By Jon Warhol
11/10/13 at Starland Ballroom in Sayreville, New Jersey
I had the lucky opportunity to sit down and talk with the hardest working ska group in show business, Reel Big Fish, as they kicked off their Don’t Stop Skankin’!” US tour. The tour lasts until November 22, after which they head to the land down under to play Australia’s Warped Tour. RBF has been around as long as me (22 years!) and are a hilarious and energetic band. They were happy to talk about everything from their favorite albums, junk foods, and beers, to their appearance in the movie Baseketball.
Jon Warhol: Your latest release was 2012’s Candy Coated Fury. What makes it different from your other records?
Aaron Barrett: I think it has the first good songs I’ve ever written. Ever. I’m really proud of it. It also has the longest songs we’ve ever written. We used to be able to do about 30 songs in a set in about 90 minutes. Now it’s six songs, ha!
Matt Appleton: If I’m not mistaken, the idea behind these songs is that they should all be good dancing songs, right? You were thinking about what makes people move, and what gets people excited.
Aaron: That’s a good answer, I like it. I think I read that off Wikipedia. It’s not always on the website or the bio.
Matt: That’s how I know it’s right. (laughter)
Jon: The Candy Coated Fury track I can relate to the most is “Everyone Else is an Asshole” because I get really bad road rage when I drive. Did you have a really bad driving day and felt compelled to pull over and write the song?
Aaron: Ha ha! No, that song was inspired by our old trombone player, Dan Regan. For a few years he was in a really bad mood. Extra bad, worse than usual. No matter who was in the room or what was going on, he just fuckin’ muttered stuff under his breath. He was so mad that when you said “Hey Dan, good morning.” he said “Fuck you good morning.” So one day I was like “Oh yeah Dan, everyone else is an asshole but you!”
Jon: One of the things I like about your lyrics is that they are really straight forward. There are other songs by other artists where you wonder “What the hell is this about?”
Aaron: They’re not poetry, I know…there’s the song called “I Want Your Girlfriend to be My Girlfriend,” it goes like this: “I want your girlfriend to be my girlfriend!” That’s what it’s about!
Matt: There’s no hidden messages; it is what it is.
Jon: Who are some of your major influences, lyrically speaking?
Aaron: Uh…well I don’t know, I’ve never been asked that question in 22 years! No one has ever said “Who influences your lyrics,” so it’s impossible to answer!
Matt: Can’t we read it on Wikipedia yet? (laughter)
Aaron: I don’t know, I don’t think I have a lyrical influence. I just go off intuition, whatever comes out.
Jon: Top five favorite albums ever. Go.
Johnny Christmas: That’s so hard! It’s hard to answer because you’re talking to people with such diverse musical influences.
Matt: I’ll go first! 1) The Beatles Revolver 2) Beach Boys Friends 3) The Police Outlandos d’Amour 4) Fiona Apple When the Pawn…that’s all I can think of off the top of my head.
Aaron: I have too many favorite albums to pick a top five.
Johnny: 1) Louis Armstrong plays WC Handy.
Aaron: I don’t know what the hell you just said.
Johnny: I know…2) Miles Davis Relaxin’.
Matt: Johnny, every time I get in your car, you’ve got Metallica or Megadeath on.
Johnny: I’ve been pissed off for the past year. 3) Megadeath Greatest Hits.
Billy Kottage: 1) The Beach Boys Pet Sounds 2) The Beatles Revolver 3) Grateful Dead American Beauty 4) Thelonious Monk Alone in San Francisco 5) Westbound Train Transitions.
Aaron: You guys are all wrong. Your opinions are all wrong.
Jon: I’m a Dire Straits fan, and your album titled Monkeys for Nothin’ Chimps for Free makes me wonder are you also a fan or was the title just too irresistible?
Aaron: I like Dire Straits…Except that one line about that trumpet playin’ band ain’t what they call rock n roll. I was like FUCK THAT! FUCK YOU SULTANS OF SWING! Not a huge fan, but I like them.
Johnny: For our generation growing up with MTV, that “Money For Nothing” video was on ALL THE TIME! And it was a great video.
Jon: It’s one of the first 3-D videos.
Johnny: Yeah, you couldn’t get around it. I didn’t even have cable and I listened to it.
Aaron: Just think, a lot of our fans now don’t even remember when MTV was a music TV channel.
Johnny: They don’t understand that the M stands for MUSIC Television.
Matt: They think it stands for mister. Mr Television.
Johnny: Stands for really bad reality TV.
Jon: What’s the most “rock star” thing you’ve ever done? Any crazy tour bus stories?
Matt: Didn’t something happen a little while ago where we thought “This is one of those things we would tell in an interview!” I don’t remember…
Johnny: For me, it was playing the festival in Dubai with Megadeath when I was going out to play my solo. I was going to go out on this big long ramp but my mic cable got stuck on one of the lights. I didn’t even make it to the ramp and I had to play my solo from the side instead of the ego ramp.
Aaron: That’s not a rock star moment, that’s like a disaster story!
Johnny: It’s like a Spinal Tap moment!
Aaron: Remember when we did the press conference with Dave Mustaine?
Jon: What happened with that?
Johnny: There was this press conference with us, Megadeath and Three Doors Down. We were the only bands playing this show in Dubai. Reel Big Fish, Megadeath and Three Doors Down…because those are complimentary items. I’m sitting at this big long table talking to our bass player, Matt Wong, and a red-head guy comes up and goes “Hi, my name is Dave, and I was a huge fan of The Specials and Madness.” I went “What?!? Dave Mustaine was a ska kid!?”
Aaron: We were at the Kerrang! Awards show in England, and each table had a bottle of whisky, bottle of rum, bottle of vodka…every single table. Everyone was really hammered drunk after they served food and stuff. I started throwing bottles all over the tables and I got glass all over somebody from The Used. I ruined someone from Good Charlotte’s food. Bowling for Soul threw a table over and they got in trouble but I didn’t get in trouble. Then I went to an after party and met Paris Hilton. She was going out with Derek from Sum 41. She said “I’M PARIS.” I said “HI.”
Jon: Favorite junk food and favorite beer?
Aaron: This should be easier!
Matt: Favorite beer- Heady Topper from the Alchemist in Vermont. Favorite junk food- Cinnamon Toast Crunch.
Billy: Favorite beer- Heady Topper from the Alchemist brewery in Vermont as well. My favorite junk food…is PB&J junk food? I eat one before bed almost every night.
Johnny: My favorite beer is the St. Bernardus 12 from Belgium. Favorite junk food is plain Lays potato chips.
Jon: Plain, like unsalted?
Johnny: No, salted. OG chips.
Aaron: My favorite beer is Delirium Nocturnum. Favorite junk food is chili fries and volcano burgers from the place across my high school, with no cheese. Best thing I ever ate in my life. Just from that place. I don’t really like chili fries from anywhere else.
Jon: Do you ever get tired of playing your big hits from back in the day or are they still entertaining years later?
Aaron: Some of the newer members might not be as sick of the old songs as others. I definitely am not sick of playing the favorites because I like pleasing the crowd and making them dance. When you play one of those songs, the crowd goes WILD! That never gets old for me.
Jon: So it’s the crowd reaction that keeps it going for you?
Aaron: When we start playing a song and nobody reacts, it’s the worst feeling in the world. Being on stage like OH THEY HATE ME RIGHT NOW!!! Anytime we play those old songs and people go crazy it’s awesome.
Jon: When you find the songs that don’t get a reaction from people, do you kick them off the set list for next time?
Aaron: Yeah, we rotate them and give songs a new try. Sometimes the songs that get the best reaction over time are forgotten. The people who come to the shows at the time don’t know that one anymore.
Johnny: And you also adjust the set list for what country you’re playing in. The big hits in UK might not be in USA. Cheer Up is way huge over there.
Aaron: But even that, 10 years ago, you play something from Cheer Up and they would know every word of every song, but now, is not the case anymore, I’ve noticed. They just know the three favorite ones or whatever.
Jon: Are you guys satisfied with the ska scene or would you prefer it more mainstream? If so, what would it take to get it there?
Aaron: Of course we’d like to be super rich and famous and playing stadiums, but this is our job. We don’t have to go home to real jobs. So for us, the ska scene is pretty awesome. It’s going strong in the underground.
Jon: I’m a huge fan of Baseketball, how did you get to be the band in the movie?
Aaron: We were hot shit back then! We were the happening new band! I think our record label, MOJO, was somehow put in charge of releasing the movie’s soundtrack and I think they just said “Hey why not put RBF in there?” I guess…I don’t know. They needed a band? We never knew the real reason.
Jon: Did you get to meet the South Park guys?
Aaron: Yeah, I was like “Hey!” and they were like “Hey, my name’s Matt.” “Hi, my name is Trey. We gotta go, we’re busy.”
Johnny: You think making a movie is glamorous and really interesting. It’s really a lot of waiting around for ten hours and then being on set and doing your thing for an hour. Back when I had long hair, I was in the movie Cable Guy.
Jon: You were an actor in the movie?
Johnny: I worked at Medieval Times and they needed a trumpet player in a scene for the movie.
Aaron: At least he knows how he got in the movie. Someone just called and said “You’re going to be in a movie with the South Park guys,” FUCK YEAH! They actually filmed another scene we were in – me, Scott and Dan were sitting on a couch at a party scene and then Scott kicked over a bowl of popcorn and it went all over. They had to stop shooting and clean it all up. He RUINED THE SCENE! So somewhere there’s a scene that we’re in.
Jon: The Baseketball stadium, was that an actual stadium, or a set built for the movie?
Aaron: That was the Olympic Auditorium in LA. They had a lot of fake people. Cardboard cut outs of people all over. They moved the extras to where they were filming. Movie magic!
Jon: Did you see the movie?
Aaron: Yeah, it’s pretty funny.
Johnny: It turned out to be a cult classic. Played all the time on HBO and things like that.
Aaron: More people know us from that movie than from anything else.
Jon: What is your definition of a poser?
Aaron: Like a model?
Johnny: Like a mannequin?
Billy: Blue Steel. That’s what I think.
Matt: Somebody who tries to fit into a group of people even though maybe they’re not interested in that. Someone who’s trying a little too hard to fit in.