Interview in X-Tra zine
It was after the show and there were four of us were huddled in an entry
way of a store on Santa Monica Blvd; hoping that the busses and cars flying
by would not be so loud as to obstruct an interview. This was finally
our, "our" being Scottie, Shaun and I, chance to get all those
questions you can come up to when listening to J-Church, and Cringer for
that matter, answered. Well most anyway... So here's how our conversation
with Lance from J-Church went:
Interview code: X-tra- Scottie, Shaun, and Rianne, L- Lance
Recorded on October 27 2000 in LA
X-tra: Is there a story behind your name?
L: Oh yeah, in San Francisco the MUNI Line the trains are letters, like
the "K-Ingleside," "M-Judah," and the "J"
goes by Church Street so it's known as the "J-Church." That
was the train I used to ride to work everyday and when the band first
started the first dozen songs or so I wrote riding to work, so I wrote
them all on the "J-Church."
X-tra: What's the deal with "Muddy Waters Coffee?"
L: Muddy Waters, at the time of that song especially, was pretty much
the most potent coffee you could get on the west coast. Even more so than
anything out of Seattle... Muddy Waters is this great coffee shop and
it's also just a nice place to hang out. A lot of coffee places can be
really yuppie and they're really flexible about letting all kinds of punk
rock kids and random insane people from the neighborhood and whatever
else hang out there. It's also where small political groups that aren't
big enough to have their own room can have their meetings and stuff like
that. And the coffee is just insane and cheap.
X-tra: Did you really get hit by a MUNI bus?
L: No, that was a story about a real person that I didn't really know
that well but that other people I know knew. That's a true story. That
person died. He was a bike messenger and there is a lot of crossover in
San Francisco between bike messengers and the punk scene and stuff...
They look the same so they might as well hang together, I guess. Everybody
rides a bike in San Francisco and yeah, they drive like maniacs and this
kid just got caught under a bus. He just slid under it. It was pretty
horrible. The song is pretty much just about his last moments.
X-tra: What happened in Tokyo - the J Church Sucks
L: The second time we went there we didn't really bother to get papers
and go through the government and all that. Our bass player got busted
by immigration and got deported. It was nuts. We were touring with Propagandhi,
you know that band from Canada, they are like our pals and so they had
to learn our whole set and they had to play the bass parts for the tour.
That's a total true story. Everything in that song is true. The first
verse is about the first time we went to Europe and we didn't plan it
right. We went over there before we had a record and half the shows got
cancelled. So we had three weeks off with no money at all and we stayed
at these squats. The second verse is totally true about how I got sick
and threw up in the studio the whole time we were recording our second
album and the third is about our second trip to Japan when our bass player
got deported 'cause we didn't have the proper work papers. It's about
X-tra: Why the split with Gardner?
L: It wasn't like a heavy duty thing, he was just like really burnt out.
When that last record came out we toured like almost six months straight.
We did three US tours, a Canadian tour, two European tours and two Japanese
tours. By the end of that he had just had it. It's not that he didn't
want to play in the band anymore, it's just that he couldn't do the travelling
and even though we're never going to do the six month tour again we still
do travel. He didn't really want to do it so he dropped out. I still see
him, he comes to our shows and stuff. It's nice to see him around. That's
all there was to it.
X-tra: Do you still keep it DIY?
L: Yeah, as much as we possibly can. It gets difficult all the time, I
mean obviously we play shows like this once in a while and it really just
sort of depends on the circumstances. We don't tour as much as we used
to so we usually do only one LA show. We're all sick. I've got a heart
condition and our drummer's got other stuff. We have a million reasons
why we can't play as much as we used to so that really messes with the
way we do our tours now. But then also it depends on the records. We still
try to do singles with as many labels that ask us, especially indie labels
that are starting up. The reason we have so many singles is like when
people are starting labels they ask around. Whenever we can, we try to
do that and we make a point of never taking money from labels that we
do singles with. We just ask for like, if they make a thousand, send us
some copies. So they don't have to worry giving us recording money or
whatever. We try to stick to that kind of thing and we're very much to
letting people do all the bootlegs. There's a million J-church shirts,
patches, buttons and records apparently, and CDs... as long as it's not
some big company doing it we're happy to let them. If it's helping some
kid pay for a fanzine or some collective in Italy pay for their defense
fund more power to them. As long as I get a copy.
X-tra: Do you have any advice for bands that want to keep it DIY?
L: I don't think bands nowadays realize how easy it is. When you do things
DIY it is actually easier for a band, especially for punk bands. It is
actually easier to just have control over everything. There was that time
when Rancid and Green Day and everybody were huge and it seemed like it
was easy to get a manager right away and a record deal all of a sudden.
That was just sort of like a fad, and now that it's gone we're sort of
back to where we were 8 years ago, you know. In these kinds of times and
under these circumstances, you're going to be a lot more successful if
you just control it all yourself: If book your own shows, if you do your
own recordings and put out your first single. If you're going to do a
single, you can do a single yourself easily. It's like people are just
worried what distributor is going to pick up a 7" these days. If
its your first single you're only going to do 500. You can just give them
away or sell them at your shows, it's not that expensive.
X-tra: Do you have a personal favorite J-Church album?
Lance: Well now I like the new record, the new record is the first one
that I still listen to and don't feel completely embarrassed by the off-key
vocals and the out of tune guitars.
Scottie: I love that though.
L: That's 'cause it's not you. Sometimes I look back and it's like looking
at the old lyric sheets - aaaaah! - I wrote that ten years ago that's
kind of embarrassing now. -aaaaah! -I wrote that about a girlfriend I
broke up with a long time ago and you know what, we're friends now so
this record is really embarrassing. There's a lot of songs that haunt
you later. I have to make sure that I never ever listen to J-Church whenever
someone comes by my house.
X-tra: What's the story behind the Panama song?
Lance: Panama... well its a mixture of a couple of different
things. The real idea with Panama originally was I think...
and maybe this is making a lot more of the song than is true but... I
think the 80's ruined a lot of things for music. A lot of people blamed
the 70's for making Rock 'N Roll homogenous and stuff. I think the 80's
are just as bad as far as what New Wave did to Punk. A lot of bad stuff
happened to music in the early 80's... and a lot of great things as well,
but as far as the big stuff, a lot of it was about overproduction; about
getting away from the song writing in music and the rawness. That song
is about how it's personally damaging to people. I think people get carried
away in the technology of music. This sounds so ridiculous when I explain
it but it's not even really an issue of CDs versus vinyl, although there
is an element of that. I have nothing against CDs, obviously we put out
CDs, but I don't think its worth getting into the argument like CDs are
convenient CDs are this or that CDs are better than vinyl or whatever.
That song is a lot about getting back to rawer production values. There's
a line about Cripple Creek, I can't remember. Whenever Cripple Creek is
used it's been by someone like Neil Young or The Band, and it's about
getting back to that kind of song writing of simpler production values.
That kind of song writing is sort of poetic and delivering some sort of
story. It's also an attempt at taking an idea, like a political idea as
far as deconstructing music... getting back to less production more towards
the communication of a song more so than the studio productions. As in
the style of a Bob Dylan song or a Credence Clearwater song. I know that
sounds nuts, and I feel like an idiot as each word leaves my mouth, but
that's sort of like what I was trying to say with that song.
Scottie: Maybe if I listened to that type of music, I was probably too
young. I got into this scene of music when I was really young so I wasn't
really exposed to like Neil Young or Classic Rock or anything like that
except for like our oldies station.
Lance: -And you can't really rely on that 'cause most Classic Rock is
Scottie: Well not Steve Miller Band. He's kind of like a god to me.
Lance: Early Steve Miller Band, I like everything up to Jet Air
Liner. I like a lot of that stuff. There's always something going
on that's still relevant. People say like oh god Punk Rock is terrible
and now there's too many punk rockers. There's always something good happening
and there's a lot of bad stuff in every scene. It's just like people are
in denial of it. When Grunge was huge most Grunge was terrible, when Hardcore
was huge, most Hardcore was still actually terrible. It was just fun going
to shows 'cause there was so many people. A lot of it really was still
bad in hindsight but that doesn't diminish the fact that there was a lot
of great stuff. Operation Ivy was a brilliant band. Crimpshrine was a
brilliant band. People don't realize that there was a lot of other stuff
happening and people won't talk about it now 'cause a lot of it was bad.
Isocracy was great. Sweet Baby was great. But there were other bands and
they were bad.
X-tra: Do you think you will ever run out of songs to write?
Lance: Naw... 'cause they're all so abstract. They're all about things
that happen to me like everyday so like I don't see how.
X-tra: Do you ever get asked to play Cringer songs?
Lance: Not anymore, it's strange. When we first started off we heard that
a lot but Cringer at this point... that was like 9 years ago. People don't
remember Cringer. Well, a lot of people do, but J-Church has been around
long enough that we just don't get asked that anymore. When we go out
of the country, we get asked that... There was a time when we were going
to do some Cringer songs, we thought about it. After the band had been
around for five years we thought that it would be fun if we, as an encore,
busted out some Cringer songs but that would be embarrassing if no one
knew what it was.
X-tra: How much longer does J-Church have to go?
L: I don't know, I mean I used to think that when I turn 30 I got to stop
playing but now I'm in my 30s... Our inspiration are bands that are older
than us. As long as like Sonic Youth is still going... as long as they're
still doing it.
Scottie: How old are you?
Scottie: That ain't that old.
L: You say that now but ten years ago if you were a punk rocker, 33 would
be like fucking... ! I doesn't seem odd to me now but when I was 20 years
old I didn't expect to still be playing music at 33.
X-tra: What kind of heart problems do you have?
L: It was hereditary, it's not like a diet thing, I'm a vegetarian. I
thought I had bronchitis so I went to the free clinic to get medication
for bronchitis. They took my blood pressure and like freaked out. They
sent me immediately to the emergency room, I didn't even know what was
going on at the time. They thought I was going to have a heart attack
right then, they thought I was about to die. So I got rushed into the
emergency room, shirt ripped open, shit stuck all over me, IV goes in
immediately. They made me eat aspirin right away actually, apparently
that thins your blood or whatever. So I didn't know what was going on
and they kept running tests 'cause they didn't know what was wrong with
me. They kept asking me if I was on crack, seriously, 'cause my heart
rate was so accelerated… I was like, no you kidding me, I just had
diet coke. I got immediately checked into the hospital they were basically
waiting for me to die. The chambers of my heart had all dilated. My heart
was much bigger than it's supposed to be and it was pumping too much blood.
That's why I thought I had bronchitis, my lungs were filling up with blood.
They had me under constant surveillance, I couldn't shower or anything
for a week. They were waiting to see what was going to happen. Literally
they told me, this is it. So I was just lying in bed waiting to die. It's
really weird when I think about it that I was sort of like making my peace
with this world. I was surprised that I didn't freak out. I was like,
wow this is it, now I'm going to find out what it's like. I got better
somehow. I didn't have a heart attack. The medication started working.
I spent 6 months on medications and going in and out of the hospital.
They finally found a medication that's been working for me. When I first
got out of the hospital they expected me to live for like 5 more years
but now with the medication I'm on I can live to be 80 I guess. I take
a lot of medication and we can't do a three month tour basically because
I can't eat junk food for three months. We can do some touring and do
most of the band stuff.
Scottie: Are you vegan?
L: Practically vegan at this point. I was vegan for like 5 years but then
fell off the wagon because we tour and it sucks, on tour you never know
what you're going to get. I can't eat that stuff anyway because of my
heart and my girlfriend is vegan and we cook together and eat together
X-tra: Future albums or tours?
L: Since the album came out this is like our third show, so after this
with Dismemberment Plan we fly to the east coast for a few shows, then
we go to Europe for a little while. Then next year it starts up again.
We're going to do a full US tour, come back through here, Japan, South
X-tra: Do you even have a copy of all your releases?
L: Yeah, I do actually. I have a little vault where I keep everything,
even all the compilations. Even the weird stuff. 'Cause there's two cassettes
we did at one point and I even have those and I can't believe I still
have them. We did this one tour where I booked all the shows myself and
to thank all the people that we stayed with we did a cassette only release
and we left them with people that we stayed with.
Believe it or not that was all the questions and time we had. At this
point Lance noticed all the bands taking off so it's a good thing we stopped
here. Two weeks and a hell of a lot of typing this interview is finally
ready to go.
Peace out: Rianne, Scottie and Shaun.
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