Punk Ass Bitching with Warren Fitzgerald of the Vandals

By Kevynn
Lint Online Magazine, issue # 4, 1996

"I like stupidity, I think stupidity is as close to reality as you can get"

Warren Fitzgerald

Good Punk is nowadays a hard thing to find. Fuck it if a band sells a million copies of their brain-dead album or not. Who cares if they're on this label or that, that means nothing. True punk music and it's ethics should be about spirit, attitude, and the "me vs. you" mentality. It's about waving a big "Fuck you" finger before anybody or anything that oppresses you, and still remaining true to your own individuality.

The Vandals for over fifteen years have epitomized this. Blending it with their own unique (and sometimes sick) style of humor. Recently producing yet another great album 'The Quickening" available on Nitro Records for us to ponder, laugh at, and appreciate.

I spoke to Warren recently. He had spent his day helping move the "Kung-Fu" Records offices to Huntington beach, CA. (Punk Rock that Hurts) a new record label, Warren and bassist Joe Escalate started.

Kevynn - You guys have a lot of stuff going on, your new record and the establishment of Kung-Fu and all, how's that going?

Warren - It's been a very, very busy year - yes, we're all gonna die of exhaustion.

Kevynn - Take a vacation

Warren - Yes, exactly, or like in a mental asylum or something, that'd be good.

Kevynn - I saw you guys perform at the Palace in Hollywood, I think it was last July. Dave picked up a shoe that was thrown on stage when you were playing and threw it up on the balcony. He almost killed me.

Warren - He hit the balcony? He's got a good arm then, that's pretty fuckin' far!!!

Kevynn - It was crazy - he came pretty close but somebody else got hit. I was happy for it!!

Warren - (Laughing) I'm sure we've got a lawsuit coming on.

Kevynn - Your minds are probably exploding by now with the new label and all.

Warren - Yeah, we've got three albums coming out. We've got the split "7" with assorted Jelly Beans, (currently available). We have the Christmas album and we have a soundtrack album "Glory Daze".

Kevynn - What's that all about?

Warren - The movie actually hasn't been released yet. It's gonna be a .... it's .... a .. what is it from? ... Columbia pictures? ... I don't know I can't remember the fuckin' kinda like a .... college .. uh .. punk music band, normal coming of age movie I guess (laughs).

I scored the film actually, and Joe was music supervisor. We have a couple of our songs in there, we have NOFX, AJB a slew of good bands on there and so we put together the soundtrack to accompany the picture, and that's out in September.

Kevynn - So how'd the Christmas album come about?

Warren - See, we've been talking about doing a Christmas album for years, because we always have one Christmas song around that time of year but this English band called "The Yobs" - it's a really obnoxious Christmas song so we finally decided this year - "Hey, were actually going to do it", and then it just so happened that we got the label started - it's coming out on Kung-Fu also. Everything just fell into place. So I sat down and wrote a whole bunch of Christmas songs. Joe and Dave wrote a couple. They're all original songs except for - I think one or two, and it's basically about uh .... I ... Fucking hate Christmas! (laughs) So it comes down to all the negative aspects of Christmas in a punk context.

Kevynn - Maybe it'll cause the holiday suicide rate to go down a bit.

Warren - (Excited) Oh, maybe it'll go up! There's a song called 'Hang myself from the Christmas tree'. We have another called 'Grandpa's last Christmas', 'Christmas time for my Penis'. Basically taking all the superficial things developed from Christmas and putting them into songs.

Kevynn - (Laughing) That's great.

Warren - Yeah, I'm real excited about it. It's nice, it's our first theme record which I really got a big kick out of. You see, it's easier to write a record when you have a theme, so I'm sure there will be more theme records to come in the future.

Kevynn - By the way, are you guys going to see the middle aged "Sex Pistols" when they play out in L.A.!

Warren - Um, well ... no - you see my personal opinion about it, I don't know - I saw them on Letterman, it seemed so nostalgic, y'know what I mean? and the sad thing about punk rock - especially older punk rockers, a lot of them, (and I fit into that category myself) (laughs), is that, um, this kind of nostalgic old school mentality. I would say a lot might go out of curiosity, there's going to be a large percentage of people that go there that are wanting to relive their glory days. It would be one thing if, for example, they had something new to offer. But to kind of rehash it, and play the same set list that they were playing in 1976? (laughs)

Like I said, I am curious but after seeing Letterman I kind of got the idea of what to expect. I would say the same thing about "Kiss" with make-up. (Laughs) I have the same feeling about that.

Kevynn - You know, my younger sister Sindy is really jealous that I'm talking to you today.

Warren - How old is she?

Kevynn - She's 16 now.

Warren - Yeah, it's funny the average age of our audience now. A couple of years ago, before the kind of resurgence of what's going on, the average age of our shows probably mid-early twenties. Now the average age is probably around there - right about 16. We've always stayed around, it's just that we're putting out new stuff.

Kevynn - I always liked the Vandal's perception and attitude towards Punk Rock - I always thought of it as you being the underdogs telling everybody what the fuck is wrong with them.

Warren - Right, and that's an essential part of Punk Rock history. There's a real underdog element in it. I mean everyone who's a punker, or who decides to be a punker, or likes punk usually, it's out of disgust with everything else in the whole world, or being isolated or rejected or "peace" or half the people at your school. Whatever the hell it is!

The motivation is "Fuck You!"I can't be in your clique or your club!" or whatever just start my own!! Which to me was the initial feel to it. Kids and people are always going to feel that way.

Kevynn - The title to the new album?

Warren - "The Quickening", it's an interesting story. The phrase is actually coined from a late night a.m. talk radio show with Art Bell. His whole show is based on all the odd occurrences on the planet. The art work on the cover of the album actually questions that. And "the quickening" is his theory about the accelerating rate of strange occurrences on the planet, whether it's how U.F.O. sightings there are and so on and so forth, and really lyrically, the album has nothing to do with anything like that. There's such a ridiculousness and crack-pot element to all that stuff; it's something we've always been amused by. Especially like the crop circles. That kind of sums it all up, people get all excited about it; it's a hoax or whatever; I get a big kick out of all that - it's like a big spoof.

Kevynn - I notice that through the last couple of albums The Vandals have gotten more into Web sites, computers and all that.

Warren - Well there was this kid who was just a fan who started a Web site and we got in touch with him and we had him actually do it for real. When you're talking about something like punk rock, it's actually really cool for it, because there's Punkers in Alaska or Maine or access to shows. Also there's Chat rooms where they can find out what's happening; what's exciting with your band; or what's going on with - whatever. In that sense it's really cool because if some poor punk rocker is stuck in the middle of nowhere he can have some contact with the rest of the world.

Like ten years ago, CD's themselves, everybody was freaked out about them, and now with the internet - there's a lot of cool things that can be done with that. What I'd like to do is - we've discussed doing a CD-Rom of maybe "Sweatin''' to the Oldies" or something like that, or some sorta general band thing. I'm completely ignorant of it, so it'd be a big pain in the ass, but someday we'll sure get around to doing it.

Kevynn - It seems that in this album there's a lot more direct sarcasm to the lyrics - you guys covered a lot of space on this album.

Warren - Well the funny thing is how we write songs. We have to have at least fifteen songs on each album. The songs are so fast - they're only about two minutes long and if they played normal speed they'd probably be a normal three or four minute song. So in all fairness, in each song you have to have a whole subject, it's like - What am I going to talk about?; What fifteen things am I going to talk about?; so you get a chance to cover a lot of ground. And as far as the direct sarcasm stuff - there's a lot of that. I mean, I wrote a lot of lyrics on the record and we all have our different styles. The three of us who wrote lyrics for the record, and my stuff- I generally like stupidity. I think stupidity is as close to reality as you can get. I like to go that route. I think the ridiculousness of how things are anyways, with the planet, sometimes if you point them out exactly how they are you don't even need a twist sometimes, just to get your point across. And plus, I want the songs funny. Sometimes I get relevant points here and there but at certain steps when I'm writing lyrics I feel like I'm writing for letterman or something, you know?

Kevynn - I actually wrote up a lot of these questions on the toilet last night.

Warren - Well, that's where I do my best thinking!

Kevynn - On the toilet?

Warren - On the toilet, or when I'm masturbating.(Laughs).

The Vandals are
Dave Quackenbush
Warren Fitzgerald
Joe Escalante
Josh Freese
and are soon to be touring with NOFX.

From the Fan Supported Boingo Page