In order to keep things spicy and exciting at SoberPunks, I’m going to be writing all future blogs from seedy hotel rooms whilst wearing cheap slutty lingerie.
Not really. I’m going to be interviewing interesting characters in the world of sobriety, or at least people with something to say about it, and publishing the interviews here for you set of bastards.
First up, Mike Hodsall from legendary Canadian punk band D.O.A, who will be celebrating their 40th year as a band in 2018!
Tell us a bit about yourself, your band, and what you do in the band
Hi. My name is Mike (Corkscrew) Hodsall and I play bass in the Canadian punk band D.O.A, which keeps me pretty busy touring all over the globe and recording. I also play lead guitar in Circle The Wagons and in a Black Sabbath tribute called Sack Grabbath, as well as playing bass in The Automation. When I’m home I teach guitar and enjoy hiking and snowshoeing with my family. Wait a minute, this sounds like an online dating site.
How long ago did you make the decision to go sober, and why? Any bumps along the way?
Well, honestly, I made the decision about 8 or 9 years ago to at least rein in the drinking to only on weekends, however, that proved to be impossible and I continued to be a daily drinker until July of 2016. It was partly for medical reasons, and also to rid myself of the shame and guilt that I felt every time I pounded another bottle of wine down my gullet with my family watching. When you get to that crossroads where your doctor is telling you to quit drinking or suffer the consequences, you have a choice. I’ve seen too many musicians take the wrong road and it never ends pretty. I didn’t want to become the cliché, fat old rocker dying of cancer, cirrhosis or diabetes at the age of 55. I want to continue playing music all over the world until I’m no longer mentally able. Plus, I’m a father and a husband, and that holds great responsibility. It’s not fair to destroy myself daily when people love me and depend on me. As we all know, alcoholism doesn’t really give a shit about the user or those around them and sometimes it takes a serious scare to pull out of the tailspin. Once I made the decision, though, I’ve been a good lad and not touched a drop. Although the temptation is huge being in a touring band. I drink a lot of kombucha or soda water.
Does working as a musician make you more susceptible to alcohol problems? How do you think your job in the band has affected you personally where booze is concerned?
Being in a touring band, there’s no escaping alcohol. I’m in a drinking establishment at least 100 nights a year, and then there’s every time I go out to see bands play. There’s also that ‘party’ atmosphere at every show and it’s easy to get swept up in it. It’s a party to the people at the show, fair enough, but I’ve got another 14 nights to go on that tour. It escalates very quickly from a couple of beers, to a few shots then more beers, more shots and then a ‘few’ drinks back at the hotel to celebrate Tuesday or whatever day you think it might be. Soon enough your daily alcohol intake is no longer in the realms of casual but excessive. When all of your peers are musicians living the same scenario, there’s little clues there to figure out that it’s become unhealthy. You think everyone else is doing it, it seems normal. Sadly, in my case, I then needed to drink as much or more at home to keep the party going, even if I was the only one at the party. But then you go to a family function and realize that perhaps not everyone is getting drunk nearly every day of the year or decade, and then you feel like a wastoid loser and that everyone is judging you.
If nothing else, our years of boozing can give us some awesome stories. Tell us about some of the stuff you’ve done, or witnessed. Give us the gory details.
Haha. I remember playing a show with one of my bands at the top of a ski hill in Banff in Canada, and they foolishly let us stay at the lodge on the mountain and gave us a $1500 bar tab to use as we saw fit over the course of our two day commitment. We ended up owing money when we checked out. We played each show in the afternoon on a big outdoor stage, then went straight to the outdoor hot tub and kept getting round after round of trays of Caesars delivered to the pool. That was on top of our show rider that consisted of a couple bottles of Jager, 48 beers, and a few bottles of wine each day. We ended up having belly flop contests in the hot tub and there were many Caesars spilled in the tub. The poor guests who wanted a romantic dip in the tub at sunset were met by a pack of drunken savages. It was like Pirates of the Caribbean in there. There were naked shenanigans in the hotel halls and even an airhorn for some reason. Another time the band had shared a bottle of Jager and a few beers before we went on stage and obviously we were a little wobbly. It was New Years Eve, what a great excuse to get really fuckin’ drunk, right?! First chord of the first song of the night, I jump in the air like Pete Townsend and ended up on my ass falling into the drum riser which in turn made my knees come up, banging my guitar right up into my face. My front teeth went right through my lip and took a chip out of my guitar. Right down to the wood. There I was, touching my tongue through the hole in my lip, thinking ‘this doesn’t seem right’. How I didn’t lose my front teeth is pure luck and the geometry of the situation. So now I’m starting to bleed out of the throbbing hole in my mouth all over my cowsuit, yes, I said cowsuit, and it really fucking stings and I’ve got two sets to play before the show is over. Obviously I figured that more Jager would numb the pain. It certainly numbed my ability to play guitar. That may have been my lowest moment with alcohol on stage. I did actually make a fairly successful attempt to stay sober whilst performing from then on. Just not in the rest of my life.
If someone came to you and asked you for your number 1 tip for staying on the wagon, what would you tell ’em?
It’s going to be a different journey for everyone but I’d say find someone to talk to that’s gone through getting sober and is still working at staying sober. And then when you discover someone who is trying to change their own life and get sober, try to be part of that person being sober. Create a network and reach out to people. The hardest part is feeling isolated in sobriety. It was really hard at first being on tour and not drinking but then I would remember all of the other touring musicians that I discovered were sober, and that would help knowing that somewhere in another town there was some other guy or girl in a band dealing with the same thing, and that somehow helped me feel united in my struggle. Also, in my case, thinking about my family – who are way more important than any bottle of booze. They deserve all of me, the best of me, not just the hungover, desperate drunken me.
Punk shows are notoriously messy, for both the bands and the audience. Have you seen a shift in the importance of alcohol to this whole experience?
Definitely a shift in the musicians. Let me clarify; mostly in the 40 plus vintage because so many people clean up their act or disintegrate if they don’t sort it out by then. It gets a little tedious watching younger bands drink themselves stupid at shows thinking how fucking cool it is but really it’s way cooler to keep your instrument in tune, play your songs properly, and not fall off the stage or puke on your rad new Chucks. The audience pays money to see you perform and you owe them the respect to do just that.
How has quitting the booze affected you, both in the band and in your normal lives?
Quitting drinking has definitely affected my on tour energy. I used to feel really drained after a few days and then in a fog for the rest of the tour, but now my energy maintains for most of the trip and I wake up feeling fresh even on minimal sleep. Also, I used to be the last guy to bed because I didn’t want to stop drinking, and now I’m usually the first guy to sleep so I get an extra hour or so every night, which really adds up over a two or three week tour. In my personal life, it’s kind of the same in that I go to bed earlier and don’t feel shitty in the morning, so I’m less irritable in general. I no longer plan everything in my life according to the demands of the liquor. I always used to try to avoid staying late at BBQs or social events because my wife doesn’t drive – so I always had to – therefore I wanted to get home as soon as possible so I could really get into a bottle of wine. Luckily I wasn’t so irresponsible as to drive drunk. I’m much more clear headed now too. I feel like I’m making better decisions and more in control of my life. I don’t feel the shame of addiction or the constant feelings of failure that I used to. I’m losing weight and getting more exercise, which I feel is key to maintaining sobriety. It keeps the adrenaline flowing in a healthy way and keeps the mind clear. Fitness is important for everyone but when you always wake up feeling like a bag of shit, it’s hard to go hiking or running.
Stats tell us that kids these days are drinking less. Why do you reckon this is?
Because those fucking kids are lazy!!!! Non-committal little shits!!! No, in all seriousness, maybe it’s because so many of our heroes from the 60s, 70s, 80s, and 90s have all died far too young due to the excesses in their youth. Addiction sucks. Ask Dave Mustaine if he still thought Keith Richards was cool after he and his band mates were all hooked on junk. Probably not. Was Keith Moon a good role model? Sure it sounded super awesome that he got totally shittered and trashed dressing rooms and hotels and drove drunk and crashed his car into his swimming pool, and blacked out on stage. His band mates and friends had to watch this fabulous disaster every day right until his death at 32 – at which point he was on prescription medication to get through the DTs from alcohol withdrawal. Of course taking too many and overdosing. Real glamorous. What a fun party.
What’s the greatest punk album ever?
Now that’s the crux of the matter. That’s a tough one with hundreds of right answers, but I’d probably have to say Sex Pistols ‘Never Mind the Bollocks’. For one, it is a true musical masterpiece. Don’t be fooled, those boys knew how to write a song with a hook. And sonically, it’s perfect. Plus, it came out swinging, spewing fury in every direction at a time when things were definitely not peachy. The album seemed to speak volumes about its generation, of hopelessness, and of the need for a change. Perhaps it didn’t offer any concrete answers to the world’s problems, but it sure kicked the fucking door down for the next generation of bands and idealists to start shouting.
Anything else you want to tell us?
Being sober isn’t right or necessary for everyone but I think we all know inside when it’s time to change for the better. If that’s where you’re at, reach out. You don’t have to do it alone.
Mike, everybody. What a dude, and what an honour it was to chat to him. D.O.A. are heading back into the studio in January, so look out for their new shiz.
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