The other day, I capitalized on an opportunity to do my first completely improvised interview with my former songwriting teacher, Josh Friend, better known as “Josh Enemy”. He’s been a huge influence on me over the past year, not only musically, but as a really cool guy as well. He’s been an active musician for a long time, not just playing original music, but he has been in tribute bands as well, including the Foo Fighters tribute band, The Foo.
Alex Obert: First question is, what made you want to do your current project, a Foo Fighters tribute band?
Josh Enemy: I guess it was that last album that they came out with, Wasting Light. That was a big thing for them, and it was awesome to have everything recorded in his garage, on two inch tape. It was just bringing music back to life, so just to perform that stuff seemed really cool at the time.
AO: What is it about Dave Grohl that you admire so much?
JE: Well, where do you start? (laughs) That guy’s amazing. The people he’s played with, even before Nirvana, that whole hardcore, underground scene. And still kind of sticking with that, even as famous and as popular as he is. Still having that identity of a real musician, almost underground, but so big. And humble, he’s just a humble guy.
AO: What are some of your favorite Foo Fighters songs?
JE: White Limo, that’s awesome. I like the heavier stuff more than the poppier stuff. I really like a lot of stuff off of that last album, Bridge Burning, really cool, Arlandria, really cool. Older stuff, I’ll Stick Around is a really cool song. This Is A Call was the first song that I heard by them. But when I heard I’ll Stick Around, I was like, “Damn! This is badass!”
AO: Tell me about the other tribute bands you’ve been in, up to this point.
JE: A Nirvana tribute. I’ve done a 90’s tribute. I’ve done a Nickelback tribute that I’m really not too happy about. Korn tribute. But, I prefer originals, I like doing that the most.
AO: What were the band names for the original bands?
JE: Thirty Stones was the most popular one. Homeboy, that was all me, that was pretty fun. But I’m working on a lot of stuff now in the studio, obviously. I’m doing a double album (Josh Friend/Josh Enemy), “Friend/Enemy” it’s called. So it would have an acoustic-based side, and then the really heavy stuff. I’m working on that in the studio. And I’m working on a compilation CD for the store, which I’m playing a ton of different instruments, pretty much anything you can think of. From the freakin’ shaker and triangle to full-blown drums, bass, guitar, vocals. It’s gonna be badass. And it’s awesome because I’m working with so many different people, a lot of different students.
AO: Where do you get your inspiration for writing lyrics?
JE: Jägermeister. It depends what kind of mood I’m in. A lot of songs come from being angry, when you’re pissed off about something. I guess that comes from ex-relationships, baby’s mamas, baby’s mama. (laughs) I don’t have more than one! People. People piss you off. For positive writing, I guess a relationship you’re in if you’re happy, Jägermeister. (laughs) I guess happy songs don’t really do so well, right? It’s pretty limited what you can write about. People seem to always relate to the sad and pissed off songs more than they do to happy. It’s like you listen to music, if you want to feel good, you listen to dance music or something. But if you listen to music to kind of relate, and if you’re feeling horrible about yourself and you’re feeling down or something that happened in your life that made you feel like shit, you turn to music and usually it’s a song you can relate to on a sad or depressed level.
AO: Which songs and/or albums have helped you through hard times?
JE: That first Slipknot album changed my life, that was awesome. I don’t know how old I was when that came out. I was maybe eighteen or nineteen, but that was huge. It’s about trying to find out what you want to do in life and who you are and you still have that teenage angst, pissed off at the world and you don’t know why kind of thing going on. And with that album coming out, it’s just like, “Woah.” His lyrics are amazing and just that brutal, just fuckin mess of instruments and orchestrated madness, really. That was a huge one.
Prior, probably one of the biggest ones was Appetite for Destruction. I think being like ten or eleven years old and seeing Slash come out, playing Sweet Child o’ Mine on MTV, when they played videos.That was huge. That really got me into music. And then of course, there was Nevermind, Nirvana. That pretty much explains itself. But, I mean there’s so many. Some more epic than others, some that have impacted me more than others. Damn, there’s a lot of music out there.
AO: What are some of the albums that will always be on your all-time favorite list, aside from those?
JE: Superunknown from Soundgarden is a pretty badass album. The White Stripes, that first album, and their second one too. As you get older and more into technology and into music, I don’t have the albums as much as I used to. You know, going out and reading the inserts, [and now] you’re downloading the songs and shit like that, it’s not the same. I hate doing that, but it’s kind of a way of life these days. So, I feel bad when I say, “Oh, that album’s great!” when I don’t know the name of it. (laughs) Blind Melon’s self-titled album, Candlebox, I’m a big 90’s fan. A lot of stuff like that. Korn, that first Korn album, self-titled, nuts. No one had heard that before at that time. Same thing with Rage Against the Machine. And with both of those albums, you hear pain and agony in those singer’s voices. That shit’s hard to come by these days, at least commercially anyway, you don’t see it out there as much. Good times. The 90’s were good. I sound like an old dude now, and they’d always be like, “Oh, the sixties were the time!” or “The seventies!” and I love all of that. John Fogerty’s one of my favorites. I always hear guys talking to me like that and they’ll always sound like that. And I’m like, “The nineties were the best!”
AO: Now on the other side of music, you and teaching, how did you get involved to start teaching lessons and why do you do it?
JE: I don’t have a reason why I got involved. I fell into it, really. It was a chance to work at a music store. I didn’t care what I was doing. Before that, I was working at a pizza shop and a restaurant. I was doing a breakfast shift, so I had to be up at five or six in the morning. I couldn’t do that. All I do is party all night and so it made sense to get into something where I didn’t have to be into work until three in the afternoon. And then I still had trouble. (laughs) I still do, right? The reason for doing it, that’s unexplainable and it’s awesome just to see a kid start with nothing, doesn’t know what they’re doing the first time they hold a guitar in their hands. And then a few months later, a year later, two years later, three years later, seeing the steps, the levels, the goals they reach, and how far they got. It’s pretty badass, it’s just rewarding.
AO: Tell me about how you were taught.
JE: Well, I didn’t really have traditional lessons or anything like that, and I didn’t have internet growing up. I didn’t have all that shit. I just stayed home all day and played guitar until my fingers fuckin bled pretty much, skin was falling. I’d bring that thing to school, I’d get in trouble. Playing it on the bus. And that’s the thing I stress on students here today. I’m like, “How much did you practice?” and they’re like, “Oh, I got maybe a half hour in this week.” and I’m like, “Are you kidding me?” I used to play like 8-10 hours a day. I would skip school just to play. I would get in trouble, but whatever. It’s what I loved to do. I guess it’s different now.
AO: Present day, with your gigs, where do you like to play the most?
JE: I like to play anywhere that there’s a responsive crowd that at least acknowledges what you’re doing and appreciates it. A venue doesn’t matter as long as there’s cool people, there’s a cool vibe, if they care, if they clap. There’s so many places you play where people have their back turned to you, they don’t clap. It’s just like stupid shit. Sometimes you hear people say like, “Oh, turn the jukebox on already!” or something like that and it’s like, maybe I am some hack. But I don’t think I am, I’ve been doing this all my life, sixteen, seventeen years. You work hard, like I said, some of the 8-10 hours of practicing as a kid. And now seventeen years later, just working so hard to perfect that craft and then people just kind of not care. That sucks.
But when there’s a good crowd and the energy’s flowing and there’s a good vibe, that’s a good place to play.
AO: How do you keep the crowd going during your gigs? How do you make them involved and feel like they’re apart of the show, basically?
JE: Well, again, depending on what kind of venue you’re at and what kind of crowd you have. If you’re playing acoustic, I guess you just pick on people, you know, call out a chick and tell her to show her tits. (laughs) Or ask someone to come up and sing. That’s usually fun. Plus it gives me a break. Do shots together. That’s more in an acoustic environment. When you’re doing full gigs with a lot of people, there’s some tricks. There’s like certain parts of songs that mellow out. There’s a thing I like to do, I like to have everybody sit down or crouch down and build the song up and count them down, 1 2 3 4, and have everybody jump at the same time. That’s usually a pretty cool thing. That’s with thousands of people. Plus, it looks cool from the stage.
AO: Back to the tribute bands, what would you say are your personal, unofficial rules of being in a tribute band?
JE: Anybody would want the same thing, be professional, it is a job. No fucking crazy partying, shootin up heroin or some shit, pounding a bottle of vodka before a gig or something like that. I mean, yeah, it’s a party environment too, but it’s a fine line.
AO: I feel like though, tribute bands are in some way, a form of an art because you have to master lyrics and I feel like you would want to master the stage presence and studying videos.
JE: Well, it’s just like, “Can you do the part or not?” And a lot of the tribute acts that we perform, I end up getting the hard end of the deal because I usually end up taking on the lead singer role and the lead guitar player role, and that’s usually the one person that everybody’s spotting on, they’re like watching every move and saying, “Oh, he didn’t do that right!”, and the rest of the band is just fuckin floating along, playing the drums and the bass in the corner. Just, play it right. (laughs) Lately, I’m not really into that though. I think I’m taking a little break from that. (The tribute bands) Focus back more on that original track. Getting my soul back. I miss it.
AO: The big thing now is your dual album, Friend and Enemy?
JE: Well, that isn’t the first thing. It’s on the priority level, but probably second. This compilation thing to get done for September is first. Yeah, it’s pretty cool. The Suffield Music compilation. I’m being very inspired by that Sound City soundtrack, got me really going on that. Plus, it’s a no brainer, it’s gonna promote the new studio at the store.
AO: In regards to future plans, do you have any upcoming concerts that you’re going to see? Or that you want to see?
JE: I don’t. I work too much. I don’t get to get out as much as I’d like to because I’m always at the studio/giving lessons or gigging, myself. I’m looking forward to Jägermeister! (laughs) Is there a Jäger Tour? That would be kind of cool!
AO: Speaking of which, there’s, just announced, in regards to 90’s music, the Rockstar Uproar Festival, which headlining, will be Alice In Chains and Jane’s Addiction.
JE: Yes! I saw that! That would be something I’d be interested in! You know what, I put that in my calendar. Yeah, that’s the one! I did.
AO: It’s them and Coheed and Cambria headlining.
JE: Right. I’m not a big fan of Coheed and Cambria, their music’s awesome, songs are great, great guitar players, great musicians. Something about his voice, it’s kind of an acquired taste, I think. But a lot of bands are like that. Jane’s Addiction is like that. Certain frontmen, they just have a sound about them that not everybody can get into. But I respect them and they’re really good. But I’d like to see Jane’s, that’d be awesome.
AO: Alright, final question then, which three bands would you want to see headline a tour together? Active bands.
JE: Someone that I haven’t seen that I want to see is Jack White. It doesn’t necessarily have to be The White Stripes. I’d like to see him. Stone Sour, I still haven’t seen, it wouldn’t be a good mix. But that’d be pretty cool. That’s tough because it puts me in, “What mood am I feeling?” I would love to see John Fogerty, Allman Brothers, shit like that. You know what’d be really cool, to get like Foo Fighters, Soundgarden, Alice In Chains. That would be pretty kickass.
AO: Expensive, I bet.
JE: (laughs) Yeah, probably! Or they do like a Monsters of Grunge thing, 90’s, get Pearl Jam on the bill, get Stone Temple Pilots back together, that’d be fuckin badass. Why hasn’t anyone thought about that? Damn, that would be cool! That’s what I’d want to see, a 90’s fest done right. Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, Alice In Chains, Stone Temple Pilots, and bring all those fuckin other bands in too, The Toadies, Helmet would be fuckin awesome, Hum, Butthole Surfers, Chili Peppers. Fuck yeah! (laughs) Sick!
AO: Well thank you for this interview!
JE: Thank you!