At this year's Smokeout 2003, I got together with Fletcher from Pennywise to discuss some important issues, not only about the band but about the prevalent message behind the band. Fletcher has been known for doing crazy stunts such as vomiting all over Dr. Drew in KROQ's show, Loveline, or threatening to take over the studio when invited again to the show. Yet, behind the crazy stories, there's a smart man that discusses the issues of the world in a rational manner, and calls for America to wake up and learn to reprimend its government like a good parent shall. He also talks to us about Britney Spears' stage secret, Rancid's entrance into the major's games, free porn in Europe, and what he thinks of Eminem.
You guys are getting played on [major Los Angeles rock station] KROQ again with this new album, how is that happening so often?
With us, they just liked our record. And every once in a while they'll give a band a shot, which is not as known to the radio stations. They did the same thing with The Offspring, Sublime, you know. So every once in a while they really like a band that they put on there themselves. "Alien" was the first one they played. They heard that and said, fuck we love this, and started playing it. We are like hey. OK whatever, I mean you know they can play it whether or not you want them to, but you know we are from L.A. and we used to listen to KROQ. I mean they used to play Black Flag and Dead Kennedys and Adolescents in their early days. So it's cool you know, we have a good relationship with them. But a lot of bands are pretty much paying to get in there in a way because they are taking ad time and putting a lot of money to have people promote their records. We are really not on that many radios across the country. So everyone in LA thinks we are huge. I mean we do good but we are not huge. We are not Linkin Park let me tell you. They have a nice motor home.
Yeah I bet they have several ones. "Here let me show you around."
Yeah a special one for press.
What went on at the Halloween Show considering the black out?
The crazy thing that happened was that my girlfriend and our drummer got trapped in the elevator. They were just heading down stairs as the black out had happened and they were trapped in the elevator for 45 minutes and the fire department had to come and rescue them. I was looking all around the club with a flash light going, where the fuck did she go. It was pretty sketchy. It was kind of panicky because there was no emergency lights or anything.
I'm sure the people were pretty pissed off. That ruins the whole night right there. We went to a party down the street. Eric Nova from NOFX was having a party with like 200 people so we went to that.
Would you say this record was especially more about the message than the music?
Always more about the message with Pennywise. I'm not a lyricist. I write a little bit here and there and stuff and playing the music is really important, but I can even say that no matter what I do with this music, the message is more important. I mean there's certain types of bands where the lyrics don't have much meaning and they are just cruising, and the music is really catchy and fun to listen to, but with us, what we are singing about is so important a lot of times, it outweighs the music. Even if we were singing rap or trip hop, the music is more important to us.
Has living this lifestyle given you a better awareness of this world?
For us yeah because we get to travel the world and we get a lot of different views of how different countries live and how different societies work. It's been really enlightening to go to places like Europe and see where they are really connected to the government and they are really conscious about important things. In America, the more we travel, it just seems like America just doesn't give a fuck. All they care is about getting their fast food, getting their DVDs, buying the Mercedes or BMW, getting the big house. But the problem is, because there are so many people that are living like that. You know, they are really complacent in their surroundings and they are not really keeping an eye on the government. The government is doing all this bullshit, and now we have people hitting America. It's been 300,000 this time. I say next time is going to be a million people. In places like Europe, Australia and Japan, they are more focused and they work more as a whole I think. We don't have any say in what our government is doing overseas. No one is paying attention. Our news is totally one sided so we just see what we want them to see. It's very dangerous because the innocent people are the ones that are going to be the victims you know. They are not going to go kill the president or the people that are making the bad decisions, they are going to kill the people. I don't know a lot about politics. I don't pretend to because I think it's all bullshit. Everything you know is a lie to begin with, because I mean, how far do you want to research, how far do you want to go? You need to go inside the White House to really know what's going on. I see what I see and I have my opinions, but, being able to travel the world you get a different idea of what things can be like in different countries and it's been pretty educational.
It's crazy, like in Amsterdam you know, marijuana is legal, hash is legal. Prostitution is legal, hey, if they are going to do it, might as well make it safe. There's so many things that America is behind schedule on. You know, no cussing on TV, no nudity. It's like oooh scary! No one says fuck, no one gets naked I mean. You know, you go to Europe, and you are like, oh shit, porno? Let's just turn on the TV.
And for that reason the environment seems healthier, it's all out in the open.
Yeah and you go to their beaches, and you see girls with their boobs showing, and you go, she's got nice tits, and then you don't think about it anymore. You know, in America, it's all covered up and it creates a bunch of freaks man. It's a body, that's all it is. We are really behind man. We are supposed to be one of the most modern countries in the world? We are, with technology and shit like that, but when it comes to like, human spirit and being natural humans, we are totally behind, totally fucking behind.
Do you think there's a chance to snap people in the United States out of it?
How many people live here? Over here you see bullshit everywhere, even in the religions. Over in Europe it feels nicer, like it's real. Over here it's just people taking advantage so we live in a fucking sick motherfucking country. I love it here, I love my freedom, I love what I can do here, but we have a lot of fucking things that we have to fix here, and that's why we write songs about it. And some people get really upset about that you know. Like fuck Pennywise they don't like America. You idiot, we love America.
Yeah, it's like a parent should treat its child.
Right, if you turn your back while your kid is doing heroin, and you just pretend like you don't know about it. That's bad parenting. If you go, what the fuck are you doing, that's a good parent you know. It just shows you how some people are.
Yeah and it's sad because the music industry is bombarding you with pop, and the media with nonsense.
Yeah look at that shit, like Britney Spears. I went to her concert because my friend worked for her. She doesn't even fucking work, she doesn't even sing her songs. It's lip synch. You are at her concert and she's up there lip synching to a fucking tape. I mean, I know it for a fact because of my friend. What the fuck? It's just bullshit. The entertainment business is bullshit globally. America is just feeding people shit all the time but that's just fucked up.
Do you think there's a way to get a coalition of artists together and raise this message to a broader audience?
What we are singing about, not a lot of people want to hear about it. They'd rather hear a love song than hear a song about fuck the government. So you are playing to a smaller audience. I think punkvoter.com is a good outlet that is getting the message out to people, and I think there's other ways. But as far as music is concerned, unless you do sell out, unless you start writing out shit that isn't really the band, then, who knows. Maybe we'll write a song in our next record that will sell 10 million records, a song that we love. "Fuck Authority" was on KROQ and we love that song, and we really mean it. That was the best thing that could happen to Pennywise was having a song called "Fuck Authority" on national radio. That was a really high point for me just thinking we really conquered the system because we get to sing a song about this on public radio!
What do you think of Rancid's move into a major label?
Yeah I don't agree with it. I'm good friends with those guys and I respect them. My policy is kind of like, whatever you want to do, you can do. I'm going to tell you that I don't like it, that it's a bad idea. I told it to H20, I told it to Unwritten Law, I told it to a lot of bands you know. And sure enough they all got fucked over in the end. I think they are going to learn the hard way. I told it to Bad Religion and they are back at Epitaph. They make a decision based on what they think it's good of the band. It's not of my business. It's not for Pennywise. I think punk rock is about being independent, it's about having control, and when you get to a major label, I think they draw you in making you think, "oh they are so cool they make us do whatever we want," and it doesn't always happen that way. So at the end of the day maybe it works for them maybe it doesn't. I think the label thought that Rancid was going to be a much bigger band with this record and I don't think it was up to the expectations. So now what's going to happen if the label says, you know, we didn't sell enough records, we are unhappy with you, we are not going to put the next record out. So you know, I mean, whatever they want to do. I like Rancid, I don't like major labels.
What have you been listening to lately, outside of punk?
I listen to everything. I listen to rap, or hip hop or whatever you want to call it. I like the classic stuff like N.W.A., I like Eminem. I'm more of a fan now of Eminem than I was in the past because I think he was kind of irresponsible earlier, but now he is kind of turning around and being a little more serious. I think he is a really talented guy. I might not agree with some things he's said in the past but you know. I listen to reggae, I listen to Bob Marley, I listen to oldies, and Dismortal Coil, Badly Drawn Boy and Morrissey.
The main stuff you are going to hear me listen to is old school punk rock. Newer bands are bands like Death by Stereo, I love Rage Against the Machine, I love Pantera. I just like anything that is real I think. I don't listen to pop, I don't listen to pop punk, I can't get motivated to buy it. Pop punk is pop with a little bit of distortion on guitars.
My punk influence has come from bands like Black Flag, Minor Threat, Adolescents, and the Descendents; the shit that was the first experiences for me in life.
And Social D is still playing around!
Yeah we just played with them a couple of weeks ago.
Are they coming out with an album?
Yup, should be good man. They are a fucking great band. I used to see Social D when they were a three piece band, when they had a drummer, bass player and Mike Ness playing guitar and singing. The drummer became the bass player later. This was like in 1981.
That's when I was born!
That's the thing, I always tell people I used to go to punk shows before you were born! Shady little kids stealing cars and going to punk rock shows.
Author: Arturo Perez
Photography: Arturo Perez