All (the band)’s inception came about in the mid-80s from the remaining members of the Descendents after vocalist Milo left to study a PHD in Science. Having been a hobbie while they were at High school anyway it seemed a good time to rope in a new vocalist (Karl Alvarez) and form a band they could tour and commit to full time.
“The decision to start All was a decision to have a full-time band that was not going to be limited be other people’s schedules, the most conflicting of which would’ve been Milo with his science and so we started the band with no real agenda in terms of how long we were gonna do it.”
Although All was formed right after High School, Bill was better prepared for life on the road than the others, having already endured a stint with his idols, and fellow Hermosa Beach band, Black Flag while still at school, along with school pal Henry Rollins. Whereas the names Bill Stevenson & Henry Rollins are now creeping into legendary status, back then their heroes were Black Flag and especially guitarist Greg Ginn.
“Greg Ginn was a pretty influential person on me. I think that both Henry and I had learned some things from Greg about diligence and follow-through with respect to goals and applying a really thorough work ethic to what is seemingly just a big bunch of anarchy, which is the music business. He also showed me how to play the guitar. He gave me a different approach to songwriting and that’s the thing, you know. Our approach to songwriting is kinda like if Black Flag were writing popular songs, whereas with a lot of the pop-punk bands around now, it’s like, ok, if the Beatles had large Marshall amps… There’s a lot of difference between the bands now and what we do.”
I read a quote where you posed the question, “how are you supposed to really dig in and roll up your sleeves if you’re living some cushy thing?” Was that a reference to punk rock’s current apathetic nature?
“Oh, I just think it’s just a statement that would be true in many different applications, just the idea of not doing something half way.”
You hinted before that pop-punk today compared to pop-punk ala Descendents or All doesn’t really have much of an edge to it anymore. Does it bother you when bands like Blink 182 mention how much of an influence Descendents & All had on them, considering what they’ve turned punk into?
“No, I mean it’s flattering having been credited for creating a certain sub-genre of music. I don’t necessarily know how true it is, we had our influences in the beggining. But at the same time it’s satisfying to feel as though we may have been part of some continuum of moving the music around, Yeah, and I think with the Blink guys it’s nice for them to give props, whereas with a lot of the other bands who have made y’know, a lot of good fortune off something that sounds very similar to what we’ve been doing for 20 years, they haven’t given any props back.“
How do you feel about how they’ve taken the more accessible elements of All and adapted it for a more commercial audience?
“Well, they’ve focussed on one little narrow part of our sound and made it a little more palatable and introduced some social elements that we’ve never had – the kind of social abilities that are now part and parcel to being a modern day punk rock band, whatever that means. We’re socially inept and you’ll see when we play. That’s almost like a mandatory thing now for punk rock – it used to be that it wasn’t that way at all, but it’s changed.”
Building a career from the music business was something Bill feels was a natural avenue to take. While having produced records by many bands over the years the launch of his and guitarist Stephen Egerton’s Owned & Operated label has helped him promote these acts further and realise his goals in a way his mentor Greg Ginn would’ve been proud.
“Well, you know, in business and even in art or life there’s this idea, lateral expansion. So we started the band, then the next thing we did was we built a recording studio so that the next thing we did was build a T-shirt printing shop and then after that we build a record label. They’re just like logical steps because I don’t suppose I could be 60 out on tour in a punk band. Maybe I can be, but I think I would be laughed at more than I do now.”
A band which Bill’s particularly proud of on the label is ‘Someday I’, who’ve just released their second release for O&O. For All though, they plan to tour for the rest of the summer, bringing out a lot of the bands on the label with them. Just like the tireless work ethic of Black Flag before them All have all the qualities that bands today can look to and gain inspiration from. Whether they want to or not is something completely different.
All’s double live album with the Descendents ‘Live Plus One’ is out now on Epitaph