Interview with Benjamin Van Dyke

Benjamin Van Dyke: Teacher, music obsessive, drummer, composer, collaborator. 

“I have had one or multiple musical projects since age 14.  I grew up a fan, band member, occasional ‘zine contributor and show booker. 

I cut my teeth in the Long Island/New York DIY punk/hardcore scene.  Projects include: Silent Majority, SAVAK, Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy, Papa M, Free Republic (of soul), Cicada Songs, and Heartstring Songs.  

I got in the van for the first time around age 15 and those experiences changed me forever and continue to inform my life today.  The greatest number and most extensive tours were with Silent Majority, so I’ll focus on those vans/tours mostly.”

What was the catalyst, motivation, or inspiration for getting a van in the first place, specifically? 

Silent Majority was playing locally for a couple of years before asking me to join.  By that time, we were picking up steam and it was apparent that we needed to build on the momentum and play places beyond the surrounding suburbs like “the city” (New York) and surrounding states.  Soon we were booking weekend tours and our vans would take us up and down the east coast, to the Midwest, Canada, and across the country and back.

I can at least speak for myself, as a devotee of Rollins’ “Get In The Van” and inspiration from heroes like Fugazi, “success” was achieved by writing compelling music, putting on captivating shows, and getting in the van in order to bring the music to as many people as possible.  If we played to 5 people 5 states away, that was okay.  We knew if we did it well and did it again, more people would come the next time, and the next time, and so on.  There was no concept of commercial or financial success. Success was measured by being appreciated and respected in our little, self-selected community, locally and wherever we traveled. 

Silent Majority and friends outside of CBGBs. Photo courtesy of Benjamin Van Dyke.

Where/from whom did you get it? Did you know the background of this van when you purchased it?

Most of our vans were bought via “for sale” signs in van windows on the side of the road or the local penny saver/newspaper.  They were pretty much all purchased using a combination of band fund and some personal cash and became our singer’s daily driver when not used by the band.

Tell us about the van, year, make, model, color – did it need work, and did you do any DIY, build a loft, etc.? Did you give it a name?

We had many.  There may have been more, but these are what I can recall:

  • Yellow, mini school-bus
  • White, Late 80’s Ford Econoline? (no rear windows)
  • Black, Late 80/Early 90’s Chevrolet G30 Conversion Van
  • White, Late 90’s Ford Econoline (multiple, rented)

We rented Ford Econolines in Delaware for our last few tours.  There was a HC/Punk, van-renting connection there that made it worth the drive from NY before and after each tour.  Seems a little nuts.  

Indecision/Silent Majority Summer tour 1997 T-shirt. Courtesy of Benjamin Van Dyke.

On our Summer tour with Indecision and Milhouse, we rented an Econoline and cleared out all of the bench seats up to the very last bench.  We laid the drums, amps, merch, etc in one flat level from front to back.  We “procured” a mattress the first night of the tour and used it to fill the space from the front seats to the back, on top of the equipment and merch.  With the driver and navigator up front, the remaining 5-6 tourmates laid across the mattress like hotdogs for about 5 weeks from coast to coast (see attached Summer ‘98 tour dates) .

Silent Majority’s summer tour 1998 with Indecision and Milhouse. Photo courtesy of Benjamin Van Dyke.

Silent Majority in Baltimore. Photo courtesy of Benjamin Van Dyke.

Any funny or unique features?

One unique feature was the dash mounted boombox in our rented Mercedes van on European tour with Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy.  This “upgrade” made on day 1 was a testament to our dedication to quality music on all those long drives. 

The boombox became the centerpiece for our daily drives.  The albums played gave me powerful insight into the music that was inspiring the individuals I was playing with and whom I respected so much.  I took serious notes. 

Boombox mounted on dashboard on the Bonnie “Prince” Billy van. Photo courtesy of Benjamin Van Dyke.

Bonnie “Prince” Billy tour in Europe. Photos courtesy of Benjamin Van Dyke.

What’s the longest drive you ever did between shows? What was the first trip you took with it?

There were many, but the longest, most inhumane drive was on our ‘98 Summer tour.  With one day off, we drove from Omaha, Nebraska to Fall City, Washington.  It was definitely in the range of 30 hours of straight driving; 3 bands crammed into 2 Ford Econolines (lying on mattresses).  I recall physical pain, extreme unhealthiness, and a tremendous amount of delirium by the time we arrived in Fall City. 

Silent Majority’s Ford Econoline. Photo courtesy of Benjamin Van Dyke.

One of our first trips was intended to be about a week in a mini school-bus we bought just before the tour.  We had no time for customizations so we each claimed our very own green, vinyl bus seat and scattered the equipment and merch throughout the remaining space.  That bus died somewhere in North Carolina.  I believe we played about 3 shows on the trip, rented a van to get home, and never saw the bus again.

Silent Majority school bus broken down. Photo courtesy of Benjamin Van Dyke.

Did you sleep in the van, people’s houses, or hotels?

We mostly slept at peoples’ houses.  We would turn up at the show and try to grow or re-establish our network from prior visits as fast as we could.  This usually led to an offer from someone to stay over.  If not, the old, “anyone got a place we can crash,” during the set was employed, which were always the most interesting accommodations/experiences.  

As a vegan at the time, I made a point to pack a large plastic bin full of soy milk and other non-perishables that I stocked up on at the health food store I worked at.  That food helped get through the day and we would finish our nights at a Piggly Wiggly or Kroger to purchase pasta, sauce and cannellini beans bought on band fund to cook up at the host’s place while likely watching old punk videos, skate videos, or other creepy selections. 

Silent Majority asleep in the Ford Econoline. Photo courtesy of Benjamin Van Dyke.

1-2 people would always sleep in the van, mostly for security purposes.  The venues we played and people we stayed with were generally in areas that demanded some extra precaution.  Additionally, fleas, animal feces, and other undesirable conditions were common motivation to sleep in the van.  I remember sleeping one night in the van in Texas with the AC running the entire night for the reasons above.

On the rare occasion that we needed a motel, we would pay cash, use the name of our favorite skater or punk when asked, and load like 8 people into one room while obscuring the motel door with the van.  

Photo courtesy of Benjamin Van Dyke.

Were there any van rules you had? Or band rules in general?

One rule that evolved out of necessity was no bathroom stops unless 3 or more people had to go.  Stops were generally at a minimum because of tight timetables.  Not many rules to speak of.

Chevy loaded up. Photo courtesy of Benjamin Van Dyke.

What did you listen to in the van?

The van was always an incredible place for learning about new music.  The members of Silent Majority had super diverse musical tastes, so it was always a great opportunity to learn about new bands.  

Do you have any classic nightmare van/police/mechanical/crash/fire stories from tour or any other shows?

There is the story of just about every Long Island scene/band member almost getting killed in our van when it got hit by a bus.  That was the black Chevrolet conversion van.  Luckily, we were not on tour.  Fugazi was scheduled to play the PWAC (the venue many of the van occupants ran) and they needed barricades for crowd control.  So, they went hunting the streets for construction barricades and, boom… a bus T-boned them.  Many were injured, but everyone lived to tell the tale… the van did not.

Silent Majority with their black Chevrolet conversion van. Photo courtesy of Benjamin Van Dyke.
Chevy conversion van. Photo courtesy of Benjamin Van Dyke.

Or the “oil in the wrong hole” story, in which motor oil was being added to the power steering hole for a day or so when the engine desperately needed oil.  The engine ceased.  We junked it.  Rented a U-haul box truck to get to the next show.  Two members rode in the box in back until realizing it was filling with carbon monoxide, so all 6 people rode in the 2 person cab in the front, with the diesel engine threatening to run out of gas on rural roads with no diesel.  We arrived to play in a storage space.  

Silent Majority on the National Mall in DC. Photo courtesy of Benjamin Van Dyke.

Or the night we played with Rye Coalition somewhere in Virginia (I believe) and the Chinese restaurant attached to the club caught fire.  My cymbals were dropped mid-evacuation leading to a few cracks.

These were character building experiences. 

FIre at the Chinese restaurant attached to the club Silent Majority played with Rye Coalition. Photo courtesy of Benjamin Van Dyke.

Where did the vans end up?

They all died/got junked!

Any other entertaining tour stories?

Our van got broken into in Vancouver.  The directions to the venue led us to a park on the border of nice, safe Vancouver and the not-so-nice/safe Vancouver.  This was not apparent to us at the time. 

After about an hour of roaming the city, we returned to 3 individuals climbing out of our broken van window. 

Luckily, not much was lost.  But our precious dialer, used to make free calls on pay phones across the country, was gone.  The built up frustration from the experience led to one of our most intense and cathartic shows of tour in a small church that night.  

Silent Majority Live on tour. Photo courtesy of Benjamin Van Dyke.

The next day, we returned to the scene of the crime and found an individual trying to sell our dialer.  We confronted him and he took out a needle to fend us off.  We retreated and gave up on our dialer.  We filed a police report and ended up receiving an apology letter from the Queen.  Go Canada! 

Silent Majority Last Show. Photo by Pam Piffard.

How can we help promote any releases?

I am currently writing and recording an album.  I have 10 songs of drums recorded and moving on to other instruments.  For now, you can find content from current and past musical projects at: 

Instagram: @bvd_drums 

Chris Enriquez Presents: Age of Quarantine #34 w/ Benjamin Van Dyke of Silent Majority (04/25/2020)
Silent Majority – Full Set – Last Show
Silent Majority (Live at Revolution 6/11/16)
SILENT MAJORITY live at Saint Vitus Bar, Jul. 3rd, 2016 (FULL SET)
Silent Majority Live @ Life Of A Spectator Record Release Show – Common Ground, 1997

Lenguas: 4 ep’s

Cicada Songs – Salt Institute Show – Brooklyn, NY (2009)

Cicada Songs – Galapagos: Brooklyn, NY (2003)

I am honored to answer your questions.  I have been thoroughly enjoying the stories and pics on PunkBandVans.  One of my favorite activities on tour was to record shop.  The best moments were when you found a new release by a band you love and threw it in your discman or the van cd player to enjoy, dissect, and sustain you to the next city/record store.  

I distinctly remember picking up the Hoover ep on slowdime and it being a super happy day of tour.  With headphones on, I immersed myself in that record, figuring out every beat and nuance. I was obsessed and greatly influenced by Hoover and The Crownhate Ruin.  Your bands changed me, musically, aesthetically, sonically, rhythmically forever.  Thank you!

Interview with Doug Carrion from Field Day

Joe McRedmond interviewed Doug Carrion, bass guitarist with Field Day, Humble Gods, Descendents, and Dag Nasty, about a few of the vans he’s used to travel with bands over the last 35 years.

What was the catalyst, motivation, or inspiration for getting a van in the first place, specifically? 

I’ve had several vans over the years. Generally speaking, there’s one specific theme they all have in common: how to get the band and crew from point A to point B with all the gear safely, and within a certain time frame. On the surface that sounds easy, but it can be tricky, and there are a few things I learned along the way that might be helpful to someone starting out, or considering getting a van. These are not hard fast rules, but valid information I’ve stumbled upon after spending decades bouncing around from town to town, city to city, doing punk shows.

What is your budget?
How many people are traveling?
How much gear do we have?
To trailer or not to trailer, that is the question.

Budget:
Here is the philosophy I adopted after a conversation with Keith from Circle Jerks. Get a van that costs $3,000, and drive it until it dies. Take the plates off, rinse and repeat.
The idea is getting a mid-priced van. If you get a beater van, you’re likely to miss shows, and/or be dealing with breakdowns in the middle of nowhere. Which sucks (believe me, I know). Or if you get a van that’s too new, you’ll get killed on payments when you’re not touring. Basically, get one right in the middle, price range wise.

“My idea is to be as stealth as humanly possible at ALL times. It should look like a family van going to church.”

– Doug Carrion

It’s a work vehicle, so keep that in mind. I’m adding a wrinkle to this. If you get a van that looks like a beater, you’re gonna get hassled by the cops when you travel into small towns. I was always amazed that COC (Corrosion of Conformity), in the early days, traveled in a van with graffiti. I’d never do that. I never want to draw ANY attention to the band. On the other side, getting a van that is new, will get broken into when you travel to big cities. We all know crackheads love to rip off vans. My idea is to be as stealth as humanly possible at ALL times. It should look like a family van going to church. Very, very low key. In fact, I only wash the van once a week while on tour. I want it to look clean, but not too clean, and not so dirty that people think you’re the Manson family traveling around in a creeper van. Ultimately, what you want is a van that looks very average, but can drive from California to New York tonight, without any worry of breaking down.

How many people are traveling:
I like as much space as possible. I always aim for enough room where everyone can have a seat, and you have enough room for 2 people to sleep at the same time. Example: driver and co-pilot up front (2), one bench seat will fit another 2 people comfortably. A second bench seat will fit another 2 people comfortably. If 2 are in the loft sleeping, that’s 8 people in a traditional 15 passenger van. Why? On some days, you might spend more time in the van than actually out of the van. So make sure it’s set up the right way for comfort, or reduce your crew. On average, you’re gonna spend 6 hours or more in the van everyday. As of late, I’ve been wanting ALL the gear in the van, and try not to use a trailer. This brings up the question of how are you gonna build out the van?

There are a few ways to do this, you can research this on the net, but overall these are the go to designs:

  • The Firewall – Some way all the gear is behind a wall of some kind, built within the van.
  • The Loft – Also known as “the scratch stack.” All the gear goes underneath, and people sleep on top.
  • Using a Trailer – (more on that later).

I’ve used all these designs several times, and this changes depending on how much gear, and how many people are traveling.

The Dag Nasty bus was a loft at first, then became a firewall setup.
Dag Nasty Bonneville van – We used a trailer.
Descendents Econoline van – Scratch stack, gear underneath.
Descendents Dodge Ram van – Firewall with a mid-level loft in the back.

The last van I built out was 2 front seats, 1 bench seat, and a loft, with all the gear hidden underneath. I went as far as painting the windows in the back, and the last 2 side windows flat black. This van traveled 4 people comfortably, with zero way of seeing any gear at all times. Everything was hidden, and the dark windows made it easy to sleep during the day, because it blocked out a reasonable amount of light.

The van life…

If you’re a mid-range band playing 400 cap rooms, you can get away with a 15 passenger van for a while. If you all of a sudden start opening for a bigger band playing 1500 cap rooms, and that band is in a bus, you’ll be doing lots and lots of all night drives. Remember before, when I was talking about space to sleep and sit up? Here comes some advice from Eric of Die Kreuzen, “When we do overnight drives, everyone drives 100 miles and we rotate.”  Why? There is always some lazy bastard in the band that will pretend they can’t drive at night, forget their license, or whatever bullshit excuse to not be a team player, or wanna help out. So you gotta squash that shit right out of the gate. Everyone drives 100 miles on all-nighters. This way nobody is exhausted the next day. Even if you bring along someone to help drive/crew, you should rotate drivers for your own safety. Field Day rarely do overnight drives; we avoid them if possible.

A quick note on trailers. Don’t do it! I’ve come full circle on this a few times over the years, but in 2020, I’m firmly against them. Why? Trailers get stolen, are a bitch to park in a big city, suck in the snow, have speed limit requirements, and draw too much attention to you as a band. 

Believe it or not, you might be better off with 2 vans. One for gear and merchandise, and the other one for people.  To get more detailed, most insurance only covers the vehicle, not the trailer. So if it gets broken into, you’re out several thousand dollars, and stuck with no way to perform. I’ve noticed that places in the South with a border close to Mexico, like California, Arizona, Texas, and New Mexico, have a higher rate of trailers being snatched.  I’ve heard the gear ends up going to Mexico, to be sold on the black market.

“This is the Descendents 71 Econoline. 
Taken the same night as the one with the band. In Memphis 1985. Never before seen. Photo by my dad, Bill Carrion.”

What vans did you use, and where did you get them? Did you know the background of the vans at the time of purchase?

Descendents – 1971 Ford Econoline.
Bill got this from the Recycler. He and Chuck from Black Flag did the original inspection to check the engine. The van was a beater, but all we could afford at the time. No AC, no frills, with a wooden loft – scratch stack, no padding or mattress, just plywood. A cargo van with added skylight, and side windows that leaked 🙂 The van was so overloaded with gear, there was something like 15 inches between the loft and the hot ceiling. I was small enough to be able to flip over while sleeping, but Bill and Milo had to decide if they wanted to sleep on their stomachs or backs for the next 8 hours. With all that extra weight, the van went through 3 or 4 transmissions on the first tour. At one point the van died, and was towed to Lomita, where we rehearsed and lived, and was parked in the back of our small parking lot. While we were on tour with our second van, a Dodge Ram, the cops towed the Econoline away, and we got charged an arm and a leg to get it out of impound. Not cool. I have no idea what happened to it.

Descendents Second Van – 1985 Dodge Ram Van Extended.
Worked well, had the “firewall wall/low loft” set up. After I left the group, they continued using it. I think it ended with 300,000 miles on it. RAD 🙂
You’d have to ask Bill what happened to it.

Dag Nasty – School Bus (short version) wanna say it was a GMC.
I have no clue where Brian got it. I remember it was “3-on-the-tree.”
We had a few versions of the build, firewall and scratch stack.
At one point there was a mattress in the back, and Peter slept and read most of the time.

The second Dag van was a late 70’s used Chevy Bonneville.
This one had windows, and we opted to travel with a trailer.
We did a bunch of tours with this one.  It ended up back in
Los Angeles, and Brian used it as his main ride after Dag broke up.
I’d imagine he sold it here in LA, best guess 1989.

Humble Gods – 1995 new Chevy Starcraft conversion van with a trailer.

Field Day – We do mostly fly dates, so we rent 15 passenger studio vans.

Descendents 71 Econoline. Outside City Gardens. Photo by Ron Gregorio. 

Did the vans have any funny or unique features?

Descendents Van 1 – Radio with a cassette player, usually shorted out, and caught fire once. There was a small wooden bench seat that had a trapdoor. I used to put my hair products there 🙂

Dag Bus – No radio, no features. The school bus door was cool. Grab a lever and open the door.

Dag Bonneville – Very stock.

Humble GodsStarcraft – That had a DVD/TV set up. Electric folding bed. Kinda cool for a conversion van.

Dag bus. Photo courtesy of Dag Nasty.

What’s the longest drive you ever did between shows?

I wanna say an overnight drive from El Paso to Dallas, which is only about 9 hours, but in the older Descendents van it took almost 12 hours.
The other one was in the Descendents Dodge Ram, going from Toronto to Chicago in the snow, which ended up being about 15 hours.

Noteworthy: When we can, we route shows around the weather.
Example: in the winter we try to stay below Interstate 40.
You’d think that was something we would have learned sooner. Nope. Only in the last few years, especially with Field Day, do we route around the weather, trying to avoid missing shows because of snow.

Dag bus. Photo courtesy of Dag Nasty.

Did you sleep in the van, people’s houses, or hotels?

Descendents – Mostly overnight drives, and at people’s houses. I slept in the van a zillion times.
Dag Nasty – Mostly people’s houses, and an occasional 5 guys to a room at a Motel 6.
Humble Gods – Hotels, 2 people per room.
Field Day – Hotels, 2 people per room.

I saw the Dag Nasty School Bus at this show at the Chameleon Club in Lancaster, PA in 1987, where my band was an opener. Flyer by Jeremy Weiss, from the Ronn Mann flyer collection.

Were there any van rules you had? Or band rules in general? For example, the last band I was in had the following rule: “Don’t freak out, and don’t fuck up.” You?

Punkers don’t follow rules, you know that. No rules beyond “don’t crash”.  Overall, the van is a traveling locker room with funky sleeping options. Think about 7 roommates living on top of each other, for months at a time, in a tiny space. You don’t wanna be a prick, but there has to be some mutual balance and respect between the people traveling, or shit hits the fan. Oddly enough, van drama has a way of sorting itself out. For example,

…if you bring 8 pairs of chucks on tour, and leave your shoes on the floor of the van, chances are they will get kicked out accidentally, or on purpose…

at some point, because band member 1 is mad at band member 2 for not helping load out.  This happens 🙂 Most touring musicians know the basics of van etiquette. Be cool and be respectful or you get called out.

Descendents – Wet clothes in trash bags in the back. Other than that, no rules needed. Really easy guys to work with.

Dag – No rules needed, with the exception of Brian’s and Peter’s books. Brian would read a book a day, so we always had to manage what to do with all the grocery store best sellers on the floor. Ha ha. Peter was a bit more contained with his books and materials.

You have to be really self-contained to tour, or everyone gets pissed, and the drama builds up. I say, “Don’t be that guy”, and don’t create drama. I guess it’s about common sense, and reasonable behavior toward the group.  I have an interesting perspective that follows a 90%/10% rule. 10% of the time, you have to be a monster player, punctual professional, and all that, but the other 90% is how you are as a human being. Are you easy to get along with, are you nice to bartenders, servers, other bands, promoters, etc?  We’re gonna spend lots and lots of time in airports, venues, hotels, and vans together, so if you’re a spoiled, overly entitled person that is rude, or has a hard time making do and being flexible, it’s gonna be a bummer for everyone. Mainly you. As Bruce Lee says, “Be the water, not the rock.”

When you pull up to a gas station, and see trash cans, throw out all the trash. Taco Bell bags, old coffee cups, Subway sandwich remains need to go.

There will be tons of time you have to eat in the van while driving, and trash builds up. The other thing is, sometimes people need a ride from the venue to the hotel or whatever. It’s gross to get into a band van that smells like death, with food and god knows what all over the place 🙂 Ugh.
Also, you’re gonna get pulled over by the cops. If they see a van that looks like a frat house bar on wheels, you’re gonna get fucked with.

Anything that’s illegal, like drugs, weed, pills, firearms…whatever…if we get stopped, you own up to it.  

Dag Nasty and their Chevy Bonneville, Photo courtesy of Doug Carrion.

Do you have a classic nightmare van story from tour or any other shows?

Too many to tell. But what comes to mind is a drive with Descendents from Syracuse to NYC to play CBGB’s in the winter. We slid off the road 3 times during that drive. It was a “white-knuckler” for sure.  Dag getting snowed in on the 95 coming from Boston to DC, and having to sleep under a bridge in the school bus van. Got hassled by the cops for stopping.  One time, doing a snowboard festival in Utah with Humble Gods, and it started to snow, and the weather dropped, so the roads were icy. We opted to drive down the mountain at night after the show. Maybe slide our way down the hill is a better depiction of the situation. That sucked. Peter and I just had one with
Field Day in November 2019. We played St. Louis, and had to get to Chicago for a flight. There was a storm, and we crept our way through the snow for hours, sliding and driving into the storm. Kevin and I made our flights west, but Peter got stuck in Chicago, and had to overnight there. Ugh.

Where did the vans end up? 

Descendents Van 1 – Died, no clue what happened to it.
Descendents Van 2 – They continued to use.
Dag Bus – Died. Brian sold it in DC.
Dag Bonneville – Brian used for a while, and it sold in LA.
Humble Gods Starcraft – Brad kept it, and it was the first van Kottonmouth Kings used.

Are you working on any new releases? 

We have a new 7″ called “Field Day 2.0” that came out on Unity Worldwide June 5. You can get vinyl at Cortex if you’re in Europe or at RevHQ if you’re in the states.  The digital is everywhere…Amazon, Spotify, iTunes.

Field Day is mixing a new release called “Opposite Land” slated to come out November 2020. The vinyl will be available via Cortex and from our web store and digitally in all the usual places.

FIELD DAY CONTACT :
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FIELD DAY – SEARCHING FOR THE ANSWERS – HARDCORE WORLDWIDE (OFFICIAL LYRIC HD VERSION HCWW)

FIELD DAY – WE ARE THE CHANGE – HARDCORE WORLDWIDE (OFFICIAL LYRIC HD VERSION HCWW)