Friday, January 20, 2012

[EID Feature] Solid Dudes Kitchen: Duderonomy

Dave Graw and Derek Swanson are solid dudes. So what is a "solid dude"? It's kind of like, when you meet someone, and you have this moment of "Gasp I love you!" because even though you don't know really know them what you know of them already by just meeting them you know is awesome. "Solid," if you will. It's kind of like that.

Dave illustrates his point by talking about some guys that he and Derek once had a gig with in Grand Rapids. (The Dudes make a lot of connections between music and food. It makes sense; just roll with it.) They had never met each other and before any of them got onstage to play, they bro-bonded immediately. "I don’t care about what we are, we gave a shit about what we played whether they liked it or not, whether it was good or not, we cared. The guy [later told me that he said to himself], 'Holy shit, we gotta fucking give it,' and they did--[these guys are awesome AND they have an awesome band]--and afterwards we’re all hugging, and that started a beautiful friendship. You know, I met you guys and just had that moment of, 'Alright, right on.' It was a good feeling. It’s a like-minded respect; you’re there honestly playing music because you have to."

Derek: "Not because you're trying to get signed; not because you’re trying to get laid."

Dave: "Green Dot Stables is catering [the Season Two DVD release party]. They contacted us. They're just doing it because they have to.

Derek: "It's two guys who sunk their own money in with no backing."

Dave: "Just like McClure's; they had a a family recipe, they HAVE to make pickles."

Derek [speaking as if he were Joe McClure]: "'I HAVE to take cucumbers and put salt on them' – fuck yes you do!"

Dave: "That's what's awesome about Detroit, people do things because they have to. For Derek and I right now we have to make a cooking show."

Derek [explains that prior to the pickle business, Joe McClure was working in the very lucrative field of post-production]: "Joe saw he could make millions in post-production and said, 'That’s great; I have to put salt on pickles.'"

Dave: "I love him. I don’t know him, but I love him. He's rad. His pickles are rad, and he’s rad."

And that is the essence of what it means to be a "solid dude." Basically, you're a good guy and your band is good too.

Dave: "Dave Mancini [of Supino Pizzeria] is a good dude and his band doesn’t suck. Joe is a really good dude and his band is awesome."

And really that's what Solid Dudes Kitchen is all about. It's a cooking show, but not one you could ever realistically cook along with. But that's not what's important. What's important about the show and what makes it so damn enjoyable to watch is the camaraderie between Dave and Derek (every bit as evident on camera as it is in real life), two dudes who played in a band together and both work in commercial film and video production who got this crazy idea to start a cooking show for shits and giggles.

Solid Dudes Kitchen - Origins Trailer from Solid Dudes Kitchen on Vimeo.

Dave: "When two assholes who look like us have a show people assume the wrong things about us. When we met, it was like, 'I want to hang out with you.' It’s about friends. We’re friends. What came out of [the show] was an honest depiction of what we do."

The episodes are short, a decision they made because they found they are much more entertaining in smaller bursts.

Derek: "We both work in film, 98% of it being advertising, 98% of that being commercials. On any given day we work with multi-million dollar productions. It's one of the best film schools because its super-pragmatic; art is probably fourth[-ranked] on a list of 10 [criteria] because they need to sell things – 'What is the quickest way to sell things to stupid people?' – so we skip the boring shit, that’s why you can’t 'cook along.'"

Dave: "But if you want to make mac and cheese you’re going to sit and open up a recipe book. That’s not what we’re trying to do; we’re trying to hang out, spend time together, and share some of what we think is funny with other people. What I like about the Internet is that niche cultures can be niche and that’s exciting. I think we have a niche and we have an area we can operate in comfortably."

They may have a niche audience but it certainly seems to encompass a big chunk of Detroit. Their Season Two DVD release party on Thursday night at the Belle Isle Casino was packed; other of Detroit's solid dudes provided food, drinks, projection and music (Green Dot Stables, Sugar House, Corktown Cinema and DJ Michael Trombley, respectively). Whether it's because of who they are and what they represent, or just because people think the show is funny, Dave and Derek are surrounded by other like-minded individuals with that same DIY spirit and drive to create and do something fun.

Dave says, "I think that’s the key to life, just don’t stop—everyone we surround ourselves with just doesn’t stop." Derek interjects, "I'll quote Earthmover: 'It’s not about money.'" (Earthmover was a hardcore band from Michigan.) Dave continues, "We just kind of end up gravitating towards these people. It’s terrifying but it's also motivating--look how much that guy’s done, look at that guy’s blog where he's giving music away for free [because he just needs to make music].

'I like when people are doing it just to do it; there’s no endgame, just to do it. We’re gonna do it until it’s not fun or funny for us or our friends." The Dudes have had sponsorship offers in the past, all of which they've turned down. Dave references the movie Airheads and how the guys wouldn't bow down to the sleazy record executive who didn't care at all about their music, even in the face of a record deal. "They just wanted their demo back so people could hear it, so he rips up the contract ... they had people interested but what’s the point if you don’t know who we are? We're like punk rock snobs [turning down opportunities for money]."

Because for them, the second it stops being fun--which could happen the very second they had to answer to a suit waiving a check--is the second the show is done. And for them, to anyone who sits around and waits for someone else to fund their vanity project, Dave says, "Fuck you." Derek adds, "Had we waited for someone else to fund our project it probably wouldn’t have happened."

It might not seems the most natural thing for musicians to be "into" cooking. Au contraire, sayeth the Dudes. "Musicians, artists and chefs are all really similar people," Dave says. "Being younger you don’t really know that, you don’t relate with an artist when you’re into punk rock, but as you get older and become more aware of your surroundings, everything is everything and it's all the same. The art of food preparation is like writing a good song, it's all composition and structure. Once you understand the notes are just like ingredients, making a good pasta is like writing a pop song."

Derek: "I think the common denominator with chefs and musicians is that you know that to do what you’re doing as a career, you’re probably not going to make a million dollars. If you’re going to do it you have to love it. To have a chef tell us, 'We really love you, we love what you're doing,' it's like, 'Fuck, you do this for a living, we're doing this as a joke but only because we want to do what you’re doing."

People (even chefs; possibly even particularly chefs) appreciate their honesty--they admit they have no idea what they're doing (not entirely true: Derek has some culinary chops; Dave happily admits he does not but that he likes eating--touché), but they have fun doing it. At they end of it they hope it inspires you to get together and get drunk with your friends and try out some stupid shit and maybe fuck up and laugh and have a good time. 

Derek: "That was Dave’s thing – let’s hang out, drink our faces off, laugh our asses off and make a show."

Dave: "I can’t stay at home and watch the finale of Battlestar Galactica a third time and feel good about myself."

So just how solid are the Solid Dudes? They've received one piece of hate mail since season 1 premiered in 2009. That letter came from a Detroit priest who saw their cover on the Metro Times of them covered in baked beans. In it, this priest accused the Dudes of being reckless and wasteful that at a time when so many people were out of work, struggling and starving that they would waste food like that for a photo (note: it wasn't their idea). So they started looking up more info on this priest, and found out that over the decades he's been a huge activist, the kind of guy who stood in front of military tanks to protest the Vietnam War; THAT kind of guy. "I started to like him!" Dave says. "He's doing way more than we're ever going to do." Derek adds, "He's kind of fucking cool."

So they hosted the Solid Dudes Kitchen canned food drive, and took all the money and food they collected and dropped it off to that same priest, who had no idea it was coming. And so I ask, are these dudes solid? Fuck yes they are.

"If you put in good, it comes out good," Dave says. "It's just like a crock pot. That's an analogy for life: you put good shit in there and it comes out tasting good."

Season 2 of Solid Dudes Kitchen is now available for purchase on DVD, featuring the Solid Dudes German special "Dudes Hast." It will probably be another two and a half years before we see another season but cut them some slack, they have lives, jobs, wives and families, and they're not getting paid to do this. To get your fill of the Dudes in between seasons, check out their website for recipes, musings and probably some dick jokes.

For more on the Philosophy des Dude, check out some other solid stories here and here.