Lead singer and songwriter Tony Sly discusses his time in punk rock and new forays into solo work.
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Right around the time that Green Day released Dookie in 1994, the California punk scene blew up and many bands—some that had been slogging it out even longer than Green Day, like Bad Religion (who is playing later tonight, at 9 p.m.)—experienced a residual surge in popularity. No Use For A Name, for instance, happened to form at the same time as Green Day in 1987 and ultimately signed with Fat Wreck Chords, the prominent punk label founded by NOFX’s Fat Mike. Although not a founding member (strangely enough, the group no longer has any founding members), Tony Sly has been the heart of the group for over 20 years now. We talked with the front-man about those formative years, his new solo project and a previous booking oddity in Toronto.
Torontoist: What do you remember of the California punk rock boom in the mid-’90s?
Tony Sly: We were touring constantly. There was no break. There was really no time to stop and see what was going on. It seemed like all the Fat [Wreck Chords] bands, everybody wanted to do their own thing. Everybody became a headlining band, like, “Let’s not tour together anymore.” That time was just really rushed, you know, because it was a lot of touring, a lot of partying, a lot of drinking.
Do you look back on them now as some of the best times of your life?
No. Hate to say it, but…the best times of my life are seriously with my kids. It was like a competition with all the other bands. Who can make an album first? Who can make the best album? Who can be the biggest band? Fat Mike was always kind of in control of that. I don’t think he wanted any of the bands on Fat to be bigger than NOFX. We wanted to just make music and tour. I do remember them as great times in my life. We’ve been to Malaysia, Indonesia, played shows in China. And Japan, Australia, I mean we’ve almost done all the continents. NOFX has been to Africa: Fat Mike always likes to be the first person to do everything so I would not be surprised if he tried to play a show in Antarctica.
Were the solo albums something you had been thinking about doing for a while?
Yeah. The whole time I was in No Use For A Name I was thinking about that and I just never had the time to do it because I was just so busy with the band. Our ex-drummer (Rory Koff), he started a snowplowing business so I was just, like, “I gotta do my own thing.” Because he was getting to the point where he only wanted to tour six months out of the year and be home for the winter. And I was like, “You know, the winter is the best time to tour.” Because all the bands try to attack summer and they’re up against the Warped Tour. I started a song project so I could tour whenever I want.
What do you miss about No Use For A Name when doing the solo work?
When you’re playing in a band, you’re more of a cohesive unit. Playing on stage, if you’re just really clicking and feeling good. In between songs, you got other people that are talking on the mike. In between songs when you’re solo, you’re just, “What do I say? What do I do?” You have an acoustic guitar, you’re not jumping around, you’re not really sweating.
Are your upcoming plans focused on the band or your solo work?
Band stuff is definitely a priority. Even though I have a release coming out on the 22nd and a record that I put out last November. It’s incredible to me to have all these solo records out and I’m not even touring on them. I’ve done little stints here and there in California, nothing major or all the way out to Canada. I do want to get No Use going again and that’s kind of my goal right now, is to get the band in the studio, have the songs, put out a record. And then we can kind of tour relentlessly like we used to again.
Any acts you’re looking forward to at NXNE?
I don’t even know what the line-up is to be honest with you. I don’t even know who’s playing. I’m completely oblivious. Is Bad Religion playing?
Is Korn playing?
I’ll definitely go see Bad Religion. They’re like my favorite band of all time.