Speaking as a bassist, some of my favorite players throughout the years have included Graham Maby (Joe Jackson), Steve Harris (Iron Maiden), Peter Hook (New Order, Joy Division), and Karl Alvarez (ALL, Descendents). A guy who might not be as well-known as some of the aforementioned bassists, but who has also ranked high on my 4-stringer list has to be Dustin Perry. I first heard him during his time in Threadbare, a Minnesota band that released some of the most compelling metallic hardcore of the early to mid-'90s.
After Threadbare, Dustin went on to join Snapcase, bringing his talents to a wider audience over the course of three albums and many tours. He's currently a member of Precious and Ghost Work, while juggling a job at Apple and gearing up for the birth of he and his wife's baby.
Scheduling setbacks be damned, because I managed to get Dustin to carve some time out so we could chat about his life and career in this new interview.
Where were you born and raised, and what kind of childhood did you have?
I was born and raised in Mankato, MN. It’s a small college town more or less. It's famous for being the home of the Minnesota Vikings training camp (until next year) and the “big city” on Little House on the Prairie. I feel like I had a good childhood. I got to try out sports (wasn’t that good), get lost in the woods, and ride BMX and skateboard without a lot of hassle.
What are some of your earliest musical memories? Were you glued to the radio as a young kid?
I loved music from as far back as I remember. I used to put on my dad’s records and get lost in the sounds. I took lyrics very seriously, too. My parents generally listened to what would now be considered classic rock music. My dad corrupted me a bit by playing me some songs like “DOA” by Bloodrock and “The Ballad of Waldo Jeffries” by Velvet Underground. I remember when he came home with Pink Floyd The Wall and put it on in the family living room. I also loved classical music. My parents bought me these cheap greatest hits of Bach, Beethoven, Mozart, etc. My first record was a Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels hand-me-down from them. I used to sing along to songs on the radio in the car, and would sometimes stay until they were done ("Bohemian Rhapsody" was a big one). My parents took me to see Yes as a kid.That’s one of the first concerts I remember seeing.
How did you first hear punk/hardcore? Did you have older friends/family members who showed you the way, so to speak?
I didn’t really have anyone get me into punk/hardcore. It’s weird, but I remember news stuff about the Sex Pistols. I was in grade school at the time. I thought that punk was crazy and weird, but I also had a fascination with it. I loved this record called Rock 80 which was a K-Tel comp of mostly new wave bands. I remember when I got into punk I was happy that I already liked some of it without knowing it was punk (Clash, Ramones, etc). I think being into BMX and skateboarding helped it along. You’d see articles or people wearing band shirts. I remember having a Sports Illustrated of the LA Olympics and there was a picture of athletes running in front of a wall with the Black Flag bars spray painted on it.
There was a great guy in my class named Jordan who would recite Dead Kennedys lyrics. We used to go to the library to play Dungeons and Dragons. We would goof around in the conference room they let us use and then bail and go to the arcade and to the local record store. I bought used Flipper and other records in that time (pretty much whatever I could find). My friends and I started playing music at about 15. I remember calling my friend Scott at the end of the summer to let him know I was into punk. He said he was too. We started playing in my parent’s basement doing covers and writing crappy 15-year-old’s versions of Dead Kennedys lyrics (ie, not very well). That culminated in us playing "Blitzkrieg Bop" at the school talent show among some other covers. We didn’t get our ass kicked the next day, so it must have went well. I sang, but we generally all took turns playing guitar or singing.
What were some of the earlier shows you went to see as a teen in Minnesota? As a metal kid, I remember one of the only heavy bands from there that I knew of and was into was Powermad.
Powermad were awesome! I actually recently introduced myself to [Powermad guitarist] Todd Haug at Metal & Beer fest. He’s a really awesome guy and brews amazing beers. I saw them open for Anthrax at First Avenue, I think on the Among the Living tour. I bought Reign in Blood that day. I loved crossover like Corrosion of Conformity (Animosity), DRI, Attitude Adjustment, etc.
I love metal (I lived in denial in my early punk years) but didn’t see many shows at all. I lived in Mankato which was over an hour from where that was happening. Plus, I didn’t have any money and most of those shows were in arenas at the time. I did get to see Deep Purple with Girlschool.
What was your first punk show?
My first punk show was Upright Citizens in Mankato. My mom came home with a flyer from the gas station. She said, “I think this is that stuff you’re into.” I went and was scared but survived. Jeff (later from Libido Boyz) put that show on and did a zine. He was always someone I looked up to. He was a year older and I first remember him in grade school being into BMX and wearing a Redline jersey. Later, he was involved with the early punk scene in town. Also perfect timing-wise, there was a new radio station and our local punk bar did a radio hour on it. I got to hear so many cool things thanks to that. Soon after that, I had the guts to discover and start going to All Ages shows up in Minneapolis at First Avenue. I had wanted to go there since seeing it in Purple Rain (I love Prince). The first show I went to was Violent Femmes (hey, those first couple records are great). I was about 15 and scared. I think I stayed behind the bar at the back for most of the show. The next show was Black Flag.
I went to almost every all ages show for years. A big reason for that was not only the excitement but the fear that [Minutemen guitarist/vocalist] D. Boon’s death had on me. I had just missed seeing the Minutemen due to not getting a show calendar in time so I found out about the show after it happened. So many awesome shows, though. Just thinking now about standouts… Cro-Mags opening for GBH, Raw Power at 7th Street Entry, Soulside, Bad Brains, St. Vitus and Corrosion of Conformity on the Animosity tour, SNFU, Descendents, Neurosis... I could go on for far too long.
Who were some of the other local bands you got to see back in that era?
Local bands in those early days… I mean Hüsker Dü, Replacements, Blind Approach, Downside, Misery, etc. It was crazy to think of all the big bands at the time coming out of there. I would buy Hüsker and Replacements records from the “Import” bin at the mall record store.
I still feel really lucky to have been a part of the Minnesota scene. Being exposed to everything from Profane Existence to Amphetamine Reptile stuff really was great for keeping an open mind and ear. Also, all the support from the people from THD, Extreme Noise, and Marti’s who all helped to support me personally. First Avenue is still my favorite club and the staff and people there are some of the nicest I’ve ever encountered. I grew up there, more or less.
Let’s talk Libido Boyz. From what I’ve read, the band started when you guys just finished high school.
Yeah, Libido Boyz was kind of supposed to last for a summer. Devon, the original singer, was going to college. Jeff, he, and I were in a band called Plain Truth that had just ended. They were playing with Chad who was a drummer who had just moved up from Iowa. The band originally was really influenced by The Stupids and playing super fast. Eventually we became more melodic and more akin to bands like SNFU.
How popular did Libido Boyz get locally? The stuff I’ve seen on YouTube is pretty nuts.
We were really popular in Minneapolis. We went from playing new band night to selling out 7th Street Entry every time we played. I remember really noticing when I’d see kids show up with shirts they made themselves (which were nicer than the ones we could afford to make) and seeing people leave before the headliners (Government Issue, Scream were a couple). I thought that was crazy and would kind of scold kids for splitting.
What are some of the highlights from your time in Libido Boyz?
I think it would be just getting the chance to make friends all over the place. We got to go on tour out west a couple times thanks to a lot of hard work by Jeff and play with awesome bands we looked up to (Neurosis/Christ on Parade/MDC/ALL/Toxic Reasons/DI/Gorilla Biscuits, etc). We got to tour Europe (I think it was 1990) and were on an Maximum Rocknroll comp [They Don't Get Paid, They Don't Get Laid, But Boy Do They Work Hard!] which was definitely a big deal at that time.
In the beginning of the ‘90s, you released a demo and a compilation track with a band called Reach that also featured a few other recognizable musicians.
After I was out of Libido Boyz, I was looking to play again ASAP. I was starting college. I played a show with Porcelain Boys (awesome Cruz Records style band), but their bassist, Scott, didn’t like switching to guitar. My friend, Zach (from Plain Truth), was playing in a semi-local SXHC band called Headstrong. I found out their guitar player was leaving and told them I’d fill in. The band went though a couple drummers and was kind of floundering. Downside broke up and Chad and Mike (later Threadbare) wanted me and the Headstrong (now Reach) singer to start something new. That was kind of the start of Threadbare but took a lot longer. At first it was totally like Verbal Assault. Mike decided to help Reach record and ended up making the band 1000 times better. We all grew as musicians. Our official demo was sent out a bit and Watermark was interested in doing a record but we broke up. The singer and other guys were growing out of hardcore and didn’t want to continue. I was pretty bummed as I really loved what we had done. The band played a lot in the area but were finished right as we were getting good.
That brings us to Threadbare.
As I said above, it was originally Chad, Mike, and myself doing the Verbal Assault thing. In the meantime, Mike and I ended up in Bloodline for a while. During that time, we played in South Dakota and saw Brian sing in his old band. I remember Mike and I telling him that he would be the singer in our next band. He was just on the same wavelength musically as us. We started Threadbare anew and added Carl on second guitar. He was an old friend and is just an amazing guitar player and person in general.
I’ve always felt that the band was in a class of its own. There was something unique about your songwriting, which I can’t even put into words. Did you guys have a clear idea of what you wanted to do musically before you even got in a jam room together, or was it an organic kind of thing that you let happen as it went?
I think our main goal was to play heavy and powerfully cathartic music for us in a sense. We needed it. I know we were trying to just release our frustrations. I remember feeling shunned in our scene, going through serious relationships for the first time as well as the fear of what’s after college/growing up. I was pretty bummed. People would give me a hard time for not being at this or that show, but I was working and going to college full-time. I know from my perspective, I wanted it to be original and not rely on metal influence to be heavy. I was really into the power of DC “Revolution Summer” stuff and a lot of post-hardcore that was happening.
Dustin on resisting Threadbare's metal influences:
As I look back, I think I was an idiot for limiting it. I love metal and Carl and Mike are just awesome at playing it. I can only ask Carl’s forgiveness for probably shooting down some killer riffs [laughs]. We really took a long time with the songs. We had learned from being in bands to not rush to play a first show until we and the songs were ready. I know I’ve heard old versions of songs and I’m glad we took the time to get them right. All I can say is that I was really fortunate to play with some extremely talented and great people and I’m very proud being a member of Threadbare.
After the self-titled EP, Threadbare signed on with Doghouse Records for Feeling Older Faster. How did you guys end up getting on their roster, and what was the experience with the label like?
We kind of landed there from Mike and I being in Bloodline. We had a few other offers (Ebullition being one), but decided to go there due to them being strong in the Midwest and having bands like Endpoint, etc. The relationship was good, but didn’t end great, unfortunately. We just wanted a little more transparency on the business end at that point and a lot of the bands were feeling the same. They were very supportive in letting us record Escapist as we were pretty much done as a band at that point. That’s a big deal knowing we wouldn’t tour to support it.
I listened to Feeling Older Faster this morning to prepare for this interview. All these years later, songs like “Midas” and “Penicillin” still sound fresh. As a bassist, I especially love what you did on those tracks.
Thank you! It’s funny, because I was trying to kind of restrain myself in that stuff and I’m playing so many fills! I started playing bass because everyone else (including myself) played guitar. In Libido Boyz, I was influenced by Descendents/Black Sabbath/Led Zeppelin/The Who/Minutemen/7 Seconds all of which had crazy bass players. I was learning and also trying to push myself further and further and needed to learn a little restraint. I think playing in Orchestra in school also made me think musically of all kinds of parts merging into one thing.
As far as that record goes, I still love it. It’s one of the few things I’m on that I can just enjoy listening to. I’m so happy we recorded with Tommy Roberts. I think it still sound awesome and that has everything to do with him caring about getting the right sounds and being creative.
The only time I saw Threadbare live was after Feeling Older Faster had come out, when you played the basement of bar in NYC with Milhouse and some other bands. How much touring were you guys doing at that point?
That was actually our only tour aside from a couple jaunts to play fests. I loved that show. Some fun memories were of course meeting Milhouse, but also Brandon (Shift) and Manny (Stillsuit) were also there. Gavin from Burn (big fan) was working in the club and took my Ampeg 8x10 over his shoulder and climbed a ladder for load out!
Threadbare only lasted for a short time. From your perspective, why did the band break up?
I think we were kind of burnt out from not really getting much response when we played. Funniest example was opening for NOFX and Face to Face. I don’t know how or why that happened but their crowd was not into it. Dead silence between songs. We also were really at that time of our lives where we were settling down, etc. We ended as friends, which is the best part.
How did you end up joining Snapcase? I imagine you guys were all friends from playing shows together, but was it a matter of auditioning for the gig, or did you just get invited into the fold?
I would go see them when they’d come through Minnesota. I remember hearing that they were interested at a point in recording with Tommy Roberts in Minneapolis due to liking his recording on the Bloodline record. I was out of college and not really in a band. I ended up playing guitar with Harvest for a summer and thought I was done with hardcore, to be honest. I started playing with some awesome musicians in a project that later became a band in Minneapolis called Story of the Sea. It was when they were touring for Progression Through Unlearning that Daryl [Taberski] randomly called me up and asked if I’d be interested. I was, but Bob [Whiteside] ended up staying in the band. It came up again and he stayed again. I always let them know to keep me in mind.
In the meantime, I had moved to Chicago and was living with my friend, Norman Brannon (Texas Is the Reason, Shelter, Anti-Matter zine). He was always supportive of Threadbare and great to hang out with when we would play shows together and just a great person overall. We all were fans of his bands and his writing. I was hoping he and I would start a new band or something in Chicago, but that wasn’t on his mind during that time. I also tried to meet other musicians, but I was working a crappy mid-shift job at Kinko’s (so many crazy stories) and didn’t get out enough to mingle. Snapcase did the tour with Deftones and Quicksand and after that Bob left. I went out and hung out for a weekend and decided to join. I moved into Bob’s old room in Buffalo and Bob moved into mine in Chicago.
Did you end up moving to New York right away? How did that all work?
Yeah, I went out a month later. My first show was Krazy Fest. We were writing and didn’t play much for a bit. I was so happy to finally make a living playing music. It was weird learning my way around Buffalo and trying to make friends. I was also intimidated to meet all the bands and friends of the band. I didn’t want to be the guy that ruined the band.
The first Snapcase album you appeared on was Designs for Automotion. This was arguably during the most popular era of the band. How much of a life-altering thing was it to be in Snapcase at that point? You were also touring a ton.
It was kind of crazy in terms of having the band pay for things (food, strings, etc), doing videos and the size of some of the shows, but I had toured a bunch before so it wasn’t extremely different. The touring was a lot but I was really happy to have the chance to do it all. I will say that I had never been in the situation of playing the same setlist every night. It was very much an awakening in that and just really taking every show seriously and being in shape to do it. It definitely was a big step in being more professional and serious as a player.
The next album was 2002’s End Transmission. Were you feeling settled in the band by that point?
I was settled and not so much the “new guy” anymore. We really wanted to take a lot of time to write a record after touring so much. We also wanted more time in the studio to experiment and mess around with sounds/pedals, etc. As a band, we needed to try some new things musically or it just would have felt forced/fake trying to repeat a formula. I think we should have maybe done more of a 70/30 split (30 being different/slow stuff), but I do like a lot of what we did. It was the first time I ever recorded in ProTools, so it was weird to do partial takes/punches/etc. It was definitely kind of a tough time because it felt like this would kind of be it for the band.
Snapcase played its final show of the first run of the band in 2005. Were you fine with the decision to break the group up, or did you feel like you guys should have pressed on with new material and touring?
I was not into breaking up. I loved being in a band and really thought at the time we could keep going (at least part-time). I thought we could rebound with a new EP, etc., but we were noticing a general lack of enthusiasm to some of our new songs and a changing of the guard in the scene in general. This was right at the beginning of hardcore/emo bands actually having hit records and not being underground as we had grown up with. It was a weird time. I know I had never played music to “make it.” That just didn’t ever really happen in our scene, not that I wasn’t psyched for those who did.
After Snapcase broke up, you, Frank Vicario and Ben Lythberg from the band started a new project called Attractive with Josh English from Six Going On Seven. That was a definite musical departure from Snapcase.
Ben and Frank kept writing in the style of the end of Snapcase and called it Ourselves. I joined as something to do and still liked playing with them. After trying out a few singers, somehow Josh came into the picture. I don’t really remember how that happened. Honestly, I figured my days were numbered as he previously played bass and sang in his last band, so I started writing music to hopefully keep myself involved. It was really fun writing that style of stuff and I regret we didn’t get to record more of what we had. Josh was definitely great at helping me get over the hump of finishing songs/writing bridges. Due to jobs/moving, etc., the band ended right as we really were hitting our stride. We kind of ended with a tour proposal that felt like more of an ultimatum. It would have meant losing our jobs and we really needed to be a support act at that point anyway. On top of that, my sister was dying from cancer which was incredibly heartbreaking, so it was really a rough time for me in general.
These days you’re playing in Precious alongside Brian Lovro (Threadbare), JP Gericke (Death by Stereo), Daniel Sena (Adamantium, Stickfigurecarousel), and Matt Horwitz (Dawn of Ashes, Collision). I think the band is a great balance of the metallic hardcore aspects of both Threadbare and Snapcase, with a stronger emphasis on melody.
Precious kind of started thanks to my friendship with Dan. He would always come out to Snapcase shows when we were in California. He was a Threadbare fan and I always would tell him that meant a lot he dug us, as we thought no one liked us. Last summer/fall, he sent me some hardcore songs he was writing (he generally has been an electro-house DJ) and I thought they were really good. I mentioned he should get Brian to sing over them and I ended up introducing them to each other. They recorded everything and when it came time for them to play live Dan asked me to do it. I have to say that he is extremely talented. He told me that the bass ideas were written in the vein of my playing when he was writing, which was really flattering. I’m really honored and happy to have a hand in it to be honest, especially helping my friends to make music. JP and Matt are also awesome guys, so I’m psyched to gain more friends out of the deal.
Since you guys are so spread out, how are you handling future plans for Precious?
I hope so! I think the band is really good and people seem to really like it. It’s tough, everyone is busy. If they eventually all end up in California, I would definitely make sure they aren’t encumbered by my availability. We were supposed to play NE Metal Fest and This Is Hardcore, but those fell through due to scheduling, etc. I’m hoping to play again soon. The new stuff Dan has written for it is really great.
Outside of the music stuff, what else is keeping you busy these days? I know you work for Apple.
I’m a very happy husband and soon to be dad, so that’s really exciting. Snapcase is still playing here and there which is always fun, and I’m working on a project called Ghost Work with guys who were in Minus the Bear and Milemarker. We have a ton of demo songs and it’s really cool stuff. I hope to play in a doom band if anyone wants to do that! I also home-brew beer, which is really fun. I’d love to someday have a brewery, but that’s a long time off.
Thanks for doing this! Before I let you split, if you had to pick one song from your entire discography that you are most proud of, what would it be and why?
That’s too hard! I guess off the top of my head, maybe "Dive," since I actually put some of the fills from it in a couple of Snapcase songs.