Foo Fighters guitarist Chris Shiflett has unleashed his own punk rock band, Jackson United. George Fernandez has a chat to him about being the frontman now and dodgy tattoo-oriented ‘facts’ on the internet.
You are in and have been in several bands of varying stature but Jackson United seems to be the one where you are the chief songwriter. How important is that to you?
Pretty much every band I’ve ever been in besides Jackson United, I’ve been playing other people’s music with varying degrees of input so that was basically the motivation to start my own thing.
Foo Fighters is obviously your main band. How does it feel having your other bands automatically labelled as side projects?
‘Side project’ is kind of an ugly term but I do usually refer to Jackson United as one. It doesn’t mean I put less into it but just on the sheer scale of work that we do in Foos everything else in my musical life is a ‘side project’.
You didn’t get 6 months off to write this record. How did you go about it?
I wrote it over the course of a couple of years but once we were ready to record we blasted through it in sixteen days – no fucking around! I like having everything together before starting recording.
Watch the video to ’21st Century Fight Song’ by Jackson United
I’m very happy with the results – of course now that we’ve been playing the songs live things have evolved – but you always look back on recordings and wish you’d done something different.
The drums stand out as one of my favourite elements of the record. Dave [Grohl] and Taylor [Hawkins] brought an energy to it that we’d never have gotten without ‘em. As far as the guitar playing goes, it’s nice to dust off some Ace Frehley licks here and there.
What do you hope to achieve with the album? What would you do if it sold 2 million copies?
I think it’s a pretty safe bet that we’re not going to sell millions of records but that’d be a good problem to have! I just want a forum for my songs and it’d be great if we could get the band to a point where it’s self-sufficient financially. It’s a struggle out there!
What’s the plan for the future of Jackson United?
We just started touring for the new record but I’d love to get another in the can early next year. I’ve got a bunch of song ideas so hopefully we’ll spend some time soon getting it together. It always takes me so long to put these records together that I’d like to take advantage of next year’s down time and be active.
Watch Chris Shiflett boxing (getting punched)
What’s it like being in a band with your brother?
Scott’s not actually playing with us at the moment because Face To Face is doing shows again. Playing with Scott is always great ‘cos we have a special bond and don’t really have to talk about it much – we just know what to do when we’re playing together.
What’s been your favourite moment in your career so far?
The first couple of years in the Foos were filled with so many crazy moments that I’d be hard pressed to pick one, but the first time I went on tour in Europe – with No Use For Name – stands out. We were the ultimate hard-partying tourists – daytime was all about cathedrals and museums and night time was all about endless gigs and partying!
Wembley Stadium or Camden Barfly?
Playing those huge gigs is a lot of fun but I think music is best in bars or theatres. Anything bigger than that and I think you lose a lot. It becomes more of an event than a gig. Of course, I wouldn’t trade anything for those Wembley gigs or Hyde Park or Reading Festival. I’m lucky I’ve gotten to do all sizes.
From Wikipedia: “Shiflett, after being in cover band Me First and the Gimme Gimmes has a tattoo on the inside of his bottom lip with the word “Gimme”. This was what Shiflett describes as a drunken dare and regrets the tattoo but is forced to get it re-touched each year to avoid infection.”
It was neither a drunken dare nor something I regret! In fact I was sober when I got it and then it healed up pretty bad so I had to do it again! Also, you don’t have to touch up tattoos to avoid infection and it says “Gimme Gimme” not just “Gimme.” That’s twice the pain!
Jackson United November UK tourdates
14 Cambridge Soul Tree
16 London Astoria w/ Rancid
17 Manchester Academy 3
18 Leeds Cockpit 3
19 Glasgow Captains Rest
20 Birmingham Barfly
21 London Water Rats
Jackson United’s debut album, Harmony And Dissidence is out now on Deck Cheese Records