Interview: The Used, Bürgerhaus Stollwerck (Köln)31. März 2016
We had the chance to talk to Jeph Howard from The Used on their 15 year anniversary tour. Due to their 15 year anniversary they toured europe with their first and second records „Self-titled“ and „In Love and Death“ on two evenings per city. We did the interview shortly before Jeph took the stage on the „In Love and Death“ evening, so some of the questions asked are rather based on said record than on the new ones.
Jeph – Bass
Lest We Forget: How is the tour going so far?
Jeff: The tour has been incredible. We knew it was gonna be a good tour because we’re playing our old records which most of our fans have such a strong connection with, but the final result even exceeded our expectations.
Lest We Forget: How come you decided to make a 15 years anniversary tour with your first two albums?
Jeff: We always wanted to do an anniversary tour with our first albums. There are some songs on them we haven’t played since 10 years and even three we never played live. So we thought it might be fun for our fans to get the chance to hear them live. We could’ve done a 10 year anniversary tour but we weren’t quite ready at that time so we thought we’ll do a 15 years anniversary tour instead.
Lest We Forget: Do you see any difference to your regular audience at your anniversary tour dates ?
Jeff: Yea you could definitely see age groups. You see older crowds that have loved us for over 15 years, but then you see newer kids that have just gotten into us since two years. That kind of variety is incredible to see. We even have fans that have kids now and bring their kids with to the show.
Lest We forget: Who designed the album artwork for “In Love and Death” and what were your thoughts behind that?
Jeff: It was the first time we met a guy called Alex Pardee. He’s an incredible artist. Now he does things like comic books, movies and tv shows, but back then he was just a guy who was drawing for himself mostly. I can’t recall how we got to know his work but we were searching for an artist who fits the vibe of the record and found him. For me finding an artwork that resembles the album is always one of the most complicated things to do. We can do the songs, we can do the music and come up with the titles and stuff like this – but coming up with a visual representation of that is really difficult. We met Alex Pardee and hung out for a while and he was just like us. He had the same kind of humor, the same kind of likes for everything and so he just sketched up some of his ideas and it was PERFECT. In my opinion it’s still one of the best icons to represent The Used. I personally like to use it for everything. (laughs)
Lest We Forget: How was it to write your 2nd record “In Love and Death”?
Jeff: When you’re in a band you have your entire life to write your first album. When you actually do the first record and do get signed to a label you have to make a 2nd record and have a lot less time. So it was definitely a lot more stress than we had for the first record. But at the same time it wasn’t really that stressful. It came together very easily. We had a lot of riffs and ideas and stuff. Fun fact: The song “Listening” from that record is even older than our first record. It is actually the 3rd Song we have ever written. The 1st is “Maybe Memories”, the 2nd is called “Zero Mechanism” (which didn’t make anything) and the 3rd is “Listening”.
Lest We Forget: How does your songwriting in general work?
Jeff: It changes every single time. My favorite way is to sit in a room with everybody and just jam. We let the song kind of become itself and from there we change parts to make it more natural or maybe more unnatural, depending on how we want it. Sometimes we start with guitar, sometimes with bass, sometimes with drums. We just start with something and it will flow into something else. The last record we did we started with vocals. It was very crazy. We had just a guitar line that was just a scrap and Bert sung on top of it. Then we took his melody and put drums underneath it and then kind of come up with bass and guitar over that. It was kind of a backwards way to do it. Definitely complicated but it worked out for that record.
Lest We Forget: You are about to release an acoustic live CD/DVD called “Live & Acoustic at the Palace” on April 1st. On that album you performed your songs live with a string quartet, a piano player and even gospel singers. How was it for you to play with such a different set up as usual?
Jeff: Honestly we wanted to do something like that for a long time. We played acoustic shows before where just Bert and Quinn played guitar and sang. But we always wanted to revisit this songs and do like a full band version of it and create a magic moment. It was an incredible feeling playing this show. It almost felt like going to a play. We had the chairs all set up in front of us and the fans came in and set down on their seats and there were these little programs on each one of their seats – like when you come to a theater to see a play. A whole stage was set up with a scenery of trees and then one at a time we would come out like on a big screen play. For the first song it was just Bert and Justin. Then for the next song me and Dan came out, for the next one the string players came out and so on. It was a constant built until there was everybody on the stage. At the end there were so many people on the stage. We had 2 horn players, a harp, a pianist, a string quartet and many more. We had indescribable vibes going on at that show. The Live DVD tries to capture all of the stunning moments of that show but to actual be there was an incredible, indescribable feeling.
Lest We Forget: Are you working on a new album yet?
Jeff: We are working on a new record but it is not coming out for a while. Musically we have about 20 new songs. But that’s just the music/melodies. We are still not quite sure if they will go anywhere or not. We will try to keep writing for the next of the year but we will also be touring till next year. So if we do put an album out it will be definitely not this year.
Lest We Forget: What was your craziest fan experience ?
Jeff: We love our fans – they are more like family to us. So we don’t treat anyone like – “Get away from me you’re crazy”. We have some crazy fans like that but it’s pretty rare. Craziest fan moment? – honestly, I really can’t say any. No one has killed any of us yet. (laughs)
Lest We Forget: What was your funniest moment with the band?
Jeff: A very long time ago in Germany we had a promoter with us who had a 15 year old daughter with him on tour. We were hanging out and were drinking and taking it easy as they both joined our circle. All of a sudden he was like : I gotta go folks, I’m gonna let her stay with you guys. And we were like – What? Well, erm ok. And he left. We continued drinking and she also had a few drinks. At some point she got passed-out-drunk. And we were like: Oh my god what are we going to do? No one of us had the number of the promoter so we weren’t able to call him. Then we decided to take her to the hotel room because we couldn’t just leave her like that. So our tour manager (a bigger dude) put her over his shoulders and we went to the hotel. It was me, Bert and the tour manager who carried the girl into the hotel. Long story short – They called the cops. (laughs) And then we had to explain how we had a drunk 15 year old with us that nobody knew. But in the end it all worked out fine. Yea we had a lot of crazy stories like that in Germany. (laughs)
Lest We Forget: What is your favorite song to play live?
Jeff: It changes from show to show. Tonight it’s “Let it bleed”, which is one of my all-time favorite songs from us that we never play so I’m really excited that we get to play it tonight.
Lest We Forget: What was the first album you ever bought?
Jeff: Def Leppard – Hysteria. I didn’t buy it someone bought it for me but I think that was my first. That or Led Zeppelin.
Lest We Forget: What was the first concert you’ve ever been to?
Jeff: Growing up in Utah I went to a lot of local bands, because we didn’t get a lot of outside bands coming there.
Lest We Forget: What is your favorite music at the moment?
Jeff: Well that’s tough. All I listen to is Afro/Cuban music like Ebo Taylor. It is mainly African music but it has this Cuban back beat. It’s very cool. If you’re a bass player it’s really cool. (laughs)