Born and raised in East Los Angeles, Joe Cardamone of Icarus Line is no stranger to the changing face of LA’s ever-growing music scene. Does he give a fuck about what anyone else is doing? Probably not. Joe has been the center of Icarus Line through its many changes in line-up.
Icarus Line is one of the last great rock-n-roll bands. Critics often liken the band to our generation’s answer to the Ramones or the Stooges. Icarus Line is known for their high-energy performances on stage and, over the years, have been regarded as one of the more outspoken LA music acts. The Icarus Line’s new album, All Things Under Heaven, was released worldwide last week via American Primitive / Agitated Records.
Hear what Joe has to say about the first guitar he ever bought, rap music, recording, and the worst show he’s ever played.
Have you been in any other bands besides Icarus Line?
The Icarus Line is the only band I’ve ever been in. I’ve done side projects with folks, been on other records, but nothing that I would call a band or group. I’ve been asked to be in other bands but I never saw the point.
Who are the members of Icarus Line?
We are all raw talent, not interested in indie rock super groups so no…no one is from anywhere. Just a bunch of scum from around the way, like me.
How would you describe Icarus Line’s sound?
Romantic meat-grinder american primitive.
What bands do you draw inspiration from?
Recently Alice Coltrane’s been on a lot. I like the new ASAP Rocky album as well. There are a bunch of great rap records this year. Vince Staples. Watts. I saw a Travis Scott show a few weeks ago. It was interesting for about four songs then I got bored and went home. Kids seemed to think it was the place to be.
You have a studio now. What was your favorite band to record there?
My band–because they don’t care what happens. They just play and I hit record and then join them. That’s about as good as it gets right there. They know if they play right it will sound right and that’s all there is to know. It’s really simple and fun when you boil it down that way. Besides my band, I did a bunch of fun records recently, including Destruction Unit and Pink Mountaintops. I produced on both those.
Do you prefer to record analog or digital?
It doesn’t matter, really. Whatever you got. I can make anything work at this point. I do a hybrid of the two mostly. We don’t fuck with actual tape too much. Why? We’re not geeks. We don’t need that shit. Digital is tape. Either you have the stuff or you are fronting. That’s all there is to it. I’ve done tape plenty in my life. It’s dead now. Anyone who says it ain’t is dreaming and the alarm clock will probably never go off. At the end of the day none of that stuff matters if you have a good musical idea.
How and why did you first pick up the guitar?
I picked one up by saving money being an alter boy at weddings in the church. Why? Probably Guns ‘n Roses. It took me a minute to get one after I figured out I needed one though. My family didn’t have a lot money back then so I had to save up.
Who were your main early influences?
Micheal Jackson and the Beatles as a child. Guns ‘n Roses, 60s and 70s rock as a young boy. In middle school it was alternative punk rock bands of all sorts–then off into crazier shit as life got crazier.
What was your first instrument?
My first guitar was found miraculously across the street at a yard sale after I had been saving dough and basically waiting for one to appear that I could afford. It was a Les Paul copy and Im pretty sure it was $40. That was a lot of money to me because I didn’t ever have any money that was mine. I woke up in the morning, looked out my parents front window, and saw it laying there across the street. The fucking thing was so beautiful to me but it didn’t even work. It took another month for me to earn money to get it operational.
What other instruments do you play?
I’ll play on whatever is around I guess. Im not trained on anything really.
Tone-wise, what is your favorite recording setup ? Amps, pedals, guitars, mics, etc?
I use a Jag a lot these days. I can make them sound like shards of glass to the eyes. Amps? Whatever is there. Pedals? Any four pedals will usually make something cool happen. I think tone is all in your hands or connection to your instrument. Gear can only cover a weak hand for so long. It’s really all about sexual thrust isn’t it? Look at Johnny Thunders or Jeffery Lee Pierce. Enough said.
If you had to pick one pedal you could not live without which would that be?
Most of the time I play electric guitar not plugged into an amp. I only use amps when I have to play with the band. To answer the question, a spring reverb can be useful.
Best tour you’ve been on and why?
Damn. Well there has been a lot of them. I’d say most recently we toured with Killing Joke all over Europe and then The Cult all over the USA. Both of those were a good time. Any tour in Europe is a “best tour” to me. I want to be there, I want to be in Italy with my people.
What’s the worst show you’ve ever played?
Worst show…well that’s a tough one. There’s been so many fucked up shows. Playing an old decaying boxing gym in Bakersfield–in the actual ring–to no one. That was kinda fun.
The last show we did with The Cult was pretty fucked up. It was at the House of Blues in Hollywood. When we went on stage to get our set started they were booing us right away. Loudly. We hadn’t played a note yet. I kinda stood there and soaked it all in. Then some asshole screamed over the drunk crowd “fuck you keyboard nigger!” at Alvin. That really flipped the switch in my neck and that was it. We drove a jackhammer through the PA for 45 minutes straight. Nothing that sounded even close to music came out of the speakers. Just violent white blinding noise all the way up. I guess we figured it was the only way to treat a crowd that was so disrespectful–right out of the gate.
Outside in the parking lot after the show part of the mob started gathering around me and started threatening me. One of the most pissed off drunk dads was an off duty cop, badge on belt of course. My manager jumped in between me and the mob, distracting them long enough for me to get in the Caddi and go.
Wow. What advice do you have to musicians playing live?
My advice is if you want a crowd to like you dress like them.
Which players should guitarists should study and learn from?
All the Beefheart players were pretty great. Rowland S. Howard does a nice sad lament of guitar that also goes wild. Ron Ashton. Bo. Eddie Hazel. Warren Ellis.
Where do you find your inspiration for song ideas?
They find me. Usually I will just be minding my own business and some fucked up person who I happen to care about will reach out. Then I have a new story to tell.
What’s in your record player/headphones this week?
I listened to Killer Mike on the way home from the studio. I almost listened to Velvet Underground for some reason, but I didn’t feel like it. My car only likes rap.
What are you currently working on?
I’m working on putting a decent set together for our 8 week USA tour that starts at the end of the month. A lot of prep goes into going on the road for that long. Especially when you are working on a budget. You have to have your shit together or you will go down hard.
Where’s the best place people can find more information about you / your band?
Check out the Icarus Line, this fall, in a city near you:
The Icarus Line — 2015 Tour Dates
- Oct 30 – Las Vegas, NV LVCS
- Nov 1 – San Francisco, CA Social Hall SF
- Nov 3 – San Diego, CA The Music Box
- Nov 4 – Anaheim, CA House of Blues
- Nov 7 – El Paso, TX Speaking Rock Entertainment Center
- Nov 9 – Dallas, TX South Side Music Hall
- Nov 13 – Clear Lake, IA The Surf Ballroom
- Nov 18 – Louisville, KY Diamond Pub & Billiards
- Nov 20 – St. Charles, IL The Acrada Theatre
- Nov 21 – Nashville, TN City Winery
- Nov 25 – New York, NY Gramercy Theater
- Dec 3 – Medina, MN Medina Entertainment Center
- Dec 11 – Houston, TX Scout Bar
- Dec 12 – Dallas, TX Gas Monkey
Stephanie Nicole Smith is a visual artist and make up artist in Los Angeles, CA. You can find her work at stephanienicolesmith.com and follow her @stephanienicolesmith. She currently contributes to The Fuzz Guide via her Five Minutes series.