Interview from Beanz Baxter Magazine #10

 

Interview by Michael Hassett, 7 July 2001
Beanz Baxter Magazine, PO Box 2013, Hotham Hill 3051, Victoria, Australia

1. What's it like living in Austin, Texas, as opposed to living in San Francisco? Does it affect the band in anyway? Do you miss San Francisco?
Lance - Austin is hot as hell. Shit, when I first moved here it was 120 degrees! But I like it here. We're all happily destroying the ozone as you can't really go anywhere in the Summer without being hit in the face with frosty air condition...
Austin is a lot cheaper than Frisco. The people are a lot nicer here. There aren't nearly as many yuppies, dot com scum or SUVs here. I mean, it's Texas, but it's not. Everyone is nice. Almost too nice. But it's cool. Someday I'll move back to the Bay. But this is nice for now. The music scene in Frisco can be a little oppressive. Ditto for the social scene. Austin has really helped me to clear my head.

2. What has J Church got on the horizon release wise in the near future? I read in the newsletter that you will be releasing an EP here in Australia soon? Could you tell us as little more about that?
Lance - Oh yeah, I've known Mat for years. He used to do a Noise Addict fanzine! He offered to do something with us and we had the stuff available. It's sort of a concept record... Uh, I know that sounds horrible. But it's basically a series of songs that follow a guy working in Silicon Valley over the course of his day. It's loosely based on the movie Office Space. It's an EP. But it's 7 songs long, so you're getting your money's worth. All unreleased material...

3. What was the recent tour with Propagandhi and Avail like? How were the crowds and did you have any stand out shows?
Lance - Uh, it was cool. I mean, I love Propagandhi. I know those guys really well. We've toured with them before. I love hanging out with those guys. It was the first time we really got to hang out with Avail. That was really cool too. Really great guys. I don't know that we went down so well. I mean, we had pretty good responses every night. I mean, we were never booed off the stage or anything. We always had our crowd representing at most of the gigs. But, overall, hardcore kids aren't that down with J Church. Before that tour, we had done some gigs with Ted Leo and some gigs with The Dismemberment Plan. I think we went down better with those audiences. I don't know. It's hard to say. The stages were huge and you're talking about over a thousand people a night. I will say this, it was definitely fun and I'd do it again.

4. What do you think the chance of you ever coming to Australia to play would be?
Lance - Oh, I'd love for J Church to go to Australia. We've never been offered. I don't know. We put out a record on Spiral Objective that did okay and we had that CD on Au Go Go. Now we've got this new thing in the works. Someone is bound to offer us a tour, right? I was there before when I was playing guitar for Beck and we toured with the Blues Explosion. I love it there. Got to buy all kinds of cool Saints and G.A.S.H. records. I love New Zealand too. Shit, we've been everywhere else. We've got to get there someday!

5. Although J Church isn't commercially well known you do seem to have a massive underground following in the punk scene. Has it always been this way and are you happy with it this way?
Lance - Yeah, I'm happy with how successful we are. We've always been about the same in terms of popularity. I mean, it's hard to follow us as we do some weird things at times. We'll put out a dozen records one year and then nothing for the next four. I dunno. For our proper studio albums, we shoot to sell in the 10,000 to 15,000 range. I can't complain about that. I mean, there was a time when 1,500 was huge. We're not commercial in what we do and what we are, so we're never gonna be on MTV selling a million records. People always categorize us which really works against us as we don't really sound like any one thing. I mean, some people call us emo. Some people call us pop punk. Some people call us indie rock. But we're not really any of those things. We do what we want and as a result, every album is commercial suicide. But that's fine with me. I like what we do and that other people enjoy it is really flattering.

6. Your last album One Mississippi was in my opinion one of your best to date. How has it been received in the year since it was released? Do you enjoy playing the newer songs live? Or do you have a soft spot for the older ones?
Lance - I don't really know. That record really marginalized people for some reason. Some people thought it was our best and others thought it was our worst. I don't know. I like a lot of that record. I like it more than any of our other records. But that's not saying much. Anybody and I Reach For Her Hand are two of my favorite songs ever. I especially love the lyrics on those songs. But we can't even play them live because of the weird arrangements. I don't know. Maybe it should have come out as two separate albums. It was sort of my attempt at "one for me, one for the fans". I think that side 1 and side 3 are, for the most part, J Church as people see J Church. Side 2 and side 4 are what I really wanted to do. Experiments that work and fail. The bottom line is that we don't record enough and we're not in a position to put out as much material as we used to. I'd love to get away from doing random 7"s and just put out two or three full length albums a year. Then people could pick what they want. I'm gonna get my songs documented one way or another. But it would be nice to keep them all in one place.

7. Is Adam going to be a permanent drummer or does he just step in for the recordings?
Lance - Well, yes and no. I mean, he's got a family with a second kid on the way. I don't see how he can do the band full time. As it is, we had to have Andee fill in on drums for our European tour. I don't know. He's been in and out of the band since the band first formed. We shall see.

8. I recently got a couple of CDR's from your live series of shows and was wondering where you got the recordings? Were they just lying around or did you get other people to send them to you?
Lance - Yeah, those tapes were just lying around. I've always loved how Bluurg did a lot of tapes. I was a big fan of the Subhumans and I thought it was cool that you could get all of these live and demo tapes through their label. I wanted to do the same thing. But tapes are sort of obsolete these days. So I burned 50 or so CDRs and started selling those. People are into it, so I've made a new series of live CDRs. The quality varies pretty greatly. But they are nice documents of the bands evolution and aren't really meant for mass distribution.

9. What's on the horizon for you Lance? And for J Church as a band (non release wise)
Lance - Well, we've got a singles collection coming out on Honey Bear called Meaty, Beaty, Shitty Sounding. I'm gonna be working pretty hard on that. I've also got a book in the works. It's a documentation of the anarcho punk scene of the late '70s and '80s. Busy, busy, busy.

10. One thing I love about J Church is how you always end up putting all your singles onto one CD. This is great for someone like me who doesn't't have much hope in collecting all the 7"s. Can you give us an idea of what might be on the next singles collection coming out on Honey Bear Records?
Lance - Yeah, it finally compiles all of the ELO covers. It's got all the different b-sides from that CDEP and 7"s. God, I don't totally remember what's on it at the moment. It's 20 songs all together. I think it's the best singles collection so far. Some old stuff too, like the track from the Small 23 split and Travelers.

11. Do you still keep in contact with Gardner? Or any other x members of J Church?
Lance - Not really. I haven't lived in the Bay Area in over a year. I don't really keep track with many people there. I guess I keep thinking I'll just move back. I suck at keeping in touch with people.

12. Can you tell us a little more about the 7" Singles Club you have going and how people can get involved?
Lance - Yeah, I love singles. I just can't really afford to do them with my label in mass quantity anymore. So, I started a new singles club. Six singles for $45, all limited to 100 copies. It's so fucking expensive doing such a small run of singles, I've had to charge a bunch and I'm eating the cost of a lot of the postage. But it's a labor of love. Bands have been really lagging in getting stuff to me, so the start date has been moved back to the end of the year. There will be singles from J Church, Cringer, Cilantro, Semiautomatic, Tami and Princessed.

13. Do people often compliment you on your amazing guitar playing and songwriting skills?
Lance - Yeah, I don't take compliments very well. It really freaks me out when people that I respect like what I do. It's really weird. When I played guitar for Beck, that was really big for me in that it gave me a lot of self-confidence knowing I could beat a lot of other people in an audition and that I was good enough to play professionally. It's weird. But I appreciate it...

14. I think the best thing about J Church is that no one song really sounds the same, each new songs seems to adopt a new personality and style all it's own. Is it your aim to keep things different and never to start becoming repetitive?
Lance - No, I wouldn't say it's an aim of the and. I just have a lot of different interests. I try to write when I'm in the moment of digging on a band. When I wrote Rich And Young And Dumb I had obviously been listening to a lot of Queen and Sweet. When I wrote Lucidity, I was obviously listening to a lot of Bitch Magnet. Sunshine is obviously an homage to Jesus And Mary Chain. New Book was totally influenced by Cool by Superchunk. I mean, I really wear my influences on my sleeve. The Velvet Underground are all over our stuff as are the Pixies. I think it's pretty obvious.

15. Do you ever have problems with getting money from smaller record labels that put out your stuff? I'd imagine it would be hard to always chase this up.
Lance - Yeah, I guess. But I try not to worry too much about that stuff. Usually, it's only a matter of a few hundred dollars. There have been a few times when we've been owed thousands and thousands. That's when we've gotta get a little serious. But I run a little label. I know how hard it is. When you do a label that mostly puts out records that sell a few hundred copies, you obviously are doing it for the love of the music and not because you wanna make some $$$. So I try not to come down too hard on anyone. I mean, they're usually my friends anyway.

16. Do you find your fans have changed at all over the years? And the scene in general?
Lance - Ah, the scene is always sort of the same. It just reacts to the mainstream. That's how the underground thrives. It's a response to the banality of the mainstream. It goes with that flow. But I don't know that it changes so much. We've had more unproductive times and we've had more creative times.

17. Do you think you could live an existence without music?
Lance - Hmmm... I'd like to say "no". But I guess I could as long as I had my books and film and art.

18. Any final thing to say to your Australian fans?
Lance - Hey, I'm desperately looking for the first two SPK 7"s as they were released in Australia. Anyone ever see those? I'm also looking for a 7" by X covering a John Lennon song. I'll trade or buy!!!

 

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