Editor’s Note: Now that the Vans Warped Tour is in the history books, I have had some time to reflect on how amazing and how unifying the experience was. Now, we got to talk to a band that is synonymous with the Vans Warped Tour, and that is ska/punk legends Less Than Jake. This was certainly a wonderful conversation between two chums. Fans can find Less Than Jake at the following locations:
Madness To Creation: With Upcoming Hip-Hop, you did a very nice Hulk Hogan and Randy Savage impersonation, do you watch professional wrestling at all?
Chris: I won’t turn it off when it comes on, as a kid, that’s all I lived for from the ages of eight to about the age of 12, it was a solid four or five years, I still have, I’m not sure what they’re worth(I looked on eBay), I have probably a couple hundred wrestling magazines, and they’re in pretty mint condition from the early 80’s.
Madness To Creation: Do you collect comic books as well?
Chris: Just wrestling magazines back in the day, but comic books not so much.
Madness To Creation: Have anything else that you collect?
Chris: Gray hairs. *laughs* Not really so much anymore, the only thing that I collect is our band memorabilia, I have one of everything that we put out over the years, I have a full room in my house that’s a memorabilia room, it’s pretty cool.
Madness To Creation: That’s awesome! There is a documentary coming out called “Pick It Up: Ska in the 1990’s”, what is so important about that movement or recollections that you have from it?
Chris: It had it’s moment, but it was a blip on the radar from 1996 to 1999, it was a good three years of where it was selling a lot of records, it was the opposite of this EDM, people aren’t really calling it that, it used to be techno, it was trip-hop for awhile. There was all kinds of stuff, genres of things, a lot of it has to do with journalistic media defining the genres by sound. The ska/punk thing definitely had its moment, now I want to say there’s a resurgence, everything goes away to nostalgia, everyone wants to remember as kids now, now we see 16 year olds in the crowd, and they’re like, “I wish I was alive in the 90’s”. I’m not trying to tone it down, or not making it sound like it wasn’t cool or whatever, it was a moment, we never dwell on it. There were a lot of bands that when it was over, they put their horns back in the closet and called it a day, we just kind of kept doing our thing, we didn’t try to necessarily be a ska/punk band, we felt that we were more than that, with more substance, not to knock any of those bands or anything or saying that we were better than them, but when you’re living it, you weren’t sure if it was going to last, people aren’t going to be going gold or platinum on a ska record in 2005 or 2010, I guess we were right.
Madness To Creation: You guys will be going out with your friends in Reel Big Fish, what is the secret to the success of Less Than Jake, what has kept this machine going after all these years?
Chris: We never stopped. There were bands, whether it was a ska band, a punk band, a rock band, or even a hip-hop band, we’ve toured with them all, unless you were a superstar band that could afford to take a year or two or three years off(not talking about those one-hit wonder bands), we kept going and giving the fans what they wanted, we always had new merchandise and cool things, being a band that is as old as we are, we were one of the first bands that had social media presence, our first website was in 1995, it was pretty much x’s and o’s, our friend at a university in Florida had designed us a website, he was always trying to stay on the cutting edge of what was new, we just had to keep up with the times, and keep it as still Less Than Jake.
Madness To Creation: A lot of success has to do with how creative you all are as a band, what business advice would you have for us?
Chris: If you’re going to run a business, always operate way below your means, we’ve seen bands crash and burn when that record label money dried up, they didn’t know what the hell to do, and they still wanted to have two tour buses and ten hotel rooms a night, we never did that. We always operated below our means, we always come home with money after a tour, and it’s not because we’ve been this huge commercially viable band that has dollars falling out of the sky, it’s just we’ve paid attention to the bottom line, it is a business. As much as I don’t think of it as a business because it’s fun and exciting, it’s not the hassle of a corporate gig where you’re sitting in a cubicle all day, but it is a business, we’re not going to come out here and lose money. Operate below your means and find the right people that have the same goals and share the same aspirations and same ambitions.
Madness To Creation: A while back Less Than Jake released “Sound The Alarm”, what was the biggest takeaway from that experience, and what are a few things that make you “sound the alarm”?
Chris: Not to undermine your question, but we wanted to make a full record in 2016, we didn’t have time, we had time to write six or seven songs on that EP, went in and recorded them, and it came out last year in 2017, and we went back in the studio and did something, it can be looked at as a blessing or a curse, but I look at it as a blessing. We were still so busy on the road that it translated beyond that at this point, we have plans to rerecord that in the future, when I don’t know, it used to be every year or every two years, we’d record an album, but the business model has changed as you know, the industry is different, and as much as we tour, to even find time to do seven songs was a feat for us, but that’s not making excuses, it’s between us having other things that we do in our personal lives, involved with families and things of that nature, we still hit the road like we are in our 20’s.
Madness To Creation: Less Than Jake has been around since 1992, and it’s 2018, what’s the feeling like that you’re still performing in front of substantial sized audiences to this day?
Chris: It’s great, it’s gone to generations now, the kids that come up to our merchandise booth that are here, they didn’t find us through their high school, they found us through their parents, they were riding around in their car seat from the time they were sucking on their pacifier, mom and dad would play them and they grew up with them. It’s generational now, our fans range from eight year old kids with their parents all the way up to 60 year olds, they were punk rockers in the 70’s, they were in their 20’s and 30’s in the 80’s going to The Ramones shows. When people ask if they thought it was going to go on this long, I didn’t think it was going to go five years, and there was never a thought of it. All we wanted to do was get out of the warehouse and play party music for some free beer for our friends, maybe play at a bar. Half the time we couldn’t get in because a couple of us were only 19.
Madness To Creation: Speaking of beer, do you have a favorite beer?
Chris: Well, I don’t drink, but there was a beer in Europe that I liked. It was either made in Germany or Belgium.
Madness To Creation: What is one memory that you have of Vans Warped Tour that is ingrained in your mind right now?
Chris: There’s about 1,200 people on the tour now, back when we started in ’97, there were 300, there are over 100 bands now, there used to be only 25 bands and three stages. As you can see the catering area, it’s a big operation, there’s a couple of semis, and a whole staff, back in the day, there was two guys. They were operating with what was the size of an ice cream truck. I was drinking Kool-Aid all summer, then I walked by and the cook at the time was this large, hairy Italian man, and he had Kool-Aid in a five gallon bucket and he was stirring it with his freaking arm. “I’ll have a bottled water please”.
Madness To Creation: A question that I’ve been wanting to ask you, Donald Trump gets in the skank pit at a Less Than Jake concert, how does the band react?
Chris: We have the fans crowdsurf him to the stage and we make him drink tequila until he pukes.
Madness To Creation: Anything else you would like to add?
Chris: Whoever is listening to this or reading this, thank you, we will keep doing this as long as we can.
And there you have it! Less Than Jake has a few appearances in the United States with Bad Religion, Pennywise, The Interrupters, Mad Caddies, and Reel Big Fish before embarking on a UK tour with Reel Big Fish, Suburban Legends, and Zebrahead. Check out tour dates below.
Sat. 9/29- White River Amphitheatre in Auburn, Washington
Sun. 9/30- CenturyLink Arena in Boise, Idaho
Sat. 10/20- Waterfront Park in San Diego, CA (w/Rancid, Hepcat, The Mighty Mighty Bosstones, Scallywag, The Interrupters, and Beach Goons)
Tue. 10/30- O2 Forum Kentish Town in London, UK
Wed. 10/31- O2 Forum Kentish Town in London, UK
Fri. 11/2- O2 Academy in Bournemouth, UK
Sat. 11/3- Rock City in Nottingham, UK
Sun. 11/4- O2 Academy in Bristol, UK
Tue. 11/6- O2 Academy in Newcastle upon Tyne, UK
Thu. 11/8- O2 Academy in Leicaster, UK
Fri. 11/9- O2 Academy in Liverpool, UK
Sat. 11/10- The Refectory in Leeds, UK
Sun. 11/11- O2 Academy in Birmingham, UK
Tue. 11/13- Norwich Nick Rayns LCR UEA in Norwich, UK
Wed. 11/14- O2 Ritz in Manchester, UK
Thu. 11/15- O2 Academy in Glasgow, UK
Sat. 11/17- Button Factory in Dublin, Ireland
Sun. 11/18- Button Factory in Dublin, Ireland
For tickets and further information on any of the shows listed above, click here.