WHO ARE YOU AND WHERE ARE YOU FROM?
Hi I’m Jake the singer and guitar player in Health. Everyone in the band is from southern California, I grew up in Seatle and moved to California for college, John is from San Diego, one and a half hours south of LA, BJ is from Riverside, kind of a suburb of Los Angeles, 60 miles away but still concidered greater LA, Jupiter is from just outside of LA so they are all So Cal kids.
HOW DID THE BAND GET TOGETHER
I met Jupiter in college while we were studying together (Jake English and World Literature and Jupiter Psychology). I wanted to start a band and we decided to start a band together, so we moved to LA, I went to school about 30 miles east of LA.
And I met John working at a guitarshop, I was working there he was working there, and then the three of us started playing together and met BJ on (?), we put out an ad on (?) that we were looking for a drummer. That is how we met, not terribly interesting, sorry.
WHY DID YOU START MAKING MUSIC?
I’ve been playing music ever since I was 13, and from that time on, when I was 12 or 13 music became the most important part of my life, the thing that excited me most, made me care most. It was just a natural thing, something that I always wanted to do, and I have played with other people before, but I don’t know if it’s the same in Germany or Europe, certainly it’s the same in Berlin, we’ve been living there for the last couple of weeks of and on, I don’t know if its the same thing, but especially young people in the US, everyone plays guitar, everyone is in a band.
SO YOU HAD DIFFERENT BANDS BEFORE HEALTH?
No, not really. I never played in a band in High School, I mostly just Skateboarded, and kinda stopped making music, then I was in a band that played one show in college and then we just broke up, so really Health was my first band.
WHATS THE MUSIC SCENE OF LA LIKE TODAY?
Today I coulnd’t directly comment on what the music scene is like considering the fact that we are hardly ever at home, so I couldn’t pretend that I’m there all the time seeing what is developing at the moment. But the smell is still there and is the heart of the whole community. And yeah, we are definetly part of a scene, there is… if you would look back on a time where all these bands were playing, like bands that have gotten attention now, like Mae Shi, or No Age or Mika Miko, Abe Vigoda, us. We were all playing at the same time, at the same shows, were going to the same parties and nobody knew anything about us and we were just having a good time. And then the press started paying attention to this because it’s an amazing place and it’s been open for a long time, there’s just a really strong community. So if you would take a snapshot and look back in time, that was our scene that’s what we were part of.
ARE YOU STILL IN CONTACT WITH THOSE BANDS OR HAVE YOU BEEN TOURING TOO MUCH?
Well oddly enough those are the people from that scene that we are most in contact with, but not because we are at home all the time but because we see them on tour. You know. So we… like last year we played a festival just around this exact same time of year, about a year ago in august, we played Way Out West festival in Gothenburg, Sweden and we played the afterparty. And the show was just No Age, us and the Mae Shi. So it was literarily like we were having a barbeque in Echo Park, next to downtown LA and it was like this 15 people from LA, saying Hey Man! What’s up? And we drank beer and hung out. So we see eachother a lot at festivals. Or we just ran into Randy and Dean from No Age at a hotel in Toronto and we are like: “Oh, I didn’t even know you guys were here.”
So, those are the people that we see most actually.
YOU STARTED OF WITH A STRONG DIY BACKGROUND AND YOU BOOKED YOUR OWN TOUR IN THE US. WAS IT THE SAME WITH EUROPE?
It’s absolutely different for us, because we did one fairly DIY tour of the UK with a band that kinda brought us over there. They booked the shows. But that was a very DIY tour in that sence that nobody was at the shows – which doesn’t necessarily mean that when you have a booking agent people are at the shows. But I would say that Europe is much more complicated to book your own shows, because you have to… there’s different countries differnet languages, scenes. Whereas on the underground rock circuit in the United States it’s a little more homogenized, so it’s easier to deal with on a whole thing. Driving on continental Europe is different from the UK, then there is language barriers, but I couldn’t say cos I never booked a proper tour in Europe myself, whereas I booked tours when we were a totally DIY band. And we get asked a lot of questions concerning the DIY scene. The only thing I would stress is that most bands that you hear about, if they are in a magazine or they are interviewing them on a radio, then that band is not DIY anymore. Once you have a booking agent and a manager, a record label and a publishing deal or whatever – DIY do-it-yourself does not apply. So I would not call us a DIY Band anymore. We are still an undergound band, like in the US we drive our own tours, we sleep on floors, we stay with our friends. But we’ve also done that, where we organized all that ourselves and no one helps you with anything. Sometimes it bothers me a little that people sell that image of DIY – we are doing it more than some major label band, that have some handlers that keep pushing people out of the way so you can get to your bus – obviously that is not the way it is. But we are not like that. Lightening Bolt for example has never had a booking agent: that’s a DIY Band still, even though they are a big band and they have gotten a lot of press. But most bands you read about are not DIY anymore.
SO WHAT WOULD YOU SAY ABOUT A LABEL LIKE KILL ROCK STARS?
Kill Rock STARS was a bedroom project of Slim Moon since the mid eighties basicly, but they’ve had some big records on Kill Rock Stars, like they put out the Decemberists first records, not that I’m particularly a fan, and I’m not – not that there’s anything wrong with that but that’s a very popular band, their back katalogue sells a lot of records, but this day and age of course record labels are just in a precarius situation to be in. I think Kill Rock Stars always had the… existentially like a DIY… it’s weird. With labels too it’s like… bands that were DIY can still get labeled that and kind of transcent that and make good money and still be considered some sort of underground bands. But it’s pretty hard for labels to do that. In this day and age it’s hard for there to be a new Kill Rock Stars or a new Touch and Go or whatever whathaveyou. It’s hard to build a label up now. And in fact doing so is kind of absurd in a lot of ways. Like we are on a very small label and the people who run the label do it because they love doing it and they make connection with artists they mutually regard with respect. But the idea to like build a career… you could build a career by becoming in contact with people that in one way you might later work with in other aspects of the music industry or help managing bands or doing whatever … but just having a label that is sort of like an underground label and make money out of that is just becoming sort of an obsolete idea.
CAN YOU LIVE FROM YOUR MUSIC?
Yeah, we do, we live from our music. But the thing is – if a band starts to make money or whatever than like a manager or label can live from that music but bands – it’s like we tour all the time and we sell T-shirts and things like that so that is how we are kind of able to make it. We are not living off of Royalty Cheques. Not that we wouldn’t tour, we love touring, but, touring is very important for us in terms of keeping our heads above water and paying our rent.
SO WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT FREE DOWNLOADS ON THE INTERNET?
Well I’m certainly not gonna say that I think it’s wrong, I think it’s a natural progression of technology, at this point of music. I could complain about the fact that music doesn’t seem to be as special to people as it used to and that has been something that… there is just an evolution of whether or not you want to go from people, music purists, that decried the invention of the phonograph because it took the actual spontanious nature of hearing human beings produce music and made it into this technological reproduced thing. And like pretty much that reaction, from a (?) sort of perspective is being repeated through every single technological advance in music, just now it’s going really really fast. Like when people could have disc or walkman or rather cassette players and take them on the bus, that was like the infantile stage of what is becoming ipod culture. Music is essentially an accessory to life rather than being like: you bought a record after some kind of reference and than sit down and put it on a record player, sit and play it through one side and then flip it over and play the other side and then you are like: Wow! and form your opinions and your experience that way. Now it’s hard enough to not change songs in your ipod before the first song that you put on is done because you started thinking about another song. But that is just how everybody’s brains work now. And that is kind of sad I guess from the perspective of someone that really really loves music, but at the same time there is really no point of not recognizing that things are changing, but no, I don’t think downloading music is wrong. In a lot of ways it is great for artists. In the way that you lose money… but for smaller artists, it allows you to an degree to be exposed to people that would never be exposed to you cause you wouldn’t even be able to get a record deal. So in a lot of ways it’s a good thing.
DO YOU THINK IT IS HARDER TO SELL (REAL) RECORDS THIS WAY?
We are trying to figure out ways… because people are… we have a lot of younger people coming to our shows and young kids are mostly downloading stuff as far as music goes but you know – they still want to buy vinyl and still want to buy T-shirts and we’re just trying to find ways that, if you still want to buy something to make it interesting. You know, like on this record we offered, that if you preorder the record early, you know, you get a limited edition T-shirt and we will send you the mp3s a month early, because once promo copies go out anyway it’s gonna leak in the first place. You kind of just got to embrace the whole situation. And we are also doing a thing in the US… you know it feels like albums used to be more personal than they used to be and now a CD in a jewel case is just meaningless, it is to me, really, so we are trying to figure out some way to at least try to make things fun. So we are doing a thing in the US with Indie Record Stores only, there is 66 tickets and they are all different colors and they are all different prices and with redeemable serial numbers and the number one price is that we will fly you from anywhere in the continent of the US to LA and then pic you up at the airport, take you to the zoo and Magic Mountain and you can just hang out with us and we get you drunk and then fly you home or whatever. I don’t know if anyone will actually want to do that, but…
Or we have stuff like: I will give you a book from my personal library and I’ll sign it for you, with an inscription for you and send it to you… you know some way of making it at least intimate to people, cause people used to be connected in music and now they do as well … in a different way … it is just less… there is not as much mystery, everybody has got a twitter and you can myspace message me and become my facebook friend and – there are no more Jim Morrissons, it’s just not the same way and you gotta let that go.
SO LET ME GET BACK TO YOUR MUSIC. YOU WRITE THE LYRICS, RIGHT? COULD YOU TELL ME WHAT THE LYRICS ARE ABOUT.
Well I could if you want me to, but it’s just really not our style.
WELL I READ THAT YOUR LYRICS ARE INFLUENCED MORE BY TECHOLOGY THEN BY PERSONAL EXPERIENCE. WHAT ABOUT THAT?
It’s not so much that it’s more influenced by technology it’s just… it’s personal experience, just I don’t write from a personal perspective, like I’m gonna tell you about my life and then, I had this experience and then you can relate to that guy. It’s just more a distance than that, more abstract, but the first album was, in certain ways, yeah, conceptually about maybe technology and humanity interacting and alienation just as a general blanket of an idea. The new record isn’t so much that way. It maintains the same sort of style of perspective from the writing, but it is not so narrow in its scope, it’s more lose.
BUT WHEN YOU WRITE YOUR LYRICS, DO YOU INTEND FOR THEM TO BE HEARD, BECAUSE IT IS KIND OF HARD…
I would like to, but I know they are kind of heart to hear, I think on the first record they were even harder to hear, the new one is a little easier and the next one will probably be even easier, but we are just kinda figuering out how we are doing it and on this record we are gonna publish the lyrics, not on the CD which doesn’t matter anyway, but we are gonna put them on the internet, because there are so many internet lyrics sites anyway and if you don’t put it up there and people wanna know – then they just make it up and that is really terrible – to think people would be misconstruing what you are saying. And the lyrics are important to me.
The single we have, Die Slow, is essentially just a very cryptic song. The song title is typically. The songs are just titles that we find interesting, much in a way that Nirvana titled their songs. In ways that didn’t necessarily… sometimes there was a lyrical connection and then sometimes it was just like because it is an interesting song title, which is what we often do. But this song is basically just written from a displaced perspective about, I guess, it would be a young woman who is… it is just like examining an idea of, maybe from an existential perspective, not to sound too pretentious, but if you are… if you have a lot of problems, maybe it’s like drug problems, depression problems, etc at what point do you cross the line of thinking about suicide and at what point you decide that you can’t really work it out so it goes the other way. But of course the song is kind of like fun and happy and that is kind of something I get off on a little bit that people can’t necessarily hear the lyrics, but the lyrics are actually very dark.
And then we have this song called Before Tigers, where basically the song has sort of the notion that, well there is certain ironies and hipochracies but, as we become more and more technologically advanced and our lives are insolated from nature. In this very staggering way… it’s like… the way we communicate, some of the lyrics are: ‘we can talk with numbers, we can talk with signs, we can talk with symbols and we can talk with dials’, like these ideas of ways that we use to communicate that are displaced from how you would naturally communicate. And then at the same time, basicly the next line is: ‘outside the buildings, beyond the miles of wire… There seems to be this notion of nature as this begnine… especially as we become more insulated from it, we project this idea that nature is this beautiful, natural thing that just kind of is, whil you as an organism are just part of a system and we feel like we are gonna live forever or are special because we figured all this other stuff out and we live in our houses and drive in our cars that go from place to place and are on the internet. And everything just comes in and… it’s that as physical mammals we are more and more separated from that. So people seem to sometimes have the idea that nature is just this begning thing, but you are just a part of it. So the line, the pinacle of this song to me is, there is kinda what could be called a chorus, where it is: ‘outside the buildings, enough of blinding sunlight to dry your dying eyes’, which essentially means that your environment and nature as it were, from my perspective, there is no spiritual connection to you or higher connection of: oh, now we have these technolgocial sorted lives and we can go out and look at nature and there is not, you are not any more special than anything else but then, because of the ways that we have interacted with nature and developed so many technologies, because of whatever evolutionary progress that we are lucky with our brains, we seem to think that we are above that… but that is not the case.
And then the other song, which I think is the second single of the record, is We Are Water. And that is most of the lyrics of that song. And it’s just like a very… I guess ment to be a stark, I guess to me transient… sort of… life is fragile, we are basicly comprised of water and then there is a breakdown of the song where it just says: ‘going with the image of water’ and water being typically associated with life or regeneration and water and dirt growing things. And then it’s like… we are water and then there is another line that says our bones won’t grow in the dirt, much in a way that – if you put in a bulb, it would grow into a flower in dirt with water, but once you’re.. once there is no more water your bones go in there and even if there comes more water your bones don’t grow again.
ONE MORE QUESTION CONCERNING YOUR T-SHIRTS. WOULD YOU WEAR YOUR OWN T-SHIRTS TO YOUR SHOW?
Oh no, we would never wear our own t-shirts. I just think that is lame, I know people who do that and have friends who do it and that maybe works for their bands but it doesn’t work for us.
SO HOW DID YOU CHOOSE YOUR T-SHIRT TODAY? WHAT DOES IT SAY?
It says: ‘if it’s illegal to rock then throw my ass in jail’, and i just wrote it on there. I made it before we played a big festival in the US and it sort of is like a slogan, it’s something that Kurt Cobain wrote on his guitar when he was fourteen, so personal to me it’s like my most favorite band ever, nobody knows what it means…
AND THE OBAMA SHIRT (that Jupiter was wearing on stage)?
Oh, I know it was a big deal here for you guys, but we were actually on tour during the election, it was just a very big moment in our lives, all of us in the band, a bunch of us had Obama shirts and we didn’t see any reason to stop wearing them.
And on the part what our T-shirts, that we make, mean to us. They are just very important to us, cause it is all part of an aesthetic that we see as what comprises our band, what our band is. And we don’t like leaving anything to anybody else so, we mix our own records, we try to co-engeneer them or produce them, we did everything for our first record ourselves. We just aren’t… partially because we are very neurotic artistically…so handing over the reigns would be just counter intuitive to us and inversely stressful, but at the same time we are trying to create a whole thing as a band, that has a sort of umbrella aesthetic rather than: ‘oh yeah we write these songs and then we get this guy to record them and then when they finish mixing it they’ll send it to us and we would be like: cool. and then we get some other guy we like to design a t shirt for us’ … that is just not how we really do things. In that way you could also say, that the whole aesthetic is supreme to natural desire as in: if there was a riff that is really cool to play or really enjoyable or something, but doesn’t go with the concept of our band than we throw that out for the faithfulness of the idea.