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Sunday, 14 June 2009

Sometimes when one works in the press, it's just logistically impossible to tell the whole story of an artist – or even enough of that story to make it feel fulfilling to the writer. It seems like such an asinine statement, but think about it; in the average magazine, there is a finite number of pages which means that only so much space can be allotted to a particular story. This is a hard truth because, particularly if a writer believes in his/her subject or believes that the story in question is one worth telling, when you've got a limited space things get let on the proverbial cutting room floor that the writer wishes had stayed in. For those keeping score, that's one of the reasons that most writers have difficultly reading their own work after it's been published; those missed opportunities and dropped nuggets of what the writer assumes to be genius (they're usually not, but it's human nature to see what's missing before they see what's there) consume their vision of the article and, because they're not there, render it a very bitter pill to take.

Then there's the other reason things get left out of articles: a combination of space constraints and the fact that, while some of the things said during an interview might add color, when you're working lean (say, you've been asked to condense a half-hour conversation down to eight hundred words and still make sure it's on point) and have to come close at all costs, the first thing dropped, ironically, is the subject's personality. This too is a bitter truth, but it's one that comes with the job.

But sometimes some of those off-topic stories are just too good or too funny to let go – even if one can't logically decide how such laughable moments would fit into an article. Take, for example, my interview with Jess Margera, drummer for CKY. When I spoke with Margera, CKY was in rehearsals prepping for their current tour behind their newest album, Carver City. The album was doing well (it still is) and the band was excited to be hitting the road behind it because it would be their most ambitious project to date. Margera was the first to admit that the layering done on the album was imposing and trying to recreate that was not going to be easy.

That sounds like a pretty good story right? That's the angle I ran with, but it nagged on me that I wasn't able to work the funnier stuff (see below) into the article. I couldn't let it go, so below you'll find a complete account of my interview with Jess Margera – from talking about the tribulations of Carver City to pissing in the pocket of some woman's coat with Dean Ween one night at a bar.

Bill Adams vs. Jess Margera, drummer for CKY

BA: Hello?

JM: Hello, may I speak to Bill please?

BA: This is Bill.

JM: Hey Bill it's Jess.

BA: Hey Jess, how're you doing?

JM: Pretty good, how're you doing?

BA: Not bad at all. Are you guys on the road right now?

JM: No, no. We're rehearsing and getting ready to go. The first show's in Poughkeepsie.

BA: That's cool, so how're things? Obviously, Carver City is out, how has it been received so far?

JM: Good! It's going really well, it's just been tricky getting it to sound full live. There's so much going on on the record that it has been tricky to try and recreate that live so that's what we've been working on [chuckling].

BA: I was going to as about that. The new album sounds really good but, for a CKY album, it's pretty enormous sounding to the point that I would assume it's difficult to reproduce live with a four-piece.

JM: Yeah, there was talk of playing to a track or whatever but, if you do that, you end up waking up one morning and discover you've become Avenged Sevenfold so we're not going to do that [laughing].

BA: I was gonna say – Avenged Sevenfold, Britney Spears… there would be bad combinations abounding.

JM: Yeah! I think it starts like, 'Hey! We'll play to a track so we can have the keyboards,' and then, 'Hey! If we add that playback, we won't have to do this,' and blah blah blah and then suddenly you're barely playing anymore.

BA: Yeah, suddenly your singer says, “Man, my throat hurts tonight….”

JM: Yeah! Let's Ashlee Simpson it! [laughing] No thanks, I've always been into real people making real sounds.

BA: I can totally agree and relate to that. Some bands have fun with it – like when Nirvana did that music awards show and their bassist ends up knocking himself unconscious – but those moments aren't often great in a good way. So obviously the tour hasn't started yet and the album's been received well so far….

JM: Yeah – it's been doing good. We were really surprised because we weren't sure it would; we had been gone for four years so we didn't know how people would react to it.

BA: Well yeah – and there's a bunch of changes on this one too. I mean, it's your first record for Roadrunner, the sound itself is far denser and more metallic, why all the changes?

JM: Well, we wanted to make sure that people still recognized the music as CKY but, with the last album I think we went a more meat-and-potatoes route; pretty much just basic tracks and very little in the way of overdubbing. Maybe because of that, it just felt right to go for it with this one and use all the synths and extra textures and layers that we could. In a way, that's what we did for our first record; we experimented with a bunch of different sounds and we really wanted to get back to that. When we did our first album, Volume One, we had a studio at our disposal – it was a friend of ours that owned it – and we were able to work as long as we wanted on it. It was the same with this record; we had our own studio so we took advantage of it; we did the last two in, like, Hawaii and California and stuff and you can't really experiment in situations like that because you're on the clock.

BA: That's understandable, for almost anyone, working in Hawaii, there would be the temptation to just knock it out as fast as possible and then head to the beach [both laughing].

JM: Well, not to take anything away from those records – I think they're great and I'm glad we did them – but when you're in foreign studios with foreign engineers and different equipment that you're not used to using, there are limitations and I think on this album as well as on our first one, there were no limitations whatsoever; we knew the gear and time just didn't exist because we took as long as it took to get it how we wanted it. We would try things that, half the time, didn't work but at least we tried them and if we hadn't, we'd still be wondering.

BA: Well sure – if you don't try, you won't know to go to something else.

JM: Exactly. We all felt like, it's been ten years, this is our fourth album, it's time to get adventurous again.

BA: I can understand that. Now, correct me if I'm wrong, but you recorded this album in Santa Monica, CA and somewhere I can't pronounce in New Jersey….

JM: [chuckling] The bulk of it – I'd say about 95% of it – was done in New Hope, PA – that's our studio and, since Dan lives in LA, he'd come up with a vocal idea and we'd have to send him the files and he'd cut the vocals out in Santa Monica.

BA: New Hope… right there, right up the street from Ween's old studio.

JM: Yeah! Actually, every time I'd finish cutting some drums, I'd go up the street to this little bar and Mickey would always be there.

BA: He's a nice guy. The first time I interviewed him, he was crossing state lines to go to a funeral.

JM: Really?

BA: Yeah, apparently I have a gift for calling at awkward moments.

JM: [laughing] Nice. Mickey's still fuckin' crazy. Last time I hung out with him, he was daring us to mess with this fat girl that was standing up at the bar. He'd dare us to go up and grind on her while we were up getting a beer. We got away with that, and then it just kept getting gnarlier and gnarlier until it was just, like, naked dick on lap [laughing]. She still didn't know though, and then Mickey went and took her coat off the back of the bar stool, went behind where the stage is, took a piss in the pocket and then put it back. She still didn't know [laughing]!

BA: Aw, that's awful.

JM: And then there was this fan kid that came up and hung out. We told him what we were doing and he just went up to her, like, butt-naked. She started flipping out and her boyfriend beat the hell out of him. That's pretty much the typical night at John & Pete's with Deaner.

BA: Nice. [laughing] Now, about this new record, you said the band's more spread out now?

JM: Yeah, everybody's all over. I'm in West Chester, Chad's up there too, our bass player Matt lives in Springfield, MA and Deron lives in LA.

BA: That has to make it a pain in the ass to try and get songs together.

JM: Yeah, rehearsals are a pain in the ass because we have to buy train tickets of Matt and plane tickets for Deron. It starts to get annoying but what're you gonna do right? The internet makes it a lot easier to send ideas back and forth; you could basically do a demo via email. I've never done that for CKY, but I've done it with other projects – I'm in a band with Neil from Clutch and Brad from Fu Manchu and Reverend Jim from Fireball – but most of the CKY stuff we get it a little more together. With this Carver City stuff, I had to fly to LA and demo stuff with him there and then, for recording, he had to fly to PA a lot.

BA: And most of this was done over the span of a year?

JM: Man, I did most of my drums in '07!

BA: Oh shit – so it was almost two years in the making!

JM: Yeah, that sounds about right.

BA: So how are the set going to break down live? Are you focusing on Carver City or are you doing some of the older stuff?

JM: In rehearsals, we've really been focussing on the Carver City stuff because it's such a challenge and Deron has a lot of learning how to sing and play guitar at the same time to do because, when we were recording, he did his guitar parts and vocal tracks separately so it's becoming a matter of learning how to do it live which is a real challenge for him. It's definitely going to be a good mix of everything, but we're definitely not going to rob people of the new album because that shit's fuckin' awesome.

BA: Are you going to bring a couple of extra players out on the road with you to fill out the mixes?

JM: There was definitely talk of getting someone, we were going to get Rosie from Cradle Of Filth to come out but she lives in England. We just started fiddling around as a four-piece and it sounds full enough and, really, I don't think we should recreate the record exactly; I think there should be an element of rawness and realness to the shows. Our other records have had parts on them that we've never played live in spite of having played those songs live. For sure, there are some songs on Carver City that we're not going to be able to play, but I'd say the majority of them are possible.

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