2012, Features, Interviews — April 27, 2012 at 8:27 am

Fletcher Dragge of Pennywise

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“Our message is important, I think people understand it, people are inspired by it and kids need punk rock.  When you come to a punk rock show, you should go berserk.  If you’re drinking – get wasted, if you’re in the pit – beat the shit out of your best friend, then get up, dust yourself off and go back to work on Monday and you won’t have to beat the shit of your boss! It was kind of like punk rock was designed to get it out if your system, an outlet for all these people with pent up aggression….”

Not letting the departure of longtime singer Jim Lindberg stop them in their tracks, Pennywise have hit back hard, in true Pennywise fashion, with their brand new album All Or Nothing.  Led by new singer Zoli Teglas who makes his first album appearance with the band, Pennywise will soon unleash their 40 minutes and 13 tracks of blistering anthemic punk rock.  The title track and first single Let Us Hear Your Voice have already been met with a rabid response worldwide ahead of the release on May 1st, or April 27th if you are here in Australia.

With USA and Europe touring already locked in, expect the band to be coming to a town near you to smash shit up in 2012.  For Australia, that could mean August according to guitarist Fletcher Dragge in our recent interview, but guess we are just going to have to wait and see.  Calling in from Hermosa Beach, Los Angeles, we chatted with founding member, guitarist Fletcher Dragge and delved deep into the making of All Or Nothing and the mindset of the band following the departure of lead singer Jim Lindberg.

Hey Fletcher, thanks for calling in today!  So you have your brand new album All Or Nothing due out very soon, but I think it’s coming out earlier here in Australia.  So what’s the feeling within the Pennywise camp right now in anticipation of the release?
We are definitely excited about the album, it’s our first with Zoli, so it’s a pretty big deal, and it’s also our first album in four years, which is a pretty long turnaround for Pennywise.

The title track has been doing the rounds now for a few weeks, how has the reaction been so far, as far as you can observe?
It’s been really good, 95% positive and 5% haters, who are always going to be there.  The crazy thing about that title track is we premiered it on a radio station over here in L.A, but it wasn’t really for radio.  They put it up on their website as a streaming world premiere for people to go listen to, but the response was so overwhelming that they actually added it into their rotation on radio.  That’s a hardcore punk song to me, it’s not what you would typically hear on the radio next to Coldplay!  The next song we put out was the “real” radio single, I don’t know what they plan to put out over in Australia, but that track over here is Let Us Hear Your Voice.  Those two songs have been up and running for a while and the feedback has been overwhelmingly good and we are pretty blown away by it.

There’s a lot of people out there who are going to be pretty sceptical about Pennywise with a new singer and about Zoli being that new singer because of how he sounds in Ignite.  We went to great lengths to create a new style for him and make him fit in somewhere between Jim and Ignite and I think people who have heard it already have been like “that’s incredible you’ve been able to pull that off”.  Everyone’s really stoked on it, the record company is really stoked, we are really stoked on it as a band and that we have accomplished it, and now we just hope the fans accept it for what it is and at least give it a chance.  It’s just something that we’ve got to wait and see you know.  I think once the fans get the entire album, considering I’m a fan and I like it, I think they’re going to be pretty stoked on the album.

In saying what you just said, I guess the thing with Zoli is that he isn’t really a stranger to Pennywise fans given he has been in the band for a few years performing in a live capacity.  Was that the initial plan, to introduce Zoli to fans via live performance and settle him into the band, before you got stuck into recording a new album?
Yes, that was part of our plan actually.  We initially thought we could go ahead and put a record out straight away with Zoli.  But we were kind of like, “so do we put the record out first and see what everyone has to say about it, or do we tour a little bit and see if people get used to Zoli”?  Any way that we sliced it, it was going to be scary, so we figured if he can go out there and sing the old songs and pay respects to Jim and Jason and what they did, and do it good and in a respectful manner, hopefully we can win some fans over and I think we did.  I think Soundwave in Australia was a really great showing for the band, the fans were hugely supportive, it was awesome, it was one of the best tours we’ve ever done over there in my opinion.  We were blown away by the support of the fans.  We were kind of like, well if the fans go to a live show and they can still sing Bro Hymn and go crazy and it makes them feel good about watching Pennywise, then they’re going to be more accepting of a new album.  If you just throw out an album right away, then the fans might be like, “I’m not really sure about this, I need to see it live”, or they may try and pass judgement on it.  So we don’t know if we were right or wrong with that method of doing things, but at the same time, Jim went out and started another band and released an album and we didn’t want to be competing with the ex-lead singer of Pennywise who had just put out a new album which had some Pennywise’ish songs on there, so we wanted to give him his space to do his thing and for us to come back and do our thing at a later date.  I think in hindsight we made the right decision, we’ve won over fans that came to our live shows and hopefully we’ll do the same when the album comes out.

Obviously having Zoli in the band is a change in itself, but thinking about how the songs evolved for this album and the way you tackled recording the album, was that a significant change to your past few albums?
Absolutely, you know, Jim obviously wasn’t happy with being in Pennywise towards the end.  He wasn’t having fun and there were a lot of different things happening within the band which contributed to albums getting written in a certain way.  I think we got to a point where everyone was scared to say anything to one another.  It got to a point where we didn’t want any problems and things didn’t really get pushed to the next level on the last few albums.  I think they’re good albums, but they suffered because of where we were at.  I can say that now because I’ve seen what’s happened with Zoli who has come in here on this album and saying “this sucks, that songs lame, this lyrics lame”. And we were like, “oh really? well your part sucks, your lyrics are lame”.  As negative as it all sounds, it basically forced everybody to express their opinions and forced those who had written something to either re-evaluate it and write it better, or let someone else step up to the plate.  If someone said, “I don’t like the bridge in this song, it needs to be rewritten”.  We’d be like, “ok well rewrite it and make it better”, and that would happen most of the time.  This time around there was just a lot more communication, nobody was worried about anyone’s feelings getting hurt and we were just going to the mat with this one.  We were fighting the whole the way, but at the same time we could go out to lunch or dinner and hang out at the end of the night laughing about it and it felt like old school Pennywise, you know, you didn’t care, you spoke your mind and you didn’t care what the other person was going to think or feeling.  Like I said, if you tell me my guitar parts crappy and I’ve got 3 guys telling me that it’s shit and I’m still fighting for it, then I’ve got to go, why am I still fighting for it?  If you guys don’t like it, then I need to come up with something else.  It’s that pushing and whilst you don’t want to piss your band mates off, but at the same time, I think you’re going to get your best product.  Sometimes you see these bands that just go downhill, but that’s because nobody is telling the singer or the guitar player and nobody’s telling the truth and saying hey, that’s terrible man, that’s fucking terrible.  Then you put it out to the world and the fans say “that’s fucking terrible, I think you guys are done”.  Unfortunately sometimes it’s the fans that have to tell you it’s bad.  In our case on this album we policed ourselves.  Our producer, Cameron Webb, he was really hardcore on us and pushed us, so it was a way different process on this record.

The choice of album title All Or Nothing, is a pretty direct statement…is that pretty much a direct reflection of the mindset you went into with this album?
That song when we wrote it, wasn’t initially directed at that.  How Pennywise records usually go is we start writing songs and when we feel like we have a good batch of songs and a good direction, things start to take shape a little bit.  That title song came along at the tail end and had been sitting in the background and incomplete.  I had written most of it and Randy had written some lyrics and we put our heads together at the end of it and switched some lyrics around and all of a sudden it was like “this song is totally about where we’ve been going and what we went through”, it was all or nothing right now for us.  Our lives are on the line here, our fans are either going to say, that’s it, I’m done now with Pennywise for fucking good.  Or they could be like, shit these guys pulled it off and we respect what they did here.  So it kind of became apparent that was the theme of the album and that maybe it should be called All Or Nothing.

Nobody wants to lose a lead singer, especially after 20 years and especially one of the greatest punk rock singers of all time, and that’s a blow.  But at the time, we knew this was coming and we were literally on the phone, five minutes after he quit the band, calling up singers and trying people out.  He knew we were going to move forward without him if he chose to quit.  We tried everything in our power to keep him in the band and keep this thing going, but hey, he didn’t want to do anymore.  More power to him, go do whatever he wants and I hope he is happy in his life.  At the same time for us, we had to deliver the goods for our fans and come out swinging at 110% and I think we’ve managed to do that.  I think we have put out the best possible album we could at this point in time.

Did you feel like the punk scene had changed much in the years between your albums?  If so, did this in any way influence your thoughts for this album, or was your focus simply to make an album that was straight out Pennywise?
We basically wanted to make the best Pennywise album we could make.  Obviously Jim was a huge part of the band and the song writing process.  At the same time it was very scary to lose him, it was also very liberating because we knew we were capable of writing an album.  I mean Randy and I have been writing Pennywise songs for a long time.  That’s music, lyrics, melodies, everything and Zolis a great songwriter.  The weird thing is we’ve been around for so long we’ve seen the punk scene come and go, like every 3 years.  We’ve dealt with the ska explosion, we dealt with the pop punk explosion, we dealt with nu-metal, there’s been screamo and emo, all of these different types of music got really popular, but at the same time that was happening, Pennywise and NOFX and Circle Jerks and Bad Religion, or whoever….you know even Frenzal Rhomb or Bodyjar, all of those bands have been playing the music and kept doing their thing and it’s like hey, it’s cool that Blink sold 20million albums or Fred Durst sold 20 million albums, we are still down here, we’re still Pennywise, we’re still doing what we love to do.  If you like what we do, come to our shows and break stuff!  So that was always happening and we didn’t really think about it, but the weird thing is during this time period is there’s actually been a bit of a resurgence in punk rock and the old school punk rock.  Obviously there’s been a lot of people getting into the really old school stuff like Circle Jerks or TSOL. But bands like us and NOFX and Bad Religion are also seeing a whole new generation of 15 and 16 year old kids in the front rows of our shows now.  Then we’ve also got the 35yos in the back row or maybe in the pit or drinking beer, or whatever it is they do, I think it’s a testament to how important this music is.  It’s not just Pennywise, it’s everybody that does this kind of stuff.  Our message is important, I think people understand it, people are inspired by it and kids need punk rock.  When you come to a punk rock show, you should go berserk.  If you’re drinking – get wasted, if you’re in the pit – beat the shit out of your best friend, then get up, dust yourself off and go back to work on Monday and you won’t have to beat the shit of your boss! It was kind of like punk rock was designed to get it out if your system, an outlet for all these people with pent up aggression, the parents they didn’t like, the divorce, the homes, teachers they hated, bosses they hated, police, government.  Basically punk rock was designed to scream and yell about that and go FUCK YOU I’m not going to take it anymore.  Punk rock shows, that’s why they were violent and why the moshpits were designed as this explosion of energy.  Like I’m not going to go disco dancing here, I’m going to go bezerk right now and attack somebody in a friendly manner, but I’m going to come out of it with a broken nose and a bloody lip and I’m going to be smiling about it and I’m going to pick my friend up off the ground that gave me that broken nose.  I think that people need that more than ever.  Were not singing about taking drugs and singing about having sex with chicks or partying on cocaine like some old school metal band, that’s not our deal.  We’re not whining about breaking up with our girlfriends, we’re just basically saying hey, there’s a lot of crazy shit going on in the world, let’s try and make the world a better place, but let’s get some aggression out here so we can deal with it.

As far as touring goes, I see you have some USA dates coming up and some dates in Europe, beyond that, what’s the plan for the rest of 2012 as far as international touring goes?
Well we’ve got some shows in the USA around the release date and I think we are then heading off to Europe for about a month.  I think I’ve also gotten wind that we might be coming back to Australia around August to do a club run which will be really cool. Soundwave was really awesome, one of the best tours we’ve ever done and it would be great to get back doing some clubs and some down and dirty shows in Australia, which we love.  I think we might also get to Japan, we’ll basically aim to get anywhere.  That’s a big plus with having Zoli in the band, he loves the road, he’s a nomad, he really loves playing live shows, that’s his thing. For us that’s huge as it had become a constant battle to go play places, but with Zoli were going to be going to places like Bali and Thailand and all these places we’ve never done, we’ve recently done Croatia, Hungary, Russia, we’re heading to Greece for the first time.  It’s amazing, we’ve been in this band for 20 years and all these places we’ve never touched are waiting for us and we’ve got the guy who wants to do all this with us.  We’re just stoked that the Pennywise fans seem to be keeping the faith for us and that’s the most important thing for us, trying to make our fans happy!

Essential Information

From: USA

Band members: Zoli Teglas Vocals , Fletcher Dragge Guitars , Randy Bradbury Bass , Byron McMackin Drums

Website: http://pennywisdom.com/

Latest release: All Or Nothing (27 April 2012, Epitaph Records)

 

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