Interviews | Back to Issue 8
Interview & Photos by Wade | Graphics borrowed from www.goSAMgo.com
Back in March of '98, as Samiam was preparing to embark on their tour with lovable neo-grunge rockers Creed, Samiam singer and lyricist Jason Beebout took a moment out of a day full of phone interviews to talk with our very own NIMBY. Big thanks goes out to Hillary Siskind at Ignition for helping set up this interview and make a fanís dream come true. Read on...
NIMBY: Okay, Iíll get into the questions... first, you did an extensive tour of Sweden last year, and the new record came out first on Burning Heart in Sweden. Could you talk a little about the experience, the Swedish music scene, any cool bands you toured with?
Jason: At first it was a total surprise, I guess coming from the States you get kind of jaded in a way, thinking that all the stuff happens here. Thereís just so many bands, itís crazy, so many bands for such a little country. Just on the Burning Heart Label thereís No Fun At All, Millencollin... theyíre all really good bands. We played with Liberator, Starmarket... One really, really good band is Lude Goat (?), theyíre a really good band, we played with them in this town in southern Sweden. Fireside, theyíre amazing, theyíll bring you to tears.
NIMBY: So in a few days youíre starting a US tour with Creed. How do you feel about the tour, the band, have you met them yet?
Jason: I havenít met them, Iíve heard that one song on the radio, I have no idea what theyíre like. I mean, I hope theyíll be good. Itís a chance to play in front of people, thatís the way Iím looking at it. If I was a guy booking shows I probably wouldnít have picked our two bands and booked them together, but...weíll see. I donít know, itís a weird world these days.
NIMBY: Do you have any feelings about you guys opening for them?
Jason: No, theyíre selling lots of records, a lot of people like them. I guess weíre riding the coattails. Weíve been around a lot longer, and we have a lot more records out, but thatís the way it is. Of course Iíd love to headline a big show, but itís just not where weíre at. Weíve worked for a long time but weíve never achieved any kind of major status, as far as radio or record sales, stuff like that. Weíve been kind of doing our thing.
NIMBY: Youíre also doing a couple of headlining shows on the tour, like the show in Cambridge?
NIMBY: Whoís opening for you right now?
Jason: I donít know yet, I havenít heard what the billís going to be.
NIMBY: Your website said something about The Get Up Kids and Garret Klahnís (ex Texas Is The Reason) new band. I didnít even know he had a new band...
Jason: Yeah, yeah... Actually, instead of the Creed tour we were planning on doing a tour with The Get Up Kids and it just didnít work out, we got this tour instead. After that weíre doing a tour with Green Day. It might happen some time in the near future.
NIMBY: A couple questions about the new record... when was it recorded, could you talk a little about the problems with Atlantic, and why it took so long to get released in the US?
Jason: Itís been done for about two years, since May of í96. We recorded it, it sat in the can for six months, Atlantic kept pushing the date back for release, and after a while they just said they didnít want to release it, they werenít going to do the record. It pretty much freaked us out, itís like fuck, we spent all this money to record this record, and we think itís pretty good, but then you decide that you donít even want to do it, and drop us from your label... we kind of felt like old meat. Then we went through a long time of lawyers talking to lawyers, trying to get the tapes back, trying to buy them from them, and they wanted all these crazy amounts of money for the record. Luckily, at Burning Heart Peter somehow talked them into letting them have the record for a decent amount of money, so it got out somewhere, and that was a surprise. We all just figured that it was never going to come out, that no one was ever going to hear it, that we just wasted our time. So we were stoked to hear about Burning Heart. Then to think about the States was just an afterthought, like, is it ever going to happen there? We talked to a lot of labels. We talked to a lot of indies, we talked to a lot of majors, and there were several that wanted to do it, but the price was so high it was pretty much impossible for an indie to do it, really. And a lot of majors were just scared off by the fact that we were dumped, dumped with a finished record, so they werenít willing to put up all the money. And then finally Ignition was the only label that stuck around long enough to really do it. They waited and waited and waited and kept making offers and making offers and finally Atlantic caved in.
NIMBY: Well thatís pretty cool then.
Jason: Itís really cool of them. Weíre really really stoked with that label, theyíve been so cool. They donít have very many bands and theyíre really paying a lot of attention to us and working and trying to get the record out. Itís good to hear it.
NIMBY: That sounds like a really cool deal. How does it feel being on the same label as Anthrax?
Jason: How cool is that! (Laughs) Itís funny. I head they were going to try to sign the Supersuckers, I donít know if they have them for real. Itís funny, you know. Also, weíre basically a part of Tommy Boy. Yeah, like me and Coolio, weíre hanging out, dude! (Laughs more)
NIMBY: It seems like itís the same story with a lot of bands the past few years, theyíve signed to the majors and then right after that theyíve either broken up or gotten dropped or theyíve had to weasel their way out of their record contracts. Whatís youíre feelings about that? it seems to happen to a lot of bands...
Jason: Well, I mean, fuck, we did three records with New Red Archives and then went to Atlantic, and we were just totally starry-eyed, the idea of just going out and touring all the time instead of having to hold down a job at home and tour whenever you can, and actually being a band and spending all you time being a band. It was exciting, thinking that it was a possibility to make a living off playing music, it was really alluring. And I think everyone feels that way as a band when you start getting these offers. And then you realize itís a fucking filthy business. What you think is great, selling 50,000 records, is spit in the bucket to Atlantic or whatever major label. You donít sell enough records for them to make money, they dump you. On our side, we sold 50.000, and I mean fuck, thatís great, thatís more than we ever did. I toured all year long and had a great time. It was on the radio some, it got magazines, it was what I always wanted to do. I had to keep thinking about that, otherwise I probably would have gotten really really depressed. It was a leaning experience. I had no idea how things worked and now I know a little more, I donít know everything obviously but I know a little more, and so now looking for this new label it really helped a lot to really appreciate how much Ignition does for us now. Just like basic things like calling me when things are happening to just go, ďDude, Iím so excited, listen to this, this is happening, blah blah blah, weíve got this radio station...Ē and theyíre all excited, just as excited as I am, and it feels really good. Whereas Atlantic was just this big faceless entity that just hopefully was working for you.
NIMBY: Yeah, it sounds pretty exciting. If you had it to do over again, like if it was í92 or í93 again, would you have stuck it out with New Red Archives?
Jason: No, we definitely would have left New Red Archives. Nicky was just one guy, he didnít have anyone else to work for him, he was really just kind of bogged down and he couldnít do the stuff we needed to do. We wanted to go out and tour, we wanted to do this full time, and there was no way we could do it with Nicky. We couldnít get a big enough tour to pay for it, we couldnít get any kind of promotion, there was no way we were going to get on the radio, and you kind of need that stuff. I like the guy, and I appreciate everything heís done for us, but it was just impossible for us to take another step up as a band on that label unless something amazing happened, you know, maybe if we had written some thing like ďNevermindĒ then things would have happened but weíre just, weíre who we are. Weíve never been exactly the most radio friendly band in the world, I think this record is a little better for the radio but things have just never clicked for us like they have for bands like Green Day and bands like that. Itís just been tougher for us.
NIMBY: A couple questions about a couple songs on the new album. Is the song ďFactoryĒ about a real life personal experience?
Jason: Yeah, itís another song about my dad, but... Basically my dad used to work in this factory in Berkeley and I lived out in the suburbs and when I moved out of the house I moved out to the Berkeley area, and just recently I was walking around by my friendís house and realized I was walking by my dadís factory, which is now closed down, itís this empty building. And it just felt really eerie, thinking that this is the place where this guy went and probably had a lot to do with him being such an asshole, working all day long, going out and getting drunk at the bar next to the fucking warehouse and then coming home and being a prick. You look up there and go, ďHey, there it is, thatís eighteen years of your life that was fucking pure hell, thatís part of the reason right there.Ē
NIIMBY: Could you talk a little about the lyrics for ďGood EnoughĒ?
Jason: I donít know... I resent people that have a lot and bitch about it, and then you look at what youíve got, and Iím pretty happy with what I have, and I just feel like, itís almost disgusting. People are worried about how, ďoh, Iím so tired to day, I have to go get a massage and then get a facial, and I have to go order some stuff from the catalogue,Ē and shit like that. Itís like, come on, man. At least for me, it makes me feel like what youíve got is cool because Iíve got a whole lot less and Iím still pretty OK.
NIMBY: I guess that some people have said that you sound has changed over the years, and other people have said that it hasnít really changed at all. How do you guys feel about how the band has developed over the years?
Jason: Iíd say that weíve just taken the same thing over the years and just kind of reshaped it over and over again. We basically do the same thing weíve always done, itís a basic sound, but I think weíve refined it a lot. Weíve just gotten a lot better at working together, we know what each other are gonna do. Weíve been together for ten years, we know what everybodyís little quirks and nuances are. So you kind of come to expect it when youíre writing, you leave space for them to do their thing. So it just gets a little better. And maybe over time, listening to our old records and going ďgod, I wish I hadnít of done that, doesnít that sound funky right there?Ē, you just gotta learn not to do that shit that makes you feel weird. And Iím a whole lot happier with the songs now. It does sound a little different, but I think if you listen to all of our records you can still find a common theme.
NIMBY: You guys have done a couple different songs about childhood, or growing up, or the passing of time, like ďFriendĒ on Soar, or ďStepsonĒ on Clumsy... Do you think it would be cool to be five again now, like you talk about in ďFriendĒ?
Jason: What, now you mean?
NIMBY: Yeah even if it meant having to go through all the shit of growing up again... you know?
Jason: I think everybody goes through that thing, I mean, right now I think Iím beginning to become a little more self-aware, and realize that a lot of the things I thought were true when I was younger, a lot of the assumptions I made when I was younger, that I really just based my life around, just really arenít true. A lot of the things I assumed were right were just basically bullshit I made up in my head, and that was who I was. Itís difficult. At this point Iím twenty-seven, Iím not old by any means but Iím not young anymore. I really liked being young, I really liked being a little kid, it was fun, but I think a better aspiration is to try to keep yourself happy at an older age and throughout your whole life. I still feel like the same idiot I was when I was ten years old, I still enjoy fart jokes, you know? (Laughs) So I donít feel a whole lot different, I look at myself in the mirror and I go god, man, youíre a bald fat guy. On the inside when Iím sitting her by myself I still feel like Iím four feet tall.
NIMBY: Jeez, I can totally relate to that. Itís really funny because sometimes I look around, and Iím college now, but I look at the people around me and I remember when I was like in third grade and seventh and eighth graders looked so big, it was like they were adults or something.
Jason: Yeah, like I feel so bad, like Iíve tried so hard not to use the word ďkid.Ē Cause Iíll go to a show and I look out there and Iíll see these guys, theyíre like bouncing around and having a good time, and Iíll mention someone and Iíll be like, ďSee that kid over there? ďThat fucking kid, I mean Iíd be so pissed off if I was like fifteen years old and some fucking jerk called me a kid. God, itís so hard... I look at people that say, I went to high school with and I see them and theyíre like, ďYeah, I got five kids and Iím working as a contractor somewhere,Ē and they look so fucking old. And Iím like, ďDo I look like that, do I feelóI donít feel like that, I donít think I look like that, I feel like... I still have these stupid aspirations to be a musician and to run around and to wake up at four in the afternoon and stay up all night long and have a really good time and do stupid shit when Iím walking down the street drunk. Itís all in your head.
NIMBY: (completely tripping on this) Yeah... yeah thatís cool... So you were talking about moving to a major label so you could tour all the time and get away from you day jobs. Do you guys still have day jobs?
Jason: I did. We went through this long phase for over a year where we werenít touring, and we all got jobs again. Iíve been working in a bike shop for a while. I hope I have a job when I get back... Theyíre pretty cool about it, theyíre all excited that Iím getting to go out and tour again, theyíre pretty supportive. But by no means do I want to have a fucking day job, you know, I like being a sloth. Hopefully weíll be able to milk this record for a while and tour and then go and record and do the same thing again. This is what I want to do. I have the hardest time convincing myself that Iím a musician, you know? Growing up and being in a little punk rock band, itís something you do as a hobby and itís a joke and itís fun. And you dream about being a musician, but itís hard to convince yourself, that, you know... ďSo are you guys professional?Ē and Iím like, ďI guess, I donít know, what does that mean? Iím making a living off of it.Ē
NIMBY: Now Iím from Buffalo, and back when I was in high school I used to be a big fan of the Goo Goo Dolls. [Eds. note: Loving the Goo Goo Dolls was OK once.] So could you talk a little bit about how you found out about them, recording ďBillyĒ with Armand John Petri, how you met the band?
Jason: I donít know how we met the band really. Oh yeah, I do. We all liked... Jed, I think it is?
NIMBY: Probably Jed or Hold Me Up.
Jason: I think it was Jed, or maybe it was Hold Me Up, I canít remember. Well, the first two records, we all really, really liked. It was cool, we were totally into The Replacements and stuff like that, and they were right in there too and it was a totally cool sound. We never really played together, we played in New Orleans one time and they were playing down the street and we finished our show and went down the street to see them. I think that was the first time we met them. And James has kind of kept contact with Robbie and Johnny over the years. We just liked the way their record sounded so we tried to get hold of Armand through them, and he was stoked to come out and do it, and we were happy about it, and it worked out pretty well. Then all that crazy shit started happening with them getting huge, and it was like, jeez, you know, these guys are like big time...
NIMBY: Have you run into them since they got huge?
Jason: Yeah, we were recording... were we recording? We were in LA for something, and they were staying there... I think we were practicing, because we have a drummer who lives in LA, and we were practicing at this place called Cole Street Studios, and their new drummer was there and we were talking to him, and we found out that they were in town, so we hung out with them for a while. But theyíre still the same guys. We were trying to get on a tour with them, I think it still might happen but Iím not sure.
Jason: Whenever their next tour is, weíre supposedly one of those bands that might get to go do it. Thatíd be great.
NIMBY: I havenít heard that much about them, whether theyíre recording a new album or what.
Jason: I think they are.
NIMBY: It would make sense. I guess they had some flak with their record company a while back but they worked that out or something, I donít know.
Jason: I would like to think it would be easier, on a major label scale, when you sell like however many millions of records, that, ďOK, are you ready to do the next record? Whatís the problem?Ē Like everything should go smooth. And itís really not that way.
NIMBY: I donít know... So the name Samiam, you got that from Dr. Seuss, right?
NIMBY: (Awkward pause) Well, I guess that patches that up.
Jason: Donít ask me why, I donít know why.
NIMBY: Sounds good to me.
Jason: It works. It one of those things where like we picked the name, and we were like, ďOK, we have a band, and weíre gonna be called this, and weíre gonna play around and have some fun...Ē and by the time we thought about our long term kinda thing we were like ďWeíre on our third record now, and weíre still called Samiam, it would have been cool to change our name a while ago to something a little better.Ē Plus the thing was there were like seven other sam-I-ams for a while so we were like ďOK, weíll squish all the letters together so it doesnít really say Sam I Am, itíll look like sa-mee-um. So no one knows how to pronounce it. And no one can read it anyway because we use this funky font. So weíre just stuck now. We might as well just be like ďThe Artist Formerly Known as SamiamĒ because you canít read what it fucking says. Lamiam? Ham sandwich? What?
NIMBY: Famiam? I donít know. What kind of bands are you listening to right now, like what kind of music are you into?
Jason: Swervedriver, Husker Du, I listen to a lot of Cheap Trick... I like the new Radiohead a lot... Built To Spill, I was listening to Sebadoh today.
NIMBY: Well, I think thatís all the questions I had, I had a question for Sergie about Knapsack... I didnít know I was going to be interviewing just you...
Jason: So what was it?
NIMBY: Well, I had heard he had been playing with Knapsack for a little bit.
Jason: Heís on the new record too.
NIMBY: Oh really? Is he going to be on the new record?
Jason: He is on it, yeah. They just finished recording it.
NIMBY: So is that going to be a permanent thing, or...
Jason: I donít know, I donít know how heís worked that out with them. I mean I know that they want him in the band, and heís like a permanent fixture, but we have a lot of touring to do, and I donít know how theyíre going to work in out, maybe theyíll get a new guitar player, or wait around until heís done touring with us, and then go on tour. I had reservation about his joining the band, although he joined the band when we were in our dead phase, there was nothing going on and he was like, ďIím fucking going crazy and they want me in the band, so Iím gonna go do it.Ē And then things started happening with us again, and now heís got a total conflict of interest, and I donít know exactly what heís going to do about it.
NIMBY: Thatís pretty much all I had, do have any final comments, funny stories...?
Jason: Uh... nah. (Laughs) I got nothing to say. We have a website [www.goSAMgo.com] if you want to look at that.
NIMBY: I guess thatís about it then... Where are you calling from? What is the rest of the band doing today?
Jason: Theyíre on their way to Birmingham, Alabama. Theyíre driving, and Iím sitting here doing this stuff and Iím gonna fly out on Tuesday.
NIMBY: So they get to take the long car ride and you get to fly out? Thatís pretty sweet.
Jason: Yeah, Iím kinda sad I missed the drive. Iím a martyr. (Laughs)