With an ever-growing myriad of music awards and platinum records to their credit, Fall Out Boy
persistently delivers their brand of melodic punk rock to elated audiences worldwide. Joe Trohman
, guitarist for the popular Chicago based band, subsists for the live experience. Known for his energetic stage antics, especially his signature spin known as Trohmania
, his number one goal is to get out there and put on the best live show possible. The recently released CD/DVD Fall Out Boy - Live In Phoenix
is temporarily appeasing fans while the band uses the summer of 2008 to record their next studio album.
Below is Brian D. Holland
's recent conversation with Joe Trohman
, in which he talks about everything concerning himself and the band. He talks enthusiastically about the new Joe Trohman
signature Washburn WI26
guitar as well.
Brian D. Holland: Live In Phoenix was released on April 1st. That's a CD and a DVD, Joe?
Yes, it's a CD and DVD. The DVD has the show and some extra footage on it. It was recorded at one show on the Honda Civic tour in Phoenix. We actually made sure we played really well that day. [Laughing]
Joe, in 2005, From Under the Cork Tree went on to platinum status, selling more than 2.5 million albums in the US alone. In February, 2007, the band released Infinity On High to major chart success. It reached number 1 on the Billboard top 200, selling 260,000 copies the first week. The first single, This Ain't A Scene, It's an Arms Race, reached number 1 on the Pop 100 and number 2 on the Billboard Hot 100. Has the fame fully sunken in yet?
It's weird. I think it's different for all of us. With Pete, and some of the things he's chosen to do, he's definitely made himself more of a bonafide, all-around celebrity, which is cool, but totally his thing. For everyone who grew up with him, including myself and the rest of the band, we all knew he was destined to be that kind of dude. Patrick gets bugged a lot, honestly, because he's the front man of the band. It's impossible not to. I've noticed it a lot lately when I've been going out. But I just don't go out a lot.
That was going to be my next question. Do you miss the privacy and the freedom you once had?
I definitely miss it to an extent. But I'll tell you exactly how it is. For me, the things I do to entertain myself outside of the house revolve around people who, although they might listen to Fall Out Boy, are not of the age where they know what all four of us look like, our stats and stuff. I think that would happen more often if I went to malls and stuff like that. The other day I went to a Japanese restaurant and then to Target, and I got bugged. But just last night, I went to a jazz bar. Nobody bugged me there. So it all depends upon where I go to hang out. It's never that bad. Honestly, most people are like super cool, and they'll just come up to me and shake hands, and that'll be it. But it rarely gets out of control.
How's the relationship with Island Records going?
That's a loaded question. Let's just say that we're able to keep a lot of things within our control, which I think is very important. That's the type of band we are. We build ourselves up, so we're never going to relinquish control, or too much control. The labels are taking a beating, or beating themselves. You'll see some wild changes soon. I think we all will. But things have been alright for us. Things are going fine.
I had heard that you were involved in an acting routine recently, for a movie or something.
Yeah. We did this kind of all-star cast comedy thing. There were a lot of cameos. One of our friends, Seth Green, kind of got us in this movie. They were looking for us to be in it, and then Seth was like, Well, I know those guys. So I'll hit 'em up.
He asked us, and we were like Totally.
We had some improv lines with Seth, and now we'll see what gets cut up and used. We did some performance scenes, which was pretty much like taping a music video and playing to a track. I had a lot of fun; I love hanging out with Seth. He's such a rad guy, and we just sat around drinking beers. It was a good time. It could be a really funny movie. It's based around the scenario of Amish children, and when they reach a certain age. They're given the opportunity to go out and experience the world, to see if they want to be Amish. That's what it's based around. The script said Untitled Teen Road Movie
, so, we'll know the title when everyone else does.
What were the circumstances that got you into playing guitar?
It was probably the same stuff that gets every person into playing. When I was a kid, my parents got me into piano, viola, and trombone. They were the three instruments I went through. The moment I started playing trombone, which was the last one before guitar, I knew I wanted to play guitar really badly. I was a huge Metallica fan, and I'm really into Slash. I've always thought he was the coolest dude, and like the greatest guitar player. He's awesome, and I love the fact that he did everything himself. He made the world of guitar fit around him, rather than him fitting around the world of guitar, which I think is really cool. I think I remember watching that Metallica Live Shit - Binge and Purge box set. My grandmother bought it for me. I remember watching that and thinking, yeah, that's what I want to do. My grandpa gave me this old beat up guitar, and I started playing that. My dad gave me the opportunity to play the guitar if I was really serious about it, so he bought me a guitar and an amp made by Barkley. The combination was about 100 bucks. That's how I started really, when I was about nine or ten.
I noticed that in the song Thriller, you do get into kind of a thrash metal sound.
Yeah, the chugs and triplets. Andy used to be in this metal band called Race Traitor. It was a cool band. They had a part like that. Patrick told Andy that we should use that, so he did kind of a bastardized version of it. You could kind of say that Andy wrote the part originally, in this weird way.
But so many different styles of music have influenced us individually and as a band. I think heavy metal is there. It's not always the most predominant factor in Fall Out Boy, but it's definitely there. Andy and I are huge metal heads.
Do you consider Fall Out Boy's style to be emo, or do you want to stay clear of that?
|"If people want to call us emo, that's totally cool."|
That's another loaded question. None of us are pissed about it. If there's a conception of that then it's a misconception. It's weird, but when I was getting into punk rock and hardcore when I was younger, emo was like Fugazi. It was these weird bands that were almost like post hardcore or post punk bands. Many were really political. Emo had to do with how they would vocalize, not the way in which it refers to our music. If people want to call us emo, that's totally cool. We started out as a pop punk band, because we were very much interested in giving the band a sound like Green Day or The Descendents, but I think we've turned into a rock band. Some of our lyrics are definitely emotional, but some Zeppelin lyrics are pretty emotional, too. You could call them an emo band as well. [Laughing]
There are too many subgenres in music these days. They tend to confuse more than anything else.
And it ruins things for people, because if it has that tag on it, regardless if it sounds like that or not they'll never go and find out what it really sounds like. To be labeled [quote unquote] emo
is sometimes very apropos, because there are a bunch of bands that actually sound like carbon copies of each other. But again, that's music, so.
Talk a minute about recording. What's your process for recording guitar in the studio?
For our last two records, one of the big things we'd do is go to a place where we could go through a bunch of cool gear, like a lot of cool heads. We'd grab some cool guitars, old Les Pauls, some Telecasters. We use this cool guitar called a Giffen a lot. We used the Washburn on the last record, one of my custom Idols. It just sounded great.
We usually do drums; we get them out of the way. Then we'll start on some bass and some rhythm guitar. Patrick and I will trade off on rhythm and lead. It's never a conscious thing; it's just whoever is playing what. So I'll play the rhythm on a certain song, and Patrick will lay down his stuff afterward. Or vice versa; he'll lay down the rhythm and I'll come in and do the lead. For me, it's always a relatively quick process, usually a week or two and I'm totally done with everything I need to do. It' song by song, I guess.
Talk about the writing process.
It started out pretty messed up like any band. Most of the music is written by Patrick. I write a lot on my own, and I'll send a lot of it to Patrick, which he'll use in songs that work. Pete writes the majority of the lyrics. Once Patrick kind of gets what he needs between himself, me, and Pete lyrically, we'll bring it to the band for record pre-production. Then we'll hash out the songs as a band.
That's pretty good. It's like a whole group process.
Yeah. It's definitely a group process. The thing that fucks up bands a lot is when everybody wants to do everything. We were never like: You're designated this position and you're designated that. We've designated ourselves certain general positions, like I write a tiny bit, but my best thing is getting out there and putting on the best live show possible. That's been my number one goal personally. You can't judge a band until you see them live really. Sometimes it makes people love bands they hated.
Patrick's a very prolific writer. He's a one-of-a-kind kind of guy. You've got to let him do his thing. You don't want to get too up in his grill, sort of speak. He always wants me to write little parts and riffs and then email them to him. That's where the technology comes into play. I do a lot of garage band recording and then send him what I really like; even some stuff I might not like as much, the reason being that he might like it more than I do.
Is there a particular comfort zone on the guitar you like to stay in, maybe for vocal range, any particular keys?
I've tried to make myself comfortable with most of the fretboard as possible. I like pentatonic scales because I've always been a big Tony Iommi fan. I play along with those a lot. I grew up playing a lot of heavy metal; I'm probably better at that than playing Fall Out Boy. [Laughing] It's definitely where my comfort lies. I've tried to make myself someone who can play a decent variety of stuff. I've even made myself learn things that I didn't want to learn, a kind of picking or playing that I just never would've gotten into otherwise. It's made me an all-around better player.
What started your signature onstage spin, known as Trohmania? Does it get tiresome after a while?
Yeah. [Laughing] That's what the kids started calling it. It's totally a great workout, for a guy who never works out. I've always been going pretty nuts onstage. After the first couple of Fall Out Boy albums I kind of figured out what I wanted to do and started going nuts. There's a lot of spaz inside of me. I know people don't want to see it throughout the day, so I figure, why not unleash it all onstage. That's what I do. I think the spin thing came from watching other people kind of do their versions prior to that. I kind of put my own, without the pun, spin
on it. It just turned into my own thing. A lot of people think I'm spinning around twice as many times as I actually am, or twice as fast as I feel like I am. I like that people like it. It got to the point where people like it so much that I try not to do it too many times throughout a set so I won't tire it out.
Do you ever get dizzy from it?
Sometimes. But it has gotten to the point where I think I know how to position my head with my body. I then follow my movements so I don't get dizzy. I used to get really dizzy, and land pretty weird sometimes. I don't know; I try to throw that in with a lot of jumping off of things and flailing my body around.
Do you use a remote system on the guitar when doing that?
|" my best thing is getting out there and putting on the best live show possible. That's been my number one goal personally."|
Yeah. I use a wireless. We're all on wireless units. I used to use a cable, but it was a nightmare. Someone who worked for the band would have to come out and unwrap the cable as fast as possible in the middle of the songs.
I read something last year about the use of animals; the orangutans, monkeys, and chimps in the video Thanks fr th Mmrs. Did the animal rights group have that all wrong?
Yeah. They were making a big thing out of nothing. First off, those chimps and orangutans get treated better than the ones in zoos. They're loved, and they're taken care of much better and cleaned much better. And they're only allowed to work a certain amount of time every day. Plus, we had someone from Animal Protection there the entire time, making sure everything was cool. It's really weird that people got pissed off about that. Those animals were treated quite well, probably better than most humans, and definitely better than animals in the zoo.
Our fanclub in New Zealand adopted a kiwi bird and named it after me. I really wanted to go to the Auckland zoo to visit it, but they blacklisted me because of our video. I was like, What the fuck is your problem? You keep animals inside a cage.
Our drummer is vegan and a peta supporter. We're all animal lovers, so we'd never hurt an animal.
Talk about touring, the good points about it and the bad.
Good points, well, I love playing the shows. That's why we do it, and it's satisfying pretty much every night. I love trailing out in a group that's like family. It's like a weird troop of carnies. We're really weird guys. We only make sense to each other, and it's fun. When you tour for like six or seven years straight, it gets daunting after a while. You end up missing home, the normal scene, structure. You miss being in the same place every day. I think that's more or less what it is. I don't mind traveling on the bus so much because I sleep really well on the bunks, but flying and staying in hotels really sucks. You get sick all of the time, and you know hotels, they either blast the air conditioning or there's no air conditioning. You get one or the other.
I was reading this interview of Tony Iommi, I think in Guitar World or something. I don't really remember. But he was talking about the same thing. He said, I love playing shows, but I hate all the flying and staying in hotels.
It's like the worst part.
Talk about hobbies or leisure time activities. Are there things fans might be unaware of that you like to do, maybe when you're not playing guitar?
Some of it I keep under wraps, because it's stuff that I do want to unleash eventually. Definitely some side music stuff, though it's totally for fun right now. It's been kind of a secondary outlet that will never take precedents over Fall Out Boy. I also like to cook. I've been really getting into cooking, actually trying to cook properly, and properly prepare meals. Things like that. I've been drawing ever since I was a kid, so I do a lot of that. I always consider buying a canvas and doing some acrylic paintings, but I never get around to doing it. I put myself out there a lot, so a lot of the kids that do my blog kind of know what I'm into.
Where have the best audiences been for Fall Out Boy so far, where you've garnered the most acceptance, the liveliest as well?
Yeah, totally! Obviously, Chicago's great. I can't discount Chicago; that's number one right there. Second to that, New York City has been good. It's always been a great place for us. There are so many places here in the states that are awesome. Southern California has always been pretty cool. Boston has been awesome, too. All our east coast shows have been incredible. Australia, surprisingly, is amazing! The acceptance we've gotten over there is just awesome. Our level of success over there has been huge, and the crowds are amazing. New Zealand has been similar. They're almost a little crazier that the Aussies. Japan's really cool. We did a show in Moscow last year that was incredible. We did a European festival run last year, and every show was just amazing. By the time we hit stage the crowds were huge. It was the first time Fall Out Boy had done the festival thing, hitting Germany, Austria, playing all the different festivals. The reception was amazing. And it was cool, because I got to watch Dinosaur Jr. every night, because we did all those shows with them. I love J Mascis. He's such a good guitar player.
Let's talk a bit about gear, and your signature Washburn guitar. I know you once played a Les Paul as well, and a Telecaster '63 Relic.
I did play a '63 Relic. Before people cared about FOB I played a lot of Les Pauls and Les Paul Juniors.
Now you're endorsed by Washburn. You actually play a few different ones. You have your signature, the WI26. How is that?
I love it. I played a lot of Washburns because it took a while to put this one together. I wanted something that was going to be a real quality guitar, something that would look and sound nice, but wouldn't cost too much money. You know those Les Pauls and SGs that they made that were like 5 or 600 dollars? I have one of those upstairs. I wanted something like that. It's the type of guitar I feel a beginner could buy, too, and not feel weird about buying it.
I saw a price tag of about $420 dollars. Is that right?
That's pretty good.
|"Andy and I are huge metal heads."|
It's great! It's a set [maple] neck guitar, so it's one piece. It has the custom pearl [keyhole] inlays. The pickups are awesome, the WB630s [high-output humbuckers]. It gets cool distortion, very similar to a Duncan.
And it has the VCC (voice control contour) coil-splitting system.
Yeah. You can actually get some use out of the tone knob, which is actually a pretty cool thing. I've been using it more and more lately when playing live, especially because I A/B between a Bogner Uberschall and an Orange Rockerverb. They're both really cool, but completely different tones. So it's cool to throw that tone volume down when I'm on the Orange, but to boost it back up to get that humbucker sound again.
So, you can easily go between the sound of a loud humbucker and a single coil pickup with that guitar.
Absolutely. And it's cool. It's not like a half assed piece of technology. It works. You know, I didn't want to have too much electronics going on, but I thought that would be a really nice feature. And if you don't want that, you don't have to do it. You can go in and disable the tone knobs if you know how to do that. You can also use it as I developed it, kind of like a road dog guitar. You can play it live and it'll do what it needs to do, and there's no frills. And it looks nice. I kind of based it on two guitars of two different colors. The black one is based on a '69 Les Paul Custom that I have, and the white one is based on a Studio that I have.
The signature Washburn is a basswood body?
It's pretty light, yeah. If you've noticed the custom shop Idols, they're pretty thick bodies, and pretty heavy. So I wanted something with a thin body, yet without compromising the tone. I think we were able to achieve that because there's definitely no compromising going on. Even when we're traveling, and we have to use rental gear, I plug this guitar in and it sounds just as good as any other guitar. I'm actually really happy with it. I didn't know at first how people's reactions would be, because it's a very simple guitar. But I think people appreciate the simplicity, and I think it looks good aesthetically. And it feels real nice when you play it. I've gotten great feedback from people, especially when I was at NAMM. I did signings and interviews there, and I saw some press of my guitar, and it was really positive. I'm very pleased that people are able to see the same things that I see.
What's on the horizon for you and Fall Out Boy?
This summer we'll be getting into pre-production for a new record. As you know, we have the live DVD out. We'll be doing some one-off shows here and there, but nothing tour wise, as of yet. As I had said, I have some side music that in some point in time in the future, maybe we'll release it or maybe we won't. So I'm not telling anyone to keep a look out or hold their breath. But if they see it, don't be surprised. But for FOB, working on a new record is pretty much it. We have tons of new demos, and they sound awesome. That's what we're all focused on doing right now.
Would you like to say anything to your fans?
Our fans rule! I hope they're alright with being a little more patient, because I think it'll be worth the wait. And as far as my guitar goes, people will soon be able to go out and check it out, and perhaps buy it if they want. I should be doing some promos and stuff at places. Our fans can look out for that; I'll do some signings, maybe some clinics as well. Also, if they want to get a hold of the guitar beforehand, they can go to my website: empireoftherepublic.com
Interview by Brian D. Holland