JULY 25, 1995
Fungus Boy: You guys all met in high school right?
Fletcher: Uh, pretty much, like throughout the years—all livin’ together. We all lived in the same the same town—grew up. Everyone knew kinda everybody like a little bit but not real well. Like Jason was in a band, I was in a band, Jimmy was in a band, we all would go to parties and check out each other’s bands but we never were really like good friends or anything but then we formed the band that’s when we kinda really met each other.
FB: So what year did you guys actually start the band?
Fletcher: I’d say about ‘89, I think. Yeah it was like ‘89. I just had seen those guys around and I wanted to start a band that was gonna work hard and go somewhere. And I built a studio in my garage and then just called up Jason and said, “Let’s start a band”, he said, “Cool”. And then we got Byron, started playing as a three piece and then I saw Jimmy playin’ at a bar one night like doin’ covers with some band and he said he wanted to try out so we were like, “Fuck yeah”, it was cool. I didn’t really think he—he had a really good voice and I didn’t really think he would want to be in Pennywise because we were a pretty hardcore band but he was into it.
FB2: So what was in like growing up in Hermosa Beach, California?
Fletcher: Uh, actually this town is a lot like Hermosa, like the way that it’s structured. I don’t know the people because I haven’t really got to know anybody here but like it’s kinda like the same set up, you know like stripped like that with trees and stuff. It’s kinda like laid back, it’s a fuckin’ big party town, like one time I think it was highest alcohol consumed per capita in the Nation, you know like per people. It’s just like a lot of surfing, skating, hanging out with kids on the beach, you know the strand is like a whole scene. I don’t know if you guys have ever been to a beach that has a strand but it’s like a road that no cars drive on, just bikes and shit and that’s like really happening, like thousands of people on the weekends or everyday, you know. I don’t know, it’s just like growin’ up, partyin’, hangin’ out, going to see bands like Black Flag and Descendents at backyard parties, because they all lived right there. They didn’t grow up in Hermosa but they all lived there and played there, Circle Jerks, Germs, fuckin’ everybody, a lot of bands. It’s just a cool atmosphere.
FB: So what made you guys decide to start a band in the first place? You saw the bands that you just mentioned and thought it was something you’d like to do?
Fletcher: Yeah, basically I got into punk in like 1980 and I started playin’ guitar in 1980. I just really loved the music right when I heard it and there was a lot of bands around in the neighborhood doin’ that and just kinda went out and got a guitar at a pawn shop for sixty bucks and started playin’. And I think the same went for everybody else in the band, like everyone was in bands prior to Pennywise so...(Girl approaches Fletcher and gives him a cake for helping out her friend with leukemia so he takes time out to talk to her) Fletcher: Yeah, I think everyone had the same attitude like where we’re all separately just those kinda people that wanted to do something. We had extra time and music seemed like a good thing to do. I would go to parties every night and there wouldn’t be any bands there and I’m like, “Fuck there should be a band here!”, so we just started one and we started playin’ parties—and that went for Jimmy and Jason as well. It was just kinda like for the love of music and just for something to do out of boredom. Make the nights more interesting, break some shit.
FB: Would you say that Bad Religion was a band that you guys were inspired by?
Fletcher: Yeah, oh they’re a definite influence. My main influence would be like Minor Threat actually, in my guitar playing, and Black Flag just as an overall influence just the way they do things. But, uh, we get pegged as like Bad Religion a lot but I mean It’s just because we were doing melodic hardcore, fast stuff with clear vocals, we did harmony back ups. And when we went in and Brett (Gurewitz former Bad Religion member) mixed the first album he really like pushed us to do like fuckin’ triple harmony like Bad Religion type shit. We weren’t kinda that into it but it was our first album and we were younger so we got kinda influenced by it. But, yeah they’re definitely—their style of music is fast, melodic, hardcore that you can understand that has a message, it’s like what we’re all about. Yeah, they’re definitely an influence.
FB: The reason I brought it up is because I was wondering that if you guys were into them what it must have felt like to be signed to the same label?
Fletcher: Fuck, it was crazy, like we went up there and I had been into Bad Religion for years, like growing up as a kid, but when “Suffer” came out, that album was insane, at the time that was like the best album. And we went up there and met with Brett, he wasn’t that into it at the first then he called me back a day later he was like, “Bring me some more”. Because we told him our new stuff was a lot faster, just more like hardcore. So we brought him a ghetto blaster recording and he totally dug it and we were like, “Fuck”, you know, we were just stoked. We weren’t even interested in how many records we were gonna sell or anything, we just wanted to be on Epitaph Records and have Brett produce our albums ‘cause he was like the master of production, so we were just stoked in that aspect. And Bad Religion had sold like 12,000 albums at that time and he was like, “You guys will probably sell five or six (thousand)”, we were like, “Woah”. So it was insane but now it’s just grown into this huge freaked out thing, like a monster. It’s kinda weird being there from the beginning, watching it happen.
FB2: How many skateboard videos have your songs been on?
Fletcher: Uhm, I couldn’t even count. Like the policy with that is we don’t get paid for ‘em, we just give our music to them for free ‘cause we’re all into the scene, the sport. We’ve all been doing that shit our whole lives. Now I’m 30 so skating is like to the liquor store or the Laundromat, you know? Like today I skated to the Laundromat here, I’m a lot more into snowboarding because it’s softer and I don’t have to worry about breaking any bones, and surfing. We’ve been on like, I don’t know, I’d say probably at least 500 because anyone that makes a video wants to use hardcore music. There’s a limited amount of bands that are actually like up there at that level where people are gonna go, “Oh yeah the music’s by Pennywise”, or Bad Religion or Offspring, and they’re gonna want to buy the video, it’s part of like selling the video. We’ve done a focus tour with Taylor Stevens’?? (sound of bottles breaking in the background so I’m not sure if thats what he said) surf movie and then he made a focus movie and we went out, we did a song for it, “Peaceful Day”, we put on it, we went out with the movie. They played the movie at the clubs, like got a big projector and screen and shit and played the movies and then two bands played before us that were also on the soundtrack and then we played, so it was really cool. We did like all the surf towns around and we did Hawaii and shit. This year we’re doing it in Australia, Japan, Kawaii, and Fiji and shit, so it’s cool.
FB: When you guys saw your fellow label mates the Offspring sell so many albums did that give you guys new hope that you could do what hell you wanted on a small label without compromising?
Fletcher: Uh, yeah I guess so. We never—like before the Offspring sold all those albums our record was at like 150,000 which is like really incredible for a punk band that had no radio or MTV support. So all these major labels started going, “Well we’ve got Dinosaur Jr. but they only sold 60,000 albums”. There was all these college bands like Buffalo Tom & Dinosaur Jr. and shit that were getting all this claim and acknowlegement but they weren’t really selling that many records and people started going, “What thre fuck’s wrong with Pennywise? What’s going on here?”. So we got like six major label offers before this album (About Time) to go to a major and one of the was for like a half mill and we turned ‘em down. We actually didn’t even talk to them, they wanted to take us out to dinner and do all that shit, we’re like, “Fuck that, we owe Brett”, we’re loyal to Brett ‘cause believed in us in the beginning and now just because we’re selling records they want to come in and cash in. It’s like everyone else from media, magazines, to video, to radio, they want someone else to test the waters and make sure it’s safe, then they want to say, “Yeah we’re playin’ Nirvana and Offspring”, so they can get their Nike fuckin’ ad camapign, make their million dollars off their advertising shit. We said, “No”, and that was before Green Day blew up or Offspring. No one really knew that, we didn’t tell Brett. I didn’t call up Brett and go, “Look dude soemone offered us half a million dollars, you’re gonna have to give us that or we’re walkin’”, we just kept it quiet. We took so much less money, I won’t say the figure but let’s just say that it was a lot, lot, lot, lot, lot, lot less than half a million dollars. And westayed on and just kept it quiet and then Offspring blew up and now it’s like—We never really thought we’d have to go to a major, to answer the question exactly. We were happy doin’ what we’re doing, we were stoked, we thought Brett was doing a good job and we were doing a slow build, slow climb to the top thing, slowly climbing into success and we were happy. Now that Offspring’s done it—there’s no way we’re ever gonna sell 8 million records or probably even a million or probably even 500,000. I’d say a gold record for us is maybe in reach but who fuckin’ cares, we’re totally stoked at 300,000 or 200,000, we’re having a great time, we’re making a living, we can pay our rent and have car insurance and shit, so what else could you ask for? What are you gonna do if you have fuckin’ 3 million dollars in the bank, like some people do nowadays. (laughs).
FB: There are a lot of good bands out there that still have to do day jobs.
Fletcher: Uhm humm, we just quit our day jobs a year ago. We all had full time jobs and we’d have to work around them through touring and stuff and get fired and start new jobs but now we can put all the time into the music. We’re gonna be touring like six months out of this year so it’s cool to do that. Go out and support the record ‘cause that’s what we’re all about is fuckin’ goin’ out and playing. As long as they get some fuckin’ air conditioning in some of these places this summer (laughter, becuase the show was pretty damn hot) ‘cause that’s like hell, you can’t even put on a good show ‘cause you’re ready to pass out, you’ve got to conserve your energy. We don’t have those kind of hopes, we know that if it happens it happens, we don’t really care. I mean Offspring is on a whole different level now, Brian and all the guys in the band haven’t changed but kids’ views towards them have changed. We like to have our fans hardcore, like tonight where they knew every song, from start to finish they went off. You go to an Offspring concert or Green Day concert sometimes, I’m not saying all the time, you get a crowd of people that don’t really care about any other song on the album except for like “Keep It Seperated” or...
FB: The hit single.
Fletcher: Yeah, and the sit there and they go like this (folds his arms) the whole gig then they play “Keep It Seperated” and they go crazy and then they fuckin’ calm down again then they go home.
FB: I’ve always hated going to shows and seeing people just go crazy on the single.
Fletcher: Yeah that’s like that kinda shit we’re into, we’re into like 100 percent Pennywise fan or get the fuck out! So we could care less if there’s gonna be 700, 7 million kids that aren’t into us going to our shows, it’s like not even worth it doing it, so whatever.
FB2: How much would you say Epitaph has grown since you’ve been there?
Fletcher: Well the cool thing about that whole thing is Brett believed in the music, he was into the music, that’s why he started the label. When we got on there he said, “I want to start a melodic hardcore label”, so we’re like, “killer”, you know, to be a part of it. Since he’s done that he’s taken all the money that he’s made of Offspring and he’s dumped it back into the label. He bought a new building, like a new company building, and it’s like really killer. He’s got a really good computer system now and he caters to all the bands needs. Like he knows all the surf shops all over the world, he knows this that, promoters, he knows when you come into where the surf shops are, what guys cool, where’s the cool bar, just like a massive computer network that caters to punk rock, like major labels don’t know how to do. Bad Religion went to a major label and what happened to them? They didn’t sell—they haven’t even gone gold yet, they sold like 350,000 records and they got a major push, and the major label made them do the wrong video song. It’s like all kinds of crap and that’s why we’re not happy with a major, there’s no control. Epitaph, Brett puts all money and started Epitaph Europe, he started an office over there so he could regulate all of Europe. It’s kinda hard to deal overseas when you’re just taking people’s words for shit, now he’s got his own team there. He’s gonna start Central America. We got a bus, you know, ‘cause the Offspring’s making all that money. We’re just like, “Hey you want us tour in it? Fuck, takin’ in some cash for a bus,” ‘cause those things are like 800 bucks a day. But I mean we’re payin’ for part of it and they’re payin’ for part of it. Which makes life a lot easier for us because we’ve done nine van tours and when you drive eight hours with six guys and all your equipment in the van you get out and go into a show and you want to rip each other’s heads off. It’s a lot better when you’re comfortable and get your rest, you put on a better show. So any kid that says, “Fuck you sellout, you got a bus!”, they can get in a fuckin’ van with six smelly fuckers and drive across the country with no air-conditioning in the middle of summer and then tell us to fuck off. ‘Cause they don’t know what’s up. What do they do for me? They don’t drive to my house and entertain me, so they shouldn’t worry about it.
FB: A lot of the press that I’ve read on you guys focuses on the positive aspects of your lyrics. Is that something that plays a major role in the band?
Fletcher: Yeah definitely. We’re into that motto like why sit around wastin’ your time trying to make other people happy if you’re not happy. Why go to work eight hours a day doin’ a job you don’t want to for twenty years and then finally realize, “Fuck, I fucked up, I just wasted my whole life. I wanted to sail around the world,” you know? Whatever you want to do that’s in your reach. That went for almost everyone in our band. Like my parents use to hide my guitar, break my records, say punk rock’s ruining your life, this shit’s no good, and they didn’t really understand, they never read the lyrics, they didn’t know what was up with it. I mean I just kept sayin’, “Fuck you”, I dropped out of school, kept playin’ in bands, havin’ a good time doin’ whatever I wanted. Now they’re like, “Oh, can we get an autograph for cousin Jamie, can we get some tickets to the show, can we borrow some money?”. I’m like, “What punk rock? Punk rock Mom, remember you didn’t like this crap”. It’s like we just try to put out the message that do whatever you want to do makes you happy in life and don’t bother listening to other people if they don’t have something good to say. And no sense in being depressed about shit, if something bums you out try to get over it and move on with your life because it’s just a waste of time if you’re not happy. You’ve got to be happy at all times, no matter what’s wrong.
FB: The song “Killing Time” is about how the media focuses on murders and...
Fletcher: O.J. Simpson.
Fletcher: That’s what it’s kinda about.
FB: They concentrate too much on the O.J.’s and Menendez Brothers and all that.
Fletcher: That songs basically like about, from what I get out of it, ‘cause I didn’t write it Jimmy wrote it, and I’ll probably get this wrong but what I see is people sit around and they’re watching—they’re wasting their time watching fucked up people on TV. People’s whole lives are run around the O.J. trial, like housewives get up and they just fuckin’ bam! O.J. trial eight hours a day until it’s done. You know that phrase “killing time”, “Oh what are you doing? ‘Just killing time’”, you’re killing time watching fuckin’ killing. And the media’s so punked up with negative images, death, I mean what do you hear on the news, do you hear anything good? It’s like car accidents, fuckin’ gangland slaying, liquor store robberies, jewelry store robberies, nerve gas attack, all the news focuses on is the bad things that happen in the world. Every TV show is mostly about fuckin’ killing or some cop show or something, it’s just all negative. If you’re just sittin’ there watchin’ that shit that shit rubs off on you. If you sit in your house goin’, “I’m gonna get hit by a bus today, I’m gonna get hit by a bus today, I’m gonna get hit by a bus today”, one fuckin’ day you’re gonna walk out and get hit by a fuckin’ bus because you’ve programmed yourself. And the media’s just programming people to fuckin’ go out and kill people and it’s all right to kill your spouse or fuckin’ hack ‘em up or kill somebody because he was in your backyard takin’ a pee, or kill a guy because he was spray painting on a wall. You got all this crazy shit going on in the world and people are just eating it up. I mean fuck it man, go out and do your own thing, don’t thrive on these negative images.
FB: It use to be if you had a problem with someone you’d settle it with a fight now it’s guns. Twelve year old kids...
Fletcher: Oh man, don’t even talk about gangs. I know it’s bad out here—actually I’ve seen some shows like “Bangin’ In Little Rock” and stuff, it was just makin’ me sick. Like kids just tryin’ to be hard and they had no reason to be hard, it’s such a joke. I don’t know, that’s such a gnarly problem, gangs and the attitude with kids. It’s like to get into that it’s like a fuckin’ ten year subject because how are you gonna explain it, to a kid. Like, you got get them off the streets, you’ve got to get them involved in things that are fun. Take a gang banger and teach him how to skateboard or surf or snowboard and I guarantee he gives up fuckin’ gang bangin’. But they just don’t get a chance, they come from these homes that are fucked up already, their parents are fighting and shit, their mom’s smokin’ crack, it’s like such a deep rooted problem. These kids, it’s just fucked up. I think it has a lot to do with parents, you know?
FB: Do you have a lot of kids that come up to you at your shows at talk about that they can relate to some of the things you sing about?
Fletcher: Yeah, that’s one thing that we get a lot of is like kids that are just into the music, into the lyrics. Everything we sing about is pretty much from personal experiences, like the anti drug song. We’ve all gone through our drug stages. I took every drug known to man kind in massive fuckin’ quantities, and I taught myself, “OK, this is not a good idea. I gotta quit doing it,” and I did. I just drink beer and smoke a little hash now and then now. Everything that we write about is from a personal experience whether it’s like “Same Old Story”, that’s like about Jimmy’s dad, it’s about my dad, it’s about your dad probably, it’s about fuckin’ whatever. Just any song that a kid picks up he can probably relate to. We’ve had kids—we get kids with Pennywise tattoos all the time, like it’s their life, that’s rad when you affect someone like that. We get letters from kids in mental institutions that say, “My parents stuck me in here ‘cause I was doin’ drugs, I was listenin’ to punk rock and the only thing that keeps me going in here is your tape and being positive”, you know that’s a great feeling when you can help somebody. Like people that were gonna commit suicide they like listened to our album and snapped out of it and got therapy and shit. If you help like even one person it’s worth it. We figure why sing about negative shit, there’s already enough bands out there singing about negative shit. You’ve got gangsta rap and all that crap, you’ve got rock & roll which sings about zero, about fuckin’ chicks or something ridiculous, who needs to hear that shit man? So we just sing about things we experience and life as we know it. We’re basically just average guys, we’re not rock stars, we’re not any different than any kid in this place except that we fuckin’ worked a little bit harder and got a band together to spread this message or whatever you want to call it. So I think they can relate to it.
FB2: Did you see that show about skinheads?
Fletcher: I heard there was a kid wearing a Pennywise shirt. Is that the one your talking about?
FB2: I’m not sure.
FB: The one that was on HBO? I don’t know, I haven’t seen it in awhile.
Fletcher: I heard there was one in California with a kid wearing a Pennywise shirt, like waving a Nazi flag.
FB: I heard that you guys got mistaken for a white power band?
Fletcher: Not mistaken, it’s like the fuckin’ idiots like Nazi’s somehow thought, they got some like racist message out of our lyrics which is just a fuckin’ joke. Anyone that can get a racist message out of our lyrics I’d like to see how they can do that. I went out with a black girl for six years, we practiced—Pennywise started at her house. Jason went out with a Japanese chick for three years. It’s ridiculous, the people that are into that shit it’s like another thing, you can listen to them talk on talk shows and shit you’re like, “Are you fucking kidding me? Are you actually that stupid?”. A lot of those guys reform too, you see them like a year later on the show and there not into it anymore. I think it’s another thing where kids don’t have anything to do with their time and they don’t feel like they belong to any certain thing so maybe this gang sucks them in and they feel loved ‘cause their parents aren’t giving them shit. Here’s a skinhead group over here and they hit up with the skinheads and they feel like they’ve got a family. I mean that’s what they’re always saying, “This is my family, they give me love”, you know, and it’s true ‘cause they’re like a clique. That feels good to kids that don’t have anything and they get sucked in and before you know it they’re white power this, white power that. But really, think about it, if they get a chance to step back and think about it I mean what’s the fuckin’ color of skin mean? It mean absolutely nothing. I wish you wouldn’t even print that in the interview because like the more shit that gets said about—the more glory that those fuckers get, the more publicity, if people would stop just stop writing about white power and Nazi’s all the time and the talk shows stopped it’s better I think. It’s more like another media exploitation. It just gets some kids going, “Yeah that’s cool, fuck the niggers”, or something, sitting at home in their living room eating Captain Crunch. So whatever. Print it if you want, don’t print if you
don’t, but I would say don’t. Don’t even give those guys the time of fuckin’ day!
FB2: What’s the meaning behind the title of your latest record?
Fletcher: Uhm, “About Time” was like—we were thinking of a lot of titles and it was kinda like about time for a new Pennywise record ‘cause it had been two years and we’re always slow gettin’ our records out. Uh, we’re always singing about time, and running out of time, wasting time, time is short man you gotta live your life now because you could be dead tomorrow. I don’t know, whatever, it’s just fuckin’ about time. I didn’t name it so. (laughter) Our video director, the guy that directed our video named it.