By Noah Hubbell
By Leslie Simon
By Brad Lopez
By Tom Murphy
By Noah Hubbell
By Inkoo Kang
By Dave Herrerra
By Josiah M. Hesse
"That's my complaint with the last album," Rundstrom says. "It's pretty wimpy -- too many slow and sappy songs. We're probably softer than when we started. I will say this: We are tighter, and we can play our instruments better."
Rundstrom may not break as many strings, and Gottstine (who has rejoined the band after leaving to be with his family) works his mandolin with more finesse, but the group has never refined or reined in its sleazy absurdities -- trailers, six-packs and dirt tracks -- or speed for the sake of speed.
Though Rundstrom has been clean and sober for a few years, he knows that decades of fast living, of booze, drugs and smoking, have killed him. "You are what you put into your body," he says. "I'm a firm believer of that. But everybody has to find that on their own."
The current tour will be built around three-day runs; on off days, Rundstrom will continue with alternative therapies, intravenous vitamin C, acupuncture and a strict, sugar-free diet. He's convinced that he's made the right choice; he knows the facts, but he also knows that for him, conventional treatments were just another way of dying.
"For the majority of cancer patients," he notes, "you get diagnosed, it's such a scary thing. The doctor says they're going to do chemo, which is a little bit of hope, and you jump at it. I think chemo is America's form of euthanasia, for the most part. They can't find a cure for cancer. It's ridiculous. One woman with breast cancer can walk into a hospital, and she gets chemo, and it clears it. Another woman gets the same treatment and it spreads through her body. The doctors don't change the course. They give her the same chemo. I don't know if that's because drug companies took doctors out on a Caribbean cruise and said, 'This is the drug we're pushing this year.' But if something doesn't work, you have to try something different."
As long as his body allows, Rundstrom will keep focusing on his music. He has solo projects planned, another release from the prog-rockish Grain and Demise, and a just-released Split Lip live album, recorded right after he was diagnosed.
"I love playing music," he says. "Doing chemo, I couldn't play. I went from 200 pounds to 140. I just gave up on music. That's ridiculous, because that's what I really love. I'm gonna keep going till I can't."