Interview with Intruder Blue and Officer Bradford |By John Silva | Photos by Greg Jacobs
To understand Wisconsin’s Masked Intruder, it might help to be familiar with an old carnie slang term, since adopted by professional wrestlers: kayfabe. Kayfabe is the presentation of the fictional side of pro wrestling as real, from who wins or loses a match to the characters performers play anytime fans are watching. It’s the reason why, if two wrestlers are feuding, they will not break character by acting friendly toward one another when there are onlookers nearby, even if they’re close friends outside of the ring. Most fans understand that these events are not really real, but playing along is what makes wrestling fun.
Kayfabe is basically the highest form of method acting, and Masked Intruder do it well. They are probably perfectly normal people in real life—more or less—but whenever fans are around, they don’t break from their roles: four rambunctious hooligans trying to play in a pop punk band and pull off various crimes while their parole officer, Officer Bradford, drinks himself oblivious. Masked Intruder’s third album, III, comes out on March 1 via Pure Noise Records, and like the previous two, it is chock-full of shenanigans, crime sprees, and, of course, failed attempts to sway women.
Needless to say, the rules of kayfabe apply in the following testimony from vocalist and guitarist Intruder Blue and Officer Bradford.
THE DEFENSE CALLS TO THE STAND… INTRUDER BLUE!!!
It’s been a few years since your last album, 2014’s M.I. What have the Intruders been up to in that gap?
Well, you know, a lot of different sorts of things. We’re always trying to be sort of enterprising and keep our eye out for the next opportunity, but you know, playing a lot of shows, touring around, taking a little time off, doing some side jobs—houses, liquor stores, stuff like that.
How did you get the guys back together for III? Was it tough to convince them?
No, not at all! We’ve never not been together. It’s just—I feel like there’s different ways to do it. You could put out a record every year, or more than that if you want to, or you can give yourself a little space and kinda make sure that you’re doing something that needs to be done. None of us wanna put out records just to do it. I don’t think that serves the legacy of the band. I think it’s more important to sort of, like, let it sit for a little bit and reflect on what we’re tryin’ to do. When you come up with new stuff, you don’t want it to be the same as your old stuff, and you don’t want it to be different to the point of kinda being like, “What the fuck is this?” So, you gotta strike that cool balance of, like, “Hey, I wouldn’t have foreseen this, but hey, this was cool.” I feel like it takes a little bit of time to do that. So, it’s not like we were ever, like, not together. I mean, sure, sometimes we’re not together literally, like when we’re showering or whatever.
But other than when you’re showering, you’re basically always together?
Well, you know, a lot of times it’ll break off into a little duo, or sometimes people go pull a little single job. I mean, probably like any other band. It’s like, sometimes we’re onstage playing guitar, but sometimes, you know, we’re breaking into a house and using the kitchen to cook a nice meal.
On that note, to quote a line from one of the songs on your new record, what’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done just for fun?
That’s a good question. It depends on your frame of reference, ’cause easily, I could say a good candidate for number one is starting a pop punk band. That’s definitely a pretty weird thing to do. But where do you draw the line between what’s work and what’s fun? Yeah, maybe stealing a car and driving around with half your bodies hanging out the window, maybe that’s for fun, but…
…but for you, that’s just part of the 9 to 5.
That’s right. End of the day, you could sell that car, you could get the stuff out of it, and sometimes people got valuable things in the car. Just for fun? I mean, that line in that song is—it’s kinda like, basically, you start small. You’re like, “Hey, girl, what’s up?” and then, you sort of build up to the big ask, which is like, “Do you wanna go rob a bunch of banks or what?”
How do women usually respond to that? Are they usually onboard or is that when they wanna break things off?
Usually, they’re pretty off-board, I would say. Not cool with it. And I’m not sure exactly where the breakdown comes. If it’s nervousness, that’s very perceptible. Or it could be the crime—maybe they don’t wanna do crime. Or it could be, you know, maybe they don’t even like the way we smell. It’s hard to know. If I knew why ladies didn’t wanna hang out with me, I wouldn’t have to write songs about it, you know what I mean?
A lot of dating sites nowadays are super niche. If there was a dating site for criminals to meet other criminals, is that something you think you’d be into? Would you give that a shot?
Yeah, I would, except for one problem with that: It would definitely be cops. There would definitely be cops on there who would be like, [high-pitched voice] “Oh, yeah, I’m a beautiful lady, and I like your band or whatever!” but they’re actually an undercover cop. And I’ll tell you what else, not a lot of people realize this, [but] there’s even lady cops! So, they can trick you. You think ladies are sweet, but I’m tellin’ you, some of them are actually cops.
Good point, I guess that wouldn’t work. I mean, it would probably work for some people.
Yeah, it would work for the cops!
Speaking of cops, Officer Bradford’s been following you guys around for a while now. You’ve said things were kind of tense at first, but have you developed a friendship with him, or does he still get under your skin?
Friendship is a strong word. I think that Bradford is, it’s like—did you ever see that “Looney Tunes,” where it was, like, some animals? I don’t remember, it was like some dogs or some kind of I-don’t-know-what? They could talk to each other, though; they weren’t like real animals, they was like sentient, you know, anthropomorphized versions of animals? You know what I mean, like Disney—or “Looney Tunes” or whatever. They would chase each other around, and they’d fight all day, and then at the end of the day, they’d clock out and be like, “See ya later, Sam!” You know what cartoon I’m talking about?
I think so, vaguely. I was only allowed to watch PBS growing up, so I’m a little lost after “Arthur.”
Oh yeah, right. “Arthur” was weird too. It’s like, what the fuck is that kid? He looks like a fuckin’ baby giraffe with a short neck or something. It was weird. Anyways, well, the question was about being friends with Officer Bradford. It’s a working relationship. There’s a certain amount of antagonization that’s just sort of inherent to it, if you understand what I mean, but I would also say that he’s pretty cool! Other than the fact that he’s a total dick, he’s pretty cool.
Are the four of you able to pull off various crimes or shenanigans when he’s around? Does he just turn the blind eye or are you able to find ways to do it without him finding out? And I’m not a narc, by the way, so don’t worry about me sharing any of this with him.
No, I mean, we vetted you. I talked to the people who vouch for you and stuff. Plus, the robot lady on the phone was like, “This phone call is now being recorded,” and like, why would you do that if you were trying to get one over on me, right? So, anyways, yeah, Officer Bradford—he’s a dick. What were we talking about?
Are you able to pull off a job without him finding out? Or does he even participate sometimes?
Yeah, right, exactly. Well, I guess that depends on your particular interpretation of the law! It’s sort of like, you know, allowing yourself to have a couple too many shots of whiskey so that you end up passing out in the cruiser while we kind of, you know, get our business done. Is that him being complicit, or is that just him being a shitty cop? Sometimes the lines get very thin, if you understand what I mean. So, yeah, I would say that he’s at least 60 percent just a shitty employee.
One more question about that: What is the power dynamic like between you and Bradford? Because, obviously, he is a cop, but there’s four Intruders and there’s only one Bradford.
Right, like who would beat him up, is that basically what your question is? For sure, yeah, we definitely could beat him up, but it wouldn’t necessarily be in our best interests. Day to day, it’s sort of like he thinks he’s the boss, but who’s really the boss? It’s like one of those sitcoms where the husband is like, “I’m the boss,” and then the wife is like, “I’m really the boss.” You know what I mean?
A few years ago, after signing to Fat Wreck Chords, you mentioned you had never gotten to meet Fat Mike, and you had some perceptions about what he might be like. Did you get a chance to meet him since then, and was he anything like you expected?
Yes, and yes. Yes, we definitely got a chance to meet and hang out with him, and he is every bit the cartoon character I figured he might be.
Do you want to explain that a little bit?
Yeah, well, I think that it’s pretty much a matter of public record. Just the sort of personality that he exerts through social media and onstage, he’s not too far off from that in person. I mean, obviously, he’s a regular dude—he’s got a beautiful daughter, he loves her, he’s got friends and everything—but he’s definitely the provocateur that he seems to be in that public role. That’s actually his real personality. I think he’s got a real mischievous side to him.
At least what you see is what you get with him.
Yeah, plus, I just think that’s generally a good character trait. I trust people who are mischievous more than do-gooder-type people, because sometimes people who are real do-gooders, it seems like they’re full of shit or whatever. Even little kids get that. It’s like playground wisdom. A kid who’s like a fuckin’, you know, tell-the-teacher-and-never-do-nothin’-wrong [type], like, what the fuck’s wrong with you, kid?
Like a little snitch.
Yeah, it’s like, “Get wise!” You know what I mean?
Are the folks at Pure Noise pretty supportive of your life of crime? What’s that relationship like?
Yeah, right. We was just talking about it. They were using some kind of weird word. It was like, ummm, “plausible durniamiliny” or something? I don’t remember what. Anyways, the point is that they are really sweet and good to us. Basically, they’re the sort of label that’s like, “Hey, we wanna let you do your thing, and we wanna help you do your thing, but technically, we don’t condone illegal activities or whatever,” but they’ll still be like, “Oh, yeah, what do you mean you rob houses?!” You know, they think it’s cool, but they don’t wanna say that officially. Officially, there’s some sort of legal contracts that are in place. So, anyways, that’s how it works in the business: You gotta have all these contracts and whatevers. It’s sort of why you get lawyers.
Cover your ass.
That’s right! That shit is complicated.
Does Bradford get along with them pretty well? The Pure Noise folks.
I don’t know! You know, I’ve never interacted with those two bodies at once. I imagine that they would get along fine, but I wouldn’t wanna hang out with them both. I think it would be sort of like—Pure Noise is a record label, they’re super cool, we like them, so not that they’re the boss of us in the way that Officer Bradford acts to be, but you wouldn’t wanna put them in the same room, ’cause it’d be like, “Oh, yeah, this fuckin’ masked intruder over here,” and probably start slappin’ you around, and they’re laughing about it, and they start tickling you, and you’re, like, not into it. You know what I mean? It’s just like getting the authority figures all in a room. You don’t wanna do that. A parent-teacher conference? Don’t go to that shit!
It’s like what we were talking about earlier with the power dynamic. When you get [Bradford] in a room with those other executives, that power dynamic starts to shift.
That’s absolutely right. Also, point number two is: [Bassist and backup vocalist Intruder] Yellow, as just a matter of historical fact, whenever we walk up to a place and it turns out to be a gathering of people who we know, he immediately turns tail and will not go in, ’cause he assumes it’s an intervention tryna get him to quit smoking.
Do you think he’s ever gonna stop smoking? It’s kind of part of who he is.
Yeah, it’s definitely something that he’s not interested in. I mean, we can’t even go to parties with that guy.
’Cause he smells so bad?
No, it’s because he won’t—he literally, if he looks in the windows and sees people who he knows gathered around, he just literally assumes it’s an intervention. He’s like, “I’m not going in there.”
Do you and [drummer Intruder] Red and [guitarist and backup vocalist Intruder] Green ever get concerned about his health at all? He is always smoking!
Right, yeah, that’s true, he is always smokin’. Well, you know, if doctors were like, “Cigarettes are for-sure bad,” but I don’t know: Do they say that, or is it just the Surgeon General?
I think it’s just the Surgeon General.
That’s what I thought too. I mean, the jury’s still out. The news likes to pretend that things—like “Oh, smoking’s bad” or “Oh, global warming or whatever” or “Oh, there’s fuckin’, uhhh, nuclear weapons are dangerous.” And it’s like, [chuckles]. I mean, come on, relax a little bit.
Who really knows?
Who really knows?! That’s what I’m talking about.
So again, not a narc, so don’t worry, but you’re heading out on tour with The Interrupters from late February to early April, and they’re like a big top-40 band now or something—
[Laughs] Yeah, no shit!
So, what’s something of theirs you’d like to steal? They’ve gotta be pretty loaded with all the success they’ve had in the past year.
Yeah, absolutely. I would say that we would never steal nothin’ from them. Allegedly. But if we was going to, we would definitely wanna wait and have a nice look at what all sort of equipment they’re rolling with and see what was on the menu. You don’t order before you go to the restaurant, you know what I mean? So, you know, I would figure they probably got some kind of nice stuff. But, you know, it’s not like we can get out there and put up an Interrupters banner and be like, “Hey! Check it out! It’s our banner!” People would know that we stole that from The Interrupters. It’s sort of the nature of the item. So, you gotta be really careful with that sort of thing.
And they’re really cool—that’s a really fucking good band. It’s a little bit like—they actually are cheating a little bit. People don’t know this—it’s not like they just play their tracks or nothin’, they don’t do that shit, they’re a legit live band—but what they do, and this is true, is they got identical twins in the rhythm section.
What? They switch them out like Mary-Kate and Ashley in “Full House”?
No! It’s just like [bassist Justin Bivona and drummer Jesse Bivona] got that freaky twin connection, but it’s all around stayin’ in the pocket, and they both do backup vocals and they literally have the same voice. You see where I’m comin’ from? It’s like they’re basically a special move. So, utmost respect for that band. Then, beyond that, the other guy, [guitarist] Kevin [Bivona]’s [their] fuckin’ brother too—and then [vocalist] Aimee [Interrupter], you know, Kevin and Amy are together, so that’s a literal family. So, we got a lot of respect for that band on a lot of levels.
Well, you guys are like a prison family, so you can probably relate on a certain level.
Yeah, absolutely. Well, I’ll tell you what, you know the crew that they hang around with, that record label, [Hellcat Records], those people all seem to be down with criminal activities too. I mean, look at Tim Armstrong. That guy looks like—I mean he looks like a man from prison. Let’s be honest.
I mean, you can just look at [the Hellcat Records] website and tell that.
What are your thoughts on the prison-industrial complex? Do you believe there’s a need for comprehensive prison reform in this country?
Oh, that’s a good question. Well, let me think about it for a second here. OK, so, first of all, is there a need for prison reform? Yes, of course there is. Obviously, there is. I mean, for one, if you’re gonna do something so serious as take people and lock ’em away for a whole bunch of time, that’s such a serious thing that you should constantly be considering and reviewing that situation. Like, are we really being just here? The truth is, everybody who watches true crime shit on television or Netflix or whatever now knows that they fuckin’ put innocent people in the fuckin’ clink all the time. Before that DNA situation that they got now, there basically was a murder got committed and the police would just point at the nearest minority or whoever was traveling through town and just fuckin’ frame ’em. That’s basically how that shit used to work. So, you’re gonna have a bunch of people in there who’s actually innocent. So, you set aside your feelings about prison if you’re one of those assholes who’s like, “Oh, they did a crime, they deserve some fuckin’ punishment,” or whatever—the point is, at least some of those people’s innocent.
Then, beyond that, you should have some fuckin’ empathy for people who probably had shitty upbringings or whatever. They’re in prison there, but you know what? Maybe if you had a better fuckin’ education for this kid, they wouldn’t be in there in the first place. Some of those people are just sellin’ weed or whatever. You’ve got, disproportionately, certain segments of society, poor people, and a lot of minorities being over-targeted for incarceration. So, you add up to a whole system where it’s just very questionable from a justice and ethics perspective. I think that, obviously, reform is virtually always due.
And this is part B of my argument here, so then, the thing is: There’s a lot of cool stuff about prison people don’t necessarily realize. You make real good friends in there, you get some time to maybe learn a trade or whatever. That stuff’s cool, but there’s a lot of bullshit, and it shouldn’t be that way. So, they gotta fix it, because it’s stupid. And it’s a bunch of assholes in there. So, yeah.
And then, finally, the food. Not excellent. You got really shitty menus in there.
Well, you’re a fan of the prison burritos.
Right, but that’s off-menu. I mean, you gotta know that off-menu shit, because otherwise, forget about it. But that’s true on the outside too. You go to that In-N-Out Burger, you can’t order off the menu, right?
The place that does “Animal Style” or something?
Yeah, that’s right. They do Animal Style. They got a bunch of them, though. One of the best ones is, uhhh, “all the money in the register and no funny business.” It’s very off-menu.
[Laughs] Maybe next time I’m on the West Coast, I’ll give that one a try.
Yeah, you should! That one is sure to delight even the most discerning palate.
THE PROSECUTION CALLS TO THE STAND… OFFICER BRADFORD!!!
So, first of all, you’ve been monitoring the Intruders for a while. Not to get too gossipy, but is there one Intruder in particular who really gets under your skin more than the others?
Well, Green is just real bad at hiding his shoplifting. I can kinda turn the blind eye to most of them, but Green just makes it so obvious. He’s always stealing the most flamboyant stuff from the gas station. Like, he took peacock feathers one time. Didn’t even hide it—they were hanging out the back of his pants. He looked like a peacock. It was ridiculous. The other ones, at least the stuff’s in their pockets. You can turn a blind eye to that. But if you look like a peacock, you know, I kinda gotta say something.
So, you have to actually do your job with Green?
Yeah. I’ll tell you a little secret: No cop wants to actually do their job. It’s a very lazy profession. But you know, when it’s right in your face like that, when you’re confronted with it, you have to.
Do you think the Intruders pull off a lot of crimes when you’re not looking? It sounds like you know that they do, but you just ignore it.
As long as I’m getting a cut. They’ll usually throw me, like, a bag of Flamin’ Hot Cheetos or a donut or a handle of whiskey from one of their heists. As long as I get a little somethin’ somethin’, I’m not too concerned with that.
I’ve heard you drink on the job a lot.
Oh yeah, a huge part of the profession is drinking on the job. I wouldn’t recommend trying to cop sober.
You’re a cop, but do you think you’re really the one in charge of the Intruders, or do they find ways to manipulate you and get their way? I hope that’s not a rude question!
See, it’s kind of like—did you see the cover for the new album? I’m kinda always lurking in the shadows. I’m manipulating everything, you know? I’m kind of the puppet master holding the strings, if you ask me. If you ask them, they’d probably answer differently, but that’s my two cents.
What do you think of the new album that the Intruders made, III?
Eh, I think it sounds all right. You know, they did a pretty good job.
Did you have a part in making the record?
As little as possible. It’s part of them paying back to society to put out music like that. So, I kind of let them do their thing with that. That’s their job.
Because you don’t owe anything to society like they do.
Oh no, society owes me.
You did contribute a lot of really sick choreography to society in the “All of My Love” music video. Where’d you learn how to dance?
That’s part of basic training. There’s step classes and basic ballet. You learn your toe-touches and hip-grinds. Those are all standard procedural moves.
So, any cop would know that shit?
Yeah. Actually, do you remember in the ’80s and ’90s, you could ask ’em for baseball cards? Little-known secret: You can actually ask them to bust a dance move, and they’ll do it. Try it sometime.