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Complete Jawbreaker Page: Interviews

Winter 2002; Unfinished #3
By Huey Miller

The following is an interview with Adam Pfahler, the drummer of Jawbreaker, which is, coincedentally, my favorite band of all time. I conducted this little Q&A; session in early October through email. It was a nice experience to chat with Adam, and learn a little more about the man behind one of the most important indie bands in history. Special thanks to Mr. Pfahler to take the time out of his busy schedule to answer a few of my incoherent teenage ramblings, also known as questions. This interview will appear in Issue #3 of this very zine, which should be out in late 2002 or early 2003. Enjoy.

Huey: Are you pleased with the warm reaction that the new Jawbreaker ETC. album has been exposed to? I haven't seen one negative review of it. All the fans seem to be pleased with it.

Adam: Absolutely. But I didn't expect this record to be met with harsh criticism. Only a real prick would come down like a ton of bricks on a posthumous release like this. I suppose they could say I was flogging a dead horse, but the title alone kind of pre-empts that. And anyway, there's life in this old thing yet. The only negative things I've read have more to do with the brevity of the liner notes or the occasional dis on a demo song that probably had no business ever being released. But for the most part, the press and postings I've seen have been really cool.

Huey: Whysall Lane is your latest band. How is that coming along? I understand you guys will be touring with Blake & Jets To Brazil very shortly (ODD ENOUGH: Shortly after this interview took place, this tour was cancelled due to an illness within Jets To Brazil). Good luck with that. Are you planning on releasing any material soon?

Adam: We recorded awhile back, but that's on hold until things settle down over at Richard's house. He and his wife just had a baby, so he's got a full plate of more important things to deal with. I'm really looking forward to the Jets dates. We're doing a week with them on the West coast from Seattle to LA. Aside from playing with one of my favorite bands and having the opportunity to play in front of good crowds, I get to hang out with Blake.

Huey: When your name comes to mind, most people immediately will think of Jawbreaker, but you are also very well known for your drum work with J Church. Any J Church news? Has Lance recovered from the fire in his apartment over the summer?

Adam: I haven't heard from him in weeks. I'm stockpiling some records and appliances to send him. He lost literally everything, including a demo of the new J Church record. But I figure this setback will inspire a batch of new songs.

Huey: I was reading through sites, and I found that you own Lost Weekend, a cool video store located in San Francisco. What prompted you to jump into that endeavor? Are you just a huge movie buff?

Adam: I was until we opened the store...No, I still am, but I'm obviously inundated with movies, a lot of which suck. After the band (Jawbreaker) split up, I was looking for something to do to make a living. I was always interested in film - I sort of minored in film at UCLA, taking screenwriting and production classes. So I schemed-up with Dave Hawkins, the drummer of Engine 88, and Christy Colcord, Jawbreaker's tour manager, and we found a space on Valencia Street in the Mission and just went for it. Cut to me five years later lighting a Cuban cigar off a burning stack of hundred dollar bills.

Huey: Blackball (Jawbreaker's record label to those who are unaware) released the ETC. album over the summer, but you guys aren't done yet. I also read on the site that you have purchased the rights for the band's last record, Dear You, back from Geffen. Any updates on the progress of the re-release? I was reading through the message board, and I remember reading that there will be an unreleased demo version of I Love You So Much It's Killing Us Both, which is pretty neat. Can we expect new packaging & art for the record, or will it stay the same with the re-release?

Adam: It'll be the same for the most part, though I may add some pages in the booklet for more photos. The CD will have the Fireman video, as well. I'm supposed to pick up the masters and artwork today. I'm excited. This has been a long time coming.

Huey: What have you been listening to lately? And more importantly, what are your thoughts on today's current music scene?

Adam: Gillian Welch's Time (The Revelator). Amazing. I just bought the new Coldplay record. It isn't as immediately hooky as the first one, but it's really nice. Bruce Springsteen's The Rising. The thing about Springsteen is that he's the most celebrated AND underrated artist ever. It seems like his most popular songs - the ones you hear on the radio all the time - are never his best, or even indicative of the rest of the record. It's the other eight songs on his albums that stay with you. I haven't picked up Perfecting Loneliness yet, but I'll do hardcore time with that one. I actually don't have any Jets records right now. I had to trash the last two 'cause my car stereo ate them up after too many plays. I'm a fan. I don't pretend I have any knowledge of what's going on in the world of indie rock. I'm still listening to shit I put on mix tapes in high school and catching up on the classic rock I missed out on.

Huey: Out of all your various experiences, what's your favorite memory from the Jawbreaker days? And a side-question. If there was one thing from that era that you could have done differently, what would it be?

Adam: For some reason when I think of touring, I remember a weird moment from our first national tour. We were somewhere in Pennsylvania trying to make it back to New York in time for the next show. I woke up in the loft in the van. We'd been driving all night, and it was just before sunrise. There was a really dense fog all around us and although you couldn't see ten feet ahead, Chris was driving like a total maniac. We must have been rolling along at a ninety mile an hour clip, but it was oddly slow and quiet in the van. Everyone was asleep and the only sound was the wind whipping through the windows. It was so strange, like we were in a cloud. We drove through this deserted town and it was like we were the only people on earth. About a half hour later I asked Chris to pull over so I could piss. We were literally in the middle of nowhere. I jumped out of the van and almost broke my ankle slipping on a newspaper that was in a plastic bag for when it rains. I looked around and noticed there wasn't a house or mailbox anywhere in sight. I don't know why, but I opened the bag and pulled out the newspaper. It was a pristine New York Times from July 20, 1969. I opened it up and the headline read, "Armstrong Walks on Moon." I reasoned that it had fallen out of a car and must have been someone's reasearch or intended as a gift. So I'm standing there and I see off in the distance just above the horizon what I can only describe as a silver, saucer-shaped object hovering briefly, then landing beside a nearby grain silo. By the looks of it in relation to the silo, it had to have been ten, maybe twelve inches in diameter. Then I saw a young boy berating a small dog. He was hitting the dog with a yellow whiffleball bat over and over and this poor dog was cowering and yelping with every blow. When the dog finally spoke, he sounded curiously like Warren Oates - the younger Warren Oates from Two-Lane Blacktop. He said very clearly, "If you want me to catch it on the fly, you'll have to do better than that." And as quickly as they had appeared, they were swept away under the blades of a combine helmed by the irrepressible Larry Hovis, better known as Sergeant Carter on the hit 70s show Hogan's Heroes. That's all true except for the first part.

Huey: Ah, a location question. I have a huge thing for San Francisco. I live on the East Coast, but I am seriously considering relocating to the San Francisco area (or close to there) after college. You've obviously lived in San Francisco for a while now. What are your thoughts on it?

Adam: I like this place more now that the internet thing crashed.

Huey: Another completely random and nonmusical question. What's your favorite season?

Adam: Baseball season.

Huey: The legend lives on. Does it excite you that a whole new generation of kids (including myself) have discovered Jawbreaker? It just seems like this is a band that will live on forever. You've heard it a million times, but I just wanted to thank you for the large influence that your music has had on me.

Adam: I'm thrilled that the new kids are getting into the band. I'm proud that we did something that wasn't special to just us - that other people seek us out and find relevance in what we did so long ago is very validating.

Huey: Will the re-release of Dear You be the last thing we ever hear from Blackball? Any future plans with the label? Have you ever considered the possibility of releasing a tape or dvd containing footage of the band?

Adam: I don't know. It's kind of unfair for me to even call myself a label at this point. It's such a cottage industry. Really my only work has been to pick some songs and design a package. The crew down at Revolver and at Hopper PR do the rest. I haven't decided if I want to do other bands. The Blackball website sums it up: "Thirteen Years. Three Releases. One Band." But I would definitely try to put out anything I'm associated with. That way I can fail on my own terms.

Huey: Is there one thing in life that you are striving towards in the future that you hope to accomplish?

Adam: I'd like to see my older daughter ride her bike without training wheels before New Years and I'd like my younger daughter to say "Dada" and know she's talking about me before her first birthday. But those would be their accomplishments. For myself, I want to stay creative musically and artistically. Aside from being with my kids, I'm happiest when I'm working at making something out of nothing. And it doesn't even have to be good.

Huey: Anything you'd like to add?

Adam: Stay away from hard drugs. If you want to kill yourself, do the honorable thing like your grandparents and smoke. It may hurt, but it looks cool as shit and you'll last longer.

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