Interview: Stephen Jackson of The Pietasters (@ Braustomp 3, 8/3/19)

Pietasters
Steve Jackson (center) and The Pietasters (Photo courtesy the band)

The Pietasters reissued Willis, their 1997 record from Epitaph/Hellcat, on colored vinyl for Record Store Day 2019. Stephen Jackson and the band next perform at Braustomp 3 at DC Brau Brewery on Saturday, Aug. 3. Buy your tickets online now.

Mickey McCarter of Parklife DC recently sat down with Steve over quite a few drinks to chat about the Secret History of The Pietasters. Along with our own Miyun Park and The Pietasters bassist Dave Vermillion, we discussed the ’80s DC music scene that shaped The Pietasters, some of Steve’s greatest memories in The Pietasters, and what comes next for the world’s most hyper ska band. Hilarity ensued.

On Proper Audio Recording Techniques

Miyun Park: When I was in college, one of my work-study jobs was there was a blind student, and I read his textbooks into a tape recorder. It was so boring, because he was studying economics.

Steve Jackson: Oh.

MP: Which I don’t even understand, anyway.

SJ: Did it pay all right?

MP: Yeah, it paid really well.

SJ: Was it an hourly job?

MP: Yeah, and I could do it at like three in the morning in my room.

SJ: When you’re drunk?

MP: Yeah. I would also fall asleep, and then I would have to rewind it.

Mickey McCarter: You could make some editorial decisions.

MP: I know.

MM: You don’t really need to know this page, I’m just going to skip to the next.

SJ: I think we lost part of Chapter 13.

Dave Vermillion: I was actually thinking about doing some audio production for this situation.

SJ: Because we’ve talked about doing podcasts.

MP: Cool.

DV: A way of setting up a compressor to pull up the lower voice on the microphone. I don’t know if you do much audio production?

MM: I’ve dabbled. I have a degree in broadcast journalism, but I’ve never had a job where I work full time with audio gear.

SJ: Because our best conversations are in the van, when you’re driving on a six-hour drive, and four hours into it, and it’s like, “Why the fuck aren’t we recording this?” Just this crazy nuance to old stories, and stuff. It’s like, “Well, we would each need a Lavalier microphone.”

Watch the official music video for “Out All Night” by The Pietasters on YouTube:

On Being a Cool Mod with a Scooter

SJ: So did you get a Vespa?

MP: I did.

SJ: P200?

MP: Yeah.

SJ: Yeah man, the most reliable, the best. I have a Lambretta.

MP: Do you really?

SJ: LA150. We were playing a wedding at the Hay Adams.

MP: That’s fancy.

SJ: And one of the groomsmen knew our band, and he was like, “Hey, I’ve got this basket case scooter, and my wife is pregnant, and I want to get rid of it for $250.” So, I drove to Charlottesville and bought this scooter in pieces, and then my friend Scotty put it back together, and it’s awesome. I rode it for maybe a month and a half, and then the rear wheel fell off, so the Vespa 200 is the smart route. The Lambretta’s beautiful, but it’s a very finicky mistress.

MP: When we were in high school, Scott Lightsey was the first one to get a Lambretta.

SJ: He had that ’59 LB.

MP: Yeah, and we were all just like, “Oh my God.”

SJ: It was so beautiful.

MP: And then he made one, he built one for Cita Strain too. That was true love. Can you imagine? Being in high school, and your boyfriend builds you a Lambretta? Oh my God. We were all just fucking dying.

Stream The Pietasters by The Pietasters on Spotify:

On Being Drunk on Tour

SJ: So here’s a Doug Balog story.

MP: So Tom Balog was the drummer in the crappy band I was in in high school, and Doug is his older brother who’s just fucking nuts. In a good way.

SJ: And kind of a genius.

MP: Yeah, total genius.

SJ: And super smart guy, and so our band Pietasters were playing in Europe on the Warped Tour in 1999 I think, and it was Pennywise and Ice T, and The Pietasters of course. It was all these crazy bands, and we flew from Dallas to London to Vienna, and there’s a whole story in that where Toby got drunk and passed out and the captain almost threw him off a plane, but it was pre-9/11, so everything worked out.

SJ: Yeah, Doug comes to Slovenia to hang out, and everybody gets so shit faced on Canadian … What’s that?

MP: Molson?

SJ: The Canadian whiskey?

MP: Crown Royal.

SJ: Crown Royal.

I don’t know why they were drinking Canadian whiskey in Slovenia, and there were thinly sliced deli meats, and I think on our DVD, and in the commentary, there are pictures of Doug in the back of our tour bus with salami on his face, and bottles of Crown Royal wrapped around him, and things drawn on his forehead.

MP: Why am I not at all surprised?

DV: I wish I knew that when I worked with him.

MM: So he was a victim in this story? Is that the story?

SJ: Well, there are pictures of me in the same state of drawings on the forehead. But yeah. It’s funny.

MM: Right.

SJ: Deli meat.

Watch “Drinkin’ and Drivin'” by The Pietasters live at 9:30 Club on YouTube:

On Crazy Situations During Private Gigs

MM: The Pietasters have done a lot more private shows than I would have guessed. What’s the craziest private show that you ever played?

SJ: We started off saying we’ll play private shows for friends, we will play for friends, and we’ll give you the “friend rate,” which was like half of the local guarantee. And then other people that we didn’t know, that we became friends with, asked us to play.

DV: The craziest one I’ve done is that tulip farm.

SJ: Oh, yeah, we had like a two-week notice to play a party at a tulip farm in the northeast in February, I think. The farm was dormant for the season, and we got there, and we went acres back into the hinterland of the farm operation, and there were a bunch of Mexican dudes that had set up a sound system and a stage.

DV: It was a hut.

SJ: It was like 130,000 square feet. Like a huge number, so we’re lost in this maze –

MP: With all of your stuff?

SJ: Yeah, and set up to play a show. And we realized if it doesn’t go well, we could be killed and no one would know that we even drove back to this remote corner of this operation. It was a legitimate grow operation that was doing tulips, and any kind of cut flowers you get at Whole Foods comes from this place. So then, the host shows up and tells us that the river along the perimeter of the property has more Mafia bodies thrown in it, and we’re like, “Okay. Confirmation.” But the check cleared, and we didn’t die.

DV: We also got electrocuted.

SJ: By the end of the night it had rained so much, whatever membrane they put down to kill of the last year’s crop, water was underneath it, it was bubbling up like a water balloon, all of our amps, power strips sitting in water, and the mother of the dude is telling us stories.

DV: And the guy kept asking for the same songs that we already played.

SJ: We played three sets of the same seven songs. It was good. We’re doing a festival with him in August.

MP: Yeah.

SJ: You meet lots of funny, good people. We played a Chinese wedding in D.C., and I say Chinese because they were Chinese, and we got our deposit, and then halfway through the night we showed up … You know, you have to show up early, and we were there, and we sound checked, and we set up, and the ceremony happened, and the DJ started, and then we were supposed to play, we all got on stage, and we didn’t play, and then they just asked us to leave and we left.

MP: What do you mean?

SJ: I don’t know. It was Chinese.

MM: You just don’t understand what happened?

SJ: I don’t know what happened.

MP: But did you still get paid?

SJ: No. We got our deposit, and then another time back in the early days of the band when you would play anywhere, as opposed to when you’re playing Chinese weddings, we played a dance club in a beach town in the southeast, and I won’t be more specific than that because I don’t know what the statute of limitations are for arson, but we played this dance club, and we had this shady agent that was getting us shows all over the place, and some were great, and you win people over, and you lose people. This night we lost people, and midway through the first set they gave us the hook, and pulled us offstage, and closed the curtain, and then said, “You’ll go on in 45 minutes for the second set.”

And they loaded all of our equipment outside and locked all the loading doors, and it was just kind of an insult, and we knew that we didn’t belong there, but we’re 19, we’re 20. It would have been OK if they had just said, “It didn’t work out, here’s $50 have a nice night.”

So, we left, and we were ejected, and a friend of one of our original members who shall not be named, he called one of our original members who shall not be named, and said, “I’m in said city, can you hear that noise?” Our original member said, “No, I don’t. What is that?” He said, “It’s that fucking club burning down.” Now, I don’t know if that happened or not.

MP: What goes around comes around. That’s all I’m going to say.

SJ: So, we had a pistol pulled on us in Milwaukee for jacking with a pool table.

MM: Okay.

SJ: In Wilmer’s Park, we had shotguns intimated at settlement.

MP: But you’re such nice boys.

SJ: I know. It’s a dirty business. That’s all I’m saying.

Stream Oolooloo by The Pietasters on Spotify:

On the Eternal Appeal of Canada

MM: What are some things you are looking forward to? Parklife DC has been promoting your annual show at 9:30 Club, your holiday show. Those have been great. And you’ve been playing Supernova International Ska Festival too.

SJ: We have, yeah.

MP: They steal the show, honestly, at Supernova. I think it’s because one of the things that you guys are so good at is just being so inclusive and sharing, and it turns into this huge party on stage. And so everybody who’s an attendee is like freaking out because all of these people they love from all of these different bands are together, and everybody is having the best time. You guys are so good at that.

SJ: Thanks. We also were blessed by a good weather window the last time we played Supernova. It was rainy as fuck. But yeah, man, we’re friends with all his people, and all those bands.

The annual 9:30 Club show is awesome, because it’s a culmination of the year. You play festivals, you go out and play Cincinnati, you go here, you go there, and then the 9:30 Club is like the homecoming show at the end of the year.

MM: What’s the tour schedule look like this year?

SJ: Lots of festivals. Well, a few festivals. Punk Rock Bowling in May, and Las Vegas, and we’re going to do Denver the night before, and then Victoria Ska fest is this thing out in Vancouver Island. It’s beautiful out there. They have giant rabbits. Have you ever been there?

MM: No.

SJ: They have these huge rabbits. I’m not kidding you. They have no natural predator.

MP: Yeah.

SJ: They’re enormous. They’re as big as Paul Ackerman, and they just hop around. And then we’ll get to do Seattle and Portland, and actually, we were trying to work in some more Canadian dates, and our agent is like, “Well, do you want to drive from Edmonton or Calgary?” And I said, “It’s neither. It’s 15 hours. I’ve driven, it’s beautiful, but if you want us to do Wednesday/Thursday I’m not driving 15 hours after we played a show.” So hopefully we can play Winnipeg. I love Winnipeg. That was our first international show.

MM: Special place, huh?

SJ: Dude. It’s incredible.

Listen to “Maggie Mae” by The Pietasters on YouTube:

On Touring as an Older Band

MM: When you go on the road and you play with other bands, do you find that you’re the mature ska band that everybody knows? Or are you playing with a lot of younger bands these days? Or do you see more peers? How does that look?

SJ: It’s a whole mix. We play with the Slackers, who are our same age, but way more worldwide than us. We play with our buddies The Mighty Mighty Bosstones, who were the kings of fuck mountain at Shamrockfest.

MP: He was on stage.

SJ: They always invite our horn section to come up and play some songs with them. We love those guys. They’re our big brothers.

MP: That’s awesome.

SJ: Less Than Jake, those guys are crushing it. We play with lots of them. Then there are some younger bands. All right Dave, help me out. Bumping Uglies?

DV: Out of Annapolis. They got that keyboard player now, and they’re pretty damn good. They hustle so hard.

MP: Yeah.

SJ: Scotch Bonnets from Baltimore.

DV: Scotch Bonnets, yeah.

SJ: The Fuss.

DV: The Fuss, yeah.

SJ: The Debonaires, where are those guys from? There are younger bands all around, like in Texas, and Illinois, Ohio, that help out Slackers and The Pietasters by making sure the shows will be good, because they do regular nights there. It’s still a healthy scene.

MM: That’s cool. That’s part of what I was getting to. You just put out the vinyl from the first album, that was your most recent project?

SJ: Yeah.

MM: It was well received?

SJ: It was, and now we have Willis for Record Store Day. Willis was our 1997 Epitaph/Hellcat release. We repressed it. We’re playing a show at Mobius Records in Fairfax, and it’s just kind of cool that vinyl is hip, and people that are buying it again. If people are into that kind of music, then they like the good songs, and yeah, I’m going to go buy The Selector, I’m going to buy The Specials.

SJ: Mobius is right next to Commonwealth Dry Goods, down in Main Street Fairfax, across the street from Planet Nova, where we got our start.

MP: Whoop whoop.

SJ: That’s where we won our battle of the bands, back in 1991 or something like that, that precipitated our first release.

MM: Nice.

SJ: And started the big charade.

MM: The re-releases are cool, but any thoughts of a new album, new songs?

SJ: Yeah, we’ve got a ton of new stuff, and I say this all the time, do you put it out on an 11-song album, or do you spread it out, and do a bunch of EPs? We’re going to do Punk Rock Bowling, so here’s a 7″ that has our harder new songs, and here’s Victoria Skafest in June, we’re going to do a picture disk that’s shaped like a crosscut saw, and it’s going to have our slow reggae stuff. I don’t know man, that’s a whole brave new world, and then there’s Spotify. Do you just dump it all onto Spotify as like a playlist? This is our new album, here you go.

I have no idea. And within the band, some of the guys are like, “I want a vinyl, five songs on one side, six songs on the other, and that’s the only way.”

MM: I think a lot of ska people would like that, actually? Right? It’s a traditional crowd.

SJ: Maybe you can do both?

MP: I would do both.

SJ: Maybe you do little tidbits throughout the year, and then you do an album at the end of the year, or something like that.

We have so many songs, when we finally put out all the songs that we have, people are going to be mad at us.

MP: That you’ve been sitting on it?

SJ: For just what the fuck, why did you wait and dump this in my lap right now.

MM: That’s a good problem to have.

MP: Yeah. That’s fun.

SJ: It’s fun. Right, Dave?

DV: Hell yeah, it’s total fun. We’ve been busy, actually working on stuff.

SJ: Stuff.

DV: It’s been a quiet year for shows, but it’s been awesome for hanging out, and playing some music. You know?

SJ: We were in Japan, like Blur. We wrote six songs about an ice cream shop.

MM: That album [The Magic Whip] is actually pretty good.

SJ: I love that Blur album, it’s so good. Dude, again, four hours into a six hour van ride, we’re listening to Blur very loud.

DV: Yeah, we listened to that like once every weekend, for at least a year.

MM: It sounds like you guys might enter a busy period, then, soon. Or are you not prepared for that?

SJ: You know what, there are babies coming all over the place.

We turned down an awesome festival in Rhode Island today, because we need to have the best Pietasters.

MM: So there’s sort of an wait and see, then? Like if you’re going to put out something new?

SJ: We’re definitely putting out something new, and in fact I have a phone call on Monday, I have a conference call.

I like this post from the Bumping Uglies guy where he said, “I spend more time marketing my music then creating, or making my music.” I feel like I’m at my day job, and I’m like we’re going to hit up the North American veterinary convention in January, and I’m going to get these trinkets to sell. Hold on a second. Yeah, The Pietasters are ready to do a record now. Oh my God. So, we’ve got a ton of good songs, and we are going to put them out. We’ll find the least disgusting way of promoting it.

Stream Strapped Live! by The Pietasters on Spotify:

On Getting the Right Mix of People

MM: When people think of The Pietasters, they think of you, and you’ve kind of had a lot of members over the years. There are former members who now have bands of their own, right? Does that happen a lot? Is there a Pietasters family, so to speak?

SJ: Yeah. I’m the muse for Todd, and Tom, for Jorge, for Toby, for Jeremy, for Dave, even. Their spirit flows through me, and I puke forth all of their music.

DV: It’s getting a little personal.

SJ: Did Elvis have the best job ever, because he didn’t write anything, he just got up there and danced. I would love to have that, and that’s why whenever we’re working on new stuff, like can you guys please bring fully formed songs with lyric sheets, properly notated with bullet points, and the emotion I’m supposed to show?

MM: That never happens, I’m sure.

SJ: But no, that’s easy for me. What did you ask? Something about people?

DV: Old members playing in other bands?

MP: Being the face.

MM: Current members.

SJ: Yeah, so I’m definitely The Pietaster guy, but like I said, we turned down this festival in Rhode Island because we didn’t have the best Pietasters to put forward. There are different bands that’ll go to Europe and play a show with one or two people, and then a different band every time, and number one, The Pietasters is Rob [Steward], our drummer. Rob’s approach to drumming, based on his love for Britpop, and he’s fucking awesome. Rob’s a beast.

The bass is important. And Dave does a good job of emulating Todd Eckart with his Bernadette sound check bassline. And then Jeremy and Alan have been there forever, and those guys are Jeremy and Alan. That was one of the reasons for the festival we turned down. We didn’t have the horn section, and Jeremy and Alan couldn’t do it, and Carlos and Eric, who are original horn players couldn’t do it, and it just got too replacement-y, and it’s you got to cut it off. I love the Cro-Mags, they’re one of my favorite bands in the world, I love Bad Religion, Brett Gurewitz produced two of our records. He let us live in his house, I drove his Suburban all around L.A. We went to In N Out Burger, we did two albums with Epitaph in the ’90s, and Brett was our guy, and he loved our band.

Anyway, I don’t want to show up in Providence and have a shitty band, and have Brett be like, “Boy, Steve’s really fucking shitty, because he can’t get it together.” He’s like, “I understand Tom moved to northern California to retire, but dude, what are you doing with this sax player?”

MP: Tom Goodin.

SJ: Tom’s doing good.

I love Tom, I love Todd. Those guys are awesome, man. The songs that we came up with, that were just crazy.

MM: How is it different today when you write a song? You wrote some new songs, how is it different than when you were young?

SJ: I don’t know, man.

MM: Does the stuff just come out of you?

SJ: Back in the old days, we were just always together. If we weren’t playing big shows, we were playing open mic nights and that kind of stuff. We were practicing all the time, and so the songs were just always there, you know? And now, it’s more of a set Wednesday night, or Saturday, and these guys have to drive from Baltimore, so you get there and you’re kind of focused on what you want to do, and sometimes that’s not as productive, and sometimes the more productive nights are when a couple of guys don’t show up, and you’re just jamming on stuff, or you’re fucking around, and something comes out of that. Like I feel like The Pietasters is a natural kind of thing, where you’re just hanging out, and fucking around, and a song pops up, or two. And sometimes it works out.

Todd and Tom, and George Basmenti, all of them would bring songs that were completely formed, and they rock, man. They’re perfect songs, so that works too. It’s fun to just fuck around and have something pop up.

MM: Right. That’s cool.

MP: How long have you been playing with them, Dave?

DV: My first show was June 1st, 2011.

MP: Wow, that’s a long time.

DV: Almost eight years, June 1st will be eight years.

MP: How did that happen?

DV: So I got out of the Navy, and I met up with my brother’s older friend Pablo. I ran into him at the Sowebo festival up in Baltimore for my reggae night, so that’s where I met Dan, who’s our current keyboard player. And so they were just looking for a fill-in guy, and I was doing that, and helping out with merch, and hanging out, and then John Darby, the previous bass player who was the wildest man I think I’ve never seen –

SJ: I love John Darby. He’s a fucking Muppet. He would trick everybody.

DV: I saw a video of him playing piano with giant sunglasses.

SJ: He was like Elton John.

DV: It was the Dukes of Hazard theme.

MP: That’s a great song, yeah.

DV: So I was doing merch, and he ended up moving out west, and I was there to pick up the pieces, and it’s playing soul bass in a Ska band, which is –

SJ: Again, if you can play “Bernadette,” that’s all you need to know.

Stream Comply by The Pietasters on Spotify:

On a Great Time to Be Alive

MM: Best show ever?

SJ: You would have to have a graph, or like a spreadsheet with proximity to home and size of audience, and we’ve had so many best shows ever. Like one of the best shows ever was when we were backing up James Brown.

MP: What?

SJ: At the MCI Center in front of 25,000 people. One of the best shows ever was when we showed up three hours late to the arena in Vienna, Austria, and we rolled in and played, and people just were falling off a scaffolding, and shitting themselves. One of the best shows ever was at Maxwell’s in Hoboken, which was a 100-seat venue where Bruce Springsteen video taped something.

Dude, we’ve had best shows ever everywhere. When we toured with Joe Strummer and the Mescaleros and Billy Joe from Green Day came out and hung out, and there was a guy on the elevator with us, and he just kept going, “I live by the river. You’re Joe Strummer. I live by the river.” I don’t know, man. The best show ever. The show at the South Main Café in Blacksburg where we went to the hardware store and bought a giant funnel, and 17 feet of clear hose, and we were like, this will be hilarious, it will be a giant beer bong skit. And we loaded it all up, and the club was just like, “No, the ABC is going to shut us down.” And this fire hose of beer was just spraying all over.

DV: Well, every 9:30 Club show is the best show ever. For me, the time out in Durango at Scott Berlin where we played with the Skatalites, and there was legal weed, and I’m walking around holding a pint glass that has the Skatalites and The Pietasters on it. I wept. It was beautiful.

MP: That is something, because you know obviously just played with the Skatalites, and just seeing you guys playing with people we started listening to when we were fucking 14 years old, you know? How crazy is that? Your name was on a pint glass with them.

SJ: One of our first shows ever was at the old 9:30 Club on F street opening for the Skatalites. And this was 1989, or ’90.

MP: Were you just a total fanboy? Were you freaked out? What was that like?

SJ: We were 19; we didn’t know. We tried to be respectful, and played our stupid, hyperska version of ska, and the Skatalites played, but it was 250 people at the old 9:30 Club. It was awesome, man.

MM: Today, you’re so synonymous with the ska scene in D.C.

SJ: It only took 30 years to know that you’re not going to lose money by spending $15 to go to The Pietasters at the 9:30 Club. But I think it’s a good time.

MP: It’s a great time.

MM: I’ve got to ask, since we’re talking so much about young Steve right now, what were you listening to? Why The Pietasters? What inspired you when you were a kid, and you were like I got to be in a band?

SJ: I was going to be a punk rocker, man. I loved DC hardcore, and I loved the earnestness of it.

MM: What were you listening to? Black Flag?

SJ: Black Flag and Minor Threat and Dag Nasty and Government Issue, and any of those compilations, and Iron Cross, and Black Market Baby, and just anything that an 18- or 19-year old would, which became later on, like Gorilla Biscuits, and Mad Ball, and Agnostic Front, and just any aggressive Cro-Mags. Dude. Greatest fucking album ever, man.

MM: So you’re into all this hardcore stuff, and now you are the place for ska in D.C. How is that?

SJ: Well, okay, so we love the hardcore stuff because of D.C. punk rock, but at the same time, you would go and see at Radio Music Hall, which is now the current 9:30 Club. They would have these things like the Super Bowl Hardcore, or some giant band would come through and play, and so you’d see these crazy punk rock extravaganza at the Safari Club. At the same time, Hennessy’s on M street would have a mod/soul night with a DJ and a band, and D.C. Space would have a rockabilly night one night, and then a ska night the next night, and the old 9:30 Club would have the vice versa. You would park your car outside of one of the sex theaters, and go back-and-forth between the clubs and see bands play, and then drink beer in the parking lot.

It was like a different D.C. back then, you know?

MP: Growing up in Northern Virginia is amazing, because it’s one of the best public school systems in the entire country. And you’re like a second away from D.C., and for some of us, our elder siblings made the grandfather clause, so we got ID’s when we were 15. But even so, it was just such amazing music and record stores right? Just in the neighborhood.

SJ: Yeah, and kind of like what you were saying, Miyun, if you just were there and you were hanging out, it wasn’t as dangerous. If you weren’t in a rival gang, the gang stuff was where it was fucked up. If you were just going to the Safari Club to see a show, people would be kind of cool, and like what are you doing down here. I’m going to see a show. And they were like, okay, cool.

MP: The old mod expos at the old, old Eastside Club, which was a gogo –

SJ: A home jury club.

MP: Yeah, it was a gogo club, but one Sunday a month, they would open it up and there would be a mod expo.

SJ: It would be like a Synnex, or something like that, that would come down.

MP: Yeah, exactly. It was Cellar Dwellers, and –

SJ: So it’s like a garage show.

MP: So this gogo club, all of a sudden would be the mod haven of the D.C. metro area.

SJ: And you’re talking like 200 people, maybe. Max. But that was so cool.

Those crazy dudes that will go unnamed, came down and cut all the wiring on that the other guys’ scooters, kicked them over. It was like a Clint Eastwood movie, but they were Vespas instead of Harleys.

MP: Yeah.

MM: Did that happen?

SJ: Dude, there were these crazy different groups of people. There were these like hardcore, and I don’t want to say skinhead. There was no racial or political thing to it, but they were these monster dudes, and they just ran the scene. And then there were like dorky dudes who had scooters, and they got fucked with, and we were kind of just under that threshold, and you knew, and it’s like I need seven people to go to the show, because if not my boots are going to get stolen.

MP: Yeah.

SJ: And you would go and hang out. I remember Social Distortion played at the old 9:30 Club on F Street, and there was a riot on F Street. I mean a full fucking riot. And the Fifth Column was across F Street from the old 9:30 Club, and there were all these kids lined up for dancing, and doing disco, and cocaine, and whatever goes on there. And there were skinheads and punk rockers throwing bottles at each other across F Street, and we’re hanging out behind cars. We had driven up from Blacksburg to see Social Distortion play. Dude, Social Distortion, 250 people. That’s an awesome night. That’s a really fucking cool night. I saw Naked Ray Gun in the same place, I saw the Skatalites in the same place, but this night, there was this crazy fight, and there were bricks, and there were bottles, and it was just super cool.

Stream Willis by The Pietasters on Spotify:

On Things Not Yet Done

MM: Is there anything that you haven’t done yet, that you would love to do? Have you done it all after touring with Joe Strummer?

SJ: Nah. I think, yeah, if I could write a song as catchy as “Hot Hot Hot,” if I could do that, I’m complete. I’m never going to be the Beatles.

MM: Right.

SJ: I’m never going to be the Cardigans, so give me …

MP: Aww, the Cardigans.

SJ: But she’s so beautiful.

MP: She’s so beautiful.

SJ: Her voice, come on.

MP: I know.

MM: That’s a really high bar, though.

SJ: With that said, give me a cruise ship novelty song, and that’s all I want.

MM: Would you do a rock cruise if you were booked for one? Speaking of cruises?

MP: That would be so fun.

SJ: Yeah, sounds like fun.

MM: Yeah.

SJ: I think 311 does a cruise.

Stream Awesome Mixtape #6 by The Pietasters on Spotify:

On Taking the Piss of Your Blogger

MM: Do your daughters go around saying hey, Pietasters, that’s my dad?

MP: Yeah, no, exactly.

SJ: Yeah, I don’t think it means anything. They are annoyed by me. Oh, there was some meme about, who’s that guy? Steven Crowder, or something like that?

MP: I don’t know.

MM: I’m terrible with memes.

SJ: It was something about ask me. Any way, somebody did something that brought me up, and I asked my kids, “Do you know this meme?” And they’re like “You’re an idiot.” I don’t know anything.

MM: Your point is you’re not cool?

SJ: I’m not supposed to be cool, right? I’m not supposed to be, at all. But then have you heard of this Billie Eilish person?

MM: Yeah.

SJ: She’s the Morrissey of 2019.

She’s described as a chanteuse with an ASMR delivery of Lana Del Rey torch songs, and my 15-year old fucking loves it. I’ve listened to it, and I’m like just shivering like this is horrible. But is this the Marilyn Manson of 2019?

If you’re there in the ’80s, it wouldn’t be Marilyn Manson, it would be The Smiths, or like Dark Depeche Mode, or something like that. Even Bauhaus wasn’t self cutting, it was just like weird vampire shit, you know?

MM: If you could record a cover song, what would it be?

SJ: Any Blur song, and we’re working on it right now.

Stream All Day by The Pietasters on Spotify:

On The Next Big Thing

MM: You’re very open to the moment in the way you approach things. Does that make sense?

SJ: Yeah, man.

MM: Like you’re in the moment and you’re like, What’s going on around me? How do I feed off of this? And then that brings you to whatever it is you’re doing, whether it’s writing a song or playing a show or having a conversation. So I think that’s very much part of who you are.

So, you’re sitting on all these songs, you’ve got bandmates who are having babies, understood but you know …

SJ: We never expected to be making music now, you know?

MM: It’s still fun?

SJ: Yeah of course, yeah definitely.

MM: Yeah, you don’t want it to feel like a responsibility?

SJ: Luckily it’s not a responsibility but it’s like if you’re having a dream and you’re fucking rolling down a log flume and you’re like, “Ah see where this log flume goes”, it’s like, “hey we’re gonna cast out right now and jump back on it.” I don’t know, man. We put on good shows and we have fun hanging out, whether it’s Dave or Todd or whoever. As long as they play good and we get along.

MM: So I mean, you guys are open to opportunity, and so if the Bosstones call you up and say, “Go on tour with us,” if the Punk Rock Cruise calls you up and says, “Go on a cruise with us,” like you’re totally taking those calls and you’re ready to look at every opportunity and see what’s there.

SJ: Definitely, definitely.

MM: What do you do if you put out one of the new songs and it’s a hit?

SJ: Well that would be great, right, ’cause then we wouldn’t have to worry about our schedules or our day job.

Bruce, you know, Bruce Springsteen gets to take the whole, everybody out, they each get their own bus, they can have teachers there for the homeschooling and whatever, so that would be awesome, man.

MM: Right, right. The more modest version of that, catches on, people are playing it on the radio or people want to see you, you’re in demand, you got this sick new song. You’re on the road again. It’s a possibility. Does that scare you or excite you?

SJ: Nah, I love it. I’d love to … yeah, dude, playing music every night would be awesome, man. Yeah it would be great.

But you know the saddest thing is every musician I know … all right, I know Chris Shiflett in the Foo Fighters and he doesn’t have to worry … but every other musician I know is in a precarious position, man. It’s rough.

 

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