So Jim, obviously you’ve got a new band, introduce us to your members…who is The Black Pacific?
Well I hooked up with Alan Vega who is the drummer for Good Guys In Black—I met him on the Warped Tour—and I knew I just wanted to get started right away…I’ve been waiting a long time to do this and I’d just gotten along with Alan really well and I knew he was a great drummer. I sent him a track and he sent it back and I was just blown away with the way the guy drums—he’s really powerful and just super solid. We got together and it started clicking unbelievably, we work really well together. Then I got Davey on bass—Davey Latter—he’s been in bands for a long time, he was in a band called Stanford Prison Experiment and Earlimart and, he also drums for the band Everest. He’s been in a lot of really cool bands and he’s just a great guy, we’ve been friends probably since right around high school. It’s great to have a really close friend in the band as well.
Right now we’ve got just the power trio—we recorded the album that way. I did all the guitars and Shaun from Far produced the record, he played a little bit just to make it cleaner, but we’re probably going to add a guitar player. We’re talking to some people right now for playing live, but yeah we’ve got just us three together and its working really well so it has been really fun and I’ve got a really great group of guys behind me and there’s no attitudes which makes it really easy to work with. It’s awesome.
Cool, do you think that when you guys add that second guitar player you’re going to fall back to singing or are you going to be playing guitar as well?
It’s funny, I definitely want to play guitar on stage, I really have fun doing it and I’ve never been allowed to do that in my old band so I really want to play live, but it’s funny, Joe from SideOne was like, “Man I want to see the Jimmy that I know with the hat on and the sunglass and the finger pointing,” (laughs)…so he told me he didn’t want me to do it all the time (laughs). We were just kind of laughing about that but yeah, I’ll definitely strap on a guitar for some shows, I really like playing and I’ve never done it live so it’ll be fun.
So when you initially thought about starting The Black Pacific you immediately went to Alan and Davey…you didn’t, sort of, “try out” anybody…it was just automatic to go to those guys?
It really was, it was just kind of one of those things. When I met Alan on the road we just really hit it off as friends you know? He was a cool cat, we talked a lot and he said that he produced a lot of the Good Guys In Black record and did a lot of the drum stuff for it, and when I heard him play on this one track that I sent him, it was just like, amazing. When we’ve played live and I’ve had people come to practice everyone’s just blown away by him, they’re like, “That guy’s insane,” and when Joe heard the demo the first time he said, “I hope you still have that drummer.” He’s been great and has just been super solid, he came to the studio every day and he and I worked on a lot of stuff together—and Davey’s been awesome as well. You know, it was tough to leave the band I’d been in for a long time but I really didn’t have time to dwell on it, as soon as I made the decision it was all about just getting back in there and playing and I was so happy with the new band right away that it made it easy.
Is there a cool story behind the name The Black Pacific?
I think so. Basically I grew up at the beach here in Southern California—in Hermosa Beach—and the Pacific has always represented a big part of my life. I’ve had a view of the ocean every day, and it was a big part of my upbringing. I feel like that represents a really happy memory of my childhood, but it’s also an acknowledgement that there’s also a dark side to everything. The Pacific means, “peaceful,” the wide expanse of the Pacific, but then there’s always the deep dark things in your subconscious you know, all the monsters from the deep—the fears that kind of drive people.
Also, in another way, you can think of, “the black pacific” as meaning death in the sense that, that’s what a lot of people are scared of and once you overcome that fear it frees you up to live a better life and so, “the black pacific” means that sort of dark, peaceful state that we’re all heading towards, so it’s kind of morbid in that sense, but it’s meant to be inspiring as well.
Cool, so its like a juxtaposition of a negative idea with the word Pacific—which people often think of as beautiful—a juxtaposition of those two ideas.
And you know, that’s Yin and Yang, and that’s an enormous concept that, when you come to a certain acceptance that the world isn’t perfect, and that, in order for there to be good things, happiness, and love, there has to be its opposite. That’s an understanding that everyone has to come to at some point in their life. That’s the whole really, “deep” answer to that, otherwise it’s just a cool name (laughs).
Was this band something you started working on immediately after you announced your departure from Pennywise or was it something that slowly came about as a result of, for lack of better expression, “cabin fever”?
You know, I write all the time. I pick up the guitar every day and try and write something and I’ve been doing that for years and years and years, and so I always had a ton of music. I’d bring it to Pennywise—when we’d record I’d bring in like 40 or 50 songs and so I just had material and I always knew that if it got to the point that if it didn’t work out with Pennywise for whatever reason, that I would always want to keep playing music. So once the final decision was made I called Alan and got to work that same week.
So are you sort of the chief song-writer and lyricist at this point?
I am right now, some of the songs I’ve had for—like three of the songs for the record I’ve had for like 10 years and then I wrote a bunch more and the guys really liked them. On the next batch of songs, if any of the guys want to contribute, music or lyrics, I’d be more than open to it, but they were really helpful in bringing the songs out as well, I brought them in somewhat finished, but Alan definitely interpreted them the way he heard them. A lot of times I would just bring in the riff and he’d start going off to it and it was like he could almost read my mind on what I wanted, he’s that good.
Cool, you mentioned three songs that you’ve had for 10 years, which songs are those?
Those were “Kill Your Idols,” “No Purpose,” and “Time Is Not The Reason.” I’ve had those for a while.
And the cool thing is, I’ve got another batch of songs—I’m almost just, I want to go in and record this next batch of songs ‘cause like, I definitely knew that there would be some people interested in the direction I was going to take, but I really feel like this album is the bridge to what’s coming next. We’re just kind of getting started—the band’s just getting started so I’m definitely excited about recording more.
When did you guys start recording the album?
It wasn’t until, I believe, February. I’d been talking to Shaun Lopez, the guitar player for Far who’s a great producer, he’s worked with The Deftones, Giant Drag, and other bands, and I heard an album he did for this young band and he made them sound so good that I kind of sought him out and I just hit him up and he said he’d love to do it. He came down to a few practices and it was really really great working with him, I’m a huge fan of his band Far, and he’s a great songwriter, but most importantly, he gets an insane guitar sound—it’s so thick and I always wanted that type of guitar sound so that was cool, and he was a great producer in the sense that, he’s really good at mixing sounds and using vintage gear—a lot of vintage stomp boxes, a lot of vintage amps, and at the same time it was finally cool to have a new situation where I could almost call the shots myself and do things my way. Before, it was more of a consensus—a lot of the time we recorded in Fletcher’s studio, so a lot of it, whether it was guitar tones—I wasn’t really even involved in that, and I always knew what I liked and how I wanted my record to sound. I definitely wanted more bass and I think this album is a lot more bass-heavy. I think the first thing you hear is like,, “Wow, it’s got a really heavy bottom,” and that’s the sound that I’ve been waiting to get for a long time.
Yeah I noticed that, so based on that, it seems like this might have been a radically different recording experience compared with what you’d previously done with Pennywise, in terms of what it was like in the studio.
Couldn’t have been more different, there’s no question that about that. Fletcher and I butted heads a lot. We both felt very strongly about Pennywise and how it should sound, how the band should be run and so, it was kind of like two brothers trying to run a company together—we fought a lot. It just made it so the last album, I honestly knew that I would probably never do it again because I just had such an unhappy time in the studio. I love recording and I love writing music and it’s really frustrating when it doesn’t go well because that’s kind of like, what I live for—I love going in there and hearing the songs develop and I get a lot of enjoyment out of that process, and when it’s the opposite of that it just kills your spirit and when we had similar conflicts it made me realize that I had too much respect for the band to continue doing it when I wasn’t happy and that’s basically what—if anyone asks me what happened—I was unhappy doing it so it was time to move on for me.
Fair enough, do you find that nowadays you prefer more of the studio experience of being in a band or the touring aspect?
Well I’m really looking forward to touring with this band—I love playing shows. The other thing is, it’s all brand new now and that’s something that’s really refreshing when you’ve been doing it as long as I have, it’s like, it feels like I’m just starting over and that’s exciting. It’s tough for bands that have been around for a long time—it was really hard for our band because there was such a prescribed idea of how we had to sound and what we could do because it was Pennywise and it was very important to us to please our fans and do things the right way. Now, it’s like starting over so I can go in with a better attitude and that’s important.
So on this album do you have any favorite tracks in particular?
Yeah, probably song two, “When It’s Over,” just for the fact that, I think when people hear the first song, “The System,” they’re like, “Okay, that’s Jim’s voice and the same sort of guitar…he’s just doing more Pennywise,” but I think that when you hear track two you can’t say that, and then later on there are other songs where it’s like—I think there are three songs that I did in drop D tuning, so I really tried to mix it up a little bit and there’s one song that has kind of a Clash vibe—that’s what I look forward to on the next record—I’m going to experiment even more, not the type of experimenting that a lot bands talk about where that means they’re going to put out a really weird, freaky, stupid album (laughs), I mean the type of experimenting where I want to pull in some of the influence of bands that I really like, bands like Pegboy and Jawbreaker—I’m a big fan of like, power-pop and stuff like that, I’m just excited about that prospect.
Cool…so as I understand it, your first show is going to be at Epicenter 2010?
Yeah, that’s a pretty strange first show for a band, it just kind of came along and I’m like, “Well our first show’s gonna be with Kiss and Eminem, that’s weird,” (laughs) but I’m sure we’re probably going to play a show locally kind of just to debut the band for people in L.A. and Hermosa Beach and the South Bay. That’s what I’m really looking forward to ‘cause I know what it sounds like when we’re practicing and I just really want to construct a show that’s going to blow people away, and I already have it in my head how I want it to go from top to bottom. That’s been another thing as well, when it came to my last band it was difficult because there was things about the live show that bothered me but I couldn’t really change because it was such a situation where, you know, once you’ve been in a band that long it gets harder to communicate those type of things ‘cause everyone gets kind of frustrated that they don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings or start a big fight over something, so everyone just kind of sits there and deals with things they don’t like and that’s kind of the hard part. Now it’s like—it’s not a situation where I’m kind of like the over-boss of this band, I think the other guys have enough respect for me to say, “Hey, you know, I’ve got some ideas I want to try out,” and if there’s something that they don’t like they can definitely say, you know, “That sucks,” and, “I don’t like that,” there’s definitely that freedom, but I just have an idea of how I want the live show to go and how I want the band to sound and be presented.
So are you guys in the process of booking some tours after Epicenter?
Yeah we’re working with our booking agent—we’re looking at various things, there’s an opportunity to do a Europe tour, but I’d really like to hook up with some cool bands, I’d like to grab a similar band or just bands I really like touring with and go out there and get some cool club shows. I think that would be a lot of fun to just get out on the road again and let people hear the new band for the first time—I think people are going to be really surprised and plus, I want to make it an entertaining evening, we’ll play the whole record, but I definitely want to do some cool cover songs and make it a fun night for everybody.
The last record you did with Pennywise, you released it for free via MySpace. After that experience, why did you elect to go back to a label?
It’s funny, in this day and age it’s almost like you’re doing that anyway—stuff gets put on the internet so quickly, but basically the thing with MySpace was a situation where it just kind of popped up and the label was into trying that…and at that point I think for us it was just kind of like desperation, time to try anything new at all because it’s really hard when you’ve been doing it as long as we had to get excited about something. It’s like, “Alright here’s another album, another tour, what’s going to be different about this,” and other bands were trying that way of releasing stuff as well. I’ll probably end up doing something similar again, but I’ve always wanted to be on Joe’s label. I think SideOneDummy’s just an insanely cool label—really really great people working there and they get it, they’re doing it for the right reasons. Everyone is super fired up there, they’ve got great bands, The Gaslight Anthem, The Casualties, 7 Seconds, all these great people and the vibe there is insanely positive and it’s a very eclectic label as well, they’ve got all kinds of music on there but they don’t have any music that’s inauthentic. I’d have trouble being on certain labels these days.
Lyrically, on this record it seems as though you’re in a better place than you were on the last Pennywise album, for example, on the song, “Time Is Not The Reason” you say, “I’ve got something to believe in,” whereas on, for example, “Reason To Believe,” you sang, “Give me something to live for.” Is that because of this new band or are there other factors in your life making you feel that way?
I think so, without putting me on the therapist’s couch, I kind of looked over the time spent with Pennywise and I realized that I probably never really recovered that well from when Jason passed away and I really kind of just felt depressed a lot of the time. It was kind of like this thing underneath it all that I was probably trying to push away, but the truth is, I probably wasn’t that fun to be around so there’s a point where, when we were touring, I just kind of disengaged myself somewhat and it was just because there was this terrible tragedy. For people hearing, “Bro Hymn,” for them it was like this great song about brotherhood and that’s how it was for me as well, but it also—to go up every night and play that song it was just a daily reminder of everything that had happened and it’s a very emotional thing for everyone involved. The other thing is that I started a family the same year that that happened—I had my first kid the same time it happened so I really didn’t have time to process it, so my life just became, for the next 10 years after that, really happy with my new family—my wife and kids—and yet there was still this underlying sadness with what happened with Pennywise, and its like, I have so much respect for the guys in the band and in everything that we did but I didn’t want to sully it any further. I just felt like it wasn’t working for me in certain ways and I had to make the change for my family and myself. Now, I feel like I made the right decision and there’s definitely a renewed optimism that I’ve been waiting to have and I think that that shows in the music.
Have you played the album to your kids, do they like it, can they the comprehend it?
(laughs) Yeah, my oldest daughter is 13 so I’m very happy that they’re into like, the type of music that people their age should be into I guess (laughs)…they like their style of music, they like really fun music and that’s great—they’re not into punk rock that much—they like the popular stuff like Paramore and Green Day, stuff like that, but they definitely like the music, my wife plays it in the car a lot—she likes to listen to it so I heard my daughter singing it they other day, so they like it a lot, but they’re into the stuff that girls in junior high should be into.
Right, well I guess that’s kind of a relief in some ways.
It is somewhat…I wouldn’t mind at all if they came home and were listening to The Clash or anything like that, and I’ve definitely turned them on to music that I like and the stuff that inspired me, but some of the angrier, deeper music, I think it’s better they wait for stuff like that.
Cool, well Jim, thanks for doing this, any last thoughts or ruminations?
Well I hope everyone likes the new record and we’re looking forward to getting out there!