A conversation with Less Than Jake saxophonist Peter “JR” Wasilewski
There was a time not long ago when everything was just fine in the world. It was the middle of the 1990s – and it was fantastic. Now, that’s not to say that there weren’t insane moral issues surrounding civilization like there are now; but it was a time of innocence for us. If we make the mistake of claiming there weren’t issues then, that would be ridiculous - and we try and stray away from saying ridiculous things. Try.
But the mid-90s were rife with pleasant adventures and social shifts that the planet hadn’t seen before. Most of us were in our teen years back then, so the worldly suck that we’re conscious of now wasn’t even relevant in our pimply little lives. What was important was the emergence of skateboarding, getting past the apathetic lifestyle that the rulers of the MTV network shoved down our throats with grunge, and learning to identify ourselves with fashion, experimentation and more importantly: music.
Any kid around in that era that was paying attention remembers an album titled “Losing Streak” and probably to this day can still sing most of the enacting lyrics and laugh at the silly nature of some of the content. Less Than Jake were icons in our machine hating, raging bastard souls. It was an album that elevated us all to new understanding of music, of the still existent resurgence of punk (before it went mainstream and you know…all Blink-y and icky) and continues to be a go-to listen when the time becomes fit.
Less Than Jake saxophonist Peter “JR” Wasilewski wasn’t a part of the group in the 20th century, but still carries the torch of what once was – and continues to be. The act is still making music after almost twenty years and will swing through Denver tomorrow, November 22nd, when they perform at the Summit Music Hall. Here’s what JR had to say before they get here:
What’s some of the main differences you see in crowds now vs. a crowd back in the 90s?
The only real difference is they are now our age with kids! Not as many crowd surfers or people in the out but I figure that's because they are as old as me and don't want to break their hip in the pit.
What are your thoughts on the current state of pop music as we see it in the media?
I think it's as pop music has always been: a watered down version of something cool with a cute face performing the songs. It's no ones fault they like Katy Perry or Justin Beiber or One Direction or whatever "artists" gain notoriety on tv shows created to create pop stars. I mean, for what it's worth the Beatles were a boy band. When mainstream media pics up on something it's only a matter of time until we're all doing parody videos of the next 'gangham style'. You can't ignore it but you can sure try to avoid it.
Do you think American censorship has gotten out of hand?
I think Americans are all raised under the guise that we know what's right for everyone. Morally speaking, I am in no position to judge what is right or wrong, especially when it comes to art. Furthermore, neither is anyone else. We all need to think for ourselves and stop listening to what others think. The truth is the people who are telling you what is right or wrong are telling you what's right or wrong for THEM, not you. Stop listening to your parents and your friends and form your own opinion. Then the censorship should fix itself.
What separates good albums from great albums?
Lyrics. Plain and simple. Anyone can sing a catchy melody but few can say something that will make you think about what you're singing.
Is it easy to go on tour, or does it take extra preparation now that you’ve done it many times before?
It's easy but it sometimes hurts a little more physically than it used to. For some of our guys who have families with children it is much more difficult however technology like FaceTime makes it a little easier.
Is tour life the same now as it was when you first started out?
No. Back then I was wasted every night. Now I'm more excited about where we are going to eat dinner. Crazy.
How can bands persevere through decades in the music industry?
By being themselves and not following trends just to try to stay relevant. This can be hard if you don't know who you are musically. Time is the only way to tell if groups have this knowledge. I don't know which do but I can say the ones that don't have a life span of about 5 to 7 years. Don't believe me? Go look at a list of bands who have broken up. You'll be surprised of their life span.
Very few people become a musician because it’s a second choice for a career. Is it still how you dreamt it to be when you were a kid, and if you could, would you do it again?
Sometimes it's how I dreamt it would be but that really only about 30% of the time. There's a lot of things no one tells you about that you have to learn on your own. Would I do it agin knowing what I know? Of course. With no changes. I love my life.
Colorado has always had punk / ska in its heart and has always been able to maintain a decent scene for artists. What’s something you always love about Colorado when you come back?
Just that: the people. It's always fun and we can't wait to get back there.
What can we expect out of Less Than Jake in the future?
More records, more touring, never stopping.