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Music ‘Devil’ may care 

Pitbull Daycare joins Ministry for a pleasantly pulverizing tour

Stephen Bishop, lead singer of Pitbull Daycare, shares the name of a minor pop star from the late ’70s and early ’80s. That Stephen Bishop was a bearded nerd who put out an album called Bish, had his biggest hit with the ridiculously wimpy ballad “On and On,” and sang the theme from Tootsie. San Antonio’s Stephen Bishop has nothing in common with that one.

Pitbull Daycare, from left: Stephen Bishop, DVS, T.C. Connally, and Jason West.

Pitbull Daycare’s Bishop screams with the all-out urgency of a man taking his final breath. He pushes his voice so relentlessly and with so much fury that you half-expect him to cough up a lung by the time he gets to the end of a song. According to Bishop, however, he never experienced any difficulties with his voice until the end of sessions for the band’s 2004 album, Unclean.

“When we were recording Unclean in L.A., I was a heavy smoker,” Bishop says. “I smoked four packs of Marlboro Lights a day for 10 years. Sometimes more. But then the last week I was in L.A., I contracted strep throat, and I gave my last pack of cigarettes to one of our old guitar players and that was the last time I ever smoked a cigarette. And I can tell that since then my vocals have completely changed for the better.”

The health of his larynx is only one of the upturns in Bishop’s fortunes since the recording of Unclean. He and his bandmates considered Unclean’s commercial textures to be unrepresentative of the band, and they set out to capture their blood-curdling live majesty with You, Me, and the Devil Make Three, an album whose release they will celebrate on Saturday, April 8, at the Sanctuary.

One of the problems with Unclean was the mismatch between the sensibilities of the group and the album’s producer, Fred Coury, former drummer for ’80s hard-rock band Cinderella. Coury had been the choice of PBDC’s then-label, Cleopatra Records.

“When I first found out, I was like, ‘I can’t believe this cock-rocker dude’s gonna do our album for us,’” Bishop recalls. “And he’s a super-nice guy and he helped us out with a lot of things, it’s just his direction of what he wanted the band to sound like wasn’t ours.

“Cleopatra, for some reason, wanted us to have this huge major-label success and try to push our music in that direction, but then didn’t want to back it up with any kind of cash. And everybody knows it takes a lot of money to break a band.”

When it came time to record a follow-up, the band again talked with Cleopatra Records, but ultimately decided to release the disc themselves. “They had taken us as far as they could possibly take us with the strength of that label,” Bishop says. “It’s a great label, they bailed us out of a tight spot with Unclean. But I thought Unclean was a huge commercial failure because it was an album that we didn’t believe in.”

You, Me, and the Devil veers closer to the abrasive mix of Ministry and early Nine Inch Nails that PBDC likes to call “white-trash industrial punk.” Amidst the sonic onslaught, the group pauses for a hooky, radio-friendly track called “It’s Too Late,” which demonstrates Bishop’s surprising vocal versatility.

Pitbull Daycare

the Alchemy,
Hearts Fail,
Curse the Form

and more

Sat, April 8
$10 (advance); $12
(day of show)

The Sanctuary
1818 N. Main

The group should have an ideal opportunity to promote its new album, as it will open for Ministry and Revolting Cocks on this summer’s MasterBaTour. On May 1, the band travels to El Paso (the current home base for Ministry and Revolting Cocks) for a week of pre-production rehearsals.

PBDC opened for Ministry two years ago at Sunset Station, which led to Don “DVS” Van Stavern befriending Ministry’s Al Jourgensen and his wife Angie. “When they wanted to hire out band members for this tour, Donnie was one of the bass players they contacted,” Bishop says. “It didn’t pan out for them, but Donnie said, ‘Since I can’t do bass for you guys, let me submit a press pack and maybe you can consider the band.’ Lo and behold, out of all the submissions they got, it worked out for us.

“Al told us he picked us based on the merit of our music alone, because right now we have no record label. We just finished the album, we’re doing it all on our own, we’re taking the album out on the road ourselves, selling it on our own. He thought the album was great and he’s looking forward to working with us.”

Given the chainsaw riffs of guitarist T.C. “Bird” Connally, the merciless pounding of powerhouse drummer Jason “Shakes” West, and the solid underpinning provided by Van Stavern, Bishop regards himself as the “weak link in the band,” but he’s an assured performer who honed his frontman skills as a 15-year-old Marshall High School student with the band Funkenstein.

Like his bandmates, Bishop has PBDC scrawled across his knuckles, and he has several water-related tattoos, the product of his four-year stint in the Navy. His youthful reputation as a hellraiser (and the tendency for bar fights to break out when he was present) has resulted in lifetime bans from several clubs. And while he says he no longer enjoys the sensation of feeling his fist make contact with someone else’s jaw (“it hurts me more than it hurts them”), he hasn’t lost his taste for a certain level of creative mayhem.

“Pitbull Daycare always brings out the aggressiveness in a crowd,” Bishop says.

“I don’t incite riots, but I do encourage an active participation from the crowd. People start going nuts and I love it. I wish every show was like Woodstock ’99.”

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