Jordan Burns of Strung Out

Jordan Burns of Strung Out
There's no shortage of action in the Strung Out camp right now. Kind of surprising, seeing as how the California-based band have been going strong for a shocking (when you sit back and think about it) 17 years. But with a new rarities collection, Prototypes and Painkillers, out now, a new studio album in the works and a Canadian/American tour in May and June, the band are showing no signs of slowing down, despite the fact that drummer Jordan Burns recently wrecked his thumb while hitting the skins and had to sit out for a few shows (among the fill-ins were some lucky fans who entered a contest to play a song with the band), as well as revamp the methods he's always used to record. We caught up with Burns as he was on the road to day one of recording for the band's next album, which tentatively will see the light of day in September.

How is your thumb doing?
I am recovered. I couldn't practice, so I've only practiced playing my drums at full bore for the last four days. It's pretty gnarly how quick you get out of shape. But my thumb seems to be totally in action and mentally I'm ready to kill it. This whole process is going to be so different for me. I never hear the songs completed; when I record, I don't hear the vocals or anything. This time, it's totally different. I've been listening to the songs with vocals; it just creates a completely different vibe to the song, you really get to see what the song's gonna be. I think this recording process is going to be a lot of fun.

And you're going to be touring - you're ready for that?
It's kind of gnarly because we just don't have a lot of time to practice. Which sucks [laughs]. We've got a show coming up next Saturday, we're going to be in the studio all week - I'm hoping to get done within four days - and basically band practice is going to be our show next weekend, then we split on tour. But you just roll with things and you gotta make shit happen. We've definitely been in worse situations many times where you just have to roll with it. So we're rolling with the punches and that's it.

How did the shows with the fill-in drummers go?
It was interesting...

Were you there?
Yeah. It's been pretty difficult for me. Some people have been explaining it, and I guess this would be kinda true, that it's almost like watching someone bang your chick.

To put it eloquently.
I really had to think this through and figure out how to do it. Being at those shows was weird. I couldn't just sit there, so I ended up playing one song per night, holding my stick all funky and just going for it. It was my current drum tech and one of my old drum techs that played for me, so it was cool. Then we had the contest winners that played and that was pretty funny. A guy from Wisconsin played "Scarecrow." He did pretty good. The other two guys played "Mind of My Own," and they did alright. Not spectacular, but I don't think it mattered. It mattered that they just had the time of their life. They emailed us and said, "I'll never forget this," so I think that's the most important part.

How are you feeling about Prototypes and Painkillers?
There are some great songs on there and I think it's cool because it gives a history of the band and the progression of the band. Some of the recordings on there aren't tip-top quality but they are what they are from back in the day when we did it. I think it's cool to leave it on there like that and not try and take them and fix them up with different studio tricks. It's cool to leave it as it is and let it be heard as it was recorded back in the day. Especially songs like "Mad Mad World" or "Ashes," that was recorded in one of their friends' garage, and it was with Brad Morrison, the drummer before me. It gives that perspective of how the song was prior to me. Hopefully on this tour we'll be playing some songs off that album that we haven't been playing so much on regular tours.

When your first album came out, I loved it. As the years went on I went through this phase of not listening to anything pop punk. Then I came back to it a few years ago and discovered all the stuff you guys had done; it was funny because you had changed a lot too over the years. I think it's unfair to call you pop punk.
Yeah, I don't take to that title [laughs]. Our band is so many things. There are a lot of bands that do slip into a category, but our band has everybody creating and writing. We're the variety pack; we might have a pop punk song but yet we have a completely metal or hardcore song too; we have so many different elements in our music. I'm a strong believer in that's how we're still visible in this whole scene - people enjoy what we're doing because it's not the same thing over and over. People will like one album better than the other but you're never going to please anybody.

I think because you're on Fat and you were with that whole first generation of Fat bands you're always going to get called pop punk.
Even from day one, when our first record came out, we never felt like we fit the stereotypical Fat sound. We were always called metal... This isn't patting ourselves on the back, but I always thought we sounded totally different than any of the Fat bands. I don't hear many elements of other Fat bands in our music. Sometimes people say things like "They sound like Pennywise or NOFX." Huh? Where? Obviously everybody is going to listen to things differently but I think you can clearly hear we're nothing like either of those bands.

Have you seen your audience get older as the years go on?
We have our audience that's grown with us and is getting older with us but we're still making new fans. I still see a lot of kids at our shows and I get stoked on that. That means we're drawing new people. I think kids are some of the most important, because they go back and tell their friends and they get on their MySpaces and they really spread the word. I think if you can stay viable to the younger kids you've got something good going.

So you're coming back to Canada; what are your thoughts on touring here?
We've been touring Canada for so long. We're fortunate to have created such a great fan base there. We've been touring there since '95, I believe. We're going to some really cool places on this tour that we haven't been in a little while. And I like getting to some of the smaller cities, like Kelowna and Kamloops and we're going to Christina Lake, which I guess is right by Grand Forks. That show actually sold out instantly, which was so weird. But that's the cool shit about going to small towns - people are so stoked you're going there. We're playing Whistler for the first time ever.

In a sentence or two, how does the new album compare with the last couple?
I'm tough with that type of stuff. The only thing I can say is it's different.