Our At the Drive-In profile yesterday focuses on the reunion of the seminal post-punk legends, who dissolved in 2001. Before they hit the stage at Coachella this weekend, we tracked down members Omar Rodriguez-Lopez, Jim Ward and Tony Hajjar to find out why they finally decided to get the band back together. They also talk about their favorite ATDI songs, their new record label and getting heckled by So Cal fans in the early days. Here are excerpts from our interview that didn't make the story.
On brotherly love:
Omar Rodriguez-Lopez: I grew up with those guys. We became adults together in a tiny van. We lived in that van from when we were 17, when your hormones are all over the place, until our mid-'20s. We found love together, we lost love together, we lost friends together we found new friends together, and we came up together. That's what that experience is, that's what playing with those guys again is.
The music is a bi-product of that. That's why we knew that all we had to do is get into a room together again and it would work now that we're all talking again. The music is a bi-product of our chemistry; it's not independent of it.
On Rodriguez-Lopez getting over himself:
Rodriguez-Lopez: The guys started to say “Why not? Why wouldn't we play?” And I stuck to my same old high jargon of the past 10 years. “I kept saying that this band is in the past and I just wanna move forward.” And then one of the guys says to me “Get over yourself. It would be fun.” And then I go “You know… you're right.” And so it all happened very naturally in the way that human relationships happen. I still know those songs, the rest of the band still knows those songs and a lot of people would love to hear them. So it just felt like a nice thing to do.
Tony Hajjar: We just really wanted to play with each other again. We would've made some really bad decisions if money was our only incentive to do this.
On owning their master recordings of Relationship of Command:
Jim Ward: I don't want to leave my life up to lawyers and managers. At the time we split up, it was the lack of control that really drove me crazy. We were put into this machine that we just couldn't survive in. I want to control my own destiny and part of that is making sure the five of us realize that this is something we made and we're lucky enough to own it, which is incredibly rare so let's take advantage of it and let's make something even cooler. We have a lot of plans in the next year. The exciting part of it is that we get total control of our art which is not the usual thing.
On starting their new label, Twenty-first Chapter:
Ward: We're going to be starting a label specifically for At the Drive-In. We decided that the best thing would be to create something that the five of us own together. We're calling it Twenty-first Chapter. It's a reference to A Clockwork Orange. The U.S. version of the book only had 20 chapters because the 21st chapter is where Alex makes good and he changes. Cedric told me that story two months ago and I felt like it really put some sort of meaning on the fact that we get to open the book again and move on to the next chapter and in that chapter we make good on everything.
On playing the old songs:
Rodriguez-Lopez: It's really awesome. It's like seeing an old photograph of me. And the thing is, every time I put on the guitar and play those old songs, I get to see how I was thinking at the time and where I was at that point. I'm not coming from a place of intellect, theory or education. They're just shapes on a fret board and colors to me. I get to see what shape I was thinking in at the time and that's really interesting. Today, I'm somewhere completely different, somewhere else altogether.
Hajjar: I still feel very connected to the song “Chanbara.” There's just something about the way the percussion on that song fits together that gets me every time.
Ward: On “Lopsided,” I didn't realize what a strong connection I had to that song until we started playing with it and it was such a natural feeling and emotional connection. Even going back and playing “One-Armed Scissor,” which I was a little bit hesitant about, thinking that we played this song so much to the point where you start resenting it. But you go back and realize fuck, that's a good song.
On getting shit from SoCal crowds and no love in El Paso:
Ward: In the beginning, when bands like AFI and Good Riddance would take us out on tour in Southern California because they loved our band, we would get destroyed by their crowds — heckled and booed and shit thrown at us, because people didn't understand it.
And just because at some point, people understood what we were doing or whatever and our last record got big and became this sort of story, to come back and expect it to be the return of all of that is just not realistic.
We've been judged since the day that we started. People didn't even go to our shows in El Paso when we started. It would be couple of people when we were playing to hundreds of people in other cities. People didn't give a shit about our band. So if that is what we were looking for in life, then we would've been disappointed and quit a long time ago.
On what to cut and what to keep in their new set:
Ward: I think the thing we're doing now is playing the songs that all five of us played on. So it cuts out some of the earliest part of the catalog.
On who they want to see at Coachella this year:
Hajjar: I'm really excited to see Flying Lotus. I'm a huge fan.