Interview with Rick Jackett
Finger Eleven

Fanning myself and sipping on a glass of sweet tea, it is summer time in Nashville, and it is where I finally caught up with bass guitarist, Rick Jackett, of Finger Eleven about their band, Canada and their new album- “Five Crooked Lines.”

08/2015- Song River
(50th Edition of Vents Magazine)

Song River: Y’all are in Nashville right now, so you're hot and humid?

Rick Jackett: Oh, yeah it is so sticky here, its insanity here. I am from Canada and we get the humidity pretty bad there too so, but I’m cool with the heat, it's just the humidity that gets you.
SR: Looking at the population count and major cities in Canada, is the music scene quite different up there by comparison to the states?

RJ: We all were born and raised in an area called, Burlington, and when we started in Burlington there was no scene, it was really just us and a handful of other bands. So, we all decided let's go make a scene, so we just went and played wherever we could, like at the Lions Club or some bar. The bar of course would always be packed and the kids would get rowdy and the bar owner would be like you're never coming back here again (laughed). But actually we had to go up to Toronto to make it happen. Toronto has a very large music scene, it is different from the states, but you work at it and do it.

SR: What a way to start of this new release too of your new album, you had a big release party there in Toronto?

RJ: It was awesome! We always wanted to do one of those “secret shows” and show up and play not under our real name. So we ended up playing in a small club, and it was so comfortable going back to that size. It's cool to play for a large crowd, but to play for a hundred people who really care, so it was really amazing as it reminded us how special these times are. We wanted to go and play it for them, before we released the album, we are so excited for people to hear it.

SR: I recall some of those impromptu unannounced moments when bands would just show up and play, like U2 did on top of a building...

RJ: Yeah, yeah. I know we grew up being so into music and going to concerts and just being so into those types of moments that just happened. Those really special once in a lifetime types of concerts and to be able to put one on, those are just really kind of cool things.

We all sorta have this weird mentality that we only get to play these songs live for the first time once... so, let's make it happen.

First Impressions

SR: You bring up a good point Rick, you really only do get to play these songs for the first time once. That's kind of a sobering thought.

RJ: It is, but it is also sorta what you live for, you know? To me, that’s the ultimate sink or swim moment and I think that should be the danger of rock n roll and live music. That's what separates the men from the boys kind of thing. And really you think about, back in the day maybe it didn’t matter as much, but now with the internet, someones tapping it and its out there immediately. And I love that, the immediacy, its great. People being able to share what they are totally into right then, or if someone can't go they can watch it, it connects everyone. It's a very neat phenomenon.

SR: In the 21st Century for music it almost seems like it is a sink or swim type of thing.

RJ: Well, thinking about it to compare to something like the middle class system in politics. The middle is fading away. It's either you’re Taylor Swift or you have a year to become like a Taylor Swift. I think for us though that is where we feel so fortunate because here we are on our sixth record and we have no intentions of stopping. We love it.

There are many bands we saw signed that have just disappeared, they couldn’t afford it, or the label couldn’t keep them on. It takes a lot of money to run the engine of a rock machine, and when no one is coming in, well it affects everything. And that is really what happened to a lot of people is that the money was going to the records, and you could find a way to make it work. Now, there are fewer ways, it almost has cut off a third of the income. The young artists are going to still have their chance to start, but it's that middle artist on record three, that fell by the wayside.

SR: When you are in that middle place around album three and trying to decide where to move from there. Do we want to change sound, direction, etc... it's a dangerous point for many. It would seem if you don't do things a certain way you fall through the crevices and get swallowed.

RJ: Which I think is the real shame. I like those third and fourth records when they were figuring things out. To have young bands be told they have to follow a formula at their second album, I just don't think is fair. It's a ripple down affect and I think we are seeing it now.

SR: Well, looking at your new album and listening Rick you all have seem to have said, “Forget it we are doing what we want on this one.”

RJ: I think even when we were young, even now, we've always had this touch of love for the 'Big Four.” Floyd, Zeppelin, Beatles... you know, but for many years they never seemed heavy enough for us, but for the last couple of years, as we've soaked up the philosophy of the record. Where it would be done on the fly. When we had producer Dave Cobb come in there was no editing, no tuning, just recorded it, if it sounds good its done. We knew we weren’t interested in doing as it was, we wanted it raw and not many producers will agree to that. I think it was in 2 weeks we drove to Nashville and recorded, mixed and it turned out as close to being what we wanted. You can hear the excitement to it, we are very proud of it.

SR: Past albums you've created have had the layering of studio sounds.

RJ: Absolutely.

Back To The Basics

SR: But this time you decided not to, why?

RJ: I think it has to do with the last record and we spent six weeks in the studio layering and layering and we loved it and it was fun to do, but when you listen back to it seems you’ve lost the individuality of each, the voices. And every rock record seems to sound like that, and it sort of became the way to make hard rock music. And we were like wait a minute our favorite bands didn't do that, even the heavily produced records of Floyd where everyone was doing it. We wanted something simple this time, a raw energy. Like even a demo, using minimal equipment and they take on this bigger thing. And maybe we lost something along the way, so our goal this time we didn’t want to lose our own vision and Dave totally got it, we would do these one time takes and like that's it, we aren't going to ever get that any better. A lot of producers aren’t cool with that, but Dave really was cool with it. It was just really a good match, it really was.

SR: As I have chatted with many musicians and bands over this past year, many of them are saying the same thing... they are ready for their albums to have that same feel and sound as live does. Then there is the other side of the manicured musicians, who want everything to sound pristine, so when you go hear them they've a huge entourage of equipment coming in to recreate the studio sound.

RJ: I hear ya, we have always been a real believer in live music first. We are amazed in our own genre of music at the bands that bring in tracks, but we do what is live. They are two very different things. studio and live are to be two different things. You go see Dylan right, and he is going to do his version. It shouldn’t be locked into the same rules as studio, I think you can feel it, its like you hear strings, but there aren’t any strings. I think a disclaimer should be on the concert tickets actually. There's nothing cooler that four or five people are on stage and you’re hearing all the sound.
When we started in high school we were this raw band and we moved towards this studio sounding band and we wanted to be back.

SR: Why?

RJ: Everything I think is based on opportunity, you know you have the better mics, better drums, better sound and different types of obsessions, you want to make a sonically sounding record so you have to double up on the guitars here and there and that’s exciting as you make it bigger and bigger. But you can get there without all the crazy production. We have just had the luxury of being in the creating of music long enough, so we can see it. We don’t want to sound like we always sound, this record is that. Lets make a record we are totally proud of. Raw. This is simple, this what we wanted to do, we held out till we found the right team to do it.

SR: You brought in Chris Powell to play drums on the album, is he touring with you too?

RJ: Ya, we brought him in on the album, but he is so big and he does a lot of country, so he isn't on tour with us, but he was so excited to come on. He elevated so many of the songs which inspired us to even reach further. Put Chris behind the drums, and I think its let Chris play. Chris and Dave had a great relationship and the back and forth, it was just great. It was so cool to hear him drop these Zeppelin sound beats, and it was sick (laughed).

SR: Who is the tour drummer then?

RJ: Steve Molella.

SR: Will he become a part of the band solidified?

RJ: We've been this four piece of us right now that made up this record. We were the four original members, even back in the day when we started this in high school our drummer back then for five years wasn’t a part of the four. Its the four of us that are the songwriters, the makers that are the core. At this point, from the beginning was we would have a drummer come in. Steve is just fantastic though. We are so very, very fortunate to have had two great drummers with us on this, both Chris and Steve.

SR: Why the five-year time period in between these two albums?

RJ: We told our management we wanted this time to create. You know our time to kind of hide out and create. We were working though the whole time, it was just our way of doing what we wanted to do. And I think it's what lead us to do this record this way, as we would go out and go to concerts and listen. Listening too to albums and records that have been made by Zeppelin, Floyd, Iron Maiden, Genesis as they have all made these albums that have withstood the test of time- altogether influenced this new album. So, this period really was our collective working period of time. All while writing, and rewriting our new songs, so when we went down to Nashville we had a pile of maybe 40 songs, and all we felt would be good to put on an album. Then here it was these twelve hard rock songs, that came together and made this album.

SR: I have to ask Rick, back in high school the band's name was, “Rainbow Butt Monkeys,” why did you leave it?

RJ: (laughed) You know our band all began back in high school and that was the name we picked then. And going to Toronto, you know we talked it was hard to get noticed, and that is a name that got noticed. We were young, it was a young punk rock band and toured the record, we were in our twenties, and we saw there was a future for our band... we had one chance we knew that it was now... and this was the time to change our name. Musically, personality wise, the truth is we never thought anyone would have ever thought of that name again, and once the internet came around everyone now knows that name. It was the name for the time and the place for the music.

Now here we are, making the best music we can make and it is a blast. I know it's been a long wait, but we just want people to think the music is cool.

Wolves and Doors