Cornerstone 2002: An Interview with Fine China
This interview was conducted by Nolan Shigley at Cornerstone 2002. I was fortunate enough to interview the entire band during the 2000 Cornerstone Festival. We sat in the band’s old Mercedes, listened to the Smiths, and swapped favorite 80’s movies stories. Well, I didn’t get the whole band and I didn’t get the joy of sitting in an air-conditioned Mercedes in 2002, but I received a quality interview with the band’s primary songwriter, Rob Withem.
So, my ultimate question is, “Who makes you hate music?”
Oh man. Yeah, it’s more of a joke than anything. People are getting all weird about that. They think we’re trying to get arrogant or what have you. We just kind of wanted to over say what we didn’t really mean. We just wanted to throw it out there, but we don’t really hate anybody. If you listen to the record you know we’re just bummed about certain things. You know, about ourselves, music, and a lot of other things. The title is just kind of a representation of what’s going on, but we really don’t hate anybody.
What are a few of the disappointments you are uncovering on the album?
Oh, just all kinds of stuff. The difficult things such as those that don’t turn out how you planned them to. Those things that you worked really hard to do and they don’t happen. I guess that’s the underlying theme of the record. It’s kind of a downer.
Yeah, I figured Markov came up with the title, since he he’s a pretty sarcastic guy (like myself).
No, it was actually mine. I figured it was would either get people pissed off or make them think it was funny. I don’t really know, but we’ve gotten all kinds of reactions.
How did the recording of the album go? Did you guys team-up with Ronnie Martin (Joy Electric) again on the current album?
No, we actually recorded with his brother Jason (Starflyer 59). We recorded it in his studio out in Orange County. It was great since it went so quickly. The recording only took about a week. It was kind of a no-frills production. We just laid it down.
Compared to the first album, “When the World Sings,” the new album definitely has a darker feel to it. Any reasons for that?
Yeah, our first record was high energy, but I’ve kind of changed where I was since that time. I wanted the music to become a little darker with a more organic sound. I wanted to use real instruments with real drums. We wanted more of a real soft rock sound. The earlier stuff had more of an electric sound. It was a progression. Some of the songs on the first record kind of hinted toward the direction we were going for.
I noticed you added another guitarist to the line up. When did adding Josh (Dooley, from Map) come about?
He’s been playing live with us since March. We added him for live guitars in order to fill out the sound. The new record has so much going on guitar-wise, and I wanted that to come across in the shows. The guitars are really the focal point of the new record. It’s definitely a guitar record with a lot of cool stuff going on. At least I think there is. I really wanted to reproduce that live, and Josh plays similar to the way in which I play.
Yeah, the live show does sound a lot more full.
Yeah, it sounds a lot more like the albums.
So I know there is a chance Josh may go off and play with Spain. Are there plans for him becoming a permanent member of Fine China?
For right now, it’s just kind of a live set up. We haven’t really talked about what will happen for the next record. I think for right now he’s more of a live guitar player. I pretty much handle the writing and the different parts of the songs.
I know last year (Cornerstone ’01) you guys played a lot of the newer stuff from this album live. Do you currently have new material you’re considering to play now?
Yeah, I’ve been working on new material for the next recording, which I’ll be doing throughout the summer and into the fall. We’d like to follow this album with a new one pretty quick. It’s more up to Tooth and Nail and what they want to do. If it were up to me, I would like to get all the songs ready by this winter.
Do you have most of the songs written?
No, they are still kind of in their early stages. I wouldn’t say I’m close by any means. So, are you headed in a different direction this time?
Well, we’ll kind of have to see. The songs are coming out even more stripped down. It’s really all I can say at this point.
You guys just went on a small tour on your way to Cornerstone. How did that go?
Yeah, we have a few dates on the way back, also. The shows are going so-so. It’s kind of a bad time for a lot of touring bands right now. A lot of bands we’ve talked to from Tooth and Nail have said the shows haven’t been that good. I guess it’s just a weird time for a lot of smaller bands
Anything else going on in the last couple of years since our last interview?
Not really. The whole last year was just spent focusing on finishing the album. We rehearsed the songs for a long time before we put them on the album. We probably spent about six to eight months just rehearsing the songs. We just really wanted to get the “band” sound on the record. We wanted it to sound like a group record.