The Stereo Interview

I recently had a chat with Jamie Woolford who discussed with me various things including upcoming plans for the Stereo’s official web site, the story behind the rest of the Stereo leaving, his days with Animal Chin, plans for a 12” cover disc, what the new Stereo record will sound like and and so much more. 'No Traffic', was just released by Fueled By Ramen. This interview was done via phone.

To start off, tell everyone about your accident that happened to you recently...

Well I was skateboarding at the skate park riding the big vert ramp. I came in wrong doing an air and instead of bailing (I had been bailing the whole day), I was just going to stick it. I was going to shift my body weight to compensate, but I overcompensated and because of that, I was twisting as I fell. I had my left arm in front of me to break my fall. It was a 12 foot drop and all. My arm of course was not going to stop me, sure enough, it did not, and my arm just broke. It was weird because it broke my top half near my elbow and it was super painful. The whole time when I was trying to recuperate and everything, you had to keep the arm super still in order for it to heal properly and any movement is completely painful. It was just a complete nightmare. I’ve never had a serious injury like this until now.

Didn’t you recently go out and do the same trick like six or seven times, and nothing happened this time? 

Yah! I went back for the first time the other day. The winters in Minnesota are just completely bad. You don’t do anything, and you don’t want to go outside at all. I’ve been sitting around for the last six weeks trying to heal my arm. I’ve just been completely out of shape and I just had to get out and exercise. I thought that I’d go to the skate park and take it easy. I started on a ramp but was not really all that aggressive. The next day I came back again and did it about five times with no problems. I’m basically back to where I was now. Unfortunately, I still cannot straighten out my left arm out the whole entire length. I can't even do a pushup now!

So what have you been doing in the meantime? I know you run the Stereo’s official web site and have been updating it yourself. Is there really anything else you have been doing in your free time? 

Well I’m the main graphic designer for Fueled By Ramen. I’ve had more time to do that, so I’ve been getting some more money lately, which is cool. Its really hard when I’m on tour to do things. I have this laptop and its always hard to get things done while you’re constantly on the move, its not very convenient. So since I’ve been home a while I’ve been able to get a lot more work done. Since I’ve had some more money I’ve actually been able to go out and see movies. I really didn’t know anything about web design until I broke my arm. I’m the kind of person that if I have free time, I have to fill it up, so I was like, “I’m going to sit down and teach myself about web design”. Right now I’m enjoying it and have been working on a new layout for weeks now with other stuff. I’ve been trying to put it on hold too because I’m about to buy a new computer. I just don’t want to build up my hard drive with all these new files, because it’ll be a big mess.

Well I know you’re on the second official layout right now. Are you going to try to come out with different layouts every few months? 

A lot of it is just to teach myself. I mean when I design album covers, I always have 3-5 different designs until I’m completely happy with things. I’ve also taken up photography now. I know when I go out and take pictures I’m going to be like, “What happens if I do it like this…?”. Its just ridiculous. I’ve been just sticking with the one I have had lately because of all this stuff that has been happening and I’ve been busy. Its fine, its certainly not the best, but I would like to try to make it more Flash oriented for the next one. I don’t want my website to take forever for people to load.

Exactly, people have different connections that you have to worry about.

Myself, I have DSL so it doesn’t matter for me, but I know other people don’t. That way its easy for people to go back to the site to check up for updates. I want to include things that are downloadable too. Fueled By Ramen and I are trying to set up some new stuff. We’re trying to hook up a live chat with a video camera and everything. I also want to do some sort of live webcast of new material but do it acoustically. Have something like, “I wrote this song last week....on Thursday and I’m debuting it online acoustically”. I’m just looking to do those things with the lack of band I have now. I’m trying to add another way to get in touch with the audience.

In the subject of that, is there any news whatsoever in you finding new people to tour with you? 

I haven’t made any solid plans just yet. The whole thing had just been put through a daze. Allot of reasons why those guys aren’t in the band anymore has to do with what I wanted to do, which wasn’t tour as much. I don’t want people to get the wrong impression, I love turning SO MUCH! Near the end though, I was getting real aggravated being out on the road. I’m 26 now and I’ve been literally touring since I was out of High School. Pretty much solidly since I was 17. I’m coming on 10 years of being in bands on tour. Now I’m not saying that I’ve been touring the whole year, but I’ve been on a ton of tours. I mean back in 1997 I played over 200 shows! It just boggles my mind to think about it. Like I said, that’s just been such an amazing experience for me. I really can’t complain about anything that’s ever happened to me. After Animal Chin broke up, I just wanted to write music, put out an album with Fueled By Ramen and if anything happened cool, if it didn’t that was o.k. I really didn’t care about record sales or anything. I still don’t! That doesn’t make me happy. I mean when I was younger and a bit more gung ho, I wanted to make Animal Chin really big, that’s why we toured so much. What makes me happy is the creative process and I just enjoy writing things. I literally have 60 songs, not complete songs, but songs that I can pick up and finish. That’s a whole bunch of new material! I write ALL THE TIME! Everyday I pick up my guitar and write something new, its just strange. I wanted to focus more on that and the other guys were like, “We’re a band, we need to go out on the road for support…”.

Did you find all of this out before they were officially in the band? 

No. At first it was like, “This is a nice thing” and we just needed some people. The whole thing started with just me and Rory doing an album together, and that’s it. We were like, “We’re making a record, but not starting a band.” Everything just became this huge whirlwind and everyone got excited, ‘Oh my god, Jamie from Animal Chin and Rory from the Impossibles are making a record together!”. You get caught up in that real easily. The next thing you know you’ve formed a band and you’re like, “What?” Again, I’m not saying I regretted the situation, but it wasn’t something that I planned. Where I’m at now is what I exactly wanted to do. I just want to work on stuff alone. I can play all these instruments and record stuff. If people get bent out of shape that I’m some singer/songwriters guy that’s not punk or whatever, that’s fine by me, I’m not punk! I don’t care about that! You can maybe find a small transition from record to record of what we sound like. The next record is going to be a big step. I mean its not going to be huge, I know what the next songs are going to be. Actually, the next Stereo release will be an EP like 'New Tokyo Is Calling', but the next record after that I know is going to have drum loops and stuff like that. Its not going to be techno or anything! Its definitely going to be rock, but its going to be closer to what I wanted in the first place. Its going to be pop rock at the most base version of it. You can’t really say it “Sounds like Weezer. It sounds like pop rock, and it sounds like Rick Springfield.”. You’re not going to be able to do that as much because I think the songs will be much father removed from what you’re used to hearing. Its not going to be uncatchy or anything but there will be allot more diversity, from song to song. I’m going to add more pianos too and different instruments. It might be fun because it’ll be acoustic. It’ll just be a rock and roll record. Its definitely going to rock!

With 'No Traffic' when you went into the studio, did you approach it differently? Was there really a certain plan? 

It was such a mess to be honest. Originally, we just went in to do the demos. I write everything with vocals and guitar. Half of my ideas about this and that are broken down. I just bring it into the guys and I really didn’t have to say anything, they knew how to play, people are just different. There are people that just want to play what you tell them. Sometimes on accident they come up with something that’s better then what I came up with and it worked out. Generally, you could take out all their stuff and it sounded the same. That’s been our normal writing process. This last time I brought in 25 songs to show them, most were not complete. We always did this before, I would bring this new material and we would just plow through it and figure out what we like and what we don’t like. I brought in 25 songs, that’s definitely allot of songs to go through. We had to work through a weekend and I knew we could. The way we had been going, we had been on tour for forever and we should go out and write this record as soon as possible. I didn’t think we would finish, but after I showed them all the songs, they were not impressed with anything. I was like, “Well I really don’t have anything else and we need to make this record”. I was totally in love with everything.

Like I said before, the next album will be very diverse, but No Traffic at that time was supposedly to be. I ended up having to talk them into doing these songs. No Traffic definitely has a rock theme to it, theres a couple of slower songs, but the guts if it are pretty much rock. Its more rock than 300 ever was. It came down to the fact of what the guys couldn’t live with almost. It was a tough process, it was three days and we recorded and wrote. They did all their stuff in a day and half and they were gone-poof-they went down the stairs and I literally didn’t see them for 24 hours. I just stayed upstairs in the studio before the weekend was up. That’s just how I am. I LITERALLY for the next 24 hours did the guitar tracks, all the signing, and all the mixing. It was just the demo and all, but I was just really exhausted at the end of it. That’s normally how things worked-they would do their thing and take off, and they let me finish it up and clean it up. I came down the stairs, dropped the c.d. off, and was like, “here it is”. As soon as they listened to it they fell in love with it. I was aggravated with that because they were not into it at all when we where doing it and it just was such a pain to record with them. They were like, “We made really great demos”. This was kind of how it was all along. I took care of EVERYTHING in the band. I wrote everything, I took care of all the management stuff, booking, etc. All the time it was like, “We’re a band, we do all this together”. So many bands are like this, I could name off 100 bands like this, where theres 1 or 2 guys in the band who do everything and the rest follow directions. This was one of those cases where theres 4 people in the band and only 1 of them does anything. It always made me mad that the guys would never give me credit for anything. If something ever went wrong in the band it was my fault. When things would go right, I never got any congratulations or credit. I mean with that demo I basically pulled it out of the gutter and I turned it into something good. We were on tour again and I really didn’t want to do this, I just wanted to create, and I just couldn’t do that with those guys. They just wanted to be a band and I didn’t want that. It was a very clear case that they wanted one thing, and I wanted another.

Lets talk more about No Traffic. The second song on the new release is, 'New Tokyo Is Calling'. What made you add this track to the c.d. if it was already on the EP of the same name? I noticed that there is some difference in this version if you listen to it very carefully. Where you not satisfied with the original version?

It’s a strange thing with what we did for this song. I really didn’t want to re- record the vocals and we knew we wanted to record the song at the same tempo. So we recorded the song at the same tempo and with click track. We fudge around with songs with click track and we program songs so it goes faster in the chorus, a little more human way, not metronome. We kinda evanflowed it, it just makes it so much better recording wise, I think everyone should use click track, especially bad drummers. With good drummers like Jeremy its awesome, it lets everybody lock in easy, and its great for queuing. What we wanted to do was use a computer and drop the vocals from the old reel or just sync up the machines. We discovered that the original drum machine that we used for the old version was a half a millisecond slower, so right when you get to the second verse the timing was all off. We where like, “Oh no!!”. So I had to go through the whole song line by line to record from one machine to the other, it was fine because it wasn’t difficult, it was just bizarre with everything I had to do. The vocals are the exact same copy from the EP, and then everything else was re-recorded.

Well what was really the decision to go to all this trouble and include it again? 

Well we really like the song and we wanted to make a video out of it. You really need to have that song on your c.d. that you are releasing the video for. At the time we were trying to make an enhanced c.d., but the whole thing just fell apart for us. We never thought that we got a good performance out of it the first time. We did demos for that EP too, and we were way into it more with the demos than the studio version. Its just one of those weird things. I didn’t want to do the vocals again because I was happy with the way they came out. If anything, the recording quality is better and we where into it way more. Its half a beat faster!

Well for the video for “New Tokyo Is Calling” I know the shooting has been done for a while now. Right now its in the development stage with the special effects, right? 

Yah everything’s shot, its all done. We had to do some processing. The way it goes is you put it together the way you want it and then you can’t go ahead and process every shot because it becomes very expensive and time consuming. You pick out the main points in the video and you colorize them and all, I have learned so much in doing this. We’re basically making the edit. What we’re doing now is correcting it all, you make the faces brighter, perhaps the background darker. Because we’re over budget we got this guy to do the special affects for me. He agreed, but can only do it in his free time, which is mostly only like two hours during the weekends, so its taking a long time to do. This guys really works at this big, professional editing place here in Minneapolis. This is a cool thing, because he does things for like Target, Best Buy, and huge companies like that with lots of money. Doing this for us is some charity type thing. If we had $50,000 then he could have it done next week. We’re going to make about 15 copies of the record to shop around to foreign labels like EMI, we have the same contract with JVC in Japan. I would have to say it will be done in a month, and it LOOKS AWESOME! Its way better than we expected and looks like a $100,000 video. It was shot on reel film and it looks phenomenal.

Is there any plans with Fueled By Ramen or anyone else really to come out with some type of home video with the video on it? 

Well I know that people in Japan and Europe are going to see it easily on MTV but over here in the U.S. its unlikely. John from Fueled By Ramen has all these plans for it, we’re going to be giving it to specialty shows like snowboarding shows and stuff. We just have to finally finish the video off, but we can’t right now because WE’RE SO OVERBUDGET right now its not even funny! I hope this record does well just for that reason.

Yah the pre-sale orders on Fueled By Ramen were very high and I know its done well so far.

Well yah, if you think about it Fueled By Ramen bands are pretty small, including us. The Impossibles are probably the biggest band and when they put out Enter/Return they sold 10 and for No Traffic the preorders were around 46. I already know we have already sold to distributors and shops close to 4,000. Now we just have to hope that people will go out and buy all those copies. I think we’ll do at least 10,000 in America. Its pretty good, its certainly not huge NOFX numbers.

I really want to talk about '300'. I’m not even going to have you explain the story of how you and Rory hooked up because I know you’ve done it 1000 times before. But when you started working with him, did you sense something different, was there a great chemistry between you guys? 

Yah, I think that’s the bittersweet part with working with Rory. I hope he feels the same way, but we definitely had different ideas and styles but when it all come down to it that the end result of what we did was great. Musically we had everything down. Personally, we got in the box, or what we call the van. For weeks on end, he said things about me that I didn’t like, and I said things about him that he didn’t like. That sort of thing really aggravates you when you’re in such short quarters for so long. He knew it, and I knew it, we just weren’t going to make it. Even though I instigated him leaving, at some point he would’ve left. I originally was going to quit, because it was something I just wanted to do. I got talked into staying by the label and everything because they were like, “You were the guy who wrote most of the songs and sang them!”. If I had quit, they would’ve had 5 songs, and two of them I sang on. In all honestly its all good because Rory’s in the Impossibles now and they’re doing SO GOOD, they put us to shame! I’ve literally been on every highway in this country multiple times, I ‘ve seen it all.

Has there been any talk whatsoever that if one day The Impossibles broke up or took a break you guys might get together again and make a new Stereo album? 

Probably not, but not because of anything personal. I just know what my thing is now, and its what I want to do. If we did, it wouldn’t be called The Stereo or Impossibles or anything like that. I have some plans down for the next year though. I’m coming out with a covers 12” that will have about 10 covers on it which will be coming out on Fueled By Ramen. Its going to be really limited edition, only 1000 copies will be pressed. I’m also doing the EP like I said before, and I’m not going to worry about the next full length until next year.

Do you have any covers in mind that you are going to do for this 12”? 

I’m going to do Elvis Costello’s “No Dancin”, a Carol King song, a Clash Song, a Police song, a Cardigans, Tom Petty song maybe.

Is it going to entail influences and what you grew up with? 

Yah, a little back then, a little now. Nothing is going to be recent like the latest Foo Fighters song or something. Its going to be more obscure stuff. Like with the artists like The Police and Tom Petty I’m not going to cover their hits really. You know songs they aren’t known for. Its going to be weird stuff, things you wouldn’t hear on the radio. I’ve always wanted to do something like this-put out a record of all covers. I don’t want it to come where I play this stuff at shows, I don’t like playing other people’s music live. I don’t want to become Save Ferris. I think I’ll do fine on my own. Animal Chin was always to me a mix of Weezer, Propagandhi, The Police, and Operation Ivy. Chin was always the first band I wrote for. I don’t think all those songs are good now, but allot of them are way too long and stuff. Back then, Animal Chin was more of a statement than me just writing music. It was a personality thing, it was life I wanted to live. I wanted to be a band guy back then. The songs weren’t really important back then, it was just fun to play.

Was Animal Chin like the Stereo were you write most of the stuff?

Well yah, we had a great writing routine, it was just ridiculous. Everything worked like clock work, it was easily the best band I was ever in. Especially in the end when it was me, Andy, and BJ we had it down pat. We would tour non stop, we once did a 14 week tour, and with you driving yourself in your own van that’s allot. Most bands only go out for 3 or 4 weeks but we went out for 14, and did that all the time! That made us really tight as a band, and when we practiced, you wouldn’t believe it. Except in 1997, we practiced only 4 times, because we played over 2000 shows and there was no need to. We would come home and practice 3 times a week, we were all great friends. They just had this understanding that if I brought something in, they would just play anything at any time, no questions asked. It was just so perfect and down pat.

Well something I never understood is why you guys broke up...

It just all came down to that I didn’t want to tour as much like the Stereo. We were all just burned out so bad. The last tour we did was for 4 weeks and it was the longest 4 weeks of my life! It was so nasty, we were getting paid $25 a night, and so broke. One night we actually slept on the concrete outside our van in a parking lot, because it was too hot to sleep in the van. It was just a rough tour. We were on tour too with the Eclectics, and there were some members that we didn’t get along with at all. As a whole we loved those guys, but there was a certain number of incidents that created friction between the bands. Eventually things go to the point where me and BJ we left the tour on bad terms, but after a few weeks we patched things up. I mean I talked to BJ like three days ago, we talk all the time still. I know that those guys are life long friends. We just came to the point that we knew things were finished. We did our last show and it was just phenomenally fun. It was big time sold out and we turned away 150 kids, it was awesome. We played like 20 songs and had a blast.

Any final comments? 

Visit the Stereo web site and Fueled By Ramen’s website! Thank you Kevin, sorry if I talked your ear off, you rock! See you at The Metro show.


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