Interview: Blake Schwarzenbach

Blake Schwarzenbach of forgetters at Le Voyeur in Olympia, WA (photo by Ryan Richardson)
Blake Schwarzenbach is a writer, a teacher, and a well-known musician. His previous projects include Jawbreaker, Jets to Brazil, and Thorns of Life. His current band is called forgetters.




At the time of this interview, forgetters was Kevin Mahon, Blake Schwarzenbach and Caroline Paquita. They were in Olympia, WA on tour with Street Eaters and played that night at Le Voyeur. The interview was conducted at the studios of KAOS 89.3 fm on the campus of The Evergreen State College in Olympia, WA.

There are photos from their shows in Seattle and Olympia by Frank and more awesome photos by Ryan OLYWA, too.


[interview transcript]


Hi. My name is Blake Schwarzenbach.

I play in a band called forgetters now and I’ve been in bands for most of my life at this point. I’m 43. I grew up in the Bay area. Berkeley, California and then they ended up moving up and down the coast: lived in Portland… lived in Los Angeles… lived in Colorado… went to school in New York…now I live in Brooklyn.

What has come to interest me the most is the way that people, in our society in the United States, become the things they want to be when they are young – or things that they admire and think that they aren’t allowed to participate in. In my case, that was first music because I loved music as a kid.

As a kid from a broken home, when I didn’t have parents around… or I didn’t have friends… I would listen to Steve Martin’s A Wild and Crazy Guy alone and it kept me company. Then I listened to Electric Light Orchestra and I thought that was really fantastic. Then I heard about Echo and the Bunnymen when I was in 7th grade in Portland. I bought Crocodiles the record and I thought that was otherworldly. It gradually evolved into punk in Los Angeles. Those were kind of my surrogate parents and relatives and mentors. I grew up listening to all this music and looking at visual art and paintings.

It didn’t occur to me until I was about 19 that I might actually be able to do that thing and provide that company, for myself, and ideally for others. Now I’m 43, and I’ve been in bands that seem to have provided some comfort to people, and to have been there in the dark places when they didn’t have anyone else. I find that really gratifying.

I’m old enough to be gratified by that, and to want to continue to do that work in this country. Because I don’t think there is a lot of it out there. Young people don’t sense opportunity, in the sense of doing creative work. I feel like we are always told that we should do really hard, kind of undignified work in order to do art. I fundamentally disagree with that principle. I think it’s very possible to do creative work and to earn rent or food, or whatever it is, along the way.

One bit of advice I would have if I were to see my younger self on the street was to keep studying and really listening and looking at the things that move you and that you respond viscerally to. Not to try to copy them, but just to let them into your person and they will guide you.

If I had to give one enormous thank you… it would go to a lot of things… but I think from high school, Exene Cervenka and the band X was something I just didn’t understand. I loved it… but I didn’t…  I couldn’t believe that adults could do things like that and be that cool and wear good clothes and have a good aesthetic sensibilities and be able to describe their city like a real story. That’s political, but it’s social and also it’s completely artistic. That helped me, I think unconsciously, in the writing I did with Jawbreaker and that I’ve done with all my bands. And that I continue to do now.

And that’s about all I have to say. Thanks for listening.


[end transcript]


forgetters are from Brooklyn, NY. This interview took place on January 31st, 2011.


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