Im Gespräch: Joey Cape von Lagwagon

Photo by Rudy DeDoncker

Ende April haben wir es geschafft Joey Cape, den kreativen Kopf hinter der 1990 gegründeten Punkband Lagwagon, in Leipzig vors Mikro zu bekommen. Wir haben uns mit ihm über ihre neue Platte Hang, das Musikbusiness im Allgemeinen und die Geschichte hinter Lagwagon unterhalten.

In fall you released your eighth full length Hang, the first one since 9 years. Why did it take so long?
It’s a matter of not really knowing what your band should e doing, what makes it difficult to write I think. So Rather than rush those things i just wait because I don’t want to make records I’m not proud of and the band feels the same way. Some times they get a little mad at me because I need so much time to write but nothing really clicked. You know, I don’t want to make a record that sounds like one we already made but maybe isn’t that good. It’s better to wait till you know what’s the collective identity of the band, how I call it, because everyone in the band has his own identity but as a band we have this collective identity. Well after having found it we’re collaborating on the songs I’ve written and then it’s done. We’re all really proud of what came out I think.

Hang sounds darker than your older records, can you explain why?
I think it was because lyrically I did something different this time. The songs are and are not individual topics. There’s sort of an overall concept to this record which is compassed by my observation by the world I see, I’ve seen for years and the world my daughter has to grow up in. Some of this record is something like my rent. For example there are situations like sitting in a pub with a friend and we’re talking about something, then I’m getting rad about it and my friend says “You have to write about it!” and I say “I don’t do that’s politics, I write about human nature.” But then I reached a point where I thought about writing about it while still writing about human nature because empathy is a very important thing and we’re losing it. I think it’s dark because my view’s are pretty dark.

Unlike most 90s pop punk bands you turned down offers by Major Labels. Looking back at that decision how would you comment on that decision 20 years later.
Very few though. It definitely was the right choice for us. I never had any ideas that doing that would be good for the band. I never saw us as a band which is accessible to the masses, we look far too odd on stage and it’s just not what I wanted to do. The worst thing you could do when you’re in a band is being influenced by something you don’t want to be influenced by. I’ve heard some horror stories of friends of mine that had joined bands and the bands have fallen apart because of pressure by the label. We have the best relationship with our label, they don’t ask us to do anything but what we want to do, they’ve been so good for us. When you have a great thing, why would you want something else? It’s the same in relationships, when you’re in love with someone, why would you screw that up because for a second you saw someone else who’s attractive. But that has never attractive to me, I’ve seen so many friends with terrible stories of those companies.

You formed 25 years ago, what changed what’s still like back then?
It’s a really hard question to answer. In some way everything changed but I don’t know if for us changed much at all because we never took the wild ride, we’ve always done what we wanted to do and there haven’t been much hills and valleys in our carrier. We played everywhere in the world just from the start and we often still play the same venues. Sometimes we get to a venue and I think oh my god, we’ve been here twenty times. The way we make music and what we do is virtually the same. Punkrock changed, too, maybe you can compare it to what I said with the collective identity in a band, there isn’t a collective identity in punkrock except for maybe being anti-establishment and it should and usually does speak out against inhumanity.

Can you tell me a bit about the record’s creation process?
It was different than in the past, then we made it one way, which was I spent about one year writing nearly the complete songs, including lyrics, melodies, ideas for bass, drum tempos and all that stuff and then we finalized the songs together. The new album was completely different, I had ideas what to write about, I had lyric writing sessions with some friends of mine who are writers and we worked on it more like I would write a book, that think-tank stuff. I also picked different friends of mine, for example I wrote Reign with a friend of mine named asher who’s a very educated atheist and also kind of a theology master, so it was interesting to work on it with him. I had a lot of ideas but he also put in a lot of inside knowledge, it’s a really amazing thing, you find yourself singing stuff wou wouldn’t have said and think it’s good and the same happened to the music. This time I only brought pieces, saying I imagine this as a chorus and this as a verse but we collaborated entirely. We also worked with a piano player, because it brought more interesting chord changes. My friend Brian Wahltrom and I wrote a complete record on a piano which also was a great experience. I really think it’s our best record and everyone in the band loves it, too.

You’ve got a lot of other projects, the most recent one is your label One Week Records. Could you tell me a bit about the creation process and the philosophy about it.
I love producing records but production nowadays is marked by budget problems, it’s really expensive if you want to go to a good studio. Also, we live in this digital world and it’s really amazing what you can do at home with your computer. But I’ve collected much recording equipment over the years but I can’t do bands in my studio, it’s just one room but I’ve done a lot of acoustic recordings at my home. Then I started doing a bit of that and I realized it was virtually free, it’s just my time and I love it, to me it’s like a holiday from the other stuff I do. Then I had the idea of only one platform for distribution and not doing it via those major chains like iTunes then I could keep the price very low and it wouldn’t be that expensive if I didn’t do physical copies. That was the hard point because I like vinyl so much, CDs are like that weird vessel to get your shit to a computer. A lot of people also stream, what we are also working on but those thing costs money. In the beginning it was obvious to me that I don’t have contracts with the bands for more than one session, they could be on any label, One Week Records could work as a service for labels, if they have a band and they want to promote a record, they could send their Singer/Songwrtier to me and we can release it on whatever timeline they want us to. It also is fun because I make sure I make the records with people I know and like.
One of the most important aspects was to do it at home because I have a daughter and I have a wife and they don’t tour with me. My daughter is in school, so there’s a big separation between what they do and what I do. By bringing people to my home, they’re having breakfast and coffee with my family, my family’s getting to know those people and at the end of the week my daughter’s in love with them, they’re like a new aunt or uncle. But it’s hard, the last one took 120 hours. We’ve got two more to release but they’re my favorites.

You also play in several bands, you tour and record as singer/songwriter, you produce records, how do you get this all done?
I work a lot but I’m a person who doesn’t like to sit around. Some people, particularly musician, get home, go surfing, ride their bikes or just sit on their couch and smoke weed. I’ve never been like that, I love surfing and skateboarding but after spending time with my family I need to do something, to be creative, so why not doing it for the rest on the world.
Whatever I work on is the priority thing, I’m able to balance it.

One of your records is called Doesn’t play well with others. What’s the difference between doing a solo project and playing in a band to you?
I just thought it’s a good title for a solo record, it’s kind of a mission. The original idea behind it was that it would be a double record with 40 musicians working on it but finally I decided to split it because there were many Lagwagon covers and so I put out a couple of different records and so there have only been originals on it. There were only eight musicians left so the title wasn’t that ironic anymore but I still like it.
When you make a solo record and are known for playing in a band it’s a good title.

Talking about the beginnings of Lagwagon, what motivated you to form a band?
I got into Lagwagon in a very strange way. The time the band was called Section A, I was in a band called Chemical and Chemical were breaking up because our drummer left us. The singer that was in Section A wasn’t a very good singer, I was really close to the other guys, they always were joking like “We wish you were a singer!” and I said “well I’d like to be a singer.” because they had a really great drummer and their guitar player was my roommate and the three of us hung out all the time. Then my band broke up and Derrick asked me if I wanted to be in their band. My girlfriend at that time started cheating on me with their singer who was a friend of mine and then I thought fuck that guy, he took my girl, I’m gonna take his band, they were better than her, that’s a true story. But the funniest thing is that we’re still all friends.

Do you still remember the first show you’ve played?
Yeah, I do. It was in a Santa Barbara suburb, on the weekends we went to those college parties to get free beer and we played our first show there. I actually have it on video tape but it’s a really odd one and I can’t find find a way to watch it. I even asked some professionals if they could digitalize it but even they failed.

What records wouldn’t you like to miss in your collection?
So many, Suffer by Bad Religion has to be in there, Rock’n’Roll nightmare by RKL [Rich Kids on LSD]. Well they’ve been a really big influence to us as they come from the same area and nearly everyone in Lagwagon played there for some time. Chris, who’s playing guitar on this tour even was a original member.
Bridge over Troubled Water by Simon and Garfunkel, there’s an Elton John record named Good Bye Yellow Bricked Roads, which is one of my favorite records since I’ve been a kid, obviously the Beatles Records. Well those are the quintessential records that changed my life, my approach to music.

Are there any bands you’d recommend to everyone?
This is always really hard because all of the new bands I like are already known. Maybe one week later someone will give me a record and I’ll think well, I could answer that question now but when I’ll be asked that question again they’re popular. I can’t say the new Good Riddance album is great because you probably know who they are. Or even a band like PUP from Toronto. I get asked that question a lot and sometimes I’d like to kick myself because later I realize I forgot to mention a great band.



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