Yesod Williams – drums
Kaleo Wassman – guitar, vocals
Bret Bollinger – bass, vocals
The ocean has influenced many a surf band, but it was the shores and sounds of Kona, Hawaii, that stirred up the spicy sounds of Pepper, known for sultry reggae and cavernous dub. After a few successful releases and reaching the masses through national tours such as Van’s Warped Tour and city hopping with the likes of Born Jamericans, Shaggy, Eek-a-Mouse, Burning Spear, Pato Banton, Pepper was honored at the 2002 San Diego Music awards, ironically, with a “Best World Music” award.
The DIY guys recently launched their own record label called Law Records (named after Yesod’s dad’s glam metal band from the ’80s called The Law), and added their latest CD, In With the New, to the roster.
After a quick game of phone tag on Saturday afternoon, I caught up with Pepper’s drummer, Yesod Williams.
Kaffeine Buzz: 760 area code…do you live in San Diego County?
Yesod Williams: Actually it’s North County, Oceanside. And only two of us live in San Diego – one in San Clemente.
KB: How did you all meet?
YW: We all went to high school together. Our school is a lot different than the Mainland. We thank our parents everyday for raising us here.
KB: In Kona?
YW: Yep, where all the coffee’s from.
KB: How did your band get started?
YW: Kaleo and Bret have been playing together forever. I played drums until I was nine and then kind of stopped between age 10 and like 19. I guess Bret kept telling Kaleo what a sick drummer I was and we got together and had a few jam sessions. Kaleo was like, ‘I thought you said this guy was good’. I sucked at first, but got back into is after two or three practice sessions.
KB: How’s the music scene in Kona?
YW: Dead…there’s only like one place to play.
KB: Is that why you came out [to San Diego]?
YW: I checked it out first and then one of our friends let us stay at her house in Carlsbad…three of us in one room with one drawer each. It was crazy. But now it’s fun to look back on and remind us where we came from. [Pepper made the move to San Diego officially in 1999.]
KB: So here comes a totally trite question – who are your musical influences?
YW: Actually I like that question. For hard rock – Alice ‘n Chains, Soundgarden, Tool. Classic rock…Led Zepplin. But for our band as a whole – The Police. Of course there’s Sublime and old reggae like Dennis Brown. Oh, and old Metallica – The “Un-justice for All” album and older – nothing really after that. And then there’s traditional Hawaiian music. There’s also what’s called “Jawaiian”
YW: Yeah, it’s Hawaii’s take on fuckin reggae. It’s a combination of Jamaican and Hawaiian music. You should check out Fiji from Hawaii and a song called “Naughty girl”. We just covered it.
KB: What CDs are in your car right now?
YW: Conyay West. Pantera’s Vulgar Display of Power, and Dave Grohl’s new project, Probot.
KB: Dave Grohl has a new band? Again?
YW: Sort of…it’s a remake of a bunch of death metal songs. He got the guy from Motorhead and Slayer and other old school death metal guys to help him do the album. (www.southernlord.com/probot/)
KB: The name of your band, Pepper…what the story behind that name?
YW: No story really. It’s after a Saturday Night live episode in the early ’90s with Adam Sandler, Kevin Neiland and Kirsty Ally. Kirsty and Kevin are in this Italian restaurant and these busboys who are called Pepper boys are totally perving out on this guy’s date. But he’s like, “Don’t worry honey, this is normal.” It gets to the point to where they have Kirsty on the bar in missionary position dry humping her saying, “You like the pepper?” [Yesod says this in his best Inspector Cluso accent.]
KB: That’s a GREAT story.
YW: It’s all about having a sense of humor – that’s what our band is all about.
KB: Kona Town is your second album, and In With the Old is the latest. What’s the first album?
YW: It’s called Givin’ It. We recorded it right before we left Kona in this coffee shack we all used to work as waiters in back in the day. It’s a pretty raw recording.
KB: I’ve always been curious about how bands decide on their “set list” for the album. Do you put your songs in any particular order on your albums?
YW: Not really, it’s just sort of a feeling. As a matter of fact, the last album, In With The Old, our producer gave us the first demo version to kind of listen to and feel out. We ended up using the exact same sequence of songs for the final. It just worked out perfectly.
YW: I don’t know. We are just firm believers in less is more. Try not to over think things, you know?
KB: Do you do any of the song writing?
YW: No, Brett and K sort of come up with an idea, a melody or chorus and then we all get together and practice it and work on it together. It’s pretty basic really.
KB: How is it touring with Slightly Stoopid?
YW: Suuuuper good! It’s the best tour! We’ve been out since March 25th – started at the House of Blues in Anaheim (California). We’ll be back to end the tour in San Diego on May 22nd.
KB: How was it touring with 311?
YW: I wouldn’t call that really a “tour.” We only did four shows with them. It was totally different because with them we were playing HUGE arenas. Now we’re playing theaters and clubs and shit, where it’s just a totally different sound and vibe.
KB: Where’s your favorite place to play…first for its venue and then for its crowd.
YW: We played the House of Blues in Chicago last night. That was way cool…it isn’t just like a regular old House of Blues. Or there was this place in Northfolk VA, the Norva Theatre. They had spas and saunas and shit. They had to drag us out of there. As far as the crowd…Fuck! This has been the best tour. Every place we play we’re blown away by the crowd. But if I had to pick, it would probably be New York City. We played on 4/20 at Irving Plaza – the crowd was great. Plus I just love New York City.
KB: Maybe it was the fact that it was on 4/20?
YW: No I do anything like that, but maybe the crowd was a little stoned [laughs]
KB: What do you do when you’re not playing music/or touring?
YW: Surf and a lot of R-and-R…chillin’ at the house and watching TV. I play golf, too.
KB: What’s your handicap?
YW: I’m not serious enough to bust out a handicap on you or anything. I shoot in the low to mid 90s. Why, you want to take me on?
KB: In the spirit of AE’s Autobiography, I have five closing questions to ask.
YW: Fire away.
KB: What are three words that describe you?
YW: Me or the band? [Ahh, you gotta love his loyalty!]
KB: First, you.
YW: Mellow, easy going and fun to rage with. The band – heavy sense of humor, not trying to push any message onto people…wait, wait, wait…that’s more like 18 words, huh? Ok, how about just – fun, drugs, and sex!
KB: If you could be anyone else, alive or dead, who would it be?
YW: John Bonnom but at the time he was killing it. Not when he started drinking heavily and shit.
KB: If you could be anywhere right now, where would it be?
YW: In Kona
KB: What’s your favorite body part on the opposite sex?
KB: Would you rather be in love or loved?
YW: In love…Hey, can I change one of my answers?
YW: If I could be anyone else, it would be Tom Curren, the surfer. I’d love to feel how it feels to surf big waves. I’m kind of a chicken shit with big, gnarly waves.
KB: Then why not Laird? He surfs the biggest waves.
YW: Laird is a nut case, but Tom’s got style.
Although, I’ve never met Yesod, I have a feeling he has a lot of style, too.
Pepper is playing with another great band, Slightly Stoopid, at the Gothic Theater on May 7, 2004. Also, on June 12th, they are hosting the 2nd Annual Kona Town Music Festival (in Kona, if you didn’t already figure that out). They are trying to bring bands (other than just reggae) to Kona. The likes of Bargain Music and Slightly Stoopid will be playing along with Pepper, of course. “Last year was sort of big scale with food and art booths, but this year, I think we’re gonna scale it down to about a 2000 person capacity. There will still be some art booths and stuff but there’s also gonna be a sick beer garden.”