Social Distortion’s Jonny Wickersham talks about debut solo release “Salvation Town”

Photo by Erika Harding

“Salvation Town” is the debut solo release from Social Distortion guitarist Jonny “Two Bags” Wickersham. Produced by David Kalish the album is an interesting departure from Wickersham’s previous body of work as the album is packed full of acoustical performances. Media Mikes had the chance to talk with Jonny recently about the album and what it was like working with Jackson Browne.

Adam Lawton:Can you give us a little background on your new solo album?
Jonny Wickersham: I started recording the album awhile back and it’s probably been 3 years now since we first started working on it. At the time when I started Social Distortion was very busy promoting and touring behind the “Hard Times and Nursery Rhythms” album. I didn’t initially have a lot of time to work on things. When I went in to record the first track it ended up being more than just working on the song but it was a chance for me to work with one of my idols, Pete Thomas who was Elvis Costello’s guy on drums. Once we finally got started things moved along pretty well and the whole experience was just great. I was really inspired by all the people who were willing to work with me on this album.

AL: What do you think was the main reason you waited until now to release a solo album?
JW: My good friend David Kalish who produced the album was always on me about doing a solo record. I kept putting it off because I didn’t think it was something I could do. I had always written songs however I never had any other vehicle to do them other than with the bands that I was in. I would write material and whether it was Mike Ness or the Cadillac Tramps or Duane Peters they would take what they liked from what I had brought in and then add their own parts especially, when it came to lyrics. I had never really learned to sell one of my songs or perform it. There’s a big difference between being in the recording studio and singing a song and being up in front of a crowd and playing. Then those two things are completely different from me sitting in my living room with an acoustic guitar performing for my cat. (Laughs)

AL: Can you tell us about some of the guest performers that appear on the record?
JW: The guest performers were something I didn’t put a lot of thought in to beforehand. Things just sort of happened off the cuff. I was certainly a fan of everyone involved and really worked out on a song to song basis. We did this record differently than what I am used to. I am used to working up songs as a band, demoing them and then going down to the studio to record the tracks. The bass and drums lay down a foundation and then everything else is built on top of that. There is a process to the whole thing. With “Salvation Town” it was much different. We laid down some acoustic guitar to a click track and then usually just Dave and I would go back and add a simple drum beat and bass line. From there we would try and think ahead of what the song could be. We would just have these ideas of about who might be able to add something really cool to the tracks. We ended up getting David Hidalgo from Los Lobos and his two sons David Jr. and Vincent, Gaby Moreno who was just so great and of course Jackson Browne. The song Jackson appears on is one that I have had for quite some time. It started out as straight ahead punk sounding song but with this being a different record I wanted to give it a different style. As we were working on it I said to David that I thought it could be Jackson Browne song. I never thought Jackson would be a possibility but David called me the day after mentioning and said that Jackson was down for it. I couldn’t believe it when a few weeks later Jackson came in to do his parts. Everything happened very organically. Having Jackson Browne and David Lindley on my album is just gnarly! (Laughs)

AL: Was there any point during the three years of working on the album that you got discouraged?
JW: There were so many discouraging times that I can’t even count. I am a stickler and very detail oriented. I am also one of those guys that have to exhaust every possibility so I was driving David crazy with this thing however; I think we balanced each other out perfectly in the studio. I wanted to make a good record that shows where I am at in my life while reflecting my influences. I didn’t want things to be over produced but at the same time I didn’t want it to sound like a demo. There were times where I wasn’t sure what was going to happen. That’s when I would get sketchy. It was all new to me. Fortunately over the years I have learned that you have to let things take their course.

AL: Do you have any plans to tour behind the release?
JW: Yes! As much as possible. We just recently played at South by South West. With the exception of the aweful tragedy that happened outside of the venue where we were playing the show was really great. It was trip being out there front and center. Every night I am always worried about how I am going to sound. (Laughs)

CD Review: Jonny Two Bags “Salvation Town”

“Salvation Town”
Jonny Two Bags
Isotone Records
Produced by: David Kalish
Tracks: 10

Our Score: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Former U.S. Bombs and current Social Distortion guitarist Jonny “Two Bags” Wickersham has just released his debut solo album titled “Salvation Town”. The album features 10 stripped down originals that were produced by veteran producer David Kalish. The album is being released via Isotone records and along with Wickersham features guest appearances by David Lindley, Pete Thomas and legendary singer songwriter Jackson Browne.

I really enjoy when guys like Jonny Two Bags are able to step outside of their comfort zone and in to the lime light. Not only does it show tremendous character but for me it elevates them to whole new level of musicianship. A good example of this is “Salvation Town”. Though this may be Jonny’s debut release it’s as if he is a seasoned pro. Half Cash and half Dylan Jonny’s voice is familiar yet fresh while the instrumentation is catchy and keeps your attention throughout all 10 tracks. Tracks such as “One Foot in the Gutter” and “Hope Dies Hard” were personal favorites as each was stylistically different yet seemed to be well crafted and thought out. Other notable tracks worth checking out were the accordion backed “Clay Wheels” and “Then You Stand Alone” which features a guest performance by none other than Jackson Browne.

Though very different from the hard and fast punk music Jonny is normally associated with “Salvation Town” does a great job showcasing a completely different side of Jonny’s musical style making this album certainly worth checking out.

Track Listing:
1.) One Foot In the Gutter
2.) Avenues
3.) Then You Stand Alone
4.) Clay Wheels
5.) Forlorn Walls
6.) Wayward Cain
7.) Ghosts
8.) Hope Dies Hard
9.) Alone Tonight
10.) The Way It Goes

Book Review “The Art of Terminator Salvation”

Author: Tara Bennett
Hardcover: 256 pages
Publisher: Titan Books
Release Date: April 28, 2009

Our Score: 2.5 out of 5 stars

In 2009, McG directed the much anticipated fourth installment of the “Terminator” series, “Terminator Salvation”, starring Christian Bale who was red hot off of “Batman Begins”.  The film was overall disappointing.  This book features hundreds of color illustrations, storyboards and production art. The stills used from the film itself are not that exciting and in fact are blurry.  Overall it is not that exciting of a book…just like the movie.

The book is pretty much a visual companion to the film following it from the beginning to the end.  What I was looking for in this book honestly is a bunch of designs for the Terminators.   There is definitely no shortage of that in this book including T-1, T-600, Aerostats, Hunter-Killers, Hydrobots, Transports, Harvesters, Moto-Terminators and even the T-70 ,which is only seen in the video game. Also includes is a bunch of vechiles both resistance and Skynet.  There is some weapons but not a lot and also lacking in character designs.  Like I mentioned earlier, due to the low-res of the production still, if you want to see clearer production photos, go pick up the book “Terminator Salvation: The Movie Companion”.

Overall I call this book a one-timer, flip through it once and that is it.  The only chapter that stands out for me is “Terminator Factory”, since it covers a lot of well…terminators and it also has the best and clearest photos.  Don’t get me wrong though I love staring in the eyes of the terminator robots, but overall this book just doesn’t jump off the page like  other “The Art of” books usually do.