Interview: Josh Berwanger on the new album, his love for Zima, and why The Anniversary will never perform again

By John B. Moore | Photos by Rebecca Armstrong

The Anniversary had a slew of split EPs and two much-loved full lengths in their catalogue before they abruptly imploded in 2004 in the midst of work on their third album.

Vagrant Records put out a double disc compilation of unreleased songs, B-sides and rarities in 2008 and various members of the band went on to start other projects. Singer/guitarist Josh Berwanger, a little beat from living the life of an indie musician, went back to high school, sort of. He took a job as a high school basketball coach.

After a few years out of the music world, Berwanger is back with longtime friend and original Anniversary drummer Michael Hutcherson. They have a new album coming out, Strange Stains, and are about to hit the road touring. But first, he took some time to talk about the new album, his love for Zima and why you will never see the Anniversary perform together again.

Can we talk first about the transition from rock star to basketball coach?  What was the hardest thing about that transition?

I was really burnt on doing music and realized there were very few other things I found entertaining. I’ve always loved basketball and had an opportunity to start coaching at a high school. I’m not a huge sports nut or anything, I just saw it as something different, something I knew a fair amount about and looked at it as a new challenge in life. The transition wasn’t strange, just had to deal with crazy parents, horrible refs, and trying not to get a technical foul called on me every game.

Did all of your students and fellow teachers know that you had been in bands?

Anytime you tell a person that has no clue about music that you are in a band they usually think it is some hobby or you are some form of low-life, so I didn’t ever talk about it. Eventually a few of my players Googled my name and found out I was in a band and saw the All Things Ordinary video. They came to practice the next day cracking up. I was coaching high school athletes in the suburbs so there were very few whose musical range ventured from what was popular on the radio.

Are you still coaching or did you leave that job?

I am through coaching and strictly focusing on music, bringing Zima back to the United States, and working on a script for the fourth installment of the MVP movie franchise.

The Anniversary break up seemed pretty abrupt at the time. Do you guys still talk?

This past year was the first time all of us talked and that was through e-mail. A few Festivals asked if we would be interested in playing them. It’s not going to happen.

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What can you tell me about Strange Stains?

It’s Michael Hutcherson and I’s latest album. There are 11 songs on it and it comes out October 1st on Good Land Records. It will be available on LP, CD, Tape and a newer format called MP3 (editor’s note: yes, he’s kidding). We are very excited about it and hope others will be as well.

Who else played with you on the record?

The main band is Michael Hutcherson (original Anniversary drummer) and myself. Jim Macpherson (The Breeders and Guided By Voices), Ricky Salthouse (Only Children), Heidi Gluck (Only Children/Julianna Hatfield), T.K. Webb (The Visions/Only Children), Brandon Phillips (The Architects), Marc Benning, Carly Gwinn, Deanda and Tim Frost, my niece Lily Garrison, and a chimp that also helps us sell merch on tour.

Were you listening to anything in particular when you were working on this record that had an influence?

My ex-girlfriend telling me being in a band is a waste of time, a shrink telling me I’m too old to gain the fame of Justin Beiber. Music-wise, Hulk Hogan and the Wrestling Boot Traveling Band, Freddie and the Dreamers, The Stoned Age soundtrack, and the obvious stuff: Ratt, GNR, Stones, Tyrannosaurus Rex, CTD, HATB, SD and LMN-SMB.

Do you plan to tour much behind this one?

Yes, as much as possible. We will be doing a Midwest/East Coast loop in October and a Midwest/West Coast loop in November. Dates can be found on our website: www.berwangermusic.com or www.facebook.gov/berwangermusic.

So what’s next for you?

Tour, CMJ, pucker shots, Daytrotter session, training our chimp to give the correct change when making a transaction at the merch table, figuring out what emo music is, figuring out what a pitchfork web-blog is, eat pizza, Calvin pissing on things, selling my Star Wars collection on eBay to get money for tour, getting a tattoo of an emo band’s name, saying Candyman’s name in the mirror five times, sleeping a lot, Zima.

Fair enough.

BERWANGER

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