It has been one hell of a crappy couple of years for Stacey Dee, guitarist and vocalist with San Pedro punks Bad Cop/Bad Cop. Between the current president getting sworn in and the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, with all of the tensions that have erupted around both of those things, she was diagnosed with breast cancer at the end of 2018.
She’s been cancer-free for over a year following surgery in April 2019 and fingers crossed she remains that way. But one might imagine that everything that has been going on would result in her band’s angriest album yet. After all, 2017’s Warriors, written and recorded shortly after the 2016 election, was a driving, in-your-face statement of a record. Yet the new effort, The Ride, is actually something quite different. The musicians have stepped back and looked deep, carefully considered a healthy response to this shit show, and delivered it.
“Warriors came out at a time when Trump just got elected and we were scared and nervous,” says Dee. “Fighting for anybody that was marginalized, from women to LGBTQ, minorities, everybody. We still are that way. We wrote and recorded this next record in 2018/19, so going into it we had some talks about how we fix things. You can be in the fight of things, but that just makes your body and your spirit in that fight mode all the time. Bringing so much stress into your life that you bring sickness into your life. And no shit, that’s what happened to me. I had breast cancer, so going into the next record Jennie and I had a lot of talks about where change really begins. It’s got to begin with yourself — with self love.”
Dee says that she wrote her share of the songs on The Ride prior to finding out she had cancer, but then went back and rewrote a bunch of the lyrics to reflect her situation and state of mind.
“The cancer taught me I need to slow way down and take care of myself,” she says. “No kidding, I found out I had cancer at the end of 2018, and between than and April, and still to this day, I have to be aware of my stress levels. I have to live in abundance, I have to find the beauty in life, otherwise that shit’s going to come back and I can’t have that. So I learned that I needed to meditate, that I needed to do yoga. I didn’t need to be rushing around the house all day long or whatever I’m doing in life like a rat on a wheel. I really didn’t even know what it meant to take care of myself until I found out that I had the cancer. I’m going on 45 years old, and it’s only been a year and a half of me totally loving myself.”
She’s not, she says, out of the woods yet. The fact that the cancer hasn’t returned within the first year is huge, but it’s five years before she’s in remission. Still, she quit smoking, she watches her sugar intake and she takes care of her skin. It’s fair to say that the nightmare experience was transformative. Meanwhile, the world has been in turmoil around her, and the lyrics on the new album reflect that too. “Certain Kind of Monster,” for example, is directed at ICE Agents.
“It sure is,” says Dee. “But fuck, you could put it towards police right now and Black Lives Matter. But it was written about two ICE agents. What kind of person are you that you are ok with separating families and putting babies in cages? For a paycheck? That’s wrong. It’s disgusting. All this needs to stop. Trump is a fucking piece of shit and anybody that backs him probably is too. But it has opened up the conversation in this country, and now marginalized people are speaking up and demanding equality greater than it’s ever been. I believe that we really are at the crux of change here — finally, some real change. I saw stuff in the ‘90s and people weren’t ready.”
That necessary change is tackled in opening track “Originators” — the line “Our agreed upon reality” reflecting the fact that human beings are essentially deciding to do a shitty job at present. But Dee is hopeful.
“I don’t think even white people are going to continue to allow this,” she says. “I love the idea of police reform — I think police officers need to be way more background checked and vetted instead of being allowed to just go to police academy and then all of a sudden, they’re a fucking cop taking care of you? I don’t know you and who you really are. Fire fighters have to go through way more training than police officers, and they’re the ones with the fucking guns.”
The Ride came out on June 19, though it was supposed to be out in February. World events took care of that. And yet Dee believes that the release came at the perfect time, regardless of their original plans.
“You can be frustrated, or say that the universe has a plan for this shit,” she says. “The record came out during a time when I think people really needed to hear something hopeful and positive. So I’m grateful that it came out when it did. People have time to listen to it and reflect on it. I was on my way to Jennie [Cotterill, vocals and guitar]’s the other day and I was crying listening to these songs. We’re saying some stuff that’s perfect for right now. It came out right when it was supposed to.”
It really is an important record — a soundtrack for 2020. What we don’t know, of course, is when we’ll get to hear these songs live.
“We’re probably gonna be livestreaming for a while,” Dee says. “We’re keen on sticking to California this year if things open up rather than trying to tour. We just today were about to announce a tour we have for October and November in Europe but it doesn’t look like that’s going to happen. California is such a great place — we can travel within it at the weekend and still come home.”
Bad Cop/Bad Cop’s The Ride is out now via Fat Wreck Chords.