INTERVIEW: Japandroids’ David Prowse
This is the full transcript of an interview with Japandroids’ drummer David Prowse. An edited version appeared on New & Approved. You can check out a perspicacious review of their latest album Celebration Rock – which SYN likes so much we’ve been featuring tracks from it since before it even came out – by clicking here.
You’ve just come out with your second album Celebration Rock, it’s picking up some excellent, excellent reviews. It came out early this month, a couple weeks out from release, looking back how do you feel about the album now?
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We spent a long time working on this record, and when we had finished it we were very proud of it and we thought it’s the best thing that we’ve done so far, we were really excited about it. But at the same time you can never really predict how a record will be received. There are countless bands that’ve made a great debut that I personally gravitate towards their first album and then a few years later when they make the next record it didn’t grab me in the same way. Not necessarily because it was better or worse or something like that but just circumstances change and you’re in a different place a few years later so maybe you don’t like the exact same kind of music that you did two or three years prior. So we were really proud of this record but at the same time we didn’t take for granted that at the same time just because we’d made another record, it would automatically be as well-received as Post-Nothing was or be better received than Post-Nothing. When this record came out and seeing all the great reviews, and beyond that, because I don’t really read many of our reviews, but just seeing all the people who’re coming to our shows and are already knowing the words to these new songs, it’s a really amazing thing and we’re very luck that after all the fun we had on touring Post-Nothing that it looks like we might get to do that again on this record, and that’s incredibly exciting for us.
Now you mentioned Post-Nothing, which is your debut album in 2009, and one of the things I noticed first of all was that Post-Nothing was quite dense musically and Celebration Rock was still quite dense but it was a lot clearer. This time around were you consciously trying to clean up your sound?
To some extent, I mean we really wanted to have the same kind of feeling on this new record that we had on Post-Nothing, I mean we really liked the way that sounded but I think that inevitably it was going to be a bit clearer and a little bit less sloppy than Post-Nothing for two main reasons, I would say. Number one, we just had a lot more time to work on this record and Post-Nothing we had to do as fast as possible because we were recording it on our own time and we basically just wanted to spend as little money as possible so we just tried to record it as quickly as possible. And it was rushed and there are some mistakes in the album that made it onto the album because we were basically just trying to get a take that we thought was good enough, basically, and have a good kind of energy to it rather than worrying too much about fluffed notes or stick hits or whatever. On this new record we had a lot more time to work on it and mix every song a little bit differently and have a little bit more time to get that take that had a great energy on it but also was a really strong take all the way through. Also a big thing is that we’ve just become better musicians which will just inevitably happen if you’re playing shows every day for a couple years. If you’re gonna do anything for that amount of time and do it every day you’re just gonna get a bit better at doing it. It’s just one of those things where we still record in the same studio with all the same basic equipment and personnel but we just got a different record because you can’t really recreate the same thing.
Speaking of the mixing, one thing I’m really curious about – and it’s so trivial, but I’ve been dying to know ever since I heard the album – that high-pitched, distortion, guitar whine on the intro to “Adrenaline Nightshift” is almost exactly the same as the one on “The House That Heaven Built” which was the single that you released before the album. Was that a deliberate fake-out?
Well, throughout the record a lot of the guitar songs are quite similar because Brian does have a specific sound. Those are separate takes, it’s not like we took that and put it in two different songs. I think that no matter what we did in the mixing process we still want it to sound like us and we wanted to have sounds that we could recreate live. There’s a bit more variation on this record compared to Post-Nothing obviously, where the guitar sounds exactly the same on every single song, but on this one there’s a little bit more, y’know, sometimes some of the guitar lines are a little bit higher in the mix compared to others on this record. But it’s still us at the end of the day so there’s definitely gonna be some sonic consistency all the way through.
I just thought it was really funny because I was listening to the album and then I heard that little chunk of the intro and I was like “Yes! It’s that song I know all the words to!” but then it was this whole other song and I was like “Oh that’s cool too.”
We fooled you!
If I can quote you back to yourself, in 2009 you said that “the next record title will be clever in some way but probably not genre-related.” Do you not think Celebration Rock is genre related?
Goddamnit! This is the problem with doing interviews, everything’s on tape. I think with this new album title we were trying to at least steer away from having that kind of tongue-in-cheek self-deprecating thing. It is certainly genre-related, yes, I was wrong. You caught me. Bravo.
Thank you. You said part of the motivation behind Celebration Rock was that you could get back out on tour and I know that just after Post-Nothing came out you guys were, as the legend goes, on the verge of breaking up before it started gaining some traction, so what do you think inspired that 180 from being on the verge of breaking up and then wanting to be on the road just constantly?
Well, even when we were on the verge of breaking up we wanted to be on the road constantly. That was kind of part of the problem. It’s kinda hard to explain now because it seems so ridiculous now but when we made Post-Nothing we thought we were gonna release it ourselves, we didn’t have a booking agent, we didn’t have a record label, we didn’t have any of those kinds of things that helps you get to be a band as your job. It was still basically just a hobby for us, it was something we loved to do but it was something we were doing while working day jobs and it was something that we were doing on our own, because there wasn’t any interest in anyone else to help us. So that was kind of the context for why we were on the verge of calling it a day and moving on. We’d gotten to do a lot of the things we were really excited about, like we made the record and we’d done a little bit of touring here and there just setting up our own shows in towns near Vancouver, but it didn’t really seem like there was much that was gonna happen after that. As soon as we started getting the opportunity to tour a lot there wasn’t even a discussion about whether or not we should do it, it was something we’d been hoping to do for a long time and frankly dreaming of doing for a long time. So those two ideas weren’t mutually exclusive, it was more that it didn’t look like we were gonna get to tour and get this record out to a lot of people so let’s just play the last few shows we’ve got lined up for ourselves and then maybe it’s time for something else, because it doesn’t seem like this is going anywhere.
As an intensely live band, like I saw you guys on Jimmy Fallon recently and it was just an explosive performance, what do you do to summon that kind of energy before a show?
Jimmy Fallon is a bit of a weird one because it’s a very different environment for us. It’s kind of half way between being in the studio and playing like a real live show to an audience. When we’re playing live I think it’s just very natural for us to play with as much intensity and energy as we can muster. We basically just try and play as hard as we can until we basically can’t stand up let alone play anymore songs. We’re very lucky in the sense that we have audiences that actively participate in our shows and they’re really helping us get to this other place where we’re feeding off the energy they’re giving us, and it just keeps ramping up and becoming more and more of a chaotic, frenzied kind of thing. With things like recording and playing on television, that’s a little bit harder to recreate that same environment you get when you’re playing in front of a room of a few hundred, or occasionally a few thousand people. That’s a very natural environment for us and then recording studios and TV shows are definitely not as natural an environment for us. So that’s a little bit harder for us to get to that place but we do what we can to try and bring that energy to those places as well.
You’ve just been nominated for the Polaris prize in Canada, is that right?
Yeah, that is.
And that carries a substantial cash reward, I believe. How big of a deal are awards like that to you guys?
Post-Nothing was also on the longlist for Polaris and Celebration Rock is on the longlist for Polaris this year, and the shortlist is coming out I think later in the summer and hopefully we make it onto that, I mean that would be a tremendous honour. The financial incentives really means nothing to us. Obviously we wanna be in a band and still be able to pay our rent but beyond that we don’t really care about the monetary aspect of being in a band. But it’s a tremendous honour to be nominated for the Polaris, it is a really big deal in Canada.
Right before I came here actually I got the deluxe edition of the album and it’s incredible value. It’s got I think five new tracks and then a cover of a Nick Cave song and then a different version of “Younger Us” which is almost an entire album’s worth of content added to the retail version, and I was just wondering what stopped you putting those songs on the retail version of the album.
All that material had been released as singles in the US and Canada and to a limited degree also in Europe, so those had been released and they were available to people elsewhere but for the Australian release those things never made it over. So it just seemed like a natural decision to include that for the Australian release. I think we’ve done that for a few other places like Japan, for example, just places where people haven’t really had much access to our music before. When we had the opportunity to get our music over there we just try to cram as much music down people’s throats as we could.
Well that’s nice, a nice little package for Australia. Speaking of that b-side, the Nick Cave song that was released with “The House That Heaven Built”, it’s clear that you guys are big Nick Cave fans. Is there any chance you might be touring Nick Cave’s homeland any time soon?
We really hope so, and it looks like we’re going to be in Australia some time in the new year. That’s definitely the next part of the world that we really wanna get over to and we’re really excited about getting over there. We still haven’t made it that far yet but we’re really looking forward to getting over to Australia and New Zealand.
by Jake Cleland