No matter how successful entertainers become, they’ll always remember the first gig—whether it was disastrous, wonderful, or strange. Gotta Start Somewhere, a new feature that started on The A.V. Club’s local sites, embraces these nostalgic moments by asking established entertainers to tell the story of the first time they graced a stage. We’ve expanded the feature for its move to national, taking the opportunity to ask performers about their first records, first favorite bands, and all sorts of other musical firsts. In this edition, The A.V. Club talks to David Prowse, drummer for Japandroids, about rooftop parties, Kris Kross, and Red Dawn.
David Prowse: The first Japandroids show, we weren’t even called Japandroids back then, and we had a different name that I won’t mention right now. I used to live in this apartment on Main Street and 17th Avenue in Vancouver. There was a trap door so you could climb onto the roof of the apartment building, and there was a ladder set up and stuff, and me and my roommate would throw all these parties on the roof all the time while we were living there.
For the last party there, our eviction party, I was playing with another band with my roommate and a couple of friends—and that was also the first show ever of the band that would become Japandroids, on the roof of this apartment building. Brian [King, Japandroids’ guitarist] always has all these amps, so we had devised this pulley system to get this one giant Fender bass cabinet up this trap door, and onto the roof of the building. And, somehow we managed to make it work. The biggest problem was trying to get everything back down after you had a million drinks.
I just remember my friend was walking up to the party after we’d started playing, and he said he could hear us from like 10 blocks away, and he was like, “That can’t be them.” And he just kept walking up the hill toward the apartment, and it was in fact us.
The A.V. Club: How many people showed up?
DP: Like 50 people, initially.
AVC: Were you really getting evicted?
DP: We weren’t getting evicted, but we were moving out, so we thought, “Let’s just get evicted. Why not? I mean, we’re going to move out, so let’s just get evicted.” Then the police showed up during our last song, which was good timing, because we’d got through the set. And they were very nice. That was our first show.
DP: I do remember getting Nirvana’s Nevermind on cassette tape. That was probably one of the first I remember, but I got that for my birthday from my cousin. But that was probably the first album that was mine, you know? Nirvana’s Nevermind, Kris Kross’ Totally Krossed Out, same birthday.
AVC: Have those two cassettes influenced Japandroids?
DP: Well, not Nirvana.
First favorite band:
DP: I think my first favorite band was Pearl Jam. I liked Nirvana a lot, but if I had to choose between the two, Pearl Jam was my thing. I was very, very obsessed with them for quite some time.
AVC: Why Pearl Jam?
DP: I don’t know why I became so obsessed with it. It’s a really hard thing to pinpoint sometimes why you like certain music. I guess it just hits you at a certain time. I think at that age, when you’re 10, 11, you’re trying to formulate your own identity. And so I think when you like something, you just became really obsessive about it, because you’re trying to define yourself as a person. And Pearl Jam is just an awesome band. They rock, so I just responded to it.
AVC: Are you still a fan?
DP: I didn’t listen to them for a long time, and I’ve kind of come back around. I just watched that documentary about them again, and I got super-nostalgic, so now I’m back on the Pearl Jam train.
AVC: Have you met them? Do you want to?
DP: Maybe we’ll cross paths at some festival, and it’ll get really awkward.
AVC: Would you talk to them?
DP: I’m not good with that kind of stuff. I still find it hard to believe that I get paid to play music. So I don’t really think of bands as my peers, for the most part. I think of them as bands I’m just a fan of. So I don’t know. Depending on the time of day, how many drinks I’d had, etc., I might be Chatty Cathy, or I might be totally awkward and avoid all contact.
AVC: It depends on the situation, too. There’s a difference between striking up a conversation in the food line and just randomly walking up to someone across a room.
DP: Yeah, I’d have to have some sort of entry point into the conversation.
DP: You know the funny thing about our band, we were playing locally in Vancouver, and I suppose we had some local fans. But to some extent, those people are just extended friends, people in the local music scene. So it’s not necessarily people you have no connection with whatsoever who are listening to your music.
We played out-of-town shows a bunch of times to nobody when we were first getting going. It wasn’t until Post Nothing had come out and we started getting some buzz for that record that, all of a sudden, we started actually having fans, people we didn’t know in other cities. That first tour we ever did was very surreal, because we just kept on showing up in different towns that we’d never been to before—you’re playing shows in places like Winnipeg and Omaha—and you’re showing up at some bar, and there’s all these people who know your band, so it was a really surreal experience. It happened that whole tour in the summer of 2009—which actually culminated with us playing Pitchfork Festival.
First band name:
DP: I didn’t start playing in bands until I was 20, but we still had a lot of embarrassing names. I played in a band with the roommate, whom I mentioned before, his band. That band probably had about 20 names—every show we played, it had a different name. And my favorite name of all those is still Red Dawn.
AVC: Like the movie?
DP: Yeah, like the movie, which is his favorite movie of all time.
Japandroids’ latest record, the excellent Celebration Rock, is out now.