As a performer you’re one of rock’s great showmen. Who were your inspirations in that respect?
If you culturally came from my neck of the woods, then to survive you had to play doo-wop music so the greasers didn’t kill you; you had to play soul music so you could perform at your high school dance; you had to play Motown music because everybody played that and it created détente on the dance floor.
Our roots were pre-psychedelic. I loved the Rolling Stones, and later on I became a big fan of The Clash, but all I saw growing up was showmen such as Sam & Dave in Fort Dix, New Jersey, in the late 60s. These guys all believed that performing was a tool of communication and also a joy. Part of the fun for them was going out and doing some clowning and some preaching. As a young musician, that was a gift for me to receive. From the beginning we were a rock and soul band, and we still sort of remain that to this day.
I remember going to see Sam & Dave at the Fast Lane in Asbury Park in 1973 or ’74, which would have been near the end of their time together. The place was half-full but it was still so good. I felt like I was stood there witnessing a miracle. I actually cried – it was from seeing the beautiful and visible effort of the guys that were trying to entertain you.
The music you play over the PA before coming on stage runs the gamut from Woody Guthrie to a more contemporary band like My Morning Jacket.
I listen to a lot of music, and my kids taught me to use iTunes. I’ve just recently got into My Morning Jacket. I get that whole psychedelic folk side of what they do. The other day I went out and got the first David Crosby album [If I Could Only Remember My Name, 1971]. That’s an amazing record. I missed that when it first came out. There’s a connection from that kind of psychedelic stuff in the sixties to what guys like My Morning Jacket are doing.
Who turns you on to new music?
My son Evan is a big source of new rock bands. He initially turned me on to Against Me, and the Gaslight Anthem when their first record came out. Brian [Fallon], the Gaslight singer, is a kid who’s literally from right out of our town in Red Bank, New Jersey. Evan also got me into Bad Religion. I knew a little about them but not a lot. He takes me out to a lot of the punk rock shows. I sort of throw him into the mosh pit and I go stand at the bar. We meet up two hours later and he looks like he’s just got out of the pool. I guess he’s drawn to bands that want to imagine and form some sort of community, which really is what our band has been about. They’re all groups that have a very definite picture of their roots, who they are and what they want to bring to their audience.
My daughter’s into straight-on Top 40, so from her I’ll get Lady Gaga or the new Kanye West thing. My youngest son tends to be the classic rocker, which is very interesting. I went into his room one night and he was falling asleep to Bob Dylan’s Chimes Of Freedom– and it was my vinyl copy of the album [Another Side Of Bob Dylan, 1967]. It was lights-out and dark. He goes: “Dad, this is epic!” I walked out, closed the door and thought: “Well, I haven’t done too bad a job.”