Last November as I was scanning over a newly received "LIST" I saw the words Citizen Fish. I couldn't believe my eyes. I then saw they were playing at Cafe This in Santa Rosa, and 924 Gilman St., both in the same weekend. I hadn't ever seen Citizen Fish play before do to various reasons, so I was definitely not going to miss this. I figured, "hell I might as well do an interview if their going to be right here in Santa Rosa. Maybe I could get them to come into the station and do it."
About 2 weeks before the show I sent Citizen Fish a note asking if it would be possible to do an interview at their show in Santa Rosa. Very unexpectedly, I received a reply from Dick (the singer) a few days later saying that the interview would be fine. He told me to call them a day or two before the show to plan out a time to meet. After 2 days of playing phone tag with each other, we some how figured out a time to meet at Cafe This. I headed up to the cafe about two hours early to make sure we would have enough time. I had never really been nervous about doing an interview before, but Citizen Fish is just one of those bands. I held a very high respect for those guys, one of the few punk bands that I truly do. I was incredibly nervous, I didn't know what kind of guys they were - for all I knew they could of been a bunch of arrogant arseholes. I didn't have anything for the interview, just the tape recorder and a blank piece of paper. Even though I was so nervous and had no "real" questions ready, besides the same old crap, the interview turned out OK, they were incredibly nice guys, and we all had a good time.
Here's how it went:
Damon: Well, I guess first off, you guys might as well introduce yourselves.
Dick: I am Dick and I do the singin'!
Jasper: I am Jasper and I play the bass!
Damon: When, how, or why did Citizen Fish start?
Jasper: To make loud noise in a rehearsal room was one reason.
Dick: (Burp) Because it is the only thing we can do, and the only thing we like doing. We don't have to retire from the "job", we do it until we can't do it anymore.
Jasper: We get to say words and play music. . .
Dick: OK, the straight answer; We started in September '91, no wait! We started in '89.
Jasper: 20th century, late 20th century, sometime around then.
Damon: Where did the name come from, Citizen Fish?
Dick: I don't mean to interrupt, but do you call yourself Fuzz for a tax dodge or what?
Jasper: Did you used to have a pathetic goatee?
Damon: Hey, I get to ask the questions around here? Where did the name come from?
Jasper: "Pete the Roadie" made it up. It sounded good so we kept it. After we took the name we started putting loads of meanings to it.
Dick: That's right, there are loads of meanings. (In one breath, the response comes out in rapid fire) We're all citizens. Most people live in cities with the basis of life revolving about jobs and living the "9 to 5" life of routine and repetition. The Fish represents the inner person in all of us (cause we all evolved from fish in the first place) who prefers to go where they want to go, do what they want to do, which is what fish do. And fish also don't go around throwing bombs at each other like human beings do. So Citizen Fish is like the contradictory balancing nature of human kind. We have to live with this balance, and if we fall to far to one side, being the Citizen side - we're not going to allow ourselves, well, to be ourselves. If we go to far on the Fish side, then we'll . .(deep breath). . Drown! So you have to keep the balance, but it's a very fine line.
Jasper: So there you go - Ha Ha!
Damon: What were some of the earlier bands that got you in to doing what you do?
Dick: I think this question really sucks! It's just a very generic interview question. No matter what bands you're influenced by you have got to sound at least one step away from that or else you're not going to sound original at all.
Damon: What I mean is, since "you guys" (the members not "Citizen Fish") have been playing since very early on in punk history, there weren't too many punk bands around yet. Was it the bands that were around early on that got you into playing the type of music you do (i.e. SUBHUMANS, etc.) or did it come about on its own?
Dick: Personally, my influences were all based in the early punk rock days, like: The Adverts, The Clash, The Sex Pistols; and at the same time, in the background: Madness, The Selector, The Specials; which all kind of crapped out later on.
Jasper: The same for me. I just loved the feeling of it, listening to all the punk rock records of 1976,77. It had a very big impact on me.
Damon: Are there any bands now that you think are anything special, ones that are around as of today?
Jasper: Yeah, big time! We've got some friends in England called Bender, their a three piece band. They're a really good band.
Dick: AOS3, similar sort of skanky, punky, styli, from Newcastle. Also the Dub Syndicate, they do the best reggae ever made.
Damon: Tonight's your first night of the tour huh? Where else are you playing while you're here?
Dick: Tomorrow we are playing at Gilman St., then up to Sacramento.
Jasper: We're doing sort of a big loop of the west coast; San Francisco down to L.A. and San Diego, then Phoenix, Tucson, Carson City. Then we are playing in some caves outside Las Vegas.
Damon: What's happening at the caves? Are these real caves or what?
Dick: I don't know, we don't really know too much about it yet. It sounds great though.
Damon: What or where is one of the best places you've ever played?
Dick: Berlin, at the Kopi, it's a huge squat where the Berlin Wall used to be.
Jasper: For anyone who's traveling that way, just aim for the wall, or where the wall used to be, and you'll find the Kopi Squat. You can't miss it, it's a megaplace. They have great gigs, lot's of people, excellent atmosphere and it's just a great feeling to play there.
Dick: The most amazing gigs happen once and you play what was an amazing gig the first time, but if you play that place again the amazingness generally tends to wear off. Because you always imagine the place being bigger than it was, better than it was. This place, the Kopi was just as good the second time round, so it's like - "Totally good." I mean it cannot be beaten; not in my mind anyway.
Damon: Is there a real difference between the crowds throughout the U.S., England, the rest of Europe?
Dick: Ummmm. . . A lot of the commercialization of the U.S. bands does seep in around the world. I feel that. . . .Ohh, that must of hurt!
Jasper: (bursts out) Steady now, someone has just now fallen down on a Monopoly board. WEIRD!
Dick: Totally bizarre! This is something that does not happen in England. People throwing Monopoly boards around in the street before gigs.
(note: There was a dumpster full of old game boards that some people pulled out and started playing hop-scotch on. It was raining, so the boards got wet, and a girl by the name of "Amanda" fell quite hard on her ass.)
Dick: Speaking of Monopoly and money, I think it sucks that these bands are all signing to major 'fucking' labels and you don't need to do it, unless you want loads and loads of money. . . and that sucks as well !. . . Umm, where were we, oh yeah the differences between one "culture" and another. It's hard to pin it down without using generalities, and as I've said before all generalities are Wrong. . . Uh, except that one. Ha ha.
Jasper: I think that the people are generally all the same in all the Western Ways.
Dick: The biggest difference is when we come back from a tour in the U.S. and people think "oh you must have made thousands of dollars, loads of money, played in really big clubs, had loads of groupies, loads of cocaine!" It's all this bullshit, this Rock Star bullshit is still in the psyche of anybody who lives over there and hasn't been over here, where the reality is way different. Over here in America we have got to struggle to break even doing a tour. We have got to sell a hell of a lot of t-shirts and merchandise just to break even. We get paid less money over here, we go longer distances, we're given less food, etc.
Damon: So what do you think, is Punk Dead?
Jasper: It depends on how you look at it.
Dick: No I don't think it is. Just the fact that there are bands out there doing it for themselves still proves the fact that it isn't. I mean if you do it yourself then no one can just fire you and leave you stranded not knowing what to do. These big labels do everything for you, what about when they drop you, how are you going to do anything for yourself, because you've always had somebody doing it for you. If you do everything for yourself from the very start and still manage to make it like we do, I mean this is our sixth tour in the U.S., and that's something most bands don't do even if they are signed to a major label. And we've done it all ourselves and/or through people that are on the same level as we are.
Damon: Oh yeah, what do you guys think about the flyer for this show? (for those of you who didn't see it, it said "Show of the Century" featuring: SUBHUMANS, also known as CULTURE SHOCK, also known as CITIZEN FISH! The first two names are former bands of Citizen Fish members)
Jasper: Well if it's "tongue in cheek" it was very tongue in cheek. But if not it's pretty crap.
Dick: A little more like "Tongue in Ass" I think. It's a bit silly. What's the point of putting that. If read at a glance it reads as if all three bands are playing the same gig; which is not only untrue, it's also misleading. Not that we're ashamed of our past or anything, but it's hard enough to get away from people shouting for "Religious Wars" all the time. We don't particularly want to look back at the past and drag up all these old tracks just to please people. It's not the same line-up, we're 10 years older, and we're just looking forward instead of backwards is what it comes down to. I mean all those tracks were all really good, but they belong where they were played and on the records for as long as the records are made, and now . . is what we're doing now.
Damon: Now that you have 3 full length records and a live album, when does the next one come out?
Dick: We hope to get it out by May or June, next year.
Damon: Why did you guys put that 7" (Flesh and Bones) out on Lookout Records?
Dick: We wanted to get it out over here, and they had the money to do it , which we didn't (except to put out 1,000 in England). We knew Lawrence Livermore (owner of Lookout) and he was into doing it. We thought it would be good to get them over here, save people some money, and make it easier for people to get a hold of it.
Damon: So do you actually run Bluurg Records (Citizen Fish's label)?
Dick: Um, if you can call it running at all. Most of it is me doing mail order, sending stuff out in the post, making phone calls and occasionally putting out records by other bands; but mostly only stuff from us. Selling records is not easy, unless you have got a big, big budget to put big, big adverts in the big music papers, and we haven't got that.
Damon: Who writes the music, and lyrics?
Dick: I write the lyrics. And Phil and Jasper mostly write the music.
Damon: What are some of the best, or most fun, or most exciting things that have happened on tour?
Dick: Ah Hah! This is a really good question!! This is such a good question that we never come up with an instant answer for it. Most of the good stories from bands concern major disasters. Usually involving vans and crashing, and people getting illnesses and diseases; so we've been lucky, because it hasn't happened much to us recently.
Jasper: If you had given us some warning of that you were going to ask this, we could have come up with tons of things.
Damon: Since you guys have such strong lyrics and are they're about what they are about, do you guys ever get people on your back about certain things that you do; saying you're hypocrites, etc.?
Jasper: Well not to much, I mean it's not like we're going around hitting people with sticks because they're not doing what we like. People can do as they like, we just live and try and take care of our actions, probably just as you do.
(By this time, the club was pretty packed and we were totally surrounded by people with everyone wanting to talk to Dick and Jasper, so we had to prematurely end the interview.)
Damon: Well, I thank you guys very much for your time, and gracing KSUN with your words. I hope the rest of the tour goes well.
Dick & Jasper: Thank you too, Fuzz. And great name.
Well as I found out by doing the interview, the guys from Citizen Fish are some of the friendliest people I've ever met. I had a great time doing the interview, and I hope they did as well.
The show that night was great, packed with people, and extremely energetic. Citizen Fish moved the crowd like I had never seen before. I was fortunate enough to attend all three of the shows they played in the Bay Area: Cafe This, 924 Gilman St., and the Hof-Brau in Oakland. Even after these three shows I still hadn't had enough of them. If you ever have the chance to see them live, I would highly recommend it.
The other bands mentioned in the interview; AOS3 and Bender have stuff on Bluurg records. If you'd like to get some info. or a record/cassette/CD of these bands or anything from Citizen Fish, the Subhumans, and/or other bands, you can write to:
2 Victoria Terrace
SN12 6NA England