An interview with Capdown from their autumn 2003 tour. I sat down with Jake when the band played the Mean Fiddler. Interviewed for Rancid News #4.
RN: OK well I guess first things first, were you surprised by the reaction you got by leaving Household Name?
Jake: No not at all. We expected all of it. We were more disappointed rather than surprised by it! I really just wish people would find out what they’re talking about before they start talking about it to be honest. Because really we left Household Name as friends with Lil and Kafren. We’d been dealing with Lil and Kafren longer than anyone else on that label, and they’re still our friends. They’re coming here tonight, we’ll have a drink with them and that, and uhh… It was a totally mutual agreement, and people saying stupid things like, ‘You owe HHN this, or you owe them that, and you’ve let them down’. Which is just not the case at all. It was a mutually beneficial relationship. Household Names helped us out, but this is no means big headed or whatever, but we did a lot for that label as well!
RN: So do you think people are over it?
J: To be honest I don’t actually care. If people want to get hung up on something like that then… it just… The thing that I find most funny about this whole thing is that Household Name was set up as a label to not be like that with. I mean it’s not a brand name, it’s not like a … It’s an oppurtunity for young bands, or bands who don’t have a lot of money… it’s an oppurtunity for those kind of bands to put out records. As I said it’s not a brand name, and how anyone can say that our music has changed because we’ve left the label is… Of course our music is going to be different but that’s because we’re older people who are into writing different music now, and that’s what HHN were wanting. That’s the whole point of signing to them. If people are going to shout at us for not doing ‘that’ now, you’re not only sort of being close minded, and denying yourself the opportunity to listen to some good music, but you’re also going against everything that Household Name stands for.
RN: Were you happy with the reaction that ‘Act Your Rage’ got?
J: Yeah. I mean… I think that the release of ‘Act Your Rage’ was a bit of an unfortunate situation because we had to cancel the tour, which exactly the same as when we were on Household Name that tour was the promotion of our single, and that’s always the way that we’ve promoted things so cancelling that was a bit of a bugger to say the least. Yeah I think that it was a good record, and I think the one that we’ve released this week was even better. And I’m pleased with the reviews that it got. I mean it got single of the week, and though Kerrap! isn’t the be all and end all but that… it certainly helps for us to get that. I enjoyed making both of those records. It was really positive both times that we were making them. Certainly on this tour as well all the new songs have gone down really well. Lots of people have been singing along to ‘Act Your Rage’ and stuff, so yeah I’ve been really pleased with it.
RN: Were you surprised how well it did on TV and stuff?
J: Yeah I was glad that the channels played it and stuff. The video didn’t come out for that one as well as I hoped, so I’m more into this new video being played. But yeah I really liked the video. But we got into loads of shit over making a video as well, which I also thought was a bizarre thing as well. I think that there’s so many different artists in this world that, whoever thought that art was confined to music or drawing is like, they’re living in a funny old world. I’m into music, but I’m also into live performance, and that’s not just about playing your songs, it’s about being a performer and trying to better yourselves at that kind of thing, and that’s something that I’ve tried personally really hard at. And I think that making a video is the same sort of thing. It’s trying to express your music in a visual way, which is an art form in itself. And I’m grateful for the oppurtunity to do that. We’re doing it on a very, very limited budget but it’s something we want to do. A lot of people watch music television now as well. So you know it gets more people to listen to our music who might not have heard about it before, and that’s all good.
RN: Is it neccessarily a good thing, though, that more people are watching music television though?
J: I wouldn’t comment on whether… [beep beep] Sorry I’ve just gotta check this isn’t my girlfriend waiting outside! Well… no, no… umm… obviously I would rather people were going out and buying records or going to shows, but I don’t think that it’s an either/or situation. It’s just like the whole MP3 thing. Are people doing that instead or is it as well, or blah de blah de blah. I mean if I’m around at someone’s house and they’ve got cable television then I’ll switch it on because I want to see what bands are doing, and stuff. I think that… I think there are disadvantages and advantages of it. I think there’s a danger that people will just sit in their living room and just watch that instead of going out and watching real music, played by real people. It’s never going to be a substitute for that. But if a kid… especially for young kids… they watch MTV2…
I think that a lot of people when they get older forget what it was like to be young, and what’s considered to be alternative when you’re young. Certainly when I was young I was listening to Nirvana, and we were as a band, and that’s what got us into making music and stuff. But we were considered the freaks at school, and that was what was alternative and they were at the time one of the biggest, and probably the most commercially succesful bands in the world! But in terms of a fourteen year olds life that’s just not the case, and if there are lots of fourteen year olds out there who think that watching MTV2 is an alternative thing and listen to that music, and getting into different music as a result of it that can only be a good thing. Same with Kerrap! and all of that kind of stuff. It’s not an alternative magazine, but it is if you’re young and it does provide some kind of access – not as much as I’d like – but it does provide some kind of access for kids to get into other types of music that aren’t played on Radio 1.
RN: Yeah I mean the Kerrang! thing, being stuck in a market town, that was how I found out about bands. I mean I went through Green Day and Offspring and KoRn and whoever…
J: Yeah. I think if people are honest then I think that’s how everybody did it. I don’t think that anybody got into some super obscure underground band as their first band at age 12. The first band that I got into was Nirvana. The first band that I went to see live pretty much was Green Day, you know what I mean. It’s not some kind of… I think people want to focus too much on being cool and different, rather than being honest about it!
RN: Do you worry though that that’s what happened to some of the people that used to be into Capdown. That now you’re perceived as being huge or whatever that they’ve gone off to find another ‘cool’ band?
J: I mean if that’s people’s attitudes, and that’s what they wanna do, then they’re welcome to do it. I’m not going to lose sleep over it! I think that we’re making better music than we’ve ever made before. I think that we’re putting on a better performance than we’ve ever put on before. And if more people want to come and see it then that’s going to make me happy, but I’m not going to let anyone’s bitter resentment, or some twisted concept that small is ‘best’, ruin my experience of making music.
There’s such a massive contradiction where people say that they want to make the, ’scene grow’, and that there’s no money for bands, and no money to put on shows, or losing money at shows, and they’ll go on about that, but then when more people do turn up at shows, and bands do get bigger, and do get a bit of money then that’s somehow wrong as well! My only interests are a. making music b. meeting a lot of good people c. having a good time and d. opening up this style of music to as many people as possible; and not in the hope that they’ll go and listen to that specific type of music or make that specific type of music, but just to make them aware that they’ve got the freedom to do whatever they want with music. That there are a million bands, not just bands a million different artists out there, making different kinds of music. There’s just a whole world of music out there for people to listen to. It’s not just punk rock. It’s why with our intro we’ll sometimes put on something a little bit different. Maybe a bit of Jungle, a bit of DJ Shadow, whatever it is that we choose to play. It’s just to make it acceptable that if you’re a Capdown fan you can like Jungle, you can like dance music, you can like fucking pop music if you want. It’s about enjoying live and recorded music. That’s as far as I want to take it.
RN: Is the be all and end all of Capdown now then just music?
J: And having a good time. And I associate the two together quite closely because my experience of playing music is about having a good time. But certainly we’ve been a live band for a very long time. We’ve played a hell of a lot of gigs, and we’ve become known as being a good live band, and our records have been cool… we’ve sold more records than I ever dreamed we’d sell and more records than anyone particularly in the industry thought was possible to sell as an independent band with no backing or whatever.
But I do… with the next album I want to make a quality record. And I want to make an international quality record. It’s another thing that a lot of people moan about, ‘Ohh everyone goes and watches the American bands and there are these great British bands why don’t people go and watch them’, and I think there is an element of truth in that to a certain extent but I do think that British bands have to raise their game a little bit. The standard of music needs to be raised. I mean certainly in terms of the quality of music that is coming out of America, in terms of punk rock and rock music, it’s superior to British in 90% of cases. And that’s because British bands aren’t capable of doing it. It’s partly because they don’t have the funding, but it’s also because they’re not pushing themselves hard enough to write. And I want to push Capdown as hard as we can push ourselves and I want to make the best record that we’re capable of, and I think that we’re in a much better position to do that now than we ever have been.
RN: So are you going to try and do stuff in the States then?
J: Yeah. I mean I’m not going to get totally hung up on the States or anything. You know we’ve been round Europe, we’ve been to Japan, there’s a chance we might go to China this winter. All over the world really. But yeah part of the reason that we left Household Name was because we wanted to become an international band and being an international band is the only way that bands like us can make some kind of living. I’m not talking about being rich, I’m talking about being able to pay the rent and eat some food, which is … we’re not even at that level now. If we can be as popular in six, seven, eight more countries as we are in Britain then we’ll be able to survive as a band and continue to make music, and that’s what I want to do basically.
RN: Do you still have to do odd jobs when you get home then?
J: Yeah definitely. I mean in the last six months I’ve had a kid as everyone knows, and I’ve had to get a house rather than a flat, because living in a one bedroom flat with a kid is all but impossible. So I’ve had to get a mortgage and all this that and the other, and in order to do that I had to get money. So I had to do some work. And we’ll always do odd jobs, whether it’s driving other bands or teching for other bands. Yeah we still earn money in other ways!
RN: So are you still talking about your ideas from the stage?
J: definitely. I think, there was a review in Kerrap! last week, which kind of summed it up. It was reasonably good journalism, which is surprising for them but uhh… I try to mention it a bit, but I definitely don’t want to ram it down anyone’s throat. I don’t think that’s what concious music is about, it’s about offering ideas. All I want to do on stage is draw people’s attention to – if they’re not aware of it – to things that I think are worth considering in the lyrics, and draw their attention to it. Just giving people the option of seeing alternatives. But if they just want to come and dance and not give a fuck about anything else then that’s fine as well. I still do try and take time over writing lyrics about things that I think are important, and not just writing the generic songs about breaking up with my girlfriend, or whatever. So yeah I think it’s all about reaching a balance, which is something that I’m still working on. Which goes back to the working on performance thing. Trying to work out how to say things, and how to say things in a shorter way so that it’s not boring people. Again a balance between giving information and then preaching in front of people’s faces, which no one wants to hear you know what I mean? So that’s definitely something I’m trying to get better at. And definitely something that I consider to be important.
RN: Any questions you wanna be asked whilst I try desperately to think of another question?!?
J: In terms of what people are saying I suppose. The major label thing I suppose we may as well talk about a little bit, since it’s another… we’ve focused on quite a lot of rumours in this interview so I might as well get that one out of the way! (laughs) We haven’t signed to anyone yet, we’re an unsigned band at the moment. Basically what I was talking about becoming an international band, people have got to realise that whether we sign to a major label or an independent label that that requires money! Like it does, running a band requires money. Touring around Britain… Britain’s a cool place to start because it’s such a small country and we live in Milton Keynes, which is right in the middle of the country, and we were willing to rough it for a bit, sleep in a van, eat no food whatever. If you do round Britain you can make a name for yourself by just playing constantly. Eventually everybody will hear of you because it’s such a small place. Like go to mainland and it’s whole different story, and you can tour round mainland Europe for the whole entirety of your life and still not really make that much ground. You need your records out there. You need a little bit of promotion. You need a little bit of help doing it on a tour bus, and anyone that thinks that tour buses are luxurious glamorous lifestyles needs to go on one because they’re not, it just… if you’ve got fourteen hours between gigs then you’ve got to sleep, and that’s the only way that it’s possible! And those chicken coop bunks seem to be the only way to do that. But they cost a lot of money and we don’t get paid a lot of money. We need someone that will put some effort back into us, because we work as hard as we possibly can, and put all our effort in, and we make a lot of sacrifices. I’m not saying that so that everyone will go, ‘Oh well done blah di blah’ because it’s what I, what we, choose to do, no one is forcing us to do that. But we do think that it’s time that someone got out a bit of faith in us, and gave us a bit of money so that we can try and do what we do. Whether that’s a major label or an indie I don’t know. We want to sign to a label that is going to be most into supporting the band and helping the band develop in a way that is true to everything that we’ve done before. And there are some Independent labels out there – or suppossed punk rock labels out there – and I’m not going into mentioning names, who have far more control over band’s music than people are aware of. There’s certainly one really big punk rock label that I know of and they’ll quite happily deny a band’s album if it’s not the sound that they think will sell, or if it’s not a sound that fits the label then they won’t release it. So saying that signing to a major will definitely compromise your ethics and your music making is not necessarily true. You could sign to an Independent label and be far more compromised through the way that the label is run. Just because the label is run by one person doesn’t mean you agree with what they’re doing, or where their money is going. Say that person who owns an independent label is spending the money on a Lambergini and generally living the high life then the money that you’ve made for them is no more ethical than the money that you’ve made for Sony! Also if you’re going to choose to release you’re music in mainstream highstreet shops, the most money out of selling records is made by those shops. They’re the places that make 100% profit. Not the band because they don’t make anywhere near that profit level. People just… I would just like people to think about those things. I don’t necessarily expect people to know because I never did and as we’ve done the band I’ve learnt something new about the music business everyday. But I wish people would think about things before they accuse bands. Or at least asking people. I try to do that as well when people email me, I try to explain it to them, rather than just going, ‘oh it’s a load of bollocks’. I try to explain why it’s a load of bollocks. But yeah I think that’s about all I want to say apart from just bigging up the bands that we’ve been out on tour with. [Douglas, Adequate Seven, Five Knuckle]