Interview: Joey Cape (Lagwagon)

Interviews / News / September 15, 2016

In the middle of July, Bohabs from across the land flock to a small waterpark just outside the city limits of Richmond, Virginia for the annual event known as the GWAR-B-Q. This year was the seventh annual celebration, bringing together an eclectic mix of punk and metal bands across three stages, as well as the Overlords themselves, GWAR.

Punk legends Lagwagon were one of the performers at this year’s festival, which also featured August Burns Red, Lamb Of God, Against Me!, the wrestling band Eat The Turnbuckle, as well as many others. Lagwagon took to the Scumbag Stage, whose performers also included American Nightmare, The Dillinger Escape Plan and GWAR.

Shortly before the title band took the stage, I sat down with Joey Cape, Lagwagon’s frontman, to discuss the band’s 27-year-long span, his 12-year-old daughter and the lessons she teaches him, as well as the GWAR-B-Q itself.

After I introduced myself, Joey asked me a question before the interview even began. It went along the lines of, “Your name is Meghin? Have you ever heard ‘Megan‘ by The Smoking Popes?” I lit up when he asked that, and asked if he had heard Bayside’s cover of the classic in return. Surprisingly, he hadn’t, but was ecstatic that Bayside covered it.

Modern Vinyl: To start, why did you decide to play the GWAR-B-Q this year?

Joey Cape: We talked about it with the GWAR guys for a few years, and I think specifically Brad [Roberts, drummer also known as Jizmak Da Gusha]…we’ve spoken with him a few times about doing it. I think we tried to do it last year, but it didn’t really work. It was just one of those things. Basically, the way I look at these things is [that] it’s an excuse to come hang out with friends. We’re friends with those guys. Obviously we’re GWAR fans, and have been for so long. To be invited to something like this is an honor. I don’t know. I think there’s always a part of you that thinks “oh well, maybe that’s not really our scene,” but you don’t care. Yeah, we’re gonna go, if GWAR asks us to come, obviously we’re going to come. I’m just stoked we got to do it finally.

MV: Have any post-GWAR-B-Q plans?

JC: Probably sleep? I don’t know. Actually, this guy, Beau, is in a band called Avail [and they’re] from Richmond. We’re old friends. We’re supposed to go out to dinner with him tonight; it’s pretty boring “old man” stuff. It’s a little more my speed, getting out of the sun and being in a restaurant and having some drinks.

MV: Richmond is so good with all of that.

JC: I bet! I’m probably just going to sleep.

MV: Going on, let’s talk about your career a little. You and your band have been around longer than I’ve been alive.

JC: Really?

MV: Yeah. I’m 25, and you guys are way ahead of my time.

JC: But only by a little bit!

MV: How have you seen the punk scene grow and evolve over the past 20+ years?

JC: It’s a really impossible question to answer. I get asked that every once in a while, and my response is always the same. Geography and time play a big part. When you analyze that…honestly it’s so different everywhere in the world that we go. I don’t think when people give a general answer to that question, they’re completely being informed. It’s just so different everywhere.

Our band, for example, has had heydays in different parts of the world where we were doing really, really well, and years later we’re not doing well, but we’re doing well somewhere else. It changes. It’s kind of radical and it’s pretty enormous. I think that there’s also that idea of what “old school” is and what had integrity or was legitimate; that changes with everybody’s opinions and I kind of don’t care. I don’t really care, you know what I mean?

You have to at some point, just decide no matter what your age, decide to have integrity. The integrity is this: what was it when you were 14 or 15 years old that meant something to you? That’s your “punk.” That’s what it should be. Anybody else trying to sell something different…when you see a 15-year-old kid with Minor Threat patches and Crass patches, I’m always like “well that’s cool,” but I would have more respect for somebody if they had patches from bands that they grew up listening to that were a part of their movement. That’s a much more important thing, but it matters. People have a tendency to wanna…believe that there’s a religion. That’s where things go off the rails for me.

MV: Kind of going off of that, what has being around for so long taught you?

JC: I almost said nothing certain. I don’t know. I think the more you learn, the less you know, really. I think that there are some basic…just things in life that are more appealing to me as I get older that are far more broad-spectrum than actual belief systems. I’m interested in being around people that are empathic. I’m not really at all people that are interested in borderline fascism of any kind. That’s a super general, kind of cheesy statement, but that’s it for me. I just want to hang out with compassionate, kind people. I think that there are many things in the world systematically that can’t really be changed, because so many wheels have been in motion that I don’t really believe in the things I believed in when I was younger. But I do believe that just being a person that actually is willing to put yourself in other people’s’ shoes and to be compassionate and live with a certain amount of kindness, I think that’s all that really matters. It’s the only thing that matters, to me anyway.

MV: You have a daughter.

JC: I do.

MV: How old is she now?

JC: She’s 12.

MV: Getting into those teenage years!

JC: She’s very different. I don’t like to say “oh, I lucked out.” But my daughter…we’ve homeschooled her for a long time. I don’t wanna say she’s immune, but her interests are very different than a lot of her friends. She’s incredibly sensitive. She can’t watch horror movies. She has nightmares still, and she’s just, if anything, more an example for me than I am for her. She’s…I think we got kind of lucky. She’s just a really wonderful person. I don’t feel like…I think when the genetic clock starts to turn and the physiology of things happen with her and biology starts to kick in, I don’t think it’s going to be that kind of cliche, brutal thing that everyone talks about. “Oh, you’re going to have a 13-year-old. Good luck dad!” I know that’s a possibility, but I feel like we might dodge a bullet on that. It’s just only because in so many ways, she seems more wise than I am (laughs). She’s just very aware of her surroundings. She has simple needs. I love her. I cherish her. What am I gonna say about her, other than she’s the best thing that ever happened to me.

MV: What do you hope to teach her as she gets older, especially weaving in her interests, and non-interests with the music you listen to?

JC: I decided at a very early state in her life to not…I don’t wanna say “brainwash,” but I had a lot of friends that were parents that were like “Yeah! My kid only listens to the Ramones. She’s four, or he’s four, and he only listens to Bad Religion or GWAR,” whatever. Pretty early on I decided, well, let’s see what she wants. What does she want to do? What kind of arts does she care about? With the exception of some really basic political stuff, and atheism — my wife and I are atheists, so there’s a little bit of that. But even with those things, we’re very careful to say to her, “you’re going to figure out what it is that you want to believe in and what you want to follow, and the music you listen to.”

The funny thing is, it’s interesting since it’s kind of…I just want to say a little bit of that has backfired. My daughter is the person who says, and I quote her, “Dad. This has electric guitars. You know I don’t like electric guitars.” That’s where I say, “wait a second, you’re describing more just a genre of music. That’s all rock and roll. You can’t base what you love or like, or don’t like, on electric guitars.” It’s cool. She’s like any kid her age. She wants to listen to things that make her move. 

She likes to dance to music and electronic music. The only good news is this: when she was really young –because I’ve produced records her whole life, and long before it – I took her into my studio and taught her what Auto-Tune is and how people manipulate music. I just made her aware of that. Even when she was like six, she would come to me and say “Dad, what do you think about this lady? It seems like the vocals are Auto-Tuned.” And I go, “Yeah, you’re right honey! Good ears!” I kind of prepped her for the fake kind of stuff that started happening to music, and it’s cool. She’ll come to me sometimes and say “Check it out! This is Adele. I think she’s a great singer.” And I’ll say, “Yeah, that woman can sing!” She knows who Aretha Franklin is, she’s aware of well, that’s as far as my “brainwashing” went. I turned her onto some things that were authentic and real. I just want her to be who she is; her own person.

MV: That’s good!

JC: I like to think so.

MV: It’s probably good she’s not into the whole punk scene…

JC: She has no idea.

MV: There’s such a divide right now where there are movements called “Defend Girls, Not Pop Punk” because girls have been attacked, girls get discriminated against…

JC: Subjectified.

MV: It’s really rough. It’s scary.

JC: It’s stupid. When you can parallel that stuff with ‘80s hair metal, the misogyny and sexism, lyrics and stuff, that’s when you’ve got to go, “Really? Wow.” I have zero interest in anything like that. It’s funny. It’s actually my daughter who will point out sometimes [something] every once-in-a-while…I’ll be listening to something where she says “Dad, that’s really sexist,” and I’ll go, “No, no it’s not!” “Yeah, it is. Did you read these words?” And I’ll say, “Oh my god. You’re totally right. I have to stop listening to this.” She’s going to be alright. She’s very strong.

MV: Sounds like you’re raising her with a solid head on her shoulders.

JC: And my wife too. My wife is the coolest.

MV: Let’s go back to the band. What does the future hold for you and Lagwagon?

JC: Well, we’re finishing up, not to sound cliche, but a tour cycle for our last record. The last couple of tours we started talking about writing music, and doing a little bit of collaboration; demos and stuff. Just putting ideas together. That’s it. We took so long between our last two records — it was like nine years between records — and we all can agree on one thing: we don’t want to wait long. We’ve got some festival weekends and things like that throughout the rest of the year, but in between that, we’re just going to be rehearsing and listening to new material. Hopefully we’ll make a record sometime early next year. We’re all excited about it, because we took so long to make our last record, collectively, as a unified identity that you are as a band, which I think is fine. I think we’ve kind of figured out that we’re really in a different place than we were. I feel like the last record was our most successful endeavor. It didn’t really sell, because it’s hard to sell records now. That doesn’t really matter anyway when you make music. I think if you’re a band like us, you really care about doing something that everybody’s happy with. It makes us want to continue doing it. I’m really excited about doing more music because that’s kind of where it’s at; that’s the thing.

MV: What words of wisdom would you pass onto the younger generation who is either aspiring to be a musician, or just wanting to get into the scene?

JC: Jokingly, I always say “run for your life.” That’s just a joke. I think the best advice you can give anybody, and it happens all the time…we tour a lot and play with younger bands, and I’ll end up sitting with someone from another band having a beer or something. They’ll be talking about their woes and their problems with the whole situation, and I always try to center back to the reality of the situation. You should only really do any kind of art if you love it. You should really only pursue those things if you don’t have a choice, if it’s something you feel like you have to do. I think that’s the best advice you can give somebody; just do it because you’re passionate about it. It’s highly unlikely that there’s going to be any kind of monetary success from it, and I think all the other things that tend to drive people towards anything where you’re performing, or it’s theatrics where you’re on stage, those things tend to be closer to vanity issues and opportunist issues that are going to be disappointing. You can usually tell just by talking to someone if it’s a passion project for them. Any time I meet somebody that I feel is passionate that way about something, I’m always like “Yeah! Keep going. That’s it.” You can’t be disappointed if you win already from just doing the thing you love. It’s pretty simple, but basically true.

MV: And you’re a realist. That’s really good! You tell it as it is.

JC: I feel like it’s the only way to be.

MV: Is there anything else you’d like to add to this before we wrap up?

JC: No. Just to say fish is not a vegetable, but that’s not really a thing.

After GWAR-B-Q weekend, Lagwagon performed at the Denver Riot Fest on Sept. 2, as well as a Riot Fest Aftershow set with The Lillingtons and The Bunny Gang. 

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Meghin Moore
Meghin Moore is a Penn State grad and Pennsylvania native who resides in Virginia, happily nestled between Washington, D.C. and Richmond. She's the site's Managing Feature Editor, as well as one of the two Missaligned Podcast co-hosts. When she's not eating her weight in burritos or attending various concerts, she can often be found reading a book or trying to keep tabs on the latest news happening around the world.

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