Described by critic John Dougan as “one of the finest and most influential proto-punk bands to walk the earth”, The Dictators have reunited and are releasing their first new music in 20 years. The groups’ three founding members, singer/bassist/songwriter Andy Shernoff lead guitarist Ross Friedman and rhythm guitarist Scott Kempner have been joined by legendary Blue Öyster Cult drummer Albert Bouchard, the man who played the infamous cowbell on Don’t Fear The Reaper. The Dictators and the Blue Öyster Cult have known each other since the early days when they both shared the patronage of producer/manager Sandy Pearlman.
Known for their sarcastic lyrics and aggressive sound, The Dictators released what Uncut Magazine called “the first punk rock album”, The Dictators Go Girl Crazy, in 1975 – a full year before The Ramones. After playing shows early on with the Stooges and New York Dolls, they became regulars at CBGB’s, while influencing bands around the world.
The Dictators released two more records (‘Manifest Destiny’ and ‘Bloodbrothers’) in the 70’s before breaking up. Ross went on to found heavy metal overlords Manowar, while Scott started roots rock pioneers The Del Lords. Andy worked as a producer and songwriter while also performing with Joey Ramone and The Fleshtones.
An early ‘80s get-together produced the classic live album ‘Fuck ‘em If They Can’t Take a Joke’, and the band performed sporadically until 1995 when, realising the extent of its fan base and influence, once again reformed full time. That influence had been particularly strong in Australia, where their fans included the likes of Radio Birdman, The Hitmen, The Eastern Dark, God, The Powder Monkeys and The Casanovas. Numerous international tours culminated in 2001’s ‘D.F.F.D.’, the band’s last studio album which Allmusic called a “non-stop barrage of spitfire precision rock. The material is, unbelievably, their best and most consistent ever for an album”.
After playing the final weekend of CBGB’s in 2006, the band once again went their separate ways.
In late 2019 some Dictators business once again brought the band back together “Scott and I had lost touch with Ross” Andy explains. “once it was settled, Ross suggested we play together again. It was literally the last thing on my mind, but Scott was enthusiastic, so I sat on it and eventually said ok and damn; I am so glad I did as it’s kept me busy and sane during the pandemic”.
The band worked around the worldwide pandemic with a socially distanced tracking session, then finished the new recordings by trading files over the internet. The first release, the single God Damn New York, is now followed by Let’s Get The Band Back Together with a third and fourth release scheduled for mid-year and November.
“I wrote God Damn New York with my wife before we got married for a video that never got made. When I was presenting new song ideas to everybody, this one got a thumbs up. So I changed the key, re-wrote the lyrics to give it some Dictators swagger, and voila, the first new Dictators song in 20 years. It’s sort of a love/hate letter to New York City”.
The new single similarly has history. “My buddy Jesse Bates had a song called Let’s Get The Band Back Together.” Andy recalls, “I thought it was really clever and funny so I asked him if I could fool around with it and put my spin on it. He said go for it, so I made a few changes and recorded it on my own a few years ago but it was just so perfect for the Dictators that we couldn’t resist re-recording it.”
“For me, Let’s Get the Band Back Together has the same exuberance and joy Go Girl Crazy has!” adds Ross.
Andy continues, “We each have decades of experience making records We feel the pressure’s off. We aren’t chasing a hit record or fame. Our only goal is to make the best music possible because everyday you make music is a good day.“
The reunion hit an ironic, heartbreaking roadblock when guitarist Scott Kempner the man who was instrumental in “getting the band back together” was diagnosed with early stage dementia in February 2021. He has since left the band and a replacement will be announced shortly.
Listen to Lets Get The Band Back Together HERE
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With thanks to Dave Laing Publicity