The following is an interview with Adam Pfahler,
the drummer of Jawbreaker, which is, coincedentally, my favorite band of all time. I
conducted this little Q&A session in early October 2002 through email. It was a nice
experience to chat with Adam, and learn a little more about the man behind one of the most
important indie bands in history. Special thanks to Mr. Pfahler to take the time out of
his busy schedule to answer a few of my incoherent teenage ramblings, also known as
Are you pleased with the warm reaction that the new Jawbreaker ETC. album has been exposed
to? I haven't seen one negative review of it. All the fans seem to be pleased with it.
Adam: Absolutely. But I didn't expect this record to be met with harsh
criticism. Only a real prick would come down like a ton of bricks on a posthumous release
like this. I suppose they could say I was flogging a dead horse, but the title alone kind
of pre-empts that. And anyway, there's life in this old thing yet. The only negative
things I've read have more to do with the brevity of the liner notes or the occasional dis
on a demo song that probably had no business ever being released. But for the most part,
the press and postings I've seen have been really cool.
Huey: Whysall Lane is your latest band. How is that coming along? I
understand you guys will be touring with Blake & Jets To Brazil very shortly (ODD
ENOUGH: Shortly after this interview took place, this tour was cancelled due to an illness
within Jets To Brazil). Good luck with that. Are you planning on releasing any material
Adam: We recorded awhile back, but that's on hold until things settle
down over at Richard's house. He and his wife just had a baby, so he's got a full plate of
more important things to deal with. I'm really looking forward to the Jets dates. We're
doing a week with them on the West coast from Seattle to LA. Aside from playing with one
of my favorite bands and having the opportunity to play in front of good crowds, I get to
hang out with Blake.
Huey: When your name comes to mind, most people immediately
will think of Jawbreaker, but you are also very well known for your drum work with J
Church. Any J Church news? Has Lance recovered from the fire in his apartment over the
Adam: I haven't heard from him in weeks. I'm stockpiling some records and
appliances to send him. He lost literally everything, including a demo of the new J Church
record. But I figure this setback will inspire a batch of new songs.
Huey: I was reading through sites, and I found that you own
Lost Weekend, a cool video store located in San Francisco. What prompted you to jump into
that endeavor? Are you just a huge movie buff?
Adam: I was until we opened the store...No, I still am, but I'm obviously
inundated with movies, a lot of which suck. After the band (Jawbreaker) split up, I was
looking for something to do to make a living. I was always interested in film - I sort of
minored in film at UCLA, taking screenwriting and production classes. So I schemed-up with
Dave Hawkins, the drummer of Engine 88, and Christy Colcord, Jawbreaker's tour manager,
and we found a space on Valencia Street in the Mission and just went for it. Cut to me
five years later lighting a Cuban cigar off a burning stack of hundred dollar bills.
Huey: Blackball (Jawbreaker's record label to those who are unaware)
released the ETC. album over the summer, but you guys aren't done yet. I also read on the
site that you have purchased the rights for the band's last record, Dear You, back from
Geffen. Any updates on the progress of the re-release? I was reading through the message
board, and I remember reading that there will be an unreleased demo version of I Love You
So Much It's Killing Us Both, which is pretty neat. Can we expect new packaging & art
for the record, or will it stay the same with the re-release?
Adam: It'll be the same for the most part, though I may add some pages in
the booklet for more photos. The CD will have the Fireman video, as well. I'm supposed to
pick up the masters and artwork today. I'm excited. This has been a long time coming.
Huey: What have you been listening to lately? And more importantly, what
are your thoughts on today's current music scene?
Adam: Gillian Welch's Time (The Revelator). Amazing. I just bought the
new Coldplay record. It isn't as immediately hooky as the first one, but it's really nice.
Bruce Springsteen's The Rising. The thing about Springsteen is that he's the most
celebrated AND underrated artist ever. It seems like his most popular songs - the ones you
hear on the radio all the time - are never his best, or even indicative of the rest of the
record. It's the other eight songs on his albums that stay with you. I haven't picked up
Perfecting Loneliness yet, but I'll do hardcore time with that one. I actually don't have
any Jets records right now. I had to trash the last two 'cause my car stereo ate them up
after too many plays. I'm a fan. I don't pretend I have any knowledge of what's going on
in the world of indie rock. I'm still listening to shit I put on mix tapes in high school
and catching up on the classic rock I missed out on.
Huey: Out of all your various experiences, what's your favorite memory
from the Jawbreaker days? And a side-question. If there was one thing from that era that
you could have done differently, what would it be?
Adam: For some reason when I think of touring, I remember a weird
moment from our first national tour. We were somewhere in Pennsylvania trying to make it
back to New York in time for the next show. I woke up in the loft in the van. We'd been
driving all night, and it was just before sunrise. There was a really dense fog all around
us and although you couldn't see ten feet ahead, Chris was driving like a total maniac. We
must have been rolling along at a ninety mile an hour clip, but it was oddly slow and
quiet in the van. Everyone was asleep and the only sound was the wind whipping through the
windows. It was so strange, like we were in a cloud. We drove through this deserted town
and it was like we were the only people on earth. About a half hour later I asked Chris to
pull over so I could piss. We were literally in the middle of nowhere. I jumped out of the
van and almost broke my ankle slipping on a newspaper that was in a plastic bag for when
it rains. I looked around and noticed there wasn't a house or mailbox anywhere in sight. I
don't know why, but I opened the bag and pulled out the newspaper. It was a pristine New
York Times from July 20, 1969. I opened it up and the headline read, "Armstrong Walks
on Moon." I reasoned that it had fallen out of a car and must have been
someone's reasearch or intended as a gift. So I'm standing there and I see off in the
distance just above the horizon what I can only describe as a silver, saucer-shaped object
hovering briefly, then landing beside a nearby grain silo. By the looks of it in relation
to the silo, it had to have been ten, maybe twelve inches in diameter. Then I saw a young
boy berating a small dog. He was hitting the dog with a yellow whiffleball bat over and
over and this poor dog was cowering and yelping with every blow. When the dog finally
spoke, he sounded curiously like Warren Oates - the younger Warren Oates from Two-Lane
Blacktop. He said very clearly, "If you want me to catch it on the fly, you'll have
to do better than that." And as quickly as they had appeared, they were swept away
under the blades of a combine helmed by the irrepressible Larry Hovis, better known as
Sergeant Carter on the hit 70s show Hogan's Heroes. That's all true except for the first
Huey: Ah, a location question. I have a huge thing for San Francisco. I
live on the East Coast, but I am seriously considering relocating to the San Francisco
area (or close to there) after college. You've obviously lived in San Francisco for a
while now. What are your thoughts on it?
Adam: I like this place more now that the internet thing crashed.
Huey: Another completely random and nonmusical question. What's your
Adam: Baseball season.
Huey: The legend lives on. Does it excite you that a whole new generation
of kids (including myself) have discovered Jawbreaker? It just seems like this is a band
that will live on forever. You've heard it a million times, but I just wanted to thank you
for the large influence that your music has had on me.
Adam: I'm thrilled that the new kids are getting into the band. I'm proud
that we did something that wasn't special to just us - that other people seek us out and
find relevance in what we did so long ago is very validating.
Huey: Will the re-release of Dear You be the last thing we
ever hear from Blackball? Any future plans with the label? Have you ever considered the
possibility of releasing a tape or dvd containing footage of the band?
Adam: I don't know. It's kind of unfair for me to even call myself a
label at this point. It's such a cottage industry. Really my only work has been to pick
some songs and design a package. The crew down at Revolver and at Hopper PR do the rest. I
haven't decided if I want to do other bands. The Blackball website sums it up:
"Thirteen Years. Three Releases. One Band." But I would definitely try to put
out anything I'm associated with. That way I can fail on my own terms.
Huey: Is there one thing in life that you are striving towards in the
future that you hope to accomplish?
Adam: I'd like to see my older daughter ride her bike without training
wheels before New Years and I'd like my younger daughter to say "Dada" and know
she's talking about me before her first birthday. But those would be their
accomplishments. For myself, I want to stay creative musically and artistically. Aside
from being with my kids, I'm happiest when I'm working at making something out of nothing.
And it doesn't even have to be good.
Huey: Anything you'd like to add?
Adam: Stay away from hard drugs. If you want to kill yourself, do the
thing like your grandparents and smoke. It may hurt, but it looks cool as shit and you'll
Special thanks to The Complete
Jawbreaker Page for the picture.
Location Is Everything...