After twenty years Rancid has made an indelible mark in the music scene earning the respect and honor of fans and bands worldwide. To celebrate this milestone, Smelvis Records is releasing Hooligans United A Tribute to Rancid on April 14. Packed with 51 tracks on 3 vinyl LP’s or 2 CD’s, bands from a variety of genres commemorate the occasion with their own take on an iconic Rancid song. By the Barricade sat down with Elvis Cortez (Left Alone, Transplants) founder/owner of Smelvis Records and brainchild of this project to find out what inspired this massive undertaking. The full interview transcripts follow:
What was the inspiration for Hooligans United?
Elvis Cortez: Wow! That was crazy because it started in 2011 when I was driving with Tim (Armstrong) and I kind of brought it up to him and asked what he thought about it. He thought it was great and said, “You do it, go for it!” I thought it was cool because Rancid is my favorite band so I started contacting bands. It started as one CD, one vinyl and then it went to two vinyl’s and one CD now the final version is a two CD set and three 12” pieces of vinyl. And then we did a contest and I wanted to add a band out of nowhere to give the little guy a chance because that has always been me. It worked! I got all of these submissions and I thought, I can’t leave them out so I decided to do a digital download card with all of the the contest runner ups and that was another 20 songs. The record itself is 51 songs and so the package is 72 songs and they are so cool because they are so different! There are country versions and reggae. The Phenomenauts do this crazy version of “Life Won’t Wait.” It is very different. Every song is its own vibe and I like that. Rancid inspired so many different bands in so many different genres that it works. It has been a long time coming.
You mentioned that Rancid was your favorite band. In what ways did they influence you?
Elvis: Besides the hard work and the amazing records they have put out, the family vibe they have by being real friends is rare in a band. When you see it in Rancid you realize it is legit and it can happen. I also admire their hard work. They worked hard and they put out records and they never really stopped. They may press pause and do some other stuff but they continue to work hard. The songs are amazing by themselves. They are influences by being catchy good songs.
Elvis: Tim’s very good at sequencing and knows what should go where. When you do it for your own band it is very different because you created it and know how it should be. We used Tim’s idea for the beginning of the sequencing because he knew where certain songs should go. It was cool and took a lot of the pressure off of me. I still had the bottom bulk and a lot of the middle stuff to figure out, but he knew how it should start. “Maxwell Murder” is the first track and then he chose “11th Hour” which is how it is sequenced in Out Come the Wolves. It did sort of just happen, but it worked out. I wanted to start off really fast and Anti-Flag was perfect for that and then came The Interrupters which made sense. Tim picked our (Left Alone’s) song “Black Derby Jacket” next which is cool. It is a little different from the normal one. Our idea was to do a punk, ska, punk, ska order and throw in a little country like Holy Ghost doing “Django” and also The Scotch Bonnets with their version of “Tropical London.” I really like that one.
Having a mix of genres is great because everyone is going to have their favorites and they are interspersed so you get a sampling of everything.
Elvis: The Operation Ivy album is like that with punk song, ska song which has always been the idea. It makes sense because you don’t want to burn everyone out with a bunch of fast songs and get the middle slow songs, you get a mix instead.
Were all of the bands that made the cut for the album invited or were some submissions?
News of the album kind of traveled fast between band members and their friends. I asked several bands and some made it onto the album and some never got around to it because of busy schedules. Some of the bands said they had friends that would be into it and asked if they could be a part of it. It was early on and I said, “Ya, no problem. Have them submit a song and these are the songs that are already taken.” That is how it was built and also I would see another band to include while on tour or they would hear about it and ask. When we were getting to the capacity of how many songs I could possibly fit, we had one more spot and I wanted to do a contest. Some kid said, “Why are all of your friends’ bands on there. Why can’t I be on there?” I explained, “That is not how it is, I’ve nervously asked bands I don’t know saying ‘Hey, would you be into this?’” Some said no.
What was the contest process for other bands?
Tim and I agreed on taking submissions and we got a lot! We chose “Cocktails” by The Last Gang and that sounded really, really cool. But we still had a lot of songs and we didn’t want to leave anyone hanging so we did a digital download card. That worked out and one guy couldn’t believe it. It was just him and an acoustic guitar and it sounded like maybe he recorded it on his phone. It didn’t matter, we just mastered it and threw it in there too and added him on. That is the family idea … if bands are into it, that is cool and we want to include them but I couldn’t fit more. We maxed out on 2 CD’s and 3 vinyl’s and had to say, “This is it!”
How about the album artwork, how did you come up with that?
Elvis: We did a tour with Voodoo Glow Skulls and The Toasters and Frank (Casillas) from Voodoo is an artist and was going to do some tour poster for us. When he sent the art to me I thought, “Holy shit, this is really good!” It was this creature guy drawn like the style of this album cover with the same detail and it was full color. When I was coming up with ideas for the cover I remembered him. Originally I wanted him to do a poster but it came out so good I knew it was what I wanted for the album, I liked it a lot. He is really, really good and album artwork is really important. I think it captures a lot of the vibe. This cover could be a rude boy with the hat and a skinhead or a punk rocker so it has it all. I’m stoked!
There is a certain appeal when you hear one of your favorite bands doing the Rancid song, it takes on a different meaning. When I listened to the album there are a few tracks that when they started I knew right away what band was playing. They have their sound translating a Rancid song. It is fun.
When it came to Hooligans United, I had never put something like this out and I wasn’t sure how the bands were going to interpret the songs. I wondered if they would record the song exactly and then we (Left Alone) did a song we didn’t turn in, “I Wanna Riot” when we recorded our last album. It just sounded too similar in a way, so I thought we should do something a little bit different. We did “Black Derby Jacket” which is way different. I’m glad that everyone put their own flavor on it. You still have the awesomeness of the song, but you have that band putting their signature on it. It works really well.
I am excited for people to hear it. I see it as the ultimate party CD because people will know the songs, but they will think, “Huh, what version is that?” But it is a good thing that I think meshes well with people.
Presale has been ongoing for the album, what are some of the international countries that you have had a strong response from?
J. This is the biggest record that I have worked on both by number of songs and the number of bands … it is a lot but in a good way. It has been doing really well.
I’m sure the process is much more difficult to put out this big compilation as opposed to recording one band’s album in a studio. The task that you set before yourself was pretty big.
I never look at the work side of things, I always look at the cool side of things. Like adding another vinyl, I get excited about the idea without thinking about how much longer it will be to get stuff from bands or about the guy who does the mastering for me. He does all of the Left Alone records and I am thankful for him because every time I would approach him and give him one more song and then a bunch more, he just would say, “OK.” Eventually he said, “Wait until you have everything and then just send it over.” After that came the download card and he said (sarcastically), “It is really cool that you are doing ALL this stuff.” It becomes a lot, but because I don’t look at it as work, I see it as what else I can do that is cool to add to it. Things like the record slip mats that we print here are more work, but it is not really work, it is something I see as fun. Maybe there is something wrong with me if I see work as fun. *Laughing.
Tell us more about the upcoming release parties April 10, 11 and 12.
It is going to be the bands that are on the record with some different bands each night except Voodoo Glow Skulls and Left Alone are on two nights and The Phenomenauts from San Francisco are on all three nights. They will be fun shows with diverse bands playing the Rancid songs and just having a good time celebrating. Voodoo has known them forever, The Phenomenauts are from the Bay Area, Rick Thorne knows Rancid. There is a whole cool mix of just friends. Rat City Riot from San Diego opened up for Rancid and The Transplants in 2013 and I tried to get a mix and I wish I could get more, but a lot of bands are not in California or weren’t available. So we are having one in Los Angeles (Troubadour, April 10), one in Orange County (OC Observatory, April 12) and the one in Long Beach (DiPiazza’s, April 11) will be like the party in between with some really cool bands. It is all just family which is the vibe I got from Rancid.
Do you have plans for any other tribute albums? If so, who deserves the praise?
Elvis: Yes, and I know who I want to do but I haven’t asked them. Maybe? The next one will be out in a year. Hooligans United took a little bit longer but I have learned; I know what it takes and what is realistically possible. I had fun with this one and I would like to have more fun with another one.
By the Barricade recommends pre-ordering Hooligans United A Tribute to Rancid from Smelvis Records. If you are in the Los Angeles/Orange County area, be sure to catch a release show or two and hear some of the tribute songs live. Tickets available here and at the door.
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