Geeks ’r’ us
Bobby Joe Ebola and the Children MacNuggits stay hungry
When you think of bands that have come out of the East Bay over the past two decades, Bobby Joe Ebola and the Children MacNuggits isn’t likely one of them. But the group—made up of core members Dan Abbott and Corbett Redford—has been at it since 1995, mixing DIY ethos, biting satire and comedy with songs that blur punk and folk. (Describing their music is about as easy as deciphering the ingredients of an actual Chicken McNugget.)
In a recent interview, Abbott took some time to answer the CN&R’s burning questions about punk rock, longevity, and why Weird Al could totally take Henry Rollins.
CN&R: Bobby Joe Ebola and the Children MacNuggits were sort of left out of the 924 Gilman Street scene [in Berkeley] early on. Tell me more about that.
Dan Abbott: We actively tried to book shows there in 1996, when we were first starting. Not because we were punks, but because it was the only all-ages venue in the East Bay. I get it, we didn’t look punk, and our sound didn’t fit into anything people understood. We looked and sounded like suburban dweebs, which we were. And Gilman simply ignored our repeated requests for booking.
The people running Maximum Rock’n’roll and Gilman at that point were dealing with the fallout from Green Day’s success; punk was figuring out what to do next. How do you continue resisting society’s ills when all of a sudden society is complimenting you on your great style?
A year and a half later, however, a lot of new people were active within the Gilman collective, some of whom had been influenced by the festivals we’d put on, or just had a different perspective on art and music. We got to play some great shows there, and by 1998 were starting to headline.
Tell me about Geekfest. It sounds like a cross between a Star Trek convention and a punk show.
That’s not too far off. We invited a bunch of our friends’ bands, rented a generator, and cooked up some cheese-filled hot dogs. We set up at this place in Richmond called Point Molate. It had been a Navy fuel depot, but when Clinton decommissioned a lot of military sites in the ’90s, Point Molate got the ax. As Geekfest became more of a regular thing, we realized we liked the unpredictable nature of it. We didn’t listen to demo tapes. Bands would just call our hotline and ask to be booked. And so we got a mix of really weird bands, scary and terrible bands, touring bands, kids playing their first show, and sometimes, the most amazing band you’d ever seen. All in one afternoon.
Do you identify more with Weird Al or Henry Rollins?
Weird Al, no question. I like that Henry Rollins does so many things and calls it like he sees it, even if he does come off like a douchey L.A. jock sometimes. I don’t always agree with him, but I’m glad he’s out there saying it. But he’s got nothing on Weird Al.
Do you think the “jokey” aspect of what you do has hindered or helped?
The things we’re writing songs about are often so god-awful that a bit of gallows humor is the only way to approach them without coming off as either cartoonishly angry and preachy, like Rage Against The Machine, or ridiculously self-pitying like, say, Morrissey. We couldn’t do that, and our fans probably wouldn’t be fans for long, either.
How have you and your audience changed over the past 15 to 20 years?
These days we’re less likely to think something is funny just because it’s offensive. Some of our old fans have come to our shows and brought new friends, and sometimes even their kids! We’re pretty happy to see folks from the old days, back when none of us really had any thought of living past 21.