Interview from Bam Bam Bigelow e-zine
Interview by Jon Von, November 2000. Original available in Italian at
the Bam Bam
Active for ten years, this band has gone through many line-ups but that has never compromised the incredible prolificness of Lance, the leader of the band, an excellent composer and songwriter. It goes without saying that the three shows in our beautiful country are occasions not to be missed for lovers of pop-punk and punk rock and for all of those who listen to bands from the Bay Area like Monsula, Jawbreaker and, of course, Green Day.
1- We know you were supposed to come to Europe in 1999 but you couldn't because of your serious health problems... so the first question is...how are you now? Are your heart problems over?
Well, I suffer from malignant hyper-tension and massive high blood pressure. My main problem was that it lead to my heart becoming dilated. That's what almost killed me. My heart is no longer dilated. But the hyper-tension and high blood pressure is a problem I'll have for the rest of my life. I take a lot of medication every day to stay alive. I'm better enough that I can go on tour for limited periods of time. But my health is always at risk. Plus, the heart problems have caused permanent damage to my kidneys.
2- Since the last time we saw a J Church show in Europe, 2/3 of the band has changed... now you've got a new bass player and a new drummer... What can you say about them?
We've had more changes than just that. After the last batch of touring in '97, Andee left the band. He was always more or less sitting in as he had two other full time bands, A Minor Forest and PEE. That's when Adam started playing with us. Before we could start playing again, Gardner quit the band. To be honest, that was a long time coming. He had been pretty burned out on the band. He was sick of touring and was pretty miserable most of the time. I'm kind of surprised he hadn't quit the band years previously. So, Scott Bradley from the Moons, Fuzztone and the Little Deaths joined on bass. After playing in the band for almost a year and doing several gigs with us including a road trip with Seam down to Southern California, his commitments to his other bands got the best of him. That's when we got Jeff to play bass. I had known Jeff for years as we both worked together at Epicenter Zone (a punk collective and record store, now defunct) for a long time. That's pretty much where we are now. There are still a few satellite members. Andee still fills in on drums when Adam has other commitments and Kelly Green of PEE has been known to sing with us from time to time.
3- In the past, as you said, you've changed a great number of drummers... but we know you played with Gardner since the beginning, you were friends from high-school and he was the bass-player of Cringer, the group that preceded J Church. Was it an easy substitution? Has this change of bass-player influenced the sound of the band?
Hmmm. That's hard to say. It's not really a matter of "substitution" or anything like that. Jeff has his own style as did Scott. As far as Gardner influencing the sound of the band... I don't really know. I mean, I wrote a lot of the bass parts like Yellow, Blue And Green and L.A., the bass heavy songs. And I think that I pointed that out by writing a similar styled bassline on Imaginary Friends on the new record. As far as Gardner and I playing together for so many years, I don't really know what to say to that. Playing together for such a long time can be really unhealthy. On a personal level, we get along a lot better now when we see each other. We have very different personalities and very similar backgrounds. But in the long run the bad stuff outweighed the good.
4- Your latest work has stirred up very different opinions... some people love it and consider it one of J Church's best albums; some think that it cannot be compared to masterpieces as Quetzalcoatl and Prophylaxis...
Well, I have a lot of problems with Quetzalcoatl and Prophylaxis. I think Quetzalcoatl is mixed and mastered really poorly. We ran out of money and had to rush everything in the end. It really didn't turn out at all like I wanted even though I really like a lot of the songs. For Prophylaxis, I just wasn't happy with the vocals at all. We recorded them at a place called Dancing Dog and I've always hated doing vocals there. I did some stuff with Monsula there... Some stuff with Cringer... The vocals are always awful there and for some reason I can't sing there to save my life. I'm not a great singer, so it's always difficult for me anyway. But that record in particular is hard for me to listen to a lot of the time. Again, I like the songs. But the production value and the performances on One Mississippi are far superior. Certainly the instruments are better sounding and there more variety in sound. I also think my vocals are much more confident. I have to say, and this is always totally subjective, that my songwriting is much better now than it was six years ago. I try to have a very serious work ethic about my songwriting and I think it's best showcased on One Mississippi. I think a lot songs display growth on the J Church "style" if you will. Other songs show new directions that we can explore. I don't know. I think One Mississippi is the best thing I've ever done on all levels (writing, production, performance). But again, it's all subjective.
5- However it's evident that the first albums sound very different to One Mississippi. What has been, if it has been, the evolution of the band? In which way have the sound and the structure of the songs changed in 8 years?
Well, with Quetzalcoatl a good deal of the songs were written for our live set. We were still cutting our teeth playing live gigs every weekend (if not several times a week) so a lot of the songs were written to be short blasts for the live show that existed to display a quick introduction to the band. There are a couple of songs that were written specifically for the record. By the time Prophylaxis came around, I was mostly writing songs for recording. I was writing stuff that could only be complete in the studio. With Drama Of Alienation, we went back to recording straight forward with minimal double tracking and almost no overdubs that we couldn't do live. I think with One Mississippi we're back to the Prophylaxis style of songwriting. We'll go crazy in the studio trying to make a song complete to our liking and later worry about how we'll play it live.
6- We know you consider One Mississippi one of the best works you've ever made, but you know a lot of your fans don't think so... So, which songs will we hear at your concerts? How much time will you devote to your latest album and how much to your (I know you don't like this definition) "greatest hits"? I imagine you must be sick of playing songs like Bomb, November, No Surprise, My Favorite Place...
No, I actually really love playing the old stuff. We usually play about 14 songs live. Of those songs, we usually do at least six new tracks. I think it's kind of a bummer when a band goes on tour and only does the new record. I'm not really sure what we'll be doing. But I really like playing My Favorite Place...
7- Once I remember reading, I don't remember where, perhaps in a fanzine, this comment: "J Church, either you hate it or you love it". What do you think about that?
Well, that certainly seems to be the case. In some ways, I think we're becoming something of a cult band. I mean, we'll never have a gold record. But we'll always have our following that understand us even though no one else seems to.
8- Are you thinking about your next album? What can you say about the future of the band? If, as you said in another interview, One Mississippi is J Church's Zen Arcade, what do you think the next album will be? Will it be your New Day Rising or your Candy Apple Grey? (What a fucking stupid question!!)
Well, calling One Mississippi our Zen Arcade was sort of wishful thinking. I mean, I don't think it's as good as Zen Arcade. It's funny. I've been working on a few songs for the next record and I'm finding it really hard to figure out the angle of it. It's really tempting to do another double album. I like to think the next record will be a New Day Rising. But who knows? Maybe we'll just turn the amps up to 10 and do a White Light/White Heat freak out. I'd really love to do a whole record that sounded like I Heard Her Call My Name!
9- The last question... I know you're a friend of Blake Schwarzenbach, ex-singer of Jawbreaker and now singer of Jets to Brazil... Do you like Jets to Brazil? Or did you prefer Jawbreaker? And what do you think about emo and post-hardcore? Is this the future of punk-hc?
Uh, I guess I'll always prefer Jawbreaker if only because of sentimental value. But also because Chris and Adam were in the band and that helped make them so unique. Yeah, and I guess when you get right down to it, Jawbreaker was a better band with better songs. I don't think Jets To Brazil will ever do a song as fantastic as I Love You So Much It's Killing Us Both. As far as the new generation of emo and post-hardcore... I don't really know too much about it. I have to admit I don't really follow that stuff too much. Maybe it is the future of punk. But hasn't Fugazi been doing it for a decade now? None of the new generation of emo bands are nearly as good as Fugazi. You can take that to the bank.
Back to Article Index