I N T E R V I E W
Jason Johnston of Jakob
By Arpie Shirehorse
HUP caught up with Jakob drummer Jason Johnston ahead of the band’s show at Nivara Lounge this coming Saturday, August 6th. Read on to find out about the band’s early days, what it meant to win the Taite Music Award in 2015, and the recent tour of Europe and the UK.
You’re finally coming back to Hamilton! What took so long? Yay, finally back to Hamilton and sorry it’s been so long. I kept on getting lost due to taking highway 27 to Auckland.
You have been together as a band since 1998. Life is no doubt very different for you all as individuals compared to when you started out. Did you think you’d be still doing it almost twenty years later? Jakob has been a band now for 18 years and we are all still based in Napier. Life has changed dramatically since we first started, for all three of us. Having kids, buying houses and still having day jobs. Maybe back then we dreamed we would one day turn this into a passion that we could make a living from. In terms of readiness, we were ready to tackle it as far as having no children or mortgage to worry about, yet Jakob as musicians were not ready for that step. It’s kinda funny, now we are totally ready as a band but we all have other commitments and priorities that come first before the band. It’s totally backwards but we still are having to pay to play...touring Europe/UK is very expensive and we pay for the whole thing of our own backs. We always envisioned we would be still playing together but we never put a time frame on it. Time flies when you’re having fun. And when it's not fun anymore, we are done.
Do you remember the early days much at all? How did you all meet and start jamming? The earlier days...ahhh, great times man. They were awesome and nothing much has changed as far as how we feel about the music we play. All three of us were skateboarders back in the day, skating the local indoor skate parks, The Skate Domain and Taradale , Flaxmere, Havelock North Bowls and the schools and street in Hawke's Bay... that's going back 25 years. I had just started at Tamatea High School (third form) and was already jamming with new friends I had made. Matt Emery (formerly of Hamilton bands The Clerics and Amy Racecar - Ed) was a great bass player who came in from another high school and we just clicked. He introduced me to a guy who played guitar from Napier Boys High who turned out to be Jeff. We jammed for hours and hours at Tamatea High music room after hours, and honed our skill playing Tool, Helmet, Living Colour, Pearl Jam, Rage, STP, Smashing Pumpkins…the list goes on. Lots of jamming and a few flat parties. Maurice thought he'd give it a go on the mic...he sounded pretty good so he became our singer in a covers band, which then turned into an originals band called Vaccine (formed in 1996) Everyone did their own thing for a few years, then Vaccine came back to Napier at the end of 1997 and Jakob was born in 1998.
How is Jakob’s music formed/what is your writing process typically? We still jam out an idea and take it from there...we don't try and force it if someone isn't feeling the buzz. Most of the time we'll try to record all jam sessions, but it’s the golden moments that usually don't get recorded and we have hundreds of those.
Things got difficult there for a while, with each of you injuring hands in various ways, one after the other. Was there ever a moment when you thought the band might not get going again? When I cut tendons in my right hand we had a month long European tour booked. I told the boys that I would stand down and I asked Aaron Harris (ISIS and Palms) to take over the duties so that Jakob could still do the tour. Aaron was totally down for the opportunity but Maurice and Jeff decided to flag the tour till my hand had healed. The first show back was Jakob supporting TOOL in Australia at the Brisbane Entertainment Center and Melbourne's Myer Music Bowl. If anyone gets hurt we just carry on and don't get all hung up over things that are out of your control. The longer you don't get to play music the more drive you have to want to.
In 2015 you won the Taite Music Prize for ‘Sines’, a fantastic achievement! Has that been useful at all in terms of realising any ambitions for the band? Even from the beginning we have been very humble. "Yeah she'll be right, sweet as, chur bro algood". Never going out to make a million dollars...no expectations = no disappointments. That’s been my motto the whole way through. So winning the Taite Music Award in 2015 blew us away. How can that happen to a non-commercial band with very little following in NZ compared to the commercial shit that can sell out Vector Arena yet have only been around for 4 years or so, straight out of Otago Uni…anyway. Jakob winners of the 2015 Taite Music Award...it sounds pretty sweet, and the $10k prize money couldn't have come at a better time as we were all booked for a European/UK tour three days after winning the award. Stoked.
How was the recent tour of Europe? Any highlights or lowlights? The recent European / UK tour was "epic". Jakob's following and support in Europe and UK is growing so fast it’s crazy. So many people think we make a living off playing music and to them we are "famous" in Europe yet we get back home and we have to go back to work. Classic kiwi buzz. All the venues were packed and everyone appreciated our music and the travel we had to undertake to play for them in their home towns. The USA is the same, but we have not been back for a few years. We need to win that $40 Million this Saturday, then we'll live that dream. The whole tour was great...highlights for me were coming home to hold my family. And have a roast lamb with all the trimmings. Chur!
Jakob, So Laid Back Country China, Desbot - Nivara Lounge, Saturday August 6th - limited pre-sale tickets available from Under The Radar.