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Mike Ragogna

Mike Ragogna

Posted: October 8, 2010 11:27 AM

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A Conversation with Less Than Jake's Peter "JR" Wasilewski and Vinnie Fiorello

Mike Ragogna: Hi Guys. Can you tell us about your playing Riot Fest this year?

Vinnie Fiorello: The Riot Fest promoter had approached me to talk to the band about doing something special for Riot Fest, and he really wanted either the Losing Streak or Hello Rockview album in its entirety. Talking to the rest of the band, we decided that Losing Streak would be the record we would play. It's one of those records that is a benchmark for the rest of our records, so we're excited to do it.

MR: Losing Streak was a major breakthrough album for you guys, right?

VF: It's definitely a record, like I said, that is a benchmark. People that like our band love that record. It was our first record on Capitol Records, which was, and I think still is, a major label--they haven't gone under yet, they're working on it though. It was our first record for a major label, so if you want to call it a breakthrough record, it definitely was.

MR: Let's reminisce a little about that. What was the transition like going to a major label?

Peter "JR" Wasilewski: Going from an indie to a major, there are a lot of differences, but normally, it's just red tape differences, you know what I mean? When we were signed to Fat (Wreck Records), if we wanted to do something we'd pick up the phone and called Fat Mike, the president. When we were signed to Warner Brothers we couldn't pick up the phone and call Tom Whalley, who was the president when we were there. So, I think the major difference is the amount of people you have to go through, and I think maybe the only other difference is that major labels tend to have a little more reach in the areas of radio and video. But seeing that radio and video are slowly dying, just like the major labels are, you don't really need to be on a major label anymore now do you?

MR: Everything's become DIY out of necessity, but it also seems like a healthier approach in many ways. What do you think about what's happening in music now?

VF: Here's the thing, Less Than Jake started as a band that did everything themselves. We booked our own tours, we screened our own merchandise, and we handled every facet of who we were as a band. Now, sixteen years later, it's come full circle, where now we have Sleep It Off on which we will be releasing the TV/EP on October 12th, and we released our last record, GNV FLA, on our own record label. We handle everything ourselves, sans booking, but as far as art direction, ideas, fan interaction, and social media, we have that back in our own hands. And without getting too heavy-handed about what the future of the music business is, I think that each band will be sort of their own manager, their own business manager, their own label, and I think bands are going to become a cottage industry, where they handle everything under one roof, and that's what Less Than Jake is sort of headed to.

MR: So, in a way, it's come full circle, except now you have years of experience under your belts, so you know what things to do better than some others out there.

JR: I don't think any of us would claim to know what to do better than anyone else, but we have a pretty good idea of what's right for our band. Vinnie had another label he started up called Paper And Plastick, and he gives a chance to a lot of bands that wouldn't get a chance, you know what I mean?

MR: Yeah.

JR: I think there's not enough people in the music industry that are like that because everybody looks at the bottom line, and nobody really cares about the art and the music that goes along with it. So, for us, I think that's probably the most gratifying thing, at least musically speaking. There are still some people out there giving cool bands a chance, and it's cool to be in a band with someone like that.

MR: Beyond the problem of shrinking outlets and shelf space, the major record labels claim that illegal digital downloading is the major factor that led to the music industry's "downfall" if one want to call it that. But don't you think what you just said is also a factor, that it's also a result of them really not understanding what the art is anymore?

VF: Well, let's break it down because I think you hit on two different things. I think that, if you really want to know the root of the problem, it's that major labels priced themselves out. If you go back six to eight years, a CD cost eighteen dollars retail. I think that major labels priced themselves out, and in return, the people that supported the labels kind of turned against them because they felt that the price was a bit more than they wanted to pay...that's number one. I think number two is that majors didn't really keep up with what technology was giving them. I think that some attempted to, but there's so much bureaucracy right now because they are multi-national corporations, so they can't just switch gears and go, "Oh, the physical media is shrinking, but digital media is growing. So, let's jump on the digital bandwagon and ride it." They tried, but just like JR said originally, there's so much red tape involved in moving--it's literally like pushing a glacier up a hill at certain times--that policy change doesn't happen overnight. I think that with major labels, it's too little, too late when it comes to policy change right now. Major labels make money off their back catalog, and God bless them because they have The Beach Boys, The Beastie Boys, and Frank Sinatra, and all these people that still sell a mass amount of records to people who might not necessarily be entrenched in the digital age, you know? But sooner or later, there's going to come a time when it reaches maximum density, where every major label is going to be selling more digital than physical, and then where is it going to wind up? Who knows?

MR: As physical goes away, in one respect, isn't that kind of a bad thing? There means there's no tactile relationship with your musical projects anymore.

JR: I don't think that's a bad thing anymore. I just think that there are new formats, and I also think that you're dealing with a bunch of old men that are trying to push an archaic system that just doesn't work anymore. Nobody is able to grab onto new formats, and that was the reason that the MP3 phenomenon wiped out the major labels. Somebody approached them at some point and said, "Look, there's this new format," and they said, "F**k that. We've still got CDs, and they're going to sell forever." Being so close-minded like that, they kind of burned themselves. I can't speak for my partner on the other line there, but for me it's just funny to sit back and watch them all scramble like rats in a flood.

VF: I'll add to that. I think the relationship between people and music is a musical relationship for most, but people do need something tactile, and that's why you see the increase in vinyl. I think the people who want that tactile relationship want it in a bigger format. Instead of a five-by-five, you get a twelve-by-twelve with a lyric sheet, a poster pull out, a die cut, or anything. That's why you're seeing the upward trends in limited screen-printed band posters, t-shirts, and touring, for that matter. If you want the ultimate in tactile, it's being out on the road, where people can see it, hear it, talk to it, and those things. So, I think that the CD, very much so, is a dinosaur, and the future is social media. JR and I handle the majority of social media for Less Than Jake, so if somebody wants to ask a question, we're there to answer it, and if someone wants to be critical, we're there to sort of defend it. I think that you mix that with vinyl records, touring, doing screen posters, and the limited toys we've done in the past, then you're talking about a real future or a real sort of organic thing. I think that in a real way, we're going back to the '70s, as far as how people ingest music. They want to do it on their own time, with friends, as a social activity. They want to go see it live, and they want to kind of experience it on their own. It's a cool vibe right now, man. It's like the Old West because there are no rules, and people are writing their own rules. It's sort of a wild time to be in a band.

MR: Regarding touring, that's a good point. I mean how do you keep a relationship between the fan and the artist purely online. It seems like there's no way to do that.

JR: Well, it's funny because it's not really about an online thing anymore. When you read marketing plans for--I hate to be talking about all this industry stuff, but it really is, to me, what we do--when you read marketing plans for younger bands nowadays, it says right in the marketing plans, "Answer your Facebook messages, interact with fans at shows." But we've been doing that for twenty years. Why is that a key part of a marketing plan? Didn't they figure that out sooner? It's, basically, to use a real general term, "customer service." Say you have AT&T as your cell phone carrier and you have a problem with your cell phone. If you call AT&T and they give you the run around and they give you a bunch of bulls**t, chances are there are so many different options out there for cell phone carriers, you can just say, "AT&T, go f**k yourself. I'm going to pay my bill off, and then I'm going to go to Verizon, Cingular, or whoever." I think it's really not far off in music. If kids go and spend twenty-five dollars to get the ticket and then another thirty-five to fifty dollars in merchandise and then all they want is for the lead singer to sign their t-shirt that they just spent fifty dollars on, but the lead singer snubs them like, "I've got other things to do," well then, guess what? Those kids are going to tell you to go screw yourself the next time you come around. So, I think that that probably the most important thing of being in a band is having that interaction. Like Vinnie said, we handle our own messages. There's not some intern at a major label answering messages for us, we do it ourselves. We care, and we give a crap about what our fans have to say. It's such a symbiotic relationship that we can't survive without them, but they can survive without us. So, it's important to keep them, I would never say "satiated" or "satisfied," but it's important to let them know that we care about what they care about, and what they think about our band. I think a lot bands forget about that, or maybe they just don't know how to do it.

MR: This really is the Old West, isn't it.

JR: Absolutely.

MR: Let's get back to the music. You came off of touring for a while for GNV FLA, your '08 album. What is the main evolution that has happened, in your eyes, from Pezcore in '95 to GNV FLA in '08?

VF: Well, I think the main evolution is just that we have more knowledge and more experience--more experience playing our instruments and more experience crafting a song. I think that Pezcore was great because Pezcore was based in piss and vinegar, and the confusion of all those things, you know? You're in a band, you don't know what you're doing, it's your first record, you're writing songs, and you don't care what other people think. You're just writing because you're locked up in a garage or a warehouse. I think that with GNV FLA, we took into that record the experience of knowing who we are. I wouldn't say we were pandering to people who know who we are, but we were most definitely being self-aware going, "This is who Less Than Jake is," and kind of writing to that idea, obviously using the experience that we'd had, but also pushing ourselves to write a better song and a create a better sound in the studio. We do have one of our members who co-produced the last record, and that's our bass player Roger. I think that everyone has to have their place in the band, and that's Roger's place, to sonically get into what Less Than Jake is and how Less Than Jake sounds. He also engineered the TV/EP that's coming out. So, with the two records, I think it's not a vast difference in who we are as people, but as far as a style of music. I think we're being just a little more self-aware and taking the experiences that we've had for the last seventeen years and writing the songs.

MR: From a musical perspective, you guys are credited with being a ska-punk band, but I think you're much more. That's kind of where I'm going with that--the band has grown musically as an entity.

JR: Everybody has to put a label on something, you know what I mean? Every type of band has to be labeled some way because you can't just say, "Oh, they're a band." Well, what kind of band? There has to be some kind of label, and yeah, I guess we are a ska-punk band and I think we're alright with that tag. I think the way we do that stuff is probably the best thing that we do, but we also try to expand out a little bit here and there when we can, when we feel it's appropriate. So, that's a very nice compliment for you to say that, and I'm sure the other three guys in the band would really appreciate that kind of compliment too, but we just try to be Less Than Jake. We're not trying to be anybody else. Our last record was us doing us.

MR: Playing the complete Losing Streak album on tour, what is the reaction from the crowd?

VF: Well, it's exciting. It's exciting for some of the songs that wouldn't necessarily be in our touring set list. It's funny because it depends on who you talk to and when they've come in when it comes to what record they love. You're talking to a thirty-year-old and he's like, "I love Pezcore." It's where he found the band, it's where he came into the culture of what Less Than Jake did. Then, you talk to someone who's twenty-five or twenty-six and it's like, "Oh, Losing Streak," or "Hello Rockview." So, I think that the excitement definitely tends to align to when they sort of dropped into the timeline of what Less Than Jake is. I think that, generally speaking, when you do a full record, those people who have that attachment to that record are freaking out--they're having a moment. It would be the same thing if I went to go see Bad Religion and they did No Control. No Control was the record where I was partying in the parking lot, drinking cheap beer, and smoking dirt weed. That was the record for me for Bad Religion, and I think Losing Streak is that record for some people as well. So, I think for those people who have that affinity for that record and came in at that record, it's going to be exciting and it's going to be cool, and for everyone else, I think that it's an interesting look back at who the band was, and it's a really good chance to hear songs that they wouldn't hear at just a regular Less Than Jake show.

MR: And for many new fans, it romanticizes the album with this new group of people. Then, of course, they'll go back and buy that album.

JR: It's like writing a very dirty letter about the first time you did anything with the opposite sex. It's definitely slightly blown out of proportion and slightly more romanticized. But it definitely would make you go back to revisit, and be excited to go back and revisit that moment.

MR: Let's talk about the new project. You have an EP coming out?

JR: We do, we call it TV/EP.

MR: Can you give us any hints about TV/EP?

JR: Any of the interviews that I've been doing about this EP, I haven't been telling anybody anything.

MR: Cool, let's not go there.

JR: Just because I feel like there's not a lot of surprises left in rock and roll. So, if you want to find out what's on there you should surely check it out. The only song that I can tell you is definitely on there is "Animaniacs" because that's a song that we have released on several different outlets for people to hear. We're really happy with how it came out, and there's another little companion piece that comes out with it that, if people go check out lessthanjake.com, eventually it will be up there and you'll be able to see said companion piece. It's a visual that goes along with the audio, and I think people are really going to like it. It's very exciting.

MR: Can you say what inspired it, and why you guys wanted to go there with this album?

VF: We've been home and kind of not touring, and I think that--if you want to tap back into what we were talking about before with the music industry--I think that we've backed ourselves into such a corner where there's so much static in the world and so much stimulus out there, and I think that people are taking music in smaller doses. So, we were talking about doing an EP or seven-inch, and it got to the point where we didn't want to jump right back into writing songs for a new record. We were like, "Well, we want to do something in a small dose, but we want to do something fun." We had a few choices of what we wanted to do and where we wanted to start, and that happened to be one of them. We kind of tweaked the idea a little bit, and after the tweak, we were like, "Let's do these covers." I'll tell you, in a broader sense...it's covers of television show themes and TV commercials from the '50s all the way to modern times. With that said, we took some of our favorite shows, and some of our not-so-favorite shows, but things we thought were a good song, and kind of ran with it and did this. It clocks in at around twelve minutes, but it's sixteen songs in twelve minutes; it's a small dose, it's super fun, and it was a good thing to do before we started the process for writing new songs for a new record or new release.

MR: What a cool toy.

VF: I think so.

MR: Vinnie, tell me about some of the acts you have on your label.

VF: Well, right now, I have twenty-one different bands. A few would be Make Do And Mend, which is great post hardcore from Connecticut. I have Wilhelm Scream which is a melodic hardcore band, A Loss For Words, The Have Nots, and go down the line. I am releasing records by bands that I love, but I've also been sort of not boxing myself into a corner stylistically. So, if you have a band like Blacklist Royals, which I did their full length that came out in June, it's very roots-y and it has a Bruce Springsteen, Tom Petty vibe to it with a little bit in the mix from Social Distortion; but then you have Protagonist, which is a melodic hardcore band from South Florida that is fast and a little bit noise. I didn't want to paint myself into a corner artistically, label-wise, so I definitely am going from one extreme to the next. On November 26th, I have Hellmouth coming out, and Hellmouth is literally an '80s and '90s inspired thrash metal-punk band from Detroit. It's a good feeling. I think in this day and age that labels have to do not only things they're passionate about, but also have to reflect on who they are, and I think Paper And Plastick reflects on who I am. I love everything from ska to alt punk rock to melodic hardcore to pop punk, and it's just one of those things where you have, let's say, The Dopamines record that I released. They're from Ohio, and they're very much a Ramones-inspired pop punk band, and that's a style of music that I love. Hellmouth, I also love--that's late '80s throwback thrash metal, like early Metallica and Slayer. So, the label, taste-wise, reflects on my musical tastes as well, and it's cool that it's the things that I'm passionate about and the people that I'm passionate about. It's definitely one-hundred percent opposite of what I did with Fueled By Ramen, when I was involved with Fueled By Ramen.

MR: Let's talk about that for a second. What is the story behind Fueled By Ramen?

VF: Well, I had Fueled By Ramen, to start off with, as a label to release bands that I ran into while Less Than Jake toured. That became a behemoth unto itself. We released records from Jimmy Eat World and Yellowcard, but we also released records from FOB (Fall Out Boy), Panic! At The Disco, Paramore, and it came to the point where that label sort of got into the bloodstream of what major labels are. And we sort of, I hate to use the word, but we got "absorbed" by Atlantic Records for all intents and purposes. So, for me, I kind of didn't like where that was going. I think that to be a part of and in business with major labels in these modern times, you have to be okay with a 360 deal, you have to be okay with owning someone else's songs, you have to be okay with owning someone else's image, you have to be image conscious at all times, and I felt very disconnected from that as a person with the passion I have for music. I got to the point where what was selling was not what I wanted to do or who I wanted to be involved with, and I was lucky enough that the label was successful enough where someone was interested in giving my X amount of dollars to not be involved anymore, and I took those X amount of dollars and I put it into a project, Paper And Plastick, that I'm passionate about. So, I put my money where my mouth is. I dove into that, I'm releasing vinyl records, and I feel good about it, you know? Who knows what the future is for Paper And Plastick, but I know that at the moment, right now, it's what I'm passionate about--art-based, vinyl records and digital downloads, and being on the cusp of what technology is bringing and doing it myself. The best part of Paper And Plastick is that it either succeeds or fails on my back, and I'm cool with that.

MR: What advice do you guys have for new artists?

JR: Just don't sound like every other band. I went and saw this band last night, and they're wonderful kids and great performers. But musically speaking, there's no difference between them or a thousand other bands that sound just like them. It's kind of like a watered down New Found Glory, or something like that. Be yourself. I think so many people are afraid to cut their own path in the jungle out there and do something that's not safe. That's why there are so many bands that just sound the same, you know? There are some younger kids in different bands that are doing things that maybe people don't like, or maybe some people do like. But I think the coolest bands, to me, are the ones where there is no gray area--people are either like, "Wow, I really like this band," or, "Wow, I really hate this band." I don't want to specifically start name-dropping different bands and stuff like that because what I listen to is what I listen to; what Vinnie listens to is what he listens to, and what the other guys in the band listen to are what they listen to. I think that's what makes us such an interesting kind of band because we all have so many influences, you know?

VF: I'm going to interrupt you real quick. JR makes the point that, to be a band, have a career in music, and to have that "look to the horizon line" mentality, you have to cut your own path. You're not going to be a career musician by following a trend--that's just the bottom line. Here are my three things for bands that are new: Be up on technology and understand technology; talk and interact with fans; and the third thing is tour. You learn every single thing about being a band by being a band--by being on tour. That's a simple fact, you know? So, if you're a young band listening to this right now, use technology and go out on tour, man. Interact with your fans and understand what they like and what they don't like about your band. They want to tell you what they like about your band, and they want to tell you what they don't like about your band, so listen to it, take all that knowledge, and just cut your own way through the jungle.

MR: This has really been a blast. Is there anything else you want to add?

JR: Well, guess what? The man that's standing behind the curtain? We're all paying attention to that man now. All the smoke and mirrors? The mirrors are broken and so is the smoke machine, and the truth is starting to come out, and that's what's kind of awesome about it. The fact that we've been able to navigate through these crazy waters and this crazy time in the world has definitely been interesting. And we're really, really excited to play Riot Fest. If you're going to Riot Fest you're going to have a good time.

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Tracks:
1. Automatic
2. Happyman
3. 9th At Pine
4. Sugar In Your Gas Tank
5. Shindo
6. 107
7. Johnny Quest Thinks We're Sellouts
8. Krazy Glue
9. Never Going Back To New Jersey
10. How's My Driving, Doug Hastings?
11. Just Like Frank
12. Ask The Magic 8 Ball
13. Dopeman
14. Jen Doesn't Like Me Anymore
15. Rock-N-Roll Pizzeria
16. Lockdown

(transcribed by Ryan Gaffney)






...oh, and let's not forget the new Crash Test Dummies video "Now You See Her, Now You Don't":

Now You See Her, Now You Don't from Crash Test Dummies on Vimeo.


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A Conversation with Christopher King

Mike Ragogna: Hi, Christopher. What was the inspiration to put a project together like Bloody War: Songs 1924-1939?

Christopher King: Well, I had been working with Josh at Tompkins Square, which is the label that put out the Bloody War compilation. I had been working with him on two previous projects, the first one being People Take Warning, which was a collection of pre-war disaster songs dealing with natural disaster as well as murder, and then we later put out a collection of an old time string band called Red Fox Chasers, which is a group from North Carolina. We were exchanging ideas back and forth for another collection, and I had suggested that there was another component in the history of pre-war music, and that is the songs of remembrance dealing with warfare, the whole bailiwick of the experience of warfare, both from the soldier's eyes as well as the people left at home.

MR: There is a beautiful German movie about World War I about trench warfare...

CK: ...there is a version of All Quiet On The Western Front, which is probably what you're referring to.

MR: Yes. That movie is, supposedly, a decent representation of what warfare was. Would you say that that's true, that it was a fairly accurate depiction?

CK: It was. Obviously the one thing that would have been left out of that movie would have been, basically, the gore and the pile and piles of bodies because with trench warfare from World War I, there was such an unexpected escalation in violence and bloodshed that people didn't know what to do with the bodies--it was just like an overpowering sense of battle. So, when the bodies would get piled-up, of course, then disease would fester and it would afflict more people, and you add to that the whole notion of chemical warfare, and it was just a completely alien sense of war that had not been experienced. The Civil War did not even come close to the violence.

MR: Can you give us the time line of Bloody War, the eras you're covering?

CK: It harkens back to both the American Civil War as well as the Spanish American War. In fact, quite a few of the numbers on this set are directly related to Americans involved in the Spanish American War, such as the sinking of the battleship of Maine, as well as the conscription and drafting of soldiers to fight in that war. That was one of the first wars where African Americans were actually drafted and served, and Coley Jones, who's on this set singing "Army Mule In No Man's Land," sings about that experience of being drafted for the Spanish American War. Essentially, though, World War I was "the war to end all wars," and it was one of those unfortunate circumstances where various nations banded together against other nations, completely unlike the American Civil War or the Spanish American War, which involved smaller entities or just factions of those entities. World War I was essentially the Germans, Austro-Hungarians, and the Ottoman Empire against the rest of the world, and they met on the battlefield in France in Flanders field. Essentially, that war dragged on for almost five years before the United States got involved, and then, of course, the U.S. got involved right at the end of the conflict. World War II was, essentially, a replication of World War I, but it involved decidedly larger super-powers and had a much larger playing field, which, of course, involved much larger casualties.

MR: How did you come across some of these recordings? Many of them are very rare, right?

CK: Oh yeah, quite a few of these are one of maybe one or two known copies. I have most of these in my collection. I basically have been collecting old 78s since before high school, and I get somewhat obsessed with various topics such as disaster songs, or in this case, war songs, and I try to find the best copies of everything and put them in my collection. Most of these were actually issued for commercial sale in the United States just because this was a topic that people wanted to listen to. It was sort of like what you would call news reportage or ways of sort of sentimentally celebrating people that have served in the military or that were lost during a conflict.

MR: This project is associated with The Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, so are some of the proceeds from this record are going towards that organization?

CK: Essentially, both Josh and I realized that this type of project would benefit those people who have sacrificed the most for us, specifically the veterans of both the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts that have become wounded. So, Josh set up a reciprocal agreement with IAVA--the Iraq And Afghanistan Veterans Of America--to ensure that a proceed of all the profits from sale of this CD go to the vets.

MR: What's the reaction to this project been from veterans current and past?

CK: There's nobody alive from World War I--the last person passed away a couple of months ago--but the response has been exceptionally favorable from everyone, both from veterans of wars as well as just fans of the music. I do know that I gave this to a friend of mine who is a veteran from Vietnam who served in special forces, and he thought it was just an incredibly touching tribute to what people had to give in order to preserve the freedoms of others.

MR: This also is pretty tough subject matter to be focused on, as you were, for long periods of time. You had to do a lot of research focusing on war, so I imagine it could have been a bit hard on the heart. How do you get through the process of listening to that many war songs?

CK: Well, it's all goal-oriented. You have to look at the final goal of any project, and yes, just about any project you do, if you get emotionally tied up with it, it could lead to distraction, depression, or emotional anxiety. I always have to focus on the end of the project or the goal, which, in this particular instance, is to put out this music for people to share, enjoy, and learn from, and, at the same, time benefit others.

MR: Are there songs on this project that are particularly touching to you?

CK: There are quite a few here. I'm from the South--I'm a Virginia native and I've never really left Virginia--and the song by Fiddlin' John Carson, "The Dixie Division," was, to me, sort of a revelation because it was so acutely performed and so complex in the way that he strings together various songs. They're all songs from the Civil War and World War I vintage, but he sort of revamps them into this slower version of the tune "Long Way To Tipperary." That song just really revealed the creativity of a pure, southern character, Fiddlin' John Carson, who was one of the first country musicians to ever record.

MR: You have a history of being a compilation producer.

CK: Producer, writer, and primarily engineer, working with the old 78s to begin with. It's only been in the last five years that I've taken on the responsibility of soup-to-nuts, basically, from researching the material, compiling the images, compiling the actual recordings, to getting the artwork done, contacting different people to get the project done, and finding a home for the project.

MR: And you have a relationship with Tompkins Square, and you've produced other projects with them, as we talked about earlier. What were those projects?

CK: I've done two other projects prior to this. The first one is People Take Warning, which was a three-disc collection of pre-war songs of disaster, and the second one is a delightful collection from a string band in North Carolina, called The Red Fox Chasers. I'm currently working on a project called Ame Apedre: To Love And To Lose, which is a collection of songs about love and loss.

MR: I have one last, very difficult question for you. Obviously, having researched for Bloody War, and having gone through all the music you've gone through, what are your thoughts on war in general?

CK: Well, my thoughts on war in general would actually be in line with this collection of material. This collection of material is neither anti-war, nor pro-war--I don't think there is such a thing as being pro-war--but it is acknowledging that warfare, as such, is a necessary evil when you've got so many conflicting agendas and so many persons attempting to compete for limited resources. Ultimately, if you look back at the beginning of warfare, which harkens all the way back to the yawnings of agriculture, when we finally stopped hunting and gathering and started to set up city-states and farms, the origins of warfare are specifically at that point when there was this realization that there were limited resources of things for us to go after. So, you had to go territorial--with your property, your women, or whatever. Warfare is just that expression of tension or friction that results.

MR: Interesting. Do you see yourself doing another project like this in the future? Is this a continuing theme for you now?

CK: Do you mean on war or just on the notion of compilations in general?

MR: Well, we know you'll be doing that.

CK: (laughs)

MR: As far as a project specifically like Bloody War.

CK: Not in this specific medium. I might be interested in writing about it or collaborating with others regarding the writing of or the production of artwork about it. But no, this pretty much exhausts the musical component that there is to warfare.

MR: You, I imagine, also have an eye on music in general, so like most of this country, I'll bet you just can't tear yourself away from things like American Idol.

CK: Yes I can.

MR: (laughs) Music to my ears, thank you.

CK: If you don't have a TV, and you have a willful refusal to be distracted by all the flashing lights of modernity, then it's actually pretty easy.

MR: (laughs) Do you find that that helps you stay focused on the task at hand, when you're doing a project like this?

CK: It really does. As a matter of fact, I had just exchanged some comments with a friend of mine who is a musician, cartoonist, and a collector, Robert Crumb, and I said, "I think distraction is the true evil which all intellectuals try to avoid." It's so insanely difficult to try to avoid the clutter of cell phones, computers, and the clutter of all these digital devices and squawking boxes that are around. That's the real effort. But if you can do it, then you can actually achieve what your goals are, which is creativity or composition.

MR: Then, actually it's a fair question to ask you, what advice do you have for artists or people that are coming into music right now?

CK: I guess you really have to identify and build up the core of yourself. You have to find out what it is that you really want to put forward from yourself, whatever you think is unique that really needs to be shown to the world, and that's all you should focus on and nothing else. It should be to the expense of everything else, that that's all you need to focus on.

Tracks:
1. Just As The Sun Went Down - Zeke Morris
2. Bloody War - Jimmy Yates' Boll Weevils
3. The Faded Coat Of Blue - Buell Kazee
4. Army Mule In No Man's Land - Coley Jones
5. The Rainbow Division - Tom Darby & Jimmie Tarlton
6. The Battleship Of Maine - Red Patterson's Piedmont Log Rollers
7. Long Way To Tipperary - Frank Hutchison
8. Dixie Division - Fiddlin' John Carson and His Virginia Reelers
9. The Old Vacant Chair - Dixon Brothers
10. Johnnie, Get Your Gun - Earl Johnson & His Clodhoppers
11. Uncle Sam And The Kaiser - Ernest V. Stoneman
12. He Is Coming To Us Dead - G.B. Grayson & Henry Whitter
13. Captain Won't You Let Me Go Home - Tom Darby & Jimmie Tarlton
14. Not A Word Of That To Be Said - Wade Mainer And Sons Of The Mountaineers
15. Everybody Help The Boys Come Home - William & Versey Smith

(transcribed by Ryan Gaffney)

 
 
 

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