RODNEY ANONYMOUS—AKA Rodney Linderman—hasn't changed much since the days when the Dead Milkmen were poking fun at mainstream American culture while simultaneously creeping their way into mainstream American culture via MTV. He might be even more outspoken now. In fact, I think I asked Linderman two questions during our 34-minute conversation—five minutes of which were actually about the Dead Milkmen.
Linderman—who was about an hour away from attending the Green Party caucus in his longtime home base of Philadelphia—has something to say about everything, which could be expected considering the Dead Milkmen's place in history as punk rock's foremost satirists. We covered the caucus itself, which brought together Jill Stein—a physician and 1979 Harvard Medical School grad—and Roseanne Barr ("Song ideas always get dropped in your lap"); the Velvet Underground ("One of the best examples of punk rock there is"); and—sure, why not—Joseph Stalin ("His favorite instrument was the theremin").
Then there are the Milkmen themselves. The band spent the better part of the '80s laughing at everyone else's expense. And while they could be seen as too jokey by some, history tells us that songs like "Nitro Burning Funny Cars" and "The Thing that Only Eats Hippies" are brilliant today. And "Bitchin' Camaro"? Okay, perhaps brilliantly stupid. Even though the Dead Milkmen made their reputation taking the piss out of everything, it's something Linderman doesn't take sole credit for.
"I think nearly every musician—at least in the music I listen to—is a satirist," he says. "You make music because you know something's wrong with the world."
Over the past decade the Dead Milkmen have become—albeit relatively quietly—more active. The suicide of original bassist Dave Schulthise in 2004 led the remaining members—Linderman, drummer Dean Sabatino, and guitarist Joe Genaro—and the Low Budgets bassist Dan Stevens to play a handful of memorial shows after a 13-year spell. In 2008, the band fired things up full-time, making it official at Austin's Fun Fun Fun Fest. And most people probably don't know that the Dead Milkmen put out a new record in 2011 called The King in Yellow, an album that's only slightly less silly than its predecessors, and just as venomous.
Linderman still writes about music for a weekly in Philly, covering bands that—like the Milkmen before them—are slightly off the beaten path. He takes jabs at modern punk rock, calling it about the furthest thing from punk out there. And he still has a soft spot for bands coming up in podunks across America that are distanced from music destinations.
"On a social ladder being a musician should be just above chicken plucker," says Linderman. "Better music would come out of it."
My conversation with Linderman not only proves he's never at a loss for words, but he's never at a loss for potential song ideas either, whether a Green Party caucus or attending a craft fair with his wife... in a cemetery.
"The really bizarre part was that a person was getting buried about 100 feet away," Linderman tells me. "I was talking to a friend on the phone at the time and he told me, 'Hey, that sounds like a Dead Milkmen song.'" Linderman pauses for a second and laughs. "Life sounds like a Dead Milkmen song."