by Tim Bogdachev
VANCOUVER – Chixdiggit are GREAT! They have all qualities that I like about music—they play pop punk, they are very funny, and they are on Fat Wreck Chords. What’s not to like?
They’ve been around for more than 25 years and it’s a known fact that they sold over 100 shirts with their logo before even playing their first show. And when they played that very first show, about 100 people showed up in Chixdiggit shirts and the promoter thought that they were really good. They weren’t. But this is a good story.
I wasn’t at that first show because I discovered Chixdiggit a good 10 years later. I grew up in Russia and had very limited access to punk rock. But there was a CD-R making its way around Russian punk rockers. It had albums on it by Lagwagon, No Use For a Name, Bigwig, and one of the albums which were squeezed in on those 700 megabytes was Born on the First of July by Chixdiggit. I liked it. It had the super hit “Quit Your job,” which was whole 25 seconds in length. I showed that song to my friends who were heavily into Limp Bizkit and Korn; they didn’t like it.
In 2012 I did my first interview with frontman KJ Jansen at Cafe Crepe, across from the Venue where they played their show. We had a great conversation and KJ was so nice that he even mentioned our chat in Chixdiggit’s latest song, “2012.” This is how I made it on a Fat Wreck Chords release. Dream accomplished, nothing to live for anymore, great success!
Last time Chixdiggit played a show in Vancouver we hung out for a few hours before their set at the Cobalt and then we went to see another two Fat bands, toyGuitar and CJ Ramone, who were playing at the Rickshaw the same night. The thing which struck me about KJ that night is that he is a phenomenal storyteller; he’s the kind of person who can make an average story sound great. So in this interview I asked him to tell a couple of stories related to The Smugglers and the early days of Chixdiggit because it would make great sense in anticipation of The Smugglers’ reunion show on May 13, which Chixdiggit are playing as well.
Our first seven-inch, Best Hung Carrot in the Fridge, came out in 1995 and the guy who released it, Jack Tieleman from Lance Rock Records, would send us photocopies of reviews or any kind of response. One of the reviews was from Vancouver’s student magazine Discorder. The reviewer was referring to us as being “a little too earnest” and we were like what the fuck does “earnest” mean? I don’t think we’ve been described as “earnest” since. And the review was written by this guy named Grant Lawrence.
A couple of years later we were invited to play Music West. It was a type of festival where bands fight over the attention of people who’re gonna try and make them famous. We’ve all been drinking quite a bit and everybody at the bar had nametags on. I remember walking through the bar and one of the nametags said “Grant Lawrence – Mint Records.” It was the guy who said that we were “earnest.” I still don’t know what “earnest” really means. I confronted him, but in no time we were friends: talking, drinking and hanging out all night. As an aside, Grant told me recently that sometime during that night we ran into NOFX, which would have been the first time I crossed paths with Fat Mike. I had no idea who they were at the time. Anyway, Grant and I ended up staying up all night and eating at a downtown Denny’s at 6 a.m. As a welcoming host, Grant offered to buy me dinner, but the problem was that he tried to pay with a BC Health Card, which isn’t a form of payment in most places. I ended up paying for both of us. So I not only got a bad review, but also had to pay for the reviewer’s dinner. Despite all this we’ve been “earnest” friends since that night.
YOU’LL NEVER PLAY A SHOW IN CANADA
One of our early Vancouver shows was at that same Music West. After the regular shows were over, bands would play till the sun came up at after-hours clubs around town. We were scheduled to play at 2 a.m. We set everything up on stage and were waiting to go on. This guy from the headlining band shows up and says that we need to take our stuff off stage because they want to play right away and go to bed early. We were young and didn’t know anything about being in a band but we had a pretty good sense of when we were being fucked with. I said, “I don’t really like the way you’re asking. Our stuff’s up there and we’re gonna play now.” Then a different guy walks up to me and says, “I guarantee you that you’ll never play another show in Canada if you don’t get your shit off stage right now.” We told him that we’re not gonna take anything off the stage and we’re gonna play. The first guy comes back up to me and says, “You and me, outside right now. Let’s settle this.” It was late and I was getting tired so I said, “I’ll tell you what. I’m gonna play now and after that I’d be happy to come out and meet you outside.”
We started playing. Everything is going great: the crowd is hammered, we’re hammered, everybody is having a good time. And of course my stage banter is centred around the fact that this guy over here (and I kept pointing at him) is gonna kick my ass after the show. Everybody in the crowd would look at him and cheer. They wanted to see me get my ass kicked! At one point I remember him punching his fist into his other hand as a gesture to show me he was serious. I just kept hammering, hammering, and hammering and making fun of this poor guy and eventually he left.
About a year later we were getting a new booking agent. We were sitting in the office and our new booking agent looked very familiar. I told him that he looked really familiar and that I remembered him from somewhere. The booking agent said that he didn’t think we’ve met before. But I was confident that I saw him somewhere and it was killing me because I was sure that we had some kind of interaction in the past. And then it dawned on me…that was the guy who guaranteed that we would never play another show in Canada if we didn’t take our stuff off stage. He ended up becoming our friend and Canadian agent and booked us for many years.
Chixdiggit perform on May 13 at the Commodore with The Smugglers.Chixdiggit!, Commodore Ballroom, The Smugglers