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Crossover Pioneers
Extreme Metal Legends
and The Fastest Band on Earth:

Dirty Rotten Imbeciles Discography               

D.R.I., or Dirty Rotten Imbeciles, are an influential American band considered one of the pioneers of the crossover thrash genre that hardcore punk and traditional thrash metal. Led by frontman Kurt Brecht and guitarist Spike Cassidy D.R.I. Was also an integral part of the Bay Area thrash scene in the mid 80s, often splitting bills with thrash legends Metallica, Slayer, Exodus and others. DRI are counted among the biggest influences by bands from nearly every extreme metal form, including Suicidal Tendencies, Corrosion of Conformity and S.O.D., the other bands credited for pioneering the crossover sound. While never achieving a mass audience, D.R.I. has left an indelible imprint on the whole of thrash music, and their legendary live shows are still drawing their loyal fans, even though they haven't released any new material in nearly 20 years.

DRI's roots go back to May, 1982 in Houston, Texas. Kurt and his brother Eric Brecht were in a band called the Suburbanites with bassist Dennis Johnson. The band was dissolved, however, and a new band formed with guitarist Spike Cassidy. The band began practicing in the Brechts' parents home, where their father unwittingly named the band when he referred to the band as a "bunch of dirty rotten imbeciles." Mr. Brecht also served as the inspiration for a 1985 song called "Mad Man" from the band's 1985 album Dealing with It!. The quartet initially went by the name USDRI, as in US Dirty Rotten imbeciles, but later shortened the moniker. The band's familiar "skanker man" logo was originally designed for a high school art assignment in which Eric Brecht had to design a corporate logo. The design earned the drummer an A, and the band decided to use it as a logo.

Just two months after D.R.I. was formed, their first gig took place at a popular Houston nightclub called Joe Star's Omni. Just a few months later, the band recorded a punk-influenced 22-track EP called Dirty Rotten EP on their own label, Dirty Rotten. Only 1,000 copies of the EP were printed, and sold out almost immediately, prompting the band to print another run. The second printing was done on 12-inch vinyl, as opposed to the 7-inch format used for the first run, so the title was changed to the Dirty Rotten LP. The album immediately caught the attention of both the hardcore punk and emerging thrash movements, earning the band the nickname "the fastest band in the world." The band decided to pack up and move to San Francisco, where the thrash movement was expanding the reach of extreme metal, and bands like Slayer, Exodus and Suicidal Tendencies were landing record deals.

DRI 83: Johnson, Eric & Kurt Brecht

D.R.I.'s first few months in San Francisco were rough. The band essentially lived in a van, and were so broke they often ate at soup kitchens when they were between gigs. Johnson left the band just a few weeks after they arrived, and was replaced with Sebastian Amok. The band landed a spot on the "Rock Against Reagan" tour, supporting the Dead Kennedys, replacing Amok with Josh Pappe shortly after. The new lineup laid down a new EP, entitled Violent Pacification, that would be their last release on their own Dirty Rotten label. The set dropped in early 1984, and the band spent the summer touring the country to support it. After that tour, Eric Brecht got married and left the band. Eric later spent a short time with an early incarnation of Death, and played on the 1986 Hirax album Hate, Fear and Power. D.R.I. Replaced him with a 17 year-old named Felix Griffin, who would remain with the band for the remainder of the 1980s.

On their early releases, D.R.I. stayed true to their hardcore Texas roots. Heavily influenced by punk pioneers like the Dead Kennedys, the Misfits and Black Flag, they produced short, driving songs, often about heavy political subjects. D.R.I. played at super-fast tempos, with each song seemingly more frenetic than the last. The band continued to play gigs whenever they could get them, writing new material in between shows. D.R.I. was becoming a staple at San Francisco clubs like Ruthie's and the Fillmore, and regularly performed in front of members of Sayer, Exodus and other Bay Area thrash bands. It was Slayer drummer Dave Lombardo, in fact, that helped convince Metal Blade Records CEO Brian Slagel to sign the band to its first record deal. The band booked time at Rampart Studio in Houston in late 1984 to record, but Josh Pappe took a leave of absence from the band so Mikey Offender from the Offenders was brought in to record the bass lines. Still very much involved with his own band, Offender didn't have time to learn all the songs for the new album so the load was split, with Spike Cassidy handling bass duties on songs Offender didn't learn.

DRI 85: Kurt Brecht & Cassidy in back
Josh Pappe & Felix Griffin front

Dealin' with It was released in March 1985, offering the first hint of the sound D.R.I. would help develop. Their second album still featured short songs, with frenetic drums and Brecht's classic punk vocal style, but the band began to implement more complex elements more associated with heavy metal or thrash music. The crossover sound was still in development, and the term wouldn't even be coined for another two years, but D.R.I. was on to something, and the world was starting to take notice. The album also featured the track "Mad Man," which would be come a cult classic thanks to its inspiration. The track was about Brecht's dad, who'd unintentionally named the band, and included audio of one of his dad's famous rants. The band toured extensively behind Dealing with It, filming their April 26, 1986 show for a VHS release called Live at the Olympic. The band began to adapt their songs when they played them live, fine-tuning what would eventually be a brand new genre. By the time they began writing material for their next album, DRI was focused and ready to write songs that would define them as a band.

Crossover was recorded in late '86 and early '87 at the Stagg Street Studio in LA, and released on March 9, 1987, garnering a favorable reception from both the hardcore and thrash communities. The album was received so well, in fact, that its title was adopted to describe a new genre. Obviously, DRI is considered among the pioneers of this movement, along with Suicidal Tendencies and Corrosion of Conformity. Crossover was defined by longer songs than previous DRI efforts, and continued the complex arrangements the band used on Dealing with It. The album was popular with fans of punk, hardcore and thrash, and the band's live shows induced frenetic behavior unseen before. DRI shows were some of the first ever where fans stage dive and slam danced, which can be seen on their Live at the Ritz VHS release, recorded in June 1987 at the Ritz in New York City.

While Crossover was an immediate classic in the underground metal community, it failed to catch on with fans of more mainstream genres like glam metal and even thrash. Bands like Megadeth and Slayer were selling a lot more records at that point, which might have had an impact on DRI's songwriting moving forward. The band spent February and March of '88 laying down a follow-up to Crossover, releasing Four of a Kind just a few months later. The album quickly became DRI's biggest commercial success, spending several weeks on the Billboard 200 albums chart, peaking at No. 116. The album was extremely well received in the thrash community, but the band's hardcore fans viewed the release as a sell-out.

If DRI's first few releases can be described as punk with just a hint of thrash, Four of a Kind was the polar opposite of that: a solid thrash album with just a hint of punk. The band also produced their first music video after dropping Four of a Kind, for the single "Suit and Tie Guy." The video contributed to the band's shift from hardcore to thrash as punk fans still viewed music videos as an unnecessary evil best left to the hair bands and pop stars, while thrash pioneers like Metallica and Exodus had already succumbed to the lure of the exposure MTV offered. Four of a Kind is widely considered DRI's best thrash effort, and continues to be their highest charting and biggest selling album.

DRI's 1987-1988 "Crossover" tour saw their first shows in Europe, where fans were just as receptive as US fans, albeit not quite as violent back then. The crossover thrash sound was a huge hit, and would be adopted by dozens of bands in the late 80s and early 90s. Ironically, the sound they helped develop was only a step in the evolution of DRI, as subsequent releases leaned more towards a purer thrash sound than Crossover. In the end, the Crossover album was aptly named, as it was the step between DRI's hardcore roots and its entry into the thrash world. Because of the variety of genres DRI released music in, there is always debate about which era produced the best music. The band was a huge hit among hardcore fans in the early days, but those fans fell off when the band began recording thrash albums. Thrash purists, meanwhile, respect the earlier DRI stuff but only began to love the band on later albums. Regardless of which side of the argument they're on, however, all DRI fans have a fondness for Crossover, and the album is considered one of the vital cogs in the evolution of extreme metal; influencing an entire generation of bands that came after them, not to mention the bands around at the same time.

DRI hit the road after 4 of a Kind's release, launching their most extensive assault of Europe yet. The reception was solid, but the grind of life on the road took its toll on band chemistry, and bassist Josh Pappe left the band when they returned home to San Francisco. The band hired John Menor to replace Pappe and hit the studio again to lay down a follow-up to 4 of a Kind in August of '89. About two months later the band emerged with Thrash Zone, released on October 10th. The effort continued the thrash style introduced on 4 of a Kind, and became the second DRI album to chart on the Billboard 200, peaking at No. 140. Videos were produced for the tracks "Beneath the Wheel," and "Abduction," receiving a fairly heavy rotation on MTV. Thrash Zone would be DRI's last release on Metal Blade, as they had fulfilled their contract and wanted to return to their independent roots. Felix Griffin left the band in the spring of 1990 and was replaced by Rob Rampy.

Kurt Enjoys a Moment with Loyal Fans

With the new lineup in place, DRI spent the rest of 1990 and '91 playing sporadic shows and writing material for their sixth full-length. They hit the studio in June 1992, taking two months to lay down Definition with a new producer, Jim Faraci. A video was released for the song "Acid Rain," which would later be used in an episode of the MTV animated show Beavis and Butthead, but the album failed to chart, and critics were beginning to proclaim the band's career over. DRI's live reputation was still intact, and the band were offered the chance to play with numerous bands. Brecht and Cassidy eventually decided to jump on with Testament, who released their highest charting album to that point, The Ritual, in May. DRI's set at the Hollywood Palladium in November of '92 was filmed, and would be used for their first live album, Live. The album would be released in mid-1995 as a precursor to album number 7. John Menor left before the Testament tour ended, after the Palladium show, and was replaced by longtime band roadie and bass tech Chumly Porter.

With porter filling the bass slot, DRI hit the studio in late 1994 to begin working on its seventh full-length album. Unlike their Metal Blade releases and Definition, the band decided to produce the effort without an outside producer, Cassidy being listed as producer on the effort, released on November 14, 1995. Titled Full Speed Ahead, the album failed to generate much excitement, and sales were even worse than they had been for Definition. A video was released for the song "Syringes in the Sandbox," but was not played much on MTV and also failed to catch on with fans. The band announced the album would be their last, effectively ending their recording career, but assured the loyal fans of their live shows that touring would continue. The band did record a new song entitled "Against Me" in 2003, releasing it on their official website, but has yet to release another album or EP of new material since Full Speed Ahead. True to their word, however, the band has played live almost constantly, though they did take nearly two years off when Cassidy was diagnosed with colon cancer in 2006. The band continues to sell out large venues around the world and, despite the age and the wear and tear on those Dirty Rotten imbeciles, they still prove on a nightly basis they are the world's fastest band!

In addition to touring with D.R.I., Kurt Brecht also formed a band called Pasadena Napalm Division in 2010 with Dead Horse's Scott Sevall, Greg Martin and Ronny Guyote. The band released a self-titled EP in 2011 and a self-titled LP in 2013. Spike Cassidy has produced several albums on the Dirty Rotten label, including Acid Bath's 1994 album When te Kite String Pops and a 1997 effort entitled Token Remedies Research by Damaged.

Classic DRI Lineup - L to R: Brecht, Cassidy, Griffin, Pappe