An interview with Howards Alias conducted in the summer of 2003, with Matt (vocals/ guitar), Jev (drums) and Nick (trombone). The interview appeared in Rancid News #3.
RN: Ok well the first one’s just for Matt… Did you really go thiry weeks without a conversation?
Matt (guitar): No well it’s just like a thing that I said. I thought the girls might like it! (laughs) No that was a joke. I went to guitar school in Guildford, and I moved away and at the time I sort of had a load of self esteem issues and I really didn’t make friends very easily. So I just didn’t make any friends. So I knew one guy, for the whole time that I was there, so that was where that song came from.
RN: OK. General band question, I always seem to ask this question, are you happy with how the album’s been received?
M: Yeah, to a certain point but like… well yeah totally actually in terms of people actually enjoying it, but we’re having real difficulty getting it into the shops, like our distribution company basically fucked us over and they won’t put it into the shops and so it’s hard, but we sell alot on the road.
Jev (drummer): Yeah we’re happy with how many we’ve sold at shows and stuff like that.
M: And yeah I personally haven’t read a bad review of the album, so everyone has pretty much positive things to say about it, which is nice.
Nick (trombone): I don’t think… some of the bands that we’re compared to though. I sometimes don’t think that they’re the truest of representations of our sound. Like I don’t think that we sound anything like Capdown or Less Than Jake or whoever.
J: I think alot of people feel the need that they’ve got to compare you to bands that are popular in a so called ‘genre’ instead of going, ‘oh this is fairly different’ or whatever, they feel the need to compare you to… to make it easier for other people to get into.
J: I mean to use them as an example: Capdown. We’re probably compared to them because we played with them a few times, and I reckon that’s about it! And then Less Than Jake we’re probably compared to them simply because we’ve got horns.
M: I think we do sound like Capdown though to a certain degree. I mean we play hardish ska, and we have horns, so people say that we sound like Less Than Jake. I mean if someone was to say you guys sound like the Blue Meanies I’d say, ‘fair enough’ beause we do. (laughs)
RN: But I guess that Capdown and Less Than Jake are the biggest ska bands that everybody knows. It’s like if you’re at school and someone asks them what someone sounds like you always compare them to a bigger band.
M: Yeah it’s true. But it does get kind of frustrating though sometimes when we read the reviews or whatever. I read one the other day actually that I hadn’t read before and it said that we sounded like Less Than Jake and Reel Big Fish, and I don’t think that we could actually sound further removed from Reel Big Fish even if we made a concious effort to sound less like them.
J: It didn’t really strictly say that we sounded like them rather that we were influenced by them.
RN: I don’t think that Reel Big Fish have ever influenced a band in their life.
J: Not a fan then.
RN: No they’re everything I don’t like about that ‘party’ ska scene thing. It’s why ska gets no respect.
J: I’m the only guy I think in the bus that likes them.
M: Yeah I quite like them. I’ve got one of their albums at any rate. I think one of their albums is brilliant.
N: I think they’re the best of what they do.
J: I don’t really like them actually that much, just because I really don’t like the lyrics.
RN: I guess they’re OK just for fun, but it’s just… I don’t know they just annoy me.
M: I know what you mean.
RN: They just take up space that other better bands could have! I mean just I saw MU330 yesturday and…
M: Yeah we were having this conversation the other day. We just did a week tour with the Peacocks and uhh they were saying that they played shows with MU330, like not many, and they don’t really know them too well, but they played shows with them for the last ten years or so, and they were saying they just don’t understand coming from Switzerland, they’ve toured America, and they say that MU330 is the best ska band in the world, but that they’ve just been totally overlooked by the mainstream. And then you’ve got bands like Less Than Jake and Reel Big Fish, that are hugely popular but they’re just not as good!
RN: I guess it’s just because those guys were on bigger labels. So yeah moving back to the interview. What do you want out of the band? You wanna be as big as Less Than Jake?
J: Oh yeah I want to be as big Metallica. My aim’s to be as Metallica.
M: Yeah I think that the sort of bands that say they don’t want to be big are lying. Yeah we would love everyone in the entire world to love us, and to be the biggest band in the world. But at the same time we have a certain way in which we would like to get there. And we’re not going to compromise our values for other people.
J: I think probably the most basic aim of what we want to do with our music is simply to make a living from it. Yeah it’d be nice to make a fairly alright living off the band, but I’m not too bothered about being the richest people in the world, but it’d be nice to live off the band and not have to do crappy jobs that we’re having to do at the moment.
M: Yeah at the moment on tour we’re living off £3 or £4 a day each. Like today…
N: But that’s the same with everyone to be fair.
M: Yeah it’s the same for most bands. But we find it especially hard at the moment because Nick’s at university so we always have to go home in between gigs, and for me, I quit my job about a year ago so when we’re at home I have no money at all, and I sit at home and it’s really tough not having anything.
J: Yeah to make money would be brilliant. But it’s a bit of a touchy subject for some people, the whole ambition thing, people are very quick, are too quick to label bands like that sell out.
M: And it’s not true at all. I mean if you’ve ever come across a touring band it’s fucking hard. But yeah apart from anything else I’d just like to make a living off this, being in a band, that’s all I’ve ever wanted to do, so being in a band would be amazing.
RN: So are you still all living at home?
M: Yeah we all live at home.
J: Oh well Steve doesn’t, our bassist, and Nick doesn’t. But me and Matt both do.
N: Come next year I’ll be in the same position.
J: And yeah Steve only lived in a student house this year, he’s going to have to move onto someone’s floor next year so it’s not exactly comfortable living.
M: He is actually sleeping on his mates floor next year. (laughs)
RN: At least he’s getting to stay somewhere for free.
J: Well actually he has to contribute a bit to rent, and a bit towards food money and stuff, every week!
RN: So do you think you ever will be able to make enough to live off from the band?
J: I reckon we can it just depends on the extent of it.
M: Yeah it is possible. I mean the thing is, there’s, there’s… I can’t really speak for the whole band, but in my mind there’s a right way and a wrong way of doing it, and that’s not even for every band, but there’s a right way, and that way might be completly different for someone else, and I don’t want to pass judgement on any other band, but for us, to make a living is totally possible, like we’ve got… we’re all ambitious to keep moving on and to keep progressing.
N: More people are starting to like us as well, we’re selling more albums and stuff.
J: I think also the amount of money you need to make a living changes as you grow up. I mean if you have a kid, or have a family then suddenly that’s going to make your cost of living that much more, while we’re young it’s alright for us because all we have to do is pay rent or whatever, but if you’ve got a kid or whatever then it becomes more expensive.
N: We’re probably all going to try and get a house together to try and save money some time next year.
M: Yeah once Nick’s left… Nick screwed up a year at uni and so…
N: Yeah I actually failed two years of uni, I just got the grades for my second year back. (laughs)
M: So if we can afford to do it then we’re going to do it. Because another thing is that it takes so fucking long to get to gigs because I have to leave my house like an hour and half before everybody else, and then everyone else…
J: Could I just cut in here Neil from Lightyear’s walking up there (laughs) what he’s doing here!
M: Oh yeah we saw him earlier…
J: Is he coming tonight?
M: No, no, I think they’re playing a show in Harlow.
J: Sorry that was a bit disruptive I apologise for that. It’s just it’s not everyday that you see him strolling down the road! (laughs) Someone’s gonna mug him I reckon! (laughs)
RN: OK what do you think of the UK ska scene at the moment?
N: Ska, or punk in general?
RN: Just ska really, but if you wanna do both then go for it!
M: I think the UK scene is both brilliant, and fucking awful at the same time. Like I think that – it’s perhaps a bit of a taboo – but I think that there’s so many bands at the moment that… they’re good bands, but they sound like every other ska band that I’ve ever heard! And like to me ska has always throughout, since ska started, it’s always been about incorporating a ska rythm and changing it a little bit, and not sounding like everyone else, and I think that there’s a lot of bands in the country at the moment. Compared to America and other places I think England, every band, or at least every band at a touring level just about sounds completly different, and everyone’s really trying to push the boundaries. Like Adequate 7 aren’t so much ska but everyone’s kind of parcelled them into that thing, and NoComply, Ye Wiles…
N: Yeah NoComply are 80s metal attack all the way… (laughs)
M: You know what I mean… all the bands that are starting to tour are sounding entirely different and in my opinion that’s why they’re starting to tour because people like them because they don’t sound anyone else. But there are a lot of bands around the country that sound like everybody else, but maybe that’s just because we tour so we get to see up and down the whole country. Like alot of bands that aren’t touring tend to sound like each other… But then again when we first started we sounding like everybody else so I don’t know whether it’s just that when you first start you kind of take a while to find your own sound. So I think in one respect the good points totally outweigh the bad points, but there are things that just niggle away at my brain occassionally.
J: It’s weird though. There’s a scene, there’s definetly a group of bands who are in the ’ska punk’ scene or whatever, so if you play in that scene then like you must be that style of music, you know what I mean? Like Adequate 7, like you said are more of a funk sound who happen to have horns, we’re like a rocky band with some ska and horns, you know what I mean? And NoComply aren’t really a ska punk band, but we all kind of get lumped together because we all have horns, and do the occassional offbeat thing, you know what I mean, it gets lumped quite often. Never mind!!! (laughs)
M: I think the whole thing of different genres and things with our band is kind of the hot topic of conversation. We’re always talking about it just because it’s kind of, we have jokes about it every time we turn up at a venue and there’s a poster on the wall like giving us a different description of what we’re suppossed to sound like, and sometimes it’s totally bang on what we think we sound like, and other times it’s like… well the other day we turned up and it said ‘Ska punk with lots of brass’, when we only have one horn player at the moment! The whole people putting bands into different genres it kind of really pisses me off, I don’t really understand why people have to do that but in terms of just the ska scene I think it’s really good, but I think there are a couple of things that I’d like to see some people get away from, you know what I mean?
J: I think the UK scene though in general is on the up. More people are going to shows from what I can tell, and there are a lot of really good bands out there, as you say there are a couple who maybe aren’t so good, but in general it’s pretty strong at the moment.
M: Yeah it’s definetly bigger than it’s ever been!
J: I think there’s a lot of people working very hard to do new things and I think that’s really good.
N: Except perhaps in Coventry where there are only ever two people, ever! (laughs)
RN: Was that the promotor and a friend?
N: No it was two paying people. There were seven including the other band. We didn’t really know what we should do, so we played musical chairs and it was great fun! (laughs)
RN: Did you actually make an effort to play well?
M: Yeah, actually we were thinking about it before and we were all like, ‘You don’t have to bother playing if you don’t want to we can just give them their money back and send them home!’ And we just thought, well we’ve driven all this way, and if they’re paying to come watch us play, the least that we can do is play so…
J: … yeah it’s probably the best we’ve actually played this week (laughs)
N: Someone bought a CD as well, so it’s all good.
M: It kind of doesn’t make a difference if there are people there or not.
RN: Did you get payed for the show?
M: Yeah, well we were on a guarantee, and they actually paid it, which is really odd because normally in a situation like that they’d just say, ‘No way, we can’t afford it!’ But they just gave us the money no questions…
N: …which is really good.
M: The Peacocks didn’t even play and they were on twice as much money as we were, and they got their guarantee as well!
J: I think that’s good. Obviously promoters, like DIY level promotors it’s a bit different, but I think that this was run a bit more like a business I think that’s the difference… I think it’s good for the band in some ways when it’s run like a business because you know you’re going to get your money, the idea of a guarantee, but sometimes the shows aren’t so good…
M: Yeah, yeah!
J: … Like it’s difficult to know, I mean we need to know if we’re driving all that way that we’re going to get our guarantee because it’s not exactly high.
M: I totally agree. The DIY gigs are the best gigs, like I don’t think anyone can say that you’ll have more fun at some massive venue. The other day we played in some tiny little venue in Canterbury (that’s spelt wrong isn’t it?!?! – edd) to like forty people and it was amazing, I had such good fun, but then I guess you can play the LA2 (the mean fiddler kids) and still have fun. It’s just, it’s totally different. DIY shows in my opinion are so much more fun, there’s no stage, none of this fucking pretentious band stuff, you’re just there playing and it’s just way more fun.
N: We’re going off on a total tangent here! (laughs)
J: Personally I do prefer having a stage and having monitors but I do prefer having say a 200 person capacity venue. I find that quite fun.
RN: Yeah I actually like having some kind of stage as well, cause that way you can dance about and you don’t have to worry about hitting the band or anything.
J: Yeah, yeah!
RN: What question would you like to be asked cause I’ve run out of questions here! (laughs)
J: I’d like to ask Matt if he’ll go out on a date with me. (laughs)
M: No because you have curly hair and glasses!
RN: His hair’s too short for it to be curly.
M: Ahh no I’m sorry you’ve got to wait for it to be long. It’s curly!
J: Yeah I used to have it Kirk Hammet 80s style. (laughs)