Pennywise: Fletcher tells all (must read) and “Let Us Hear Your Voice” (free)

Pennywise: Fletcher tells all (must read) and “Let Us Hear Your Voice” (free)

I’ve been a Pennywise fan for nearly 20 years.  I loved the last Ignite record.  And when I heard that Ignite’s vocalist Zoli Teglas was going to be taking over vocal duties on the new Pennywise album I was curious but admittedly, I was not excited.  Truth be told, my expectations were low.  I mean, I just couldn’t imagine the staple punk rock act maintaining its relevance after the loss of Jim Lindberg.  When “All Or Nothing” came my way I loaded up my mp3 player, grabbed my headphones, and I listened out of dutiful obligation.  I was promptly blown the fuck away.  I couldn’t believe it.  Halfway through my first listen it was clear that for the first time since “Unknown Road” Pennywise was breaking new ground and “All Or Nothing” was going to be a contender for one of the band’s best albums – yes, ever.

Last weekend I sat down with guitarist/founding member Fletcher Dragge to discuss all things Pennywise; past, present and future. In the tell-all interview you’ll get a unique look at the state of the band leading up to Jim’s departure and the fallout afterward. We cover Zoli’s transition into the band and who else was tried out as potential singers (some interesting surprises there).  We talk about “All Or Nothing”; its tumultuous creative process and how it’s inspiring Brett Gurewitz to write a “faster” Bad Religion album.  And, of course, we discuss the future for a Pennywise after Jim.

Grab yourself a free download of “Let Us Hear Your Voice,” the first single off the new album, and read it all* here.

* We covered so much ground in our interview its impossible to fit into one post lest you readers do serious damage to your corneas.  Next week we’ll post the second half of this interview in which Fletcher regales us with tales of dressing room destruction, altercations with LAPD, throwing Fat Mike into drum sets, and the causes and effects of living his punk rock lifestyle.

Dying Scene: You’re about to release your first album in 4 years and, more importantly, you’re first with new vocalist Zoli Teglas.  How are you feeling about the record and how do you think fans will react to it?

Fletcher: I’m feeling good about it definitely.  Really good. Obviously the standout component of the album is Zoli on vocals.  With Jim, I think we got kind of stagnant.  I mean, I love all of our albums, I’m a huge fan of our music, but we got to a point where there wasn’t a lot of communication going on. Jim said, not to us, but in interviews, that he didn’t want to be there anymore, that he wasn’t having fun.  When that happens and there’s 20 years of relationships in a band you get to a point where you stop wanting to piss each other off so you stop saying things that are going to cause confrontation, like “hey, your song sucks.”

With Zoli there was none of that.  It was a lot of “your lyrics suck” or “your guitar part sucks.” It was a wide open attack on each other but not in a bad way, it was in an honest way.  In addition to that, throw in producer Cameron Webb and you have a really open forum for debate for what was good and what wasn’t.  I mean, if you have 3 dudes who are telling me my guitar solo sucks, then it probably sucks and I need to rewrite it.  I think we lost that with Jim over the last 2 or 3 albums so in a way I think those albums might have suffered a little bit.

“With this album, I listen to it and it feels more like a band than it has in a long time.”

The original way we wrote records was like that – everybody said their piece and no one cared cuz we had nothing to loose.  It wasn’t like, “Oh, Jim isn’t going to go on tour if we tell him the song is lame.” Or vice versa. “Fletcher’s not gonna get mad if I tell him this.”  It was more an open forum back in the day and we kinda got back to that accidentally.  Because of that we were able to push the album further. We wanted to be in the studio. We wanted to write the best possible record we could write and I’m really stoked on how it came out. I’ve seen a lot of feedback from fans already who have streamed the songs and it has been really good.  A lot of people are saying things like, “I was really skeptical about Zoli – I thought Pennywise was done, and I can’t believe how good this is and how much I like it.”  Its not Jim and we all know its never going to be Jim.

“We didn’t try to imitate Jim and we didn’t try to imitate Ignite.  We tried to find a balance between the two.”

Obviously me and Randy have written a lot of Pennywise music and a lot of lyrics so you’re gonna have that element automatically.  And now you throw Zoli in there who had to find his voice within it and I think he did so we were pretty stoked on it.

Aside from Zoli’s voice, is there anything different about the album that you think will stand out to listeners?

The catch 22 about being in Pennywise is that we as well as our fans want us to sound like Pennywise without changing too much but the critics will complain that we just put out the same record 20 years in a row.  But that’s why I like the Ramones.  Because when I put on a Ramones record I know its going to sound like The Ramones.  I don’t want to hear them playing reggae or nu-metal shit. It is what it is. So if a critic says, “it’s the same old record,” and he’s not a Pennywise fan type critic then that’s a compliment to us.  Especially on a record with Zoli singing because that means that Zoli pulled it off.

But we did do some things differently.  For one, we approached it from a little bit less of an anal standpoint as far as sounds are concerned.  We were always so concerned with the record sounding good that we maybe over thought the last few, production wise.  We got sounds for this record really fast.  Drums in an hour.  Guitar in 45 minutes.  Bass in an hour.  And usually we spend like a day chasing our tails.

“It was more about going for a vibe on this record and asking ourselves, does this feel good?  Is it making you feel something?”

Rather than “The cymbal needs a little more 10 K and the bass needs a little more bottom.”  Of course you do that but this time the focus was more on the “vibe.”

It was also different this time around in the sense that, on our last record, there’d be parts where we’d all like a song but we wouldn’t like the chorus and when we said so we’d get a response like, “Well, that’s the way it goes.  If you don’t like the chorus we won’t put the song on the record.” And I mean, we’re all guilty of that. I don’t think Jim would agree, but I’d say there was more stubbornness on Jim’s part than on Randy or my parts, or even Byron’s parts, to change them because I always felt like Jim could make my stuff way better.  If I bring in some lyrics I’m like a street kid and Jim’s an English major so he’s gonna slay me on lyrical content.  I’m the “fuck authority” guy and he’s the intellectual so it is what it is but sometimes we just wouldn’t get there because of other fighting or infighting within the band or whatever was going on. So being able to be in the studio and have Cameron be able to say “I don’t like this chorus.” Or Byron saying “What happened to the old chorus?” Or whatever, and reworking it, was really beneficial.

“I mean, we have choruses that we rewrote 5 times which almost never happens with Pennywise.”

I’ve talked to Chester from Linkin Park and he’s told me like “Yeah, we wrote that chorus 17 times.  We had 17 different choruses.” I and was like “God, I wish we could do that.” So we’ll have a song with all the components there and the verse is bad or the the bridge is bad, or not as good as the rest of the song, but we were able to go back and just say “This isn’t working.  Let’s rework it right now,” and sit there with Zoli. I think there wasn’t a lot of that in the last 10 years of Pennywise, since Jason was gone.

“In the last few years there wasn’t a lot of sitting down to jam and work as a team because there was so much animosity about touring or my party habits or whatever band drama was going on.”

So that was like a really cool thing that just sort of happened organically and Zoli is really adamant about writing.  He wanted to put this stamp on it.  Like, Randy and I had written some lyrics and he’d say, “I’m not singing that.” And it would almost turn into a fistfight.  I’d say “I fucking wrote this song…” and he’d be like “I don’t give a fuck if you wrote it, I’m not singing it.  I’m not feeling it.” Or I’d say, “I want to change these 3 words in the chorus.” And he’d be like, “You want to change 3 words?!” and he’d be putting on his backpack and heading out the door and I’d be out in the parking lot screaming at him but it made sense.  He wanted to be able to feel what he was doing.  He had to be feeling what he was doing and that was cool.  It was gnarly. It was one of the most volatile recording experiences I’ve ever been in.  I probably should have had a stroke and he’d say the same thing.  There was no bloodshed but it’s like being brothers.

“Zoli and I would literally be screaming obscenities at each other and then going out for teriyaki chicken at noon laughing about it before going back and doing the same thing for 4 more hours and then going out for a beer or sushi.”

And there’s no lasting animosity or grudges held.  By the time we made it to mixing, or when Zoli was laying down his first vocal tracks I was like “whoa, what’s going on here?” It was the first time I heard Zoli really try to make it his own and it was apparent that there was something going on here.  Something really special in light of what’s been going on in Pennywise for the last 6 or 7 years.

So with Zoli it sounds like you guys were willing to really battle it out for the sake of the music where as with Jim, you didn’t feel comfortable enough to do that…

We all know that Jim didn’t like touring that much and that’s why he quit the band – one of his many reasons.  So if we wanted to go on tour to Poland and Russia and Hungary and Jim didn’t want to go he knew we were pissed about that.  And then he would get pissed at me for destroying a dressing a room, or some other bad behavior and it became this like push and shove match where neither one of us is on the same page.

“So then when you get in a room, not on tour, there’s that little underlying animosity or band drama that makes it so you just don’t want to work together, ya know?  Its like being at work with somebody you don’t like.”

I mean, I like Jim.  He’s a great guy. It is what it is.  Our business venture, or whatever you want to call this, went south and we’re a little bit hurt about some of the things that happened after he left the band. But at the same time he’s always been a really good friend and always been a huge part of Pennywise, an amazing songwriter.  But when you get to that point in a relationship, stuff starts to suffer.

With Zoli coming in new we weren’t gonna pull punches anymore because, unlike with Jim, we’re not always going to be worried about him quitting.  That was a threat that had been going on for years.

“You don’t want the guy to quit cuz he’s the frontman of the band so you’re always walking on eggshells.  You’re scared.  Once he was gone, it was like freedom. It was scary, but it was total liberation.”

We weren’t worried about writing an album. Me and Randy wrote 40 to 50% of most of the albums in general since Jason died.  Jim was a major contributor, don’t get me wrong, but we weren’t worried about that.  It was like a weight had been lifted.  We knew we had a lot of work to do to convince some fans.  When this 20 year singer with one of the greatest voices and song writing abilities in punk rock is gone a lot of people are going to be like “F you guys, you’re done.”  And then you have people saying, “Well, they should change their name.” But why would we do that?  We’ve been doing this for 20 years too.  We created this from the ground up.  Jim quit.  He didn’t want to be part of it.

“We still wanted to go out and play “Bro Hym” and “Fuck Authority” and we want to play for Pennywise fans the songs that we had written with our blood, sweat and tears.  We’re not changing shit.  We are Pennywise and you’re either going to accept it or you’re not.”

And so at the end of the day, here we are and I think we’re in a pretty good place.

Do you know if Jim has heard the new album?  Has anybody in the band been in communication with him?

Nah, nobody talks to him.  Its sort of a bummer.  We live in the South Bay and we’re kinda born and raised in Hermosa and its like the city is sort of divided into 2 camps, the people that are still supporting Pennywise and the people that are supporting Jim and his thing.  I mean, there are 2 sides to every story.  There are 3 of us that see it one way and then there’s Jim who sees it his way.

At the end of the day I think he was just over it but why did he try to make a full run of it with another band?  He actually said in an interview, it was three votes to his one and that wasn’t working for him anymore.  Democracy wasn’t working.  That’s why democracty is so hard.  If you really abide by it, you gotta go with it no matter how strong your feelings are.  Now he’s in a band where he calls the shots and they tour when they want and they put out records when they want, and there’s probably no fighting with the songs cuz he wrote them, and maybe that changes. At this point I think everything would have been cool if he got a 9 to 5 job and stayed home with his kids, and then we’d still be hanging out. But when you start hearing the rumors, like Jim’s in the studio recording records, its like “What? Recording a record?  He said he was going to be a UPS guy?”  Wait, oh, they’re streaming the record?  Oh, shit, that sounds like a Pennywise song.  What, a 5 week tour in Europe?

“We were dumbfounded.  We felt hurt.  Betrayed.  And everyone still does.  I like to say we’ll get over it but right now nobody’s on speaking terms with Jim.”

Its not that we won’t speak ever again.  It’s just that we’ve been so focused on staying positive on the Pennywise tip and moving forward.  He got to have his moment in the sun.  He put out a record.  He got the first press release that was all about him and not about us moving on.  He got to put his record out first, got to do all his interviews first.  Went out and toured with his band first.  That’s another reason it took us a little bit longer, because when we started hearing he was doing that we didn’t want to go right up against him like it was some big competition.  We just decided to let him go out and do his thing, while we focused on the positive side of having Zoli in the band.  Then we would focus on getting the record out and hopefully stoke out the fans.

I will say over and over again.  Jim was one of the most important members of Pennywise.  Insanely good songwriter.  Insanely good front man.  One of the best voices in punk rock and I’d never try to take anything away from that.  At the end of the day Pennywise is about doing what you want to do and being what you want to be.  If he didn’t want to be in the band anymore and wanted to go pursue his own shit, then more power to him.  Absolutely go be happy.  That’s what our motto is.  If you don’t like what you’re getting in life, go change it.  And he did, it’s just the way he went about it that bummed us out a little bit.  Like I said, we’ll all get over it, and we’ll all be friends again, drinking beers some day.  When Zoli’s gone we’ll be doing a reunion show [laughs].

When Jim departed you guys immediately announced that you were searching for a new singer.  How long did it really take before you set your sites set on Zoli?  Were there really any other contenders?  Who were they?

The thing about Zoli was that we had already had a couple shows that Jim wasn’t going to be able to do and we had talked to Zoli about possibly filling in for him. People want to believe that Zoli sings “opera punk rock” in Ignite, which he does, in a way, but if you can sing high, then you can also sing low.  That’s what I tell people who aren’t musicians or who might now write songs. To the people who say “how can that guy sing for Pennywise? He’s gonna sound horrible,” I just tell them, “No, he’s just gonna lower his register a whole octave.”  We always knew he was capable of singing a Pennywise song.  So he was kind of on the list right out of the box because we had spoken with him about filling in for Jim before. We’d toured with him and knew he was a cool dude with the same political type views and that he was just crazy enough to be in Pennywise.

“But I would say one of the main contenders besides Zoli was Jason from Authority Zero.”

We not only tried him out once, but we tried him out twice.  We flew him out from Arizona and he was rad.  Zoli’s got really bad ADD.  He can’t remember Ignite lyrics, let alone Pennywise lyrics.  He’s still got cheat sheets for like 5 words a song up on the monitor cuz he’s fucking out of his mind.  But Jason came in and blasted off a whole Pennywise song top to bottom without looking at lyrics.  He was raised on it.  He was really skeptical about even trying out cuz he felt they were some big shoes to fill, and why not? He’s a great guy and a really good friend of ours.  It just wound up that he’s still doing Authority Zero and really passionate about that.

Jay from Suicide Machines was really cool.

Efrem from Death By Stereo was actually surprisingly really good.

Pennywise songs are sung so its hard to imagine Efrem’s Death By Stereo style of screaming and yelling but when I got his demo I was blown away by how great of a singer he is.”

The thing that people might not realize about Pennywise songs is that they’re actually really hard to sing from a technical standpoint.   There’s a lot of stuff going on.  There are a lot of high notes and a lot of guys can’t hit those consistently.  Zoli has got an insane range so the high notes for him are easy. If you listen to our first records like the blue record or “Unknown Road” Jim sounds higher on those. Zoli kind of reminds me of that, before Jim started getting really deep voiced and bringing everything down a notch.  You go throw Zoli on some earlier stuff and he sounds a lot like Jim in a many ways.

So there were a lot of people that ended up trying out.  We were skeptical about getting another band guy because we didn’t want to take them away from there band.  We decided that whoever we got we weren’t gonna make them quit their other band.  They could do whatever they want and we’ll just work together.  There was also a lot of skepticism on our part about getting an unknown kid because its like, where does this person come from and will fans accept him. We had a better shot at getting a guy that was well known.

Sure Tim from Rise Against would have been awesome but he’s in Rise Against so basically we just kinda went with the flow.  We got a lot of demo tapes from all over the world and it just became more and more apparent that Zoli was the guy for the job. We actually played a couple shows where he filled in, not being a member yet, and he did well in the shows.  The first one was really weird, it was theSsmokeout, and we played really early so everybody was still stuck outside. There was like 20 guys in the pit in front of us and we’re just like “Whoa, this is not a good debut.” Then we played Suicidal / Danzig at the Long Beach Arena to 10,000 people and Zoli came out pretty good.  He was still nervous and feeling his way through – obviously you’re coming out taking Jim’s place, you gotta be scared.  But he’s got confidence and wasn’t too scared.  It was enough for us.

“We were like “Ya know, if you can come out in front of 10,000 people in basically our home town, and the crowd goes off and they’re not throwing bottles at you, then I think you might be the guy.” So we went for it.”

I’m not gonna say it was an easy road.  He’s one of the most insane people I’ve every met.  We all are, in the band, but he is definitely a fucking freak of nature.  Its kinda funny cuz he can totally tolerate the shit I do or the shit Byron does and thinks we’re crazy and we look at him and think he’s crazy, so on the bus its pretty out there.  We just did a live air thing with Sirius Radio and the program director came down to sit with us in the studio.  Afterward he said something like,

“I’ve done a lot of shit in my day.  I’ve sat at the piano with Elton John and played piano and sang, I’ve sung background on stage with Metallica, and I’ve toured with Anthrax, but all those things pale in comparison to a day in the studio with Pennywise.”

He was in the studio with us for like 8 hours and he saw the full attack mode where nothing is held back.  It’s a brawl.  You can probably turn into Sirius and hear it but some of the shit that was being said was just too crazy so they had to edit a lot of it out.  Zoli will tell me, “Hey, you sound like a fat fucking beached whale out there!  Don’t sing on that shit, you’re fucking horrible!  Turn him off from my fucking headphones!” right after the song’s done and we’re still live on the radio. It’s just funny and it’s actually really good.

Right now Zoli’s fit in the band is really positive.

“It’s like being brothers with constant shit giving, pushing and shoving, literally beating each other up, and then laughing about it.  It feels really positive. “

Everybody’s really stoked on the album.  Zoli is stoked to go on the road.  We’re stoked to go on the road.  Before it was like “We want to go do this.” And we we’re just waiting for the email saying no from Jim.  And that’s gone. Right when we see an offer to go to Japan for like 3 months everybody’s just like “Yes, I’m in! Can we do more days?” And that’s what we’ve been trying to do for years.  It feels like everything’s right right now, it feels good. Of course, we’re sad to see Jim go.  We didn’t want him to leave.  We tried everything in our power to keep him in the band but he was just over it and you can’t make someone happy with something if they don’t want to be a part of it anymore.

You keep mentioning how crazy Zoli is.  Give me an example of how the dude is crazy.

For one, he’s very forgetful.  You’ll have a conversation with him and then you’ll have another one about the same thing and then another one and he’ll come to practice and you’re like “Remember, you were supposed to do this?” and he’ll be like “What are you talking about?”  We call him the Gypsy hoarder because he’ll come on to the bus with giant chick bags the size of my coffee table for a 5 day tour.  He opens it up on the bus and it explodes with clothes everywhere.  He doesn’t drink, he’s sober, which is a good thing. But you’ll be in your hotel room hungover trying to sleep and he’ll be walking the halls singing Scorpions for hours, or Dio or something, and then come by singing Fugazi and you’re like, “Shut the fuck up!” He’ll then bang on your door yelling “Get the fuck up you fat drunk, fucking loser!” Its just maniacal. The dude is out of his mind, ask anybody.  He prowls around the streets at night.  Only sleeps during the day.  He’s just always got something going on.  It’s actually really entertaining – he’s just a strange, strange person.

Like I said, we’re all fucking crazy in Pennywise.  You can ask anybody that’s been on the bus or in the studio or been around us at all they’ll all say the same thing.  Jim was getting less crazy.  He was getting more settled down and he couldn’t handle the craziness anymore.  Zoli’s right there in the mix, totally game on for anything, which is awesome.

Two years ago you started Viking Funeral Records with Ken Seaton of Hardline Entertainment.  Did you ever consider releasing the next Pennywise album with your own label as opposed to Epitaph?

It was talked about by some of the partners but for me it was a no-brainer.  Epitaph’s been our home for 18 years or maybe even longer and Brett is one of the coolest bosses, or label owners you could possibly ever have.  I know a lot of people think Epitaph’s changed their style of music, which they have but you have to look at the Warped Tour.  I mean, we might not like the lineup of Warped as much as we did back in ’96 but at the same time if you want to keep your business running, you have to change with the times.  The cool thing is Brett’s still willing to put out Bad Religion and Pennywise, and if NOFX still wanted to be on there, they’d be on there too.

The MySpace Records things we did for our last album was actually in conjunction with Epitaph.  A lot of people in America don’t know that Epitaph and MyScpae co-released the record in Europe and Australia. Brett was like, “This is an insanely good proposition for you guys, go do it and let me know how can we be a part of it.” It wasn’t about the money. It was less than we’d had in an advance way in a long time.  We knew we were going to give the record away so we probably wouldn’t sell a lot of advance copies.  Instead it was about getting it out there for free to our old fans and stoking them out and then it was about possibly getting some new fans that would otherwise never go buy a Pennywise album. They click a button and say, “Hey, I kinda like this, I’m gonna go to a show and be a fan.” So, we ended up giving away something like 515,000 records in 2 weeks, which is pretty huge. I think it grew our fanbase and I think people thought it was cool. I actually really like that album.  It was one the best we’d put out in a long time.

So when it came time to talk about this new record, Brett said, “Hey, I’m here for you guys. Whoever you choose, I back Pennywise 100%.” It was pretty rad because when he heard the record he said “You know, you coulda delivered a mediocre Pennywise record but you delivered an old school, hardcore Pennywise record and I can’t even believe how good it is. You guys have really stepped up your game.”  It was really cool.

“Brett even called me later and said, “I’m writing the new Bad Religion record right now, and your record has inspired me to write a fast Bad Religion record. I’m trying to write another “No Control” record here in my living room.”

And I’m like, “Fuck yeah! ‘No Control,’ ‘Suffer,’ please.” That’s rad.  When a guy you’ve been doing business with tells you this is the best record you’ve put out since “Full Circle” that’s a pretty fucking huge compliment.  He’s always been a cool guy and everybody who works there, Jeff Abarta, Tami, and Dave Hansen, and all the people that have had our backs all these years.  Its been an awesome run and they’re an awesome group of people so we’re stoked to be back there.

Parenthood played a large role in Jim’s decision to leave the band.  Do you ever see that happening to yourself, Zoli, or any of the other band members?

No, I don’t see it happening.  We signed up for this a long time ago. Jim, said in his press release that he wanted to spend more time with his family.  That’s why he told us over the years that he wanted to keep tours shorter. We always respected that because family is family, and we tried to work with him in those parameters without pissing him off.  Now I don’t know how true that is. If you watch the documentary “The Other F Word” or you read his initial press releases quitting Pennywise was all about staying home and raising a family. Then he starts another band a day later, as he puts it, and put out an album that had some pretty strong similarities to Pennywise, and then the next thing you know he’s on a 5 week tour of Europe in the dead of winter. That was like a triple slap in the face to us.  I know he doesn’t like to hear that but I think the fans have a right to know why we’re continuing on and what the real truth of the matter was.

It’s totally cool, he can do whatever he wants, it’s his life.  If he would have just said, “Hey, I’m over it guys.  I don’t wanna be on the road with you anymore. I don’t wanna be in a band with you in anymore but I still wanna be friends,” we would have shaken hands and still been drinking beer together.  We asked him point blank, “You gonna be doing side projects?” “Yeah, of course.” “You’re not going to be going on tour or anything, cuz that would look really weird.” “Oh, no, no, no. I might just play a couple shows here and there.” He says that to your face along with, “I’m going to support you 100% and help you find a new singer.”

“My idea of support is not starting another band that sounds really similar to Pennywise and then going out and doing longer tours than we were ever allowed to do.”

There was a 14 days door-to-door policy for us in Europe.  Because of that we couldn’t go to Spain, couldn’t go to Sweden, couldn’t go to Norway, couldn’t go to Russia, couldn’t go to Greece.  All these places got neglected because of family and then to have him go and do that was kind of a bummer.

We’ll all get over it.  We’ll all be friends again some day, but to answer your question, Randy’s got 4 kids. His oldest is 12 and he’s got a 7 month old right now. They don’t talk about it in “The Other F Word.”  It doesn’t fit the profile of a band that doesn’t see eye-to-eye on the needs of family and they kinda left Randy’s interview on the cutting room floor. Byron’s got a kid too. This kids’ like 4 months old and he’s talking about already taking it on the road.

So its like, Pennywise is our life.  We didn’t do this to become rich or famous.  We’re not rich or famous.  We’re making a living and we’re infamous, I guess.  The music industry isn’t getting any easier at this point but we knew this is what we wanted to do and we knew this is how we wanted to make a living with everything that goes with it.  We’ve all got family, whether its moms, brothers, dads, girlfriends, wives, it doesn’t necessarily have to be kids.  It could be fucking dogs.  When you leave, you leave and you’re bummed out.  I don’t know. You want to work a 9 to 5 spending an hour each way in traffic with 20 minutes in the morning with your kids and an hour at night, or do you want to go to Europe for like 3 weeks and then have a month off to spend with them. There’s a lot of ways you can look at things, but at the end of the day, we’re just doing what we love and nobody’s showing any signs of slowing down.  Our year is planned out and we got 3 dudes in the band with kids.  There’s 6 kids floating around in this band right now and everybody is still like “yes, I wanna go on tour.” I’m pretty stoked on that.  Will it change?  Who knows.  Maybe someday but we’ll see.

You’ve already made it clear you guys want to tour a LOT.  Are there any new places you guys are excited to go that you couldn’t before?

Russia’s going to be a good one.  We haven’t toured Sweden in a really long time.  We haven’t toured Norway.  We’ve never been to Greece or Singapore or Bali or Mexcico City.  South America has been limited.  We just started going there recently.  Russia is one of the spots that I want to go to bad.

Zoli will go pretty much everywhere.  He loves playing live shows and he loves traveling so it’s pretty much a wide open door.  We haven’t been to Spain in a while and to go back there with Zoli and play sold out shows, it’s a good feeling.  We were asking ourselves, why has it been so long since we’ve been here? Oh yeah, cuz we couldn’t be out for more than 2 weeks.  Now we don’t have that burden.

Kids buy our album, put a poster on the wall, buy a t-shirt and then they sit and wait for us to come to their town once a year or once every 18 months. 

If we don’t come to their town for 8 years that’s neglect.  It’s our responsibility to go to that person’s town and play, whether it’s a 30 or 3000 person show.”

They support us. If they spent $17 on a record, cool.  I get 30 cents but I still feel like I owe that kid a show.  Not to mention how good it feels when you’re playing a show in a place like France for 125 people in a little bar and they’re all going crazy and you know every single person there walks out thinking it was a really great night. The more we can go out there and do that and play for our fans the more stoked we are.  Zoli has freed that up for us. Jim’s doing his own thing and hopefully he’s happy doing what he does, but this is us doing our own thing.

Anything you want to say before we sign off?

Bottom line with Pennywise is that we’re feeling really good about the place we’re in and hopefully the skeptics, or the Jim lovers, the people that are saying Pennywise is nothing without Jim, will give the album a listen and understand that we do this because we love it and we’ve been doing it since the beginning.

“We’re not planning on giving up or giving in. That’s our motto.”

When I sat down with Jason to start this band we talked about our goals and they were to do what we want, follow our dreams and don’t take shit form anybody and no matter what life puts in our way, or what obstacles we encounter as a band, we move forward.  And that’s why we moved forward after Jason died.  If you’re a true Pennywise fan and you understand the lyrics then you’ll understand there are 3 dudes here who have been in this band even before Jim.  Byron and I were in the band a while before Jim joined and we’re still feeling exactly the same way about getting out there and playing Pennywise songs as we did 20 years ago.  Just because one guy doesn’t wanna do it anymore doesn’t mean we can’t so hopefully they’ll approach the album with an open mind.  If they like it hopefully they’ll support it, and if not, no problem that’s their choice.

“For us still in Pennywise there is definitely still life after Jim.”

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