This interview took place at the Wetlands on Nov. 25th, 1996. As you will soon see, I had no idea what to say. Luckily, Jasmine Wagner of Skary Joe (ska zine) helped me out a bit. It doesn’t matter if you like the Insteps or not. Read this interview to see what an idiot I am.
Act One: Noah, one of the singers
You guys have really changed your music. You started off being real 3rd Wave, and now you’re moving more toward reggae.
Yeah, when we started out we didn’t know what the fuck we were doing. We tried a lot to imitate the sounds of other bands. If you look at Shotgun Jimmy, that song IS a Toasters song. Like if you listen to any of the songs on Skaboom! or Thrill Me Up or whatever…
Shotgun Jimmy reminds me of Pool Shark…
Exactly, there’s like a chorus that’s got two syllables that you yell, and a sort of poppy melodic verse. I mean, I think it’s a very decent imitation. We got known for that song…
Do you get upset when people at shows request those songs?
No, I don’t get upset. People like a song enough to ask us to play it, then that’s good, I’m happy. And in fact, I don’t have so much of a problem with playing those songs, like some of the guys in the band do. (pause) When we had started out, we had the idea of trying to play old school style. But we were just fucking around all over the place. And then we sort of got it down to that style… You can’t be too much of an antiquarian [I think that’s what he said]. There’s nothing to be gained from xeroxing the past. Why even bother? Like those records are better than what you can do to just trying to go after them. You have to do something that’s real today. And to whatever extent we use to achieve that, that’s what we’re trying to do. So the reason why we play more reggae now than anything else is because that’s the music we like the best.
Jasmine: You’re in medical school, right?
Yeah, I’m getting my Masters degree.
Jasmine: You went to Columbia right?
Jasmine: I go there! What are you getting your Masters in?
Jasmine: So are you one of those people that do all those experiments where you get paid?
Yeah, anything with drugs… (laughs)
Jasmine: So are you part of that drug experiment there, where they’re giving 500 dollars if you take these weight-loss drugs?
Hey! What are you insinuating?
Jasmine: Fatty!! (laughs)
Act Two: Sheldon, bassist and Stubborn All-Star on the side
Adam: Hey Sheldon. How ya doin’?
Adam: Jasmine, do you want to interview him? I don’t know how to give interviews. I’m up to my fifth issue and I still don’t know how to do them.
Jasmine: OK, are you going on tour?
We’re not going on tour yet. We’ll be doing shows all over the East coast, but it’s not really a tour. It’ll be scattered and more of a weekend thing.
Adam: How was the recording of the new album? Any funny stories?
Lessee… Yeah! There was this pinball machine in the studios that everyone in the band just tore up and played it all the time. It was phat, man.
Adam: Ah. Um, you used to be in the Stubborn All Stars…
I kinda still am. See, we [the Stubborn All Stars] really haven’t done anything since we got back from Europe, except for that show a couple of weeks ago. And we’re not doing anything until we go back to Europe which will be after X-Mas.
Adam: How was Europe?
It was pretty cool. I mean we were on tour with Rancid, so it wasn’t really ska crowds. They were generally OK, except for Germany. Germany was kinda shitty. I’m sorry, you’re not German are you?
Jasmine: Yeah, I am. Where else do you like to play?
The phattest place in Europe was Norway. Cause, when we went on stage, the crowd went wild, they didn’t know who we were, but they were screaming like we were the best shit in the world. That was a real upper, and that made us played even better, so we had a lot of fun.
Adam: That’s right! Wagner! The German composer!
Jasmine: I’m actually related to him, some how.
Adam: (excited) Yeah! Yeah! I can see the resemblance!!
Jasmine: (laughs) See, my father’s name is Richard, and his father’s name is Richard. But it’s not like it’s kept every generation…
Adam: Yeah so anyway, was it tough playing with Rancid? Like did you get up there, and nobody knew what you were about?
Some spots. Especially in Germ-any. They didn’t know how to respond.
Jasmine: Are Rancid dicks?
No no, Rancid are like the coolest band to hang out with! Rancid’s all cool!
Intermission: Me & Jasmine
Yeah, it makes my interviews look longer because I never have anything to say. I guess I don’t know enough about a band to ask them good questions.
Maybe you should go find the sound man. (laughs) [She’s referring to the time when I was interviewing the Blue Meanies’ sound man, thinking he was the drummer. God I’m stupid.]
(laughs) That was so embarrassing.
You should interview Greg from Hepcat.
(excited) OK, let’s go.
But not about Hepcat. Because I already have a Hepcat interview for my next issue. Ask him what he thinks about the Insteps.
No, wait! Let’s interview that guy!
Act Three: Peter, the other singer
(eating a cookie) Tell me about the Insteps.
We started out 4 or 5 years ago, kicked out a bunch of people, now we’re happy with who’s in it.
Why were they kicked out?
Because they didn’t want to play the same types of music we wanted to play.
You wanted to slow down the music…
It’s not that we wanted to get slower really, but that’s what winded up happening. It wasn’t really the style, it was more like the vibe. But they’re all doing well now, starting their own bands and stuff. Like a couple are in Spider Nick and the Maddogs.
Why are you so skinny?
(laughs) I don’t know but I’m working on it. It’s hard.
Jasmine: Adam wants tips on getting skinny. He’s battling anorexia.
Adam: (eating a cookie) That’s true.
I eat a lot of promegraneds (spelling??) and black olives. That’s my secret.
Do people ever mistaken you for a bum? Like when you walk down the street, do they look at you weird and walk around you?
(laughs) Yeah! I do it by choice. That’s one of my personas. Especially when I grow the stubble. It doesn’t get in the way of the music though.
Jasmine: Do you like playing at a big place like Irving Plaza, or a smaller place like the Wetlands?
All that matters is the sound. As long as there is good sound and more than 10 people there, I’m happy. I liked playing at the Lion’s Den on Bleeker, but they don’t book ska shows anymore. It used to be a lot of fun…
What’s your favorite pick-up line?
I don’t really have one. This is what I do, see: I’m into big girls, right? So how I get all the chickies is that I make friends with the girls who have sex with the band members, and then I like become friends with them. We chill and gossip and I pretend I’m on their side, and then I explain to them the situation, and that usually works very well.
My preference…. Their friends… To see if they can hook me up with their fat friends.
But you’re so skinny! Isn’t that weird?
It’s not like I want to be crushed. It’s not like a power imbalance. I don’t like to be crushed by these women, I like to lay next to them. Know what I’m saying?
[The entire room becomes silent. You can hear the sound of my bag of cookies as they are dropped to the floor]
I think this interview just got good!
Jasmine: If you ordered a blow-up doll, what size would you order?
(laughing) I’d order XX Large!!
Do you mean like big-boned, like large structured women, or like a 400 pound woman?
Jasmine: Yeah, is it like bone-structure or flesh?
Look, I’m not attracted to every fat chick, like just any chick that’s fat, obviously. OK, a measurement would be 45-50-55, or like 65-40-60 would be good.
Do they have to be tall or short?
Whatever. Tall. Short.
Is this an Oedipus thing? Is your mom large? Do you miss the womb?
Well it’s not a consciously Oedipal thing. But like it could be anything.
Jasmine: Maybe it was your babysitter. Was your babysitter large?
I don’t know. I never thought about why I like them.
Are you attracted to any skinny girls?
Of course, some. But if it was a graph, it would be sort of like a bell curve and peak at around 220 pounds.
Jasmine: Do you have a girlfriend now?
So I can’t give your number out?
(laughs) No, I work undercover.
Does the band make fun of you?
Weeellll, they do sometimes, but it’s all sincere and kidding around. It doesn’t affect our music.
Jasmine: Have you written any songs about your love of fat chicks?
No, but we sing Fatty Fatty by the Heptones, do you know that song?
Nah, but I know Big Bottoms by Spinal Tap. OK, onto other things… Do you want to sing more songs, or keep the singing balanced?
Oh, between me and Noah? It’s problematic actually. I think that we don’t spend enough time concentrating on harmonies. We’re going to do more where we sing together.
Jasmine: I’m sorry I’m still thinking about the fat thing.
(laughing) Oh, we could talk about that! So you don’t agree with me? You don’t find fat chicks attractive at all?
Jasmine: Ah, he looks so offended!
It’s just that I’m stunned! I’m shocked! Because don’t you think that real skinny chicks look like young boys?
Actually I don’t like skinny girls.
See, I think it’s more of a fetish to like skinny girls than fat girls.
I don’t like skinny girls, because…
They look like young boys!
No, because they look like they’re killing themselves to look a certain way…
Well yeah, that too.
I don’t like tight clothing. I like girls who wear sweatpants and sweatshirts. You know, who look comfortable. I guess the word I’m look for is shlumpy-looking.
Jasmine: (incredulous) Shlumpy-looking??
Adam: But girls that are like 20 pounds underweight, and their ribs show and stuff because they think that looks good — I’m repulsed by that.
And I think that fat girls are treated like shit in our society. People are so mean to them, and it pisses me off. Like why are girls expected to kill themselves, trying to look good for society?
I agree with that.
But we’re not talking about me here!
Jasmine: Nice interview!
2000 update: The Insteps unfortuntaely broke up a couple of years later. They were my favorite NYC ska band, and the scene hasn’t been the same without them. Their brilliant album “11 Steps to Power” is still available from Another Planet Records. Pick it up, it’s by far one of the best modern trad albums.