You can visit the Sound Scene Revolution podcast for the complete audio interview, as well as photos taken during the interview.
So can you guys just introduce yourselves. Say your name, what you do in the band and what you do here at Fat Wreck Chords.
Ken: I’m Ken. I look good in the band. What do I do at fat? Lots of stuff.
Jason: I’m Jason, I am the singer the guitar player. And I do radio and retail at Fat.
Chicken: My name is Chicken I play bass and sing in Western Addiction and I do mail order here at Fat Wreck Chords.
Excellent. Well the intro question I’m going to use is one that I got from a few fans…
Chicken: Both of our fans wrote in?
Jason: It’s chickens sister.
Yes both of them wrote in. Now this is better than the typical origin question it’s a quote for quote question: “Where are you from and why do you rock so hard?”. I’m not ad libbing any of that.
Jason: (laughing)Uhmm… The Middle of the sun and because we have to. Like what kind of answer do you want?
[...]since all of us have been at Fat for a pretty long time now, and Fat definitely is a small company and we’re all like family. And I don’t know about your guy’s family but my family we make fun of each other all the time. I’m the youngest of five kids and me and my brothers and sisters always bag on each other and it’s no different here at Fat. Like the way we show love here at Fat is just tearing each other apart.
I guess just your history.
Chicken: Well we’re from San Francisco. We’re a San Francisco Band. We started in 2003, Jay?
Chicken: Around April of 2003, in fact, shortly after I was released from rehab. And Jason and Chad had been playing for a while, in Chad’s garage. With Chad on drums and Jason on Guitar. And they had some songs, and they had a little demo and we checked it out and it was pretty cool. And everyone was pretty surprised to hear Jason’s voice, because it’s amazing, it’s really awesome, and he’s not in person. (Laughing) He’s really disappointing in person. On record for some reason, when he gets a microphone in front of him, he’s really awesome. So then I started playing with those guys because I was trying to stay out of trouble and stay busy. So, I really didn’t have anything fucking better to do, honestly. So, I started playing with those guys.
Jason: And we tricked Ken into playing with us.
Chicken: And then eventually we got Kenny in the mix, after a while. He was definitely the icing on the cake. He made everything we had going on before pale in comparison. He took it to a whole new level and now we all kind of hide behind his talent. Which is awesome. The reason we rock so hard is because uhm… (long pause).
Jason: (Laughing) That’s a real stumper.
Chicken: It’s kind of hard…Basically you’re born this way. I mean I’ve tried to explain it to people, I’ve tried to teach people to play bass, but it just doesn’t fucking happen man. I’m born with this shit dude. It’s just like I was fucking delivered hear from where ever I came from.
Jason: The Havens.
Chicken: With just the most insane amount of natural talent and finger work that had ever really been seen on a bass guitar before. So, I don’t really know what to say they just made me this way. And I’d say the same for everyone else in this band. Jason’s voice is definitely from the bowels of hell.
You have a sound, which if you listen to a lot of the stuff that’s out their now, it doesn’t really sound “of the time”. It sounds more like it belongs more in the early 80’s mid 80’s punk bands. What brings that out as oppose to playing emo?
Chicken: Well, I would say the one thing that we have in common with a lot of those bands from the early 80’s that we sound like is we’re not very good at our instruments.
Jason: Some of us our.
Chicken: And neither were they.
Jason: We tried emo too, it was too hard.
Chicken: Basically we tried it all. We tried the Christian rock thing. We tried the country thing, man. We did tons of market research and basically this is what we came up with. This is the only thing that hadn’t really been done at Hot Topic the year that we formed. So we went with this. Because the emo thing has kind of run its course. The hardcore thing is kind of picking up steam, it seems like.
Chicken: Yeah we’re hoping. I think we’re a little different type though. A lot of the hardcore out right now is like the tough guy face tattoo, kind of like songs about your honor and oath.
Jason: And picking yourself up when you fall down. Everybody’s falling down.
Chicken: Yeah, all these hardcore kids are falling down and they all sing songs about how they pick themselves up.
Jason: And people are holding them down too.
Chicken: They’re holding each other down, and picking each other up and they won’t sacrifice and they all have an honor and a code.
Jason: A lot of honor. This is like Braveheart rock.
Chicken: It’s like Braveheart meets punk bands, it’s crazy. But, we just like to hang out with each other and play instruments. So, it works out.
So you seem to be pretty in touch with the part of the scene that seems pretty obviously out to gain money and popularity. How does that make you guys feel and does it effect what you “stand for”?
Ken: It’s none of our business, I think. I mean I don’t care what people do. I think it’s fine if people want to do that. It’s got nothing to do with me, or us. We’ll just shows and have a good time and I like to get drunk.
Chicken: (Laughing) Where did that come from? This is the first time he’s ever had a mic. We don’t give this guy a mic on stage, the first chance he gets one he’s like, “The scene’s all fucked up right now. I, personally, like long walks on the beach. And who wants to buy me dinner?” Jay you should answer that because you talk about that a lot in your “Church of Black Flag” song.
Jason: I don’t even know if we know who are fans are yet, or if we have any. We never thought about who would like us or I don’t know. I don’t know how to write a song to make a certain person like us. I don’t even know what comes out. It’s just, something comes out and it’s our band. And, greasy old dudes in El Rio are loving it.
Chicken: (laughing) It’s true. As far as those bands, personally we’re not fans of them. At the end of the day it’s cool that kids are playing instruments and stuff. That’s always awesome. But it’s never something that would make me angry. It is kind of frustrating sometimes to see bands form for weird reasons, especially like quote “punk bands”, like money. But there’s so many things out there that hold such higher importance for us to worry about, that I’m not really worried about some dude wearing make up in My Chemical Romance playing shitty songs.
Jason: We have actually played with some bands where you can tell they’re kids but they drew on older influences. This one band we played with called the Dead Ringers, and this band called Nothing in Return too. They’re young kids but they play like The Damned and TSOL. I almost cried.
Chicken: I think that’s always going to happen. Whenever a certain part of punk becomes mainstream, there are going to be kids who are drawn to it initially because of that. But, the kids who are true to it, the kids who it really speaks to they’ll seek out the good stuff and they’ll find the good bands. Then they’ll start their own bands and the circle of life will continue. And sometimes the sun does go around the moon.
Jason: Sometimes the stars come out in June.
Chicken: Just when you thought the best had past, Jay, you went and you fucking saved the best for last.
Jason: But you can tell when they really care. It was really cool. I was all like proud parent like, “My little kids have got into old hardcore”. I was really happy.
So I’m going to put a few more questions from fans in here.
Ken: Fans? I thought you said one fan, you didn’t say anything about fans.
Chicken: I know I didn’t even know my sister had internet access.
Jason: “Hey Jay, this is your dad, just want to say what’s up.”
Chicken: It’s my boss from the other room, “Can you tell Chicken to please get back to work and stop asking him shitty questions?”
Shitty? I thought these were alright.
Jason: (laughing) Actually they’re good questions.
Chicken: I didn’t mean you personally.
Well how many interviews have you done? Have you got a media tour prepped for the album?
Jason: We’ve done like three or four. We did a radio interview and the lady was “forward” with Ken.
What was that for?
Jason: (Whispers) Sex dude. (Laughter breaks out). Oh, just a local college radio station. It was fun.
Chicken: But she was all hung over and drunk. I was listening at home. I was supposed to go and I over slept. I know my close friends are going to find that hard to believe. And she was drunk and totally making passes at these two guys (points to Ken and Jason) and they’re the ugly guys in the band. And it was really weird because me and Chad were listening and we like, “If I had only gotten my shit together”.
Jason: They were up lifting weights and looking in the mirror. They were like, “*grunt* I shoulda been there”.
Chicken: (Deep weightlifter voice) “That coulda been me man, ugh. Turn up the bass on that chick’s voice.”
In the “Church of Black Flag” who would be Pope?
Jason: Who would be the Pope? I don’t mean to bust your bubble but that song’s not actually about Black Flag.
Chicken: I don’t think he was asking if it was an actual church man. I think, he was just saying…He meant, you know what he meant.
Jason: Who would be the high figure we respect, right? See, I don’t like a lot of hero worship, because every time I meet a person I like in a band I’m let down. I would rather not meet any of my favorite band members, for the most part.
Chicken: I would say most of my experiences have been the opposite, with punk bands. Almost everyone I’ve met from punk bands, 95% of them have been really fucking cool guys. The thing is, I like different bands [than Jason]. I don’t really like Stutterfly (?) and Switch Foot. I heard the guys from Switch Foot are total dicks. And Nickelback. (To Jason) That must have been a total bummer when the guy from Nickelback didn’t sign your fucking year book. But most of the bands we like a lot are really cool guys.
Jason: Well like, the bands on Fat or whatever I like a lot of those people. But if there’s someone who’s really cool, who you’d really like to meet really bad, I think I might opt for not meeting them. Just because I wouldn’t want to be bummed out. But there’s only one person who I’d really like to meet or I’d go fan psycho for.
Jason: And that’s Johnny Cash… And Jesus. JC. Johnny Cash.
But the Johnny Cash thing is a cop out because now you don’t have to worry about it. Jason: Right…I don’t know. (To the other band members) Are there any old punkers you’d really like to meet real bad. (Pause) We met Bill Stevenson, he is so awesome. He is so nice and so cool.
How’d that come about?
Jason: Ken tell them.
Ken: Hi. Well, he’s in Only Crime on Fat so we got to work with him all the time.
I also hear he was in the Descendants.
Chicken: Yeah a little band called Black Flag. (imitating Ken) Oh the Only Crime dude? I met the guy in Only Crime he’s awesome.
Ken: Anyway, I got to met him and he’s been like my idol since I was like 15.
Chicken: Which is like 40 years now.
Ken: See that’s why we have a lot in common with those 80’s bands because we’re fucking old as shit. I mean Jason, whew, he’s an oldie. So, yea, Bill is an awesome guy. He’s actually in town right now.
Chicken: (imitating Ken) He’s actually in town right now his room number is 16-C.
Ken: I have his number.
Do you know when he goes to sleep and when he wakes up?
Chicken: (Continuing to imitate Ken) He likes to go to sleep around 8:30 or 9 after a Hungry Man dinner that he warms up in his hotel room.
Bill would be all about the Hungry Man. Anyhow we’ll move on since you never really answered that.
Jason: What was it? Oh, the pope of the church of Black Flag. We kinda sorta did.
Well, I would say the one thing that we have in common with a lot of those bands from the early 80’s that we sound like is we’re not very good at our instruments.
When you guys started was it awkward working at Fat Wreck Chords or did you push your stuff on them every day?
Chicken: No it was definitely the opposite of the that.
Jason: I was embarrassed, like I never wanted to play any of the stuff for anyone here ever.
Chicken: It’s funny, there’s definitely some pros to all of us working here. Logistically, as far as bands go, it’s pretty rare to work in a band where all 4 guys have the same exact schedule. That’s actually super fucking rad. But, since all of us have been at Fat for a pretty long time now, and Fat definitely is a small company and we’re all like family. And I don’t know about your guy’s family but my family we make fun of each other all the time. I’m the youngest of five kids and me and my brothers and sisters always bag on each other and it’s no different here at Fat. Like the way we show love here at Fat is just tearing each other apart.
Jason: Just shame you to tears. We will probably shame you two to tears before you leave.
Chicken: So we didn’t want to play it for people because we knew that they would talk shit. Just like we would probably talk shit about their band if they started one. That’s just kind of how we communicate here.
Jason: Everyone came though.
Chicken: Yeah people came and they’ll support and make fun of you.
Jason: They make fun of us right to our faces, but if someone like tried to beat us up they would be them up…Kinda, ya know?
Chicken: The thing is when we first started it wasn’t a thing we thought about. Like honestly, it was just something to do on Monday and Wednesdays after work. We’d go hang out and play instruments. We never thought we would be playing shows even, or like putting out records. When we fist put out that seven inch we were so fucking stoked. When No Idea wanted us to do a split with New Mexican Disaster squad we were like freaking out. We were like, “Dude this is so awesome”. For four guys who work at a record label and have been into this music for a long time we’re still all 14 year old geeks inside. Like we still get really stoked about stuff.
Jason: Like when our records get shipped here or our posters show up (laughs).
Chicken: We’re all, “Yeah dude check it out”.
Jason: I know it’s silly.
Ken: He signs them…To himself.
Chicken: Yeah, “To Jason, good job buddy. From Jason”.
Jason: It’s actually really cool when that stuff shows up. It sounds so dumb but it’s really cool.
Well, I’m sure. It’s almost like a hallmark that you’ve made it, or validation.
Chicken: Yeah. Because it’s kind of like this intangible thing that lives inside your head of like you making progress with your band. You get to go play shows, and that’s fun. But, when the little, physical things show up you get to be like, “Oh yeah, that is why we went and practiced all those nights”. You get to have something, like you said, that you can show for it and be like “Whoa this is crazy. This is actually working out”.