All the News That Didn't Fit

On the Record

The Olympia Connection, Or Lack Thereof


The Numbness Is Just a Bonus

Hiphop City


Soul by the Pound


Incest is Best

The Rise and Fall of the N-Word


If You Don't Have Anything Nice to Say, Tell the Truth Anyway

You Don't Own Me

Summer Lovin'

Music to Lose Your Job By

Boy, You Sure Can Take the Fun Out of Music


Stuart Braithwaite From Mogwai

Going to New York City?


A Whole N'other Level

Who Says Morrissey Fans Don't Get Laid?


Not Modest Enough


There's something to be said for originality in music. It's what keeps the industry -- one which, left to its corporate devices, would rather churn out cookie-cutter images of what mainstream music buyers consume without thinking -- alive for those of us who do think about the music we buy. But originality isn't always what you want to hear, especially when you're a little drunk and just looking for something you can shake your ass to. Familiarity reigns supreme at these moments; you might be in a skanky bar in another city, or just looking for respite from all the indie rockers trying to discover the next new thing. Like saviors, the band take the stage: four young, shaggy-looking guys with dark hair and attitude to spare. They start to play some honest-to-goodness boogie -- like your dad's younger brother used to play. The kind of music that sounds great through Realistic speakers and Harmon Kardon. You've heard it all before, and their influences ring clear: the Stones, Skynyrd, Zeppelin... all melded into some of the most glorious buttrock you're likely to find this side of the Mississippi. Your ass is moving, and all of a sudden the scary biker dudes and even scarier indie rockers don't look so intimidating. You recognize this sound. It's your music, the stuff you listen to at home. Fuck yeah, it is.

That's all Stagger Lee want to be -- the savior that leads you into the land of "shit, yeah, I'm wasted," shake-yer-ass rock and roll. Over beers at Linda's, Excellent discussed the finer points of buttrock with Stagger Lee's A. J. DeLange, Mason Lowe, and John Zicari.

What's more important, the lyrics or the music?

A. J.: The music, straight up.

John: When we play, we want people to have a good time and get drunk and move, so the music is definitely more important.

A. J.: The lyrics are just about having a good time.
What's the dumbest thing you've ever done while drunk?

Mason: I dumped a can of paint on a Miata.

John: That's not dumb; it's a statement.
What's the worst album you've ever loved?

John: Purple Rain. I love that album.

Mason: 100 Percent Ginuwine.

A. J.: Tattoo You. That's pretty bad.
What's the difference between a good musician and a great musician, and are great musicians born or made?

A. J.: I think when you're great the beat opens up and you have more space to work in, like you're not hurrying to get your notes out, or you're more comfortable in your space. I think they're born.

John: Made or born is kind of a weird argument, because great artists are opened up to influences of other musicians, and they had to be born with a certain sensitivity or disposition to appreciate their predecessors or whatever. You could argue it either way, because these musicians who are born great are also made by their ability to be influenced by other great musicians.
What's the best thing that could happen to your band in the next year, the next month, the next week?

A. J.: To get my van running killer. Yeah, definitely to get the van all cherried up so we can go on tour. I've got my priorities, ya know, and I'm in no hurry for anything else as long as we get that van up and rolling.
Have you recorded anything?

John: We have a single coming out on Brown Paper Bag Series. It should be out in April or May at the latest.
You've only been a band for less than a year?

A. J.: Yeah, we all had similar tastes in music and we started the band because we wanted to play, you know, rock and roll, which hasn't really been played lately in the Seattle scene. At first I was trying to do something new with the guitar, but it's all been done. I mean, it's always been about the basics; we're not making up any new chords.
So you are not particularly worried that people won't think Stagger Lee's the most original band in the world?

John: No. It's not original at all.

A. J.: We're not worried about that because nobody is original. We don't even care, and we just want to play. There's nothing good on the radio; there's nothing good on the TV; you know what I mean? We live in an indie-rock world, and there's nothing good about electronica, and we're the only ones banging when there are, like, 10 people at our shows. Electronica -- whatever, man. It's like punk rock, right? Why did punk rock start? It's because all there was to listen to was Pink Floyd and the Allman Brothers, so they started doing something else, which was punk rock, and now that's used in all kinds of commercials. And now what we're doing is punk rock -- our ethic is, anyway, because we're playing music that's out of line for Seattle. That's where the '80s buttrocker bands went wrong -- they didn't think they could get away with it here. How many bands burnt out way too early because they sold out to a corporate system, and the corporation didn't know how to push them on an audience? There's no grassroots buildup or nothin'. Take Metallica: In the beginning they didn't have even one video or get played on a lot of radio stations, yet every kid in high school had a Metallica T-shirt. That's grassroots.
So it sounds like you want to play music that makes people have a good time.

A. J.: It's like this: What do you put on when you go home? Do you put on your fucking new indie rockers or do you put on fucking Zeppelin and get stoned? We just want to play what we like to hear on the record player. Straight up, that's all I want to do; I'm not trying to change anyone's fucking mind. Leave that to the Internet.
So do you have any aspirations of stardom?

A. J.: Hell, yeah. Get that van moving!