This should come as not exactly breaking news, but this coming weekend in Las Vegas marks the twentieth installment of Punk Rock Bowling. Created by Stern Brothers of Youth Brigade fame two decades ago, the annual bacchanalian celebration of all things punk rock has grown into a much larger festival than it originally started out as. Yet somehow it has remained true to the the spirit of the scene that spawned it. It remains a must-see destination for punk rockers from not just around the country but around the world. Like, for example, Joey Cape.
The solo artist-slash-Scorpio-slash-Gimme-Gimme-slash-Lagwagon-frontman is not only pulling double duty at the event this year (he’s headlining a solo gig on Friday alongside Tim Barry – limited tickets still available here – and Lagwagon headlines the sold-out Fat Wreck Chords showcase on Saturday), but he’s been in attendance for all but a small handful of Punk Rock Bowling weekends over the last two decades. And while it’s long been a compelling event for Cape even if he’s not playing, he remembers having misgivings in the earliest years about if the concept would take off. “I’ll be honest, I remember the first year or the second year, thinking that “this isn’t going to last!” I didn’t know that it would work. I was definitely skeptical,” he explains. While Vegas has long attracted people from across all walks of life and garnered a well-earned reputation for glitz, glamour, and debauchery, there was something about the derelicts taking over and throwing a bowling party that might be too much for even Sin City to handle. “I just imagined with all those people, that I was going to enjoy (the first installment of PRB) because it was definitely going to be the first and last one of those, you know!” Cape credits not only the Stern brothers for running a great ship, but the location itself for creating a unique environment that keeps the festival working. “It’s all in one area, and it’s in Vegas, which is just the built-in best possible platform. You throw a stone in any direction and there’s a bar or something else to do that’s wild and fun. That place has always been an escape for adults; like a Disneyland for adults. So you couple that with this kind of music, and there’s the simple absurdity of it that works for people.”
There are a handful of milestone events coming rapidly down the ‘pike for Lagwagon this year, although when your band has been in existence for such a long time, there are seemingly no shortage of such milestones to celebrate. The band’s highly-regarded fourth album, Double Plaidinum, somehow turned twenty last year, while its stellar – albeit shorter – follow-up Let’s Talk About Feelings reaches the same milestone this year. Once Cape and his Lagwagon cohorts return from a fairly lengthy European tour in August, there are plans in the works to hopefully celebrate both albums in a meaningful way, and to tie them into an even larger and more meaningful milestone: 2019, you see, marks Lagwagon’s thirtieth year as a band. Kinda.
“Within the band, we kinda go “is it ‘88 or ‘89?” explains Cape. “There was a band in ‘88 that I wasn’t in that was the band I joined. When I joined the band (Section Eight), I started writing songs for the band, and it was enough of a revamp. I like to think (it was) ‘88, but it’s funny, the one other member that was in the band before me, Chris Flippin, The Big Bitch, prefers ‘89.” Because of the somewhat nebulous origin of the band’s initial formation, the band have blown by several milestone anniversaries in the past – their 25th anniversary roughly coincided with the Fat Wreck Chords 25th anniversary tour a few years back, though even that tour came around the label’s actual 26th anniversary – but whatever timeline you go by Cape and his bandmates seem to realize that this milestone is an important one. “You have anniversaries that you’re married every year, and the tenth anniversary of a marriage is a big deal, so the thirtieth anniversary of a band should be celebrated! That’s five assholes trying to get along! And they’re not even having sex!”
Some plans to celebrate the band’s coinciding milestones are still taking shape, but we do know that Lagwagon will perform Let’s Talk About Feelings in its entirety at Fest 17 in Gainesville this coming October. Album-specific shows and tours have become more of the norm for bands of all genres over the last handful of years, and while that might give one initial pause to jump into that fray, there is a special lure to events like that if they’re done the right way. “I love doing it because I think there is a historic time-stamp that coincides with the release of an album,” Cape explains. “We obviously come from a generation where sequence and the entire album matter and have their own feel. That still matters to us, being old men in a day and age where singular songs and Spotify are the norm. I think there’s something really cool about doing it with a band. It takes playing a whole record to really revisit that vibe and that feeling and that climate that the band was in.”
Stay tuned for more on Let’s Talk About Feelings and Double Plaidinum plans in the ramp-up to Lagwagon’s 30ish anniversary in 2019. And who knows..maybe we’ll even get new music before 2019 is up: it has, somehow, been four years since the release of their latest full-length, Hang, after all. “We’ll probably get back in the studio by the end of the year or the beginning of next year, so we are going to actually follow through,” says Cape. “After we made Hang, everybody agreed and said “let’s stop doing this bullshit, let’s get right back on the horse after tour.” Between touring for Hang and touring for Fat Wreck’s 25th, anniversary, that “tour” lasted for a couple years, however. Cape jokes: “we toured for like two years, and at the end of two years it’s like “alright, I’ll see you guys NEVER! I love you guys, but fuck you!!”
Head below to read our full chat with the Joey Cape. We caught up over the phone on the eve of “Lagwagon Day,” and a long, winding, fun conversation ensued, ranging from details on the band’s history to tidbits about new solo material. And let us know if you’re in Vegas for PRB or Gainesville for Fest!
Dying Scene (Jay Stone): Given that tomorrow is obviously May 16th…
Joey Cape: Oh right!
Aside from “what’s next for Lagwagon,” is the thing you get asked about the most when you’re doing this whole press thing? The whole “what’s the significance of May 16th?” thing. I know you’ve answered it like 8000 times at this point.
That’s true! I don’t know, it’s up there. It is a question that people ask pretty frequently, although I don’t do as many interviews as I used to, so I’ve kind of forgotten. In fact, I always forget when (May 16th is) even coming. I’m not sure it REALLY matters that much. The only time I think it’s kind of exciting is I guess once every seven years when it happens to fall on a Saturday, because that’s song-specific, you know? But I also don’t really do much of social media anymore, so that’s when you start forgetting people’s birthdays and things like that. So I don’t even notice anymore.
How long after Let’s Talk About Feelings came out did people start to refer to May 16th as “Lagwagon Day”? Even though the song is not about Lagwagon at all, but it’s just become “Lagwagon Day” now…
Umm, I don’t know how long it was? There I am again with no answer! (*both laugh*) I guess probably after a couple years, you know? It wasn’t immediate, but it seems like so long ago that I can’t recall when people started associating the date with the name. I think when you make a record, you never have an idea which songs are going to have legs and are going to resonate with people. That song was the one song that, it’s weird, we can’t put it in the middle of the set. It’s one of those things where you have to be careful what you wish for, you know? It’s nice when people really like a song of yours, but that is definitely one of three songs that we have to put either last or first in an encore…it’s got to be in a specific spot, because it crescendos, and anything that follows it is kinda like “awwww….” (*both laugh*) Letdown!!
So you can’t play “May 16th” and then like a brand new song early in a set…
No, but you know what’s funny? I think about this a lot, but we could definitely open with it. And we never have! We never have! I was making a setlist the other day with our bass player, Joe Raposo, and we were texting back and forth working out a setlist for Punk Rock Bowling, and the thought crossed my mind, but there are certain comfort zones that you can’t get too far away from with a band, you know? He immediately kind of echoed that anxiety, he said “Whoa, I don’t know about that! When the rest of the guys see that, they’re going to be like “What??? How can we do that???” It’s a shock, you know?
You mentioned that you don’t really know when a song is going to take off and resonate with people, but is that really always the case, or are there times where you finish a song and you just know that you fucking nailed it; that it’s a special song?
I feel that way every record we make, where there’s one or two that we make that I think are really special songs. But I’m rarely…it’s easier to see those things when it’s not your music. I produce a lot of albums, and I usually have a good idea of what the strongest songs are when an album’s done. When it’s your own music, it’s harder to recognize those things, and I’m not really sure why that is. So no, I never really know, and if I have a hunch, it’s usually wrong! (*both laugh*) Which is cool, it doesn’t really matter. You’re just happy when people have a good response to something you do, you know?
Next thing up for you guys is Punk Rock Bowling, obviously, in another week or so. You’re also playing solo at Punk Rock Bowling too. Do you like doing both so close together like that; doing a full band show and a solo show the same weekend?
I do like doing both! I don’t like doing both when they’re the same day…
…are those the same day?
They are not. I’m playing Friday and then Saturday, which is perfect. At one point it looked like they were going to be, and then they weren’t going to be, and then it looked like it was going to be Sunday solo, which I liked less. It feels more like a ramp up if I play a solo show the day before I play a band show. That’s just psychological, really, but it’s a different kind of scene and vibe. It’s a nice precursor; it kind of gets you in the mode of being on stage and playing but it’s a softer entrance, you know? I do like doing both, because they’re pretty different animals, you know? I feel like there’s a way that you emote more when you play solo; in some ways, you get closer to the song, but at the same time, if you do that all the time — and I have for years done that more some years than I did the band thing — you miss the other thing, because you miss the energy and the dynamic of the band. It’s really cool to do both; it definitely feels good, you know?
I can see where it would be a bit of a mindfuck trying to do it the same day, for sure; trying to take yourself out of one mode and put yourself in the other one right away.
Yeah, what it usually is in that case is if there’s an after hours party or something where I play acoustic. I always say the same thing in that case: “yeah…I’m going to be shitfaced!” (*both laugh*). With Lagwagon, I don’t drink before we play, but I’ll have a drink on stage. I have a little bit of a routine to be able to do the best show that I can do. But when it’s over, you have all this adrenaline and you feel really good and it’s fun to hang out with your friends and your band. It feels good! So if I’m going to play at 11 o’clock with Lagwagon and then at like 2am solo, I always look at those shows like “yeah, I don’t know if it’s going to be any good! I’ll be WAY into it, but I don’t know if the crowd will be!” (*both laugh*)
This is Punk Rock Bowling 20; how many of those at this point have you either been to as a spectator or played either solo or with Lagwagon or the Gimmes?
I was thinking about that the other day, and I don’t know the answer, but it’s a lot. Maybe fifteen? Maybe sixteen or seventeen. Almost every year. In the early years, we played almost every year because I have three different projects, so if Lagwagon wasn’t doing it, the Gimmes would maybe be doing it or I would do some kind of solo thing related to it. It was usually Gimmes or Lagwagon though, because it is a punk rock festival. But then, in the early years, I just went anyway, because all my friends from bands all over the world come around for it. Certainly bands on the East Coast that I don’t see all that often would call and say “hey, are you going?” I would sometimes say “I don’t know if I’m going to make it this year,” and then the day of, I’d be like “oh, fuck it. What better thing do I have to do than be at the funnest thing!” It’s literally the funnest thing, you know? I have missed a few when I’ve been on tour somewhere, but I’ve been to most of them. I don’t know the actual answer, and I don’t know that I ever will.
There’s been a lot of other either one-day festivals or large touring festivals — and we don’t have to name names — that have involved the punk scene over years that have either fallen by the wayside or turned into something vastly different, but Punk Rock Bowling still seems to be the premier thing on the calendar for most people most summers. What do you think it is that has kept it that true to its roots?
That’s a good question. One thing right off the bat is that the Sterns just do it right. It’s such a well-run festival. Every year, there are so many choices and so many good bands playing, and it still seems to get better every year. I don’t know how, but they’ve managed to get several…way more than several, MANY bands out of retirement. That’s something that they do that’s amazing, because not even European festivals that are huge do that really. It really works for the States. It’s all in one area, and it’s in Vegas, which is just the built-in best possible platform. You throw a stone in any direction and there’s a bar or something else to do that’s wild and fun. That place has always been an escape for adults; like a Disneyland for adults.
So you couple that with this kind of music…and there’s the simple absurdity of it that works for people. This is maybe a place when you were a kid that your parents would go to when you were on a holiday, and you would go to the video arcade while they gambled and had drinks. At least in my family, I remember things like that from when I was a kid. And now, here we are, we’re grown-ups now, and we’re taking over, you know! The degenerates have taken over! That’s a thing that doesn’t happen at other festivals. They’re always on some big, muddy dirt field or in a parking lot or something. So it’s kind of a perfect recipe. I’ll be honest, I remember the first year or the second year, thinking that “this isn’t going to last!” I didn’t know that it would work. I was definitely skeptical. It was so good, and it’s not surprising now that it works. I think that for a lot of people, this one and the Fest in Gainesville, a lot of people look forward to it all year when they’re sitting in their cubicles or at whatever shitty job they have that they don’t love. It’s great!
Why were you skeptical, because of the fact that the degenerates were taking over? Like, there’s no way that we could make this work?
Yeah! Like, how long is a casino going to allow it? I mean, it’s the same thing like we did with the Flogging Molly cruise. We did that Salty Dog cruise recently – Lagwagon did – and that’s a thing that when I first heard that metal bands were doing it — I think that metal bands kind of got to that thing first — I just thought “oh, what a recipe for disaster that is!” Put a bunch of drunk, degenerate, weekend warrior-slash-I-don’t-give-a-shit-if-I-fall-off-the-side-of-the-boat types together and everyone would be puking over the railings and falling over the edge, but somehow that never happens! I just did the first one that I’ve ever been to, because I had no desire to ever do that kind of thing, and I looked at it as “okay, let’s have Punk Rock Bowling at the Sunset Station and we’ll just lock all the doors, and we’ll put it on water, where you can have the most horrible, horrifying death! You could get eaten by sharks!” (*both laugh*) But I went to this one recently and I was pleasantly surprised! It was pretty mellow and it was really put together and it was great! It was so much fun! I guess early on with Punk Rock Bowling, I just thought the casinos would have too many issues. If you’ve been to a place like Vegas, and you’re with a bunch of friends and maybe somebody’s really drunk and they spill a drink and they have to leave the casino…I had that happen a lot when I was younger…I mean MAYBE not me, I’m just saying…
…yeah, hypothetically I might spill my screwdriver all over the poker table and just saw “Aww, fuck you!” and get thrown out…(*both laugh*) I just imagined with all those people, that I was going to enjoy it because it was definitely going to be the first and last one of those, you know! But I think the bottom line is that they (the casinos) like money. It’s really crowded. I’m guessing they make a killing after that weekend. It’s not that tough for them to just steam clean the rugs afterwards, you know?
That’s interesting, I wonder if anybody has looked in to that. Obviously, they keep inviting (PRB) back, but I wonder how much that compares to a typical weekend for those casinos.
I can’t imagine that the Tupperware conference… (*laughs*)
I don’t know, man…I’ve heard things!
The show that you’re playing with Lagwagon is headlining the Fat specific show. That seems like a pretty cool lineup, because you’ve got two of the newest bands and then bands like you guys and Dillinger Four…
Yeah, I’m stoked. I remember talking to Erin (Burkett, Fat Wreck Chords co-founder) — E-Dagger! — about it. Her and I talked a lot about it and I talked to other label people about it when they were trying to figure out who was available and who could do it, and we signed on pretty early. It was really exciting, especially Dillinger Four. My band has never toured with them. We have played shows with them, but just a couple. And I love that band; they’re such a great band. So them being on the bill, and of course Good Riddance…I mean, all the bands, man. It’s going to be a lot of fun, and those things don’t happen as much as they used to. The idea of a Fat Wreck Chords night and collective, that sort of camaraderie was really present early on. I think the first five or six bands that they signed, we played pretty frequently with all of those bands. It was a nice feeling. Then, decades went by, and it became a much bigger label. There’s way more bands on the label. That just sort of goes away, but I’m excited about the idea of doing a Fat show case. I still love the label. We have a really good label, you know? They have not faltered, they’ve always been loyal and taken care of all their bands and been really honest, and you can’t say that about a lot of labels. They’ve managed to survive somehow. It’s pretty cool.
And they’ve managed to survive not just as a legacy label that relies on old Lagwagon and No Use album and reissues; they sign new bands that are actually really cool.
Oh, yeah, I think so too. It’s so great.
The solo show you’re playing is with Tim Barry too. Tim is one of A) my favorite people but B) one of my favorite performers to see live. I can only imagine that if you’re headlining a show and have Tim Barry playing right before you…he’s such a dynamic performer that even if you’re Joey Cape, that’s a tough act to follow.
Well, the good news is that you have a way of looking at it that saves you from any anxiety that might cause. Obviously, I’ve been in that position many times in my life, either with my band or playing alone. The way you have to look at it is just different; I don’t sound like Tim, Tim doesn’t sound like me. He does his thing and I do mine, and the people that respond to your music love the songs. You’re just a vessel, you know? He could be playing my songs for those people and it would sound different, but they’d still be singing those songs. He’s a great artist, he’s a really great songwriter, he’s an incredible performer. I’m just really excited. I always see that as the plus outweighs the negative, if there’s any negative about any anxiety that might create. It’s far more important that it’s a good show. I’m stoked. I was a little surprised, though, when I saw that I was playing after him. The irony is that I think it’s better to play earlier. I’m just saying! If you go on at 11pm versus 12:15, it’s better! People aren’t AS intoxicated (*both laugh*). People have a little bit more energy than they would later. He may very well have the better slot! (*laughs*)
I’m sure he prefers it too; knowing what I know of Tim, he’s the kind of performer that when he’s done playing, he’s DONE. Put the dance music on. I feel like he’d rather have someone else to watch than be a headliner at a show like that.
Yeah, I mean the older I get, the more I love the shows that we get to play on occasion that are early enough that you can go out and have dinner afterwards. I know it sounds super lame and like a grandpa, but I mean, it’s really nice. Lagwagon plays at 1:00am I think. I’m gonna be done… When we’re done, I might have a couple of beers with the guys in my band, and I’ll most likely just hit the hay! It’s late, man! When I’m at home long enough, I go to bed at like 10 o’clock! And I’m proud of it! (*both laugh*) Goddamn it! I like getting up early!
Oh believe me, I totally get it!
But I haven’t played with Tim a whole lot. We have ended up on bills together. I played more with Tim’s band Avail. Lagwagon and Avail had a few years where it seemed like we were a package because we did so much touring together. It was great, we were like family. I love those guys so much. So more so with Avail than Tim and myself, but he’s a bud for sure!
After Punk Rock Bowling is over, there’s a big, long Lagwagon European tour coming up. I feel like that’s the longest you guys have been on the road continuously since like Hang came out, almost four years ago. Does that sound right?
Maybe, for the band, I’ve done a lot of touring…
…oh right, you have. I just meant the band itself.
You know, I haven’t actually looked at the tour dates yet. I’m so lame! (*laughs*) I chime in a bit, but I generally kind of think “Oh, we’re going on tour. I know we’re going to play this country and this country and that country and it’s going to be a lot of fun and the shows are going to be good.” There are a few questions that come your way, like would you rather play this venue or that venue, and of course I weigh in. But this is going to sound strange – and I’ve said this before – but there is a thing, if you can pull it off, if you sort of just put it aside and forget about it and you don’t get too involved, there’s a nice feeling when you arrive somewhere that first day, and someone hands you a tour book, and you look at it and look at the dates and you go “Oooh, wow! This is a long one!” or “Oooh, look at that! We’re going to Spain! I love Spain!” It makes it a little more exciting! I’ve been doing this for a while, so I’m always trying to make things more exciting! (*both laugh*) Is it long? I don’t even know!
I think it’s like three-and-a-half weeks or something like that!
Oh, that’s pretty good.
I feel like that’s a long run for Lagwagon lately.
Yeah, I think it is.
I feel like the other big thing coming up is Let’s Talk About Feelings turning twenty this year. That kind of blows my mind. And like ten minutes before I called you, the Lagwagon Instagram account posted that there’s a lot coming down the ‘pike announcement-wise about that album. I know you guys are playing it start-to-finish at Fest this year, yeah?
Yeah, that’s the plan. We learned it a little while ago, or relearned it, really. Like we talked about a little while ago, there are songs like “May 16th” that resonate directly with people, and over the years you try all of the songs but eventually, after many, many years of an album being out, there are songs that generally make your set over and over again because they’re songs that you know people really are into, so you’re going to give in to it. If a band doesn’t do radio and that whole thing, they don’t really have “hits,” but in a way they do anyway, so that’s a strange thing. I really like the album thing. I think it became such a popular thing for bands to do over the last decade or so, so we kind of steered away from it. It just seemed like every band was doing it, so it almost felt like some sort of shameless attempt to revitalize a band’s popularity. There was something about it that made me want to steer clear of it.
But now that it’s become such a common thing, in typical Lagwagon fashion, we’re doing it WAY later than everybody else! (*both laugh*) We are LAGwagon (emphasis is Joey’s) (*both laugh*) I love doing it because I think there is a historic time-stamp that coincides with the release of an album, and that album in general, and we obviously come from a generation where sequence and the entire album matter and have their own feel. That still matters to us, being old men in a day and age where singular songs and Spotify are the norm. I think there’s something really cool about doing it with a band. It takes playing a whole record to really revisit that vibe and that feeling and that climate that the band was in. I think you get about halfway through the record when you’re performing it that you feel like “oh, wow…this is more than a song! This is song number seven! Then there’s song number eight!” (*both laugh*) I think it’s really cool. I’m very excited about doing that and we’ve been talking about doing Double Plaidinum. We’ve been relearning that one as well and running through it. I guess because they’re twenty years old, it made sense to do them now, but the strange thing to me is that it pretty much coincides with our thirtieth anniversary as a band!
I keep seeing these things people are preparing for, like “twentieth anniversary” stuff, and I’m like “waaaaait a second…” (*laughs*) I know it’s not true, but it worries me that some people will think that we’re doing it for our twentieth anniversary when in fact it’s an additional decade. I don’t want to be precious about it, but thirty years…ayyyyy! (*laughs*)
It sounds weird when you put it that way, and I know I’ve talked to a couple of the Bouncing Souls guys a little bit, and it’s going to be thirty years for them too. There is just something sort of sobering about knowing that you’ve been following the same band for thirty years, nevermind that you’ve been IN it! That does weird things to your head.
Yeah, it makes you feel old! (*both laugh*) It makes you have a realization that’s not harsh, but it’s a bit of a reality check. I think of Lagwagon, still, as something that happened later in my life as a musician, and yet we’re about to celebrate thirty years as a band. By the time I was in Lagwagon, I had been in many other bands beforehand. I started playing music really young with my brother. I started playing drums when I was nine years old or something, and I was twenty-two when I joined Lagwagon, or when we started as Section Eight, our former name. It’s really weird. It’s a trip. But it’s cool! My immediate response to it when I hear about it is “Come on forty (years)!”
Oh that’s a cool response!
We can do it! We can do it!
Do you have plans for official thirtieth anniversary stuff that just hasn’t been announced yet?
No! No, but just like with the Souls it’ll be 2019 for us. Within the band, we kinda go “is it ‘88 or ‘89?” There was a band in ‘88 that I wasn’t in that was the band I joined. When I joined the band, I started writing songs for the band, and it was enough of a revamp that I like to think ‘88, but it’s funny, the one other member that was in the band before me, Chris Flippin, The Big Bitch, prefers ‘89. It doesn’t matter, I guess. But next year, we’ll probably keep doing …Feelings but we’ll also be doing Double Plaidinum. Maybe we’ll come up with something to honor that it’s thirty years. We kinda blew right by twenty and nothing happened. The 25th year for us sort of coincided with the Fat Wreck Chords 25th year tour. We were at maybe 26, but we kind of looked at it like “oh, this is our 25th too,” even though it wasn’t accurate! (*both laugh*) We tend to kind of blow by anniversaries in this band, but that might be the same reason that we blew by the album performance thing, that maybe so many people do it that it doesn’t seem as special at first. Or maybe we’re just lazy and unorganized! (*both laugh*) Yeah, that’s probably the right one!
I know that people sort of try to cash in on the anniversary thing sometimes, but I think it’s also pretty cool that the longer that you’re a band, the less opportunity you have to do things like that, you know what I mean?
There aren’t many bands that make it to thirty, so why the fuck not celebrate it?
Exactly! It’s a celebration of “we did this!” It’s cool! Fuck, you have anniversaries that you’re married every year, and the tenth anniversary of a marriage is a big deal, so the thirtieth anniversary of a band should be celebrated! That’s five assholes trying to get along! (*both laugh*) And they’re not even having sex! I mean, come on! It should be a jubilee or something! (*both laugh*) But I never really look at it as a cash grab. If you’re in a band and you survive that long and you’ve got a few original members…in our case, we’ve lost a couple guys over the years, but it was so long ago that it really just feels like this has been the same band for ages. We really do just kind of forget and no one notices, and I feel like there is a thing where if we think about it a year too late…
You’ve got to wait four years til the next five-year increment comes along. Like, who cares about the 31st anniversary necessarily.
Yeah, I remember back around the Fat 25th, there was some conversation about it not actually being the 25th but actually being the 26th or something. I don’t know…I don’t know that we’ll do anything specific.
Do you have specific thoughts about …Feelings and this being the one that you’re paying this sort of attention to? I know in older interviews you’ve talked about it being your favorite Lagwagon album; is that still the case? Does it still have that same impact for you?
Well, it’s not the case anymore. My favorite album that the band has made is the last album, Hang. I really love the record, and I really felt on every level like we triumphed. That’s a relative thing to say, I don’t see it as an AMAZING record, but for us, it felt like a real accomplishment. I really appreciate what happened there. …Feelings actually is coupled with a little bit of regret. I love the record, but we recorded shortly after that at the Blasting Room in Colorado, and we did six or nine more songs, and those songs originally written during the process when we were recording …Feelings, and I think …Feelings was more of an EP than it was a full album. It was really short and it had a cover on it and it had a thirty-second song on it. I often think that it was great to do the reissues and put the extra songs on it to make it what …Feelings is now. If you find the record now, it has those songs on it as well, and then it becomes one of my favorite albums we’ve made.
But when we started talking about doing an album show, my vote was for Double Plaidinum. There’s a different kind of thing attached to it. With that record, there was a lot of experimentation, we had a guy quit the band the night before we started recording. I played a lot of guitar on that record, and I really wasn’t much of a guitar player back then…I am not much of a guitar player now, but I was much worse then! I was really into all these fuzzy bands, and we used a lot of fuzz on that record, and did a lot of things that bands in our genre hadn’t done in the past. The production on that album is different. It’s kind of odd. A couple times over the years, I’ve tried to remix Double Plaidinum, just because I wanted to see what I could do with it, and I failed both times because it’s just such a weird sounding record. It is what it is; it sounds fine, but it’s kind of muddy. I love the idea revisiting the album as a whole with the way we sound now. Also, I guess …Feelings and that album are sort of the pinnacle of the band’s success. The late ‘90s was kind of our heyday, I suppose, if we have one. Plus, Plaidinum is a little bit of a longer record! (*laughs*) If an album is too short when you’re doing an album tour, you get into some tricky parts! You’ve got to figure out if you’re doing it as an encore or if you’re doing it first and then playing a whole other set. It gets difficult to pick what the additional songs are that you put in the set. I, actually, for a while was making the argument that we should play both Double Plaidinum AND Let’s Talk About Feelings on the same tour and do two. I mean, Alkaline Trio did something like, eight or whatever, right?
Yeah, they did four nights, eight albums, two albums per night.
Yeah! We could have done that! I don’t see why we didn’t. We did some dates where we played Hoss and Trashed, two earlier albums, and I wanted to do two nights in small clubs all over the world. To do Trashed one night and Hoss the other night. It’s fun! But that didn’t really pan out. I think we did it once in LA at The Troubadour. I don’t know, there’s no right or wrong way to do any of this stuff.
I know Bad Religion did a tour a couple years back…
Oh yeah, the centuries!
Yeah, were they did two nights ‘79 to 2000 one night and 2000 forward the other night. That’s a pretty cool idea too.
I went to that show here in San Francisco. It was epic. It was so great. I love that they did that, and they have enough music to do that. And the sets had totally different tones. The first night was obviously “my night,” because it felt like the soundtrack to my life. The second night was great too, and it was interesting because I went with a friend who was a lot younger than me, and the second night was like his night! He kept going “oh my god, this song!” and I was like “I don’t even know this song!” It was cool!
Bad Religion was my first punk rock show, back in ‘95 or ‘96, or whenever The Grey Race came out. And so it was interesting to have that album on the first night, because I still feel like because that was when they went to Elektra and Brian Baker joined, I feel like a lot of people consider that to be newer Bad Religion…
It’s a funny thing about time, because I felt that way about Grey Race when I heard it. I thought “oh, this is really well produced…but I don’t love this record.” I really thought Stranger Than Fiction was an incredible record, and I loved Recipe For Hate. But now, many many years later, and actually probably more like a decade ago, when they play songs off The Grey Race, you realize “oh no, this is a fantastic album!” It’s really solid. Those songs stand up, and some of them are still in their set to this day. I mean, when you see that song “Punk Rock Song” performed in like Austria in front of a bunch of people, where immediately they get past the simple message of the song, which is harder for us to get past, and it’s such a good energy. Everybody just loses it, and I remember it being the best song in their set when we played this open-air outdoor festival with them. I remember thinking “my god, this is a great song.”
I don’t want to take up too much of your afternoon, but before we wrap up…it’s been almost four years since Hang, and it was nine years between Resolve and Hang…does this mean we’re at the halfway point now before a new album?
God, that is so hard to believe! Honestly, it feels like it was two years ago. November will make it four years, right? It sucks man. I wish everybody would just slow down! (*laughs*)
The last time we talked over the phone like this was before Hang came out, and I agree with you, by the way, not just to blow smoke up your ass, but Hang is my favorite album and I’ve been a fan since…Trashed anyway. I still listen to it all the time. But I pulled up our last conversation when I knew we were going to talk this week, and I went “holy shit, that was four years ago!”
The older you get, time really flies at a more rapid rate. I mean, we’re planning on working on new stuff. Every year we talk about “in July we should get together,” and actually we have stuff on the calendar to start developing some of the new songs that we have. We’ll probably get back in the studio by the end of the year or the beginning of next year, so we are going to actually follow through. But after we made Hang, everybody agreed and said “let’s stop doing this bullshit, let’s get right back on the horse after tour.” And then we toured for like two years, and at the end of two years it’s like “alright, I’ll see you guys NEVER!” (*both laugh*) “I love you guys, but fuck you!!” It’s not really like that, but it’s sort of funny how that goes, you know? Four years man, that’s crazy.
And even Stitch Puppy will be three this year, won’t it?
Yeah. It’ll probably take me three more years to finish the record I’ve been working on for eight months already. The problem with my life and solo stuff is that solo stuff has to be when I have time, because it doesn’t really pay, and it doesn’t really involve other people’s schedules. If there are other people depending on anything I do, I’m going to say “yes” to doing that first. I can’t say “oh, I’m sorry, you have bills to pay? Well, I’M making a SOLO record!” You know what I mean? (*both laugh*) It’s just always that way. And not that any of it’s a job, but it is how we make our living. (Solo stuff) has to be on the back burner a lot of the time. I have been working on new stuff for probably about half a year. I’ve been working on it at a friend’s house in LA, but in order to get there…I’m always on tour or doing something else. So it’ll probably be right around the four year mark…but it’s better than five or nine! (*both laugh*)
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