FLEXIBLE FLYERS
THE STORY
Interview with Flyers bandleader Dr Toddzilla (A.K.A. Todd Perkins) by Allen Olwen.

AO: It sounds like you've been a busy guy recently, writing, recording and engineering this CD.

DT: That's no lie! Writing, recording, playing, singing, doing the artwork, beating the other musicians (laughs) and overseeing the business stuff...oh, and the engineering...but I was helped out in major ways too. These guys I call the Flyers really made it happen and were very inspirational and supportive to a crazy shell-shocked monomaniac like me. I'm very lucky to have some really good and cool friends. Chris
   
Gooseman, another great friend, was absolutely instrumental in mixing and mastering the thing...I'm still learning so much all the time doing this.

AO: Church Of Dreams has some songs with contemporary themes, but with a very kind of 60's-informed feel...was that intentional, or did it just happen or what?

DT: Well, I did grow up in the 60's, and that's my reference...I was listening a lot to Psychedelic bands as I was writing these songs, the great Dukes Of Stratosphear CD, the Nuggets Collections, late-period Beatles...not that I'm gonna be able to write like that, I just sort of stumble along into a song (laughs), but that stuff was certainly floating around in the air then. Of course at my place it often is...I did a lot of the original tracks in my studio at Shabby Road, and my friends would drop over and play and the whole song would change. Having someone like Vino, Charlie or Danny, any of those guys, playing just spins a song around sometimes and makes you have to completely rethink it, which is cool. I realized after a while that it wasn't really a Dr. Toddzilla solo CD, not really, and hence the christening as the Flexible Flyers. As I said, I'm just very fortunate to know these folks. They've all listened to the right stuff too, we're all flying in approximately the same airspace.

AO: Mention has been made of your, ah, overindulgence of certain substances in your past, and some of the problems you faced due to that. Do you mind talking about that, and does it tie into your state of mind you had while writing?

DT: I don't really mind, it was a long long time ago...I did take amazing amounts of LSD and other Psychedelics, I was fascinated with them and really thought that it was the way to reach cosmic conciousness at the time. Well, hell, if it had really worked we'd all be out beyond the confines of time and space, right? Which would've been great! I think there were rather a lot of us hoping for that. I might have been a bit intense about it. As it was I did sustain some damage, certainly. I had to learn to talk all over again, I was in and out of institutions for a while, I was considered schitzophrenic by some doctors but it's all worked out and I really don't regret it. I learned an enormous amount. Those experiences do change you though, and many of my songs are reflections on that. The first song, "Isobel Is Flying", is partially about myself and the idea that we can pick up our broken selves and trancend. There's a lot of hopeful songs on the CD, some dark ones too, but a good deal of them are based around hope and love, I think my relationship with Cynthia inspired a lot of that. And if some of the songs are a little crazy, well, chalk it down to the brown acid (laughs).

AO: Your bio is pretty colorful...Street Theatre and Lightshows for the MC5?

DT: The Street Theatre was at Western Michigan University in Kallamazoo where I used to drop into classes in the 60's...we lived there in a crazy commune...which was pretty radical stuff for a stuffy Midwestern town. You'd have a guy in camo with an M-80 chasing a guy dressed as Uncle Sam down through the mall...or a group of us dressed  in alligator costumes rising out of the pool at the school and menacing the students. Fun stuff! We just wanted to make everybody's day a little more surreal, make them question their reality a bit. We also did a lightshow company, did lots of shows in Kalamazoo and some in Grand Rapids and Ann Arbor...we did shows with the MC5 several times, partied with them too, some crazy guys. Later when I lived back in Ann Arbor again I got to know a lot of the people at the old White Panther house. Around that same time I kind of fell in with the Schultz Food Band, some of them were living at the commune, many of those circles intersected and overlapped. I started writing poetry for the group and then got into playing later...it was pretty freeform, free jazz, everything you might play was right, which was a wonderful introduction to improvisational music...pretty cool for a 16-year-old in '68.

AO: How the heck did that translate into playing blues with Snooky Pryor, Madcat Ruth and Big Dave and the Ultrasonics?

DT: It translated pretty directly. The Food Band's Sax player Rob Baccus was a wonderful guy and had an amazing record collection. He was nice enough to take the time to play a spaced-out young hippie music from Lightnin' Hopkins, Albert Ayler, Sun Ra, John Coltrane and Muddy Waters amoungst others. That was the start of it for me...later when I got myself together a bit I played with Boogie Woogie Red in Ann Arbor at the old Blind Pig occationaly, some of the other older players like Uncle Jesse out in Hamtramack, guys who were very nice to me and taught me a lot of the ropes. And I was lucky enough to study with the amazing Jazz teacher Morris Lawrence at Washtenaw College, too, which was a great opportunity.

AO: And yet you wound up being the Touring Bassist for Hard-Rockin' Boogie Guy Michael Katon!

DT: Well, heck, I played in a LOT of rock bands as well! Besides, Mike plays mostly Roots Rock and Blues himself...just really really loudly!

AO: What's Mike's take on the Flexible Flyers?

DT: I think he's bemused by the whole thing. Our tour schedules don't conflict or anything, since the Flyers are just playing very selective shows, in different configurations...

AO: Do all the players ever gig together as a group?

DT: God, I hope not, 'cause then we'd have like five drummers at once! (laughs) No, really, we have a couple of working units that I assemble depending on the show and peoples availability... a lot of these guys have bands of their own, like Billy Mack, who I in fact play bass with in HIS band. And Vino and Charlie are in the Buzzrats, who I play with in the studio sometimes. It's sort of like a Co-Op.

AO: Or like a commune?

DT: Ah, like a commune! Back to the 60's again! Except this time I get my OWN toothbrush!


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