Interview – Joe Volume
Back in September, we reviewed the album Lonesome water, lonely sea by Joe Volume, who we’ve been following for a while (both on twitter and music terms). The last few months seemed to have been a rollercoaster in the life of this musician and we wanted to drop him a couple of questions by email. Without any further ado, this is how it went down:
1) The name Joe Volume comes from….
When I was younger and started getting into playing punk rock I stumbled upon those names, Johnny Rotten, Dee Dee Ramone. Obviously it’s creating a persona for yourself. A lot of people do that, like a nom de plume type of thing. So when I started playing punk rock instead of just listening to it, it was time to create my persona. A lot of it is just shyness too. The thing is I read in a magazine or a book that Johnny Thunders used to call himself Johnny Volume before hitting it up with The Dolls. And I really have always worshipped Joe Strummer. And I´ve heard stories that they actually disliked each other, I dunno. But Is a combination of both. Do I think it’s cheesy 10 years later? Yeah, sometimes, but I guess it also a big part of me. I rarely use my real name.
2) We really enjoy your sound, a good concatenation of punk, surf and country. With which of these genres you grew up and which artist/band do you believe defined you as a person and a musician?
I’ve never been a big fan of surf music, I enjoy the old stuff like The Ventures and I really love Link Wray, but I grew up in between the Mexican-Mask surf movement in Mexico and I always considered it pretty lame and boring. To the extent they had to wear masks to make it more interesting. The music was really repetitive and the bands all sound the same, till this day, there’s no evolution. The same thing happens with garage and rockabilly bands in Mexico. So I guess at some point I just drifted away from that scene, The Multiforo Alicia scene and started getting into Delta Blues, Hank Williams and Tom Waits and just exploring, I guess. Exploring the possibilities. But I really have some real friends at the Multiforo Alicia, it was the place where I learned to play and I have some real good friends down there. Not the surf bands. Of course.
3) Tell us a bit about your new album Lonesome Water, Lonely Sea. Where does the title come from? Why do you look so melancholic on the cover art?
I’m really intrigued by the idea of loneliness. I’m a real solitary guy, so I was reading the lyrics to ‘Turkish Revelry’ by Loudon Wainwright III and he mentions in a couple of lines about “that lonesome water” and “sailing to the lonely sea” and I found it really beautiful and simple. I completely understand the notion, tough it’s kinda hard to explain. It’s a way of saying that after all, at the end we are all gonna end up alone. And therefore die alone. These are all subjects I talk about on the album, alongside religion, which also is one of my main obsessions, I guess because I grew up Catholic, I dunno.
4) I really enjoyed some of the more experimental moments in Lonesome Water, Lonely Sea, like the freaky sounds at the end of ‘There’s a time’. What drove you to mess around with pedals?
The Lonesome Water, Lonely Sea album was a pretty straight-forward affair. We recorded it in one day in Tepoztlán, a little town 45 minutes outside of Mexico City. We only had a 4 track and some mics. Then I spent two days with Arturo Tranquilino from Yokozuna overdubbing his parts. The record took the “experimental twist” only ’til I started doing post-production with Daniel Goldaracena, who is a great producer and he really took over some of the songs, and suddenly we were adding something here or just experimenting. I guess the weirder parts are to his credit.
5) There seems to be a resurgence of vinyl records after so many years of being a lesser used format. What do you think drove this new surge for vinyl to be such an endeared format to music fans and bands alike?
I dunno, I guess people are getting to know the whole feeling, the mystique of going and buying a record. Maybe having to go across town, especially now that a lot of the record stores are closing. It can be a real journey. And for record-geeks like me, once you open it and just checking out the credits and who produced it and stuff like that. It certainly has a charm to it that iTunes will never give you.
6) If someone asked you for the one song that identifies who Joe Volume is: Which one would you choose? If it were only one from your writing, which one would it be?
I listen to music everyday, so I guess what I’m listening to in that particular day.
7) You’ve lived in both Mexico City and Los Angeles. What have been your experiences with the local scenes?
Well, both scenes are pretty fucked up. Here in Los Angeles it’s definitely better because of all the punk bands, but you also have the hair-metal types that just won’t go away and wanna play Poison covers all night long and in Mexico you have the same old bands that you had 15, 20, 30 years ago and as far as the “indie” scene goes, there’s nothing Independent about it. Most of the bands -even friends of mine- are sellouts because entertainment in Mexico is handled by a really large corporation. Only one. And it’s corrupt and harmful to Mexico. So I refuse to play for them. That’s why I preferred to come here and push the restart button, even if I am too old to be busking in the streets and selling my LPs out of a shopping cart, hell,
I’ll do that a thousand times before I give a penny to those pigs. As far as I’m concerned there’s no independent scene in Mexico, it’s all corporations now.
8) Why did you end up giving away your album The Shameless?
I ended up giving away The Shameless because we got fucked by the record company and we never saw one dime out of the record. But it was a good record, so ultimately I said “Fuck it, let’s just give it away”. They took away a lot of money from us. They even took 20% commission out of our gigs! They´re called Sonidos Urbanos and I never saw any of those guys beating themselves up and dying onstage to be charging us for anything and on top of that, I paid for the production of the album. They stated it when I threatened to sue. We are still building a case against them, but I can’t discuss it.
9) Let’s talk about the Mexican scene: positive and negative experiences?
Every time I played in Mexico I had a lot of fun. People often would tell me why did I keep doing it. Specially that time when the show was really violent and bloody. But you gotta love the stage, gotta go and play, that’s what I do. It’s fairly simple why I enjoy it so much. The thing is I hate the business side of it. I understand there’s gotta be a business side to it because we all need to eat, right? But in Mexico, my question was “Why the fuck does it have to be so corrupt and so crooked?” I really thought and I still think that there’s gotta be a better way. A way to make shows without people spending half their salary in some concert tickets. There’s gotta be a way that is both lucrative for the businessmen and respectful to the artists and above all, the public.
10) In a recent tweet, you mentioned that it’s bad to bandy the term scene/collective/movement. Do you think these terms make bands lose their identity?
I have nothing against against scenes or movements when they are truly created by sound, space and time, like in 67 or 77 . But the “collective” idea is something I can’t grasp. Because whenever I got invited to such thing I only saw jealousy and apathy. A lot of people taking advantage of the groups. So I detest the idea.
11) We’ve recently read you are going to be recording new material, on analogue tape. Tell us a bit more about this project
The new album just comes out of opportunity and a lot of good luck. We get to record with some great people and great gear and it’s mostly because I feel ‘Im in a streak. Songs are coming very easy and efficiently so I guess I have to seize it. Inspiration, it’s a motherfucker.
Thank you very much!
Words: Sam J. Valdés López