Posted August 19, 2006


Lo-fi punk rarely sounded as good as The Jack Saints, the San Francisco trio that's been slogging it out since the mid '90s. Nick Nava (bass), Mike Desert (guitar) share vocals while Bill Randt holds down the beat, a relative newcomer who came via the New Bomb Turks to replaced original drummer Regal. When a band's ex-drummer names himself after his favourite strip club and most of their songs seem to be about horror movies or getting inelegantly wasted, you know this is a a band that won't trouble radio programmers, and The Jack Saints couldn't give a shit. Drawing their influences from all the right places ('70s and '80s Aussie rock being one of them), they've blurted out a split album with the Idiots (1998's "Sweating Like a Whore in Church") and two full-length efforts (2000's "Rock and Roll Holacaust" and 2005's "Rock and Roll Save Our Lives But Now It's Trying to Kill Us ") on a variety of labels. The Jack Saints play rowdy, irreverent, flat-to-the-floor punk rock that one UK magazine described as "cheap and cheap drugs and cheaper sex all mixed pretense, short and fast and just a blast". Europe will find out for itself first-hand in September and October 2006 as The Jack Saints hit the Continent for their first overseas tour. THE BARMAN thought that was his cue to talk to NICK NAVA and MIKE DESERT. Here's the result.

Q: Gday Nick and Mike. So what's been doing with the Jack Saints on the live front and how has the new-ish album been received? What other projects have you each been involved with?

Nick: Hey Craig, thanks for the interview! We've played only two shows so far this year, but all that's about to change as we're off to Europe for 20+ dates in September-October. I don't know how sales have been and the CD isn't distributed here in the States, it's on the Italian label Scarey Records, hopefully with our tour we can turn a few people onto the band. It's been getting pretty good reviews and since it's been six years between albums I'm just happy that some people remember us!

Mike: We've mostly gotten good reviews! There's been a couple bad ones, and a few confusing ones -like that we have a ska element to our music! Some crazy stuff, but I think most people have liked it and gotten the overall humor of it. I sometimes play with members of Crime, the Phantom Surfers and the Bananas in a jug band called the "Poontang Wranglers", but I've only played with em a couple times since I've moved down to L.A.

Q: I checked out your re-vamped website and got a lot of laughs out of that review by the guy from Sleazegrinder. Lots of bands would be stoked to get something as negative as that!

Mike: Yeah! I actually posted on the message board about that. The guy who reviewed it actually seemed like a nice guy. The review was mostly him making assumptions about us and the people who listen to us, which was weird. You'd think we had pictures of flaming dice and motorcycles on our cover from what you read in that review! He pretty much said we were everything I hate. Anyway, I think he knows he was wrong now - as far as the music goes though, someone not liking it doesn't bother me at all.

Nick: There have been a couple of negative reviews; the one in Maximum Rock and Roll described us as "polished" and accused us of trading our bourbon bottles for Calistoga mineral water, the exact opposite of that Sleazegrinder review!

I have no idea what those guys are thinking and I imagine if we compared record collections things would make more sense. But, a good record collection doesn't make a good band, and I'm under no illusion The Jack Saints will apeal to everybody nor would we want to. I remember buying records as a kid BECAUSE of a bad review I read about a band!


Q: "Rock and Roll Saved My Life" has some great tongue-in-cheek moments and shows a band that doesn't take itself too seriously. Does the same apply to wanting to be part of the wider music scene?

Nick: You know, we try not to take ourselves to seriously, but like anyone who creates something we want it to be seen for what it is. I get a little fed up with alot of the hype surrounding bands I consider worthless, and maybe that makes me a bit competitive.

As far as the wider music scene, we have never really fitted in with any scene, I remember when we got alot of flak for having long hair and playing 70's rock and roll riffs along with our punk sound, but now it's pretty common for a band to wear their MC5 and Radio Birdman influences on their sleeve.

Q: There's an interesting choice of cover on your album. Do you want to enlighten us, 'cos a few people might be surprised...

Nick: I take it you mean the Warren Zevon cover "Even a Dog can Shake Hands." Well, we love Warren Zevon, he's one of the greats and he's always had a great sense of humour in his lyrics which is sadly lacking in music.

Mike: The album cover art? Or cover songs? The cover art I ripped off from a one sheet version of "Dracula Rises From the Grave", I remade it to include Jack Saints and rock n rolly type drugs and suicide stuff. The CD art I stole from Mad magazine, but the death symbals on the inside I for cover songs, we did an old skate rock song by the
Flamethrowers/Screaming Lord Salba and a Warren Zevon song. Warren Zevon is great when you're depressed. The song has great lyrics too, sort of anti-music industry people.

Q: How come this one didn't come out on an American label? Are there too few cool labels or too many bands or did you ask for an advance the size of the GDP of a small African nation?

Nick: Hahaha! Well, we sent it to a few labels but Scarey is Italian and they bribed us with good food and wine and the promise of beautifull Italian ladies!

Mike: As usual, we paid for all the recordings ourselves, and got no advance. We get paid in CDs, so the only loot we're gonna make is by selling our own CDs and shirts, or if someone uses our music in a movie or video game or something, and I'm not holding my breath for that to ever happen.

If it came out on an Australian label, maybe we'd be on tour there and surfing instead of jet setting all over Europe again. I'm pretty happy to be going to Italy, I planning on buying up lots of Italian horror stuff - if I can afford it.

Since we have a streak of every label we're on going bankrupt, Scarey may not be around to do our next one! We'll send you guys demos. Is Citadel still around?

Q: How did Bill Randt from the New Bomb Turks come to join the band and what happened to Regal?

Nick: We met Bill through The Onyas when they were over here destroying clubs and eardrums (and my apartment!) Regal just called up and quit one day so I asked Bill to join and he obliged. I hear from Regal from time to time, I think he's out there sailing the seven seas and chasing tail as he likes to do!

Mike: Regal is being Regal. We got him in the studio for this new record and taught him "Nightmares on a Damaged Brain" in 10 minutes -which is why it's super sloppy. Regal's always a good time...Nick you say we've been playing with Bill now longer than Regal! I can't remember more than three years back, so I assume you're right.

Guess what Bill Randt got as a 4th of July gift?

Q: I see where Jeff Dahl said you guys sounded like "Teenage Head meeting Sir Lord Baltimore". What was the context and were you rapt with that assessment?

Nick: Well, Jeff Dahl was trying to describe the undescribable and we were very pleased with his kind words. I love Jeff Dahl as a person and musician, they just don't make 'em like that anymore.

Mike: Jeff Dahl also said we sound like Stooges rehearsal tapes on an early 7". I think, when we first started back in 1995, there wasn't really any bands (or at least many) playing punk rock and throwing in 70's riffs. I always loved Mountain and Leslie West's guitar riffs, and I also love stff like Buffalo - who Nick turned me on to, and Sir Lord Baltimore, so ya know, why not put 'em in our punk songs?

Some years later it became hip to like Rose Tattoo and AC/DC again so now there's bands sorta doing this 70's rock meets punk thing. So, at the time I think Jeff Dahl pretty much hit the bullseye - not with our music per se, but with what we were listening to.

Q: How's the state of "underground" music in SF these days? Has the squeeze of gentrification continued and how many decent venues do you guys have left to play?

Nick: SF is going though some big changes and if I ever had to leave my cheap room I'd have to move out of the city, it's just real expensive. There are a few good places to play and it's kind of always changing. It's nowhere near as great as it was when we first came here in 97'. I still think it's better than anywhere else in California, though Mike disagrees, he moved to L.A. a year or so ago. Oakland seems to be really active these days and I would probably end up there if I had to leave this wonderfully foggy and beautiful city.

Nick Nava on his knees

Q: Tell us about some of the like-minded SF bands you play with? I know you did a support last year with an out-of-towner in Cheetah Chrome.

Nick: That show was a lot of fun, and Cheetah was a really cool guy, great guitar player as everybody knows. It is really a unique thing to see these old-timers play, I mean they just have something that's missing in today's bands.

As far as local bands, I'm not thrilled by any of them to be honest, which isn't to say there aren't any good ones, just not any amazing ones. Well, that's not true, I saw a great Latino punk band called Peligro Social a while back, they blew me away that night but I haven't seen 'em since and every band has at least one amazing night.

Q: Nick, I know you were DJ-ing for a while on local radio. Is that still happening and what sort of shit are you playing?

Nick: I've been DJ'ing at a few pubs around town, playing alot of Aussie stuff which as you know I love! I play alot of 70's hard rock and alot of current garage punk 45's. Mostly obscure shit but every night someone walks up and asks me who the hell I'm playing so I'm doing my part to educate the drunk and clueless!

Q: You don't seem to do a lot of touring in the US. Is it too tough when you all hold down day jobs or has the circuit fragmented?

Mike: The US is big, and we've never had any bookers working for us -except our friends band who booked our shows in Europe, so with taking the time off of work, renting a van, gas, etc...and not knowing if anyone would go to our shows except in big cities, we just could never really do it. We never had a label that really supported us till Scarey Records (not financially, but really they helped us with record promotion and stuff).

I don't like going to or playing big clubs. We can't really afford to go on tour often, so we don't really have any desire to really punch the band down peoples throats. You know, we do the usual little tour and some PR crap when a new cd comes out, then we lay low for a while just playing locally and having a good time. I don't think we'd appeal to a much wider music me, having a jack saints interview right next to a Dinosaur jr interview in "Long Gone Loser" magazine, to me that's pretty much the pinnacle of success.

Nick: We can't afford to tour! Bill and Mike have real jobs to go to everyday, I'm the only under-employed loser in the band.

Did you know Mike's a haemophiliac?

Q: Tell us about the European tour and how it came about. Guess you‚re psyched to be playing a support to Radio Birdman? Who else will you team up with over there and what sort of set can the locals expect?

Mike: I'd be MORE psyched to play with Birdman if it wasn't the FIRST SHOW OF THE TOUR! We have notriously bad luck using rented or borrowed equiptment...but I'll cross my fingers. Nick's been a raving Birdman fanatic since I first met him 14 years ago! So, yeah -we're really excited, but also pretty nervous as well.

Nick: Yeah, can you believe it?! I never thought in a million years I'd share a stage with Birdman!! It's a real honour even though I'm sure they won't even notice us. We're gonna play with The Ghetto Ways who are from NY, and Speed Buggy (L.A.) and The Nerds who are our label mates. I'm sure there's gonna be a few new favorite European bands we'll get to play with. We have a few new cover songs, we do a LOVE song and an EYES song. We have two new unrecorded originals. We're just gonna play our best and have a fun time!

Q: I know you‚re all into other stuff besides music (like Troma movies and wrestling). Give us an idea of some of the more eclectic tastes that you guys have.

Nick: Mike and Bill surf a lot, I'm pretty average, you know, comic books, beer, records.

Mike: Horror movies, surfing, blues guitar, Belgian ales, beer, scotch, art - making it and seeing it - cats, video games, I can't skateboard really since I threw out my back, but I can't walk past a painted curb without thinking about it.

Q: Since we're in a bar, what are you drinking?

Nick: Sierra Nevada Pale Ale!!!!!!!

Mike: I want to support your local brewery, so whatever you got that's independantly owned. And a shot or two of well bourbon.

Jack Saints European dates:
09/20/2006 -  Germany - Munich @ Kleine Elserhalle (with Radio Birdman)
09/21/2006 -  Italy - Torino @ Spazio211
09/22/2006 -  France - Montpellier @ Subsonic
09/23/2006 -  Spain- Barcelona @ Magic + Mojando Bragas
09/24/2006 -  Spain - Madrid (TBC)
09/25/2006 -  Spain (TBC)
09/26/2006 -  France- Toulouse @ Brasserie Pierre
09/27/2006 -  France - Paris @ La Féline (Free Show!)
09/28/2006 -  Holland - Den Haag @ Bazart
09/29/2006 -  Belgium- Kortrijk @ the Pits
09/30/2006 -  Belgium - Gierle @ JH'T Hoekske + Speedbuggy USA
10/02/2006 -  Germany- Munster @ Gleis 22 + Ghetto Ways
10/03/2006 -  Germany- Darmstadt @ Bessunger Knabeschule
10/05/2006 -  Denmark- Copenaghen (TBC)
10/06/2006 -  Germany- Hamburg @ Beat Club
10/07/2006 -  Germany- Berlin @ Wild At Heart
10/08/2006 -  Czech Republic- Prague @ TBA
10/09/2006 -  Croatia- Varazdin @ Gimnet
10/10/2006 -  Slovenia- Ljubljana @ TBA
10/13/2006 -  Italy - Milano @ Bloom + The Nerds Rock Inferno + Matra (Special Friday the 13th Show!)
10/14/2006 -  Italy- Rome @ Traffic
10/15/2006 -  Italy - La Spezia @ La Skaletta