Interviews | Back to Issue 7

Interview by John

I got the chance to catch up with the boys from Lagwagon when they played DC’s Black Cat on September 8th (of '97). To my eternal gratitude, bassist Jesse Buglione took time out to let me know what was up with the band.

John: So how’s the tour going (going for a real grand slam first question)?
Jesse: Pretty well.
John: So when is it you’re off to Europe?
Jesse: November 20th I believe. And Australia after that.
John: How long has the new album been out now?
Jesse: A little over two weeks I think.
John: Doing pretty well?
Jesse: I guess so. Most of the people going to our shows seem pretty familiar with the material. That’s really my only gauge.
John: Who produced the album?
Jesse: It was our singer (Joey Cape), our guitarist Ken Stringfellow, and Ryan Greene.
John: Is he related to Lorne Greene?
Jesse: I don’t think he is, but he’s a big Lorne Greene fan.
John: How much time are you spending on the road now?
Jesse: It depends. If there’s a new record out, then 7 or 8 months. Occasionally we’ll have time off, like last year we took 6 months off, which was really cool but then it wasn’t really time off since we were taking four days a week to do the record, plus guys going to school.
John: Going to school where?
Jesse: Community college in Santa Cruz.
John: What do you do the rest of your time at home? Is the band full-time pretty much?
Jesse: Pretty much. Like we’ll be on tour for three months and then we’ll take three weeks off where I just sit at home and read books and hang out with my girlfriend and friends and try to leave the house as little as possible. Then we’ll go back out.
John: But it’s a case where the band is paying for itself.
Jesse: Yeah, it pays for the certain rare weeks where we have time at home.
John: On the road, what’s the travel schedule like?
Jesse: Basically, it depends on the kind of drive, but normally, we’ll wake up, drive for about 5 hours, go to the show, hang out for 2 hours, do sound check, hang out for 4 hours, play, hang out for 2 hours, get in the bus, drive to another stop... All driving and sitting in the bus.
John: Do you share the bus with the rest of the bands?
Jesse: No. Actually, this tour all three bands have their own. We have like a little mobile home thing with a trailer while the other bands have like airport shuttle buses.
John: So what did you do all day in DC?
Jesse: Not too much. I walked down to Subway. I ordered a spicy Italian sandwich which I didn’t notice at the time was actually not on their menu, but they made one anyway. Then I walked back, sat around for a while. Then we did soundcheck, sat around a little longer, walked across the street to use the phone. Came back. Walked across the street to use the phone again. Came back. Walked across the street to get some water. Came back. Walked across the street to buy cigarettes. Came back, and have just been sitting here.
John: So you didn’t get to see too much of the city.
Jesse: Not too much. It’s three blocks to Subway, so I saw three blocks. But I’ve been here with my parents, so I’ve done all the sightseeing things. Our first tour here we had a day off in DC and spent the whole day running around.
John: Have you been to Europe before?
Jesse: Yeah.
John: How is the crowd reaction over there?
Jesse: Really good. For the most part its better than places in the States. It’s weird. There are certain bands that do well in England and those are the same bands that do really well in the States. And then there are bands that do real well all over Europe except for England and the States, which is kind of the category we fit in.
John: Do you notice more older fans over there?
Jesse: Not really. Basically, the general look of the crowd is similar to people here.
John: Do you notice a lot of difference between crowds on the West Coast and the East Coast over here?
Jesse: Kind of. Especially when we first started touring. Five years ago there was kind of a big difference, but now it’s not really as noticeable because of the whole Fat records thing and getting a little bigger. But not as noticeable now.
John: Is there a sort of rabid following around the San Francisco/ Santa Barbara area?
Jesse: No, not really. Not particularly. It’s getting better, but for a long time it was really hard to play in San Francisco. So many shows and so many bands, people would get jaded toward newer bands. They don’t really go out to see bands they’ve never really heard of play until really familiar with them. Lots of other things to do.
Rabble in the background: Ask him about Philly.
John: What about Philly?
Jesse: He’s my dad. Pretty cool. He hangs out. But he likes to be called Phil now.
John: Not Philadelphia?
Jesse: Oh, Philadelphia. That was a very, very hot show. A little bit ridiculously hot, but kind of fun.
John: Was that your last one?
Jesse: Yeah, last night. Afterwards, there wasn’t really a dry spot on any of my clothing.
John: So what did you think of the Warped Tour this summer?
Jesse: I liked watching Descendents and Bouncing Souls play.
John: Did you enjoy playing it?
Jesse: No. I thought it was kind of fun except for the half-hour we were playing. I don’t like playing big shows with big stages and big rock gap barriers. It kind of takes the fun away. Especially with the half-hour sets; by the time you get out there and get into it you have to be done.
John: Did you notice that Pennywise and the Descendents got the really big crowds and for other bands it was like, “Where is everybody?”
Jesse: Yeah. The DC show was probably the hardest one to play of them all. It was like 100 degrees that day.
John: Was RFK one of the bigger venues you played?
Jesse: I don’t really know. Probably about average. There were a lot of bigger seating venues like that.
John: Shifting gears, who does most of your songwriting?
Jesse: Joey.
John: Is there collaboration within the group?
Jesse: Well basically the way it works is that Joe will give the skeletons to the band and if someone doesn’t like a part we’ll take a part and if someone wants to add part we’ll put it in. We take the rough form and change it around and take it from there.
John: What was the case with Ken replacing Chris replacing Shawn? I’ve heard all about the Derrick situation but that one seems kind of recent.
Jesse: That one was kind of weird overall. Basically, we were practicing for four months to do the record and Shawn didn’t show up to any of the practices. Then he quit right before we put the CD out and went to Europe to tour with Buckwild. So at the time we were kind of struck for a guitar player. So then my girlfriend’s sister lives with Ken Stringfellow and he’d kind of expressed interest in playing. We called him out, he flew in and recorded the record and we did a tour of Europe with him. And it was working great in terms of vocals and in terms of his songwriting- he’s an amazing songwriter- but it was basically that our music was a different style of guitar-playing than he’d done the last 15 years where all the Posies stuff was more four-chordy and not straight-up punk. Live, some of the older songs weren’t working out. He was on our whole European tour and then we flew to Chicago to start the Warped Tour and we got one day off. So we flew in Chris Raft, the old guitar player from RKL. He practiced with us for six hours and we started the Warped Tour. A little nerve-wracking...
John: But it worked out?
Jesse: Oh yeah.
John: What kind of stuff are you listening to now? What do you and the band bring with you on tour?
Jesse: On tour we basically listen to the heavy things. It gets pretty silly. Heavy metal, classic rock, or whatever. I want to sing the praises of Manowar, the best heavy metal band on Earth. At home, I mostly listen to Manowar in the morning just to piss my roommates off. When they sleep in late I’ll play Manowar really loud. I figure it’s time for everybody to be getting up, so I’ll crank that up.
John: What album? “Triumph of Steel”?
Jesse: No, actually... “Kings of Metal”. That’s my favorite one. Personally, I listen to a lot of Jawbreaker; they’ve been my favorite band for years and years. A bunch of different stuff.
John: Was that a lot of stuff you grew up listening to, like Manowar?
Jesse: No, I didn’t get into Manowar until recently. About a year and a half ago I saw their video and realized they were about the most heavy metal that any heavy metal band could ever aspire to be. When I heard about their professing heavy metal as their religion and their “Death to False Metal”, I started really getting into them. Growing up I listened to a lot of what was on the radio. A-Ha. That was one of the first tapes I ever bought. Actually, the first tapes I bought were Journey and Styx but that was just because they had cool record covers. But I got really into Van Halen’s “1984”. Then I got into A-Ha, that techno-pop bullshit. Then I got into speed metal and then I heard Gorilla Biscuits, and they became my favorite band. I started getting into Youth of Today, Judge, and older Revelation stuff. Then I got into Operation Ivy and then I heard Jawbreaker, and that’s definitely on the top of my list.
John: So punk is something you’ve gotten into much more later on?
Jesse: Pretty much. I was starting to get into a lot of the old Mystic bands like RKL, Dr. No, stuff like that. And in 6th grade, the Misfits were pretty much it.
John: How old are you now?
Jesse: 22
John: And how old is everyone in the band?
Jesse: They probably average about 28.
John: So you’re the young one.
Jesse: Yeah.
John: So how did you end up hooking up with the guys?
Jesse: I was in high school and a friend of mine came up to me at lunchtime with a flyer he saw at a local college. It basically said this band, Section 8, which we used to be called, was looking for a bass player. At the time I was playing in a death metal band because the only thing people in my school played was death metal and I had to play with them if I wanted to be in a band, so I wanted to try anything besides that. And at the bottom of the flyer, it said, “Bass player does not have to be very good”. So I went there and tried out.
John: What do you think about the punk scene in general now?
Jesse: I don’t. I listen to what I want to listen to, and a lot of my favorite bands are punk bands. But I don’t consider Lagwagon to be a punk band at all. I mean I do, but just as much as I consider us to be a heavy metal band or a ska band or anything else. I try to avoid the whole label thing.
John: What do you think of Limp (touring with Lagwagon)? I haven’t heard them before.
Jesse: I love them. Very poppy, but they have a punk rock feel, so you can say they’re a punk band.
John: What was the deal with the “Generations” human rights compilation? How did you get involved? Why did you contribute “27”? What did you think of it on whole?
Jesse: Basically, I thought the compilation was sort of... well, there were some good points on it. I actually thought your review of it (NIMBY #6) was pretty accurate and nailed it right on. We figured, sure, it’s an Amnesty International thing we’ll give them a song.
John: Do you read a lot of fanzines?
Jesse: Yeah, when I can.
John: What do you think of Derrick’s new band, The Ataris?
Jesse: They kind of remind me of good Face to Face. I haven’t gotten the chance to form a definite opinion. I’m also kind of prejudiced toward them just because it’s Derrick’s band.
John: How would you describe the break-up when Derrick left the band? Was it cordial?
Jesse: Yeah. The Ataris are coming on the last leg of this tour and we just hung out with Derrick in New York. It’s a little bit sad seeing him sometimes. Basically, when he’s sober I love hanging out with Derrick. He’s one of the coolest people.
John: Any last words?
Jesse: Drop out of school, or die in prison, either way it’s my decision, one more beer and heavy metal, life is fine. Manowar.