Saturday, January 17, 2009

Tom Gabel of Against Me! Interview.

To get things rolling here, how are things going?

Things are good. My wife and I just moved to St. Augustine, FL. Which, if you didn’t already know, is the oldest city in North America. We haven’t had a home in a little while so I’ve just been enjoying getting moved in, hanging out around the house. We started practicing as a band two weeks ago, working on a new record. I’m excited about new songs, a new year, a new president.

What was it like breaking into the music scene?

I’m not sure. I don’t think of music like that. I think of it more in a “I think therefore I am” type of way. I play music, therefore I am in the music scene. What’s it all really mean anyways?

What is it like writing music in the political turmoil of today?

I’m optimistic. I think you have to take what the news feeds you with a grain of salt, you shouldn’t change your approach to life/music based on abstract concepts like politics. So we have a new president taking office, a president that feels like a dramatic step up from the last 8 years. It’s not like that means that it’s vacation time. I still think there’s tons of work to be done, tons of songs to be sung.

What do you think about guitar hero/rock band and the impact it has on music today?

I think it’s a fad. I read an article the other day online about how the music genre of video games has hit it’s peak, sales are slowing down. It’s certainly not the future of music. I also think to imply that it has had an impact on music is a little misleading. It has had an impact on the music industry, sure. It’s had an impact on the video game industry, sure. But I’d be surprised to here an actual musician say they changed their perspective on songwriting because of Guitar Hero.

With that train of thought, do you think it may help out kids to actually go get a real guitar, and would you ever want to see an Against Me! song in one of the games?

Well, I think that if it does make peopl go out and but a real guitar that few of them would actually be the type to stick with the instrument and actually learn how to play. That’s what makes Guitar Hero/Rock Band fun, you don’t have to be musically talented to play the game.

What are some problems you've faced as a band with 4 members?

We’re a family, every family has problems. Actually, I’d compare being in a band to being in a sexual relationship, playing music being the sex. You have your ups and downs, especially if you’re in the relationship as long as we have been. And I’m truly thankful for the experience of being in a band as I think that I’ve learned a lot about how to be married from it. I’ve known James since I was 14 years old (I’m 28 now). Has there been times were I’ve wanted to punch James? Sure, and I’m sure he’s wanted to punch me. But would I take a bullet for him? Without thinking.

What were/are some influences that helped inspire your music?

My influences are constantly changing, and probably don’t make anysense to anyone else but me. I’d say that Tom Petty has been as big of an influence as Crass, who were as big of an influence as Madonna, who was as big of an influence as Tracy Chapman, who was as big of an influence as Nirvana, who was a big of an influence as the Doors, who were as big of an influence as Bob Dylan.

How would you compare the Canadian Music scene vs. American Music scene?

Well I think that Canada has more of a TV market for music with stations like Music Plus and Much Music, which actually still play videos (or at least they did last time I checked). That’s all over in the U.S. But as far as an underground goes I’d say it’s pretty much the same worldwide.

How would you compare the Canadian fans vs. American fans?

One thing I’ve learned for certain in all of my years traveling is that people are people, no matter where you are.

What was it like performing with Tegan Quin on Borne on the FM Waves of your Heart?

I think that both Tegan and Sara are two of the most talented songwriters/performers out there in the world today. To have had the chance to duet with Tegan was an honor. She has an amazing voice, and a great personality.

Why did you guys choose to film the music video for Borne on the FM Waves in your Heart in black and white, and how did you guys come up with the concept for it? It was different, and I really enjoyed watching it, which is rare for me and music videos.

I came up with the concept. Making videos has been a process with many trials and tribulations thus far for us, we started a band to play music, which we practiced for all along the way. Making videos is an art we’re just getting into. It took me a second to realize that with videos you have to be just as bullheaded as music, don’t listen to anyone elses opinions. For the Borne video I just wanted to make a simple video that was along the lines of Guns N’ Roses’ video for Sweet Child Of Mine. Just a band in a room playing a song, and I was insistant that we did actually play the song. We weren’t lip synching, all our instruments were plugged in, the power turned on.

Has anyone in Against Me! taken any sort of music lessons of some sort, whether it be vocal, guitar, etc. If so, has it helped at all?

I took guitar lessons from when I was 8 years old to 14. I think James took some as well when he was younger.

When Against Me! first formed as a band, did you guys have a goal to show/present with your music? If yes, did you guys accomplish it and has it changed over the years?

Absolutely, and yes the’ve constantly changed. I think that has to do with one of the reasons we’ve been a band as long as we have. We always set realistic goals which we reached, so playing music has been a rewarding experience. When I first started using the name my two goals were to play a show by myself and release a demo tape. I reached those goals, and set new ones. That’s the way it’s always been .

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

In ten years I’ll be 38. If I’m still playing music, if someone still cares enough about the music that I’m making to ask me some questions about it I’ll consider my life to have been a success.

Your band is widely considered a punk rock band. The word "punk" has almost become a certificate of authenticity in rock music, and as such it is thrown around quite a bit. Considering the mixed messages that have evolved over the last 30+ years, do you think that "punk" is still a relevant way to classify a band?

I stopped caring about stuff like that a couple years ago. Punk is just another club to kick people out of and I’m not interested in belonging to such rigid, exclusive, organizations.

Where is your favourite place to perform, and why?

Australia, hands down. It is the most amazing place in the world. Beautiful cities, beautiful people, and great weather. I’d move there if I could.

With these interviews, do you ever regret saying yes to agreeing to do them? Also, with that in mind, do you find people ask the same questions over and over again?

I never regret to agreeing to do them, we’ll maybe that’s not true, sometimes I regret agreeing to do them after I read the questions some people have to ask. I respect journalism as an art and most of the people out there trying to pass themselves off as journalists are a disgrace. The answers to most peoples questions can be found out by doing a google search, most questions asked have no humanity to them. But I think it’s an extremely important thing to answer someone’s questions if they have them to ask. How’s the saying go? “There’s no such thing as a stupid questions…” . That’s all fine and great, but there’s definitely such thing as a lazy question.

What's Warped Tour like from a performer’s perspective?

It’s drainging. The length of the tour, the drives, sitting in a parking lot all day, constantly surrounded by noise, it takes a toll on you mentally. I think people who are social people by nature have a lot more fun on it than people like me who like to be withdrawn and introverted.

Any bands/artists you think some people should check out?

There’s an endless supply, I wouldn’t know where to begin.

Compared to when you first started out, and your views on music then. Have they changed since then, if yes. How so?

In some ways yes, in some ways no. I’ve always loved playing music, that’s never changed.

How has Against Me! changed the way you see, and go about life? If it even has.

I’m not really sure to be honest, it’s hard to have perspective on something like that. At this point I’m not sure I know the difference.

What are some things you enjoy doing outside of music?

I like to read books, I like to watch movies, I like to ride my bike, I like to hang out with my wife.

What are your goals with the Against Me! street team?

No real goals, it’s just one of many ways for people to interact with the band if they want to. It’s really just a website people can go to, register at and get some free stickers sent to them.

Do you think Myspace is useful tool for new bands to help get exposure? What about bands that have been around for awhile now and are already 'big'?

I go back and forth on myspace all of the time. I think any tool of communication is usefull, but at the same time I worry that communicating on myspace is a little too unnatural. It’s like this, with social networking sites like myspace and facebook I often times get emails from people I went to high school with, sometimes younger, who I have fallen out of touch with. There’s nothing wrong with falling out of touch with people, you shouldn’t have to remain friends with everyone you ever meet, and before these kind of sites finding people you’ve fallen out of touch with wasn’t as easy. Is the world any better for it. The same theory applies to bands. Is it always a good thing to have that much access to a band? I’m not sure. I’m a little hypocritical about it all. I mean, I’m pretty active on our bands myspace page, I make sure it’s regularly updated. At the same time it really bums me out that bands I loved when I was a teenager have myspace pages. Like it doesn’t seem right that Conflict has a myspace page, it doesn’t seem right that the Beatles have a myspace page.

When you guys perform, what are some challenges you guys face. That can be from fans, to screwing up a note. Share some stories of such events?

Sometimes it’s a challenge just to remember the words.

Got any tips and advice for musicians or people just trying to start a band?

Play for anyone who will listend regardless of age, race, class, hipness. Play for anyone and play your heart out every time you do so.

Have you ever faced a huge challenge in Against Me! and just wanted to say 'fuck it' and give up? If so, how did you overcome it?

No retreat, no surrender.

Do you guys think one day you'll explode, so say, and become big? Like have a large, more so, huge fan base and play a lot more gigs in larger venues. Would you guys even enjoy that at all?

Again, if in ten years from now there’s any size audience still interested I’ll be thankful.

Any last words?

Up the punks.


Ryan Rose.

Against Me! Website

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