We phoned up Joey Cape on a Saturday morning to discuss and past, present and future of Lagwagon. Warped Tour, Bad Astronaut vinyl and Arcade Fire are just some of the many topics we discussed. Thanks to everyone who helped out by submitting questions for this interview:
I know you played some shows with NOFX recently and these are the first shows Lagwagon has played in a little while. What was it like hitting the road as Lagwagon again?
It was great. I think thereís always kind of a honeymoon period when you stop for awhile and the first couple of times you play together again it just feels great. This time itís lasting a little longer than usual. (Laughs) Iím still enjoying it. I mean, when youíve been in a band as long as we have thereís a certain amount thatís going to feel like a repeat, thereís not a ton of inspiration going on all of the time, so Iím pretty delighted right now because the last few shows have felt great. Itís been really positive and hopefully itíll last. Weíll see.
Yeah, you guys have that tour with Cobra Skulls and Nothington coming up plus a few festivals in Europe.
Yeah, we have a lot of touring coming up, I think weíll be touring almost the whole year, pretty much all over the world. Weíre lining a lot of it up right now. Itís cool, I mean, sometimes we take breaks. I think one of the reasons our band takes long breaks is because we kind of thrive on that energy and that inspired feeling. Sometimes you have to take breaks to get that. Thatís why bands break up I think. My band doesnít break up because we know when to take a break.
I personally have to ask if youíre coming to Canada?(Edit: The band was confirmed for Pouzza Fest in Montreal a few days after this interview)
I think we are, weíre booking something now and itís in process. Itís always a bit of hush-hush before we confirm dates for sure, but weíre working on something. I canít say when or what because Iíll get in trouble. Promoters donít like it. Itís been awhile, but every so often someone in the band will mention a date weíre not supposed to post and all hell breaks loose and they get pissed off about it. Itís sort of ridiculous, who cares? But yeah, weíre definitely coming. Weíd never skip Canada, Canadaís been way too nice to us. Thatís a big generalization by saying Canada, but itís true, we always have great tours.
Awesome. Moving on to your box set, would you say you have a least favourite Lagwagon record? If so, which one?
I donít know, honestly there are things about every record I donít enjoy. And there are things about every record where I go ĎThis is good, Iím proud of it.í I donít know if I have a least favourite record, but I have a least favourite moment on record and it has to do with the first one. When I was listening to all those records over again and collecting all the outtakes, I think I spent three years working on that box set and the last year was pretty much concentrated working on that in my off time. I got closer than Iíve ever been to our evolution and to those records and during that time, I think the Duh record had the most painful moments so maybe Iíll pick that one. But thatís just because itís the oldest, you know? Youíre the greenest and when you look back, thereís just things on that record. I mean, we made that whole record in three days. Tracked, mixed, everything in three days. Somehow we did that record in three days and you can hear it, thereís certain moments on that record that are so out of tune and I know we didnít perform them as well as we could have performed them. But I donít know, I donít know if I have a least favourite. Nothing is going to be perfect or else youíll stop doing it. And those periods of time truly reflect the band and represent where we were. I do think we could have improved the most on that one however.
How long would it take you to record a more recent Lagwagon record?
It depends. The last one we did that was a full-length, I think we did that in 11 days and that was pretty fast too. But that was also because we demoed first and knew exactly what we were going to do. It just kind of happened and I think the best records should happen faster, unless you spend years adding to something else so maybe it becomes more grandiose. There is no average for us because weíve done records in three days, records in a week, two weeks and I think we spent three months working on one. For no real reason, we just kept working on it and we had the budget. That was way back when records sold and looking back its like ĎWhy? Why did we do that?í If we wanted to make it a better record, we could have just rehearsed more and then recorded it faster. It was just because we could. The idea that limitations are good, I like that, there is a phrase I canít remember, but I believe itís good to have limitations set on you. I donít know what it would be like if we did a record now. It all starts with the drummer, if he gets the drums done fast it kind of sets the tone.
A lot of bands switch labels over the years, but youíve stuck with Fat Wreck Chords. Could you ever imagine going anywhere else?
Well, even if we did, thereís nowhere else to go now as far as Iím concerned. I know the options can be limited, but nowadays there really are no options because people who are pretending theyíre doing well are not. Itís just not a climate where anyone takes any kind of chances on anything. I donít know, the only thing I can imagine us doing is going it alone like with my solo stuff. Itís easier and you kind of cut out all the middlemen. But the fact is we love being on Fat and we love everyone whoís there, whoeverís left there, theyíre all really close friends of mine and we live in the same city. We have zero problems or issues with Fat, we never have had any problems and thatís a success in itself. I just know so many people in bands, Iíve heard all the drama and we just havenít experienced any of it. So weíre totally lucky and you have to consider that always. Itís why we havenít done anything else, thereís no need to fix something that isnít broken.
Thereís a user question that sort of builds on this theme. 10 years ago did you ever imagine the music industry would be in the state itís in now?
10 years ago I knew they were, but I donít know. Itís hard to draw the line, the distinction between when you realized that things were headed towards the end. The end of the traditional dinosaur way of doing things. But really only in the last few years have I kind of understood, maybe 6 or 5 years ago, I realized it was going to be free. Music was going to be free. People still charge for it, but relatively speaking itís free. It doesnít make the money that it did before, there was a time when we started, in the first five years of the band, where it was just a perfect world for indie labels to thrive. There was a harmony amongst all the different people working in the industry and Iím just really lucky to have been a part of it. Because people growing up now donít realize there is something to be said for that. If you want music, if you want people to spend time working on art, it helps if they donít have to go to a job, or two day jobs now, the way it is people have to work a lot more. I donít whine about it at all, I think being an artist is nothing about money. Ultimately I think itís something that you have to do because itís in you. I just think itís funny, thereís kind of an irony that anyone can be an artist now. Anyone. And itís almost like you have to be or youíre not a whole person. Thereís this idea now that everyone can make film, everyone can make music, because they can. Because of the digital age and the software that exists for anyone to do it on their laptop at home or even on their phones now. And somehow people feel that they should, but I donít think thereís ever been a time in history where there werenít people that had a real passion or a real conviction for those things. Obviously not everyoneís an artist so mediocrity is being created. It isnít like it is and if youíre a person like me, itís totally futile to complain about it. I just see it as funny. I do what I do because I have to, itís what I know how to do, and if I donít I go insane. I have to make music, but like anyone else doing it now, itís near impossible to make a living. You have to redefine how youíre going to do it and for most people, theyíre going to quit and make art privately. And people like me are going to have a lot less. I have to tour a lot more than I used to, I have to play all the time because itís the only way I can pay my bills. Iím not complaining, but Iíve been touring for over 20 years and itís not that fun. I like my kid, I like to be at home, like everyone else. Itís hard because no matter how you talk about this stuff people are going to phrase it like youíre whining or bitching. Thatís how people are going to take it, but I donít give a shit. It is how it is and things are different. Itís easier to get exposure, but itís harder otherwise because thereís too much. A lot of people donít know what things were like and donít understand the value of it. And I canít fault people for that, theyíre just younger and grew up in a different time. Its way oversaturated now, I hear so much music from so many sources all the time. It becomes a white noise after awhile.
This kind of leads into my next question, someone was wondering if you did listen to the newer generation of bands and if you could list any that you liked? Is it all just white noise?
No, not at all. I listen to a ton of new music, because I love music and I find stuff I like. Itís funny because the definition of new can vary. I love Arcade Fire, I just find them to be one of the most interesting and creative bands doing something right now, I think theyíre amazing. I love their approach and for me, this old man, they just donít sound like theyíre following anything. Theyíre just doing what they do and they do it brilliantly so I really appreciate them. Their music makes me feel and every new record they put out I buy. Anything anyone gives me Iíll listen to, but itís rare that I really connect to it like I do with Arcade Fire. Of course I listen to all my peers, all the people who are doing the acoustic stuff that Iíve been doing. Like my friend Dave Hause, I think heís great. Itís fun, I enjoy listening to people I know. Itís a nice feeling, itís like you get a different level of depth when you know people.
Someone was wondering what you thought about the Warped Tour nowadays and if youíd consider playing it again?
I would consider, but itís not a tour that I would want to be on. Iíve been on it many times and the first few times I enjoyed it. On the positive side, youíre on tour with so many bands and thatís fun. Itís basically a party everyday with tons of people with common interests, everyone likes that. Itís totally a blast, but you only play 30 minutes, which is a joke, and I donít feel like you can make any great impact, it just feels short to me. The other thing is the long drives, some of them are really long. Thereís a lot of locations in the States I wouldnít want to play normally and thereís a lot of places Iíd rather go. Thereís almost too much music, itís just back and forth all day, thereís no time to really savour it. So those are the things I donít like. And also, at some point or another, the whole point behind a tour like that is freedom of speech. And at some point or another, when I was on Warped Tour, there were military people talking to boys out in the sun that have been drinking and that rubbed me the wrong way. My band is no stranger to those types of tours, those festival circuits have been around for ages, way before Warped Tour. I see music as a kind of a free thinking left thinking kind of thing and if there is going to be politics mixed in with my music, which Iíd prefer that there is not. But if itís going to be mixed in, Iíd prefer they be left, period. So thatís the way it is for me. I know itís not a big corrupt right wing thing, I know thereís good people on that tour. But that was the last time I did the tour and I remember that day and I remember thinking I didnít want to be on this tour. Iím not afraid to say that. I donít want to be on a tour where theyíre basically drafting people in a hot parking lot full of drunk kids when I know thereís no reason for my country to be at war. I never say never. Maybe we will get offered a bunch of money to do it again someday. Weíll go on a tour like that if they pay us enough and if the right bands are there because itíll be fun. But I donít think thatís ever going to happen.
Whatís the deal with Scorpios and would you considering doing other tours?
Yeah, weíve done a few in Europe already. Weíve done two or three I think. Itís weird because thereís been times weíve played with three quarters of the Scorpios too so it wasnít the full thing. The idea is that if youíre a Scorpio and a musician you can be in the band. We talk about it expanding, but itís funny because not many of the guys we know actually are. Chuck Raganís a Scorpio, Iíve got to get him involved at some point. Itís really fun and thatís the catalyst of what happened. Jon and I did a tour in Europe and it was that sort of thing. Then Tony Sly came on the next one we did and it evolved. I forgot exactly how it happened, I think we were all drunk one night and started saying ĎWe should make a record, it would be great.í So we did, we made most of it at my house. It was just one of those things. Who better to work with than your best friends? And just making music with no pressure, no label, zero consequence and zero reason other than making music. I mean, it always transcends for me anyway, but itís just great when it literally has nothing else that has an effect on it, other than the goal of making music. I want to do a lot more, weíll see. The Lagwagon year, this is the Lagwagon year. Iím going back to work for awhile, but Iím always working on other stuff though. Iím doing another one with Tony Sly right now, we made a split in 2004 and weíre making a new one now. Itís fun because you get to do your own band. I do acoustic Lagwagon songs live already, so itís cool to record and rethink them.
Is there anyone living right now that you havenít had the chance to collaborate with, but would like to?
So many people, I would love to work with anyone I appreciate because when you collaborate good things happen. They have an effect on you and you have an effect on them, something interesting comes out of it. Iíd love to do something with Frank Turner. Dave Hause, Iíve been trying to do something with that guy for awhile, but heís like me, he never stops working. I have a show with him in Toronto coming up though and when we play Iíll hammer him down. Iíd like to do something with him, Daveís my next victim. (Laughs)
Would you guys ever consider putting together a documentary?
Yes, it seems like weíve been talking about that forever. Weíve collected so much video, we have so much footage itís crazy. Part of the problem is we just waited too long, we almost hired someone to help us do it. I think it would take thousands of hours of work and we decided to do it ourselves. At some point our old bass player Jesse spent a year sorting and trying to catalog high points and writing down the actual frames, but it was such an endless project and we didnít always agree. Itís a democracy, thereís five people in this band. Long story short, itís too much work, no one wants to do it, we canít afford to hire anyone to do it anymore and the fact is, itís the worst selling thing to put out. If you take time to put out a DVD, you are going to lose all your time and money on it. No one really wants to back it as a business thing, people will tell you they do, but I donít want to do it with them because theyíll lose money. You have to pay someone to edit it and this would take a thousand hours of editing or something. So whoís going to do that? Iíve had friends over the years that have said theyíll do it for free and Iím sure when you print this someone will contact me saying ĎDude, Iíll totally do that for you.í But the work on our end is huge too, just trying to figure it out. I think the better goal is just to leak it out on YouTube. They donít sell, people take their copy and put it online for everyone to see anyway. Whatís the point of making this concise thing? I donít know, someone would have to take this and weíd have to relinquish any responsibility or involvement and I donít know if that would ever happen.
Any chance of releasing the last two Bad Astronaut records on vinyl?
Good question, thanks for asking. God, I hope so. It pisses me off theyíre not on vinyl, Iím a vinyl collector and it really bums me out. Iím not mad, just sad really. I have to call Virgil and ask, I have no idea whatís happening. Weíve talked for years about doing the vinyl. The first one came out and the others were supposed to be out as well. He had a lot of trouble, itís not an easy business to be in nowadays. I have nothing but sympathy for people who try to keep this stuff going. But I donít know, the ball is sort of in his court. And I have this thing. I feel like all the vinyl from Bad Astronaut should be out on the same label. Itís just this weird OCD thing, otherwise Fat Wreck Chords would love to put them out on vinyl. Thatís as honest as I can be. I forget about it for months at a time and then someone like you reminds me and I realize I should give him a call. But it sort of hurts me to do that because I feel like Iím nagging and I know itís hard to be in his position. Itíll happen for sure either way.
What was your favourite song to cover with Me First and the Gimme Gimmes?
I donít know, theyíre all fun. Well, thereís one thatís not that fun, itís a little boring and too simple, but generally all those songs that we pick are ones that we love. You know that show Shameless on Showtime? Itís so funny, itís so good. I like it anyway, I just started watching the first season and going through the episodes, I think the third or fourth, one of them had a Gimmes song come on, an old Dusty Springfield song called ďI Only Want to Be With YouĒ and Iíll just say that one because right when it started playing I thought ĎWow.í First I was psyched it was on a show I liked because I donít always catch onto those things. And secondly I was like ĎYeah, this was a good choice.í I always liked that song as a kid and I liked the way it came out. And itís a fun one to play, but we never play it live. Iíll have to bring that up at the next gathering.
What do you think youíd be doing right now if you werenít a musician?
I think I would be in medicine, as loosely as I can say that. Just like when you were a little kid, you say stuff like ĎI want to be a fireman, I want to be an astronaut.í I wanted to be a doctor. I always had an interest in that, another possibility is a chef because I love cooking. But who knows, maybe I couldnít handle medical school and that would shut me down. One of those two things probably though.
What do you like to cook?
Casseroles are fun to make, itís sort of a general thing, but I like making sauces. Because you can taste them and they kind of evolve. Theyíre fun to make, but I had to think about that for a second. When youíre making something, youíre tasting it and seeing it evolve. I zone out when I do that and I think I like cooking because itís sort of like meditation. Nothing else is on your mind and nothing distracts you. Painting, I like house painting for that same reason. But I canít actually paint, Iím terrible, I can barely write my own name.
Someone is wondering if youíre into stand-up comedy and if you have a favourite comedian?
I can take them in doses. You know whatís weird about stand-up comedy? Itís sort of like music. You get really into somebody for awhile, you love him, and then all of a sudden heís not funny anymore, you know? Do you get Comedy Central at all? Every so often Iíll see someone I think is funny and Iíll put them in the menu and watch them when theyíre on. Whenever I like a comedian they seem to get really famous and somehow right around the time they get famous, it has nothing to do with how popular they are, I just get them, figure them out and theyíre not funny to me anymore. I have no idea why. Like Dave Chappelle, when I first started watching I loved him. Some of his stuff is dumb, but some of it was right up my alley and I really liked it. Then at one point, something happened, I still think heís funny, but I dunno. I canít name any new comics because I can never remember their names. I like Patton Oswalt, that guy is fun.
Do you have a favourite punk song of all time?
I donít think so, itís hard to have favourite things like that. I might say something is my favourite, but I really mean itís one of my favourites. Thereís so many I love, but if I had to choose, it would most likely be a Ramones song. Probably because they were the first punk band that made sense to me. I think Iíd go with Rocket to Russia or Road To Ruin. I got into the Ramones earlier than that, but I think the first song I heard that I had to hear over and over again was ďSheena is a Punk Rocker.Ē I love that song. And thereís another song, ďI Just Want To Have Something To Do.Ē Either way, they were my first punk band and I love them.
Someone saw in a previous interview that you first started out as a drummer. How are you with drums?
I donít play much anymore, I mean I have a drum set, I have two actually. Basically I moved into this new house and I kind of soundproofed the basement poorly. I tried to do a good job, but I donít think I did enough. The idea was to set up drums in my basement so I could do more than just acoustic, I could start recording loud guitars and drums, just doing stuff at home. And it sucks because I can hit a snare and I bet you could hear it a block away. Iíd like to get my drum chops back because I play every once in awhile. I can play drums, I can play in a band, but itís so physical you have to build your stamina. I can play one song and then Iíve got blisters and Iím exhausted. Itís tiring, drummers are in pretty good shape for what they do, you know? Youíve got to get your dexterity back, whatís going through your head is sometimes hard to translate to your hands, but I will sooner than later have a way to play drums again. I donít know why I quit, I love them. Actually, I do know. Theyíre too loud. I moved into an apartment where I couldnít play my drums so I started picking up a guitar. Guitars are quiet and easy to play anywhere and then all of a sudden youíre a guitar player.
What are some of celebrity fans of Lagwagon that you are aware of? Was Patrick Swayze really a Lagwagon fan?
Thatís completely false and fabricated by us. (Laughs) Because we love saying shit like that, weíre all into Patrick Swayze. Thereís this move called Road House and itís a band favourite. There was a tour or two where that movie was just on repeat, we had this joke where you couldnít press stop. If you stopped it, it was like sacrilege. You werenít allowed to touch, the whole thing had to play the whole tour. So it was just repeated on the bus we were touring in. Iíve seen that movie 100 times probably. Itís super funny. I doubt he was into our band, we were just so into that movie we started telling people that. He was probably into ballet or opera, things like that, the higher finer arts.
And lastly, I know people are interested to know the status of new Lagwagon material at this point?
We talk about it, but thereís no plans. Thereís just talk. Anybody in the band would do it, certain people in the band donít even see a reason to be in the band unless weíre making new music. But Iím not one of them. I have to write the songs and I have to believe we have the right material or that Iím writing properly for the band. And the problem, the reason Lagwagon isnít doing anything new, is because I have no idea who we are right now. I canít try to write a record like that. We tried that with the I Think my Older Brother Used to Listen to Lagwagon EP. I took a bunch of my solo material I had been working on and I took it to the band. I said ĎIím making an acoustic record, but do you think some of these songs would work?í So we worked out five of them or so. I donít know, that EP is weird to me, it doesnít sound like it has an identity. I donít know what my band is, itís hard for someone who isnít a songwriter to get that and it sounds like a cop out, but itís true. I donít want to make something I donít believe in. So itís kind of on me and I donít have songs for the band right now. Maybe Iím getting old, I donít know, but right now I donít have the proper material. I actually believe that our band has never done anything we didnít want to do. Even that EP, we wanted to do it and we felt like it, it felt right when we recorded. But in retrospect, I donít think itís as pure as our other records in that unified kind of soul of the band. If we ever do record more material, what I would like to do, and not everyone in the band agrees so weíll see if we come to an agreement. But I like the idea of just releasing a song or two at a time. I donít think thereís anything wrong with that now, the album concept is sort of a dead thing anyway. Lots of people just randomly throw songs into their players now and shuffle away. I think being a vinyl collector is the main reason to want a full-length. But itís hard to get peopleís heads around that kind of thing, some people in my band donít want to let go of the romance and I understand that too. But if we ever get to the point where weíre like ĎFuck it, letís just make a recordí then of course we will. Every once in awhile Iíll write a song I think is perfect for Lagwagon, but then it always turns into this issue of a full-length. I just shut down because I donít have a full-length right now. I donít see what it is, I donít know what to do. Letís see what happens this year. Terrible answer, but itís the truth.
Thank you for interviewing the caper, it was good to get updated on everything. Glad to hear Bad Astronaut will eventually come to vinly and I feel bad he's so jaded on the music industry/making albums due to low sales because I'd love a new Lagwagon album. and I don't like the "release a couple songs here and there" philsophy like the Bouncing Souls did a couple years ago. I'd much rather hear they're working on a full length, but if the inspiration isnt there, i'd rather he not force it. I'm OK with "resolve" being their final album if that's what it turns out to be. kind of a bummer of an album to end on though. and the EP was kind of disjointed sounding, but i liked the Lagwagon versions of his solo stuff more than his solo album.
Nice work Deborah, Iam the older brother that used to and still does (from time to time) listen to Lagwagon... Their last headlining show in Calgary had a special feeling in the room... 08' I think it was
Nice work Deborah, Iam the older brother that used to and still does (from time to time) listen to Lagwagon... Their last headlining show in Calgary had a special feeling in the room... 08' I think it was
Thanks! And yeah, it probably was. I remember seeing Lagwagon with MxPx and TAT in Winnipeg in 2008.