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Interview with The Vandals

The Vandals ripped up the Palace in Hollywood on Saturday 11/9/02 with label mates Tsunami Bomb and Audio Karate on their second LA date of the Kung Fu Records tour. UnEarthed got together with Vandal’s guitarist Warren Fitzgerald before the show for a general interview about life, likes, and being part of the Vandals. Read on to see what was said…

We are interviewing Warren from The Vandals, say hi.
Hi recorder thing, microphone.

Who came up with the concept for Internet Dating Super Studs?
Actually, I did. I’ll take full credit or blame for that, yes.
I would say credit.
O.K., good, good, then we’re on the same page. Uhh, that was derived from Hot or Not actually (hotornot.com). Because me and Dave were on Hot or Not and I’ll admit it, we were on internet dates and blazing the new frontier of social interaction.
You were playing on Hot or Not or you were actually on Hot or Not?
I put my profile up there and tried to meet some people and see what’s going on.
What was your average?
I actually got pretty good. I put up a few different photos until I got a solid eight-ish thing, so then I stuck with that. Dave got a really good one though. Dave had a nine something, and he was really proud of it. It was him in a tuxedo singing, so he looked like Harry Conick Jr.

Who writes most of The Vandals songs?
That would be me also. 75 to 80% of material from the past few albums I have done. I have the most spare time, and I have the most um…I have the best rhyming dictionary.
thesaurus.com right?
Oh yeah, actually all those…and msndictionary.com, and uh…yeah, a lot of internet stuff, I spend a lot of time on there, I love it.
Lyrically, where do you get your inspiration?
Um, usually, usually…yeah ok…usually from the ridiculous? Is that a word, as a noun?
Yes.
Ok good, yeah. Usually from the ridiculous. Especially like anything that pertains to relationships. Like you know how if you’re in a relationship you can have a fight about whether Fritto’s chili flavor are better than the plain ones and it turns into some kind of personal thing. Or things like that, those are usually those kind of moments where you go there’s probably some sort of song in here. And then also another one is um, in the defense of uh…uh…taking the wrong side of an argument or a point of view. Taking the wrong point of view and defending it, or rationalizing it. Which is another great song source too because you can kind of portray a character and say hey, I think we should blow up the moon. Oh, ok…well her is why. You know things like that. (Some sort of loud interruption as Warren puts out his cigarette) Ok, yeah, that’s where they come from, or the majority of them. Or you know just a weird take. We try to make them interesting and humorous, but they can’t be like a Weird Al, like a joke or a straight up spoof.
You guys have a lot of humor. Is it usually made up humor, or is it actual life situations that you’ve gone through and then turned into humorous lyrics?
The sad part is that probably more of it is closer to reality then we’d like to admit. Especially the real pathetic ones, those ones are pretty accurate. But we’ve lived full lives.

So, how have you liked touring with your label mates (Tsunami Bomb and Audio Karate)?
It’s nice. They’re all very nice kids and very polite and they, I think they are both really good bands so I am happy to be a part of it.
I am a big fan of Tsunami Bomb, but I don’t know this band that well (as audio karate is playing).
They are actually very underrated, I think their album is great, I really like them.

What would you like to be remembered for most?
What, like after I am dead, like an epitaph kind of thing?
Yeah, after you’re dead.
My work with children…(laughter ensues)…Oh, uh…maybe that um, I acted like a moron, but it’s cause I was smart and it was all on purpose. Think of that what you will, but to me it makes perfect sense.

Out of the seven shows on this tour so far, which one has been your favorite?
>Ummmm…..(counting on fingers and mumbling) Salt Lake city, Idaho, Chico, San Francisco, all the o’s, um, I’m gonna go with…(long pause) Portland!

So what was it that made last night’s show here (in L.A.) so, as you guys were calling it, “professional”?
That’s a thoroughly sarcastic comment, obviously. Because there’s a certain um…maybe it’s my own interpretation of punk rock and of live music and what interests me…is that if there is any robotics going on; whether that’s group, like crowd robotics, you know what I mean, or on stage robotics, then I feel like I am doing something wrong.
Who do you feel was to blame last night? I think it was the crowd.
What’s that? Oh all right. You know there’s a philosophy that there is no such thing as a bad crowd, but you know that’s bullshit too. But to a certain degree I lean more towards that though. It’s kind of irresponsibility. I like a tough crowd. Especially if maybe they aren’t excited at first, and then you can make them like you; that’s an accomplishment. If you can make them like you, then not like you, then like you again, that’s a fucking amazing accomplishment.
Well, if it makes you feel any better about the crowd last night, I did get knocked over.
Well, good, that’s what I like. See, that’s not professional, that’s good.
Exactly!

In what ways do think you have evolved as a band over the years?
We’re more prolific, we write more, we put out more records more consistently, we travel more, I mean that kind of evolution like we’ve put more time into it as it has gone on, we’ve definitely done that. But, as far as evolving…I think the key to anything that we are doing is the fact that we don’t evolve really. The only thing that maybe we’ve evolved with is like maybe we have a few songs on each record where we are a little more, where we feel a little more liberated to try a few different things, you know and stuff like that. But I think the key thing is our non-evolution, and that we’re in that immature, pee-pee poo-poo stage that we haven’t quite broken out of.

How do you feel the punk scene has changed over the past 25 years?
Oh, it’s just a, um…it’s become an institution in a certain sense. But not in a bad way, I think, as opposed to being like…whatever…cause I’m older and like when punk rock was first coming around and things like that, and people were like oh it’s a trend, it’ll be gone in a month, who cares, it’s so stupid, blah, blah, blah…like disco duck or whatever. It’s actually become a right of passage in the sense that for a lot of kids…the kids that are drawn to it, at any age, you know whether they’re thirteen right now or whether they were thirteen twenty years ago that you’re drawn to it because it’s not something that is forced upon you, it’s something that you seek out, and usually it’s the smarter kids or the weird kids, or the ones that are beat up a lot and they want to have something that they can embrace and they can relate to. It’s kind of a serious answer, but it’s actually very accurate I think.

Why do you think it is that The Vandals have been able to enjoy such long-term success as a punk band without “selling out”?
The trick to that is um, do other things. And we all do a lot of other things and so there is no pressure to where we are like we better get signed or we better make it or we need to have this radio hit or it’s make or break on this. You know, we don’t have any of that, so we just do what we do and there are people that enjoy it, and it’s enough to continue doing it, and we all have other things we do. Dave has a beer company and me and Joe have Kung Fu, and I produce albums, and paint and do all sorts of bullshit, and Josh plays the drums on every single person’s record on the planet.

How has been getting to meet and hang out with your fans on this tour?
Actually um, it’s interesting because there are actually, I’m gonna say…there are annoying ones, and then there are rad ones. And that, over the years it seems it has gotten more into the nice ones where they’re like, where they are just cool people. And it’s nice to talk to them as opposed to like people that are really obnoxious or just trying to just get a reaction out of you for whatever reason. I don’t know it’s weird. I’d say mostly good, yeah mostly good.

What was going through your head when you were doing the commentary for the Sweatin’ to the Oldies DVD? What was it like looking back on yourself ten years ago?
I was going, I was fucking good looking in my twenties, damn! And uh, let me see what else…it was interesting too cause I hadn’t seen it for a few years and it had been nearly ten years since we had actually done that, since we’d actually done that show, although it doesn’t seem like it. And I was like, the funny thing, the interesting thing to me was how little we’ve changed in a lot of ways, you know what I mean. There’s a few things, actually I’d say probably I was pretty much saying exactly what’s on my mind so it’s probably on the commentary already, so.

In your high school yearbook, you would have been voted most likely to…?

Uh…high school, high school…(pauses) See my rough years were Jr. high school. I was pretty sorted out, like I was actually already focused, I knew I was getting into music by that point, so I had my own…it’s another thing. If you’re doing one thing and that’s your whole life, then it’s a nightmare. You tend to put too much emphasis on it, but I was like well…I’ll do school, then I’ll graduate or whatever, but I have other plans, and they don’t include college. Actually, they did include seven years of community college, but that was for insurance purposes.

When you were in Oingo Boingo, what was it like working with Danny Elfman?
He’s rad, I like him a lot he’s a nice guy. He’s an interesting um…he’s a rad musician, and he’s talented and he has an interesting uh… I’ve always been very… I’ve always liked music scores and stuff like that and him and many other film composers, so it was cool to not just work with him in the band but also work on some of his scores and kind of see how that process is done, which is something I could do for a living if it happened, if it knocked on the door.

What, if anything has excited you about music in the last five years?
Uh…last five years, that would be 1997 on? Uh umm…(long, long, long umm)…Let me see. Well, ok, I was thinking what excited me this year kind of in a weird way, and this is probably totally subject to debate, but I got kind of excited about Andrew W.K. Because it was packaged stupidity to the public, but in an honest way as opposed to like contrived anger and fucking you know Limp Bizkit fucking bullshit, we have a D.J. and we’re fucking from the streets, but we’re not from the streets, fucking go die kind of thing. So yeah, I’ll go with stupidity any day over any sort of…and see that whole nu-metal thing has sort of evolved into…now we’re getting into, like they’ve all gone from hey we’re angry to hey we’re tortured artists, and now we sing about darkness and gloom and doom over these fucking generic metal riffs and they all need to fuck off forever.

Which bands do you wish were still playing so you could tour with them?
I’d actually have to answer the opposite of that question, there are a lot of bands that are still touring that I wish they didn’t tour so I could still like them because they didn’t stay together so long that they sucked so bad; ourselves excluded of course. But let me see…I like bands and I like good music and musicianship and all that crap, but as long as it’s done…if it’s done with a sense of humor and stuff like that, I can’t really think of…I’m gonna go with Queen actually. Because they’re just shameless fagetry and I’m a huge fan of that. They’re just like balls out, like yeah we’re just gonna write the gayest ballads in the world and just go for it.
Like ballads about a bicycle?
Yeah, and it’s HILARIOUS! And I love Freddy Krueger…Freddy Mercury, yeah.

What inspires you other than music?
I really like movies, big fan of movies. I like buying DVD’s with director commentary, that’s my new kind of like thing. I don’t know how many people actually… I think it’s getting more popular, I think it’s fairly popular, like where people do actually, are interested to see like that kind of thing. Especially if the person is like…if you really like a movie then it’s interesting, it’s like ok we were going for this. But yeah, I like movies, I was trying to get into art. I went to the Guggenheim about a month ago in New York, and fucking modern art sucks, it’s not even art. I mean it’s basically comes down to if you call it art, all of the sudden it’s art. And if it’s just like some dumb thing, it’s just, it’s…(scoffs in disgust)…it’s an atrocity! But I do en…Oh! And classical music, I like classical music, sorry.

What’s the best background music for seduction?
Seduction! O.K., there are a few of them…Edith Piaf, a French 1940’s, World War II era songsters. It’s all in French so you can’t really sing along but it has that kind of like smokey, loungey, sexy vibe to it. Also known as the sparrow, she was a notorious bitch too, but she was a great singer. And she was kind of this haggard terrible woman but she was an amazing singer. And uh…seduction music? Yeah, I’ll go with classical, and actually I’m gonna get real specific because there are certain types of classical… I would go with…see, sometimes with seduction you want to have something that is tuneful and familiar to your seduction partner. You know, you can go with Mozart, you can go with 24th piano concerto or the Jupiter Symphony is another one that has an impact. I’m gonna go with Rachmaninov’s 2nd piano concerto actually.

Where do you see yourself ten years from now?
Well gosh, see if you would have asked me that ten years ago I would have said I would be covered in worms and been in the ground for eight years so now it’s very difficult for me to speculate on that. I would say, hopefully…(long pause) hmm, hopefully I will have done something fantastic. I don’t know what that is, something in the arts, whatever medium, doesn’t matter. That’s my fantasy, but in reality where do I see myself ten years from now? Probably, (counts on fingers), probably like the old guy that drives around in the car that, like the midlife crisis car.
The little convertible BMW …in red?
Yes! And maybe something I’ve worked on has made me enough money that I don’t have to work and I can just hit on girls a tenth my age.

Where is the weirdest place you have ever played?
Weirdest place? I would say one thing interesting was we played this weird kind of Roman…last summer when we played in Rome we played like a…it was like a two thousand year old kind of fortress. And that was interesting, it was an outdoor thing and it was like the bricks that were there, they were laid, probably by slaves two thousand years ago and now they’re having punk concerts there, that’s interesting to me. But you know I’m a sucker for history and Jeopardy.

Do you guys hang out other than being in the band?
Actually we do yeah. That’s the weird part is that we all do get along really well. I mean we have our moments but it’s where you almost become family because you spend so much fucking time together. Like when we’re on tour I check my machine like obsessively and no one fucking calls because everyone that ever calls me is sitting on the fucking bus with me.

What’s the last movie that you saw?
Oh, I saw two movies in the past week. It was Jackass and Punch Drunk Love. And Punch Drunk Love I’m gonna say is a very good movie, I would actually go see it again, in the theater. Which for me is a big deal because I don’t go to the movies very often. I mean, I do like movies, but I don’t like going by myself.
What about Jackass?
Jackass, umm…you know it’s necessary. It’s a necessary element of entertainment, fucking and, I am surprised it took to this point in history where that has actually been embraced. Have people do stupid things and film it. Or even just you know before films and stuff like that, you know 100 years ago they just had a bunch of people get together and then one person goes up and does stupid things. Packing it, I like it, there were some funny parts in that movie.

What female musician do you admire?
Do I want to have sex with or do I admire?
Umm, well both.
Well, I have a girl that fits both categories…Tori Amos! Because she’s fucking crazy, she’s really talented, she’s scary, and she’s like kind of a pervert too. I kind of get that vibe from her, but maybe I’m embellishing that on my own. Well, that’s just one, the list is very long. Actually any girl, as soon as they are a musician all of the sudden they become very sexually appealing. That’s a fact but that works both ways.

What’s the largest audience you’ve ever played to?
33,000 people I think. Big, yeah a lot of people.
Where was that?
That was umm…oh, no, no, no wait I take that back. 40,000 people; 41,000 people is actually what it was. That was in Portugal…Lipson? Yeah, Lipson, Portugal and we opened for Pearl Jam.
How was that?
We sold TWO t-shirts out of 40,000 people. If you break it down to like percent per head like what we sold it was like shocking. But it was fun anyway. It was an interesting experience and I can say that I played in front of 40,000 people opening for Pearl Jam, and it was weird. But it was cool, I actually enjoyed it.

Do you prefer the smaller venues or larger venues?
Pluses and minuses on both I think. I think they’re both fun. It’s just, I wish it could be a situation where it was every other night or something like that so that it could keep it interesting. You know, you play small clubs thirty shows in a row and all of the sudden the big show just seems like the weirdest thing in the world.

Well, that’s pretty much it.
Well, there you go. See, very efficiently taken care of.

Unless there is anything else you’d like to add…
Umm…uh…umm…I’m just doing my own thing.

Thank you very much for your time.
Gotta express myself, yes! No problem!

*Interview conducted and transcribed by Miss Doubtfire!

Miss Doubtfire

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