Dr. Neptune on early ambition: "We started working really hard at everything but our music"
Dr. Neptune (due this Friday, November 22 and Saturday, November 23, at 3 Kings Tavern) became one of the more popular punk bands in the scene before disbanding for good in 2006, after a couple of vans broke down as the band was making waves on the Warped Tour circuit and in talks with a Sony subsidiary about a record contract. The group struck a chord with its infectious melodies, sense of fun and absurdist humor; the fact that the band put out an EP called DRN EP Tunes is a good indicator of the level of the act's self-deprecation, disguised as cartoonish bravado.
Now Dr. Neptune is reuniting for a pair of reunion shows this weekend at 3 Kings Tavern, as part of two-night extravaganza dubbed Punx Not Dead...We're All Just Really F'n Old featuring Dr. Neptune and a ton of other punk acts, including Boldtype, Red Stinger, King Rat, Potato Pirates, Frontside 5, Stuntdoubles, The A-OKs, Pitch Invasion, Allout Helter, Dead Ringer, Straight Outta Luck, False Colours, Plan-B Rejects and the Skulls. We spoke with the irreverent bunch about their origins and reasons for getting back together again.
Westword: When did you start Dr. Neptune?
Gabe Dickenson: I started the band in like 1994 in Fort Collins at fourteen years old with Steve Roberts. With random bass players through junior high.
Ross McAfee: With random equipment they got from a junkyard.
Where did you play in 1994?
GD: Our first shows were probably in our church youth group.
RM: Someone lit a fire in the pit at that show, right?
GD: No, someone smashed a guitar through the stage. But you could write people were on fire. Finally a show came through. We didn't know what we wanted to do, and we liked grunge and stuff. Smashing Pumpkins. We didn't really know what underground punk was. Less Than Jake came through town and played at the old high school gym. That was the first concert where I felt at home. That was basically what I was looking for. It was definitely something to do in that boring town.
Presumably you saw Dr. Neptune before you joined, Natalie?
Natalie McFall: I think I saw a couple of shows.
RM: Whatever. You were our biggest fan!
NM: Not early on. My mom wouldn't let me go out and do anything early on. Maybe when I was seventeen or eighteen.
RM: Darin [Bowman] joined the band next in '98. I moved to town in '99 and joined in 2000. Nat was at every show.
Darin Bowman: I went to high school with Gabe, and he invited me to a party at his house, and I was singing along to "Titty Twister" by Dieselboy, and he and Steve had a secret meeting where they said, "Oh, he's a pretty good singer let's invite him to sing for our band." Then they invited me, and I didn't know I could do anything musically then, and I have since confirmed that I still cannot. It only took a long time to admit, and I'm doing it here.
And you've been the singer since?
DB: Yes, voice like an angel. There's not a moist panty in the house. Not a moist panty? I always get that wrong.
GD: Do you remember hearing about punk shows at the Tornado Club? It was a gay club. It was a big thing because you could go there at eighteen.
RM: We used to see Descendents, All, Wretch Like Me, Someday I, Made In China and Longshots.
DB: This is what happened, we got so big they couldn't fit us -- our egos anyway -- that they couldn't fit us within the city limits of Fort Collins, so we had to move to big, beautiful Denver in 2001. Then we really wreaked havoc on the scene here. Our egos got as big as the mountains are majestic. Anyway, when we moved here we didn't really know anybody.
RM: Some people took us under their wing, like Gina Go Faster, King Rat and Misunderstood.
DB: Those were all bands that we thought would be cool to be at that level, like Reno Divorce and Gamits.
NM: Wasn't our big break Tiger Army and the Nekromantix at the Bluebird?
RM: What happened was Lars Frederickson and the Bastards had canceled, and NIPP was really worried. I told Peter Ore to put us out on it, and we would flyer it like crazy. It was a good turnout, and they just kept giving us shows after that. So we realized, well, if no one likes your music just work really hard and you can get some shows. So we started working really hard at everything but our music.
DB: Pretend like you know what you're doing and good things will happen.
RM: Our apex was when we came up with the idea and the balls to drive to Texas, not knowing what was going to happen...
DB: No, it was when Anthony Delilli, of King Rat, his old band, Special Ed, used to play the parking lots.
RM: In 2003, we played with them in parking lot at Warped Tour and security told us we couldn't play there, and Ant said, "We do this all the time." So they moved us to the head of the line, and we figured why would Denver be the only place you can do this? So we met up with them in Las Cruces and played, and Kevin Lyman came out and shook our hands. We thought he was going to tell us to get the fuck off the tour. After we finished a song, he was stoked and we told him if he was cool with it we would play the next day, and he said, "Yeah!"
We did it for three weeks, and the next year it was an official stage -- DIY stage. Boldtype came out for some of it. Single File, we met them there, too, on the East Coast. We would run that stage, and we started getting to go play the Ernie Ball stage, too. Then we broke down two tour vans inside six months.
DB: We're punk rock, man! You can fucking quote that!
RM: I started stage managing Single File around that time, and that's when the band broke up.
NM: We had some good shows after that, like with Bouncing Souls.
RM: But we were done, emotionally. I had a kid. We weren't going to buy another tour van. That was 2005.
What about that music video that made kind of a big splash?
RM: We had a contract with Emergent Records, which was a Sony Distribution thing, and that video was part of some ten years of Dr. Neptune kind of thing. The video was for "Help Me Help You." We definitely want to give credit to Jeff Klein and Tyler Ford. They did a killer job. They were called Neutral Collective back then.
Who organized this show?
DB: "Loud Mouth" McAfee over here.
RM: They call me. "Talkter Neptune." Luke Schmaltz coined that term because we talk eighty percent of our set.
Who named the show?
RM: That was me. It's just nostalgic for the scene in the early 2000s. But it was really tight at that time. I still think it's really cool, and that's why all these new bands are on it, too.
DB: Aaron Neville may be making a special appearance; you never know. He hasn't tweeted me back. If he shows up, you'll be the first to know, I promise. Honestly, it may sound cheesy, I'm just glad people wanted to do it.
RM: We didn't know if anybody would even care, so we figured if we put good bands on the bill, people would still show up.
What was the origin of the name of the band?
GD: Me and Steve Roberts, the original guitar player, and I had a neighbor, kind of an old, ex-hippie guy named John Angelotti. He had video tapes of cool concert recordings. We asked him, because we were toying around with the idea of having a band, what a good name would be. He suggested Dr. Neptune's Torque Bars. Keep in mind I was thirteen when I heard this. So we just shortened it. This was a lot of beers ago. It stuck for some reason, and we never changed the name. Good names are hard to come by, and I still don't know if that's a good one.
RM: When screamo started getting big, we almost changed it to Autumn's Last Fall to Ashes.
So you've been broken up for seven and a half years?
RM: Yes, our last show was in March of 2006 at Bender's Tavern.
Obviously Natalie has been in that great punk band Straight Outta Luck. Did the rest of you continue with music?
RM: No, Nat's the only one. Well, I run Noise Gate Audio Studios with Bart McCrory of Motaland. Gabe plays steel guitar, and we play old school country music. We haven't been gigging yet. Darin just continues to do lots of drugs and fuck bitches without using a condom, and now he's pregnant.
Who facilitated the reunion?
RM: Me and Gabe were the last holdouts.
GD: I thought of it as a fun idea before we talked about it.
RM: Jim Norris and Jeff Campbell kept bugging about us, not in a bad way. Every time Nat would be in there, they would ask us when Dr. Neptune was getting back together. 3 Kings is by far the coolest bar in Denver.
GD: Dr. Neptune never got a nail in the coffin.
RM: We never had closure, and that's what this is about. That, and it's fun.
Has it been easy getting back together?
Dr. Neptune: Ha, ha, ha, ha.
Punx Not Dead...We're All Just Really F'n Old, with Dr. Neptune, Boldtype, Red Stinger, Potato Pirates, King Rat, Frontside 5, Stuntdoubles, the A-OKs, Pitch Invasion, Allout Helter, Dead Ringer, Straight Outta Luck, False Colours, Plan-B Rejects, the Skulls and secret guest, 6 p.m., $15 for 2-day pass, $10 each day, 303-777-7352, 21+
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