People Who Work Here would like to apologize for the extreme delay between interviews, but this week’s guest was dragging his feet like mad because, apparently, he does not want “to be made fun of” and therefore said guest took an unprecedented amount of time to complete his interview. Again, I apologize, but now I’d like to introduce you to Chris Jacobs, General Manager of Sub Pop Records! Chris has two kids, one of whom has the best name ever: Owen Blackjack Jacobs, and a lovely wife, and a golden retriever named Gabe. Chris enjoys playing soccer, playing cards with his buds, and skateboarding. Chris does not like mayonnaise or beans of any kind. I often times go to Chris for advice or when I am feeling blue and he cheers me up by reminding me that he is older than me and therefore worse off. He is a sensitive and hilarious guy and I have learned a lot from him over the years and am proud to call him friend as well as boss. (He makes me call him boss.) Let’s meet Chris!
L: Tell me about your history at Sub Pop and how you moved through the ranks to become the general manager of such a fine establishment. Be sure to tell me a little about your duties at each stop along the way.
C: I started here in April of ’97, shortly after the attempted coup, as tour publicist. Duties there included lots of phone time with newspaper journalists who sometimes also wrote cooking or home improvement columns. “Yes, that’s right, we put out the first Nirvana record. No, right now, I’m hoping you’ll write something about Elevator to Hell, actually.” Later, in addition to that, I bought ads for the label, and wrote quite a few of those that were mostly misunderstood, when paid any attention at all. Highlights include our failed pseudo-revolutionary “campaign” (“Sub Pop: By Any Means Currently Available”), our high-larious and way before its time LP3 ad, the ZZ Mower ad we stole from Matador, and oh, so many more that likely no one but me and Jeff Kleinsmith care at all about. After the departure of my old boss Cece, I took over as Publicity Director, and oh man, did I ever get this label a lot of coverage in Pulse! Magazine. A few years after that, I was elected Marketing Director in a landslide, which job involved (among a great many other, high-level responsibilities) making stickers and buttons and helping to put together this. [Seriously, will you just let this thing die? Yes, ha ha. We get it. –ed.] After being relieved of those duties, I was Editor-in-Chief and then Sr. Director of Special Projects, and the main duties involved in both of those jobs seemed to be explaining what they were and also combating the derision of my co-workers. Recently, I was inexplicably promoted to General Manager and I’m still not altogether clear on what that means.
L: Comics—you love them. Why? Which ones are your favorites? Do you only like the dirty alternative comics or have you collected them since you were a kid?
C: I do love comics! Sadly, I have paid less attention to them recently than I once did. I mostly only like the dirty alternative comics [Who can resist a skillfully shaded boob on paper? –ed.] and then sometimes also the not-so-dirty alternative comics and am a great fan of many of the folks currently published through the Fantagraphics imprint – Dan Clowes, Pete Bagge, Jim Woodring, Chris Ware, Charles Burns, Richard Sala, Ivan Brunetti, Johnny Ryan, Al Columbia. I also really like Adrian Tomine. This is the same list from ten years ago though… I never really collected comics. I read ‘em as a kid, but only sporadically. I liked Ghost Rider a lot, Dr. Strange. I’m starting to bore even me here…
L: Tell me exactly how having a baby changes a person. Is the second one just gravy or do you have to go through all of it again with each new little dude?
C: Man, I think having a baby changes people in all sorts of different ways! Though I am very free with my complaints on the subject (little babies are big pains in the ass)[You should hear the way he talks about the new one! –ed.], I’ve also found that it’s made me just get over myself in what I hope are good ways. It’s good for you to care/worry about someone else more than you do yourself. I also have a heightened appreciation for sleep and, relatedly, far less motivation to leave the house at night. You do have to go through it all again with the second one, for sure, and there are complications in how you split your time between the two (the older one wants to play Power Rangers or whatever and the younger one just wants your full attention right goddamned now all the time), but the second one was easier because I think we were less uptight. We felt somewhat confident that we’d be able to keep the second one alive in those first few weeks/months. We were very worried about that with the first one.
L: You and your eldest son Owen just went on a father son roadtrip to Montana. What did you guys talk about? Would you consider hiring yourself out to people who might not have gotten to do this as children?
C: We did just go on a little trip to Western Montana, Owen and I! And, it was one of the best things I’ve done in recent memory. We didn’t really talk about anything super important or deep. [Yeah, he’s 4 so I didn’t think you would’ve. –ed.] We mostly talked about how he really likes Lunchables and how sleeping bags are pretty cool, stuff like that. And, no I wouldn’t consider hiring myself out for this kind of thing. I’m not at all convinced that I’m any good at it [See above for Chris’s technique. –ed.], I’m just all my kids have got (in the dad dept. – they have an excellent, highly-qualified mom), so I have to give it a shot.
L: You play(ed?) the drums. Did you ever have dreams of making it as a “professional musician”? Why or why not? If you could play drums for any band living or dead who would it be? Also, please tell me about your very first band.
C: I am indeed a mediocre drummer! I don’t play all that much anymore though. Before Owen was born I used to play once a week or so, with some friends. And, yep, in high school I had some dreams of “making it” in a band. Why? Just for the usual reasons, I think, it seemed to be an incomparably fun way to make a handsome living. Also, it held the promise of meeting and possibly impressing girls. I guess I probably would have liked to play drums for Kiss in the ‘70s. That was probably a pretty good time and I’m at least as good a drummer as Peter Criss now. [Wasn’t he impersonated by a hobo some years back? –ed.] I’d have a different answer to the question of who I’d most like to be able to play drums like (Rey Washam or Mac McNeilly, or the guy from RFTC, probably). My very first band was called The Floorshow (I came up with the name – based on my affection for The Sisters of Mercy in ’85 or so) and we played a handful of cover songs. The first song we learned together was AC/DC’s “Walk All Over You.” [Ah, that explains the AC/DC explosion coming from your cubicle last week while you were, presumably, answering these questions. –ed.]
L: You are Kinski’s A+R guy and you recently went down to Oklahoma and Texas to see them play in some big ass stadiums when they were opening for Tool. Tell me a good story about one of these shows.
C: Those Tool shows were really fun! And, those Tool guys and all their crew were incredibly good to Kinski. The singer from Tool has some sort of customized police car that he tows behind his bus and drives around in the different cities they play. [Yawn. This is not at all the kind of story I was looking for here. –ed.]
L: What was your first job? What was your last before Sub Pop? What did you imagine yourself doing when you were a kid?
C: I had paper routes as a kid, but my very first real job was as an usher at The Pageant of the Masters in Laguna Beach. It’s this thing where people pose as works of art. They did a bit on it in Arrested Development. It was just for the summer – a couple summers in a row, actually. The guy who narrated it (Thurl Ravenscroft) was the voice of Tony the Tiger from TV commercials, and OJ Simpson came to at least one of the performances I worked [Was he wearing gloves? –ed.]. That was a really great job… Before Sub Pop I worked at Fantagraphics Books (the comic book [boob –ed.] publisher I mentioned above), doing marketing and promotions. When I was a kid I wanted to be an astronaut, or a professional soccer player, or skateboarder, or play drums in a band – that kind of thing. [Wow! You do almost all of those things, minus the space one! Congratulations! –ed.]
L: You are known around the office as “Rad Dad” because you still go skate boarding and stuff. Were you a bad teenager? Did you give your parents a hard time? Will you be disappointed if skate boarding and rock music is totally boring to your kids?
C: I was a pretty bad teenager, yeah. Or, rather, I was trying really hard to be bad when I was a teenager. All of that stuff embarrasses me pretty badly now. It was all really stupid stuff. And, I was for sure hard on my parents. They seem to have come through it okay, but there were a number of years there where we were battling fairly hard. Nah, I won’t be disappointed if Owen and Will don’t care about skateboarding and rock music. I kind of expect them to dislike that stuff since it’s what their dad is into. I mean, I’m going to try to share that stuff with them, but I think the impulse to differentiate yourself from your parents is good/healthy. Plus, I’m karmic-ly due some father/son friction, I think. [It’ll be okay—just remind them how much older you are and I’m sure they’ll fall right in line. –ed.]
L: Do you take dumps at the office? Are you afraid of germs or food from restaurants or anything like that?
C: Sure I do! [Please email me for a complete list of people who will NOT take dumps in the office. –ed.] Nope, I’m not really afraid of germs. Getting touched by strangers, like on the bus, is really uncomfortable for me, but that doesn’t have anything to do with germs.
L: When did you first make out with a girl? Was it totally weird? Tell me about your high school girlfriend.
C: I think my first real make-out was with Maura McHenry at a very typically booze-y OC high school party at some kid’s house whose parents were out of town. It was pretty weird and embarrassing, but at the time seemed to be about the best thing in the world. I kind of “dated” a few different people, but I didn’t really have a girlfriend until the very end of high school, right around when I graduated. And then I wrecked that by taking her to Disneyland with another couple and getting thrown into the Disneyland jail (it’s a long story and one that my long-suffering co-workers have heard ad nauseam). She was a year younger than me and was on the soccer team [Uh, Chris, I think that means she was a lesbian. Oh wait, is that softball? –ed.] . Neither of these old flames can hold a candle to my excellent, super-foxy wife Stephanie! [Indeed! –ed.]
L: And finally, tell me three TV shows and five records that you are really into right now.
C: Easy! TV: Top Chef, Entourage, Flight of the Conchords… You know? I’m actually sort of more waiting for stuff I’m really crazy about on TV to come back. I can’t wait for more of The Wire, The Office, 30 Rock, and Battlestar Galactica. Records (not nec. new, but stuff I’ve been listening to lately): Parts and Labor – Mapmaker; The National – Boxer; that Wipers box set; Welcome – Sirs; and the Coconut Coolouts – Party Time Machine! [So, if everyone here likes the goddamn Coconut Coolouts so much how come we don’t have a record deal?! -ed.]