Q&A: The end of Double Dagger

Bassist Bruce Willen on the final tour, legacy and special guests

  • Punk band Double Dagger vocalist Nolen Strals, center, performs at the Charm City Art Space during the band's second-to-last Baltimore show.
Punk band Double Dagger vocalist Nolen Strals, center, performs… (Kenneth K. Lam, Baltimore…)
October 18, 2011|By Wesley Case, The Baltimore Sun

After nine years, one of Baltimore's most revered punk bands, Double Dagger, will call it quits Friday with one final show at the Ottobar.

Almost.

The group, which consists of singer Nolen Strals, drummer Denny Bowen and bassist Bruce Willen, has plans to record and release a few more songs, though the format is still to be determined. It's a fitting end, as no one expected Double Dagger to go quietly.

The band's online farewell statement points out the members are "creative dudes" (Strals and Willen, for example, run the successful design studio Post Typography, whose clients include the New York Times, ESPN Magazine and Time), so Double Dagger's end won't be the last we hear from its members. We spoke to Willen — Strals passed the phone to the bassist because the singer was losing his voice — about the final tour, surprise guests and how he hopes his band is remembered.

Talk about the first show of the final tour at Charm City Art Space.
It was a little weird thinking, "This is the last time we're going to be playing some of these songs in Baltimore, or some of them ever." But it was cool to be playing at Charm City Art Space. It was one of the venues where we got started. It brought it full circle in way. The show was great — a lot of fun, people were going nuts.

The final mini-tour consists of eight dates of your "favorite" cities. What was it about the Midwestern cities that made you say, "We need to go there one last time."
In particular, we wanted to go back to Chicago. It's a city we've always had a lot of fun playing. Without exception, the shows have been really exciting. It's also where two of our labels are based so we have friends out there. [Chicago] has a little bit of a similar feel to Baltimore. It's blue collar-y. It's a much larger, slightly nicer version of Baltimore.

What's the latest on the posthumous songs?
We've been playing a couple of them live. We'll be playing at least two of them at the final Baltimore show. We don't have any release dates yet. The plan is to record this fall and figure that out. We're also doing some kind of DVD that's going to possibly be a package with the last songs, or at least in tandem with them. Details are still being worked out. Gabriel DeLoach has been filming all of the last shows. We've gotten some really insane footage. You could see it maybe sometime in the spring.

Was it ever discussed to write one more album, and make that the final document of the band?
No. The final thing won't be a full album, and I don't think we wanted to have the pressure of having to write more material. The stuff that's coming out are things we've been working on for awhile, like bits and pieces of things we've been working on the past years.

A lot of bands do reunion shows after they break up. Does that idea appeal to you?
Not really. Though we have sort of discovered during this last tour that when bands are breaking up or getting back together you sell a lot of T-shirts. [laughs]

Nine years is long enough to make a true impression on a city's scene. How do you hope the band is remembered?
I haven't really thought of that. I guess it would be nice if, No. 1, people remember us. Like, "Oh yeah, Double Dagger, they were a good band." And even if they didn't think we were a good band, they had some sort of reaction to us. I think what would be awesome is if we had some sort of influence on people to start bands or inspire them to do something musically, whether it sounds anything like our band or not.

What will you be doing with your time after Friday?
Hopefully catching up on some sleep. We're still going to be doing some practicing over the next month or so to get ready to record the new songs.

Who are the special guests for the final show?
We can't announce it yet but I think people are going to be pleasantly surprised. It might be R.E.M. but it might not be. [laughs] We're seriously really psyched about the other bands we're playing with. It's two of our favorite bands; that's all I'll say.

wesley.case@baltsun.com
twitter.com/louder_now

If you go

Double Dagger plays Friday at the Ottobar, 2549 N. Howard St. Doors open at 9 p.m. Special guests also perform. $8. Call 410-662-0069 or go to theottobar.com.

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