INTERVIEW: Let's Go Bowling
Interview with Paul (Vocals/Guitar/Harmonica)
By: Alex Steininger
Alex: What are some of your musical influences?
Paul: The Skatalites, The Specials, all the two-tone bands, all the traditional bands...I mean, we could sit down for hours and just talk about all our influences.
Alex: Any current bands your into, ones that don't influence, but you just dig their sound?
Paul: Yeah, of course. There are a lot of them. Do you mean just ska bands?
Alex: No, any bands. Anything.
Paul: Oh man. Wow. Um...there are a lot of...for the most part, there is a lot of crap out there. Do you know that?
Alex: Yeah. There certainly is.
Paul: But there are some shining bands out there. And one I've been really into lately has been Radiohead. I dig them a lot. We've also...
Alex: Radiohead just went to the cleaners and racked up a lot of awards.
Paul: Yeah, that's the thing. Most bands win the awards for one song, the only song worth listening too. But our drummer is into Radiohead, and he's been playing a lot of their stuff lately in the van, and it's pretty good stuff. I've been really getting into it. I've even thought about going out and buying their CD, which for me is a big thing. I don't buy a lot of CD's, because I'm too afraid of buying just one good song, and the rest being crap. So I haven't been pushed to go out and buy very many CD's, but I really like Radiohead's stuff. Let me see, oh yeah, we've all been really getting into Ween lately. And then there is the Cherry Poppin' Daddies. I love them. They're great. I am in awe of them! Steve Perry's song writing...
Alex: He's so versatile, he can just go all over the place.
Paul: Yeah, oh yeah. I mean, he's so amazing.
Alex: Yeah, I caught you guys with them on the "Come Out Swingin'" tour. I can't remember, you guys were on that tour, right?
Paul. Yeah, that was a real good tour. "Come Out Swingin'." We had a lot of fun on that tour. The Cherry Poppin' Daddies, Reel Big Fish, and us. That was amazing. We loved it. We had so much fun. That is probably one of our favorite tours.
Alex: So, what are some of your band goals for 1998?
Paul: Well, we're looking for a label right now. So, hopefully we'll be able to get a label and put out a new album. We have a lot of new material, and we're just waiting for someone to float us some cash so we can pay for the studio.
Alex: Yes, that's right. I've been hearing rumors about you guys leaving Moon Ska. What was the reasons behind that decision?
Paul: It was time. There was a lot of reasons that we don't necessarily want to get into, but they did what they could for us. And we just outgrew each other.
Alex: So right now you're self supporting yourself on this tour?
Paul: Yeah, we are. We have a new live CD coming out on Asian Man Records, that will be out in April. That will be good, so hopefully that will let everyone know we're still around and let them know we're still going to be doing something. Right now we're just trying to find some label support, so we can put out a new album.
Alex: Are you interested in actually signing with Asian Man Records?
Paul: Well, you never know. It's a definite possibility. But right now we're exploring any and all options available to us. So if anyone has an uncle or an aunt that works for a record label, and wants to float them our sound, that would be killer!
Alex: Have any major labels been in contact with you guys?
Paul: Yeah, but you know, we're not...we're willing to talk to anyone. But we're not willing to sell our soul. And that is what usually goes along with a major label signing. But if they want to talk to us, we'll listen.
Alex: So what do you guys do on the road for fun?
Paul: Drink and (laughter)...there is no time for fun on the road. There is no fun on the road. Yeah, we drink, party, and watch TV in the hotel room. Our trombone player brings along his Nintendo 64 and his Sony Playstation, so he alternates each tour, bringing a different one with us each time. So that's fun.
Alex: Is there any road experience that stands out in your mind? You know, a "big bang" experience that sticks with you and you just love to tell people about it.
Paul: I don't know if there is anything we can actually tell...no, I'm just kidding. A big bang experience? You get all these big bang experiences all the time. It could be something as simple as the crowd being into the show, that's a really big part of it. The crowd is right there with you, and your having fun, the crowds having fun...it sounds really cheesy, but there is a lot of love in the room. That's the real big bang of the whole thing. And sometimes we get to meet people. People will show up, people you don't expect, who are also in the industry. You get to meet some heroes and stuff. Like last night, we were in Seattle and Limbo Goldening from The Specials got on stage and sang with us. And when we were in Santa Cruz and Nevill from The Specials also got on stage with us. I mean, when I was younger and just getting into ska, those guys were my heroes. You know? And now I've got their home phone numbers. Stuff like that is pretty cool. That's a lot of the...I'm trying to think about one experience where everyone would go "WOW!" The things that make us go "WOW, that's great" might not be that great for others. It's just personal things to us, I guess.
Alex: Ever get hassled by Police on the road?
Paul: Yeah, we stopped in Pennsylvania. We usually get a truck, so we rented a truck to carry our equipment in, and so there was like three of us in there. And I was asleep in the back, and our trombone player was driving, and a cop pulls us over and just keeps asking us questions. Stuff like "where are you going?", "what are you doing?", "what do you have in the back?", and "what is everything?" So they gave us the excuse that the reason they were hounding us was for the fact that there are a lot of people smuggling in immigrants from other countries. Which I guess is a big problem for Pennsylvania. I'm sure people are smuggling a lot of Canadians in to the states to work illegally. Then they found out we were musicians so the drug questions started to arise. "You guys have any pot? Any LSD? Any angel dust?" And then it was like, "No, do you?" And so they did, so we bought some off them and it was really cool.
Paul: Yeah. (Laughter). No...(we both crack up laughing) that would have been an amazing story if that was true. No, we were just being hassled by the man. We had a truck and a governor on it, so we couldn't go past 65, so it wasn't like we were speeding or anything. It was just a routine incident where the man was hassling the kids.
Alex: So if you guys could tour with anyone, who would you tour with?
Paul: Wow man. Ozzy! No...actually a lot of the guys in the band would say that.
Alex: I've heard stranger things.
Paul: Yeah. Well, there is so many bands I would love to tour with. You know who would be...see when you tour...I would just love to tour with Elvis Costello or something, but then I wouldn't because every night I would have to be perfect, or I would feel like I let him down. That's so much pressure. When your on tour with a god, you have to be pretty much a demi-god. So yeah, that's a pretty scary thing.
Alex: So what's your favorite city to play?
Paul: You know, we get asked that a lot. And we can't...it all comes down to the crowd. It could be...
Alex: You're supposed to bullshit and just say "Portland."
Paul: And you know, Portland is a great city for us to play. And we really do have a great time each time we play here. That's no bullshit. It could be Butt fuck, Egypt and we could be playing in front of twenty people, but they could just rock. And it would be, that place is a great place to play. And then we'll come back to that place and play. Or it could be Chicago in front of a thousand people. And they rock, so it's a great place. Or Hollywood...EVERYWHERE! It all comes down to the crowd, and most places the crowds are great. So it's really hard to choose. It's easier to choose what house I like to play in. Because, the sound system is great, or the way the employees treat the acts. It's easier to answer that than to answer a question on what cities we like.
Alex: So what goes into good music making for you guys?
Paul: Well, I think the main part is that every song filters through eight guys. It's hard to put out crap when there is eight guys who have the power to veto stuff. That has a lot to do with putting out good songs. Just trying to explore what their is to do with music. I mean it's easy to get up and...I could sit here and in fifteen minutes crank out five songs, but they'll be crappy. It's all about putting some time into it, some thought into it, and thinking about it. Bringing out what you hear in your head, which is really tough and takes awhile. Especially to communicate with others what you are talking about.
Alex: So what made you want to be in a band and get into the music business?
Paul: Well, its hard to be in a band and not be into the music business. To not deal with the business, its hard. To me it's all about the performance. Performing music, and whatever. The music seemed to work better than anything else. And the shitty part about music is that it is a business, and you have to think about things like that. You have to think, "Alright, what are we going to do? We would really love to do this tour with this band, but they can only afford to pay us a hundred a night. It would be good for us, a lot of people would see us, but we still need to eat." There are ten of us on the road, including the eight of us in the band, so it's like a lot of times it just plains sucks that you need to think about the business side of it. There is all this legalistic stuff to it, and it's ugly. I don't like that part. And that's why people pay big money for managers, so they don't have to deal with that stuff. But right now we're manager-less too. We're managing ourselves right now. We're punk rock right now! We're doing it all ourselves. We need to wait for Moon, and we got rid of the manager we had, and we're starting a new. So it's a very scary and exciting time for Let's Go Bowling, personally.
Alex: Do you think you could ever get comfortable with being on your own? Do you think you'd ever consider self-releasing stuff?
Paul: Yeah, we've thought about it. We've really...in the last couple of months had very serious talks about that. And again, as in anything, it all comes down to money. We can't...if we could afford to do it ourselves, and do it the way we want to do it, then yeah we would. I mean, the one thing we don't want to do is put out crap. And again, unfortunately, more money means less crap. At least production wise. We want to put out things we're proud of putting out, and that people are going to be happy to have. Happy to pay money for. If we could...if we felt good about just putting out our songs...I mean we feel good enough about our songs, but if we felt that we wouldn't be letting anyone down by just recording our stuff on a tape, then we would. But, we feel we owe the people who have kept us where we are something that is decent enough for them to play.
Alex: That's really respectable.
Alex: Back to the Asian Man thing. Is it going to be a one shot/one show deal, or is it going to be a compilation of shows?
Paul: Yeah, it's going to be a compilation of shows. We pretty much tape all our shows, so we went back through the last year or two, and picked some songs. We picked songs we liked and the recording was good, and we put them together. We thought about doing just one show, and we did that once before...we have a small cassette we put out four years ago, but it was only on cassette. This one is going to be out on everything. It's like a full-length album available on CD, cassette, and vinyl. I can't remember how many songs, but it's a good seventy-five minutes of music. We thought about doing a whole show, one show, but we decided that it would be better for the people who buy it to get a CD with a show that they were actually at. It gives more people a chance to have fun with it.
Alex: So, looking back on the history of the band, is there anything you would want to change?
Paul: (laughter) Oh man, yeah....you know what, there is! And I'll tell you what. It would all exclusively be on the business side of it. Creatively and with our line-up, we have a bunch of great guys in the band. Great musicians, and great guys. Creatively we're doing really well. But there was a lot of business decisions that were not made, or we made the wrong choice. But that basically comes down to experience, you can't really know what's going to happen. We relied on some people we shouldn't have, and didn't rely on some people we should have. Hindsight is 20/20, so if you really think about you can't really have any regrets. We're happy to be where we are. So it can't be all that bad, whatever happened. And we're doing all right. But yes, there is some stuff I would love to change. Minor decisions as well as major decisions that happened, but for the most part we're all right.
Alex: Do you believe the things that have happened, negatively and positively, have helped you out along the way?
Paul: Oh yeah! Yeah! When we decided not to go with Moon, then when we got rid of our manager, we had friends...business friends, personal friends, and people in the industry calling us all the time going, "what are you guys? Insane? This is the end of the band!" Everyone thought we were going to fold, that we couldn't handle it. But we all pulled it together, pulled our asses out of the fire, and we're doing all right now. Now I know more about the industry and the business side, more than I've ever know. So now we can make better decisions and stuff like that. I hate the business side. I don't want to even talk about it anymore (laughter).
Alex: OK then, what are the highest and lowest points of the band?
Paul: The highest points are when we're on stage, and the lowest points are when we are not.
Alex: What inspires you guys to write songs? Life? Love? Tragedy? Humor?
Paul: YES! All of those. For me, the way I come up with songs is...I don't have a radio in my car, because it was stolen. I've had my car broken into too many times, and I was just sick of having to replace the stereo each time. They smash the windshield, and I was tired of it. So I get in my car, drive around, and start singing to myself. Ideas will pop into my head and I'll record them. I carry a little recorder in my car, and I sing into it. Then we'll just go and work it out. Or sometimes I'll squirrel myself away somewhere and just brainstorm on things. It's hard to keep your everyday life out of it. And its really hard to write ska music when you're having a real bad day, because ska is such happy music. It's like ah, I think this may be a little too sad for everyone.
Alex: So, do you handle all the lyrics?
Paul: I handle some of them, especially the songs that I write. But I'm not the only one who writes songs. Our keyboard player, Darrin, writes songs. And our trumpet player Patrick also writes songs. So far, its been coming out as the three of us writing the songs. Myself, Darrin, and Patrick have been pumping out the songs lately. The ones that I write, I like to have control over. I like to write all of it. Then maybe have Pat or Darrin come up with a horn line for it. But once it gets thrown out to the band, everyone gets to put their two cents into it. Which, most of the time, makes for a better song. We've been working more collaborative lately. Darrin has a little bit more music theory in his brain than I do, so I let him handle a lot of the chords and stuff. I'll just come up with the melodies and lyrics. How ever we can speak out a song, we'll do it.
Alex: What do you want the listener to get out of your music?
Paul: Whatever they want. With the stuff that I write, and if they identify with it, then apply it. And if they don't, give it a three because it has a good beat and is easy to dance too. We just want people to have a good time with the music, and come away feeling good. And if nothing else, for the hour or hour and a half they're there, just forget about what's bugging them.
Alex: Do you have a favorite song you've written?
Paul: Yeah, but we don't play it much. It's one of the more mellow ones, but I really like it. I don't know if that means anything, but...I always watch interviews with big musicians, like John Lennon, and they always ask "what's your favorite Beatles song?" (in British accent). And invariably it's always the one that everyone hates. The one that everyone thinks is worthless. It's not "I Wanna Hold Your Hand", none of the hits. So who knows? It could be a crappy song, but I like it, and the guys like it.
Alex: Why is it your favorite?
Paul: Well, it has a good beat and it's easy to dance too. It's about some crap that was going on with my life at the time, and it speaks a lot to me personally. I wrote it for myself.
Alex: So what are your thoughts and reactions to the attention ska is currently receiving in the media?
Paul: It's a double edged sort. I'm happy with it, but at the same time I'm scared of it. I'm happy that a lot of the bands are getting the attention they deserve, even the ones that don't necessarily deserve it. Most of them are friends of ours that we've known for a very long time, so we're all gosh darn happy for them. But then I'm also afraid that the media will blow it up and it will not last. It will be a flash in the pan and will not endure. Like a lot of things today. But I think ska should really get a fair shake. It's been around longer than a lot of music. Even if this is as big as it ever gets in the mainstream, it will always be around. I think the music form is so cool, and a lot of people really get into it. And they really find that they enjoy it. If the media gives it a fair shake, and focuses on more than one type of ska...there is just so many kinds, and so many bands. But I'm afraid that it will...it has never really been explained that ska is just a word that is an umbrella for all these other forms of the ska. And if the punk/ska gets over used and people start to get sick of it, then people will start thinking they hate ska. But they won't know what ska really is, and they just know about one kind of ska. So I think it will be really interesting to see where it is in a year.
Alex: Well then, where do you think it will be in a year? Bigger or smaller?
Paul: I hope that it will be bigger. I hope that it will be broader. Like Hepcat is on Hellcat now, and I'm really pulling for them. They are definitely not the punk/ska that everyone is all tits about. They are basically one of my favorite new bands now. There are a lot of great bands out there that aren't the punk/ska right now. And I'm really in fear that the bands that deserve it will not be heard. They work just as hard as anyone else, and they deserve to be heard as any of the ska/punk or skunk bands. Whatever they're calling them these days. They deserve their fifteen minutes. And I think that is the interesting stuff. It's a little more intricate and there is a bit more musicianship that goes into it. And it would be a shame if...and not to dog on ska/punk, but it would be a shame if that fails to bring down the rest of the ska bands. And all the other ska forms.
Alex: Is there anything I left out that you would like to cover?
Paul: Let me think. We talked about the new CD, that's always good. Plugging the new CD is always useful.
Alex: Asian Man...
Paul: Yeah...Asian Man, we talked about them.
Alex: They have great distribution.
Paul: Yeah, they do. We're pretty happy to be on Asian Man. Mike Park is all gung-ho about it.
Alex: Are you doing the "Ska Against Racism" tour?
Paul: No, we're not. And I don't know why we're not. Do you know when that tour is going on?
Alex: I believe it kicks off like March 27 or something in Seattle, and hits Portland the next night, or something like that. I know it starts late March and Portland is one of the first few stops.
Paul: That's why we're not doing it. On March first we're starting a tour with the Skatalites, and we'll be touring with them across the country. That's a good thing to say too! Good thing you brought that up, or I wouldn't have remembered that. So that's why we're not on it, otherwise we would do it! So we're looking forward to that. And right now we're having a great time with Reverend Horton Heat. It's very cool.
Alex: How much longer on the tour?
Paul: Until the end of February. I think like the 16th, February 16th or something. We're like a week and a half into it. It's very cool. They're a great band, great guys. Shows will get more interesting as the tour progresses.
Alex: Any "end of the tour" pranks planned?
Paul: We very well may, you never know. The Specials played one on us. We toured with The Specials when they first got back together and toured the US in 1994. We were the opening band. And the last show was in Fresno, our home town. So we were doing...every so often, not every night, but every so often at the end of their set they would bring us on and we would take over the instruments and they would all dance around and we would do "Simmerdown." Nevill and I would trade versus, and we'd be singing and having a great time. So for the Fresno show they say, "OK guys. We want to do this for your home town." So at the end, all The Specials leave the stage, except for Nevill. We all come out, and we're ready to go and the rest of The Specials aren't there. And we're like, "where are the guys?" We kept looking around, but we couldn't find them. So Nevill goes, "that's alright. Just go on without them." So we started playing, and they came on out with paper plates full of shaving cream, like pies. And then they just pelted us with these pies, on our faces. So we had a big pie fight on stage, while the song was going on. And the band thing about it was that some of the guys went out and bought some of the menthol shaving cream, so it was on there and it kept stinging. I was like, "OK guys. You're in big trouble." That was a great tour. But we didn't do anything for the Cherry Poppin' Daddies and Reel Big Fish tour. The "Come Out Swingin'" Tour. I don't know why we didn't either. The last night of the "Come Out Swingin'" Tour we did do a few things actually. There was two last nights. The first last night was the last night the Daddies was with us. That was Eugene, Oregon, their hometown. And so they brought me up and Steve and I traded versus on "It's Not Unusual" by Tom Jones. We did that song, yeah! He does a good imitation of Sammy Davis, Jr. and I came out as Tom Jones. I unbuttoned my shirt all the way down, and pulled my collar out as far as I could. We traded versus, him as Sammy and me as Tom Jones. And it was beautiful. The women screamed, like we were Tom Jones. It was amazing. That's the power of Tom Jones. So that was kind of cool. And the second to last night was in Petiluma, and that was the last night with us and The Fish. Because we were coming down, so we dropped of the Daddies, and continued on down. So I came out while they were doing their version of "Hungry Like The Wolf" by Duran Duran. And so I came out and did the moans at the end. But before that I had a camera, and while the guys were playing the songs, I put my arm around them and took a picture of each of them with me. Then I did the high pitched moans at the end, and it was beautiful and everything. And that camera, with the film, was in a backpack that was stolen out of my car a few weeks later. They smashed my window out and took the backpack. Nothing important in it, except for that and all the creative work I had done for the last year. Notebooks, song lyrics, and all that kind of stuff. It was unbelievable. And the thing that griped my the most, was the fact that we were at a meeting with our manager, and parked right behind me was our trombone player's car with his new Super Nintendo in the back seat. And then they had to go and smash my window out and still my backpack. That just killed me.
Alex: It would be very ironic and humorous, not for you, but for everyone else, if one day you were flipping through the pages of a magazine and saw those pictures with someone else's name credited to them.
Paul: (laughter) Yeah, exactly. You never know. They could show up.
Alex: Or if you turned on the radio and we're like, "This song is great. The lyrics are amazing. I like this song." Only to realize it was your song.
Paul: Hey...hey...(laughter). Yeah, but that would kill me. Especially since I have a few friends who I bounce stuff off of, so they would know my stuff. And I would recognize it instantly. But it would just kill me. I often sat there and thought about how I could hurt the person who did it, but that's not very nice of me.
Alex: So did it set you back any?
Paul: It did me. The stuff that I had used and songs that were done I had recordings of, so that was alright. But works in progress and stuff, that was the only copy of the stuff that I had. I remembered most of it, but there was some of it that I couldn't remember. And in the furriest moments of trying to re-copy everything from memory, I'm sure I lost a lot of stuff. And some of the stuff I knew that I had, I had it written just the way I wanted it. And going back to it, I couldn't remember how it was, so I was paraphrasing it all. And I was not as happy as how I was. Now writing it down from memory, it wasn't as good as it originally was. Emotionally it set me back a lot. But what kills me is that the camera was the only thing that was worth any money, and I bought it at Wal-Mart for like twenty bucks, so the rest of the stuff probably ended up in a trash can or the body of a city dump. All my creative work at the time just thrown away. It was like two years ago, no, almost a year ago. A whole years work up to that time just laying in the bottom of a dump somewhere, what's the point of that?
Alex: Well that about wraps it up. I'll let you get back to work. Rock Portland tonight!
Paul: Thank you very much for the interview.