More than 15 years after calling it quits, the self-proclaimed "Bastard Squad" that made up Atlanta-based Stopper are cranking up the amps and dusting off the mics for a reunion show aimed at helping out an old friend.
"Dave [Shumate] is the bottom line of all of this," Stopper bassist Jason Wilson said. "But we've never had an opportunity that we wouldn't piss away. Haha. There's no telling what's going to happen on stage."
By the band's own account, drugs played a big roll in its notorious legacy, 1996 breakup, and, ultimately, singer Dave Shumate's opiate-driven criminal acts. In the end, though, it's the same tale of debauchery that led them to reunite.
As the band works to raise money for Save Stopper Dave, an initiative led by band members and friends to raise money for Dave Shumate's legal fund (and, the guys hope, reduce his decades-long prison sentence), we caught up with long-time bassist Jason Wilson to talk Folsom Prison Blues, the myth of Stopper 2.0, and why punk bands shouldn't waste their time practicing.
Clay Duda: It's been 16 years since Stopper called it quits. Why now? What's the occasion for the reunion show?
Jason Wilson: Well, Stopper ended in the summer of '96 - and it didn't end well.
I hadn't talked to any of the guys since the '90's, really, until David [Shumate]'s arrest and sentencing in 2010. David was the singer of the band. He got pretty deep into a heroin addiction going on in the band at the time, and it just got worse and worse.
Dave decided - instead of doing what most people would do when they decide to kill themselves, like popping a bunch of pills or whatever - he wanted to go suicide-by-cop. He went into a drugstore in Fayetteville, waived a hand-held BB gun, told everybody to get out and call the cops, and took about 20 OxyContins just to make sure if the cops arrived and shot him - which he was planning on - he'd overdose if they didn't kill him.
But he didn't overdose and he didn't die. He got shot twice and was sentenced to 20 years in prison. The original plan was just to try and generate some money for his attorney fees and his mother, but that has become us actually getting a lawyer for Dave and working on getting an appeal.
You know, child molesters don't get 20 years. Dave faces at least 10 years for armed robbery in Georgia. He's good with that and we're good with that, but we also think 20 years is excessive, and that's why the band got back together. We've put together a whole set, and have actually been practicing. That's something Stopper didn't do too much of in the '90's.
It's a punk band. Who the hell needs to practice?
I know, right?! How hard is it to play Misfits covers?
You guys said y'all left on bad terms in '96. What happened there?
Well, it got to a point where there was kind of a division in the band. Drugs and alcohol were always staples of what we did. My vice of choice was alcohol, but the rest of the guys were much more into the whole drug culture thing. It just spiraled out of control as time and the band went along. It wasn't anything major or one big thing, just a bunch of minor problems that grew.
I keep hearing you guys referred to as the "Bastard Squad." Where'd that come from and how does the band live up to the reputation?
"The Bastard Squad" was a song we wrote. I think it comes from the fact that the lyrics were basically about what a bunch of assholes we were. We found humor in terrible things that happen to people. We just had a sick sense of humor I guess. You can find humor in anything I think, nothing is off limits. We were known for burning bridges with other people. I was kind of the dork of the band. I got along with a lot of the other bands at the time, but the other three Stopper guys kind of established this reputation of doing what they wanted. They were rebels, which is such a silly word to use now, but it's true. No matter what you said or what you asked they were going to do the opposite, kind of just to spite you. I think we all had that streak in us, and managed to make a lot of enemies along the way.
The only thing that got released by Stopper back in the day was a 7-inch record that sounded like shit, and that song was on there. Maximum Rocknroll gave us a scathing review and we were very happy with that.
You guys just released a sort of posthumous album, right?
Yeah, it's a collection of stuff we recorded back in the 1990's with David. The first four songs are actually the last recordings that we finished.
Tracks five through 16 on the CD we recorded with some other guys that had an eight track recorder. That was one of the first times I ever sat down and recorded stuff, and I learned something that would follow me through my musical career: You need to pay attention to what was going on and not just assume people know what they're doing.
It's all part of the money making machine for Save Stopper Dave, basically. It's not because we had some deep desire to put our music out there for the world to hear. This is part of us trying to get help for our friend.
So you guys are also working on a documentary. How did all of that come about?I was just coming off another project when Ian, our old guitarist, started posting on Facebook [as Save Stopper Dave]. I was like, "Hey, why don't we put out the old music, and hey, why don't we do a seven to 10 minute mini-documentary and sell it as a package deal or something."
That seven to 10 minute documentary quickly became a full-length documentary with Jason Winn executive producing - he's the director of the Fat Boy Chronicles. He's managed to get some distributors in LA interested in the project. I'm kind of just waiting to see where it all goes before we decide what to do with it. It'll probably hit film festivals and things like that, but whether it gets distribution or I'm selling it out of the back of a car, I'm cool with it.
This reunion show, is that it, or is this the launch of Stopper 2.0?
You know what, I don't know that answer.
As of right now, this is the only show we're booked on and the only one we've talked about. There hasn't been that discussion, but I'm open for anything. There's always the possibility of doing something else to try and help raise money for Dave, but as of right now this is it.
Yeah, I wasn't sure if y'all were trying to pull a Johnny Cash or something, with Dave in prison and all.
You know what's funny? I was actually listening to Live at Folsom Prison a few weeks ago and thought about that. Wouldn't it be fun? But that thought quickly escaped my mind. We're having a hard enough time getting prepared for a show in an actual club. Haha. I don't know about doing a show in a prison.
What's the ultimate goal in raising money for Shumate's legal fund?
It's a tough pill to swallow, this whole concept. When I tell people about it, I don't expect people to jump up with open arms and write a $1000 check. The guy went into a drugstore and put people's lives in danger. The cops didn't know he was holding a BB gun. What he did was stupid, and we're not advocating that kind of behavior.
Like I said, he's got a mandatory 10 years or more for armed robbery. If we can get it reduced to 12 or even 15 years, at least that's something. We want to see his sentence reduced and hopefully get him some kind of rehabilitation help so he doesn't just get released and head right back to the needle.
It's a tough cycle to get out of.
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