When I meet Threats frontman Jack Ridley III at his practice space on Rivington, he is drinking a Corona and smoking a hand-rolled cig. It’s a derelict building, decorated with haphazard graffiti, located adjacent to Welcome to the Johnsons, where Jack tends bar a few nights a week.
Jack is in good spirits, which isn’t out of the ordinary, but today his mood is likely due in part to the fact that Threats’ debut full-length came out earlier in the week (it can be ordered via art collective Glassine Box). “It sounds like one wild night into a miserable morning back into another night,” he says. He and bandmates Matt Hitt and Paolo Dell’Olio recorded it with producers Johnny T and Gus Oberg (of Strokes fame) in a miniscule studio in an East Village basement.
We trust Ridley’s description: if anyone knows a thing or two about parties (and hangovers), it’s him. In addition to Threats, the LES-based musician plays with indie rockers Drowners and in addition to Johnsons he doles out shots of tequila at quintessential EV dive Niagara.
Play “Never Sleep,” right below, while you find out some other cool stuff we learned about the totally babe-ish Jack Ridley III.
Embarrassingly I would say Tim Armstrong from Rancid or Billie Joe Armstrong from Green Day – I was in fourth grade, living in the suburbs. But through that mainstream punk rock shit I ended up finding all the good music that had gotten those guys excited.
In sixth grade I was in a band called Fistful and we played our school music class. It was pretty dirty, suburban punk rock and the singer dude said “fuck” and “shit” and it was so risqué at the time. That was the first time we played but our first gig was at the Paris Theater in seventh grade or something. My mom had to drive me and it was this shitty venue that was a porn theater five days earlier in downtown junky Portland. I was like, “Mom, just drop me off” and she’s like, “I’m not fucking leaving you here.” That was my first taste of a dark, seedy punk venue. I fell in love pretty instantly with the feeling of venues – I spent most of my childhood at shows. I still find them super romantic; the smell and the look and how it looks before the gig and how it looks after the gig.
It was with Dirty Fences. I was strumming acoustic guitars in small apartments, not getting anything fucking done – just writing sad bastard songs because that’s what you end up writing when you’re confined to a quiet space. But there were some friends here who I’d smoke weed and drink with and I’d watch them play music and be like, “Why the fuck am I not playing?” So I decided to take on rent for this space as one dude in the hopes of finding some other people. Then I started fucking around with some other people. Dirty Fences asked if we wanted to play a show without having heard anything and I said yes without having any songs. I was like, “Two and a half months? Fuck it!” Without that kind of push, I don’t think it would have come together. That was Cake Shop on Valentine’s Day two years ago.
It was with Matt Hitt – he was the first bassist. But Erik [Snyder] from Drowners has played bass and Lakis [Pavlou] has played bass… David Rubin played drums, then Paolo, who is currently in it… it’s changed. I like the band because you can kind of pick up other rock and roll musicians pretty easily and be like, “It’s all in A minor, just go.”You’re in a few bands yourself. Is this your main squeeze since you’re the singer and all that?
I’m not really a great singer but I love to do it. You get this rush and you don’t think about any of the other bullshit that’s going on. For me, creatively, it’s my favorite thing because I can do whatever the fuck I want – I’m not limiting it to rock and roll or surf music or grunge or hardcore. There are some weird, creepy, slower new songs and some crazier hardcore songs in the new stuff. It’s a very organic thing. I rarely come in with full songs. We’ll sit down and blaze and a riff will pop out and then it will just naturally sort itself out over an hour.
It was much easier than I thought it was going to be. When we went into making this record I was shitting myself when I was leaving the space to walk over [to their recording studio] in the East Village. We only went in to record eight but we ended up recording fourteen in a day. I didn’t even have lyrics to three of the songs and it just came out in the studio. They’re super creative, smart, interesting dudes that are on the level and down to push it too far. Plus, their studio – it’s one room, it’s really small, so it’s fucking intimate. I’m screaming into this microphone next to Gus and it’s pretty intimidating. But I’d finish a song and not really know how it was and Gus would be like, “Amazing, one down.”
Hungover, trying to get drunk, but it’s definitely not limited to that. I’m trying to do it more sober now. I used to think that I needed it to play and after got more confident with it I realized I don’t need it. Sometimes it fucks you over – you can’t sing as well and you can’t play as well – but there are those great moments where you’re right in the money spot of being intoxicated and it’s this really amazing feeling. I don’t know… They give you free beer at shows and you end up drinking it.
Definitely stoned and drunk. The music was written during a pretty hard partying time and also in a lot of really dark, depressing, downer times and hangovers and relationship shit and friends dying too soon… it’s all on there. But I think everything sounds better with a little weed.