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Interview: Big Things Ahead for Champagne Champagne

On January 25th Champagne Champagne will take the stage at the Showbox SoDo, opening for the legendary Wu-Tang Clan. Already it’s a big win for Seattle’s punk-rap shoegazers, and the year has just begun. There is much afoot for MC’s Pearl Dragon, Sir Thomas Gray, and instrumentalist DJ Gajmatic (AKA Mak Gadjahar). Between their current 7″ release with STRFKR, upcoming albums, recent and future tours, and the immanent Wu-Tang show, things bode well for the trio.


Tom Mohrman: Can you tell me a bit about your recent tour?

Mark Gadjahar: Champagne just got off the road with Macklemore and XP. It was by far the biggest and most successful tour Champagne has ever been a part of. Macklemore is drawing a lot of people these days and we were super lucky and excited that we got to play in front of his sold out crowds. His crowd seems to be on the younger side and overall just really excited for music. (All ages shows are always more energetic). I think we went over really well. I don’t think those kids have ever been exposed to the type of music and performance the Champagne camp can bring in a live setting. If we said “get to the front of the stage” everyone pushed for the front of the stage. We said “put your mother fucking hands in the air”, everyone in the entire club had their hands up.

Pearl Dragon: It was great to destroy the country with Mack and Ryan and the shark face gang.

MG: Shows were packed with excited fans. 90% of the crowd have never heard of us before and by the end we had everyone chanting “champagne champagne”. I don’t think we could have asked for a better tour.

PD: I love [the fans] with my big black heart, and a purple heart for all those wounded in the pit at our shows. X’s & O’s.

TM: Do you see yourselves and STRFKR as existing on the same musical spectrum?

PD: Yeah.

MG: I think so, it’s two totally different styles but in some ways very similar. Our bands really enjoy playing with each other and I think that shows within some of our song writing. It always sounds great when Pearl and Thomas rap over STRFKR songs at shows. It’s a good pairing of music and I think people that like their band would probably be into ours, and vice versa.

TM: What do you think about the line between hip hop, pop, rock? Is there one? Where do you fit in?

PD: There are two types of music for me, good and bad.

MG: Most people listen to many different styles of music. Someone that listens to pop music might also be into Kanye or Mastodon. Where do we fit in? Not sure. We kind of write whatever comes to us. Some songs can be more on the rock side and others can be super hip hop. And then we have songs like ‘Cover Girls’ that is basically a pop song. If there is a line I think we are crossing it many times.

Left to Right: Mark, Pearl, Thomas

TM: How has Champagne Champagne changed in 2011?

MG: I know Thomas’ beard and hair is way bigger and more out of control. I have no idea how that orange hat stays on his head. 2011 was a great year for us in that we were building up the name and the band. We didn’t release much music, but we did record more than ever. I think that our sound is a little bit more defined and I have more direction on song types and styles. Musically the songs are more interesting to me. Vocally both Pearl and Thomas are writing really good stuff. Not saying the older stuff wasn’t awesome, but the new verses these guys are coming up with are killing it.

TM: What are your thoughts about the upcoming show with Wu Tang?

PD: It’s one of Mark’s favorite bands, and they ain’t nothing to fuck with.

MG: Wu has been one of my favorite bands since my buddy Seth introduced me to them in high school. No need to explain my love for that band. They are basically just awesome. When I was in the Blood Brothers I had a Wu “W” spray painted on my bass drum for years. It was super out of place to have it on my bass drum but I thought it was dope. Basically I am super excited for this show. Can’t wait for a poster with the Wu symbol and Champagne Champagne under it.

TM: Who are you dying to share a stage with?

PD: Michael Jackson, Jimi Hendrix, and Kurt Cobain.

MG: Well we can knock Wu off that list. Even though I would still want to continue to play shows or even tour with them. If Sonic Youth didn’t break up that would be possibly number 1. I would love to play with Clouddead/Why?, Death From Above, Odd Future, TV on the Radio, NERD, anything related to Danger Mouse, Built to Spill (which we might get Why? and Built to Spill off the list when we play Treefort Festival in Boise mid March)

TM: What’s coming up for you this spring?

MG: We are working on a US/Canada run for mid March, and then going to Europe April/May.

TM: Are you working on a full length album?

MG: EP is coming first, and will be out really soon. Songs are recorded, just about to touch a few things up this week and we should have it to the mastering place by the end of the month. New full length is coming soon. For the LP, I feel like we have some really solid ideas and songs but we plan to take a little bit of time with it. We have a lot of touring coming up so we plan to write as much as possible while on the road. So yes, we are working on a full length, not sure when it will come out, but an EP is very close to being released.

TM: What do you think about albums? Are they still the way to deliver music, or is it all about the single?

MG: Man I have no idea. It seems like people really like singles and if they can just get the one song they like off itunes that’s the way they will go. You can download anything these days. I really have no answer for this question. I love albums but I’m totally guilty of not buying albums anymore.

TM: How important is social media?

MG: These days it seems like social media is the driving force of how big or known a band can get. Information is available at all times. It’s crazy how much we rely on the internet these days. When I first started touring in ’99 we didn’t have personal cell phones. Now everyone has all their social sites at their fingertips. If a band is going to do a last minute show they can reach all of their fans in a matter of seconds. Back in the day if you did a last minute show word of mouth was the only way. That crazy to think about.

TM: How do you keep from letting the business/pr parts of music get in the way of the music parts?

MG: Short answer: We got a manager! The three of us handle all of the business side of the band. We haven’t had too much stuff to deal with on a major scope of the business stuff, and having gone through band experiences before it’s all pretty easy to handle at the level we are at. But we have a really solid team of manager and booking agent that really help get stuff done.

TM: What’s your songwriting process like?

MG: I will write most of the music and arrange. And then Pearl and Thomas come into the studio and track vocal ideas. After we have a rough version of how the vocals are going to go, I rearrange the music to fit the vocals better and possibly add more musical texture. There is no real one formula. We have written songs from just starting with a vocal ideas. But for the most part, I will come up with a beat first and then they will work on lyrics after.

TM: How did you come up with the name Champagne Champagne?

PD: GOD came down on a cloud and gave it to us on a cracker.

MG: Long version: No real good story behind this name. I use to work at Sonic Book Records in Fremont (loved that job/store). I was working one day just hanging out behind the counter trying to think of band names. There were a few that Pearl and I liked but were on the fence about. I had my pad of paper going and was just writing anything and everything that came to mind. I don’t know if I heard the word champagne in a song that was playing over the storeroom speakers or if the champagne gods came to me in a vision, but I wrote champagne once on the pad, and then wrote it one more time. Back to back was written champagne champagne. It just sounded right. The next time I saw Pearl I mentioned the name and he was into it. We were tracking that night and he kept dropping champagne champagne into verses he was recording. It just seems to work soooo well. And that is how we came up with the name.

Be sure to like Champagne on facebook, follow them on twitter, and get yourself decked out in their merchandise prior to attending the Wu-Tang show. Support local hip hop. Say it with me now: Champagne Champagne!