Interview with Mudpuppy

We got on Zoom with Dee Struction (they/them) from Arizona riot ghoul band Mudpuppy to talk Minecraft, growing up Jehovah’s Witness, and keeping the scene inclusive.

A “mudpuppy” is a type of salamander. have you ever had one, or a similar species, as a pet? if not, what pets have you had?

Dee: I have a gecko, so it’s along those lines. I wish I had a salamander, I love salamanders, I think they’re funky, fun little creatures. I’ve always been a classic dog person. I had a cat once.

I used to have this huge parrot my brother found in the middle of the street, waddling on his merry little way. He was like, “Hey, do you want this?” and I was like, “Um, I guess.” So we took it to the vet to make sure it wasn’t diseased or something, and they’re like “Where did you get this bird?” and we were like, “My brother found it walking in the street.” And it turned out to be an exotic bird. It turned out to be a parrot from the Amazon or something.

So, we just had this exotic bird in our house. He was evil, he was a demon. He hated my whole family except me, which made me feel so powerful as a child. I felt like I could speak to animals or something. He found a way to get out of his cage, and we wouldn’t know, so we’d be in the middle of dinner and he’d just start attacking my dad’s legs. He is now buried in my grandma’s front yard, which is very nice, and a tree grew from where he was buried. Kind of nice story. His name was Jumba.

I have a terrible goldfish story, too. I think I was six, and my sister was going to one of those wild churches that have carnivals and stuff. I grew up Jehovah’s witness, so we didn’t have anything, we just sat there. My mom was like, “You can go to the Halloween carnival.” I was six wearing a Bratz doll costume, which was a military style dress with fishnets and the name tag said “Major Flirt” on it. I was like, “Thanks, I’m six. Very cool.” There’s a lot of weird plot holes in me growing up Jehovah’s witness, like this costume.

So, I won a goldfish at this carnival, and I took it home. We had a horrible little vase with rocks and plants and a snail. I woke up to feed him one day and he was dead. My sister just started crying, and was like, “Don’t look at it!” and covered it with a blanket and wouldn’t let me near it. We kept procrastinating taking it out of the bowl, no one in the family wanted to touch it. Over the course of a week and a half the snail ate the fish.

What’s your usual gas station order?

Dee: I’m partial to Kwik Trip, they have the best food there. It’s always a grilled cheese with a crap ton of garlic butter, despite me being horribly lactose intolerant. And then usually salt and vinegar chips or the lime Cheetos. And then just a Red Bull. My intestines are gonna feel terrible, eviscerating myself from the inside out. But just vibes.

You radiate a callback to the riotgrrrl/riotghoul movement, how does this ideology translate into the present-day music scene?

Dee: Riot grrrl was a huge inspiration for me when I started making music. Growing up I listened to it a lot, because my mom was really into 90s grunge and punk and stuff. That was important to me, and definitely spaces where feminist ideals are the backbone of it. A lot of DIY spaces honestly just are horrible to be in. There’s a lot of gross men, it makes me want to gouge my eyes out. Then you find these pockets of people who are so passionate about activism and feminism, who really, really support you. It’s definitely there. I like the way riot grrrl has evolved. It’s definitely a lot more intersectional now, especially since I live in Tuscon and the majority of people I’m around in the scene are Latino. It’s really cool to see that intersectionality. It’s not so much like, “Yeah, women!” but also support for trans and nonbinary people.

When I was 13 or 14, I started getting really obsessed with the 90s punk movement, the riot grrrl movement, the grunge movement all of that. I was the typical edgy 14-year-old like, “I’m no longer religious, I listen to Nirvana.” All of that. Like you said, there’s a lot of positives, but a lot of festivals that were organized were run by transphobic feminists. You can’t be a feminist if you’re transphobic, so run by TERFs and stuff. It’s nice to see a shift where it’s not exclusive. Even though I’m not a girl, I’m nonbinary, people perceive me as a woman, so I still experience misogyny.

Not to be like, “Oh my god, it sucks.” But it does. If you’re gonna be mean to me, just be mean to me. You don’t have to go to a misogynistic length. No one cares about incels.

How have you gotten creative with making music and upholding the band after being almost a year into the pandemic?

Dee: Quarantine started, Jesus Christ, March? I was still in school. Everyone was like, “Oh, it’s just gonna be an extra long spring break.” I was like “Haha, okay.” I can’t believe it’s gonna be almost a year in quarantine, since I graduated. I don’t even know who I am anymore.

Anyway, with quarantine I struggled a lot with finding my creativity. I was trying to find this middle ground between “I’m never gonna have this much time ever again, so I need to take advantage of it,” versus, “We are in the middle of a pandemic so I can’t be putting all this pressure on myself to be productive.” Really just a nightmare. Just terrible.

Before quarantine, Mudpuppy broke up. There was this lag where I wasn’t creating at all, I was in a band for five seconds, but we didn’t even get to play a show. I was just depressed and being like, “Damn, Mudpuppy’s dead.” And then quarantine made me super depressed. It was really hard to be creative, but once I started letting myself exist, I was able to create more. Instead of being like, “I can only make music, that’s all I can make!” I started painting and decorating my room and things like that. Finding creativity when everything feels like it’s going to hell is both hard and very easy. Because you’re just stressed like, “Am I gonna die tomorrow?” and then you’re like, “I can write a song about that!”. Should I be freaked out about it, or just write something about it?

We’re constantly conditioned to be like, you’re not a person unless you are producing something. When you’re a little kid and they’re like, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” and you’re like, “I wanna be an astronaut, I wanna be a power ranger!” and then all of the sudden people are like, “Well, you are gonna have to go to college and do things.” I wish there was a power ranger college, that would be sick. That’s all you’re conditioned to do, eat sleep, wake up, go to work, be miserable, repeat. You know? It feels weird to not be doing things. I was still in high school when lockdown happened. Because public school is a mess, it was a terrible transition going from in-person to online. It was such a weird feeling to not be waking up every morning and doing a routine where people are expecting things of you. It was also relieving. It was a very weird time.

Now I’m just sitting here. No one’s asking me to do things. My mom’s like, “Can you do the dishes?” and I’m just like, “Yeah.” And then I just go back to doing whatever. The cool thing about that is I have finally played Minecraft. That’s the cool thing about having all this time. Everyone’s obsessed with Minecraft YouTubers now, and I don’t know what any of those people are saying, but you know what, I’m happy for you.

One of my friends and I have been playing Minecraft for hours every single day. I’m such a beginner, I recently mined redstone for the first time and it blew my mind.

Sarah: Do you remember on Jakob Armstrong’s gaming streams when he had the hole that was just full of chickens?

Dee: I put a hole in my basement and I just put a pig in there. We’ve created multiple worlds, like I have one where I just run, and the other one has a house in the mountains, and in another one we took over a village. Each one has a hole with animals in it, and I blame Jakob.

I just want him to start streaming again, that was my last source of serotonin. I’m gonna knock on his door and be like, “I’m literally begging you on my hands and knees,” and he’ll be like, “Get out of my house,” and I’ll be like, “Okay, but only if you do the streams.” And then he will, but he’ll get a restraining order against me. I’ll take one for the team.

You do some vocal effects that are very 80s, like DEVO sort of. What’s your favorite 80’s banger?

Dee: Being told that sounds like DEVO is the coolest compliment I’ve ever received. God, I don’t know. It’s between “This Town Ain’t Big Enough for the Both of Us” by Sparks, because every time I listen to that song I feel like I’m in a movie, and then probably “Like A Prayer” by Madonna.

What are some of your non-musical influences?

Dee: Oh dude, horror movies. I feel like if a therapist heard me say this, he’d be like, “We’re gonna need to talk about this.” But I was watching horror movies when I was like, six. I remember my mom would be like, “We’re watching this today.” And it would just be some 80s horror movie, and I’d be like, “Thanks, I’m six.”

Sarah: This is another Jehovah’s Witness plot hole.

Dee: From 0-7 I wasn’t involved in church at all, and then from 7-13 my parents were like, “We need to go to church twice a week, and we’re gonna do all these things, and you can’t listen to these things.” And I was like, “I’m seven and you’re the reason I’m listening to Slayer. This is your fault, don’t blame me.” Was I a Jehovah’s Witness or did I make it up?

Sarah: I had a Mormon phase when I was about 12. I got invited to go because I was vulnerable and didn’t have any friends. They called themselves the Church of the Ladder-Day Saints so I didn’t understand I was going to Mormon youth group. That went on for about six months. And then their moms got mad at me because I was passing around Justin Bieber fanfiction, and I wasn’t allowed to hang out with them anymore.

Dee: Jehovah’s Witnesses are insane. I could go on about being Jehovah’s Witness because they’re literally bonkers. I’d say things like, “I listen to Fall Out Boy,” and their parents would call my parents and be like, “Our kids can’t talk anymore.”

I don’t know how my parents thought I was going to grow up straight because I went through a whole phase where I wore nothing but Timbs and muscle tees and Snapbacks. In middle school I hung out a lot with the boys in the congregation, before adults would say we couldn’t hang out together because we have hormones. We would have weekly church functions, which was lit by the way. I kind of miss those. Everyone was a little homophobic, but the food was good. We used to play sports and things. I was so aggressive playing football that the parents unanimously decided we couldn’t play football. I ruined the fun for everyone.

But anyway, 80s horror movies. They’re so poggers. I like Sleepaway Camp. That’s a good one. Overall, my favorite horror movie is Candyman. That was the first horror movie that traumatized me and scared the crap out of me. I didn’t sleep for four days. Since then, I’m not scared of scary movies. I’d be like, “This stuff is lame!”.

You guys have been very vocal regarding your activism, how do you believe artists can use their platform to keep the scene safe and engage in social justice?

Dee: We have to start by shifting the idea of being like, “We need to punch people” to “We need to protect people.” And then punch people, you know what I mean? The most important thing is stopping it before you have to start punching people, and calling it out. We have to make it unsafe for predators. Yeah, I wanna punch these guys as much as the next person. And I have, and it’s a great feeling. Trust me. They can’t be in these spaces where they feel like this is something they can do. You have to make that very known, and put those boundaries first, and call it out publicly.

Finding resources for, being there for, and listening to victims. And wondering how we can move forward from that. It’s never gonna stop, but you can prevent them. Part of it is breaking that cycle, and making those spaces unsafe for people who are gonna do those things. Over the summer, I also called out a band. Deplatforming predators and removing them is very important, but also I feel like people put so much focus on being like, “Yo! These guys suck!” it takes energy away from actually doing things.

Sarah: That only works when people are mad at someone, too. There will be situations where everyone knows someone’s a predator, but kicking up a fuss doesn’t work. Nobody listens when everyone still loves the guy.

Dee: It’s accountability. When you see something, you have to say something. Reach out to the victim and be like, “Hey, I noticed this. I want you to be safe.” It’s such a touchy thing because you don’t want to tell someone’s story before they’re willing to speak up about it. But you don’t want to stay silent. It’s a strange boundary. I am still figuring out how to walk that very tight line. I see something, but what can I do about it without jeopardizing this other person or putting myself in an unsafe position? It’s rough.

People need to be willing to do stuff. People are more concerned with saying the right thing than actually doing the right thing. There’s a lot of people who will be like, “Kick abusers!” and then don’t do anything.

When everything was happening over the summer, people would be like, “Here’s another alternative.” And it was more white men, and a week later they would also be called out. It’s not just straight white men that can be horrible, but…part of making scenes safer is centering voices that aren’t cis straight white men. Where I’m from, there’s a lot of POC, but it’s made so unsafe for us we don’t show up to support our scene.

I’ve been involved in my scene since I was 15 or 16. People were openly saying racist things at shows to me and other people. This sounds literally fake, it feels like a movie where they try to write dialogue between teenagers and tackle a really hard issue but it sounds like aliens wrote it. But I was at a house show, and there were sirens coming down the street. And this girl goes, “They’re gonna call ICE on you.” First of all, that’s the best thing you can come up with? Second of all, why? You people are insane.

Those little things, it makes me not want to go to shows. Everybody around who could’ve been like, “Maybe don’t” were like, “Haha!” and didn’t do anything about it. It’s centering BIPOC and LGBT people more. Not that they’re exempt from doing horrible things, but it can help make it safer.

Because we’re so detached from seeing these people in the pandemic, it’s been a lot easier to engage in these conversations and call people out and hold them accountable. When you’re around people, you don’t want to say things, because you’re worried they could do something to you. My concern is that people will forget about these things, and then use quarantine and stuff to be like “They had time to reflect, we’ve all moved on.” That’s like a huge concern of mine.

Arizona has some UFO sites. Do you believe in aliens? Explain.

Dee: Oh my god, absolutely. I’m so glad you asked me that. I’m a huge believer in aliens. I don’t know what’s more scary, being the one planet in the entire universe that has life, or life being out there. I just don’t think it’ll be little green dudes. That’d be cool, but I’m sure there’s other forms of life out there. It’s so impossible to live in this expanse and be the only ones here. Like a Horton Hears a Who kind of thing.

Who’s your celebrity crush?

Dee: Oh, Jesus Christ. Definitely Frank Iero. I don’t know if it’s because I want to be him, or be with him. I don’t know. I’m in love with that man, and nobody can do nothing about it. And also Tessa Thompson. If she came up to me and was like, “I need the heart of a young person so I can live another thousand years.” I’d just plunge my hand into my chest and be like “Here you go, there it is, there’s my heart.” And Brodie Dahl. Those are my top three. Another person I wish I was.

I’m seeing a lot of cake imagery in your logo and your merch design, if you could share a slice of birthday cake with anyone dead or alive who would it be?

Dee: Oh my gosh. I think I’d honestly want to share my birthday cake with Joan Jett. She seems like a fun person. I watched the Bad Reputation documentary once a week to keep me from going absolutely bonkers. Who do I have to pay to hang out with Joan Jett for five seconds? I have the pyramid of needs, and the top is Joan Jett and the bottom is sacrificing myself to Tessa Thompson.


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