. I sang a little bit, but I was not a frontman. I had never thought of myself that way – still don’t think of myself that way. It was weirder when I started. Now I’m comfortable.

Q.

Your single isn’t a rock song at all. Why the stylistic shift?

A.

I thought my first solo single should be something that’s going to get attention. I knew that if I did something blasphemous and that had a point and that was relevant, that would get attention. If I just put out another rock ‘n’ roll song, who cares?

Q.

What are your impressions of the East Village these days?

A.

It’s money. Gentrification. But I’ve traveled the world, and every city in the world is gentrifying. There’s less crime – it’s less dangerous. But because rents are high, artists can’t live here. In the ’70s, you could get an apartment for $150 to $200 a month. You didn’t have to work that hard. You spent your time being creative. I know it’s safer [now], and girls can walk down the street and not get raped or mugged and people I know won’t get their apartments broken into, but I miss that creative energy that really existed here and you couldn’t even deny it. Things change. I like change. I’m not a guy who goes, “Oh, it was better in my old day.” Though I must admit, music was better in my old day.

Q.

Are you into contemporary music?

A.

A lot of people [in rock music] today are reinventing the past and putting a little twist on it. What’s more innovative to me is DJs, like Bassnectar or Skrillex. These guys are playing and there’s 5,000 kids jumping up and down, and they’re on drugs, or whatever they’re doing. Having a real party, as opposed to rock ‘n’ roll, which is often guys in their 40s or 50s, balding and not looking so good, trying to relive their youth. I don’t find that interesting.

Q.

I’m sure you get this all the time, but will we ever see the Dictators again?

A.

We were asked to play the Norton Records 25th Anniversary at the Bell House and I said, “Yeah, that could be fun.” Manitoba didn’t want to do it. There might be a show: if it sounds fun and it makes sense, okay. But I would never go out and do the oldies circuit as a lot of bands do. Creatively, I can’t do what I want to do in that band. I have to be making music I enjoy and moving forward, so the answer is: no.

We put out a new record in 2001. One thing I’m really proud of is some of our most popular songs are on that record. We actually developed a whole new audience from that record. I don’t have the energy to make a new record for the Dictators. I don’t even know what to say in that context, what I could write that would be honest.