By: Casey Shafer
I had the delightful opportunity to talk with Jakob Dylan about the ever-changing music industry and putting an end to The Wallflowers' 7-year hiatus with their brilliant upcoming release, Glad All Over.
JamBase: Was there a time when you thought the [7 year] Hiatus wouldn’t come to an end?
Jakob Dylan: No, I always imagined that it would, we always planned on it and we were always in touch with one another and what we were all doing individually. When we set out to do this group 20 years ago, we never suggested that we would only do The Wallflowers. We always planned on spreading out. Sometimes when you decide to take a short break, it turns into years before you know it.
Were you and the other guys still collaborating together through this hiatus or did you completely go your separate ways for a while?
A little bit of both. If we were around each other or someone was doing a show we would all show up. I played with everyone in the group at one point or another throughout those years.
You, Rami Jaffee and Greg Richling have been together for almost 20 years. Was the writing and recording process for this record different than say your self-titled album or even Bringing down the Horse?
Actually, yes. The guys were a lot more included in the writing this time which is something that they always wanted to do and something that I wanted assistance with; I didn’t want the burden of having to write 15 songs which is always something I have done for the band or have the record get made without them. It occurred to us [while making this album]; when we first started playing we would just get into a room together and make a lot of noise before we started putting songs together. We stepped away from that over the years and we figured that was a good place to start again. I brought in a lot of lyrics, but really we just wanted to make this stuff happen while we were there together.
There were a couple of tracks on there that really stood out to me as being different than what is normally expected of the band. At the risk of sounding cheesy, they have this dance-punk groove going on. Did you write these songs and say, “I have to get Mick Jones (The Clash) on these tracks,” or did that idea evolve with him in the studio?
We discussed it before we went to Nashville to record. We wanted to bring some joy back into the group and make it... not necessarily have a good time doing it but it should be energized. We thought about our shows [while recording] which isn’t something that we used to do often. I would think of recording and then I would think of touring. We kept our eye on that while making this one. The last two records I made, those are records I wanted to make. A year later I found myself on a tour bus making a set of this very somber music which isn’t really something I thought too much about when recording them. We wanted something really spontaneous and we referenced a lot of our favorite music. A lot of simplistic original rock music of 3 and 4 chords. Whether it was Motown music or ZZ Top, we just decided to make it about the energy and not about the chord sequences.
So this was something that just happened organically? You weren’t in the mindset of, “Okay, we need to have 2 or 3 singles on this album?”
No, I wouldn’t pretend to know how to do that (laughs)
Well you have had a few singles that...
...Yeah, but I never wrote those thinking that this is what the radio wants to hear. It just kind of happened to us and I think that is where the good stuff is. It should be that way. I don’t sit around and try to find singles. It would be preposterous to pretend you don’t care about that stuff because it can really help the longevity of a group if they have that kind of success. I’m a supporter of, “the more people that know your songs the better.” I don’t write them to be [kept] a secret; I want people to respond to them.
Since your last record there has been a consolidation of record labels. I think maybe by the end of the year there may be only one (laughs). The industry used to be able to take chances on artists like Nirvana or Radiohead and it seems, particularly in the last couple of years that commercial radio has become unbelievably formulaic. It always has been on some level but now...
I don't know how people find music anymore! I don’t know where it comes from. It’s just like this one big consolidated pop format and everyone has to adjust if they want to get in there. Some people do it successfully and some people throw in the towel. There were always a couple of flukes each year that give everyone else hope that good music can be popular also. That has rapidly changed.
Since The Wallflowers last record, the way in which people consume music has changed. There has been a shift to streaming services like Spotify and Rdio. Some artists are very much against it and some see it as a positive thing. For instance, The Black Keys kept their music off Spotify. Where do you fall?
Well, you know, a lot of people are in the position where they have to luxury of those choices. A lot of people won’t put their songs in commercials but that’s probably because they don’t need the bread. If you have to put food on your table you will consider a lot of different things. We were doing that stuff early on and I don’t see the conflict there. I see The Beatles and The Who are putting their songs in commercials. The Clash are putting songs in commercials, I think you can learn a lesson from that somehow. I don’t think Neil Young will but he has options. He can protect the integrity of his music because he is in a position where he can. Not everyone can afford to do that. It’s different for everyone. I say, to each their own. If you don’t want your music played with a bag of chips behind it then you shouldn’t do that.
If we look at most bands that are saying no to this, they don’t have 4 kids like you.
It’s a luxury...not everyone can say no. Not everyone gets to be Neil Young or Radiohead. I don’t thing you have to make one decision and stand by it. Whatever you have to do to survive [and] is good for the group. At some point you can over think it.
Well, maybe this is how people are discovering new music today. It sure doesn’t seem like it’s coming from MTV or commercial radio anymore.
There is this song I have been reading a lot about, “Call Me Maybe,” is that right?
Yes, but I am really scared to hear your next sentence...
I have never heard the song! It hasn’t found me but I hear about it everywhere.
Well, I am going to have that melody in my head for the rest of the day now so THANK YOU!
(Laughs) It’s a weird phenomenon. It’s a massive song, it just hasn’t found me.
There are some bands, take fun. for instance, they had a song in a car commercial and it really helped to launch the album
There is no particular channel to follow anymore. You put everything in the water and hope you get a bite somewhere. No one really seems to have a plan.
It has always been sort of a guessing game but you used to at least be able to get a ball park estimate what your return on the investment would be.
Every one is in the same situation. They just hope they are the ones that get lucky.
Before you have to run I’m going to shift gears and talk about touring. I saw some festival dates announced. Are you planning a full U.S. Tour?
In September and October we will be hitting the road.
Is it the same line-up from the last record?
Well Rami, Greg and I have been at the core of it since 1992. Stuart Mathis has been playing with us for 7 years he just hasn’t had the chance to make a record with us yet. So Stuart is in band and we have Jack Irons playing drums.
Thanks for your time. Do you have anything you want to add?
No, I’ll be the last one to find reasons to talk about myself (laughs).
What, you don’t like doing that all day?
Me Me Me in the new Me Me Me world. I am trying to adjust to this self advertising, I am a property type role that everyone has to take now in promoting themselves non-stop. It’s weird. I remember the time when I got really attached to music. I wasn’t curious about their lives, I was curious about their music. Some people do [social media] really well and some people don’t. But if you don’t follow the lead of what everyone else is doing, you appear that you don’t care. This isn’t necessarily true. Some people just don’t want to promote themselves all day long.
I always feel awkward on some level doing these interviews because no one really likes to talk about themselves. If you do you are a bit of an asshole. I am sure you have a few more of these today and I bet it can be exhausting.
It’s really all led by the conversation. It can be exhausting but a good conversation is a good conversation, and you have mentioned some really interesting things. (Sighs) Not everyone will today so I appreciate that. (Laughs) Now, let me ask you something-What if Jimi Hendrix had to tweet? What a different world it would be for us today, huh?
Whoa…that's the question of the day.
That is how some artists feel. We are forced into [social media]. We are trying to keep our heads above water because this is what is going on. If you don’t, you just look like you aren’t interested and that isn’t always true.
No, you’re right
|The Wallflowers at Firefly Music Festival|
by Jake Krolick
Have you ever heard the Buddy Holly tapes? It’s a phone call Buddy Holly made to his record company to get his tapes back; they refused so he asked if he could redo the songs for [another label]. They said, “No Buddy, we own them.” It hasn’t been a whole lot different. I try not to complain about the record business because there is no record business to complain about. Bands can have a business but making income from record sales? The cat is out of that bag. Once music became free and it turned into something that is just in the background of peoples lives, it will never be the same again. Music is a different game now. It will never be the same because it is a transient form. You aren’t having the same commitment to it. If you ever went down to the store and bought a record, the commitment you had with it and the personal relationship you had with it, you can’t ever replace that. We just did a series of shows and it occurred to me why people have such a strong connection with songs from “Bringing Down The Horse.” It isn’t because they were popular songs, it’s because there is a different commitment level them. It isn’t music that they are hearing on the background of their computers or in a TV commercial; they had a relationship with them. They committed to buying them and bringing them home. They made a choice at the store. “Oh, I can’t afford to buy both of these now, so I want this one.” Music means something different when you have that kind of relationship with it. Now, [music] is in the permanent background. It isn’t a puzzle why it doesn’t have the same meaning to people.
People used to define themselves with the music they listened to. I was a kid with a blue hair and I listened to Punk Rock and it defined who I was.
The record business came and went. Just like a lot of things. Just like the rotary phone. They don’t get to be around forever. I sold a lot of records and when that machine was working it didn’t seem fair at that time either. It may have just come and gone. I am not too bummed about it. The important thing is still being able to connect with people on the same level.
So, you find it harder to connect with fans now than you did in 1996?
It’s confusing. When I was growing up I respected the radio. The radio was a filter. Not anyone could get on the radio. You had to be selected and if you were on a station I liked, I was curious why they were playing you. There was reverence for it and there was reverence for making a record. Not everyone could make a record. It wasn’t just a free for all where anyone with a laptop can record something and shove it back out into the universe. I don’t know if it’s a good thing or not, but there are too many choices to make. Personally, I didn’t think the filter of the record companies was such a bad thing. If they were good, they got through. It may have been a challenge but you could do it. I used to buy records just because of the label. I would buy anything on Flash Records because I trusted them. That may still be there. I am not 15 years old anymore but I am sure, I hope, there is a version of that somewhere. The shows are what are important. That is the one thing they can never put into a bottle and sell through a computer. The live experience is still very much intact.
The Wallflowers Tour Dates :: The Wallflowers News
JamBase | Glad All Over
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