Fueled By Death Cast Ep. 89 - JESS MARGERA
CKY - JESS MARGERA
"It's all gonna blend together somehow, and you'd think it would never be able to work, but it does somehow." Jess Margera, drums, CKY
ABOUT JESS MARGERA:
Jess Margera started drumming for CKY during the bands inception in 1998. They started making crazy stunt filled home movies and skate videos, and their first album Volume 1 was a collection of songs from those videos, many of which featured skater and Jess's brother, Bam Margera. Many of the guys featured in the videos went on to create the very successful Jackass franchise, which still featured many of CKY's songs. Jess joins the show to talk about the bands newest album The Phoenix, the plans for their next album release on Record Store Day, and he hopes to strike a deal with Netflix to release all of the cult classic CKY videos.
ON THIS WEEK'S COMPANION TV SHOW:
This week the show returns from west coast hiatus! Dustin and Jeff recount a little of their trip to LA and send their love to Claire Wineland. Then on Science, liquid water ice has been confirmed on the poles of the Moon and NASA reveals its plans to go back to the Moon for extended periods.
DEATH STAR OF THE WEEK:
This week meet one of Death Wish Coffee's original fans, Steven Frith. Check out the Death Star segment within the show below:
Jeff: Good, good.
Dustin: Top of the world, man. Cannot complain. How's it going over there, brother?
Jess Margera: Pretty good. We're in beautiful Jacksonville, North Carolina at the moment.
Jeff: How's your weather? Is it fricking hot as shit down there?
Jess Margera: Yeah. Yeah, it's raining like crazy.
Dustin: By the way, the rest of this interview will just be weather-related questions. I don't know if Jeff told you that, but that's how we roll. It's all small talk.
Jeff: Yeah. We just wanna talk about what clouds look like, and how you feel when you're caught in a rainstorm. That kind of shit, you know.
Jess Margera: The humidity, things like that.
Dustin: Ah, the humidity.
Jeff: Oh, man. Well, I'm just gonna start by saying thanks for taking the time to talk to us on the show. I know that we made the connect through the coffee, and I will be making sure that you guys get a ton more once you get off tour. But I wanted to tell you, too, if you guys want coffee for tour, we can make that happen.
Jess Margera: That would be amazing. You guys got me hooked on it. I can't even complete a thought in my own head without it in the morning.
Dustin: It's because we put Columbian cocaine in there.
Jeff: Secret. That's the secret. Yeah, no. We'll make that happen. I'll hit you up after that, and yeah. We can figure out how to get it to you.
Jess Margera: Like a little travel pack?
Jeff: Yeah, no. Travel pack? I'll send you pounds, yo. You'll need another tour bus just for coffee.
Dustin: Kilos. We'll send you kilos, homie.
Jess Margera: Have to pull another trailer, just fill it with coffee.
Dustin: We do that, man. That's not out of our wheelhouse.
Jeff: Especially bands like you guys that are working hard every fucking day, we wanna make sure that you guys are caffeinated.
Jess Margera: Stoked, man. Thank you. Much appreciated.
Jeff: Awesome, awesome.
Dustin: So I gotta start off by saying, listening to some of these new tracks off the album, fucking badass, man. You guys did not lose any edge whatsoever, and how is it touring on this album so far? How's everything going with the traveling?
Jess Margera: It's been amazing, man. We hit Warped Tour last year and did a bunch of cool tours with bands like HIM and did some headliner stuff. It's just awesome that people remember us, because we took quite a bit of time off there.
Jeff: Yeah, and as we're talking right now, you guys actually are just kicking off a brand new leg of tour, which is awesome, and you guys just a couple days ago, playing Gathering of the Juggalos, which I think is ... whether you're fans of ICP or not, is a festival that needs to be experienced. What was it like for you guys playing that festival?
Jess Margera: Oh, man. It was awesome. We did it years ago, but this year it was a lot more ... They were more accepting of us I think, since it's our second time. It's like, yeah, you get invited into that scene, you know? And yeah, Gwar, Yellow Wolf, Attila, like so many great bands playing. Awesome.
Jeff: Yeah. Yeah, I love that kind of stuff. As a personal question, do you like playing the dingy club scene better, or do you like playing the festivals better?
Jess Margera: It's two different worlds and I like both. I think we're the only band in history that's played the Gathering of the Juggalos, Lollapalooza, in the same tour. Two completely different universes and we are accepted into everything. It's really cool. We've never been part of any kind of scene. We're just like the odd band out, and to get invited to like, Psycho Las Vegas which is kind of a stoner rocker thing, and then Lolla with Bruno Mars ...
Dustin: That's so bizarre, man.
Jess Margera: And then the Juggalo thing, like Gwar, ICP ... I feel honored to be accepted by all these different universes of music. It's a really awesome feeling.
Jeff: Why do you think that is? Do you think it's the eclectic music that you're playing, or ... It's such a weird anomaly.
Jess Margera: Yeah, I don't know. I guess because all our albums kinda have a little bit of everything, you know? There's heavy stuff. There's funk, like groovy stuff. There's, I don't know, ballads. There's kind of everything, so people don't really know what to do with us and it's worked out because we get invited to all these festivals. I don't know. I can't explain it. I'm just happy that it is the way it is.
Dustin: So do you guys aim to write music in that fashion? Like, "Oh hey, we're gonna write a reggae song today and tomorrow we're gonna write a punk song," or do you just write whatever the fuck you want?
Jess Margera: Yeah. We don't even really talk about it much. We just start jamming and then what happens, happen. Obviously there's gonna be like, Chad produces all our albums and he's all about Quincy Jones production, like Michael Jackson.
Jeff: Oh, hell yeah.
Jess Margera: Like P-Funk, Stevie Wonder, shit like that. And then I'm into like, Kyuss and Clutch and Zeppelin so, you know, Deis has his world of influences. It's all gonna blend together somehow, and you'd think it would never be able to work, but it does somehow.
Jeff: That's crazy. Speaking kind of on your writing process, when you guys get together and start writing songs and start thinking about the next album, do songs come from an idea first, like a lyric idea first? Or do you guys kind of flesh out the music first? What is that writing process like for CKY?
Jess Margera: Well, each album's different. On The Phoenix, we were really big about like, let's just get in a room, three of us, and just play. Chad'll come up with a cool riff and then another riff blends with that well, and we tried to focus on [inaudible 00:06:21] because someone brought it up. I don't know. We write pieces of music and then kind of piece it together in the studio, which doesn't necessarily work all the time. You get very mixed results. Sometimes it works out great, and sometimes it's a song that sounds weird, you know?
Jess Margera: So we might not do that and focus on the actual writing hooks, catchy stuff. It's been a while since we really focused on that kind of stuff. I think The Phoenix is like ... It should have come out after Infiltrate-Destroy-Build in my opinion.
Jeff: So we were talking about, when we started to get cut a little bit, we were talking about the writing process and how you were saying that you guys don't really go into it with a specific idea. You just kinda let that music flow. I wanted to really ... and I think you were talking about this. I really wanted to talk about The Phoenix, because you were saying that you feel like this album should have came out even earlier because of what you guys were able to achieve with it. Are you guys that proud of this record?
Jess Margera: Yeah. We had tremendous success with Volume 1 and Infiltrate, our first two albums, and for some reason, we kinda got away from doing albums like we did then. We would just get in a room as a band and work out music, and towards the last two, we kinda relied more on studio editing and stuff like that. Not to talk about those records, there was definitely some great songs on there, but I think it was a mistake to rely more on studio technology and get back to the brass tacks of just writing great songs in a room together. And that's what we did with The Phoenix, so that's kinda why I feel like it should have come out after The Phoenix, because it's the same process as the first two albums.
Jeff: I think that is the essence of good music. Get in a room, and just ...
Dustin: Authenticity, man.
Jeff: Yeah, for sure.
Jess Margera: Yeah. I mean, there's just feel there. There's just feel that you can't recreate in a studio, you know?
Dustin: Speaking of creating in a studio, you recorded this album at Rancho De La Luna, which is ... We've heard so many awesome things about it, but one of the things we've heard is that that recording room is kinda magical, where it can end up reshaping the album. Did you have that kind of feeling at all when you were recording there?
Jess Margera: Yeah. Absolutely, man. I'd read about people talking about Rancho and how there's just a vibe there. Stuff just comes out of you that you're not expecting or whatever, and just the combination of just the cool vibes in the middle of the desert like that, and then just the awesome equipment that they have there. I mean, there's just amps that you cannot find anywhere. It's just vintage, awesome amps and just great gear. Yeah, it was definitely an experience going there. I'm so glad we did.
Jeff: That's so cool. How long were you guys in the studio?
Jess Margera: We were at Rancho for like ... It was pretty quick. Maybe like 10 days or something?
Jess Margera: And then Chad ended up cutting all the vocals and stuff in LA at his place.
Jeff: Yeah. Well, like you said before, it's widely known that Chad has been producing and engineering CKY's music for so long, and to have a fan of the Michael Jackson process of being a producer like that, I don't think you could get anybody better. And he happens to be in the band, so I think it's a win-win.
Jess Margera: Yeah, and that's another thing. If you get some super duper producer guy with a name, and I'm sure you're gonna get a great album, but he's gonna do all the things he does with every band he produces, you know?
Jess Margera: Whereas Chad only does our albums, so you definitely get a unique record, because not only ... He's got his way of doing things, and it definitely makes the band sound more unique on top of all the weird vibes we got going on.
Jeff: It's the fricking truth, though. It really is. So kind of on the other side of it, one of the things about CKY that is as iconic as you guys in the band, is the fanbase. I mean, every since the inception of the band 20 years ago now, the CKY fanbase has been rabid and incredible, and I kinda wanted to ask the question of like, what it's been like to evolve with this fanbase. Especially in your sense, to almost grow up with the fans in a sense. What is that even like?
Jess Margera: Yeah. We didn't have the traditional like, get a record deal, get a song on the radio, or something like that. We were completely out of nowhere. We sold all our records in skate shops and surf shops and stuff like that. It was very strange, and tied in with the CKY videos, just created this confusion of people are like, "What is CKY? Is it a skate company? Is it a skate video? Is it a band?" It's like, well, it's all those things. In that case, the confusion caused people to dig deeper into the band and then they definitely got into it more, which worked out pretty cool.
Jeff: Oh, hell yeah. Hell yeah. And I mean, even on that, speaking on with the videos and how you guys kind of got into the consciousness with those videos, I gotta know first of all, because at this point, we're in 2018 and anybody who doesn't know the CKY videos has been living under a rock and they should go and find them on YouTube or wherever the hell they live right now. But for someone who lived all that stuff, do you ever revisit those times? Do you ever watch those videos anymore, like as yourself?
Jess Margera: I got four kids now, and they're getting old enough that they can watch that stuff.
Jeff: Oh, no.
Jess Margera: So I have been revisiting it, and yeah. It's pretty trippy.
Jeff: I bet.
Jess Margera: Going through all those old videos, man. It's funny, because it was before YouTube and all that, you know? So it was like, I don't know if someone could do that now.
Jeff: No, I don't think so because of YouTube. You can have the idea to be crazy and film it and do whatever you wanna do, but you can instantly upload it and if you do it right and have a good production value or whatever, lots of people can see it thanks to social media and YouTube. You guys didn't have that. You guys literally just had a handheld camera and a bunch of crazy motherfuckers and were like, "Okay, let's just do this."
Jess Margera: Yeah. It started off skaters because it technically was a skate video, but it's just funny because all the stuff around the skating got popular with people who didn't even skate. My buddies and uncles and stuff that were construction guys were watching it. It's funny to see that evolution of it branching out to a wider audience from the skate videos and all that.
Jeff: That's so crazy.
Jess Margera: And then once Spike Jones came along and Jackass and all that, then it just reached a level that I couldn't even fathom.
Dustin: Well, it reached so many levels that I think at this point, CKY and Jackass and that whole crew, that whole idea of making those kinds of videos shaped the way social media is today, and why YouTube is around and why there's every asshole who wants to hit themself in the face with a wooden board can now make a video and put it up on this, and social media-
Jeff: With some kickass music behind it.
Dustin: Yeah, put some kickass music behind it and now they can just post it all over YouTube. Do you feel somewhat responsible for that?
Jeff: You should.
Jess Margera: I guess, in a way. Yeah, we kinda helped shape that. It's funny because my kids have watched these YouTube star people, you know?
Dustin: Yeah, it's so weird.
Jess Margera: Doing stuff like we used to do, and that's what kind of forced me into like, "Okay, you guys are ready to watch this stuff."
Dustin: Break out the OG shit.
Jess Margera: We invited half this shit.
Jeff: That's so funny. I gotta ask. What do your kids think of what you've shown them of CKY videos?
Jess Margera: You know, they come to our shows and they just know me as like driving them to school and stuff, so they think it's pretty odd to see these people come out to these shows. I don't know if they know what to make of it yet, honestly.
Jeff: That's so surreal. Speaking on that a little bit, I wanted to know, okay. Starting this band in '98, and obviously also doing the whole skate video kind of aesthetic with it, and you guys are just having a good time. You're creating the music you wanna create, and you're creating the video content you wanna create. You're doing it for the sheer fun and to have a good time of it. Was there a moment at that point, where you guys as a band were like, "We wanna do this to make it" or did that come later? Was the goal always like, "I wanna be a professional musician" or did that kind of hit you later, like, "Oh my god, I could actually make this be my existence"?
Jess Margera: Yeah. It definitely started out as just us having fun and not really expecting much out of it, and then once it started happening and we fly to Iceland to film CKY2K and kids in Iceland know who we are, then it's just kinda like, "Whoa, this is a thing now. This is definitely turning into a thing." We've been doing it 20 years and I don't think I could do anything else, honestly.
Jeff: That's incredible. That's incredible.
Dustin: Yeah. So do you feel the weight of age on your shoulders? Have you slowed down at all, or you guys still just as wild as you were 20 years ago?
Jess Margera: Yeah. It's definitely mellowed out a bit. You know, Bam's a dad now. I'm a dad times four, so our day doesn't really consist of blowing up cars or anything anymore. It's more like coming over and eating breakfast and then just chilling out. It's kinda mellowed out a little. Which is fine.
Jeff: Getting old's a bitch.
Dustin: Yeah, I know, right?
Jess Margera: I don't think we'd be alive if we were still living the way we did for all those years.
Jeff: Once again, for all of our listeners or watchers out there, if you haven't seen CKY videos, especially CKY2K ...
Dustin: You're lucky you're alive now.
Jeff: You're lucky you're damn alive.
Dustin: Do you ever look back on that-
Jess Margera: I'm trying to bring the CKY videos into this century, actually.
Jess Margera: That's my job when I get home from tour, trying to get it on Netflix and all that stuff.
Jeff: Oh, dude. They should eat that up. We're behind it 100%.
Dustin: Yup. You got Death Wish behind you.
Jeff: Yeah, but I mean they should eat that up, especially with all the streaming programming out there. I mean, it's all shot and ready. You just put a couple extra bells and whistles on it, and you're good to go.
Jess Margera: Yeah. There's so much, we could probably make another movie of just outtakes, honestly.
Jeff: Aw, I'm salivating.
Dustin: I would watch that.
Jeff: Yeah, I'm salivating right at just hearing that.
Dustin: Show it to me now!
Jeff: Oh, shit, that's awesome. Holy shit. Oh my god.
Jess Margera: Yeah, there's a whole process. You gotta bring it up to HD standards and stuff. A lot of those videos, we shot on like a DV cam, so it's not gonna cut it.
Dustin: Do you have any memorable moment that was like, "Shit, that was the closest I ever came to dying"?
Jess Margera: Yeah, on the Guns N' Roses tour. Axl took us out on night, and man. We went for it. I woke up the next morning like, "Did I get hit by a train?" I don't know how I survived that one.
Jeff: Well, you did. And you lived to tell the tale, which is even better.
Jess Margera: Yeah. Yeah, that was an interesting tour, that Guns N' Roses tour we did. It was back when Buckethead was on guitar.
Jeff: Yeah, that was the Chinese Democracy tour, right? Or the lead-in to the that? Yeah.
Jess Margera: Yeah, although it was like, years before the album actually came out.
Jeff: Right, yeah. Oh my god. You guys have had an incredible career like that, where ... and I think it's a testament to the aesthetic of the band. Like you were saying, you guys don't go into a room and are like, "Oh, we're gonna write this kind of song." We're just gonna write the music that's in our heart and we're gonna just get it out there, and that music has let you tour the world and play the shows you wanna play, and not only the shows you wanna play, but tour for bands like Guns N' Roses. It's the dream.
Jess Margera: Yeah. Dude, yeah. I mean, I can't even ... It's Metallica, watching Lars and James playing air drums next to me. Just like, "I can die now."
Jeff: Yeah, for sure. Actually, that hits me as a question. As a drummer, what are drummers that you gravitate towards? And I'm not talking current. I'm saying like, the iconic drummers out there. Is Lars that drummer for you, or is there other drummers out there that you gravitate towards?
Jess Margera: I mean, like most dudes my age, Master of Puppets pretty much changed my life.
Jeff: Yeah. Yeah, it changed the world.
Jess Margera: I have my babysitter to thank for that.
Jeff: That's awesome.
Jess Margera: She'd played it for me when I was like eight or nine, and I was like, "What is this magic?"
Jeff: That's awesome.
Dustin: That's a fucked up babysitter.
Jess Margera: Yeah. And Bonham, of course.
Jeff: Of course.
Jess Margera: Like pretty much every drummer. That dude invented rock drumming. Yeah, also like a lot of P-Funk, like Dennis Chambers, guys like that. I'm all about the groove. Funky meters, stuff like that. You gotta have groove when you play drums. You gotta be in the pocket. I don't wanna sound all stiff and mechanical. I want it to sound like a dude playing the drums in a room, you know?
Jeff: No, I definitely know, and it definitely comes through on The Phoenix, for sure.
Jess Margera: Good, I'm glad.
Jeff: You guys are in the pocket. Yeah, you guys are in the pocket the whole record, and it's a killer record.
Jess Margera: Thank you, man. Much appreciated.
Jeff: The question that we come to on this show with every guest that we have, and I'm always interested in the answer, is the question of, through it all, you guys have had your ups and downs as a band. You guys are back in full force now on a killer record. You're celebrating 20 years as a band. What fuels you to keep creating, to keep going out there and melting faces? What fuels you guys to do that? You, specifically?
Jess Margera: I mean, my favorite thing is ... Obviously I love playing our shows and stuff, but at times I feel like you're kinda preaching to the converted, so I really enjoy getting in front of a crowd that might not necessarily know us, maybe know a couple songs or whatever, and in 30-40 minutes or whatever it is, you have to convert them into a fan. It's the best feeling to see a dude up front or a chick up front and she's kinda looking at you like, "What's this?" And then by the end she's like, headbanging and getting all into it. That's what fuels me. That's my favorite thing about this.
Jeff: That's excellent. And you're right. You are converting people in a very short amount of time from a complete novice to an expert. Walking away from the stage and going straight to the merch table and buying the record and the T-shirt.
Jess Margera: Yeah. I love that stuff.
Jeff: That's excellent.
Jess Margera: That's what keeps me going.
Dustin: So you're 20 years deep. You just released a new album. You're playing this awesome tour. Where do you go from here? How much longer does this go on for? Would you play this into the end of time?
Jess Margera: Yeah. I mean, this one's going till September 2nd, and then we're hitting ... We missed a couple spots on this one, like Florida and a lot of California and stuff like that, so we're gonna do that. Then we're going over to England, some Europe stuff. So yeah, we got a busy year. We're all booked up. We have a EP coming out in the fall, on Record Store Day.
Jeff: That's excellent. Now, is that EP consisting of stuff hit the cutting room floor from The Phoenix, or is this stuff that you guys kinda came up with in the interim?
Jess Margera: Yeah, one or two of the songs we were working on in The Phoenix sessions, and we just didn't get around to tracking it. And yeah, this EP's fun. It's all over the place. It's got a little bit of everything.
Jeff: Awesome, awesome. Is there a name? Can you say the name yet, or is that still a secret?
Jess Margera: We're still kinda toying with names right now, but we gotta come up with something within the next week here.
Jeff: Awesome. How many tracks are on the EP?
Jess Margera: Just four.
Dustin: Awesome. Nice.
Jeff: That's excellent. I'm very, very excited for Record Store Day.
Dustin: So is there a place that you haven't toured but you'd like to hit up?
Jess Margera: Yeah, Greece. A lot of people were telling me Greece is where it's at right now. A lot of my friends' bands played there and they said it was their favorite spot on their tours. Definitely want to go down to South America. Kind of ashamed to admit that after 20 years, we've never been there. Yeah. Lot of Asia. We did Japan with [In Flames 00:25:34] years ago, but that was it. We never hit all the other spots, like Taiwan and Singapore and all that stuff.
Jeff: Yeah. I hear from a lot of different metal bands that we've talked to that Singapore is just nuts.
Jess Margera: Yeah. One of the guys that was on this tour, his band just played over there and said it was amazing.
Jeff: Yeah. That's so great. It's so great that, like you were saying, CKY took a little bit of time off and guys came back and you rose like a phoenix, of course, with the record. The fanbase is right back there with you because everything I've been hearing about the shows you guys have played last year leading with the record, and now into this tour has just been great for you guys, and I couldn't be happier to still be watching CKY destroy faces everywhere they go. It's awesome.
Jess Margera: Yeah, it's fun. There's a whole new breed out there. There's a whole new generation. It's funny to see after ... It's almost like, I don't know. Is it, the older brothers introduce the records to the younger brothers? Is that how that works? I don't know.
Jeff: Is there a quantifiable difference between your early touring with the band to touring now? Is there anything that really stands out to you that's super different?
Jess Margera: I mean, one of the good things of the internet is that your music is getting to places that it didn't before. It's like, you see a lot of places in Scandinavia, stuff like that, that know your music now whereas 10 years ago, they probably didn't. That's one of the positive things of the internet, I think. That's the biggest thing I've noticed on these tours.
Jeff: The internet's a good and a bad thing.
Dustin: Yeah. It's a double-edged sword, man. That's just the way it works.
Jess Margera: Double-edged sword, exactly.
Jeff: We deal with that ...
Dustin: We talk about it all the time, from actors to musicians. The whole spectrum of entertainers, where it's like, yeah it's great that you can do everything yourself and put it out there yourself, but every fucking person is doing it themselves and putting it out themselves and now we have this watered-down Netflix generation of, "I don't know what fucking movie to watch but I have every movie at the tip of my fingers, but I don't know what fucking movie to watch." And it's a strange time.
Jess Margera: There really is so much stuff out there. It's overwhelming, which makes it very hard and it makes me also very grateful that we didn't get lost in the shuffle. It's pretty awesome.
Jeff: Exactly. I'm in the camp of culling half the shit that's out there, the entertainment that we don't wanna watch, and just putting up those CKY as a whole collection.
Jess Margera: What you're saying, like I've been browsing through Netflix of what to watch, and it's like, I could have watched a movie in this time.
Jeff: Right. Yeah, exactly.
Dustin: That Netflix hole is real, man.
Jeff: God. It's ridiculous.
Jess Margera: It's an abyss.
Dustin: It is. It's too many goddamn choices.
Jeff: Oh my gosh. So finally, for our listeners and viewers out there, what is the best way to follow the band?
Jess Margera: Wait, sorry? What'd you say?
Jeff: For our listeners and our viewers on the show, what is the best way to keep up with the band, to follow the band?
Jess Margera: Yeah, just follow our stuff. Instagram, Facebook, Twitter. We got all that stuff.
Jeff: Excellent, excellent.
Jess Margera: We're constantly doing Instagram stories every day.
Dustin: Yeah, they were great, man.
Jess Margera: Stuff like that. Answering questions again.
Dustin: Yeah, I love those.
Jess Margera: Trying to bring back Ask CKY.
Jeff: Yeah. Ask CKY, I love it. And you guys are on tour through September in the States and then you're going over to England and Europe, and I just don't see it ever stopping. I think another 20 years from now, you'll still be doing this.
Jess Margera: The train keeps rolling.
Jeff: Yes. Yes. Jess, I can't thank you enough for taking time to talk with us on the show today.
Jess Margera: Thanks for having me, man. Stoked.
Jeff: It's been truly an honor, man. I've been a fan for a very long time, and I really wish you guys nothing but the biggest success.
Jess Margera: Thank you, man. Much appreciated.