Interview: Jesse Michaels (Operation Ivy) talks with Dying Scene about new band, Classics of Love

classics-of-love-jesse-and-morgan-nickel-city-42310While many of you probably know who Operation Ivy is, you may not be familiar with Jesse Michael’s new project, Classics of Love, a collaboration between himself and San Jose’s The Hard Girls. The part-time group has released a 6 song EP, and has been busy writing new songs, playing gigs, and at their last show, Dying Scene was able to catch up with Jesse to discuss the future of Classics of Love, his artwork, and the ever-so-sensitive subject of American politics. Check out the interview here.

If you haven’t heard anything from Classics of Love, head to their MySpace page for a little listen.

How did Classics of Love come about? What’s the story behind you guys meeting?
I was doing a solo show and I had some songs. Mike Park from Asian Man Records was helping me record them, and then after I recorded a few songs, I asked him if he knew anybody who I could jam the songs with. He told me about this band The Hard Girls, I listened to their demo and I thought it was really good, they clearly had a lot of brains, and they were funny and had a good energy so I just jammed with them. And the first time we played a song, they learned it in like 30 seconds and it sounded great, so it was pretty automatic.

So you didn’t previously know the members of The Hard Girls until Mike introduced you to them?
Nope. I just met them at their practice pad and we played a song and it just went really well.

In January ’09 the EP Walking In Shadows was recorded; how long had you guys been playing together at that point?
Not very long, I think maybe 3 months. It was like, that was our first six songs, and we just laid them all down. They’re quality, really great sound. Thank you. You know, I don’t listen to my own music very much, it’s hard for me to hear it objectively. And so I’m a little bit self-conscience because I mean we haven’t even defined our sound yet, but when I hear people like it I’m glad. Sometimes, it’s better to just put something out and not troubleshoot it too much, not over-think it.

What’s up with the wizard stuff?classics-of-love-nickel-city-42310
How did that start? I did a shirt with a wizard on it, and it was so unpopular that we just had to go with it. If something is baffling to punk rockers, that’s what we’re going to do. You gotta surprise people somehow you know what I mean. We’ll still have a shirt with a skull on it. (laughter) Is it like a punk rock obligation to have something with a skull on it? Well, it’s a fact that shirts with skulls on them sell better, people know this. This guy who worked with The Melvins told me that. He’s like, “anytime we put a skull or a girl on something, it sells”. The wizard was the most popular shirt in England, very English. Kind of a Harry Potter thing or what? Ha, yea I guess.

Do you have a fascination with Danny Trejo?
I’ve always liked Danny Trejo before he was cool. When I saw him in American Me and a bunch of other movies in prisons, he’s like always the guy in the yard. I don’t know, he’s just cool, like he’s just a cool fucking actor. You know Machete, the fake trailer in Grindhouse? Ya. I don’t know if this is true or not, but I heard they were talking about making a real Machete with him in it, I don’t know if that’s actually going to happen, but that would be so awesome, it has my vote. I’m greenlighting it.

After forming, you guys went on a selected tour of the US and UK, was there a favorite spot you loved playing?
We played 17 shows in England and there were some great shows. I don’t remember which ones were great, like the names of the places, but um, Swansee was great, and Edinburgh was fantastic, Scotland in general was great. And in England, all our shows-the Camden Bar Fly, and the other place we played in London were fantastic. We had a lot of really good shows, and a couple of snoozers, but some really, really great shows. It was a lot of fun.

classics-of-love-morgan-nickel-city-42310What was the highlight of that tour?
Hmmmm, let me think…I really liked being on the train. We took the train and it was just really fun to be on the train and do my thing. I guess I’m kind of a quiet guy, I remember the quiet parts more than the shows, but the shows were fantastic too. Probably our last night – that was a good memory. We played with this incredible band called The King Blues, the lead singer is amazing and a great poet. We were really on fire that night and people ate it up and it was just a good time.

Is there somewhere you would like to tour that you haven’t?
I’d like to do the states at some point. We haven’t really toured the United States proper, so – the thing is I would like to have music out before we tour, because we only have the EP. It would be nice if people were a little bit more familiar with the music, but yea the US would be great.

You state this is not a “full-time” band, is that something you hope for in the future?
Well, we just, we don’t really have any plans. We just do our little practices and do our little shows in a part-time way, because that’s what’s appropriate now. I don’t really have any hopes or expectations, we just kind of take it as it comes, and so far it’s been fun so we keep doing it.

What do you do when you’re not working with the band?
I go to school.

What are you studying?
Right now, I’m just taking a couple of classes – Spanish, English, stuff like that.

Any plans for drawing/painting/artwork in the near future? Any work with Dynaformer?
Well, Dynaformer is no longer in existence, that was a short-lived thing. I’ve been selling art on eBay, and I’ve been painting which I just do…you know all this stuff, all these artistic things like music and art are mainly things I just do because I find them nourishing in my life. Therapeutic kind of. Yea, well, I mean I have to do them, I’m wired for art, but they’re not necessarily career aspirations, but at the same time I’m always doing something, and right now I’ve been doing illustrations for people, and I just did a tattoo for some guy, I’ve done a couple record covers, and I’m selling prints.

Do you plan on contributing any artwork for the new album?
I will probably end up doing the artwork. That’s generally the way it goes. I don’t know what I’m going to do, but I’m thinking maybe wizards. I’m not sure. We could go heavy or we could go ridiculous, or maybe both, I’m just not sure, haha. I mean for the imagery. The music is relatively serious but sometimes we like to do funny imagery.

You’ve stated the material for the new album is going to be a bit faster and punkier than the EP, what can fans expect?
We brought in a couple of songs that are sort of at the 80’s hardcore tempo, along then tempo lines of Youth Brigade, or 7 Seconds, or Minor Threat, or Articles of Faith, you know bands of that nature. Those songs sounded really good, so we’ve been writing more of them. Real, simple, 80’s melodic hardcore songs, and I think there’s going to be a fair amount of stuff like that on the record.

Have you decided upon a ballpark release date for the new album?
No, we don’t even have a recording date. We have to write two more songs and then we’ll set up a recording date.

You’ve been quoted as saying,”The punk rock type music that is most interesting to me has a political edge.” Can you expand on this?
Well, ok…I guess, you know in punk rock music I’m really into an insistence on truth that transcends what you experience in normal life. So, not necessarily political, like Rites of Spring is huge for me. But often times the stuff that’s politically-tinged really gets it for me, I feel it more strongly, more than purely abstract lyrics or poetry. Like, I love Jawbreaker, they’re one of my favorite bands, so there are examples where sort of abstract writing is very powerful and it’s not just politics, but historically the stuff I’ve really dug has been Stiff Little Fingers, The Clash, where there’s kind of a slight political consciousness. It’s tinged with the political reality and a class consciousness and a consciousness that the world is perhaps not the way it could be. I just think that’s a very truthful approach to music and it sounds good to me. Like I’ve said I listen to a lot of other types of music, but I enjoy that.

Now, you’re not into politics, but you voted. I’m gonna bring it back and ask, did you vote for Gore? Kerr? Obama? What do you think of the US voting system?
You know, I basically believe that every American administration, for the most part represents the wealthy, and protects the interests of the wealthy, that’s what America is all about. I think, like Chomsky says that propaganda is to democracy, um, what force is to fascism – something like that. I’m not a great Chomsky quoter. [The actual quote Jesse was referring to is propaganda is to democracy what the bludgeon is to a totalitarian state, from Chomsky’s book “Media Control: The Spectacular Acheivements of Propaganda”] But, basically I think that, in America, the interests of the wealthy are always going to be protected. That being said, I am not one of those people that believe there is absolutely no difference between the two parties, you know what I mean? I like Coke better than I like Pepsi! But that doesn’t mean I don’t think that the whole system isn’t essentially corrupt. So, you know I do my bit, I go down there, I take a half an hour and cast my vote, and I don’t have high expectations of what’s going to happen. You know, Obama just gave more money to the wealthy than probably has ever been given in American history. The greatest transfer of wealth from the poor and middle-class to the wealthy in history. On the other hand, I don’t believe that Obama would have started the Iraq war. I mean he has escalated things in Afghanistan, but there’s certain ways in which it is better, and um, but, that’s not to say that I don’t have my doubts about the whole system. I think the US voting system is basically just a dog and pony show, but I just do it because I do believe in…I have a civic sense, you know? I try and do my bit as an adult. You know, I don’t want to be utterly cynical, but I am very doubtful, skeptical. You maintain that cynicism as you’re casting your vote. I wouldn’t say cynicism, I would say I maintain an emotional distance. It’s something I do because I think it is the right thing to do, not because I believe in Santa Claus.

Where do the nicknames “The Love Guru” and “Widow Maker” come from?
Hahahahaha, really? Haha, probably from Morgan. The Love Guru and The Widow Maker? Does that mean I kill men? Well, I don’t know, but I’m glad I’m getting good nicknames. I’m glad my reputation preceeds me.

What can we expect from Classics of Love in the future?
Well, we’re going to make our record, and we’re going to do our little part time thing. But one thing I can say, I think this new record is going to be pretty good because we’ve been working on it for about a year and we only keep about one in every five songs. We’re only keeping the best songs, so I think it’s going to be a relatively strong record.

Thanks again Jesse. I can die a happy man now.

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