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It's probably the most unhappy I've ever been as an adult," says Dan Aid, frontman for the Wiredogs, the band previously known as the Hate. He's referring to the group's name change, a stressful process that involved wading through hundreds of possibilities.
"The reason for the name change was mostly because we brought in a drummer, and we sort of re-evaluated at that point," explains Aid. "It made sense to have a name that incorporated the four of us at that moment in time and represented us at that moment."
He and his bandmates — bassist Mark Hibl, guitarist Austin Searcy and new drummer Stefan Runstrom (who played with Tickle Me Pink) — had been close to choosing the Linesmen, inspired by the men who put up the first power lines across the nation, a job with a 50 percent mortality rate, with most dying from electrocution. But when they discussed it with their manager, who had been in the military, he suggested the Wiredogs, after a nickname servicemen had for electricians. The band agreed.
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"We felt that Wiredogs did a good job of representing all four of us and who we are right now and where we want to go with the music," says Aid.
While the name is solid and represents a new chapter in the group's history, there's also a certain amount of irony attached to both it and the one the guys passed over. One of the toughest and most emotional events Aid has endured in his life was being shocked by an electrical power line. He was visiting his grandmother in San Miguel Allende, Mexico, when it happened. He was just twelve years old.
"I was up on a balcony at her complex, and basically went to look over," Aid recalls. "There's a cement wall around it, and I went to look down in the street, and there was a high-tension power line on the other side of the cement wall that I never saw. So when I put my hands on it, I accidentally laid my right hand on that wire and it blew me backwards, actually — the force of the electricity — off the building.
"I landed on my head," he continues. "I fractured my skull, like, seven inches, and basically spent the summer in a Shriner's Hospital in Sacramento in the burn unit. They did preliminary surgery to see how much damage had been done, because electricity basically keeps damaging your body for hours after it hits you because of the heat. The heat that passed through my body was hotter than what steel melts at."
While Aid, who had been playing guitar for a few years prior to the accident, had his right hand and part of his arm amputated, that didn't stop him from playing. When he got back home, one of the first things his father, who was also a guitar player, did was sit down and make a device to pick the guitar — a sweatband with a pick at the end of a wooden stick.
"I think one of the reasons I was drawn to punk rock in the first place was...," Aid says, pausing for a beat. "Honestly, there was a part of me that was really afraid of failing at being able to play leads. I can't fingerpick. So I think I was drawn to punk rock because here are people who just strum their asses off, basically, and it was the first music where I heard it on the record and went to play it and it sounded right. And I think that sort of influenced everything I've ever done since."
Aid wears his guitar low, even though he can't reach all the strings, and the edge of the guitar pick can be heard scraping across the strings. You couldn't hear that on previous recordings he's been involved with, Aid points out, because his guitar parts got cleaned up in production. But on the Wiredogs' new four-song EP, The Resistance, he says, you can hear what his guitar playing really sounds like.
And, he insists, the EP, which was recorded live in the studio at Black in Bluhm by Chris Fogal of the Gamits, sounds like the Wiredogs. Part of that is because of the people involved: "To be a punk-rock band working with a punk-rock producer guy in Denver and to be able to take it to Jason Livermore at the Blasting Room, it's the perfect production team for this record, and you can hear it on it." Another key to the album's sound is the way it was tracked.
"Having that energy of the room and the four of us all looking at each other, listening to the same click, listening to every part — if one of us made a mistake, the four of us went back there and fixed it as a group," he continues. "That comes across on the record. It sounds like us. It's the first record I've ever made in my life that sounds like the people who made it, and it sounds like they made it together."
"A lot of classic records that you hear from the '60s and '70s that were recorded live, you listen to them, and you can just kind of feel it a little more," Hibl adds. "We wanted to capture that, because our live show is a big part of what we do and who we are. It's just as important to us as the recorded music, so we wanted to be able to kind of meld them together and capture the live sound."
Taking a few cues from Rancid, Against Me! and Bad Religion, the Wiredogs kick off The Resistance — which Aid says is more aggressive than last year's Authors — with the visceral, in-your-face "47515," a song about the estimated 47,515 people who died between 2007 and 2012 as victims of the drug trade in Juárez. Aid came up with the lyrics for "Am I the Resistance" after looking through photos of young men in Somalia, thinking about his own efforts to help organize protests with the Colorado Coalition for Middle East Peace around the first Iraq War, and thinking about how safe it was for him, as an upper-class white male, to arrange a war protest and go out there and shake his fist.
"And then you look at somebody — like a kid holding a machine gun, or a man holding a shovel and a tank coming at him," says Aid. "So there's two voices in the song: One is the voice of looking at these kids thinking what it really is to resist something when your life depends on it, and also thinking of what it's like to resist something as a white upper-class American male, and that dichotomy."
"Those first two songs are kind of similar in ways," Hibl says. "One thing I love about Dan's lyrics is that there's a lot of depth, and you can interpret them in different ways. So both of those songs have kind of been about people being exploited, people who were being taken advantage of for someone else's agenda. That's how I've always seen it. It goes along with our message so well."
The band's message, Aid concludes, is that, "we — all of us — are authors of the future. We write our existence every day, and the choices we make and how we build our lives. This record, in particular, deals with those questions about when you are going along with something because it's just what you're doing in life, and you're mindlessly not really engaging with anything, and when are you making choices to stand up, to take a different path and make a choice to go in a certain way."