November 24, 2003

everytime you smile...

My friend bill Davis (of Dash Rip Rock) told me he went pee in a truckstop outside of Nashville near The Natchez Trace Parkway and on the wall he saw the following graffitti;

"Everytime you smile, God makes a mental note to kill you!"

For some reason this reminded me of my old partner in The Rugburns. Yes Doctor Robert Driscoll would have used this on stage back in the salad days. Then I found an email from a guy named Sean who was a collector of all things Rugburnian. He sent me an email of Doctor Robert D. interviewing himself after his departure from the 'burns. I laughed so hard when I read this I leaked in my depends. ( I am advancing into middle age) Since the Rugburns are playing on New Years Eve at The Belly Up Tavern in Solana Beach California, I thought I would share the interview with y'all mofos.

Interview with the Doc, by the Doc

Well, folks, I guess it's time I came clean and revealed to you all who did not know that I, "RugburnRob," have quit the band.
This is not a drill. Many of you, especially those who live in San Diego, might already know about this, thanks to The Reader
and Those Who Are Gossip-Inclined. I've been home for a couple weeks now, my last show being in Boston with Southern
Culture on the Skids. So now I'm going to interview myself and figure out exactly why I quit.

Me the Interviewer: How long have you been a Rugburn?

Me the Responder: Steve and I have performed together since 1982. We've been the Rugburns since about 1988 or so. I
could figure out exactly for you, but I've had a couple beers and I don't feel like pinning it down.

MTI: That's a long time. Why did you quit?

MTR: A variety of reasons. I was very ill last summer (August 28, 1985--now *that* I can pin down) with an ulcer and
almost died. Lost 6 pints of blood. Having a run in with your maker, or Your Maker, like that can make you take some
serious stock about your life. Which is why I'm drinking a couple beers right now. Things got very intense after that with the
release of "Taking the World by Donkey," and The Rugburns become more like The Runaway Train.

MTI: What do you mean?

MTR: Well, we were constantly on the road. And I came to the realization that I just didn't like being on the road that much.

MTI: You didn't like performing?

MTR: I didn't say that. I loved, and love, performing. It's a great experience. I just didn't like being out for months at a time
anymore. I've divorced, found new love, and, gosh darn it, I'm just not as young as I used to be.

MTI: Isn't Steve older than you? He doesn't mind being out that long.

MTR: Steve and I are two very different people, which is maybe why we worked so well together. We always said we had a
symbiotic relationship, like sharks and Remoras...

MTI: Like dealers and junkies?

MTR: Yeah, exactly. Yin and Yang. Black and white. Reagan and jellybeans. If he could, he'd be out on the road 365 days a
year. In fact, I left him and the other guys on the road! They're pulling off the power trio, in the spirit of Rush and Triumph and
whatever other Canadian band. And I admire him for being out like that. It's just not in me anymore to live that life.

MTI: Any other reasons?

MTR: Most definitely. I'm going back to teaching again. I was a high school teacher before I was a full-time 'Burn--this would
be my tenth year as a teacher if I stuck to it. I had already been growing tired of the road when I found out the school where I
worked, Oceanside High, wouldn't give me another year's leave of absence. So I was forced to make a decision. Thus here I
am. Drinking beer.

MTI: I thought you were going to teach.

MTR: I am. But I've got to get drunk first. Just kidding. School doesn't start until September. What month is this? June. Whoo
boy! I've got a lot of drinking to do!

MTI: Certainly you have regrets....

MTR: Of course. I felt we were an awesome band. Some nights were so magical, I thought we were the best band in the
world. Really, I thought that. Then I heard recordings of us later. And then I realized I was drunk then, too. See, everything's
better when you're drunk.

MTI: Come on.

MTR: Just kidding. Let me explain a little more. When Gregory quit, we lost a great voice. Gregory's voice is so haunting and
original, it sounded great cutting through our sound. Then he left and we hired John. Now, what John doesn't have in voice he
makes up for in his bass playing. Awesome player. That guy can play circles around anyone. In fact, he could be running
around in circles while playing circles around anyone! The couple months I played with him were great--it made me a better
player because he was so solid. He locked in with Stinky and the two of them made for a damned fine rhythm section.

MTI: While you're at it, you might as well heap praises on the rest of the band so that they can't hate you too much.

MTR: Good idea. OK. Stinky's a great drummer. And he's a great showman. He's the only drummer I've ever seen that can
upstage the lead singer. That's quite an accomplishment, too, when you've got Steve Poltz as the lead singer. He's boyishly
handsome, has charisma like the Middle East's got oil, and he's a great songwriter. And there's Stinky, spitting and making
faces like he's trying to do a one-man re-enactment of "The Exorcist," and he's pounding those skins at the same time!

MTI: OK, Steve's turn.

MTR: I've already touched on him a little, but I'll elaborate. He's a great songwriter. He's the only person I know that can
write 50 songs in the key of G, and they'll each be totally different from the other. Come to think of it, I think he has written
50 songs in the key of G. "Lockjaw." "Single Life." "Ballad of Tommy and Marla." "Now's not the Right Time for Love." See?
They're all different. He tells a good story, has an ironic, sardonic view of the world. But at the same time, his songs have
some hope in them. To this day I'm proud to have performed those songs. I never got tired of playing them.

MTI: Will you ever play them again? With the band?

MTR: I'd love to. I bet you if we all got together 10 years from now, I could play the shit out them like it was just yesterday.
If I can still play "Roundabout" and "Stairway to Heaven," I can play those songs. But I have to accept the fact now that I'm
no longer the guitarist for the band.

MTI: Is that hard?

MTR: Hell yeah. I can relate with those basketball players who have to sit on the sidelines, wanting to get in the game but they
can't because they've pulled a groin. Or a race horse champing at the bit, wanting to run, but it can't because the gate hasn't
opened yet. It's going to be especially hard when they play in town and I'm not playing with them. I don't know if I'd even
have the heart to go see them. It would be painful.

MTI: What was it like your last show?

MTR: Very hard. I was getting choked up. It was difficult for all of us. It was in Cambridge at a place called the Middle East.
We performed with Southern Culture on the Skids--a great bunch of guys and one girl. We had several good shows with
them, including one in New York City a couple days before my last show. We hit it off, and I remember after the show I
wasn't so sad because I got hammered drinking, um, well, what wasn't I drinking? Water. I wasn't drinking water. We sat in
the parking lot at the end of the night, my last show, and we passed around a bottle of Maker's Mark Whiskey. Now I was
already drunk, and I'm sucking down this whiskey. Next thing I know, we're in 7-11 getting bean burritos. That's living!

MTI: This is starting to sound like a trip down memory lane.

MTR: That sounds like an invitation to tell more stories.

MTI: Indulge yourself. You already are by interviewing yourself. You might as well wear your ego on your sleeve.

MTR: You're right. I'll start early. I remember me and Steve playing at a talent show at the University of San Diego. I think
we had a few drinks before playing, and we got so charged up, we ran around in this cafeteria, which served as the waiting
room for performers that night.

MTI: "Charged up"?

MTR: OK, so we kicked over chairs and screamed and stuff. We only got second place, though, because the show was run
by a bunch of frat boys, and first place went to...

MTI: ...a bunch of frat boys?

MTR: Right. Let's see, what else? We used to have a third member, Gerald McMullin, who has been my friend since we
were both in high school in Riverside. 10th grade biology we sat at the same dissecting table. So he ended up going to USD,
too, and the three of us, after graduation, played every Friday and Saturday in Mission Beach at this place called The Mission
Beach Club. It doesn't exist anymore. In fact, most places we've performed at have closed down, and their owners have been
institutionalized--criminally insane, many of them. So we played for a year at this place where the rule, as dictated by the
Alcohol and Beverage Control people, was no more than three people on stage, and no amplified instruments. We all had
acoustic guitars, but they had pickups in them. We plugged them in and put dummy mics in front of them to look like they
weren't "amplified." No one knew the difference.

MTI: This was where you had your first regular gigs?

MTR: Yep. And that's where we learned that we could drink and play AND get paid. The perfect job for three Irishmen
(Steve's half Irish and half German--lethal combo!). One night it was Steve's birthday--we weren't even supposed to play. He
calls up and tells me and Gerald to come down and we'll perform. By the time we got down there, Steve was plastered on at
least a half bottle of Patron Tequila that he had to himself. There were two people in the "audience," and they laughed at us as
we tried to play "Steamroller Blues" by James Taylor. Steve finally fell on his back. Passed out drunk.

MTI: Is that all you've done for fourteen years? Drink and perform?

MTR: Yes.

MTI: What happened to Gerald?

MTR: I'm not sure. I was drunk when he left and by the time I sobered up he was gone. Haven't heard from him since.

MTI: Come on.

MTR: OK. He's in San Francisco with his wife, Alida--I introduced the two of them, by the way, and I don't think they've
ever thanked me for that. He still performs part time and is a teacher the rest of the time. Sounds familiar?

MTI: Hmm. Yes. How about memories of the full band?

MTR: Yeah--we didn't plan on being a band. When we recorded "Morning Wood," the plan was we'd be a duo still. But the
recording needed a band sound so it would be "radio accessible." Remind me to tell you someday how much I hate radio. It's
all a big sham, fooling people into thinking they're listening to stuff they like when actually their taste is manipulated by
corporations that do market research, as though music were a commodity like toilet paper. Anyway, we practiced for one
week--me, Steve, Gregory Page, and Stinky. Our last practice, we got the bright idea: "Let's go perform!" It turns out that
Gregory had a show that night at the Inner Change in Pacific Beach, so he called up Nancy, the owner, and said, "Nancy,
we're coming down with a band to play tonight--The Rugburns!" Nancy said, "Oh, goody! I'll get more beer!"

MTI: She had you pegged.

MTR: Hey, I was an innocent bydrinker there. She never met me. Drunk by association.

MTI: How was the show?

MTR: We had a blast. We only had about 10 songs to play, but we milked them for what they were worth. Shocked the hell
out of the folkies who were expecting to hear Gregory's crooning.

MTI: So you started performing as a full band after that?

MTR: Not directly. That would have been, hmm, around November of 1993. "Morning Wood" came out about March of
1994. We did a band show at the Casbah for our CD release party. Come the summer, we started playing ever Friday and
Saturday as a band at this place called Offbeat Live. It was really a comedy place, but Dan Mer, the manager and a fan, was
experimenting with mixing things up. We developed a whole new following with those shows.

MTI: You were back at the beach again--just like when you and Steve and Gerald were at the Mission Beach Club.

MTR: The only difference was we had a better sound system. And no bikers. We used to have a following of Hell's Angels at
the Mission Beach Club. They called me "Doc" first, because Steve used to say I was the "doctor of the blues harmonica."

MTI: You play harmonica?

MTR: "I used to suck, not blow" is my motto. I played percussion, too--stuff to mix up the sound. Gerald was the lead
guitarist. His leaving forced me to do leads. Otherwise I'd still be sucking today.

MTI: Let's move forward again. Memories of the band....

MTR: Yeah, hmm. So many things happened. Steve busted his head at a Los Angeles show, a little place called Molly
Malones. I found out later my sister used to go there when she was underage to drink. Well Steve busted his head wide open
on a beam in the middle of performing "Sweet Transvestite." He came running around the corner, jumped up on the stage, and
this low beam impeded his progress somewhat. Let me change that "somewhat" to "greatly." Something like 48 stitches later,
he came walking into the hotel we were staying at, his head all swollen, looking like the Elephant Man. Gregory took a picture
and then ran out of the room to throw up. That picture later became the art for the "Mommy I'm Sorry" T-Shirt.

MTI: You must have been worried.

MTR: Yeah, but Bob Duffy, our manager, took Steve to the hospital. There was nothing left for the rest of us to do but drink
Guinness, which was tasting so good that night. It was my comfort and my console. My solace and my refuge.

MTI: Drinking again....

MTR: Hell yeah! It's so hard to get a good pint of Guinness, that nothing gets in the way when a bar is pouring it right--not too
cold. Poured slow so that it's rich and creamy. The best beer in the world when served right, the worst, otherwise. Steve
would be the first to agree. He would have been belly-up to the bar himself had the accident happened to someone else. We
have our priorities.

MTI: Let's take this memory thing from a different perspective. How about some great shows that stick out in your mind?

MTR: The first one would have to be opening for the Ramones in Blossom, Ohio. Something like 12,000 people. Now that
was a powerful thing, hitting one note on my electric and hearing it bounce off 12,000 heads. I felt as though I were a god and
could do no wrong.

MTI: Continue.

MTR: There were so many little shows, by comparison, that were great because of the energy created between the band and
the audience. The Electric Ballroom in Tempe. Canal Street Tavern in Dayton. The Euclid Tavern in Cleveland. The
Crocodile Cafe in Seattle. The Mercury Lounge in New York City. The Casbah and the Belly Up Tavern here in San Diego.
The Belmont Theater in Portland. Schuba's in Chicago. Berkeley. Richmond. Baton Rouge. San Francisco. Tucson. Arcata.
The list goes on.

MTI: Any bad shows, anything you want to forget?

MTR: I think I've already forgotten them. I tend to suppress that stuff, so offhand I can't think of a bad show.

MTI: Did you drink to forget?

MTR: I can't remember. Shameful, isn't it?

MTI: So how do you feel now that you're out of the band?

MTR: Mixed emotions. I'm very excited about returning to teaching. I wanted to be a teacher since I was in about 6th great.
It's in my blood, a lot of teachers in the family. But music's in my blood, too. A lot of priests in my family tree, too, but that's
one profession I've ignored.

MTI: Except you drink like a priest.

MTR: Yeah, and I get religious when I'm drunk. I say things like, "Oh, God, I think I'm going to be sick!" But I can honestly
say I've had two professions, and I've enjoyed both immensely. I'm looking forward now to teaching full-time, with out the
fatigue from performing three to four times a week in addition.

MTI: You must have been quite tired. What did you do to relax when you could relax?

MTR: I'd have a couple beers!

MTI: Sounds like a running theme.

MTR: It is. You buying?

MTI: Sure.

MTR: Thanks. You're a pal.

Posted by steve at November 24, 2003 9:15 AM


good to know?!? I guess.

Posted by: confused in virginia at November 24, 2003 7:03 PM

On sunday
My 25th birthday
My beloved
Steve Poltz the goldfish
Died, shrivelled
He thought he was a dolphin
Not Flipper
We flushed him to Heaven
And danced
To the Salvation Song
In the kitchen
Like deranged Lleyland Palmer.

rest in peace my friend xx

Posted by: Lils at November 24, 2003 7:37 PM

I was just thinking I should go see the movie Elf...I suppose it's not on DVD yet...but you know everything can't be on your DVD all the time?...that's why I chew spearamint gum 'cause double mint just means less of gum that's no fun I mean that's wicked dumb...mmm pizza, lol.

Posted by: Max at November 24, 2003 7:55 PM

Did he happen to notice if there was any good graffiti on the walls?
Did he have anything to say about the whereabouts of my specially-made t-shirt? ;)
It snowed here yesterday. In 36 days I'll be somewhere else, and it had better not be snowing.

Posted by: Unnecessary at November 25, 2003 5:49 AM

I thought I was missing something -- now I get it... I even remember it.

Posted by: Aha! at November 25, 2003 8:22 AM

It all makes sense now. Well... as much sense as is necessary, anyway.

Posted by: enlightened at November 25, 2003 8:24 AM

tears rolling down my cheeks... damn you fuckers have been rockin' for a long time!

doc's "10 yrs later" shall be marked at the belly up tavern... beer, whisky and maybe a shot of tequila... preferably no major injuries..ya'll aren't as young as you used to be!

Posted by: drunk in ob at November 25, 2003 9:28 AM

If there is ever another 'burns show with Doc Driscoll playing, I'd better be invited...I'd be pretty pissed if I missed out...

Posted by: j eastman at November 27, 2003 1:29 PM

Hey j,
I'm thinking that you should probably motor on over to the New Years Eve show at the Belly Up Tavern.


Posted by: sister sledge at November 28, 2003 9:48 AM

available now!
Chinese Vacation
available now!
check out some tracks here
Digital Video Disc
Live at the Basement
Sydney, Australia

Sign up now
for the

You can check out
"On with the Shows"
for all concert dates.

The discussion board
is alive and well.
Ditty du jour

here's a funny dispatch
from a past trip abroad...



There are more photos
past and present
in the section called


here's another letter
of a different nature


the cutest roughneck
that side of the rio grande


steve, do you want to add a post?
home press merch tour music photos biography contact bulletin board