Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Random Rules: Sam Jayne of Love As Laughter

Illustration for article titled Random Rules: Sam Jayne of Love As Laughter

The shuffler: Sam Jayne, the songwriter behind early-'90s indie-rock pioneer Lync—and, since 1994, the leader of Love As Laughter. After five under-the-radar albums for K and Sub Pop, LAL recently released the meandering, hazy Holy on Glacial Pace, an Epic imprint headed by Modest Mouse's Isaac Brock.


Minor Threat, "Cashing In"

Sam Jayne: I've been listening to Minor Threat a lot lately.

The A.V. Club: Has hardcore been a constant thing for you?

SJ: I think it's something that I kind of came back to, something I listened to as a kid. I liked a ton of different kinds of punk music back then, and I think I got into Minor Threat a little later. But it's come back in a major way. I really like that one Minor Threat song with the really cool bassline at the beginning, "Salad Days." "Salad Days" is the shit.


AVC: That's the single where they cover The Standells.

SJ: "Sometimes Good Guys Don't Wear White," yeah! They also do a great cover of "Steppin' Stone."


AVC: Right, The Monkees.

SJ: Pretty much every song from Minor Threat's entire discography is the shit, so it's kind of hard to differentiate. But I think "Salad Days" is my favorite. Those are good songs, and the lyrics are awesome. It's still part of my existence to listen to Minor Threat. It's still relevant to my life.


AVC: Even the straight-edge part?

SJ: [Laughs.] Maybe not the straight-edge part.

AVC: A lot of people probably stop listening to Minor Threat forever when they turn 21.


SJ: I guess that's their problem.

Slayer, "Altar Of Sacrifice"

SJ: It's off Reign In Blood. This whole album is amazing. As far as I can tell, Reign In Blood and South Of Heaven are both perfect.


AVC: Have you ever heard Slayer's cover of Minor Threat?

SJ: Slayer covered Minor Threat?

AVC: Yeah, they did "Guilty Of Being White." It's on Undisputed Attitude, their album of hardcore covers.


SJ: Cool. I can see them digging Minor Threat. Minor Threat is definitely one of the roots of thrash.

AVC: Are you playing the Slayer song in the van right now?

SJ: Can you hear it?

AVC: Yeah. One of your bandmates just screamed.

SJ: [Laughs.] Yeah! Some of these solos are so ridiculous. They're just so fast, it doesn't sound like someone playing a guitar anymore. It sounds like sound effects. It just sounds like, you know. [Mimics Slayer solo.] Lasers and stuff. After a certain point, it's just like a blur of weird feedback. Pretty cool. Things like Slayer are just standard for me now. And Metallica, I like Metallica a lot. It's growing on me even more now than when I was a kid. I get more into the riffs. I can appreciate it more, musically, and the crazy dark lyrics and shit. I was more into punk when I was younger, but I probably listen to more metal than punk now.


AVC: Do you think punk and metal get enough appreciation, particularly critically?

SJ: No. I'm sure it's just aesthetics. People just don't like something that's aggressive, something that's maybe more of a challenge to listen to.


Black Sabbath, "Electric Funeral"

SJ: Another metal one! This one's dope. It's a song off Paranoid. It has some of the best words, too. "Radiation, duh duh duh-duh." This is the type of song that's really timeless and underappreciated, I think. It's hard to really grasp how dark and weird these guys were when they first came out. I don't really know what this song is about, but the best part is when they have the jam session, and then a monster voice goes "ELECTRIC FUNERAL! ELECTRIC FUNERAL!" It sounds like a Muppet or something. It's kind of like the voice on "Iron Man" that goes "IRON MAN!" Now it's almost a standard thing in metal, bands that sing like monsters. But Sabbath was just doing it for dramatic effect.


AVC: Do you listen to any current metal?

SJ: Know what new metal band is great? Dethklok from Metalocalypse. When they play live, they don't play in costume; they play below the cartoons. It's kind of like Gorillaz. It's like they're in the orchestra pit playing to a silent movie or something.


AVC: Do you go to a lot of metal shows?

SJ: I've seen Slayer. I've seen Black Sabbath, too, actually. It was at the same time: I saw Slayer open for Sabbath at an Ozzfest a few years ago. It was mostly good, but they had a lot of those Lamb Of God-type of bands. Slayer was awesome, though, and Black Sabbath was note-perfect. [Tony] Iommi just ripped it up. Ozzy was kind of slow. You know how he does those monkey jumps? He can't jump very high anymore. He looks more like a Frankenstein than a monkey.


AVC: It's surprising he can get any air at all.

SJ: I know. He's so old. He's just a zombie. It's crazy.

The Pop Group, "Feed The Hungry"

SJ: I have some Pop Group on vinyl at home. There's that British label that reissues all these old post-punk and no-wave bands.


AVC: Soul Jazz.

SJ: Soul Jazz, that's it. That A Certain Ratio compilation they put out is awesome, too, or at least the first half of it is. I love that type of stuff. It's definitely arty, but it's rhythmic. I definitely like the more rhythmic stuff. It's better than the real cacophonous bands, like a lot of those harsh New York bands.


AVC: New York had a lot of really rhythmic bands, too: Liquid Liquid,


SJ: Liquid Liquid definitely had some grooves. They had some songs that seemed almost ready for rap.


AVC: Well, "Cavern" was the basis for "White Lines."

SJ: Right, they were practically hip-hop tracks already. You've really got to sort through all that stuff, though, to find the gems. Some if it is really irritating. It's been too referenced, you know? It gets to the point where you feel like a poseur for listening to it. I picked a lot of this stuff up over the years just because I like music, but I think some people take it a little too seriously. They gush a little too much.


AVC: What are some other bands from that era you like?

SJ: Some of the really shitty ones that aren't even very cool. Lately I've been digging on General Public a lot. More new wave than post-punk, you know? I like weird Style Council tracks, like, the really nancy stuff. [Laughs.]


AVC: I'm not sure if "nancy" is a politically correct term.

SJ: [Laughs.] Yeah, but it fits. That music is kind of fey.

AVC: You mean with the floodwater pants and the argyle sweaters tied around the neck?


SJ: Yeah, and the boat shoes.

AVC: That just described Vampire Weekend.

SJ: Right, right. Now it's an aesthetic that people are trying to pull off. But I like the original '80s British stuff, that weird-crooner-disco-boat-shoe music. I think it's really interesting that that came out of punk. I don't even understand how.


AVC: Don't forget the kings of that whole genre, Haircut 100.

SJ: Haircut 100 is a great name for a band, but they didn't have that many great songs. When it comes to that whole crooner-boat-shoe category, though, I think some of the bands that came later, like Fine Young Cannibals, kind of fit into it. I kind of dig that dude's voice.


AVC: Roland Gift? He's got a great voice.

SJ: Yeah, it's really cool. And weird.

AVC: And FYC came from The English Beat, like General Public did.

SJ: Wait, the guys from Fine Young Cannibals were in The English Beat?

AVC: Yeah, the two white guys.

SJ: Whoa. That makes sense, though.

AVC: Being into British music from the '80s, what it's like to tour with Modest Mouse and hang out with Johnny Marr every night?


SJ: [Laughs.] Oh, it's fun. He and I actually got into a conversation last night about what we're talking about now, how all this music came out of England in the early '80s. I was asking him—and maybe confirming with him—his role in all that. When The Smiths came out, his guitar style was so different from everyone else's. Now if you're in some new Britpop group, you try to play a combination of Johnny Marr and The Edge. And that's your band.

AVC: Does he try to downplay the massive influence he's had?

SJ: No, he loves it. [Laughs.] He loves it, and he won't be the last one to remind you about it.


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