Japanese Thanksgiving and other punk stories: An interview with Chris Aiken

| Cadenza Reporter

Vocalist Jason Cruz, of the band Strung OutCourtest of Thisisboss | Flicker

Vocalist Jason Cruz, of the band Strung Out, gets the crowd pumped up

Cadenza caught up with bassist Chris Aiken of the legendary punk band Strung Out before their show at the Firebird on Sept. 24. After months on the road in support of their newest album, “Agents of the Underground,” Aiken had some insights on the band’s longevity, their most memorable shows and their inclusion on the next installment of “Guitar Hero”.

Student Life: What are the best and worst things about having been together for so long?

Chris Aiken: Oh wow, that’s a great question.

SL: I mean, it’s been almost 20 years.

CA: Totally. The best things are all the things you get to experience, all the traveling, all the people you’re meeting, all the fans you’re meeting and being able to play so much all around the world. And then all the worst things are…all the things I just said. (Laughs)

SL: Going off of that, what’s the coolest place you’ve ever played a show?

CA: We played a place in Paris not long ago. We played this boat; it’s like a club on a boat on the river in Paris, and it was fucking awesome. It was so weird, because the boat wasn’t really pitching, but it was definitely rocking. And you’re like on the stage, and you’re basically below the water line, so it really winded you. It was one of those shows where it was pretty hard to play, and you’re like, “Wow, I’m really using all of my muscles!” That was a pretty cool place. We’ve played a bunch of random hole-in-the-wall places and great outdoor stadiums and playing, you know, underneath the mountains in Switzerland, pretty much every scenario. That’s what makes it cool, doing this for a living. We play everywhere; it’s pretty awesome.

SL: Apparently a couple years ago you guys were in Japan for Thanksgiving. Did that end up being weird? Could you find turkey and mashed potatoes?

CA: No, no. It’s funny you brought that up! I remember that tour, being out there for Thanksgiving and being like, “Wow, we’re actually on tour for a holiday. I didn’t think bands did that!” Yeah, I remember us having a sushi turkey. Does that make sense? A sushi-Thanksgiving, Thanks-sushi…something like that.

SL: So “Bark at the Moon” on “Prototypes and Painkillers” was totally sick. Are there any other covers you’d be interested in doing later on?

CA: Aw, thanks. Yeah, we kind of throw ideas around and play a few covers here and there. We sometimes bust out “Hot for Teacher” from Van Halen after like the encore, or we’ll play like Beastie Boys’ “Fight for Your Right to Party.” We’ll do random things…we actually just played Iron Maiden’s “Losfer Words,” the instrumental song from “Powerslave.” We jammed it at practice the other day and played the whole song! Yeah, I mean, covers are definitely fun to do sometimes, but I don’t like to get too wrapped up in them. Playing live I like doing them, I mean I love doing the “Bark at the Moon” cover, that’s fucking cool; I love Ozzy Osbourne. For the next cover I think I’d like to do some random cover song…

SL: Something totally out there?

CA: Yeah, so people are like, “What the—Oh, I recognize that melody, I totally forgot about that song!” We’ll see what happens.

SL: Maybe some Backstreet Boys?

CA: Actually, I’d probably go with En Vogue.

SL: Ooh, well played, sir!

CA: That or Color Me Badd… (Laughs) We’ll stick with En Vogue.

SL: So “Calling” is going to be on the next “Guitar Hero”. Thoughts on that?

CA: It’s incredible. We’re pretty stoked on that, “Guitar Hero” being such a big game. It’s the “Tony Hawk” of its era. It’s cool and it’s inspiring, like how Tony Hawk made skateboarding such a household name so that your mom knows who Tony Hawk is. Where before when I was a kid—well, actually my mom did know who Tony Hawk was…whatever. You know, it’s a really cool game and we’re excited to be involved with it. You know, from seeing my friends and roommates shred on it to me trying to play…

SL: Can we expect you to beat it on expert on the first try?

CA: I don’t know! Maybe. It’s definitely an honor to all of us…It’s a song that we all wrote together, and when we recorded the album it’s the one song where all three of us play guitar, so it’s kinda cool to be all, “Yeah, that’s the song we all fucking wrote and played on, and that song’s in a video game.” It’s a pretty cool accomplishment for being such a high profile game. Yeah, it feels good. To answer quickly: Fuck yes, we think it’s awesome.

SL: Last question, and a very serious one. In 2008 you did an interview with “Exclaim!” in Canada, which proved that Jordan [Burns, Strung Out’s drummer] was the reigning arm-wrestling champion of the band. Is that still true?

CA: Yeah, well, it is, unless our soundman, Matt Sound, Cobra Matt, has taken the title. Because Jordan’s pretty fucking brutal on that one; he’s pretty much the arm wrestling champ, and then Matt came around. I always call Matt “the Mountain Man” because he’s originally from Wyoming so he like rode horses super fast and was all-state wrestling champ and yeah, Matt took Jordan down. I was like, “Yeah! First person I’ve seen!”

SL: I know Angel [Strung Out’s tour manager] is trying for the title.

CA: Yeah, I know Angel’s got some guns, but JB’s got some pretty solid features there. I mean look at his supple butt, his tender thighs, his adorable Adam’s apple, his unmistakable jawline…I mean, these are things I think about daily and nightly…Wait, are you recording?

SL: Yes?

CA: Oh my God, I just totally blacked out. What just happened? Whoa…weird.

SL: And with that! Thanks so much for talking to us.

CA: Yeah, no problem!

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