Written by A. Iwasa
A feature and short Q&A with Dan Dittmer, visual artist and musician from the Southern California and South Dakota hardcore scenes.
Dan Dittmer is a musician, visual artist and tattoo artist in Hopkins, Minnesota. I first became familiar with his work through the liner notes in Rode Hard, Put Away Wet: Clevo HC '89-'93 by Face Value. I looked up his old band, Straight From The Heart (SFTH), and was instantly impressed by what I consider to be the pure hardcore sound (as opposed to the more punk first wave, or more metal later waves). His visual art has included a contribution to Death Shriek, a horror comic anthology based on underground death metal.
Dittmer's comments in the Face Value liner notes led me to believe he'd be an interesting person to interview, so I sent him a few e-mails, and this is what ensued:
AI: How did you become involved with hardcore?
DD: I got involved in the hardcore/punk/metal scene in the early 80's in Southern California (Camarillo, CA). In junior high I started listening to early metal, punk and new wave bands. I saw the raw, angry, aggressive emotion of punk/hardcore and metal and immediately fell in love with it. Fortunately, Oxnard/Ventura/Pt.Hueneme were short drives so I was able to go to some epic shows. My first show was at the Camarillo Airport and the bill included - Habeas Corpus (local kids), DV8, the Rotters and Bl'ast!. After that show I knew this is all I ever wanted to do. So I started bands, a zine and eventually started booking shows. So it's been 40 years now and I still go to shows (not as many) and play in bands (not full time anymore, but just for fun).
Have you been in any other bands aside from SFTH that played shows and recorded?
I had been in a bunch of bands since I was 12 or so. The most notable ones were - CIVIL LIES(CA), DIGNITY(CA), SFTH(SD), MAN VERSUS(SD), 11 STRAP (SD) and HOPE YOU CHOKE(MN) (members of HOLDING ON, REAL ENEMY & BODIES LAY BROKEN).
SFTH was definitely the band that actually did tours and recorded tapes and records. We have a 12" vinyl coming out on RABBIT RABBIT RECORDS (from Illinois) entitled, "SAME SHIT, DIFFERENT DECADE". It has recorded/unreleased tracks, demo tracks and live on KTEQ RADIO STATION tracks. The album artwork was done by the amazing DONOVAN (who did our 7" cover as well as art for OFFSPRING and GREENDAY). RABBIT RABBIT will also be releasing an 11 STRAP LP early 2023 with all new recordings!
Were you already a performing musician when you started doing artwork for bands?
I was actually an artist first, then a musician (loose term). I had drawn shirt designs, flyers, sticker designs and zine art since I got into the scene. I literally can't remember all the bands and zines I did art for. I know one of the last ones was for my buddies in EDGEWISE.
It was a relief to read in your liner notes to the Face Value collection that you had some cool things to write about going to a house show at Tony Brummel from Victory Records place, Club Blitz. Would you care to expand on that?
Ha, first off, Erba and I have known each other for 35+ years. I met Tony Erba at Mt. Rushmore when his family took a vacation there and I was working in the gift shop. He was wearing a YOUTH OF TODAY jacket and I immediately talked to him and invited him to the hc show that night. We then would write to each other, exchanging tapes, shirts and stickers. When SFTH was on its "MTD 7" TOUR", we ended up playing CLUB BLITZ (Tony Brummel/Victory Records house) twice in one week. The first time was with TRADEMARK and LSD from MILWAUKEE and Tony paid us $40 or so. The second show was at the end of the week with FACE VALUE and the promoter for that show (was NOT Tony Brummel) took ALL of the money and bailed to leave on vacation. So FACE VALUE and SFTH had to panhandle for gas money to get out of Chicago. Very lame! :(
Tony Brummel has a pretty notorious reputation in the hardcore scene. I've, personally, never had a problem with Tony. Several times, as I passed through Chicago, he'd always let me crash at his place (usually the VICTORY RECORDS warehouse). Even when I was all stinky and with my daughter's mother, he'd let us crash and was very accomodating. When SFTH played with FACE VALUE at his house, he let me hand pick records from the "rare VICTORY RECORDS" bin at his house and sold them to me for cost. (INSIGHT on purple, BILLINGSGATE on white...). Two of the fondest memories from that show was Erba singing backups to SFTH's version of MOTORHEAD's "ACE OF SPADES '' and meeting Skinhead Lajuan Harris. Both of whom I'm still friends with today.
The Legacy of Death - Death Shriek comics seem like a really cool idea, but the volume you were in was sold out by the time I found out about it. Do you know if they'll do a volume three, and would it be something you'd do again?
I know there was talk of a Volume 3 of DEATH SHRIEK. But I don't know if it ever came to fruition. Dennis/Death Shriek had asked if I wanted to do art for it and he'd be in touch about the deadlines, but I never heard back. I know Dennis was busy with his band (featuring Cannibal Corpse members) and toy store.
I'd love to do more illustrative work. At one point I was going to do a DISSIDENT CLONE comic, but the band dismembered.