From the years 2000 to 2002 I ran an online zine, Actionattackhelicopter, along with my friends, Brian and Josh. I was fortunate to interview many musicians whose work I enjoyed. I’m posting some of those interviews here for anyone who may have missed them the first time. They have been edited for length, relevance, and to correct for my poor editing skills at the time of original publication. Keep in mind that these were done over ten years ago, thus individuals’ opinions, thoughts, and ideas may no longer be relevant, but they are still interesting as a snapshot of a particular time and place.
This interview was originally published in November 2002.
“Peel it the Fuck Down”
Other potential titles for this article would include “I Wish You Were My Dad” or “Now I Just Need To Interview Chris.” I decided to go with the Jawbreaker song for the title, though. It’s from their b-sides, rarities, outtakes album that was released not too long ago. It’s called Etc. It’s really good and I listen to it way too much.
What’s your favorite song on Etc.? Do you have one?
If I was going to point to a couple of songs that made me want to do this thing, it was probably the outtakes. Then, “Kiss the Bottle” and “Sea Foam Green.” Those were the ones I thought deserved to be heard. For the uninitiated, you have to get through some pretty rough recordings until those kick in, but I’m asking people to be patient. A lot of this is out of print so I wanted to put it out there all in one place. Get all my ducks in a row and then shoot them dead once and for all. A lot of that early stuff on the album was left over demo stuff that I threw out there because we just had it around. But “Sea Foam Green,” “Housesitter,” and “Kiss the Bottle” were recorded for other things and they ended up being really great songs.
Did you ever imagine Jawbreaker would be this big all these years later?
Is it annoying or is it cool?
I think it’s great. I imagine it might become more tiresome for Blake because he’s out on the road and doing this other thing [Jets to Brazil] that I think is succeeding on its own merit. I think there’s a lot of crossover. Even he admits that people come up to him and tell him, “Oh, I had this great experience getting back into Dear You and now it’s my favorite record.” I’m sure he loves to hear that. He’s told me so. The first time Jets To Brazil went out, I was worried there was going to be that guy screaming “BUSY!” at them. That first trip out must’ve been a pretty rough one. It’s not annoying. How could it be? It’s incredible. I know how lucky we are that people are still paying attention. I think that if your band breaks up you wonder if you’re going to be one of those bands that completely fades into obscurity or if people continue to buy the records every once in a while. Or if you’re lucky they’re really into it and still—
Paying fifty dollars for it on eBay.
That, or they just go out of their way to come in and see me at my store [Lost Weekend Video]. These guys came in the other day and they were thanking me for being a part of that band. It wasn’t awkward or embarrassing. I was just really happy to hear that. Don’t think I don’t love to hear it. The guy rolls up his sleeve and shows me his Jawbreaker tattoo. What am I going to say to that? I’m not going to be freaked out by that. It’s amazing.
Going with that vein of looking back over things, I’m curious as to what your parents thought of it. I’m sure at first they were typical parents and thought you were fooling around, but now looking back how do your parents view it differently?
When we were playing in the garage, they were tolerant. They were sort of annoyed, but they were pretty tolerant. My sister’s an artist and she moved out when she was eighteen. She moved to New York in 1979 to do performance art and films and such. So, she was living a way alternative lifestyle. My father was one of the original surfers back in the day. He was in Bruce Brown’s first documentary in 1958. He led sort of a weird, nomadic life as well. My stepdad was an ex-hippie, so he was into it. He was a huge influence on me, musically. They were into it, though. But they probably never thought it would go anywhere. And when it finally did they were very proud. My dad still wears Jawbreaker t-shirts wherever he goes and anyone that comes up to him and says anything about it, he’ll have an hour conversation and is very proud about the legacy. So they were always cool about it. My grandmother came and saw us in Al’s Bar in Los Angeles in 1989.
How old was she, then?
She was probably about seventy. So they’ve been pretty cool. My brother plays music and is an actor. Everyone is sort of like that. They’re very proud.
You’re originally from LA, correct?
Yeah. I’m from Hermosa Beach, originally. I grew up there and then moved around a lot. I lived on the west side, I lived in Santa Monica, and then Pacific Palisades. Beach communities, mostly. Oh hey, let me tell you a funny story about my mom. My mom was in line at the supermarket and this is in the mid-‘90s. Some guy is reading the cover story in Rolling Stone about Nirvana or Pearl Jam. She taps the guy on the shoulder and doesn’t know him at all. She says to him, “Excuse me, who do you think is better: Nirvana, Pearl Jam or Jawbreaker?” Like we’re in that same league. Like we’re selling that many records or he’ll even know who we are. And of course the guy’s like, “Jawbreaker? Who’s that?” And of course the guy spends the next five minutes listening to her talk about her son’s band.
My parents would probably just disown me. It’s a nice feeling to know you can come home and not be harassed about it.
Yeah, I think that if I had dropped out of college or something they might have been bummed. If I became a dope fiend they wouldn’t have been as supportive. We were getting it done. I was working, going to school and doing the band.
I know that a lot of the songs that Blake writes are almost like stories, and one of the songs that intrigued me the most on Etc. was “Sister.” So did he literally take his sister out on the road with you guys?
Yeah, she flew down from Nova Scotia.
Why was she in Nova Scotia?
That’s where his mother lives. He goes up there every year. He does his down time there. Yeah, but she flew down and saw us do a couple shows in New York City. She saw us at the Grand and at ABC No Rio. She was just a kid. She was twelve or thirteen. It was great fun having her along. We had a really big fight in the van on the way to Chris’s mother’s house in Connecticut while she was in the car. There was half an hour of total silence. Someone turned to his sister and said, “Well, this is the rock and roll lifestyle. Check it out!” It was really embarrassing.
Overall, was she cool with it? Did she actually want to do it? Because in the song it makes it sound like she thinks you guys are stupid.
She was probably seeing and listening pretty innocently. To look at what your big brother does when essentially it’s like, “It’s a living.” We drive around, plug in, and talk to people. It’s not tough work.
What do you do now?
I own a video store in the Mission District called Lost Weekend. I own it with the old drummer from Engine 88, Dave, and the Jawbreaker tour manager, Christy. I’ve known her since like, 1989 when we played at Smith College and she booked us a show there. She ended up being our tour manager, but after the band broke up no one really had anything to do and we were like, “Why don’t we try opening up a store?” And we did it and that was five years ago.
You just decided to do it in the most expensive part of the country.
Well, it’s funny because it was right before that internet boom took hold. We got a space here for a dollar a square foot. The rent we’re paying is nothing compared to what the people are paying now here. But it worked because the store’s paid itself off. It’s not tough work so it frees me up a lot of time to play music and hang out with my girls.
Were you a big movie buff before you started running the store?
Yeah. When I was at UCLA I was sort of minoring in film. I took some screenwriting classes and production classes. I was always interested in movies. Now, of course, after opening the store I fucking hate movies. I’m inundated here. After you see a certain amount of movies you realize that they’re all pretty derivative and most of them are pretty poor. I like going to the movies just to see a movie, you know? Just the ritual of it. But I don’t have much hope when I go to the movies these days that it’s going to be any good.
No, I totally understand about being inundated. I mean, I don’t own a lot of movies, but I do a zine and when you start getting ninety to one hundred CDs a month, you start to realize how crappy most of the music is out there.
Yeah, that’s what I’m talking about. But now I’m going back to music and playing and listening to it. I realized I’ve been playing in bands since I was fifteen, so it’s not like I left it entirely.
Was the situation at Geffen one of those where you had a contact there and then that contact got fired or quit or something? Because that seems to happen to a lot of indie bands.
We got signed by Mark Case (sp?) who was working with Nirvana, Hole, Beck, and Sonic Youth. We tried to get it in our contract that if he left we could get off the label. It’s called “key man.” Meaning that if your point dude bails, you can get out. We couldn’t get them to do that, but Mark said he’d stick around and he did. We broke up and Mark was still there and then he left later and went to Grand Royal.
On the Etc. album, was it hard to put together your thoughts for every song?
I asked people if they thought it’d be cheesy to do liner notes and everyone said that people wouldn’t mind. I thought it might come off as too self-congratulatory or self-important, like this whole culture of revisiting old works on the DVD or Behind the Music. I thought it might smack of that. So that’s why on mine I just kind of blurted out the first thing that came to my mind. I definitely had to name-check people, too.
Adam with Jawbreaker artwork
One last thing I wanted to ask, your daughter who is five, does she know about Jawbreaker?
Yeah. She knows.
Does she listen to the music?
Yeah, I’m sure she’s heard it, but she’s really into classical music. She’s kind of obsessed with it. I think that’s something that’s really cool about her because I haven’t pushed that on her. She’s just taken to it. I gave all these old Jawbreaker shirts to my friend who works at the video store and she made a quilt for my kids. They have a Jawbreaker blanket. It’s got all the shirts on both sides and it’s lined with this silky material. So when she goes to sleep at night she says, “Where’s my Jawbreaker?”
But she’s seen me play with J Church. The other day when we got the artwork for the CD back I was showing it to her and she thought that was real neat. But she probably doesn’t totally understand. She probably takes it for granted and thinks that everybody’s dad plays in a band.
Does she know Blake and Chris?
Yeah. Chris is great with kids. And Blake was really great with her. We went and spent some time on the East Coast and a bunch of us went to the beach and they got along famously.
Wow. That’s cool. Whenever I talk to bands who have kids, I always like hearing about it, because my parents aren’t artistic or anything. I grew up with normal parents. They’re business people. For me, I would love to have artistic parents. I guess what I’m trying to say is that I wish you were my dad. [laughs]
That might present a problem, though, because I’m twenty-three and you’re what? Like thirty?
I would’ve been eleven or twelve. I was twelve years old when I met your mother.
Well, I never thought I looked like my dad too much and the more I keep staring at the Jawbreaker albums, it just makes sense.