MIKE NESS photo by Heidi Muzhik

MIKE NESS

MIKE NESS
INTERVIEW BY STEVE OLSON
INTRODUCTION BY STEVE OLSON
PHOTOS BY HEIDI MUZHIK

From here to fraternity, up and down,  left shock, born to rock. Ness, not Elliott, Social Distortion, and the rest…

Where do you get the most response when you’re touring?
It’s hard to say. You always get a surprise; where one show in a big city ends up being a dud and somewhere in Alabama ends up being one of your best shows of the tour because you locked in and played really well and the kids went crazy. Fifty-percent of the show is the audience.

How do you guys do in Europe?
We do pretty good. Germany’s pretty good for us. England’s pretty good. I think it’s better now. Bands like Bad Religion and NOFX have been going over there for twenty years. We didn’t get over there until ’92. It sucks because in respect to the whole world, the United States is not very big.

“PUNK ROCK GAVE ME A CHANCE TO EXPRESS MYSELF IN A WORLD THAT WOULDN’T HAVE HEARD ME OTHERWISE.”

What about Japan?
We’ve only been to Japan once, but I know we’ve got a lot of fans. They’re all so humble and so respectful. They giggle, and they’ve got the camera right there. It’s great. I love it.

What’s it like to deal with fans? Is that weird?
Sometimes you have problems with it. Someone you drank a beer with 40 years ago wants a free pass to bogart his way around, and you don’t even know him.

But you drank beer with him, so he’s your best friend now.
Right, and he’s got a concept of what it is you’re doing and what it should be, and it’s nothing like where you’re at. It ain’t 1982. And we’re trying to run a business. I love the fans, but if they come to my house, I tell them this is the one place that I don’t want to be bothered. Most of the time it’s great. Most of the time they say, ‘I don’t want to bother you,’ so I take a quick picture and it’s good.

What do your kids think of this?
Oh, they think it’s wild, man. The most points I won with them was a few weeks ago when we did Tony Hawk’s Boom Boom Huck Jam in Las Vegas. It was like they were going to meet God. We were the musical entertainment. It was awesome because all of the athletes were huge fans, and it made me want to play really well. And my kids said, ‘Dad, you did good.’ And they weren’t talking about the show, they were talking about how I hooked them up. They got autographs by every BMX guy, every skater, every motocross guy, and they were just stoked. My kids are into skating and surfboarding. They aren’t really interested in little league or Boy Scouts. I learned how to surf because my kid was learning. I was like, ‘That looks like fun.’ I lived in Orange County my whole life and never surfed. I had tried it one summer and I couldn’t stand up, so I quit. Now, my whole family is out in the water. My wife’s surfed since she was a teenager. She’s better than any of us. It’s a good family thing.

What about the political trip of running the business in the band, or trying to get airplay and record sales? How do you deal with that?
Not very well. I’m not a very good kiss ass but we’ve done pretty well without a lot of radio, and MTV. I’ve seen the results. In a small town, where one year you’ve had 300 kids show u,p and the next year you’ve had a song on the radio and now it’s 2000. I keep my expectations low. I know that radio can help us, but I don’t count on radio.

What do you count on?
I count on making the best record that I enjoy, and hope that in turn the core fans will like it and turn their friends onto it. And that’s still the best thing for us.

What’s it like when you do a record and you’re not too stoked on it? Has that happened?
Well, I’m my own worst critic but most of the time when I’m finishing a record, I’m stoked on it. Years later, I hear a song and I think, ‘That song’s about five minutes too long.’ Or ‘Why didn’t I throw a bridge in that?’ You learn more as you go. You learn about song writing. You want each record to be a progression of the last one.

Do you feel like you’ve accomplished that?
Yeah, definitely. I go into making a record with that in mind. I want it to be better than the last one. I think that we’ve done that

What about cars? How did you get into that?
I always wanted one and never had the money. I like the look of them and everything, but for me it was another way of self-expression, like tattoos or the way you dress. The way I build cars is just another way for me to carry my individuality and my attitude.

FOR THE REST OF THE STORY, ORDER ISSUE #55 BY CLICKING HERE…

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