Flotsam and Jetsam Interview

The following Interview was conducted by Keith "The Bastard" Zalinger and comes from "The Koffin" #22, December 30, 1997. For more info on "The Koffin" e-zine visit their web site at http://members.aol.com/thekoffin/home/koffin.htm

THE KOFFIN: You guys still write everything as a band, which is real unusual for a band at your level. Usually by that time it's just one or two people..... isn't difficult with five people contributing?

JASON B. WARD: We're kind of like a machine. I usually handle the arrangements, with Eric A.K.[vocals] and Eric Braverman[the band's manager]handling the lyrics. We've kind of gotten to a point where everybody knows their job.

TK: On your new cd["High"], you do a cover of a Lard song["Fork Boy"], although from looking at it I thought it was a Ministry song......

JBW: My brother used to play drums for Lard, which featured Jello Biafra, Al Jourgenson, and Paul Barker. It was my chance to finally record something of his, which I didn't get a chance to do back then.

TK: Didn't something happen to him?

JBW: Yeah, he died about 3 years ago.

TK: You mentioned Eric Braverman, whose name pops up on quite a few of your cds, especially "Quatro", which I really liked. Where does he fit in?

JBW: Not only is he our manager, he writes both music and lyrics. He also kind of like our 'spiritual guru'. He's right on the money as to whether or not we're writing good material or subpar material. It's a good working relationship, although it's kind of a weird one. I know most bands don't writer songs with their management. For him, it's like he's the sixth member of this band.

TK: It must be really hard for someone to come forward and say "this sucks", especially if it's something you guys really happen to like.

JBW: Oh....there's been plenty of that in this band! But you know, I think that's why most of our stuff is quality music. I look back on our last 4 or 5 records, and for the most part I think it's really strong material, especially the last one["Drift"] and "High". At the same time, I'm also my worst critic.

TK: Now that you've mentioned the "Drift" cd, that was something I hadn't heard anything off of until it had been out for almost a year.

JBW: That was part of MCA's "still" advertising campaign! They didn't bother to do anything to let anyone know the record was out. It's just another despicable MCA rock story.

TK: I ended up seeing the video for "Smoked Out", but that was over a year afterward...

JBW: Basically, MCA just kind of gave up on us. It really sucked because we were out on tour with Megadeth and Korn, and I thought it was a quality record. For them, it was another big switch down at the 'ol corporate headquarters. I thought "Drift" was one of our stronger records. And, when the critics AND your friends are telling you it's really good stuff, I think it would've done a lot better had MCA actually tried to sell it. They had a problem with our overall image.

TK: A lot of bands seem to have problems working with bass, or don't even work with it at all[and just bury it in the mix...-K]. Did you have a lot of problems in that area early on?

JBW: Not really, because I kind of set the tone for my role in this band before I even joined. Historically, since Jason Newstead left the band[to join Metallica-K], they really had a problem clicking with anybody who played bass. Troy Gregory did what he could to take a more forcible role in the band, but they just never connected well on a musical level. On a personal level I think it was never peaches 'n cream for them either. When I joined the band, I told these guys: "if I'm going to be your bass player, I'm going to have a certain amount of input on the writing". And I do. I consider myself a writer first and a bassist second. Over the last few records my role as a writer has increased by 80% I think. They've grown to have that much faith in me.

TK: Do you actually write on the bass, or on guitar?

JBW: I write on the guitar, and a lot of stuff on keyboards as well. For the most part, I wrote 90% of it on acoustic guitar.

TK: The title of the new cd["High"] aside, I noticed on both sides of the 'coin' that are quite a few drug references. Since this is by no means a family magazine, I think we can talk about this. Shouldn't people be able to write and sing about smoking pot[and actually talk about doing so...-K] without it being so 'hush-hush'???

JBW: I think for the most part they have been. I think that whole title "High" means the obvious part, and people ARE going to look at the record and say "oh wow, they're writing songs about getting high again". Although that is part of what we're writing about on the record, it's definitely not the only angle of what we're writing about. Basically "High" is my little story of what's been happening with this band in the last few years. If you follow along with the lyrics, each song has something to do with the entire story. In the end, I think it has little to do with drugs itself, although that's a big portion of it because that's part of our lives-part of the journey along the way. We called the record "High" because I'm still so amazed that five very different guys can sit down and write/play this kind of music. To me, it's nothing short of astounding. It's kind of a power that comes from a higher source. That's what the title means to me.

TK: What's this about you not touring Europe?

JBW: We haven't toured Europe since I was in the band[about 7 years...-K]. Again, that's an MCA thing.

TK: What were they thinking?!?

JBW: I don't know. You can print this about MCA: "They couldn't make a cup of coffee, let alone sell any rock records!"

TK: Ouch!

JBW: Yeah, I know. I felt like going over there hundreds of times and standing in the middle of that huge office and yelling "what do you people do all day long?!? Anything?!?" It amazes me that there were 50,000 people there who were supposed to be working my record and nothing happened.

TK: A lot of radio people and marketing types have told me about marketing research done on samples of only like 100 people. Some decisions are made as how and what to market based on these. It doesn't seem like they even test these 'results' out....

JBW: Well, I realize to a certain extent that our stuff is a little more zesty than what people are used to. I relish the fact that a more exclusive number of people are going to enjoy Flotsam & Jetsam, but at the same time I won't deny the fact that our material is still very musical. It's not a bludgeon of noise with a 'cookie monster' singer on top of it, we're not that kind of band. To not be played on our hometown radio station when they play White Zombie every other minute is ridiculous. They're just as heavy, we're just as groovy yet they tell us we don't fit their format. I'm tired of hearing it.

TK: One of the tracks on your new cd, "Luck Day" caught my attention because it's pretty jazzy......

JBW: On this record, I wanted it to be very live-very 'seat of our pants'. A lot of times, we found we could jam on something and just go off on a tangent. It really adds to the music. The longest fadeout in Flotsam & Jetsam history is on that Song. I really had a good time doing that.....it's so unrehearsed and unwritten.

TK: On the cd, it's refreshing to see the quote: "It's metal, so fuck off". I've interviewed a few bands who want nothing to do with metal.

JBW: I've said it so many times, but I'll say it again. I can't personally fucking stand the way the industry has sliced itself into a million pieces over the last so many years. I mean, what kind of jackass comes up with all these little names??? There's 'alternative metal', 'hip-hop metal', 'super grunge metal', goth'. It just gets to a point where it's so stupid and ridiculous. Anybody who listens to White Zombie and thinks they're listening to alternative music is full of shit! It's all hard rock music. If people want to call us a 'speed metal band', then they'll call us that. In the end, it's still the same old stuff. I'm not going to poke someone into thinking we're the new trend or 'style of the week', 'cause we're not. We're the same band we were 10 years ago....every article that's been done about us lately has had that little quote in it, so I know they're hearing me.............

~Interview by Keith the Bastard~