Posted: November 13th, 2003
"Between that and the drugs...I mean cut through the crap, it was the drugs"
Interview & photos by Schmitty
While a lot of early punk bands are doing reunion tours to cash in on some of the money that has been injected into the so-called “new scene,” RKL has decided to go for what’s rightfully theirs. This is no reunion show, this is for keeps. RKL is back with a vengeance, and lead singer Jason Sears tells all about the resurgence of one of the greatest punk bands of all time. Go ahead and take a dose…
How did you get started?
The singer for Lagwagon(Joey Cape) and me were jammin' with another guy and Chris our guitar player and Bomber and his nephew had a band and they asked Joey Cape to play second guitar and Joey said he would play guitar if I got to sing-we were only twelve years old. He brought me over to the house and practiced and did a couple cover songs and we just went from there and Joey never ended up being in the band.
Talk about when you first moved to SF and hanging out in the vats?
I don’t remember what year it was, but we were down here in Santa Barbara getting bored. It had a good scene but a small one and all we had was L.A. and that got tired so we said lets go check out San Francisco. So I went up and checked it out and there was a show at the Mabuhay Gardens. The show was just killer and outrageous. So I went back home and said guys we got to get up there and play, and they were all like we don’t have a place to stay, and I’m like "no we just got to get in the van and go." So we hopped in the van and went to the same club(the Mab) and played a show but we told the guys that we didn’t have a place to stay, and there was an abandoned squat right next door to the Mabuhay Gardens on Osgood called Osgood Squad, and a bunch of guys were over there partying and drinking and we told em we didn’t have a place to stay. They said we could crash here, or you know there is a bunch of bands (DRI was around back then), but we had all this equipment and we needed a place to store it and they said we got a perfect place; it's called the Vats. They took us down to the Vats and at sixteen years old it's like a dream come true to be some street skate punks cruising San Francisco and you end up at the Hamms Brewery Vats and there is nothing but a bunch of punks living there making their own rules and doing what ever they want. They didn't really have a vat for us so they gave us a room at the bottom of the stairway that everyone used for the bathroom, so it was sort of gnarly getting down to where we stayed cause you had to walk through this stairway that everyone pissed in. But once we got down there we had a little room and we moved our equipment in and had a little practice area with the guys from DRI. If you had ever been there and seen it, it was just one of those things that was outrageous, something that is so unreal and bizarre, just surreal you know.
How long of a hiatus did you take from the band?
Well we've broken up a couple of times actually for four years at a time or something. I think we broke up the first time after we did the double live album in Berlin, we just hated each other after that. We'd been on the road forever. And we broke up after that for like four years and then I didn’t get back into the band until actually they had started another band and they were off in Europe and our roadie died and they called me and I flew over and did the rest of the tour and then we were together and we recorded 'Riches to Rags' and then after the European tour of that I was not in a very good space and it sort of blew up and band members hated each other again so we broke up then basically until now. That was 96 I think, so after 96 it was basically "hey I don’t want to ever see you again, screw off". Then a good friend of the whole bands died in 99, and the family asked us to play at the party for the funeral. So everyone came down as a one-time deal, and the response from people was so killer. But nothing ever panned out. Then the city wanted us to play the opening of their skatepark. I was like "oh man, Santa Barbara is finally going to put a skatepark in town and we weren't even aloud to play because there were no club in town that would let us play or a promoter that would touch us and now the city is actually calling us to play". So I called up Chris and he was down, and then I called Derek(the old drummer of Lagwagon)-if you know any of the history of RKL and Lagwagon, after RKL split up Dave our drummer went to Lagwagon and the drummer for Lagwagon was kicked out and now he's with us, so now the members are sort of interchangeable. Sort of the same band almost; different bass player, different singer. So we got Derek playing drums, we didn’t have a bass player(Little Joe was doing a side project) or a second guitar player(me and Barry still weren't on speaking terms), so we brought in a couple guys that were friends of the bands and played a set of the real old stuff and there were about 2,000 people and we played and after the first note the place went haywire, me and Chris looked at each other and were all "YES", and ever since that day we knew we had to get this back together. We have grown up a little bit, we don’t hate each other, all the old stuff...and a lot of that old crap was me, problems I had that effected the band, but those have changed. That day at the skatepark was the resurrection of RKL, this is what we belong doing, so lets keep doing it.
So are you guys working on a new album?
Yeah, right now it's a little tough with both bands working and schedules and finding the time. Lagwagon is writing a new album right now and RKL is writing a new album right now. It’s a slow process being that so many members are in both bands. But yeah, we are working on a new album and we're looking for a label to put it out and keep into the old RKL sound and doing what we know how to do best.
Does the name Rich Kids on LSD still have the same meaning to this band?
No, and I think it probably will end up hurting us. Hurting us I guess in the main stream aspect. Music, the whole music everything has become a little bit more open minded with punk rock or what they say is punk rock that they'll play it on the radio. It doesn't have the same meaning I guess because were just older, but it still has a strong meaning because it wasn't a name that we picked for ourselves, it was a name that some people gave us. So it was kind of like a joke, it happened that some guy said "ha those kids will never be anything, they're just a bunch of rich kids on LSD man". The first party we played we didn't have a name for the band, so we put that one on the flyer and it just stuck. At this point we don't want to change the name because our beliefs are still kind of 'stick it to the man' beliefs of why should we conform and change just because you're not ready to except it, but at the same time it may hinder us in mass marketing in getting the products. A lot of other bands have endorsements from companies, but a lot of companies don’t want to endorse a band that has LSD in the name. When we were kids we never thought it was the name, cause we were like screw that, who cares...but now we're a little bit older; we're like maybe it's the name why they wont do it. I understand both sides of it, but at the same time take it for a joke. For years people thought we were a straight edge band and the whole name was a joke, so look at it like that.
When was the last time you did acid?
At this time I would like to invoke my right to the Fifth Amendment as allowed to me in the constitution.
So have you mellowed out a lot over the past few years?
No, I would say that I've changed. I've realized what is stupid and what isn't stupid, what's truly harmful and what’s not truly harmful, what's bad and that I can do and what's bad and that I can't do. I found out what winds me up in jail and what keeps me out on the streets. So no I haven't slowed down, but I've grown and learned a lot.
What happened to Bomber?
I don’t know, Bomber is a musical genius. He has so much to offer and you know it was great. We were playing and things were going good, but I think there were personal problems amongst members and right now RKL is at a spot where the last thing we want is tension between band members because that is what we had for years. We want it to be fun now and if it’s not fun then there's no point in doing it. There was that and musically I think our ideas were headed in different directions. Having Bomber was great; but having Little Joe back, this is the line up, its fun for me right now...and you know, Little Joe is Little Joe-there is no one like him.
What happened with your snowboard career?
You were pretty into it though right, sponsored and all that?
Sponsored by Barfoot, I had a coupled two page spreads. I was doing the whole thing, going to contests. I was so true to Barfoot snowboards back then. Back then Barfoot was such a small company, that I think that they got lost in the quality of production and the other companies started producing boards that were better. Now I think the new Barfoots are some of the best boards around, but back then they were still wood and inset edges. I was so stuck; I would rather buy a Barfoot then ride any other board that I think I was getting frustrated that I wasn’t progressing as fast I wanted to because of my equipment. Between that and the drugs...I mean cut through the crap, it was the drugs. The other part is just sort of a story that sounds good, but the problem was drugs.
What roll has skateboarding played in the band?
God, all of it. Well, I don't know in the band. I think just in the influence of our lives. It had played a huge part in the band in the sense that it played a huge part in my life and a lot of other members lives and we wouldn’t have probably chosen the route if hadn't been involved in skating and just the whole lifestyle-the fast and hard edge lifestyle that goes with skateboarding. That led us to think a certain way and that was released in our music. Music and skateboarding were both a great outlet for the way we were feeling as kids and I think they went hand in hand together. The first US tours we did, we had boxes of skateboard equipment and the only way we could survive was when we got into town go straight to the skatepark pass out a flyer that we were playing and sell boards and trucks for gas money. Our U-Haul had more skatestuff than musical equipment. When we pulled into town, it was who cares where the club is, where's the park.
What band member would win in a high ollie contest?
Joe. I started skating a long time ago, I’m more of a halfpipe ramp skater. I had a big blue vert halfpipe in my backyard that was in the Powell Future Primitive video. Joe is five years younger than I am, so he was raised more on the street skating side of it. Joe is just incredible. There is a couple photos of him olliing a trash can playing bass; I don't think I can ollie a trash can, I can barely ollie a beer can.
Where did the beanie guy come from?
One night we were partying pretty hard. Like we did when we were kids, we sat around Chris's moms house and dose, write music, laugh, and listen to children’s records and I drew it one night. Dan Sites looked at it and drew it from the picture I drew and it just looked killer. It's a killer logo; it wrapped up all our personalities and my thoughts in one basic little cartoon character of what we were all about.
Oh God, I didn't even realize how many till these last couple of shows. Tons.
Thousands of thousands. I get people sending me photos of their tattoos all the time. It's great! Now it actually has worked out perfect for us. It's a cool looking cartoon character, you put a beer in his hand and it's just great. It caught on in the tattoo world. Every show we play at least two or three people come up and show me their beanie tattoos.
What was the last CD you bought?
I don't buy em.
Or the last CD you got?
The last CD I bought I think was the history of the Toy Dolls book 2, which is like 60 Toy Dolls songs, I bought that and an old Stiff Little Fingers album that I had lost along the way. In my car, there is a band called Cigar. I listen to them, I don’t like a lot of the new stuff, I still am a hardcore Meatmen fan. I find I don’t listen to much music, between playing it all the time. My musical tastes are so wide, I went to Epitaph and got a big bag full, so I buy and get all kinds of em and the ones I stick to listen to are such a wide range that I couldn't pinpoint it to one. I get so bored, I’m not the kind of person that gets a CD and then it stays in my stereo forever. I play one song and flick it out and put another band in.
What was one of the best shows you've played?
The Ramones was a great show. Everything that went on; our drumset breaking and the Ramones not wanting to give us their part, the Santa Barbara crowd wanting us to play after the Ramones-that was killer. There is one in Hamburg Germany on the first European tour with Dave drumming when our roadie had died and I flew over and took over singing. Driving from one town to the next somebody said, "hey there is a monastery up here where the monks brew their own beer, lets stop and take the tour. So we pulled over and we were drinking with a bunch of monks and we still had three hours to go to Hamburg. We were on our way to Hamburg and we were listening to this children’s record called the Globs which RKL liked to do, get real screwed up and listen to these real bizarre children’s records that made no sense. It was raining outside and all of the sudden I stopped the bus and we all looked at each other and we all just knew it was time to dose. So we all dosed really heavily, and kept driving to Hamburg. At this time we were really late and really dosed. We showed up and the whole street was filled with people and we couldn’t get the bus through. We pulled in and literally fell out of the bus, we were so high we couldn’t set up our equipment or anything, we just looked at everybody and started laughing and the fans actually took in our equipment and set it up. We went up on stage and played the best show we've ever played or one of em. The crowd just looked at us and went "oh god, these guys are out of it, they won’t even be able to play. " Me and Joe were rolling around in the puddles of the streets just laughing; looking at people not even worried. Dave our drummer actually said he didn't think he could play that night and we looked at each other and we hit the first note and it was like a powerhouse for an hour, it was awesome! Out of the thousands of awesome shows, that one sticks out, there was something a little different, true to the name and something a little bizarre to that one.
How many times would you say that you've played live on doses?
More or less than a hundred?
Close to, close to a hundred.
What do you think the future holds for RKL?
The future holds what anybody will let us have, because we are there to take it. The band has the best lineup it’s ever had. Me, Chris, Joe, Chris Flippin and Derek play together like we are twelve years old again in Chris's house. Yeah we’ve gotten older, but with this lineup it’s fun. Screw the little stuff, all the petty crap that used to get in our way, it’s like who cares. I think our future is better than its ever been although we have such a bad reputation that people are reluctant to work with us and book shows with us. Right now we are sounding better than we have ever been, the drugs in my life aren't a factor any more. Kicking that habit is the best thing I've ever done. It's wide open for us right now, it’s just a matter of whether we take it. I think we all want to take it, its just hey, give us a chance.
Has the phone been ringin?
Yeah, it’s been tough. We're paying our dues again. We broke up and left on top (not selling out 10000 seat venues like so called punk bands today) playing two to three thousand seat venues then we disappear for a few years and now we are playin' the little bars for two hundred people again, we don't mind doing it, we have to pay our dues again, but at the same time its frustrating. Yeah our phones been ringin', but not as much as we like and not as many people. Our sound right now is so good, and I’m not saying that cause I’m in the band. It has nothing to do with me, I’m just up there singing. The guys that are behind me are so amazing that I don’t see any other band musically out there as far as instruments go touching those guys, they're just outrageous. And also we have a dvd coming out. The video Still Flailing After all these Beers is coming out like a re-release of the directors cut with an extra hour of European footage and one new song. It should be coming out on Malt Soda Records on DVD any day.
Do you have any animosity towards bands that have used you as a major influence and now are packing in the people and money to a greater degree then you guys ever did?
I used to say there is no animosity. Sort of what we are, we take our influences and mix em together and make em better. In a sense that is what they did, they took us and some other bands and made a combination. But we had a real distinct sound back then and there is a lot of bands that will admit it in their interviews. What pisses me off is that the bands that are in bigger positions who will be interviewed and say that they basically just copied RKL, those bands are now in a position that they could give us a break and they don’t. If they were such fans of ours that they ripped off our sound, then letting us open a show for them (NoFX let us open a couple of shows for them and it was great) shouldn't be a problem. I don't know whether since they said they ripped off RKL that they are intimidated to have us play and see where the style originated. That sounds sort of egotistical. Yeah there is a little animosity, but then again, I’m not the kind of person to hold animosity. It's more like fuck them; yeah I hate em, fuck em. There is no animosity I just wish they'd die.