Blare Magazine recently conducted an interview with SOCIAL DISTORTION guitarist Jonny “2 Bags” Wickersham, who talks about the band’s plans for another album, their current label Epitaph Records and working independently.
As a band known for performing songs before deciding to record them, does such a practice take the element of surprise out of a new record if fans already know what it’s going to sound like?
It has to. Mike’s always done that and we’ve always performed songs even if they weren’t completely finished. Now, every show you do, someone captures a new song and throws it up on YouTube. Back in the day you could do things like small shows at home in a small venue and it could actually be a warm up show for a tour or a chance to showcase some new material in a smaller and relaxed way. But now, that can’t happen anymore because everything is documented at this point and there’s nothing you can do about it.
Ness previously stated that he wanted the new album to be different than Hard Time And Nursery Rhymes but do you anticipate being able to stick to that promise?
I think it will be different but that doesn’t mean that any direction we’re talking about now will actually happen on the new album. Hard Times wasn’t supposed to be how it turned out. We had planned out certain ideas before going into the studio for that album, but if it wants to do something else then you have to let it. I can say from my own experience that some of the best songs I’ve ever written are the ones I had very little to do with. I can look at the lyrics and say “I don’t even know where this came from,” and it may not be what I set out to say, but they work. On the other hand, some songs that I toil and toil over just turn out to be super crappy. You just have to let creativity happen, and it’s taken me years to learn that.
What was it like creating Hard Times with help from Epitaph Records?
We didn’t really run into any conflicts at all. Brett Gurewitz is an old friend of ours and he came down to sing backgrounds on the record and hang out and that was really cool. I think it’s neat being on Epitaph as I like what he’s done with the label since the very beginning. This is actually the second band that I’ve been in that has done a record with them as I was in U.S. Bombs and we did an album on Tim Armstrong’s Hellcat. Both of those experiences with the label were totally cool.
How does working in that environment compare to working independently?
I remember hanging out in the studio while Social Distortion was recording Prison Bound,which was a record they completely did on their own. Mike and I were painting houses then and they would play a couple shows, get a little bit of money together, go into the studio and record for a while. When the money was gone, they’d take a break from recording, play some more shows and get some money together to record again. They recorded Prison Bound piece-by-piece like that and completely on their own. But it has been good with Epitaph and it’s good to be involved with a record company that has a large distribution because they can get your record out all over the place and it’s next to impossible to sell records nowadays (laughs). At this point, I feel like we’re making albums for us and also for the fans so there can be new music for them to listen to. But this is also about continuing our story.
Making a good record isn’t cheap, and the music has to come from somewhere. Anyone can make a record now. I can sit at a hotel and use ProTools to make an album if I wanted to. Technology has made it that convenient to do but that doesn’t mean it’s going to be a good record. We are the kind of band that likes to go into a real studio because we like things as analog as possible as it just sounds better. You have to keep making records and hopefully you can sell enough to at least pay yourself back for your work (laughs).
As a band with a history that’s not exactly picture perfect, what do you think provides the most encouragement to continue to be Social Distortion?
The fact that there’s really nothing else we know how to do (laughs). I think that everybody in this band is a real rock and roller to the bone. I know for myself and for Mike, this is all we’ve ever wanted to do our entire lives, and that’s the truth. I’ve been playing in a band since I was a kid, and I haven’t always been able to do this, and I have definitely not been able to call it my job all this time. I am very grateful and I know a lot of very talented people who aren’t in a position to be able to do this, so I’m just trying to keep that as the focal point for the rest of my life.