AUSTIN – God bless the internet, for once, really, because four years ago, the popularity of the band Death bubbled up in online music communities. For a band that sounded punk before the punk era, in the early and mid-’70s, it’s kind of amazing that, today, they can hit the road with those same songs plus release new music and give Death a re-birth.
The music model today isn’t always forgiving to its old rolls, particularly to bands that never released under a major label, never toured, never caught on radio and frankly didn’t have an audience until stacks divers of this century had their hands on the “Politicians in My Eyes” b/w “Keep on Knocking” 7″ single and converted it to digital. This rare story of three African-American brothers making “hard-driving Detroit rock ‘n’ roll” music in a time that young black men in Detroit were better known for Motown is captured in the new film “A Band Called Death,” released this month via Drafthouse.
Founders Dannis and Bobby Hackney, along with adoptive Death member Bobbie Duncan, sat down with HitFix earlier this month. After four years of recounting their incredible story of resurgence, they had their talking points down, and exuded a positive, generally good-news vibe, whether it was about their late brother and spirit-guide-of-sorts David Hackney (“David is right here with us.”) the role of race (“In some situations we were too black, in some situations we weren’t black enough… rejection was all over the place.”).
I was most curious about what they thought of the punk era: Death broke up in 1977, with no following or opportunity to play big markets like New York or London. Yet then along came “the Clash, the Sex Pistols, Patti Smith… me and Dennis nudged each other,” Bobby said in our interview, “and [said] this used to remind us of some of the stuff we did in Detroit.”
Watch the full interview above for what else they had to say on “claim to fame,” their plans for a Drafthouse release of new songs and what helpful thing Smokie Robinson had to say.