Full Steve Jackson Interview

30 07 2009


After a short delay, here is the full interview I did with Steve Jackson from the Pietasters about a week ago.  He was really laid back and gave some honest answers which is really cool.  But in it we talk about their future plans for writing and recording, the current state of the industry, how wierd New Jersey is and how he gets occasional drunk dials from Less Than Jake.  You can also read the printed version on page 8 of the Diamondback this week, or read the online version here.  This one is way longer and not torn apart by my editor.  Full interview after the jump.

You guys are only doing select shows right now, kind of limited to the East Coast.  Is that just to stay sharp?

Yea.  You know we, we’re old guys now and the guitar player and I have been renovating my house since September of last year.  And our drummer’s wife just

had a baby, and so with all that we knew we wanted to take some downtime, but we still wanted to keep playing enough to not forget the songs and stuff like that.  So we’ve been playing just playing a couple times a month, and we’ve been sticking around the East Coast.  It stinks.  We always have to turn down good shows in faraway places, but you gotta do what you gotta do for your priorities.

What about recording?  Are you guys writing?  Just any plans for the near future?

Yea we’re working on new songs and now talking about when to start recording actually because we now have enough songs that it makes sense.  So things are slowing down with the house project and I actually have my family back in, so that takes a big load off and now we can concentrate on having fun again.  So I hope by this fall we’ll be in the studio recording and ready to put out some new songs for everybody to have.

Would that still be on Indication Records or are you guys maybe shopping it around, or what do you think?

Yea, I think we’ll probably do Indication.  It just lets us call our own shots and the label Red Eye that we work with, with Indication, they’ve got good distribution and you know how things are nowadays with record sales and such.  People mostly download stuff anyways nowadays.  We might work with Vinny from Less Than Jake, he’s got that Paper + Plastick label, so we definitely hope to start re-releasing old stuff on vinyl as well as when we get the new release out.  Do kind of a duel thing where we put it out on Indication and do a vinyl version of it with Paper + Plastick, something like that.

Are you still close with Vinny?  I know you guys put out a record on Fueled By Ramen a while ago, but you’re still in touch?

Yea.  I mean those guys are always on the road and we hardly ever get to see them.  But yea we get the random drunk dialing going on between friends and definitely keep up with those guys as much as possible.  I guess they’re out on the Warped Tour now.

Yea I was going to say I actually just saw them on Sunday because I was up in New Jersey at the Warped Tour and Vinny has this huge mountain man beard growing right now…

[Heavy Laughter]

Artside Econompoulos_The Star_Ledger

[A shot of Vinny during LTJ’s set at Warped in NJ.  Courtesy of the New Jersey Star-Ledger]

I was completely unaware of it, I don’t know if you were but it’s humongous man.

No I had no idea.  I’ll have to like check out if he’s twittering pictures or something like that.  That’s funny man.  I can’t even imagine him with a big mountain man beard.

No, I mean I’ve been seeing them for not as long as you have, but he’s got this huge beard…

And it’s gotta be hot as hell up on the Warped Tour stage in the summertime with a big beard like that

It blew my mind

Yea that’s funny man.  Now are in you in Baltimore or in DC, because 412, that’s Pittsburgh, right?

Yea. It’s Pittsburgh.  I go to UMD, I work on campus and stuff.  I’m impressed you knew the 412 off the top of your head.

Aw hey man, I know my area codes.

But yea I was up in Jersey to see some friends at the Tour, it just worked out with my schedule.

Where was it in Jersey?  Like at one of the football stadiums or something?

Um, actually it was outside this racetrack I guess kind of close to Asbury Park.  I don’t know I’m not real familiar with the area.

Yea me either, it’s a weird area.  We’re gonna be up there in a couple of weeks with the Bosstones in Asbury Park, outside.

Oh that’s cool. They’re recording now too, I think they sent out a Twitter update or something.

Yea I just saw that on Punknews that they’re recording.  Those guys always make such good music.  Looking forward to hear it.

Now you’re talking about the Bosstones and Less Than Jake, what do you think about any newer ska bands, or any kind of music, is there anyone who’s really exciting you who’s up and coming or newer?

Oh man, there’s some local bands that we play with that are real good.  I’m so predictable, like there’s this band the Moderators, they’re this cool kind of like Slackers, and I guess a little Aggrolites.  But any sort of laid-back ska style.  You know, like I said I’m pretty predictable and I like that kind of stuff.  Westbound Train is the newest bunch of young guys and they’re not even new anymore, they’ve been around for a long time.  Big D was always a bunch of kids when we were playing with them and now they’re the big headliners on all the big tours.  I’m trying to think what has been exciting me lately music-wise.  I’m pretty much the driver in the band so I just end up listening to whatever the other guys have on their iPods in the van.  I’m terrible for new music advice.

So you said the Moderators are local around DC?

Yea.  It’s a friend of ours from San Diego who moved to DC and he’s got a bunch of young guys playing.  Just  kind of really cool old ska and they’ve got a keyboard player, mostly instrumental – I don’t think they even have a singer yet. It’s just nice to see bar bands playing good music.  Everybody’s caught up nowadays in getting record deals and having a viral outbreak or whatever, but we come from the days when you were trying to get a few pitchers of free beer, and have your friends have a good time.

Now where the industry has gone and where the scene has kind of gone does that affect the way you guys do things, or are you still doing it the way that you see fit?

No it never really affected us.  That might have limited out success or however you want to put it.  We’ve always just kind of done whatever we wanted to and whatever industry person was like ‘Well, ska’s not doing good in 1999 maybe you should think about getting rid of your horn section and play Power Pop.’  It’s like you know we may not be the coolest thing going on, but this is what we like to play, and our audience enjoys it and so that’s been our philosophy is to play stuff we enjoy.  You’re going to go crazy if you try and please the record industry people and then there’s no guarantee you’re going to make a million bucks.  It’s like if I could know that selling my soul would fill up my bank account then that’s fine but I’m not going to make concessions and make everyone think I’m a loser because of what I’m putting out and then not make a million dollars.  If that make any sense you know?

Now last year you guys played that show, I think in Norfolk, where you played Piestomp the whole way through.  Do you mind doing things like that for the fans or is it just as much fun for you guys to go through and play some of the older material that maybe you haven’t played in a while?

Yea.  We get so many requests for old song that we just haven’t played in so long, and you know, I guess it was over Christmas that we said we need to learn our old songs that we don’t play.  And we figured a way of doing that would be to tackle one record at a time.  So yea, we did Piestomp and we kind of did Oolooloo the other day we played this Amphitheatre in DC and it got rained out, the set got cut short, it didn’t really live up to what we’d envisioned.  But we might try and roll it out in Sonar, play Oolooloo, and then we’ll have to have a Strapped night and re-create the live album and then tackle the Epitaph records stuff.  It’s on one hand a good way for us to learn the old stuff that we don’t play every night, and it gives something to people who are die-hard fans that come out all the time and want to hear ‘Ace Miller’ or whatever old song they haven’t heard in a long time.  So everybody wins.

You’re coming up on your 20th year, right?

Yea, yea.

Now are you planning on doing anything special?  Like the Souls are doing that whole track-a-month thing, do you have anything planned or just kind of proceed as normal?

Man I wish we were as organized as the Bouncing Souls.  I think that the prelude to that 20-year anniversary is this whole playing a different record each show, or however you want to space it out. On top of it, it would be good – I can’t promise anything – but it would be good if these recordings we’re working on, I’d like to be creative about how we release that stuff.  And like we talked about earlier, people aren’t necessarily buying records like they used to, and so anything you can do differently to kind of add something special to it like a single a month or 7 inches or that vinyl thing –I’ve always been a guy who like vinyl.  Nobody has a record player anymore, but it’s something to collect and you’re going to download it anyway.  It has yet to be seen, but we’d like to take some direction from those guys and do something cool like that.

People are getting more creative so I have faith you’ll come up with something good.  So now last semester you played at Santa Fe here at campus.

Yea man that was a cool venue.  We’d never been there before So it was fun.

Yea everyone who I talked to who was there had a great time.  So do you think you’re going to be coming back?

I hope so.  Definitely.  And I remember hanging out afterwards and there just being a crazy amount of people, it was ridiculous.  Usually after a show the club kick everybody out and that was one of the few nights you could hang out and drink beer.  So we had a really good time, I’d like to play there once a month or something, be like the house band on a Wednesday night or something like that because it’s so close and it’s such a cool little college vibe there.

Again, we all had a blast, and it was great.  Very encouraging to hear that.  But I think that’s it unless you have anything else you want to say?

Nope, think that’s it.

Well thanks again man, and it was great talking to you.

Yea it was good talking to you.  Have a good one.

The Pietasters play the Club stage at Sonar on Saturday.  Tickets are still available.




One response

5 10 2009

Great interview! Thanks, Steve, for the kind words about the band.


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