March 20, 2018 Interview – Al Jardine A Founding Member Of The Beach Boys
Unfortunately, it is not very often we have a chance to reminisce on the good times in our lives. A blessing one should never take for granted, Al Jardine, a founding member of The Beach Boys, has plenty of great stories to share from within his memory bank of the years gone by. An intricate part of The Beach Boys for many years, Jardine was there from the start, a part of the recording and writing sessions of the band’s extensive discography of hits.
Inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of The Beach Boys back in 1988, Jardine has not slowed down one bit over the decades. In fact, he remains extremely active, writing, recording, and most of all, staying on the road performing alongside his longtime friend Brian Wilson.
Now prepared to embark on a special solo tour entitled A Postcard From California: From the Very First Song, Jardine invites fans of all ages to come along with him on a journey into the history of The Beach Boys through his eyes. Recently, we caught up with the legendary musician to talk the concept behind A Postcard From California: From the Very First Song, his solo career, his memories of The Beach Boys, future plans, plus much more.
CrypticRock.com – You have been involved in Rock-n-Roll professionally for nearly 6 decades now. From being an intricate part of The Beach Boys to your solo career, you have accomplished a great deal. First tell us, what has your life in music been like?
Al Jardine – It’s been great! The wonderful part of it is having a classmate, a friend in high school, a partner in music with Brian Wilson. That has been my most rewarding part, I think. He was our musical compass for years. His brothers were a joy to work with. His cousin, a little bit difficult at times, but we all came out ok with it. We experienced the music in different ways. That is why I am doing this upcoming tour because my experience is an entirely different point of view than Mike, Brian, or his brothers might have had. It is kind of fun to start from the very first song, which is the premise of the tour – A Postcard From California: From the Very First Song. I take everyone to that very first recording session. I even have the same kind of instruments we used, which is also nice because you get that vintage quality you really don’t hear too much today. Anyway, it’s a point of view I take very seriously and we have a lot of fun with it.
CrypticRock.com – It sounds like a fascinating tour. You are going out on the road with your son Matt, yes?
Al Jardine – Absolutely, he’s my pillar. He has become a very important part of the experience because he can bring out the stories that need to be told. I have told him these stories over the years, he will remember something and he will say, “Hey dad, you remember when you and Brian did this and that?” Pretty soon we have got a whole bunch of points of view which even I had forgotten. Also, he sings really great, which doesn’t hurt. (Laughs) He has got that wonderful fasellto, a true fasellto and a true pitch. The kind of pitch that you depend on, he knows how to use it and how to express in a way that makes me comfortable.
CrypticRock.com – Yes, and Matt is a very talented musician. Being a father, how does it feel to be able to work with your son in music like that?
Al Jardine – I just seem him as a professional person. He is a family man, just like I am, our families get together at the appropriate times. When we are on stage, we are professional, we treat everything pragmatically. Then we have fun with it. He is the nuts and bolts kind of guy, he makes sure everything is solid not only for himself, but for me because I tend to drift a little bit from one moment to another. I have had so many life experiences with this music and he is kind of my compass, he keeps me going in the right direction on stage. Otherwise, this thing could go sideways, I could tell you a story for an hour and a half. (Laughs) He and Jeff Alan Ross, my musical director, kind of keep me on course. We have a nice media presentation as well by the way. It is conducted by Jeff on stage. As we progress through the set there will be moments that we pause for a little video of some particular moment in the career – a commentary from Glen Campbell or Armin Steiner who had a recording studio in Hollywood and has a great anecdote on a couple of songs we recorded there. It is really interesting, I think.
CrypticRock.com – It sounds like it will be a great show, which begins at the end of this month. You will be visiting cities, including City Winery in NYC on April 1st. From all your years on the road from touring with The Beach Boys, among other things, what are some of the more important things you have learned from life on the road as a musician?
Al Jardine – Just to get plenty of rest, don’t smoke, don’t drink… just don’t have any fun at all. (Laughs) Just moderation, unfortunately so many of my peers have gone down the drain because for one reason or another you can really carried away with things on the road where there is really no absence of trouble you can get into. I would just say have fun with it but just take it easy and don’t get in trouble. The music is 2 hours of your life on stage, the other 22 hours you can get pretty darn bored. Unless you are like my son Matt, when he’s out there, he is always learning something. He is always studying the next song or working on the next project so he makes sure he is sharp. We also have the Brian Wilson shows coming up, so we are not only learning this stuff, but we have to make sure we have the new songs on the Wilson tour learned pretty well and ahead of time. We are going out in May with Brian.
The road is a good place to learn and keep ahead of the game, and even record. Some people bring their recording equipment with them on the road which is nice because you can down a basic track in your hotel room if you are writing songs.
CrypticRock.com – That is all good advice, obviously you want to stay out of trouble and remain productive. You have been touring with Brian Wilson a lot over the years. There is no question he is a brilliant songwriter and arranger. How would you describe your relationship with Brian through the years?
Al Jardine – I am one of the instruments in the band. Not only are we friends/schoolmates, and did we evolve together, but he assessed all our expectations as a songwriter. We were always there, I was always there as a principal Beach Boy. I learned to writer songs myself thanks to watching Brian develop as a writer, it helped me a lot to express myself. I was always there for him, he was always there for me. What can I say, through the ups and downs, here we are going back out on the road again. Who knew Brian would be such a road guy, because in the past he was not. Things change, if you are lucky enough to be around long enough like we have, you are entitled to change. We can do that, which is nice.
We are really lucky, a lot of people’s career never gets a chance to experience the other side of it. We are always in the studio for the first how many years, now we are more experienced on the road. We now get the joy or thrill of exactly performing the songs we worked so hard to create. That is the best part , if you can stick around long enough, that’s my advice. Don’t give up, keep writing, keep working, and someday you will have the joy of performing it, even the stuff that wasn’t a hit. That’s the important thing and that is why this show is so much fun.
We do some of the hits, we actually do pretty good for only 3 voices, but we sound like there are 5 of us. We make do with what we have, we really know to use what we have. We can sometimes even sing 2 parts at the same time in the same song, if you can believe that. In other words, you have to interchange parts as you go along, you know where the important part is, put that in, pull it out for your background parts. It’s clever, and we are able to do that pretty successfully. There are a richness of tunes/harmonies we are able to draw from.
CrypticRock.com – Longevity is difficult to attain and it is definitely special when you get to do it. You get to enjoy the fruits of your labor now.
Al Jardine – Ain’t that nice? Not many people can do that. I was talking to Brian about it, it’s the voices we cherish the most and the vocal arrangements we did that are so much fun to sing. It is like doing it all over again when you first learned the parts. Now the 3 of us, not including Brian, on this particular tour, get to sing all the parts at different times. It is a lot of fun. I happen to have a pretty good memory for vocal arrangements so I am able to share that with the guys.
CrypticRock.com – That is wonderful. The tour title is actually taken from your 2010 solo album, A Postcard from California. That album includes a plethora of collaborations with friends, family, and members of The Beach Boys. That in mind, can we expect some new Al Jardine music in the future?
Al Jardine – I would love it. I have a song in particular I have been thinking about for years that I would like to do. If that leads to another complement of songs, that would be great too. Matt has gotten some really good songs that he’s written, it would be nice to help him realize his recording potential. I have a couple of I think are really important songs that would fit the time. I would say they have the Carl Wilson vibe, Carl was one of my favorite songwriters. He would write these majestic songs like “The Trader” or “Long Promised Road.” He had a sense of history in his songwriting. I have a few more similar to his style and his style of songwriting, but to reflect more the California vibe lyrically speaking that I had on A Postcard from California.
CrypticRock.com – It would be fun to hear some new music from you since it has been a while.
Al Jardine – It takes a lot of energy to go back into the studio because it is so much darn work. We having so much fun with this stuff, making an album sounds like work to me. If it’s worth doing, creating, I think it’s worth the hard work and getting it done. I do have a recording studio, so it would be silly not to take advantage of it. It’s more fun producing a record, I think. When you are doing your own records it’s really hard if you are not objective. I will have Matt come along and help me out.
CrypticRock.com – Yes, there is a different perspective if you are producing or recording yourself. It is hard to be objective of your own work.
Al Jardine – That’s exactly right. Anyway, on this tour we will be performing “California Saga” and “A Postcard from California” which comes off really great. Then we will do a few other hits, an encore of sing-along stuff that people will enjoy singing along with us. We progress through the career from Surfin’ Safari (1962) to Smiley Smile (1967), a homemade album we did with “Heroes and Villains” and “Vegetables.” We even do “Good Vibrations” believe it or not, which is amazing. We cover them all. Some of the surf songs from the surfing/car period, the middle period, the later period, and then finally the end of that genre, then we go onto the Postcard album.
CrypticRock.com – It sounds like a theatrical production with different acts.
Al Jardine – Yes, I call them eras. They are the eras of The Beach Boys until the end. It is not that we are entirely over yet, but I think we’ve done it enough and now we get to express our own personal story. It’s going to be fun.
CrypticRock.com – Yes, and it certainly is not over. You and The Beach Boys came together in 2011 to record the 2012 album That’s Why God Made the Radio. It is a very enjoyable record, do you have fond memories of that album?
Al Jardine – It was fun working with the guys. Sometime in the future, you never know, maybe Brian and I can do something together, that is a possibility. That would probably be one of those final moments in a great career that spanned all those decades.
CrypticRock.com – It was a good tour and album for sure! As a musician, you clearly have various influences. What are some of your personal influences?
Al Jardine – The Kingston Trio. Actually, I am folkie, I am not really a Rock guy. I like The Kings Trio because I loved the stories they told and the happiness that was expressed in the music. I am really a guitar/banjo guy. I leaned more that way until I met Brian Wilson of course, then I became a The Four Freshmen kind of guy and electric guitar player. My influences before Folk music was Doo Wop with the great R&B music in the late ’50s, that influenced all of us.
Then the great Rockabilly stars of the period and of course The Beatles, we loved The Beatles. They expressed that Rockabilly thing that was so prevalent in ’50s America. Those are my influences and the great songwriting of the period. There was just such great songs that were written, such happy stuff. More about happiness, that is what I think our music reflects too. We are reflecting that same thing to the next generation – it’s ok to be happy and sing. Singing is the greatest experience of all. If you can be with great singers, it just tends to lift your spirit.
CrypticRock.com – Absolutely, the human voice certainly is a magical instrument. We could all use some positivity right now.
Al Jardine – Yes, on Memorial Day of this year, May 28th, The Beach Boys are being feeds with their own channel on SiriusXM. So there will be an opportunity then for everyone to be uplifted a little bit if they tune into The Beach Boys channel on Memorial Day. We are all doing interviews for it and we are going to be playing some of the music that made that whole career happen, it’s going to be fun.
CrypticRock.com – That is fantastic news! The Beach Boys deserve a channel. The Beatles channel is wonderful too. It will be fun to see the channel dig deep too. One can imagine it will be offering some compelling interviews and hidden treasures, yes?
Al Jardine – Oh yea, my own show might even be on there, the Al Jardine From The Very First Song Tour. I am not 100% sure, but you will get some good stories from my touring, that’s for sure.