The Used’s Jeph Howard Reveals Tour Secrets
It’s no secret that practicing, recording, and performing are at the center of The Used‘s world. But what are the guys up to when they’re not focusing on music?
In this exclusive interview, The Used bassist Jeph Howard tells Noisecreep about his nerdy hobbies, the band’s tour bus drinks of choice, goofy tattoos, and chaotic bus fights. Drummer Dan Whitesides’ giant back cyst and singer Bert McCracken’s many broken bones also somehow snuck their way into the conversation.
Noisecreep: Your lives are obviously so consumed by music. What are some of the other things that you guys are into when you’re not on the road?
Jeph Howard: I play a lot of games. That’s kind of sad to say. I’m the nerdier one. I research a bunch of crazy stuff like ancient civilizations and ancient ruins. I’m kind of obsessed with ruins and ancient society and forbidden archeology — stuff that is sort of swept under the table. Stuff that doesn’t fit in the line of history, you know, where it’s supposed to go. We started as a small culture, not even a small culture; we started as hunter-gatherers and turned into this huge society, but there’s all this evidence that points to [the fact] that maybe we’re not the biggest civilization that’s existed, or the best civilization. Maybe it goes in waves and so much stuff is lost. It’s kind of interesting really, if you look into it. There’s all this proof of all these hidden things that aren’t really hidden, but just sort of swept under. People start getting called jokes because they come forth with these things. Sort of like Galileo. Back in the day, Galileo said, ‘The sun doesn’t circle us, we circle the sun,’ and they killed him. They’re like ‘No, come on, you’re crazy.’ And now it’s kind of the same thing going on, but they’re not killing people of course. They’re destroying their careers instead. It’s kind of an interesting thing.
What’s the craziest thing that’s happened to you guys on the road?
Every time there’s always something. I don’t know who started it, but somebody started a bus fight. I don’t mean fight like trying to kill each other, I mean it was fun. It was like a bus party. Our drummer ended up ripping off the ceiling and breaking the sink off the bus. This was all going down on the freeway. Our guitar player Quinn got his shirt ripped off. Actually everyone that went up front got his shirt ripped off. There’s a lot of crazy stuff.
Was alcohol involved in the ceiling ripping off incident?
Yeah, that time there was.
On that note, what’s your beverage of choice to stock in the tour bus fridge?
It’s different for everybody. I’m a Guinness fan. I love Guinness but that’s just me personally. Non-alcoholic stuff, I like kombucha and coconut water.
What kind of pranks do you guys pull on each other on the road?
[Laughs] You know I’m kind of drawing a blank other than the one I shouldn’t tell you. So I don’t want to tell you anything because I shouldn’t say this one; it would be mean.
I saw the video of you guys popping Dan’s giant zit. For those that haven’t witnessed that and maybe don’t want to see that first hand, do you want to tell us about the process?
Actually, I’m not really sure about what it is. It’s not really a zit. He’s got this thing on his back. He’s kind of embarrassed about it you know? I mean I would be a little bit.
But you guys put it up on your website!
[Laughs] Yeah but he didn’t care. It’s not a zit, but a giant cyst sort of. Bert asked him every day to pop it, and so did Quinn. Finally, [Dan] lets him and that’s sort of what happens. It’s probably better to watch it; it’s kind of gross. It does end up getting in Quinn’s mouth. That’s all I’m gonna say.
I didn’t watch that far into it!
It was pretty gross!
I guess that’s just bonding on the road.
We’re all friends.
What’s the most stressful show you guys have ever played? Have you ever had any big on-stage bloopers?
Bert actually recently slipped off the stage, not even just recently, like super recently [at the] the last show we played. He’s getting better, but he did end up breaking his elbow and his wrist, which is pretty scary. I think he might be going to the doctor today actually. He definitely has screws in his elbow. Bert, actually, for every record except the first record, he’s had a cast. I guess [it's] bad timing and almost interesting timing. I haven’t talked to him today but I heard he’s doing great. I mean, he’s a strong dude. He’s been through breakings before, so he’s alright.
Was that in the middle of the set?
I want to say it was almost the middle of the beginning, so a third through the set it happened and we just played the whole set. He was like, ‘Whatever I’m used to it, let’s just finish this.’ You could tell it was definitely broken. You could see it, but he played the whole show [anyway].
What about tattoos? Who in the band has the strangest tattoo?
Probably me. I have the most and the strangest.
What are some of your strange ones?
I’ve got a lot of weird ones. I like weird stuff because I think it’s funny. I have a Bart Simpson tattoo which is kind of trashy and funny at the same time. I have my friend’s face tattooed on me. I have a severed unicorn head. It’s like a bloody rainbow, which is kind of funny. This one’s kind of gross, but I’ve got a Lipton Ice Tea logo tattooed on me. It’s on my balls, which is kind of awkward at the same time as painful.
Wow, that’s hardcore. How long did that take?
Too long. It didn’t heal very well either.
Was that a thought-out decision or more of an impulse?
More of an impulse joke that ended up being a joke on me at the end of it [laughs].
The friend’s face tattoo, did you have to bring your friend in there or did you bring a picture?
I don’t remember actually. I’m tattooed on his leg too, so I don’t remember if it was a picture or if we just came in together. My friend that tattooed us knows both of us very well.
What kind of bands are you guys listening to these days?
I listen to stuff that isn’t really close to the kind of genre that we’re in. I listen to a lot of Latin. I like rhythmic and there’s a band called Ojos de Brujo, I think they’re from Spain. They are awesome. I think that band’s amazing. There’s another band called Zoo that’s really cool. It’s like a metal rhythm I guess, no singing, just metal and different instruments. I think it’s a bass player, a saxophone player, and a drummer, but it’s really heavy. It’s very interesting.
I love how you guys are so great at keeping up with your fans. I’ve seen all the videos on the site where you take time doing the Q&As and you’re always on Facebook and Twitter. Is it hard keeping up with that aspect of the job?
Yeah, it gets a little tedious. You need some kind of personal space, personal life. Everything can’t just be Internet and telling people about your life. I kind of stepped down. I used to use the Twitter, it used to be my kind of thing. I would just do it because, why not, you know? I kind of gave it to Bert and told Bert to do it, and he’s doing it now. Actually I take that back, I didn’t tell him to do, it he asked to do it which is even cooler. Bert now is in charge of the Twitter. Every now and then I’ll put something on it, or Quinn will and Dan once in a while, but mostly now it’s just Bert. Facebook-wise, I’ve done a couple of things. It’s kind of nice to have that ‘hard-to-get-to-ness’ a little bit. It’s kind of nice to let it breathe a little bit and not tell people that we’re walking down the street to get a soda.
And you’re not as close with your fans where there are pictures of people popping things on your back online.
[Laughs] That’s true, that’s true. We do try to stay as close as we can. I mean our fans keep us going. If it wasn’t for them, we wouldn’t be touring. We wouldn’t be able to. They’re great.
Do you have any interesting pre-show rituals?
Everyone usually warms up and just practices and gets ready and kind of thinks about the show. We always hug it out before we play. Everybody kinda hugs. That’s just one of those things that we’ve done since the beginning, we’ve always hugged each other before we play. It’s not that interesting, but we get in a little huddle circle and then we kind of talk about either the show or about something to get a positive vibe before we go out there.
What are your future touring plans? Are you guys going to do a bunch of dates to support the new album? Are you going to play Warped Tour?
We’re definitely going to do a tour once the album comes out for sure. A worldwide, ‘every country we can go to’ kind of a tour. The last record, we didn’t leave very much. We went to Japan and we went to England, and I think that was it besides America.
Jeph and The Used would also like to ask their fans and supporters to make a donation to Japan earthquake and tsunami relief effort:
Text REDCROSS to 90999 to donate $10 for Japan earthquake and Pacific Tsunami relief.
Online donations can be made at:http://bit.ly/cNuH67
Red Cross on Twitter: @RedCross, hashtag: #helpJapan
Watch the video for ‘Blood on My Hands’