In the second part of our exclusive interview with Pennywise star Fletcher Dragge we talk new bands, old bands and the survival of bands.

Punk fan Tom Walsh fires the questions and the ebullient Dragge hits back in some style.

Look out for more exclusive interviews on rushonrock very soon!

rushonrock: What is your take on the current crop of punk bands around at the moment?

FD: I don’t think they are enough punk bands emerging at the moment.  I mean recently everyone tried to hop on the emo/screamo train, then with nu-metal and with pop punk when everyone was trying to be Blink 182 or Yellowcard which is well, whatever.  I think there aren’t enough outlets for punk bands to succeed anymore, there aren’t many independent labels left and no-one is making any money from recording so it’s discouraging for a punk band.  There are probably thousands of punk bands out there that are super good but we’ll never here of them because unless you know them you’ll probably never get their record.  The state of punk rock is that it’s almost gone back to it’s roots when you had to do everything yourself.

rushonrock: Is there new talent out there?

FD: There are local bands in our area like STD’s, Local Hate and The Darlings who all want to go out on tour and want to put out records and they have to do it themselves because they can’t find a record deal.  I think one of the more significant bands to come out lately is Gallows and they’ve made a very good mark but again they were a band who everyone thought would blow up and sell millions of records and didn’t really happen either.  We’re not in the days of Offspring or Rancid those days are over and I think that’s all due to the internet so no-one buys records anymore.  You can go to iTunes and make your compilations and spend 20 bucks for 20 of your favourite songs instead of buying an entire record for a couple of dollars.  It’s taken the entire idea of a record away, taken the idea of a record label away and it’s kind of taken away the scene.

rushonrock: How do you mean?

FD: If you look at anyone’s iPod it’s not like solely punk rock it’s like all different genres and it’s taken away from the old days where you’d put in your tape of like Bad Religion or NoFX in your car and you just listen to that entire album front to back.  If you were into the punk rock scene you only listened to punk rock.  Now there’s a huge of crossover of kids listening to all kinds of music which I think is great but now it’s taken away from the scene.

rushonrock: Do you think there are any bands out there that have the longevity to stay together as long as yourselves or Bad Religion?

FD: The potential is probably low because now people are so fickle and music is now a constantly changing thing.  I’m sure the likes of Linkin Park will last another fifteen years because they have such a huge fan base.  If you can get your fan base to a certain level and you’ve put out multiple records and your customer has come back and bought three or four records then sure he’s going to come to your show in 15 years’ time.  I’ll be going to see Metallica if they’re still going in 10 years’ time, fuck yeah, just like I did with The Ramones or Black Flag, if they did a legitimate reunion show, but for a new band to keep people interested for multiple albums is hard.  As far as punk bands are concerned I can’t really think of any band that’s had unparalleled success recently.

rushonrock: Why is that?

FD: Most bands start off and sell a lot of albums and usually hit a peak.  The minute you start going downhill is when you start losing it.  A lot of bands now have one album and start going downhill from there.  Bands like The Vines or The Hives will they still be around in fifteen years?  Maybe, I mean I love The Hives but they had that instant success and then they kind of fell off the cliff a bit.  I think the longevity comes from fans constantly coming to your shows whenever you play in their town.

rushonrock: Do your crowds reflect your longevity?

FD: We could play a Pennywise show in any town and you’d see 14 year old kids in the front row but then you’d see guys that are like 40 years old that’s been listening to your band for 20 years and he’s still there with the Pennywise tattoo.  It’d be nice for bands to have that kind of longevity, I can’t believe we’ve been around this long, it’s crazy especially now that we have a new singer.  It’s the worst case scenario losing your lead singer but I think for Pennywise it’s always been about the fans and about the message of the band rather than the band members themselves.  We’re not big rockstars we tend to keep a semi-low profile we’re just normal guys and everyone in the band treats each other as equals.  When Jason [Thirsk, former Pennywise bass player] died we technically should’ve split up but we didn’t stop for anything, that’s the deal me and Jason made.  If I was to go I’d want the band to carry on.

rushonrock: You grew up looking up to bands like Black Flag and Social Distortion do you get a lot of bands say that they look up to Pennywise as a major influence?

FD: With every band that is successful you’re going to have kids that want to emulate that.  It took a while to sink in for me that there was a load of kids in bands that wanted to sound like Pennywise.  I never really knew of it until kids would come up to me with demos saying “listen to our band we’re called Living For Today” and they’ve named their band after a Pennywise song, it’s crazy.  It’s funny that kids are so inspired by us as when we were growing up we were listening to Black Flag, Minor Threat, Social Distortion and The Descendants so we were always trying to emulate them.  It’s a honour when someone hands you a demo tape and it sounds like Pennywise.  It’s really cool.

rushonrock: What are your plans for the rest of the year?

FD: We’ve been doing the Warped Tour for the tenth time or something.  I don’t think we’ll be doing any festivals in the UK but I think after Warped Tour we’re going to go to Indonesia, China and Singapore which is a whole new market we couldn’t go to with Jim.  We’re also doing a Canadian tour next month so we’ll have two months off for writing and recording and then get back into the touring cycle.  We’re hoping to have a record out either before Christmas or shortly after New Year then we’ll be back over here to promote the new record.  We’ve been so restricted with touring due to the turmoil within the band so it’s good to be getting out and playing again.  We’ve neglected England so badly in the past so we’ll be back over more regularly.  The bottom line is without your fans you’re nothing as a band.

rushonrock: And without your band you have nothing as a fan…

FD: Yeah, you’d go out and buy a record and a band t-shirt and you sit in your bedroom or your car listening to the album waiting for like a year or two years for this band to come to your town when they do play in your town it’s a big fucking night.  You’re going to see your favourite band.  You go out, you get pissed and then you come to the show and have a fucking good night.  We don’t want to take that away from the kids, fuck no, I’ve always felt that we’ve had a responsibility to play a show for the kids that have supported us.