Interview in X-Tra zine

It was after the show and there were four of us were huddled in an entry way of a store on Santa Monica Blvd; hoping that the busses and cars flying by would not be so loud as to obstruct an interview. This was finally our, "our" being Scottie, Shaun and I, chance to get all those questions you can come up to when listening to J-Church, and Cringer for that matter, answered. Well most anyway... So here's how our conversation with Lance from J-Church went:

Interview code: X-tra- Scottie, Shaun, and Rianne, L- Lance
Recorded on October 27 2000 in LA

X-tra: Is there a story behind your name?
L: Oh yeah, in San Francisco the MUNI Line the trains are letters, like the "K-Ingleside," "M-Judah," and the "J" goes by Church Street so it's known as the "J-Church." That was the train I used to ride to work everyday and when the band first started the first dozen songs or so I wrote riding to work, so I wrote them all on the "J-Church."

X-tra: What's the deal with "Muddy Waters Coffee?"
L: Muddy Waters, at the time of that song especially, was pretty much the most potent coffee you could get on the west coast. Even more so than anything out of Seattle... Muddy Waters is this great coffee shop and it's also just a nice place to hang out. A lot of coffee places can be really yuppie and they're really flexible about letting all kinds of punk rock kids and random insane people from the neighborhood and whatever else hang out there. It's also where small political groups that aren't big enough to have their own room can have their meetings and stuff like that. And the coffee is just insane and cheap.

X-tra: Did you really get hit by a MUNI bus?
L: No, that was a story about a real person that I didn't really know that well but that other people I know knew. That's a true story. That person died. He was a bike messenger and there is a lot of crossover in San Francisco between bike messengers and the punk scene and stuff... They look the same so they might as well hang together, I guess. Everybody rides a bike in San Francisco and yeah, they drive like maniacs and this kid just got caught under a bus. He just slid under it. It was pretty horrible. The song is pretty much just about his last moments.

X-tra: What happened in Tokyo - the J Church Sucks song?
L: The second time we went there we didn't really bother to get papers and go through the government and all that. Our bass player got busted by immigration and got deported. It was nuts. We were touring with Propagandhi, you know that band from Canada, they are like our pals and so they had to learn our whole set and they had to play the bass parts for the tour. That's a total true story. Everything in that song is true. The first verse is about the first time we went to Europe and we didn't plan it right. We went over there before we had a record and half the shows got cancelled. So we had three weeks off with no money at all and we stayed at these squats. The second verse is totally true about how I got sick and threw up in the studio the whole time we were recording our second album and the third is about our second trip to Japan when our bass player got deported 'cause we didn't have the proper work papers. It's about our stupidity.

X-tra: Why the split with Gardner?
L: It wasn't like a heavy duty thing, he was just like really burnt out. When that last record came out we toured like almost six months straight. We did three US tours, a Canadian tour, two European tours and two Japanese tours. By the end of that he had just had it. It's not that he didn't want to play in the band anymore, it's just that he couldn't do the travelling and even though we're never going to do the six month tour again we still do travel. He didn't really want to do it so he dropped out. I still see him, he comes to our shows and stuff. It's nice to see him around. That's all there was to it.

X-tra: Do you still keep it DIY?
L: Yeah, as much as we possibly can. It gets difficult all the time, I mean obviously we play shows like this once in a while and it really just sort of depends on the circumstances. We don't tour as much as we used to so we usually do only one LA show. We're all sick. I've got a heart condition and our drummer's got other stuff. We have a million reasons why we can't play as much as we used to so that really messes with the way we do our tours now. But then also it depends on the records. We still try to do singles with as many labels that ask us, especially indie labels that are starting up. The reason we have so many singles is like when people are starting labels they ask around. Whenever we can, we try to do that and we make a point of never taking money from labels that we do singles with. We just ask for like, if they make a thousand, send us some copies. So they don't have to worry giving us recording money or whatever. We try to stick to that kind of thing and we're very much to letting people do all the bootlegs. There's a million J-church shirts, patches, buttons and records apparently, and CDs... as long as it's not some big company doing it we're happy to let them. If it's helping some kid pay for a fanzine or some collective in Italy pay for their defense fund more power to them. As long as I get a copy.

X-tra: Do you have any advice for bands that want to keep it DIY?
L: I don't think bands nowadays realize how easy it is. When you do things DIY it is actually easier for a band, especially for punk bands. It is actually easier to just have control over everything. There was that time when Rancid and Green Day and everybody were huge and it seemed like it was easy to get a manager right away and a record deal all of a sudden. That was just sort of like a fad, and now that it's gone we're sort of back to where we were 8 years ago, you know. In these kinds of times and under these circumstances, you're going to be a lot more successful if you just control it all yourself: If book your own shows, if you do your own recordings and put out your first single. If you're going to do a single, you can do a single yourself easily. It's like people are just worried what distributor is going to pick up a 7" these days. If its your first single you're only going to do 500. You can just give them away or sell them at your shows, it's not that expensive.

X-tra: Do you have a personal favorite J-Church album?
Lance: Well now I like the new record, the new record is the first one that I still listen to and don't feel completely embarrassed by the off-key vocals and the out of tune guitars.
Scottie: I love that though.
L: That's 'cause it's not you. Sometimes I look back and it's like looking at the old lyric sheets - aaaaah! - I wrote that ten years ago that's kind of embarrassing now. -aaaaah! -I wrote that about a girlfriend I broke up with a long time ago and you know what, we're friends now so this record is really embarrassing. There's a lot of songs that haunt you later. I have to make sure that I never ever listen to J-Church whenever someone comes by my house.

X-tra: What's the story behind the Panama song?
Lance: Panama... well its a mixture of a couple of different things. The real idea with Panama originally was I think... and maybe this is making a lot more of the song than is true but... I think the 80's ruined a lot of things for music. A lot of people blamed the 70's for making Rock 'N Roll homogenous and stuff. I think the 80's are just as bad as far as what New Wave did to Punk. A lot of bad stuff happened to music in the early 80's... and a lot of great things as well, but as far as the big stuff, a lot of it was about overproduction; about getting away from the song writing in music and the rawness. That song is about how it's personally damaging to people. I think people get carried away in the technology of music. This sounds so ridiculous when I explain it but it's not even really an issue of CDs versus vinyl, although there is an element of that. I have nothing against CDs, obviously we put out CDs, but I don't think its worth getting into the argument like CDs are convenient CDs are this or that CDs are better than vinyl or whatever. That song is a lot about getting back to rawer production values. There's a line about Cripple Creek, I can't remember. Whenever Cripple Creek is used it's been by someone like Neil Young or The Band, and it's about getting back to that kind of song writing of simpler production values. That kind of song writing is sort of poetic and delivering some sort of story. It's also an attempt at taking an idea, like a political idea as far as deconstructing music... getting back to less production more towards the communication of a song more so than the studio productions. As in the style of a Bob Dylan song or a Credence Clearwater song. I know that sounds nuts, and I feel like an idiot as each word leaves my mouth, but that's sort of like what I was trying to say with that song.

Scottie: Maybe if I listened to that type of music, I was probably too young. I got into this scene of music when I was really young so I wasn't really exposed to like Neil Young or Classic Rock or anything like that except for like our oldies station.
Lance: -And you can't really rely on that 'cause most Classic Rock is fucking terrible.
Scottie: Well not Steve Miller Band. He's kind of like a god to me.
Lance: Early Steve Miller Band, I like everything up to Jet Air Liner. I like a lot of that stuff. There's always something going on that's still relevant. People say like oh god Punk Rock is terrible and now there's too many punk rockers. There's always something good happening and there's a lot of bad stuff in every scene. It's just like people are in denial of it. When Grunge was huge most Grunge was terrible, when Hardcore was huge, most Hardcore was still actually terrible. It was just fun going to shows 'cause there was so many people. A lot of it really was still bad in hindsight but that doesn't diminish the fact that there was a lot of great stuff. Operation Ivy was a brilliant band. Crimpshrine was a brilliant band. People don't realize that there was a lot of other stuff happening and people won't talk about it now 'cause a lot of it was bad. Isocracy was great. Sweet Baby was great. But there were other bands and they were bad.

X-tra: Do you think you will ever run out of songs to write?
Lance: Naw... 'cause they're all so abstract. They're all about things that happen to me like everyday so like I don't see how.

X-tra: Do you ever get asked to play Cringer songs?
Lance: Not anymore, it's strange. When we first started off we heard that a lot but Cringer at this point... that was like 9 years ago. People don't remember Cringer. Well, a lot of people do, but J-Church has been around long enough that we just don't get asked that anymore. When we go out of the country, we get asked that... There was a time when we were going to do some Cringer songs, we thought about it. After the band had been around for five years we thought that it would be fun if we, as an encore, busted out some Cringer songs but that would be embarrassing if no one knew what it was.

X-tra: How much longer does J-Church have to go?
L: I don't know, I mean I used to think that when I turn 30 I got to stop playing but now I'm in my 30s... Our inspiration are bands that are older than us. As long as like Sonic Youth is still going... as long as they're still doing it.
Scottie: How old are you?
L: 33.
Scottie: That ain't that old.
L: You say that now but ten years ago if you were a punk rocker, 33 would be like fucking... ! I doesn't seem odd to me now but when I was 20 years old I didn't expect to still be playing music at 33.

X-tra: What kind of heart problems do you have?
L: It was hereditary, it's not like a diet thing, I'm a vegetarian. I thought I had bronchitis so I went to the free clinic to get medication for bronchitis. They took my blood pressure and like freaked out. They sent me immediately to the emergency room, I didn't even know what was going on at the time. They thought I was going to have a heart attack right then, they thought I was about to die. So I got rushed into the emergency room, shirt ripped open, shit stuck all over me, IV goes in immediately. They made me eat aspirin right away actually, apparently that thins your blood or whatever. So I didn't know what was going on and they kept running tests 'cause they didn't know what was wrong with me. They kept asking me if I was on crack, seriously, 'cause my heart rate was so accelerated… I was like, no you kidding me, I just had diet coke. I got immediately checked into the hospital they were basically waiting for me to die. The chambers of my heart had all dilated. My heart was much bigger than it's supposed to be and it was pumping too much blood. That's why I thought I had bronchitis, my lungs were filling up with blood. They had me under constant surveillance, I couldn't shower or anything for a week. They were waiting to see what was going to happen. Literally they told me, this is it. So I was just lying in bed waiting to die. It's really weird when I think about it that I was sort of like making my peace with this world. I was surprised that I didn't freak out. I was like, wow this is it, now I'm going to find out what it's like. I got better somehow. I didn't have a heart attack. The medication started working. I spent 6 months on medications and going in and out of the hospital. They finally found a medication that's been working for me. When I first got out of the hospital they expected me to live for like 5 more years but now with the medication I'm on I can live to be 80 I guess. I take a lot of medication and we can't do a three month tour basically because I can't eat junk food for three months. We can do some touring and do most of the band stuff.

Scottie: Are you vegan?
L: Practically vegan at this point. I was vegan for like 5 years but then fell off the wagon because we tour and it sucks, on tour you never know what you're going to get. I can't eat that stuff anyway because of my heart and my girlfriend is vegan and we cook together and eat together so...

X-tra: Future albums or tours?
L: Since the album came out this is like our third show, so after this with Dismemberment Plan we fly to the east coast for a few shows, then we go to Europe for a little while. Then next year it starts up again. We're going to do a full US tour, come back through here, Japan, South America...

X-tra: Do you even have a copy of all your releases?
L: Yeah, I do actually. I have a little vault where I keep everything, even all the compilations. Even the weird stuff. 'Cause there's two cassettes we did at one point and I even have those and I can't believe I still have them. We did this one tour where I booked all the shows myself and to thank all the people that we stayed with we did a cassette only release and we left them with people that we stayed with.

Believe it or not that was all the questions and time we had. At this point Lance noticed all the bands taking off so it's a good thing we stopped here. Two weeks and a hell of a lot of typing this interview is finally ready to go.

Peace out: Rianne, Scottie and Shaun.

 

Back to Article Index