Interview in Suspect Device zine #27

Whilst in San Francisco we were lucky enough to chat to J Church at a gig at the Epicenter record store. Questions by Nick Evans and Mike Head.

When you toured Europe did you leave jobs?
Gardner: I just quit and didn’t go back, I quit my last job about a year ago, we’re trying to keep touring and keep self-sufficient. We’re not.
Reed: I’ve had jobs but I’ve not got one at the moment.

How long did you tour Europe for?
G: We didn’t really, we just did England, for a month long UK tour. We got a call to do a festival in Sweden so he flew us out to that and we did one in Denmark.
(Lance arrives)

Were the London shows big for you?
Lance: The Venue show with Snuff was probably the biggest.
G: When we were in Cringer, we did a show with Fugazi, but for J Church that was a big show. We got a lot of money because Sean set it all up and Snuff donated money to us.

What about here in SF, what’s your regular place to play?
L: The Bottom Of The Hill Club (holds about 275 - MH) because it lets us do All Ages, we don’t have much of a draw here though.

Tell us about your tour here with Wat Tyler
G/R: Ha hah etc.
L: It was the best of times, yet was the worst of times. I totally warned them about touring the West Coast in December, the schools are out, Christmas is coming up, no one goes out. They were like “We don’t care”, but they didn’t realise they’d play to as few as ten people sometimes.
G: All they did was complain and argue with each other, it was fun for us to watch them and be with them.
L: I wondered how they’d go down, but they’re big in Germany, surely if the fucking Germans can understand them a bunch of students in Seattle can.
G: As soon as they start running around everyone laughs.

How do you release so many records on different labels?
L: It’s a bit complicated, it’s a lot of the same songs but we licensed songs to Rugger Bugger and Damaged Goods because the records are hard to find in the UK. We don’t put out as much as people think, probably a lot less, we do about 25 songs a year, 12 on album, say, the rest go on compilations and singles.

Do you like the idea of compiling songs on a CD?
L: Only because a lot of the songs come out on small labels as favours, like Dead Beat for example which couldn’t sell many records, but we helped them out. A lot of our records are out of print. I don’t want our records to sell for $50 or even $20, we put two albums worth of songs on a CD and everyone can have the songs.

How often do you play SF?
L: Not very often. We used to play once a week, now we tour more and try to only play about six or so local shows a year.
G: Exactly the same people come.
L: It would be nice to open for bigger bands sometimes instead of headlining all the time. We did play with China Drum, but their record company gave away most of the tickets to fill the place. We played with Supergrass and only about 40 people showed up.

Any new local bands you rate?
L: It’s been a dry spell, oh wait, Shotwell Coho are great, the single is awesome like first Clash album meets Crimpshine. There’s no-one like us, there’s the NOFX type stuff which is fine, and total noise bands.
G: Jazz is big here.

Do you find Berkeley and SF stay apart?
G: People in SF don’t even go to shows here let alone Berkeley. It’s probably like London where it’s a music city but everyone’s bored with it, it has to be something really exciting to make you go, or jazz (laughter).
L: People here won’t go to a show if it’s in another neighbourhood, and bands are cool until they make a record. I had fun last time we played Gilman St. though, I was surprised how much I enjoyed it.

We saw Screw 32 play Berkeley Square last week, the whole crowd virtually had AFI, Swingin’ Utters, Bouncing Souls shirts on. What do you think of those bands?
L: Oh the thug crowd. Sometimes those bands play and the crowd is out of control (that’s us – MH). The reason that doesn’t happen at Berkeley Square, for better or for worse, is that the bouncers are such total fucking assholes.

Are you coming back to England sometime?
L: Sure, hopefully this year. It’s one of my favourite places.
R: Maybe not quite as long though.
G: Maybe we won’t hit every northern county like last time.
L: Dundee, Sunderland.
G: Darlington was bad.
L: We know the trail Frankie Stubbs hits every day, the Labour Club on the last day of recording he was just so drunk, we had to go and get him from the pub.
G: He’s amazing, the recording was so good, I don’t know how anyone could do anything while they were that drunk.
L: He’d walk in with a case and start putting them away, all I saw him eat was a candy bar and some left over curry sauce, a total junk food vegetarian.

Thanks to J Church for their time, it was fun to talk to them, and sorry Lance but even if the guitarist from Blur does shop at Epicenter we still hate him because he’s in Blur. And we didn’t really believe that you threw a girl out of the Epicenter on to the street after she overdosed in the toilet.


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