I’ve been at the Against Me! show in Hamburg and it was one of the shows I enjoyed the most ever. The only negative point is that it caused some chronic damage to my ears but that was my fault. So I was happy to be able to see them again the next day in Bremen and even more that I could do an interview with singer and guitarist Tom Gabel who really had a lot to tell so the interview went pretty long. I really couldn’t choose a passage to cut except our little chat about the first “pirates of the caribbean” movie which we both liked as well as we both like Johnny Depp as an actor. But that’s a different story, I guess…
I’ve seen your show yesterday in my hometown Hamburg and before the encores there were kids getting on stage steeling your drum sticks and trying to get hands on your bass player’s towel. So, is this how it feels on the inside?
[laughs] Yes, this is exactly how it feels on the inside. I don’t know. I’m not sure.
Are the places you’re playing at on this tour bigger than the ones on the last tours?
Slightly maybe. But a lot of the places we’ve been playing at on this tour we’ve been playing before like Café Kult in Munich. We’ve played there every single tour we’ve done over here. Or every time we were in Nuremberg or Freiburg we played the same places. Sometimes me moved into bigger rooms but it is still the same places.
Do you think that while your audience has grown it might have also changed a bit? Like there is more bully or jock guys in the audience that used to make fun of punks back in the high school days?
I don’t know if it is like that over here but it definitely is in the States. But it’s a tough thing like to say “you can listen to my band. you can’t. you can. you can’t…” How do you want to drop the dividing line. We try to play shows where everyone is welcome to come regardless of whatever, who they are, where they work. If you want the place you play to be open for everyone you can’t turn away someone for the way they look like an asshole jock. But maybe the person that looks like the asshole jock just feels like trapped in a jock’s body and really just wants to get out… [laughs]
Did you actually have problems at shows with violence or something?
Rarely. It is really rare that we look at the crowd and see someone starting shit so we got to stop playing. It’s mostly very tame and people are very respectful which is always cool. It’s much better to look out and see people actually dancing as opposed to kicking ass in a pit or crap like that.
So, when there is people in the crowd behaving like shit do you sometimes get to a point where you think “are you listening to what I sing? I sing about things that you can’t possibly have the same opinion about”?
Definitely. But what you’re gonna do? You can only get out there every night and scream at them all the same, you know. It’s weird, with playing music there is two angles to it. It is lyrics and it is music. As someone who is part of doing both I somehow hope that everyone is listening to what is being said and you hope that they are digesting that in some way and are taking it into their account. And then at the same time you hope that they like the music because I put as much into the music as into the lyrics. It’s a tough point. I’ve had various people at various points if this band come up to me and say “I really like what you say but I don’t like the music” which is nice because at least they appreciated what we had to say and were actually listening but at the same time we had people come and say “I really like your music but I hate that you mix all the politics into that”. What do you say to that, you know?
Tonight and last night I realised that you we saying almost nothing on stage. Is that on purpose and do you act the same way in the States?
It’s pretty much on purpose, yeah. I don’t always necessarily feel very comfortable talking. I’m not a comedian or a politician. I don’t get up there and have something to sell to people. I’m really thankful and so I say “thank you very much”. But I feel like most of the things bands banter in between songs is pretty cheesy. So I refuse to say “we got t-shirts and records for sale” or “check out our website” or shit like that. And I think that most of the bands that do things like that just do it because they don’t know anything else to say. So to me I just try to keep the music together as tightly as possible and just get up there and play the show and people dance and have a good time and that’s it.
You signed to Sire Records recently. I did some web research today and found out that Sire got no real office in Europe, they are distributed by WEA. So Fat Wreck have an office in Europe and Sire doesn’t. Do you fear Europe might become less important for the business side of your band?
You know, I’m pretty sure the distribution of the record will be better in terms of the record being actually available. I know that Fat Wreck has an office in Germany but for the rest of Europe I don’t know how good their distribution is. I think the distribution will be just as good if not better that way.
I just feel like most bands that sign to labels like these don’t tour in Europe as often as you did up to now. I just wondered if you think this might happen to you as well?
You know, we also have the option that once the record is recorded if they don’t want to put it out in Europe we could take it to whatever label we want. We could have Fat put it out in Europe, we could have No Idea put it out in Europe, we could have a European label put it out in Europe. So that’s an option we have.
But what if the label says “we want you to do more touring in the US, so don’t go to Europe!”?
They don’t have no say about this. Touring and record labels are just two different things. Of course you try to make these things work together but they have no control over that, you know.
Well I think they have or at least after I’ve seen your dvd I know that record label people are sometimes, well, really funny…
That’s very true. They are usually pretty square… [laughs]
Okay, something completely different. Is it possible that since the time the dvd was shot you lost a lot of weight?
Yeah, that’s true
I just wondered if I got something wrong with my eyes…
You know, during this period of time I was a little depressed. So I was drinking a lot and I cut the drinking a little bit and I also went vegan and I lost a lot of pounds. It’s amazing how that happens. It was also like we made the dvd when we were in the midst of touring with “the eternal cowboy”. We made the dvd in April or May and we weren’t finished touring till November. And by the time in November we were destroyed as human beings. We were just taking too less care of ourselves and partying way too hard and eating like shit. And when we finished touring we were like “let’s take a step back”, re-examine our lifestyles and make this a little less like killing ourselves, you know, and basically detoxed for four months and just re-examined our approach to everything. So realizing we wanna tour as much as we can and we wanna do it as hard as we can. So you have to eat right. You can’t eat shitty, fucking gas station food all the time. You have to eat a well balanced diet, you have to sleep and you can’t party every night.
I heard rumours of two of Against Me! stopped drinking…
Yeah, me and Warren did for like ten months.
You think this is hard touring with a band? At least in Europe wherever you go the first thing someone asks is “you want a beer?”
You know, it is funny that when you make a decision like stop drinking you realize or you see pretty much the way things are. That it is pretty much like that, that every time you show up somewhere someone says “you want a beer?” and afterwards all we have to do is hang around and get drunk. Or that a lot of friendships that you make over the years on the road are pretty much centred around getting fucked up together and when you don’t have that you are “what are we gonna do now?”
Did you have friendships break up over that?
Not breaking up but probably getting a little weird because they would be like “you are joking right? you’re not drinking? so you’re not gonna get fucked up with me right now? are you kidding?” to a point that sometimes it was frustrating where I was “yeah, I’m fucking taking some time off. give me a break! stop acting like this was a weird thing!” It was definitely frustrating at some times and it has stressed some friendships to a point where they haven’t been the same since.
You know, also concerning music it was an amazing thing to stop drinking when we wrote on “searching for a former clarity” like being fully committed to writing music as opposed to half committed and half committed to getting wasted.
That’s kind of ironic because I think “miami” is the most drunk song you’ve ever written. The first time I heard it I thought “now they’ve turned into pirates!”
[laughs]I can see that. There is definitely a being-drunk-on-a-ship feeling to it.
So, you said you turned vegan. What are the diet’s of your colleagues like?
Jordan is a vegetarian. Warren is… well he really has weird eating habits. Sometimes he is vegetarian and sometimes he eats fish and stuff like that. He is kind of back and forth on everything.
But you don’t write it on your flags, it is more personal?
You know, I’d also like to correct that a bit. I am not “a vegan”. I eat a vegan diet. I don’t think anyone should identify by that like I am my dietary choices.
There should be a little more that that…
Thanks for the interview!