Not too many bands in Lincoln are wearing their political and social identity on their sleeves quite the way Westside Proletariat does. They, and their singer/lyricist Jason Kelly are people who obviously care a lot about what's going on in the world. They let you know what they think about it in their songs, their attitude, and this snippet from their website bio, which might as well be the Westside Prolitariat manifesto: "FIGHT RACISM!, FIGHT SEXISM!, FIGHT FOR EQUAL RIGHTS FOR ALL PEOPLE!, WORK TOWARD PEACE!, VOTE EVERY ELECTION!, EDUCATE YOURSELF ABOUT THE WORLD!, DO SOMETHING! They channel their take on issues through a combination of punk, hardcore and classic metal sounds. They've got a new CD coming out soon, possibly this month, so keep an eye out for that. I caught up with Jason and drummer Ben Swift to get the lowdown on the band.
SCS: How are you recovering from the recent election?
Jason: Disappointed but not surprised. Too many people confused about the issues and facts. You kind of have to put in some time to educate yourself these days because of all the spinning and misinformation.
Ben: As posted on the SCS message board, H. L. Mencken: "on some great and glorious day, the plain folks of the land will reach their heart's desire at last, and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron." The folks from the Plains have done their part. I think I speak for anyone who voted against Bush - Don't lump me in with those morons! (there was a sizable discussion here that took place off the record at Ben's request) In retrospect I think the music scene is probably the only cool part about being from here. otherwise I will have to kill myself or move to the moon.
SCS: Amen to that! Tell me about how and when Westside Proletariat formed as a band?
Jason: spring of 2000. One night while we were drinking, our old bass player, Justin, told us about a battle of the bands at Abel Hall where he was living at the time. I had just moved in w/ Jeremy and Ben so we decided to see if we could write a couple of songs for the thing. We won $25 to Dietze.
Ben: That first time out was pretty lousy.
Jason: We've been a 5 piece since 2002 when Bob and Nate from Youth In Asia joined.
SCS: How would you describe your band or your sound to someone who’s never heard or seen you?
Jason: Equal parts old punk, old hardcore, and old metal.
Ben: Our band is 5 guys who love to play "as hard as we can, as fast as we can, for as long as we can." includes melodic metal-guitar wanking, aggressive riffs and politipunk lyrics.
SCS: How would you describe a Westside Proletariat show? -- If people come to see you live, what can they expect?
Jason: One hell of a show, we are pretty energetic and are huge jackasses, so it is pretty fun. we fuck around alot on stage, but still play well (usually)
Ben: I would love to see us, just to know what our shows are like. You can bet that Jason has his shirt off in the first 3 songs. It's fast and hard ... and fun?
SCS: What types of music and which musicians/groups influenced the band members?
Jason: Lots of punk and metal.
Ben: All types...especially pop-country because it makes us want to murder people.
SCS: Where did the band's name come from?
Ben: Yeah, he started a gang. They fucked chicks with no rubbers, an' shit.
SCS: How have you grown, musically and creatively, since the band first started?
Jason: We stopped getting wasted before shows, now we wait till after. We learned how to be a band together and write better stuff. Just as much fun as before, only now we sound good doing it.
Ben: When Bob and Nate joined the band we started having a wider scope of sounds. And not being wasted helped too.
SCS: Who writes the songs, and how do you work them from idea stage to finished product?
Jason: They write the music, I write the words. Sometimes I have words written before the music is done, other times it's the other way around. Some songs take forever, others come together quickly. A lot of shit gets scrapped too early sometimes. Our song writing process is pretty fucked.
Ben: I think the cream rises to the top.
SCS: So that Abel Hall show was your first local show? How did it go?
Jason: Yeah, Abel Hall 'Battle Of Unsigned Bands' w/SOJH, AssBackwards, and some other people. We got 3rd. It was in the Abel Snack Bar.
Ben: Yeah. We were terrible.
SCS: What was your most memorable live performance and what made it that?
Jason: I dont know, I have alot of fun everytime we
play. the other week's house show w/ blood cow was pretty fun.
Ben: My most memorable shows are the ones I want to forget.
SCS: Yeah, I agree completely, sometimes those shows that suck the worst are the ones you never forget. I remember in vivid detail how horrible the last show my old band The Honey Hush was. It was like a car wreck, where everything went into slow motion. A 35 minute set seemed to last 3 days.
Ben: it's true about the most memorable shows- they are always terrible. The good ones I don't even remember playing... unless something unusual happens like getting set on fire or something. Who knows!
SCS: What do you like and dislike about the music scene in Lincoln?
Ben: I think the scene is mostly positive, some people go out, some don't, but all the musicians are really upbeat about things. I used to go to 2 or 3 shows a week but don't anymore. I get tired and unless the band has a track record there is a good chance they are going to suck anyway. Is there a non-musician music scene? I don't really think so. There are hangers-on and scenesters, but no real scene.
SCS: What did you mean by "non-musician scene", fans of local music who aren't in bands,
or a scene of people who aren't involved in music, like a theater scene or art scene?
Ben: By non-musician music scene I just mean a real, lively "music scene" like an art or
theater scene- yeah. I know there are a lot of people who go to shows (myself included)
who go because they know the band - or are in a band and go to support other bands
simply because the local music scene needs insider support to stay solvent.. There is an
even larger "music fan" scene that has no idea that there are great LOCAL bands. like
they think local bands can't be good simply because they are local. I guess it's just
part of the larger public's being misinformed by corporate media giants like
clearchannel and mtv...
SCS: What about you, Jason?
Jason: Way too segregated. People only come to see their drining buddies play. A lot of really good bands dont get a chance!
SCS: Then the obvious solution is that the bands just need to drink with a LOT more people to expand their fan base! So have you guys learned anything in your experiences in a band that you feel newer local bands could learn from, or made any mistakes they should avoid?
Jason: Be patient, do it for fun w/ your friends and dont take yourself too seriously, most people you know are just local musicians just like you.
Ben: Take it serious and work hard, but don't flame out like the ego-boys.
SCS: Do you think growing up/living in Lincoln influences your music in any way, like do you address local social issues in your songs, or are you looking at things on a larger scale for your lyrics?
Jason: None of us grew up in lincoln. When we deal w/ social issues, they are usually things that have happened to me or to people i know.
Ben: I think Jason writes lyrics on a intro-macular-personal level. The music is more of a hodgepodge of Bob and Jeremy battling on guitar with Nate and I holding it down.
SCS: Who are some local bands or musicians that you admire or feel should be recognized
Jason: I admire anyone who puts in the work and effort to write good music, not just formula/flavor of the month type shit. You can always tell the one's who put their heart into their music
Ben: I am a big fan of Dan Jenkins. Over the years I have also enjoyed some other bands of lesser and greater fame. There is a really quick turnover in bands. sometimes it's hard to even see a band before they are done.
SCS: Yeah, that Dan Jenkins certainly is dreamy! Who recorded your album, and where was it done?
Jason: Mike at Cathouse Studios in Sioux Falls, SD. He is really easy to work w/ and doesn't cost too much.
Ben: Mike is the bomb, and he's cool too.
SCS: If you could tour with any band in history, who would be your dream band to tour with?
Jason: Black Flag.
Ben: Any band who has visited all the continents. Or at least the good ones. The good continents.
SCS: Who was the first person or band you saw that made
> you want to play music?
Jason: I always wanted to play guitar since the fourth grade, but my parents wouldnt buy me one. My first favorite band was Motley Crue.
Ben: I think my first "concert" was Nelson at the state fair. The first band that made me really want to do something was Westside.
SCS: Nelson, huh? Sure you want to make that public? What was the first album/CD you bought?
Jason: First tape: David Lee Roth, "Eat 'em and smile".
Ben: That album rocked! I had the poster and everything. I think the first tape i bought was Beastie boys, Lisenced to Ill, the first record was Bon Jovi, Slippery when wet (picture disc), the first CD was Nirvana, Nevermind, the first mp3 was a Ween live track. And I havent really bought anything in like five years.
SCS: Most recent?
Jason: The Rat Pack - Boys Night Out.
Ben: I would have said Troubled Hubble but I didn't have enough cash...
SCS: That was a good show! What are some of your favorite albums of all time.
Jason: In no order: Black Flag - Damaged
Slayer - Reign in Blood
DRI - Thrashzone
Suicidal Tendencies - S/T
Minor Threat - Complete Discography
Ben: Morphine - Cure For Pain
Chet Baker - Sings
GNR- Appetite For Destruction
Candiria - Process
Liz Phair- Whipsmart
SCS: Wow, I rarely meet anyone who likes Whipsmart better than Exile in Guyville. So what's the best gig you've ever seen, local or otherwise?
Ben: There have been too many good ones, and too many bad ones.
Jason: When I was in high school, I'd come to Lincoln to see shows at Café Shakes, those are probably my most memorable, just because they were some of the first ones. Sick of it All and Youth Brigade stand out. Those show were really intense at such a small place. Too bad it is a shitty rich-kid hippy bar now.
SCS: What can we look forward to in the next year from the band?
Jason: New album in December, summer tour, new album summer/fall.
Ben: New album now, tour with Bloodcow, another record in the summer, a dvd or something, more merch and crap you don't want, etc...
SCS: Anything else you want to share with our readers?
Jason: New CD drops this month (December), so you all should give it a listen and let us know what you think.
Ben: Jason is gay. I mean, he's married and has a kid, but that's just a cover. Also, I am starting a limited edition screenprinting venture, for artists who are interested in reaching a global market. Contact me through SCS. (email link)
SCS: Wow! Thanks for giving us that exclusive scoop about Jason being gay before L. Kent breaks it in the Lincoln Jounal-Star! I'm looking forward to the New CD, let me know what the release date will be when you know.
Westide Proletariat website
- Tery Daly