His name is synonymous with So-Cals’ punk rock history. He’s a road dog. He’s a lifer. In a career spanning more than 20 years, the man has achieved things which most of today’s ‘pre-packaged for the masses’ bands will only be able to dream of. Indirectly, he has influenced and inspired many youth who found meaning in punk rock, both past and present. He is Joey Cape and he happily took a break from mastering to chat about hes new record Doesn’t Play Well With Others.
While the approach is nothing new, Cape has decided to release one track a month over the course of a year rather than putting a record straight on the market. He muses that a desire to avoid “bureaucracy” propelled him to embrace the concept. “I think it was years of being a band and just dealing with, for lack of a better word, ‘bureaucracy’. When you’re in a band it’s great but one of the downsides is that you have to concur with everyone’s schedules and everybody has to sign off on some things and there is just a lot of time spent on the bureaucracy of it all.”
“Not to mention generally you have a record label and they have to have room … in their release schedule,” he adds. “Whereas if I’m doing this kind of thing as a solo artist I can respond to my whims and can release music more frequently.”
This new release isn’t tied to any record label. Cape has taken it upon himself to manage, well, everything. “There is nothing sinister about it, or weird about it,” he says. “It’s just straight up, ‘here’s my music that I like, that I’m making and if you like it you can get it’.”
“It is kind of a pure connection sort of thing. I make a song, then I make a little video and put it on YouTube then I go to Facebook, Twitter, whatever and I let people know who are following me that I’ve got a new song out and if they want it they can get it.”
“There is no middle-man, I suppose Paypal takes a cut of the money but they’re giving money basically directly to me to support my habit and it’s a pretty cool thing.”
The Lagwagon frontman initially envisaged his third solo release as a traditional record release featuring a bevy of guest musicians. Cape readily acknowledges the irony of the title: Doesn’t Play Well With Others as well as its underlying truth. “If you make a solo record, it’s kind of appropriate to call it Doesn’t Play Well With Others, especially for me,” he says.
“I’m not the easiest guy to get along with, self-confessed. But, that said, I have so many friends that play music, that are great musicians, that are great to play and work with that I had more and more people guest on the songs. Then I thought, ‘this is a good idea, I’ll stick with the title but instead of playing everything, I’m just going to have as many people on my record as possible’.”
“Truth is, it changed; I didn’t release the record all at once and now I’m doing one song a month so now it’s getting back to more of the middle. The irony isn’t quite as alive as it was as I’m recording all the songs myself.”
“But I do, I have a lot of musicians on these songs. I just mixed one the other day that had a pedal steel guy on it, some of these instrument are obviously ones I can’t play. I could try but it wouldn’t sound as sweet, ” he says.
Expect an atmosphere at these shows that is a world away from the screeching guitars that drive the usual punk rock performance. “I’d say it’s kinda like a camp-fire party. We try to create a real atmosphere like we’re getting together with a bunch of people and drinking and singing songs. A lot of the songs that we play are sad so it’s like, come get drunk, have a laugh and cry with us. I look at it as a synergy thing. You just get together with people, take out the loud stuff that gets in the way of communication and you can just have conversations with the crowd, take requests and try to create some kind of energy like you would at a campfire.”
It is not uncommon to find many punk rockers working on their own acoustic efforts. This is highlighted by the collaborative event know as The Revival Tour which just blew through Australia. Acoustic and punk walk hand-in-hand as pure expressions of oneself. Cape offers two reasons for why these musical forms, while completely different, are completely similar. “I think mostly due to the fact that punk rock music is really similar to country and folk music in its simplicity. The way the songs are written, it’s just automatic to strip them down and they work. But I also think that there is sort of a punk rock element to that atmosphere that can be created at an acoustic show.”
“There is also this thing about stripped back music where it has dynamic and emotion and intensity that is different to loud music but similar in their extremes. When you see a really great acoustic performance, it’s like a really great punk rock performance because it rips your heart out. It has a power to it. It’s what I’m drawn to.”
Cape releases his next track from Doesn’t Play Well with Others in May when we can expect to see him touring with good friend Tony Sly from No Use For A Name. But what selection of songs can punters expect to hear on this tour?
“I mostly play Lagwagon and Bad Astronaut songs when I play live. Mostly due to the fact that I think that’s what people want to hear. I have no problem with that because they’re all songs that I’ve written. They all originated that way, with an acoustic, so it’s an equal pleasure.”
If you’ve read this far, you’ll want to know the answer to the million dollar question: where are Lagwagon at right now? Joey assures me that things are happening despite the departure of original bassist Jesse Buglione at the end of 2008.
“Jesse called it and he had a long time ago and I think we weren’t accepting his resignation. It wasn’t a bad thing at all. It was completely peaceful, but he needs to stay at home and take care of things. I thought that that was that because I didn’t really want to do it without him and I don’t think that the other guys … did either.”
Cape confides that Lagwagon is training a “fill-in”. “He’s an old friend of ours and a great guy who will, most likely, become the bass player in Lagwagon. Right now, he’s in another band anyway so we’re going to Europe in late July-August and tour with this new bass player.”
Pressed, Joey is kind enough to surrender the identity of the mystery bassist. “His name’s Joe Raposo, he was the bass player for Rich Kids on L.S.D.. They’re from where we’re from, Santa Barbara. I used to play with these people in the early 1980s. Now, if he joins our band that means that every single person in our band has played in RKL at one point in their life. It’s a funny thing. It’s kind of weird. They were a big influence on the sound of Lagwagon. They were a band I grew up with and had a lot to do with the songs that we were writing.”
Joey Cape and Tony Sly tour:
Thursday 20th May – Fowlers Live, Adelaide
Friday 21st May – The Brisbane Hotel, Hobart
Saturday 22nd May – Corner Hotel, Melbourne
Sunday 23rd May – Wollongong Uni Bar
Wednesday 26th May – Annandale Hotel, Sydney
Thursday 27th May – Cambridge Hotel, Newcastle
Friday 28th May – Kings Beach Tavern, Caloundra
Saturday 29th May – The Zoo, Brisbane