Living Dred
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Living Dred


Band Rock Punk


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"Living Dred"

A grandfather’s love comes in many shapes.

Whether it’s long stories about growing up in the Depression, tales of great ballplayers from many seasons ago or just a hand to hold while walking to the park, this family bond is something special.

For Living Dred drummer Matt Shields, his grandfatherly experience was somewhat out of the ordinary. You see, his grandpa was nothing short of a cool dude who played the skins with some of the best-known jazz cats around.

For those confused, that’s jazz parlance for his grandfather’s percussive talents put him onstage with the topnotch musicians of his era.

It was during a trip to Florida when then 10-year-old Shields turned away from his piano lessons and started beating on his grandfather’s drum set. That’s when he learned about some of grandpa’s peers. Stories about men like Miles Davis and Buddy Rich became larger than life to the wide-eyed youth. Soon, he was hooked and he has never looked back.

“I knew I had rhythm and I turned out being pretty decent,” said Shields, calling from Milwaukee, Wis. “My grandfather was in a jazz band and I ended up sitting in for a couple of tunes, and ever since then I loved it. He ended up giving me one of his drum sets and I took it home and have been playing ever since.”

Early on, Shields, who said his now 80-year-old grandfather is still keeping the groove as a drummer, teamed up with his guitar-playing brother Joe for endless jamming in the basement. Naturally, this led the brothers to plenty of high school bands before finally settling on a lineup with Tony Gehring (guitar) and Mike Milosch (bass) under the name Living Dred. If the band’s name has an islands flavor, that’s by design. “We play a lot of reggae but we all have different influences,” Shields said. “There’s punk, salsa, blues, metal, polka, whatever we really feel like.”

Shields describes Living Dred’s sound as possessing a reggae foundation with anything and everything possible at all times.

“It just seems to fit,” Shields said. “The bass and the drums are a huge part of it and me and my bassist have been playing together for such a long time that it just works. My brother is a great songwriter. He always has somewhat of a reggae feel in the songs he writes so it always just ends up sounding reggae. Our guitar player is like a metal player so he throws in what he thinks. It’s basically just a melting pot.”

This past summer, Living Dred released its debut full length, “A Hint of Mint with a Twist of Poison,” which features songs that the band has been performing for years. Shields said in many ways the quartet has progressed further than the material, which oftentimes gets Living Dred compared to, you guessed it, Sublime.

“People say, ‘You’re like Sublime’ but we’re really nothing like Sublime whatsoever, other than we’re white and playing reggae,” Shields said. “I think we try to write uplifting lyrics and give a positive message. We’re not singing about smoking weed, getting drunk and all of that. We try to keep it real.”

Considering the band’s album title, and specifically the “Twist of Mint” reference, it’s not hard to make the leap that the group is referencing something other than, say, a mint julep.

“No, I came up with that,” laughed Shields. “It’s kind of like our style, like the poison is the more rocking and the mint is the more reggae and it all flows together. It’s kind of a conceptual thing.”

Already the members of Living Dred are working on their sophomore album, which Shields said will find the band twisting and experimenting with its sound. That project is due out next summer. Change is also in the air for the group, which not only has hints of label interest but plans on relocating to San Diego within the next year.

“We have a lot of connections down there and want to be playing a show every night,” Shields said. “Whatever it takes until we get to where we want to be, which hopefully … I know I won’t be happy if I’m not playing music or at least I’m not going to be happy if I don’t give it my 100 percent.”

Shields said the downside to living in Wisconsin is performing original music doesn’t pay the bills. The other side of the coin finds cover bands getting plenty of work. The drummer said the group does its best to creatively get around this pigeonholing dynamic by performing covers Living Dred style.

Popular songs by Tom Petty, Bob Marley and Nirvana are retooled and reinterpreted to the point where the only touchstones for audience members are the lyrics. However, fans attending Living Dred’s upcoming return to Sandusky — the outfit played last summer — for a Dec. 23 show at The Underground shouldn’t expect any cover tracks.

Shields, who said the group has 30 some originals, is looking forward to another gig on the Lake Erie shore.

“There were a lot of people there last time and I think a lot of people are interested in seeing us,” Shields said. “What’s on the radio kind of (stinks) and I thi -

"South Florida Insider"

Through catchy grooves and mellow vibes 'Living Dred' has been serving up the scene for seven years with tunes that gets the whole crowd bouncing.

Scott Shapiro
Reporter/Photographer/Editor - South Florida Insider

"US Soldier in Iraq"

I got the CD, sticker, button, and artwork yesterday! This shit focking rocks! Just the right mix of chill and wild ass music. I'm gonna go take a buch of pictures around bagdad with the sticker and the CD case I made with the art work and send them to ya. Use them for pormo if you want, or just something to have and remind you that you guys helped to make at least one soldier's time hear a little more tolerable! You carzy fockers focking rock!

Oh, and by the way, I just thought about this. Bagdad IS Babylon, so you have now offically brought THE DRED to Babylon!

SPC T.J. Cornejo
US Military
- SPC T.J. Conejo


2007 - Live on 91.7 (DIY)
2006 - a hint of mint with a twist of poison (DIY) 1st full length album featuring 18 original tracks
2003 - Self titled EP (DIY)
2000 - the Burlington Sessions, recorded under the name Delusion (DIY)



It gets cold up in the north woods, so Living Dred learned how to make their own sunshine. Best described as a hint of mint with a twist of poison, Living Dred's unique style know as acid-reggae infuses elements of punk, rock, metal, blues, salsa, polka, surf and dub with their own special style of reggae.

The origins of Living Dred can be traced back to the Shields brothers’ basement in the outskirts of Hartford, Wisconsin in 1995. Joe and Matt learned covers and started writing originals together as a means of self-expression. Tony Gehring and Mike Milosch, childhood friends of the brothers, also grew up playing instruments and participated in local bands. The band officially formed in the summer of 1999 in the small town of Slinger, Wisconsin under the name Delusion. The original lineup was Joe Shields on lead vocals and guitar, Matt Shields on drums, Dave Williams on 2nd vocals, and Mike Milosch holding it down on bass. In the early years, the band wasn't as concerned with playing shows as they were with perfecting their style and, most of all, having fun. Although jamming out tunes with friends was their love, they did have numerous gigs at bars and house parties. In the winter of 2000, the teenage band had their first attempt at recording their raw energy at a Burlington, Wisconsin high school radio station. Countless beers and 22 songs later, they had an album. These tapes have been dubbed "the Burlington Sessions." The album was an instant success and Delusion quickly developed a loyal following.

Over the next 2 years, the group played parties and had fun while constantly writing new songs. In the spring of 2002, the band’s #1 fan, Tony Gehring, was added to the lineup to play second guitar. Shortly thereafter, Dave left the group, and the band was solidified into the unit they are today.

Just a few months later, the band was contacted by a Maryland-based band also named Delusion. They held the copyright to the name Delusion and asked the band to change it or face possible legal action. After much discussion, and numerous prospective names, the name Living Dred was finally chosen. With a fresh outlook on music, Living Dred began to write new material. What started as a reggae/punk/ska band evolved to add new genres to their already unique style, including blues, polka, surf, salsa and even elements of metal.

In the summer of 2003 they decided to record some of their new tracks. Using their do-it yourself and family-based mentality, they asked good friend Eric Grabczyk to engineer these sessions. With little time available, they managed to record 6 songs in 2 days. Although raw, fans again loved the new self-titled EP for its dropping bass lines, tight drums, insightful lyrics and mix of styles. With their new material, Living Dred began carving out a spot in the local scene playing any show they could get. Some shows included opening for national acts such as the RX Bandits, Reel Big Fish, Slightly Stoopid, Pepper, Badfish, Catch 22, Motion City Soundtrack, Alister, the Unseen, the Virus and Lucky Boys Confusion.

Living Dred looks forward to what future has to offer. The band continues to grow and develop their individual talents while writing and learning new material. A west coast tour is planned for the summer, and they hope to play as many local shows as possible before hitting the road in late July.