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Anthems Fanzine - April 1996

Interview with Jake Starr conducted by Zak in April 1996

1. I read somewhere you met Adam West actually. Were you let down by his weight problem, because I was when I met him, it was like he was not Batman?

He did the Morton Downey, Jr., radio show a couple years ago and said he had heard of us and wished us luck. Then when he did his autobiography, "Back to the Batcave," in 1994, I contacted his publicist and she was gonna set up a book signing at the Hard Rock Cafe in DC and let us play. Unfortunately, he sketched out and canceled, so I haven't heard from him since. He looks alright for a 65-year-old man, but he ain't Batman no more!

2. So I hear there is quite a local buzz about you guys in the DC area. What is about you guys that people like?

I think people like our energy on stage and our total disregard for what's "popular" in DC right now. We're really energetic live and I think that sense of desperation or that sense that something crazy is about to happen thrills people. Chicks dig it, what can I say? ha-ha!

3. Do you think that people are sick of the Dischord sound in DC?

I know I fucking am! I grew up with the first wave of Dischord (Minor Threat, Government Issue, etc.) and that was great to see that shit as a teenager. Then the second wave hit with Embrace, Rites of Spring, Gray Matter, King Face, and that was cool too. Washington was always so prolific with having so many good bands. But in the past 5-6 years, it's been nothing but garbage. Dischord has always been extremely clique-ish and elitist and I'm glad I've had nothing to do with them.

4. You guys have had like a million different line-ups, tell the story.

ADAM WEST started with me and my high school friend, Bill Crandall. Bill and I were into mod in high school and he had some great local mod bands (Mach Five, Modest Proposal, The Mondays!). Anyway, we finally joined forces officially in late '91 and hooked up with a friend of Bill's, Ray Wiley. Ray was playing with a bassist and a drummer, Tom Barrick. The five of us started playing together after one rehearsal. When the bass player didn't work out, we got Andy Rapoport, who was in DC's King Face. They were, in my opinion, the best DC band outside of Minor Threat. Andy had recently returned from a year in England in the summer of '92 and was ready to play.

We were a mix of the early Stones, the Chocolate Watchband, Soundgarden, and the Stooges. After playing everywhere and recording enough for full-length album, we got rid of Ray in February '94 cuz he wasn't really fitting in image-wise and playing style. We never had any money, so we never released an LP. I've got 14 killer pop/punk songs written by Bill and me ready to go that no one's ever heard! That CD should come out soon as "five the hard way!" Anyway, after recording the Misfits "Cough/Cool" as a joke, we released it as a fan-club single limited to 100 copies. They went fast!

So here it is: 1994, and we're playing up in NYC and everything seems to be falling into place. We played up in NYC at CBGBs on Nov. 8, 1994, and afterwards Bill decides he's moving to Prague, Czech Republic, and doesn't wanna be a musician anymore. Andy decides he's gonna move up to NYC and become and actor! So I'm majorly pissed cuz i feel we're really gonna break soon with some label interest. Tom and I spoke and decided to carry on the band, but in a new direction. I wanted something harder a la the MC5, which Bill wasn't willing to do.

So I put an ad in the paper and found Johnny Epiphone and Steve. We started writing songs immediately and played our first gig a couple of months later, like early March '95. This line-up was cool for awhile, until we started to have problems with Johnny: his attitude and his playing. He goes to Australia for a month and I decide to add a second guitarist. We knew James Marlowe but didn't think he'd be interested. His band, Death Camp Skinny, was straight-ahead punk and I wasn't sure if he'd dig our more rock-n-roll sound. We jammed with him and he was incredible! Johnny gets back from Australia and wants to have a "band meeting." He was upset with all kinds of things, so he just quit and James has been our guitar player since January '96.

We're doing mostly new material written with him, but we still do "beauty," "dying sun," "i get a sensation," "little sister," and "compulsion."

5. Is there a feeling of excitement in the DC area, like with a lot of participation, fanzines, distros, and stuff?

After the seattle-hype-thing wore down, people were talking about DC like it was the new hotspot. I mean, Velocity Girl got picked up by Sub Pop, Jawbox got signed by Atlantic, Shudder to Think got signed to Epic, and recently Tuscadero got signed to Elektra, I think. We have nothing to do with those bands, so I hope a musical "style" isn't expected of DC bands that wanna get signed. We just do what we like and the record companies will just have to dig it, not the other way around.

6. I'm going to ask you about some punk issues now, what do you think of the whole major label vs. indie label question?

I think indie lables are where it's at. They take much more care in working with the bands they're involved with and that's the way it should be. Unfortunately, indies don't always have the capital to finance a band properly. I'd like to do music the rest of my life, and it'd be nice to not have to worry about rent or food for a change, dig? I hate the way majors have treated bands I know who have been signed. Four out of five times it was just a tax write-off and the bands have gotten screwed. Fuck that! If we were to sign with a major, it'd have to be a full-control deal without a lot of hassles. I don't think that kind of recording contract exists anymore.

7. There are some people, like Face To Face, who feel it is only music and others who want to keep the scene totally underground, to me I feel if you carry punk ideas, and love the music, then the scene will open up to you, how do you feel?

If you're tapped into the underground scene, then it's cool. But that kind of "us vs. them" attitude is so high school. Music should be enjoyed by everybody that can access it. We've had fratboys come to our shows and totally dig us. So what if they listen to Hootie, too! Maybe back in 1980 it was cool to have a closed-in clique of coolness, but that's bullshit in the grand scheme of things.

8. Do you feel jealousy or pity towards bands like Green Day and The Offspring?

I'll be honest: I liked Green Day much better when they were the Buzzcocks. The Offspring symbolize everything that's wrong with "punk rock" today. Every video I see of theirs, their singer wears five different brand-spanking-new "punk rock" t-shirts like the Germs or the Pistols. What a joke! I do have to say that I feel angry when I see how popular those bands are and I think it's totally undeserved. Then there's a real band like the Cows that's 100% overlooked by MTV. It's all fucking wacked!

9. What is some of the stuff you are listening to now?

One band I can't get enough of is Monster Magnet. Ever since I got their first 7", I've been hooked. I think Dave Wyndorf is a fucking genius in the studio. I've liked Big Chief and all the different stuff they've done over the years. I'm one of the biggest Misfits fan on the planet; their CDs never leave my player. Which also leads to Samhain and Danzig stuff. We, or at least I, have been compared to Danzig and I take that as a full-on compliment. I think he's one of the best singers ever.

10. If people want to see you and find the shows, how would they do that?

The most updated inforrnation is on our website http://www.access.digex.net/~yield/adamwest.html Also, I encourage everybody to e-mail me at jyas@loc.gov whenever they'd like and I'll give them the most current info. We have a fan club that gives away stickers and t-shirts, so get in touch, people!

11. I heard you guys are recording a new CD, when is that going to be coming out around?

New CD, "mondo royale," should be out sometime this summer. In the meantime, we have a split 7" with Bubblegum Christ out in April, and fan club single #2 with "Halloween/She" and "Search & Destroy" out in June. Both are limited on colored wax, so get it while they're in my hands.

Thanx Jake! Zak & Anthems Fanzine thank you for all your help!


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