Kristin managed to catch up with bassist Tim Payne of Thursday prior to their headlining set at the Nokia Theatre in New York on this years Taste Of Chaos US tour.
Tim spoke to Alter The Press about signing to Epitaph, the decision to play the 'Full Collapse' album in it's entirety, the response to their new record 'Common Existence', touring, pre-show rituals, animal advocacy, returning to the UK and more.
We are proud to present one of our most in depth interviews to date.
Alter The Press: How's the tour going so far?
Tim Payne: Pretty good, we had an unexpected day off yesterday, which was good.
ATP: So, what'd you guys do on your day off?
TP: We actually had a day off before that because we played Hartford and then had a day off, so we drove to New Jersey so everybody could go to their respective homes. Some of us live in New York, some live in Jersey, so I spent two days in Brooklyn, which was great!
ATP: What's been the best show of the tour so far?
TP: Worcester, Massachusetts was pretty top notch; just a really good crowd. Milwaukee was pretty good too. Every show has been pretty good, but those two have been the top ones so far.
ATP: Is there a reason why Worcester stands out in your mind?
TP: We played at the Palladium and we've always had good shows there since I can remember, since I first joined the band years and years ago. Its been really fun.
ATP: Last night you were supposed to play the album 'Full Collapse' in its entirety. What made you decide to do that in Providence?
TP: Well, I think that they were hoping for something special at that show. There's a lot of shows in that same area, within a couple hours of each other, so it seemed like kids had picked which ones they wanted to go to. So we were just trying to get as many people out as possible and that's something that we've never done before, played it front to back in its entirety. I think thats going to happen sometime in the near future.
ATP: That was my next question, do you have any plans to play the full album at any other dates on the tour?
TP: We haven't discussed the rescheduling date yet but its just one of those things where you feel like maybe its good because we can make it like a special thing. Like, an evening with Thursday. Who knows, maybe we'll play the new record and then play Full Collapse front to back because everybody seems to love that one.
ATP: Yeah, that'd be really cool, a lot of people in Providence were really excited.
TP: Yeah, there was a lot of people excited but we didn't really give an advanced warning. We were telling people like two days ahead of time, so everyone was like "I have mid-terms!" So... we'll do it at some point in time!
ATP: What are your personal pros and cons of touring?
TP: Personal pros and cons of touring! This is something I love telling 'cause I don't know if everybody really knows what its like to tour but um, it evolves as you get older and I find it more difficult, as you get older to tour to stay healthy. From the time I left my house to the time I'll actually get back after all this touring, because we're going to Europe after this, it'll have been 75 days of touring. But its fun, it's really great to go and play shows in front of people and have people support what you do and pay you money. I mean, this is how we pay our bills, as much as we can pay our bills from it but it can be tough. It's really hard to be away from family and if you have pets, I have a cat, and it's hard to be away from your favorite things like today, there's nothing around here and we don't really have any food on the bus so everyone is like "what am I going to eat?!" You're reduced to an infancy of some sort. You basically wake up and you try to find a bathroom and if you can take a shower you take a shower and you try to find food if need be.
ATP: Do you ever have time to sight see or check out the towns and cities you play?
TP: We do if we plan accordingly. Most of the time its like, I've seen pretty much everything in the United States that there is to see so it's usually the overseas stuff that we look forward to. Like Australia, they give you lots of days off so you can go explore. Like Europe, when we played Europe, we did one tour there and we didn't get to see much. We had a couple days off in Paris, which was fun.
ATP: Well, you're going back this summer, so...
TP: We're going back after this tour, actually. The end of this tour is in Montreal on April 9th and then we fly straight to Munich the next day, for two weeks.
ATP: Maybe you'll get to see more sights?
TP: Yeah we're playing Italy for the first time! It's amazing that we've been a band for 11 years and we've never played Italy. We were supposed to but it didn't happen, so I'm looking forward to that.
ATP: Where did you get the idea for the latest album title 'Common Existence'?
TP: I think we've had some...I mean, like, if you think about War All the Time as a grandiose thing, in our eyes, its just like encapsulating all the ideals talk we talk about and discuss in our songs, the personal and political views. War All the Time dealt with so much personal politics and interpersonal politics such as gay rights and social equality, things like that. Quiet little situations that were discussed and it's funny cause as you get older, as this band is aging and as we're aging as individuals it's like we're kind of realizing and encompassing not impending doom of everyone pretty much being the same but we've notice our world is not so much separate and it's not really a duality. It's not like we exist as these people outside of the world, we're the same thing. So it kind of just fell into place with all of the songs.
ATP: What was the personal inspiration for Friends In the Armed Forces?
TP: I think there was a single moment that was, according to him (Geoff Rickley - vocals), that occured in conversations between friends that he just noticed, at the end of the Bush regime, and the amount of people that were forced to go over there. People did sign up, but people signed up to be in the Armed Forces, Navy, Military, Army, whatever, but, it was like, if you didn't support the war there was always this weird thing where it's like you don't support your friends if you have friends that are involved in it. I have family, I have some dear, dear friends and family that are overseas constantly coming back and forth and I don't support the war and I never have and I got in arguments with their parents about it because I'm anti-war and I'm vocal about it and their response to it was "well, you don't support my kid" and it's like "well, yes we do. We support them, but we don't support the war."
ATP: What were your friends and families reaction to the song after they heard it for the first time?
TP: I actually haven't heard too much feedback yet, the record is still pretty new so I haven't had any discussions with anybody. We've seen a lot of positive response, most of the response we've seen has been from press and interviewers and its been like "well this is kind of cool." You guys are more in touch with people than we are sometimes, you know? We read the message boards as much as we can but a lot of our message boards are filled with people comparing everything we do to Full Collapse. When they give that up finally, it'll be cool cause that seems to be our biggest fight a lot of the time with the message boards and kids reactions. As far as family and friends, most of them are very supportive and they understand that the artistic element is our choice.
ATP: Do you think any of the band members side projects had any influence on the sound of 'Common Existence'?
TP: Sure! I mean, anything you do or you listen to has an influence on what you do as a musician. I've started writing my own stuff, Tom is doing his thing, Geoff does the United Nations. It's funny cause that's really the first time we really started touching on other things musically, whether it be a side project or working on composition stuff. When I'm writing at home and say I'm writing for some commercial or something, it'll be like "oh, I have an idea!" Or, when I'm writing my own song that should be for my side thing it's like, when I start writing I can instantly tell if it'll ever be able to work for Thursday or not and everybody shows what they do, to, to each other. Like, I'll always show Steve. So, I think some of it had an influence but it's been better in terms of knowing what's Thursday material and what's your own. It's like trying to incorporate what you would normally do as your own side project into Thursday; it just doesn't happen.
ATP: Do you think that having a year off to write the album gave you a little more time to experiment?
TP: Not really, no, I think we did a lot more experimenting on the last record, A City By The Light Divided. There was a lot of things that everybody was going through and doing side project stuff so the time was more or less just a result of everything else that was encompassing our lives. We wrote the record and kept revising as much as we could but we recorded it in six weeks; tracking and mixing was six weeks. So, once we got to the studio it was more or less a documentation of sorts, rather than an experimentation.
ATP: How difficult has it been to set yourself apart from all of the other bands who've tried to reproduce your sound?
TP: I don't think theres been much difficulty, there's not sense in sitting in the past. I think if people took things from us or were influenced by us or tried to recreate something that we did it was probably from Full Collapse which we've separated ourselves from. We haven't really heard people try to rip off A City By the Light Divided. But maybe it'll happen, you never know. It was just that movement and that sound, Full Collapse and War All The Time. But there have been some festivals or moments when you hear another bands song live and you're like "wow, we wrote that a long time ago!" Which is fine, but if you sit and dwell on it and be tortured by the fact that they make so much money than we do, it's just pointless. There's no sense in remaining in the past, we kinda just don't care.
ATP: How do you maintain balance between keeping the industry people happy without comprising your personal integrity?
TP: I think going to an Indie label was definitely the best thing. Epitaph didn't have any creative input whatsoever whereas when we were on a major it was like "We need a single for radio!" and "How are we going to promote this? Like, things gotta change; we need to write more songs!!" But it wasn't like they'd say "That chorus doesn't work and you need to replace that verse with this bridge." They didn't get that far involved. We have a pretty good relationship with Epitaph right now and we've done whatever they've asked which has basically been to promote the record as much as possible and keep people happy. If you start tailoring to the industry you're doomed, because we did start doing that and we kinda fucked ourselves.
ATP: Were you hesitant to sign with Epitaph after your experiences with Victory and Island?
TP: We respected anything that Epitaphs ever done so there wasn't really a lot of hesitation. When we got off Island we took like 6 months to ourselves before we even started discussing where we were going to go. Some of us were talking about releasing it on our own and some of us were like "lets see what labels have to offer." Independent companies, not even necessarily record labels, but investors almost. We decided at the end with a band of our age we can't really entertain the idea of starting something ourselves. We need someone that knows what they're doing because everybody's kinda scattered brained at our point. We were never hesitant with Epitaph though, it just seemed like the right choice to go with an independent.
ATP: Do you think that your split EP with envy would've happened if you were still signed with Victory or Island?
TP: It couldn't have happened. Not unless we had wanted to put it out on Victory or Island but they probably would've been hesitant. We were basically an unsigned band after 10 years so it was like "let's do some fun stuff" so we did the DVD and we did the split record and they were both temporary. It was like this little tiny thing that exists for a short amount of time and it was fun! We did some projects in between the last record and this record and that would have never happened on Victory or Island.
ATP: Why did you decide to stick with Dave Friedman as producer?
TP: Good question, a lot of people ask this and it's a good thing and we all have different explanations if you ask us individually. Sal did Full Collapse and everything up to War All the Time and some other work and we've always worked with that studio in Jersey city but we decided to branch out and go to Dave for City By Light Divided and he was really interested in our record which we were surprised at because he's like this huge indie producer, like he's done the Flaming Lips, and all this crazy stuff that doesn't necessarily mesh with what we do even though we'll touch on some of those subjects and some points. But um, we decided to go with him again because he brought out a different side of us. It's always a gamble but I think the dude is awesome. Every record needs a father figure; a parental figure of some sort and he's very good at calming us down and saying that really works great or that could use a little more development, and it's a very quick process. I feel like, when you're making a record and you're writing it for a year, when you start documenting it, or recording it, it needs to be a quick process. If you start thinking twice about something, that's when you're going to start making bad decisions. He [Friedman] just has a world of insight into making music. A lot of people don't think it was a wise idea but that's because, you know, they're still stuck on Full Collapse and War All The Time. They think that the producer made that record but the producer doesn't make the record, we write the song. He's not writing the songs for us.
ATP: It must feel pretty liberating to be receiving such rave reviews of the new album. What goes through your mind when you think back on your journey of playing basement shows in New Brunswick to now?
TP: It's pretty crazy, I think most of us will stop and think about the whole thing once it's over with down the road but it's always been such a quick process. I remember being fifteen years old and playing in places for the first time and no one was willing to pay any money to see me play, but it was my dream and my goal to play music forever, whatever I had to do. It's kinda crazy to be like "oh yeah, I'm on a tour bus now and driving around the country and flying around the world and people are excited about what I do!" Its overwhelming but you just have to remain grounded. There was a long period of time when we were on a major and where we were playing headlining shows, sold out in front of like four thousand people and they were like "Don't worry about this, this is nothing because you're going to be playing twenty thousand seat arenas in a couple of years, you'll be fine, this is nothing, don't even worry about it". So, there was a period of time where we didn't really enjoy any of it because we had all of these people telling us not to even worry about it. And we we're young, I mean, we we're thinking it was pretty awesome.
ATP: You've kept a sizable fan base throughout your career despite reviews and criticism, how do you feel about Common Existence being labeled your "come back record?"
TP: Hey, if this is the come back record by people, that's fine with me. I think our last record split our fans down the middle. Sounds and songwriting, songs are crazy and all over the place, personally, to be totally honest, within the band, we loved the last record. We loved everything that was involved with it. I think it split fans down the middle by the way that Island took care of it. I don't mean to talk badly about them but they stopped selling it while we were on tour promoting it! Its like [pause] ... okay? People labeling this one as a comeback record? I think it's cool, if it brings more people out and brings new people out that get to see what we do that's fine. You can hear the history of Thursday in the record but you can also hear the future of Thursday. It's a faster record, it's intense, everybody in the bands pretty excited about it.
ATP: I think it has great potential.
TP: I hope so! We need to pay some bills!
ATP: I watched a video online with some of the members of Thursday advocating pet adoption from shelters. Where does animal advocacy rank as a priority in your lives?
TP: I've personally adopted a cat, which I'm proud of. I think animal adoption is important but i don't think we've touched on it enough. We always get approached by Peta and animals rights groups and we do as much as we can. There's meat-eaters in the band and there's some vegetarians. But as far as animal adoption, it's crazy that people would buy from a breeder when there's millions of dogs waiting to be adopted and getting killed because they're not getting adopted.
ATP: Why do you think it is that people are so quick to go to a pet store or breeder as opposed to a shelter?
TP: Instant gratification in the American public, and the media too. Its like, you see all of these crazy dog breeds and it's like "oh well, if you want an english bulldog you're pretty much going to have to go to a breeder and it's going to cost you a grand, but, it doesn't matter because you're going to have the best looking dog." It's consumerism, but then again, you can rescue bulldogs! You can rescue any breed if you look hard enough. I grew up with a mutt that we adopted from a shelter and she lived 'till she was about 15. She was a rad dog; awesome, with a great personality! If you just go to a shelter you'll fall in love with them, it's not hard and the dog will be free and it'll hang out with you for the rest of it's life.
ATP: What have you been listening to lately?
TP: I still haven't been able to stop listening to the In Rainbows record, the Radiohead record is really, really good. There's this dude out of Los Angeles, his name is Flying Lotus, thats what he calls himself. Its this weird hip-hop-y stuff. Coconut Records, which is Jason Shwartzman's band, can't stop listening to that, its just good pop songs. There's a band out of Jersey called Holler Wild Rose. He's been pretty fucking cool, little tiny band but they're really good. I've been looking forward to getting back on tour because everyone will be like "Hey have you heard this, or this?" And I kinda lose track. I usually tend to listen to my favorite stuff like The Pixies and Depeche Mode, all that stuff.
ATP: Do you have any pre-show rituals?
TP: I change my shirt, I have a show shirt! Sometimes we drink a little whiskey before we go on just to loosen up a little. I have to do a lot of the yelling and it kinda hurts. Um, I warm up my voice! I have in-ear monitors that I put in, but I try to not have too much of a superstition about going on stage.
ATP: Do any of the other members have any?
TP: You know, we've never really discussed that! I's not like someone wears the same pair of socks [laughs]. We all have show clothes but that's kinda more of a hygiene thing because you don't really have an opportunity to wash your clothes a lot so we have a bunch of stinky clothes that we all wear on stage. Oh, we do the Weasel!
ATP: The Weasel?
TP: From Pauly Shore, [does the weasel] the thing you do with your hand! We do the Weasel thing before we go on. I don't know how that all got started but, you have to Weasel everyone before you go on stage.
ATP: What do you think your life would be like if you hadn't chosen music as a career?
TP: That's kind of all I knew I was going to do. I didn't know how it was going to happen but I knew that I was going to end up in it. I'd probably still be in school, going for my Masters or PhD or building instruments or something. Anything music related. When I graduated I basically had a choice, that's when I joined Thursday, and it was either work at studios or go play music live.
ATP: It's still music!
TP: It's still music, yeah, but we're going to have to figure out what we're going to do when this is all over with though. It's going to be a challenge because [laughs] we're all old ass men trying to figure out what to do for work.
ATP: There are a lot of options though, like producing. Do you think you'd ever produce?
TP: Yeah, that'd be great! I've been getting into more compositional work. I've been doing stuff for commercials, which I know is a giant sell out but I have things to pay for [laughs]. Yeah, I'll probably get into composition work or writing songs for other people or something.
ATP: Do you have any plans for a UK tour or headlining dates aside from the upcoming festival?
TP: We haven't really figured everything out yet, we're gonna be chatting within the next couple of days to figure out what the long term touring plan is but I'm almost positive that we'll return shortly after that. Within a few months at least, definitely 2009 we'll be back after the Give It A Name stuff, as long as everything goes smoothly.
ATP: What are your plans and expectations for the remainder of 2009?
TP: We're basically going to tour this record as much as we possibly can and probably into the next year. That's all we have on our plate right now as far as Thursday goes, just promoting the record. We'll probably do some surprise things! No real releases, I don't think. We have this thing called the Doves Clubs. There's something beyond it, it sounds kinda lame, but it's a fan club thing, we struggled with that, but we did this thing where we were going to release an unreleased track every month for a year but, uh, not a lot of people have really indulged into the information enough to figure out what's going on with it. So yeah, just lots of touring, and maybe some really special stuff. I think we're gonna do some really interesting shows.
ATP: Like playing the 'Full Collapse' record in its entirety?
TP: Yeah, I think thats.. I can't say that it's definitely going to happen this year but I think it kinda has to, now that we've made mention of it. People freaked when we said we were going to do that! But like, Jimmy Eat World's doing that Clarity tour..
ATP: Right, the ten days for the tenth anniversary?
TP: Yeah, my lady saw one of them! It's such a good idea though! For a record that's important to people. Like if Radiohead was playing 'OK Computer' front to back in a small ass space I'd go, 'ya know?
ATP: In closing, what would your advice be to kids who are playing basement shows right now, trying to produce an original sound and get where you are?
TP: Stop paying attention to what's popular right now. Music is so recyclic, and we're always taking cues from history but I think kids are so concerned with getting famous and trying to make money and be at the forefront that they're repeating what's popular at the moment, which causes instant reptittion of music which would probably be a hinder to everything they're trying to do creatively. You just have to be yourself and if it's gonna happen it's gonna for you, its gonna happen. If there's basement shows, and there's a scene starting, up thats a good thing, cause thats been gone for a while, ya know? You don't really hear of any crazy scenes right now. Its not like when we were doing it. I'm not saying that we started anything, 'cause it existed way beforehand, like the DC scene, and the Jersey scene; there were hardcore scenes all over the country. Independent scenes like Omaha, and Seattle, and all that stuff. So, its like, you have to stay true to it. If you're looking to make money from music, you just hope and pray that you can, 'cause its just kind of a random chance.
ATP: Thanks for taking the time to sit down and chat to us.
TP: Cool, no problem. Thank you!
'Common Existence' is out now on Epitaph Records.
Kristin managed to catch up with bassist Tim Payne of Thursday prior to their headlining set at the Nokia Theatre in New York on this years Taste Of Chaos US tour.