Julian interviews KJ Jansen from Chixdiggit!

My good buddy Julian (from The Johnstones etc) was rad enough to interview KJ Jansen from Chixdiggit for me, check it out!
New album, 2012, out September 16th on Fat Wreck Chords

So, let's get down to the nitty gritty!
KJ: Alright! My favourite!

I'm by no means a pro by the way so don't think you're talking to some press dick!
KJ: OK awesome and don't think you're talking to some professional musician either!

I'll keep that in mind! S
o. 25 years of Chixdiggit! 100 countries. 20,000 shows and 100,000,000 downstrokes!
KJ: That's about right, there's been a few upstrokes too!

Are your wrists tired yet?
KJ: Noo, my wrists are fine! We have, like everybody else who plays in Ramones style bands, we all have very solid wrists!

And big ass fucking forearms!
KJ: You better believe it!

Seems like you guys slowed down in making records after 2000, what happened?
I think we were doing it all the time and it became kind of a job, and it's our favourite thing to do, when your favourite thing to do becomes a job - like, you know people who have careers who love what they're doing and they don't look at it as a job, like that's different - but it kinda became a job, we were constantly touring, we kinda wanted to be at home a little bit more.. and I mean it's all kind of stuff that's crazy to complain about, not that we were complaining, but it just wasn't fun you know what I mean? So we started just doing things when the time was right and I think that's been the best decision we've ever made.

Was it hard to start back up again after you took a bit of a break?
KJ: Yeah it was about a year long.. a year and a bit long, it was hard.. I kind of had thought that I'd never do it again to be honest and I was fine with that, and once I was fine with that I realized that I actually did like doing it... you know, it's kind of one of those let it go and if it comes back sort of thing. It was actually easy to start doing it again, the only difficult part was there were a couple guys who were doing certain jobs in the band that I didn't know how to do who didn't want to do it anymore so I had to figure out those jobs. But other than that it was actually pretty easy!

How has making music changed since you started, from your point of view?
KJ: Well I think um, like obviously the recording methods have changed and you're not using tape as much, but I think for me it's just because when I was younger I was really kind of all over the place and I was writing songs and stuff but it was really hard for me to focus and now I find now as I'm a little bit older it's easier for me to focus on things. I think that's probably the biggest thing that's changed from my little corner of making music.

Who is the music nerd of the band? And does anyone ever try to talk proper chord progression and theory, that kind of shit?
We've actually never had one of those guys! There's no music lessons... I think Mark took a couple guitar lessons when he was young but yeah there was none. Mike Eggermont had zero interest in music and he's working in computer software now! So I mean, I liked punk rock and Mark liked punk rock, we all kind of liked it but yeah there were no real music nerds.

So I gotta ask you about your power stance because I don't think I've seen anyone set your mic stand as low as you do!
KJ: Ha, well I think there's lots of guys who can do it now, I can't do it that good anymore! 25 years takes a beating on the hips, the knees are fine but the hips... well they're fine now, I went up a little higher a few years ago and it made everything a little bit more enjoyable, it was less of like a jazzercise workout, more of a ... I could enjoy playing more.

Why did you start doing that in the first place, was it mostly just a shtick to start with to look badass?
KJ: Yeah and it got to be one of those things where we wanted to see how low we could go and how long we could stay there. We were skinny back then you know and now that we're a little higher we're not getting our daily workout anymore!

Let's talk a little bit about the new record now! When did you decide to make it just one track? 
KJ: I think we were initially going to try to make our song like 1 second longer than The Decline so our song was greater than The Decline - we wanted to be able to say that - and it was about our last year of touring and I wanted to do a tour diary of that because Mark our original guitar player was leaving the band at that point so we wanted to do it for him and then you know there's different reasons why we wanted to make it longer and shorter and the way it ended up being recorded it was a lot longer at different points and we had to cut it back and it just kind of took off on itself. The bed tracks - like the bass, the drums and the one guitar - we did in one take..

KJ: Because every time we practiced it it was a different length so we had to cut a bunch out of that where we had already cut a bunch out of so.. the toughest part was keeping it short enough that we could put it on one side of a vinyl record. I don't know if I'm missing anything, I mean it's a lot of stuff! But yeah it's a tour diary of our entire last year touring with Mark O'Flaherty.

Did you write a lot of it while you were on the road?
No I just sort of was writing the songs as we got back and I was just remembering all the things that we had done and the people we had hung out with or whatever... I can't really write on the road, I just want to have fun and hang out with our friends and stuff, it's more stuff I do when I get home.

Was it much effort to make the record flow from like one story to the next with it all being one track?
Yeah there was definitely different transitions or whatever you want to call them that didn't work as well and that's why I mean the song was finished like 2 years ago, we recorded the bed tracks about a year and a half ago but we spent that whole time before that trying to make it work and flow and kinda make it feel like the year felt... so yeah there's some slower times and some more fast paced times... but yeah we wanted to make it good, and I wanted to make all the towns - because I think there's like 22 or 23 little songs within this song - I wanted to make them all stand on their own as songs that I would be proud of, soo... and that was hard too, some of the towns had other songs that weren't as good so there was a lot of going back to the drawing board kinda thing.

Throughout this new song and as well as your entire discography it seems like you like to use a lot of modulation of keys..
KJ: Haha, you're right!

Is that something that you learned how to do as a kid or do you just do it because it sounds awesome?
Well it's something we kind of encountered by accident early when we all kind of accidentally went up half a step when we were playing a song, and then everybody was like 'that was awesome' and we didn't know it was called modulation we just thought it was cool so yeah every once in a while we like to pull it out!

It's a great little trick to really bring the energy up!
KJ: Yeah, absolutely! A lot of my favourite songs have it.

So there's obviously a couple of themes going on in the record/song, mainly the Western theme and the "Rock You Like A Hurricane" lick!
KJ: Yes! Well that was a German reference right because you know the Scorpions are from Germany and we were leaving Germany, but yeah we joke around I guess with lyrics a little bit but there was even some musical jokes which is kind of a newer thing for us... I don't want to call them jokes but..

Jokes sounds a little simple I guess.. for lack of a better word.
KJ: Yeah, we were just having fun with the music part!

Did you plan to do that from the beginning or was that just a funny idea you guys had one night and decided fuck it let's do it?
Sometimes they were planned and sometimes they just kind of happened... most of all they just happened when we were practicing and it'd be something that made us laugh so we'd stick it in.

Are there plans to play the whole song in its entirety on the upcoming tour?
Well.. we recorded this about a year and a half ago and we can do it but don't have plans to in the next little bit because we've all forgotten how to play it, we're going to have to re-learn it! But, you know maybe one day, who knows! If it feels right.. I don't think it's going to be a regular in the set for sure.

Will you be playing some of the songs within the song?
KJ: I've been doing that already actually! I did an acoustic tour of Europe and a few of the towns that were on the record I played them their little bit of the song...and I know I did it in Edmonton too. So yeah that's a possibility, and maybe if we see where we're going on the next tour we can learn those little bits or whatever.

How often do you get to talk to your kids when you're on the road, do you still get to read them bedtime stories and that kind of stuff while you're touring?
KJ: Bedtime stories not so much.. a lot of the time we've been on the road has been in Europe so it's really tough to coordinate bedtimes with you know if we're driving or whatever, but we definitely talk almost every day, and the other guys in the band with kids it's the same way. With FaceTime now... when we first started touring we had to use maps, we didn't have cell phones and we'd have to like find a payphone and advance the show and all this stuff but now all that stuff is easy, and it's easy to keep in touch with home too and know what's going on. But yeah it's tough being away now and your kids are really young and you want to be there for their first crap on the potty or whatever.

Have you ever thought of having one of them record a wicked intro for a live set?
Well you know my daughter is getting to be quite a good piano player so maybe, we'll see! Can't rule anything out!