Western Addiction is back, but the truth is, the band never really went away. There was never a break-up statement or a farewell tour, just shifting priorities and personal obligations that led to one very long hiatus. But now that hiatus is over, as the band is playing shows again and recently released Pines, a 7-inch that picks up right where the band left off with their last release, 2005's Cognicide. Punknews Copy Editor Adam Eisenberg caught up with frontman Jason Hall to talk about the return of Western Addiction, discuss the nerves that come with playing your first show in years and learn how fantasy football influenced his decision to get the band going again.
I guess I should start by saying "welcome back," itâs been a while. What took so long?
Thanks, thatâs the first question everybodyâs been asking me so far. Itâs a valid question, and it is my fault actually. Itâs not a good answer, itâs not an exciting answer or a rock ânâ roll answer. I have a family and I have a full-time job. I had another little daughter and she needed me to be around. I couldnât be away at certain times because I was away at other times for my other daughter, and so I just had to put some things before the band for a while.
I think people can understand that. Family is what matters.
The good part is that Iâve been a dad for a long time, and a lot of my friends who are rockers are now dads. So one by one they come up to me and go "oh, Iâm sorry dude, I understand." For a while no one understood that I was trying to balance both worlds, but now theyâre all starting families so they play music and have families like me, and it kind of a cool thing that weâre all getting back into in a way.
How did now become the time to get back into it?
I have other friends that are dads that are rockers in bands. I saw these other dads who donât do music and they have activities that they do, whether itâs fantasy football or whatever weird thing they do on the weekends, and I thought why donât I play music once a week with my friends and weâll see what happens. And I realized most bands, before they even go on tour, they practice like three times then they go on a tour. So weâre practicing once a week and a I realized that this is more than most bands do, so I can do this. So I started practicing in the cracks and whenever I could find time, then we practiced every Wednesday night and thatâs enough time to make music.
Sam Johnson [New Mexican Disaster Squad, Dead To Me] is now on bass. Howâd you connect with him?
Weâve been friends with Sam for a while. We did a tour with New Mexican Disaster Squad and we did a split with them. Heâs been around and Iâm still friends with those other guys too. Basically itâs proximity. Sam moved to San Francisco to work on Dead To Me. Heâs in Dead To Me with Ken, our guitarist, and and Chicken. Chicken happened to live far away so he wasnât able to come up all the time, and that makes sense. Weâre not a full-time functioning band like Dead To Me is. Sam was here, and he likes the same things we like, so it seemed pretty natural.
Listening to your new 7-inch, Pines, it doesnât sound like youâve missed a beat.
Oh, good, thatâs nice. There was one comment on one of the sites where it said "wow, the sound has radically changed," and I was like "oh, man, is that true?" I donât even know, itâs hard for me to judge that.
It doesnât sound like itâs changed much to me.
I can only write one type of song, so thatâs what comes out.
Did you continue to write while the band was on hiatus?
I did stop playing guitar for a little while, but Iâm always noodling around on my guitar and I save word parts and lyrics. Actually, my job is to name things, which is kind of a weird job. So I do come across plenty of interesting words and phrases. And if I read too, I just save all those little bits, and I save all the little riffs and they all somehow magically pop together every once in a while. I donât have a ton of songs amassed but I have all these ideas floating around and now Iâve been more diligent about putting them all together to make songs.
Does that mean weâll hear more new music beyond this 7-inch?
We recorded five songs. We have two others that we need to fix a few vocal items on there. I want to keep writing songs. I enjoy it now, I found the time. My littlest daughter, sheâs old enough where she doesnât need me every second, so itâs a little bit more flexible. Iâd like to is basically what Iâm saying.
When it came time to put out this new 7-inch, was the plan always to do it on Fat Wreck Chords?
First we thought itâs fun just to be playing. I mean, I worked there as well for years. There was a period of time where I didnât have as much connection with the label, but now Iâm getting back into it and I see them at other shows, and they wanted to help with the 7-inch. I was more than grateful. You go through weird periods of time in your life where you have different respects for things. The older I get, I guess I respect music and rock so much more versus when I was a little bit younger and I was like "this bandâs terrible, that bandâs terrible, why are they doing that?" Now Iâm sort of happy to have rock bands out there at whatever level. Fat wanted to support it and be involved. I was so grateful and Iâm still grateful. They feel like my old family.
What was it like jumping back on stage for that first show after such a long layoff?
Of course I was a little nervous for the first couple of shows, but it actually felt better this time around. I didnât feel as tense or nervous. We played one secret show in San Francisco, and first of all, that was my fault too, because Iâm like "I donât know if I just want to go out there and play," but then again, weâre so small, whoâs going to care? Itâs not like weâre a big band that has to hide. Then I was like, "weâre being ridiculous," we should play whatever good show whenever we can. We just went on a little week-long tour with Good Riddance and The Flatliners and it was really fun, there were people there to see us. The bigger, the better show we can do Iâd love to do it.
What was it like going out with Good Riddance? They also came back after a long layoff.
It was really awesome. Iâve known those guys from working at the label, so Iâve known them for 15 years now. It was really cool. We played the Fat showcase too, for CMJ in New York City. That was pretty weird because Iâve always been working at it, but now Iâm in an actual band playing on it. It was just really fun and it felt comfortable, and The Flatliners were awesome. Those guys are so nice. Sometimes when you go out with a bigger band the crowd just wants you to stop playing and leave. But the kids were really nice, some people were there to see it us. It was good.
You said Western Addiction is not a full-time band, so how much touring, if any, do you foresee?
Iâm pretty much subject to how much vacation time I have from my job, and my family needs a little bit of that. We really want to go to Europe, Iâve never toured Europe. The other guys in the band have, but I never have. People make offers here and there. I have three to four weeks of vacation and sick days, and Iâll use every one of them to play as long as I can convince my wife and my family.
You mentioned your two daughters earlier. Are they Western Addiction fans?
I have a theory thatâ¦ People that are heavily into music are always trying to make their kids listen to what they think is cool, and Iâm not saying my band is cool, but whatever it is thatâs cool. I have a theory that you should let them listen to half things you think are really cool and half things that you think are total garbage, and thatâs my opinion of total garbage. If Iâm forcing her to listen to The Clash all day eventually sheâs going to rebel against it, but if you donât, you let them listen to what they want, they develop their own style. So my older daughter, she knows all the bands. She knows AC/DC, Motorhead. Someday somebodyâs going to ask her about and sheâs going to shut them down, because she knows about all rock ânâ roll. However, now sheâs developed her own taste in music to where she can discover things. I feel she has a barometer for taste, and it might not be what I like, but she can sense whatâs good and whatâs bad.
Thereâs music going in our house all the time. We listen to everything from classical to Frank Sinatra to old Metallica, to anything. Iâm glad that they have a good range but I want them to find their own things too and I donât want to tell them whatâs cool and whatâs not cool.