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Talking Detroit Jock City With Protomartyr’s Joe Casey

Ahead of the Detroit band’s Australia and New Zealand tour we had a chat about the Bad Boys and blowing up stadiums.

by Tim Scott
19 December 2017, 3:55am

Image: Ground Control Touring

Home to the Tigers, Pistons, Lions, and Red Wings, Detroit is a proud and historic sports town. Though their teams have given them little to cheer about in recent years, the city’s loyal sports fans have helped make it a place where players such as Isiah Thomas, Miguel Cabrera, and Steve Yzerman are as known and loved as Iggy Pop, Jack White, Suzi Quatro, and Eminem.

Protomartyr’s lead singer Joe Casey grew up playing little league baseball on Detroit's north west side. In the band's promo shots I've noticed him wearing Tigers caps. So as a big Detroit Pistons basketball fan, when offered an interview with Casey ahead of Protomartyr's upcoming Australia and New Zealand, I thought it would be a good opportunity to have a chat about Detroit sports.

The post-punk group’s fourth album, Relatives in Descent, has been batting well above .500 with many favourable reviews and mentions in 2017 end of year lists.

Noisey presents the upcoming February tour with shows in Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne, Auckland and Wellington.

Noisey: What are some of your early memories of Detroit sport?

Joe Casey: I remember the 84 Tigers winning the World Series. I would've been around ten so it was kind of a big deal. I remember getting the pennant and listening to the radio and all that. After that there was a bit of a lull. The Red Wings were still known as the Dead Wings, they were no good and it wasn't until the Pistons Bad Boys coming in was the next big exciting thing as far as Detroit sports goes.

The Bad Boys are my favourite basketball team ever. A team of true characters.
Yeah, what was so great, especially for a kid, was that all the Bad Boys had such cool nicknames. My favourite was probably Vinnie ‘The Microwave’ Johnston and then you had James ‘Buddha’ Edwards, Dennis ‘The Worm’ Rodman. That was back when t-shirts would feature the cartoon caricatures with the giant heads and the small bodies. Vinnie would be popping out a microwave.

The Pistons have now relocated downtown but during the Bad Boys era they played out in the burbs. Did you get to many games?

They did play downtown a little bit at Cobalt Hall and they did play at the Silverdome for a while but that was out in Pontiac and the Palace in Auburn Hill is quite a drive from where we are. I had friends who'd say “Hey let’s go see the Pistons”, and immediately you were thinking about having to drive an hour. So even though they were a hometown team they didn’t necessarily feel like one. Whatever you want to say about the new stadium, for all the shitty reasons as to why it was made, and the fact that they took money from public schools to build it, I will admit that it's nice that the Pistons are back downtown where they should be.

Have you been invited to throw the first pitch at a Tigers game?

(laughs) Hell no! We’re not even on the radar. Back in the 80s when they were really good one of the players Jim Walewander was a big fan of The Dead Milkmen. So there’s a picture of the Dead Milkmen hanging out with the manager Sparky Anderson in the dugout. We keep hoping that the Tigers will sign a real scumbag punk guy who will want to hang out with the Detroit punks. But I’m not sure if that’s ever going to happen. The days of bumping into a Tiger after a game are done, which is unfortunate because those days were great.

I imagine Jack White from White Stripes has thrown a first pitch or two?

Oh yeah, in fact he did a special baseball bat with our second baseman Ian Kinsler. You can buy the bat. But he’s musical elite where still, you know?

You and fellow Detroit band Tyvek are still on the farm team?
(ha) I’m going to guess that there’s probably just as many Australians who know about us as Detroit people.

So you don’t see any pro athletes are your gigs?

No (laughs) We try. There was one player, a few years so I forget his name, but in an interview he said “I like going to rock shows” and we thinking of sending him an email to see if he would come to a Tyvek show or something. Connor Barwin who plays for the LA Rams went to our high school. He was in Scott our bass players year. He’s like an indie rock football player who loves Kurt Vile and Parquet Courts and stuff like that. Scott has asked him to come to one of our shows but he’s always playing football. But when he played for Philadelphia he got us tickets for an Eagles game. That’s not so shabby.

Actually, the big sporting news here this week was that they tried to demolish the Silverdome, the stadium where the Lions and Pistons used to play and where Wrestemania III was held. They set it up explosives and after detonating it didn’t collapse.

You could make a snide comment or metaphor about how more fans watched the explosion than sat in the stands. And even then it was a bust/failure.

Yeah, we can’t even blow things up right.

I guess we should talk about your upcoming your Australian tour. You’ve been playing these songs for a while, how are they going live?

We’ve been playing and touring the record for two months now. When I recently got home from tour ( and this is kind of embarrassing), the only CD I had in the car was our record. So when driving around I was thinking, “Man this stuff seems slow". It doesn't sound powerful. When you play it so much it gets so much faster and tighter. So by the time we get to Australia we will be very sharp.

Finally, who'd win a game of three-on-three between members of Protomartyr and Tyvek?

It would depend who is currently playing in Tyvek. They rotate so much. If they had Larry and Matt we would definitely lose but if they had, and this is not to knock them, but if they had Fred Thomas and Shelly and Kevin I think we would put up a challenge, I would give it to Tykek just because I don't want to insult them.

Noisey and Mellum presents Protomartyr 2018 AU/NZ tour:
Feb 15 - Brisbane at The Foundry
Feb 16 - Sydney at Oxford Art Factory
Feb 17 - Melbourne at The Curtin
Feb 20 - Wellington at Valhalla
Feb 21 - Auckland at Whammy