Lagwagon (1996)

Since Face to Face got the ball rolling, I decided it might be worthwhile to dig up some more of my very early interviews. In 1996, I spoke with Lagwagon for an interview, it was my first and I had no idea what to expect. Joey Cape however was incredibly generous and took the time to speak with me as he did with every kid who met him that night.

The interview was conducted shortly after the release of Hoss which saw Lagwagon hit the road with Screw 32; it was also their first tour with ex-RKL drummer Dave Raun who has been with the band ever since. As you'll see in the interview, Plourde's departure almost split up the band, but they managed to keep going and are now in their 15th year together.

Lagwagon recently released Resolve which was dedicated to their late drummer and friend Derrick Plourde.

How was Europe?

Oh, it was great, it's always good.

Whereabouts did you guys play?

Well, almost everywhere in Europe that you can go, we break it down into two tours now, sometimes even three and this it was just northern Europe, in Scandinavia, the Netherlands, Germany, and Belgium Next time, when we go back in August, we're going to do Spain, France, and England.

Sounds like fun

It's a good time.

There were some rumors here that you guys had broken up, so as you can imagine, I was really surprised to hear you guys were on tour?

I was just not interested in starting over with a new drummer. He was my favorite musician in the band.

This was really weak - I don't even want to talk about it - as far as I'm concerned, a real break-up should be months and months long, or a year or something. Well, we broke up for about three weeks. (laughing) It was more like a girlfriend-boyfriend break-up, like "I still love you! Let's get back together." It was pretty silly. We got a new drummer though. When we got a new drummer, I wasn't really interested in being in the band anymore. That's what happened.

There's a lot of chemistry that's lost when you lose somebody like that. Personally and as far as the bands sound goes. So it's difficult, and I was just not interested in starting over with a new drummer. He was my favorite musician in the band; we agreed on a lot of things. But we got a new drummer, and he's a great guy. It came down to the fact that there were only a few good people around, and I said to the guys, if Dave will do it. Well, RKL hasn't really been doing anything and they kicked there singer out, so I said to the guys "If Dave will do it, I'm into it." So I called Dave and (luckily) he was into it. We had Europe tour and we almost canceled it, I called the day after I canceled it and said "We're coming!" We taught Dave all the songs in a week, it was pretty crazy, we were rehearsing on the road. But everything's working out really great, and we all get along really well. Dave's pulling it off.

Any plans to record anything soon?

We're going to record on May 1st, or May 2nd. Just two songs, for some compilations. It'll be some new stuff with Dave drumming on it. That was the main idea. I mean, we could have just used songs that didn't make our last record, but we made a decision, that if Dave was in the band than we should do him justice and re-record songs or record new songs. It is kind of difficult for him to join a band that already has three records out and he doesn't drum on any of it. He's probably going to take a lot of flack.

You think so?

It's weird, our old drummer was really good, live especially. And everywhere we'd go there'd be a lot of people who'd sit and watch him in awe. It was almost annoying, we'd play shows and people would be standing around staring at our drummer. That's cool and all. But when Dave was playing in Europe, people would come up and say "Well, you're not nearly as good." It's just something that people are going to be uncool enough to say, it really has nothing to do with how good Dave is, because he is good enough and he's pulling it off great. Some people are assholes.

Are you online at all?

I just bought a new Power Mac, but I'm not online yet. I started a label, so I bought a Power Mac. The only reason I haven't really got it working is because I'm not really sure where I'm going to live. There are a couple of things that are up in the air in my life right now. And I'm gone so much too. I'm anxious though, because it's fun.

There's an Unofficial Lag Wagon Home Page.

Really? I've heard about it, but I haven't seen it.

How do you feel about the attention Hoss has been getting? I saw it in the top ten of the Retail Charts in some popular music magazine.

You know what, that was in Rolling Stone down here. It's a total joke, because those retail charts are based on one record store submitting there sales. I've seen half the bands on Fat Wreck Chords on that list, because they picked a record store in Florida that we've been to, we've hung out there. They sell predominantly punk rock or skate rock or whatever the hell you want to call it. Or whatever scene we're associated with, and they sell a lot of that kind of stuff, and so. It doesn't bother me, because people can either listen to it, or they can be dumb enough to dislike a band because it's getting a little notoriety. The only way I can react to that stuff is "Oh really? Maybe more people are into our band now."

It's pretty popular up here, (in Canada) especially in the skate and snowboarding scenes.

That's a funny thing, I pretty much have mixed feelings about that whole scene. Sometimes we're so directly associated with skateboarders or snowboarders that it's not even about music. It's about snowboarding or skateboarding. It's funny to me because that genre of people are choosing to listen to a certain type of music. It's everywhere, Canada, Europe and the States. And in almost every interview we do, we get asked "Do you snowboard?"

I think it might be because most of this type of music has always been mixed up with skateboarding.

That's the other side of my feelings about it, that's positive. That's really cool. It's just a little out of control. I don't skateboard anymore, I only snowboard every once and awhile. I sometimes feel like I'm breaking the rules because I don't live for snowboarding.

I don't think it's expected of bands as much, but when you listen to the music, they expect you to.

Well, we've yet to have a song about skateboarding or snowboarding, and I think we'll keep it that way.

What are your major influences?

I can't speak for the other guys, but I think they listen to a lot of the same stuff I do Sean (one of the bands guitarists) always says everything from Abba to Zappa. That's how he answers that question. I'm a fan of really cheesy seventies songs, and I listen to really mellow stuff. One of my favorite artists is Tori Amos, I really like her. I think she's a great song writer. I also listen to a lot of punk or alternative type bands, it really comes down to whether I hear a catchy melody, because I'm a big melody guy. I'm not that into dynamics, like a lot of bands are really dynamic, and that's cool, but I'm more of a melody slut; I'm a sucker for a melody.

Yeah, it definitely comes through in the music.


How do you guys write?

Well, Sean and I pretty much write everything and on this last album, I pretty much wrote everything. I usually come up with the basslines and the drum parts and everything. I mean, Derrick, the drummer used to really jazz things up, but we usually had the grooves and the ideas. If you're writing a song, it's really good to have two guitars, bass, vocals, harmonies, to work with because you can just make a better song. Sean has another band, which just put a record out, where he writes all the songs, and they're really good, they're called Buckwild, I'll just plug-em. They're really cool, they just finished a CD, which should be coming out soon on this really small indie. I don't know how easy it's going to be to get it. It's a good record, it's really poppy. It's a little too ear-candy for me. In that band he does everything, but in our band he's always been really cool about letting me write the vocal lines. When he writes a song, I still write the vocal lines. It's really nice to be able to write for my own songs, but also for his. And Derrick, our old drummer, wrote a couple of songs too.

The drums on Hoss are really crazy, there are so many different drum parts, it's really cool. A lot of prog-rock fans seem to really like the drumming.

Well, he was a prog-rock drummer. His favorite bands of all time were bands like Rush. And it totally shows. I really love that about his drumming. He wrote really interesting stuff. That guys a great musician, a really good guitar player too.

I drummed for ten years, and he was doing things that were just blowing me away. Every time we jammed, I thought "Wow, this is going to be the greatest drumming record!" Because of personal issues, I think he didn't play nearly as well as he could have. I tell people that, and they can't believe that, but it's true. He was holding back on the new album. He's improved a lot in the last three years. He's ten-times the drummer he used to be.

I hope he'll be able to do something he wants soon. He wasn't that into our band anyway, he's more into bands like Avail and those really discordal bands. He writes the most tripped out, cool music. If he ever gets it together, I hope he forms a band and writes songs, because it's really original stuff.

About the lyrics, in the older albums, the lyrics were a lot more straightforward issues oriented stuff while the lyrics on Hoss seem to be about insanity and drugs and stuff like that.

I think they're a little more ambiguous - not to use a cliché.

Any reason for the change?

Honestly, there is a lot of time between each record. On the first record, the songs were written a long time before we recorded it. Then it took months and months to come out. Those songs are so old, I listen to them now and I laugh. To me they're silly. Especially some of the political stuff on the first album. I won't even go there anymore. I won't even try to touch politics. I'll leave that to Chris from Propagandhi. He does it well.

The second album had a little more attention towards human nature issues, and nowadays that's all I can really write about. My experiences. And I know I'm not a poet, and I wouldn't even be pretentious enough to suggest that I was. The new album wasn't planned or intentional, lyrically. That's the direction I've grown in. A lot of depressing things have happened in the last few years, and I think that's reflected on the album. Half the album is about heroin addicts. Down here in California there was a huge resurgence of heroin addiction. I lost a few friends last year. It's really brutal. I think lyrics should reflect your state of mind. Music is a really powerful medium for saying what you want to say, and I've just been in a much darker mode. I went through a stage when I was writing these really cheesy pop songs, because I love that kind of stuff. I'm really into pop. And then right before the album, I thought "Man, I'm not really into this anymore."

Yeah, on a track like Razor Burn, it starts off sounding like a love song, but it gets progressively stranger. That's a really cool song, and in general that album just blows me away. It's really cool stuff.

Thanks a lot! "Razor Burn" is the only 'funny' song on the album, well, except for maybe move the car song. It's kind of funny, I guess.

I didn't really get that one, I must be too shallow to figure that one out.

No it's not you, that's definitely the most vague track on the album. We were pretty much finished with the album, and the guys came to me and said "You know, there's always a few funny songs on our albums, but this one is just so depressing. Don't you have any funny feelings left?" So I said "Yeah, I just didn't feel like writing a funny song." Sean suggested Razor Burn, and he mentioned that I hadn't even finished the lyrics on it yet, so why don't I write something funny, right now. I though, "Whoa, pressure" I wrote five different songs thinking about funny things that had happened and shit that my friends and I were saying and that one just came out. It's actually a story about a friend of mine, this guy Danny. It was his story. That's a fluke that it ended up on the album. There probably wouldn't have been any humour if it was up to me.. I'm glad it ended up on the album.

My friends were really confused upon reading the lyrics to "Ride the Snake," so they begged me to ask what it was about.

That's about friends of mine and I, when we see people on heroin, we refer to them as "Snake Eyes," there was a really funny line in the Doors movie, did you see that?

No, I wanted to, but I never got around to it.

They all go out to the desert and they're all fried on acid, and one of them is bad tripping and Jim Morrison gets them in a huddle and says: "Snakes here, gonna take us away. Ride the snake!" And we really thought that was really funny. And one night I said: "he's riding the snake" and it just caught on, so it was a natural title. So that's what it's about, it's about when you see a friend and you can't really even talk to him. It's like talking to a vacant person.

On a completely different note, what do you think of the Sex Pistols getting back together?

That's a tough one, because we were talking about it, because I just heard about it, and I heard they were doing an album on Epitaph. Did you hear that?

Yeah, I saw a press release on that.

God, I have mixed feelings about that. First of all, I didn't think Sid Vicious really mattered, because he didn't write anything and he didn't even play on a record. And what John Lyndon is saying that he was a loser, a dopefiend, a dumbass, a fool who was a martyr for people's entertainment.

That's the way I look at it. It's hard to say, but I really equate him with a GG Allin type. He really doesn't matter. And seeing as that's true, I really don't see anything wrong with the band getting back together. But, I do think it's a little weird because it's obviously planned. They openly say in interviews: "Yeah, we're getting back together to get some of the money people are making off of what we started." I think that's kinda weak.

Not to mention 40 bucks for tickets.


I'm not going, I can't really afford it, unless they're sending out free tickets to zines no one has ever heard of, I'm probably not going.

I don't think I'll go, well, I probably won't even be around when they're touring. It's bound to be disappointing. They're all in their late forties.

It'll be like watching the Rolling Stones.

Exactly, but I think it's fine, nothing really wrong with it.

Does the popularity of punk in general bother you?

It doesn't really bother me that punk rock's popular, because it was popular in the eighties too. The general public just comes around, it just revolves. And there are always these people who complain: "This sucks, because I don't want to share" I don't think that way at all. If Michael Jackson puts out a good album and I like it, I'll buy it. I'm not P.C. about things like that.

Because I think music is much more important than worrying about the corporations. What irks me a little bit is when people say: "Hey you guys, you're just part of that punk scene, it's way out of control!" Wait a minute, can't you just not group our band, can't you just listen to it? I wish people would listen to those type of bands without prejudices.

On a related note, NOFX, one of my favorite bands, just put out a record which is just a big departure from the sound of their more straightforward releases. Punk in Drublic was really successful. If NOFX had wanted to, it probably could have been even bigger. With Heavy Petting Zoo, it was almost like an intentional change.

I don't know about that. Mike is one of my best buddies, and I hang around with him a lot and he's changed a lot too. His musical taste has really opened up. And I watched those songs come to being, I saw him write them and I don't really know if it was intentional, I don't really believe that at all.

Fat Mike has got more integrity than anyone I know.

Well, not a deliberate change, but a bigger progression than most fans expected.

It was a huge progression, but I think that's great. That's what bands in a position like NOFX should do. It's almost their responsibility to be honest to themselves and to progress as songwriters. If they went and recorded another Punk in Drublic, it would have been three albums in the same vein, and I think it was a good time for a change. I really like the new album.

Yeah, me too, it's really different though.

It's almost like a different band.

Well, I noticed that a lot of my friends who are a lot more conservative about what they consider punk, they were really not into it. When I reviewed it for the paper, I thought, you know, this is really good, but it's really going to piss some people off. I thought it was one of the best things about it. There was no attempt to fit any mold and I thought that was really respectable.

Because I think music is much more important than worrying about the corporations.

That's a nice way to say it, that's how I look at it too. I think it's cool, I really think bands should be able to change. People should just like bands for changing. It's part of the deal. It happens all the time. But I back it one-hundred percent. I like to get variety from a band.

What's it like working with Mike?

It's great, it's always been really good. I feel like I have the best relationship with him. It's like working with a friend. It's never been weird on the business end at all. Really easy to deal with. He's really the king of ideas. He's a great idea guy, and that's a really nice person to be working with. And his ideas don't have boundaries. He's not business oriented at all. Yet, somehow, he's really successful because he's smart. He's got really ballsy ideas. Sometimes he has the most off-colour ideas. But he really doesn't think about whether people will like something or not. It's really great working with him. He's really nice, really cool. Everybody in the band likes him. That's why we've stuck with him.

No kidding, eh? I looked at the catalog, and Duh was the first CD release on the label. You guys have really been on for the stretch.

We were in his garage at the beginning. It's really good to grow. And that's an important point actually, because it's been really cool to actually grow with the label. As the bands done better, the labels done better. Though the label has far surpassed us in success. The bands signing to Fat now may be a little less personal but we know everybody there. From day one that they were working we were introduced or we knew them. They're all friends of mine.

One of the cool things about that label is that almost without fail, every disc that I've bought, I've been really happy with.

Definitely. Part of the reason for that is that Mike generally signs bands he likes He's a good songwriter so he has a pretty ear for music. He picks bands and they might not fit the mold, but they're usually going to have pretty quality songs. That's a definite plus. He's signed a few bands that I was surprised with. I can't say that I like But 90% is good, and you can't say that about Epitaph or any other label, or at least I can't. I'm really proud that we're on that label.

On that note, how do you feel about a band like Propagandhi, who have a take a very different view of success?

I don't even want to say "those guys" because I don't know how John or Jord feel. I can only go by what I hear Chris saying and when I read his lyrics.

I think that it's really important to be thankful for the things you have, and Fat's been nothing but good to them. Fat Mike has got more integrity than anyone I know. As for Propagandhi, their first album is awesome, their new album is great but I'm sure their won't be another album with Fat because of the distribution issue.

I really didn't understand that whole 'no T-shirts' thing. I just wanted to buy a T-shirt because I liked the band not because it's some commercial thing.

I know, how funny is that? The first time we were going to play with the band, I got this demo, rough mixes of there first album and it was the best thing I'd ever heard. I was so happy. And we were driving up to Winnipeg to play with them and NOFX. So Dave, I was talking to, I said: "Man, I can't wait to meet these guys, and I can't wait to get a shirt!" Because for me, if I really like a band, I'm proud to wear a shirt. I don't there is anything wrong with that.

Is Lag Wagon a full time thing for you?

Well, it is now. It has been for about the last year.

You were working before?

I was working on and off, when we weren't touring I would take crappy jobs. We're doing well enough that it's pretty much full time and we have to tour a lot to pull it off.

You mentioned earlier that you were starting a label?

I started a label, (My Records) and I put a compilation out. It's pretty poppy. There is some heavy stuff on it, but it's generally not punk at all. There is one Lag Wagon song, and it's probably the most poppy we've had. It still sounds sort of heavy next to the other songs on the album. I like it a lot. It was just demos I got from bands we toured with and I decided to start a label. I called people up, and everybody said fine.

Any idea how we can get it up here?

Not really, I'm working on a catalog right now. I'm finishing the first record I'm doing with a band and it should be done in a month and as soon as it's done I'm going to put out ads for it and the comp. They'll be out in Canada for sure. It's hard because I have to do everything myself, and we're on tour a lot, so it's getting a slow start.

For now it's a side thing, but do you hope it will evolve into a full-time gig?

That would be great, I'd be thrilled. I like playing music a lot, I like writing music more. Working with bands and recording is great. Producing is a lot like songwriting. It's my favorite place to be. I love being in a studio with a band where I don't have to play or worry about it. If I could end up in a position where I could run a record label and produce bands all the time, that'd be great. It's like a dream of mine.

Well, hope to see you guys soon. Thanks a lot for your time, and good luck on the tour dude.

No problem, see you later.