Last Updated on February 21, 2023
From Beat Motel Zine issue 5
Originally published 2005
How on earth did I manage to interview Against me? In 2005 I was starting to grasp how to run a zine. Or so I thought. Fat Wreck Chords had a European office back then (run by the amazing Nanette) and they were incredibly supportive of the world of zines. They would even buy advertising space in zines like Beat Motel which only had a print run of 400 copies!
Fat Wreck sent me a copy of Searching For A Former Clarity by Against Me! and I fell more than a little bit in love. The band’s PR agent (Chrissy Y) organised an in-person interview to take place before Against Me! played at Concorde 2 in Brighton (UK).
A friend called Mafro, who published a zine called ‘Debunk’, also contacted Chrissie to ask if he could ‘blag an interview’ with Against Me, and received an email reply informing him that Chrissie hated blaggers and she made it clear that he was very much not welcome.
On the drive down to Brighton from Ipswich, I met up with Mafro at a service station, and he lent me CD copies of the first two Against Me albums so I could get up to speed before yet another one of my woefully uninformed interviews.
While waiting for show time in a pub around the corner from the venue Mafro was very nervous and dealt with the nerves by getting drunk.
When the time for the interview arrived, I reported to the road manager, as instructed, and waited to find out which of the band members I would be interviewing.
A few minutes later, I was led into a back room to meet a very charming, but very hungover, Laura Jane Grace. It later transpired that Against Me had recorded their live album ‘Americans Abroad’ the night before, and had spent a considerable amount of time and energy partying after the gig.
Somehow, and I still don’t know how, Mafro managed to sneak himself backstage with me and cheerfully joined in with the interview. I was relieved he was there, and not only because he was the only person who had thought to bring a dictaphone.
The interview was a joy, despite the fact several of our friends were banging on the windows backstage (from outside!), yelling and pulling faces.
I didn’t have the foresight to take any photos of the interview, but there are some photos of that evening elsewhere on this website.
I can remember clearly that Mafro somehow managed to get onto the stage with a camera while the band played, but I don’t recall ever seeing his photos.
This interview is more of less a transcript of our conversation. I’m yet to figure out how to extract the final interview from the Microsoft Publisher source file.
Against Me interview – 2005
A – Andrew Culture
M – Mafro
LJG – Laura Jane Grace
A – So who can run fastest in the band?
LJG – I can
A – And why?
LJG – Because I run often, I enjoy running, and like running on treadmills. I’ve gone jogging with Andrew (Seward) several times, and he can’t run for shit. Andrews the one who plays bass, yeah he can’t run for shit. James (Bowman) couldn’t even try to run, and I’m not sure about Warren, but I know I can kick him, I got longer legs, I’m 6’2”
M – There must be some wind resistance involved as well
LJG – What with the singing and all?
M – No, with Warrens beard
LJG – Oh the beard, yeah definitely. You get a bit of sweat in there and its just going to get heavier and heavier ha ha ha
A – So what time did you get to Brighton earlier?
LJG – Ermmm, think we got here around 2:30 or something
M – You been here before?
LJG – Yeah
A – So you’ve had a look around then
LJG – Well we had a walk around, and went up the pier. We’re staying in a hotel like 2 miles down the road
M – So do you get people whispering as you walk past going “Look, it’s the guys from Against me”?
LJG – Ha Ha, not so much
M – No? haha
M – So is this your tour bus outside then?
LJG – No, our van is the white one over there.
M – So who has the job of driving that then?
LJG – Erm, we have our German driver Mike
M – So that’s so you can all have a cheeky beer then without having to worry about drink driving
LJG – Ha Ha, yeah, totally
M – So what’s your favourite song from the new album?
LJG – ermmmmm
A – Nooooooo, that’s too lame
M – No, what’s the song you are most proud of?
LJG – I don’t know. Right now my favourite song off of the record is the energiser, just cos I have a lot of fun playing it
M – So do you know Nanette (PR at Fat Wreck) at all?
LJG – Yeah? She was here in London yesterday, she might actually be coming down tonight
A – Ohhhh, well I best duck out the way, as when I first set this up I forwarded a mail on I shouldn’t have, and she called me a moron
All – Much laughter
A – And I’m really worried that she is going to beat me up
M – Well, we talk to Nanette quite a lot
LJG – yeah
M – so do you want to dish the dirt on her at all?
LJG – I don’t have any dirt on her
A&M – Oh, come on……!
LJG – I don’t, I don’t. I really don’t have any dirt on her
M – Ohh, we just wanted to take the piss out of her a little ha ha
All – ha ha ha
LJG – Ohhh, I wish I did. If I did, it would be beautiful
A – So going back to your songs. You write your songs with a lot of political content. When you write an album, and you’re still playing a song maybe 2 or 3 years later do you ever change your opinion, and think that really that song is not really relevant anymore?
LJG – No. Well I mean, some of the songs are about the (Iraq) war, and you wish that they wouldn’t be relevant anymore, but the war is still happening so it’s still relevant. It’s weird though, because sometimes, definitely with older lyrics that I’ve written, they were a lot more interpretive where I freeform write, and I wouldn’t really know what the fuck I was talking about until I was actually done. And then we’d play it for a while, and I would be like “Oh this is what this means to me, and this is what I getting at with this”, and basically there would sometimes be a gap in which I’d do that.
A – Do you find that the reason you try these songs is that you can gauge it on the reaction from the crowd. Cos you can say, oh well they’re not really getting this. Or do you just say fuck em?
LJG – I feel that people always see it from different perspectives. You know I read this interview where Ian MacKaye was talking about someone was saying that they thought that one of the songs he wrote was a really negative song, but he thought that it was actually a really positive song, you know, it’s all about the perspective that you’re looking at it from. I’m trying to think of a good example of where someone has said that they thought a certain song was about something, and it wasn’t. I guess a good example is the song “Pints of Guinness makes you stronger” off of our first record which is like a song about alcoholism, but the majority of the time when we play it to people who are fucking shit-faced. They all take it as a drinking song. You know, people take songs and make them their own, it’s the beauty of music, and I do that myself when I listen to bands.
A – Whats the weirdest lyric someone thought you’ve sung that you haven’t at all?
LJG – Umm
A – I had one from the new album, but it’s totally gone. It was something to do with courgettes or something.
LJG – With what???
A – It’s like a green vegetable
M – Like a small marrow
LJG – Ha ha ha. I know there has actually been a couple. There was actually this one dude that I met a little while ago who actually got some lyrics tattooed on him that were the wrong lyrics. I was like, I’m not even going to say anything.
M – Does it scare you when people come up to you and show you stuff like that, or are you proud that you’ve got through to them?
LJG – No, it scares me. That’s just like man, I’m going to disappoint you, I’m not that cool of a person. And you got something I wrote tattooed on your body, and that’s just setup for disaster.
A – Does that make you nervous when you write lyrics then, when you know some people are going to take them so literally, or get tattoos?
LJG – It’s something you try to push out of your mind. Like when writing, you don’t want to sit there and think you’re the most important person in the world, and that people are really going to take to heart what I’m writing what now, and this is so important.
A – If people know when bands are like that, well, like George Michael or someone, and everyone is like, oh god, he’s really believing what he’s writing
LJG – Oh, you gotta have faith
All – Mass laughter
LJG – Oh come on, wake me up before you go go, that’s some good lyrics
All – More mass laughter
M – Oh god, that’s terrible
A – Actually, I have a question my wife wanted to ask you. Have any of you been stuck in a toilet with hilarious consequences?
LJG – Stuck in a toilet? Fuck on. Stuck in a lift once
A – With anyone interesting?
LJG – 23 people stuck in this elevator, for an hour. We were being idiots in this elevator going down and someone pressed all the buttons, and we started grabbing anybody who was at the doors when they opened. We’d bring them in, and we were having like a dance party in this elevator until we had like 20something people in there, and then it snapped and fell to the basement level, and we were trapped down there for like an hour
A – God, how on earth did you survive that? Someone once told me never to stand with straight legs, always have them slightly bent just in case that happens.
LJG – Well I think if it falls from any distance you’d be fucked anyway. Well, I suppose you could try to jump at the right time.
M – So what’s your favourite cheese?
LJG – Swiss
M – Swiss cheese, toasted, or just normal.
LJG – Normal, just like in a sandwich
M – So do you get lots of cheese with your riders?
LJG – Yeah, a fair amount
A – You get riders??
LJG – Yeah, totally.
M – What do you ask for?
LJG – We ask for bread, white and wheat. We ask for a cheese platter
M – Are you vegetarian?
LJG – I am, but not everybody in the band is. We have some meats, and pastries.
M – Do you get hummus?
LJG – yeah, we get hummus
M – Oh, I’m addicted
LJG – Yeah, hummus is great.
M – Its almost like its got some special chemical in it that makes you totally addicted to it
LJG – Totally
A – It’s called garlic
M – I first had hummus a couple of years ago, and I just can’t stop eating it
LJG – Hummus is great, and good for you too. It’s a good addiction to have.
A – Do you find in your band, that all the vegetarian food tends to go straight away, and all the vegetarians are like? Wait, hang on a minute….!
LJG – Not so much. You just find that non-vegetarians tend to get jealous when it comes to airplane rides. I personally think that if you flying, order the vegetarian option even if you are not vegetarian because you get it first, they bring it out individually to you, and it’s always better than the weird mystery meat that they serve you on an airline. Every time we fly, me and Jordan will be sitting there with our nice meal, and everyone else will be like waiting for theirs to come out, and when they do get it it’s inedible.
A – How have flights changed in the last year? Have your areas got bigger, are they more comfy?
LJG – Nar, its still sucks. I don’t really like flying. The best Airline I have ever flown on is Quantas. They fly from Australia, but most of the time flying just sucks. You’d think at this time all of the planes would have little TV screens on the backs of the seats, but they don’t.
M – I’m always uncomfortable flying, being 6’3” my knees are always crunched against the seat in front.
LJG – you should ask for the emergency exit
M – So do you still keep in touch with Chris Clavin at all?
LJG – Yep, the last time I spoke to him was probably like 4 or 5 months ago, it’s not like a regular thing, but I saw Hannah when she was in town for the fest, and they both stayed at Lawrence’s house.
M – Ghost mice should be coming over here soon, so that should be cool
LJG – Yeah, I saw them playing at the fest, and they were really good
M – Yeah, they’re a good band.
A – So, do you have any questions you want to ask us?
LJG – Erm, no.
M – Oh, go on
LJG – No, this isn’t my job
M – You must have a silly question to ask us?
LJG – Do you like here in Brighton
M – No, I like in Kent, about 80 miles that way.
A – And you’ve actually been to Brighton more times than I have
LJG – Holy Shit, where do you live?
A – I live about 150 miles that way, in a place called Ipswich. No real bands come to Ipswich, but it’s got a good scene though. It’s grown from being like 3 bands a couple of year ago to over 130 bands.
LJG – Holy Shit
A – yeah, its fantastic because all these kids are forming bands, and they know that at their first gig they are going to have at least 100 people looking at them and paying attention which is really exciting.
LJG – Yeah, that’s awesome. So any new stuff you have been listening to? Anything your excited about?
A – the problem with doing a zine is that you get sent so much crap
M – There is one band that I’m quite excited about at the moment called Gogol Bordello
LJG – Gogol Bordello, I hear that they put on an excellent live show
M – I’ve got 2 CDs and they’re absolutely amazing
LJG – I recommend, have you heard of The World Inferno Friendship Society, if you like Gogol bordello, World Inferno Friendship Society, fucking amazing. There is a similar theme running there. If you ask me, Gogol Bordello aren’t as good as World inferno friendship Society.
M – Excellent, that’s great. I shall check them out.
A – have you heard The Cougars from Chicago?
LJG – Nope
A – They’re a bit like you, actually not at all.
LJG – Ha Ha, 4 dudes in a band ha ha
A – Well they have a huge horn section, a bit like the first track on the new album, it’s kinda like that, I was actually boring Mafro about them the other day. You know if you really like a band, you have to tell people.
M – Are you playing Miami tonight?
LJG – Yeah, no horns, though, unfortunately
M – You could just pretend with kazoos
LJG – With Kazoos, yeah you get up there man
M – Excellent
All – Much laughter
LJG – Even if you don’t you could just *does an impression of someone playing a trumpet* or just whistle.
M – Excellent, well I think that’s it. Thanks a lot, and good luck tonight.