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(Interview With Chris Demakes Taken From Black Velvet 37 - Aug 2003)

By Shari Black Velvet

In May, the Florida based ska-punk-rock five-piece LESS THAN JAKE released a dynamic new album on Warner Music. The album was entitled 'Anthem' and is as addictive as cotton candy at a fairground, and ten times as fun as the waltzers. The band headed out on the road in support of the album even before its release. Black Velvet caught up with the 'Jake on the second date of their UK tour, at Nottingham (not Gainesville) Rock City.
We decided it was time to dust off the old velvet bag and fill it with tons of questions on all sorts of subjects for our lucky interviewee to answer. Chris Demakes (vocals) did the honours of putting his hand into the velvet bag and seeing what he could grab hold of. Luckily for him there were no alligators in there. Like a pro he ended up answering them all (we told him he could stop halfway through but he was having none of it)… what a star!





Less Than Jake on the cover of the issue 37 of Black Velvet


Black Velvet: If you were on a celebrity Real World or Big Brother show and you had to live with five other housemates, none of whom were musicians, friends or relatives, who would you share the house with?
Chris: Dee Snider from Twisted Sister, Chip Z'Nuff from Enuff Z'Nuff, David Hasselhoff, Martina Navratilova and Benny Hill. Oh, 'none of whom are musicians' though. That kinda cancels out Dee Snider (S: And Chip Z'Nuff, and possibly even David Hasselhoff, since he's a big popstar in Germany!). To take Dee Snider's place, um… you ever see that show, Mork & Mindy? Remember Pam Dawber? She played Mindy on Mork & Mindy. Her.

BV: Are you a morning or a night person? When you're not on tour do you get up early or do you tend to sleep in and then stay up late at night?
C: When I'm home I get up at seven in the morning and when I'm on tour I get up at noon.

BV: What do you do when you're at home? Do you do a lot of work?
C: No. Well, I just write music when I'm at home. I write music and I have a dog. I take him exercising daily. He likes to go running so we go running.

BV: We have a section in Black Velvet called Back Page Babe, where readers nominate a band member who they think is a babe to appear on the back page. Who would you nominate as Back Page Babe?
C: I nominate myself as Back Page Babe for obvious reasons as you will see in the next issue with me on the back. I'll actually be lying naked on a bear-skinned rug (S: No, you won't) if I could do that (S: No, you can't). It'd be so hot. Did I ever tell you that my mom's Chinese and my dad's Polynesian? No? I did. It's in the interview in the other issue. I know we're getting off the beaten track, folks.

BV: Oh yeah, you said it during the gig.
C: It says '…frontman Chris, the Fred Astaire of punk apparently, joking around, (according to him his mother's 4'2" and Chinese while his dad is 5'2" and Polynesian)'. And that's absolutely true and I wouldn't tell a lie.

BV: How scared of SARS were or are you?
C: We were just in Toronto and I wasn't scared at all. I was challenging kids to cough in my face. Honestly, we were meeting kids, I was like "cough in my face". I was shaking hands, I was having people breathe on me. It's interesting too 'cause we went to Toronto and the whole band was scared of getting SARS but our bass player Roger came back with sores. I don't know which is worse.

BV: What are your hopes for 'Anthem' and the time that you'll be promoting it?
C: I dunno… Our hopes are that people like what we recorded. We like it and think that it's a really good album, and I hope our fans that like the band like the album. I think they will 'cause it sounds like our band.

BV: Do you have any ambitions outside of Less Than Jake?
My ambitions outside of the band… I told you I run, I go running. I like to eat really bad food. That's why I run. I like to hang out with friends. I like to write music when I'm at home.

BV: Would you ever run a marathon?
C: No. Well, yeah, a small marathon. I'd do an eight or nine mile marathon but I wouldn't do a 26 mile marathon or anything crazy. I have no ambition to do that. I also like to ride horses… I'm kidding.

BV: Why was 'She's Gonna Break Soon' chosen as the first single?
C: The label picked the song. It was not our first choice. It wasn't our choice at all. I didn't want it to be on the album. Hahahaha. For real, it's really weird.

BV: Which would you have chosen?
C: I don't know. There are a couple of songs. The label, they sometimes pick things, and we've argued with them before. We're like 'ah, no, this should be the single'. At the end of the day I'm not going to be the one taking the blame for weird stuff. It's like 'whatever. If you guys think that's the song you want to pick, cool'. And they've been good. They've been supportive behind it. It's doing well for us so I can't complain.

BV: Have you ever gone on stage in a bad mood? Have you ever come off stage in a bad mood?
C: Many times. Many times. Usually I go on stage in a good mood though and come off stage in a bad mood. I have one show out of seven that's bad. So you figure four shows a month that are shitty, the rest of them are great.

BV: Why do you come off stage in a bad mood?
C: 'Cause one of the security guards will piss me off or something, or made someone mad or were rough with kids. Stuff like that.

BV: The new album has lyrical themes of dysfunctional families, nervous breakdowns and drink and drug fuelled burnouts. Who inspired those themes? Have you ever had a nervous breakdown?
C: Our drummer Vinnie writes the lyrics so a lot of them come from experiences that he's been involved with in his life. If you're my age and you've never had a nervous breakdown you're full of shit. I've had many.

BV: Can you talk about the packaging on 'Anthem'? Vinnie said that it is 'the biggest undertaking that we've ever done as a band'.
C: The packaging is really cool. The digipack is really cool. It comes with a full length DVD, a T-shirt, we autographed all the front covers. We had people do artwork for each of the songs and it was going to be CD booklets, 5" x 5" or whatever, and the actual paintings or renderings of those drawings, on the flipside were going to be the lyrics, but it wasn't working with the booklet and the money with the label, so we had to shrink the artwork down and the lyrics are around it. But it's awesome. Each one has different artwork and it's really cool.

BV: You've had a pretty long career. What's been the highest high and the lowest low?
C: Well the highest high was meeting yourself on the Bon Jovi tour (S: Yeah right!) !! The lowest low was in Liverpool two days ago. I had just got off the damn plane. We drove to Liverpool. I got off the bus and I went running. Because whenever I get somewhere, after you've travelled and become jetlagged, the best thing to do is exercise. You sweat all that plane shit out. I hate that feeling. So I took off and I ended in a ghetto, which I didn't think was a ghetto. I thought it was still college and these three bastards decided they wanted to throw rocks at me. I couldn't believe this shit. It was like I was in 4th grade again. I got hit in the leg with a rock. I turned around and I challenged the guy. I said 'what the fuck are you doing?'. I realized, common sense, there's three of them, you're gonna get killed. I wanted to take his head off and I'm not a violent person. I was so pissed. So right when I said 'what the fuck was that about?', the one guy was laughing, the other guy bent down picked up another rock and sailed it passed my head. So I took off for about half a mile in a dead sprint. I was so pissed. I ran as fast as I could. Wasn't even winded. I got to the bus and I grabbed the guys and said 'let's get in a fuckin' cab now' and went looking for the guys. And they knew I was gonna get somebody because they were pussies and they hauled ass. So that's my lowest low so far of ever being on tour. Getting rocks thrown at me as a man in my late twenties. That's not cool, I don't like that. I'm going to find you guys too in Liverpool. I hope you read this interview. I'm going to find you, you son of a bitch. I don't know what your two friends look like but I know exactly what the guy with the rock looks like. I have you framed in my mind and I have a photographic memory.

BV: If you had to spend a day with a fan, what would you do?
C: Oh, this is easy. I'd spend it with you guys obviously! And we'd go to the mall in Nottingham. We're going there pretty soon, Vinnie and I.

BV: I saw you on tour with Bon Jovi the other year. Did you ever think that someone into Bon Jovi would become a fan of your band and what memories do you have of the tour?
C: See, that's amazing, because I really just thought that you were there at Bon Jovi just to interview them. I thought maybe you were a punk rocker. I didn't know you were into rock until I had later met you. I now know this. Do I think that someone into Bon Jovi…? I think a Bon Jovi song to a kid who's 14 or 15, and a Less Than Jake song, the two worlds don't make any sense, but you're a little bit older and you're into rock n' roll and that kinda stuff, and you can see that they're not that much different to what we are. They get on stage and have a good time and we get on stage and have a good time. And that's what it's all about, y'know. So it doesn't surprise me that you're a fan of our band because of that. What memories do I have from the tour? Oh man, there are too many memories, it was crazy. Every night was just weird. I walked by Richie Sambora's family in New Jersey, wearing no shirt, I was 40lbs over weight at that point, which was great for the costume. I love being overweight. There's no reason to wear spandex unless you have a gut streaming over it, right? I had spandex with my ass cheeks cut out, this huge wig and a bad moustache, with sunglasses and I walked by and was introduced to his family as the opening act. That's my best memory.

BV: What was your first memory of wanting to play music?
C: When I was about two years old - and I remember it. You think I'm full of shit but it's true. I remember being with my dad. He used to play in a nightclub, and being with him at two years old and sitting on his lap and singing a Neil Diamond song. I remember when I got done the whole room was cheering. Two and a half years old! I remember it. I was like 'I wanna do this'.

BV: What's it like coming from a support slot on the Good Charlotte/New Found Glory tour to a headline tour in Europe with The Pietasters, Teen Idols and Allister?
C: It's great because these are all our own fans, it's our own shows. Back home there were a lot of people there to see us but it was predominantly a Good Charlotte/New Found Glory tour so… we were out there to make fans. Out here, people who are at the shows already know who we are for the most part. We're just there to have a good time and do our thing.

BV: Do you think you made many fans?
C: Many. Thousands a night. For real. All the kids that listen to those bands are the same kids that would listen to us, they just haven't noticed yet. There were young kids on that tour. There were kids on that tour that weren't even alive when we started our band. 11/12 year old kids. Those are young.

BV: You (as a band) invite fans to IM you. Don't you get inundated? What's the most amount of IMs you've had at any one time?
C: I think you meant to say BMs which are bowel movements. I've had 3 bowel movements today already. We stopped at McDonald's last night about 3 in the morning after I drank about 12 Stellas, so…

BV: You know what IM is? Instant Message.
C: I know what instant message is. I don't instant message anyone though. I'm not into that. I email. But if I'm going to sit at a computer I'm going to send a quick email or surf a web page. If I want to talk to you, I'm going to pick up the phone and say 'hey, what's up?'.

BV: How have you progressed over the years? Are there any songs or styles that you're embarrassed about?
C: Folks, it's a little bit embarrassing, but I've progressed naturally over the years into adulthood, which is at times embarrassing. I now have hair on my back, I'm starting to get hair in my ears and in my nose, and my ass isn't just hairy, it's also pimply. Are there any songs or styles that I'm embarrassed about? Er… no. I stand by everything we've done as a band. I'm sure there are some songs that we wouldn't play anymore but you have to come from somewhere and that's where we came from.

BV: I was reading an interview where Vinnie was talking about almost burning down a club in Toledo, OH when he was testing to see if he could light his cymbals on fire. It made me think of the Great White tragedy where nearly 100 people were killed due to the pyrotechnics going out of control. What were your thoughts on that and small clubs using pyro? Would something like that put you off using pyro?
C: Yeah, that whole thing's fucked up, 'cause we've blown fire for years. I've seen fire run the top of clubs before and then stop. That whole thing's fucked up. It was bad. I joke about everything but I didn't even joke about that. It's messed up.

BV: Who chooses the techs that work with you in the studio? I notice Mike Fasano, ex-Warrant, was the drum tech on 'Anthem'.
C: Fasano's worked on our last two albums so that's how we know him. A lot of times the techs are people who already work at the studio. As far as producers go, we picked Rob Cavallo to produce the last album.

BV: What do you think have been the most important things you've learned throughout your career?
C: Not to trust journalists. Hahahaha. For real, not to trust the promoter of the show.

BV: What mindset did you have during the writing process of the new album and how were you feeling? Did the vibe transfer to the song and album?
C: We were drunk the whole time when we did the album so when you hear the album it has a very loose feel to it. You'll like it. The vibe did transfer to the songs. We had a great time for the album. We were out in California, it was awesome. Can't complain.

BV: Would you say it was the best recording of one of your albums?
C: Oh yeah, the best recording experience.

BV: If you had to write a journal entry for yesterday, what would you put in?
C: I'd put that we played Liverpool, the kids that threw rocks at me didn't show up to encounter me again, and the show was absolutely amazing. We played to 1700 people in Liverpool.

BV: If you could ask someone you admire a question, who would you ask and what would you ask them?
C: I would ask you a question because I admire Black Velvet Magazine. I would ask you 'How old were you when a boy first kissed you and where were you at?

And with that the velvet bag was empty. How old was I when a boy kissed me? Where was I at? I don't think you really want to know that. Oh, Chris did want to give the female Black Velvet readers a bit of advice; "Ladies; don't wipe back to front, you'll get a nasty infection..." Um, ok, Doctor Chris, thank you for that.

Buy 'Anthem', visit www.lessthanjake.com, and yeah, don't wipe back to front.


Copyright: Black Velvet Magazine. All Rights Reserved.

Please note that all articles, photos and other items on this Black Velvet website are owned and copyrighted by Shari Black Velvet/Black Velvet Magazine unless otherwise stated and must not be used elsewhere under any circumstance. Articles in Black Velvet Magazine should not be put online without the express permission of the editor.

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