Tell Me About That Album: Hoss by Lagwagon

It's been six years since Lagwagon, one of the '90s biggest punk rock bands, has released a new record. But that doesn't mean the band has been sitting idle. For the past several years, frontman and founder Joey Cape has been hard at work putting together expanded editions of the band's first five records, which have just been re-released by Fat Wreck Chords, both individually or as part of a nifty $40 box called Putting Music In Its Place, which would make a great ripped stocking stuffer for any punk on your holiday shopping list. We sat down with Cape to talk about one of those recently-expanded records, 1995's Hoss, a pop-punk classic, and he spoke frankly about making it--and about nearly getting sued by Dan Blocker, the actor who played Hoss on Bonanza, and whose picture adorns the cover.

Do you remember what was going on in your life when you wrote the album? I was living on a couch at a friend of mine's house for the first half of the writing period and then I moved to San Francisco for the first time. And I used to write a lot on tour back then too, which is weird, because now I can't write a song on tour to save my life.

Would you have the songs done and then book the studio time or would you book the studio time as a means of getting the songs done? We were really prepared on that record. We demoed and demoed and demoed. I was one-hundred percent prepared for the studio when we went in and recorded it. And that doesn't always happen. One of my favorite things about that record is that it was the first one that Lagwagon made that I felt very comfortable with who we were and what we were doing. And because of that it was pretty diverse. It was a big leap for us I think, and it's really well-rounded.

Is it the best-selling album in your catalog? No, I think it was the one after it, but that means it was the best record. [Laughs.] I think Double Plaidinum sold a bit better, but I think that's because we were biggest in our career right after Hoss.

Do you have a favorite song on the album? I guess maybe "Bombs Away" is one of the ones I think is pretty good as far as songwriting goes. I don't really have favorite songs when it comes to my band, but I like the record. We had a lot of obstacles going on at the time. That's right when the band was falling apart. We ended up with two new members by the next record because we were kind of imploding at that point.

Why did you decide to call it Hoss? Somewhere along the line, we realized that we all watched Bonanza when we were kids. It had this great moral integrity to it. That's the kind of stuff I looked to in my childhood to build character. Bonanza built more character in my life than religion, that's for sure. And Hoss is the best character. He just seemed like the best person to put on the cover.

Did you get permission to use his image on the cover? We did not, and we got sued! Dan Blocker, the actor who played Hoss, was dead when we put the record out, but his son, Dirk Blocker, who was one of the people in charge of his estate, lived in Santa Barbara, where our band is from. And [guitarist] Shawn Dewey's mom was in a record store in Santa Barbara when the record came out. It was in a display right up front, and she was standing there looking at the record really proud, and he's standing there holding the record looking at it too. And she says, "This is my son's band!" And he looks at her and goes, "This is my dad!" So that's how we were discovered. Then his estate contacted Fat and said they weren't going to issue a cease and desist. For whatever reason, he was just a cool guy, and they let us keep the cover. All they asked is that we pick a charity and donate a certain amount of the proceeds from the record to it.

That's so punk! Yeah, it's a great story.

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