Joey Cape interview
JOEY CAPE INTERVIEW
Randal “Joey” Cape needs no introductions. Even though he is best known as the frontman of the seminal California punk rock band Lagwagon, Joey has (been) part of Bad Astronaut, Bad Loud, Me First and the Gimme Gimmes, the Scorpios to name just a few. After meeting him in July in Brooklyn during his acoustic tour with Tony Sly (the best concert I have ever attended, period), not even a week later Fat Wreck Chords announced Tony’s loss. Joey’s Facebook announcements got immediately silent. Still thousands of fans from all over the world left words of support for Tony’s best friend on his Facebook wall. During a Lagwagon’s concert on a boat around Manhattan on Sat, Oct 20th, I had the pleasure of interviewing the Joey and asking him some pretty personal questions. Here is what he had to say.
SD: You are a pretty prolific artist, playing so much more than being the frontman of Lagwagon. What is the secret of being able to part of all these bands you have been into for all these years?
JC: Well, I like music. That’s pretty simple, that’s what I like to do and that’s what I somehow learned how to do and I don’t know how do much of anything else so I just stick with it.
SD: Lots of people now many Lagwagon songs by heart, but they have no idea about the origins of the “Lagwagon” name. Can you tell us a few words about that?
JC: My (older) brother actually came up with this name. When were kids my mom, my brother and I were always late to school, late everywhere, because my mom would be late to pick us up and drive us anywhere. She drove a station wagon, one of those long cars, that we called the “lagwagon”, because it was always late. I remember when all the other kids were gone home from school, we were sitting there waiting for 45 minutes or an hour. So it was sort of a funny thing and many years later in life we were touring and we have this vehicle that is not reliable, breaking down a lot, and we basically started calling it the lagwagon. At that time we were called “Section 8” and when we had to change our name, we made a list and the “Lagwagon” name stuck.
SD: How did get in contact with punk rock and how did you learn how to play guitar?
JC: I got into punk rock through a guy called Matt Davis who was one of my best friends, but I actually learned how to play guitar much earlier than that. My brother was a guitar player, and he got me started on drums. My dad played guitar and piano. There was always a guitar laying around at our house, you know. My brother over the years fit me around his guitars and – as a drummer – I picked up his guitar and learned to play some chords. I found it much easier to travel. If you live in a shitty apartment you cannot really have a drum set. As far as punk rock is concerned, I was actually kind of a metal head, you know, in the late ‘70s and the ‘80s. I think the first punk album I was ever given was a Ramones record, and I liked it. And I remember getting the DK (Dead Kennedy) album “Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables” and that album changed my mind. I started to trade over from the big heavy metal rock stuff into punk. And then Matt Davis drafted me to play drums into his punk band and he basically set me down and schooled me like “these are the bands you should know”, and I liked it.
SD: I feel every musician triggers emotions differently. Some of your best work – in my opinion – has spoken of your self life reflection. Do you feel that the recent events (with a great friend passing by) have sparked your creative side or have dissolved it?
JC: In the past events in my life helped me write songs because song writing is kind of a cathartic thing, it is sort of therapeutic. But every once in a while it actually does the opposite. Like with Tony Sly passing by, it did the opposite for me. I just shut down. I am not really writing much these days because I am still kind of dealing with that. I have been writing some riffs, some music, but not lyrics. It is weird. I am actually pretty happy about that because a lot of people asked me if I am going to write a record inspired by that, but I feel that it would kind of belittle it, it would sort of diminish the big thing this tragic event really is. I am sure I will write something, but just not now.
SD: Where do you take inspiration as far as album covers are concerned?
JC: Lagwagon lyrics are always so serious, so I feel it is nice that the band with the album covers has a little bit of fun. I think we only had one record that has a serious title, called Resolve, that was all dedicated to Derrick Plourde (original drummer for Lagwagon and Bad Astronaut), that we lost. Songs are usually pretty serious, lyrics are always pretty heavy in our records, but then think about “Let’s talk about feelings” or “Hoss” for the album covers…they are definitely funny stuff.
SD: If you could go back in time, what would you change of your work as a musician?
JC: I don’t know. I can’t say nothing because I thought about that, like everyone thinks things like that. Changes are weird because everybody thinks about going back in time. I am a strong believer that you are lucky if you experience anything in this life. I don’t like to think what success means, you know. It is silly for a guy like me to think about that sort of things. I mean, my life has been amazing. I have been everywhere in the world, many times. I played for people all over the world, I am as lucky as you can be. So in that regard I would probably change nothing. But are there things in my life that I would change, that are non-musical, that might effect certain outcome? Of course, just like anybody else.
SD: In an interview (http://www.enochmagazine.com/articles/band-interviews/interview-with-joey-cape) you claim to be introverted. Do you think playing in a band changed your personality over the years?
JC: I don’t think I am introverted. I probably said that, but I don’t think it’s true. Oh, look (we are just passing by the Statue of Liberty)!
SD: Is it the first time you see it so close?
JC: No, I have actually been here many times, also to the island. It is a funny monument, it is kind of ironic in a certain way, thinking that it was thrown at us by the French. It is an amazing fucking thing, you know. This is cool, though, it is kind of surreal! Maybe because I am drunk. I am actually seasick and drunk at the same time.
SD: How do you balance being an artist with the business side of things, particularly these days when punk rock is not a particularly mainstream sound anymore and you have a family to take care of?
JC: I don’t think punk rock has ever gone mainstream. The sonics of pop music, whether they are heavy or quiet, is what ends up going mainstream. Most people seem to be most drawn to pop music, and I mean this in a sense that the melody is really catchy. Sometimes punk is catchy, and that’s pop music. For me that whole era when Green Day was giant, Offsprings was giant and they were selling all those records, I didn’t really think about it. I just thought “That’s great”, they are 2 really good pop bands and they became really famous. Awesome. But they did not seem any different to me that Nirvana or Whitney Houston. I really never thought our band was associated with that kind of stuff because we did not really have the same kind of accessibility. Too many self-indulgent moments in our music all the time, lots of guitar riffs, too many drum rolls. We never experienced that kind of success and that does not surprise me. There was no right for us. Our career has basically been exactly the same the whole time. We really did not do media, we really didn’t make videos…
SD: By the way, I really like your videos with you and your family. They are so funny…
JC: Thanks, man, we actually do those stupid videos. We did very really radio. So in the long run our career has been partially pretty calculated. I never really wanted any of that other nonsense. We do things like we have always done that and we try and keep it the way it is. It is not that hard to do. Bands can make choices, you know. Lots of bands say “We just blew it all of the sudden”. But you know what? You went to meets and greets, you did the radio shows, you did the work, you made the videos, you went to a label that was a corporation at that time so they had tons and tons of money to spend on you. You made those decisions. People just don’t get big. Money is spent on them. So when people complain about getting famous, it is such a joke. So for me – in our world – climate change has really not existed. It has been pretty been the same for us throughout out all our career, we have always sold the same amount of records…well, actually that’s not true (laughing), nobody does, but that’s ok.
SD: I have a very last question for you. Please feel free not to answer it. I completely respect it, because I know it is very personal. Last time I saw you was in Brooklyn a few months ago, with Tony. A few days later he passed away. A lot of people speculated over the Internet on what happened to him. Do you feel to say what happened? Nobody really knows.
JC: I know. It is the family decision and discretion. I can’t do that. I can’t say anything about it, but just that it was an inconclusive thing, and not to be judged because there is something called autopsy, and there were some results to be waited for. It is not like some bullshit celebrity thing. Here is a man who made it from the East coast to the West coast, got into a taxi, went home, called his wife and said “I’m gonna take a nap”. That is not how people overdose. When they overdose, they overdose after they take drugs. He took medication to fly. That was his thing. There were a lot of speculations. There are a lot of speculations. Last thing I heard they were talking about aneurysm, some kind of blockage, that he had a stroke, because he had surgery 2 weeks before our tour, like a major internal surgery, and this is all I can tell you. But I don’t know what happened, even though I did talk to his family. At his wake him mom took me to a room and told me what I am telling you. I think she wanted to tell me that because she wanted me to tell people that her son wasn’t just some guy that shot up and die. That was not the case. We don’t really know, though. At least, I don’t know and no one has told me yet. The family might know.
SD: Would you consider doing other split with any other artist?
JC: Yeah, I am supposed to do one with Dave Hause pretty soon. We have been talking about doing a split. John Snodgrass, Tony Sly, Brian Wahlstrom and my self have this thing called The Scorpios, because we are all scorpios, and we are going to do another record, at some point, and the idea is to do a bunch of Tony’s songs. I always have plans. I always have too many ideas and too many things on the table, but I am actually trying to write a new Lagwagon album. I really want to do another Lagwagon album. It has been way too long.
THIS INTERVIEW IS DEDICATED TO THE LOVING MEMORY OF TONY SLY (1970 – 2012)
(Txt by Stefano Campagnolo x Salad Days Mag – All Rights Reserved)