CA: Hi. How's it going?
JG: It's going okay. I just got back from Lancaster PA.
How are you?
CA: I'm swell, thanks. I couldn't help noticing that there's
a lot of space between a name like the Dead Milkmen and Butterfly
Joe. How did those names come about?
JG: Well, the Dead Milkmen name came to me while I was in
High School writing some type of story about a ridiculous punk folk
band. I was mixing Dead Boys and my idea of rural ... milkmen. I
grew up in a somewhat rural setting. There were cows and milkmen
when I was little. But the milkmen disappeared and were replaced
by convenience stores, or something like that. The story kind of
grew into a fake fan club newsletter which grew into a fake band,
complete with cassette tapes that I recorded with some friends,
including Rodney. I must have been pretty bored. When the band eventually
became a real band, after Dave and Dean joined, the name stuck.
Butterfly Joe came about in 1993. In the late 80s a friend of mine
named Alex came up with a new name for me, Butterfly Fairweather.
I was in the habit of changing my stage name about every nine months,
so I figured I'd become Butterfly Fairweather next chance I had,
and I did. I made a home-recorded tape called "Halvin' My Baby"
under my new moniker. I was supposed to be Butterfly Fairweather
for the next Milkmen album too, but we decided to use symbols in
place of names for that album. So I had to wait for "Soul Rotation"
to be Butterfly Fairweather. That was also around the time I first
performed with the Big Mess Theater Cabaret. So for the Big Mess
I was Butterfly Fairweather. In 1993 I made a tape, a home-recorded
cassette of songs I wrote, and I couldn't decide whether to be Butterfly
Fairweather or Joe Jack Talcum for that tape, so I settled on Butterfly
Joe. When we got a band together in 1995 we first used the name
Butterfly Joe Armada, but that quickly was shortened.
CA: I, like a lot of my friends, were fans of the Dead Milkmen
in the 80's and I wasn't aware that you were still writing. (my
bad) Obviously, you never stopped. How important is the writing
process to your daily existence?
JG: It's not super important, but I do enjoy songwriting
and recording on my Tascam 4-track. I would consider songwriting
and home-recording to be my favorite hobby. It's a great boredom
killer and I also find solace in it.
CA: Do you write everyday or only when the mood strikes
JG: Not everyday. And not always just when the mood strikes.
I sometimes just write for the sheer pleasure of seeing where a
song might go once I get a basic track down. I kind of use my 4-track
recorder as a notepad. I don't really write anything down except
lyrics. Other times when the mood strikes I'm nowhere near my tape
recorder or guitar.
CA: How does the band go about putting together a song?
Where does the music come from? Do you gather in a room or is it
a slower process?
JG: : I make these tapes. I mix down my 4-track tapes and
make cassette albums. I make photocopied sleeves for them with art
and titles and Andy picks the songs from those. Andy does just about
all the arrangements too, as far as instrumentation and writing
out anything that needs to be written out for other musicians for
recordings or Big Mess. When we learn a new song I will usually
play it for the others all the way through once by myself. Then
Andy will describe his arrangement idea. Sometimes Joe and Dean
will start playing with me around the second or third verse of the
first time I show them the song. Joe will offer arrangement ideas
too from time to time. And Dean sometimes throws in an idea or too.
It's not too strict. And it doesn't always work the same way, but
I think I described the usual manner.
CA: What's with the polka beats and accordion? It all sounds
cool and there's a strange continuity to all the songs, but why
JG: Andy has an accordion, so he might as well use it. Also,
I like accordion. I have fond memories of my dad playing the accordion
when I was little, polkas and Italian melodies. He tried to teach
me to play. He got me a little accordion when I was six. But I never
really learned. Anyway, when I first heard hardcore punk music in
the early 80s, before speedmetal, It reminded me of polka music,
at least in the beat. Well, it might have been faster but it had
the same 1-2-1-2 beat and it made me feel happy like polka music
did. The lyrics might have been angry but the music seemed uplifting.
CA: The songs on this album are a little more self-abusive
and dark rather than society bashing, granted there is always an
element of the self in society, but what's been influencing your
writing over the past few years? A song like "Fancy Walls" for instance,
where does that come from? Or " Whale in the Sea"? They are both
melancholy and ridiculous at the same time.
JG: Well they are both like fairy tale songs to me. "Whale"
is about a woman losing the love of her life and having nothing
to look forward to except tedious daily work. At night she cries
for her lover to sing to her from beyond (from the Whale). "Fancy
Walls" ends on an optimistic note, I think, with the main character
finding solace in dreaming of the unreachable heavens.
CA: How much of your songs are autobiographical?
JG: I'd say about 30%. Most of the autobiographical ones
were written in the mid-90s, songs like "Waiting for Coffee" and
"Give Me a Kiss." I think I'm getting away from the autobiographical
because my life just isn't very interesting. I'd have to do a lot
of embellishing. I'd rather write about skin cancer.
CA: Do you miss the Dead Milkmen?
JG: No. I enjoyed it while it lasted and I have a lot of
fond memories. Right after we broke up I missed touring. But now
I don't miss it.
CA: What are some of your favorite bands playing around
JG: The Persons. Farquar Muckenfuss. (Both from the Philly
area.) The Mermen. The Melvins. Trailer Park Riot. Secret Chiefs
CA: Who would you most like to have as an opening band?
Who would you most like to open for?
JG: I'd love to have The Persons or Farquar Muckenfus either
open for us or us open for them.
CA: Are you going to be touring with Butterfly Joe?
JG: Not extensively. There are constrictions due to jobs
CA: What do you do in your spare time? Is PA a hopping state?
JG: PA is kind of a wobbly state. Besides writing and recording
songs and song-type things, I play organ for a band called The Low
Budgets. We just played last night in Lancaster PA, which is a much
rougher city than I remembered from my youth. The Low Budgets play
garage punk, fun stuff. I like to go to movies in my other spare
time, hang out with friends, the usual.