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Interview with Less Than Jake

Before a recent Less Than Jake show at the House of Blues in Hollywood, UnEarthed caught up with Vinnie, the drummer behind Less Than Jake.

If I remember correctly, you write most of the lyrics?
Yes
Have you threatened to go solo yet?
Not yet, but I’m tempted to actually. No, I’m not.
How do you kept the others in line?
With a whip and with money. I, I use a lot of money to keep everyone in line. I, I risk it all and I give them a lot of money and they take care of me. And the most amazing thing, to be honest with you, is that like, its definitely a relationship that I have with Chris and Rog about writing songs, its that when you give lyrics and they do it, or they come with the song and I do it. It’s definitely a lot of working back and forth together to actually make the song happen, you know what I mean? So, its definitely, even though I may write the lyrics, its definitely a collective effort to actually getting the song done in its finished form. Its cool.

You have a lot of songs that deal with where you’re from and how boring the town is and how lame some of the people there are. Have you had any bad responses from any of the town’s people or any of the people used as subjects in your songs?
No, never. You know, some people in New jersey actually asked me a couple of times, you know, ‘what’s wrong with New Jersey’? There’s nothing wrong with New Jersey because most of those songs, if you actually read into it, its not dissing on our town, its more so being bummed out that you grew up in a certain town and that when you go back there’s nothing that you remember there, you know what I mean? And its not necessarily that the towns I ever lived were boring but it’s the fact of the matter it’s the same old story so ‘History of a Boring Town’ is not really about a boring town, its about the grind of a certain town, you know what I mean? And some people take like lyrics and titles of songs at face value and if read, the lyrics of most our songs make like no sense at all to like what actually like its supposed to, you know, ‘Help Save the Youth of America from Exploding’, things like that. I can go in every single title, I can actually go in and tell you this means that. And the band is mostly the only ones who actually know where I’m coming from with that. So if you have any like questions about like ‘what does this title mean?’, I’ll explaining it to you, no problem. I’ll go ’round robin right now explaining every single thing ‘cuz that would make for interesting reading actually. Like what does “Help Save the Youth of America From Exploding” mean? You know what I mean? And that means – and I’ll tell you. The actual song title, ‘Billy Brag’, right, is called ‘Help Save the Youth of America From Exploding’, right? And basically when all – yes, I’m bullshitting – every, every song of ‘Hello Rockview’ the title came from my journal. Ok, so when you go through, that’s why its all done like cartoon style, comic book style, like a storyline. And one of the titles was ‘Help Save the Youth of America From Exploding’ because it was a quote off Billy Brag’ so basically, I just expanded on that so it actually comes from a Billy Brag song. And the title in my journal that talks about American culture and things that have happened to me in the past.

What, if anything, has excited you about music in the last 5 years?
Dillenger Four, Dillenger Four, Dillenger Four, Dillenger Four. Dillenger Four is the best punk rock bands to come out in the past 3 years. And you know what, they’ve been a band for about 4 years, but Dillenger Four is the most amazing bands with the most amazing lyrics and that’s my most favorite band at the moment for punk rock. You know, that other thing is Elvis Costello and Burt Bacharach together is also amazing. And Iron Maiden getting Bruce Dickenson back in and having the 3 guitar attack. That’s, that’s my top choices right there. You know but, you don’t have a lot to choose from, right, as far as music goes, you have popular music which is just ass, you know what I mean? I don’t like metal-core, you know. I don’t like rap-core, whatever you want to call it. I don’t like pop, I like some old pop like Steely Dan and Fleetwood Mac, but that’s about it.

Mike Park was one of the people that got me interested in getting more interested in music. How has he influenced your band, and how was the whole Bruce Lee Band experience, where Less Than Jake was Mike’s back-up band?
Well, I’ll tell you interesting stories. Number 1 is this: Is that Mike Park was the original cat who heard our band, called me up and said we want to do your record. I really love you band, so he was actually like the guy who helped us out enough to release our first CD. You know what I mean? I still talk to him every 2 months, every 3 months. You know what I mean? And its one of those things, he’s one of those guys that helped you out. You know what I mean? And I respect him a lot. You know what I mean? And I, I dig what he’s about you know, because he, he used to not be like that. What a lot of people don’t remember is that Skankin’ Pickle was never known for the do-it yourself ethics. I mean, let’s face the facts, you know, I remember paying, 4 years ago, 5 years ago, whenever it was, going to see Skankin’ Pickle, pay fucking $14, you know what I mean? I mean they were never known for it and for him to have that turn around after leaving Skankin’ Pickle and go more into punk rock, I can give him respect for that. As for the Bruce Lee Experience – we wrote all the songs. So its more so, we’re not the backing band, we wrote the record. You know what I mean? So we are the band. You know what I mean? That was a Less Than Jake…if a Less Than Jake record was ever done in 2 days, that’s what it would be. With different lyrics obviously, cuz you know, whatever. But you know, we did that, we sat down in our warehouse for 1 night. We wrote the songs with his lyrics and then we went in, he came I, we practiced 2 days, went into the studio, recorded in 1 day…it was easy (under his breath)

Last year at the Warped Tour, I saw a split 7-inch you did with Megadeth. Did you meet the band at all?
Yes. I met Dave Mustane. He’s a very lovely gentleman. Who was actually not so lovely at times. But you know, I don’t know, the whole thing with Megadeth came out from Capital. They were on Capital so we got a hold of their management, asked to do it, they said ‘Yeah, that would be really cool.’ And it was done.
Any of those 7″ still available?
Yes, the European version actually we have with us. And that’s like limited to 500 copies or whatever. That’s the last, once that 500 is done, then its done forever and forever and forever. To be on E-bay for $20 a shot.

Who were your favorite bands to play with live?
I would say Descendents, I would say All, which is one in the same mind you, ok? I would definitely say Guttermouth was really fun to tour with. I would say that NOFX was a really good experience being, just hanging around with them; it was cool. I like Mike a lot; I respect Mike lot.
Which bands do you wish were still playing so you could tour with them?
The Clash…The Clash. That’s the only band I could thing of. Definitely the Clash, the Ramones too. Even though they’re still around in some weird form, but you know, they’re broken up, but its still, Ramones is on the list too.

You’re one of the most energetic bands out there. What bands inspired you to do what you do?
Skankin’ Pickle, for sure. Huge influence on our band as far as stage show its most definitely Skankin’ Pickle that like took us to a different way of thinking about how to do things live. Most definitely, so and it also helps that everyone that is in Less Than Jake is stupidly insane. It definitely is, I mean like…I have a humorous kind of story about it, its where we just did the Warped Tour shows about a week ago and someone came up to our manager and said, you know ‘is Less Than Jake on crank or speed?’ And they’re like, not that I’m aware of. And he’s like there’s no one like out of their mind on fucking crank can actually put out an half hour of insanity. So I guess that’s like a compliment, but none the less.

What inspires you other than music?
Calvin Butts and Kurt Vonnagen; Elvis Costello; Rancid, ‘Out Come the Wolves’; Kurt Vonnagen; Gainsville, Florida. That’s my list of inspiring things. And really good Thai food. There’s a really lovely Thai restaurant, its about 4 blocks away from here and I ate there earlier today and it was the most amazing green curry chicken with Japanese eggplant I’ve every had. So I love it. Every time in LA go to Zen Grill – by the way if anyone wants to go there.

Have you ever been to Hawaii?
Yes. Twice, three times. Yeah, 3 times. We just went there like 4 weeks ago with…opened for Blink 182. Which was a boning, on a side note, thank you very much. No diss on Blink, because I like Blink, you know what I mean? But when we went there it was a big fiasco and how things were is not how things I like to be at a show. Really tense, really business like, this is what has to happen, blah blah blah and that’s not how I like things to go. I like to be friends with people that I know. I like to have really relaxed environment when we’re playing. Nothing super tense, nothing super stupid, just go in there, we do it. You know, we like to be friends with the people we work with. So if we’re talking to a monitor guy, we’ll say ‘Hey, what’s up, you want to go drink a beer in the parking lot? You wanna go do whatever? You want a 15 year old boy to blow you?’ Whatever it takes, you know? And you know, that’s the whole thing, man, is that, you know, when we went there, the show was great. We had 6000 people there. It was really good and we did really good and Blink’s still nice guys and whatever, but it was all business, business, business. And that’s not what I’m about and that’s why it was a boning – thank you very much.

Where’s the weirdest place you have ever played?
Weirdest place I’ve ever played was at a retirement center that held punk rock shows in the afternoons. It was cool, it was.

Any shout outs or words for you fans?
Our record’s coming out, in October of Fat Wreckords. It’s called Borders and Boundaries – go buy it. Please. Please. I mean, the whole thing is this: the one question that’s always asked of me, always, always, always, is “I’m in a band and what can I do to actually like, you know, be popular or whatever”, and I always say tour, tour, tour and be on as many compilations as possible. And that’s my only like thing to like fans who are in bands and things like that, you know? And the other thing, I mean is obviously thank you’s to people that actually come and support our band because if it wasn’t for them, I mean who the fuck knows what I’d be doing, you know what I mean? And that’s on thing I never understand about bands, is that they consistently treat their fans like shit, you know, like they’re the fuckin, you know, they’re on this pedestal and I never got that. I never got that about 80’s rock and I don’t get it now about popular mainstream punk bands, how they consistently treat their fans like shit. You know, and I don’t get it. None the less. Do you want to talk about why we left Capital now?

Actually, I was going to ask that in the last question. Now that you’re going back to an indy label, do you think Johnny Quest with be happy?
No, because, again “Johnny Quest Thinks We’re Sell Outs”, wasn’t about selling out, quote unquote, to a major label. It was about selling out the punk scene by playing ska and having horns. You know what I’m saying? And you know, to be honest with you, its that coming back to an indy, we’ve always been indy, our ethics have always been indy, the way we conducted ourselves has always been independent as an independent band. We just happened to be on a major label to distribute and manufacture our records and that’s what they did. When that relationship, we decided that is was time, decided that we would buy ourselves out of our contract, ‘cuz we still had 3 records to go on Capital and we said, “We want out. Your focus is on rap, on pop, on R&B. We don’t connect at all”, You know what I mean, “as a label and a band, so you don’t want us anymore, we don’t want you anymore and we don’t understand each other so how much is it gonna cost to get us out of our contract?” They said its gonna cost this number and we said ok, its affair number. And Fat Mike went whoop whoop whoop whoop whoop on a big check and we sent it them. And now Fat is doing our record, you know? I give props to Fat Mike, man, because he know his shit, man, and he’s always…NOFX has always done things the right way. And that’s one of the bands that throughout everything, they’ve always done things the right way. And we’ve always modeled ourselves after that…NOFX and a few others, but specifically NOFX.

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Interview by John Farley, a newcomer to UnEarthed.Com

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