Talk It Out - The Knives - November 2003
I’m here at Cantor’s Deli with this good-times rock band, The Knives. Dangerous, they’re anything but. I see them more as a tool for understanding that which is necessary in today’s economy…employment or the lack there of. By the way, no other band has made me laugh so hard. The Knives are a bundle of love, and from the heart.
The Knives are: Le’Von Webb on vocals, Brane on guitars, Haggis on bass, and Jonny U on drums.
Jodi: Hi Jonny U. What’s happening in your crazy life?
Jonny: Well, I woke up today and I got coffee. And I drove a lot today.
Jodi: Where did you drive to?
Jonny: To the coffee shop, and to Hollywood. And, to Fairfax.
Jodi: What did you see today on this fine, glorious day?
Jonny: Well, actually I was driving to pick up Le’Von and I was sitting on Mulholland and I did see a hell of a view.
Le’Von: You saw a deer?
Jonny: Yeah, a deer. A view, a deer, same difference. It works.
Le’Von: I saw a deer on the road the other day. It was a little weird for here in California. I don’t know, but I am convinced that the rich people in the Hollywood Hills brought deer to make it more foresty-like. Think about it, where did they come from? I think some little kid was like, “I want Bambi for Christmas!”
Jodi: We brought in the palm trees.
Jonny: That pissed me off when I found that out.
Le’Von: You know why Land Rovers have that front grill on them now…for those deer on Laurel Canyon.
Jodi: Is there a class difference in LA?
Brane: You’ve got the stupidly rich people that drive around in their Mercedes all day cutting you off thinking they’re rock stars –
Le’Von: Unless they are.
Brane: Unless they are rock stars, but usually they’re not.
Jodi: Because I’m sitting here with the real rock stars.
Brane: And then, you get the normal people. And then you get the poor people pushing carts around the streets.
Le’Von: You think that guy is poor, but then he pushes his cart into a mansion, after he gets money from you all day long, and then he drives by and cuts you off in the Mercedes.
Jodi: I see homeless people around here, I guess you’d call them beggars, people who ask for money on the street, and I have a relationship with them, and then I see them in line at the bank, and talking on their cell phones. I love it. I’m glad to see that people do well.
Le’Von: The window washer guy is like, “Can I wash your windows – oh, wait, I’ve got a call!” Exactly.
Haggis : Homeless people always have brand new sneakers on, and they always have a walkman.
Brane: I walk a lot, and you know how in the movies you see the car hit the guy with the cans and they go all off the road? I saw it today! The guy got out of his car and helped them pick up the cans.
Le’Von: Oh, that’s nice.
Brane: He was like, “Shit!” and he got and he ran around. He was helping this Black woman who was trying to hit him. He’s like, “Whoa!”, helping her and he lifted up the cart and put the cans back in.
Jodi: That was nice.
Le’Von: Dude, I’m going to get you a video camera. You need to take a video camera around with you.
Jodi: My boyfriend at the time did that. We were driving on Sunset and the car in front of us stalled, and was blocking traffic, and my boyfriend pulled over to the side of the road, jumped out of his car and starting pushing uphill the car in front of us.
Jonny: He just wanted to get that car the hell out of the way.
Le’Von: He was just trying to impress you.
Jodi: It worked. I was very impressed with him. What we’re talking about here is generous acts of kindness. With the people on one side who may be very malevolent, the people who will cut you off and destroy your sanity, and be negative. And then there are the people who on the other hand could be the best angels. We have both of that in LA, don’t we?
Le’Von: I think the most major thing to us as a band in Hollywood is that we see and deal with lots of people all the time, and you have different people who are attracted to you and follow you around, and there’s the type of person who comes to – Oh, my bratwurst! We had to get bratwurst so we could actually sit at a table.
Jodi: The bratwurst has arrived. Sauerkraut.
Haggis : Where are the cookies?
Le’Von: Anyway, back to my point. The kind of difference that I see, and obviously there’s rich and there’s poor, there are people who have money and people who don’t, there is the person who lives in Los Angeles, who is part of Los Angeles, who understands Los Angeles and deals with Los Angeles and those people get along in harmony. Then there’s the other type of person who lives in Los Angeles, andthinks they know what it’s like to live in LA, and thinks they’re doing all the right things, and they are the ones who make it hard. They are the ones that create the class difference. The class difference is there’s the person who drives erratically in their car talking on their cell phone, they live out this whole cliché, and they talk about how New York’s better than Los Angeles, and this back and forth bullshit, then they’re also in the clubs. Clubs that also cater to certain kinds of bands even, and that’s the hip thing. Those are the people that are all cool and those are the people who keep their wardrobes updated, and they shop at Urban Outfitters and they where the hip things. And then there’s the people who have always been here, that have always done the same thing, and they watch these things they’ve been a part of become a trend. The trends come and go, when we’ve been here the whole time. We’re the fiber of Los Angeles, and that’s what we, The Knives, are all about. We’re here, we’re real. We’re as real as it gets. We are Los Angeles, we are Hollywood. Everybody else is just a lamp sitting on a hill. That to me is the class difference.
Haggis : And they are fucking ANTS! You can quote me on that one!
Jodi: That’s kind of a punk philosophy, is it not?
Haggis : We’re all hairs just circling the drain.
Jodi: Excellent. Well, I think when you look at our economy, when you look at people who have jobs next to people who don’t have jobs, is that what’s going on here? Is there a big class divide? We’re artists, so we’re real for the most part, because we speak the truth, or what? What makes us different? I’m with you, I’m real, I’m the fiber of Los Angeles. What gives us that spirit?
Haggis : I just play guitar. I play guitar in a band. I don’t know what your question is, but I’ll talk about whatever I want now.
Jodi: He has the power!
Le’Von: That’s the fiber of Los Angeles, right there!
Haggis : Yeah, I drive through Beverly Hills everyday to go to work and I look at the big houses and I go, “One day, one of those will be mine.” And you know, I’m doing what it takes to get there. If you’re true to yourself and you know in your heart you’re doing the right thing, then you’ll get there.
Jodi: Well, why is that the goal?
Jonny: Why is what the goal?
Jodi: The big house in Beverly Hills.
Haggis : The goal is not to work at a job that is not what I want to do in life. So my goal in life is to do what I want to do, and to be able to do it and not have to worry about money.
Le’Von: The consummation of career and creativity. That’s our goal. We want to make money as artists. Whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing, we don’t give a fuck. We want to have nice houses and nice things for doing what we do, and not breaking our backs doing physical labor because that will never get us there. Why not enjoy the fine things in life? That doesn’t necessarily have to b a Mercedes Benz or BMW, but it would be nice to survive and yes, money does help, and be able to do the things you want, and buy freedom. That’s what the whole thing is about. If you want to take a year off to write an entire album, it would be great to get paid for it.
Jonny: The best thing about money, is that it makes you forget about money. If you can forget about money, then you’ll be totally happy and worry-free if you’re lucky in life, because if you think about the things you think about it life, it’s money. Therefore, the house in Beverly Hills, it’s not a materialistic statement, it’s a metaphor to accept in a sense. If anyone of us were to live in one of those houses in Beverly Hills, I could almost guarantee you that the mind frame of the person who lived in that same exact house before us would be nothing like anyone of our lives living there today.
Le’Von: And, forget the house in Beverly Hills, we’d sell it and move to the Hollywood Hills, because it’s way better.
Jodi: I hear what you’re saying about money symbolizes freedom, but don’t you think that the people living in those houses in Beverly Hills, don’t you think they have huge mortgages and they’re just as pissed off as we are about money and about trying to have to make it?
Le’Von: You’re missing the point. The point is, it’s cliché to even bitch about people who have money, and it’s cliché to bitch about people that are assholes in LA or the pretentious in LA. We all know that, we all see that. We’ve all heard it and it’s ridiculous, and there’s a deeper root to it all. I think what we’re saying is that it’s nice to be acknowledged for what you do as an artist and not be looked down upon as someone who has made it and has all those things. It’d be nice to have a social equality and follow it regardless of the money, that not be the focus, but for what somebody can do and somebody’s talent. It’s sad that for someone in that situation, living in those types of luxuries might not be open to artists that are struggling or they do nothing themselves. So, they don’t even appreciate it. I don’t even know what I’m talking about.
Jodi: We’re talking about teamwork. We all live in Los Angeles. We all shop. We’re at a restaurant right now. We’re all consumers. How do we join together to create a better reality for all of us? Whether we’re homeless or successful or poor or wealthy or artistically free or whatever?
Haggis : You buy our merchandise and help us out. We’ll help you out.
Le’Von: That will help the economy!
Jodi: Okay. So making a living as a musician, there are so many things against us in terms of the online disaster going on with file sharing. How would you describe how the horrendous music economy is affecting you? Is that a myth? Is is a reality? How can we cause a transformation in energy resources so that the artist is benefiting from their own artistic endeavors?
Jonny: I think that the major labels the ones who are suffering. I think there is a music-consuming population, and they are sick of being ripped-off. So I think a lot of bands out there, that most people have never even heard of that don’t go past the surface, are out there making careers. They might not be rich, but they’re selling merch and people are buying their records. They’re the ones giving away the music on the internet, which I think happens to be a great idea. It’s like, “Fuck it.” If they like the music, they’re gonna want to buy the album because they’re gonna want the artwork and all the shit! How does someone know if they’re going to like the album to begin with if they don’t listen to it. Every album that anybody ever buys and it becomes their favorite album, it probably wasn’t their favorite album the first time they ever listened to it. Therefore, this gives you the opportunity to really get to know a band and then you can go out and buy merch or whatever. It’s just those corporate pigs who have a problem with it because they’re the ones who are aren’t getting all the money. The artists are getting fucked in every angle when it comes down to it. Are the major labels the ones who are really getting screwed out of the money? No. It’s really the artists, because the labels will take the money anyway and it doesn’t matter, and the artists aren’t getting paid any way you look at it. It’s a losing situation.
Le’Von: I think what’s happening is awesome, because it’s going back to when I was in high school. It’s getting very grass-roots, very DIY (do it yourself). When I was in high school it was all about these new bands that no one had ever heard of, that were undiscovered, that had started their own labels, and done their own releases. Something that was mainstream and on the radio almost worked against it. It was more about what we could find as our own thing, and the minute everybody was doing that thing, we moved on and started the next thing. I guess we just had that instinctual desire to pioneer what’s cool in high school.
Jodi: Talk It Out…beat the rush!
Le’Von: The thing I see right now is that the major labels have invested so much money in not knowing what they’re doing and losing money now because of it, and it’s causing them to go back and rethink and strategize what it is that they’re doing, decrease the inflation in certain areas. It’s causing artists like us to stop focusing and wasting our time on doing demos and sending them to major record labels praying that we’re going to get some kind of record deal without doing any work, and it never happening. What it’s doing for us now is causing us to think, “How can we do this on our own? How can we invest our own money and create our own album, create our own fan-base, and do it without them having any control over it?” And then have them come to us when we’ve already got it going, and then we have an upper hand. That’s what we’re doing right now. We’ve recorded an album with Rob Blasko. He’s working with Helmut. He’s playing bass for them. He produced an 8 song albumette for us. We’re releasing it on our own, pay for it on our own, sell it on our own, do all our own artwork, generate it, get it to our own fans, selling merch, playing shows, beautifying a scene within Hollywood, trying to make things better, trying to get it back to where it should be in the first place. That’s what music’s about. It’s not about being on a Big-Gulp cup. It’s about being accessible to teenagers, playing all-ages shows, making everybody feel part of something. Make them feel like this is real.
Jodi: Hollywood started out as a bunch of independent renegades…who came out here to make movies from New York because it was sunny out. Hollywood has always been about the independent spirit and that is the American Dream, through the fiber of the city of angels, Los Angeles. That is why Hollywood presents the American Dream to the rest of the world, because it can be accomplished here. Talk It Out!