Ruth is one of those hidden gems on the Tooth & Nail roster. I am waiting for the day when one of our HM Podcast episode uses the interview I did with Dustin back at GMA 2007. Until then, here’s the transcription of the interview Levi Macallister did with him just recently.
Hey, what’s up Dustin?
Hey Levi. I wasn’t in town yesterday – I didn’t have my phone service, so when I got in town last night I saw a bunch of interviews from Jeff about an interviews yesterday.
O man, it’s all good. I hit a deer, like, with my car, and by the time I heard back from Jeff, I just emailed him back I was like, “Dude, I’ve got to go to the shop right now. So I don’t even think I can do this.” So it kind of worked out good for both of us.
Cool. Yeah, sorry about that.
No, it’s all good. I wanted to ask you – I was reading into some of your band bio and history and stuff like that, and some of the new interviews that some other people have done with you, and just the way that you talk about music. Being so passionate about it. I’m wondering if you can give me a brief description of what music is, or does, to you?
Well, ever since I was a little kid, I really liked music a lot. I didn’t have any, like, sort of bands or anything when I was little that I was into. So I’m not one of those guys, that are like, “Yeah dude! I was listening to kiss when I was five!” I just had the older brother and sister that were really into music and, you know … just listening to … probably the Top 40 of the 80s until I got into the 90s on my own. Anyway, growing up I just loved music and … I don’t know. I think a lot of people can probably relate to this, so I’m not saying this to sound unique or anything, but I felt like music moved me, you know? Like I could be riding in the car with my mom or dad on, like, a long trip, and if a certain song came on … I’d be lookin’ out the windows at a sweet desert scene on my way to California. Like, I’d just feel like getting out of the car and running because I was so moved by the music. I don’t know how to describe it, but I remember distinctly feeling that way on a family vacation one time and thinking, “Gosh, I just love music!” I didn’t think I’d ever be doing what I am now – I just thought, “I love music.” And … so music, to me … I think there’s something magical about it. I feel like it can make you think – as far as logically – like, you’re thinking about these lyrics or you’re thinking of what it’s about or you’re thinking about the story, or whatever … so it can stretch your mind – like how you think about things. But it can stretch your emotions and how you feel about things. I just think it’s crazy how music can do that. I don’t know if people get that passionate about math, or different things like economics or whatever, but I know music is something that really moves people in every way. Emotionally. Spiritually. Mentally. You know, it’s stretches you. So that factor makes it very intriguing. It does that to me. Makes me really excited. So, hopefully that was brief enough and not too much rambling.
No dude, that’s good. I’m pretty sure nobody should get that excited about math, though. You’re right. Math is just no good.
Well dude – how do you guys do writing? Is it sort of, compilation type stuff with all you guys or do you write stuff separately and then come together to collaborate with it.
Dude, the last thing that I want to do it take away any credit of the guys I play with because I love them and they’re great, and I think they’re great at what they do. I think all of them could write songs that people would like. I don’t know why they don’t, but they just don’t. The truth is I write all of the songs, so far, that we do. Usually have, like, an acoustic or … just messing around. Usually we’re on the road a lot. At least, lately we have been. The last couple of years. So I might show it to them on the road, you know – one or two here and there, just to be like, “Dude! Check this out!” But for the most part, when we get home and know we’re going to have a good break and want to work on them – that’s when I plan for them and then we all come up with our parts then. So, you know, Brett will be playing the bass and if there’s something we all love or any one of us just thinks is amazing, you know, we’ll tell him. Keep that. Remember that. We just start working out our parts from there. They right all of their own parts as far as guitar, bass, drums, and stuff. But, you know, for this time – and the last couple of records – it’s always been written by me, and all of the collaboration of parts written by the guys.
For sure. Um, that Anorak title – is that how you pronounce that?
Yeah, Anorak, yeah.
It’s supposed to be, like – “Compelled to talk at length about something…” Why’d you choose that? What is that “something?” Would you consider it a concept album?
Um, well … the way that name came about was, uh … we went to see Emery down in Portland, and we got to know those guys. Anyway, they were in Portland so we went and saw their show and hung out with them. We watched Trekkies 1 and 2. And, in Trekkies 2 there’s this old English guy – cause they’re doing the Trekkies around the world kind of thing – and there’s this big convention in Britain somewhere. And they’re asking this British guy on the street what he thought of the Trekkies, and he called them “Anoraks.” They’re like, “What do you mean, ‘Anoraks?’” He said, basically, that they’re weirdoes, you know? I thought that was cool. Like, man, I’m gonna hold on to that. You know. I didn’t know what for, and I could kind of identify with that in some ways, in my life. I think we can kind of all identify with that in some way. With being an Anorak about something. When we got done recording and writing all of this stuff for the record I was talking to the guys about it, and we were just talking about how sometimes … I want to be careful … I’m not one of those guys that’s like “Anti-Church” or “Anti-Christian” or any of that, so I don’t want to sound like that. I just remember when we did our first album with Aaron Sprinkle – here’s an example of what I’m about to say. I remember showing him, like, twenty-five songs and one of them that we were both just like, “Man! We’ve got to do this song!” We were pumped about it. But was like, man, I don’t know if we should. I was like, “Why?” He said, “Well, I just think it’s too honest for the Christian market,” or whatever. And at that time, that’s what our label really wanted to gear our band toward, was the Christian market. I think they thought they could make some money off of it that way. I was just like, whatever. I’m going to take this opportunity and let them do their job and see what happens. But basically, I was really bummed out about that, because the song was a really honest song just about … “If people only knew the things I do … “ It’s called “Things I Do.” And it was just saying in the song, you know – I wonder if they would still like me or love me or want to be my friend or my mom or dad or whatever. And we just really liked it, but he didn’t want to do it. And it wasn’t his fault at all. He was just trying to do his job as a producer and come out with a song that the label would want. So, all that to be said, sometimes the Christian market … it feels like sometimes people don’t want to hear the depth or the honesty of what people think about God, or what you think about faith in Jesus, and forgiveness. They just want to hear the “goods” I guess. So you kind of feel like an Anorak in the church even, when you’re playing Christian music. But also … mainly that name is geared towards people who don’t want to hear about God or Jesus or what that has to do with their life, and what you think about it. I feel like there’s a lot of people in a lot of bands out there that love God, and are searching for a deeper understanding of who he is. I think the name Anorak is kind of more based upon – we just want to know God deeper and deeper and deeper, and we love talking about it. And probably, there are a lot of people out there in the world that just wouldn’t want to hear.
Are you happy with the songs that you’ve put out with Anorak? Do you feel like you’ve been able to do it without having to monitor yourself for the Christian market?
Yeah, that’s exactly what this album has been like. What it really boils down to is that they’re simple songs. And there are times that I can get really moved, because I feel … Honestly dude, like, I could be working at Taco Bell if God wanted me there. You know what I’m saying? Like, sometimes I play the guitar and my brain doesn’t know what my left hand is doing to my right hand and I’m just like, “How can I even put four fingers down and play a chord and strum with my right hand?” I’m just like, gosh, that is only God that I can do this. Because … I should be digging holes somewhere and excavating or something like that. But for some reason God allowed me to be able to – somewhat – play the guitar and sing. He blesses me with these songs and … So, I definitely want you to know – first and foremost – that it’s a blessing. But I can get really into what they’re about because I fell like the music is for me and for the guys in the band and for whoever is involved, just as much as it is for some kids to like at a show. When I listen to these songs it helps me understand God better. This if forgiveness. There are times when the lyrics that in the songs roll through my head when I might be doing something wrong, or I might be feeling bad about something. Or I might be having a great day. I might be driving through somewhere, since we recorded the record, and think of “Dead Giveaway” and think of what it’s about. You know? And it just gives me joy, you know? And so a lot of time, these songs have little truths that maybe … I’ve read somewhere in scripture or whatever … and they’re so honest that it’s cool because they can have multiple effects on me later on in life, and as time goes by. So I really like that a lot. And as far as this record being filtered … yeah, it’s been filtered to the point of, like … when I wrote these songs, I picked out the ones that I really felt, like, fit together and covered what needed to be said on the record. They were filtered in the sense that I didn’t keep anything that I thought was just okay. You know? I kept what I thought was the best. I’m not saying that it is the best in the world, you know – but the best that I can do right now. So – yeah. I think they’re really honest and … it’s crazy because I could talk for a long time and I really don’t to bore you or, uh, not give you what you need, so please stop me if I…
No man, you’re good. I’m just stoked. There are no limitations.
Sweet. I just think God had a special hand on this project. He did on the last one, too. But we ended up working with Christ Keene on seven of the songs and Aaron Sprinkle on four of them. And when we were with Chris Keene … he produces his own music, and stuff, but he hadn’t really been a producer – quote, per se – and the label was really nervous about that. But we did two songs out of my pocket just to prove to them that he could it, and if they didn’t like it then we weren’t going to do anything with Chris. And they ended up liking it. So that was awesome. We ended up being able to do that. And I think that really freed us up because, you know, Chris was new at it, and it was more like a friend that we met on tour that we really respect musically – that we knew would do a great job with working on our stuff. So, in that sense, we had a lot of freedom in the studio to just kind of do what we wanted. To show Chris our ideas and have him be like, “Yeah, that’s good” and “No, this isn’t” or let’s try this or that, so as far as being able to put out what we want and be as honest as we want … that really happened, I think partially because Chris was, uh…
The main dude?
Just being a good friend and letting us do what we wanted to do, kind of a thing. Helping us do it better.
That’s awesome. That’s good – I was going to ask you about Chris too, so I’m glad you talked about that.
That “Back to the Five” song – is that a reference to the highway?
Yeah, that’s what it is…
Haha. Me and my family – I grew up in Palmdale. And me and my family just used to joke all of the time about how boring of a drive the 5 was because it’s just flat all the way through everything. That’s so funny. Man, I’ve definitely driven that highway a million times.
Yeah, it’s funny because when you’re from that area and you’ve driven that freeway a bunch, and then you go and you move out across the country, or whatever … it’s like – you know that when you get to the 5, home is pretty much anywhere off the 5. It’s the homestretch or whatever. It’s a song about being homesick and wanting to be on the 5 and, you know, just like you’ve driven it a million times – so have I. Growing up with my family or going on vacations or doing whatever. You know the 5, you know?
For sure. What’s you’re favorite thing to do aside from Ruth? Aside from everything?
Haha. I don’t know if you want to know everything…
I do! You don’t have to say your top if that’s secret…
I’m gonna get myself in trouble. Um, my favorite thing to do aside from Ruth (and, obviously, being with my family or my … fiancé, now – Amy) – and I can do this with my family or with Amy or with anybody is: shoot guns.
I don’t know if people are going to be like … ah, whatever. I love shooting guns. I love shooting on a range or whatever, but for the most part we just go to the mountains and play around on old lodging roads or something like that. Um … I’d have to say that’s one of my favorite things. Like, the other day I was showing the guys this new stock on my SKS and all this stuff. This new gun that I just put together. They enjoy shooting guns as well. So it’s kind of something that’s just like a pastime that’s really fun.
That’s cool … do you know where Three Points is?
Three Points? I’ve heard of it. Isn’t that in Oregon?
Um, well … I don’t know, maybe. There’s a place called Three Points that’s like, thirty minutes outside of the Palmdale area – I lived kind of half up there and half in Palmdale growing up. There was a ranch up there. My dad ran a school of ministry out there and people would come from all over the world and stay out there for three months or so … but there was a big shooting range out there and people could go shooting or whatever. That sounds right up your alley – too bad you didn’t know about it.
Haha! Yeah that is too bad. I would’ve said I needed help and I need to go to this…
Haha! Yeah, that’s right. “Guys, I really think that I’m not going to be able to do this band thing for a while … I just need to go to this ranch.”
That would’ve been awesome.
Alright I’ve got one more for you. What’s one of the funnest, most embarrassing, dumbest, or most awkward things that’s ever happen with you guys as a band.
Funniest, dumbest, or most awkward? Wow, I’m trying to think through those, you gotta give me a chance. I look at pictures of myself all the time that I see on MySpace all the time – man, I feel like I’m really dumb that way. Just looking at different things. Picking myself apart, picking the band apart. Well, dumbest – I think our fireworks fight with Emery was pretty dumb in the sense that we all could’ve gotten hurt pretty bad. I don’t know if that’s like…
Dude! That’s a good one! I didn’t even hear about that. Tell me about that.
Well … we did this tour with them. One of our few claims to fame, going out with Emery. Because we love those guys and they’re amazing. It’s funny, because our music is so different but it was acoustic so it worked well. And we went with Surrogate as well. That’s when we first met Chris Keene and all them. But Emery … you know, we were already kind of intimidated to go out on this tour because they are like this heavy band that, obviously, every Tooth and Nail band loves and, you know – they are one of those cool bands that I was talking about that we hardly ever get tour with, or whatever. But they took us out – so it was cool. Anyway, we were on tour with them and we were in Missouri on the 4th of July, so the whole time we were out we were collecting fireworks, and we had got some from and Indian reservation so we had a lot of cool fireworks. But they had been buying Roman Candles and they had, like … probably, at least 200 Roman Candles. We had all these, like, not M80s but a little smaller things, and tons of BlackJacks and all that. And they didn’t know that we had all that. We started off just messing around. Shooting fireworks from show to show afterwards … kind of shooting one off at each other here or there, you know. And then, this one show in Missouri – I had a Wrist Rocket – and me and one other guy … one of us would pull the firecrackers back and one would light it and let it go. We were shooting them at their van and trailer when they came out the trailer and we just started ambushing them with them. Like, just with the ones that would make a quick little explosion. And so – we’d been practicing – we were really good with our aim. They were trying to get in their trailer to get their Roman Candles and we were literally able to shoot across this parking lot and get the fireworks in their trailer and blow up so they kept fleeing from the door of their trailer. Once they got them, they all just started shooting Roman Candles at us. So there was like, you know – their road manager and everybody just shooting Roman Candles at us and Surrogate. We stated grabbing all the Bottle Rockets as we could and arming up Surrogate and they’re really not that much of a “fighting band” – they’re just kind of a “lover band.” So we’re like, “Guys! Come on! We’ve got to survive!” But the Roman Candles were definitely a huge advantage. I remember Josh, on time, lit off this Saturn Missile – like with the 25 missiles or whatever – and we were just running from them and we ended up taking off our shirts and I don’t know why but we were Skins and they were Shirts. So we’re running all over the parking lot, and this guy that was at the show comes flying in with him pickup truck to our side of the field and he’s like, “Hey! Here you go!” I didn’t know what he gave our guitar player, Nick, but he gave him a Mortar Tube…
Yeah. So Nick … I just see this thing lit – and I thought it was a Roman Candle and then I hear: PHEW! You don’t hear anything or see anything and then right by their trailer it lit up the entire sky and the air was just so smoky! And it lit up everything so bad that all of the Emery guys just froze and went into a panic and we started shooting more mortars at them. They all jumped into their van and rolled down all the windows they could and cracked the doors and came riding around to do a drive-by at us … And our bass play, Brett, lit a hundred black jacks and threw it in their van door right as they slid it shut. So you just see in the their van – it’s all smoky, and you just see it lighting up in there. I guess one of them – like Toby – had just like a Roman Candle after they’d closed everything and so the Roman Candle goes off in there and every and it was just AWESOME!
That’s probably the best thing you could have possibly told me. Haha. That’s awesome!
You go out with bad boys like Emery and you’re bound to do something dumb. But it’s always one of those fun memories. The only casualty was that the drummer got a huge sore on his arm from a firecracker and our van got a headlight blown out – and that was it.
O man. Dude, that sounds awesome. One of my friends back in Palmdale accidentally lit an M80 while he was holding it. It totally blew off one of his fingers, they had to sew it back together. Bunch of crazy stuff. I don’t even know how that happened. But your story sounds a lot more fun.
Yeah it was fun because nobody got too hurt.
Too jacked up. That’s awesome. You have any last words on anything, man?
Uh … just thanks man – for doing this. We’re really excited – obviously – on this album. We’re not really a … like we … I guess we don’t really expect much. We’re just doing what we’re doing and we love what we’re doing. So as far as this record goes, we hope that whoever likes it will get it. That’s really all that matters.
Well, I love it. I really like it a lot. I’ve been listening to it. I figure a lot of people probably say that after they’re done with interviews, but I really do…
No! Haha, they don’t always say that. I appreciate it.
Absolutely, well thanks, and good luck as you guys continue to play and do well. Maybe we’ll get to meet up and talk sometime in the future.
What city are you in?
HM is in Taylor – right outside of Austin, TX. But I’m going to be living in Albuquerque. I’m just interning out here at the moment and I’m not sure what’s going to be happening in later dates, but maybe if you come through Albuquerque or something like that we can be in touch or something.
I just want to say, dude – thank you for being positive about the album. I know it means a lot to the label to hear that, you know? Obviously everybody that has invested in our album – as far as business wise – if somebody’s excited about it, then in their eyes it’s a success. It looks good on us, and we’re still a really small band. We aren’t a really profitable band, yet. To hear people be positive about what we’re doing, even thought a lot of people may not get it – it means that much more for them to be able to hear that. I really appreciate your emails to Jeff, and I really appreciate your attitude. You know, if you didn’t like it you wouldn’t be that way. I’m glad you like it – I know it’s something that you can’t control, but I just appreciate that you told somebody.
Dude, absolutely. Absolutely. Anything that I can do to help out – I really do want to do. Thank you for that. Thanks for making good music. Keep on keepin’ on.
Yeah – and if you’re dad’s still doing the range thing, I may have to do that!