Social Distortion has never been a band that would burden its fans with some abstract concept album or ask them to follow it through some overambitious diversion. It's tried-and-true punk rock played in the key of Hank Williams, backed by the swagger of the Stones. The kind of band with which you'd like to share beers and stories but wouldn't want to cross in a pool hall. Thirty-plus years into its career, Social Distortion's newest effort, Hard Times and Nursery Rhymes, captures the reliable sound the band has made a living on. Still, the new album manages to tap into a newfound blues, soul and gospel spirit. Guitarist Jonny "2 Bags" Wickersham, who has the charm of a punk rock Spicoli, recently spoke with B-Sides from his home in Los Angeles.
B-Sides: You guys just released Hard Times and Nursery Rhymes, your first album in seven years. How has the reception been since its release?
Jonny "Two Bags" Wickersham: It's been unreal, surpassed any expectations we had. I don't necessarily look at them, but I've been told that it "charted" on a couple different charts. And that's awesome. I know it doesn't mean what it meant ten or twenty years ago, but it's still great. I know Mike [Ness, singer and guitarist] is really stoked on it.
Speaking of Ness, this is the first time he's produced a Social D album on his own. Would you say it made recording easier?
Well, I think it made things easier in terms of reaching [Mike's] objective. From what I could tell, I think he had a clearer vision with this record than he did with Sex, Love and Rock 'n' Roll. That's not to say the record didn't develop on its own. But I do think it helped that Mike was more focused, and his visions weren't diluted.
But for me, personally, it was kind of tough at times. He really knew what he wanted to do. He wasn't necessarily receptive to, "Hey, let's try it this way." [Laughs] He actually established that pretty early in the sessions. But it wasn't like that the whole time. In pre-production, everyone was able to shape the songs and whatnot.
There are a lot of bands younger than Social D that cite you as a guidepost in terms of where they want to be ten years down the line. Are there any particular bands you guys look to as an inspiration?
I always say that collectively we all agree that the Rolling Stones is the band we look up to. Obviously we've covered them in the past, and I think it's obvious we are inspired by them. And they're a good example of a band that always evolves in between records. And we definitely strive for the same thing. Mike and I are very punk-rock guitar players, and the other guys in the band are real "players." It's exciting that we're able to write a song like "California (Hustle and Flow)" on the new album. For us to be able and tackle a blues number like that and try new stuff...it feels great.
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