Interview: JET’s Chris Cester & Cam Muncey

JET’s new CD, Shaka Rock, is smashing. It’s thrilling that this band has released three snappy albums and Jet remains a favorite of mine. Their rock, unabashed and timeless, is food for the heart and soul. I got to talk with drummer Chris Cester and guitarist Cam Muncey, separately, about the new album, Australian music and that awesome green hat Cester used to wear. JET is set to play Showbox at the Market in Seattle on March 23rd.

Cam, who came up with the name Shaka Rock?

I did. We sort of wanted something that sounded like a genre of music.

Did you try for a different sound for the entire CD?

We changed up the process of how we did things – things were written in a different way so we just did what amused us and what was exciting for us and that was naturally different from what we’d done before.

Chris, the song Beat on Repeat specifically – was this something that you tried to have a totally new sound with?

We’re always listening to different things all the time and I think the difference between a song like Beat on Repeat that couldn’t possibly have appeared on Shine On is the fact that we produced this record ourselves. We’ve always been into changing things up and keeping things interesting for the sake of our own sanity, really. In the past we’ve been in the studio and certain producers or forces are working against you and it’s not an easy process to go through to get that difference because people have an expectation of you. Sometimes we have, in the past, let that get to us. On this record we felt we’d done enough, put in enough time to do whatever we wanted it to be. That’s why it came about with such ease. Actually I wrote the song around the time of Shine On but it didn’t make it onto the record for those reasons I was telling you.

You were co-producers on the CD?

That’s right. That was a pact that we made to each other before we embarked on this record adventure. We made it completely under our own terms.

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JET, from left to right: Mark Wilson, Nic Cester, Cam Muncey and Chris Cester (photo courtesy JET’s MySpace)

Cam, what’s it like working with brothers? Can it be difficult?

Sometimes it can be. When you’re not family you tend to try to keep things more calm. You don’t want that fighting or tension in the air. But when you’re brothers you don’t give a damn. You don’t care if you piss your brother off.

What song are you most proud of?

I really like the way She Holds a Grudge came out. The whole band shaped that tune – I wrote it but we just sat and played it a lot until it had a lot of soul and feeling in it. There’s a lot of slide guitar in it, which we experimented with.

Chris, what song have you written that you’re most proud of? Song you like doing live?

There’s a song on our second album called Shiny Magazine. [Live] Beat on Repeat. I like the feeling of Seventeen as well. I really like Shiny Magazine.

Cam, you went to Catholic school?

For most of the time, except towards the end I sort of left.

It must have been a very strict environment.

It could be. Sometimes it was strict, other times there were aspects of the school that were a bit more bullheaded, meatheaded for someone with a little more sensitivity [to them]. You had to be a bit macho and stick up for yourself.

I wondered about that. Is Australian culture kind of macho?

I think so, yeah.

Is Australian rock different from other music in the world?

I think it’s definitely affected by other things in the world but a lot of Australian bands sound like they could have come from nowhere else. I like the bands that sound Australian and haven’t changed their sound to sound American or English because they’re the nearest touchstones to what music we listen to down there. Not try for the populist thing. Be what they are.

Chris, did you live in Morocco for awhile?

I holidayed in Morocco in between the second and third album. I’d gotten out of this long-term relationship and I wanted to do something a little more out there [in] a world that I knew nothing about for a while just to get out of my brain and force myself to think in different ways.

I’m guessing the food was really good.

The food was great. It gets repetitive because when you’re living in the States or somewhere in the western world you go and have Moroccon food and it’s a once every while sort of thing. When you’re there, that’s all there is.

Cam, do you ever dream songs in your sleep?

Sometimes, but I’ve never been able to put that down to paper. In your dream it’s the most incredible song, there are a million fans, screaming. And then you wake up and you can never remember the melody. Paul McCartney remembered Yesterday.

Do you ever think about doing solo work?

Yeah, me and my brother play together every once in a while. I like to experiment with recording by myself. I’m not sure what kind of form it would take as far as releasing it. You should always be experimenting.

Did JET have about a two-year break between Shine On and Shaka Rock?

We never had a year off. At most we had about three months. Even if not everyone’s there I’ll go to Chris and start writing or go hang out with Nick. It’s good like that, we mix it up. It took us about a year to get out of our record deal.

Chris, when you were a kid what was your favorite TV show?

Voltron. I have to say a cartoon called Voltron. I think they’re making it into a motion picture.

Cam, what hobbies do you have?

I’m teaching myself French. It tends to help in those times when I’m in a hotel room for six hours or backstage – instead of just being sat there and staring at the walls, which I’ve done. Reinvorgate the mind.

You worked with Iggy Pop a while ago. How was he?

Iggy’s really easy to hang out with and he’s a very chilled out person. At the beginning it’s, he’s a legend, and then after a while you’re having a couple glasses of wine. He’s a gentleman and it was a fun experience.

Chris, I love that green hat you wore when the band first came to the States. What was it? Do you still have it?

I’m looking at it right now. I keep it in my studio. It’s just an old military hat. It came with us on a photo shoot in New York and some of the photos ended up on the Get Born album. They were trying to get us to wear these clothes and we were like, no. Towards the end of the day [the stylist] asked if any of us wanted to try this hat. I ended up using it in the Are You Gonna Be My Girl video.

Cam, do you have a favorite Beatles song?

I can give you one. I love I’m Only Sleeping. My little nephew, he’s about 7 years old and he loves that. He always gets me to play it for him on guitar. I think it’s got that sort of dreamy feeling to it. I always play it to him before he goes to bed.

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