On Tour with The Casualties: Jake Kolatis
With a reputation as long as their arm, The Casualties know how to attract the wrong kind of attention. Falling into 4 days with this Jersey City crew, we find ourselves Byron Bay beachside, just shy of sunset, to hook into music, family, fans, unique places, and what lies beneath with guitarist Jake Kolatis.
Touring roadblocks can leave you kerbside, french baths your only option and sheer exhaustion can leave you longing to be alone. It takes a certain type of troubadour to glide over. It’s got to be a part of your nature or something nurtured from a young age as Kolatis takes us back, “My parents were both teachers so we’d always go on Summer vacation when they were off from work. Dad would put the camper on the back of the pick-up truck and we would go for 2 months, just across America. Like Idaho in the West, the Grand Canyon... I had really good parents. We weren’t rich, we were lower middle class so we had to be efficient, I already knew back then, I had touring in my blood.”
On the Road with The Casualties
From his first tour with the ‘Ties, he was getting his hands dirty, “It was cool, we would just have a van, no trailer with some guitars in the back, and have some beers. Sometimes you would have to fix the fucking van so I would learn how to fix an alternator. Rick (Lopez, bass) is a way better mechanic than me but when we did our first US tours, I had to figure out how to fucking do this.”
How were your first experiences on the road? “What's cool about being in a band, is that you’re treated like crap kinda but then there’s all these cool little places you play. You have to be a certain age though to be able to deal with it so when I was in my early 20s, we were like “Oh cool, I don’t mind sleeping on the fucking stage tonight”… but the club is under station bridge in Italy y’know… so there’s cool stuff about that.”
“Now. ‘Do I want to sleep on the stage where people are puking and spitting and stuff?’ not really man. I’ve been there, done that.” Fast forward 20 years or so and it’s all paid off, “Now when I travel, I know where my favourite restaurant is, I have established friends there." By no means complacent, Kolatis is hungry for new experiences, "Now we have to go farther and do more, we were in a couple of new places this time, like the Ukraine.”
“We were like 'Oh fuck.' I kept my head down, my mouth shut and left.”
Tell us about the Ukraine music scene…“It’s so different there, dude. It was amazing, there’s so much tension between the Ukraine and Russia right now…so we’re playing in this warring country but the show was so awesome and the people were so stoked.” Lurking outside was a different story as Kolatis takes us there, “but it’s dangerous on the outside man, we went to where all the snipers were killing protestors and rebels. You see it on the news but when you get there, it's just eerie, all these people fucking died right where I’m standing.”
Not adverse to making new friends, it’s surprising that the appearance of The Casualties still has the same stigma outside of the big smokes (NYC, London…). As the guitarist outlines a moment of extreme concern on their Ukrainian tour. “There’s some kind of political faction of military fatigues and batons, they came up to us in a not so friendly manner, luckily we had a girl with us, she explained we were just musicians from New York...they don’t have any beef with America right now so they let us go by about this much."
Not a prime time to pick a fight, Kolatis took a side step, “We were like 'Oh fuck.' I kept my head down, my mouth shut and left.”
The Now (ish).
This gang of four hit our shores 3 years ago. This time round, Brisbane was the first stop. With a couple days up their sleeve they hit Lone Pine, showed some Sabotage Social and Crowbar love, and smashed out some killer Karaoke. The amenities of the Hits and Pits tour making this all possible, “Australia is a beautiful country and we have had a day or 2 off in a nice hotel room, the comfort is awesome, the tour is treating the bands really well.” When asked about our home, is met with an ‘Are you really fucking asking the obvious?’ reaction, “It’s fucking Australia, it’s always amazing to be here.”
How the Hell Did You Get Here?
Forever interested in the people behind the music, curiosity leads us to ask when Kolatis first picked up the guitar, as he fills us in, “My mum recognised I wasn’t like my brother, that I’m more of an artistic kind of person. A different kind of kid. She put a guitar in my hands.”
Were you from a musical family? “My Mum and my sister play the mandolin so she recognised what I needed. Guitar practice was such a pain in the ass but I wish I was more attentive, it was good in the end. As soon as I could play punk, I was like, this is my favourite thing in the world.”
From his first chord to his first composition, smiling, he lets us into a distant memory, “Me and my buddy Frank, we wrote a song in my Mum’s basement. It was so stupid. We couldn’t wait to call all the Presidents assholes....I know it had George Bush, the old George Bush, and Ronald Reagan was in there too.” Laughing he muses, “It was totally hardcore, we were like this is going to be cool… now everybody bloody mosh!”
Staying true to his punk roots, his taste hasn’t changed much over the years, “I was listening to the same stuff I am listening to now, Sex Pistols, Exploited, GBH, The Accused.” Before a digital age, it was the artwork that drew you in, “I would see the artwork on these records and I would be like ‘What is this? I gotta hear this’ and if it was heavy, it was cool.”
“I had a neighbour who was an older skate punk kid, I was always like ‘I wonder what he’s into’. I remember asking for a Suicidal Tendencies tape from my parents....If you can imagine parents saying, ‘my kid wants a suicidal tendencies tape?’. They got it for me anyway, when I was about 11 or 12.”
Touring has one function. To play to the fans. Pure and simple. It’s been about 7 weeks since Kolatis and his 3 comrades have seen their home. This current escapade has taken them almost everywhere. Indonesia, Europe and China to name a few, and there isn't any sign of these guys slowing down, “As long as people want to see the band, we’ll keep doing it, it’s in our blood so why would we stop?”
4,000+ fans flocked to see The Casualties in Indonesia. They were inside, outside, all over the show, “It was insane, there were so many people outside, I really wanted to pack them in.”
Due to the social oppression faced by those on the islands, it’s no surprise that punk speaks to them, “People are so oppressed. They make children go into the river and wash and cut their hair, take this religious bath, I'm like, you just made them fans of punk for life by making it so hard for them to be into it [a traditional way of life].”
“We love the fans and the people there, it doesn't matter about the money. It's like other countries, Mexico, El Salvador...people that can’t give you a lot of money to play but we’ll go there for the experience.”
Resistance was recorded over 2 years ago, is the next record landing anytime now? "We’re going to write a new record, put it out and tour it. There doesn’t seem to be any disinterest to see the band, people still want to see The Casualties so we’re going to keep going until it's dead."
Photo by Adam Paterson