Throwback Thursday to an interview with Lagwagon! We took a look through the archives of San Diego Punk to bring you throwback interviews and reviews from our history. Today we picked an interview with Flip and Leon of Lagwagon from November 2005! We are still stoked from their performance at Ye Scallywag!
Original interview by Nick Norton
San Diego Punk: I’m down
Flip: Would you like something to drink Leon?
Leon: I guess I could have my first beer.
Flip: Okay, hang on (walks out of the room)
San Diego Punk: Before we start, I wanted to let you know that I’ve talked to a lot of bands and this is the first time I’ve been like “holy crap, I’m meeting so and so.” Do you get that a lot?
Leon: No, not really. When Joey’s there people freak out, but not so much for us.
San Diego Punk: Well they should, a lot of people our age grew up with the music you guys wrote. Tour been good so- (Flip walks in)
Flip: I wasn’t sure what you guys wanted.
(hands around drinks)
San Diego Punk: Got an opener?
Flip: Here (pops off cap with end of another bottle)
San Diego Punk: Never seen anyone do that before.
(Flip shoots the caps across the room)
Flip: (laughs) Yeah, we drink a lot.
San Diego Punk: Alright, down to the real stuff. First off, who am I here with?
Leon: Chris and Chris, we’re the guitar players.
Flip: Flip and Leon.
Leon: We just work here.
San Diego Punk: Here being Lagwagon. I go into a record store and ask for one of your records, the younger kid behind the counter with the flipped hair and eyeliner says “Lagwagon?” It looks like a lot has changed since everyone was listening to you 24/7, and while a lot of us still are, what’s your take on that?
Leon: We took a lot of time off, that’s a big part. You have to keep reminding people about your band or people will forget. The prime audience is a younger one, so when you’re not out there pushing your stuff all the time they’re kind of like “whatever”.
Flip: Especially being on an indie, we’re not on MTV or anything. The trend now is that most of the bands are on MTV and have tons of fucking exposure. I’m not saying the songs are bad, but they don’t really have to be that good. That’s all that it’s about. If everyone at school is going, you don’t want to be left out. We’re not a show of the year.
Leon: Or Story of the Year. (laughter all around)
San Diego Punk: And you guys are totally happy staying with Fat, right? You are the first band they put out and all.
Flip: Yeah Fat’s cool.
Leon: They’re catching on too; they’re finishing up a video we recorded. I don’t know what it’s going to get played on or anything. Everything we’ve done in the past has just been home camera stuff, this time we had a director and lights and stuff.
Flip: We’re just too cheap to put out the money for our own video.
San Diego Punk: Hey it’s more real that way. Or wait a second, is that less punk?
Flip: Haha, I don’t know. We just try to choose people who have a good name out there to produce our video.
San Diego Punk: Does being punk even matter anymore? I mean, it looks like we’re all past high school.
Flip: To some kids, yeah.
Leon: It’s strange; you almost have to be on television to succeed at all with this stuff.
Flip: Or tour a whole lot. We try our hardest to keep some sort of integrity, not I guess “sell out” in our minds.
Leon: I never really thought being on television was selling out though, unless you’re doing like McDonalds commercials or whatever.
Flip: (sarcastic) What about being on a major dude?
Leon: That would be the worst.
Flip: You’d have to do what they want you to do, whatever is in the best interest of the label, and not your band. You’ll sell more records for them if you play on Letterman. Maybe it’s good for getting the name out, but I don’t think it’s really fun for the bands. It’s all directed and shit.
San Diego Punk: Yeah it doesn’t look like it. Against Me! on Conan about a month ago just wasn’t a show. Not like they played badly or anything, it’s just wasn’t real, not a tour.
San Diego Punk: I assume you guys have home lives, what kind of stress does leaving put on that?
Leon: Well Joey’s got a kid, and Jesse’s going to have a kid soon. We’re not on tour all year at all, we’re on at most three months of the year. That’s why people kind of forget about us.
Flip: It’s because we don’t tour enough. We’ve got to go to places at least once a year; twice a year would be better.
San Diego Punk: I’d love that.
Flip: Hey so would I. It’s a big strain though, everyone has a girlfriend or a wife, and you don’t get to see anyone when you’re gone.
Leon: If we wanted to tour year round we’d have to start a new band with a bunch of kids without any other obligations.
Flip: Or start bringing the wives.
San Diego Punk: I read an interview earlier today that said you were in fact planning on touring all the way through next fall. Is that true?
Leon: All we have booked right now is Europe and Australia.
Flip: We’re really trying to push the Resolve album.
Leon: We do have to take some time off for Jesse and his wife to have their baby though. I’m having a baby soon too. (pats stomach)
San Diego Punk: Yeah I’m getting there.
Flip: Dark beers will do that, they’re fattening.
San Diego Punk: But they taste better.
Flip: And light beers don’t get you drunk.
San Diego Punk: And learning that straight from the elders is awesome.
San Diego Punk: Here’s a question I’m sorry to ask: before Blaze came out everyone thought you were planning on breaking up, then on Falling Apart the last line of the song is Maybe we can keep it up for another year.
Leon: Well when Joey started doing the first Bad Astronaut album he was hoping that would take off and he wouldn’t have to hang out with us anymore. (Lots of laughter) But it didn’t, so.
Flip: No one really knows it, but we’ve broken up like fifty times already. Usually it’s at the end of every tour, then a month or two later we get together and practice and go on another tour. We’ve been in a band a long time, so there’s a lot of hate. (laughs) You know, you love the guys, then you hang out for three weeks straight and you fuckin’ hate them, no one talks to each other for a while. It’s just like normal family.
San Diego Punk: Well it is, I would assume.
San Diego Punk: Do you all still live in the Santa Barbara area?
Flip: No, I’m the only one who still lives in Santa Barbara, and I actually live in Goleta, so there.
San Diego Punk: Close though, right?
Flip: No! Not by scary Santa Barbara!
Leon: There’s a rivalry.
Flip: When we were kids at least, we were looked at as dumb rednecks by Santa Barbara kids. Which is funny because I don’t know any rednecks.
Leon: Yeah, we’ve got people living in Watsonville, Fresno, and SanFrancisco too.
San Diego Punk: Quite a commute. I actually grew up in Ventura, and one thing I’ve always noticed about Santa Barbara that’s surprising is a major lack of venues. Did you guys ever have a problem with that?
Leon: Yeah when I started playing up there it was just awful.
Flip: There’s like a bar that opens for four months and everyone plays there, then it gets shut down-
Leon: All the underage drinking.
Flip: -because some fuckin’ idiot nineteen year old is drinking there. I don’t even know. They started having shows at this rec center up there recently. My girlfriend, like a week ago, went to a punk rock show. 6 or 7 bands for free. Said it was actually pretty good. I was surprised.
San Diego Punk: That’s one of the problems down here, there are just a couple of all-ages venues, and they draw the major bands.
Flip: That’s a big problem with being an up and coming band. Bars are like “we don’t know you, you don’t have a cd” and there’s almost nowhere to play. I remember being a kid, I was like, “fuck, I’ll play anywhere. Parking lots? Sure, we’ll play there. Someone’s living room? Sure.” We would play like five songs; the police would come, threaten to take everyone’s gear. It’s at least kind of nice that there are still little niches and corners where you can still find free punk rock shows.
San Diego Punk: Do you notice any differences between when you guys were playing living rooms and the way up and coming bands are doing it now?
Leon: The internet for sure. Think about myspace. You don’t even need to make cds or tapes to give to people. You can get music anywhere in the world with a click of a button. It’s pretty amazing. Getting people to actually listen to it, that’s the hard part.
Flip: Not really. (laughs)
Leon: That’s why we accept anybody who wants to be our friend on myspace.
(laughter all around)
San Diego Punk: Here’s something I’ve always wanted to ask. Your music could be described as poppy, but somehow still maintains its thrash and edge. How do you balance the stuff you can sing along to with the real technical parts?
Leon: It’s a compromise between folk songs, which is how most of the melodies are written, like on an acoustic guitar ready to sing around a campfire, and spicing it up.
Flip: Throwing some cayenne pepper in there. It used to be more about the riffs, and seeing where we could put the melody in there, and now I think the melody comes first, with a bit of sacrifice on the side of the riffs.
San Diego Punk: Were there any changes in the writing process, say between Trashed and the new one?
Flip: Yeah, in the beginning it was all written by Joey, Derrick, and Shawn, then Derrick wasn’t in the band, then Shawn wasn’t in the band, so now Leon has started writing some songs, but for two albums or so it was all pretty much Joey. Even the new album, Leon was pretty lucky to get two of his songs on it.
Leon: They almost didn’t make it.
San Diego Punk: Which songs would those be?
Leon: Virus and Infectious.
Flip: The infectious virus. (laughs)
San Diego Punk: With respect to Derrick, is playing the new songs onstage cathartic and therapeutic, or is it just hard?
Flip: It’s okay now.
Flip: It’s been almost seven months. It would not have been too cool if we were on tour or something when it happened, it would have been a lot harder. A lot was worked out through recording the new songs, and most of the new songs are about him. It was a lot harder writing the new songs before we recorded them actually; it was much closer to the funeral. Overall now it’s not that hard. In my mind he died a long time ago, when he wasn’t in the band anymore. The first tour we did with Dave, our new drummer, was hard. Just not seeing him anymore is the weird part though. We live in the same town, so I would see him like once a month. He’d talk shit to me, I’d call him a drunk asshole or an idiot, you know.
San Diego Punk: And that was on good terms?
Flip: Yeah, just saying it in a fun way. You just kind of have to know him, he was really sarcastic.
Leon: When we play Sad Astronaut it gets there.
Flip: It’s a bummer. The beginning is a huge downer.
San Diego Punk: My favorite song on the album though I think.
Flip: When it kicks in it’s really fun though, the guitar parts are really fun.
Leon: When we played it on our first show on this tour, we brought out the acoustic guitar and started it and this guy in the front row was yelling, “Fuck you!” really loud.
Flip: It was all mellow and dramatic and all you could hear was “Fuck you! Fuck you!” (laughs) He just kept screaming it.
Leon: It was pretty hard not to laugh.
San Diego Punk: Do you guys still have fun on stage? It sounds like it on the live album.
Leon: I have been sick for ten days Joey got sick a few days ago. I hate being sick on tour, because you never get better.
Flip: None of us have an immune system anymore. After getting SARS and West Nile Virus, Mad Cow Disease, and everything else out there, I don’t know what’s left, that new Asian bird flu? I think we might have picked that up on this tour. Everyone’s been doing their airbornes and vitamins.
Leon: We’ve tried everything.
Leon: You should have seen this tea I made the other day. I went to our tour manager and was like “can you drive me to the store?” I got fresh ginger and cayenne pepper and Echinacea and hot water and honey and chopped it all up and put it in the hot water with a whole lemon and a whole bunch of honey. It was burly. It didn’t really help though. (laughs)
San Diego Punk: Are you guys over the van thing having done this for so long?
Flip: We have a bus now, which broke down in Albuquerque.
Leon: I prefer hotels to sleeping on the bus. On the bus you’re always moving and stuck in some little coffin to sleep, I mean he doesn’t even fit in a bunk.
Flip: Yeah, everyone is like “man you’re so lucky, you have a bus” but I don’t even fit anywhere there. Sometimes the back lounge is big enough so that I can fit across the whole bus; otherwise I just sleep on the ground in the hallway. It’s not so bad, except once like five years ago Leon stepped straight on my balls. That’s pretty surprising from a dead sleep. (laughs)
San Diego Punk: Any amazing memories that have stuck through the test of time?
Flip: We did play with Don Ho in Hawaii. We sang Tiny Bubbles with him. I think the only other band that’s done that is NOFX. Fat Mike set it up for us; I didn’t even know what was going on. Next thing I know they’re ushering us onstage and handing mics to us.
Leon: We heard someone say, “This is Lag-Wagon. They’ve been selling out coliseums all over the world!” There were a bunch of retired veterans and people there on their fiftieth anniversaries.
Flip: That was totally embarrassing.
Leon: There were teleprompters, which was good, because I didn’t know any of the words.
Flip: I was amazed. I was like, “you’re Don Ho. Fuck!”
Leon: Then he tried to hand me the mic.
Flip: Our drummer was trying to hand me his, it was a “dude I’ve already got one” situation. We all tried to sing though, and it was a complete disaster.
San Diego Punk: You’ve been a lot of places. Any favorites?
Flip: I like Hawaii a lot. Not like we have pinnacle shows there or anything, it’s just nice.
Leon: I really like Australia.
Flip: Australia is really good, because the whole fucking country is like San Diego. Being from California, we’re used to the ocean, and the interior of Australia is pretty much just desert.
Leon: No one goes out there.
Flip: Everyone just sticks to the coasts. And you surf, so-
Leon: The surfing there is fuckin’ sweet.
Flip: I surfed there once, and pretty much established that I wasn’t ready for it. California has the Channel Islands and stuff. In Australia stuff is just fucking strong. Hawaii too. In Hawaii we had a band surf day. That wasn’t Lagwagon though, that was some of our moonlighting bands, like RKL.
San Diego Punk: Is RKL still going on?
Flip: No, we decided to stop that because the singer was self-destructive. It kind of sucked Derrick in too. I think that band is cursed.
San Diego Punk: Since you mention surfing, maybe it’s a good time to bring this up. Have you noticed a change in the demographic of people listening to punk? It used to seem like the music was closely tied with skating and surfing and the outcast kids with wild hair, and now it feels like everyone is into it. The underground isn’t underground anymore.
Leon: It’s TV. When that’s what the mainstream becomes, that’s what people listen to. Remember when Duran Duran was on TV and all our friends listened to Black Flag and GBH? We thought pop music sucked, but now punk rock is pop music.
Flip: Yeah, punk has pretty much become pop music. When you can drive in your car and turn on the radio and hear it.
Leon: I remember when you would never hear metal or punk on the radio unless it was like Rodney on the Rock or Headbanger’s Ball or College Radio.
Flip: Once you get into the interior of America, though, they love heavy metal. People there are pretty much just doing crystal meth and blasting metal.
Leon: In the military you know they can have music in their helmet and they’ll listen to like Disturbed.
Flip: Or Slayer dude. “We’re gonna kill some people today!”
San Diego Punk: Speaking of Slayer, I remember hearing No One Like You way back when and being told by a friend that you guys started off as a metal band. True?
Flip: Not so much metal, more of a crossover band, but we kept getting different members. We got Joey because our original singer couldn’t sing.
San Diego Punk: Stole him from Section 8?
Flip: Yeah. That guy Marko was in that too, he played bass for a while. Now he’s in Sugarcult, Marko 72.
San Diego Punk: He’s in Bad Astronaut too, right?
Flip: Yeah. After that we had Shawn and he was totally metal, and then we got Chris and he’s totally different, it’s gotten a lot more punkish. Shawn was more into stuff like Maiden.
San Diego Punk: You mentioned earlier some bands you listened to growing up. Does it ever seem weird when people my age say we listened to you?
Leon: (laughs) Yeah. I have to admit that when I first got Trashed I listened to it a few times and it was definitely not in my top ten. I preferred old school punk. When RKL’s drummer left to be in Lagwagon I was left with no band, so I started to play with The Other for a while, which is kind of a cross between In Living Color and a punk band.
Flip: The Partridge Family.
Leon: Then they called me and asked me if I wanted to join.
Flip: Worked out for him.
Leon: That’s when I started listening to it more; I had to learn the songs. I don’t really listen to melodic punk in my spare time.
Flip: Neither do I. I like a few new bands who are coming out. I’m way into metal.
Leon: It’s funny. In the first five or six years of touring with RKL almost every band that opened for us sucked. It’d just be [generic punk noises]. Now it seems like every band at least knows how to play their instruments.
San Diego Punk: Speaking of that, are you at all classically trained? Is there much theory in there, or is that all just playing by ear?
Flip: I just play by ear, pretty much, but the songs are written with a lot of theory behind them.
Leon: I’ve taken music theory and we tend to use it a bit, but with rock music you can break any rule, so we just use whatever sounds cool. Generally, when you break the music theory rules is when you come up with original shit. A couple of the progressions on this last record I wrote have chords that are out of key with each other, and that gives them some strange melodies.
Flip: He’s taken advanced music theory, don’t let him fool you. This guy is smart. I just read books and Guitar World to learn how to play.
Leon: He just spends time trying to play faster.
San Diego Punk: You don’t have to play any faster. The faster you get the harder it is for the rest of us to play your stuff.
Leon: Man when I listen to recordings from when I was a kid I’m amazed at how much better I was then.
San Diego Punk: Here’s a fan boy question, if there haven’t been enough already. Who is Emily?
Flip: I think she’s a cartoon character on stuff from that store, toxic something? You can buy your punk rock stuff there, yeah. (laughs) Plastic passion maybe?
San Diego Punk: Different Emily, I was thinking the “Emily has sex with Joey” from Hoss and “Emily will always be alone” from Blaze.
Flip: Ohhhhh. The “Emily has sex with Joey” is a girl from our town who he didn’t have sex with, but the rumor is that he did. The other Emily, the one on Blaze, is that cartoon girl who wears black.
Leon: Emily the single or the strange or something like that. Yeah, Emily the strange.
San Diego Punk: Damn. I thought there was some sort of deep connection that came full circle.
Flip: Sorry. For Emily the strange though we got lucky we thought of her. We were looking not really for a depressed or overtly gothic girl, and she’s just like the pouty punk girl. Overeducated, under-loved, cuts herself.
Leon: Real misunderstood.
Flip: Misunderstood by everyone, overshadowed by the beautiful cheerleader who’s the stupidest girl in her class.
San Diego Punk: It’s funny you say overshadowed, because a lot of people I know who got into punk or underground music in general did it because they were feeling that way.
Flip: Yeah, left out of the whole high school thing. It’s funny, when you’re young you’re so focused on that then when you get older, and into college and all of a sudden this world opens and there are a bunch of people like you. The internet is a kind of nice place now to find others like you or who have similar interests.
Leon: Then again you can be whoever you want on the internet. You can be a fourteen-year-old girl. Not that I do that.
Flip: Yeah, the internet is pretty creepy.
Leon: Especially when I log on.
San Diego Punk: Is that a part of why you guys got into it in the first place?
Flip: What for girls? (laughs)
San Diego Punk: Naw, for being in the non-football playing cheerleading group.
Flip: I had to play basketball because I was tall actually. I’m not very good at sports.
Leon: I went to a small school and never really got picked on, and by the time I was in high school I was already into punk because I just liked it.
Flip: I was never really picked on, but I never fit in anywhere either. I was a loner, but I always just liked rock and roll. That was my thing. My parents were into rock and roll and it seemed like music that kids weren’t supposed to listen to. Somewhere along the line I got a guitar and got really interested in that. When I was ten I asked for one for Christmas and didn’t get it, so I saved up.
Leon: If punk and metal are what all the jocks and cool kids listen to now, what are all the rejects into? Emo?
Flip: Goth? I don’t know. I know that Goths are the only ones people just look at and still hate.
San Diego Punk: It was weird; I went to see Nine Inch Nails a couple weeks ago and the whole time was thinking, “Wow, I haven’t seen people who dress like this in a while.”
Leon: With all their piercings and pants that are just like gumby legs.
Flip: I thought gumby legs were ravers. I’d think more like leather pants and a black sleeveless T-shirt.
San Diego Punk: Yeah maybe just a bit of red for effect too.
Flip: Naw that’s way too happy. How was that show anyway?
San Diego Punk: Oh it was awesome. I’ve never seen so many lights.
Flip: That’s rad, I love Nine Inch Nails
San Diego Punk: Speaking of lights and stages and such, what do you guys try to do to keep every night different and interesting for yourselves?
Leon: Well now we’re playing new songs, so that’s a pretty big part of it. For a while, when we were playing the same set forever, it was like “let’s see how drunk we can get without fucking up.” Then we pulled back a bit, decided that maybe wasn’t the best idea.
Flip: It’s still fun though. I don’t know if tonight is going to be fun, pretty much just because the stage is so massive. I like tiny venues a lot more.
Leon: Probably my favorite show on this tour was Colorado Springs, we played a new club that was like 400 capacity. That’s like the perfect size club.
Flip: This guy and his buddies bought this old industrial goth gay bar thing and put in a new stage and a nice PA and it was pretty much the best show.
Leon: Smaller than that and it gets too hot, and bigger is too big.
Flip: There was no backstage or anything, but it was just really cool. The sound was good, the kids were good, there was no barricade, minimal bouncers. It kind of sucks at these big rock clubs, the thing that really bugs me is when the bouncers fuck with the kids. I mean, it sucks when the kid is drunk and he’s like disrespecting the bouncer. If you crowd surf or stage dive and get thrown into the barricade area and the bouncer tells you to leave, just do it.
Leon: It’s not about being the tough guy.
Flip: Because it sucks for me when like five bouncers are beating up some kid, because I want to stop playing, but I’ve learned my lesson. At the end of the show, when all the kids are gone, there’s fucking twenty bouncers and you and your band and yeah we don’t need any of that anymore; everyone should just have a good time. They’re there to do their job. Even if they’re big workout, Gold’s Gym, ‘roided out guys, some of the good clubs have the hardcore punk dudes who understand that we’re doing a job just like they are. I don’t like bouncers.
Leon: By that he means that we, Lagwagon, love bouncers.
San Diego Punk: I think that about covers everything I wanted to ask. Any parting words for San Diego?
Flip: If you’re depressed and down, don’t kill yourself. Call 1 800 SUICIDE. Talk to you friends or someone, someone WILL help you.
Lagwagon photo by Brian Archer, courtesy fatwreck.com.