Photo courtesy of David Bean
Not going unnoticed: Dashboard Confessional (Chris Carrabba, second from left)
This is a longer version of an interview
with Chris Carrabba the previously appeared in print and online. Dashboard Confessional headlines this summer’s Taste of Chaos tour stopping in Pittsburgh tonight at the Petersen Events Center. Taking Back Sunday, Saosin with Anthony Green and The Early November are support.
I saw you played with Prince. That's pretty remarkable. What was that like?
He was a surprise act on this bill. We weren’t going to do the bill. It didn’t fit into our schedule very well. And then when we found out that Prince was going to be the unannounced act, we said yes instantly. He’s Prince. So, I figured “well, I get to see him.”
…So we ended up playing with Prince and he’s got that thing where, or I’ve heard anyway, that there’s a thing where you’re not supposed to look him in the eye and you’re not supposed to talk to him. I don’t know maybe he was having a particularly friendly day ... but we didn’t get that vibe at all. He looked us right in the eye [laughs], talked to us and told me that he remembered I played at a couple of his clubs. It was short conversation
When the time came for the surprise guest, Prince, I knew where I wanted to be and I ran out and found a seat actually in the venue. It just so happened to be an aisle seat and he walked out during one of his solos and just stopped, by chance, right next to me so I could watch one of my favorite guitar players ever: he didn’t do this so I could watch it but I found myself watching. One of my favorite guitar players [was] not two feet from me, just shredding with this amazing prowess but absolute abandon. You know, Prince is a legendary songwriter and he’s a legendary performer, but I don’t know if the general public knows that Prince [played] every instrument as well as the people who play it best and that’s their only instrument. He’s crazy. And as a guitar player, I don’t know what people know or think. But he is genuinely up there with Jimi Hendrix. He’s really one of the greatest guitar players to have ever lived. It was a really special moment. It’s kind of hard to believe that he’s gone.
We’ve lost a lot of important figures in the music world recently. As a musician, is it crushing to you to see so many idols pass in such a short amount of time?
Yeah, it hits a little close to home, and this isn’t a guy who’s super-popular, but my friend Jon [Bunch] from Sense Field passed away a few months ago. He was the third singer in Further Seems Forever, which was my first band, and he died unexpectedly. It’s different, probably, because maybe fewer people know him. But he’s so important to our scene, the scene that this [tour] is comprised of; we’ve lost an icon there. Maybe he doesn’t cross into the mainstream lexicon, but [he was] an important guy who helped build up something that we all carried forth from there.
That was something I did want to touch on. Like you said, maybe he’s not a well-known name, but that doesn’t down play what he did and the music he made. Obviously you had a very good relationship with him and you had Sense Field open for the first Dashboard headliner, right?
I did and he was so gracious to have given us shows before. And I was in a position where we [Dashboard] were now getting popular and sheepishly went to him [Jon Bunch]. Because when you look up to a band, you don’t want to say “do you want to open for us?” But I remember calling him up and being like “look, you gave me a tour that put us one the map. Things are going well. Would you ever play before us?” [He said] “yeah, in a heartbeat. We don’t care what order bands go in we just like to tour.” And that was one of those ones where, even in that small moment, instilled in me that this guy’s got no sense of ego. ... There was a lesson in that. Say yes, the answers always yes. Go out, have an adventure. Don’t let silly things get in the way. [I said] “Yeah but last time you opened for us?” And he didn’t care about that and I don’t care either.
I don’t know, he was a very passionate musician, voracious music fan and he did a lot for a lot of up-and-coming bands to help them get their start. It’s a big loss. The strange thing was that the drummer of Further, I guess maybe two, three weeks before Jon died — we’re talking about young men, by the way. This is strange. This is shocking all the more because they’re young. But the drummer of Further had a heart attack — and is fine — but he had a heart attack. So I called Jon. [I said] “I don’t want you to hear through the rumor mill, because he’s okay and so on and so forth, but Steve [Kleisath] had a heart attack.” It had been a little bit too long since we talked, maybe three or six months. We spent a good hour or so on the phone and then boom just gone.
While it was horrible that he passed, maybe Steve’s heart attack was a means of you talking to Jon again before he passed.
I do look at it like that. I don’t know if I would have picked up the phone to call Jon because I was busy with things and he was busy with things. Everything was going well and he [Jon] had this new band that was getting ready for a tour and I was getting ready for this tour. I was in the beginning stages of starting to rehearse. So yea, it could have been another six months. It probably would have been until I swung around L.A. area on the tour before I said “come on, come out. I’ll be in town.” But he’s celebrated and left a great legacy.
With this tour, with you and Tacking Back Sunday, Saosin with Anthony Green and The Early November, it’s all bands that came up in the same scene. It’s crazy.
It’s awesome. When I was putting together the bill, I was just trying to figure out who from our original circle of bands that worked hard together to break, or just find work, really, was gonna be free this year and at the same time just about when we had a lineup that looked like it was gonna be comprised of our great friends and bands that we’re fans of and our fans are fans of, which is what you hope for most right? I do anyway. ...Then Taste of Chaos the festival happened. And we played it and none of those bands were on it, but it was still all bands from that scene. It was the same thing I was looking to do in the summer. I thought “Wow, this is great. Taste of Chaos, their mindset is in the same place as mine.” And then when they reached out after, they weren’t going to revive it as a touring thing. They were going to keep it a stationary festival. And then the festival was just so great and I think they knew the bill that I was putting together, and they thought “well, why not? We should do this.” It was very much like a one phone call or two phone call thing.
It was great. It wasn’t a labor over finer points. It was like “you want to do it?” “Yeah.” Sound good?” “Okay.” “Well then let’s go.”
So it was a tour you were putting together for Dashboard and they said “let’s just make it Taste of Chaos?” Is that kind of how it came about then?
It might be an over simplification, but yea that essentially what happened. I was going to be doing this tour, with or without Taste of Chaos, in some fashion or another. And they came in at the same time and said do you want to make this the Taste of Chaos tour. I really like John D and Kevin Lyman. The guys that do this tour
We’re going out with some of our best friends; with bands we’re huge fans of. I was on the phone with Adam [Lazarra of Taking Back Sunday]
for an hour, hour-and-a-half yesterday, just talking about stuff. I’ve never been in another music scene, so maybe this is how it is. If it is, awesome; if it isn’t, I feel really lucky to be a part of a scene where we all came up together and we all helped to foster the bands behind us. We all helped to give a hand back to the people that pulled us up on. We all made it … we stayed close even when things got super-crazy. We’re talking about bands that started by playing basements and VFW halls. That’s a real thing. We’ve come up, we’ve gone through it together. We’re in it together. We’re lifers.
I’ve been trying to go through the history of this scene. It seems that between 2000 and 2002, all these bands that were underground took off around the same time. It’s crazy.
It’s crazy to us, too. The biggest aspirations we probably had, if I’m being honest, were to play real clubs, instead of basements. And we far surpassed that. But we kinda kept our heads together because we weren’t going out there like, “We’re gonna be the biggest bands in the world.” We kinda walked out there being like, “We don’t know if anyone is going to ever listen to us. But this will be a lot of fun.”
You’re someone that really hasn’t hid from the term emo. But a lot of people and bands deny the label. I don’t understand why people still distance themselves from it.
I think I do know why people try to distance themselves from it. Well, first of all, when we all started, it was an innocuous term. It meant here’s this group of bands. It was a term that meant bands that loosely sound like each other, but not really. But then because we all got so popular, there was a backlash so the term just became like an insult, I guess.
The only time I ever backed away from the term, thinking that the term applied to us, is when I would see what writers or reviewers were calling emo bands and thinking “I clearly don’t sound like that. Whatever they decided emo is now, we’re not that.” There was a brief period where, I didn’t deny but it’s evolved beyond me. It doesn’t apply to us anymore.
The reason I embrace the term isn’t because I like or dislike the term or the implication. Of course I don’t like it when people use it as an insult, I think it’s kinda small and foolish… I really think “well who the hell am I?” If our fan base kind of says they like this scene and they call it emo or they call themselves emo … If our fans say they’re emo and that Dashboard’s emo, don’t they get to have a say in how to define us? If they’re not embarrassed…
How refreshing is it to be able to work on new material and then announce it later, with no timeframe or hard dates?
It’s the very best. I’ve been actively writing and recording since last summer’s tour. Since last summer’s tour, I haven’t toured again, except for going to Brazil with Maroon 5. I haven’t done interviews. I’ve just been kind of quietly sequestered, having fun making music with nobody paying attention. This is something that doesn’t happen to you once you’re an established band. It happens on your first record; you get to take a long time; enjoy what you’re doing; no one’s paying attention. When you’re a new band, the sense of urgency is “I want to be a band.” The difference now is we are a band and we get to do this for pure joy. So I will have a new record. It’s been a long time since I’ve had a new record. But I’ll have a new record when I feel like I’ve made the exact kind of record I want to make and, this is the biggest part, I’ve finished having fun for the moment, chasing songs. It’s very liberating.