Most fans of heavy music do not need an introduction to Pennywise. The band are now considered to be punk rock legends who can now boast a career that has lasted for 31 years and seen them release twelve feature length albums. To be honest there was no way you could have been a child of the 1990s and liked heavy music without having some kind of interaction with Pennywise. While you may not have had an album in your collection chances are you would have caught them on the airwaves, seen them at a festival or found one of their tracks hidden away on a CD compilation that you valued deeply.
Now Pennywise are once again returning to Australia for a very special tour that will see them perform their 1999 album Straight Ahead in its entirety so HEAVY Magazine sat down and chatted to Fletcher Dragge to see what fans can expect.
“Four or five years ago we decided that we were going to do a tour down to Australia and we thought we would do an About Time twenty year anniversary full-length album tour,” he says as we chat about how this tour has come about. “We had never ever down that before, anywhere. Not in America, not in Europe…never anywhere had we ever played a full album live before. We decided that Australia would be the place to give it a try and it went so amazingly well – it was so cool learning all the songs again and there were some songs that we had never played live before.”
“It was great to get some of the songs out there again and the first night we played it just went absolutely crazy from start to finish,” he continues. “The energy was just absolutely insane so I guess that was the birth of Pennywise doing full album shows. For some reason we like to do full album shows in Australia because in America we have only down selected markets basically… but yeah Australia gets the full kit. The real deal!”
As the discussion turns to the fact that the band will be playing Straight Ahead in its entirety this time Dragge says. “It is the twentieth anniversary of Straight Ahead so we though why not. We made kind of a split second decision to do it without really listening to it. Now we listened to the album and we’re like ‘holy shit this album is really, really difficult to play.’ It is extremely fast, the songs are very diverse and complicated compared to other Pennywise songs so we’ve discovered now that we are all in a panic trying to figure out how we are going to pull this off. But we are all going to start practicing and immediately get into the studio and by the time we get there we are going to be ready to go. It is scary but it is going to be awesome.”
That leads us to talk about the nitty-gritty about how to work out how to play tracks that may never have meant to have been played live. “It is definitely a challenge,” he admits. “You have multiple guitar tracks going on, yes I am the only guitar playing but you do that kind of stuff in the studio for fun to add depth. Bands who have two or three guitar players can pull that off all the time but for me it is picking what I think is the most important part and then making sure I can implement it so it sounds cool. A lot of the time it is experimenting and I’ll try and try that and sometimes it is like morphing parts. That goes for vocals as well because you have harmonies and stuff like that have to be worked as well.”
“The main part is there are about six or seven tracks or maybe eight that we have never played live,” he explains as he continues his answer. “We have never, ever touched the stage with those songs so we are going to start with the songs that we have never played and those that are the most difficult and feel those out, we’ll work them out and have them sounding good live and then move onto those that we have been playing regularly in our sets for twenty years – those are no brainers but there are a bunch of them like ‘Greed’ that are going to be really difficult and one voice, there are going to be a bunch of them that are going to be really interesting but we’ll practice them in a sweaty garage, feel it out and get ready then we will come over and make it happen!”
To finish off he says, “Let’s see… No Fun At All… one of our favourite bands of all time, Strung Out – another one of our favourite bands of all time and Pennywise playing Straight Ahead I’m pretty sure you are guaranteed a night of chaos and mayhem. Get some tickets, come down, get a couple of beers into you and get ready for one hell of a ride because I think it is going to be the best album show we have done so far because this album is just fucking crazy and it is one of my favourites… so you see in the pit!”
You can find all the Pennywise tour info below.