It’s been a long, hard road for D.R.I., but the band—known as a “thrash metal” band, although the group has the respect of punk-rock contemporaries—is still doing its thing some 33 years after its formation.
D.R.I.—that’s an abbreviation for Dirty Rotten Imbeciles—will be performing at The Hood Bar and Pizza on Friday, Oct. 30.
D.R.I. formed in 1982 in Houston. Spike Cassidy (guitar) and Kurt Brecht (vocals) are the only remaining original members. It’s been said the band’s name came from Brecht’s father, who hated listening to the band practice in the family home. In fact, Brecht’s father—interrupting the band’s practice—can be heard on the “Madman” track.
“We never saw ourselves making a living doing this,” Brecht said during a recent phone interview. “But we wanted to, and we thought about it—but it’s hard being that young and thinking that far in advance. We wanted to do what we saw other bands doing, which was touring and putting out records. I remember at one time, when we started getting a little popular, we realized we were still living in a van and not making any money.”
A 1983 “Rock Against Reagan” tour, often headlined by the Dead Kennedys, gave D.R.I. some of its first exposure.
“That was our first tour ever,” Brecht said. “We moved to California, lost our bass player and found another bass player. The band MDC was also from Texas, and they were living in the same squat thing that we were, and they invited us to go on the Rock Against Reagan tour. It was literally no pay. You got gas money and got fed whatever food the people that put together the tour had to give you. It wasn’t a show every night; it was a flatbed truck and a PA system, and they would take that around and set it up at different colleges. It was kind of cool, and people got to see it for free, but bands kind of came and went. People would walk by and check it out. It was kind of interesting to shove the music down people’s throats.”
Brecht was surprised years later by someone who told him about one of those shows.
“Dave Grohl was just a kid, and he came and saw us play in Washington, D.C.,” Brecht said. “He told me that he bought a 7-inch record off of me from out of the back of our van.”
Metal Blade Records—known as the home of various thrash metal bands, and the first label to sign Metallica—signed D.R.I. and released the group’s first full length album, Dealing With It!, in 1985. The album showed that the band’s hardcore punk sound was becoming more thrash metal.
“At that point, we had only just started letting out our metal influences that we grew up with,” Brecht said. “We grew up listening to rock and metal, and we discovered hardcore and liked that better. But eventually, all the cool metal stuff started leaking out. Spike let someone from Metal Blade listen to the record, and they decided they wanted it. I still talk to Metal Blade, and they still pay us royalties, and we’re still in good relations with them at this point.”
The ’90s were a hard time for D.R.I., after Metal Blade released the band. The group put out two records on the label Dirty Rotten, but D.R.I. has not released a new album since 1995’s Full Speed Ahead.
“We call it the ’90s slump,” Brecht said. “When you’re in it, you don’t know what’s going on, and you can only look back at it later on. It was rough for us. We continued touring, and we weren’t making any money, and we had to change the way we toured: no more tour bus, no more roadies, no more big truck with equipment. We just shaved off all the fat. We were still hurting.”
Brecht said D.R.I. almost called it a day several times.
“There were times we talked about it, and asked how much longer we could do this, because it was going out on tour for two or three months and coming back with nothing,” Brecht said. “Your girlfriend, wife or whatever—they’re not going to put up with it very long, and you need to figure out what you’re going to do. Even bigger bands like Slayer weren’t doing good in the ’90s. They were doing better than us, but Metallica was the only band still doing good during that period.”
In 2006, Spike Cassidy was diagnosed with colon cancer.
“During the times when Spike had cancer and was sick for a while, thrash metal became popular again,” Brecht said. “We were excited to get back on the road again. Grunge wasn’t as popular any more, and kids wanted to see thrash metal bands again from the ’80s.”
Cassidy’s cancer also led to hard times for the band. In fact, Cassidy is still trying to raise money to pay his medical bills through D.R.I.’s website.
“Spike is doing fine now, and we have full tours scheduled—and it’s a brutal schedule for anyone, even if you’re not sick,” Brecht said. “He’s the one booking it all, so he’s obviously capable. Spike has a cancer fund, and he had some insurance at the time, but it’s still financially damaging. He said he was almost done paying it off, and all of a sudden, they dropped another $150,000 bill on him for some surgery he had that he thought was paid for, and insurance supposedly covered. I went on a few tours without him to help make money for him when he couldn’t go.”
Will there ever be another D.R.I. album? Brecht hinted that a new release is just around the corner.
“It’s recorded and everything, and as far as I know, it’s in post-production,” he said. “It should be out this year, but I haven’t heard Spike talk about it much. Records aren’t important as they used to be, especially not for us. Now we don’t have to deal with all that stuff of a label, and our label now is not bothering us to put out a record. They probably don’t want to pay for it, and it’s not a lucrative endeavor.”
D.R.I. will perform with Fissure, Green Terror Grind, Facelift and Panzram at 8 p.m., Friday, Oct. 30, at The Hood Bar and Pizza, located at 74360 Highway 111, in Palm Desert. Admission is $20 at the door, and the show is open to all ages. For more information, call 760-636-5220, or check out one of the Facebook pages for the event.