Good Riddance and Coercion's Luke Pabich on Balancing Music, Family, Wine, and Flaming Trucks
Interview by Alex Kokkinakis
You might know Luke Pabich from his epic guitar shredding in longtime staple punk band, Good Riddance, as well as in his band of fellow rock heavy-hitters, Coercion. Aside from being an incredible guitar player, he is one diverse guy with a solid perspective on things as well as a devoted family man concerned about the future. Being a real trooper as I bombarded him with a MySpace survey level amount of questions, Luke shares about the making of Good Riddance’s latest record, Thoughts and Prayers, as well as the highs and lows of tour, juggling family and work with music, the state of the world, and the finer points of wine and travel. And some vehicle misfortune…
Photo by Jason Cook
MS: GR’s new record, Thoughts and Prayers, just dropped July 19th. And let me add, it’s SO good! Which is harder for your, the butterflies/excitement before an album releases or bracing for feedback once it is out for the world to hear?
LP: After doing this for so long I honestly don’t really get emotional about either. As long as I put everything I have into the recording process… I am content. Every record has people who like it and those who don’t… My focus is always on making sure I am happy with it and then let the chips fall as they will with the listeners.
Photo by Jason Cook
MS: If you could let your audience in on one behind the scenes tidbit, inside joke, or little known fact about this album or any other GR albums, what would it be?
LP: When it comes to recording we have a fifth member. Our producer, Bill Stevenson, has had the most profound influence on our music and on us as musicians. It’s safe to say Bill has a presence in our songs and he has taught me so much about how to play guitar.
MS: GR is about to hit the skies for Europe. What do you most look forward to when you head across the pond with the band? Any particular foods, places, or people that you are extra excited about?
LP: I’m always excited to travel. Travel opens your eyes to how other people view the world and doing so will change your views of the world. It is a priceless experience. We have been fortunate enough to make friends all over the world through the years and it is always great to catch up with like minded people once in a while.
MS: How do shows in Europe differ from your shows in the states? Do you see any differences in the roles or numbers of women at shows? Have you noticed any of this change over time?
LP: This really varies from country to country and city to city within Europe. I’ve noticed that there seems to be more women in bands in the last few years than in the past as well as more women involved in the production side of the music business. As far as attending shows, I would say the general audience make up of women is about the same everywhere I’ve traveled and hasn’t changed much.
MS: What is the weirdest thing that has happened to you on tour?
LP: One day while on tour we were getting the carburetor on our van fixed. The van caught fire while being fixed and destroyed it. We borrowed a family member’s truck to tow our trailer to our show in San Diego that night. On the way way back to L.A. from San Diego… the truck caught fire. We’ve had a lot of bad luck with vehicles over the years. :)
MS: Do you get post-tour blues when you get home?
LP: I am always happy to be back with my family… not always happy to be back at my desk job. It can be mentally difficult transitioning from an extreme travel and performance routine to staring at a computer all day. Basically I have developed a split personality in the process and switching between the two is a process.
MS: GR is clearly a political and socially minded band, having been known to give portions of record proceeds to various organizations you feel passionate about (like Planned Parenthood, Food Not Bombs, and Democracy Now!) and speaks regularly on causes like animal rights. And we know each other because you recently donated tracks from GR and Coercion to a benefit compilation for Northern California fire survivors. With so much going on in the world right now, what causes are you feeling most called to these days, personally or as a band?
LP: I feel like the Trump Administration has effectively turned our country in a wrong direction. For the first time in my life I feel like there is a very strong, well-defined divide between people. “Us vs. Them”. The media also has a role to play in this. I am particularly concerned about the type of world my children are growing up in and will have to navigate.
MS: Do you feel like punk rock and hardcore brought you to a political and social awareness or did your values and ideas bring you to punk/hardcore? What was the first band or album that made you go “Yeah! I totally agree with that!”?
LP: When I was a young teenager I was listening to a lot of thrash metal. I liked the aggressive energy of the music but for the most part the lyrical content didn’t hold much value for me. Through thrash metal I discovered punk and hardcore music and found myself drawn more towards it because the lyrical content was addressing everyday life. The record that really stands out as having a profound effect on me was and is Bad Religion “Suffer”. The intensity, aggression, melody, and lyrical content clicked with me. Pissed off music carrying an intelligent message.
MS: We talk a lot on MS about life stuff, like being a parent and marriage, work and getting by. How has having kids changed how you approach music (writing, playing, or bands in general)?
LP: Since getting back together, Good Riddance has taken a different approach than in the years past. Most of us have kids, jobs, and other responsibilities so we honor this by being more strategical in how we plan rehearsals, shows, and recording. We work around family and work schedules and find pockets of time in which we can all be available for music. This has been working out well for us because it means we can maintain a somewhat normal life and when we do get together to do music we are excited to do it.
MS: What is the best advice you have been given or would give about maintaining a healthy family and relationship while also being in a touring band?
LP: Communicate with your family every day if possible. I also make an effort to do as much as I can do to leave things in good working order at home as I prepare to hit the road so my wife has less things to stress about while I’m away. It is very hard on my family when I leave… I’m lucky to be married to someone who supports my passion.
MS: So often punk rock is associated with cheap beer and whiskey, but you yourself are in the wine industry. Have you found this line of work has shaped your taste in booze at shows or do they stay pretty separate? Requesting vintage Zinfandel on GR’s riders or does a PBR still sound good? Haha.
LP: Yes I’ve worked at a local winery for the last 11 years as a sales director. I developed my interest in wine many years ago from touring experiences. Wine tells stories of geographic regions, history and culture… I find the relationship with humanity and the arts romantic. I enjoy tasting wine from different parts of the world and learning about the history behind them. I like beer on occasion but I tend to prefer the taste of wine. I’ve also found that my body can tolerate wine much better than beer. That said I do like to try different beers from around the world as well. I tend to favor IPA’s and Japanese beers.
MS: We of course can’t not talk about your other epic band, Coercion. Can you tell us a bit about what you guys have going on right now?
LP: Well… we recently lost our bass player so we are on a bit of a hiatus. We are hoping to fill the position at some point… but for now we are taking a break. We hope to bring it back together in the future and record some new music.
MS: What are the biggest differences for you between GR and Coercion in terms of your role(s) or opportunities in each band? Does one feel more work/pleasure? One side of your personality and another?
LP: They are different. Good Riddance is what I am most familiar with. I feel there is a lot of substance with GR and I feel good about being able to be involved with the band since I was 19 years old. The majority of the creativity comes from our singer Russ and then we as a band add our own interpretations. Because we have never had a manager there are also some tasks that fall on my plate. As a whole, the band members all have varying behind the scenes roles to keep the band active. Coercion is more creatively collaborative than Good Riddance so it allows me to be a bit more musically expressive. It has been a great creative outlet for me and I really enjoy the music. That said, it has also been really tough to get opportunities as a new band so it requires a lot of behind the scenes time and effort.
MS: Last question, at MS we like to talk about what it’s like to be a woman in the punk scene. Any awesome punk rock women kicking ass that you’d like us to know about?
LP: We just played the Stemweder open air festival in Germany and there was a woman fronted band called "Shirley Holmes" that I really liked. My go to band for female fronted punk in the last couple of years has been "Not on Tour"...Sima is an awesome lead singer. Also, Bad Cop Bad Cop are an incredibly talented all female punk band. In addition to being in bands, there are so many amazing woman who help behind the scenes in the music business...too many to name.