Fans of the late ‘70s pop-punk band Descendents might have noticed that the group’s releases have been a bit sporadic of late. They haven’t released an album in 12 years, and even before that, their releases were rather erratic.
The reason? For years, vocalist Milo Aukerman has been moonlighting as a biochemist.
But Aukerman recently announced that he’d been laid off from his gig as a plant geneticist, and now — nearly 40 years after the band got together — says that music is, once again, his main focus.
“I’m kind of kicking myself [because] it took me that long to figure it out,” Aukerman says. ”Now I’m a hundred percent all in for music. I started to realize that my science gig, that was supposed to be my stable career, and music was always just kind of an unstable, uncertain future kind of thing. But I had it backwards in the end.”
Back in the day, he says, a PhD guaranteed you a job in the field of science, but that is no longer the case. It took Aukerman several years to land a solid position, given the difference between the number of available job openings and the deluge of people graduating with PhDs in any given year. And, though he worked in the industry — not scientific academia — getting grant money to do “interesting work” or work that will progress science has also gone to the wayside in recent years.
“I’d like to paint a rosier picture, but having just left that area in disgust, it’s hard for me to paint a rosy picture,” Aukerman says.
Government support of the sciences has also shifted and essentially fucked things up for scientists.
“My only political comment on all of it would be that the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health and all those crew, they don’t get the same amount of money anymore,” he says. “It’s dwarfed by the spending that we do on defense and wars and whatnot. So that’s where I get to raise and shake my first at the government for not putting science on an even playing field with other things they consider much more important like fighting wars.”
With that work behind him now, though, Aukerman finds himself in a unique position: Dedicating himself fully to a band that’s been around for quite some time in a modern music age where playing shows has now become more important than record sales.
“That’s kind of a new paradigm for the band in general,” Aukerman says. “And that’s been great. It’s a new chapter in what we do to be thinking that way.”
And for now, even after the long and winding path the band has taken, Aukerman is excited and feels like there’s still plenty left for him to learn in the world of music.
“I feel kind of reborn in a certain level,” he says.
Descendents play with Modern Baseball and Such Gold at 8 p.m., Thursday, Sept. 29, at The Warfield. $35-$45. More info here.