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Sept 2003 - Caesar The Greaser



L-R: Chauncey, Slippery John, Matthew 22:21, (hidden) Calvin VD

I first met John Ziegler, AKA. "Slippery John", when he used to come and see my old band, The Honey Hush, play. He was introduced to me as the cousin of Eric Ziegler, but I didnít hold that against him, and he turned out to be a great guy in spite of that fact.

The first time I saw Caesar The Greaser was at a Clash Vs. Ramones X vs. Y show at Knickerbockers, I liked them, but they werenít playing their own stuff, so it was hard to get a feel for them. Then I heard their EP, Great Caesarís Ghost, and as you can tell from the review I wrote of it, I liked it a lot!

Caesar, made up of Slippery John on lead vocals and lead guitar, Chauncy on rhythm guitar & vocals, Matthew 22:21 bass & vocals, and Calvin Very Dangerous on drums, are new on the scene, but they're quickly making a name for themselves. I chatted with Caesar The Greaser following their Scenefest appearance in August.

SCS: How and when did Caesar form as a band?

Matt: I think we formed right around May 1st of 2002. Earlier that week John had jokingly talked to me about starting a band together. As fate would have it, the band that Calvin and I were currently in broke up and I remembered what John had asked me earlier. I talked to him the next day at school and I think we started playing together that night.

Chauncey: I dont know, I joined two months later. But i do know that if I haven't joined Caesar would still be playing Social D. covers at the St. Paul bowling alley.

John: We started earlier than that. Caesar was conceived in science class when I asked Matt (who played with Calvin, the ONLY drummer in town) if he wanted to play some rockabilly and Social Distortion covers with me. Granted, we had no idea how to do rockabilly. I listened to a couple Stray Cats Songs and a Sun Records comp and tried to go from there. Since then, we have learned that it's much easier to just throb with joy. Anyways, it had to be late February, because our first gig was two weeks later at a youth lock in, the Ides of March, something that I promise was unplanned. We added Chauncey on our prom day when we were shopping for suits at the Salvation Army and found an organ for fifty dollars.


SCS: As I mentioned in the review I wrote of Great Caesarís Ghost, I hear a very diverse group of punk influences in the band, especially a lot of country/cow punk stuff like X, and Social Distortion. Iím assuming growing up in rural NE, you probably heard more country music than you wanted to. Did such bands influence you, and who else are some of the other bands that influence your writing style?

Chauncey: I havent really written anything that we've played to this point, but i think my writing was influenced perhaps a bit more by TSOL and other "dark" bands.

John: Yes, Somewhere Between Heaven and Hell from SxDx and both of Mike Ness's solo albums were very important to me in that they destroyed my fear of country. You know, you ask someone what sort of stuff they listen to and they say something like, "anything but country." Well, that's too bad, because country is half of rock and roll, the other half is the blues. Of course, people are generally referring to the Nashville poo poo that spews forth today from the mouth of the beast. Yeah, at prom they played a song with lyrics like, "She Thinks My Tractor's Sexy," for example. That type of country more influenced us in the sense that it filled us with piss and vinegar. Otherwise, Dana Witherby's Bloodshot on KRNU (Monday night 9PM-11), has recently been very influential to me, introducing me to stuff like the Soledad Brothers and Niko Case (sp?), also where I first heard of the Honey Hush, who I wanted to see reuntied for a song at the Scenefest.


SCS:We thought about it, but having not played in 5 months, and not having any time to practice, it didn't work out, unfortunately. How would you guys define your sound to someone whoís never seen you?

Matt: Hot sex and rock 'n roll.

Chauncey: rock 'n roll, that's all they need to know

John: I don't know. I hate to tell someone vague crap like "We'll rock your ass off!" It depends on who you are talking to. If it's a mall punk with green hair, then yeah, maybe I'll tell them that weíll destroy! When talking to people I respect, I guess I would just tell them when we are playing, and list off the basic genres that influence us, and garage is hard to admit to nowadays without cringing. I guess we are a teenage "tractor shed" band. Thatís where we usually practice at Calvinís home.

Press Agent for Caesar: When Matt says hot sex, he is referring to hand clapping and bright smiles.


SCS: Where did the band's name come from?

Matt: Somewhere deep inside John's skull.

Chauncey: Do you know john?

John: The name is pretty goofy, sure. Bad Religion now regrets the cross xx'ed out in the circle, but it stuck. I had a thing for world domination and cliche rockabilly themes. And rhymes. I donít really care what the name is as long as there arenít any numbers after a noun. It could be anything, but the music would stay the same. Leave me alone.


SCS: How would you describe a Caesar The Greaser show? -- If people come to see you live, what can they expect?

Chauncey: A good time, and a sloppy set.

Matt: Yeah, that's about right.

John: We'll rock your ass off! Also, herky jerky stage movements characterized by conflicting moments of energy and moments of self-doubt. We want to destroy, by poking and prodding timidly. We are green, not all that experienced, but we have a lot of spring in our legs.


SCS: Which do you prefer, writing/recording or live performance?

Matt: Being in the studio is fun but nothing can compare to the rush you get being on a stage in front of a great crowd.

Calvin: Playing live is the best part of being in a band. Knowing that people come to listen to your music is a good feeling.

John: Yeah, I didn't ask Matt if he wanted to start a band so we could someday record an EP. I wanted to PLAY. But EP's and recordings have opened doors for us. Recording is a way to document, advertise, and get gigs. Our first EP was recorded all live, and it sounds like it, but it's a close descriptor of our early days. We are currently recording multi-track stuff with Dee Jay Scharton, another guy with central Nebraska roots. He's technically smart, and there's friction between me and him in the studio, where I sometimes just want to say fuck it and get it over with, but his pressure on me to get it right has helped us, no doubt, with gigs. I would attribute our Alkaline Trio gig largely to the work he's done for us.


SCS: Is there a single songwriter in the band, or how would you describe the band's working relationship, as far as the musical process is concerned?

Chauncey: John writes most of the stuff, but we're all involved.

John: I write most of the music and words, but bringing the song to the band is only part of the process. The songs evolve after a few practices. Drums and bass, played one way or another, can change the entire musical context of a song. Calvin comes up with his beats most of the time, because all I can do is fumble with a description of the sort of drum beat I want like, "ominous indian war beat" or "fast moving train." Chauncey and I collaborated on the dueling vocals of Teenage Riot. Matt brought the rocker "Whatcha' Gonna' Do?" to the table. The process is not too complex, I guess. However, if you want to be in a band and play shows, you have to learn how to practice too. That means no dicking off with other bands hooks you've just learned. You really have to stay on task to get stuff done, especially with us, since we can't practice much.


SCS: How have you grown, musically and creatively, since the band first started?

Calvin: when we first started, we did about 4 covers and had just a few originals. Since then, we've thrown out all of our covers (except Thumbs Up) and have added a lot of power to our new work. We've defintely become more creative.

John: My cousin Eric, whether he realizes it or not, has had huge influence on making me want to write better songs. He showed me Social Distortion way before Caesar, which was probably the cementing moment for me, my first punk band, though I didn't know they were punk at the time, or care really. Charles Lieurance recently challenged us to write meaningful lyrics, warning us not to be the "Sha Na Na of Punk," which sort of shook me up. I really respect him as a sort of sagacious figure, in a rock and roll sort of way. My cousin too. Aside from my quasi-mentors, we have grown in both ways. We started out with a lot more Epitaph influence than what can be heard in our stuff now, not that Epitaph is something to shrink from. It has its place. Creatively speaking, our music is fairly simple and derivative, also, not something to shrink from, in my book, as long as you love it. We are just finding ways of doing it again, whether it's blues or country or punk.

Chauncey: I think we draw from a wider range of influences now than we used to.


SCS: Where does the inspiration for your lyrics come from?

John: Sometimes I want to sing about real life. If that bores me, I can always sing about fantasy stuff, like folk murder songs. Life changes, but things could always be better. Song lyrics can ask questions, or make statements, or make exclamations, like sentences. People and life are good influences. The world is full on inspiration. I also enjoy Biblical imagery. Then again, with song titles like Poderhead and Boogety Woogety Blues, there is an element of humor. Music isn't larger than life. It's only rock and roll.

Press Agent For Caesar: But I like it.


SCS: Whatís your favorite song of yours to play live?

Matt: Work, Mind, Work

Calvin: Skeleton Rock

Chauncey: Work, Mind, Work

John: The Dr. Ventura into Visceral Teen Rock meddley.


SCS: I noticed you didnít include Boogety Woogety Blues or Poderhead in your Scenefest setlist. I would have loved to hear those songs. Are you tired of playing them or did they just get trimmed because of the short set length?

Chauncey: They got trimmed, we did retire Boogety Woogety Blues for a while after we stopped using the organ but we've been playing it again lately.

John: Poderhead got trimmed. Boogety Woogety Blues was a fun song, but we needed the Farfisa which was destroyed on our one year anniversary in St. Paul. Now we don't care. We'll play it. Some songs do get expired though, and you just get bored. Thatís okay. We make new ones.


SCS: What was your most memorable live performance and why?

Matt: New Years Eve at Bonzai Beach Club in Grand Island. I've never seen that place packed before. We played excellent and the crowd was one of the best crowds I think we've ever played for.

Chauncey: There are a lot, but probably our show at Bader Park in Chapman, I think we sort of came out of our shell, stage presence wise, at that show.

Calvin: New Year's Eve was a very memorable show to all of us, but our recent show at Edgefest was the most intense show ever.

John: One year anniversary in St. Paul with Science Ninja Team and Rent Money Big. We demolished, and in a way, abolished the organ, and it was like a burial of the past. We had sort of simplified, but learned a lot about each other and gotten tighter. That thing was heavy, too. Plus it was very fulfilling to see how much the other two bands enjoyed each other. It was nice and warm. We joked about how we had stolen people away from the Cursive and Desaparecidos show in Omaha, two and a half hours away. Kind of funny, you know... as in ha ha funny.


SCS: What song would each band member like to cover the most during a live set?

Matt: Don't Drag Me Down by Social D.

Calvin: Big Little Baby by Reverend Horton Heat.

Chauncey: I enjoy covering Science Ninja Team, but otherwise i don't really like to play covers

John: I would like to do the Carsinogent's opener, which isn't on Ole. I think it's called "Got It Down". But that's today's answer.


SCS: Who are some local bands or musicians that you admire or feel should be recognized?

Matt: Dan and Jason formally of Tastes Like Grandma. They made me want to be in a band. The Carsinogents, Science Ninja Team, the list goes on.

Calvin: Science Ninja Team.

Chauncey: Definitely Tastes like Grandma from back in G.I., they were really my first taste of local punk music. I like Saturday Tragedy from Kearney, and of course the Carsinogents. And there are lots more.

John: Rent Money Big. It's fun to see the way they adhese live, not to mention the amount of really cool gigs they are getting. R$B creates. Drew doesn't have a rudder, if you will, to guide his writing. Tim has a refreshing ignorance of what's hip or not. Same to a lot of bands. Youth In Asia are steadfast in their vision of punk, admirable whether you like their interpretation of it or not. I really wish I could have seen the Black Dahlias. I really want to see a Wolf Tickets show, since they incorporate goat blood and barbed wire into their live show. The Bad Sects have a great dark/light sound. They build sonic drama. I always feel sorry for the touring bands that play after the Carsinogents. Then there are bands that I try to glean from, watching the guitarists and tinkering around on my own afterwards. These include the now defunct Honey Hush and Ghost Runners.


SCS: What do you like and dislike about the music scene in Lincoln?

Matt: The crowds are always pretty good. Nothing like back in Grand Island. The only complaint I have is that the parking can really suck sometimes.

Chauncey: I like the fact that its generally open minded, and I really don't have any large complaint with it.

John: I like how totally disparate bands can share a stage, and fans will give attention to the band they didnít come to see (not always the case). There's much to explore, and we have seen a lot of open ears and support. What don't I like? For one, in our age group of bands and the people connected to the bands, people know this about that person, dirt flies, and it becomes a return to the high school social jungle. It can become pretty incestuous and tangled. I have seen some people get hurt socially by peoples' darker sides. Sad stuff. Luckily we arenít too mixed with that, being relatively new. We like to play shows and can do without those "side effects". I could get mad at the fact that there are lots of people who are content not to explore, or how some bands of dubious caliber draw the largest crowds, but that's actually a testament to how fertile the soil of Lincoln is for the harvest of new fans.


SCS: Whatís your favorite venue to perform at, and why?

Matt: Knickerbockers. I like the smell. There's nothing like beer, smoke and wood.

Calvin: The Ranch Bowl. I like the stage.

Chauncey: Sokol Underground was a lot of fun.

John: I can't pick a favorite. All I want is a PA, as crappy as it comes. The show takes precedence over the location. I will say that Knickerbockers and Duffy's both make us sound well balanced, and that's always nice.


SCS: Is there new album in the works, and when will it come out?

Chauncey: It's in the works.

Matt: Look for it around Christmas hopefully.


SCS: What band would be your dream band to tour with?

Matt: Social Distorition.

Calvin: Science Ninja Team

Chauncey: The Stones when they were young, that would have to be fun.

John: It would be toss up between Science Ninja Team and R$B. But if I have to pick a fantasy band, I would say the Murder City Devils.


SCS: Who was the first person or band you saw that made you want to play music?

Matt: Tastes Like Grandma

John: Blake Glynn, one of our friends from Palmer. I heard him playing Wipe Out during the intermission to some all school play on his white and black Fender. When I started learning guitar, he was the one to teach me all the cool tricks, and probably the reason that Caesar has blues leanings. Tastes Like Grandma made me want to actually get organized and start a band. They were so pissy and hilarious. Now we are good friends, but back then, they scared me.


SCS: What was the first album/CD you bought?

Matt: I was a stupid child, keep that in mind. Coolio-Gangstas Paradise

Calvin: Foo Fighters - The Colour And The Shape

Chauncey: Bob Dylan - Greatest Hits Vol.2"

John: The Firefighters - Big Man.


SCS: Whose music are you listening to right now? -- What other bands would you recommend people check out?

Matt: Bad Religion and Rancid

Calvin: The Mooney Suzuki

Chauncey: I've been listening to Violent Femmes lately, and a lot of sugary '50's pop.

John: The Soledad Brothers, The Black Keys, The Sonics, Thee Headcoats, Hot Hot Heat, The Immortal Lee County Killers, the Dirtbombs, The Mooney Suzuki, Bruce Springsteen, The Satelliters, The Lemonheads, The Knoxville Girls, The Catheters, Elvis Costello and the Nuggets compilation.


SCS: List off your top five albums of all time.

Matt: In no particular order:

  • Social D.-White Light, White Heat, White Trash
  • Nirvana-In Utero
  • The Offspring-Ignition
  • Bad Religion-All Ages
  • Dropkick Murphys-Sing Loud, Sing Proud

    Calvin:

  • Science ninja team-death and destruction ep
  • The mooney suzuki-electric sweat
  • Bad religion-stranger than fiction
  • The white stripes-elephant
  • Reverend horton heat-holy roller

    John:

  • Social Distortion- Self-titled
  • When the Man Comes Around- Johnny Cash
  • Live Rust- Neil Young
  • Let it Bleed- The Rolling Stones
  • Ramones- self titled


    SCS: What single song, in the entire history of music, do you most wish you'd written?

    Matt: Ball and Chain by Social Distortion

    John: Whiskey in the Jar by Thin Lizzy, (not Metallica). I love the hook and the story in the song.


    SCS: What can we look forward to in the next year from the band?

    Matt: Some new songs, a new album and a lot more shows in Lincoln.

    Press Agent for Caesar: A surprise signing to a major lable as the Lincoln scene garners previously unheard of amounts of press coverage, followed by a major European, Asian and North American tour, during which all members struggle through a period of tight-lipped psychodrama and discord. Meanwhile, the record goes platinum. Chauncey dies in a pyrotechnic accident, John becomes life-threateningly plugged-up on gummy bears, Matt fathers a village, Calvin loses an arm to a dirty needle, and that's when Calvin's mom decides that rock and roll is too dangerous, and calls him home or else he's grounded. Sawwwrrry guys!

    Press Agent for Caesar would like to note that Drugsy is dead. He will now be called Chauncey Patton. Cool Cat Matt is dead. He will now be called Matthew 22:21. Calvin Very Dangerous and Slippery John are tentatively still living.


    - Tery Daly