"Although it was freezing cold in Hermosa Beach over the weekend, I was able to catch up with Fletcher and Randy from Pennywise and grab a bite to eat at Paisanos, where we chowed down on Pizza and Pasta. This is what they had to say." JUICY BANDS: What Guitarists in music today do you admire?
Fletcher: I think probably Tom Morello from Rage Against the Machine. Now he’s in Audioslave. Yeah, that’s a bad word. I think he’s really innovative and kind of does some different and cool stuff. He’s pretty original. Not like what your standard training would get you.
JUICY BANDS: What about bassists?
Randy: Nowadays, I’m kind of jaded. I still go back to my old influences like Paul Graves from The Damned, Geeza Butler from Black Sabbath.
Fletcher: Matt Freeman from Rancid is pretty good too. Randy: Yeah, he’s good. So is Scott from Face to Face. JUICY BANDS: If you could play anywhere in the world, with anybody, past or present, where and with whom would it be? Fletcher: That’s a good question. It would probably be with Rage Against the Machine and probably in Switzerland, Winter tour! [laughs]
JUICY BANDS: Why is that?
Fletcher: I don’t know, it’s kind of weird. It’s a pretty narrow street with five story buildings on both sides that go all of the way down. It’s really cool because there are people in all of the windows and balconies and in the crowd. It has a really weird, cool vibe.
JUICY BANDS: So, you would play on the street?
Fletcher: Yeah, it’s on the street. They block off the whole street. It’s pretty cool!
Randy: I would have to say with The Damned. You know another thing, I’ve already have gotten to play with The Damned and Radio Birdman. A lot of bands that would have been my goal to play with, I’ve been fortunate enough to play with them already. So it would be The Damned in Hawaii.
Fletcher: At the Minor Thread at the 930 Club.
Randy: Yeah, in 1982.
Fletcher: Yeah, that’s when punk was heavy.
Randy: Or with Led Zeppelin in NYC in 1975.
JUICY BANDS: [laughs] man, you guys know your music! How many demos did you have to send out before Pennywise was signed by Epitaph Records?
Fletcher: We never sent any out. JUICY BANDS: How did you get signed?
Fletcher: We put out a 7 inch record by ourselves and we got some play on a local college station called KXLU and one of the DJs knew Brett from Bad Religion and we told him that we wanted to get on that label. So we set up a meeting, Actually we gave him the single and he wasn’t really sure, so we gave him some raw recordings on a tape player and he liked them so we got signed. Back then there really weren’t any labels. It was like punk rock was fading away and they were one of the only ones. We really liked Bad Religion so it worked out in our favor. JUICY BANDS: How long did it take to produce 'From The Ashes'?
Fletcher: Too long! This record was a little bit different because usually we learn all of our songs and practice so when we get in the studio, we just knock them out, but this time we were working on writing new stuff all the way until we went in and we didn’t actually have all the songs figured out. But we had the basics, then we had to work them in the studio, try to come up with parts and intros, so it took a little bit longer. We actually wrote a couple of songs while we were in the studio and recorded them so it was a little bit different. So it took us about 2 months, which was pretty long for us.
JUICY BANDS: What's your favorite song from your latest album 'From The Ashes'?
Fletcher: I have a couple but if I name the one I like, the one I wrote, then it’s going to be self-serving. So, I’m going to say "Waiting", it’s pretty good.
Randy: I think the best one would be "Change My Mind". (laughing) Oh, I crack myself up.
Fletcher: He wrote that one.
Randy: No, I like every song. Fletcher: That’s a cop-out answer.
Fletcher: There’s not one that’s your favorite?
JUICY BANDS: How about all time Pennywise favorite?
Randy: All time favorite? I like "Unknown Road", but then I also like "Living for Today". I like songs off the very first CD, that I had nothing to do with. There are 3 or 4 songs on there that are ultimate.
JUICY BANDS: Why did the band do a benefit concert for the Surf rider Foundation?
Fletcher: We all grew up at the beach surfing and there were many days when you would get the report that you can’t go in the water because it’s polluted and filthy and you’ll get Hepatitis and the waves would be really good so we would go out surfing anyways and then you would have to get a shot in the butt, which really hurt bad. We grew up in the water and where we live there’s an oil refinery and a sanitation place and a lot of bad stuff happens around there, so Surfriders was built to kind of test the waters and go after these corporations that pollute the waters. Kind of like the watchdogs, so we’re down with that, because we go in the water. So, we’ve done a couple of benefit shows and a couple of benefit albums and it seems to work out pretty good. JUICY BANDS: There has been some talk if people keep downloading music online from file to file servers like Kazaa the record industry is going to stop releasing albums and just release singles. What are your thoughts on this and do you think this would hurt or benefit Pennywise?
Randy: That’s how it was when I was a kid. You could either buy the album or by the single. I think that it’s actually a good idea. People are letting the world know that they like to go on their computer and download songs so if you give them the option to download just one song at a time, then that’s great. I think that they should definitely have the option. If they are going to do it illegally and download songs without your consent or without paying for it, you can’t really do a lot about it so you might as well make it available for them and maybe they’ll do the right thing. Even if they don’t decide to pay for it, which we’re noticing for sure, that there’s a drop in album sales, there’s a drop in back catalog royalties, which is a bummer. It really affects us at the level we are at money wise. The bright side of it is that more people are being exposed to your music and hearing you, so you have to take the good with the bad. The ultimate goal when you start a band is that you want people to hear your band, so getting paid and making a living out of it is icing on the cake. So, if they’re getting your music for free, at least they are hearing you.
Fletcher: I don’t know if he answered it exactly but it’s bad for us because we write albums and we take total pride in making a whole album that has a theme to it, and you can listen to it from start to finish. We fight over every last song that goes on there. Like a lot of albums you put on, there are 2 or 3 good songs on it and the rest are shit. So for the bands that put out a couple of good songs, that’ll work out pretty good for them because they can just sell their singles. For us, we work our asses off to come up with a whole album and when people are just going to go by the song that they heard on the radio or just by a couple of songs, then why bother writing albums. I think it’s going to ruin the music industry because there is going to be no reason for people to go write albums anymore. If they did, then they’re just wasting their time and money in the studio, when the can just go write 2 or 3 songs or one song, hear it on the radio and then apple.com will offer it, then they’ll sell 3 or 4 million singles, and that will be cool. Then there will be another one later, and another one later or maybe do short EPs. Everything’s going to be changing pretty soon and I don’t know if it’s going to be changing for the better. There’s got to be some way for kids to get music off of the Internet, like Randy was saying, because they are just going to steal it anyways. I think it would be cool if they offered the whole album. If you offered it at a discounted rate, like 10 bucks or 8 bucks and people were still forced to buy the whole album, rather than just the single, it would be better. But singles are for sale right now, so it’s not much different.
JUICY BANDS: It's almost a brand new year, what can we expect from Pennywise in 2008?
Randy: Work on a DVD maybe.
Fletcher: Yeah, maybe we’ll work on a DVD. We had a thing a while back called "Home Movies" that had some footage in there that we we’re authorized to use and we got a cease and desist, that really never came out but we’re going to put out a full length DVD with interviews and live stuff and a bunch of bologna and then we will be touring, and that’s about it. JUICY BANDS: A young fan comes up to you and asks your advice for breaking into the music business. What advice would you give him?
Fletcher: It would be, follow your heart. Play the kind of music you want to play, don’t follow a trend. There are so many bands that, boom, this is popular right now, nu metal is popular right now, so let’s be nu metal. Emo is popular right now, let’s be this, let’s be ska. Instead of trying to chase the dragon and become part of what’s popular, do your own thing. We were never popular. When we started out, we had a really small following, a lot of people didn’t like us, and said that we were wasting our time. But we liked what we were doing so slowly people started coming around and we started getting more and more notoriety so we are living proof that if you kind of stick to your guns and believe in what you’re doing, then you can be successful at it. That pretty much goes for anything in life. I think you have to do what you want to do. If you’re working at a job that you hate, your whole life, then you are just wasting your time. If you’re playing a type of music that you hate, your whole life, then you are just wasting your time so you really need to just be yourself, I think, is the one thing. And try not to have to rely on other people. Don’t go running after a major label deal when someone dangles the money, you have to think of the longevity of your career. A lot of times, people just grab the dollars real quick, and before they know it, they’re dropped from their label and their careers are over and they have no where to go and nothing to do so you have to be really careful with the decisions that you make.
JUICY BANDS: What do you think is the key to Pennywise's longevity?
Fletcher: All those things I just said. Doing what we want to do, making up our own rules and sticking to them, play the kind of music we want to play. A lot of critics will say that it’s the same old shit, they haven’t changed their style at all but we’re not trying to change our style at all because Pennywise fans are Pennywise fans because they don’t want to hear us sound like Blink 182 or Bob Marley. There’s a little bit of change on each album, if you’re a real fan you can hear it but it’s kind of hard not to change because 15 years later, I wouldn’t say that we’re bored of playing the same style of music but it’s kind of to the point where you want to try something a little different. But when we do write a song like that we sit back and say, "This isn’t Pennywise, people are going to trip out on this and bum out", so we want to keep it Pennywise, try to really look out for the fans because the fans are the ones that keep us alive. They always make the shows feel more like a party then we’re up there being rock stars. We just kind of treat everyone equally. I think we’re pretty down to Earth. That’s another thing when you start getting people walking around with their fucking bodyguards and their limos. I saw DMX in the airport the other day. He was talking on his phone and they had a rental car for him but he told them that he couldn’t accept it because it didn’t have chrome rims. I was like "Wow, it must be a really tough life." It was ridiculous. I think the more down to Earth you are, the more real you are, the more people can relate to you. I think we have and I think kids can really relate to our lyrics because they are going through a lot of the same things that we’ve gone through in our lives. It’s just kind of about being normal and expressing our feelings is our secret to our longevity. And Randy’s great bass playing!
Randy: Totally! I totally agree. I don’t know if I agree with the normal part, but down to Earth I do.
JUICY BANDS: What does the band do to kill time when you’re on the road? Fletcher: That’s funny. We do stuff like this, (to Randy) "Pick a number between 1 and 10."
Randy: We try to read each other’s minds. "OK, I’ve got it."
Fletcher: "You’ve got it, 3."
Randy: "No, it was 6." (everyone laughs)
Fletcher: Last night we got up to 1 to 5,000.
JUICY BANDS: What video games do you play?
Fletcher: We haven’t really been playing video games, but I just started playing Madden Football game and it’s pretty complicated but our guitar tech has it so we’ve been playing that for a couple of days. Every night of this tour we’ve been staying up until 6 in the morning drinking, so then we just sleep all day, take naps, sound check and then it starts all over again. We just ate our first meal at 5:30-6:00 PM, and now it’s back to the bottle.
Randy: I sometimes have to convince my wife that it actually is a job.
Fletcher: Yeah, after the show last night, we had to go to a bar to get free drinks. It was terrible! (laughing)
JUICY BANDS: How many of you are married?
Fletcher: 2, Jimmy and Randy are married. I’ve been going out with my girlfriend for 12 years so it’s kind of like being married, but every time I say that she says, "We’re not married!" Randy has kids.
Randy: Jim has 3 girls, I have a girl and a boy.
JUICY BANDS: If you weren’t a musician, what would you be?
Randy: A stove repairman. That’s what I was.
Fletcher: I don’t know. I would probably own a sailboat. Own a charter business.
Randy: No, you wouldn’t. You’d be in prison. Fletcher: I would have been but not in these days. I would want to live somewhere tropical. Give scuba diving lessons or something like that. Have you seen "Along Came Polly"?
JUICY BANDS: No, not yet.
Fletcher: "Are you going to scuba today?" Check it out, it’s pretty funny.
JUICY BANDS: How can a Pennywise fan join your Street Team?
Fletcher: They can join the Pennywise Army but apparently it’s only a limited amount of people. They’ve been cutting it off so we have to talk to the webmaster. It’s through our website, pennywisdom.com. It seems like a lot of kids want to do it, but aren’t allowed to and have been coming up saying that they didn’t make the cut. I think it should be an unlimited amount of people on the street team.
JUICY BANDS: Is there anything you would like to say to the fans of Pennywise and the readers of Orlando Florida Guide?
Fletcher: Our Disneyland is way better than yours! JUICY BANDS: Yeah, this coming from someone from California. But you have Disney LAND, we have Disney WORLD.
Fletcher: Which means that you have to buy 5 different tickets to get into 5 different theme parks. We get it all for 1 ticket. And now we have California Adventure, which you guys don’t have. Ours is more intimate, I’m sorry. But the weather is nice in January in Orlando. Florida is cool, I like Orlando a lot. The Orlando concert was really good. It was the best out of all of the Florida concerts. Pennywise fans are great all around the world. When you come to a show, you know what you’re going to get, they always get into and it’s always a lot of fun everywhere we go. We’re totally privileged to have the type of fans that we have. We wouldn’t trade them for anything in the world. Right Randy?
Randy: That’s right!
JUICY BANDS: You guys were awesome! Thanks for your time.