from bussing to dragons with roderick palmer
By Sound Check
March 7, 2011
Take two Black rock veterans from Los Angeles and put them in one explosive band, and not only do you have a Black History Month celebration I might attend, but you also have a great underground indie band NOT from Echo Park or Silverlake! Roderick B. Palmer and original Fishbone soldier Walter A. Kibby II (aka Dirty Walt) are the masterminds behind Year Of The Dragon. I got a chance to chat with each of the founding members separately before their upcoming gig at South By Southwest (SXSW) to find out how the “Dragon” came to be. Look out for my interview with Dirty Walt that will be published on Afropunk.com this Friday.
From Bussing to Dragons with Roderick Palmer
Words David Carr
David Carr: Roderick, how and when did Year Of The Dragon come together?
Roderick B. Palmer: We started to come together in late 2003. Walter decided to leave Fishbone that year. Both he and their guitar player Spacey T. at the time decided to leave the band and resurrect the 80’s metal band Sound Barrier.
Were you going to be part of the second coming of Sound Barrier?
They wanted a two man tandem on guitar this time around. They were going for a heavier sound; more like Slayer. I auditioned and got the gig. It was going to be me, Walter, Spacey T., their original bass player Stanley E…it looked like things were going to move forward but then Stanley’s son passed away. After his son passed away, Stanley just lost interest in the project. A year later we were just looking at each other with this look of, “what do we do now?” We decided to record some songs and those songs turned into a six song EP called “A Time to Love Is A Time to Bleed”. The Sound Barrier project never happened but Year Of The Dragon was born. After the EP we recorded and released our first full length, “Blunt Force Karma”.
How have you been getting your music out to folks?
Social media has played a huge role in the developing and nurturing of the relationship we have with our fans. It has allowed us to develop a fan base in certain areas and helped us tour and meet our fans. We opened a show for King’s X and sold a lot of cds and merchandise at that show. Both of our discs are also on ITunes.
Have you played the festival before?
We have. We played it last year. We had a blast playing SXSW last year. It was great to see so many people and all the insanity. It is amazing to see the city of Austin shut down and go crazy with so many bands and so many options. We had a ton of people check us out.
So I am curious Roderick, how did you get bitten by the rock bug?
My entre was through punk rock and bussing! I lived in the hood for most of my life but I was bussed to a white suburb to go to high school. My friends at the school introduced me to a lot of rock. At the time I had already been listening to Mandrill, The Isley Brothers and Funkadelic’s Maggot Brain so listening to rock was not that big a stretch. A friend of mine turned me on to a local punk band called Sin-34. After hearing them I started going to punk shows and I cut my hair into a Mohawk.
How did that go over in the hood?
Not well! I got beat up a lot but the people messing with me started to realize I wasn’t going anywhere and neither was my hair. You know it’s interesting. I lived in the hood all my life but the first time I saw a Rodney King styled beating was at a Dead Kennedy’s show in Hollywood! That kind of stuff was a fairly common occurrence at punk rock shows. It was at those shows where I started to meet the guys in Fishbone for the first time. I really liked their stage show and energy but when I saw Bad Brains I was blown away! That was a religious experience for me.
Were there any other punk bands that caught your attention at the time.
For me it was Bad Brains and Black Flag. I have seen all of the different versions of Black Flag but the Henry Rollins lineup really did it for me!
Do you think things have gotten better, worse or stayed the same for African-Americans in rock, metal and alternative music?
Well I think there is always advancement but we also always take backwards steps. It’s like Barrack Obama becoming President. On the one hand that was a major step forward in the United States, without question, but during the election, you got to see the racist e-mails and the racist rhetoric and the re-emergence of the extreme right. I think it’s great to see so many young Black kids in the hood sporting Mohawks, wearing skinny jeans, skateboarding and listening to rock music.
I have seen the same thing and they are NOT getting beat up for it!
Ha! Yeah it’s true, but at the same time, these same kids who are into Radiohead and Green Day, don’t know about Bad Brains. They don’t know about Fishbone. I mean if you have seen the Fishbone documentary then you know that Gwen Stefani herself talked about how if it weren’t for Fishbone, No Doubt might not have existed! I have been watching the Afro-Punk website grow and that community gives me hope.
What’s next for YOTD?
Well Walter re-joined Fishbone so he is dividing his time between us and them. We are going to play SXSW and hopefully podcast the performance. We are also going to go into the studio and record a “mixtape”. We are just going to hit the studio and record a bunch of songs live and put that out by the end of the month. We recorded a full length disc with Greg Hetson and Josh Aichzinger producing. We were going to put the disc out on Greg’s label but his label got dissolved so we will see what happens.
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