If you know anything about Marcy Playground, you know the alt-rock trio's breakthrough hit "Sex and Candy" from 1997. What you might not know is that tonight's performance at The Royal Lounge in Olympia is timed to The Evergreen State College's graduation, and is a homecoming of sorts for front-man John Wozniak. Wozniak phoned in this week to talk about what he remembered about living in the South Sound:
So you went to Evergreen back in the day.
Yep, I did. I started going there in 1992. I was there for three years – about. I never finished my final year. (Laughs) I ended up following up on a few leads and then got a record deal and had to leave. And that’s when I went to New York.
Is there anything in particular you miss from your Oly days?
Um, yeah. I mean, I know the whole place has changed. I have a really good friend from a band called Two Ton Boa there, Sherry Fraser. I’ve known Sherry for, I don’t know – well, since 1986. She keeps me up to date about what’s going on there and who’s comin’ and goin’.
So you have some connections.
Oh yeah, but we’ve never played there as a band. It’s a really big deal for me. We’ve played Tacoma, Seattle and other places, but never in Oly.
Do you have anything special planned?
Not really special. We’re gonna go and do what we do. But I’m gonna spend some extra time there. I’m comin’ out a couple days early.
So there might be some Woz sightings around town.
Yeah. (Laughs) There probably will be, yeah.
Your time spent in the Northwest was reflected in songs such as “Shadow of Seattle.” What is the sentiment behind that?
In ’92, we were all there makin’ music, but nobody was talking about Olympia. Everybody was just talkin’ about Seattle. ... That song was about the sense that we had as musicians in Olympia back then.
You know what’s funny? You know when people talk about angst? Well, there was this real sense of that when I got there. There was this real sort of bubbling intensity. We’ve gotta do something. Everybody’s got to do something. What are we gonna do? We gotta do something.
This sort of underground scene that was there, I got influenced by that, for sure, and hopefully brought some of my stuff, some of my influence there. I don’t know, though. (Laughs)
I’m from Kentucky. But since moving here, I’ve learned – wait a minute – all of that stuff came from Olympia and Tacoma.
It really did. The rest of the world doesn’t realize Nirvana isn’t really from Seattle. They went to Seattle, but they hated Seattle for the longest time. ... They loved Olympia and they loved their scene – the K Records scene.
Did you know all of those guys? Was it a pretty tight-knit scene in Olympia?
I got there right after they all split. They were big rock stars at that time. The people I did know, I knew some people from Unwound. (Pauses to think.) I can’t even remember all the people. But Sherry and I had a band there, too. We had a band called Emily Rose.
Oh yeah, Kimya (Dawson), from Moldy Peaches, was always around. We would do, like, acoustic stuff at the Corner restaurant on campus, at Evergreen. I don’t know if that’s even around anymore.
She’s cool. She always had really cool ideas about music. I always liked hanging out with her and listening to what she was up to.
I’ve seen a video clip where you said the last album was influenced by when – the way you put it was – you had to leave Vancouver.
Well, I bought a recording studio there in ’99 (Mushroom Studios.) A lot of classic records were done there: B.T.O. and Heart, and Zeppelin did “Whole Lotta Love” there.
I was there until 2006. I met a girl up there, a Canadian girl. We got married. Now I’m in Toronto. She works at EMI in Toronto, and that’s where I am.
In the clip it seemed like you had to leave. So you left for her job or something?
It was much more serious than that. It’s a long story, but I had to kind of get out of there to get away from some of the people and the scene that was going on.
If you’re really into climbing and snowboarding and biking and that kind of stuff, you can have a great, healthy lifestyle up there. But if you’re in the music business and you’re going to clubs all the time and stuff like that, yeah, it can get dangerous for people like me.
The last record originally was going to be a solo project. How did it become a Marcy Playground record versus a solo joint?
Well, when I started working on the music, it was more as a therapy session for me at the time. I did it in response to a period of depression that I was going through. And I’d never been depressed before in my life. I didn’t even know what it was. I just knew I just couldn’t get up off the couch.
So consequently, (bassist) Dylan (Keefe) doesn’t perform on the album. It was a collection of musicians. A song like “Down the Drain, was such a personal song I wasn’t even sure I wanted to release it ’cause I didn’t know if I wanted the whole world to know the stuff I’d been going through.
Then I played it for Dylan, who’s been the other half of Marcy Playground since the beginning. He fell in love with it. (He wanted to tour) so whenever Dylan and I get together and do something, it’s automatically Marcy Playground.
You had taken some time off before then.
Yeah, I took time off to run the studio. It’s tough to do when you’re out on the road. You know, I had to sell the business when I decided to go out and work on this record, because I knew that it would be irresponsible to try and run a business like that – a professional recording studio – and always be gone.
So does that mean on the flip side you’re totally all in for Marcy and maybe working on a bunch of new material?
Exactly, yeah. It’s all in. I just made the choice that this is what I do. And when I stop doing it, I get distracted, I get depressed, I get unhappy. If I’m not playing and singing and out performing and stuff like that, my life doesn’t go the way it’s supposed to go. I came to that realization. That’s what makes me happy. It’s what keeps me happy. And if I don’t do it, I fall apart. So there’s not gonna be any stopping for me any more. (Laughs) No more breaks. This is what I’m gonna do till I’m dead.
Ernest Jasmin: 253-274-7389, firstname.lastname@example.org, blog.thenewstribune.com/tacomarockcity