At The Edge (now the Chilli Pepper) in Fort Lauderdale, FL
By Shane “De La Mancha” Rodack
Shane: Ok, I got a list of cool questions here. I know who you are so I’m not even going to bother asking you that. I’m talking with Fletcher…How old are you, Fletcher?
S: 29..ok.. And if someone were holding a gun to your head and told you to describe Pennywise in 2 words, what would you say?
F: (Person in the back says, “Fuck Off.”) Fuck off. (Fletcher says agreeingly)
S: How long has this tour been going on for?
F: I think about a week.
S: I know that you were touring with Joykiller and DFL before, why’d you drop DFL and go with various local bands?
F: Wait, what was the question? Oh, you mean why didn’t we bring DFL on this tour?
F: I don’t think they really wanted to come with us actually. The last tour they did was the first tour they’ve ever done before and it was pretty hard for them because they had to take time off from their jobs and stuff. They’re still working day jobs, they can’t afford to not have jobs because they’re not, you know, making millions of dollars.
S: But they had a good time, right?
F: Yeah, they had a good time. But I don’t think they could afford to. They weren’t really selling that much, and they have competetion at the shows. DFL sells a certain amount of shirts, Joykiller, and then us. And they’re an opening band so.. We decided to bring in local bands on this tour rather than bringing another band out.
S: Are you happy with how “About Time” is doing right now?
F: Uh huh.
S: Is it about where you wanted it to be?
S: Did you think it’d be doing any worse or any better?
F: Uhh…actually I thought it’d be doing about how it is actually. It’s pretty much at the same level we left off at and continuing. I think we shipped about 400,000 copies, and it’s kinda like, I don’t know…
S: Do you expect it to all of a sudden just take off?
F: No. No way.
S: What new bands have you been listening to lately?
F: 98 Mute, a band from Hermosa Beach. War Called Peace, they’re from Hermosa Beach too. Both of them are really good. Ummm, No Fun At All.
S: I was gonna ask you about them. Do you think they sound a lot like Pennywise?
F: Yeah. But, I mean, I thought they sounded more like us before, but now that…when you listen to it, every band, kind of gets its own style. They’re a lot of similarities tough.
S: Do you think it’s cool how reviews compare them to you?
F: Like all the reviews compare us to Bad Religion?
S: Well, kinda.
F: Yeah. I like it, although I like it when reviewers try not to compare the bands to other groups and just try to review the album. But if it sounds like something, I guess it’s worthy to bring it up.
S: I got Pennywise Home Videos and I never knew you liked to vomit so much. How long have you been doing that?
S: I mean, on people.
F: For years. A pretty long time I think. About 15 years.
S: I read about what happened at KROQ in L.A. Did you plan that? (Fletcher vomited on the host of a radio show on a L.A. station. He then proceeded to vomit on Riki Racthman and a college couple)
F: Yeah. I planned it. I just got hammered, and I figured, they never played our music and it was kinda a joke because that’s one of the biggest stations in L.A., and not that we want to be played on the radio or anything, but we were selling out places like the Hollywood Paladium and what big bands usually do in L.A. and they wouldn’t play our music and I just figured I’d throw up on one of them… Not straight out going, “Fuck You, KROQ!”, but I gave ’em a little treatment. So it worked out pretty good.
S: If you had your pick of one person in the whole world you could vomit on, who would it?
F: One person? Wow…that’s an interesting question. (laughing) I’m going to have to think about that for a second.
Guy on Bus: What was the question?
F: If I had my pick of person I could vomit on in the whole world, who would it be? (pause) Maybe right now it’d be Sheroque
F: Yeah, he’s the French president and he’s doing some nuclear testing.
S: And you disagree with that? (Said sarcastically)
F: Yeah. (laughing)
S: I don’t blame you.
F: I’d throw up in his mouth.
S: (Laughing) Is there anything that offends you?
F: I’m pretty much un-offendable. I do some pretty nasty things. It kinda grosses me out when other people do stuff.
S: So if you vomited on somebody, and they did it back on you would you be offended?
F: Vomit is like the least of it. Vomit is like LOW on the scale. Try, like, shitting in people’s mouths. That’s better.
S: Have you ever done that?
F: (He nods and approves)
F: Of course.
S: Wow. (In awe) I saw your video on MTV and I saw you hanging out with Lewis Largent and Kennedy a couple times at the Reading Festival. Which one was cooler?
F: I think Lewis was kinda scared of me.
S: Is he a weasel?
F: Nah, he’s average size.
S: Was he a nice enough guy?
F: I didn’t really talk to him. I’m not a big MTV fan. He just wanted to do an interview and we said “ok.” Kennedy was actually cool. I’ve always liked Kennedy. I think she’s got a little personality. I lot of people hate her and think she’s a geek, but she’s actually fucking hilarious. She was going around terrorizing people at the Reading Festival. She attacked this other girl VJ from England who was like the big hot English VJ. It was cool. They were both cool, but I would say Kennedy is cooler than Lewis…but then again, I don’t know Lewis.
S: “About Time” sounds like Pennywise, but it’s a little tamer. Did you do that out of progression or did you do it to get a wider audience?
F: It’s just different. We didn’t do it to make any more fans. All of our albums are pretty much fast all the way through and if this album was the same exact thing as Unknown Road, then you would say, “Oh, it sounds exactly like Unknown Road!” We try to make every album different, but still in the Pennywise style. Some people say the album’s slow, but fuck, there are faster songs on this album than on any of the other albums. Like Perfect People, fuckin’ why can’t I think of it…uhh.. Waste of Time is pretty fast, I Won’t Have It (Brought up by me), What You Do With It is fast, and the majority of the songs on the album are fast. We tried to get a little bit of a different groove on some of the songs, like mid-tempo, but really driving and powerful. Sometimes you can’t capture power with speed, because it gets so blurry and the speed doesn’t really seem that powerful. It seems monotonous. I think the more powerful stuff is actually slower..Like Pantera or something. So we were just fucking around really. You can’t put out the same album every time.
S: I saw that you quoted the guy from Rage Against the Machine in “I Won’t Have It.” Did you do that for any particular reason? (They quoted Zack De La Rocha for “You Got a Bullet In Your Head.”
F: No, Jason wrote that song and it’s just…a lyric. It had nothing to do with Rage Against the Machine.
S: So you felt you’d just give him credit for it though?
F: Did it say that?
S: Yeah, it said by Zach De La Rocha.
F: Oh, I didn’t know it said that.
S: You learn something new every day.
F: I’ve never read our lyrics. (laughing)
S: Talking about lyrics, in the Unknown Road insert, I noticed the other day that there are a lot of fuckups on it. Did you ever notice that?
F: Yeah. The artist is an artist. He’s not a fucking speller.
S: But then I saw you made new copies of it.
F: Yeah. He even misspelled “Unknown”….he spelled it “Unkown Road.” And then there’s the wrong address for Epitaph… he just totally fucked it up. And the funny part is, we’re selling cd’s at the shows, and we pulled them out and they’re fucked up copies, with the right cd (The cd had errors on it too), but the ucked up labels and shit. So, he didn’t check it, and no one checked it and we were in a hurry to get it out, and they printed like 100,000 copies or 50,000 copies with it totally fucked up.
S: I read that Jason was supposed to sing on that album.
F: Yeah, that was when Jimmy was out of the band for like a year. And Randy Bradburry was playing bass, and we went in the studio and we recorded it and Jason started singing and we’re like, “Fuck…it’s not Pennywise with Jason singing.” And then Jimmy wanted to get back in, so we squashed all the problems.
S: Do you think you’d still be together today if Jim never came back?
F: I don’t know, it’s hard to say. I don’t think so. Because it’s not the same without the formula, ’cause everyone has their own part and Jimmy’s voice is probably the biggest part of this band.
S: If you were to write the lyrics for the group do you think it’d be a completely different band?
F: I wrote some of the lyrics.
S: What songs?
F: I wrote You Can Demand, I wrote City is Burning, I wrote… I don’t know what else I wrote.
S: Was that when Jim was out of the group?
F: Yeah, we started working on some of those songs before Jim got back in. We had them written. I wrote parts to Nothing. A lot of the songs on the albums, I’ll write parts, like I’ll come up with a melody line, or Jason will and I’ll give ’em some words to ing along to. Like, I wrote the first line to Same Old Story, Jason wrote the chorus, and Jimmy wrote the rest of it. Like when we’re having trouble with a line, someone will come in and help. I pretty much back our lyrics 100 percent, I really like em. It’s pretty much how all of us live our lives…by those lyrics. They’re pretty right-on. I might be a little more out of hand then the rest of the guys and do some crazy shit, but there’s a balance of craziness and ethics.
S: Do you think in all the Pennywise articles, they make you out to be a much crazier person than you really are?
F: No, it’s totally underplayed. Way more crazier than anyone can talk about.
S: What’s the name of that hidden song on Unknown Road?
F: Slow Down.
S: I also read that you were supposed to have a hidden track on the new album.
F: Just can’t find it? (laughing)
S: Nope..it must be really hidden.
F: It’s just not there! It’s hidden in the studio. It never made it to the album.
S: Do you have a lot of songs that you haven’t released?
F: There’s a lot of songs. But they’re all unfinished. We usually take a song pretty close to finishing it, and then if we don’t like it, we just say, fuckin’, we’re not gonna do it. So a lot of them just go through the cracks we never heard them again. We make so many fuckin’ tapes and we lose ’em. A lot of them are good songs too, and they should have gone on the album.
S: I got that Soul Arching thing from Theologian. Did you do those songs after Unknown Road?
F: Yeah, we did them after Unknown Road. “Tomorrow” was a really old song, and what’s the other song called? Nothing? Or something like that..
S: “I Don’t Feel Nothing?”
F: Yeah, that was a new one.
S: And then there was a Black Flag cover, right?
F: Yeah, exactly.
S: Why don’t you have any other covers on any of your newer albums. I think everybody loves “Stand By Me” and would like to see you do some other covers.
F: Well, we got Stand By Me and the Black Flag song. I don’t know. We could tape covers from live shit. We tossed up the idea of putting a cover on the new album, but it seemed to be getting trendy right now. Offspring did it, Rancid did it.
[Jason had walked in a few minutes earlier]
Jason: You also gotta buy the song.
F: Yeah, you gotta pay the people that write the song.
S: I heard that you’re playing some Nirvana covers at some of the shows?
F: Yeah, we’re doing a little Territorial Pissings.
S: Are you going to do most of the new songs tonight? Or is it gonna be a mix of old and new?
F: It’ll be a mix of everything. It’s probably about equal. It takes a while to get into an album. The last Bad Religion album I got, “Stranger Than Fiction”, I hated it for months and now t’s one of my favorite albums. It takes a while for people to get into things, you gotta keep listening to it. If you keep listening to “About Time,” you’ll probably end up liking it better than any of our other albums.
S: Why weren’t any Pennywise songs in “The Chase?”
F: (Laughing) I don’t know, man. We just don’t get lucky on that sorta stuff. Like for some reason, radio doesn’t like us, promoters don’t like us, movies don’t like us. MTV doesn’t like us, although they might through us a bone here and there.
S: I’d say you’re getting more airtime than the last album. I’v heard Same Old Story a bit and now they’re starting to play Searching.
F: Really? Cool.
S: This is a strange question, but if you could pick any of the Golden Girls to have sex with, who would it be?
F: I hate that fucking show! With a passion! But you know who it’d be, man. What’s her name, the horny one?
S: Everyone says that, I think it should be Betty White.
Some Guy on the Bus: You just wanna do that because she’s all pure and innocent.
F: What’s grandma’s name?
F: Sofia. (said agreeingly)
S: I met her once.
F: Really? Cool.
S: How do you feel when you hear people calling Epitaph a sellout label just because they’re successful?
F: Well, I think most people don’t know what the fuck they’re talking about. They know nothing about the label, they know nothing about how it’s run. They know nothing about how hard Brett worked to get the label that status. He worked his ass off and don’t forget about the part where he was working 20 hours a day doing a studio and a record label and all that shit and the fast that he believed in punk rock the whole time. If we went to Sony six years ago and said, “Here’s our tape.”, they would have aid, “Get the fuck out of our office!” He (Brett) had faith in he punk rock scene just because he liked the music and he played in a punk band, ya know? And he’s been around for 15 years. Anyone that says he soldout maybe doesn’t know that he turned down $50 million five times over.
S: Is he even considering selling Epitaph to a major label?
F: No. Every major label in the world… [Fletcher begins eating his Taco Bell] You guys want some Taco Bell?
My Friend on Bus #1: Nah…I’m cool.
My Friend on Bus #2: Do you got those Cinnammon Twists?
F: Take whatever. He’s turned down about every major label in the world. They came to him and said, “Look, you can have your record company, we’ll take half, you can run it the way you want, we split the profits, we’ll back Epitaph with all our money,..Here’s a check foir $50 million.” Brett just goes, “Fuck ou, get out.” And he took out an ad in Billboard Magazine, you know, one of the biggest corporate magazines, and got everyone at Epitaph to go out in the parking lot, took a picture of everyone giving the finger and ran a full page ad in Billboard and it said, “To Whom it May Concern, Fuck You!” Is that selling-out? He runs his label the way he wants, he makes all the decisions for that label, he’s the coolest guy in the world, a rich motherfucker, but it hasn’t changed him at all. He’s the same guy that knew with no money six years ago as he is with $50 million or however much money he’s worth these days.
S: So he’s basically accomplished what anybody starts an indie label would ever think of doing?
F: The thing is, then Rancid got courted by a bunch of major labels…
S: So did they sign? I heard they signed, but weren’t going to tell anyone until the new album did good enough?
F: No, that’s not true. They re-signed with Epitaph. But they were real close to signing with Epic because they just had all these people doing shit and fucking with their heads and going, “You know, Epitaph can’t do a good enough job. They just got lucky with the Offspring and you’re not gonna sell enough records… Come to us.” And they were ready, but then they took a step back and said, “Fuck this! We’re stayin’ with Epitaph.” And the whole music world went, “What the fuck’s going on here? We just threw 1.5 million dollars at these punkers and they said ‘No’ and went back to a label that doesn’t offer them half of that.” It really showed the loyalty of the bands on Epitaph and it freaked everyone out. It freaked all the fuckin’ big-wigs out. They were shattered. One of the biggest corporate fuckin’ heads in America died his hair blue to be cool with Rancid. He was like, “Hey, check it out! I died my hair blue!” I don’t know. Brett just has some cool bands on his label and they are pretty loyal. We turned down about six major label offers for “About Time” and stayed on Epitaph for a shitload less money. Like tons less.
S: So he (Brett) treats you much better, right?
F: Yeah. You just do what you want. I do whatever I want. If we wanna do this, or we wanna do that and Brett says, “I don’t think it’s a good idea..” but we think it’s a good idea he’ll say, “Alright, go ahead.” Whatever we want to do. Whatever we want, whenever we want it.
S: What’s your favorite band out of all the new Epitaph bands?
F: I really like Joykiller a lot. They’re album is killer. But their live show is fucking raging. It’s just so killer. So, they’re probably my favorite band on Epitaph as far as new bands go. I really like Offspring a lot and I like Rancid a lot.
S: Do you like the new Voodoo Glow Skulls?
F: I haven’t listened to it much. But I like their old stuff, but I haven’t gotten a chance to listen to their new album. I don’t listen to music that much when I’m on the road, and I’m always on the road.
S: So I see you’re playing Nintendo or something back there? (There was a video game system in the back of their tour bus.)
F: Yeah, we got a video game system! Let’s talk about the bus! If you have any questions about buses, like when kids go, “Oh, fuckin’ rockstar’s got a bus. At our level, we’re not at a big level, but we’re not at a small level. We’re just a medium band, right? But the thing is, we have equipment, we have merchandise, and we have people that have to travel with us. In order to bring the sound man, the tour manager, the guitar tech, and the merchandise guy, who are all people who work for us, and to bring the band and all the equipment and all the merchandise, it would take minimum of fuckin’ three vans. Three to four Econoline, huge vans, right? Or a copule Ryder trucks or whatever. And to do that you gotta pay like 100 bucks a day for the van, you gotta pay for a driver, and you gotta pay for gas on three vans. This bus is cheaper than three vans. And you can have all the equipment, all the merchandise, all the people. This bus is like $350 a day to rent. And it’s way more comfortable…it’s fucking too nice! But you’re comfortable. Shit, if you wanna take a nap, you can go lay down in your bunk and wake up fresh. Kids don’t know how it is driving across the country in a fuckin’ van with no air conditioning with six guys and all the equipment like we did last time. And you’re just sweating and you can’t sleep and you’ve fucking been up partying the night before. You get here and you’re like, “Yeah, I’m gonna put on a great show!” So, the bus is totally functional for a decent price. If I could spraypaint “Fuck you, Pig!” on the side of it I would, but it’s not ours. We’re still punk rock though, even though we’re riding around in a slick ass bus!
S: So, what’s the worst thing that’s ever happened to you when you were on the road or at a show?
F: Nothing actualy. I like the bad stuff. So, I couldn’t answer that question. We got searched today, by the dogs for drugs. That’s pretty bad. We were just driving and they pulled us over and they decided they wanted to search the bus, and I said, “Sorry, can’t let ya.” So they got a warrant and brought the dogs down. And the funny thing was we asked them, “What happens if you find a little bud on here?” and they said, “Well, someone’s gonna go to jail.” And we’re like, “Well, what about a bong?” and they said, “Someone’s gonna go to jail. We’re gonna bring the dogs down.” So I said, “Well, I’ll tell you right now there’s pot and a bong on here and it’s hidden and we’ll just take the ticket. We’ll send somebody to jail.” Our drum tech was gonna go to jail for the day. We were gonna bail him out and the cops were like, “Yeah, alright. We’re gonna send the dog on anyways.” Cause they wanted to make sure there wasn’t a pound of dope on here. And the fuckin’ dog couldn’t find the pot or the bong! So we were fucked. We had to give it to hem, we had to show them where it was and then they just let us go.
Some Other Guy on Bus: He (I guess the manager) wants all the kids off the bus.]
Some Other Guy: He said ALL kids off the bus.
F: Fuck that.
S: Do you want me to get off the bus?
F: No, stay. I’m the boss.
S: Ok. Cool. What were all of you like at school?
F: I’ve really been the same all my life.
S: Were you a popular kid?
F: Nah. I got into punk like 15 years ago. So, back in those days, punks were really unpopular. They got beat up all the time by the football players, the teachers hated you, your parents hated you, the police hated you, so I was totally unpopular.
S: Were all of you into punk when you were in highschool?
F: Yeah. Jimmy got into it around the same time, Jason was into it in highschool, Byron was kinda whatever.
S: Have you always been into the surfing scene?
F: Yeah, since I was about 10 years old.
S: Are you good at it?
F: Umm.. I can surf. I’m not gonna same I’m some ripper. I’m not gonna say I’m shitty.
S: Will we ever see you in one of those movies?
F: No.. Fuck no! My Indian Friend, Kiran: When did you start playing guitar?
F: Fifteen years ago. I basically taught myself.
Kiran: How long did it take you to get good?
F: A year. I progress, but I don’t progress much. I pretty much suck on the guitar. I know how to play what we play. The key to playing guitar is writing your own songs and not just learning other people’s. Just write your own and develop your own style because otherwise you end up sounding like everybody else.
S: What were some jobs you had when you were younger?
F: Let’s see… I was a bus boy. I stole a bottle of wine from the restaurant and got really drunk. I couldn’t go to work the next day. I was too hungover.
S: What kind of restaurant was it?
F: A Mexican restaurant.. Next I was in construction, and maybe I delivered pizzas or something for a day.
S: What year did Pennywise start in?
F: I think ’88.
S: I read about Positive Mental Attitude. (PMA) What was that?
F: PMA? No, Jimmy gets confused sometimes. That was Jason’s band. Jason was in a band called PMA and I was in a band called Con-800. Jimmy was in a couple different bands.
S: Were you guys friends at all before Pennywise started?
F: I knew Jason a little bit, I knew Jimmy a little bit. We all grew up going to the same school. I saw Jason play. That’s when I called him up and said, “Dude. Come on over.” And then we saw Jimmy and asked him to tryout and we got him. Then we got Byron. So, yeah, we knew each other.
S: Did you ever imagine you’d ever have such a following? I mean, this show is sold out just on word of mouth.
F: No, never. It slowly built up, so I’m not surprised.
S: So, are you happy?
F: Yeah. Fuck yeah! Kids go off.
S: How’s the video doing? (Pennywise Home Videos)
F: I don’t know. It’s doing alright.
S: I like it. There’s a lot of cool stuff in it.
F: We tried to do one a little different. You’ve seen a lot of home videos of the bands playing like 15 songs and it’s really fucking boring. We didn’t wanna put any songs in there. We were just gonna fuck around the whole time. We’ve been carrying the cameras around for years, so we tried to get a little bit of everything put together. It turned out pretty cool. Their could’ve been a lot more shit in there, but people would’ve gotten in trouble.
S: What’s with that thing at the end where you’re looking at the shrunken head?
F: That was a guy that we know that has a head in a jar. I can’t say where. Well, I can say. It’s in Denmark. He stole it from a laboratory. It’s pretty trippin’.
S: Now let’s move on to O.J. What do you think of the whole situation? Did you think he was guilty?
F: Yeah I think he’s guilty. Not because he’s black.
S: Do you think that there would’ve been riots had he been convicted?
F: I don’t think so. The police were too prepared for that shit. There’s just way too much racism in the United States. There’s no way he could’ve been found guilty, because of the fact there were fuckin’ 8 black jurors on there and they’re fed up. It was like a message to the white race saying, “Hey, you wanna beat on Rodney King? You wanna fuckin’ do this, you wanna lie? This man walks!” It’s pretty sick, but 2 people had to die.]
S: And then some jurors said they thought he was guilty after the trial was over. How the fuck do they get away with shit like that?
F: I don’t know, man. Not enough information I guess. The stuff I saw, the evidence I saw, was overwhelming and unquestionable.
S: Some kid I know said you walked off stage at concert where you opened for Biohazard because a bunch of skinheads were starting fights. Is that true?
F: Nope. Wasn’t us.
S: I didn’t think so. But you guys are really anti-violence and everything, right? You know… Fun violence is great, if you consider slamming violent. We’re totally anti-fighting and anti-racism and all that shit. Bigtime.
S: One last question. This is kinda stupid, but it’s been bugging me. On your self-titled album, on the song “Homeless”, there’s a part where Jim is singing, and then he goes, “Ok…that’s it.” Is that part of the song, or where there just no words to go with the rest of the music?
F: He just said it there.
S: Alright. It’s answered now! Thank’s a lot for your time.
Interview by : Shane Rodack