JerksTM / Drop Nineteens
JerksTM / Drop Nineteens
Jerks™ come together with iconic Shoegaze band Drop Nineteens for an official collaboration celebrating 30 years since the release of Delaware. This is the only time the original artwork has been used on official merchandise and never will again. The band plan to adjust the artwork for the upcoming rerelease of the iconic album (read interview with frontman Greg Ackell below). The collection includes premium T-shirts printed on vintage 90s blanks, heavyweight long sleeve, 14oz hoodie and 9" Canadian maple skateboard deck.
INTERVIEW WITH GREG ACKELL
Earlier this year you guys spontaneously appeared on social media announcing that you’re writing a new album, it caused an immediate stir in the alternative scene. What prompted you to want to write again and how did you feel about the reception of the announcement?
The fact is that I was never, ever going to make another album. I knew this more than I’ve ever known anything, for twenty some odd years. So it just goes to show, I know nothing at all. A friend got me on the phone and started talking shop late in ’21, which I’ve become accustomed to over the years, but I always would shut it down. For some reason, this one time, I got off the phone and thought to myself, what would a modern Drop Nineteens single sound like? After discussing that with Steve, it was clear we both wanted to hear what it would sound like. So we were off to the races.It was clear to me early in this project that I would only be interested in doing a full album, because that’s the most important thing bands do. It’s a statement, of place and time. Just doing one song after thirty years or some shows wouldn’t cut it. I got the album title “Hard Light” from the artist Ed Ruscha, who did these cool art books in the late sixties and early seventies, one of which is called “Hard Light” and is strictly pictorial but has a kind of understated mysterious narrative about these two women. I wrote a letter about my intentions to make an album this year. Steve created a Twitter account one morning to post the letter. What surprised me about the stir it made was how fast it got picked up by the music press. The account was created that morning with no followers of course. It’s still unclear to me how the story got picked up. It’s nice to know people care.
To revisit the first part of your career it feels as though Drop Nineteens got lumped in with the early 90s UK Shoegaze scene heavily. Did it feel like this at the time? How would you compare your popularity in the US to the UK?
During the early nineties people associated us with a lot of UK bands like Slowdive and My Bloody Valentine. When we toured the UK and Europe, our audiences for the most part, delighted in the fact that we were American. We were the American outlier in a largely UK scene. When we toured America much of the audience just figured we were British. I recall being a bit annoyed by that at the time for some reason. It’s not as if being considered a British band was a slight in any way. It just wasn’t accurate.
What kind of stuff were the band listening to and influenced by at the time?
We had varied tastes at the time. We certainly were aware of My Bloody Valentine and held them in highest regard. But we were also into the Pixies, which is why we recorded Delaware in the same studio that Doolittle was recorded in. We were also heavily into the Beastie Boys. At that time I was fast becoming a fan of anything Lou Barlow sang on. To this day I’d trade my soul, or what little is left of it, for the tone of that guy’s voice. I was also a Madonna fan. Our cover of “Angel” isn’t a joke. I fucking love that song. Well, her version anyway. Other things we were into at the time: Sonic Youth, The Cure (everything through to Disintegration and nothing after), New Order, some Go-Betweens, The Clash, Run DMC, Janet Jackson, that Rick Astley song, Sade, Van Halen. As I said, it was varied.
I was listening to MBV’s EP’s 1988 – 1991 and rare tracks the other day which got me thinking; is there any unreleased Drop Nineteens material from back in the early 90s?
We wrote and recorded a number of songs in 1991 that were never released. We were signed on the strength of that material in 1992, but we were evolving daily as a band. For our debut I decided we should write an album of new material instead of re-recording those songs. That was Delaware. As a result, some of those tracks were written on the spot in the studio. I wrote the song “My Aquarium” in a few minutes in the studio and recorded it a few minutes later. I think that’s discernible when listening to it to this day. It’s like, do they know how to play this song or not? But that was intentional. It’s as if you’re hearing it being written. Very counter-intuitive to the precious way people in our genre would normally go about doing things. But back to your question. Yes there’s pre-Delaware material that we dug up and have been remastering this year. We’ll be releasing an LP of those songs in 2023, aptly titled “1991” - 19 with its mirrored image “91", also the year within which the songs were written and recorded.
As I’m sure you’re aware, there’s very little Drop Nineteens merchandise from when the band were first active, and even less so from the Delaware era. Was this a conscious choice at the time? Or just a result of a DIY / low budget situation? Can you tell us more about the art direction of the Delaware album cover and was there any reasoning behind never using it on any merchandise?
We had merch at the time. I think it’s just the amount of time that’s passed that’s made those shirts so rare. There was that summer, I think it was 1998, when our fans met up on the island of Bimini and threw their Drop Nineteens shirts into the bonfire (in effigy?) on the beach. I heard it was a wild, topless night. Well the Delaware cover image is a very vivid and almost hyper real photograph, achieved by using a big flash in daylight. And I suspect that recreating that on shirts was cost prohibitive at the time. Come to think of it, it’s still expensive to render it, which you good folks at Jerks have learned by collaborating with us. We’re really pleased that we found a creative partner for this capsule collection who cared to do it right. For the first/only/last time. So, cheers.
Whilst we were hanging out, you mentioned some great moments like playing CBGB’s with Hole and Smashing Pumpkins. What are some of your highlights from the first era of your career?
I must confess I have no memory of that particular CBGBs show. But Keith Wood, who signed Drop Nineteens, Smashing Pumpkins and Hole (and subsequently went on to exclusively manage LCD Soundsystem) insisted to me recently that it happened. I don’t want to contradict him, because he’s a really lovely guy. And smarter than me. That said, I have a few great memories that I do in fact remember.
A tour of France with PJ Harvey, circa Rid of Me. Every night Polly watched our entire set from the side of the stage with the most encouraging smile plastered on her beautiful face, which was big, scratch that, colossal of her. Radiohead opened for us on a stretch of one of our UK tours. I recall not getting it. At all. Now I do.
A beer drenched American tour with Blur where I got fairly chummy with Damon Albarn. I have a foggy memory of jumping on his back one night after our sets at the Whiskey a Go Go in West Hollywood. And when we resumed the tour on the East coast he was relegated to singing from a sofa the crew placed on the stage because he had suffered a hernia. I never asked if it was my antics that caused the injury, though I think he got a bit less chummy from that point on, so what does that tell you? I remember every time Drop Nineteens played in London, Kevin Shields was in the audience, and was always waiting with a kind word for me after the show. What a fucking gentleman. And I remember the night Steve from Drop Nineteens mistook Juliana Hatfield, at the pinnacle of her fame, for a fan backstage at one of our shows and asked her if she wanted his autograph. For this reason alone, Steve is my best friend to this day. I could go on.
We understand the band are planning to adjust the Delaware artwork, is there a specific reason or motive behind this?
The cover of Delaware. What can I say? Kids and guns. Nothing cool about it. Probably wasn’t even cool at the time, but in our defence this was years before even Columbine. In America at least, it’s been nothing but carnage begetting more carnage ever since. So to say the least, I’m not comfortable with the imagery anymore. That said, I am thankful for and respect the fact that there are people out there who love the album. They associate the music with the image and the image with the music. So I’m reluctant to fuck with that.
We’ve thought and debated it within the band and have decided to change the imagery for a reissue of Delaware on vinyl. It’s a tasteful change that we can live with and I assume most of our fans will get on board with our choice. But when it came to doing this capsule collection with Jerks™ celebrating 30 years of Delaware, it made sense to us to use the original imagery. Your team’s love of the album and the attention to detail, like printing on vintage t-shirts from the era means we’re creating high quality merch that is practically, and literally out of the past. For this reason, we decided to use the original imagery one last time. It’s like that incredible Broadcast song “Long Was the Year” where Trish Keenan (bless her soul) says, “Let the past be the past”.