Solid Dudes Kitchen

Posted on November 24, 2010


As rhythm section of Detroit experimental post-hardcore trio Heads Will Roll, Dave Graw and Derek Swanson found themselves adrift in 2007 when singer/guitarist Jeff Tuttle was recruited by The Dillinger Escape Plan to make a living by touring the world. “We were of the age where the idea of trying to start over with a new band was just like… eh… so I had been joking about, wouldn’t it be funny to do a cooking show?” says Swanson (formerly of Chicago’s 7000 Dying Rats). “Then one day I was like, fuck it, and I recorded a theme song.”

That was all it took to fire up the burners. “I was like, oh fuck, it’s on!” says taste-tester and commentator Graw (currently of Isosceles Mountain) who immediately began designing an introductory credit sequence. “I’ll call your bluff on that awesome theme song. Now we’ll walk out on the moon looking stupid, chased by some fuckin’ forks.” A failed pilot shelved the idea for months until the 2008 Super Bowl inspired a protest—staying in and eating salads—and Solid Dudes Kitchen has been serving it up ever since.

“It’s usually a combination of high concept and Dave’s challenging,” says Swanson, which results in concoctions such as Norwegian black metal fish tacos, mouthwatering “special” brownies with maple-bacon ice cream and the lip-smacking “Pork Motherfucker.” The Dudes are currently wrapping season two (with episode four debuting today online) and have plenty of leftovers for an upcoming DVD release.

“I think the show was just more of a way to get us around something we both like,” says Graw. “I mean, I like to eat. Derek is surprisingly a good cook. [We] just hang out and be idiots… if our friends laugh, that’s enough. When our friends stop laughing then we’ll stop doing it.”

Swanson admits to be driven by more than just a passion for food. “When we weren’t a band anymore it was kind of like, if I don’t have something creative to do I’m gonna end up at the top of a fucking clock tower. I think it’s good for the world to lose bands because you end up doing other interesting shit.”

Sample the goods at • Heads Will Roll w/ Few and Far Between and Bars of Gold • The Magic Stick • December 26

11.24.10 / Real Detroit Weekly


3:45pm, Friday, November 12, 2010
Derek’s house

Dave Graw: We had a Lost party and everybody brought a dish. I opened my big mouth a couple of weeks before and I’m like, I’m making cookies with everybody’s face. So I tried making cookies with everybody’s face and it was—molding them? It was a fucking nightmare. I burnt like, 24 cookies. Like, woo, big surprise, I can’t cook. Or bake. So we ended up working it out but some friends showed up and they brought these beers and they made these labels and they’ve been in Derek’s fridge since then. So I’m drinking this stale old seven month old beer.

How’d you guys get started doing this?

Derek Swanson: We were in a band and our guitarist got picked up by Dillinger Escape Plan. So he gets to see the world and make music as a career, and we were of the age where the idea of trying to start over with a new band was just like… eh… so I had been joking about, wouldn’t it be funny to do a cooking show? I was watching a ton of cooking shows, and we both work in film and video…

DG: I was playing with this dude named Dave and we were joking about band names, and I was just throwing around the term “solid dude” and Derek was like, you should call it Solid Dudes for the band. Then Dave was like, nah… a week later I get a phone call from Derek and he’s like, dude we should start a cooking show. Solid Dudes Kitchen. You wanna do it? I was like, yeah. I hung up…

DS: So then there was this back and forth…

DG: …continued to smoke and drink or do whatever I was doing. Not thinking about it.

DS: …and then we just kept joking about it, and then one day I was like, fuck it. And I recorded a theme song when I was at work, sent it to him and then he did like, an opening animation thing, and I was like, alright, well, I guess… I guess I have to do a show.

DS: When I got the music I was like, oh fuck it’s on! I gotta do this. Now I gotta do something, or… I think it was mostly like, okay. I’ll call your bluff on that.

DG: It was always one-upsmanship.

DS: I’ll call your bluff on that awesome theme song. Now we’ll walk out on the moon looking stupid, chased by some fuckin’ forks.

DG: And then so we did a pilot and it was terrible, and then we sat on it for like six months, cos…

When was that?

DS: April of…

DG: No, the pilot. Dude it was in like October or November. Because then we didn’t film until the Super Bowl. We took six or seven months off and the next time we filmed was the Super Bowl. Cos it was cold, man. We were wearing t-shirts but it was cold. It was probably like October.

Of what year?

DG: ’07. Cos ’08 was the Super Bowl.

DS: Yep.

DG: Yep. It was ’07.

What did you cook in the pilot?

DS: We were working off the Food Network paradigm. It was a hangover food episode so we did pasta carbonara as our main dish, and then I did drinks, sandwiches….

DG: The sandwich was good but it didn’t even make the rough…

DS: We did like three different things and we did like a narrative, like the morning after thing and it was just—

DG: It was stupid.

DS: It was just terrible. So we did that. We went through all of that and we were just like…

DG: I mean it still wasn’t as bad as 90% of the crap on the Food Network. It was still way better than all that shit.

DS: But it bummed us out enough that we were like, maybe we don’t do this. Maybe we’ll just…

DG: Not good enough.

DS: So then Dave was like, we should try another one. So we had this idea to do the anti-Super Bowl one. And then we just kind of cut out all the bullshit and made it six minutes. Cos the other one was, we were trying to make it like television so it was almost a half hour long.

DG: But nobody has the attention for that.

DS: We don’t have the attention for that.

A lot of people are just watching YouTube nowadays.

DS: Yeah.

DG: I that’s gonna change a little bit, just with even like the integration of, who is it that just launched their new TV that’s the web and their, like…

DS: Google.

DG: Google, right? Even with that I think it’s gonna change. And I think we’re gonna see web content that’s gonna support a longer timeline. But it’s happening right now, like, we’re on the cusp of it. Nobody likes sitting in front of their computer for that long.

DS: Yeah, it makes me mad.

DG: You want to go from one thing to another real quick, and you get interrupted cos your computer currently, like, while you’re watching your video your stupid IM is popping up and something else is stopping you from paying attention, so 22 minutes on there is hard. I mean, my favorite thing to watch on the internet, my favorite television show is Epicly Later’d on Vice. VBS. Dude, it’s fucking fantastic. It’s my favorite.

DS: It’s super good.

DG: It’s super, super good. And they do it right, they break it out into 8 minutes. He’ll do an episode… I think the lizard king, it was probably like 30 minutes but he just cuts it into sections. He finds ways to like, do little stories. So it buttons, it ties up, like you can watch two or three just straight from the beginning and you’re like, oh it ties up. It’s good. You can watch it long format but it’s hard. I mean, I know going into it that I want to sit here and watch it and it’s hard for me to watch it. You know, ten minutes long. I think our longest episode was fifteen and that’s the sushi one and I feel like it’s compelling. But it’s hard, dude. I don’t know. Adult Swim’s got it. A lot of that programming that’s twelve minutes long.

DS: Yeah. It’s super short.

DG: That shit’s super funny. Get in and get out, dude. That’s how I feel about sex, too. Ask my wife. Are you good? Oh, I’m sorry.

DS: We’ll try again tomorrow. You’re a trooper, I love you! *snores*

DG: Are you eating a sandwich in bed? No…

How do you feel about TV in general?

DS: I didn’t start watching television television until Six Feet Under. And I caught that mid-way through. I went to film school so I was all snobby about film, and television was just this kind of, this thing for dumb people. And to a degree it still kind of is, but you get a lot more really, really, really good long format programming now.

DG: You’re touching on exactly, exactly my opinion.

DS: Yeah.

DG: You didn’t get that before. Old television, it was sitcom shit. It was tune in, tune out, doesn’t matter.

DS: Fuckin’ Seinfeld, or M*A*S*H. Even the best of the old stuff was still fuckin’ balls.

DG: I mean, and just to touch on why we did this episode, it’s cos Lost was fucking sweet.

DS: We were so into it.

DG: It was so sweet. And they had a great idea. And the character development was awesome. You have all this time to like… dude you can have a cast of like twenty fucking people, and you know, cos over five seasons you can give enough back story so by the fourth or fifth season you’re like, I know. I can relate to all these people. That’s hard to do in a two hour movie. Movies used to be an hour and a half. And now I mean, when they push three it’s like, it’s tough, man. It’s a yawn fest. It’s hard to do that.

DS: So I think the good television is moving toward, like the Mad Men, or…

DG: AMC is…

DS: AMC is fucking killing it. But stuff that you have to make an investment in, stuff that, you know… it’s about character, and it’s gonna take character. You can’t tell character in fuckin’ little bursts. You gotta kinda stretch that out.

DG: And that’s like, long format shit. That’s awesome. I’m mean, dude. I’ll say it. I like Detroit 187. The season premiere was kind of weak. I’ve been hanging in there cos I want… part of me is like, I want it to be awesome. I just want it to be good but it’s been getting a lot better and a lot of the character development is better, and I think that’s cos you can come from like… they’re coming from the thought where they’re like, actually they’re shooting the city really well too but it’s like, you can take the time to develop the character and that’s what’s good about TV versus cinema. I mean, cos then you end up with like, a Die Hard 7 and nobody gives a fuck.

How many Saws are there now?

DG: Exactly. Who cares?

DS: Exactly. I think we’ll just leave it at that.

DG: It topped out when that chick had to dig herself out of a pool of fucking aids needles. It’s like, fuck you!

DS: That happened?

DG: That happened. In Saw 2 or something. I saw it like on… whatever. I was watching that, or somebody was watching it, and I’m such a…

DS: Dude, he’s so weird about horror movies.

DG: I’m such a squeamish… I’m awful. And I saw that and I’m like, that’s it! I’m fucking done. I clocked out. I’m like, fuck it! I’m done. All this shit sucks, fuck you, that’s it. I just walked away. I’m like, what’s the point of that scene dude. I mean, it’s like, yes dude. You came up with a severely gross scenario that makes me totally uncomfortable. Awesome. Success.

DS: Congratulations.

DG: How do we relate to that? I don’t know, dude. I mean, fuck it. I don’t want to relate to it. I’ve said this before. My favorite shows… I love Dave Attell’s Insomniac. I fucking loved it. I like Bourdain a ton… dude, as far as… I think Insomniac was a cooking show. Besides the comedy…

DS: Basically, yeah.

DG: …he’s going into, he’s going around, and it was a way better Man vs. Food. Cos that show blows. You can quote me on that.

DS: I don’t agree. It’s fine. I get it.

Is that the guy with the spikey hair?

DS: That guy…

DG: No that’s TGI Friday’s.

I guess I haven’t seen it.

DG: That TGI Friday’s television show isn’t very good. I mean, dude, it’s like, Man vs. Food—there’s a good premise. I think the producers are killing him on it. I think he had an idea… I think season one was alright. It’s awful.

DS: I can’t watch it without thinking they’re fucking toilet afterward.

DG: And they’re trying to fit that format so they do the MTV where like, after the commercial break you watch two minutes of what you just saw in fast forward time. It’s like, that’s why your show is boring. That’s why it’s not good. Don’t make television for idiots. Try to make it a little more… try to make people question it. If they don’t get the joke the first time hopefully they’ll rewind it.

DS: Or it’s not your audience.

DG: Or, fuck em.

DS: You don’t have to have everybody like you. I think you can make niche entertainment.

What do you think about people doing stuff online? What do you think that’s gonna do to TV?

DG: There’s too much money behind television for it to ever go away. I think it’ll move to… it won’t just be on your television. It’ll be on the internet. But advertisers got really creeped out with the advent of DVRs cos you can just fast forward, so they just find different ways to market you the same shit. They’ll just put their content in the shows. I was watching Fringe. Everybody drives a Ford!

DG: Surprisingly.

DS: Surprisingly. Everybody in the world.

DG: So did Robocop. They all drove Tauruses, too. So this has been going on for a while.

DS: They’re gonna have to work harder but it’s never going away.

DG: The product placement. I mean, the shows that are being really funny about it is like, 30 Rock, where they’re just really obviously doing it which is… whatever. I mean, everyone gets it and if you’re smart enough to get it and you know that it’s there… I mean if they hold up a Pepsi, I’m not drinking a Pepsi cos I know that Pepsi’s gross. That’s just me. And I’ve made that decision cos I’ve had it over time so if people see it and they go oh my god, Tina Fey drinks Pepsi, fuck yeah! I mean, fuck them! They should buy that Pepsi and Pepsi should win that money. I mean, there you go dude! Take it. Well deserved. I think that, you know, how they get you dude? With the On Demand and then locking out the fast forwarding, they’re like… oh you want to watch your show at any time? Cool. You’re gonna see our preview about, you know, the two good boys or whatever. What’s that show?

DS: The two good… Two and a Half Men?

DG: I don’t know. Who cares. No, you’re gonna have to watch it. You’re gonna have to watch it in between the break. They get you there. With this, like, a couple years ago I was in New York hanging out with my friend, I mean, a smaller studio apartment, your computer is your TV because it’s in the same room. So this was two years ago that we were watching television on his computer and now it’s gonna be a big deal in the suburbs and in the Midwest. And when people are watching television, I mean you’re gonna get the banner ads, you’re gonna get, when you hit the YouTube video that gets a ton of hits you have to watch the fifteen second commercial in front of it. And advertisers are gonna find a way to do it. I mean, it’s all gonna be there. They’re gonna get creative. But hopefully, to touch on what you said, hopefully with the freedom of the internet is it’s gonna challenge people to be more creative and it’s also gonna give people an option to hunt down… I mean, Epicly Later’d would not be on ESPN2 or any form of that. I couldn’t see it. I couldn’t see it on any sports channel anywhere but I can watch it on the internet on VBS and order the DVD and watch it in my house and that’s fucking cool. And Nike advertises on that website, so there’s a nice advertisement, or there’s a whatever. Pitchfork’s got an ad or whoever it is. They’re advertising there and it’s fine. I mean, I don’t mind watching it cos I’m gonna watch some good content.

Doing the show and playing in bands, how does it feel different and how does it feel the same?

DS: I think the similarity ends at just that kind of DIY ethic. We did this because we thought it would be funny. We did it because we think that we have this kind of rapport where… we think we’re the funniest people we know. And we figured, like, why don’t we give this gift to the world? And if we were kind of locked in to the paradigm that the only way to get people to see it would be on television it would never happen. So the idea of like, call up a couple of friends, have them bring over a couple of video cameras, we’ll cut it on my laptop, he’ll add graphics from his laptop, and our buddy will mix it on his laptop and then we’ll just upload it to YouTube and we have a cooking show. I think that’s it. I mean there’s always…

DG: Cos that’s how you put out a record. I mean, it’s the same thing that like, not even on as close to a grand of a scale and I don’t mean to compare us to this, but Discord was like, well fuck it. Nobody will carry our shit, we’ll do it ourselves. We’ll put it out and we’ll… before the internet, we will take your letters, and we will collect them from a PO box, and we will fill your order or mail your check back to you if we’re sold out because we can’t keep inventory. I mean, you just find a way to do it. Maybe that’s the same. The good thing is that there’s no practice which is sweet.

DS: Yeah.

DG: Cos you know, practice is… that was fun for a while but now it’s like, whew. Boy, I’m fucking tired. It’s a good thing I stretched. But the bummer is that all the time comes in afterwards. I mean the filming…

DS: The filming’s fun.

DG: The filming’s fun. We filmed seven episodes this year and we did a longer film shoot. We had an opportunity to be in Germany so we filmed in Germany, and then we spent a couple more days doing that and that’s so much fun. But that’s a tenth of what it takes. Then there’s everything else, which when it’s just the two of us in that whole section… until we bring in the help of our friends Chuck, and our friend Eric or Andrew, or in this case Spencer’s gonna be doing the audio on this most recent episode… I mean, it’s all us. And that’s just tedious bullshit.

DS: It takes forever.

DG: And that’s, I guess that’s maybe like the songwriting process?

Sounds like it’s reversed.

DG: Exactly. Absolutely. That’s a great way of putting it. It’s totally reversed.

But it takes just as much time in the end?

DS: Well, yeah.

DG: Yeah, I mean…

DS: It’s cheaper.

DG: It’s fun though. And I mean, for some reason it seems to fill the same void. We’re still playing music and we get to record. We do music for the show… but it’s filling a void for sure.

DS: When we weren’t a band anymore it was kind of like, if I don’t have something creative to do I’m gonna end up at the top of a fucking clock tower. I think it’s good for the world to lose bands cos you end up doing other interesting shit.

How do you decide what to cook?

DG: It’s been weird. It’s mixed. Sometimes it’s just my stupid fucking ideas that are challenging maybe, to come up with something dumb. Maybe it’s nice that I have no… I’m like… I have no idea how long it takes to smoke something, but wouldn’t it be awesome if…?

DS: It wasn’t until after the first season DVD came out that Dave realized that I come up with recipes. That I’m not just on the internet like… um, pasta. We’re gonna make that.

DG: Yeah I didn’t really think about it.

DS: It’s usually a combination of high concept and Dave’s challenging. So… the Dia de los Muertos thing. Wouldn’t it be funny if we did something Mexican for Dia de los Muertos, but we got Jeff to fuck it up and just honed in on the death part and made Norwegian black metal? Alright, well, what do we do with that? Fish tacos.

DG: Yeah cos originally we talked tamales, but then, yeah. Exactly. That’s concept. The Lost one was like, yeah.

DS: I mean, he’s been saying the sandwich thing…

DG: I’ve been talking sandwiches forever but I mean, the best one is a monte cristo. Its breakfast, you know, when I get sick of that meat it’s french toast. So it’s like, I’ll just rip that out and I’m eating french toast. So I mean, that’s that. And the hangover food… we filmed that one. That’ll be the season finale…

DS: Yeah we revisit the hangover.

DG: To do it better.

DS: We do it backwards. We do the over, and we go and have a friend make us a bunch of drinks and get fucked up. And then we do the hang. No. I’m sorry, the hang and then the over. The over is we make, I make breakfast. So…

DG: A very heavy breakfast.

DS: Yeah its one of those things where it’s like, for the hangover breakfast I do a liver terrine. Because you damage your liver. You eat liver like a zombie. So shit that we think is clever and funny.

DG: I think we said it before, but the show was more of a vehicle to just, I mean, we have friends… I don’t know what happened but it seems like America is getting foodier. And we saw it happening years ago and we have friends that do it. I have some friends in Hamtramck that… the dude he bought his house and he’s been working on it, but the first thing he did when he got it ready was he redid his kitchen. It is fucking badass. You know, like, neon signs, hidden trash cans to chop and slide into, exhaust vents, all the deal. They’re four dudes and I mean, they’re filthy. They play music all day long and drink in a bar that’s like a block away but they come back and they sit in this kitchen and they just prepare these meals. I mean this one dude just has a stew going for like, twelve hours. You come in and he’s just like stirring it, sipping on it. I’m like, what’s up, Paul? What are you doing, weird soup guy? But it’s amazing. You taste it and you’re like, holy shit. So I think the kitchen is just, I mean, maybe it’s our whole generation. Growing up from that baby boomer family, after that it was like, the family was there, and then the kitchen was there for a while and then this fast food thing, and this convenience of the Stouffer’s…

Everything coming in a box.

DG: And it seems like all of America now. I mean, in Eastern Market just in the past four… I mean, Eastern Market in 2005 was not the same. It is not even close to the crowd the people… dude the people that show up, everybody’s finally like, oh I don’t have to eat poo! I can eat, for less money, and a little bit of effort, I can eat better food that’s local. I mean, I think everybody’s finally like…

DS: I think there’s that post-college thing where you’re like, okay well now I’m gonna try something a little bit different. It’s less about surviving and more about, oh I can do better than just surviving. I can actually make something really good.

DG: For breakfast I can have this instead of cereal. Or an egg mcmuffin. I think the show was just more of a way to get us around something we both like. I mean, I like to eat. Derek is surprisingly a good cook, so just to hang out and be idiots. I think we said it before. If our friends laugh, that’s enough. When our friends stop laughing then we’ll stop doing it.

DS: Apparently it’s time to move on.

DG: But as long as our friends laugh, that’s all we want to reach. That demographic in every city or country. That small portion of the people that are actually like, oh I get what you’re doing. Then we don’t have to explain it to them.

How’d you get into cooking?

DS: I don’t. I mean… it’s that necessity thing. When I was a kid both my parents worked so I learned how to make macaroni and cheese. And then when I went to college I didn’t have a food plan cos I went to like, a commuter college so I had to fend for myself. So it’s just, I don’t know. I’m also pretty ADD and for some reason cooking is one of those things where I can have like nine different things going on and it all comes together. So it helps. The only schooling either of us have had with cooking is just, well, how do you make this? Research it on the internet or find cookbooks. So…

How did you get into eating?

DG: Uh, yeah. I guess the question is like, is my pallet refined? I mean, you know, refined enough.

DS: But compared to when we started to now…

DG: Yeah. Refined enough. Refined enough to know the difference. And not just, I mean, it’s more about… I went through a part of my life where I would seriously just eat for fuel. I was like… I just didn’t give a shit. I was like, I’m running low on energy, I need…

DS: Protein bars.

DG: …this amount of protein, I’ll eat 27 of those almonds, a banana, two pieces of bread and that piece of cheese. I’d be like, that seems fine. So I’d just do that, but you know when I go to a restaurant I order the special. I ask the chef what they like or whatever I can get. I’ll be like, that’s what I want. What do you have fresh today, what do you have that’s… what are you excited about? Let’s eat it. And I’ll eat it. And I can tell if it sucks! I’ll be like, this sucks. But I mean, I’m pretty opening minded. I’ll eat anything. I’m not very picky. I’ve eaten whatever. I’ll eat whatever. So, I mean, not I’ll eat whatever. You know what I mean. There’s something to… I think the big thing for me is knowing the difference between if something tastes good or if it’s actually just too salty. Cos really salty food tastes really good to lots of people. You get used to it and I mean… that’s the fast food trick. A lot of that is like, we’ll throw in a ton of salt.

DS: Salt, or fat…

DG: A ton of salt, a ton of fat, it’s like, wow! This tastes good! It’s also about when you eat it how you feel afterwards. I mean like, even that, the over… the liver and the waffle? I mean, a ton of food. I went home and I was like, I feel good. I feel really good. Ton of food, heavy… but felt good. Just well cooked, well prepared, not too salty. Just good. And I think if people pay more attention to how they feel after they eat…

DS: Yeah, listen to your body.

DG: …they’ll understand. I mean, that’s part of it. So my palette’s slightly more refined from being able to eat trash and I listen to my body a little more. And there’s a lot of good restaurants in town.

DS: We’re taking Felix to Roast tonight.

DG: It’s a good place. Yeah, you gotta rate the restaurant on when you get the food, what it tastes like and then how you feel afterwards. Barring any like, diarrhea.

DS: Don’t bar the diarrhea.

So the whole rest of the season is filmed?

DS: Yeah, it’s in the can as we say in the industry.

DG: The business.

How many episodes?

DS: Seven.

And three are out?

DS: Three are up. There will be a fourth on the 24th. We’re only gonna put six up on the website. The seventh will just be the DVD bonus.

Do you have any idea when that’s gonna come out? Or does it just kind of happen when it happens?

DS: We were pushing to have it out by the first of the year. It’s not gonna happen. We’ve gotta finish three of them.

DG: Yeah and then there’s the packaging, there’s the sending it out…

DS: There’s the commentary, the extras…

DG: The DVD authoring, putting everything together, I mean it’s… yeah.

Sounds like putting out a record.

DG: It’s just like putting out a record.

DS: True.

DG: So it’s, I mean, I…

DS: Two months?

DG: Dude I don’t even want to put a date on it. As fast as we can possibly do it. I’ve already started with the DVD packaging. I’ve already started with the menu stuff. I’m working on the graphics on the seventh. Or, the sixth episode. I’ve kind of got something for the seventh. It’s… yeah. I don’t know. Dude it’s just like, chip away. You know I’ve got like, a list, and then I have a notepad that I make up and I’ll just write down on the notepad things I need to do like, right now. And I just do them and the second those are done I’m like, okay. Alright. Feed the dog, you know, whatever. OK, do the… cos I haven’t done the credits so I still have to do the credit sequence for the next, for five, six and seven, so…

DS: It’s funny cos we both have these lists and like, as soon as I cross one off I’m always like, fuck. Awesome. Great! Oh, shit. So many left.

DG: I mean the second we get it done we’ve got this other show we’re working on, so it’s like this list is just never ending. I guess the goal is to eventually be able to just have to do that list and nothing else.

DS: Yeah.

DG: So hopefully at some point in time somebody realizes there’s some value in something we’re doing and…

DS: Throws cash at us.

DG: …just fucking makes it rain.

DS: Overhands cash into our mouths.

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