The Icarus Line
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Interviews and Articles

November 5, 2011

Interview with Joe from The Icarus Line @ Catch 22

It must be said that The Icarus Line were really tired by the time they rolled into London for what was to be their final UK show. And although Joe Cardamone was more tired than most, he was still courteous enough to grant me this quick interview with him.

I am sorry for the delay in getting the interview published online, as the interview did take place last month, but as the old adage goes: better late than never. Hopefully this won’t become a recurring “habit” in future.

Anyway, enjoy the interview.

This is your last night in London. What are your plans after this?

I’m producing a band called The Ceremonies here in London. I’ll be sticking around for a few days for that.

You made a Facebook status update which stated that this might be The Icarus Line’s last show in London/EU for a while. Do you want to elaborate on that?

Well, isn’t it usually? Hopefully it won’t be as long as usual, but you know, it always takes us a while.

Sammy Fayed is filling in on drums for this tour. How did he come on board?

Well, I gave him a call from the airport and said “get on the plane, Sam”. He said “alright”. The rest is history.

So where does that leave Troy Petrey?

That leaves him in Downey (California) packing womens’ underwear.

Is he still part of the band, or has he left?

Well, he’s definitely not reliable enough to be in the band.

Have you ever thought about getting The Captain back on board?

Well, the thing is… I don’t think we’ll be playing with Jeff (Watson) anymore. Jeff no longer plays drums. Jeff’s not playing music. Definitely not in a way where he can tour. So as far as touring together, I don’t see that happening.

What about Lance Arnao? He was associated with the original lineup of The Icarus Line. How did he come back to being associated with the band again?

Well, Alvin (Deguzman) couldn’t do the tour because of work commitments. A lof of people wanted to do it (and fill his role), and were available to do it, but this isn’t an easy band to play in. It’s not an easy band to mix in with personality-wise or spirit-wise, and I didn’t know if it would work or not, but I just called Lance out of the blue. We talked a little bit, not about playing music really, but about life, and after a couple of conversations I was like “do you want to do it?” and he said “yes, let’s give it a shot”. It was really good, and we only rehearsed for a week.

I assume that Alvin is still part of the band…

We’ll see. I don’t know…

Does that mean that the position for bassist has been filled?

You know… what does it ever mean these days? It doesn’t matter. I’ll tell you this much – it’s been great playing with Lance. It’s been wonderful. I’ve missed playing with him for years, so this is a great opportunity for us. We were close friends before the band even started. We were high-school best friends, and this is a joyful reunion.

Speaking of reunions, you’ve also recently reconciled and have re-associated yourself with Travis Keller as well. How did that come about?

Yeah, it wasn’t really that recent. We’ve been working together on and off on various things for the last couple of years. How did it come about? I guess he kind of… he called me. He put the first foot forward, and kind of apologised for some of the things that went down, and I likewise followed suit, and we got on with our lives like grown-assed men.

Do you still see Aaron North?

I don’t. I saw him… about a year ago. I don’t know… there’s nothing there between me and him…

Because there was a split within the Buddyhead ranks when both Travis and Aaron reportedly fell out with one another…

Right. And both of them came to me after that.

They both came to you?

Yeah.

Is that good?

I don’t know, I don’t analyse it too much. It is what it is. You know, people learn to move on. Like musically, me and Aaron don’t have any common ground anymore. It was pretty much the foundation for our relationship in the past. It wasn’t so much of a traditional friendship. So if that’s not there, then we don’t really have much to talk about. I don’t know what to say about him…

I recently saw an interview of you posted on the ‘Dirty Laundry’ website, and read about what you said on ‘The Quietus’ where you talked about how hard it is for musicians in the current economic climate. Do you want to maybe elaborate on what you said?

I don’t know, I think I was pretty elaborate. The only thing I can say is that a lot of peoples’ feedback were negative. I read some of it, but I don’t think they really understand. I don’t mean to sound like an asshole, but people who think that it’s “whiny” to complain about not being able to make a living at the only thing you’ve dedicated your life to for the last decade, obviously don’t get it. It’s like any other trade where if you’re not able to make a living, you’re supposed to figure something else out, but people still want you to do it and provide a free service. It’s like asking the shoemaker to make free shoes for you. I don’t know. It is what it is. We’re going to keep working, and figure out ways… It’s just that the struggle has gotten a lot harder over the last couple of years.

Do you feel almost like… I mean, going back to your original title for the new record (WildLife) where you were going to call it ‘Joe Cardamone VS The Icarus Line’. Do you think the previous title represented a better idea of where you’re at – especially when you feel that your back’s against the wall in terms of your own inner struggle – a bit like a ‘Mein Kampf’ but without the Nazi overtones?

Yeah, the record was supposed to be named ‘Joe Cardamone VS The Icarus Line’. The only reason why I changed it is because Jeff was complaining about the name and… in the interest of “people pleasing” and keeping the group together, I changed it.

So it’s a compromise basically?

Yeah. My only regrets in life are when I make a compromise.

I understand. You’ve mentioned this before, where you’ve stated that compromises in the longterm never seem worth it.

They never do. As an artist, what’s the point? Keep someone happy for ten minutes, or say what you mean forever.

You’re the frontman of the band. The whole point of being in a band I guess is that you have to engage in relationships – themselves built on the notion of compromise. Have you ever thought about becoming more like David Bowie or Neil Young and becoming a solo artist?

I essentially am. I kind of have been since after ‘Mono’. Since the initial band of friends broke up, and we brought in outsiders – even Don Devore was an outsider. Since then, there’s been blood on my hands. So even if it isn’t perceived that way to the outside world, that’s how it’s been. I’m ultimately responsible, and at this point, it’s obvious, but it has been that way for a long time.

Now that you’re referring to yourself as a frontman who operates as a solo artist, what do you think the challenges are for someone who works “alone”?

I don’t know. It’s pretty much been the way I’ve always done it, so I wouldn’t know it any other way. Even though I do go at it on my own, I usually do surround myself with supportive musicians and friends who give me some sort of sense and stability, so it’s some sort of gang.

Even though I’m leading the group, it’s always a gang. It’s a wierd situation. It’s like the band that’s a non-band. I write all the music, but I don’t write it alone. I write it with everyone in the room. I’m not taking their ideas, but I feed off their energy. I don’t know if other people do it that way. I don’t see it that way. Like when I produce other bands, I don’t really see it happen that way. So, I don’t know if it’s unique or just rare.

You recently moved from Hollywood to East Los Angeles…

I moved back.

What prompted that?

I’m from East Los Angeles. I moved so as to be close to my family, but I don’t live there anymore. I’ve done a lot of moving over the last few years. I’m now back in the Hollywood area – in Laurel Canyon.

Do you think that’s had any impact on your songwriting?

I don’t think it really matters where I am as long as I have somewhere to stay.

This tour is now finished. Do you have any plans for visiting any other countries?

No, this tour is now done. We have some West-Coast dates we’re going to do and then some East-Coast dates after the New Year, and do what we can afford to do.

Do you have a record label at the moment?

Yeah, we do. Out here we’re on ‘Agitated’, which is Simon Keeler’s artist suit. He was the guy who originally signed us, and he has a new label. We’re going to do the next three records with him and Agitated – which is good news, because it means that we’ll be here a lot more.

So does this mean that we can expect to see you sooner rather than later?

Yeah, definitely. And there will be more records – we’ll have another record due before the end of next summer. It’s already written. My laptop has all the songs ready.

There have been concerns that The Icarus Line would have to fund touring duties themselves. Is that still the case now?

More or less. Simon from Agitated helped with our flights, but the rest is on our backs. So “Buy Merch”. That’s how we survive out here – through merchandise and fees.

You’ve obviously associated with Agitated in the UK, but what about the USA?

In America, I’m putting out my own records through a distribution company called ‘Cobraside’. But I think Travis’s new label (Miracle) is going to put out the new record.

What does Travis Keller’s “new label” mean for ‘Buddyhead’?

Well, Buddyhead will be a website, and Miracle will be his new record label.

So it’s almost like going back to square one for you to an extent, with Lance back in the band and you being on good terms again with Travis.

In some ways, yes. It’s going back full-circle. It’s amazing. It’s a really wierd cyclical thing, but all of it’s been natural. None of it’s contrived. I haven’t put that much thought into it. Things have just happened the way they’ve happened… It’s great.

Sammy… he’s been a wonderful temporary solution to your problem, but what’s the drummer situation going to be when you get back?

I don’t know. I guess the best possible scenario that I can put together. I have a couple of ideas, but I don’t stress about it as much these days.

It seems like good musicians want to play in this band, even though we don’t make lots of money and stuff. It’s a fun band to play in. We make good records. People who like the band, really like the band. And it’s a good outlet for decent musicians. There are so many corners for self-expression within the group. We play everything different, and everyone gets to express themself, whereas in other groups you have to play the song the way it’s meant to be. In this group, the songs are designed for a musician. It’s a musician’s band. But if they do it wrong, I’ll scream at them (smiles). “Just do your thing, man. But don’t fuck up” (laughs).

You talk about how the new record will be coming out next year. But in this day and age, where everything is going digital, and musical output is now more song and singles orientated, do you think there is still a place for the “traditional” album?

I don’t know, and I don’t really think about it. I’m kind of programmed to make records.

You’ve talked about the struggles which musicians face who work on the fringes of the mainstream music industry. What tips would you give to them, as well as bands that are just coming out and want to establish themselves and survive?

I don’t know. I’ve had such a hard time surviving. I guess all I can say is the same old cliched bullshit – be true to yourself. Make yourself happy with your music, and hopefully someone else will like it. I’m not a good person to give advice – I’ve been crashing and burning for ten years.

What’s the most valuable lesson that life has taught you?

I don’t know if it’s the most valuable lesson, but probably to brush my teeth before bed and after I wake up.

Thanks



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