Dixon: We are just about to talk to Johnny "2Bags" Wickersham of Social Distortion. Hey Johnny.
Johnny: How's it going man?
Oh it's going awesome. How are you doing?
First of all let me say thank you for taking the time to talk to us, it is much appreciated.
Alright so where did I catch you today?
We're leaving tomorrow morning so I am kind of moving some gear back down to the studio. I'm in the middle of moving and shit right now and a bunch of my stuff is in storage.
I noticed you guys have a bunch of dates coming up. Are you excited to get back on the road?
Yeah, I love it.
I'm just going to take the kids that may not know back, you've been with the band for 7 years which is practically a lifetime in Social Distortion considering how much you guys play around. What's the day to day like for 2 Bags within the Social D world right now?
I mean with Social D I just kind of over the year helped them move some shit around a couple of times or whatever. But I did actually o out on some tours working as crew and stuff before and also I toured a lot just playing with different bands. Before I was in Social D I was playing with the US Bombs for a couple of years and before that I was in Youth Brigade and the Cadillac Tramps I did that for like 9 years from the beginning until the first time the band broke up which was like in 95 or 96. Now we're busy and we tour a lot and we go in and done a bit of recording lately. There's a new song that is coming out on the greatest hits record Far Behind.
We've been listening to it out here, it sounds pretty damn good.
So that obviously is going to be a little hint of what's to come from the new album and obviously the question would be then how is the new album coming along and are the rumors true that there will be a new album out in 2008?
I'm just going to say that hopefully within a year there will be a new record. There will definitely without question be a new record. It's not going to be anytime real soon but hopefully within a year we'll have a record out.
Ok and so obviously Social Distortion generally put 10 or 11 cuts on their albums. How do you go through the process of choosing from the 6 albums that you have previously released and choosing those songs and how did far behind be chosen as the lead single as a representation of the new tracks?
Well I think those songs speak for themselves. Those are definitely the crowd favorites, that's what happens with the band. Even if a band doesn't have like actual big hit songs there is lots of bands that are out there working and touring around. There are songs that are on the record and in their set list live that are the crowd's favorites and the band's favorites too.
Well that's my next question. What is your favorite track?
My favorite track I would say that I got a couple different songs that are Social D songs that are my favorites. I really like "Dear Lover". That is such a fantastic song and I also really like "Sick Boys". So those are probably my 2 favorite songs. I think "Sick Boys" was the first song I ever heard.
I think for me it was "Another State of Mind" because I remember watching that video way, way, way back.
Oh back when it was on cable?
Yeah I don't even remember, it might have been Super Channel up here. It's the Canadian equivalent to like an HBO way back in the day, back in 1990 or whatever.
Oh ok. Yeah that's about when that was all over.
That was wicked and it must be surreal for the band and even for you to look back and see your band mates now and what they looked like back then.
It's crazy because you still see the Sterns around.
I just interviewed them and I saw them down in Austin, Texas and they are just as tough as ever man.
Yeah totally. It's like I see Derek O'Brian around all the time. He owns a recording studio and he plays drums for the Adolescents. We ran into that one guy and I forget where we were but he showed up to a show and it was the guy who kept dying in the chair that guy showed up one night. It's pretty wild. Some people seem like they are completely different people and some people seem like they haven't changed that much at all so its weird.
In all your touring I wonder why Social D never makes it onto Warped tour often. I mean obviously that's your audience.
Well Social D did the 97 Warped.
Normally for so many bands like NOFX and Bad Religion, Rancid, and everyone in punk rock try to plan it so if they got an album they are going to go out on Warped tour that summer and it seems like it would be such a natural for you guys and such a great way for kids to come out and see you guys.
I don't really know. I don't know why we're not doing that. I know that Social D did it in 97.
Oh I just checked your MySpace and found out that you guys are just about to reach the 5 million plays point. How does that feel?
Damn it I didn't know that. That's pretty cool.
Yeah its 4 897 840 times which kind of puts you almost at the very top in as far as plays are concerned. I don't suspect that there are a lot of bands close to 5 million. I mean less than a thousand bands anywhere are close to 5 million on My Space I'm sure.
That's really amazing. It feels good to be able to be a part of a band that is getting that kind of action.
People that love rockabilly and all the splinters from rockabilly love Social D and it is also punk rock and Mike Ness is rock and roll and it's an institution in punk rock and rock and roll. What is your relationship with rockabilly and all the splinters that come from Social D and the evolving sounds of Social Distortion over the years?
I'm not by any means a purist and I never have been. I grew up as a punk rocker from the age of about 13 and when I was getting the Cadillac Tramps together which would have been around 1987 I had been in a few garage punk bands but nothing really that was anything to speak of. Making music for me back then wasn't the priority, other things were unfortunately a priority over that and just the chaos of the whole lifestyle and everything. That was a point in my life where I had discovered Howlin' Wolf and Muddy Waters and some real blues artists and the Stones were a big favorite of mine. It was kind of a weird thing where the Cadillac Tramps had an influence of sort of a rockabilly roots vibe but we weren't purist. Like the rockabilly purists hated us cause we sounded different than Social D but it was kind of the same thing. It was kind of the punk rock thing and sort of with inclinations of roots music, country and blues and stuff like that. I never really was a purist. I'm always kind of changing. Its more like I remember when I was a kid I thought that guys like John Doe and Dave Allen were so fucking cool man and its like you'd be at a show say I remember being at a Gun Club show at the Music Machine and looking over at the bar and seeing that whole crew hanging out over at the bar and just going man those guys they are onto something. So that's kind of like how I started getting into that. So bands like the Blasters were as much a part of the punk scene as any punk band but they were a rockabilly band, you know what I'm saying?
Yeah I totally do and it's integrated. It's interesting that you say some of the rockabilly purist couldn't stand you guys and everything because certainly by this point I think there is less of that kind of elitism happening now.
Yeah I know what you mean.
Like you don't necessarily have to have a stand up bass to be a rockabilly band.
Things have changed. Psychobilly is really big right now and psychobilly is not too rockabilly by any means. So its like yeah things change and that's good because that's what's suppose to happen. Things are suppose to change and as young people come up they are suppose to be influenced by but not necessarily straight copy what is done before them. That being said dude at the same time if somebody want to do something in the completely traditional form that is bitching too and that is also cool. There was a blues band in LA called the Red Devils which actually featured like Bill Bateman the drummer from the blasters and Jonny Ray Bartell who played bass for Mike in his solo band and he was a big part of the LA rockabilly scene back in the day and his brother Dave Lee and this guy Lester Butler played harp and they were the most bad ass fucking blues band ever man. They were so real, they were so ragged and raw where as like a lot of contemporary blues bands are just a total bum out.
Yeah too polished I guess is what you are saying.
Yeah but these guys were nailing it man. They just nailed it the right way.
Yeah so what about the music that you guys are listening to right now. Like what would you guys be listening to in the way of new music in the van or on the bus?
Well for me I guess I really like a band called the Drive By Truckers right now. I think they are form somewhere in the South I can't remember exactly where and they are just a whole hodge podge of roots influences, rock and roll, country. Great songwriters, I really like them. I don't know, I got an Ipod. I listen to that shit in the car and I got everything loaded up on it so I'll listen to some Generation X and then I'll listen to something newer.
He's aged pretty well, Billy Idol eh?
Yeah he's doing all right. We played a couple festivals with him a couple of years ago and he was killing it.
Did you get to chat with him?
No I walked by and said hi but I don't know him or anything. Generation X, those first 2 records were fucking the shit dude.
Are you into the Valley of the Dolls? (the 1979 second classic punk release by pre-solo Billy Idol band, Generation X)
I love the second one. A lot of people don't like the second one as much but I think it's great. It's a fucking awesome record man and so is the first one. Those records right there is the soundtrack to my fucking youth.
Yeah me too and actually that was a wicked, wicked, wicked album and for a while there when those albums were out on cassettes before Billy Idol started making music with keyboards and stuff it was really vital stuff eh?
Now Billy Idol is in movies. He was in that Adam Sandler movie.
Oh when he was on the plane.
Yeah that was hilarious.
Dude that was funny, huh...
That was cool to see him in that. One day I would like to see Mike Ness in that role eh?
Ha ha. I hope not.
Well said. Some of the kids here want to know how did you get the nickname 2 Bags?
Oh man that just goes back to me being a street punk rocker drug fiend.
Oh you were always loaded with 2 bags instead of 1?
Good times. I got a couple questions that we ask everybody and the first is which of the following experiences have you had: have you seen the face of God, have you had an alien encounter or have you seen a ghost?
Man that's crazy. Well I have never had an alien encounter. Sometimes I've thought that I have seen ghosts like out of the corner of my eye there are times when I have noticed something which could easily have been a ghost. I've never seen the face of God but I've felt the presence of God.
The last question is what would surprise kids most to learn about Social Distortion?
That we warm up before each show with hula hoops. We all break out our hula hoops backstage and we all do the hula hoop for about 15 minutes before the show. It's a great way to limber up before a gig. No I'm just kidding.
Interview by: Dixon Christie, PunkTV.ca