Anyone with any interest in skate rock of course knows about Jodie Foster’s Army!!! Since their forming in 81, JFA has been a favorite amongst skaters the world over. Couple that with the fact that they are still at it today both on the stage and in the pool and you have the recipe for skate rock legends.
Brian and Don sat down to discuss “the haps” with us and this is the end result. Another band off my bucket list both for interviewing and seeing live. Still a crazy, energetic show. They did not disappoint. (This interview originally appeared in Not Like You Fanzine Issue 2 http://www.notlikeyoufanzine.com)
NLY: Thanks for sitting down with us. You two are the “lifers” if you will. Who else is playing with you currently? How long has this current line up been together? What other bands have the other members played in?
Don: I think about 10 years. Corey played in or plays in the Outsiders, China White, The Blades and The Crowd.
Brian: Carter came in at the same time as Corey. He’s played in Love Canal and XX. Outstanding rhythm section!
NLY: After all this time and all the band has been thru, why do you think it’s always been the two of you who have stuck together?
Don: We surf, we skate….we collaborate on everything from the music to the words to the artwork and photos – 50/50. I think other bands break up because one guy sees himself in charge.
Brian: Plus we’re friends. We’ve got so much history together that even though we sometimes disagree on stuff, we don’t get butt hurt about it because we’ve been through so much stuff and seen so much stuff together over these thirty-something years that anything else that comes along is small potatoes.
NLY: Now that’s a nice change from the horror stories you usually read about bands breaking up, friendships ending, egos, etc. You were originally called The Breakers. Why did you change the name? Who came up with JFA?
Brian: When we were The Breakers, all of our friends who were locals at High Roller Skate Park in Phoenix would come out and slam when we played. Totally upsetting all the new wavers and getting us banned for life from many a club. One of the big things at that time was to wear steel-toed engineer boots with the single buckle on them so your toes wouldn’t get smashed in the pit. And then people would tie bandanas around them. Well our drummer, Bam-Bam, took one of his mom’s bed sheets and washed it with some green dye to make it army-colored and then cut it into bandana-sized squares and wrote JxFxAx on them with a sharpie and gave them to all our bros for their boots. So when we were the Breakers, all our friends we Jodie Foster’s Army. And when we found out another band had the name, it was natural to become JFA… We already had the bandanas!
Don: There was a lame new wave band from LA called The Breakers. JFA was short for Jodie Foster’s Army – one of our first songs that I wrote.
NLY: How did your relationship with your original label Placebo and Tony Victor begin?
Brian: Tony really helped grow the Phoenix scene while still keeping it underground. He also did a helluva lot of work to promote JFA, from planning our tours, to putting out our records, to making the skateboards. We wouldn’t have gotten where we were without him and his partner Greg (a.k.a. Mr. Wonderful).
Don: He promoted some early shows I did with different bands – so when he got the Mad Gardens and needed bands he came to me (1st show was with the Alley Cats from LA)
NLY: I read that Tony got burnt out with the label and booking shows and also suffered some setbacks with distributors not paying and that’s why Placebo ended. At that point, there was a few years between Nowhere Blossoms and your next release, which I believe was for Buzzkill. What were you doing in the meantime? Was the band fully active or just a part time thing at this point?
Brian: Without Tony to promote us, we kind of fell off the radar but still kept on doing our thing. It just wasn’t getting publicized. So if you weren’t there, you probably didn’t know we were doing it.
Don: We were always our version of active (which is playing when we want to – 1 or 2 times a month max unless we are on tour). We toured the northwest, the southwest, played ditch contests in Texas…just no full length records.
NLY: You formed in 1981. Have you ever called it quits or even considered it?
Don: Never did (maybe we should have as lot of bands have made $$ on the whole farewell thing to just start playing again 6 months later).
Brian: Nope. We always said we’d quit when it wasn’t fun anymore and as we’ve gotten more experienced and made more and more friends and gotten invited to more and more cool places, it’s only gotten better!
NLY: At one point JFA were part of Alternative Tentacles “Skate Punk” series. How did that come together? It was a CD only release, did you ever think about doing vinyl? Do you know how many copies it sold? How long was it before it went out of print? Why?
Don: I did not know AT did a Skate Punk series!?! We did that album because we respected Jello. He liked our music and we got a fair deal for the copies they sold.
Brian: Yeah, they also put out Free Beer and Los Olvidados. Not sure how many sold and we never talked about doing vinyl. I think we just figured it had run its course and moved on.
NLY: The annual holiday for record junkies, Record Store Day, is just around the corner. I saw a picture the other day of Blatant Localism featuring a color cover that I was told is a special release for that day. What’s the story with it? Who’s putting it out? How many copies? Will you be doing any other reissues in the near future?
Don: One-time reissue with a colorized cover
Brian: Stinkweeds hit us up and put out 500. Tell your local record store to order them from Revolver Distribution before they’re all gone
NLY: Over the years, the band had a couple moments where it “strayed from the path” if you will. What led to these more “experimental” moments? What do you think about them now? Do you think they have stood the test of time as well as some of the others?
Brian: We’ve never let anyone’s stereotypes limit us or define what we do. We always just do what we want whether it’s playing surf music, funk, psychedelic, whatever…, which is the true meaning of punk even if what we’re doing might not sound like the “flavor of the month” of whatever the kids at Hot Topic think punk should sound like.
Don: We wrote what we wrote – true to this day. We were not trying for anything, it just came out that way and the live shows from that era had the old as well as the new. To steal a quote from TSOL on why they did not write another song like Superficial Love – the reply was “we already wrote that.”
NLY: Always loved that quote and it’s true about everyone expecting bands to stay the same. It just won’t work!! DC-Jam is your current label, right? How did you guys hook up? Happy with everything so far?
Brian: Yeah, DC-Jam is great. Putting out records is really hard these days though with everybody downloading things for free. It still costs money to go into the studio to record, buy new equipment, etc. and it’s getting harder and harder to pay for it. Support your local record store! (and indy label……)
NLY: Do you guys still tour? If so, how often? How many tours have you done over the years? Any memorable moments or stand out stories to share?
Don: Too many to share. Any show with the Big Boys, Dead Kennedys or TSOL. 1st LA show with the Bad Brains. 9:30 club with Minor Threat and thousands of little shows with cool skater scenes, no fights, lots of fun, etc.
Brian: We still play here and there. No big huge month long tours because we all have jobs and kids and stuff. But we still try to make the rounds. We played with the Vandals, when they still had Jan and Stevo a bunch back in the day and those were always memorable. Stevo ruled (RIP). They had a song called the Frog Stomp and he knew a place where he could buy a bunch of formaldehyde frogs used for dissecting in biology classes and they’d bust those out during the song, hucking them into the audience and such. It would definitely get a little crazy with frog guts everywhere and people getting pegged in the side of the head with Kermit…
NLY: What were some of your favorite places to play? Any favorite skate spots you would always have to hit up when on the road?
Don: see above.
Brian: We skated so many good places. So many hills, ditches and ramps. We each brought our own quiver in the bus with downhill boards, street boards, pool boards, ditch boards. The Turf Skatepark was rad. Upland. Pipes. You name it. We never did sound checks because we’d rather skate with the locals than hang out around the club and act like rock stars…
NLY: Seeing as this is our “Skate Rock” issue I feel obligated to ask….who still skates??
Don: I surf more, but skate when we go on the road, Carter and Brian skate the most. Corey came from a disadvantaged BMX upbringing, but can get from point A to point B (which is more than I can say for some of the “drag and drop” carry the board kids these days).
Brian: They just built a new Vans park just down the street from my house with a huge clover bowl. Needless to say that’s my home not too far away from home…
NLY: I was lucky enough to be in CA the day that park opened and got to go!! Besides checking out a killer park I got to watch Cab, Jay Adams, Olson, Hosoi, Hackett and so many others tear it up!! Living down the street from that thing is a blessing. I live about 2 miles from a park…it looks NOTHING like that one!! Any plans for recording/ new releases?
Brian: We’re definitely thinking about it but nothing set in stone quite yet.
NLY: I know a bunch of people who will be hoping that’s sooner rather than later!! The Skate Punk Reunion is coming up in Las Vegas. This is like the show 14 year old me would put together in my head and dream about, so I can’t wait for it. How did you guys become part of it? What are your thoughts about it as an event? Any bands you are looking forward to seeing?
Brian: Dean Pascucci had the vision, along with a buddy of ours named Rob, who had put out our Only Live Once CD. Indeed, it’s a dream come true and I can’t wait to see the Drunk Injuns, Minus One, The Faction, Los Olvidados, McRad… Heck, I’m not sure if I’m more stoked to see the bands or just hang out with all the bros. It’s going to be a killer gig with all-time status.
NLY: Why do you think that after all these years there is still such an interest in skate rock? Any new bands you have come across that you feel represent the genre well?
Don: Because the music really goes with skateboarding and the whole lifestyle.
Brian: Yep, that’s why we wrote it…because you need something to help push you when you’re ripping. I was at a skate park one time and some park dude put on Ben Folds Five or something and I had to put my board down, I just couldn’t skate too it. Skate rock is the opposite of that. And with skating getting bigger than ever, it makes sense that there’s a huge need for skate rock.
NLY: Agreed. Back when I started skating punk rock fueled my every fire, but there was something about the flow of skate rock that just went perfect with skating. Your early records, The Faction stuff, and the early Thrasher comps were worn out on ramps around North Jersey by me and my friends. I read Brian joined The Navy after 9/11. What was going on for you at that point that made you completely change your life and enlist?
Brian: I just wanted to do something more than drive around with a flag on my car. I’ve never regretted it.
NLY: Are you still Active Duty today? If so, how much longer do you think you will stay active?
Brian: I joined the Reserves. The only time I was on active duty was when I deployed to Afghanistan for seven months. These days I’m back to drilling as a Reservist. I’ve been around the world: Afghanistan, Malaysia, Indonesia, Philippines, Nicaragua, Colombia, Panama, Hawaii, from the Pacific to the Spanish Main. It’s a true fact that Sailors have more fun!
NLY: Did you see active combat? If so how would you explain it to someone who has never been a part of something like that?
Brian: When I was in Afghanistan we got shot at a few times and had regular rocket attacks on our base in Kandahar. You either deal with it or you don’t. You don’t have too much choice
NLY: I can’t even begin to fathom what that must be like. Having had a chance to see the changes that have occurred since 9/11, have your views changed at all? Seeing more of what’s going on at home and abroad, do you still feel the same way you did when you enlisted? Was it more of a “I want to make a difference” situation or more of a “I want payback” kind of thing?
Brian: Here’s the thing: I fully believe in every single one of the principles this country was founded on. And whether or not the person who’s President is who I voted for or not, I support him because he represents what the majority of this country wants. For all its flaws, the United States is still the best country in the world to live in and our system of government is still the best. Though we do get some yahoos voted in from time to time, it all balances out in the long run. If you can find a better country to live in, move there. If not, then do your duty as a citizen and work to change what you feel needs to be changed.
NLY: Since 9/11 America has changed greatly. We, as citizens, have lost some civil liberties. The Government has become more powerful. I, for one, feel things have taken a turn for the worse. As more info has come to light and people are better educating themselves, their opinions about the events of 9/11 and other things going on at that time have changed. Is the idea of an “inside job” something you have ever considered?
Brian: Nope. You really couldn’t hide something like that and with all the partisanship in this country today, one side or the other would have taken that ball and plastered it all over the news, and I’m not talking about a bunch of crazy conspiracy websites run by wackos. There’s this idea in science called Occam’s Razor—that the simplest answer is usually the correct one. The more assumptions you have to make to prove something, the less likely it’s true. And for such a conspiracy to have existed and still not been found out, an incredible number of things would have had to fallen into place. And frankly, no one’s that smart.
NLY: …lets agree to disagree on this one. Plenty of wool has been pulled over people’s eyes over the years to accomplish agendas from Hitler “Reichstag Fire” which amounted to the suspension of civil liberites and his rise to power to the “Gulf of Tonkin incident” which the US used to start the Vietnam War. I see no reason why another false flag, which went on to start how many military operations, could not take place in this day and age.
Ultimately as a member of The United States Armed Forces, you have a Commander in Chief, The President of the United States. Having now served a term and a half, what do you think of the job Obama has done?
Don: He did the best he could with the F-ed up guys trying to block his every move (even if it made sense).
NLY: Give me your thoughts on these current issues…..
Don: Total BS (it’s condensation).
Brian: No such thing, they’re called contrails and that’s all they are, condensation made from engine exhaust. Sometimes you see them when atmospheric conditions are right and sometimes you don’t. There’s lots of air traffic these days and you’re bound to see them from time to time. It doesn’t mean the sky is falling.
Don: Somehow we need to get folks like my brother insurance (even if he hates Democrats).
Brian: Everyone needs health insurance with the friggin’ prices the doctors are charging these days whether they’re smart enough to realize it or not.
New World Order
Don: BS (I do not believe in 99% of the conspiracies out there)
Brian: What Don said.
Don: Some of those guys needed their library cards punched.
Brian: Technology marches on
Don: My dog has one.
Brian: Mine too.
NLY: In an age where the day to day struggles of life seem to be hitting people harder than ever before, what is one change you think could make the world a better place? (either here or abroad).
Don: Rich folks need to pay their fair share.
Brian: Yep. (See why me and Don have stuck together this long?)
NLY: Indeed I do. Your friendship Is easy to see talking to both of you.
OK, back to music………You’re not far from the bands 35th anniversary (I think only Agent Orange has you beat) Any plans to celebrate this huge event?
Don: Pool party?
Brian: Pool party sounds good. But we try to make sure every gig is a huge event!
NLY: I bet that would be one hell of an event!! Looking back over all JFA accomplished over the years, what’s one thing you would want to go back and change? What’s the one thing you are most proud of?
Don: Sticking up for the little guy.
Brian: Wouldn’t change a thing. Just proud to see that skate rock and true hardcore skating is still going strong. And what Don said.
NLY: This has been a long interview, thanks for taking the time to talk with us. Any parting words to lay on our readers?
Don: The minute you stop surfing and skating you get old…
Brian: Always go for the gusto. Because, why not?
NLY: We don’t stop skating because we get old, we get old because we stop skating. Thanks guys, see ya in Vegas!!!