At a recent gig in Leicester, we met with Me First and The Gimme Gimmes gents Spike Slawson and Joey Cape pre-show to catch up and learn a little more about our favourite covers band..
As a band (you two especially, not including Joey’s solo stuff) you’ve released six albums this year. How do you find time to tour, and record and stuff like that?
Joey: Well the ‘One Week Records’ I do those when I have time off tour, I schedule those and they only take a week so they are actually kind of delightful because I am home. It’s a little bit more of a creative time while you have a guest that you really like staying at your home. That’s sort of not work, it’s a pleasure. Touring for me is just a matter of whatever it is I’m doing in-front of me, that’s what I’m concentrating on at the time. We could have day jobs! Spike might have a day job?
You work nights?
Spike: Yeah, I make pizzas!
Because it is a love of yours?
Spike: I do love pizza, best food ever invented.
Joey: It is incredible.
Spike: For me it is lucky that it is all covers, one of the most time consuming things I would think is to write music. So when you take that out of the equation…
Joey: That’s a good point.
What about learning the songs though? Is that quite an effort, because if it is personal to you I imagine that would make it easier to remember?
Spike: Yeah, but harder to conceive. When the stuff is already done, I’m pretty good a learning songs and chords. I pick that up pretty easily, especially when it is something that I like. Which occasionally I get to cover songs that I like. But yeah, it is already done, it’s basically arranged you just have to rearrange it.
How do you go about recording and learning, do you decide what songs are going on the album and then go away and learn the composition etc? Do you do it as a group, and record as a group?
Joey: It seems like most of the time we’ll pick a theme or genre, then we get a very large list which everyone contributes and that gets narrowed down with very little work. We get in a room, if Fat Mike is there when he decides to show up, he’s got the patience of a Shrew, so we play a song for like three seconds. I honestly feel it is rare we work on something to make it work, I feel most of the time the songs that work effortlessly make the cut. There isn’t a lot of work ethic happening in this band as a group. Individually I think we are all very hard working people and dedicated to the things we do, but in this band, hmm, not so much.
Spike: It’s not time consuming, so it easy to incorporate into life and into my schedule at least, plus it pays and it flies me to places.
Joey: And it’s really fun.
Joey: It’s a holiday! We just went waay off the question there.
You’re version of ‘Sloop John B’ can be heard on the ‘Wolf of Wall Street‘ movie soundtrack, how does it feel to essentially be in a Scorsese movie?
Joey: I was really excited about it.
Spike: My wife is Italian-American, so all my in-laws were like abuzz. Scorsese is kind of a mythical figure for Italian-Americans. It was great, and I loved the movie too. There was all this flack that he was maybe condoning the guys behaviour, who the hell was the Wolf of Wall Street..? What was the guys name?
Spike: But I thought it was great, I thought it was better than ‘The Departed‘.
Joey: I agree, and we were really lucky to be in it. Our friend Bryan pulled that off I think, so we have him to thank for that. When I first heard about it I was like, okay that’s cool we are in this cover band and we are doing these classic songs so we can finally maybe get a little bit of placement and you get offered like car commercials and Coke commercial and everyone in the band says “nah, we can’t do that” but when something like that comes along I thought “this is to good to be true.” Like Lagwagon got a song in the movie ‘Contact‘ with Jodie Foster, and I was really excited and would probably have never go to see the movie but I went and saw it on the opening day because someone told me it was in the first twenty seconds of the film and it was montage of audio bits as it is scanning in on the earth. I don’t know if you have ever seen the film? I hear half a second of the song, and then it was gone. So when I saw the Scorsese I couldn’t believe it, it was like a good minute of the song- it‘s a long segment.
Spike: Gary Busey’s kids in that movie to, playing a psycho. That’s the only thing I remember about that movie.
(Five minute irrelevant tangent talking about cult film, directors and American politics.)
Joey: What were we talking about?..
Your touring line-up change from time to time, Fat Mike’s obviously too big time to come back to the UK…
Joey: Nicely said, print it.
Spike’s Wife (From another room): He just hates English people!
Joey: Let’s start that rumour!
How does that effect the dynamic of the band, because when Mike is with you he does quite a bit of the talking on stage. How does the dynamic change when he’s not there?
Joey: Oh boy I’m not touching this.
Does the band feel a lot different when you swap out someone like that? Does it change the dynamic?
Spike: Yeah, it changes dramatically. Let’s put it that way.
Joey: I look at the band, and I can of see if for lack of a better word as a fraternity. I look at it I know how it started, I know how it has changed. In a way we are all friends, we’ve all known each other for many many years and we all have shared lives and so this is the kind of thing that takes little effort and anyone with this shared experience that we get along with off stage is going to be good for the band. So it is one of those things that could evolve that way, but the downside of course if the chemistry. We have great chemistry already with Jay (Bentley of Bad Religion) and I kinda hope this is the way this stays because it feels quite good now. Doesn’t it?
Spike: And Mike is so busy touring and has some many other projects.
Joey: Really busy.
Joey: The musical thing is all consuming for him I know. He’s in New York and he’s in LA, until that play actually premiers I don’t think he can think of anything else, you know. And I totally understand that, it’s a huge thing. He’s been working on it for years and years.
So it being a fraternity, is there an initiation that members have to undertake to get in?
Joey: Well I was having dinner with Brian Baker (of Bad Religion) the other night when I played in DC, and at the end of the meal I said “Hey, I was thinking of every once in a while not doing a Gimmies tour maybe you could fill in?” because Brian used to play with us “maybe you could be my understudy?” Which was kind of a joke because Brian was in Minor Threat when I was like fourteen years old. This seems to be the kind of band that as long as Spike wants to do it, because he’s the one person who’s essential, I don’t see this as a thing that would end with age. We could get really old and still do this.
Spike: We’d just be playing outside more the older we got.
Joey: What like “its too hot in here.”
Spike: No, I mean like fairs and shit like that.
Joey: With REO, Speedwagon and Stixs? That’s what we are shooting for, County Fairs. Or perhaps Vegas, a residency in Vegas or Reno.
New album came out earlier this year, how do you measure the success of a record now because a lot of people are streaming now and not downloading. Or do you even really give a shit? Are you making a record for you guys?
Spike: The time to give a shit was ten or fifteen years ago, now records don’t really sell. I honestly don’t see the point. I would prefer to do seven inches and little limited things because they are nice little boutique things that could actually sell on their own merit, rather than feed some system. I would download just the songs I liked off a record, because why pay twenty bucks for two songs, I wouldn’t and I don’t.
Joey: I don’t like to think about these things when I think about The Gimmies. It is a strange world that we live in, you get these links from a publicist “here is a review of your record” and I myself don’t like to read those as far as the actual art in writing songs I don’t like the idea of criticism colouring what you do and I feel like when someone says “this is a great review of your record you have to read this” I’ll always find something negtive about it. There is always something, so to me not only do I ignore all that stuff I think it is so convoluted now, it is really difficult to know. The only thing you can really do is ask the label, and say “how’s the record doing” and that’s a dangerous question.
Spike: Or move to a place like LA, which is a weird twisted fucked meritocracy. They won’t tell you if you suck, they’ll just pay you if you are good and then if you suck you’ll eventually be homeless. But discipline and hard work and focus is rewarded. To me though the meat is in the live shows, especially this thing as they are covers so there is only so much you can do with them. You get to sweat, jump around and make an ass of yourself.
With regard to your on stage persona Spike, you seem different off stage compared to on stage. Do you feel you transform as you take to the stage?
Spike: Probably in the first song, crowd reactions really make a difference. Places like Japan are really weird, it feels like more of a performance there rather than a show.
Spike: Yeah, it feels a bit like theatre there because of how people respond.
How do they respond?
Spike: Very politely, and even if they don’t understand what you are saying, they stop when you are speaking. Everything goes silent and it’s really fucking eerie, no matter how many people there are out there too. Here, even more so than continental Europe the crowds are a little bit more feral, more like the States. That makes a big difference.
Watching back some of your live videos, you take the piss out of everyone, has that ever come back to bite you?
Joey: We don’t do that as much these days.
Spike: Yeah, because Mike isn’t here to talk shit on other bands and get us in trouble with our favourite bands.
Joey: I always kind of really resented that, I think there is something kind of funny when you play a festival and it is a little bit funny to talk about the other bands you are playing with. But it makes me really uncomfortable, I don’t know them and I’m not arrogant enough to think that if I don’t enjoy someone’s music that there is something wrong with them.
Spike: I don’t like Bruce Springsteen, but I acknowledge what he did for people that nobody was talking about, that had no voice. He was like their poet man, like the Bob Dylan for the working people.
Joey: I love him.
Spike: Yeah, but I’m not going to put a Bruce Springsteen record on.
Joey: But you aren’t going to go on stage and talk shit about him.
What does 2015 hold for you guys? I know Joey you are back in the UK with Lagwagon. Uke-Hunt tour?
Spike: Yeah, we’ve got plans. We are actively represented at the moment, ready to hit the road. We have an outfit and everything.
Spike: We’ve got some recording, it’s on my dime.
Joey: Still waiting!
Spike: It’s on my fucking dime dude.
Joey: I’m ready to pay for that man, I love that band.
(Spike and Joey discuss the recording process and Joey producing the album.)
Spike: We‘ve got some songs together, an E.P. together, I think we’ve just got to finish it which I hope to do so in 2015. I’ve just been making a lot of pizza, and that is all consuming.
Is that what you prefer to do, put it out as like a six track E.P. as opposed to a full length?
Spike: I think we’ve only got an E.Ps worth of stuff, we might be able to stretch it to ten songs.
Joey: I love E.Ps
Spike: I do to.
Joey: I often think that records are way to long, E.Ps are a perfect length, five songs killer. When it’s over I want to hear it again.
Spike: Once again you can set the price point in such a way that it is less of a commitment, and a ten inch is again much more boutique-y. People buy seven inches even if they don’t have a record player, maybe have a download code in it, because it’s a nice keep-sake.
Also you can release more often, because the demand for new music is so quick these days.
Spike: Yeah, it’s wiley to do it that way because you actually stand to make a little more money because you can release more often. Not to put it in such a vulgar terminology. Unfortunately, good business makes good community, and as a musician the way to respect me is to pay me. You know what I mean? And unfortunately that’s how the world works, either they do that or I don’t eat or I don’t pay rent. I live in San Francisco, I’m sure it’s made the news about how fucking expensive it is to live there.
What would you like to be remembered for?
Joey: Song-writing, sounds so pretentious to answer that question at all but I’d like to be remembered as a song writer.
Spike: No clue, nothing.
Joey: How about a handsome man?!
Just to be remembered?
Spike: Yeah, just to be remembered.
Joey: A guy who can make a good pie?
Dream Dinner Guest (Dead or Alive)?
Spike: George A. Romero.
Joey: Elliot Smith.
How long do you spend in-front of the mirror?
Spike: Too long.
Joey: I don’t like to look in mirror.
Favourite Swear Word?
Spike: (In a Liverpudlian accent) Cunt.
Joey: I think it’s going to be Cunt for me too.
Best excuse you’ve ever used to break up with someone?
Spike: Mine were all predictable man.
Spike: Chris Shiftlet grew a moustache to break up with a girl, before moustaches were hip. It was the mid-90s or something like that, and he couldn’t fully grow it. “I’m afraid to break up with this girl so I’m gonna grow a moustache.”
Worst thing you’ve ever put in your mouth?
Joey: Now we are getting down to the serious stuff here.
Spike: A full english!
Joey: I’ve got it! This is true. I was travelling with a guy, who would chew tobacco and he would use a juice bottle for his spit. He filled it on a long drive, we went to some show out of town. At the end of the night we ended up at some party, and the party wasn’t stopping so at five in the morning I went to the car to get some sleep. I woke up early in the morning, I needed water so bad. Looked down saw the ‘juice’, drank more that half of it instantly vomited all over my dash. Half way through I had realised what it was.. that was one of the worst moments of my life.
Last band you went to see live (not on the same bill as you)?
Spike: Scratch Acid.
Joey: I’d love to see them. I can’t believe I can’t remember the last show I went to, it was probably only a week ago. No comment.
Last time you were starstuck?
Joey: James Hetfield, but it was really weird because I shouldn’t have been. This one time we had opened a show for Metallica and they were really cool, they made a community area for all the bands that played that day so it was like Placebo and Lagwagon, it was a really weird bill and they were hanging out all day and I was sitting on this bench and we had flown in especially for the show. So I’m kinda jet lagged and he walked up to me and I’m just sitting there and he’s like “how’s it going man?” and I had nothing to say. It was about ten seconds of him looking at me, and I’m just looking at him and he stands there for ten seconds, shrugs his shoulders and walks off.
Spike: I’m about to do a mini tour with Kid Kongo and his new band, I will be startstruck very shortly in the next month. So that’s kind of big.
Joey: I don’t know who that is, I know who Kid Rock is! I did a bunch of coke and Jack Daniels with him one time.
Spike: Kid Kongo is the guitarist in The Cramps, after Brian Gregory and he played with the Gunclub after Fire of Love.
Joey: That’s cool dude, but I met Kid Rock and did drugs with him. And his name is Bob, so try and top that!
Bob huh.. Amazing. Thanks guys!
You can check Joey out on tour with the irrepressible Lagwagon in the UK soon, check out the dates below!
23.3 London 02 Academy Islington
24.3 Bristol Bierkeller
25.3 Manchester Club Academy
26.3 Portsmouth Wedgewood Arms
I’m such a massive Gimmes fan, and the guys couldn’t have been nicer. It was such a pleasure, thanks to Spike and Joey, everyone we met backstage, the peeps at Fat Wreck and The Leicester 02 for an awesome night!