frontman for one of Portland’s best bands, The Altarboys,and we decided to do a series of interviews via email. For those of you who love good fucking music and haven’t heard of The Altarboys, well get the fuck over to MySpace and check them out. They’re amazing and they just released their album and I got the first post-album conversation with the man who makes magic on stage. So here it is…our beautiful mess.
Me: So, you just put out the much anticipated Altarboys album, Got Wolves for Brothers, how the fuck do you feel?
Jack Bastard: Long answer: You're never done with a record until you finish the next one, there's advertising to be designed, finding places to do reviews, setting up tours, going around town getting it into shops and a million other projects. Plus, we're not on some huge label and we did our own art, layout, samples, printing, legal and all that shit so as a band we're never gonna be "done" per se (whatever that means) until we have another project that requires more of our focus and energy.
Short answer: fucking great
Me: I know what you mean about never being finished but there has to be a nice sense of relief and accomplishment with the release. Are there any tour plans for the very near future?
Jack Bastard: Just short trips here and there, up to Seattle to see All Bets On Death up to Bremerton to play with Neutralboy. In the spring we'll go down to SF to fuck with Get Dead & Flexx Bronco's lives and then in the summer to LA to see The Amplifiers and all our friends in Southern California. You can find us at Oki Dog on off Santa Monica on Fairfax.
Me: There's a definite hip-hop influence in your vocal style. How did hip-hop become such a prevalent force in your music and your life?
Jack Bastard: Hard core hip hop is fucking rad. Those guys get to say all sorts of crazy ill shit and get paid for it. A 3 minute 40 second verbal threat? Awesome!! If it's clever, even better. When Ghost goes "Niggas want me dead but they scared to step to me, rip they guts out like a hysterectomy" that shit is like UGHHH!! you know? It's threatened AND threatening. There's a visual there. There's sound and motion. It's banging your chest like a gorilla. No bullets left in a gun fight, COME GET ME MOTHERFUCKER!! Like Duvall in Apocolypse Now. Shells falling all over he doesn't flinch, not once. It's just bad ass and fun, pure and simple. Plus you can bang your head to that shit. I'm just a white kid from the sticks and I remember when NWA first hit and they (NWA) were like pissed that we (white kids from the MW) were listening. Yeah right. BIG said that no one gets in the game to just be good. You get in to be great, the biggest, the richest, the baddest, that shit comes from white kids, black kids and (probably) Asians and Latinos all buyin' your shit. From NY to LA and stopping off at the Walmart in all those fly over states. I'm a punk rocker and always will be but I gotta respect that out look. Punk has always been "I'm gonna do what I like and if you don't like it, I don't give a fuck" meanwhile hip hop is like "if it don't bounce, it's out". And I feel like I toe that line in a lot of my shit. I'd LOVE it if people like the album even if they didn't understand a word, just BOUNCED it but at the same time. I made a record I love and you ALL can lick my nuts.
Me: Yeah, the initial attitudes of the genres are different to an extent but punk and hip-hop do share a common thread as they were both born out of a culture that hated the mainstream shit going on at the time when both began to gain ground. It's like you said though, most true punkers wanna stay underground while the attitude in hip-hop or rap is, I wanna be big as fuck. Hip-hop wouldn't have gained traction without white kids in the suburbs buying all the albums, but, I think that when you are born into a minority where the options are limited, black, inner city, the inherit reaction is, I wanna make money, fuck bitches, and say what I want. Whereas, most punkers weren't born into that. They're white and male, predominately, so the cards are stacked for them. It's easier to hold onto your ideals when desperation isn't lurking around every corner. That said, when I hear your music, it makes me wish that I was at the Anthrax, Public Enemy tour for at least one show. You can flow, dude!
Jack Bastard: How sick would that be? My boy Marz was at the PE show in SF a couple years back and said it was CRAZY. Like 3 hours of Chuck just KILLIN' it.
Me: That would be the shit. Chuck killin it for three hours sounds like sippin pineapple and gin and watchin' you guys go off. So how many strippers do you guys think you average at your shows in Portland? (It's a loaded question, I know, because Portland is stripper city. But...give me an estimate.)
Jack Bastard: Current strippers? 9 or 10 tops we're not really that stripper band you know. It's violent music and no one wants to see a stripper with more bruising than is absolutely necessary. Future strippers? The rest of 'em...including the dudes.
Me: You should see the strippers in Iowa...Take what you can get!
Jack Bastard: I went back home to Wisco for a couple days last summer and (I know this is kinda fucked) I went to a strip club with my sister and her husband. That was weird dude. As much as I wanted to see some of the bitches from my HS with their mushy thighs wrapped around a brass pole was exactly as much as I didn't. It was like watching a train about to hit a horse...with 7 dollar PBRs.
Me: That is kinda fucked. 7 dollar PBR's at the strip club in Wisconsin. Who the fuck do they think they are? There’s a strip club in Iowa called Big Earl's. Totally nude. But they can't serve alcohol. Here's the kicker though, you can bring you're own beer in! You haven't lived until you've sat in sniffers row at Big Earl's, fishing an Old Milwaukee out of the cooler you brought in to see some chick you went to high school with, who all your buddies fucked, take off every item of clothing. But off the strippers and back to the band…How far has the band progressed over the last few years? Or have you tried to keep it to the same formula and focus the whole time?
Jack Bastard: This band has been around for 9 years now and you can't keep the same formula and focus for that long with that many divergent tastes and styles. I like to say. There are more people who have been in The Altarboys than not. 6 drummers, 4 bass players and at LEAST 6 guitar players. Cliches aside, the line up now is my favorite so far. All the guys are super talented and fun to play with and hang with as well. I have friends in bands that you couldn't PAY me to tour with. I'm fucking lucky to be in a band with Rod, D Marcus and ummmmm uhhhhhhhh....fuck what's the tall guy's name? FUCK!!! OH!! Luke... Luke's the best. The band has progressed in our blah blah blah inner band workings and how we write songs bullshit okay pay attention again....NOW!!! Woke up with a mason jar up my ass. I hope that answers your question.
Me: Generic question. But the show I saw you guys play last time I was in Portland was rad. The first time I saw you guys was in Salt Lake City where there was me, Keeks, and five mormons. It still kicked ass but your command of the stage is much greater now in my opinion. So the focus is still DIY, touring, and cuddling pooh bear, right?
Jack Bastard: The focus is as follows
1) cuddle Pooh-Bear
2) memorize an entire Mos Def album
3) perfect a hollandaise recipe
Me: Beautiful. Moving on... How many sound guys have you had who sucked a worse one than the guy from The Cooler bar in Vegas where I saw you guys play a few years back?
Jack Bastard: I don't know if it was the sound guy, the heat, shitty mics or the tow truck driver who told us his 14 year old DAUGHTER had "big ass titties" that were "bigger'n most the fuckin' stippers in Vegas" That was classy.
Me: Very classy. While you were in that truck by the way, I was downing a cold one with Smiley in a casino, so it was obviously the sound guy. What was the best part of that Vegas trip?
Jack Bastard: I think you know the answer but I'll tell the story. There were 8 of us in a hotel room at some casino where old people go to laugh at older people, just off the strip shithole. We'd been drinking the past 3 days STRAIGHT and at some point we all pass out. Sometime the next day I wake up and I realize I'm getting spooned by this guy Jason Myers. I assume it's because there are 4 or 5 other people in the bed so I get up to get a glass of water, look at the bed and see that it's just me and him! There's a whole huge side of the bed that's not even being used. The floor looks like Jonestown but there's only 2 of us in bed. I get my water and instead of going to the huge empty side of the bed I get back into my spot as "little spoon" ... sleep deprivation and alcohol poisoning...life on the road
Me: Try heaving up strawberry milk on an old man in the airport with heat rash and then get questioned by Homeland Security and Airport officials about why your baggage was left unattended and finally respond to them with this: “Here’s the deal. I was born in Iowa and live in San Francisco so you can either send me back to SF, back to Iowa, or put me in jail but I am not going back to the fucking strip!” Yeah, that Vegas trip did wonders for my soul.
So How hard is it to keep a line-up together that can hold jobs and still tour as much as you want too?
Jack Bastard: In a perfect world we'd all be able to quit when we wanna and get better jobs when we got back just like the old days, but it's not like that anymore. So we gotta take time when we can get it and be smart. I've never been on a "vacation". My idea of vacation is driving across Death Valley in the middle of the day with 4 other dudes and gallon jug of frozen water on my nuts. I don't wanna go to some resort and sit in the sun. I wanna do shit! I wanna have no idea where I'm gonna sleep. I wanna meet crazy drunks and watch them tape a brick of firecrackers to their chest and light that shit off. I'd love to live on the road, all the guys in the band would too, but it's not feasible.
Me: What's the best show The Altarboys have ever played?
Jack Bastard: The truth is I have no idea what happens from the time we start til the time we're done. Zilch. I almost never remember anything. I don't remember what I say, what I do, who jumped onstage, if Luke hit me with his guitar, anything. I just do my shit and hope everyone likes it. I'm more apt to remember a stage I didn't like, too much light, a lying promoter, that sort of thing.
Me: I like that. I always remember the shit that pissed me off more than I remember how great something was. Go figure. The life of a cynic…
Mike Patton vs. GZA. Who wins, besides the audience being able to witness that?
Jack Bastard: Street fight. GZA, hands down, end of story. Live show. Mikey for sure. I keep saying I'll never see a solo Wu Tang show again cause they suck balls live. Meth is the only one who moves when he's out solo. I saw GZA do the entire Liquid Swords album a couple months back and he didn't move once. He'd say the first word, a middle word and the rhyming word to each line. Such a let down after spinning that CD so many times. Fucking lazy. Me: Favorite album of all time? Least favorite album of all time? Bands who call themselves punk that you wish would fucking die?
Jack Bastard: Dillinger Four's Midwest Songs of the Americas is probably my favorite record of all time. I tripped across it at a store called Ear Wax in Madison Wisconsin and listened to it almost everyday for 4 years...then weaned it down to once a week where I am now. Least favorite? That fucking Streetlight People song. I fucking HATE that song. I work in a bar and you can't go a night without hearing that at LEAST twice. It makes me mad just thinking about it. As for bands that should just go die, I don't care. There's shit I don't like and bands that have used the label "punk" to sell records but "punk" is whatever YOU define it as. Ask the gutters if I'm a punk, they'll tell you hell no, just based on appearances. It's not up to me to decide who's punk and who ain't. Everyone is someone's version of a perfect asshole and no matter what your clique someone's gonna talk some shit about you.
Me: Excellent point. No matter what, people are gonna talk their shit. I talk a ton of shit myself. I just hate how people throw a label onto something and give the term a shitty name. That's not what Black Flag had in mind, I don't think. But oh well, evolution. If the music is good to me, that's all that counts. Get Dead just did an accoustic masterpiece that I think is punk as fuck. Going back to the hip-hop tip for a second. How many times have you gotten kids stoked on P.O.S. in the mall parking lot?
Jack Bastard: Not enough. That guy blows my hair back like a racing boat with a busted throttle!
Me: Haha! Nice. So do you have a favorite song off your album? And if not, do you have a favorite song you absolutely love to play live?
Jack Bastard: If I didn't like a song it wouldn't be on the record. That said, I like doing No Friends best when Rafael Vigilantics can be on stage. When the people that you're writing about, or for, are there, it makes the experience that much cooler. If Rafael’s not there then Gunshot or One Match get me going pretty well.
Me: How has the new album been received?
Jack Bastard: Usually by hand, sometimes by mail but even that involves hands.
Me: Fucker. Moving on again…So you're from Wisconsin, what made you hit the road to Portland and start making bad ass music?
Jack Bastard: I got wasted with this kid Ben in his apartment on East Johnson. I remember it was it was cold as fuck, and I was just sick of everything. I was 20, my mom had recently died and I was looking to get as far away from everyone and everything that I knew. I couldn't afford NYC, hated Florida, was scared to death of LA so that left Seattle or Portland and Portland won.
Me: Yeah, I kinda had that moment too. I was like driving into this town, LaPorte City, and I remember thinking, Fuck! There is just nothing here. Trailer parks and meth labs and shitty houses. Fat, pimply faced dudes listening to some bullshit I.C.P./Slipknot mix tape, body slamming their chubby twelve year old step- sister on a trampoline in the backyard and it’s like what: Welcome to fucking Iowa. I had to get out. But when I knew I was leaving, for me, it was like: New York, too afraid. Chicago, way too cold. LA, Fuck LA! I hate the south. There was no Seattle option, so it was Portland or SF, and I was like, if I’m in SF, at least I’m in California…so SF won out. Back to the music. So how's your label? I know the guying running it makes some pretty mean sandwiches and plays some bad ass bass.
Jack Bastard: It's not a label as much as it is a collective, and we're involved in a few. It's not really a collective even it's more like a USDA stamp, when you see a Horn's Up logo or a West Coast Syndicate logo, you know you're getting quality product.
Me: I think I've talked about this before with you but I want it on record. If you were stranded on an island for the rest of your life, what five records would you bring with you?
Jack Bastard: I would probably bring Joe's Garage by Zappa because I don't get it. Maybe I'm just not listening to it right but I fucking hate it and by the time I was sick of the other 4 I'd be frustrated enough to get into it. Midwest Songs, of course. Foreign language tapes of whatever the closest native people were. That would suck if I was saying "help me" and they were hearing "I'm very happy alone and starving on this island". Black Sabbath Masters of Reality and for the fifth one surprise me, have it wash up onshore during my 15th year.
Me: See, the first time that question was ever posed to me, it was at like ten in the morning and I was with my friend Stu, my homey, Brent, and my girl Kiki, aka Monikka. We were still up partying from the night before. Drinking cans of High Life in this shitty, shitty, shitty, back closet room I was living at in the Haight. There were lines on a mirror, the air was a thick blanket of cigarette smoke, and there was a DMBQ album blasting. Brent asked that question and the shit got dead serious. People left the room with paper and pen in hand and worked on their lists for probably twenty minutes before they all got turned in for these like big presentations. This was, and still is, my list:
1. Nirvana-Bleach(the best Nirvana album).
2.The Stooges-Funhouse(album that practically invented punk rock).
3.Guns ‘N Roses-Appetite For Destruction(Hands down the best album ever made!).
4.Dr. Dre-The Chronic(the first one. I was 12 when I stole the cassette tape from a Sam Goody store and I think I was the first kid in Iowa to bump that shit on a boombox).
5. Let it be-The Replacements(I can listen to Sixteen Blue, Gary’s Got a Boner, and I Will Dare, all fucking day and night). So there's this one song on the album, Whiskey Stitches, that has a different story for each verse. What's the story behind that?
Jack Bastard: Each verse of that song is a true story about one of my friends. The first dude has a scar that looks like a river map from his forehead to the back of his skull and he has no idea what happened. He just came out of a blackout bleeding into a sink at like 7 in the morning. The second guy is just the easiest going dude on the planet and his girl got 'im arrested at some bar in OC. They go to jail and when they get let out they see some guy gassing up a limo and ask him for a ride bar to the bar they were arrested at. The third guy got fucked up at some hick party in Michigan and passed out for a couple days. He was alive and would occasionally be coherent enough to drink another beer so they didn't bother to take him to a hospital. He woke up in the back of a pick up truck doing 60 down a logging road. He was with 2 guys he didn't know and was wearing someone else's clothes. He's a little guy so they just kept putting him in funny clothes...like Weekend at Bernie's.
Me: That's some pretty epic shit. We have a saying around the pad I live at which is basic, blunt, and true: "You can't make some of this shit up!" I could never, in my best days as a writer, make some of the shit up that happens to me and my friends. Okay, so we got Whiskey Stitches covered. That’s actually my favorite song on the album. But back to the band and shows…what bands haven't you toured with that you wish you could?
Jack Bastard: All Bets On Death for sure. We play a lot of shows with those guys but we haven't been stuck in the middle of the desert with 'em yet. I love their band and they are stand up dudes. I could log some miles with them for sure. I could see being stoked on watching Off With Their Heads night after night. I'd love to see a poster that says Ghostface Killah & The Altarboys...just to see what would happen.
Me: All Bets On Death are rad! I think you got me into those guys on my last trip to Portland last May. As far as the second part of the answer, I actually have a Ghostface poster hanging up in my room. Maybe I should take a marker and write in the Altarboys name and make copies. Wouldn’t that be some shit? The funny thing is, I’m sure there would be some coked out, white sneaker wearing, backpack carrying, flipped bill baseball cap, trust fund douchebag who would see that poster and swear that he was at that show. Swear it up and down. Back in the day, I could be a real asshole and sometimes I’d be partying and I’d start making up bands and talking about how awesome they were and there would always be some chick or dumb fucking scene kid who agreed with me. I’d be like, “Dude, did you see HoneyJar 3 at the Independent?” And they’d be like, “Totally. I was backstage. Those guys are fucking rad! They play the best shows!” And the band was totally fake. And I’d be like, not only are you a tool but you also think you got stoked on a band called, HoneyJar 3. Fuck your life. Anyway, I know you sorta blackout when you're up on stage but is there a show you guys have played that really sticks out?
Jack Bastard: Spike's in Rosemead, CA. It's in this totally Vietnamese neighborhood. Vietnamese restaurants and tow yards as far as you can walk. We figure it'll be a few punks and kinda quiet. The place, as it turns out is a cholo bar. We thought we were gonna get STOMPED. These dudes were Pendleton's, Dickie's and locs, ese. We played our set and they loved it! We're totally BFFs forever. After the P-rock the DJ started playing swing and we danced with their ladies til closing time.
Me: Where did the name The Altarboys come from?
Jack Bastard: We had a show coming up and needed a name. I wanted to be The Drunken Altarboys but Gil (the OG bass player) hated it. We came up with some LAME fucking ideas; Blood Sweat and Beers and D.A.D. (drunk angry and drunk) and a whole lot more. When it came time to make the flier I was like "Altarboys cool with everyone?" And they said "yeah".
Me: Names are tough sometimes. I think people over think that shit. Then they really fuck it up and come up with something lame. The Altarboys is good. It sticks out on a fucking show line-up on a poster or flier. Okay then, final question. Top venues in Portland to go and see a show?
Jack Bastard: 1) Jolly Inn 2) East End 3) Dante's 4) Tiger Bar 5) Jolly Inn again.
Me: In my expert opinion, best places in San Francisco to see a show(I go to at least two shows a week) go like this. 1. Hemlock. 2. Great American Music Hall. 3. El Rio. 4. Thee Parkside. 5. The Eagle.
Anyway, so that’s it. It’s been a pleasure, man. Anything else you wanna add?
Jack Bastard: Buy our record! It's good, ese.
Me: It is good. The record is called, Got Wolves For Brothers, and you can get yourself a copy of it at www.thealtarboys.com. And check out their MySpace page for tour information. The live show is incredible!