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The making of 'Social Distortion' – by Mike Ness

Social D's frontman looks back on their self-titled album, which turns 25 this year...

We don’t always take the time to look at every album and accomplishment that the band has made over the years, but one of the main reasons why we’re commemorating the self-titled record is that it was such a pivotal point in our career. It was a couple of years after [1988 album] 'Prison Bound', which got us a little bit of recognition, and it came at a time when I was really trying to carve out our own niche and sound. I was listening to a lot of early American music, so writing songs like 'Sick Boys', 'Ball And Chain' and 'Story Of My Life'; they weren’t your typical punk songs, but I felt that because they were about real life that that was punk, since punk is about being real. And there’s nothing more real than real life. Occasionally when the punk rock police come around and criticise the songs for not being punk enough or whatever, I always say, ‘Well maybe you should listen to the lyrics to 'Ball And Chain’,' because it’s about hard living and getting through to the other side.

When the record first came out it started getting a lot of attention and some good feedback, and that gave me a lot of confidence in myself and my songwriting abilities. What’s been interesting is typically we never play any albums in their entirety, or sequence, or either really. I sequence a record a lot differently to the way I do a live show, but once we did it once I realised it actually works really well. It’s high energy – and they’re a great collection of songs to play. And being in the process of writing a new record right now, it’s been really nice to go back and revisit all of the songs, because I don’t usually go back and listen to my own music. Sometimes I’ll be in the middle of one of the songs and I’ll go, ‘What was I thinking here? This is a really interesting arrangement.’ So it’s been neat to revisit that song writing aspect of it as well. And then touring it has given the fans a completely different show. 

Musically speaking, I think Social Distortion is a great outline and a blueprint of our sound. I feel like the record that followed it, Somewhere Between Heaven And Hell, was an organic progression that went even further into American roots music. And then I wrote White Light, White Heat, White Trash and that was a bit different but still recalled elements of Social Distrotion. So I’m definitely very fond of the record. And making it was the first time we worked with a proper producer, who’s name was Dave Jerden, and he was cool because he kind of just let us do our thing. The budget wasn’t huge, but it was much bigger than what we were used to and it was nice to work with good equipment and recording gear.

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