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.....DISHWALLA was formed in Santa Barbara in 1992
by original members, frontman J.R. Richards, bassist Scot Alexander, guitarist
Rodney Browning Cravens and drummer George Pendergast. A few years later, the
quartet would become a quintet with the addition of keyboardist Jim Wood to the
line up. After several years of developing their chops, rising through the
ranks of the local scene, they signed with the A&M record label and cut
their debut album, Pet Your Friends - think, "Counting Blue Cars."
For better or worse, the line "Tell me all your thoughts on God," is
forever a radio favorite. The band was phenomenally successful. Pet Your
Friends went platinum selling over 1,000,000 copies. In 1996, the band played
at the Billboard Music Awards and were awarded "Rock Song of the
Year" for "Counting Blue Cars." They toured extensively on a
national and international level.
Interview with Jim Wood of
......Dishwalla is currently in
the process of touring for their upcoming third album Opaline, slated for
release on April 23 of this year. The album also marks the addition of drummer
Pete Maloney, a veteran session's player. ......The fact that DISHWALLA has
stayed unshakably true to its muse and passion for melodic ballads
Q: So last time you
guys came here to San Francisco, You played at the Fillmore and then you played
at the club across the street from the Fillmore before you played there.
A: That's right.
Q: Are you all from Santa Barbara
A: Actually, all of us except Pete are from Santa
Barbara. Pete's from Jersey.
Q: Usually when you hear of bands that made it,
they're from L.A., New York, or something, and then somebody says Santa Barbara
- surfer dudes.
A: The funny thing is that most bands actually are
probably from somewhere else, and then they just relocate or they sign and then
relocate. But all the bands that come from L.A. - you're starting to see a lot
more bands now actually kind of be honest about where they came from. I think
before there was some stigma against it.
Q: So you guys are on a comeback trail?
A: I wouldn't say comeback. I think we've been quiet
for a while. We had a record come out in '98 and we've been kind of stillborn
just with the death of our label. You know within a week of releasing the
album, A&M was pretty much dissolved - so we had this huge label, awesome
artist friendly music label and it just dissolved pretty much. They operated as
a skeleton crew for about six months and that was it.
Q: Wow that's right a lot of artists were on hold.
A: You know there's probably 500 artists that were
wrapped up in this. So, if you think of anyone that was on Mercury, or Geffen.
I mean those labels just don't exist anymore. So, we were one of the bands that
didn't get dropped - there were only 5 bands out of A&M out of 70 that they
kept. It was a blessing and a curse at the same time, because it gave us an
opportunity to go over to Interscope, which at that time a really really
progressive powerful label, but they were also very small. So, all of sudden,
Interscope sort of super label that has Geffen and A&M all smashed on the
same, back in U2, Sting and all these other people are on the same label.
Q: Was your album "Opaline" technically
made back then.
A: No. Opaline was actually made in early - we
started about this time last year. We started writing for it in February and
recorded by April and it was done by July. So, it was a very - a pretty quick
process. We spent about a year and a half to two years before that writing
songs and stuff, but Interscope was interested in an entirely type of different
song, so we ended up putting on this record. I don't think any of these songs
would have made it onto an Interscope record. They just have a different head
Q: Thanks for clearing that up. When I interview
other bands that went through that craziness, some of them actually have albums
that are completely on hold.
A: It's kind of how it worked for us. I mean they
were like go, write songs, but they were looking for us to be that type of band
that we're not. We're a song writer band and we've never conformed to any
standard ever and then "Counting Blue Cars" it was such a hit, when
we came forward with that record, people were like nobody's going to get this.
Nobody sounds like this. You'll never get played on the radio. Our own record
label people were saying that. To me the power of a good song ...
Q: You can't fool listeners. When I heard that song.
I thought these guys are great.
A: I think all a good song needs is an opportunity
for it to be heard. And then, regardless of whether the trend is or what's
going on, people like it, they'll ask for it. And that's how we've been
successful in the past and how we plan to be successful in the future.
Q: And now, as far as being successful, do you miss
all that Billboard Music Awards, and playing on Jay Leno. You've been a couple
years of just not doing that - do you miss that and want to get back into that
A: You know, everything goes in cycles. We had huge
success with the first record and that was great, but for us the most important
thing is making music and just making the music that we like and going out and
playing it and people buying it and enjoying it and playing shows for people.
So, I think that we obviously hope that this record will be phenomenally
successful, but you know it's ultimately not why we do it. We're musicians. We
write songs, we play music. You're either playing or you're not.
Q: That's funny. I talked to Scott Stapp from Creed,
he almost kind of said something like you did and look at those guys now.
Q: They're untouchable. I don't even know if he even
likes where they're at right now.
A: It's a double-edged sword. That kind of notoriety
changes your life too. You've got to be prepared for that.
Q: So now you're on tour?
A: Yeah. We started touring in October to just kind
of get warmed up. We had the opportunity since we knew the record wasn't going
to be coming till April to go out and do a really small club tour and just did
only Internet advertising. So, it was really just hardcore fans coming to
shows. It was great and we can try different versions of songs different nights
and we can work through how we want to translate this album live. You know you
play the song one way, it works on the record, but then live, you're going to
want to do something different - and then vice versa. It's been great to have
the opportunity to really develop, or really redevelop the songs live. We
created them live and then we went and played them in the studio and they
turned into something else. We kind of stretched that back out again in the
live arena. That's always been - our live shows to me has always been our
strongest asset. There's more people that have come to a show have been
converted forever and just based on the shows that we do, we really try to put
on a great show.
Q: Just playing the music to satisfy certain segments
of yourselves and your fans.
A: Absolutely. That's the only way to make honest
music for yourself and for whoever might be listening to it. You really have to
be just playing. When we produced the songs we didn't say, okay - what's going
to be hip and current. What's this and that and try to bend the songs into
anything. Each song just kind of came out the way it wanted to be, so there's
classic elements, tech modern elements in it. It just depends on the song and
every song was put together for what made it feel right.
Q: That's a good idea. Some people might not find a
"category" for you. So they say, let's just name it alternative. We
don't know what they are.
A: Right. We're an alternative to something. The
funniest thing, is that all of our albums, all the songs on them are really
diverse and we've never within ourselves, let one song sound just like another.
And each album has it's own complete vibe to it and they're all very different.
But at the same time, with all those differences, it sounds very clearly like
us and really like no one us.
Q: You guys are going to be at the Great American
Music Hall in San Francisco.
A: I love playing San Francisco. It's one of my
favorite cities to visit. We always have good shows there.
Q: Some of your new songs in this album, did JR
write most of them? A: Yeah. He wrote all the lyrics on all the songs except
for one of them. Q: So, they kind of broke it down that Candle Burn was a
culture song of haunting - basically about some people who got killed in a
crash. Was that the one?
A: Yeah. That was our first song about death and
candle shines, because when we were writing for the record, we would drive down
this one boulevard in North Hollywood and every night at like 8:00 we would
drive by and this shrine would be lit up in this semi-industrial area with
apartments. It was really a kind of striking scene as you drive by. And then we
would come back after rehearsal about two or three in the morning, and they
would all be blown out. We did this for about month, rain or shine, and it was
always lit. And so that song Candle Burn was written about that. Just the
experience of driving past that, wondering who the person was who was tending
it and who it was that was killed there.
Q: You said it was kept up for a while?
A: Yeah, for over a month that we were there and we
came back about six months later and it was gone. But we wondered if it was
someone who lived there - and then maybe it was someone who was trying to cross
the street. Maybe it was kids. Who knows. It was pretty striking.
Q: I think a lot of people can relate to what you've
A: Interestingly enough, about six months later, we
had an incident in Santa Barbara where a student totally flipped out and mowed
down a bunch of kids in the street - out on the street that we'd grown up
partying, and we'd spent most of our high school and early college years
walking around drunk on Saturday night on and just bulldozed four people and
one guy was really injured. The guy was totally flipped out. So J.R. went out
there the next day and ended up writing the words for the song "When
Morning Comes" as a response to that. Both of those songs have really kind
of dark concepts that they're based around, but they're both kind of uplifting
too. I know there's a lot of heavy stuff on the record, but the record itself
isn't heavy. It's just dealing with real things.
Q: Maybe a lot of people won't get that right away
too. Did you ever notice if you ask 10 people what does that song means, you'll
get 10 different answers.
A: Right. I like it when people can draw their own
conclusions. I actually don't even like putting lyrics on records, because when
I was growing with new records, a lot of them didn't have lyrics. So you would
make your own formations of what they're saying. It might be something totally
ridiculous, but when you find out what they're really saying. You say - oh that
doesn't mean anything.
Q: What kind of keyboard do you play?
A: In the studio, I get to bring all my toys in. I've
been collecting stuff over the years - just lots of different vintage stuff. I
tried taking it out on the road with me when we were touring back in '98, and
it just got ridiculous. The curator of the museum. You could never really have
them all up at the same time, because that looked ridiculous and they never all
worked at the same time. Everything that I do now is based on samples of those
keyboards. I just make custom sample sounds based on the stuff that I've got.
Q: You could be a one-man band
A: That's cool. We can really do anything. We've put
a lot of live loops and trigger samples and a lot of bands who say they're
playing to tape - there's no way to reproduce what they did on the record. But
on the other hand, it's like there's no way we're going to be a slave to
machines. I don't know, playing the tape, it's like why even play at all. Q:
J.R. Richards has a great voice ?
A: That's one thing that's really cool about J.R. I
personally think he's got one of the best voices around anyway, but live - I
don't know if you've ever seen him sing - he just sings his ass off every
night. Him on his worst night, is better than 99.9% of the singers out there. I
don't know how the hell he does it. I know he works a lot to keep his voice in
shape and it's really cool.
Q: AND great musicians to create the songs
A: Right. But that's ... you know having five guys
helps a lot, but we're able to have layers and sounds just both in the types of
guitar sounds. Rodney does a lot of cool guitar work and between that and all
the samples of loops and stuff that we do live, we're able to do stuff that
most bands don't.
........This is the Official Rock Publication Web Site
All photos and written material courtesy of Rock Publication
.Copyright © 2002
J.R. Richards - Vocals
Rodney Browning Cravens Scot Alexander