Over the past 20 years, No Use for a Name frontman Tony Sly has achieved pop punk God-like status on par with folks like Ben Weasel and Joe Queer. The band’s records became almost a prerequisite for any kid with a skateboard and distaste for Top 40 radio.
After two decades with NUFAN, Sly is putting out a solo record. And the most surprising thing about the solo album – aside from the quieter sound – is the fact that he hadn’t put one out before now.
The 12 Song Program is a departure of sorts from Sly’s previous work (which, along with label mates Lagwagon and NOFX, helped to define the Fat Wreck Chords sound). The acoustic-guitar-driven record is void of any power chords but just as powerful as anything Sly has ever committed to tape.
Innocent Words: What can you tell me about the 12 Song Program?
Tony Sly: It’s pretty basic in production; we just went for the “guy playing in a room” sound. I think the songs are very different from one another and that it was a chance for me to write without any one direction. It was recorded all with one guitar with dead strings, and we had to make the vocals sound worse at times. We weren’t looking for a big production because it gets to the point when you start to defeat the definition of what you are doing, a solo record.
IW: Punk rockers have a great track record of putting out these fantastic acoustic records. As a long-time punk, what is the appeal to you of writing a personal, acoustic album?
Sly: No strings attached. No listening under a microscope and spending a couple months on it. I think this one took about two weeks all in all. So, as a songwriter with a bunch of songs that couldn’t be on No Use records, I came up with this idea as a way to let everyone hear what I do in my spare time. I don’t think it sounds like No Use. If it did, I would just put these songs punked up on the next No Use record.
IW: Anyone play on the record with you?
Sly: Yes. Karina Denike sang on seven songs! I usually do my high harmonies, but these were true female range parts, and she sang them spot on, of course. Also, Darius Koski (Swingin’ Utters) did some accordion, Fat Mike played bass on a song and Joey Cape (Lagwagon) did some vocals. My friend Joe (Cuzzi) played on it too.
IW: Was it any more intimidating to write/record an album like this or the split you did with Joey Cape? Knowing that you’re the primary focus of the songs?
Sly: Well, that was just stripped down No Use songs. I had a hard time making those acoustic at the time. Some punk songs should never be made acoustic. And you for sure cannot always turn an acoustic song into a punk song. I don’t hear one song on my new record being made into a punk No Use song, and that’s what I like about it – the difference. So, this was easier. Not as intimidating. I wrote a song a day for three weeks and kept the good and threw out the bad.
IW: What’s the future of NUFAN?
Sly: Another record, more touring. We still have to put out a DVD some day that documents the whole thing. I’m aiming for the 25th anniversary, so in three years? I don’t know. I am starting to write some No Use songs at the moment.
IW: Was it a surprise when Dave (Nassie, guitar) announced he was leaving?
Sly: Yes. I was kind of shocked at his choice. He was in this band for 10 years. I mean he joined a band that tours a lot more than we typically do so I get that, more tours more money. But I don’t know. We didn’t want to have someone filling in on tours all the time because he couldn’t make this show or that show. It would have been too much of an inconvenience to No Use for a Name. I mean everyone has side projects, but No Use is not a side project. We are a full-time band; Bleeding Through is a full-time band, so we mutually agreed as to what was best for both bands. We needed someone permanent, so we got someone permanent, and we are happy with the way Chris is working out.
IW: Chris (Rest, guitar) from Lagwagon recently joined the band. Any more lineup changes?
Sly: That has to be the last one I hope. Chris is such a great guy and a great player. At this point in the band, it wasn’t as stressful to get a new person. Not because we don’t care but because we function very smoothly and have touring down to a science. And Chris is a “plug-in and go” type of dude, so it was easy. No more line-up changes. Maybe it’s every 10 years? So 2020, will be the next?