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Ghoti Hook

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Ghoti Hook just released their latest release, Two Years To Never, which is their fourth Tooth & Nail release and the follow-up of the cover-CD Songs We Didn't Write. Though the band exists since 1991, Two Years To Never shows the maturing of the band in sound while the record features more diversity than before. Reason enough to hear what guitarist Mark Lacasse has to say about Ghoti Hook's latest effort.

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Interview With: Mark Lacasse

Date: August 23rd 2000

Where: This is an E-mail interview. Date refers to first E-mail answer.

Other Bandmembers: Jamie Tolosa (bass), Joel Bell (vocals & guitar), Adam Neubauer (drums).

Band's Geographical Home: Washington DC, USA

Discography: Sumo Surprise (1996), Banana Man (1997), Songs We Didn't Write (1998), Two Years To Never (2000).

Available Through: Ghoti Hook & Tooth & Nail Records

Official Website: Ghoti Hook

Interview By: mpo

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You just released the new album entitled Two Years To Never, the fourth Tooth & Nail release for the band. When I listen to it it strikes me that the band sounds more mature then on a previous album like Banana Man, that sounded like high energy poppunk, funpunk. Now the band seems to have a serious approach to the music. How do you feel about the new album?

I'm really happy about how the songs on Two Years To Never turned out. I think the new Ghoti Hook songs are really a reflection of the last three years of this band. There have been changes in the band's lineup, as well as changes in the influences and personal lives of the members. We thought we'd try to really express ourselves and be honest on this new record rather than be jokesters. We wanted to make a record that would stand the test of time and not get old after a couple of listens. We wanted to make a record that people would hear and go, "Whoa! This is Ghoti Hook? This is way better than their older stuff!" I think for the most part we've accomplished that.

Just before the release of the album original member Christian Ergueta left the band to move on to personal aspirations. Does his departure also have to do with the new direction you're moving into?

No, because he was there when we wrote all these new songs and recorded them. He was definitely into the songs we were writing for Two Years To Never and supported the broadening of our sound.

And what will he be doing in music or did he quit playing altogether?

I'm not really sure if he'll still be involved with music or not. He's a skilled business man so I wouldn't be surprised if he ended up managing bands or being a booking agent.

There's also quite some variety in sounds and ideas on the album. One song might be heavy, another one more like powerpop with punkpop roots. What's the idea of doing such an album?

One reason for the sound change is that I sort of took (former guitarist) Conrad's place as main co-writer (with Joel being the other one) so of course my style's going to be a bit different from Conrad's. Jamie and Adam each contributed a song as well which they hadn't really done in the past. There was one rule we had when writing this record and that rule was "Anything Goes". We just started writing without regard to what people would think of these new songs. If we wrote it and it was a good song, then it stayed. There was no intention on writing another Banana Man, although I'm sure there's some people out there who would have liked that more. Listening to my favorite albums, I notice there is almost always a variety of songs on those albums. Every song may be different, but they all sound like they came from the same band. That's what we were trying to go for on Two Years To Never.

With the variety on the new album I wonder what your main influences are. What kind of bands inspired you or do you write whatever comes up?

Some bands that everyone in Ghoti Hook is happy when their CD's are popped into the car stereo include the Pixies, the Dead Milkmen, AC/DC, Weezer, and the Supersuckers. We each have our own different musical influences though. Jamie's into a lot of the current rock 'n roll stuff, Joel listens to the radio a lot, Adam's into more obscure types of bands, and my tastes go across the board but my favorites are guitar based bands from the 60's through the 80's. The way we normally write songs is Joel will come up with a verse and chorus, and then I'll come up with a bridge and arrangement ideas or vice versa. However, this band is a writing democracy and Jamie and Adam share their ideas about how the songs should go as well, so it's never really just one person's vision in any song.

The album was produced by Sean O'Dwyer. He worked with bands like Blink 182 and Pink Floyd too. How did you get him involved?

After being really disappointed with the way Banana Man ended up sounding, we knew we wanted a big, thick, rock sound on our new album. Our friend Jay Jay is MxPx's guitar tech, and he had met Sean through his engineering work on their latest album, The Ever Passing Moment. Jay Jay sent Sean a demo of some of our new songs and he really liked them. He ended up doing the record for us for much less than he usually earns just because he liked us so much, plus it was his first widely distributed record that he produced as well as engineered on. We got along with him really well and he had some cool ideas to help enhance the songs.

What are some of the best things you've learned in the process?

The most important thing I've learned is what NOT to do in the studio next time around. There were just a few things that I did on the record that I thought were good ideas at the time but now I don't like that much when I listen to it. It's probably nothing that the average person would notice but since I was there for the whole process, I completely notice.

I have a promo-copy of the CD without lyrics so can you tell something about the lyrical content of the album? Is there a song that's special to you?

Like I said before, the lyrics are very reflective of the last three years of this band. There's only one funny song on the record, which is Chevy Nova and it's about Jamie's old piece of junk car. I also think there's some songs that are really spiritual. Whereas before there were songs like Spice Drops from Sumo Surprise, we decided to go with a more personal approach this time. I always tend to like those lyrics better anyway. You have to dig a little deeper, but the outcome is more satisfying.

Is there a song that has a special meaning to you because of its contents?

Not to me personally since I didn't write any of the lyrics except for a couple of lines in Campbelltown. However, I can definitely relate to the feelings expressed in the lyrics.

What kind of feelings are expressed then?

There's a few songs about not being satisfied with who you are and wanting to
change. That's an issue that I deal with all the time. There's a song about the loss of a loved one, which I had to deal with for the first time about two years ago. Finally, there's a couple of songs that are based on experiences we've had as a band and they serve as a general commentary on those experiences.

What are your expectations for this album? What do you hope for?

I hope that people who liked our previous albums really like this new one and that people who didn't like our previous albums would give this one a chance since it is a bit different. I also hope that it can get out to more people this time around, which we'll be trying to accomplish by getting out on the road as much as possible in the next year and through grassroots advertising.

In the past some of your songs were used for commercials and advertisements and for MTV Sports. How did that happen?

Buka, who plays in AP2 (also known as Argyle Park), does production work for MTV. He would often put songs from various Tooth and Nail bands into shows like MTV Sports, Road Rules, etc. I'm not quite sure how we got into those commercials, nor have I seen any of them.

On the improved website I read that you do this full-time now. How do you manage that? Do you sell enough CD's? Is it easy or is there need for part-time jobs to sustain?

We're actually a semi-full time band. If we were on the road consistently, then we could be full time but since we haven't done any serious touring as of late, we have to get temp jobs while we are home to pay our bills. We don't make any money through album sales except when we sell our own CD's at shows. Contrary to popular belief, a touring band who is on a bigger label is not always a rich band. In fact, it's usually the opposite. If I wanted to be making money, I'd go get some computer job somewhere and do a band on the weekends. We're trying to do this full time because we feel that God has called us to do this, and because we love music and meeting people across the world. It truly is a labor of love.

With other jobs you might be doing something others could do as well, perhaps even better. Does doing Ghoti Hook give you more than that? I mean, you're doing something unique in a creative manner. I can imagine that it makes you feel doing something worth doing, or is that not a motivation?

Being in Ghoti Hook does give me an outlet to create, and also to let out my pent up feelings in a positive way. I think if I stopped doing music altogether, I'd be pretty unhappy. It's also cool when you put on a good show and someone's really impressed by you and then when they find out you're Christians, they are amazed. There's just been so much garbage put out by Christians like about 95% of "Christian Rock" and those shirts that rip off all the corporate logos. I'd like people to know that you can follow God and still write good music. I think MxPx and P.O.D. are doing a good job of that these days.

So, it makes you feel happy. On the other hand, being in a band you're on public display. Being a Christian there might be all kinds of people expecting you to behave in a certain way, say certain things, etceteras. Have you ever experienced that?

I've experienced that from both Christians and non-Christians. There's obviously the non-Christians, who think that all Christians are self-righteous hypocrites who want to shove their beliefs down your throat. At the same time, there are the Christians who come down on you because they don't think you're "Christian" enough and that you're setting a bad example. It can be discouraging at times but the bottom line is that as long as we know we're alright with Jesus and are doing our best to follow Him, then it doesn't matter what other people think. Look at Jesus' life for example. All of the religious leaders hated Him and talked trash on Him as much as possible, and those who didn't care thought he was crazy. Do you think He would have stopped what He was doing just because those people didn't agree with Him or believe in Him? Not a chance. The bottom line is that we don't put up a front with people. What you see is what you get with Ghoti Hook. Some people like that and some have a problem with it, but that's how it is and we're not going to change.

And what do you like besides playing in the band?

My main hobby is collecting vinyl records and low budget movies/DVD's. I love to travel and check out different sights, stores, amusement parks, etc. I like skateboarding a lot too, but I'm not that good at it. Jamie likes fishing, camping, and hiking, Adam likes to draw and paint, and Joel likes to read books.

With the new album out one might wonder about touring plans. I found out there's a tour scheduled for this fall. Can you give a little insight into those plans?

So far, the fall tour is looking like it'll be about 6 weeks long starting in early October, with Hangnail opening up half of it and Element 101 and Calibretto 13 opening up the other half. The tour will most likely just cover the States, with maybe a show or two in Canada. We'll be posting all the tour dates on
our webpage at http://www.ghotihook.com as soon as we get them.

In the past the band toured with the Smiley Kids and also with MxPx. What would be your biggest wish as it comes to touring now? Playing in a certain country or with a certain band or doing a certain festival or maybe something extravagant like playing on top of the pyramid of Cheops?

My biggest realistic wish is that another big band would take us out on the road with them. The tour we did with MxPx was pretty amazing. There were about 1000-2000 people at every show and we got a really good response. We also got along very well with MxPx and The Hippos. I would also really like to go overseas again. We played a few shows in Germany, Norway, and Denmark last year and it was great. I'd love to play many other European countries and Japan as well.  My ultimate dream tour would be to open up for a band like Kiss or AC/DC and play huge, sold out stadiums. That would be the ultimate. I actually just saw AC/DC on Saturday and they were awesome!

Finally I have one question that I personally wonder about. I read the biography on the band's website and I couldn't find something written about the recording of Stryper's First Love. The band did this cover in 1996 for Flying Tart Records for the Stryper Tribute CD. Do you have any idea why it isn't mentioned?

It was mentioned on the bio before the old website got wiped out, but when we put it back on the new site we decided to scale down the bio a bit and we ended up taking out the story about that Stryper tribute CD. We'll probably list it in the Discography section later on. I think the Ghoti Hook song on there is really good and so is the Alexia song, but most of the other ones are really bad. We heard that Michael Sweet listened to the CD once and hated it, so that goes to show you how much of a quality tribute it is. :)

Some people wondered whether the bands on that CD really wanted to pay tribute. You weren't in Ghoti Hook at the time but can you tell what the background is of the band doing First Love?

You're right, a lot of the bands on the tribute didn't take it seriously. Conrad, Jamie, and Christian were big Stryper fans growing up. Flying Tart Records was interested in signing Ghoti Hook at one point, so that's probably how they ended up on the tribute. I don't know why they picked that particular song, but the song was meant as a tribute and to this day it's still one of the only good songs on there.

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