Interview de Tony Hajjar - Batteur, At The
Drive-In - Manchester - 3 Décembre 2000
People MR - Me (Mike Randall) TW - Tony Woolgar Tony - Tony Hajjar - ATD-I
MR - How are you finding this tour? How long have you been touring
Tony - Well, we did seven weeks in the states, then we had four days
off for thanksgiving and we had a day where we had to do some radio stuff,
and then we came here. Its been really really easy because all we
did was those TV shows. We did Later... - that was the first thing we
did, and then after that we did a TV show in Paris where we got to do
two songs. We were so happy the day before yesterday that we actually
got to play a show! It was really really nice because theres not
that stress that youre just playing two songs or playing one song
and you have to play it perfect. Well, not perfect, but yknow, theres
that pressure. When we did this show in Paris, what they told us was that
you practise this song for the sound-check, then you practise the song
for camera angles, and they were like, Can you do what youre
going to do live?, and we were like; No, we dont do
that., and they were like; Well, you cant just show
us what youre going to do live?, and we were like, No,
because, like, live is honest, and this is not honest.. They really
wanted us to go crazy or whatever it is during out sound-check, but thats
not what were about, yknow, were a band, its part
of our fun when we do that at our shows, so that was the kinda weird thing,
but I think that everybody understood that after a while. And now todays
our first show with the Murder City Devils over here, which were
really excited about because we did all seven weeks with them.
MR - Tell me about the split 7 with them you have out on
Tony - Theyre remixes. Theyre just really off the wall
remixes, so its cool to have. I personally love the sound. A lot
of people are like, Well, they kinda sound weird., but Im
just like, OK, well thats the point, yknow?
TW - Did you remix them yourselves?
Tony - Actually, we had three people from the label do the remixes,
so thats how it worked out. Its neat because its somebody
elses perception. Its always nice to have a new release when
youre on tour because it makes things fresher. Even though were
touring out new record, its nice to have something a bit extra that
you can collaborate with, with the band youre gonna play with.
MR - This tour seems to have almost killed you more than once.
Are you looking forward to having a rest afterwards?
Tony - The thing is with this tour, it was a lot of lessons, you
learn a lot more. I mean, were not a huge band, but were not
where we were, and I think were just getting used to that. Were
getting used to all the attention and were getting used to people
looking down on us at the same time. That sucks for us because were
at the point in our lives where every decision weve made, yknow,
like the Virgin thing really wasnt our decision. We signed to Grand
Royal. Virgin pick up their distribution, so you cant blame that
on us - we signed to Grand Royal.
MR - Wasnt there something between Fearless and Grand Royal?
Tony - Yeah, it was called the Digital Entertainment Network - DEN.
It was like an internet-based company with a label on the side, which
signed us as the first band, and that fell apart because all the contributors
left, so we just got shifted over to Grand Royal, to thats how it
ended up, which is a great thing. Its nice to be able to say that
youre on Grand Royal instead of DEN, which is the digital
entertainment network, and the reasons blah blah blah, yknow,
you sit there and explain yourself to everyone. This way you can just
be all, Grand Royal, its a label, yknow.
MR - Havent fearless had problems lately with going broke
or something? I heard that they had a load of money stolen from them.
Tony - I dont know. Ive been hearing all these things
and I cant wait to get home and actually talk to Bob and Michelle
and make sure everythings OK. I mean, we love those people. You
guys probably know more than I do right now cause I havent
talked to them. I really hope theyre OK.
TW - Is it quite hard for small labels in the states?
Tony - Its quite hard, but at the same time theres a
lot of small labels that rip you off more than a major label ever will.
Were not the smartest band, weve made a lot of mistakes in
our life, and I think you learn from them. But if youre smart you
could be on any label, yknow, bigger than Grand Royal, I mean, it
could be Dreamworks or whatever, but if youre doing things your
way and you continue to do things your way and dont let anybody
divert you, youre selling out in that you have whatever on the back
of your record, but youre still doing things your way, and if you
wanna reach more people, this is the way to do it. I dont think
were lucky enough to be an amazing band like Fugazi that got to
do it on their label, we cant do that, so were different.
TW - Would you want to do that?
Tony - Yeah, sure, I mean, Jim and Paul have a label called Restart
Records. At the moment they cant really do it because were
on tour, but they work really hard on that.
MR - What have they got on Restart?
Tony - Actually theyve got Omar and Cedrics side projects
older recordings, which is like dub reggae - they did a few shows with
the Get Up Kids here in the UK earlier this year. We were here on tour,
and then they stayed and did that. Cedrics on drums, Omars
on bass, then Paul and Jim have the label and I have a drum and bass side
project that Im also doing that Grand Royals going to be releasing
MR - Whats that called?
Tony - Its called Nakia. N-A-K-I-A. Im going to finish
the record in March and its going to be out on Grand Royal also,
so we all have our little things, which is really cool. Its good
to have something little to work on as well as the stuff you do all the
MR - Its interesting that you do such diverse stuff.
TW - Mind you, Fugazi were getting into that on Instrument, werent
Tony - Exactly! A lot of dub stuff. Even End Hits - theres
a lot of dub in it, you can totally tell.
MR - Fugazi are one of those bands, though, whod just bring
in whatever influences they wanted. They didnt give a shit about
whether people liked what their influences were...
Tony - ...and thats the thing - thats the point of music,
you know what I mean? Once youre sitting there thinking, Yknow
guys, we shouldnt write this kind of song because its not
going to fit the program or it doesnt fit the schedule.. Yknow,
sack it, if youre gonna write the song, write the song. Its
always beautiful to just experiment and have fun, and thats what
were about, yknow, experimenting.
TW - Are you provided with instruments that you can smash as well
Tony - Oh God no. I dont know what people say about us or think
about us, but were not a rich band, and if you see a guitar fly
on the floor, if you see an instrument fly on the floor, its gonna
be used tomorrow - its not extra lets break it
MR - ...Trail of Dead will mend their own instruments after they
smash them every time.
Tony - Yeah. They either mend their own instruments or buy really
cheap stuff. My drum set is not cheap, and I dont want anybody throwing
it, thats for sure. I love my drum set and im not gonna let
anybody throw it on the floor.
TW - Do you think youre going through Nevermind syndrome
(where a band is hyped up so much that they become caricatures of their
publicised selves in an attempt to live up to that hype)
Tony - The thing is, I say this every day, but we seriously do not
believe the hype. The more people say, youre amazing
and youre gonna be the next this or the next that. Once
you start believing it, if you really really believe in it, youve
got a problem. Youre becoming an egomaniac, and the thing is, the
more that us five individuals make up this band, and we all write music
and all contribute and obviously the press concentrates on two of the
figures more than the rest of us, and the thing is, the only thing we
have keeping us together is our respect for each other, and us. And the
more you start believing the press, the hype, all that stuff, yknow,
youre gonna destroy yourself, and so were not going through
Nevermind Syndrome because theres no egos. Im not saying they
had egos, Im just saying thats how I feel. The furthest thing
I want is for bands we play with and people that like our music to start
thinking that we think were above them. Like, I ran into three kids
outside when wed barely got here. I think they were surprised that
we were talking to them. I felt kinda weird because the first thing that
they did was have their NME with us on the cover and the Kerrang! with
Cedric on the cover and stuff, and thats all they came for, yknow,
for us to sign them, but at the same time I wanted to make sure that they
knew, like, Hey, just kick back, talk to us, yknow, Ill
sign this, and I can live part of the rocknroll dream
or whatever, but at the same time, like, I wanna be your friend..
And I just want people to understand that because thats all were
about. Sometimes now its obvious because we have less time to talk
to people and we make time of course, cause theres interviews,
so theres less time to actually walk around and mingle with people,
but at the same time, were still the same people. We really havent
changed, and I think we really try our best to keep each other happy if
theres one of us thats sad about whatever it is, yknow,
getting too much attention or too little attention or whatever it is -
we always make sure that we make each other happy, because if one of us
gets unhappy and leaves the band, I dont care which one it is -
its over. Its gone.
TW - So were you a bit kinda pissed off when Jim quit for a while?
MR - There were lots of line up changes at the beginning werent
Tony - Yeah. Theres a lot of rumours. Ill start with
the Jim thing because thats really between me and Jim and the thing
is, Im a very hard-headed person. Im a drummer, yes, but Im
not a stereotypical drummer. Im not an idiot. I refuse to be clumped
with how drummers are clumped, you know what I mean? With the drummer
jokes and everything. So I walked in this band. I was in this other band
and Id met Cedric and Omar and Jim, and they said, Please
play with us., and I was really happy in the band I was in and I
said, No, Im kinda happy with this band.. So then they
convinced me to start practising with them, and Omar was still playing
bass, because on Acrobatic Tenement he played bass. There was another
guitar player and Jim played guitar, and me and Jim just clashed. The
way I looked at it was, at that time - this was like late 96 - yknow,
its his band. I mean, hes been in it since the beginning and
I was just a guy so I was like, Were clashing here, on a business
frame of mind. Why should I clash with you, yknow its your
band, you started it, Ill see you later. Why should I be in the
way?. So I remember sitting in the Village Inn one night - I was
at the Village Inn table with Omar, Cedric, Jim, and another guitarist
that I was playing with in my old band at the time, Ben. He played on
El Gran Orgo, but hes not listed.
MR - I was wondering about that, because you can hear two guitars,
but its listed as a four-piece.
Tony - Yeah. We took him out of the listing for a lot of weird reasons,
but I dont wanna go into that.
MR - Whos doing the backing vocals on it?
Tony - Its Ben, Omar and Cedric. Anyway, Omar was playing bass,
and the two guitarists at that time were Jim and Ben, and this is before
we even toured, so this is how old this is. And I sat at the Village Inn
table, and I said, Yknow, Im sorry, Jim, but I cant
play with you., and I said, Im leaving for Dallas tomorrow,
- I was gonna try out for some bands up in Dallas that were interested
in my playing, which turned out to be terrible. So I was like, Its
your band, yknow, why should I step on your toes?. And they
were really down, and I remember Cedric trying anything to keep me in
the band, but I said, No, I cant.. So I left and went
to Dallas and came back and found that Jim had quit that night, and the
reason Jim quit is that he felt that he was too pushy, and he felt that
he had a lot of growing to do, so he left the band. I got a call from
Omar on my answering machine that day, saying, I wanna start playing
with you.. He was still playing bass, so we had to find another
guitarist. I remember the first time I played with Omar on bass, I said,
Can I tell you something? - Im not trying to take credit
for this or anything, but I just remember saying this - I said, You
need to be playing guitar., and he goes, Are you serious?
- hes an amazing bass player, really rhythmy, a lot of soul, but
I was like, Youve got these moves on you, you should be playing
guitar., and he was like, Yeah, maybe Ill do that.,
and he did it. And Ive played with Paul for 8 years now - this is
my third band with Paul.
MR - So youre a kind of perpetual rhythm section then?
Tony - Yeah! We always end up together. If he gets in a band first,
I end up in the band, or if I get in a band first, he ends up in the band,
and he grew up with Omar - theyve known each other since they were
12 or 13. I remember Omar and Ben went to a show with a band I used to
play with - I was already out of it then, and they said, Play with
us, yknow. Jims gone and now At The Drive-In is this, and
yknow, Tonys gotta do it.. So I said OK. I remember
then, all of a sudden, Omar got a guitar and got an amp and Paul came
on bass, and we went on a four-month tour from February 97 to June
97. Week 2, we realised that Ben was a very different person and
I dont really wanna get into that because its very very personal.
He was kicked out on the second week of that tour - this is the most weve
ever talked about this too - so we finished the next three and a half
months as a four piece.
MR - So is that also why he was cut off the list for El Gran Orgo?
Tony - Yeah. It was very personal - like very very very very personal.
TW - Do you have really cut and dried attitude towards people who
join the band?
MR - Is there a certain criteria?
Tony - Criteria? Well, we have to get along, of course. I mean, if
you really think about it, I got thrown into a band with Omar and Cedric.
I didnt know them. The first day I met Omar and Cedric - well, I
was around Omar and Cedric a lot because we were all in bands and stuff,
so we always said hi to each other, but we never talked - I remember I
was doing a chemistry experiment in college, and Ben brought Omar and
Cedric in the middle of my experiment, and it was like a very very big
experiment, and I had to stop the experiment and he goes, This is
Omar, and this is Cedric., and I was like, Hey, whats
up guys? I cant talk right now. Whens our first practise?,
and they said, When do you want it?, so I told them a day,
and they set it up, and thats how I met them, and all of a sudden
I played with them from then on. And then we got going in the band and
there was just something about the way we clicked and there was something
about how us four clicked in the band. At the end of that tour, we started
talking a lot, We need another guitar player., because theres
a lot of parts that we need to fill. I have no idea how Omar did it -
he would switch parts. He would play the other part and then come back
to his part. He really took over as the guitar player - it was amazing,
so that was really cool, but we felt we needed another guitar player.
Paul also pushed forward and started doing backups where Ben or Jim would
do backups, and everybody stepped up. It was one of those things, like,
Weve gotta finish this tour, even if were a four piece..
Then we came back and we talked about getting a guitar player and there
were so many people who wanted to play with us at that point, and I remember
me and the guys talking, and we said, Jim. Weve gotta get
him back.. He grew up a lot and hed changed and we actually
started getting along a lot better. I learned a lot on tour, and he learned
a lot not being on tour, and there it was. And from then on were
a band, and we love each other to death, were brothers, we respect
each other, and we get to write music that we enjoy together, so its
MR - You recently revamped initiation for the Steve Lamacq session.
Are there any other old At The Drive-In songs that youve made over?
Tony - Well, kinda made over but we havent recorded it. We
play Embroglio, which is off Acrobatic Tenement also, and its a
little bit different now, it starts different. Well be playing that
tonight. But Initiation was one that we hadnt played in a year,
and we did the Lamacq session and we literally said, OK, lets play
it once., so we kinda went over the parts and we were like; OK,
it sounds alright., and me and Paul talked about where to really
go with dynamics, dynamically low and dynamically high and stuff, and
literally the second take was that track.
MR - It sounded really accomplished compared to the first release
Tony - First time I heard it I was like, Wow! We can play!.
It felt cool. We didnt have to practise it much.
MR - That versions really soully as well.
Tony - Yeah. It was quick, too, but it was just a really good feeling.
As well as that we recorded One Armed Scissor live, and Quarantined was
also in that session, and I dont know if you heard about the fourth
MR - The Pink Floyd cover.
Tony - Yeah, the Pink Floyd cover. Its a really bizarre song
and we really kept it true for what it was when Pink Floyd was called
The Pink Floyd with Syd Barrett, and we did a three-minute
jam in the middle of it. We changed it into our kind of thing, but its
a little bit jammy. We didnt know it. I heard it on a headphone.
I heard the song, but I just listened to it and then I was like, OK,
I got it., and then we went in and me, Omar and Paul just tracked,
and Jim came in later and filled in the other parts, but we were just
like, Well, OK, lets try this, and yknow, it came
out. its not typical At The Drive-In. Were very meticulous
about the way we record songs, but this was the first time that we just
let it go.
MR - When I heard it on the radio, I didnt even register
that it was you at all until the end of the track.
Tony - It was a great experience - I loved it, just recording four
songs in two hours, and just really pushing yourself. I loved the feeling,
I really did.
MR - Are you going to do any more sessions any time soon for UK
radio, do you know?
Tony - Not for UK radio, but we really really want to do a new EP
or something. Were really dying to write, and we have a lot of ideas.
TW - Have you got a lot of new songs?
Tony - Not of new songs, but ideas, which is the best part of it.
I mean, Ive got tons of stuff, I know Omar and Cedric have a lot
of stuff, and Jim and Paul have new stuff too. Theres a lot of energy
there. We cant wait to actually sit down and say, OK, whatll
we work on first, yknow, somebody throw something out first!.
Were really excited to write. I mean, this records new to
a lot of people, but we recorded it in January.
MR - Is there any particular direction youre planning on
going in now?
Tony - No! Every time we open our mouths and say, Were
gonna go in this direction., we go in an absolutely opposite direction.
TW - Just say the dub reggae direction!
Tony - Yeah, Reggae! The thing is, were always gonna have our
elements. Something thats always consistent in our music is that
we always have the songs go quiet/loud/quiet/loud. Quiet/loud is very
very our thing.
MR - On El Gran Orgo, theres more of a straightforward pop-punk
thing going on.
Tony - The thing is with El Gran Orgo, me and Paul were in the band
for a month and a half. We literally did our first show, one show in a
garage together as that 5-piece with Ben, and then a local label saw us
and said, Can you do, like, 5 or six songs?. And two of the
songs me and Ben had in our old band, so we just brought them forward
for the EP - thats where we were.
MR - Which two were they?
Tony - Honest To A Fault and Speechless. We had those two in our
old band, so we just went, Dyou wanna try these?, and
they were like, Yeah!, so we just learned them and played
those two. The others we just literally wrote really really fast, like
Give It A Name. With Picket Fence Cartel, they had the song, but we completely
changed it, completely revamped it. Theres another version on Vive!
Alfaro Carajo, the second 7, which was re-pressed on Jims
label as a CD. The old version of Picket Fence Cartel is on that. Theyre
gonna re-press it again when they get a chance.
MR - Why did you call it Vive! Alfaro Carajo? Its
the name of a terrorist group from Ecuador isnt it?
Tony - Yeah it is. Cedric reads a lot about that kinda stuff, and
I read a lot about that kind stuff.
TW - Che Guevaras memoirs and stuff like that?
Tony - Thats all I read, actually. Dont ask me any Che
questions, Ill go on forever. I just finished Military Strategies
by Mao Tse Tung - which is where we got the Relationship of Command title
from. Chapter nine of that book. I read tons of political stuff. Its
not really because thats my feeling, its just what I like
TW - How does Cedric get the lyrics? Does he just kinda do what
Tony - He does a lot of that stuff, and the thing is, its really
cool because if I have lyrics, I can give him, like, almost a poem, and
just say, Do whatever you want with it., and hes done
that a lot, and thats how he works with a lot of his stuff. Ill
generally give him five or six sheets and go, Here.
TW - Do you all give him work?
Tony - Yeah. Me and Jim give him stuff like, I didnt do anything
much on Relationship of Command, literally just one or two lines. Cedric
wrote pretty much all the lyrics on that record, and some of the backups
Jim did. But on Vaya I wrote 180d and some of 300MHz and some of Ursa
Minor, and then on in/CASINO/OUT I wrote Hourglass. So we try to help
out as much as possible. Hes just a really great lyricist, so sometimes
I feel weird about giving him stuff when hes really cool about taking
everybodys stuff. Were just as cool with each other about
giving each other different parts, too. Ill come up with a vocal
idea, hell come up with a drum line. Were very open to each