Q and A with Jakob Dylan

Sunday, May 26, 1996, San Francisco Chronicle, Datebook, Page 36. "Special to the Chronicle,by Gary Graff"

"It's not easy being tagged the 'next Dylan'-just ask Bruce Springsteen or any of the other singer-songwriters who have been burdened with the title. Jakob Dylan doesn't have a choice:he really is the next Dylan. The 26 year old son of Bob Dylan is a singer, songwriter and guitarist (and reportedly was the inspiration for father's hit Forever Young). His band, The Wallflowers, cut a debut album three years ago and finally has a follow-up,"Bringing Down the House" on Interscope. It is marked by hard-rocking tracks and vivid imagery in the lyrics. All told, Dylan would rather talk about his songs than about his father."

Q: It's been three years between Wallflowers albums. What Happened?

We had personnel changes . . . and we lost our record deal with Virgin records. We weren't let go, it was mutual. We weren't getting a lot of support there. They weren't excited about the group, so we kind of asked to be released.

Q: Did that cause the personnel turmoil?

Some of it, yeah. It's hard to keep a group together as it is; under the circumstances, it got harder. The drummer had an offer to go play with Natalie Merchant's group. With the bass player it was more of a personality thing, and Tobi Miller, the guitar player, moved on to producing other things, including a band called Maypole for Sony.

Q: Was that tough on you?

It was kind of a drag, especially when Tobi left. He was who I'd originally started the group with: (keyboardist Rami (Jaffee, who is still with the group) was the last person to join the original group. When Tobi left, it changed the center point of the group for me a little bit. We actually considered changing the name because it is not the same group anymore. But I didn't want to let go of anything I had gained from that first record, even though it wasn't that much.

Q: Did you consider naming the band after yourself?

Not really

Q: But wouldn't the Dylan name on the album cover have been a plus?

Possibly, but I don't think it would have. I am still cautious about that. When People magazine wanted to do an interview with me (after the first album), it had nothing to do with the record. They wanted a personality profile, which wasn't going to do me any good or the group any good. I don't find it especially interesting,anyhow. I don't think anybody, if they had the choice, would want to go throught that.

Q: Why did you have so many guitar players on "Bringing Down the House"-Fred Tackett from Little Feat, Mike Campbell from the Heartbreakers,Gary Louris from the Jayhawks?

The guitar-playe situation was not worked out at all by the time we started the record. Whichever guitar player was around on a given day, we got him to work on the song we were doing at the time. If he was right, great, if he didn't work out, we'd try somebody else. We really didn't have certain songs set aside for certain people. Mike Campbell happened at the very end. He's on two songs, and he really made "6th Avenue Heartache."

Q" Why did you change to a harder rocking style on the new album?

I wasn't really conscious of it. I don't thin I made a decision at any point. I like all kinds of music-upbeat, down. The last record we made, the majority of us were 21 years old. With the years in between, hopefully everybody's become a better player and understands more how to do that type of thing. For the first album, there were maybe 12 songs on it and I had only written a total of 20 songs in my life. Since then I've done it a lot longer,worked a lot harder, so hopefully it gets better.

Q: What's the story behind "6th Avenue Heartache?"

That's a real literal story. I spend some time in New York City, and every morning when I woke up this homeless guy would be on the steps of the building across the street from mine. He lived there, and he'd wake up every day and play songs on his guitar. I woke up every day hearing him sing. After two months or so, he wasn't there anymore. All his stuff was still there, but he had disappeared. Pretty soon people started taking his stuff, and he never came back. I related to him in some way. He liked doing the same thing I liked doing,even though we came from two drastically different worlds. He moved on and I moved on, but in some way I felt a connection to him.

Q: How did you start writing songs?

I played guitar for high school bands and I started thinking about what a songwriter was. It was something to try. And on some level, I could put songs together; I didn't know if they'd be good songs or not, but I knew I could do it somehow. I thought that if I wasn't going to di it, I wasn't going to have satisfaction as a musician.

Q: So what do you get out of it?

I don't know. I like to write a song and hear the band play it-sometimes I don't have expectations beyond that.

Q: Do you feel pressured in your writing because you're Bob Dylan's son?

Not at all. I never consider it, really. I don't think anybody could operate on a healthy level if they did. We're not talking about an artist who can be compared to anybody, you know.

Q: Do the other guys in the group try to scam free tickets to your dad's shows from you?

Of course. (Laughs) Actually, I don't think my dad comes up that often-during interviews, maybe at a show someone yells something.

Q: Like what?

Just random (Bob Dylan) song titles. It's always a drunk buffoon.

Q: Do you ever honor the request.

No, I do not.