In an age where most bands struggle to string more than a couple of releases together, The Vandals are still going strong… almost 30 years after their formation!
Radio personality, label owner and The Vandals founder (and hands down one of the funniest people I’ve spoken to) Joe Escalante had the following to say…
Interview w/ Joe Escalante (Bass)
of The Vandals (USA)
By Cameron Chambers
Joe, we really appreciate your
Hey, not a problem man.
Where are you calling us from?
I’m in a part of LOA called
Culver City, and it’s known for being the place where movies like Citizen Cane and The Wizard of Oz and… Gone With The
Wind were made. There’s heaps of cool stuff like that and all
those old studios where they made those films are located around here.
If you walk down the street you
may even see some Wizard Of Oz munchkins or maybe a member of
The Three Stooges, ha ha.
How have things been on the
touring front for The Vandals lately?
Well, in 2007 Warren was
playing guitar for Gwen Stefani on the giant whirlwind that was
her tour, so we basically just waited until that was over, but it just
kept going on and on, which was fine for us because we got to watch Warren stock away some money in the bank and have a good time, ha
We all had other things on though
but now we’re in 2008 and we’ve got shows booked all over the place!
I saw that you’re doing a
small of run shows in the first half of May, are you using those as
a warm up for the Australian tour?
Yeah, every weekend throughout
March we’re doing something and then into April, so it’s just, you
know, we decided to play some shows because most of the time we’re
waiting for Josh to free up some time. We worked out that we
go through this every few years where we’d wait to see if Josh
is free to book shows, but now we just do it! If he can play them…
great! If not, we get Brooks from Bad Religion or Derek
from the Alkaline Trio to fill in.
We’re going to be having Brooks with us on the Australian tour and then we’ll be doing
the Warped Tour throughout August and we also have plenty of
shows throughout July… so there’s a lot going on!
Speaking of, you guys must
be pumped that you get to come back to Australia as part of such a huge
For me, it’s just like, not
only are they great bands and it’s such a fun and perfect Australian
tour to be on, but these are our friends… some of our closest friends
in California! Now a couple of the guys from Sum41 live in Southern
California too. We’ve always been tight with those guys on the road
but now… especially Warren and Stevo just hang out constantly. Derek… well, I just him on TV every
day so I feel like I’m hanging out, ha ha.
With the Pennywise guys,
we were just down there in Mexico for Byron’s wedding so we’re always hanging out. This is going to be such a fun
tour! We share crew and people with the other bands so we couldn’t
I’m assuming we’re going
to be hearing something of a “greatest hits” set when we see you
guys in April. Will you be taking requests for your set
Yeah, everyone should always send
their requests through. Our singer is actually in charge of our MySpace
and he happens to be in charge of our set list as well, so go directly
to Dave on MySpace!
I don’t know how many records
we’ve released since we were last in Australia, but I know Hollywood
Potato Chip is definitely one of them, so we’ll play a few tunes
off that and then it’s a greatest hits.
A lot of bands use a tour to
promote a new release. Do you guys have anything in the works on the
recording front for 2008?
Yes! We’ll be releasing a CD
called BBC Sessions And Other Polished Turds and it will be out
no later than June. It’s a collection of songs that we recorded at BBC radio over the years, some stuff off our 7 inches, some tracks
of some compilations and a couple of new songs!
Some songs are covers that we’ve
done over the years… like Alice Cooper’s worst ever song Poison! We figured if someone ever comes to us and says would you
like to be a part of an Alice Cooper tribute record, well, people
will fight over the good songs so we chose the worst one!? Ha ha
There’s a couple of Ramones
covers on there and all we could think of was the worst Ramones
songs, but with this upcoming Ramones tribute album that we’re
a part of they assigned us two really good songs! We all love The
Ramones but at the time we weren’t really serious about anything
so we didn’t care about disrespecting them or not and that makes for
better Vandals material.
We’ll also include a Jimmy
Osmond song. He had a hit in the seventies in England called “Long
Haired Lover From Liverpool”. You’ll want to kick his teeth in when
you hear him sing it, it’s horrendous! But when Warren sings it’s
Is it hard to get everyone
together to write and rehearse, let alone record these days?
Yeah, we don’t have any urgency
to put out a new record so we wanted to put more space between our last
album and the next one. When you release something every couple f years
you end up with twelve records and it becomes this glut of material.
We wanted to take some time and just…yeah, put some space between
These days it’s more of a men’s
club than a band. We just get together and hit the road and hang out,
so we’ll get it happening sometime, ha ha.
You touched on this with the
last question, but all of the members of The Vandals have other things
going on, be it working with other bands, song writing projects or running
your own label. Do you guys feel pressured or obligated to get a release
out and tour every so often, or is it a case of,
“we’ve been at this for almost 30 years, we’ll just do something
if and when it feels right”?
Yeah, exactly. Everyone’s on
the same page when it’s time to do something. The record business
is bad anyway, so you’ve got to be careful about what you do and what
you spend and whose money you spend. We don’t release anything new
or develop any new bands on Kung Fu anymore… we’ve scaled
that back since I started on the radio. So it’s more about servicing
the catalogue we have.
I wake up every day and do radio
and I don’t want to develop the next Fall Out Boy. I don’t
have any interest in it and with the current state of business I’d
rather wake up and live off other people’s music.
Winding back the clock to 2004,
The Vandals travelled to Iraq to play some shows for the US troops.
For a band whose music has always been so apolitical what made you decide
to do something like that?
I think that’s what made us
the perfect band to go over there and do it. We weren’t some punk
band that was all “we’re anti the US government and our soldiers”,
because they don’t want or need to hear that… that’s not the right
atmosphere for them. We sing about sandwiches, haircuts and diarrhea
so it’s a good release for them.
Hopefully we were able to provide
them with some music without making a comment on the war either way.
Everyone in the US understands that and the troops weren’t saying
“we’re glad you support the war”, their stance was that while
you’re here your opinion is none of our business and thanks for coming
and making these sacrifices to play for us. So we had plenty of people
in the US saying thanks for supporting the troops.
When we went to Europe it was
completely different though. None of them would think anything other
than “you support murderous US troops”. We got so much of that in
Europe that we’ll never tour on a large scale through Europe again,
which is a shame because they were our biggest market. So thanks guys!
Your decision was met with
a lot of criticism, from other bands and members of the public. Were
you expecting that kind of backlash, especially from people within the
punk rock community who claim to be liberal and open minded?
We didn’t get a lot of criticism
internally. Everyone knows in their heart it’s the right thing to
do, but when it came time for certain people to stick up for us… there
was very little of that. We had some trouble… we got pulled out of Fat Mike’s magazine when we were supposed to have a two page spread,
but Mike got some pressure from his European distributors to
remove it, so he did.
That’s his business and that
kind of stuff happens and he felt that he couldn’t release a record
in Europe with us in it, and that was really upsetting. Luckily there
was very little of that.
Most people in the US said what
we did was awesome and wanted to know if they could do it too, or they’d
say things like “I couldn’t do it but you guys are braver than me”.
We got a lot of positive feedback but when everything gets tied back
to Europe it just gets so messy, so our response to that was just to
go right back out there to Afghanistan and say to heck with it.
To further reiterate your point,
you guys played a series of shows in Afghanistan in 2006. Did that trip
get the same kind of reaction as your shows in Iraq, or had people finally
clued on to the fact that showing some support and admiration for your
country’s soldiers doesn’t mean you are pro-war?
The difference between Iraq and
Afghanistan is that there are more foreign troops over there. It’s
a different kind of war… a war to get the Taliban out of there.
In Iraq they have violated something like 14 UN resolutions but 90%
of the world against the US presence there, however it seems like only
40% of people are against what we’re doing in Afghanistan. No one
gave us any crap for being in Afghanistan because everyone knew that
there’s not much left anyway.
We’ve already lost our European
audience, they’ve just forgotten about us but in the US a lot of people
just thought we were lucky this time around.
The Vandals have been toured
Australia a few times now. What stands out as your most memorable trip
Ah, let’s see. We usually played
those Warped Tour shows, they were always fun. I think the time
where Warren ended up in the Manly Daily with a big black dot
over his private parts, with the headline “Concert Outrage”.
It’s still framed in my office
at the radio station! It was just beautiful to see that headline the
I’m sure you get asked this
a lot, but given your veteran status what do you think of the current
crop of punk bands? Is there any band (or bands) that you really rate
at the moment?
Ah, well, the new young kids…
that used to be my big thing. That would be all I would listen to and
pay attention to. Now I’m not developing new bands for Kung Fu
so I’m getting exposed to a different kind of punk rock, like some
of the bands that I play on my show. Be Your Own Pet are great,
and some other stuff like Vampire Weekend. They’re not too
punk rock but that’s the kind of stuff I’m playing on the show and
it’s a mainstream indie thing, so it’s not a specialty show. There’s
already a punk show on my station so I leave that stuff to them.
I’m more of a dinosaur in the
punk rock world but very hip in the indie world now, ha ha. It happened
to be by virtue so it’s kind of the opposite of the old times. Actually… The Skybombers from Australia are another band we play! We’ve
been playing them for a couple of weeks and they would have to be one
of the only Australian indie rock bands that have made it onto our playlist.
Something I was curious about,
how did the remix record with Japanese musician DJ Shingo come about?
He was a guy that kept remixing
our material so we wanted a way for him to do it for free. That was
we could reward him with a piece of plastic and make some CD’s and
do something special for a friend.
As a band and as an individual
you’ve achieved so much over the years. What stands out as being the
most rewarding for you personally?
You know, just to be able to still
be in the game and to be offered tours like this Australian tour. We
have a really good agent, Stormy Sheppard who takes really good care of us. We’re still relevant and it’s
amazing that someone would stick us on a plane to Australia!
I think just getting from that
gap of being an old school, almost forgotten band to somehow getting
onto the Warped main stage and staying there and we’re there
again this year. I’m most proud of that! Being able to outlast all
the things that came along with the music… and without even making
a serious go of making it into a career, but still being there with
people that are.
Pennywise and Sum41
devoted their careers to punk so we’re just happy to hang out and
share a stage with them.
That’s all we’ve got time
for Joe, is there anything else you’d like to say?
Stand up paddle boarding! That’s
what I do here all the time! I’m bringing my board and hitting some
Also, listen to my show! It’s
6am – 10am Pacific Standard Time and it can be found at www.indie1031.com. Believe it or not, David Lynch
is my weatherman.
Are you serious? That’s incredible.
Yeah man… we have a lot of surprises.
I’ll spread the word mate.
Awesome, focus on that!
Thanks for your time mate!