Fans champing at the bit for DANCE GAVIN DANCE’s upcoming Downtown Battle Mountain II release were thrown into a panic this month when talented, yet notoriously flaky singer Jonny Craig—only recently returned to the band after being unceremoniously booted in 2007—tweeted, “I'm sorry everyone but I'm going to be taking a very very very long hiatus. All my tours and CDs are cancelled. Thank you and goodnight.” Although Craig tempered his comments afterward, posting “I will be playing out the tours with DGD and Emarosa,” followers had to wonder if the DGD “reunion” is already doomed. Luckily, the commendably forthcoming JON MESS (far left), DGD’s resident screamer, was willing to give it to AP straight:
As much as fans were stoked to hear about the Downtown Battle Mountain sequel and reunion, there was some question replacing former vocalist Kurt Travis with the prodigal Jonny Craig. How much of it was it done for nostalgia and hype?
JON MESS: What basically happened was during the summer, Will [Swan] and Matt [Mingus] expressed that they weren't happy…. They were having issues, all of them, and basically Kurt called me and said, “We need you to come to this tour; we need some extra hype. I feel like everything's gonna break up.” So I did the tour, and by the end Will and Matt were like, “We don't want to write another record with Kurt, because he smokes two packs of cigarettes a day, and he’s claiming he's gonna sing even higher on the next album, and his range is already nothing right now. So we're just gonna break up the band at the end of this tour, because there's nowhere left to go.” Then they basically came up with the idea that they could just break up the band whenever, but do this record first and see what happens. So we’re at the point where we'll see how long we can do this without Jonny dying or whatever.
After booting him once, why work with him again?
He's just a character. He's very bizarre and non-consistent and won't remember anything you talk to him about two days later. That's just how he is, and it works. I think it makes it harder and more stressful, but it produces something more unique. You're not going to be able to create that sort of dynamic with people—the whole dynamic of that makes it unpredictable and that lends itself to the music.
Jonny set tongues wagging earlier this month when he tweeted he was taking a break from music, then said later he’d only tour. Is he even still in the band right now?
He is. When we heard about that, we thought it was hilarious, just because he knew he was being overdramatic. He got into some argument with that rapper Mod Sun [aka Derek Smith, formerly drummer of Four Letter Lie] which basically means Jonny’s whole solo album is on hold, mainly because Jonny was using Derek's studio, and then they got into some argument and stopped recording. Jonny, just being himself, decided that since he'd been doing so much work and touring and whatever, that he needed to quit music. A day later he calmed down and realized he wasn't quitting music.
Once during recording [DBM II], when he was fucked up, he told me he was quitting music and moving to Russia. You can't take anything he says that seriously. That's why we thought it was so funny, because all these kids were freaking out. He wrote, “All my CDs are cancelled,” but Craig [Ericson, label head] at Rise informed him that he in fact does not own his music, and you can't just cancel a CD right before it comes out. So that was pretty funny, and he'd already finished all his vocals anyway. He's still doing the tours as far as we know, and he says he's gonna announce something after that, but I don't really know what that means.
You tweeted in response: “Jonny has quit music to pursue the filming of his documentary I’m still here 2 bitch.” Were you legitimately pissed?
I was just making fun of him, because I'd seen that documentary with Joaquin Phoenix, I’m Still Here, and I just thought if he had made his own documentary based off that, Jonny would quit music to become a rapper, and it’d be like, I’m Still Here Too, Bitch! It was just me saying, “You're full of shit, stop being a dramatic little baby.” Then he hit me up a day later and said, “That wasn't cool man. That's not funny,” but I said, “I thought it was hilarious.”
It sounds like you’ve found a way to cope.
People are like, “[Jonny’s] such an asshole,” but they need to look at him as entertainment, because that's what he is: an entertainer, a singer. You can also be entertained by his crazy antics by not letting them affect you. He was really funny during the recording, just loud and silly.
That said, you admitted DGD’s future pretty much hinges on whether or not this lineup implodes again. Isn’t that kind of unsettling?
I think that it depends; you'd have to ask each member in the band. We started that whole Secret Band thing—me, Eric [Lodge], Will and Matt, who've all been friends since we were 15—so obviously if Dance Gavin Dance didn't work out, we could continue that band. I know that Will's gonna continue to make music; he's probably going to release a rap album. Matt might either go into the industry as a tour manager or go and do session drum work for other bands. Everyone has girlfriends, Eric has an economics degree, Will's a professional video editor, which earns him a lot more money than the band does, so everyone has fallback, but that's just in the event of a disaster.
I don't think anyone wants to see the band end, but it definitely would be a very strange to replace Jonny again. It's too hard to speculate, so we’ll go with the flow. People are expecting us to break up at some point, and we have five albums, so that's a pretty decent body of work, I guess. It wouldn't be an absolute tragedy.
What about touring? Are you guys going to be able to get along together on the road?
We're not gonna be in a van, so that's gonna be really nice. I think one factor is that we're all a lot older: We're all 25 or about to be 25, and Matt's 22. Back in the day when we were with Jonny, he didn't have the same amount of friends and connections and whatnot, so there are plenty of people to keep him occupied now, so we don't have to deal with him. [Laughs.] We'll see how it goes. We don't really care as much to put up with stuff, so that definitely means that if something goes wrong, we're just gonna say “Fuck it” probably, just because everyone's pretty satisfied with the amount of music that's been made and everyone has other things they can do. I guess as you get older, the whole playing to kids, I don't want to say you grow out of it, but it loses its charm. I think making music is much more rewarding than playing it. I know there are other bands or people that say they love being onstage, and I think it's fun, but I'm becoming more of a homebody as I get older. alt