Peter Cortner Interview!
Dag Nasty’s Peter Cortner Returns To Music With The Gerunds
The following interview is available exclusively at CrackerHammer!
It’s a cold, crisp Sunday morning in January, but the heat’s on inside Bucks County’s New Sofa Sound recording studio, where The Gerunds are laying down their first demo tracks. This Philly six-piece band is the new project for ex-Dag Nasty singer Peter Cortner, who’s been away from music for nearly 20 years.
Back in 1986, Cortner was playing around Washington, DC in a band called Protem when he noticed an ad in the local paper: DC hardcore punk band Dag Nasty was looking for a new lead singer. “ I decided to audition pretty much as a joke,” he explains. “And, things just went from there.” From 1986 to 1990, Cortner was the lead singer for Dag Nasty. During that time, the band released two studio albums: 1987′s Wig Out At Denko’s and 1990′s Field Day. The band toured relentlessly around the U.S. and Canada. Near the end of the Field Day tour, it all suddenly ended. Cortner was back in DC when he received a phone call from bassist Doug Carrion telling him the plug had been pulled on Dag Nasty.
Shortly after, Cortner moved to Philadelphia and went to law school. “I tried to work as a lawyer for about two years, and just really hated it,” says Cortner. “It really turned out that what I liked was the teaching process, how teachers went about introducing people to almost an alien way of thinking. And, from there, I just thought, well, maybe teaching is what I should explore instead.” Cortner went back to school for education, and now teaches elementary school kids reading, math and social studies in the Philadelphia school district.
Musically, he’d been dormant since the breakup of Dag Nasty. He’d blamed himself for the demise of the band. “It wasn’t that I wanted to stop making music,” he explains. “It was that Dag Nasty actually convinced me that I shouldn’t be making music. I had the feeling that if I had been holding my own in that band, it wouldn’t have stopped.” Then, in 2003, he made contact with a songwriter named Hunter Bennett on a Dag Nasty message board. For several years, the two traded files back and forth online. Bennett provided raw guitar, bass and drum tracks, and Cortner added vocals in the comfort and security of his own home. Editing software allowed him to tweak his performance until he and Bennett were happy with the end product. They named their recording project The Gerunds.
Eventually, a local band called The Thirteen, consisting of Dag Nasty fans Joe Iacovella and Sal Cannestra, invited Cortner to come see them live. Cortner’s reaction was very positive: “I loved them so much that pretty much the next day I called them up and said, ‘could I kind of hijack your band? Make The Gerunds a real thing?’ And they said, ‘Yeah, sure.’ It all got going from there.” Joe and Sal handle guitars and backing vocals. The addition of Mickey Lynch on keyboards, Ben Goldberg on bass and Paul Colucci on drums transformed The Gerunds from a home recording project into a legitimate performance band. Hunter Bennett has since moved to DC, but still contributes songs to the band. “He refers to himself now as ‘Boyce Hart’,” says Cortner, “because he’s the sort of unofficial songwriter for us, after the two guys who wrote songs for The Monkees.”
Besides Bennett’s songs, The Gerunds also perform a few Dag Nasty songs. Peter Cortner has come full circle, from punk singer to lawyer to schoolteacher and back to punk singer. He sees similarities in all his professions: “Punk rocker, you gotta get up in front of people who, some of them are on your side, some of them are not, but no matter what you have to keep going and put it out there. Walk into a courtroom as a lawyer, it’s exactly the same thing. Walk in front of a high school class, exactly the same thing.”
Cortner continues teaching, maintaining The Gerunds as a side project for now. He believes each of his jobs helps him perform better at the other. “Right now, I’m teaching first grade, which is actually the most fun I’ve had teaching in all the time I’ve taught, and I’ve taught a lot of grades,” he explains. “But one of the things I realized when I started performing with these guys is that it’s really not that different from my day job. Because, it’s the same thing. You’re up there, and you don’t have a choice. You’ve got to go, you’ve gotta roll with it. And I definitely do my best teaching when I perform for the kids.”
Likewise, his years away from music and the encouragement of the members of his new band have renewed Cortner’s enthusiasm for live performance. “You know, the people I had to please in Dag Nasty were the other guys in the band,” says Cortner. “It never really got to the point where I could stop thinking about them, like I felt comfortable with them, like things were going good with them. These guys are so encouraging, so obviously having a great time playing, I don’t have to worry about that anymore. The fact is, if we play to nobody, or if we play to a crowd that’s completely indifferent, I don’t think it would make that much of a difference. Because we’re having such a good time. You know, it’s like, maybe what I needed to was have a band made up of fans in order to make it work. Because I just feed off of them.”
The Gerunds are experimenting with a sound influenced not just by hardcore, but also by new wave and alternative. During his musical absence, Cortner absorbed everything from The Descendents and The Minutemen to Joy Division, and even Serge Gainsbourg and Scott Walker. “You know, big influences that I had to sort of push out of my mind when I got into Dag Nasty were Teardrop Explodes, Echo and the Bunnymen,” Cortner explains. “You know, if I’d had my druthers, I might have been doing music more like that, than like Dag Nasty. But Dag Nasty just seemed like such a great opportunity. The downside was, they’d already had a singer. They had in mind how they wanted the sound to go. And it was like, do that, or don’t do anything. So, once I got together with [The Gerunds], it was sort of like, well, all the stuff I really wanted to do, why not do that instead?”
Dag Nasty fans can also expect to catch some of their old favorites in a typical Gerunds set list. As fans themselves, Cortner feels his bandmates “have a great natural feel for the songs”. “We do some Dag Nasty material, and we have a great time doing it,” he says. “That’s a lot of fun.”
Learn more about The Gerunds at their MySpace page.
|This entry was posted by Michael Mercadante on April 5, 2010 at 10:31 AM, and is filed under Interviews, Music. Follow any responses to this post through RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.|
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