Photo by Tyler Ross
Interview with Joe Sib | By Bryan Spearry
I wish that I had Joe’s job. Don’t get me wrong; I love what I do as my day job. I work in IT and get to help folks get their work done. It’s not glamorous in the least, but I’m doing something to help others while helping myself via my paycheck. I spend my spare time doing interviews like this and going to lots of shows. It’s still amazing to me, how many people from such different upbringings have so many commonalities and outlooks.
Your story is one that’s truly inspiring to anyone that’s chosen to live his or her dreams. Do you think you’d have been as successful had you latched on to something other than punk at a young age?
You know what? I totally-I don’t think so, because I think if I would have latched on to anything, whether it would have been sports or was metal, I always say if I would have gotten into metal I don’t think you’re hanging out backstage and meeting the guys in Iron Maiden or hanging out with Metallica. I feel like because I got into punk rock and the bands that I love, their thing is “there’s no difference between us and them,” you know? “We’re on stage for thirty minutes and then we’re out in the crowd.” So when there’s that mentality, you’re able to– for me, I sat on the side of the stage a lot and I got a chance to watch great bands play, like Social Distortion, and be able to really see what they were doing, and also being able to talk to them, hang out with them. I became friends with Steve Soto, and I became friends with Joey Ramone. That, right there, that changes everything because you’re able to ask the questions that you can learn to become a better singer, better band member, whatever, and I feel that because my interest in punk rock, I had that one-on-one time with those guys.
You grew up with a very supportive family who encouraged your involvement in punk. Do you have any advice for those whose parents aren’t as understanding?
Nowadays, I mean, punk rock when I was a kid, it was showing up with the double mohawk, the bondage pants, and the creepers. That’s what the crew of kids looked like that. It was really new, and I think the parents were like, “Oh my God, what are my kids getting into?” I was just fortunate that my dad was really involved–he was, at that time, he started out as a teacher. He was around young people; he was around in the states when punk rock broke. He traveled to England, he saw Piccadilly Circus and knew the face of punk rock. So when it hit the states, he knew, “Oh yeah, that’s that thing I saw last summer when I was over in Europe.” So he knew kind of what it was all about, and I think because of his contact all the time in college, because he was a professor in college, he knew that young people go through phases. I don’t think he ever expected to think that it would last through the lifetime. We hang out in my forties, and he says, “Oh my God, you’re doing the same thing you did when you were fifteen. You talk on the phone all day, say the words ‘bro’ and ‘dude,’ ‘fuck ya’ way too much, and listening to music. And somehow, you figured out how to make a living doing it,” which is the truth. For other parents, I think it’s harder being a parent nowadays because I’m a parent of two, and my biggest thing is just being aware what’s going on socially with my kids and what’s out there. As much as I want to say the world is a great place and that there are not bad people, it’s not like that. There’s plenty of rainbows and sunsets, but if you think you can look the other way and let your kid maneuver the world we live in in 2014 alone, and go for the attitude of “Well, you know, they’re going to learn by trial and error.” Trial and error? It gets you killed. And some people say, “Oh my God, you’re an overprotective parent,” and I’m like, “No I’m not. I’m a very connected parent.” I’m not overprotective, I’m connected and I’m not going to get lazy. Because that’s what it is! It’s hard to be a parent. It’s a 24/7 job, and sometimes I don’t want to be a dad. Sometimes I want to not be a dad, I don’t want the responsibility. But you have to be connected and drop into it every time. And I think right now parents have a whole set of stuff, with social media, just that alone, and raising kids. The day and age we live in, you’ve got to definitely be connected. I think it’s just different from when we were kids, it’s definitely changed.
I’m re-listening to 13 Unlucky Numbers, by your band Wax, and discovered a missed gem from my youth, “Settle Down.” Could you tell a story about that song? It’s hilarious.
Yeah, “Settle Down,” when we wrote that was a Loomis and Dave song. That was like, I mean, Soda, he was already more in the music end of it. Lyrically, though, that was a Loomis and Dave song. When I think of that song, especially on 13 Unlucky Numbers, there’s a lot of those lyrics that are about, like in that song it’s I walk today, we’re always talking about walking, we’re always talking about watching things. That record, we wrote, we were signed, and there was this in-between phase that we, as a band, wanted everything to happen with touring and making records, but because we were on a major label there was so much waiting. You had to wait; you had to have a meeting to have a meeting to have another meeting. That was really frustrating for us. I feel like a lot of lyrics are about hurry up and wait. Whenever I listen to that song, I’m like, “We’re really talking about waiting a lot.” You know, you’re just in between. And that was what that record was all about. And that record never came out when it was supposed to come out, it got–we literally made that record, turned it in, and it got dropped. It’s almost like someone was in on what we thought might happen with this record. After we got dropped there was even more waiting that went on. It was definitely fun making that record, and it’s a trip with everything we were doing back then. You never expect to be talking about something that you did so long ago, still. I still get people who send me the vinyl record and ask me to sign it. I’m like; “You weren’t even fucking alive when we made this record!” They’re like, “I know! I love it!” I think a lot of it had to do with that video; Spike Jonze making that “California” video really locked us in a time. I think him doing that was pretty cool.
Let’s talk about your comedy show. How did you get started with this?
I’ve always wanted to do stand-up. I’ve been doing stand-up for the last five years, but when I wrote the one-man show that was really my gateway for getting into stand-up. I’m a storyteller. When you’re doing stand-up, and you’re doing improv, or you’re at the coffee club, you’ve got to go wider than your youth and how much you love Black Flag and The Ramones and Social Distortion. When I was doing the one-man show, California Calling, the thing that was great was it really gave me that opportunity to work on my storytelling and to work on being funny, short stories, and to make the parts that worked happen sooner. And I did that show for a while, and doing that was really great. People were coming out to see it, and that really got me into the idea that I really want to try to do stand-up. That was the next part of what I wanted to try next. Once I got into that, then I started trying to figure out how to incorporate what my life’s like now. My approach to comedy is different than a lot of other guys, because I’m not a one-liner guy. I have to tell stories. When you’re telling stories for a twenty minute period, you’ve got to be on point. So I think doing storytelling really opened up the door for me to try stand-up.
What are some of the albums that you’ve been most proud of, and some upcoming releases you’re really excited about?
I’ll be honest, I know it sounds cliché, but there isn’t any record we’ve ever put out that I haven’t loved and been proud of. That’s the best thing about doing this; every band I’ve ever worked with I’ve loved. Some bands, obviously, have become more popular than others, but in my eyes, I’ve loved every band we’ve worked with. I feel so grateful and honored that they’d let us put out their music. I feel like, since we’ve been a company for 20 years, and there’s definitely a whole new chapter and a whole new beginning with bands like Andrew Jackson Jihad, Pup, and Chuck Ragan, these are all bands that I love. We’re releasing records from them, and that’s exciting to me. This far into it, 20 years, we’ve released over 200 records in those 20 years. To be still doing it and coming in every day and being this excited about it, I feel grateful because I don’t know any other gig. My whole life, either I’ve been on stage as a singer in a band, or doing SideOneDummy. Before that, I was making sandwiches at TOGOs. I never had another gig in between. I’ve been really fortunate.
We’re seeing the vast changes now in the record industry. How do you feel about the future of independent music, and what can young bands do to survive this time?
The bottom line is that the way people get their music, the way they listen to their music is going be changing. It’s going to continue changing. Whether it’s streaming, whether it’s downloading. Right now it’s all about the streaming. And that, right there, I can tell you is going to continue to change. And how people pay for their music, and what they pay for it, and if they pay for it, that’s going to continue to change. But the one thing that I believe 100% is that, no matter what, you have to be a great live act. You have to be a force. That goes for DJs, that goes for punk rock bands, that goes for acoustic artists, that goes for singer-songwriters, that goes for anyone. Any time you are on stage, you better bring it, because the moment you don’t bring it is the moment that the audience turns around, walks around, and forgets. And that’s just the way it is. That’s the number one thing that keeps me moving forward and excited about the future because I love a live show. Whatever you do on stage, it has to connect; it has to be a great live force. If it doesn’t have that, it just doesn’t mean anything.