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The Diamond brothers fit into that small circle. Outside of his wife, Shelley, Robinson says, "They are the only family I've ever known. Everything that's been good in my life has pretty much included Josh and Jason at one point or another. They're the only two constants that have ever been in my life that have not been constantly bad."
Even if at times they quarrel like a gaggle of old women fighting over the pinochle deck at a nursing home, the chemistry they share has seen them through the bad times and has opened doors. Soon after Robinson's dad died, the threesome created a local cable-access show, Monkey Butt Sex, which eventually led to Robinson's being hired by MTV.
The twins also inspired Robinson to become a musician. Both had played instruments since their early teens -- Jason the bass and Josh the guitar -- and after hanging out and watching them rehearse, Robinson decided to follow suit. He chose the drums, he says, because "I didn't have the fucking patience for the guitar." As a drummer, he prefers the simplistic style of guys like Phil Rudd of AC/DC to flashy timekeepers who use every tool in the shed.
"All my drum gods are based on the same idea of feel over 100 percent technical precision. All the kids were jerking themselves off over Neil Peart, but there was just no feel there for me; it was like listening to a machine," Robinson says. "I totally appreciate what he does, and I obviously see where he took drumming to another level, but for me, I just don't care, 'cause there's nothing to it."
After honing his skills in several New York-area bands -- Splitscream, Squeal and Trust -- Robinson had pretty much given up on any rock-star fantasy; conveniently, the Diamonds had reached the same conclusion. So in 1997, with no intention other than keeping up their chops and hanging out, they formed Puny Human, taking the name from a song by the Gotham hardcore band Deadguy. Puny Human played exactly one show with its original lead singer -- "too Poison for our tastes, with his snakeskin boots and karate kicks," Robinson remembers -- before the band retired indefinitely.
In 1998, taking funds that he'd inherited from his father, Robinson and the Diamonds founded a New York City-based video post-production company called MBS Productions, after their cable-access show. But then Robinson's work on Monkey Butt Sex caught the eye of MTV brass and landed him the gig as a news correspondent, and he had to bow out of MBS to avoid any possible conflicts of interest. The brothers Diamond run the company to this day. Although their business collaborations ended, the trio continued working together musically, resuscitating the band and adding Jim Starace, former vocalist with such New York hardcore stalwarts as Norman Bates and the Showerheads, and Sere. In 2000, Puny Human released its debut full-length, Revenge Is Easy. On both Revenge and the band's new album, It's Not the Heat, It's the Humanity, Robinson displays a no-nonsense, straightforward approach to timekeeping.
Robinson's preference for substance over style carries into his everyday life, too. He doesn't give a shit about looking cool, and he doesn't suffer gladly the fools who disrespect him or his band because of his bigger-than-life television persona.
"Once the MTV thing happened, it became like a mission," he says. "This is not Iann Robinson and the Iannettes. This is not some band the MTV guy does to be cool. This is something I was doing before MTV, and I will do it when MTV has forgotten all about me. Playing drums is a part of my life.
"We've had a couple of hecklers, but I'm good at shutting hecklers up. So they usually turn that over to me. Every now and then you get someone who's got some shit to prove. Mainly the way we deal with that is we introduce the crowd to the idea that I'm not Carson Daly. If you say something bad about me, I'm going to bring it to you. And if I bring it to you, you better be ready to defend yourself, or I'm going to fuck you up. And I don't care about getting punched in the face, 'cause no one is selling me on the image of beauty. So if you want to go at it, I may get my ass kicked, but I'll be goddamned if you're going to talk badly about my band."
But Humanity, which is chock-full of balls-out, visceral rock, will inspire more boogying than heckling. The flawless Corsican interplay between Josh's unwielding groove and Jason's lucid, fluid bass lines can only be credited to their fraternal bond, and Robinson's solid drumming anchors the scuzzy underbelly of the "Champagne Minivan." Meanwhile, behind the wheel, Starace's muscular, Danzig-like vocals ensure that the entire crew is rolling stoned.
Puny Human is about to kick off a two-week tour, and its members can hardly wait.
"We don't tour that much, so for us, it's not a chore," says Robinson. "A lot of bands tour all the time, and it becomes like a job. I think once bands start seeing touring as a job, they should just stop touring. For us, it's two weeks away from whatever job we're doing, where it's just us sitting in a van listening to music, fucking talking and being dicks."
In a world filled with death and destruction, Puny Human is just what you need: an American band, coming to your town to help you party down.
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