To start off I would love to hear about the first memories that come to mind you have growing up listening to music and what initially got you started in your career?
Well, my folks tell me the first song I ever had completely memorized was American Pie by Don McClean when I was three, ha ha ha. I think the first time I was ever completely blown away by something was when I first heard Pink Floyd The Wall. I was 10 years old. I saved up my allowance and bought it the day it came out. After dinner that night, I put it on the record player, sat in the living room and listened to the whole thing, reading the lyrics and looking at the art. Back then, that album was an experience. Not to sound like an old dude but I miss the act of buying music being more of an experience. It used to be a way bigger deal. You’d save your money, go to the record store, flip through the vinyls, pick out what you wanted, take it home, put it on, read the liner notes, lyrics, look at the pictures and then… you’d have to flip it to side two. It seems minor but that few seconds of interaction is massive. "Being afraid will get you nowhere. You might loose some limbs in the process but you can look back on it with pride." I love that music is so easy to get now but it’s a little sad everybody doesn’t have vinyl anymore. I’ve got a record player and I still listen to it a lot, but most people don’t get it.
As far as my career, man, I used to want to be an actor and I went to college in San Diego for that. We had a lot of talent at that school. It was a super small group there, like a hundred and fifty, and we had Jamie Foxx there, he actually taught me how to sing falsetto, there’s still a lot of people from that school doing their thing, teaching, acting, singing. I eventually moved to New York to pursue it. I got burned out on it pretty quick and started writing music when I was out there. I started bartending (that was a great time in my life) and joined a metal band from Brooklyn. We pretty much sucked but the guys in the band were great and we got to play with Ace Frehley from KISS. I started taking some film classes at the School of Visual Arts and eventually moved back to Cali. I met the Sublime crew and videotaped some shows and somehow started making little tour movies of them. When Brad passed they kept me on board to do some of their music videos. The whole time, I was writing songs but kinda kept them secret. The whole Bargain Music concept came up one weekend at the Seirra Nevada World Music Fest. Later, I played some of my songs for Bert Ziggen and he said, “Dude, you gotta start a band”. If Bert says something like that, you gotta listen. A few months later my friend booked some time at a practice studio and we got some guys together to jam. It kinda just grew from there.
Spring forward to the present, what has been recently going on in the life of Josh Fischel?
I’ve been dating this girl for the past year or so and she’s the best, man. The best. Family life is looming on the horizon for Big Dumb Josh.
I took a semi-break from music a little bit ago. My dad needed some help with his business and I jumped on board. It didn’t take too long to realize it wasn’t my thing and now I’m back doing music full time. I ran into Miguel Happoldt recently at a show we were both playing and he said, “Man, you’re kinda like Mike Watt, just plug in and play. You just keep going.”. He seemed pretty stoked. That was one of the best compliments I’ve ever gotten. It’s funny cause I just keep going, whether it’s in a van, bus, plane, train or rent a car, and I don’t even think about it, I just go. It takes someone else to bring up that it’s kinda unique and then I think, “Josh, you’re a little crazy, dude.”.
The best lessons I’ve ever learned were from three teachers of mine in college and they really shaped how I do things. Eliot Palay taught me how to sing with power and he was a classical singer. He taught me that style but it wasn’t what I wanted to do. But he gave me that force. He came to see me sing recently for the first time in 20 years and said, “Great job Josh, but you didn’t do a thing that I taught you.”. I said, “No way, I just took what you taught and made it fit me.”. Another teacher, Andy Barnicle said, “Don’t be afraid to put your dick on the chopping block.”. He was basically saying, don’t be a pussy. Being afraid will get you nowhere. You might loose some limbs in the process but you can look back on it with pride. I always do what I feel is right musically, even if it’s risky or different. It’s the only way I know how. Finally, Drew Tombrello said, “If you are gonna commit to your art, you gotta commit 100%. This means you’re gonna miss some parts of life, but that’s what it takes. Forget skiing. If you break your limbs, you can’t get on stage. Relationships are hard, too. You’re art is your wife.”. I was twenty when he told me that and I thought, “Damn, I’m fucked.”, but I’ve learned to apply the same intensity he was talking about and still have a real life. You have to REALLY want to do this in order to do this. Know what I’m saying?
No too long ago you formed a band called Josh Fischel and the Fiction. Is this a band that will ever record or is this more of a fun side project to perform in your local area?
The Fiction is definitely becoming a serious thing. I’ve got a keyboard player and a bass player I’m really happy with. Still trying to figure out the drummer and guitar player. I’ve been writing and recording demos a lot lately. We have 12 songs right now and I’m gonna try and get to 20 before we decide which ones we are gonna record.
Should you choose to record in the future, what direction of sound will the band take?
I’m calling it “rock and soul”. It’s got a lot of 60’s and 70’s influence, both soul and rock and roll, along with a little gospel and even hip hop. There’s a lot of harmonies and I’m still doing a bunch of storytelling.
People mostly know you from Bargain Music, which to me is one of the best bands ever. So much great music came from that band. Do you feel Bargain Music ever got the recognition it deserved?
I don’t know what recognition we deserved but it definitely didn’t get the recognition I hoped for. We had so much going for us and even more working against us. Our distribution company went bankrupt after our second release and owed our label a couple hundred thousand dollars. That didn’t help. Also, going through so many members really killed our momentum a few times. No regrets though. We made some solid albums, made a ridiculous amount of friends, played in front of thousands of people, and toured for almost ten years. I’ve been in every state except Alaska at least five times. Thats a pretty cool thing to say.
How many songs are left over from Bargain Music that have yet to be released? Or was the album Epilogue the remaining songs, and why is it so difficult to find that album nowadays?
I can only think of one Bargain song that was recorded and never released. It’s called “Suit Up” and it was from the Epilogue sessions. There’s also an ADAT floating around somewhere that has a bunch of demos for 77 003. It’s got some songs that never made it past the demo stage too. It was stolen from my car ten years ago so it’s probably at the bottom of a landfill somewhere. I did some covers for American Born that didn’t make the cut, too. I did Mother from Pink Floyd and Kiss by Prince. Epilogue was released through Martian Church and they closed up shop. It will be on Itunes soon.
A long time ago you spoke about a live album and dvd that was going to be put together for Bargain Music. Did this ever happen?
Nope. The CD is done. I started the DVD but I don’t have a computer with my editing software anymore. I emailed our label a little while ago to see if he wanted to put out the CD but it bounced back. Not sure how to get a hold of him.
You have had the pleasure of working with so many talented artists in your career. Which one in particular do you find yourself always looking back and remembering the most?
All the Bargain guys, of course. I don’t really keep in touch with a lot of them, and that’s a shame, but I’m still close with Zippy, Todd and Matt. I love those dudes probably more than they know. They’ll be my best friends till we die. Playing with Zippy was always great cause it was like I was a spectator. He never played a song the same way twice so you always got something new. He’s a master of between song banter, too. Singing backstage with Buju Banton will always be a highlight. He’s such a good man. The all time highlight has to be when I practiced a song with Los Lobos in their dressing room. We did the song onstage that night but being in that room with them was insane. I grew up on those guys. My whole family used to go see them together. My Mom was there in the dressing room too, so that made it that much better.
One of my favorite Josh Fischel shows was SXSW 2006. You played immediately after Tim Fite. That dude puts on one hell of a performance. Any hope for you showing up for SXSW again?
Tim Fite is the man!!! The fact that he’s not huge shows that there’s something seriously wrong with music buyers. I’m definitely gonna try and get The Fiction out to SXSW after our album comes out.
A song of yours that always amazes me lyrically is The Brothers Chastang, what an incredible song. Talk about the inspiration that lead you to write the song?
It’s about these brothers I met in Roanoke, VA. I stayed with them for a few days and after a couple days of eating, drinking, and talking, they told me about their fathers suicide. It was a pretty intense moment. Their last name really is Chastang, and I used all their real first names in the song, too. A week after I met them, I checked into a motel outside of Birmingham, Alabama, bought a bottle of Jim Beam, and wrote the song in a couple hours. The first verse is true and I made up the rest. Those boys are a crew of good, misunderstood men.
You recently have helped produced/record other artists with songs and or albums. How tough is it when you are in the studio not recording your own album?
It’s not tough at all. I’m there to do a job. It’s intense cause you wanna do a good job for these guys and it’s all on you. If its taking too long, its your responsibility to kick things in high gear. If something’s not working, you gotta try and make them understand in a positive way cause these songs are their baby’s. You need to be firm but not hurt anyone’s feelings. It’s kinda like coaching a sports team. If a guy gets down on himself, he loses confidence and doesn’t perform as well. You gotta be tough on them but make them feel comfortable, at the same time. I don’t think I always succeeded at doing that but I sure tried!
How do you feel about music nowadays, not just the Reggae Rock stuff but everything in general?
There’s a lot of good stuff out there, you just need to search it out. Some of the newer bands I like are Dr. Dog, Living Legends, Arcade Fire, Bright Eyes, Monsters of Folk, Delta Spirit, Avi Buffalo, My Morning Jacket, Bobby Bare Jr., Floating Action, Pigeon John. There’s always gonna be crap on the radio but there’s a thousand great bands out there too. My classics are Prince, Ween, The Band, Lyle Lovett, De La Soul, Squeeze, XTC, Tears For Fears, Joni Mitchell, Stevie Wonder, KRS-ONE, The Who, The Kinks, I could go on and on. As far as the Reggae Rock scene, and I’m gonna get a lot of shit about this, but for the most part, it sucks. There’s a small, handful of good bands and everything else is the same rehashed bullshit. There’s no imagination, no creativity, nothing new. The cool thing about Sublime was that they were something you hadn’t heard before. Rather than using sublime as a jumping off point, these dudes use it as their bible. It’s not open for interpretation to them. It’s like they are stuck in 1996. To me, most of it is pretty boring.
Jumping off music for a moment, I know you love your Clippers. What do you think of the whole Lebron James fiasco and did you want him to become a Clipper? Who wins it next year?
"We made some solid albums, made a ridiculous amount of friends, played in front of thousands of people, and toured for almost ten years." Let’s Go Clippers, Let’s Go!!!! Dude, who wouldn’t want LeBron on their team? I think that guy has some shitty people working for him and I think his ego is out of control, but I can’t necessarily say that I would’ve been any different than him in his situation. He’s never been given the opportunity to live in reality.
Having a past with Sublime and directing the amazing documentary Stories, Tales, Lies, and Exaggerations you must have an opinion on the newly formed Sublime w/Rome. Can you elaborate?
I think it’s great Bud and Eric are playing together again. It’s been a long time coming. I’ve heard nothing but great things about Rome as a person and musician, but for me personally, it’s not something I’m gonna go see. I saw Sublime play 50 plus times, and I can’t imagine it without Brad. I totally understand why people are stoked, but it just aint my thing.
I am one really hoping for another Acoustic album, live or studio. Is this something I can look forward to?
Finally, what can your fans look forward to in the future from you?
I’ve got a live show coming out on The Pier.org pretty soon. It’s a recording of my 40th bday show last year. It’s got a Fiction set with some new songs and covers, some acoustic songs and a 40 minute Bargain set. It’s gonna be called “Michael, Farrah and Me”. Later this summer I’m gonna film an outdoor live acoustic show and release that as a digital download only release. All the money I make from these releases will go directly to the recording of The Fiction record. I think it’s a cool way for the fans to be directly involved in helping our record get made. I’m hoping to start recording the Fiction record by early winter. We’ll see.
Thank You So Much Josh.