Published Apr 30, 2008What are you doing right now?
Im downloading three fonts from the computer. Somebody sent them to me. Im putting out a record on my label, and I have to send them to the person putting them out. The next thing Im putting out is a seven-inch by a band called Partyfowl, and a DVD that has No Age, Mika Miko, and like 20 other bands on it.
Were you in other bands before Wives?
In ninth grade I was in a band called the Gromitts, I sang in that band. In the tenth grade I was in a straight edge band called Unit End, and in grade 11 I was in a band called Aspirin Kid, and that was an emo-ish band. I was in all sorts of shit. All different variations of punk and hardcore. Ive been in a band since I was 13. I wasnt in a band for like three years when I was between 18 to 20. I made art and stuff.
Theres no question that No Age are a punk band, but what is a punk band?
I believe it is in attitude and execution and how we do things. Its DIY, and playing music that you want, and not really trying to play music for anything other than pure enjoyment. To me, that seems pretty punk. Experimenting is pretty punk too. The most punk dudes I know are experimenting in bands and music. In theory, its the mentality, but you could hear a jazz band thats weird, and its the attitude. We have a friends band called Soiled Mattress and the Springs, that I think are punk. They have keyboard, saxophone and drums. They sort of sound like Herbie Hancock, like jazz-rock fusion, and I dunno, their attitudes, the way they do things, theyre in that network where they tour with punk bands and make their own posters and stuff. I mean, you could say you know what punk music is, it needs to be really fast or aggressive, but thats not really the case I think.
A lot has been said about the bidding war that resulted in you signing with Sub Pop. Were there actually a number of labels fighting to sign you? How did you choose Sub Pop?
Yes. There were a lot of people that we thought were really great labels, a lot of people that we would have loved to have gone with, but its hard when theres eight to ten people that you think are really cool that want you to be on their baseball team. Its hard to choose from. Maybe SXSW last year, we went out to New York and someone wrote a review about us in the New York Times and I think it started there. It was a hard choice, but they have a great history and they were very open to a lot of the ideas we had a lot of the non-musical ideas we had. They seemed really interested in us, and they liked us as fans and as business partners. And, I dunno man, fuckin Nirvana. Theyre really nice people, and after we hung out with them we knew that.
Why not just release No Age records on your own label, PPM?
That was a thought we had. We couldve done that but we feel like signing to a bigger label has allowed us now to put out other records on PPM that maybe more people will know about it, so were still releasing records on PPM like singles and 12-inches from No Age, and other bands. We just thought it would just help, which it has.
Are you at a point where you can do No Age for a living?
Yeah, but No Age is a lot of fucking stuff. No Age is the biggest full-time job Ive ever had. Its No Age, and its managing ourselves, and tour managing ourselves, and printing our own t-shirts, and making our own stickers, and paying our own rent, and buying our own food, and running my own record label. There are all those things that we have to do. We just dont have to also work 40-hour jobs every week. Its a lot of fucking work, but we have people who help us. We dont have a manager or anything, but in our typical fashion were a little different from most people. We have an intern for our band.
What were you doing prior to making No Age your full-time job?
I was a wardrobe stylist assistance on commercials, and Randy was a junior high teacher. Now hes working on a documentary movie about music, punk music, how we know punk music and bands that we know. And right now as we speak hes in Paris filming a skateboard video for a company called Altamont. Its Andrew Reynolds new company, so Randys in Paris with him shooting a film.
Is skateboarding a big part of your lives?
Its less of a big part of my life than it was when I was younger, but we have a lot of friends that skateboard, work for skateboard companies, run skateboard companies and shit. But I think the idea and the culture and stuff, definitely.
Even now, it seems like you could just as easily be featured in Maximum RocknRoll or NME. I just recently ordered some of your vinyl from a distro that specializes in underground thrash and hardcore. Why is it that No Age is able to find acceptance in a broader audience without being shunned by the underground?
We cant get interviewed in Maximum Rocknroll. We were gonna get interviewed, but then they found out that Sub Pop is part major label distribution or something. They were like, "Wait! and I thought that was kinda lame. But its true, and I would say because people like the production. The production is pretty lo-fi still, theres still the record-collecting kinda punk aspect, limited pressings and stuff, but I dont know. I never meant to appeal to those kinds of kids but essentially I am one of those kids. I collect records and I listen to punk. Plus I think were referencing some obscure punk shit. Part would be, "Oh, that sounds like this old band. The second thing would be, maybe its punk but its also art. Theres an art aspect, and I feel like a lot of punk music lacks that. But Ive also read a lot of bad reviews, like "This is art bullshit. Thats totally fine, I dont care. But we play shows with bands like Sex Vid, and theyre our friends. I dont know why we havent been called out more on being lame. Maybe its the spirit, were doing what we want to do. Sub Pops not owned by a major label. Theyre distributed by ADA, which is the same distributor that Kill Rock Stars and Touch and Go go through, and theyre pretty punk, so I dont know. I think just because they sell a shit-load of records that people think its weird.
Its interesting, because a band like Against Me! were singled out as sell-outs long before they signed with Sire.
I dont know, maybe Against Me! is not very good. Theyre fucking cheesy. Weve never said anything like, "Were anarchists. Its one thing, like, youre anarchists, why are you going to capitalise on music? Kids see through that bullshit. Weve never made that claim. I really enjoy making money, and I really enjoy putting out limited vinyl, and I enjoy making obscure, weirder music. But I also like pop music and things like that. I think people just see the realness in it.
From a suburb in Canada, its easier to imagine something like the Smell thriving in a place like Gilman in Berkeley than a place like L.A. Can you describe L.A. from your perspective? How far is it from the Hollywood stereotypes weve heard?
Theres a lot of smog, and Hollywood is really annoying and shitty, and I think people had to create their only culture to exist here and be creative. Its always been like that, punk in the late 70s, bands like the Germs and the Screamers, even bands outside of the L.A. in the suburbs, like Black Flag and the Minutemen, those bands were reacting against the same shit that we are. Police, parents, shitty Hollywood, corporate bullshit. I think its easy for me to see those things and harder for people who live outside because you dont really get to see the underground culture as much. I think its a special place. Not everyone can handle it. I like it that a lot of people dont like it.
The Smell is a very unique place and its run completely by us and our friends. In Canada you have government funding for music, you dont get money for anything here, not to mention running an all-ages venue that keeps a lot of kids out of trouble. Which is something that we all believe in and were also going to make sure something like that stays there until we cant try anymore. Its been shut down twice. Fire marshal, capacity issues, not regulated, but every time something happens, so many people show up to fix it. I used to live in this house, and the Smell got shut down and for three months all the shows got moved to my house. We went to the Smell every day and built fire exits and built another bathroom because its shit. Once its gone youre like, "Fuck, that place is so special. We got really scared and we were like, "We cant let that shit happen again.
People are talking about L.A. as if its the new hot city for amazing bands, and between you guys and Mika Miko, and Abe Vigoda, that doesnt seem too far off. But if it gets too big, will what made your scene so special be compromised? Isnt the beauty of something like the Smell that its so small?
All that stuff doesnt really bother me, because I feel like if you go there and you like it then youre down, and if you dont like it youre not going to go back. Theres not very much to do there if youre not genuinely interested in the music. I guess you could call it hip, but you cant buy alcohol there, its not safe to hang around there, so unless youre really interested in the music and hang out inside, youre not going to hang around. I know a lot of people who dont go there because they cant drink, so its really a place for music enthusiasts. I dont think its threatened. I think its special, Ive been going there for fucking ten years. I think other kids should hear about it and if it gets shut down hopefully someone will start one somewhere else. I think the more people know the better.
Have you found other places in the world that you can identify with as strongly as the Smell?
No. Its just different. In New York or London you have promoters who do shows in the same sort of sense as the Smell, but they dont have a fixed venue. The thing about the Smell is that its just there, we dont have to keep changing the location. But I do think its a very special place. Every time I go back there Im like, "This place is so cool. Its fun to hang out there, its fun to play music there. Most touring bands will find out that you dont really get paid very much when you go on tour. The Smell does this thing where 70 percent of the door money goes to the bands and the other 30 percent goes to the club, which is unheard of. Usually you get maybe 15 percent. Youre getting more than half, and theres no bar. Its really cool.
Its commonly known that you are both vegan. Are you straight edge as well? What happened to this sort of idealism that used to be a central focus of the DIY underground, and what makes you hang on when no one else seems to?
Ive met a lot of people who care about being vegetarian, people who dont drink, but I guess its not hip and people tend to do whats hip. For us, its more how we eat and how we live. I dont drink, we dont do drugs, but I would never classify myself as straight edge because its pretty macho. Thats another thing, I dont really want to be involved with something thats pretty macho. Not everybodys like that, but I dont really want to have the conversation of, "So, youre straight edge. I heard about some guys in Utah stabbing a guy. Is that what youre about? Id rather drink a fucking beer than have that conversation. But veganism is something we care about strongly. I would never tell anyone how to do anything, but were down to talk about it and show people how to cook if they want.
How do you write lyrics? Is your music meant to be an outlet for your social and political beliefs, or are the two kept somewhat separate?
No, but thats very intentional because I feel like, coming from a place growing up listening to Fugazi and Minor Threat and stuff, I feel like its a little overbearing. Id rather show someone something by example then by telling them how to do something. And I believe it sort of loses the message when youre a band singing about anarchy and selling records and driving a car. You cant really escape being a hypocrite, so an easy way to avoid it is I kind of write personal, political prose. I write poetry. I basically write dumb fucking punk lyrics. Its easy for someone to pinpoint you, and I dont want to make it so easy for someone to call me an asshole. So I have a car, and Im not always a good person. You can talk and have discussions and try to lead people in the right direction, but to spout off about messages that youve heard of or that youve read, it just doesnt seem interesting to me or Randy. Come to our shows and youll see how we do it.
It seems like you write songs so quickly. How do you write songs?
Keep it really simple. A lot of times well write a song that just has one part, and if it sounds done, its done. There have been songs that weve tried to finish, and if it takes too long then we scrap it. Theres been songs that weve not finished since we started. Usually it comes really quick. Usually, its just one or two parts. I think if it needs to be more than that then maybe its not that good of a song. If you cant listen to one part for five minutes or two minutes then maybe its not that good. Im not very musical, but Ill maybe come up with a concept or an idea, and Ill explain it to Randy and hell try to make music that sort of sounds like that. "We should have a song that reminds me of the Urinals, but it should sound like a flower growing out of the fucking dirt. It gets dark sometimes, like "Lets write a song that sounds like youre about to die. Randy will write parts, and I make a lot of samples, so well sometimes build songs out of weird samples.
What is the defining sound of a No Age song? Have you ever thrown out a song because it didnt fit as a No Age song?
Weve gotten rid of songs because they werent good, but I dont think weve ever gotten rid of songs because they werent No Age songs. The whole idea is that we started a band to write whatever kind of music we wanted to. Thats why it all kind of sounds different I think. We were like, "I love this band, this band and this band, I wonder what it would sound like if we put them on top of each other. Theres stuff that we didnt put on this new record that just didnt work, but I wish it did. Theres just like weird acoustic guitar country stuff that couldve been on there but just didnt fit. We just want to play whatever we want. I dont really think theres a No Age sound, we just want to play whatever. The same with the songs, they should be recorded how theyre supposed to be, thats why theyre all recorded differently.
Did Sub Pop have any notes or suggestions for Nouns?
Nope. I think thats why we went with them. The first thing they said was, "We just want you to do exactly what youre doing. And we keep asking them for stuff and they keep saying yes, and its kind of cool. Like they let us put out a 78-page book with our CD. Photos, video stills, some black and white photocopy art Randy and I made, lyrics, and a lot of shit.
Releasing vinyl and putting out a book with your CD - is this a reaction to downloading?
Im a fan of downloading, but I think vinyls already more popular than it was like a year ago. I think people are not sick of downloading, because its inevitable and sort of amazing that you can get anything, but I think it makes you appreciate vinyl more, like a giant. So, yeah I think it is a reaction to that. We could have just put it out digitally. We just wanted to make a book, but I dont care about the fucking CD. We wanted to do the book with the vinyl, but it was too expensive.
Could there be more members?
Yeah totally, we just havent done it yet. There are really no rules in how we write. Really, if you listen to both of the records, but more in the new one, theres a whole ambient song, theres one thats just a drum sample and piano and guitar, and then theres one thats an acoustic guitar with weird fucking bird sounds. To us we think its awesome. Im glad were a band that can do that. I think thats what we set out to do. Because sometimes, like I said, Randy wants to write a country song and I think thats the No Age style too. Sometimes I just want to write a song that sounds like Screeching Weasel or something. Once you get to know us, it makes sense. I have a huge record collection and I like pretty much all the stuff I have, so I dont think were going to stop making interesting sounding music for a long time. Theres a lot of shit to reference still.
How did you approach Nouns differently from the songs on Weirdo Rippers? Was it written with an entire album in mind or were the songs written separately?
It was different but we sort of liked the way that we did Weirdo Rippers so we actually wrote a shit-load of songs for Nouns and then took it down the same way. We probably wrote close to 18 songs and brought it down to 12. A lot of them didnt get recorded. One of the songs, we literally recorded on our own the day before we mastered it. Its one of the instrumental ones, "Impossible Bouquet. "Things I Did When I Was Dead was recorded right when we were done too.
Why is early 80s hardcore, and especially Black Flag, so popular right now?
I think people are starting to realise how important they were. All these bands are citing them as an influence. I think This Band Could Be Your Life, that book, came out American Hardcore, We Jam Econo people can get more media now, people are understanding this stuff more. There wouldnt be touring bands without Black Flag. They were the first band to tour, them and D.O.A. Bands that reference those things are okay, I think its good. But I think the whole idea behind [the original L.A. punk bands] is that they werent referencing anything. They were playing music, they were trying to be like so fucking anti-parent, and they were trying to be so anti-music really. I always think they were trying to make aggressive noise music. Now MTV has made hardcore just like Disney, so now, to me, its a bunch of kids making actual noise music, like harsh noise that is hardcore to me. Its anti-parent, its anti-music, just trying to be as harsh as you can. That shits so rad. I love going to those shows because its just young kids with huge PAs playing harsh, harsh noise, and theyre so into it. To me thats hardcore.
But those bands seem to be coming from a negative reaction to the world around them, and No Age seem to give off a more positive vibe, for lack of a better term. Where does this come from?
Yeah, I dont think were a hardcore band. Thats what people got into it more. I think kids especially need something to relate to, and I think those bands were good for that, and in the Reagan era kids were being told they were nothing. Our whole thing is that were just positive in general. We play all-ages shows, and we want kids to come. We want kids to start bands. I think that would be amazing. The world would be fucking awesome if every kid was in a band.