NO MORE GIGS SPEAKS TO ANDREW JACKSON JIHAD

Recently, Andrew Jackson Jihad played the Owl Sanctuary and it was brilliant. After the show, Ned and myself got talking to Sean Bonnette and gave him a copy of issue 6, asking him if he’d be interested in doing an interview with us. A few days later, I emailed the SideOne Dummy press agent and organised an interview. Ned and I thought up some questions for Sean and I sent them off. Here is the product. The image was taken from AJJ’s facebook.

Firstly, I’d like to say that I’m a huge fan, and that your gig at the Owl Sanctuary was awesome. What would you say is the difference between playing a small, intimate venue like that, compared to a larger venue?

Hey! Thanks! On a technical level I would say that sound is a big difference. In smaller clubs it’s a challenge to be dynamic, to go from a whisper to a cacophony. Banter is funner and easier in smaller rooms. I enjoy both experiences.

How did Andrew Jackson Jihad start?

Ben and I worked together at a coffee shop around the time he got an upright bass from his dad and I started getting confident about my songs.

Where do you get your inspiration?

Wherever I find it and more importantly wherever it finds me. I find some of my favorite influences outside of music; skateboarders like Rodney Mullen and Ari Shiffrin, visual artists like Suzanne Falk and Wayne White, authors like Haruki Murakami and Kurt Vonnegut. I’ve become more observant of the processes of others over the past couple years. Thematically I am inspired by childhood, mental health, violence, faith, etc…

Given that your lyrics are so emotive, there must have been times when fans have told you how much they have been affected by them. Have any of these stories ever stuck with you, or changed the way you see your own songs? If so, what was it?

All of the stories stick with me, but out of respect I’d rather not divulge any of them.

What have you found the reception of the new album (Christmas Island) to be, and why did you choose to expand the band?

I feel like it went over really well! I think it really helped people understand us. We expanded the band for the knife man tours to do justice to some of the electric songs, and we kept rolling with it because it’s very very fun and Preston, Deacon and Mark are brilliant.

Given that Knife Man seems to have the overarching concept of fear and Can’t Maintain deals largely with depression, would you say that Christmas Island has a single concept? If so, what is it?

Grief.

You often write songs that are very explicitly personal, but you also sometimes write songs that seem to be written in the persona of someone prone to extreme, senseless violence, like “Getting Naked and Playing with Guns” and “Bad Bad Things”. Where do these songs come from? What inspires them, what do they represent?
I wrote Bad Bad Things when I was really happy, no clue why. “Getting Naked” was an empathy experiment, for in real life I am the neighbor kid.

With songs like “Temple Grandin”, “Do, Re, And Me” and “Angel Of Death”, Christmas Island seems to be a lot more surreal than previous albums. Did the larger band offer more creative freedom, or were they just the lyrics that came to you?

The larger band does offer more creative freedom, but they’re not the source of the surrealism. The lyrics come out the way they come out, the less control I have over it, the better. My favorite state to write in is one of feverish abandon; control relinquished, mind clear, without any awareness or care of what anyone will think about the songs.

The song “Linda Ronstadt” seems particularly emotive and personal. Would you say that the song deals with stoicism in the face of depression, and was it inspired by your personal reaction to a piece of art?

That song is the truest one I’ve ever written, and you nailed it. It’s about the stoicism breaking down and giving way to validation.

ajj

Did Randy’s House [as Referenced in the song “Randy’s House”] actually burn down? Is he doing okay now?

Yes and yes!

How did the European tour go? What made you choose to do a separate solo tour in Europe, then meet up with the band for the UK?

Mainly it was for the dynamics. I love playing solo every once in a while, it gives me a chance to do whatever I want with complete autonomy. I like not having to adhere to a set list every couple tours. It was perfect to do the solo tour before the UK run because I got to “center my chi” and immediately reconnect with AJJ with a clear head and a hunger for volume.

What are your plans for the future? Got any tours and releases lined up?

We have a mess of US festivals this summer, in September the almighty Smith Street Band is bringing us and the Sidekicks to Australia, then I’m hoping to record a new album around the beginning of next year.

Finally, can you think of any new bands that really stand out and that you think we should check out?

I’d recommend Rozwell Kid, they’re possibly the most flawless rock band I’ve ever heard. R. Ariel is awesome, she rides vibes really hard and touches on many unspeakable emotions. Hard Girls, as I’m sure you just saw at the Owl Sanctuary, are incredible. Dogbreth and Diners are a sweet pair of sister bands, really beautiful pop music.

Thanks for doing this!

Thanks for having me!!

[interview conducted by Karl Howarth, with questions contributed by Ned Samuel, originally published in No More Gigs issue 7 in a slightly different form, July 2015]

NO MORE GIGS SPEAKS TO ANDREW JACKSON JIHAD

NO MORE GIGS SPEAKS TO HARD GIRLS

I caught up with Mike, guitarist of the hard-to-describe post-punk/indie group Hard Girls after they played with Andrew Jackson Jihad at the Owl Sanctuary. Also worth noting is Hard Girls have also collaborated with Jesse Michaels of Operation Ivy and Common Rider in NMG favourites Classics of Love, and Ned and Mike were both fucked when the interview was recorded. Here’s the interview in all its drunken glory, with some of the ums, ers and ahs, as well as my intermittent howls of laughter, taken out. The image was taken from Hard Girls’ Facebook page.

Okay, so, um, we’re rolling. So I guess first of all, who’s in Hard Girls, and when did they start?

My name’s Mike, I play guitar, I sing on some of the songs, Morgan plays bass, he sings on some of the songs, and Max plays drums. We started in 2006, 2007? Around there. Max and Morgan were in one band in San Jose, and I was in a different one, we shared a practice space.

Were some of you in Shinobu?

Yeah, I’m in Shinobu!

Oh! I just remember like old Asian Man [Records] catalogues and thought ‘hey! Shinobu!’ [I don’t remember what purpose this sentence served] Yeah, it’s good stuff.

Oh cool, thanks man. Yeah Shinobu and Max and Morgan’s old band shared a practice space together, then pretty much everybody but us left and we started this band.

That’s fair enough. Do you have any other side things, I dunno like, you’ve got Classics of Love, and Shinobu’s still going.

Yeah uh Max and Morgan play in a band called Marathon States with, uh, [he was prompted by a woman sat at the merch desk] Jason Thinh from Short Round, and I played on Jeff Rosenstock’s solo record –

Oh yeah, that was really good!

Oh cool!

Uh, We Cool?

Yeah, exactly!

I know what it’s called, it’s just got a question mark so I had to be like, [questioningly] we cool?

Oh yeah… [questioningly] we cool?

Yeah, I’m just having a crisis of confidence right now.

Haha, that’s alright, me too. I always have it! [unintelligible talking]

Yeah, it’s a constant state, isn’t it.

Yeah, uh, and then, pretty much everyone who recorded on that, also recorded on Dan Adriano’s new record. So, we’re getting back in… we basically leave here in a couple more days, then we fly out to the states, then Hard Girls is doing a US tour, then right afterwards I’m flyinf out to do a tour with Jeff Rosenstock and Dan Adriano. So that kind of covers the gamit of it.

Okay. I guess it’s kind of a generic question, but what are the influences for Hard Girls?

Um… Max and Morgan are very much into metal music. We were all initially very into punk music, that was like, what brought us all together, pretty much. The things that we really agree on are Guided by Voices, Television, Wire, the Weakerthans, and then after that, it’s just kind of like, what everybody is into, sort of.

hard girls

Fair enough. How’s touring? Are you touring England, or Europe, or?

Just the UK right now… it’s been since the third, so we did the London show on the third, we’ve been travelling around then the last show is on the twentieth in Dublin. Fly back and we go straight out, drive to Dallas and start the next tour, pretty much, so it’s like, we have a day off then we drive for three days to start our US tour.

[I was faintly terrified at this point] That’s pretty intense… Um… you’ve made some comments about UK food… I don’t entirely blame you, what are you making of the, uh, cuisine?

Well. Fish and chips are what I order normally in America, and I have no problem finding them here, which is kind of-

Yeah, it’s the place to be, really. You love fish, you love chips…

Yeah, I fuckin’ love both of them! It goes together well, and then uh, but like, Max and Morgan are more adventurous than me, they find stuff everywhere, and we’ve gone to a lot of grocery stores too, just ending up in like, a Tesco or wherever getting salad and bread, just basic sort of stuff. But otherwise like, kebab, Indian food, chip shops, we’ve kind of had it all, it’s every night.

That’s the dream. Touring around with good bands, and eating lots of takeways…

Yeah! It’s great! It’s good! Awesome!

Are you planning to do any more recordings? Er…

Yeah, uh-

Are you, er, ah… Sorry I’m interrupting.

Yeah, me too!

Let’s scratch that from the record, pretend it never happened. What are your plans for the future?

We’re doing that next tour, we get back, then, probably in January, February, recording the next album. Get back, tour… I have one more tour then we spend a couple of months working on it.

Okay, cool. Great. Are you on any label, or?

The last one was on Asian Man,

Fuckin’ Asian Man! Ah! Sorry.

They’re like hometown heroes!

I’ve never met Mike Park and I just feel like I’m friends with him.

He’s amazing!

He is amazing!

He’s totally amazing. He’s the best! He’s a fucking weirdo, he’s an amazing weirdo! He’s one of the best people I know.

Is it okay to record you and [write down] that you called him a weirdo?

No please!

Then I will!

I insist you take note of it. He’s amazing. He’s both his public persona* and his private persona at the same time, and they’re not different at all, but they’re entirely different in some ways. He’s great. Asian Man is like our home, kind of.

I used to really want to be signed to Asian Man… now I’m in a powerviolence band, and I don’t think that will happen, but anyway. How’d you end up touring with Andrew Jackson Jihad?

Shinobu played with them like, close to ten years ago. So I’ve known Sean and Ben for almost a decade at this point. They played at the practice space that we used to share in San Jose, between Shinobu and Pteradon [Max and Morgan’s aforementioned old band] probably six, seven years ago… Probably more than that actually, probably seven or eight years ago. So we’ve known them for a long time, we’re kind of just like, old friends, Phoenix and San Jose have similar music scenes, and they’re also on Asian Man, and we all kind of like agree on… what music should like? Kinda.

Fair enough. Do you have any last… ‘any last words’ sounds like I’m about to shoot you. Do you have anything to say to the kids?

… Not really.

Hahaha! Yeah they’re a bunch of arseholes, alright, well um, thanks a lot for doing this!

Cool man, yeah! Thank you.

* Mike Park’s public persona, for the uninitiated, is that of a joyous man, nice and enthusiastic to the extent of being slightly bizarre. How is someone supposed to be so lovely? In this economy?

[interview conducted by Ned Samuel, originally published in No More Gigs issue 7 in a slightly different form, July 2015]

NO MORE GIGS SPEAKS TO HARD GIRLS

NO MORE GIGS SPEAKS TO THE NORWICH SOUP MOVEMENT

nsm

This month, I had a chance to catch up with Chip from the Norwich Soup Movement. I sent her a bunch of questions and she answered. Because that’s how interviews work.

To start, what can you tell me about The Norwich Soup Movement? What inspired you to start it and when? Did you encounter any trouble when you were starting out?

NSM is an on-street soup kitchen set up in August 2013, by myself and one of my best and like-minded friends, Amy. The aim was to help those that just don’t have the luxury that most of us do – eating food in our own homes. We are living in a well-off city in the year 2015. There should be no need for soup kitchens, however, the 40+ people that we serve each night tell a different story. We started it with a hope that we’d be able to show a bit of love and humanity to those that have often been forgotten about by society. What we have found, is that a great deal of Norwich are behind us and want the same as we do; we’ve had so much support. We didn’t have any trouble in setting it up – other than the fact we didn’t really know where to begin! We started with a tin can drive and a generous cash donation from a good friend and kind of muddled our way through. We knew there were other organisations and charities out there doing similar things, but all we could see that more help was needed. I think that spurred us on and we just got on with it, with no real plan!
What did you make of last month’s (15th April) March for the Homeless?

The March for the Homeless was a great success, I thought. It started out in Dublin a few years back and I think this year was the first year it went worldwide, with marches all over the UK, the US and Canada. A friend of mine, Elle, approached me at the start of the year as she had heard about it and wanted to make sure we had representation here in Norwich. I thought it was a great idea and obviously something that we should be involved with so I was fully behind it. Elle had never done anything like this before and neither had I. She did an amazing job, talking to press and spreading the word to make sure we had a good crowd on the day. I turned up not really knowing what to expect – it was a weekday lunchtime and with Facebook events, you never know how many people on the ‘accepted’ list will actually turn up. It was a good crowd and a great atmosphere, there were stalls giving information on their causes, musicians playing and loads of people with banners waiting to march through Norwich. The march itself went really well, we certainly got some attention and I hope it got the message across. I heard from a friend working at the council that we were heard from their offices, so it would have been pretty hard to ignore! It felt great to be part of something that was happening at the same time all over the world, and also to know we’re not alone in our fight for an end to homelessness. We had people marching alongside us that we serve at soup runs – it was just really about everybody getting involved and standing up for the same thing, and that can never be a bad thing. A real community vibe and definitely something we’ll be part of again (in an ideal world there wouldn’t have to be a March for the Homeless ever again, but hey, hello there Tory government).

What have some of your favourite or most memorable moments been so far?

Favourite moments! I don’t know if I can choose! Sometimes it’s so, so hard, this is something you take on voluntarily and I don’t think I thought it would ever be so hard or time consuming. So yeah, there are days when you’ve been at work all day and the last thing you want to do is cook for 40 people when you get home, or answer lots of emails or work your way through a big to-do list. This Friday just gone was a great example. Lovely sunny day, all my friends texting me with fun plans of what was happening after work, but I had a soup run to do – really wasn’t in the mood to do loads of cooking in a hot kitchen! But obviously I would never ditch it, so we went out as normal. After all the food had been served, a young girl approached me, she wanted to say goodbye as she was moving away, and also to thank us for the last year. In her words “I’d have died without you guys feeding me, so would others.” That seriously hit home and made me remember the why we do this in the first place. I’ll honestly never forget that. It totally put how I’d been feeling earlier into perspective. We’ve had loads of great feedback and lovely comments along the way but that one just really stood out. We generally have a really good time on soup runs, there’s a lot of laughs and chats with regulars and volunteers – it’s great to see the team grow and people just getting on. I think people maybe see a massive difference between the homeless and the not. This to me, just helps show people we’re not that different at all. When volunteers come for their first time, they get that. Constant best moment.

I understand that recently there was a photography exhibition inspired by NSM. How did that go, and are there any other plans for similar art projects/exhibitions in the works?

A friend of mine, Guy Wilkinson, got in touch last year with an idea to come down and take some shots of the soup run in progress, he’s a great photographer and I thought it would be cool to have some shots to show people what happens on a soup run. I think after that first night, Guy realised there was more to it than one night’s worth of pictures, so he asked to come back and maybe put some pictures together for an exhibition. Guy was really enthusiastic about the project and wanted to capture NSM from all angles, including food storage area and my kitchen while I was prepping for a run. And on the runs themselves, he was flitting about with his camera but I didn’t really see what he was taking pictures of. Guy came on soup runs over three months and then set to work booking a venue, getting the pictures printed and publicising the event. I didn’t really know what to expect; I turned up to opening night at Stew, and was honestly overwhelmed – it’s really hard to put into words. It was like seeing NSM through someone else’s eyes and it felt huge. I think that was probably when I realised how much we’ve achieved and I actually felt really proud for the first time. It was a bizarre experience having people I didn’t know turning up to see what we do. My favourite part was the portraits of volunteers and the homeless Guy had displayed all on the same wall, it was so powerful, again, showing we’re not all that different from one another. Maybe it was one of those ‘you had to be there’ moments! But it just worked so well. We had loads of great feedback and people signing up to volunteer after the exhibition. It was truly beautiful and definitely one of my favourite moments ever. Guy is hoping to make the images into a book in the future and I’m hoping he’ll come back and take some more pictures one day. We don’t have any other similar projects like this in the pipeline, it was probably a bit of a one-off, albeit a bloody wonderful one. The pictures should be up on our Facebook page soon, so if anyone missed the exhibition they’ll be able to have a look.

What can you tell me about the Aviva Community Fund project that both you and The People’s Picnic are involved in?

Well, at this stage, not a whole lot! Haha! The People’s Picnic are another group that do the same thing we do, they’ve been running a while longer than us and were really helpful to us when first started out, giving us advice about what to do and what to expect. We run at the same place on different nights so there’s as much help as possible throughout the week. Karen from the PP messaged me a few months back with an idea to start a hostel, for want of a better word. Did we want to team up? It’s something that Amy and I had discussed too, so the answer was a definite yes. We’ve met up and discussed what we’d like from the project. From the first 5 minutes of chatting, we all knew it was a case of ‘when’ and not if’ the hostel happened. We’re very determined! The subject of funding is something we’d talked about but not made much lots of progress on – we’re still in the very early planning stages after all – but then I was told about the Aviva Community Fund, and the chance of a £25,000 grant. There was no way I wasn’t going for it, planning stages or not. It’s basically down to the public to vote for the causes they think are most worthy of the money. We’re up against over 3,300 other worthwhile community projects, so it’s a scary time! The voting runs for 30 days until the 30th May, so we’re spamming hard! We plan to have an on-site kitchen and canteen, meaning no more serving on the streets and people can eat at tables in the warmth with their friends. We plan to open a café and charity shop, also on-site, where people can start getting back into work, and earn a wage, so they can start learning to support themselves again. We also want to have music and art rooms, where volunteers will teach people new skills or help to bring out confidence as people start to remember the person they were before they became homeless. We would like to offer rooms to people, to give them back their independence, while at the same time offering a wide range of support to help them on their journey back into employment and finding a home outside of the hostel. There wouldn’t be a timescale that people had to leave by, which would eliminate any fears of being moved on. We would link in with other services around Norwich to assist with substance misuse, mental health and criminal issues, ensuring people are supported from all angles. That’s the plan! We just hope we get the grant so we can move quickly.

Finally, how can people get involved with the movement?

The best way to get involved is to send us a message via the FB page, or soupysalvation@gmail.com, and let us know what you’d like to do, we can have a chat and get people signed up that way. We do three soup runs a week so there’s plenty of chances to volunteer and cook!

[interview conducted by Karl Howarth, originally published in No More Gigs issue 6, June 2015]

NO MORE GIGS SPEAKS TO THE NORWICH SOUP MOVEMENT