Bad Bread Merge Detroit Punk with Milwaukee Rock
Rob Mack’s first Milwaukee band was a big band, the Brew City Big Band. But while swinging was fun, the Detroit native rushed at the opportunity to reconnect with his roots. “It was a chance to relive those punk days when I was a kid,” he says of his new group, Bad Bread. On their just-released album, The Other Side of the Knife, Bad Bread could easily be mistaken for a London punk band circa 1978 with its heaving riffs, one-two-three tempos and soccer chant cadences. Mack is upfront, singing with hoarse power and fierce determination on a set of spittle-sprayed originals.
Mack debuted with Bad Bread live on Riverwest Radio in 2015 with guitarist Patrick King, drummer Gabe Hammer and bassist Marc Ferch. “We ramped up real quick,” he says. “When we get together to practice, it flows. One guy will do something and the other three flow into it and after 30 minutes, we have a song.”
Ferch, who long ago played in one of Milwaukee’s first punk rock bands, Buck Byron and The Little Seizures, is happy that the Sex Pistols’ “Bodies” is the lone cover that repeatedly finds its way into shows. “We could throw more covers in but it’s just so easy for us to come up with original stuff,” he says.
One track from The Other Side of the Knife received airplay on WMSE in advance of the album’s release. “The Shakes,” a grab-by-the-throat plea by an alcoholic staring into the abyss, is four minutes of unhindered fear disguised as rage. It launches for a few moments into some tricky chording echoing the jazz side interests of Bad Bread members.
“We had a good punk scene in Detroit. I was surprised there’s still a good scene going in Milwaukee,” Mack says. “Between the new book on the history of punk in Milwaukee and a bunch of new bands, the scene here is gaining traction and getting bigger. The advantage Bad Bread has is that we are all friends and we’re a little bit older. Our expectations are realistic. Our egos aren’t that big!”
Bad Bread has ventured to Kenosha and Chicago and north to Green Bay. They have also been heard on Chaos Radio, an internet station dedicated to punk rock. “We’re not metal but we get along well when we play with metal bands,” Mack remarks of a recent gig in West Allis.
Although Bad Bread has begun adding reggae and other tangents to their sets, The Other Side of the Knife was recorded with Milwaukee hardcore producer Bill Stace to document the purely punk roots of the band. “Some say people have no use for CDs anymore,” Mack says. “I don’t think it’s true. A physical copy is a great way to distribute your music, to get it played, to hook up with other bands and to submit to festivals.”
He has no regrets about leaving Iggy Pop’s hometown and moving to Milwaukee. “When I came here some of my friends said, ‘Oh, man, how can you live down there!’ But I saw no burned down houses or boards on the windows. Milwaukee has a beach and a lakefront that’s really cool. You guys got it great!”
Bad Bread perform with Size 5’s, The Northside Creeps and Electric Adventure, on Saturday, April 22 at Bremen Café, 901 E. Clarke St.