DS Exclusive Interview with Lagwagon at their Record Release Party

DS Exclusive Interview with Lagwagon at their Record Release Party

December 17th was a momentous day for Lagwagon fans. As you may know, the punk veterans re-released their first five albums, and the box set, “Putting Music In Its Place”, November 22nd through Fat Wreck Chords. The band celebrated this occasion with a “Record Release Party” at Slim’s in San Francisco, where past members reunited for the first time in several years.

Dying Scene had the privilege to talk with original bassist Jesse Buglione and original guitarist Shawn Dewey, as well as current drummer Dave Raun before their set. In the pretty lengthy interview, the guys discuss the excitement surrounding the re-releases and fresh-off-the-presses box set, their favorite Lagwagon album on which they’ve worked, and much, much more.

This could very well be the last interview Jesse or Shawn do with Lagwagon, so read it in its entirety here.

Also, during the interview, NOFX manager Kent Jamieson burst into the room proclaiming his wife had been kicked out. Find out why here.

We  even snagged a picture of Fat Mike enjoying the festivities. Check him out here.

To view the entire set of images from Lagwagon’s Record Release show, head here.

While you’re heading here and there, go watch a stop-motion video of all the photographs taken during Lagwagon’s set.

Lagwagon will be playing a show tomorrow, New Years Eve, in Las Vegas with NOFX, and the guys have four more California shows planned before the end of January. You can find the dates and locations here.

Let’s begin with the reason for the season, the Lagwagon “Record Release Show” here at Slim’s in San Francisco. This is the first night of a six show tour that you’re doing.The box set and re-releases of your first 5 albums came out November 22, 2011, why did you choose to have the party almost a month later?

J: Nobody told us. No, haha, actually, I think it was mostly logistical.

D: It was kind of short notice. I mean, when this thing started coming together, we really couldn’t actually book anything around that time. And also, one of our guitar players who plays in No Use For A Name was going to be in Europe, so we just tried to book it right after he came back, which was just about a week ago.

J: We figured it was still in the same year, so it was close enough (laughter).

Why did you choose Slim’s as the venue? Any particular reason, or was it just available?

D: Well, I mean it was available, and I think it probably holds some sort of sentimental value to a certain extent. We’ve done quite a few shows here over the years, and I think the last couple we have done were here. It just seemed fitting that this be done here. Everyone here is really cool and it just goes real smooth.

Lagwagon originally formed in SoCal (Santa Barbara (Goleta more specifically), but has since kind of made NorCal their base?

J: I don’t know. Our base is probably in Germany.
D: Yea, our base is probably in Germany or Spain, or South America, Brazil. (laughter)
J: Honestly, when we started out, San Francisco was always pretty hard to break in to, it seemed like.
D: It was a hard nut to crack. But I think that we do well here. And it has kind of been a home base for awhile. I mean Fat Wreck Chords is here, a lot of us used to (and still do) live up here. Some people still live in Santa Barbara, and if we go do a show down there, we’ll probably do well there. I mean, Southern California shows – we haven’t done one in awhile – usually do pretty good. We’ve been kind of out of it for awhile, so I guess we’ll have to go down there and see how it is actually, I could be totally wrong.

Now, this show is a little unique in that past members are reuniting for only tonight. What can you tell me about the rest of the tour?

D: Well, tonight is kind of a one-off in that all of the other shows we’re doing support for NOFX. We do a show in Las Vegas for New Years, and then we do some January shows with NOFX. Perhaps down the road we will do our own tour thing, but for now, there’s no plans. We definitely have some stuff in the works for a lot of places, and we’re looking into really doing a lot this year, since we’ve had quite a bit of time off. Things are still shaping up, but I think this year is going to be a big one.

Before this kind of reunion show, when was the last time you guys were all together as a band?

J: Like this? Well this is kind of a unique show. This is my last show with Lagwagon, kind of. Although, my other ‘last’ show was three years ago.
D: In 2008 in Tokyo, Japan. We wanted to have him back again, kind of make it more of an event. Jesse’s playing tonight, and Shawn Dewey, who hasn’t played in the band since 1997 (one of the original members), is playing quite a few songs. We got Joe Raposo, who is actually taking over on bass, is playing a couple songs. He did a tour in Europe with us last year. Tjat was really the only thing we did last year. So it’s kind of a big celebration, try to have some closure, have some guys come back and play. We’re playing quite a few songs, all from the first 5 albums.

Were you guys involved directly with the re-releases?

D: I didn’t have anything to do with it. Actually I think Chad Williams [from Fat] and Joey Cape, and maybe some other Fat people helped work on it. I mean, we each wrote little blurbs and were kind of kept in the loop. We weren’t really actively involved though.

When the initial thoughts of doing these re-releases began, were you made aware of the plans? Or did that come a little bit later once work had already started?

J: Um, we were made aware of it. To be honest, and I think this is just my nature, I was pretty cynical about it.

Why is that?

J: Well, I was kind of like, “Well what’s the point”. I don’t know, I guess I was just being my normal, negative, cynical self. But after I actually saw the finished project, I was pleasantly surprised. It turned out really cool.
D: I’m super stoked. I mean, I’m only on two of the albums, but to have…I mean it’s such a cool package. When I got mine, I’m like, wow – it’s like five albums – and I didn’t even have “Trashed”. I’ve never owned “Trashed”. I’ve actually downloaded songs off of it on iTunes, because we brought some of the songs into the set, so I’ve listened to them. So finally not only do I have all the albums, but I have all the extra tracks, all the demo stuff, stuff I’ve never even heard before, stuff the original guys might not even have heard. We were sitting around a table at my house the other day listening, and we’re like, “Oh man, I totally forgot that!” It’s very cool. So if you’re an actual fan of this band, you’ll be really stoked.
[at this point in the interview, Shawn Dewey enters the room]
S: Man, a small town little kid trying to get a taxi. I’m not very good at it.
D: So, yea. Basically it was pretty awesome to have that complete package. You have pretty much everything we could get our hands on.

Was it a great reminiscent experience?

J: It was definitely very nostalgic.

The LP box sets have already sold out. Are there any plans to re-press those in the future?

D: Not the colored vinyl. The one that sold out was the color vinyl, I believe. That was limited to like 500. I don’t know about the regular vinyl, I don’t know if there was a limit to it, maybe there was.
S: I got the regular vinyl when they sent me my package.
D: You didn’t get the color one?
S: No, I just picked it up today, actually.
D: I don’t see why they wouldn’t re-press the regular vinyl, because the color vinyl was the limited one, so I don’t see why they wouldn’t make it available. The only reason they might not, is because of the cost. The cost to do these box sets is actually pretty expensive, like the whole package. So if you weigh the cost to the profit or whatever, it’s really not much at all. It’s more of like a rad thing to do, just to have it out there. So maybe at some point, I think it would be cool to do.

What excites you most about the re-releases?

J: Well for me, the most exciting thing was just to see how good it turned out. I guess I was just not completely on board with the idea, so to see how it turned out was really cool. It was kind of like looking through an old journal in a sense, and seeing the different times and places of each album.
D: It was a rad chronicling of the music. It’s a really nice package of capturing the band’s career.
S: Yea, it was kind of like a time capsule in a way. To be able to go back and listen to all the songs, like from the demo days. To have it all in one big package is really cool.
J: Also, seeing some of the evolution that’s there as far as a lot of the songs that are included are some that we may have forgotten about. To see how they have morphed into songs on later albums. For me, it was kind of cool going back and being like, “Oh yea, I remember that song we did on “Trashed” that ended up being on “Double Plaidinum”, or things that we had done that I knew about and had completely forgotten about.
D: Or bits and pieces of songs that were completely in other songs, that were stripped apart and then made to be another song.You’ll see them in their original, original version. Like, these guys were like maybe Section 8 or something, and then later you see how that turned into something on “Hoss” or “Trashed” or something. It’s pretty neat to get to see how a band works. Like, it started like this, but then it got refined or something.

In previous interviews, Joey has mentioned how he is kind of against “Greatest Hits” or “Best Of” albums. Is this box set your way of compiling the quintessential Lagwagon?

J: Honestly, that was initially how this all came together. The reason that we ended up doing this was sort of an alternative to doing a “Greatest Hits”. We were really against that. As a band that hasn’t really had any ‘hits’, coming and doing a “Greatest Hits” album to me always seemed a little bit pretentious. So this was kind of the alternative.
D: So you make something that has ALL the songs on it (laughter).

Now, Lagwagon has been with Fat Wreck Chords for your entire career. I’ve read that you were the first band to sign to Fat. Is this accurate?

D & J (in unison): Yea.

What was the reason behind choosing Fat, and why have you stuck with them so long?

J: They’re just good people. They’ve always treated us right, we’re friends with them. We’ve always just been really happy with them. We’ve heard and seen a lot of horror stories from bands that have kind of made the jump, where it really didn’t pan out, or they weren’t happy with it. I’ve always felt that we were really fortunate to be in the position we’re in. We kind of got to do what we wanted, and we had a very supportive team there.

No sense in leaving when the grass is already green.

J: Exactly.
S: Like you said, we’ve been with Fat since the beginning, so it’s been interesting to see the label and all the bands progress.

Back in 1994 you were approached by a major record label to sign with them. What was that all about?

J: I think we were approached, but we didn’t really take it seriously. At that point we were just denying everything immediately, regardless of what it was. We sort of had an agreement before that, so everyone was on the same page and we never really discussed things like that. We would just say, “No thanks,” without thinking too much into it. And now we’re all broke, and we’re like, “Fuck, we should have just sold out when we had the chance!”

What do you think of the statement that Lagwagon was one of the pioneers in creating that quintessential “Fat Wreck Chords sound”?

J: It’s hard to say. I’ve always had a hard time looking at our band objectively, you know, like kind of divorcing myself from the group. There have been a few times where I talk to people who tell me how9 much Lagwagon affected them, or how formulative it was when they were growing up. Every once in awhile it will hit me, because to me, I’ve always felt like, well it’s just our band. It’s just us getting together in Dave’s basement and fucking around and making some music. I don’t know, I’ve always had a hard time stepping back and actually seeing the big picture. I guess it’s hard for me to say.
S: It’s so hard to say too, being the pioneer of a sound, you know? Like, you have so many influences when you come into starting your first band, you’re always taking from other bands, and formulating your sound.

So it sounds like this re-release has been really just a great experience in reminiscence and validating what you have worked towards over the years as a band.

J: Yea, definitely.

Now, the first Lagwagon album I owned was “Hoss”, and I’ve always been intrigued by your perceived fascination with Eric Cartwright from Bonanza (the character on the front cover of the album). Can you explain why you guys love him so much?

J: I’ll actually give the serious answer for this one. Almost everything that Lagwagon does, especially as far as naming albums, but most of the things that we do usually start off as a really bad joke that only we think is funny. And then we run with it. It usually goes no deeper than that. We sit around and throw out the most ridiculous things we can think of. We’re like, “What if we did this?” And every once in awhile, it actually ends up happening. So, a lot of times it’s just this alcohol fueled thing where people are just saying what they think would be funny.

You guys have all been around in somewhat different periods of Lagwagon; do you have a favorite album that you have worked on?

S: Well, I haven’t really been around since “Hoss”, so this is kind of a reunion show for me. It’s hard to say a favorite because I have favorite songs from different albums, but “Hoss” has just always had a special place for me. It seemed like we finally came into our own, developing our own sound. Plus, we had a little bit more time to record “Hoss”. “Duh” was recorded in like 2 1/2 days [really 4 days], so as you move on you have more time. There’s just a lot of songs on “Hoss” that I still listen to.
D: Well I came in after “Hoss”, so I think “Let’s Talk About Feelings” would probably be the one that I’m most stoked with. Only because for “Double Plaidinum” I had just gotten in the band, and everything was weird and crazy, and trying to just figure out where I fell into the whole group. So by the time we did “Let’s Talk About Feelings” we kind of had a sort of rapport and we had toured a bunch, and the songs I think were a little bit more developed. With “Double Plaidinum” it was just a weird time. I love a bunch of songs on that album, but I think the other one seems to have a little bit more continuity and a little bit more consistency in terms of the overall album.
J: It’s kind of hard to say because it kind of changes over time, I guess. I think for awhile it was “Hoss”, and then for a little while after that it was “Double Plaidinum”. I think a big part of that was because I remember when that came out, so many people hated it. I would just hear people at our shows giving negative feedback, people that were really into our first three albums. Then they would say everything changed with “Double Plaidinum”. Some of my favorite Lagwagon songs are on that album, so I think that could’ve played a part with why I really liked that one. And then, kind of going back to the box set and listening to everything again, I might have to go back to “Hoss”, just because it’s in that time period. Actually some of my favorite songs are ones that didn’t make it on “Hoss”, but were recorded in that session, like “Laymans Terms”. Certain songs from that era, it just seemed like a very profilic period.

I used to ask people, “what is in your CD player”, but I guess it’s more fitting to ask, “what is on your iPod”?

S: Jesse got me really into Jawbreaker, so it seems like that’s always a staple.
J: I still have a CD player in my car, and there’s like four or five CDs that are always in there. Lately it’s been an older Banner Pilot album and a newer American Steel album. Yea, I think those are pretty much the ones I usually run while I’m driving. Oh, and the last Mariachi el Bronx album.
D: Mariachi el Bronx. I really like The Bronx. They did some shows with us years ago, when they got their first album out. I got really into them. I’m like wow, “I hope this is the new wave of music – just raw, in your face sort of thing.” And they’ve done really well, and they’re so amazing and they started this Mariachi el Bronx band and they are actually pretty crazy. They’re so good! I don’t know, that’s just really refreshing and they’re so talented and they had this one band and then out of left field they came out with this new band Mariachi el Bronx and they do it really well.
J: Although, I’ll just throw this out there. I was telling Shawn this earlier…I have a five year old son and he always makes me take Mariachi el Bronx out of the CD player if I’m driving him somewhere. He hates that album, he won’t let me play it, but he likes The Bronx. And he likes American Steel, but I think he has a problem with horns.

If you hadn’t become musicians, what would be your ideal job?

J: I kind of like my job now. I pretty much sit at a computer and play on Photoshop, illustrate, design and stuff. I do graphics. I did a magazine for about a year and a half. I work for a company now where I basically do graphic design, or I oversee their design collection aspect.
Do the people you work with know your fame as a bassist for a punk rock band?
J: Um, most of them don’t really. I mean, a couple people know about it. I had worked there for about seven or eight months and this girl came up to me one day and was like, “I just heard you played in Lagwagon? I think my brother used to be obsessed with you guys! He has like five of your t-shirts, you were all he talked about!”

Did that hit home? Especially with your album, “I Think My Older Brother Used To Listen to Lagwagon”?

J: Hahaha. Yea! I think I asked her, “Wow does your brother still have horrible taste in music?” But actually the reason we came up with that album title is because we have heard that line so many times. We’d be on tour at a restaurant or something and people would be like, “Oh you guys are in a band?” And we’d be like, “Yea we play in a band called Lagwagon,” and they’d be like, “Oh Lagwagon…I think my older brother used to listen to you guys.” So that’s something we have heard quite a bit.
S: Going back to the job thing….I used to do carpenter stuff, which is fun. Heating/air conditioning stuff.
D: I used to be a union drywaller. But I’ve been lucky enough to be doing the band thing pretty much full-time since like…1995. Right now I play for Me First & The Gimme Gimmes, and I think you guys [DS] reviewed my side project, District of Columbias, which Jesse was in. I was playing with Hot Water Music last year, and Black President before that.

What is in store for the Me First crew?

D: I think probably some stuff, near the summer.

[at this point in the interview, NOFX manager Kent Jamieson enters the room.]

Now Me First has been releasing culture/country based EPs. Are their plans for more?

D: Yea, we just did Japan, and I think we’re going to be doing France and Germany…
K: Sorry, I’m gonna have to go to the top with this. So my wife bought tickets, she lost her ID, so I talked the box office into giving her her tickets. Apparently she came in, and since she didn’t have her ID, she didn’t get her hand stamped, she took a sip of beer, and she and her friend got kicked out.

Band: (in unison) Oh no!

D: So yea, we’re doing these regional things, and we’re going to do some more European EPs. Maybe Italy and Spain, some other ones. We’re going to do a bunch, I don’t know exactly what the plan is. I really don’t know much. They don’t really tell me anything, just where to be and I make sure I’m there.

I read somewhere that during a 2008 tour, guitarist Chris Flippin wasn’t able to make a Canadian tour because he couldn’t get into the country. Care to go into detail?

J: Yea, 2008, 2005, 1990-something…He’s had some issues with that. But he’s got it all cleared up now. He just had some unsavory things on his record, but it’s all good now.

Enough said.

Thank you Brittles and Vanessa for facilitating the interview, and thank you for Jesse, Dave, and Shawn for the great time!

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