V: What happened last time you came to Australia? There were rumours you got kicked out of the country…
J: No, we didn’t get kicked out, we got into some problems with the musicians union and the department of immigration or something like that, they wanted to prevent us from playing because we didn’t have the proper work visas and stuff like that, we kind of just went under the table so we had to cancel our first week of shows and we ended up getting a rush done on our visas and we ended up doing two thirds of the tour.
V: Even though you’re on Fat Wreck Chords, this tour is all arranged on a Do It Yourself basis, is that a band policy?
J: I guess it’s sort of a band policy, I don’t know how the other Fat bands arrange their tours to tell you the truth, we just wanted to keep the costs down and keep the door prices down and not have the middle people extracting the extra bucks.
V: I don’t know if it was conscious in you guys, but there seemed to me to be a fairly significant change between the two albums… was it a conscious thing?
J: I don’t think it was a conscious thing to change the sound of the record, I think we just wanted to make this record a bit more overtly political so that people can understand where we’re coming from ideologically because the band were being perceived by a lot of crowds as just being a fun punk rock band or whatever and we were getting some more agro types out to the shows and we just did that to try and weed out some of the morons from the crowd and it seems to have worked, for here in North America anyway. We seem to be having less problems at shows.
V: How do you react to things like that when you see people getting crushed by these guys that are totally just going ‘yeah, punk’ and they’ve seen it on MTV or something?
J: Well we just try to encourage alternative forms of dancing to the macho slam dancing and stage diving that people seem to learn off MTV or other popular forms of media. We try to encourage people to dance a little less violently without having to make it apparent that so and so is tougher than so and so in the pit, I don’t really see anything positive in that. Every show’s different from the previous one and different crowds are different so we can only do so much.
V: Have there been any really bad cases where you’ve thought, oh, we’re going to make all our songs slow now?
J: Actually instances like that are fairly rare, we have had a couple of times where we’ve had to stop because someone’s been hurt or if the crowd have just gone too bonkers but actually the last few tours the crowds have been pretty decent.
V: You mentioned earlier that people get those ideas from the mainstream media, does the band have any policies regarding that – like, I know that you don’t do band photos…
J: Yeah. I think that’s an ongoing thing – we don’t have anything carved in stone about that but generally we just try to stay away from corporate popular media because we’ve never been represented fairly through it. Here in our home city we’ve been kind of blacklisted in the press. But of course there have been reporters who’ve been fairly decent to us so I can’t write off the whole thing. You can use the mainstream media for positive purposes but generally we try to stick to alternative press.
V: I suppose you’ve been asked this a lot because your lyrics are very overtly political but is there ever some sort of difficulty in finding the balance between the lyrics and the music?
J: I would have to say that I think that the politics and the words have a priority over the music. I think in terms of that previous record I think it’s kind of out there but … I don’t know. They’re kind of inter-related in a way but I don’t know, it’s just what we do – we’re a band and we enjoy playing music. But we are always going to have the political commentary in the lyrics rather than just doing a political records and then doing a records of self-indulgent love songs or something like that.
V: Are all the band members in agreement on the politics?
J: Generally, yes. We’re not a liberal and a conservative and a socialist or something like that. We’re all pretty much on the same wavelength. We have slight differences in certain things and how we regard certain issues but generally we’re pretty much in agreement on most stuff.
V: One thing that I found really interesting and thought-provoking on a personal level was the comments in the last CD on having pets. Could you explain your views on that subject?
J: I can’t speak for the other two guys but I think if you’re going to have an animal companion or pet, you should be treating it like you treat yourself I guess. I don’t agree with people going out to buy a pet like they do a car or some kind of commodity where you go out and get a 100% Dalmatian or something like that just to have one. I can’t see myself really agreeing with that but I don’t have a problem with people having animal companions. I think it’s kind of good if they need it and you can take it into your home and take care of it.
V: So what do you think of things like free range meat, as opposed to normal meat?
J: Well that’s kind of tough. I am of the opinion that it isn’t a necessary part of the diet because we can obviously have proper nutrition without it. But if it came down to some bizarre equation of whether people supported free range meat a opposed to factory meat than I would say obviously go with the free range option. If they were committed meat eaters, I guess.
V: Do you ever have difficulties in keeping up your standards – do you ever sort of wake up and say, ‘look, I’ve got electricity and you need to mine for that’?
J: I think that involves balancing what you want to do with your life and how you want to make an impact. Obviously we’re not purists, we’re flying to Australia, we’re going to be renting a van and burning gas and stuff like that and we tour in a van all across North America. I think the only way to get away from that would be to adopt a quasi-religious life style where you’re living in a commune or something like that and you’re doing everything to avoid damaging the environment. But then you can’t have a band or anything like that.
V: And that would make it harder to influence other people to your way of thinking as well…
J: Yeah. That’s a kind of retreatist ideology and that’s fine for people who want to do that but that’s not really where we’re coming from. So we just try to balance the good with the bad I guess.
V: Something that has been a really big issue at the moment (and has been for a while now) is the internet – what are your general ideas on that?
J: Personally I’m a little bit intimidated by these new technologies but we have access to it. Chris has been working on setting up a website actually and we’ve been doing it in conjunction with Fat Wreck Chords. So soon we’ll have a page on that and see how far we can get with that. So I think it’s a good idea to check it out definitely, but I haven’t really done so myself.
V: Obviously you think that there is some hope, otherwise you wouldn’t bother trying to change people, but how positive are you that you’re going to change people’s ways?
J: We’re obviously not trying to change the world or overthrow the capitalist system by ourselves but I think the main thing that kind of gives us an idea that we’re affecting some people is just through the mail that we get and we actually get a fair amount of correspondence from people encouraging us to keep doing what we’re doing. So it obviously gets through to some people so I think it’s worthwhile. I was drawn into a lot of politics and stuff and it helped determine the way I decided to get my education and stuff so I guess if it helped me out, maybe it can help some other people out. I think the information is out there and if people here the info then they might be interested. I think that one of the main functions of the mainstream media is to keep these issues out of the public eye and I think there is interest in the public that wants to see or hear some of these issues but they just don’t get the chance to in today’s popularized society.
V: You mentioned your education – what did you do?
J: I went to University for about five years and basically took stuff that I wanted to take – different political and social courses and I can’t really advocate people using the Universities for stuff like that because it seems to be getting so expensive and more related to corporate interests at least here in Canada. But instead of going to do engineering, I chose to do liberal arts and had some good classes. I definitely learned a lot but over here right now the funding as been cut so dramatically that only faculties that have corporate ties are getting the scholarships and things like that… technological equipment. Areas and faculties that promote critical thinking and stuff like that are getting left behind and it’s just becoming so expensive that banks are benefiting highly from students who are forced to go through and get student loans and they just make a killing on interest. Also, there’s not really a lot of work over here for graduates, so a lot of money ends up getting sucked up by banks through the education process. They’re benefiting more financially than University graduates are… it’s a weird kind of construct. It definitely ties into the government influencing for corporate law firms and then just gobbling up the last free dollars.
Thanks to Jord for the interview!
Interview by : Vanessa Bowden