Listen to 'Mein Trumpf,' the First Album from Punk Legends MDC in 13 Years
Frontman Dave Dictor talks about the KKK, the Trump/Hitler comparison, and finding peace in an age of chaos.
Dave Dictor is pretty angry right now, and with good reason. For 38 years, the frontman of the political hardcore act MDC has been rallying against police brutality, white power, and government corruption, so having someone like Donald Trump in office is an affront to his entire life’s work. “Every time I turn around and turn on the TV it seems like there's something else,” Dictor—a self-described news junkie—says with a sigh over the phone from a tour stop where the band is promoting their first full-length album in 13 years, subtly titled Mein Trumpf.
You wouldn’t know the band have been around since 1979 judging by the vitriol present on the 12-song album which puts the band’s progressive punk message front and center in a way that’s more relevant now than ever. Whether they are singing about how our President is “criminally insane” on the opening title track or chanting, “No Trump, no KKK, no fascist USA” (based on a phrase they coined and which Green Day famously paid tribute to at last year’s American Music Awards) during the album’s finale, Mein Trumpf is a scathing indictment of our Commander in Chief. Then again, what else would you expect from MDC?
Mein Trumpf is out from Primordial Records and you can hear the album below. Pre-order it here.
Noisey: What do things feel like for you right now, politically? Is it similar to what you went experienced with Reagan and Bush?
Dave Dictor: I think everyone is sleep-deprived and no one has their medications right and it’s a crazy universe anyway, and then when you involve someone like Donald Trump, you see people get polarized; people get hit by cars, people get hit by the alt-right, it’s just a crazy universe. On a local level, I think things are breaking down according to my personal Facebook feed, maybe that’s just me. But we really just have to saddle up and go forward; we’ve been a working band this whole time and we’re still going. Right now we just have more relevancy. But I think the relevancy already existed, it's just come out in a way that’s so much obvious [due to the political climate]. You’ve got so much more disrespect and it’s horrible, politics in this country. Being a president used to mean diplomacy instead of just being tired and vulgar, you know, a beauty pageant douche.
Were you surprised Trump was elected or did you see this happening?
I was kind of like everyone else. From 1999 to 2004, [Trump] was on Howard Stern all the time and you could see his charisma. I watched more than one season of The Celebrity Apprentice. It was just one of the shows I fell into and you saw: “this is a personality here”—and it’s definitely a cult of personality but it’s way out of hand. When you’re working on a reality show and you get fake fired, someone gets $10,000 and you go home... and that’s not what’s happening right now.
How did the idea for Mein Trumpf come about?
Last year we came up with the “No Trump, no KKK, no fascist USA” chant which came from our  song “Born To Die,” which Green Day popularized on the  American Music Awards. They told Jimmy Kimmel and a few other media outlets it’s by us and that whole thing was going on, but we knew we had to write something fresh. My drummer is very prolific and I started writing with our guitar player and bass player and we started merging things into one song. We put the speech in the beginning of Mein Trumpf and it gave it that operatic feel, and the more we started thinking about it, the more it just made sense as opposed to having two or three songs about Donald Trump, have one big Mein Trumpf and using Mein Kampf as the metaphor about him. It came together rather quick: The idea hit and within two weeks we were ready to record it. We went on tour over the summer and the album just came out.
What events inspired the original lyrics on “Born To Die”?
That came out of an incident that happened where the Ku Klux Klan started showing up at our shows at three in the afternoon. We’d chase them off and had a couple of shoving matches but then they marched down to Austin, Texas, in October of 1980 and punks took rocks and chased the Klan out of Austin. It was a really great day to be a punk in Austin and that was where the song came from.
The Klan had been killing farm workers for years in the late 70s and we were aware of that and there were pictures of the Klan in Texas punk bars all over the place, so we were surrounded by it. I’m a Yankee from New York, I went to public school in Queens, and I couldn’t believe it! I was there throwing rocks and writing songs and “Born To Die” had that line, “No war, no KKK, no fascist USA” and through the years people just started using it at demonstrations. But then when Trump was elected, people started protesting the KKK by using that phrase again and it felt very nice. [Laughs]
Mein Trumpf is obviously a strong statement. What similarities do you see between Trump and Hitler?
Belittling of people and lying. You say a lie and it becomes part of the jargon. For example, when he said, “Obama is spying on me,” even the FBI says he’s not, no one says he is, but Trump still says it. He's got 25 to 35 percent of the population who don’t mind the lie, they get a kick out of it, and it’s a weird world we live in. People are so cynical and they don’t want to win the right way so they say, “We’ll just win the dirty way,” and that’s what’s been going on in American politics for a while.
Have you been especially surprised by anything Trump has done or is it more of a continuous feed of shock?
One day he’s saying no president ever calls soldiers when they die and just having that attitude of, “Well, this is what he signed up for,” it’s unbelievable. He’s talking about a child who is dead and you’re the Commander in Chief and sending them into harm’s way and you’re not even going to pick up the phone and say, “I’m sorry your son is no longer with us,” it’s amazing. Everything is amazing. Or something like telling Miss Universe she should go on a diet. I mean, he’s got ten or 12 lawsuits against him. Plus everything he’s done with Trump University. I mean, he just covers it up and he keeps saying it’s fabulous while he’s ripping off the world, whether he’s not paying his workers or filing bankruptcy or giving tax breaks to the rich. Every time you hear him talk, whether he's insulting the Prime Minister of Germany or when he said, “Oh, they all have their sides,” about the alt-right, it's really patronizing. Worse than that, it’s pretty scary.
A lot of people think these volatile political times can serve as the impetus for inspiring art. Do you feel like in some ways the current climate has exposed even more people to MDC?
I do know that when people feel anxiety, a lot of times they’ll want to come together, and I know there’s a lot of people who really feel similarly about having an anti-Trump stance because that is not the way of history: Intolerance, bigotry, and pushing people around. It’s just the way he conducts himself from top to bottom, the way he lies, the way he tweets. So there’s a lot of people that want to feel like other people get it too, so there is that thing where people come together and we can provide that. But we play Bar Mitzvahs and weddings, too... we even played a christening once.
Things can seem really overwhelming at times like these. What advice would you have for people who want to get involved but don't know how to start?
The most important thing is to find something that makes you happy. You can’t do something that’s good for the planet but doesn’t make you feel good. So find out what makes you feel good. Is it making arts and crafts with seashells? Go for it. Is it reporting on different things in your area, from neighborhood watch to Food Not Bombs to watching the way cops interact and filming incidents? It can be whatever you feel like—and if it’s just hanging out at the co-op eating vegan cheesecake, that’s who you ought to be. I’m not trying to get people to do what they don’t want to do. Do what you want to do and be happy in your skin. There's a way to express to other human beings how you feel in a way that’s gentle and educated about the issues that are facing the world.
Jonah Bayer is on Twitter.