Few bands exist in heavy music folklore quite like CKY. The band from Pennsylvania managed to go viral before that was even a thing. Hell, they were doing Jackass before Jackass was even a thing. But this wasn’t just a band of slack-rockers, far from it. CKY clearly didn’t give a fuck, but goddamn did they sound gooood not giving a fuck.
The band rose from the underground with their sophomore album Infiltrate-Destroy-Rebuild in 2002, by the time they’d released the follow up, 2005’s An Answer Can Be Found, CKY was receiving critical, chart success. They became a must-have support act for giants such as Metallica, Avenged Sevenfold and Guns N’Roses but, after 2009’s Carver City, it soon became all quite on the CKY front.
Now, 8-years later, it’s becoming clear that they’ll never be any silence again, with the band announcing a brand-new album The Phoenix, sharing a series of singles that made it very clear they’d returned to form. Now with mere hours until the Friday, 13th June release date, we caught up with drummer Jess Margera.
The Neversphere: What’s the climate like internally, does it feel like you’re back to old tricks with The Phoenix, or does this album feel particularly special to you guys, considering the history?
Jess: We went to Rancho De La Luna in Joshua Tree, California. It’s the Abbey Road of the desert, basically. So many great albums came out of there; Kyuss, Queens Of The Stone Age, Iggy Pop…So we were really excited to get out there. It’s probably one of the coolest studios i’ve been to. Amps, microphones and stuff that you just can’t find anymore, and you get sounds out of there you might not get out of other studios. It turned out amazing and it was an awesome experience. It’s great to get a record out after all these years. We’ve been itching to make new music so it’s finally coming out and if feels good.
The Neversphere: Was it challenging to get back into the CKY state of mind after such a long break?
Jess: Nah, it came really easily, and we did it right. We sat in a room and hashed out the songs before we went into the studio so we came in very prepared. That makes all the difference. The last couple of records we made, not so much. We kind of put the songs together and arranged them in the studio. When you do it that way, you get mixed results. Sometimes you get lucky, but a lot of times, when you piece a song together in the studio it won’t translate live. We’ve been playing some of the new songs live. It just flows effortlessly and the crowd really digs it.
The Neversphere: The singles we’ve heard feel as though they could have been on the follow up to Vol. 1. They’re a tip of a hat to the debut days. Were you looking back to those early albums to inform The Phoenix?
Jess: It’s kind of the thing. We did Volume 1 and Infiltrate-Destroy-Rebuild the same way we did The Phoenix. An Answer Can Be Found and Carver City were very much ‘write piece of music and put them together in the studio’ and that just doesn’t always work out. We finally realised that the only proper way to make a record, for us anyway, is to hash out the songs in a room, together and just feel it. You feel the changes, you feel the parts coming together and that’s not something that can be replicated with a computer.
The Neversphere: It would be interesting to know about the subject matter of the album…What interests CKY musically in 2017?
Jess: It was really important for us to hit every part of what makes this band good. It has something for everyone. There’s a heavier song, there’s groove, in the pocket almost danceable songs. If you’re a CKY fan, you’re going to find something on this album you like. We covered all our tracks and took it to the next level.
We just want to keep making music and touring. We took a pretty good break for a while there now we’re just itching to get back into it. We all went off and did solo projects, Chad I did a solo album, I started a band called The Company Band with Neil Fallon from Clutch and Brad Davis from Fu Manchu, and James Rota from Fireball Ministry…That was a lot of fun, a lot of good times.
I think you become a better musician when you go outside your comfort zone and jam with other people. I hope I brought that to the table with The Phoenix, I hope I became a better drummer. But after all our solo projects, it’s really fun to come back home and do another CKY album.
The Neversphere: Was it always on the cards to regroup CKY? Or were you as surprised as the rest of us?
Jess: I’ve been in this band most of my life, I can’t imagine not doing it. Even if I take a break and go do some other records, there’s always a CKY album on the table at some point.
The Neversphere: Are you finding that you’re having more fun now in CKY, or was it more fun back in the day?
Jess: Definitely more fun and I appreciate things a lot more now I’m getting older. When you’re in your 20s and out of your mind, and you have an ego thing going on and feel like you deserve your success. Once you reach my age you realise you don’t deserve it, and you’re very lucky to a fan base like we have. I just appreciate it now, you know? We’re in Calgary tonight for a sold-out show; we haven’t played here in 8 years. It’s really flattering to see that people haven’t moved on and they still like us. [Laughs]
The Neversphere: It’s easier to monitor that stuff these days, with social media and all, but there’s no sure way to know if fans are going to take notice. Where you worried at all that everyone had moved on? Or were you pretty confident they hadn’t?
Jess: I didn’t know! I had no expectations. We just played England and Scotland and sold out every venue. Most of the venues had to get upgraded to bigger ones. That’s such a cool thing to see when you have no expectations. But it can go either way when you take a break for 8 years. Sometimes the anticipation builds, sometimes people move on. I’m just glad they hadn’t.
The Neversphere: I can say as a fan of the band since 96 Quiet Bitter Beings, many of us always had hope you’d be back…
Jess: Yeah, I mean, we were going for years and years and we just burnt out. Sometimes it is the best thing to just take a break. But break time is over and we’re ready to get back into it, hard.
The Neversphere: What’s next for the band? I don’t get the vibe that you’ll be slowing down once the album is release…
Jess: We’re already mapping out new songs. We just want to stay busy and keep touring! We want to play countries we’ve never been to, play some festivals; that’s my favourite part of doing this, playing to a crowd that doesn’t know your band, or maybe just a song or two, and trying to win them over. I really enjoy doing that. At European festivals, that’s the best scenario. Half the crowd may not know you but you have to get them to like you.
We did the Guns N’ Roses tour, Metallica, Deftones, a lot of fun tours…Avenged Sevenfold…So I’d totally be down to go out and tour with more co-headline bands…
The Neversphere…And steal their fans!
Jess: Yeah! Man, if Metallica calls again I’ll definitely be there. That new record is great. It’s pretty cool to see those guys still rocking out that hard. They kind of turned it off with that Lou Reed record…[Laughs] I love Lou Reed, I love Metallica but that record…I don’t know. They’ve come back hard on that new one though.
The Neversphere: How have the tour dates been going? Did it take much to get back in the groove of performing as part of CKY?
Jess: It was pretty terrifying, the first gig back was in Brighton, England to a sold-out crowd. I was hoping we’d do some warm up gigs, like unannounced bar shows or something but it didn’t happen. We dove straight into an 850 capacity, sold out theatre. We hadn’t played for years, I had a mild panic attack before we went on stage [Laughs] but it worked out. It was awesome. All the reviews I read, everyone seemed really into it. That’s good to hear, cos I was nervous as hell.
We’re looking forward to Australia…
…It’ll be sooner rather than later.