Abbey: I saw you guys at the
Warped Tour, and I was wondering how was that?
Fletcher: The Warped Tour is pretty grueling. It's long days and
long nights. So you don't have a lot of sleep, but as far as tours
go, it's one of the funest ones that we have ever done. It's kinda
like a family, like a traveling circus party. Pretty much like a
punk rock summer camp in a way. So it's really cool, we've done
it so many times, and it's gotten so big now it's hard to get to
know everybody. I think there was like 49 bands last year or something.
It's still cool though, because a lot of kids want to see certain
bands that others might not want to see, and they'll be able to
have access to do that. I think it really strengthened the whole
lifestyle scene of punk kids.
Abbey: Are there
any bands that you really got to know and hang out with?
Fletcher: Yeah there are tons of bands. We were friends with a lot
before the Warped Tour. Hanging out with bands like NOFX, AFI... The
Vandals are super classic guys. Sum 41 actually turned out to be
a really cool group of kids. You'd think with a big record label
you'd get an ego and blown up head, but they were really nice guys.
Randy: You know like Passport, the Descendents, and
even like The Bosstones
Fletcher: Yeah Mighty Mighty Bosstones, H2O, so many...
There were a few bands that were lame, like Alien Ant Farm. They
thought that they were really cool, more special than everybody
else, and that they should be on the main stage even though they
are a young band. The Warped Tour isn't about that. It's like everybody
climbs the ladder and every band gets a chance. Kevin the owner
is really fair. Every once in a while you get a band that doesn't
have that family attitude. I'll play the side stage any day. I don't
care. It's still a fun show. It doesn't matter if you're on the
main stage or side stage. If people want to come see you, you don't
complain. You play your show; you got your crowd in front of you,
that's how it goes. There have been a few bands...
Randy: Not very many. The only one that comes to mind
is Alien Ant Farm. Every band that we've been on the Warped Tour
with has been really cool. There's one other band that comes to
mind, that some people like...
Fletcher: You're not going to say it though.
Randy: No. It's my personal opinion.
Fletcher: There are some bands that will go unmentioned
that aren't that cool but we'll give them a free pass, cause there
might be a couple of cool members.
Randy: The only band that really seemed like a bunch
of fucking assholes and didn't get it about the Warped Tour, and
probably didn't belong there, was Alien Ant Farm.
But you know what, it was just the singer. The rest of the guys
in the band were pretty cool, but the singer was all "we're not
a punk band if you want to see a punk band go over to another stage,
get the fuck out of here, we don't want you in front of us! We're
not Pennywise or Rancid or H20, GO over there!" I don't know, just
a weird guy.
Randy: I mean he even made lame comments about his
hairdo. He had a special name for it.
Fletcher: Just not our kind of people. Now their songs
are popular, just because they played a Michael Jackson cover. Go
figure the music industry man... it's crazy.
Abbey: Have you heard that Disney
might be buying out the Van's Warped Tour, and if so are you guys
still going to play there?
Haven't heard that, but I could defiantly imagine that. I know Launch.com
bought it from Kevin originally, then Yahoo bought Launch, and they
didn't want anything to do with the Warped Tour. So they sold it
back to Kevin for like a dollar. I know that Kevin has had all kinds
of offers. We've been doing the whole punk rock thing, Randy and
me, for like 22 years or something, pretty old you know.
Randy: (laughs) Yeah... (Says to Abbey) you've got
cool shoes though.
Fletcher: So before you were born we were both playing in
Fletcher: I know it's kind
of crazy to think, and yeah, pretty much old enough to be your dad,
and he's (Randy) old enough to be your grandpa.
Fletcher: We've seen this whole transformation of like the old days
when it was all underground and real rebellious to be a punk rocker.
Everybody hated you, and shows were small, and there was no money,
it was all about being a rebel and being yourself. Now it's kinda
transformed into this lifestyle of surf, skate, snowboard, motocross,
like extreme sports and punk rock, pop punk, it's turned into a
whole way of life. The Warped Tour whether it's owned by Disney
or Target or whatever, there's still going to bands out there doing
it. It's kinda strange... I mean, Disney. I like Disney; I grew
up on Walt Disney man.
Randy: The question would more be would they want us
to do it.
Disney owns a lot of things. They own Hollywood records, Viacom,
MTV. It's kinda like what people do is they try to monopolize something.
They see a good thing and start buying up all the factions of it,
and all of the sudden they own all the night clubs were all the
gigs are, and they own the rights to the beer, they own the band,
the label that the bands are on, they own MTV... It's like, "OK we
put the band out, we can for sure get them on the radio stations,
because we own all the radio stations, now we can get them on MTV..."
When you start monopolizing like that, it kinda sucks because you
have like... What do you have when you turn on MTV TRL? You have like
10 bands to choose from, it's like Brittany spears, N'Sync, Backstreet
Boys, Limp Bizkit, System of a Down, it's very small. There are
hundreds of thousands of bands out there that are great bands. You're
never going to see on MTV, or hear on the radio, that kids need
to go out and explore and find cause corporations take over and
have the power. We don't get played on MTV because we're on an independent
label. Our videos are too hard for MTV, and we'll probably never
get played on MTV because that's just how it is in this world. So
the Warped Tour, it's already been corporized in the last couple
of years. I mean Target was the sponsor last year you know. But
know Target is selling Pennywise albums. Never before though. It's
like anything that people think are cool that other people don't,
if they are cool, eventually everybody wants a piece of the action.
All of the sudden Tony hawks super cool, and Shaq O' Neil is playing
Tony hawk's Playstation game. It's interesting to see skateboarding
and punk rock go from being these bad underground things, and surfing
from being pot smoking hippies, and now its in the mainstream.
Since we're a skateboarding zine do any of you guys in the band
Fletcher: I skate to the liquor store occasionally.
Randy: I used to skate all the time but you get old.
We skate a little bit. I take my dog around the block and have her
pull me on my skateboard, but the last time I did that I hit a bump
and she yanked me off the skateboard and I went flying about 10
feet and landed on everything.
Fletcher: I grew up skating like everyday of my life.
Back yard pools and anything you can skate. When you get to the
point where your getting hurt and you're in a band and you're breaking
your wrist or whatever, as you get old the concrete gets harder.
Randy: You got to start prioritizing.
Fletcher: Byron still skates a bit, but he likes riding
motocross now too. And that's totally scary. We still skate, but
not like hard core. Front-side, backside airs are about where I
found my limitations back in the day. It's more transportation now.
Abbey: When did you guys start
Fletcher: Pennywise was started in 1988.
Randy: Back when they didn't have electricity.
Fletcher: It was a long time ago, like 13 years or
something like that. Its been a long haul.
Abbey: What do you guys think
about getting air-play now?
Fletcher: Our whole stance on
radio throughout the years since we've been a band, we've never
been played on the radio. And people always used to say, "Oh you
need to change your style, you need to be more like this to be on
the radio." We're like, "We do what we do, and this is what we believe
in, and that's how we have fun." Eventually radio stations start
saying "We kind of like this, we're gonna start playing them." One
album got a little bit of air-play, but not much. Then the next
one got a little bit more, then this last one got even more. It
was kinda cool having Fuck Authority on the radio. For us
it was like a victory. How many songs have you heard that have the
"f" word as the title being played on the radio, yet alone Fuck
Authority? The radio station was like, "This is what Pennywise
is about." It's kinda like a cliché song, but it was kinda
a tribute to TSOL and Wasted Youth. Wasted Youth had a song called
Fuck Authority, and TSOL had a song called Silent Majority.
So it was kinda like, for us it had a good meaning. Regardless,
if there was one song we wanted to be played on the radio it was
that one, and it wound up getting played. It didn't last that long.
Sept. 11 kinda put a damper on it because the song was pretty hardcore.
Then at that point, everybody was like this song isn't appropriate
at this time. We agreed so they pulled the song, and that was it.
Radio, it's good to expose the band to new fans and stuff, but at
the same time we love the fans we have and we want to keep the fans
we have. We just kinda hopefully do it on our own terms. We don't
have to jump through a lot of hoops. A lot of these bands out there
just basically paying to get played on the radio, we just got played
because we've been around for so long and they liked our music.
I totally agree, if you aren't changing your style of music, you're
just doing what you do, and the radio changes. They change their
format and all of the sudden they're accommodating your type of
music. I think that as long as your doing what you believe in, why
not have it on the radio? Why limit yourself to only be heard by
a few people? You know, like fans that have been around since day
one... It's like special to have a band that's like your secret. Not
everyone knows about it. It's really trivial to get hung up on who
else is listening to the band you like. We're going to do what we
do regardless of how many people are listening to us. It shouldn't
matter. I don't listen to the radio that much cause I don't like
the music they play. But if they play really hard core, or just
bands that I like I'd listen to the radio, you know...
Fletcher: I definitely think that radio has gotten
better. If you look back like 10 years ago, they were playing Duran
Duran; just total shit! The whole "new wave" thing, and then there
was the whole pop like Michael Jackson. CRACK and the alternative
stations weren't really playing that kind of stuff, but then you
know, there was just a bunch of shit that I personally didn't like.
Then all of the sudden, it's cool to have hard shit like Limp Bizkit,
System of a Down, Rage Against the Machine... Those are all bands
that I listen to, I like, so now when I turn on the radio, I'm like
"Wow!" I can actually turn it on and hear something that has some
balls and stuff. Eventually we fit in, and we've always said, "Let
them come to us. We're not going to go to them; we're not going
to change ourselves, who we are, to be part of them. They're eventually
going to come around to what we do." And it happened. It's on a
small scale for us compared to most bands.
Randy: If we never get played on the radio again, we
won't care. Ya know? We'll still be playing shows, making records,
and doing our thing.
What have been the major changes since your start in '88?
Fletcher: Major change would be that Jason, our original bass player
passed away, and Randy took over. That's probably the most major
change. In general, nothing's really changed. We're pretty much
the same guys. Everyone's a little wacky in their own little ways.
I think we were charging $10 for T-shirts back then, and we are
still charging $10 for T-shirts now. It's like we try to always
keep the fans in mind, and what would be good for the fans, to keep
them coming back. And that's writing albums that sound like Pennywise
every time. Not all the sudden to be a ska band, cause ska is popular.
Or being a new metal band, cause new metal is popular. So I think
we've been pretty consistent. We try to keep the ticket prices low,
try to keep merchandise prices low, try to make every show feel
like a party for the kids. No one's driving Ferraris so, we must
be doing something wrong.
Abbey: Over the years, has writing
songs become more natural to you?
Fletcher: It's never really easy, because everyone's so passionate
in the band. It's not just one guy writing songs. Everybody in the
band writes songs. Jim will come up with a whole song done, Randy
will come in with a whole song done, I'll come in with a part and
we'll collaborate. So it's a constant fight of like, "Should we
do it this way or that way?" It's become more natural. Sometimes
we'll play an old song that we thought was really hard 10 years
ago, and now we play it and it's really easy. You're like "Oh man
that used to be really hard to play." I think it's just we learned
how to play punk rock better and better 13 years later. It's not
hard to write songs, but it's hard to have everybody agree that
it's a Pennywise song. Pennywise is about 4 people, and about the
fans too. So we're constantly thinking, "That's a really good song
man. That could be a huge song." People would be like, "That's a
hit song." We had a song on the last record that everyone was like,
"That's the single! That's the hit!" And we're like "OK, we're just
going to take that one off..." And we took it off because we just
didn't think it was right for the band at the time. It's not that
hard, but it's hard.
As far as writing albums, I think our albums have consistency of
like what type of music; we try to stick true to our roots, you
know? The music we like, and putting out albums that are going to
be pennywise albums. So every time we go in, we kinda have a vision
of where we want to go. We just try to add different elements onto
it. It gets challenging writing albums in the fact that you try
to find the way to be different, without being too different, cause
all the sudden you're playing music that you don't even like.
Abbey: Land of the Free
is obviously strongly based on politics, but what has been your
inspiration for your other records?
Fletcher: It varies every
time we write a record. We write what's going on in our lives at
that time. So you could have a record that has a couple songs about
friends on drugs, it could be anything. We never set out with a
topic; it's just what comes out while we're writing. Land of
the Free, there was just so much political stuff, with the elections
and the LAPD, the scandals going on in our city with all the corruption
and stuff; a lot of school shootings and gun control issues. There
were just so many things that were of a political nature. We were
just like "Man, there's just so much wrong with this country, we
love America, but we hate the problems." It's like there's so many
fucking problems. You go to other countries like Europe and stuff;
yeah everyone's got problems, but guns aren't legal there. Cops
don't even carry guns in England. You might get in a bar fight and
someone might stab you, but the whole way of life over there is
just so much different. We've traveled all over and seen so much,
that we come back here and you hear, "Oh yeah your friend OD'd on
heroin," or you know "This guy got shot in a drive-by." Randy's
cousin's friend just got in a drive-by and got shot in the head
just sitting at a stoplight. How's he doing by the way?
Randy: He's doing good.
Fletcher: ...But it's like you hear that stuff, and you
just get frustrated. You know the reason why guns are legal in America
is because the NRA has so much power, and they make so much money,
and they're paying off the fucking politicians, and the politicians
won't pass the gun control bills. There are just a lot of problems,
so we sing about them. It pisses us OFF! We're in a good position,
we're making good livings, we're having fun doing what we do. But
we could be singing love songs, we could be singing something a
little more commercial to help us become a bigger band. But these
are things that affect us. We don't live in the ghetto; we live
in like a nice beach community. But we still know gangbangers and
people that have been killed in gang related things. We know tons
of people that have died of drug overdoses, and on and on and on.
That's kinda where the inspiration for Land of the Free came
from. Just being really pissed off.
[Fletcher exits for sound check
and Jim enters]
Abbey: Out of your 7 albums,
which one was your favorite?
Jim: Typical "PC" answer... We
like them all. But I like Unknown Road and Land of the
Free. Out off all of them, Unknown Road is probably the
Abbey: Is there a habit or a
pre-show ritual that you guys do before a show?
needs about 3 hours of drinking to get himself ready... I like to
at some point before we play, have 5 minutes with no one around.
Even if it's an hour, just to think with complete silence and to
Abbey: How have the events in
New York effected you guys?
Jim: Wow... A lot of ways; especially being a political band like
ours. We've written a lot of lyrics about our country, and the things
that we've done to cause a lot of outside hatred towards America.
I mean you could not be surprised by what happened. It was obviously
a horrific thing to watch on TV all day long. But at the same time,
especially our last album Land of the Free was trying to
warn people that something like this was coming. In so many terms,
that's why there was a lot of anger and mediacy to our album. Unless
as a nation we wake up to things that are happening out in the world,
and how bad we are hated, we're probably going to be woken up to
that false sense of security. And we were. After that happened,
I was just kinda numb... I really don't have the desire to write
a political song right now. Now it's like the aftermath. We've been
screaming it for so long about how bad it could get. Then when it
happened you're just kinda like "Fuck... I feel like writing stupid
songs now." There's a major reaction to want to do that and pretend
it's not there, but I think when we start writing, we're going to
have to address what went on, and try to learn some lessons from
Randy: It's hard to find words to explain how you feel
about it. Even though you can foresee it coming, how are you supposed
to know how to react after its happened... It's crazy to realize
that there's so many people in the world that feel so differently
about life and so differently from the way we see it. Just because
of you're differences, they want you to get... It's not like "live
and let live." That's kinda really a shocker thing. It kinda makes
you want to become really defensive and hate back. I think it's
just a matter of time to let reality sink in before you can really
know how you feel about it. Just thinking about traveling, and going
places to go play shows oversees and stuff... There are so many different
variables of what could happen. That's definitely a change.
Abbey: In ten years
where do you guys see your band and see yourselves?
Jim: That's a good question...
Randy: Ten more years? (laughs)
Jim: I think hopefully in 10 years we'll be playing
shows and putting out albums that we still feel strongly about.
But I think naturally for a band like us, we're not young puppies
anymore trying to break into some big MTV world, so there are different
priorities for us. I think we just want to put out music that we
can stand behind. As far as touring goes, more recently, I just
want to do it when it's fun. It's not anything anymore to think
we're going to go play 100 or 200 shows a year. With each album,
we're going to try to get to the major places that we know we have
fans that are going to come out. And then, that's it. Whereas other
bands that are starting, they're going to try to go everywhere and
break markets and things like that. I think now our priorities are
giving our fans good records and coming to play in their town once
a year. That should be enough. I hope so.
Abbey: I want to thank you for
doing this interview with Real Skate. Do you guys have anything
that you'd like to add?
Jim: Read Noam Chomsky's Version
9-11. I just bought that book today, and it's very very interesting.
If you want to get a new perspective on 9-11... It's all his interviews
of what he thinks the causes of it were... Read a book!
Randy: I'm very good looking.
Abbey: You want us to print that?
Randy: Yes, it's true I'm very good looking.