Interview: Joey Cape talks NEW LAGWAGON ALBUM, Bad Astronaut b-sides and more

Whether you’re a staunchy old school punk or a fresh convert to the scene, chances are you know Lagwagon. In 1992 they were the first band to sign to Fat Wreck Chords and twenty years later I bared witness to the fact that they still kick ass on the Asbury Park stop of their headlining Fat Wreck Tour with Dead To Me, The Flatliners and Useless ID.  After the show I had the pleasure of sitting down with the charismatic (if not, inebriated) vocalist Joey Cape who filled me in on a bunch of interesting tidbits including what’s going on with that rumored Bad Astronaut b-sides album, and how things are coming along on that new Lagwagon album. Yes you heard me right; a new Lagwagon album is in the works.  Read all about it and more here.

You were the first band signed to Fat Wreck, what has it been like to tour with the rookies?

Rookies? Come on, they’re not rookies at all. All the bands are really decent bands, just they’re not old. In a way, I think that when you go on tour with bands that have toured as much as they tour, and they have all that stuff recently under their belt, old guys like us are the rookies. You know what I mean? It’s a weird thing, we’ve been touring forever, but we tour with bands that are freshly recent, so it’s the opposite. The only wise old man advice I might have is stuff they don’t even wanna know. But all the people on this tour are really really nice people, it doesn’t even matter what their music is about. We’re touring with some really kind genuine people right now. It’s amazing, it’s really amazing.

Curve ball question for you: When are you going to release a Bad Astronaut B-Sides album?

Oh, you mean like what have I been doing for the last ten years? Uhm, wow, that’s crazy that you asked that question. I don’t know.  We had at one point like 15, 16, or something like that songs that we didn’t release, or didn’t put on an album, and I thought that I could remake them.  A lot of them never got finished, so I could finish them, but honestly, I’ve been fighting with some of those songs for a long time for other bands, just as demos I wrote. But honestly, I don’t think so. I’m sorry, I can’t believe you even care about that.

Well I know some of our readers will be bummed to hear that.  My next question is something you probably get asked enough to justify carrying around a laminated answer in your wallet but I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t ask: Have there been any moves toward creating a new Lagwagon album?

Yes, yes, just recently. We have always had this thing where we don’t really rush records and because of that the downside is that we have no momentum as a band. The upside of it is that I don’t think we have really released anything that we’re not proud of except that EP “I Think My Older Brother Used To Listen To Lagwagon”. It had a good title, but that’s it. With the exception of that one, we never rushed anything. It’s like when you’re in a band and you’re a songwriter for that band you’re waiting to wake up one day and find out the true identity of your band. People want that stuff, they calculate that stuff, they search through their old records, and they try to figure out what they did before. But the thing is, when a band makes a record with that mentality it doesn’t have the same kind of purity. I don’t think Lagwagon has really done that yet at all. And other than that one EP, and it was only an EP, it’s fine, all our full lengths are really true to where we were at. We take a long time to make records, but we have been touring this whole year to support that box set, and all the old stuff is really riffy. Honestly like doing that all year has kind of awakened something in me.  Two months ago we were on tour in Europe and I woke up one day and was like “I got it, I know what to do!” and started writing. I have written a whole bunch of stuff, and basically we’re waiting to finish out this tour and then the Australia tour, and after that we’re gonna get in a room together. I’ve already talked to the other guys in the band about what we’re gonna do.

I think that’s the best news I’ve heard in a long time.  Could you maybe tell us anything about these songs that you have been writing?

Well, recently what I figured out is that I’m in a band with a bunch of guys who are over-qualified for the songs I write. In the early days I would spend a ton of time creating these really hard to play riffs, and a lot of people are like “that’s metal”. But the thing is, that’s fine with me. I mean, forget about new metal and all the metal that’s happened in the last 20 years, we grew up listening to old metal and old punk rock and that’s what created our earlier sound. For years and years, I became just like any other songwriter. I became kind of a slave to the melody in the punk sensibility of the song, because that’s what I actually love. So, I kind of forgot that I have to write music that’s challenging for my band.  They need to be challenged. I mean, I have this band full of really great players, like everyone in the band can play anything. All these guys are like Frank Zappa. They’re really good players, and I’m writing these bullshit songs. So when I woke up one day and I realized what we were doing in some old songs, and I remembered all these riffs that were really weird and, I don’t want to get into music terms and stuff, but they were more difficult to play. And they’re playing this stuff and I look at them on stage every night and they’re smiling.  From ear to ear they have these smiles, and they’re so into it. And I’m like “wait a minute, what am I doing?” I’ve got this great fucking band. So basically I don’t know what this new album I’m writing is gonna be, but I do know it’s going to be really hard to play.

Awesome.  I can’t wait to hear the finished product.  You’ve stated before that May 16 is a song about not getting invited to a friend’s wedding because of a falling out with that friend’s fiancé. There are rumors that that friend was Fat Mike. Any truth to that?

No, I wish because then it would be so much cooler. If Fat Mike were here right now I would be like “Yupp, it is”. No, Fat Mike’s ex-wife is one of my best friends, so no. It’s about my bud, one of my best friends growing up. I know he knows that song is about him, and his wife knows it is about her, but we don’t talk about it. We’ve become really good friends and there was this weird one night… I play in a band with him so hopefully you can figure it out.  One night we were on tour and he was like “Oh man, it’s just another Saturday” and I was like “Look dude, I was hurt” and he was like “It’s cool, brother”. We’ve only had those words about the song, and that was it.

On a lighter note, what is your favorite Fat Wreck release?

You’re not going to like the answer. My favorite record to ever come out on Fat is a record by the Western Addition, or rather Western Addiction, sorry. The Western Addition is a part of San Francisco that used to be the better part of the city, and at one point when I first moved to San Francisco, I used to live in the Western Addition. When it first was built it was the farthest west, and it was like three miles from the beach and then over the years they built farther west, farther east, farther north, and basically the city was built. And this band is called the Western Addiction, which was made up of Chicken [Not the food product, now the frontman of Dead To Me], and fucking Enemy [refers to Ken Yamazaki who plays in Enemy You as well as Dead To Me], and fucking Chad who is one of my best friends. That record fucking rules. I love so many records on Fat, but that record I still listen to all the time. It’s like this black flag like record, like 20 million years after black flag.  It’s so good.  I love that record.  It kind of embodies a lot of the stuff that I love. Jason Hall, the singer, I grew up with him.  He was one of my good friends that I would hang out and drink with. Now he doesn’t work with Fat anymore. But on top of it, just their influences, and their influences were exactly the same as mine.

 If you could add one band to this tour who isn’t already on it, who would it be?

Dillinger 4.

 Every other band on this tour has mentioned their name.

Well originally, when I was setting up the tour and picking the bands – I picked Dead To Me, The Flatliners, Useless ID – but I wanted six bands. I was like, “If you’re going to have a Fat Tour, it should be a ton of bands. It can’t be four bands, it has to be like six or eight bands, like all fucking day.” I don’t know, it just didn’t work out.

Who is your favorite band to sing along to when you’re just driving around in your car?

Well I don’t listen to music I want to listen to in my car, I listen to what my daughter wants to listen to.

Well, if you could listen to someone of your choice, who would it be?

Probably Brett Dennon, he’s a San Francisco guy who plays folk music and he made a children’s record. If I had a guitar right now, I’d play you a song he wrote called “Don’t Laugh At Me.” Actually, he didn’t write it, Peter from Peter, Paul, And Mary did. It’s this really old song, but his cover of it is unbelievable. He’s really good.

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