Lagwagon (02 août 2006)


Entrevue de Melissa avec Leon

Selon Leon, le guitariste du groupe californien LAGWAGON, Montréal à toujours été une des meilleures ville du quintet. Leur dernier passage au Metropolis la semaine dernière ne fut pas exception à la règle. PunkMeUp à eu la chance de s’entretenir avec Leon peu avant sa montée sur scène.

[MELISSA] You guys are currently on the road with your labelmates THE LAWRENCE ARMS and A WILHELM SCREAM. One of the pluses of being a seasoned band is being able to chose the bands you go out on tour with.

[LEON] Yeah, we’ve been able to do that for a long time. A lot of the bands that we’ve taken out on the road with us have gone on to becoming much bigger than we are. (laughs) Maybe that will happen with these two bands.

[MELISSA] Do you guys bring out bands that you guys are fans of? Enjoy watching? Are friends with?

[LEON] We usually either know them through the label, or are our friends or just have happened to play with on previous tours and have happened to like.

[MELISSA] Is the chemistry between bands at all important to you?

[LEON] We did a lot of touring with AVAIL in the past just because we get along so well with them.

[MELISSA] What would you say constitutes in a good tour for LAGWAGON?

[LEON] Just as long as we don’t have too many flopper shows or too many accidents within the band our arguments. If Joey’s voice doesn’t go out and stuff like that.

[MELISSA] I’m assuming you guys have had to deal with stuff like that, how does that affect the band?

[LEON] It brings the moral down, when people aren’t getting along and it gets pretty miserable. I think it happens with a lot of bands. People get tired, grumpy and everyone gets on each other’s nerves. It gets tough.

[MELISSA] In times like that, what do you guys do to keep the moral high?

[LEON]Some people go off on their own a lot. Joey a lot of the times, just spends the whole day by himself and just shows up for the show. It’s not so much that he doesn’t want to hang out with us but when he’s around people he’ll talk too much and he’ll lose his voice. He’s tired a lot too so he tries to rest up a lot.

[MELISSA] The band has been at this since 1988, how much harder does touring get as time goes by?

[LEON] A little because now a couple of the guys in the band are married and have kids, so it’s a lot harder to leave that behind. In addition, everyone has more financial responsibilities now too. We don’t tour as long or as much as we used to at all. Back when the band first started touring, they would go almost seven, eight or even nine months on the road a year. That’s why the band did get as big as they did is because they worked so hard in the beginning.

[MELISSA] I know that your latest record Resolve was written really soon after the tragic death of your drummer Derrick. I bet a lot of people have asked you about it but now that the record’s been out for a while, has it done what you guys wanted it to do? Has it helped the healing process in any way?

[LEON] I think just the writing of it in itself was the therapy for Joey since he wrote all the lyrics. He was just trying to work out his feelings at the time and I think that that in itself was very therapeutic to him and helpful. Playing the songs sometimes, it doesn’t really affect me, what the content of the song is but other times, especially if there’s people around that aren’t normally with us that knew Derrick are there and then it reminds you what the song is really about. That can definitely be emotional.

[MELISSA] How have the fans reacted? Has that helped at all?

[LEON] I think everyone’s got their own answer to that. I’ve lost a lot of my friends from my hometown even since Derrick died, two of my old bandmates from my old band, died just this year. It’s been a rough year for us. I’ve gotten a lot of emails from kids who have also lost friends and family and said how they had been affected by the record. For the most part, it was helpful for them.

[MELISSA] How has the band changed since?

[LEON] The band has changed a little. Like I said, I have lost a lot of friends in the past. When that happens, you just kind of think twice when you say goodbye to someone. You just think, well maybe you won’t see them ever again. It’s a possibility that you didn’t think about before.

[MELISSA] Resolve is LAGWAGON’s ninth full-length, how much harder does surpassing yourselves and coming up with new ideas become at this point?

[LEON] It does get hard. Back let’s say when Hoss was written, the band all lived in the same town and they practiced three times a week with everyone together all the time. Now, we all live all over the state of California, we almost never see each other unless we are practicing or on tour. It’s a lot different.

[MELISSA] As far as keeping creative juices flowing…This album seems to go back more to the band’s earlier skate-punk influences…

[LEON] It can be hard, we can go through some dry spells for sure. For me, a lot of the times, I go through periods where everything I play sounds the same to me and I can’t come up with anything. Other times, you are just messin’ around and you come up with lots of stuff.

[MELISSA] Do you think that’s a reflection of the music industry at all? Because musicians obviously can get influenced by the music they listen to and there’s a lot of similar stuff out there at the moment…

[LEON] Yeah, a lot of that stuff is just young kids copying what they hear and they say “ok if these kids are famous, well we have to sound like them and look like them and we’ll be famous”. I think it’s more of a conscious decision than a subconscious decision for them. Although, you tend to probably sound like your idols. I remember when NOFX was the biggest punk rock band in the world and every band we played with either played a NOFX cover song or they sounded like NOFX, dressed just like them and everything. But now, they all want to sound like TAKING BACK SUNDAY or something like that. (laughs)

[MELISSA] You guys have sold several hundreds of thousands of records independently…

[LEON] When I joined the band, I think they had cumulatively sold over five hundred thousand records. I think that our sales have dropped tremendously though since the Internet and file sharing.

[MELISSA] What is your opinion on that?

[LEON] I think it’s a good thing for a band that’s starting out. When I first started playing, we’d have to send cassette tapes to people all over the world and they’d share it with their friends and copy it for their friends and now it’s available at any time for anyone that has Internet access. That’s pretty amazing. I’ve downloaded some songs on my own but it’s definitely hurt. The industry has to come up with a new way to sell physical records or just stop making them because I know that all the labels are suffering.

[MELISSA] A lot of people I know will just download a few songs to see if they like the record and then will go out and buy it because they like the music or for the artwork and packaging…do you think that those elements can help sell CDs?

[LEON] You can download artwork too. (laughs) But yeah, they do come up with all sorts of things like “If you buy this CD, you unlock, this special file”. They come up with stuff and it’s getting harder and harder to copy files, they’re coming up with new ways to encrypt them. But there’s always someone who can hack it, so it’s just a race.

[MELISSA] You guys sold an incredible amount of records independently, is that something you guys are proud of?

[LEON] We have had offers in the past to go to majors but not recently, I don’t think that the majors are looking at bands like us now. We’re not young enough, we’re not the sound of the moment or good looking enough (laughs). We always just thought it’d be better for us in general to stay with Fat because we’ve seen other bands go to majors and we’ve seen them get totally screwed over. A friend of ours’ band signed to a major and the company just said we don’t hear any singles on your record, so we’re not releasing it. And you’re bound to that record company until you fulfill their contract which could be never if they don’t like anything that you record. You can definitely ruin a band that way!

[MELISSA] Do you guys think you’d still be around all these years later and still doing as well if you guys had decided to sign with a major when those offers were available to you?

[LEON] It’s hard to say. Plus you know, when a band gets too big people get overexposed to it and then they burn out.

[MELISSA] You guys were the first band to ever sign with Fat. In recent years, that family has expanded a lot. Do you think it’s easier today to get a record deal or start up a band?

[LEON] I wouldn’t really know because I haven’t tried to start up a new band (laughs) but I’d assume it’s easier. It’s a lot easier to get your music out there with things like Myspace. There are so many bands now too. When I first started playing punk rock, almost every band we played with were terrible trash bands but now every kid can play guitar. A lot of it’s music that I don’t like personally but the musicianship is so much better than it was then. It’s definitely easier to get your music out there but I don’t know about booking your own tour and stuff like that. I think that’s still hard.

[MELISSA] The band has been around since the late 80s, is there something you guys still want to achieve?

[LEON] For me personally, I don’t think that I’ve recorded the record with this band that I’m extremely proud of personally as far as my performance on it. I’d like to see the band mature more and maybe become more of its own entity.

[MELISSA] What do you think your future holds after LAGWAGON?

[LEON]I don’t know, I think I’d get something else going. It’s a tough industry but it would be fun to start something new. A couple of us are in other bands. Like I said, two of my friends who died recently were in that other band of mine, which was my first band. There’s a lot of my other friends that I’d like to play with or collaborate with one day.

[MELISSA] So there will always be music in your life?

[LEON] That’s what I’ve been doing since I was a kid, I don’t really know anything else… so yeah, definitely!

Un gros merci à Leon d’avoir pris le temps de jaser avec nous ainsi qu’à Cathy (tour manager) et Rob de Fat Wreck Chords sans qui cet entretient n’aurait pas été possible.



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