June 13, 2018 Interview – Jesse Valenzuela of Gin Blossoms
Back in the 1990s, Alternative Rock music was in full bloom and one the brightest flowers in the patch was the Gin Blossoms. A band whose history dates back 3 decades, Gin Blossoms would go on to become a multi-platinum success story with their 1992 major label debut album, New Miserable Experience. Known for their jangle guitar melodies, smooth vocals, and energetic style, Gin Blossoms have remained one of the decades more beloved acts as they continue to tour around the world.
Veterans to the game, they are now set to return with a brand new album on Friday, June 15th they call Mixed Reality. Their first studio record in 8 years, Gin Blossoms are eager to get the music out to their dedicated followers as they continue to tour throughout the summer months. Taking a break from their busy schedule, Guitarist Jesse Valenzuela sat down to talk the years gone by with Gin Blossoms, their new album, life on the road, plus more.
CrypticRock.com – Coming together over 30 years ago, Gin Blossoms rose to prominence in the ’90s with a list of massively successful hits. Continuing the journey in the early 2000s, you continue to tour and perform in front of large crowds around the globe. First, tell us, what has the ride been like for you?
Jesse Valenzuela – It’s been long. It was a lot different touring in the ’80s then it is now. You had to keep quarters in your pocket so you could call people.
CrypticRock.com – (Laughs) That is true, a lot has changed. Looking back, recently celebrating a 25th anniversary in 2017, New Miserable Experience was initially not all that well-received until around a year after its release, and has since gone multi-platinum. What are your recollections of that time and place for the band?
Jesse Valenzuela – It got nice reviews, it just didn’t sell. It took a year before anyone even noticed it. It was KFOG in San Francisco and KROCK in Los Angeles and it sort of took off from there.
CrypticRock.com – Yes, and it paved the way for a wave of success. You followed up strongly in 1996, releasing Congratulations I’m Sorry, but the band parted ways shortly thereafter. Reuniting in the early 2000s, what inspired the band’s reunion?
Jesse Valenzuela – Honestly, we were never really separated for very long. What reunited us was a series of shows, we were asked to come to play, and that’s what happened.
CrypticRock.com – It has been a steady active time for Gin Blossoms since then.
Jesse Valenzuela – Yea, we have made records since then and stayed busy. This part of our career is probably longer than the first part. I don’t like to make the distinction between the 1st and 2nd part. In my opinion, the supposed break up was really not even a breakup, it was just sort of a vacation, if you will. I don’t know if we ever really broke up, in fact, the idea of bands breaking up seems like a pretentious pursuit. Just don’t play, the world will survive without you.
CrypticRock.com – Understood. In the new millennium, the band has been very active as you stated. Now you are set to release your new album, entitled Mixed Reality. An album that has been long anticipated, what was the writing and recording process like?
Jesse Valenzuela – The same as always. We don’t make a lot of records. People started creating pieces of music, we get together and record, just the same as we have always done. You can’t reinvent the wheel, or we certainly can. It was fun!
CrypticRock.com – This album flows rather smoothly and very much remains true to Gin Blossoms style. As mentioned, there has been talks of the record for some years now. Was it about finding the right time to record the album?
Jesse Valenzuela – It was done a couple of years ago, and since the music industry is broken and doesn’t really exist anymore, you have to figure out ways to get it out. For a band of our age group, a release is a release, but it’s not a big grand announcement. It is nice to get it out to the people who care. We have been waiting for a while to just put it out. It is much different than the ’90s when we were releasing music, because at that point, we were at the radio and the expectations were much bigger.
CrypticRock.com – The fans certainly do care and it will be exciting to see their reactions.
Jesse Valenzuela – Absolutely. I hope on the next record we can take a few more less churns. I think we tend to sort of be within our idiome.
CrypticRock.com – Speaking of another record, Mixed Reality is brand new, but is it safe to say the next cycle will not have an 8 year gap?
Jesse Valenzuela – Oh no, it definitely could be. (Laughs)
CrypticRock.com – We will just have to see where things go, but it is great to see Mixed Reality out. This album has a total of 15 tracks, that is a lot of material.
Jesse Valenzuela – I don’t really see people buying records, but maybe the group of people who are still interested in what we are creating will. That’s why we are here, because they care enough to seek out some music from us. If they want 15 songs, I will give them 20.
CrypticRock.com – Well, there is plenty to satisfy fans with Mixed Reality.
Jesse Valenzuela – We’re in a different program, we are older veterans. We are a live band, we are out working shows, and in that scenario where people come to the shows, they want to buy a moment of the show, so they will buy a record. Whether or not they listen to the whole thing, I’m not sure. I am glad people are engaged and there is a level of excitement.
CrypticRock.com – Yes, and speaking of live shows, the band is currently out on tour with Tonic and Vertical Horizon.
Jesse Valenzuela – Yea, that’s the deal! We play 100 shows a year, sometimes a little bit more. Our life is performance. Some bands transition and they are just about making records or doing a lot of film or TV work. For Gin Blossoms, it’s always been performance, that’s kind of what we do. That’s how we present our work.
CrypticRock.com – Gin Blossoms has always stood out as a different kind of band. The sound of the band clearly has many influences. You have visited many cities over the years. How does the band pick where to play?
Jesse Valenzuela – We have an agency that books our shows. As you said, it’s a long time we have been performing on the circuit, so we are happy to come to this city or that city to play at a venue we have played before.
CrypticRock.com – Very cool. With Mixed Reality coming out on Friday, the band is pretty busy through the summer touring.
Jesse Valenzuela – Yes, we are going to be busy through September and October. I’m excited. We’ve been on the road for so many years, if I can go home for 18 hours, I’ll go home.
CrypticRock.com – It is tough being away from home when you are travelling a lot.
Jesse Valenzuela – Yea, you need the renewal. I am 56 years old now, so it’s nice to be home. I can have a nice dinner, be with my family, work at my girlfriend’s grocery store, and then come back on the road feeling a renewed sense of energy and play a great show. That’s how I found my balance. I am thankful for the gig, I’m excited about the new record, and that people come to the shows. I’ve been a very lucky man and I have had a real fortunate life.
CrypticRock.com – It certainly has been a wonderful run for yourself and the band. Last question. We also cover Horror and Sci-Fi films on CrypticRock. If you are a fan of either or both genres, what are some of your favorites and why?
Jesse Valenzuela – I really have no interest in those genres. Aside from Planet of the Apes (1968) when I was a kid, I don’t really know anything about Sci-Fi. (Laughs) My son however loves it. Scotty Johnson is a huge Science Fiction guy and if you are with him on a Sunday night, you would be watching The Walking Dead. I really don’t know much about the genres, but I can tell you Scotty Johnson is a zombie man. When I was kid, I watched all those movies. When I was a kid, Planet of the Apes was wild, just fantastic. I will still watch it if it’s on TV, you better believe it. That’s how hopelessly out of date I am. (Laughs)