INTERVIEW with JOSH LANDAU
INTERVIEW by CHUCK DUKOWSKI
PHOTOS by DAN LEVY and OLIVIA JAFFE
The Shrine are bringing sludge rock to the masses with an old soul style. Josh Landau cut his teeth skating backyard pools and playing guitar and he has always been wise beyond his years. He hit the road when he was a teenager with his first band funding the tour by selling merch and playing as many gigs as possible. He has had the good fortune of working with one if his idols, Chuck Dukowski of Black Flag, who has become a great mentor, friend and producer. Josh now travels the world in the name of skateboarding and music.
L et’s talk. How did you first learn about Juice Magazine?
I met Dan at this pool on Sunset Blvd. when I was 14. I’d seen him around shooting photos and I was like, “That’s the guy from Juice.” I’d read the magazine, and “Pools, Pipes and Punk Rock” is their slogan and I thought that was cool. At the time, I didn’t feel any relation to modern skateboarding. When I was ten, it was like, “Tony Hawk. X Games. This is awesome.” By sixth grade, I was at Tony Hawk autobiography book signings. By ninth grade, I wasn’t interested in mainstream skateboarding because it was all hip hop stuff.
When was this?
This was 2003. That’s when I started to look beyond the X Games for skateboarding. In ‘99, my parents took us to the X Games in San Francisco. I was probably ten, and my brother, Jason, was six. We were in San Francisco for the night and our parents took us to the X Games to watch the gnarly crazy vert contest. It was awesome. Our parents have always been super cool.
When did you start skating?
It was in ‘99. I have a funny photo of me with a plastic Toys”R”Us board. I’m as tall as the board. I was pushing around on my knee.
[Laughs] That’s something.
When I was a kid, we lived in Mar Vista, near Penmar Park, on a corner and the people on the next block were connected on the backside. All these teenagers lived in that house, and that house was loud. They had an old ‘60s Beetle that was all suped-up. I have these memories of them racing up our block. The driveway was banked and our driveways were connected, and they’d be out there skating. This was before Jason and I stated skating. I was seven and he was four. I just have this memory of my mom bringing out these old kiddie car chairs and we were sitting in kiddie chairs watching these guys skate the garage. That was my earliest memory of skateboarding.
I know the kids that were down the street from my house were skating on steel wheels, and we looked up to them and made our own steel wheel boards. Then they came out with the mini steel wheels for doing freestyle tricks. They were maybe an inch wide. I never understood it. It was natural to look up to other kids that were getting all crazy and doing shit. When did you get into music?
I guess it was in sixth grade when some girl gave me a Misfits CD and an Operation Ivy CD. She said, “You should listen to this.” Then someone else said, “You better not like the Misfits because I don’t like the Misfits.” I was like, “Whoa. I don’t even really get it.” I listened to it and I wanted to like it because this girl gave it to me. This other guy was like, “I hate the Misfits. I hate that guy’s voice.” I didn’t know what to think. It sounded pretty cool to me. I was unsure about that until eighth grade, and then I was like, “This is amazing.”
What was your first favorite band?
Operation Ivy. That stuck with me since seventh grade. In eighth grade, at John Adams Middle School, there was a Battle of the Bands and my band played a Misfits song and two originals. In seventh grade, I had a Mohawk and army pants.
So you started right in playing.
Yeah. I was playing my dad’s old Gibson guitar.
Did you take lessons or did you just pick it up?
I had one lesson at McCabe’s and it was Acoustic Nylon String. It was like, “Here’s how to play “Norwegian Wood” by the Beatles.” After one lesson, I was like, “I’m out. That’s it.” I didn’t want to learn a Beatles song. I was like, “This is not rock.”
So you got your own guitar and got crazy with it?
Well, it’s weird, because people come here and jam with us and they meet my dad and he’s been playing guitar since he was seven. My dad had music lessons, but he never pushed it on me. I didn’t play until I was 12, when I started getting into music. I was trying to figure out how to play a Misfits song. I remember years after that, being in Hawaii with my family on vacation, and a Beatles song came on the radio. By that time, my dad was helping our bands record. He almost gave up music when I was born and he started working in the family business. He was never like, “This is the Rolling Stones. This is the Beatles. Listen to this. You play guitar, here’s Jimi Hendrix.” He’d always play his own songs on guitar. Once I started having bands, he’d help us record. He would help set up drum mikes, but he never pushed music or guitar playing on me. So we were in Hawaii and “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” comes on and my dad said, “This was recorded with a four-track.” I was like, “I’ve never really listened to this.” And then I did. When I was 18 and I had my first girlfriend, she was like, “This is Led Zeppelin. This is the Stones. This is the Beatles.” I was like, “No. I listen to the Ramones and Black Flag. I don’t listen to the Beatles.” Then I was like, “Wait a minute.” The Ramones favorite band was the Rolling Stones. I knew Joey Ramone was into ‘60s rock.
“Reading about my old favorite bands or my old favorite skaters, that ethos has always stuck with me. I didn’t really drink or do any drugs all through high school. I sat in my room playing my guitar along to Black Flag records.”
Well, there was a big pop undercurrent to what the Ramones were doing, and they also played very aggressively with barre chords, and no single note stuff. Structurally, it’s moving along with a chord that you’d expect from Black Sabbath, but the melodic stuff and the flow in it is pop. It’s not heavy. It’s aggressive. They had a more unique thing. Their first drummer was a really impressive player.
All the rhythm and chord changes are driving.
The Misfits picked up on that sound.
They’re just the evil Ramones, basically. They have the same simple chord changes.
The biggest thing is keeping the push going, and always playing chords.
Downstrokes. Power. That’s the best stuff.
What about music and its tie-in with skating?
By ninth grade, I was back and forth from surfing to skating. In fifth and sixth grade, I was skating. In seventh and eighth grade, I started surfing more. Then I saw the Dogtown movie. I looked at skating and said, “This is like surfing, but it’s just so much more instantaneous.” We started looking for pools, ditches and banks. That comes back to Dan at Juice. We found this pool in Bel-Air, and it was a giant Roman pool. When we found it, it was full of black water and it was all crusty. It had air bubbles in it from sitting empty, because pools with no water in them rise and do weird shit. We were skating there in ninth grade, and one day, my buddy Sam and I, were walking in and Tony Alva was walking out. We were in shock. He said, “You guys shouldn’t be parking here. You should park over there.” We were like, “Was that Tony Alva? Holy shit.” We couldn’t believe it. The next time we went there, it was a full session and Dan was shooting the session for Juice. We were like, “We found this pool. We cleaned it out.” They ended up using a photo from that session for one of their covers. I was up standing there in the background with all my pads on in the shallow end of the pool. I was so stoked. I was carrying the mag around school and showing everyone. I was so psyched. I had read Juice, and all their interviews are fucking awesome.
I really think their interviews are good. I did one for them and I liked it.
I throw away all the other skate magazines. With Juice, they’re more like books and there is more history to them.
I think they are pretty turned on people, in general. There is some thinking going on. They’re smart. It’s cool. I’m curious because you talked about your bands from long ago. What band was that? Were those guys skaters?
Yeah. The first band I played with in eighth grade was with my friend Doug, and we were called the High Stakes. We tried to play two originals and “Night of the Living Dead” by the Misfits.
Were there any recordings?
No. That was my first band with the dude in seventh grade that I skated with. He had gone to Old Star in Santa Monica and bought a bunch of their launch ramps and funboxes and had them at his house. We’d go skate and then jam. He played me Black Flag for the first time.
What was the next band after High Stakes?
It was the Kritics with my buddies Harley and Ashton. That was the jump from eighth grade to ninth grade.
Nobody in the Kritics was in High Stakes?
No. High Stakes didn’t go any further than the Battle of the Bands.
What place did you get?
We got second place. The first place band covered Nirvana or something. They just did all covers, and we tried to make up some stupid songs. In the ninth grade, when we started to skate pools, it was the same thing. All of the other sides of skateboarding, like street skating, were still in the ‘90s hip hop, huge pants, puffy shoes, ghetto fabulous skateboarding world. Not only did I get into punk, I wanted to skate pools, so that went hand-in-hand for me.
You never embraced the rap/hip hop world?
I loved RUN DMC and NWA. We liked old hip hop like Public Enemy and the Sugar Hill Gang. We were stoked on that. We just weren’t into every single current rap artist, just like we weren’t into mainstream rock and metal.
So you did The Kritics? I know that name because Ashton jams with me on drums. Harley was in Rabies and he was also in the blues band, Bad Apple.
Those guys will probably be around my whole life, which is pretty awesome. When I got to high school, Ashton and Harley already had a band. The first week of high school, I’d just heard Black Flag Damaged. Harley was like, “Do you want to go to this Black Flag for Cats show?” I didn’t even get it, but Harley was asking me, so I was going. I didn’t understand it because I thought Black Flag was an old band. I didn’t know any names or anything about it. At the time, I’d only heard little bits of Damaged, and loved it. I saw that show and didn’t really know what was going on. It was like three-hour slow jams, and I’d never been to the Palladium to see a show. In the middle of the set, we were sitting on the side in the hallway. I didn’t know any of the songs, and it was just droning on and on. We were like, “We don’t get it.” People were saying, “This sucks. This is a rip off!” as they were walking out.
People were laying the rules on you.
I remember Mike Vallely, the skater, came out and sang. For a minute, Dez came out and sang and, for that minute, I knew the songs and we were super stoked. That was the first time I had hung out with Harley outside of school. After that, Harley and Ashton had a band. I was like, “Oh, man, can I play second guitar? I want to be in the band.” The funny thing is their band’s name at that time was Phlegm Salad. The weirder thing is that Court was the guitar player. They had played one show at Sarah’s house at this backyard party. They had one song called, “Fuck Phlegm Salad!”
What a gross concept. [Laughs]
I remember going to this one show and Harley had weed in his Diablo game video box. He didn’t know what he was doing. He was in tenth grade and I was in ninth grade. He was like, “I think I’m going to eat some of this before the show. Do you want any?” I was like, “No way.” I’d smoked weed in seventh grade, but by eighth grade, I realized my parents were stoners and I’d decided I didn’t want to be like them. On the way to that Cats show, Harley ate a nug of weed in the car while his mom drove us there. It was so funny. He said, “I don’t think it worked.” Later on, he said, “I don’t think you’re supposed to eat it like that.”
[Laughs] Did you play in Phlegm Salad?
We played at Sarah’s house, but that was it. No one was working or doing anything. I was eager as fuck. Playing guitar was all I wanted to do. I wanted to be in a band. I was like, “Come on. We can jam in my garage.” They were like, “Okay.” So that became our band, The Kritics.
Phlegm Salad evolved and Court went off into another world for a while?
Court was the high school metalhead. He could play the solo to “Hostile” by Pantera.
[Laughs] Dimebag Court.
That was his world. Phlegm Salad ended and we started jamming. The Kritics were me, Harley and Ashton. Our hit song was called “Anthrax.” Harley wrote it. It was his 9-11 spoof or something like, “We put anthrax in your salt. We put anthrax in your tea, on the radio, on TV…”
“It’s in the newspaper. No! You can’t go out. It’s on the gas pump.” It’s the paranoia stuff. Why were you called The Kritics?
I think I made that up. It was The Kritics with a K. It was some ninth grade idea. We were like, “We’ll be critics. We’ll talk shit on whatever we want.”
You were doing the criticizing then?
[Laughs] I don’t know if it had that much thought behind it.
So what happened with The Kritics?
We played a few shows and recorded 15 or 20 songs. We played 15 or 20 shows in one year. Harley was singing and playing guitar and Ashton was playing bass. We played a bunch of backyard parties and opened up for T.S.O.L. at the Island Theatre. Then we were just butting heads super gnarly. Harley and I were writing a bunch of stuff and hanging out a bunch, and Ashton had just picked up the girlfriend, so we were all butting heads. Ashton was jamming with someone else too, so I think Ashton just quit on us. Then we were like, “That’s okay because we’re all over the place.” Somewhere between ninth and tenth grade, I started to read more and get more records and get more into stuff. In tenth grade, it was like, “Okay, here it is. Shaved head. American Hardcore. It’s on.” So we started Rabies. The Kritics had ended and Harley walked up to me in the hall and said, “We should call the band Rabies. I said, “Holy shit. I was thinking the same thing.”
Rabies is a heavy one. If you think about zombies, rabies is the actual disease undercurrent of all that stuff. It’s the progression of that disease that makes people animals.
Exactly. We had a song called “Zombies Ate My Neighbors.” Harley wrote half on the Rabies end and half on the video game end.
Were you guys into video games?
It was Super Nintendo. It was original Nintendo, Super Nintendo and Sega that we played. We were like, ‘Fuck that new Xbox shit.” We were playing old games like the original Super Mario Bros. We were psyched on that.
It was the old stuff with the weird tinker toy techno?
Totally. Rabies started and, by tenth grade, we were hunting in Beverly Hills and Bel-Air for pools. That was all I did. I almost completely quit surfing.
It was the convergence of skateboarding and music. You were jamming still, right?
We were jamming and the skate crew was in effect. We’d get up at 6AM on Sunday because there’s no construction on Sunday, and we’d drive through Beverly Hills and look over fences and drive down alleys and look for pools. For a long time, I could tell you the order of all the streets where the pools were in Beverly Hills. We were skating a ton of pools.
Pools were the things to skate.
Yeah. We were in Bel-Air too. Then we moved East and we were in Santa Monica a lot. The first pool I rode was at my friend Misha’s house in Santa Monica. I was in seventh grade. We went there because kids in school were talking about it like, “He’s got an empty pool. Come skate it.” I skated it and I remember slamming so bad trying to go over the light the first time. I was totally destroying myself. There were a couple of older dudes skating, and I kept getting up to the light and jumping off. I couldn’t do anything else. It was like a mental block. I couldn’t get over the light. Finally, I was like, “Okay, I’m going to try it.” I closed my eyes and tried it and slammed super hard. It was two years before I rode another pool again.
[Laughs] You have to be a badass to be a great skater. Your mistakes are on cement.
I knocked myself unconscious skating at the Santa Monica Skatepark. It just comes with it. It made sense looking back at Black Flag and American hardcore. Skateboarding and rock go hand-in-hand. Why do skateboarding and hip hop go hand-in-hand now? I don’t get it.
That’s just what’s popular and happening in the culture.
We were so psyched on JFA. It all made perfect sense. Our two favorite things went hand-in-hand.
Maybe they do re-converge. The soundtrack of the Dogtown movie was the good version of classic rock.
I was listening to classic rock even before I was listening to Black Sabbath. I was watching the Dogtown documentary and I was like, “Here’s “Into the Void” while these guys are surfing POP. Watching that video, I was super into the skating, but I didn’t get into Alice Cooper, Black Sabbath, Hendrix or the Stooges then. It took four more years to get into that part of the movie. No one around me was playing that music. No one was like, “Here’s Black Sabbath.” That didn’t happen until I was 18.
You’ve always been super well-versed about music. You ferret out the obscure stuff and it’s hard to turn you on to something.
That’s the Internet. Everything is there to check out. It’s pretty amazing. There’s a lot happening today, but there’s not as much that’s as exciting as what’s happened in the past.
You get to witness the ‘was.’ You get to pick and choose. That was stuff that happened over a long time. You get to just pick it out and say this was the great stuff from this ten-year era. Now you say, “Well, in 2012, there wasn’t much happening except the Shrine and all these other things.” There is a scene happening now. All of the players are still active, and you guys have stayed on track.
I think that comes back to what we were talking about when you think of the world as being scary and fucked. I never had a job. I finished high school and had good grades and I was like, “Am I going to college? I have a garage I can jam in. How am I going to do that if I go there?” Rabies was recording and touring and I didn’t want to do anything but that.
So you had Rabies all through high school?
Rabies ended in 12th grade.
I have a Rabies 7-inch.
We had three 7-inches and an LP.
Wow. I don’t have them all.
I’ll have to give them to you. Some of them I don’t have.
Isaac had them all. He was into you guys since that gig you played with us at the C.I.A. (California Institute of the Abnormal).
That was a weird place. I remember that show. We were complete worshippers.
You guys played, we played and Sarah’s group, Fallopian, played.
I remember there was this Mexican dude that I skated pools with in the valley. We skated that day in the San Fernando Valley, and he came to the show that night. He was this punk dude. Fallopian was playing and he said, “Homegirl is only playing one note.” I was cracking up. That was his observation.
[Laughs] Well, she has a song called “Sex With A Tree” you know?
[Laughs] That was so funny. So we were playing every show we could. We did a U.S. tour and that was our big achievement. We did 44 shows in 46 days. The Shrine still hasn’t beaten that.
Most of your touring has been with bigger bands.
We did a few West Coast tours on our own, but we did a U.S. tour with Fu Manchu and they only played 11 shows. I was looking at it from my hardcore mindset and looking at old Black Flag tours, and booking the Rabies, and hearing Mike Watt’s words, “If you’re not playing, you’re paying.”
That was my watchword too. I used to book Mike’s tours, back in the day, with my own tours, and we were playing for points at the door. It wasn’t an incredible amount of money each night, and you’ve got five or six guys and your soundman. If you’re not playing, you’re paying. You’re sitting around trying to figure out what to do.
The tour that the Shrine did with Fu Manchu in the U.S. was 11 shows in 25 days, so we booked our own shows every other night. We played record stores in Salt Lake City and Brooklyn. We couldn’t drive around the country doing 11 Fu Manchu shows and only getting paid $100. What are we going to do all those other nights? We played every night. We did our own shows and that was awesome too. It was great touring with those guys. It was amazing going with them to Europe. When Rabies ended in 2007, The Shrine started.
I remember saying, “Let’s get Rabies to jam at a show.” You said, “Rabies is gone, but I have a new band.”
At the time, it was like going back to ninth grade. These were the guys I hung out with in high school, so I knew there was never any way to beat being in a band with them. If you’re going to spend a bunch of time and jam and go on tours, there’s a lot of voodoo. Some bands barely make it off the ground because it’s so hard.
It is hard. That’s the biggest task.
Yeah. I was almost depressed before that. I was like, “Do I need to move out of L.A.? There’s no way I’m going to find people to play music with.”
In L.A., it seems like you’d have a pretty good shot. It’s a giant town.
You’d think. Here I was listening to the Stooges, Sabbath and Black Flag. I could find someone that was into Black Sabbath, but they wouldn’t have the mindset of punk. They were like, “You can’t just start a band.” Or I’d meet someone that was just a vocalist like Dio and they’d want to start a band. I was like, “This is not going to work.” I tried to jam with tons of people, but it wasn’t working. Sabbath was as far towards me as they came. Even if it wasn’t on a music level, I was like, “Let’s record music. Let’s do a tour. Let’s do something.” I wanted to get something off the ground, but there was nothing happening. It’s so hard to find people you can jam with. Court and I ended up meeting at a party.
He was in Phlegm Salad.
[Laughs] Exactly. We knew each other because he had been in Phlegm Salad and we had gone to high school together. He had come from metal towards ‘70s rock and I had come from punk towards ‘70s rock.
It’s a similar drift really.
At that point, he was going, “Okay. What was Metallica listening to?”
I remember seeing them in the audience at one of our Black Flag shows.
That’s what I’ve heard. They were listening to punk, Thin Lizzy and Motorhead.
Motorhead was an important band. By bringing the metal crowd into the game, there was a broadening of the impetus for punk rock. Punk rock was just the impetus of more vitality and bringing more edge back into the music. Punk was bringing the bands and the audience together to make sure the music really had some juice. It was okay to play hard and bring in faster tempos. It’s weird if you think about Motorhead. That’s Lemmy from Hawkwind, which was a proto-space-doom group, and then he up and starts Motorhead. I remember people telling me when we were doing stuff with Black Flag, that Hawkwind was into punk rock, and the Pink Fairies were into punk rock. The edgier side of the psychedelic underground scene from Britain was turning on to punk rock. Then Lemmy started Motorhead. I remember being in England and hearing people playing Motorhead all around me. It was cool.
I’ve read interviews and he’s always vibed more with the punks. He said, “We’re not a metal band. I feel more kinship with The Damned than I do with Judas Priest.” That was pretty awesome to hear him say.
That’s interesting. His music reminds me of raunchier, sped-up ZZ Top. The riffs are awesome. I don’t know if there’s a connection, but it sounds like there is. They don’t do the slow thing. They do the revved-up version of some great music.
Yeah. Motorhead is awesome.
How did you come up with the name The Shrine?
I guess because it sounded heavy. Picking a name is impossible. Every idea was way too colored. If we called ourselves this, it sounds like this. People will make jokes about this. I wasn’t really feeling it. It wasn’t something I could wear on my sleeve. With The Shrine, I liked that. My dad has a poster in his room, and it said “The Who at The Shrine.” I liked that. It sounded heavy. I liked the name The Shrine because it was kind of a blank slate. It’s like The Doors. When you think of The Doors, you’re not thinking about a door. When you hear of The Shrine, you’re not thinking about a shrine. My dad thought it sounded too religious. He said, “It’s going to be weird. People won’t understand it.” I liked it because it was blank. It’s like The Shrine to Rock n’ Roll.
I like the name.
So you went through the typical beat-your-head-until-the-light-pops scenario to come up with the name. Was it you that grabbed that out of the air?
It was me and Jeff. We were in my room and someone pointed at that poster.
You already had all the people together jamming, right?
The first time I jammed with Jeff, was with Court.
Was Court already jamming with you again?
We jammed a few more times after that party and talked about Thin Lizzy. I showed him a few riffs and songs I had. I was playing guitar and he was playing bass, so it couldn’t really go that far. I would show him a riff, and then show him another one that could go with it. Then we’d play them together. We did that and we couldn’t do much more. It was daunting, coming out of punk, where you’re going to do something, not caring if you’re good enough. I’m looking up to Hendrix and Black Sabbath, these masters that are untouchable. I want to play stuff that’s inspired by them. I’d been playing guitar for nine years at that point. I had tons of riffs and I was stoked we were jamming all the time. To have a band, you have to have a singer, but finding a singer seemed impossible. We jammed the first time, and I was like, “I’m going to have to trick these guys into coming back and letting me sing.” So then I just tried to sing. The first thing we ever played together with me singing was “N.I.B.” by Black Sabbath. I knew everyone knew it, and I said, “Everybody just play this.” We jammed on it for ten minutes and then it was like, “Okay. Cool. This is it. Let’s do something. We all know Sabbath.”
You guys have a great rhythm section in the Shrine. The first time I heard you guys jam out, it really struck me. Court and Jeff are both energetic and strong and have good flow and undeniable power. Great drummer, great bass player, it’s really good.
They rip. I never jammed with a better bass player or a better drummer, let alone at the same time.
It’s evolved and their evolution has fit together. After you play together for a few years, you start to intermingle your vibe. They’ve gotten stronger from it, and with you too, that whole thing has become a big juicy churning hole.
I’m really stoked. For a long time, I was like, “Do I want to be a singer?” Then I tried to sing, and then we were jamming more, and I was listening to ten-minute machine gun jams of Hendrix. A year into it, I had gone to the full opposite end of the scale with the Stooges, Hendrix, MC-5 and all this amazing stuff. I finally got into all that stuff and that consumed me. Somewhere along the line, I put back on Black Flag.
How do the recordings fit into all this? There is the original The Shrine demo tape with “Nude on the Moon.”
We had been doing the band for three months and those were just some ideas. We were listening to Zeppelin and Sabbath only.
It’s got the sound though. It’s a little stripped down, compared to what it is now. Then you did the single with “Olympic Airstream” and “Mirror Fits Like a Glove.” I really like that song, “Mirror Fits Like A Glove.” I think a good point is made there. I often quote it. “When he puts it in your pocket and pats you on the back, you can’t say no.” There’s a thing. If you take the gift, it changes people. That’s how I read it. Then you have to look in the mirror to see if you’re the same man.
Yeah. A lot of people around me and all my close friends feel like that. Maybe it’s because society is closing them out and they can’t get a job, but a lot of people blame everyone else for them doing nothing. It’s like, “Oh, I’m just doing this, because it’s the only option I have.” It’s that sort of mentality.
It’s what you’re good at and what gives you joy. I think people need to look at what brings them joy and look at what they’re good at and push that really hard. That’s where you’ll find your success. When people try to convince you to be someone else, you won’t find as much success there.
Everyone has parents or bosses telling them no to whatever they want to do, or school is shutting them down. It’s really not things they shouldn’t be doing, it’s things the school doesn’t want them to be doing because it doesn’t fit into their plan.
The school is paid for by the very powerful in our society. At least the message is tailored there. They want to generate people to work for them. It’s not about more for you. It’s about more for someone else. More for them means you need to get their job; not start your own thing. It’s not necessarily about that. Most of the people that I know have zeroed in on where they’re at and pursued that aggressively. They’ve found great success in terms of joy and satisfaction as well as economics.
Reading about my old favorite bands or my old favorite skaters, that ethos has always stuck with me. I didn’t really drink or do any drugs all through high school. I sat in my room playing my guitar along to Black Flag records. Even dudes in my band were like, “Come hang out. Everyone is over at this dude’s house.” I’d be like, “Well, I’m not really happy with where I’m at right now.” I either wasn’t happy as a guitar player, or with my band or school, or living at home and fighting with my brother or my dad. I wasn’t happy with where I was so, instead of going out, I was going to stay home and play guitar, In doing that, I’d be one step closer to being better at guitar, and getting more satisfaction from it. I wanted to keep adding up hours doing something I liked. Then I really got into Hendrix. I read his autobiography when I was 19. Then I was like, “Okay, let’s drop some acid.” That worked perfectly. [Laughs] Crazy.
So you did the single and recorded that. Is that still available?
It’s still online. I think you can still get it.
You’ve recorded two albums since then.
Yeah. The first batch of ten songs that we recorded with you and Dave is up on iTunes too. It hasn’t made it to vinyl yet. We made the single of it with our song “Featherheads” and our cover of Thin Lizzy’s “Got to Give It Up.”
That’s a great cover.
We’re really stoked on it. It came back to how the band first started with me and Court freaking out over Thin Lizzy.
Now you’ve got Primitive Blast and I hear you’re recording more.
We went through that whole long mess where TeePee wanted to release our record, and we did that record with you and Dave, and then that whole thing with Bowers, and then Fu Manchu’s manager comes in and starts taking us out for Thai food in Hollywood. He was like, “No, don’t do that. We’ve got you a better deal. You guys are awesome. We believe in you.” In the meantime, TeePee goes, “What is going on? You guys have been gone for so long, fuck you.” Then TeePee wouldn’t let us take that deal. It was really stupid.
Well, Primitive Blast is out now, and you’ve done two U.S. tours, and you took that little tour down to SXSW with Howlin’ Rain.
SXSW was a blast. We played the Thrasher Skate Rock party and things really started to open up. When that whole mess happened with the record company guys, a whole year had passed, and by then we had ten more songs. Those came about after I started listening to more hardcore again. That was my favorite stuff. Hendrix is the gnarliest dude ever, but this other stuff makes my blood jump. It gives me a rush. I wanted to mix the two, so all of the Primitive Blast stuff came out faster and more punk or more hardcore than what we were doing at the time. We were sick of the circle that Fu Manchu’s manager put us through, and being in that mess with TeePee, so we just put it up online right away. We burned CDs and just gave them away. We just wanted to get it out there. Eventually, TeePee came back and we said, “Okay, we’ve been on a U.S. tour with Fu Manchu. We have this and it’s ready to go.” They put out the CD and they’ve been awesome. They’ve been hooking us up. They hooked us up with a tour with Graveyard.
And you went to Europe.
We went to Europe with Fu Manchu. It was amazing.
How did people react to that?
It was crazy. It was awesome. Some of the shows were 750 people and we had never played for that many people. People went nuts. The reactions were amazing. We’ve never gotten a better response from a bigger crowd of people. Fu Manchu was awesome for hooking us up. Now we have people from Germany writing to us and buying stuff from us all the time. People from all over Europe keep asking when we’re coming back on our own.
I saw some guy online cursing because he wished he could see you on the tour with Graveyard.
Yeah. Graveyard is a Swedish band that we played with a year ago. When we played with them with Fu Manchu, we were in Gottenberg, Sweden, and this guy comes up wearing an old Bones Brigade shirt. He was kind of young to be wearing that shirt and he had just bought our LP. I said, “What’s up, man? That’s an awesome shirt.” We started talking about skating and he said he had been skating since he was 15. I told him that I skated pools in L.A., and then I said, “We don’t have any place to sleep tonight.” He says, “Oh, of course, you’ll love my garage. You can park your van inside and it’s safe. I have a silk-screening studio, a motorcycle garage and an English pub.” I was like “Are you kidding? Let’s go.” We go to his house and it was an identical mindset crew. His name is Mike and his crew have been skating since they were 15. They made all these videos of them skating and wrecking shit, running through supermarkets, and making a mess and flipping over cars in Sweden. It was just idiot shit that we used to do; set shit on fire and do stupid teenage shit. Then we stayed up all night and made shirts. Fu Manchu’s fans were buying so many of our shirts that we were out of shirts. He said, “I have a silkscreen studio so we can make your shirts.” He starts working on this design for us and then he says, “I do artwork for Graveyard too.” We were like, “Whoa. Are you kidding? We played with that band in L.A. earlier this year. He said, “Those are my brothers. This is the design for their new 7-inch right here.” After we came back home, Mike and TeePee put in a real good word for us. Graveyard said, “We’re coming to America to tour with you guys.” It was all because of us meeting up with the guy in the Bones Brigade shirt. He ended up being their brother.
[Laughs] Now you’re going on tour with them. So no more of this being broke and struggling along.
Well, they’re not paying us anything, but we don’t have any bills. We get on the tour bus with them and give them our door money toward the bus, and we make our money on merch, but we get to play. They’re playing at some big places with 600-1,000 seats. It’s 27 shows, which is the biggest tour for us yet, and we’re so excited about it.
Do you have a new record coming out for it?
We have a new 7-inch coming out with two songs that we recorded here at my house. We were kind of in a rush to get them done. TeePee was like, “Okay, your Graveyard tour is confirmed. Go to your garage and bang out two songs and make a 7-inch really quick so we have something for it.
They know what you’re about now. They got it hooked up.
We’ll crank it out. I’m here to work.
That’s awesome. Do you have another album coming out too?
When we were in Europe at the end of the Fu Manchu tour, we went to this guy’s studio in Holland. This guy has this crazy awesome bunker. It’s like being in this underground dungeon with a bunch of old analog gear and walls of Sun Amps and custom amps.
It’s all the stuff to make the magic.
Exactly. So we recorded ten new songs with him. We haven’t even heard it back yet. There was no Internet service or phone service down in the basement. We were at borderline insanity. We were just sitting there and we could only record at night because it was an illegal squat. His family lived on the third floor of the building and the recording studio was in the basement, and on the first floor were dance classes. We couldn’t record during the day because of the dance classes. We’d teach Court a new song, and he’d come back downstairs after taking care of his kids, and we’d work until 8AM. We recorded ten new songs.
So that’s going to be the new album?
I think so. We might have to go back and finish a few things. I was trying to figure out how we’re going to get back there and finish it.
Maybe you can transfer it digitally and do it here.
We’re trying to figure it out. He’s a purist. He’s a madman. We’re on his tape. He recorded my friend’s band Annihilation Time in 2004. That’s one of my favorite records. There isn’t anything like the sound of it that I’ve heard in this era. It’s really awesome perfect ‘70s rock n’ roll sound.
Did you record on two-inch?
No. It was half-inch. It was just an 8-track. He was super minimalist. He had the drums miked with two mikes. It was completely isolated. Here’s the trippier thing. Court and I both recorded direct; direct guitar and bass. He cranked the board up super gnarly, so it was super compressed. I haven’t even heard it back yet, but my guitar sounded like an organ. It almost sounded like Jon Lord, like really a totally different sound.
That sounds amazing. People record direct bass all the time, but direct guitar is weird. “Six-Pack” is direct guitar. Black Flag and the Dead Kennedys used it back in that era.
Right. I was like, “You have a whole dungeon full of Sun Amps and I’m going to play direct?” But we went there to let him do his thing. He was experimenting. We were super stoked. Everything was so compressed. When we heard it back, it was crazy. It sounded like a bell. The guitars were really warm, fuzzy, compressed and overdriven.
That sounds promising.
He was like, “Do you hear those overtones? You can hear them.” It was pretty amazing. We’ve never sounded like that before. He was like, “This is amazing. Now I know I can record direct.” We were like his guinea pigs for this new method. He was cooking up recording schemes in this basement in Holland. We were so psyched on how it sounded when we were listening to the playback. I can’t wait to actually get the mixes.
You have to get the dungeon masters and then you can put out the dungeon masters record. What’s his name?
Guy Tavares. His recording studio is called MotorWolf. He’s a genius. He’s a mad scientist. It was really awesome just talking about music with him. He has a band called Orange Sunshine. In the ‘90s, he was a crazy electro-acid freak. He’s a total genius. It was amazing being there. It was like we were in a Monk’s temple. There was no communication. We were blocked out from the world. Now I understand how old bands recorded all night in basements, and came out with stuff. It’s because there were no distractions. There was nowhere for us to go in The Hague. It was awesome. He was playing us this super amazing ‘60s black funk American music. He’d play something specific before we’d record. He’d say, “Notice how they do this. Listen. They’re playing really lazy, but it’s really strong, but they sound like they don’t give a fuck. They sound tough. They’re not trying to over do it. They’re just letting the groove ooze out. Don’t push too hard.” Jeff was trying to do a complicated fill on the intro of a song and he’d say, “Be lazy. Be powerful. Be confident. Do a simple fill.” We’d come in on the next one and it would work. It was crazy.
It’s funny how power and simplicity takes courage.
It’s on my mind more and more. He said, “Don’t try to lift a weight that’s too heavy and show everyone what you look like squealing under it.”
That’s a really good way to put it.
He was like, “Stop trying to make it so complicated. Just be strong.”
Music has that. Does it go across to skating?
My favorite skating is usually not the gnarliest trick. It’s style and attitude.
If you think about Jay Adams, it’s power and grace.
The gnarliest most complicated, most tech tricks are one thing, but my brother and I will nerd out on the simplest trick, like a grind in a pool, or where it is, or the style. I love those old photos of Jay Adams. It’s really the style and attitude behind it. You can see someone’s style and see into someone’s world and attitude towards life.
There’s power there too. Skating is for the individual. My first skateboard was something I pushed to my friend’s house. It was transportation. I could take a skateboard to school and ride my skateboard all the way home. It was just slightly downhill for three miles. It was a cool thing. There’s also art in it. There’s power and art in skateboarding. Just like in music, there’s a unity of a person’s motion, emotion and expression.
It really comes across when you look at skate photos.
I can certainly see it in my friend Glen Friedman’s photos. He’s a great rock photographer and skateboard photographer.
I have all of Friedman’s books.
It just shows that skateboarding, being an underground art over the last 30 years, is just becoming recognized. Before that they were thought of as toys. Now it’s become a full-on thing. I wouldn’t be surprised if the X Games joined in with the Olympics.
That’s supposed to happen. Then they’ll have rules about it, and you’ll have to play a riff this way if you want to be in the X Games rock concert.
Just like with music, I would imagine that skateboarding has an underground edge to it because it’s rooted to the pavement. It’s just like the guitar. You pick it up and play it. You get to reinvent those things over and over again because they don’t conform to being classicized by old school forms. The overall beauty and power come into music and skating.
Do you want to talk about how you’re going to change the world? The fact that you’re here makes the world better.
Same to you. The things that you’ve done have changed my life.
What you’re doing changes mine. You’ve been a positive influence on me.
That’s epic. Thank you.