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Drive-By Truckers - photo by David McClister

Drive-By Truckers

Songwriting, Records, and The Problem With Southern Stereotypes - The Mike Cooley Interview
by Sal Serio
February 2014

Drive-By Truckers are back with an excellent new CD, ‘English Oceans’, due out March 4, and a new tour with openers Blitzen Trapper, which hits Milwaukee’s Turner Hall March 26, First Avenue in Minneapolis March 27, and Madison on March 28. Maximum Ink’s Sal Serio had a fun and insightful conversation with co-founder, guitarist, and vocalist Mike Cooley.

Maximum Ink: I was just listening to an advance copy of the ‘English Oceans’ release. You’ve got a lot of songs on there, the most for you since ‘Brighter Than Creation’s Dark’. Was that a reflection of a particularly creative time for you, or was it more luck of the draw?
Mike Cooley: I’ve always done that, but the last time around, when it kind of dried up, was a little longer than it had ever been. The timing was just awful. [It] was a big relief for me to come in with that many new songs that I felt that strongly about. This time I did a lot more writing things down as I thought of them. Just a line here, a line there, and stockpiling that. As I would get something started that seemed like it was going somewhere, I could look back and occasionally pull something out of there that would help me bridge the gap and get me to the next piece of it.

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Driver 13


by John Noyd
September 2001

When Shawn Anthony Brown returned to Wisconsin last fall, he had a long drive to contemplate his future.  His first time to Wisconsin was nearly ten years ago when Last Crack recruited him as their new lead singer. That road led to a European record deal, playing before tens of thousands of people and munching on sandwiches back stage with Ozzy and Sepultura. Splitting from Last Crack to form Spiritus, Shawn eventually grew tired of low wages and indifferent response from local radio. Returning to his native North Carolina, he dabbled in bands and jams that honed his awesome voice and brought him in contact with the woman who eventually became his wife. Still, something was missing. So, encouraged by his Madison friends who spun tales of Spiritus getting airplay and a renewed interest from radio for the local scene, Shawn packed his bags, kissed his wife goodbye and came back to seek his musical destiny. Thirteen hours later he got out of the car with his dreams intact and a name for his new band Driver (now Driver 13).

Hooking up with some of his old bandmates, Shawn actually came back to form two bands, Grip and Driver. While Grip fell to the wayside, Driver flourished, fronted by Shawn and piloted by Kerry Koppen, Mike Hagen and John Stone (Smolak). Pooling their experience in countless local bands and a profound love for Tool and Led Zeppelin, Driver creates a swampy, low end mix of industrial strength rock and spooked-out metal with traces of Middle Eastern warbling and iron-fisted rap. Shawn describes it as a chunkier, more evolved Spiritus .

Settled into the area with his wife, dog Tyler and steady employment, Shawn sees Driver’s future not as a breakout act to be courted by the industry, but rather a solid live band looking for local notoriety.  While they are cutting a single at Sleepless Nights later this year, there are no plans for CDs and national exposure. It doesn’t matter, Shawn says, how talented you are, the music industry is only interested in a look, a gimmick, the latest trend. Following their own muse, Driver shows samurai grace under extreme pressure, screaming when the spirit moves them, and shaking out the demons at the drop of a hat. Appearing at Bomblastica 2001 on September 22nd, they are sure to seize the night with their particular brand of feverish metal.

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Driveway Thriftdwellers

Driveway Thriftdwellers

An Interview with Jon and Ryan Knudson
by Michelle Harper
August 2016

Jon and Ryan Knudson know backwoods country. Wisconsin backwoods, that is.

Influenced by farm life and bands such as The Flying Burrito Brothers, Little Feat and Creedence Clearwater Revival, The Driveway Thriftdwellers sound like a meld of classic bluegrass country fusion and garage music from the 60s and 70s

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Driveway Thriftdwellers

Driveway Thriftdwellers (2018)

Driveway Thriftdwellers
by Teri Barr
November 2018

It may be odd to learn, I am thankful for the friendship and respect that grew out of the death of a commonly-loved musician in 2017. A shared interest in the music of Tom Petty brought the talent of the Driveway Thriftdwellers into our studio at WOLX. The members of this Country-Americana band are based across Southern Wisconsin, but lead singer and guitar player Jon Knudson organized a show in Madison, to celebrate the life and music of Tom Petty. It was right around Thanksgiving last year, and just before it, Jon and the band’s bass player, Aaron Collins, promoted the “Thankful for Petty Party” by playing their own rendition of a Tom Petty classic, live on-air. The sound, and feel, reminded me of the melancholy old country music my Mom played on the stereo when I was a kid. It also made me miss those kinds of songs—the well-written, story in every verse, sort of sappy, steel pedal featured kind—and I quickly became a fan of the Thriftdwellers. I wasn’t alone, as the group won a WAMI for Country Band of the Year, earned acclaim for the first album, and was described as having a “Best Of” performance at Summerfest in Milwaukee. One year later, the second Tom Petty Thanksgiving show is in the works, and the guys have also been working hard on their own music, with a second album coming out in November. Jon shared the new music, and took time to talk with me about his love of the Driveway Thriftdwellers

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Madison's own Droids Attack in Maximum Ink in December 2006

Droids Attack


by Sarah H. Grant
March 2006

In an age where music bands are defined by their range of MySpace graphics and anyone that can strum a hackneyed power chord is a rockstar, it is no wonder that originality in local bands today is alarmingly scarce. Droids Attack is, however, the exception.

Droids Attack consists of Madison’s rock triumvirate: lead vocalist and guitarist Brad Van, bassist Nate Bush, and drummer Tony Brungraber. Droids Attack’s premier album, “All Your Chicks Are Belong To Us” garnered much deserved recognition in the punk-metal realm of the Midwest. In 2004, the album won a MAMA (Madison Area Music Award) for Best Punk Album.

Currently, the band is promoting their sophomore album, “Fatal Error,” due to be released in late 2006/2007. Fatal Error maintains the same rhythmic foundation of the first CD, but with tighter riffs and a distinctly sharper sound.

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Madison's Droids Attack Vs. Chicago's Imperial Battlesnake on the cover of Maximum Ink - photo by Brad Van (drawing)

Droids Attack


by Kristen Winiarski
August 2008

Once fronted by a robot, Droids Attack is now focusing more on their music and getting their name further into the music world. Brad Van on guitar and vocals, Nate Bush on bass, and Tony Brungraber on drums, align this trio of hard stoner rock. With a CD release, vinyl, and radio campaign in the works, this band certainly has been busy since the story we did on them back in 2006. I had the opportunity to speak with Brad Van who told me a little bit about their past and the many, many projects that the band has for their future.

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early Droids Attack

Droids Attack - 2003


by David A. Kulczyk
March 2003

In five years of writing for Maximum Ink, it is rare that I receive a call from Rökker at 9pm asking me to check out a band’s website and write about them two hours before print time. You must remember that Rökker receives 4,000 CD’s a year and hundreds of phone calls a month from bands, publicists and managers. And while he’s easily amused, he’s not easily impressed. ‘What band could be so important?’ I thought. Tapping in www.droidsattack.com, I immediately saw what Rökker was pining about.

The website crafts a dyamic, user-friendly interface that reflects Droids Attack founder Brad Van’s favorite hobby, and business - video games. Brad owns Aftershock Video, soon to be featured on State Steet in Madison above Ping Time. In his world, robots attack humans everyday.

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