Singer Joey Cape tells Truepunk about metal mentors, politics and pop syllables. Interview by Steve Tauschke with singer Joey Cape.
Blaze is Lagwagon's first album in a while … have you really been that busy the past four or five years?
"I've been spending a lot of time on the (Me First &) Gimme Gimmes and Bad Astronaut. The label's low maintenance, we crashed that thing about a year and a half ago and for good reason. It was a pretty demanding and I ended up with a partner years ago and she pretty much ended up doing everything because I'm travelling so much with the band.
"The label was like having kids and all your kids turn out to be homeless. Haaaa! You get really attached to your band and if they don't do well you feel bad about it. I found it to be a complete bummer and I'm really glad that it's out of my life so I can concentrate on what I know how to do."
I believe the album was recorded, much like .. Feelings, in the wee hours of the night, is that true?
"Well, I work a lot at home with Bad Astronaut, because I have a studio at my house. I think with ..Feelings I think I did certain things that I worked on at home and they became burn-the-midnight oil sessions. But the only thing I remember when I think about ..Feelings is getting up at nine in the morning and doing vocals with my friend Stephan (Egerton from ALL) out in Colorado because that's when he wanted to start. And that was good because he got what I thought were good vocals out of me. The last record though we started at eleven or noon every day. In the old days when we ran out time we just had to go 72 hours straight at the end just to make it because we had no more money."
What's producer Ryan Greene got that keeps you guys and a lot of other bands coming back?
"He's just a great, great guy. He's very pleasant to be around and he has a way about him. He's got a good sense of humour and he's a very positive person and he tends to find the silver lining in things when morale's getting down. Drummers tend to like him a lot. He's a drummer and he does a signature kind of drum sound where you can hear everything. Drummers love it when you can hear the kick drum the way he makes it sound. For fast punk-rock stuff that Lagwagon plays, I find one of the most difficult things to record as an engineer is the kick drum and he gets that. So I think people go back to him because they like him and they know what they're going to get."
I notice gratuitous guitar soloing makes a return on this record. Did you re-discover some old metal albums in the lead up to the recording?
"Nah, metal never goes away in this band! You'd be amazed what the band listens to on tour. When people come and ride with us for a little while I think they're either pleasantly surprised or horrified because there's nothin' but old-school metal going on because that's what we all collectively want to listen to. I think it starts out with old Ozzie or Black Sabbath records or maybe Iron Maiden and there's just certain records that everyone grew up on or agrees on. The Manowar does come out. It's good comedy at the same time. There's no other band like that band - they're the real Spinal Tap."
"But the guitar solo thing, that was my doing. I really pushed for that because I sort of lost my way for a little while there as far as songwriting goes for Lagwagon. I started listening to our old records and one thing I loved about them was that they were more guitar-oriented. As a songwriter and a singer, you stray away from that because you're trying to concentrate more on the melody and the structure and the arrangement of the song and you lose sight of those things when you're in that kind of band.
"I just thought that it was something that Lagwagon did well so I really pushed those guys, like 'faster, faster'. I know at times they were saying to me 'whooa dude, seriously do you think that's a little much?' and I was like 'noooooo, that's great!'. Some of the solos are kind of overkilll but I love 'em. It's got an energy to it that you don't hear it that much. We were getting more a pop sensibility over the last five years and the thing is there's plenty of bands doing pop-punk, there's too many, so if you've got some guitar players in your band who can do those things, you might as well do it. So I like that about the record."
The album title sits well with it.
"The funny thing about the title is it was supposed to be called Blaze It but the immediate reaction was the marijuana reference thing, you know, smoke it! But the idea was kind of a more serious thing. The album cover was supposed to this dark thing representing the loss of innocence in America with these old Americana photos but when we did the photo shoot for the album, us being a bunch of goofy guys, we had to be silly and the album cover suddenly became funny. It's not what we envisaged but it's cool I guess."
Do you mean a loss of innocence in a political sense?
"For me it's never been about politics other than human nature stuff. I shy away from that and I don't feel comfortable with it. When you write about human nature it's safer in a sense because you can share yourself and open yourself up but you're not taking a superficial stance on an issue. It's a little bit more human and a lot of people can identify with it and they're not offended by it.
"I like that because I'm not out to change people's minds and influence people, it's not my thing. I'm not arrogant enough to think that. After the 9/11 thing here in the States, things changed a little. We were writing Blaze in the wake of that and so it wasn't really about our reaction to it but more about our reaction to our country's reaction to it. So there's a little bit of political content on there because it seemed somewhat irresponsible not to say something. In this country right now it's important for people to speak up."
As far as the songs go, I've always been impressed by your vocal phrasings and the hook you get. Who do you admire in terms of melodic vocalists?
"They're mostly metal singers, you know. I think if anything I think I was influenced by the early metal singers like Ronny James Dio, people like that. I listened to a lot of punk too but also metal, and it just comes out. I can't help it. I write melodies first and all the inflections and little things kind of happen. I have to make the lyrics fit and really I wish I didn't have to write lyrics because I don't consider myself a writer, I'd rather just come up with the melody. There are a certain amount of syllables and you have to rewrite and rewrite to make it fit. I'd rather have someone else write the lyrics. Ha!"