Richard Bacchus is bound for Philadelphia. The night before, Bacchus and his bandmates in the recently reunited D Generation debuted new songs for a small audience at a secret show at a friend's house in New Jersey. But Philly is the band's official unveiling; D Generation will take the stage at roughly the same time that Hillary Clinton accepts the Democratic Party nomination for president. A homecoming show in New York City follows two days later. With a legacy as one of the alternative-era's greatest almost-famous acts, the reunited D Generation has plenty to prove with Nothing Is Anywhere, its first album in seventeen years.
"There's been a lot of butterflies," Bacchus admits. "But last night was to really get everything super solid, and we're pretty happy about it."
Listening to Nothing Is Anywhere, you wonder what Bacchus was so worried about. The sharp hooks, roaring guitars, and obvious chemistry that made D Generation the darlings of nineties rock critics are intact. The same charged mix of '77-style punk, power pop, and glam rock that fueled the band's shoulda-been classics drives the band's lineup—guitarists Bacchus and Danny Sage, singer Jesse Malin, bassist Howie Pyro, and drummer Michael Wildwood—through a more mature, but no less potent reunion LP.
For Bacchus, who left New York for Raleigh a decade ago, the D Generation reunion is less about revisiting former glories and more about pursuing new ones.
"We're in full-on creative mode," he says. Even if the state of the music industry in 2016 isn't likely to afford the same major-label benefits D Generation enjoyed twenty years ago, there's always hope.
"Anything could happen. We could get a really good Cialis commercial," Bacchus says with a laugh.
Despite the years apart and the shifting business of being in a band, the dynamic among D Generation's members hasn't changed. Bacchus says with five headstrong members all contributing to the songwriting, the band has always had a volatile dynamic.
"There's a healthy competition on stage. We're all trying to outshine and kind of fuck each other over at the same time. It's just part of the energy," Bacchus says.
But the flipside is also true: "We all push each other to be better than we would be on our own," he adds.
When D Generation launched in 1991, the band had clear ambitions. Its members set a goal and sketched out a five-year plan to score a major record deal. They eschewed side projects and committed themselves to making the band work.
"We made a pledge to stick it out for five years and get signed and really just work at staying focused on each other," Bacchus says.
The plan worked. Chrysalis Records released 1994's D Generation to positive critical reception. People magazine, of all places, raved, "D Generation approaches the songs on this major-label debut as if each one were the opening salvo in a war on complacency ... D Generation is just the band to redeem your faith in the power of loud, snotty rock and roll." While others bemoaned flat production, the lead single, "No Way Out," started to gain traction and do well on radio.
But the label wasn't so keen on it. A shakeup in the executive suite led to a new president at the label, who, Bacchus recalls, had the track pulled from radio playlists.
"This guy was like, 'No, that's not my baby. I'm the new guy at the label and I don't love that.' A couple of things like that happened to us," Bacchus says.
So, despite a strong initial reception, the album failed to stick commercially. D Generation jumped to Columbia Records and took a mulligan for the release of 1996's No Lunch, produced by Cars frontman Ric Ocasek. Reprised versions of four songs, including "No Way Out," filled the tracklist.
Despite the overlapping singles, No Lunch proved to be D Generation's finest hour. In his four-star review, Rolling Stone's David Fricke called the record "tough, taut and charged with manic adolescent panic." SPIN scribe Charles Aaron scored the LP eight out of ten, writing that the band "strikes a pose like the Dead Boys all dressed up for your love." That year, D Generation would tour with Kiss.
In spite of the apparent impending success, Bacchus left the band later in 1996.
"It wasn't because I was angry with anybody," he says. "It seemed to me we were just really grinding gears and something wasn't working at the time."
So he founded a side project, Vasquez, with bassist Jim Heneghan (later replaced by Hanoi Rocks' Sami Yaffa) and drummer Eric Kuby as a diversion from his main gig.
"I had done my five-year term with [D Generation] and I had a backlog of songs that I submitted to them and they didn't want to do," Bacchus says.
His bandmates in D Generation weren't happy with their guitarist splitting his time. When they gave him the ultimatum to stay or go, Bacchus says, "I just looked at them and said, 'OK, no problem. I'm going to be in my band. Screw you.' I think it really took them by surprise."
Murphy's Law guitarist Todd Youth filled Bacchus's role as D Generation soldiered on to record 1998's comparatively smooth-sounding Through the Darkness with producer Tony Visconti. Drawing more overtly from the band's glam and stadium rock influences, Through the Darkness offered some of the band's biggest hooks, but shed some of No Lunch's intensity. Still, it earned its share of praise. Entertainment Weekly described the record as "hard 'n' hooky" and "filled with near-perfect three-minute gutter-guitar symphonies."
As Vasquez evolved into Richard Bacchus & the Luckiest Girls, D Generation cycled through members. Todd Youth and Michael Wildwood formed Chrome Locust with Heneghan and released one album.
"Everything we've done in the past has always been critically acclaimed, but it never really took off from the fanbase thing," Bacchus concedes. On October 24, 1999, D Generation called it quits after a final show at Coney Island High in New York.
A few years later, Bacchus moved to Raleigh. He'd been touring with his solo project, traveling the country and trying to figure out where to set up shop.
"Whenever we got to a place, we'd put our elbows on the bar, and say to ourselves, 'OK, if we lived here, what would happen? Who would we hang out with?'" he says.
"We went down to New Orleans. We were thinking about California. We went everywhere, and just kept coming back to Slim's."
After meeting friendly locals like Slim's owner Van Alston, Backsliders frontman Chip Robinson, and his future Luckiest Girls bandmate Jimbo Britt, Bacchus made his choice.
"For the first few years when I got to Raleigh, I was just terrified. It was a major culture shock. And it also took like two years for people to warm up to me," he says.
Eventually, Bacchus found his niche, one that gave him the opportunity to focus on his "low maintenance" Luckiest Girls and take a leadership role in the band. Where D Generation operated by consensus, with the Luckiest Girls, Bacchus calls the shots. The band doesn't even rehearse, he says, they just play shows, and it's all great fun. Still, reuniting with his old gang has stirred new ambitions in Bacchus, who's now a fixture of Raleigh's rock scene.
"With the five of us [in D Generation], it pushes me to do different things, and maybe better things," he says.
The reunion that now has D Generation promoting a new album, with a West Coast tour planned this month, isn't the first time they've revisited the old band. In 2008, D Generation reconvened to play a short set at a VH1 Save the Music benefit in the John Varvatos store that replaced CBGB in New York. In 2011, the band played a few festivals and a short run of dates with Guns N' Roses. In 2012, Malin told Rolling Stone that D Generation had started work on a new album.
"We tried going into the studio with a couple different producers, but every time we did, it just didn't pan out," Bacchus confirms.
Instead, the band ultimately decided to tackle the album on its own. Songs from the 2012 sessions evolved into their current forms, new songs came into the mix, and Sage took control of production to hone the tracks that would become Nothing Is Anywhere.
"Everything we've done in the past had all been done at Electric Lady Studios, so it's really big-time, old-school, super polished and nice," Bacchus says. "The demos [for Nothing Is Anywhere] were done in the basement. Danny took a little bit of convincing, but that's the way that people make records now."
D Generation's long-term ambitions have changed, too—the band is way past its original five-year plan, as Bacchus notes.
"Now we just realize it's going to be with us for the rest of our lives, however long that may be. The real motivation is us being together and having this voice that we have," he says.
This article appeared in print with the headline "Bacchus in Business"