I feel like that little girl on MTV that was drumming with y'all.
Who? The Fanatic?
Yeah, or the girl in the "Learn to Fly" video that was you.
Oh shit...The one with the pigtails?
Yep, I'm pulling on my pigtails right now.
Oh c'mon...Where are you from, JT?
I'm from Virginia...How you doing?
My heart's just beating. I was on tour this summer.
We played your music nonstop. Driving around fucking Italy where everyone had someone close to them that died. You're driving In their little fucking cars and thinking, I'm gonna die. We'd have on your music and it was blasting and I just didn't give a fuck. I'd reach these heights where. I just knew there was life after death. You know how rock'n'roll just does that for you?
Yeah. There's something. You become connected to music for a reason. I believe that music has an energy that's hard to explain. It's really healing. It can be your second Novocain. There's something about music that touches you in a place that nothing else can. It brings nostalgia. It brings positivity. I've always heard that music is really healing. I remember a story when I was young. It was on AM radio. Someone was talking, I thinK it was Joni Mitchell, about how you could put a guitar to a place on her body that was in pain and it would heal it. I believe in that. I really believe that music can touch your soul and your physical body.
I think that's what I really love about your music. There's a way that you orchestrate, There's a way that you can take things to highs. There's this point where I just can't control the excitement. I keep racheting it up. It's like a Broadway show tune and I mean that in the best possible...There's a king and the people, and you're like the fucking king. It's like, yeah get the the guns to fight the fucking French! You have this way, It's so goddamn musical. It's so emotional.
Well, you know. I never took lessons to make music. I never took guitar lessons. I never took lessons to play the drums. No one told me how to write.
It would have to be innate.
That's when the emotional side of music guides me. You know when a song is done because it feels done - not when it makes sense on paper - and you know when a lyric makes sense and works within a song. Not because I ever had anything to do with literature or poetry. You just close your eyes and let the emotion take you. That's what I'm looking for. I'm not looking for proficiency. I don't care how fast you can play your drums or guitar. It's the goosebumps you get when you hear real fucking raw emotion. That's what it's about for me...it's just the emotional quality of music. It should be the priority. It should be the most important thing. That's how you gauge your songs. If a song really touches you, then who gives a shit what it sounds like? It's what it feels like.
It seems like you're very aware of the politics and the workings behind the scenes. You've learned about Hollywood and the record industry and fandom, and you show your hand around it. You have a humorous sarcasm about it that's really funny and intelligent, but at the same time, you have this sensitivity like you give a fuck. It's not mean.
You have to understand that when I grew up playing music, my first bands were punk rock bands and you were only playing music for the sake of playing music, There was never any chance in the world that people would appreciate it or that you would become famous or you'd become a rock star or you'd become something larger than life, because it wasn't about that. It was about music, and even when Nirvana became popular we never thought there was any chance that what we did would ever be anything other than what it was. We were all raised in the underground so wnen We did become surrounded by all that exterior bullshit, it was kind of laughable. You can't take it seriously. You play your way around it and it is fun to make fun of it. It's fun to poke fun at the circus because it's some big fucking game that doesn't nessarily make sense, I've always had a good time existing inside and outside of it because it doesn't seem like reality, it seems surreal.. Everyday you wake up and realize the reason you do what you do is because of the music. I didn't choose to be a musician I just had to be. Playing an instrument wasn't like a career decision or career path. It was a luxury, it was like a secret lover. It was something you come back to at night and find comfort in. The mainstream is funny, the attention, the celebrity, and all of that shit. It doesn't seem real. It's not something you can put your hand on... It's like this game, but at the same time you've got the primary goal of it, the music, that you take dead fucking serious. We might make videos that are funny as hell, and we might take the piss out ourselves and play the self deprecating band, but when we get in front of a microphone or in our studio it's life or death. It's the most important thing to us, we have that music to keep us alive. There's a lyric on this record I'm trying to remember,"Dead on the inside/I've got nothing to prove/Keep me alive/Give me something to lose."
I have read that your therapist told you that you had to get on stage and sing after Nirvana. That's the truth for me. What saved my life was writing. My therapist told me to write and that's how it started.
Music is such a heavy trip to me so that when it's taken away. like when Kurt died, It's like having the soundtrack of your life erased or muted. So any music after that kind of hurt. Just to listen to it kind of hurt. To listen to the radio...to pick up a guitar. (it hurt) because music represented everything and everything represented music, so it was tough. Then you have to appreciate it for its healing qualities because it made things better. It went from being a curse to a cure.
Your appeal is that you're someone you can trust. It's with the music, it's not beyond the mask. It's like that Kurt thing with humor. Doesn't it get hard? I read how you escorted out the people that came to audition. Rock'n'roll and being sensitive don't go together.
Yeah, but they should go hand and hand In a way. I mean, It's true that it's never really seemed like that. The ending is usually the most important part to me because everything leads up to that, whether it's in life or in a song. That's the most interesting part - to see how it all plays out. To see how it goes down because that's usually the bottom line. That's what I get off on the most...I've got to get you a copy of our new record...There's this song called "Halo" lt goes through this chorus, verse, chorus pattern, and then it takes you higher than you expected it to. It's like "Surrender'" by Cheap Trick. Remember that song? You were just freaking out...you got goose bumps. This kind of does the same thing.
Do you get goose bumps?
Yeah, you feel it when you do it, when you sing it or record it, but after that you leave it to the listener. There are times I listen to a song after we've done it and I get choked up, like "Walking After You" from our second record. There's a song on our new record called "Tired" and I get really choked up. My voice is kind of cracking because I'm trying not to break down and cry in front of the microphone. On the last record, there's a song called "Aurora" and that one really got to me. I wasn't sure if the lyrics would work out because the song was written as an Instrumental and I was singing. I was too embarrassed to cry in front of my friend Adam who was recording it. It was tough and when that happens, you know it's for real.
When I was a little kid my mom took me to Dischord House. She stole a piece of Henry's pants because they were hanging on the wall and she tied them to the windshield and they would direct us. We would go whichever direction they would blow. If they blew to the west, that's where we would go. I'm writing about It now, but I changed it from Henry's pant because he was an asshole.
You know, that house is right down the street from where I lived.
That's fucking wild.
I lived a mile away from there.
Yeah, I stayed In the car when she was inside. I didn't go in. I think she had a hard time strutting her wares with them boys. Not a lot of them were takers. I think it surprised the hell out of her...I think one or two of them were takers though.
What goddamn year was that?
Well I was born in '80. I know I was really little at the time.
How's your band doing?
My band? how did you know about that? Well, we're waiting to hear from U2's management.
Are you kidding? Holy shit!
It's really exciting.
What are you doing? Are you singing?
No. I wrote the lyrics and some of the music and all. I'll send it to you If I can.
It's my roommates. I'm really excited about it. I really want to do It. I think it's the only way I'll make money because writing is fucking hard. I made all my deals when I was a teenager so I got fucked.
Yeah, I didn't know shit. I was high on drugs and I didn't know anything.
That's usually the way it goes.
I got a new agent and a new book deal, that kind of stuff now, but it's a different thing.
Once you become popular, you'll be negotiating that shit. Think about that.
It's hard, though, with different managers, things coming in our face. It's scary dealing with all them.
Shit yeah, I made serious mistakes when I was 22, signing contracts for shit. I didn't know what the hell I was doing.
It was good you had that key man clause. I just found out about that.
You might want one of those to help out a little bit down the road. You might need something like that because that's the last thing in the world you should be thinking about when you want to make music. Yeah, I'd leave that shit up to someone else. I don't want to deal with it. I'm creative. For you, I'm a cash register, but I don't want to have anything to do with it.
I probably have to ask you about the Taylor stuff.
You can ask me about that.
I have to think how I ask.
What do you want to know? You just ask.
Here's this guy, and you finish each other's sentences....There's never just one level when someone's using - there's multiple levels to it. But then, one of the things he says is, "I'm feeling insecure." I know there's other shit that's been going down with him in the past. There's not just this one thing that happens to walk along. You're just doing what you're doing and being what you're being. Its like you're Picasso in a room painting and....I can't make a good analogy with that.
Taylor is like my brother. When we met each other, we definitely realized we were connected somehow, when you meet someone and you don't have to try and you're just friends like that. I haven't done drugs since I was 20 years old. I used to love taking acid and smoking speed. I haven't done coke or heroin. I just quit. I was over it. I just didn't like the way it made me feel. Playing music, it's inevitable you're surrounded by that shit and you become the exception, like "You mean, you don't do anything?" And, yeah, I drink whiskey a lot. but fuck. I ain't gonna do any drugs and you just accept it - you accept whether it's your best friend in the world or a stranger, and I'm no one's dad. I'm not going to tell anyone what to do and how to do It, but if someone's really close to me and I'm concerned, then yeah, I'll say something, Taylor and I have had our moments where I've expressed concern, but what happened to Taylor was such a mistake, such an accident It was the first time I've prayed to God. I've never done that in my life. It was the first time I felt like I needed to. I've never been raised in a religion and I've never known what arena of spirituality I subscribe to, but I was just begging for everything to turn out all right and put all my energy into not losing my best friend. It's tough. I mean, he's fine now and he's healthier than he's ever been. I know he'll never make that mistake again. I know it. I can feel it in my heart. I know that he's going to be around a long time, and I know he'll be my best friend forever. I think I know why people do it - fuck. I'm a dreamer.
What about this thing, in the interview where he said he was being intimidated?
It's wild because Taylor and I never talked about that stuff - about his insecurity as a drummer. We just never went there with it and when I hear him say stuff like that I confide in him what a phenomenal drummer he is. He's the kind of drummer that you think would be a cocky asshole, overly confident, because he's so good. But sometimes it's the entirely different direction. I look at him as if he's a hero and he's the only one I'd ever want to play drums.
Maybe it was that girl on MTV, maybe it was her that started it.
Yep, insecurity. You gotta watch it..It's just a feeling you get with certain friends and they bring out different parts of you. That's what I love about hanging out with Taylor. That's why I felt so relieved that I had a partner in crime, someone that understood what the fuck I was talking about without having to say anything. I remember this one period when we were both single and on the road and it was fucking on.
Did you do groupies?
Well how did you get the girls? Did you have someone scout them or did they just come back?
Oh they would just come back. It was a mutual agreement/understanding sometimes people come to the back. They know what they want. They know what the band wants. It just happens. It's that easy. It happens every now and then. I'm never single first. of all, but here was this one time that I was and Taylor fucking brought that out of me, for sure, because I had an excuse, I guess.
You needed Someone to hold your hand.
No, I just needed someone to blame it on.
I've heard that you want to let married and have kids and all. Is that still the plan?
Yeah, I'm from suburban Virginia. I'm just that guy. To me, life is not about wandering, but about finding a place that will set you up until you die. I think about family for sure. I think about kids, my wife, and my family, and her family becoming one big family. I'm family oriented for sure, and I've always wanted to be a dad.
I think you'd be a good dad. It changes your life
I can't wait for it to change my life. I've been doing this too long.
What do you mean?
Fucking running around playing rock music. I don't want to do that the rest of my life.
What do you think you'll do?
Here's my new mission. Led Zeppelin is doing a reunion tour. John Paul Jones, Robert Plant, I gotta get that drumming gig. I gotta do it if Starkey don't get it.
He won't get it. He's killer, but he won't get it.
This is my mission. I have John Bonham tattoos...one on my wrist, one on my shoulder, another on my shoulder. This is the first time I've ever said this in an interview. When I was a kid, I actually had this freaky seance thing where I lit all these candles and I was sitting in front of this three-circled thing, like I sold my soul to Led Zeppelin. It's so retarded.
No It's not.
Well, I did it and I was channeling some kind of energy. I was 17 or 18 and it all comes down to this. I want this like nothing else...Now it's all heady and I'm lost. What were talking about?
We were talking about you channeling Led Zeppelin.
I think the bottom line is that music is more than an instrument. It's more than a sound. It's spiritual.
What do you think happens when you die? What do you believe?
I believe in ghosts, so I believe that something happens when you die. I don't necessarIly understand it all, but I also believe in life outside of this planet and life in other dimensions and things I haven't necessarily figured out. Life has to be bigger and longer than just this, and there has to be some sort of continuation. There has to be some more space than what we've got.
Do you talk to Kurt?
No. but I have dreams all the time. I have dreams about once a month.
What was the last dream you had?
Well, they're usually all the same, but in all of them it's prior to his death. He shows up in my dreams, and I'm like holy shit You're not dead, and it's like it was some big secret or some big joke and then you can't wait to tell everyone. Then you wake up. Within them there's the same conversations that always happen. In those dreams, he's never dead, he's always alive, so I think it's kind of cool. I think there's a whole lot more to the spirit than people can even comprehend. I think there's more... it's even too much bravado and egotistical for human beings to think that we're the end, or that their minds are capable of understanding the universe. It's not possible. Fuck you for telling me life can't exist outside planet Earth. How do you know? There's romance and mystery or the thrill of the chase, whatever. I'm not willing to make up my mind yet