Nice to Meet Me: In Which John Davis of Title Tracks Interviews John Davis of Superdrag
WWJD ask? Malitz and I decided to find out.
We love a good gimmick as much as the next blogger guy, so we hatched up a plan to put D.C. indie-rocker John Davis in touch with John Davis, the frontman for recently reunited Knoxville power-pop band Superdrag for an interview.
D.C.'s John Davis (formerly of Q and Not U and Georgie James) has a newish sorta-solo project, Title Tracks, that's about to release a 7-inch single, "Every Little Bit Hurts," via Dischord. The other John Davis got the old band back together after a four-year hiatus and made a new album, "Industry Giants." The band is currently on tour (and, that John Davis says, off drugs -- and, for the most part, alcohol, too), with a concert tomorrow at the 9:30 club.
So: John Davis, meet ... John Davis!
John Davis/DC: You know, if you're ever looking for a good time, go onto iTunes, type in "John Davis" and let the madness begin. Have you heard any of the eight million other John Davises out there?
John Davis/Superdrag: Like Blind John Davis? I'm kind of interested in him.
JDDC: Someone was trying to convince me recently that I should just go by my name and not Title Tracks since this is a solo project.
JDS: Ha! You said, "no way!" Smart man.
JDDC: All I had to do was play some of the crazy stuff on [iTunes] and he was convinced.
(Read the rest of the interview after the jump.)
JDDC: It's been well-documented that you became a devout Christian towards the end of Superdrag's first tenure, specifically during the making of the "Last Call For Vitriol" record. The solo album that you released in 2005 seemed unambiguous in its focus on your faith. The new Superdrag record, "Industry Giants," is not as immediately upfront about it as your solo record. Why did you choose this approach when, clearly, the first solo album conveyed your willingness to talk about your faith in direct terms? Was it something your bandmates were not as willing to have as part of the band identity?
JDS: I had half of the songs on "Industry Giants" written and demoed up before I even knew there would be a Superdrag project.
JDDC: Interesting. It doesn't sound that way. How did the songs change once the band became involved, if at all?
JDS: Brandon's second guitar parts are always a huge factor. I had all these songs that sounded like Superdrag, and it was really satisfying to hear Superdrag play them.
JDDC: So you were the first person to broach the reunion topic?
JDS: Definitely. I always knew there would come a time when we'd have to bring it back.
JDDC: Why's that? Did you just need time away?
JDS: I had to walk away from it for awhile. When I walked onstage one night and realized I didn't 110 percent want to play for the people that paid to get in or die trying, I immediately started trying to figure out how to put a stop to it. Not to sound melodramatic, but the only thing we really have to show for all that we've done is the integrity of the relationship between us and the people who buy the records and come to the shows. Without that, Superdrag equals nothing.
JDDC: There's definitely a salt-of-the-earth quality to Superdrag's music and the relation to the fans -- a lack of artifice. I think that's one of the things I've always liked about the band. Can you think of any other artists whose example you've followed in this respect?
JDS: That is a huge compliment, in light of your background. Well, most of the music that inspired me to form a band to begin with came out on either SST or Dischord, and there's certainly an abiding ethic/aesthetic there that applies to every element of what a band tries to do. We wound up on a major label, of course, with favorable and unfavorable consequences, but it was never our mission in life to do so. You know what I mean? That wasn't our reason to exist.
JDDC: Seems like most of the punk/indie bands that found success on majors still were left with a pretty bad taste and it strengthened their desire to avoid that world from here on.
JDS: Well, I've often wondered if we wouldn't be sitting in approximately the same spot we're in today -- except with ownership of our first two album masters -- if we'd just continued doing what we were doing (on an indie). When we signed that deal, I knew nothing about what we were getting involved in. Literally, nothing. I thought that, because Elektra signed the Stooges, The MC5, and Stereolab, somehow, we could trust them.
JDDC: Since this is a preview for a D.C. show, do you have any specific memories of D.C.? Any connections to this place? You said that Dischord was an important thing for you growing up.
JDS: The first show I ever saw in a club was Fugazi. They played Knoxville regularly for awhile. Those are still some of the best shows I've ever seen. Sadly, all of the footage in (the 1999 Fugazi documentary) "Instrument" of people acting like idiots was filmed in Knoxville.
JDDC: Oh, that's right!
JDS: The scene where Ian drags the guy onstage and tosses him out, etc.
JDDC: Were you there?
JDS: No, we were on tour. That was 1996. We played the same hall either just before or just after that gig, though. Our first gig in D.C. was at the old Black Cat. Fugazi played the same night, so I think we had about 15 people turn out.
JDDC: Yeah, that's a band you wouldn't want to go up against. So, as a band that's been around for a long time, was there anything over the course of the band that has changed that you wish hadn't?
JDS: Sometimes I wish we all lived in the same city. Well, not to over-spiritualize matters, but having a new record out is fantastic, going out and playing for people is definitely a joy and a privilege -- NOT a right -- but the way God has redeemed and restored our friendships and the strong bonds we formed a long time ago is more valuable to me than any of the "band business" in many ways. There were definitely some hard feelings when we put [the band] on ice. Oh man, the day I finally got it through my thick skull that I needed rock more than rock needed me was a red-letter day.
JDDC: With the new record, I feel that some of the more Beatlesque/classic pop songwriting elements aren't as in front, like they were on older songs like "Way Down Here Without You" [from 2002's "Last Call For Vitriol"]. What were your goals musically with this new album, if it's something you can quantify?
JDS: On one hand, I wanted to deliver something that our long-time fans would recognize as being sort of "signature" Superdrag music. Something that would sort of crystallize what we do best. On the other hand, I wanted to push the tempos and the energy level a lot more in places. I really wanted this record to have the fire, so to speak.
JDDC: You can hear that. I took it as like a lot of energy had built up in the time off and that's why the record developed the way it did, like the way the "Slow To Anger" drums come in to open the new record. It struck me as a clear statement.
JDS: I think I wanted to push back against the conventional wisdom that says, as you get older, you must play quietly, softly, and gently ... preferably with an acoustic guitar and a goatee.
JDDC: Did you feel that people might expect that from you now?
JDS: Well, my first solo album (2005's self-titled solo debut) was definitely the mellowest thing I've ever done. (It was) kind of the summation of the classic pop songwriting/60s thing and a reaction against the turmoil of what came before. I always seem to react against whatever I did last.
JDDC: That's definitely something you want to possess as an artist. People are so often content to polish their own turd. That's a rut that can really hurt your music and that's why people remember artists like the Beatles, Bowie, the Kinks, the Clash ...
JDS: The Clash have a way of taking over my thoughts from time to time ... then they hand my brain over to John Coltrane for a while
JDDC: Coltrane is a perfect example of the same temperament. I particularly love it from him since jazz can be so conservative. To go from something like "Blue Train" to "Interstellar Space" is an incredible leap. I've always tried to keep that fearlessness a part of my creative mind.
JDS: He sacrificed an awful lot in the interest of constantly pursuing a pure form of expression.
JDDC: Well, we should wrap it up, so thank you for taking the time to do this. Good luck with the D.C. show and the tour.
JDS: Man, thank you.
By J. Freedom du Lac |
April 2, 2009; 3:06 PM ET
Previous: New Music: Double Dagger -- 'The Lie/The Truth' | Next: Springsteen's Work in Progress; Santana Says Obama Should Just Say Yes to Legalized Dope
Please email us to report offensive comments.
Posted by: guyfromjersey | April 2, 2009 4:22 PM
The comments to this entry are closed.