Ten Things That Dustin Diamond Said
As the bassist for Salty the Pocketknife, (dont call him Screech) is ready to blaze a new trail.
By Erik Fong
When you interview a reluctant television cult icon, the article tends to write itself. Especially when said icon is Dustin Diamond, the curly-haired ex-geek who captured our hearts as "Screech" on Saved by the Bell. If you haven't heard about Dustin's post-Bell whereabouts, you'll be happy to know that unlike most child actors, he's not face-down in a puddle of his own bodily excretions following a violent drug and alcohol-induced overdose (yet).
Dustin's kept busy pursuing stand-up comedy, making personal appearances at colleges nationwide, filming instructional chess videos and pummeling Horshack. Then there's his band, Salty the Pocketknife, an adventure into edgy, intelligent, progressive, odd-timed rock. Pick up Salty's debut album released on October 21 through Sonance Records to hear Dustin hammer away on the four-string motherfucker harder than A.C. Slater hammered away on women's rights.
The man who earned his bread and butter playing Zack Morris' bitch was at no loss for words as he spoke to us from his hotel room in Detroit. Dustin knows how to get a point across to the press; hey, no problem for us, it lessens our workload. Questions led to answers, which then led to ten-minute odysseys on subjects that were clearly on Dustin's mind without us even addressing them in the first place. But with almost two decades' worth of experience in the entertainment industry, the guy's been around the block more times than we've missed our publishing deadlines. He opened up to us, revealing his love of Mr. Bungle, his even greater love for kicking Horshack's craphole on Celebrity Boxing 2, and his even greater than greatest hatred for always being called "Screech." With so much for us to learn, and so much for him to teach, we sat and listened carefully to the life and lessons of Dustin Diamond. And when you're done reading Dustin's lengthy but memorable quotes, feel free to print a copy of this so you can be buried with it.
1. "My dad played classical guitar and he started teaching me at the age of five. I'd always hum tunes around the house, and then my dad and I would try to figure the tunes out on guitar. He bought me an electric guitar since it's a lot easier. I'm left handed, but he taught me right-handed. Around June 1994, I was hanging around some musicians and they said, "You're good with guitar, but you know, you 'feel' like a bass player. You're really laid back and a lot of the stuff that you write would be really at home on the bass." So I went to Guitar Center and pulled a bass off the wall, plugged it in and started playing it and that was all the convincing I needed. And I'm not one of those egomaniacal 'look at me do a solo' musicians. With bass, you're adding the glue that makes everyone else sound good. So I realized that I really pay attention to the bass a lot in the music that I listen to, and that's what I tend to write towards. Everything kind of sunk in, the gray matter solidified there. I'm not a big radio guy, I don't listen to whatever is the hip new thing. 'Oh, I don't listen to that band anymore, that's so last week,' that kind of crap just pisses me off. I'm a shepherd, not a sheep, and I've always prided myself on being a leader and not a follower."
2. "I like bands that people have never heard of, like Lamb and Mr. Bungle Mr. Bungle is actually the group that made me really want to form a band. The first Mr. Bungle album is what made me say, 'I'm going to start playing music professionally. This is what I want to do.' Following Mike Patton from Faith No More and everything, I was already a fan of his, and I started listening to [Mr. Bungle bassist] Trevor Dunn. And it's not limited to just bass lines I like harmonies and counter-harmonies and counter-melodies and everything else. But finding people who play that music and even finding people who knew Mr. Bungle was really hard. It's hard to find people who are really good at playing more than just one style. Kids these days don't know as much about music as they think they do."
3. "I pride myself on knowing about things that other people [don't] I kind of get a weird sick kick out of it. 'Who's your favorite band?' 'Mr. Bungle.' 'Who?' 'Exactly.' But if they know it, then it's like rock on we get along great. Our music, you either get it or you don't. There's no middle ground. I could see if someone said, 'I like the Offspring, but I don't like Salty.' But what they don't realize is that Evan, our drummer, teaches the drummer for the Offspring. They don't know that."
4. "A couple of years ago, my manager put on this show called 'A Walk Down Abbey Road.' And he has Alan Parsons, John Entwistle and Todd Rundgren there on the main stage big, big names. So we're playing on one of the second stages and we saw a guy with a streak in his hair and he's bobbing his head and he's rocking, but he's rocking out to the odd time and he's never heard it before. And I said to Evan onstage, 'Is that Todd Rundgren out there?' Sure enough, it was there, and he was rocking out to the tunes. At the time we only had a three-song EP, and he asked us for a demo and demanded that he pay for it. He wouldn't take it for free. And then he made a comment, which is kind of interesting he said, 'Man, 20 years ago, you guys would've been huge.'"
5. "But it gets better. Evan and I walk back up to the production office next to the stage, and there's smoke billowing out of this car, and we hear the Salty music playing. Todd Rundgren is in the driver's seat, John Entwistle is in the passenger seat, and Alan Parsons is in the back. Todd went out and got them to smoke out and listen to the music. They were rocking out and we were just taken aback. And that was maybe two months before John Entwistle died. If it happened any later, I never would've met him which is funny, because I'm only 26, but you see people who are 19 or 20 years old and they don't even know who The Who is. It's like, where have you been? Justin Timberlake? C'mon. Where are the roots?"
6. "There are a lot of people out there saying 'actor-turned-musician' that kind of thing. I've been acting for 19 years and playing music for 21 years I've been involved with music longer than acting. You get people out there like Dogstar, Keanu's band - this was a big deal because he turned down $2 million for Speed 2 to play with his band. He doesn't make any money off of the band, he gives all the money to his band members because he doesn't need it. So he goes out there and some idiots and asswipes yell, 'Ted! Ted!' Some people get pissed off because they want to see him be the frontman, and they get upset because he's not out there showboating, he just stands back, and people are critical about that.
"But as far as other bands, you've got
[scoffs] Corey Feldman doing his thing, and the problem is, they're trying to be pop stars. You can't compare Salty to any of the other actors out there playing music, whether they're good or they suck. I don't expect that we're going to become the biggest craze. If it happened, I'd be really shocked. I think it's going to do well, I think people will dig it, but there will be a sea of people who just don't get it. I want it to be taken seriously, of course, and I know it will be by musicians and people who have a good hear for music and not people who just want to hear doomp, doomp, doomp, doomp-doomp doomp in a dance club all night. The Britney Spears fans arent going to dig it."
7. "I look at it like this: If we could sell 100,000 units every album, that would rock. We'd have a big cult following, we'd have a built-in fanbase so we could pretty much play anywhere, people would show up and rock out, and you know the people who are there are there because they love the music. It has nothing to do with Saved by the Bell or any of that crap. I mean, I'm proud of my work, and I had a good time doing it, but music is totally different. I know I'm going to get people out there yelling, 'Screech! Screech!' the shouting of the character's name gets old after maybe the third shout. They may do that for one show, and then they don't ever need to show up again. I expect that on the first tour. Once we play every place once, people are going to know, the word's going to be out, and then 'Hey, you wanna go shout at Screech?' 'No, let's go do something else.' It'll just get boring. Once that crap's been weeded out, and those idiots don't show up anymore, then the people who are there are going to be listening to the music, and that's when it's going to rock. I don't know how the other band members are going to take it I've been in this business so long, it just doesn't faze me. I know what's going to happen before it happens. Yeah, it pisses me off, people are idiots, but what are you going to do? The world is full of idiots. That's why we'll never have flying cars. People don't know how to drive."
8. "I'm wondering where we're going to be put in the stores. Just your pop/rock standard area? People want to call us alternative, but alternative grew into Top 40. And then you've got some people out there calling us math rock, as if we're sitting around 'Hmm, divide by six, wow, we've got a song!' We don't know what we're writing until it just comes out, and then we think, 'Whoa, that sounds crazy.' We don't sit around crunching numbers. I think it's unique to find band members who all have ears that are tuned to the odd."
9. "I remember going to Ruth's Chris Steak House, and they were telling me about their steaks. They mentioned that you can get two of their best steaks with a bunch of sides for $50. And I did it, just because I wanted to know what a $50 steak dinner tasted like, and you know what? It tasted like a $12 steak dinner. It was really good, but steak is steak. I'm the guy who will eat something that looks nice when I'm out, but when I take it home in a doggie bag, it'll either sit in the back of my refrigerator until it starts to move and I throw it away, or I'll get up the next morning and eat it in right out of the fridge. Sometimes it's just better cold like with pizza. You know, eat some pizza, play some Xbox, watch some TV, you don't even microwave it. Gross? Maybe. Me? Yes."
10. "[Horshack] was weird. Not a very nice guy at all. I turned [Celebrity Boxing] down a bunch of times, but they kept calling back, and I eventually just named a price that I figured they'd say no to. They didn't say no. They didn't say yes either, but we negotiated that I'd get two appearances on MAD TV so I could showcase some characters, and that I would get a certain price. They approved it, and when I found out [I was fighting Horshack], I said, 'Wow, he's really small.' And when we got to the actual event, he sent the producers down before I got to meet him. They said, 'Look, he's really worried, he just got a nose job and a chin job, and he doesn't want to be hit in the face and have that damaged.' I said okay, sure, I'm not out to kill him or anything. I get paid either way.
"We get out there, and he sucker punches me when we're supposed to touch gloves. But I was going to be a nice guy and stick to my word. So we started going at it I have it on tape, and if you watch it, you'll see that I didn't even hit his head in the beginning. And then he pops me on the chin, so I thought, okay, maybe he missed. Then he hit me in the face a second time, and I realized he was going for it on purpose, and he's looking at me with these evil eyes. So I popped him one. It was just a love tap. It wasn't designed to destroy. He pops back and he looks at me like he wants to eat my kids. And he starts coming at me aiming for my head, so I popped him another one still a love tap, a little bit harder but just to get him to knock it off. So 12 or 13 seconds before the first round was over, I popped him another good one and he fell immediately. I was hitting him with maybe 70% force I gave him a good shot, but hey, I want the camera time. I'm not going to lose to this guy. So the second round comes up, and he's turning red and welling up I didn't think they were going to stop the fight, but he got tussled around. And even though I hate that kind of stuff, I look back and it was so funny watching it I hate to say it, but it was. My buddy Mark calls me up: 'Dude! You messed Horshack UP!' People asked me, 'Oh, aren't you ashamed of picking on an old man?' Ah, fuck him, he's a dick! We had four months of negotiations, everybody knew what they were getting into, everybody signed waivers, and Fox coached everyone behind closed doors. We had 16-ounce gloves on; they're like big pillows.
"They pulled his headpiece off and his eye was all black, and I felt kind of bad, so I asked him if he was alright. He said, 'Don't even talk to me. Just get away from me. I never want to see you again.' Sorry dude, but we're in a boxing match and you went against your word and tried to make me look weak and stupid in front of 17 million people. That's just not gonna happen. I wouldn't have done that to you.
"But we're leaving, and this was funny I didn't know that Horshack's lover was there, and this guy was totally mad. So Jack and I are leaving and we say to him, 'Hey, take care!' And this is exactly what he said to us: 'Karma's gonna get you, boys. Karma's gonna get you.'"
Purchase Salty the Pocketknife's self-titled debut through Amazon.com.
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