I recently had the chance to catch up with Dennis Jagard of Ten Foot Pole. Fresh off a tour and recording a new album, I had the opportunity to find out what Ten Foot Pole has in store for us, and what we can expect from the punk veterans going forward.
Check out the interview below.
Dying Scene: Hi, Dennis. First off I want to say thank you for taking the time to answer a few questions for the Dying Scene readers. As a big fan of Ten Foot Pole I am looking forward to asking a few questions about the recent tour, your upcoming album, and what we can expect to see from Ten Foot Pole in the near future.
Dennis Jagard: Hi Jamie, Thank YOU for having the time and interest to interview Ten Foot Pole!
DS: You just returned home from a fairly lengthy set of tours, both an acoustic tour and a full Ten Foot Pole tour. What were some of your favorite moments while playing the recent string of shows?
DJ: In August we had the first ever Ten Foot Pole acoustic tour! Previously I had only done a few shows, on random days off from my day job as a sound mixer for touring artists. The tour was 23 shows around Quebec and Ontario, because I had some nice shows there previously. It went very well, not only with some amazing shows and lots of audience participation, but especially that we made some friends that helped us springboard that first tour idea into a total of about 70 shows! So it was very exciting for me to see that people enjoyed the acoustic shows, and that the acoustic shows also built interest for the following full band tours. I especially liked that the acoustic tour had a variety of venues, from a friendly backyard party vibe to rock club to sit down theatre. The highlight of the full band tours had to be the Music 4 Cancer festival, though honestly, for me every night was a thrill, because it was fun to be back touring in a van, driving across the continent playing TFP songs and watching/hearing people smiling and singing along.
DS: Ten Foot Pole released “Setlist” back in 2016. Word has it TFP has been back in the studio. When can fans expect an announcement on a new album?
DJ: I’m in Los Angeles right now working with Ryan Greene, the producer of Unleashed and Insider. The record is more than half done, but I’m not ready to put an exact date on release because I’m self-financing the record, and my deal with Ryan is to work around his other gigs. I think we are getting close… I’m also not sure exactly how the record will be released. The current plan is to trickle the tracks out to our subscribers on Patreon, then the whole collection should be released via Thousand Islands Records. So if people want to get first listen to the songs, please check out how to become a Patron via the link at TenFootPole.com
DS: With 20 plus years under your belt in the punk music world. How has TFP’s sound evolved over the years?
DJ: I can hardly wait for y’all to hear the new record! There are several upgrades in the basic musicianship and production quality, but perhaps the biggest difference is that these songs were mostly written in the crucible of performing them acoustically in public. So the only songs that made it to the record were ones I was proud to sing on the sidewalk, and especially ones where people sang along with me and had fun. So I feel like the songwriting quality has gone up a notch.
DS: Having been out on the acoustic tour, do you think we might see a Dennis Jagard acoustic album or even a TFP acoustic album?
DJ: The tentative plan, depending how much Patron support we get, is to do an acoustic album right after this upcoming full band record. I’m taking a huge financial risk with this record, kind of paying it forward, in hopes that we get enough patrons/subscribers to help us be really independent of labels, at least for recording costs. Patrons are people that want to support us, and give at least $1 a month to help us be able to keep writing/recording/performing music. There are some benefits, such as access to new songs, a direct newsletter, and a few higher tier merch and guest list rewards available—but the main point is to spread out support so that we can record often. Will we see Ten Foot Pole touring some more in 2019? We hope to be able to tour heavily. The challenge for me is to secure my main job calendar, the one that feeds my kids and pays the bills, before I can commit to the more financially dodgy Ten Foot Pole gigs. Unfortunately the life of an independent audio technician is a bit risky too, as evidenced by my recent “confirmed” auto-show gigs evaporating supposedly due to the trade war. So I have to be a bit flexible as we charge ahead.
DS: Your recent tour was heavy with Canadian stops. What is it you like about the Canadian crowds? Is that a trend us Canucks can look forward to?
DJ: We felt a lot of love and support from crowds as well as individuals especially in Quebec, first with the acoustic shows and then again with the full band shows. People were so warm and generous—volunteering their homes and time—to the point where it feels like we gained some extended family. I’m doing my best to make it up there once a year, though I can’t make promises since feeding my kids is the first priority.
DS: What can we expect from the current TFP lineup?
DJ: I can’t make any promises about the lineup, other than to do my best to get friendly people who play well. I encourage our musicians to take care of their families first, and pursue other opportunities with careers and music, so I try to have back-up players available so I don’t have to get mad if someone has a schedule conflict when we get an opportunity to play. I want musicians who are happy to be there, even if there is a lot of work and very little money, so there is a lot of turnover over the years as people get to a point where they decide to commit to other projects, such as steady paying jobs.
DS: With the current state of politics in the United States. Do you think it’s even possible to write a constructive, political song in the Trump-era?
DJ: I think there are a lot of interesting political topics that could lead to interesting songs, but I’ve found it difficult to put a toe in that water without feeling compelled to go all in, which then seems to be confining as I wouldn’t want to be in a band that felt compelled to write political songs all the time. I’m not sure that a 3 minute song with a few lyrics is likely to open or change any minds in today’s environment anyhow, so political songs mostly seem to be preaching to the choir, which is important, but not something I want to do all the time.
DS: You’ve always been a very gracious band. I have a couple of friends who saw you when they were just young punks. They were struck by the fact that after the show you took the time to talk to them and just hang out. Do you feel like you were a role model in trying to make the punk scene a more inclusive space? How has the scene changed from when TFP started out?
DJ: I really appreciate people who take the time to support us by coming to shows. I generally don’t hang out before shows, mostly because I’m afraid I’ll talk too much and make my voice tired before the show even starts. But after the show, I love to touch base with people and show my appreciation, and see what people want to talk about. In fact, lately even during the shows, I’ve been asking if people have any questions, because I love interacting with people. Especially at small shows, I think it’s fun to have some interaction and include the audience in the experience. I’d like to think I was a positive role model, or at least a person that people over the years saw as a regular nice guy that has a lot of relatable experiences and emotions—one of my rationalizations for performing is to try to make people around the world see how similar we all are, how we are connected and going through many of the same challenges, to help people have empathy for others and feel connected to each other. I’m not sure how “the scene” has changed, but I can say our audiences seem very appreciative and genuinely nice to each other, which I imagine is a reflection of our lyrics and attitude.
DS: Thanks again for your time Dennis.
DJ: Thank you for your interest and support! I’m excited to share our new music and see—I hope—some excited people at shows who love the new tunes! I’d like to encourage people again to check TenFootPole.com for links about tour dates, becoming a Patron, online merch, and social media.