This interview took place on August 25, 2007 before Mustard Plug’s performance at the annual Ska Weekend event in Knoxville, TN. I’d like to thank Rick Johnson and the rest of the band for being so rad and easy to work with. The new Mustard Plug album, Ã¢â‚¬Å“In Black and WhiteÃ¢â‚¬ was released September 11, 2007 so be sure to check it out!
Who are you and what do you do for the band?
My Name is Rick Johnson and I play bass guitar in the band.
What do you do outside of the band? Work? Play?
I do a lot of things outside of the band. Mainly though I write a lot of songs. So many songs in fact that Mustard Plug could never use all of them so I have a couple of other projects going on at all times. I have a solo project where I do everything on a computer using drum machines and synthesizers. I also have another band called Lenin-McCarthy which features Jeff Rosenstock from Bomb The Music Industry and John Massel from North Lincoln. Outside of music I have a part-time job working in a warehouse of a corporate electronics retailerÃ¢â‚¬¦..That is boring, I like Bikes and Mopeds too.
You have a new album coming out, Ã¢â‚¬Å“In Black and WhiteÃ¢â‚¬ How is it different that previous albums?
People have been saying it is more serious? I think it is just a product of everyone being older and the state of the United States of America right now. I can’t speak for everyone but I am pretty bummed about our current state of affairs. Not just the war but, the whole way government has turned in the past twenty years. Things seem pretty bleak and I think that feeling had a lot to do with the writing of the record. The older records differ mainly in the songwriting. Over the past 16 years I think we have evolved the most in that aspect and I think it really shows on this record.
How is your new album different from all the other ska punk records by other artists that have been even released? What makes it unique?
That is a really tough question. I think it falls nicely in that slightly more aggressive ska/punk avenue. It does this with out getting crusty which is pretty rad.
Overall has been a really positive response to your new album? Are you surprised by it? How serious do you take good or bad reviews?
I personally don’t try and pay attention to reviews too much. If you start paying tons of attention you run the risk of writing music for the sake of it getting good reviews. You become so preoccupied with it that it taints the writing process. Also I don’t really write songs or records for critics. I try and only write music for people that will listen not the people that don’t.
This is the 3rd album you’ve done with Bill Stevenson. He’s an amazing producer and did a really good job on your album. What do you think he does better or different that other producers and studios? Can you leak us any trade secrets?
Bill is amazing! The best thing about Bill and Jason Liverman (the other guy that produced the record with Bill) is that they are both amazing musicians. I think it makes working with them easier knowing that if they wanted to they could play the part better then you. Bill and Jason are just amazing at what they do and that is the only secret to the production of The Blasting Room.
You guys have been playing ska-punk for 17 years now. Did you ever consider ditching it and doing something different?
Never. I don’t think it ever crossed our minds.
Do you have a bunch of emo or rockabilly or hardcore friends that give you a hard time for being in a ska band?
Every once and while I get that but, I think there is a stigma that involves a ska band. But there is also a stigma about being in an emo or rockabilly band. I mean if an emo kid was giving me grief it is pretty easy to turn it around back on them.
Of all the shows you’ve played name one or two that stick out as favorites.
Any time I play the Trocodero in Philadelphia, PA is a pretty good time. One of my favorite live records (The Dead Milkmen Ã¢â‚¬Å“Chaos RulesÃ¢â‚¬) was recorded there so there is a special place in my heart for that venue.
The new album is a lot more serious than stuff you’ve done in the past. In terms of music, lyrics and even artwork. Was this intentional? Despite all this seriousness you guys still have a pretty silly band name. Do you ever wish you were called something else? Any good alternative band names?
It was overtly intentional. I think that is just how it turned out. We never went into the writing process thinking Ã¢â‚¬Å“hey lets make a serious record!Ã¢â‚¬ The artwork was just a by-product of how things turned out in the end. It is funny that you mention that about the name. I mean you could wish this and wish that but by the time you have those wishes it is too late. Some alternatives the band was going to use instead of Mustard Plug at the beginning were the Wanker Daddies or the Shrinky Dinks. I guess either way we would have had a silly name.
Over the course of the past 17 years there has been a lot of changes in the music industry and the way fans interact with bands and their music. What do you think are the biggest changes you’ve seen? Have the changes been for the better or for worse?
I mean the biggest change has been the internet. Pre the internet it was almost impossible for a band to tour. Everything happened on such a low level that you really had to work hard to get anywhere. Nowadays with Myspace.com and all these other sites out there anyone can get exposure. This is a double edge sword, I mean it is good because it is easy to contact a lot of people. But, you also have a billion other bands doing the same thing. Ask me this question in two years and I think I will have a better answer to this.
Name your top 3 punk albums of all time? Top 3 ska albums?
Big Black Ã¢â‚¬Å“Songs about FuckingÃ¢â‚¬
The Clash Ã¢â‚¬Å“S.T.Ã¢â‚¬
The Dead Milkmen Ã¢â‚¬Å“Big Lizard In My BackyardÃ¢â‚¬
The Specials Ã¢â‚¬Å“S.T.Ã¢â‚¬
The English Beat Ã¢â‚¬Å“Just Can’t Stop ItÃ¢â‚¬
What other contemporary bands do you admire most and why?
I look up to songwriters more then bands I think. I really look up to Elvis Costello. The man has such a body and about 90 percent of that work is amazing. Also I really like James Murphy from the LCD Soundsystem. He just seems like such a cool dude.
What lies ahead for Mustard Plug?
Lots of touring coming up! Hopefully we reach all of the United States and other parts of the world. Who knows though? I am sorta working some songs for what could be the next record. But the band hasn’t sat down and worked on anything yet.