LOS ANGELES, April 24, 2014 — In punk rock, there are drummers, there are good drummers and then there are the legends. Jordan Burns, drummer for the Simi Valley, California punk band Strung Out, is a legend. Burns’ drums were unleashed on the world with the release of Strung Out’s first album on Fat Wreck Chords, Another Day In Paradise. Since then, Burns continues to take his drums to the next level with each album. Recently, Strung Out released a box set that included remixes of the band’s first three albums. Later this year, Strung Out will release its eighth album, Transmission Alpha Delta, on Fat Wreck Chords. Jordan Burns took some time to speak with Wells On Music regarding his joining the band, the remixed albums and recording Transmission Alpha Delta.
Scroll below video to read the interview.
Kevin Wells: What made you want to start playing drums?
Jordan Burns: I first started out playing guitar actually when I was a little kid. I probably started around six or seven years old taking guitar lessons. That lasted for a while and then I lost interest. The first time I sat down on a drum set in junior high school I was able to play a beat and I kind of gained interest in that. I guess I found my love for drums and started playing. I got into my first little punk band once I was in high school and the rest was history.
KW: How did you come to join Strung Out?
JB: The story goes, more or less, that I was in Scared Straight, which turned into Ten Foot Pole. Basically, those guys, in a nutshell kind of story, kicked me out and I was pretty devastated because I had been in that band for quite a while. I ended up trying out for one other band. My friend Brad from Rage Against the Machine hooked me up with this band, Failure, to try out with. I was kind of all pumped up because I heard they were going on tour with Tool. So, I tried out for that, but didn’t make it.
I was at the Reseda Country Club for a NoFX show. I think it was NoFX, Lagwagon, Jughead’s Revenge, and Strung Out. I saw Strung Out and I wasn’t impressed at all. At that show, the bass player, Jim Cherry, came up to me and asked me if I would like to play with Strung Out and jam with them. As of that night, I wasn’t too impressed, but I had heard that Fat Mike had this label and he was gonna sign ‘em. I had known Fat Mike forever back from our early, early punk days. So that got me to check them out and I told Jim to send me some music. He sent me a tape and I really liked the music I heard. Basically, I ended up jamming with those guys six times and we went straight to it and recorded Another Day In Paradise. It was a much more challenging music for me to play too. Those guys definitely made me step my game up.
KW: Strung Out’s sound has developed into a heavier, darker style of punk over the years. Is this a conscious shift in style?
JB: I don’t think anything we play is a conscious effort to make a specific sound or anything. I just think it’s all been a natural transition or a natural progression or the band maturing, but the thing is that everybody in the band is contributing to the music. It’s not like one or two guys write everything. I think that’s why you get all the different tastes and flavors of Strung Out.
KW: Do you have a personal favorite Strung Out album?
JB: I don’t think so because I’m proud of everything that we’ve done, you know? There’s nothing I look back on or whatever and think, “We could have done this,” or, “this would have been like this.” I mean, there’s always little things to nitpick and go, “I wish it sounded a little bit more clear.” I don’t think we’re ever satisfied 100 percent with the production process. We’re always looking to achieve better production and better sound, but I’m proud of everything we’ve done.
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KW: Is that one of the reasons you guys went back and remixed the first three albums?
JB: Partially. We had been talking about doing it forever. It finally formed into the box set thing. We obviously did a taste of it with the Top Contenders album. I think it gave everything a fresh new sound. We were able to focus on some of the things that, after a while, we weren’t satisfied with. Particularly with me were some of the drum sounds. I think the drums are definitely sounding fuller. I like the way all the remixes came out. It’s cool. It gives it a fresh vibe and it’s maybe a little more of a modern sound. We got to focus on some different things. So far, it seems to have received quite a bit of a positive response. You’re always at risk with the people who like the original, which is fine and understandable. You can’t avoid some people having that feeling, but the overall response right now has been nothing but positive.
KW: I think it is one of the first re-issues that actually sounds noticeably different from the original and different in a good way.
JB: I think a lot of people when they do these box sets and stuff like that, most people just say that it is all re-mastered. I don’t notice a lot of bands, maybe I’m not paying attention, but I don’t notice a lot of bands that go through the effort of remixing everything. It’s typically just, “Re-mastered box set.” I mean, re-mastering is cool, but it’s not going to change the sound that much. Remixing it definitely changes the sound.
KW: Is the new album, Transmission Alpha Delta, finished as far as recording goes?
JB: No, it is not. We started it. The reason we took a break is because our producer, Kyle Black, had some other commitments and he had to fulfill those commitments with some other bands. The plan is to get back in action after we get back from Australia. We’re leaving for Australia May 6 for the Hits and Pits Tour over there, which is gonna be really cool with Unwritten Law, Face To Face, Death By Stereo and just a bunch of bands. Anyways, one we get back from Australia, we’re gonna get straight back into the studio and the guys are gonna finish everything.
I’m done with my parts. It was a super intense session, way, way intense session. We were really nitpicking on everything. Yeah, I had some meltdowns in there and stuff. Maybe it’s kind of the typical thing, but it was actually not the typical thing because I would say this is the gnarliest recording session that I have done, as far as tracking drums. It’s gonna be pretty intense. I’m pretty happy with the way everything is coming out.
Jason’s completed maybe 80 percent of one or two songs and everything is sounding really good. Our producer sent some rough mixes and you never want to speak too soon, but my gut feeling right now is that this album is sounding the best out of any of our productions so far. It’s early in the game. I don’t want to mark my words on that, but that’s my gut feeling.
KW: What can fans expect to hear style-wise from the new record?
JB: I don’t know how to explain the sound. It’s gnarly. You always want to believe that this s**t’s gonna blow everyone away and everyone’s gonna love it, but you can never tell until the album’s released. I think it’s the fans that get to make the decision of whether you killed it or not. When you’re in the band, you’re always gonna think you killed it. I feel pretty good about it. It’s gonna blow some people away. We’ve got some f**kin’ crazy s**t on this album.
KW: When you play live now, is it hard to let go of some of the older stuff to make room for the new songs in your set?
JB: You know, I don’t like letting go of the old because it’s a lot of what the fans come out to see. I don’t think it is anything you can abandon. Of course, when you put a new album out, you’ve got to work some new songs into the set list. You just need to find a happy medium and figure out how to mix everything. Our set list is always an inner battle or struggle between all of us trying to figure it out, but you get it accomplished and put it all together and hopefully it’s pleasing to the fans.
KW: Who are three of your favorite drummers in punk right now?
JB: I think there are a lot of great drummers. That kid Kye Smith, he’s from Australia, he’s been doing all these medley drumming videos for Youtube. He looks like he is just really killing it. He looks so relaxed and everything while he’s playing. I haven’t seen him play a whole lot of his own stuff, but he’s pretty rippin’. Of course there’s lots of rippers like Dave Raun [Lagwagon]. Speaking of Australia, I’ll throw Gordy Forman out there from Frenzal Rhomb. He’s a great drummer that people don’t recognize. Mike from Death By Stereo is rippin’.
There’s a ton of drummers out there that rip and there’s always somebody up and coming. I appreciate everyone being stoked on my playing. I try to hold up to that too and it’s harder to stay physically fit and capable of all the s**t you did. I go back and try to play Suburban Teenage Wasteland Blues and it’s like, “Holy f**k.” I might have been on speed. I wasn’t, but that’s what you think because the BPM’s are just f**kin’ flying. I put the headphones on and try to hold up to that pace again, but damn, it’s not as easy as it was back then.
KW: Does it make it easier to try to cut those songs from the set first?
JB: We can’t. We did that whole tour of Suburban Teenage Wasteland Blues and Twisted By Design together. You know, that was a learning lesson. It was just intense to play both of those albums together in a row. It was a super long set and holy f**k, man, it kicked your ass to perform both those albums in a row.
KW: That’s a gnarly set.
JB: I don’t think we’ll be doing that again. So, those who got to see that, that was pretty cool.
KW: Is there anything else you would like people to know either about yourself or anything the band is working on?
JB: Outside of the band, I have my motocross company, which is called MotoXXX. I’ve had that going close to as long as I’ve been in the band. It was kind of dormant for a little while, but we’re back in action and I’ve got my company going again and formed a new partnership. I’m pretty excited about all of that. That kind of stuff is going really well. I’m just staying busy with that.
Kevin J. Wells is the Sports Editor for Communities Digital News. He also writes about Major League Baseball, punk rock music and food. Kevin plays guitar in the Los Angeles punk band Emmer Effer. Follow him on Twitter @WellsOnBaseball