INTERVIEW: The Vandals
Longstanding Pop-Punk Favorites (Kung Fu Records)
By: Chad Roskelley
Fresh on the heels of their new release, Internet Dating Super-Studs, now punk rock legends The Vandals begin a Kung Fu Records tour, showcasing themselves along with the likes of Tsunami Bomb and Audio Karate. I had a chance after the show to sit down with songwriter/guitarist/occasional singer Warren Fitzgerald and pick his brain for a moment. Here's what I got.
IMWT: What portion of Kung Fu's other involvements are you a part of?
WF: A fair portion, I produce a fair amount of the albums. A lot of the executive decisions, the film stuff, all of that I'm very involved in.
IMWT: Does that take up more of your time than the band?
WF: No, no, no, not quite. The band is more time consuming. I write more of the songs than anyone else does, and I produce the albums, so when we're in album cycle I have a lot more, and I hate to say the word, responsibility.
IMWT: How have your lyrical influenced changes over the time?
WF: This is the honest answer, I've been in this band since I was in my late teens, it's been a very long time, and my maturity hasn't evolved at all, up any notches really. Maybe here and there I know a few things, like don't put your hand on the stove, but really beyond that, it's kinda the same notch; especially things in regard to relationships and real life. My biggest influence is taking the wrong side of an argument and trying to convince or rationalize it. It's the nature of debate or anything like that. You have someone who says we need fresh water and another says lets poison the water; I take the poison the water side. In a more emotional or personal context, I'm having an argument with my girlfriend and I know I'm totally wrong and she's right, but I'm going to state my case and put it in a song and ten there's no rebuttal. It's therapy, but whatever; I've heard other bands say that and it makes me sick, but I'm going to go with it.
IMWT: What do you listen to?
WF: I like listening to a lot of different stuff. The green light or red light as far as a band when I hear em is the lyrics. I'm way more interested in the lyrics. There are only so many chords you know what I mean. I know music, I studied music, you know? You can put together a catchy riff or a nice groove and all that kind of bullshit; but if you're singing crap on top of it, that's not thought out or not interesting or just fucking a clich? of a clich? of a clich?, I hate it; which is most of the stuff on the radio, is most of the stuff in existence. I like bands like Ween because they have an interesting sense of humor, they're very prolific and they're very all over the place. They're not afraid to do something weird. Or even guys like Slayer, because they're just straight up Satanists; it's a commitment to something; it's not like they're middle-of-the-road like "Oh I'm in pain, and it rained" or the bullshit you hear over in like Matchbox 20 and all that crap. There's a major exception to that though, bands that think they're funny, but they're not. Like say for example, the Puddle of Mud song, umm..."She Fuckin Hates Me," I don't know if you've heard it. It's a big kinda hit, it's on TRL, it sucks, it's them, this band going, some piece of shit middle-of-the-road bullshit rock band going "oh this is our funny song." It's not funny; it sucks. So fuck you for trying to have a sense of humor! I'm really not a good person to talk to about music; I have so many prejudices to begin with.
IMWT: Do you like to put the lyrics in the book?
WF: I do, I do, I think it's important. This last album we did a weird exception with the artwork, because it's an internet theme. We put pop-ups over some of the lyrics. Like you know you're on the internet and you change the page and then pop, pop, pop they're all over. We did that, but they're all available on the website. Maybe there was some rational like getting people to visit the website and look at it. I think they're important enough to write down, especially, if the lyrics make good reading, the music is just a bonus; that's my take. I'm not saying we pull it off, but we try.
IMWT: What bands would you play in if not the Vandals?
WF: A lot, I could name a few of the bands I like; Tenacious D is a band I like. I actually play on the record, so I kinda do play with them, but whatever. You mean all of history or current?
IMWT: All of history--
WF: Umm--I hate to say, I kinda like The Who. I have a thing about them, like in the early days, like especially because every song was under two minutes and Keith Moon was in the band and he was alive; I'd be the rhythm guitar play in The Who.
IMWT: If there was a Vandals tribute album, who would you want to play your favorite song?
WF: If we were in charge? There are a couple songs on Live Fast Diarhea I'd be curious to hear System Of A Down's interpretation of it. That'd be interesting, because we flirt with speed metal and those kinds of things and they have that kind of artistic--see, I'd compare them more to the Dead Kennedy's than Tool which a lot of people do, whatever. For some reason I have a soft spot for them; they remind me of the Dead Kennedy's in some weird way. So them, I'd love. Ween of course, and probably most of the bands I named and then there's probably one other interesting thing; I'd like to hear Barbara Streisand maybe. Just because--if she was talked in to it by her management that said "this is a great career move, they're very hip" and she did one of our songs and had to sing it in a soulful way even though the lyrics are completely ridiculous. I would enjoy that from a perverted standpoint. And The Corrs because they're totally hot and I'd like to produce that track and maybe hit on em.
IMWT: Why Kung Fu Japan?
WF: Japan is a fantastic country. We spent so much time in Europe before we ever made it to Japan. Europe is this weird kind of--they don't respect--there's just weird isms about them; there's a whole song about it on Hitler Bad. They don't have a personal space thing, a hygiene thing; it's all a very rude society. It's just how they are, it's not good or bad. To me it's bad because I'm an American, so I'm like, what the fuck? If I'm standing in line at McDonalds at the counter, you don't walk in front of me; that kinda thing. Japan is the most polite society in the world; they're also the most repressed in a sort of weird way. It's neat, it's totally clean; the closest you'll get to going to another planet, except for maybe Antarctica. They're very--it's that polite thing, it's really weird; they're very clean and bring towels to concerts. They walk in a very proper way and stand where they're supposed to stand. They're very gracious.
IMWT: You have done your own Japanese packaging for albums?
WF: They have weird things, because 80% of the records sold in Japan are Japanese artists. That's a strange exception to most countries. American music is very popular and goes out all over the world, but the American market, the biggest band in the world and all those bands combined equal only 20% of their record buying. They have superstars over there, there's a Japanese Bon Jovi, a Japanese whatever the fuck, Aerosmith and all that shit. They get very excited about what comes to--as exotic and weird as they are to us, it reverses too. They're like "Oh wow, you're from America." It's cool. I forget what the question was, but it's very nice. They're quite passionate. People will show up six hours before you play and have some 7" or something you put out years ago that you don't even have a copy of. It's flattering; it's the closest thing to resembling conquering, or going to another planet or something.
IMWT: Tell us about Selwyn's Nuts--
WF: I wrote that film and it's currently being edited. Making a film is like making 13 albums; the amount of effort that goes in to it. You write a song, and you want wind chimes, so bring some wind chimes. You write a film and a scene takes place in a meat freezer, now you fuckin gotta find a meat freezer. Someone's gotta film it, someone's gotta light it; the logistics are through the roof. We'll see how it comes out. I like the script, I think the script is good. We had some great people involved in it. My only goal is that it doesn't completely suck. If it just kinda sucks then that's perfect, we're totally fuckin victorious in the film industry as far as I'm concerned.
IMWT: Any film plans after that?
WF: I've written several scripts. I'm ummm--it's so lame to say, that I have scripts. I'm very hypersensitive about showbiz isms like that, I don't want to be attached to it; but I guess I'm in the same world as everyone else is. I've written several and I'm pursuing getting them made, some for Kung Fu, some for not, some for this and that. I've scored a few films and you know, I just like movies a lot and like to be involved with them in whatever capacity.
IMWT: After music and movies, any other industries you want to get in to?
WF: I paint, I paint.
IMWT: Sell through galleries?
WF: I've done a few shows. I think my stuff is too offensive and pornographic for mainstream acceptance, at least at this point in my life. But I'm also going with the Van Gogh theory, maybe before I die it'll go up in value, know what I mean. Jesus Christ, Robert Mapplethorpe is just straight gay porn, and he's like a genius, it's all over the internet. My stuff is just, you k now, it's animals fucking, so all the sudden I'm not cool. I don't know where they draw the line for that.
IMWT: Ten studio albums, what's left for the Vandals?
WF: I don't know, it's a weird found youth by doing this kind of bullshit. We're older but we haven't developed emotionally or socially in any shape or form. So, I'm just saying we'll keep doing it until one of us dies. I'm banking on me dieing first. If you had a dead pool, I'd bank on me; but I went to a psychic and she said I was going to have a long life. But you know, they're fucking psychics so they don't know shit.
IMWT: Where would you go to retire?
WF: I like that question, interesting. There are a few cities I really do like if you're retired you want to be in a dry, warm climate, don't you? Like most people in New York who are retired like to avoid the winters and go to Miami and that kind of thing. I'd say either Santa Fe or New Orleans. Because I suppose if you're like in your sixties you can still be like a Chuck Bukowski, you can write poetry and be a junky or something. You can extend you youth and kids can write papers about you in college.