The Warped Tour is an extravaganza of skate/alternative bands and awesome skateboarders which hits Vancouver at the Plaza of Nations on Wednesday, July 10th. One of the coolest acts involved is Pennywise, whose third and current release on Epitaph Records, About Time, is continuing to make its way into many CD players around the globe.
Warped '96 is an evolution from Warped '95 in that the bands involved this year better represent the skater crowd. Last year L7 and Quicksand headlined the tour and it was more of an alternative line-up than a skate line-up. This year promises to be more exciting, with bands such as Pennywise, NOFX, Lagwagon, Unwritten Law, Goldfinger and many more (14 in all!). The reason for this evolution? The tour organizers sought the input of a skater/surfer who knows what the skater crowd listens to. Enter Jim Lindberg, lead singer of Pennywise.
"This year I had a chance to help pick and suggest some of the bands for the tour, so I recommended a whole bunch of bands that I know skaters listen to." Jim should know about skating: he's anchored in Hermosa Beach, California, where the skaters and surfers are nowhere even close to becoming an endangered species. But does he skate? "I do, but not so much anymore. They left me behind with the half pipe and stuff! I still surf, though."
Hailing from this tiny beach town, Jim grew up with a surfboard and skateboard in hand listening to such bands as Black Flag, the Circle Jerks and the Descendants. Today, Pennywise is carrying on the Hermosa Beach punk tradition in fine fashion. That is where Jim is today, at home, because Pennywise has a couple of weeks off before the Warped Tour begins. They have just returned from a European tour and Jim still sounded a little groggy from the trip. "Ya, I still have a bit of jet lag, but I've got some Mexican food in me now, so I'll be okay."
How did it go over there? "The tour was good, we went over with the Joykiller; they're a really good band. We were supposed to play with Sublime too, but [he pauses] but the singer OD'd... I mean, what do you say about something like that?" Ya... let's move on.
If you ask most touring bands, they'll tell you that they would love to play all over the world. Pennywise is no exception and over the last number of years have been playing in such places as Japan, Australia, Singapore, Europe and of course, North America. "I feel very fortunate to have had the chance to see most major centres in the world... we've had a chance to see and experience many different cultures," states Jim. Don't you find though, that there are different cultures within our own countries and regions? "Ya, I mean, I can walk five miles from my place and feel like I'm in a foreign land. One thing though, that I've realized from touring all these different countries is that the U.S. can be a real dump; there is so much more garbage and litter over here. Europe was so clean."
Obviously Pennywise have been bustin' their collective ass for a number of years and are obviously a talented band that a ton of people think are cool, but you don't sell half a million records worldwide without someone on your side. In this case, it's an independent record label known as Epitaph Records.
Epitaph is probably one of the hottest labels around, housing such acts as the Offspring, SNFU and Rancid, as well as Bad Religion before they signed with a major. You can ask anyone, and they'll all tell you that it is Epitaph's dedication to their artists which makes them stand out from other record labels. With its huge surge in popularity over the last couple of years, it's an exciting time to be around this label.
Jim Lindberg is first to agree: "You know it pisses me off, a lot of people and magazines are slaggin' Epitaph and calling them a sellout. The only crime Epitaph has ever committed is signing good bands. A lot of these magazines are big, glossy productions who used to be cool 'zines, so who's the sellout?" Jim rants on: "I know everybody at Epitaph personally, if we were signed to Geffen or Sony or something, I don't think I'd be hangin' around with David Geffen!" Davey don't surf!
"Epitaph believes in every band that they sign and they work their asses off; they're a big reason why we've had the chance to tour throughout the world, they've worked really hard getting the records over there and stuff, as long as we're a recording band, I think we'll be with Epitaph. Actually they're opening up EuroEpitaph soon... " I'm thinking it will be a little more successful than EuroDisney... unless Epitaph president Brett Gurewitz decides to do Mickey Mouse imitations... ugh!
Okay, let's get back to Hermosa Beach. So you've got a couple of weeks off before Warped begins. What's after that? "After the tour, we come back and finish up some recording for a new album. It's tough to write on the road, you tend to get in each other's space, you feel like you're bothering somebody if you start playin' the guitar on the bus." Guitarist Fletcher Dragge and Jim Lindberg are the primary songwriters in Pennywise and with a couple of writers in one punk band, it can definitely make for some interesting times. "Ya, Fletcher and I butt heads a lot. I've always got something to say, and he's this all out raging ball of punk energy. Usually I'll have some lyrics and he'll lay down the guitar. We get into some pretty good fights sometimes, but we always come out shaking hands as friends in the end." It is this butting heads of ideas that makes Pennywise, well... Pennywise. Insightful lyrics always carrying a message and a raging punk rock style make them the creative whirlwind they are.
Jim puts out a lot of words, so it's not surprising he takes lots of them in, too: "I read all the time, when I'm home, on the plane, books, magazines whatever... I think it's better reading those than being forced to read what's in the newspapers everyday. Reading creates ideas and debate, and I think we've lost the ability to talk to each other. Our education system is lousy, and we don't pay the teachers what they deserve to be paid. The smart teachers realize that they can't make a living from teaching and we lose them and, as a result, we're not getting the teachers we should. It wasn't until college that I had a good experience with a teacher that made me realize that learning is my right and that's it's an active process. That's all it takes sometimes, is just one good experience."
The Warped Tour should be at least one good experience for all those in attendance. Awesome music and skateboarding to match! Remember, when you see Pennywise and get caught up in the fervour of their music, make sure to open your ears to the words, and you'll probably get caught up just a little bit more.
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