James Jackson had humble beginnings, starting out as a street performer in his hometown of Rochester, NY. But through his journeys of traveling the country and playing outside punk shows, Kaiser Solzie emerged. Dawning the name and performing as a solo artist, he quickly gained notoriety for his acoustic/punk sound. Now Kaiser Solzie has released an album as a full band and are performing on the final cross-country run of the Vans Warped Tour.
Groovey.TV: You’ve been performing music since 2010. What made you decide to grab your guitar and hit the road?
Kaiser Solzie: I always wanted to write songs and I finally just decided to do it. I followed in the styles of Frank Turner; just that acoustic, sing-songwriter, street performer style and it just started happening. I got on a Greyhound bus and thought I would try it. I was homeless at the time so I needed to make money to eat and started doing that and it just started progressing. People starting hearing my songs and asking me who I was. My real name is James Jackson and I thought ‘I can’t just be James Jackson’ so I became Kaiser Solzie. Eventually my friend invited me over to record some songs. A couple hours later, with a broken computer, a dangling microphone, and an acoustic guitar, 13 songs came out.
GTV: You originally started out as a solo act and only within the last few years have played as a full band. What made you change the lineup?
KS: It was actually back in Chicago a couple years ago at Riot Festival. I had a friend named Lexi from Rochester there and I asked her for a ride back. In the car was Lenny, my drummer. We had never met each other and Lexi convinced him to go to a little singer-songwriter festival in Rochester called the Peanut Butter Jelly Jam that I was playing. Afterwards Lenny came up and told me he wanted to play drums to my songs. Turned out he lived down the street from me at the time so we just started playing music. He was the only person crazy enough to get into a car and follow around different tours. We bussed outside the Fat Wreck Chords 24th Anniversary Tour and Pennywise’s tour and just street performed everywhere. We met Jamie through a mutual friend. He came out of Fat Wreck Chords and wanted to record some stuff for us and ended up being our bassist. Brian and I used to play songs in the streets and parks in Rochester and was just another person that was as crazy as us to go out and do it. I think it all just came out through this record.
GTV: How has touring with a band been different than touring as a solo musician?
KS: It’s been interesting, especially on this tour; this tour tears bands apart. There’s been some bickering back and forth since Lenny left us [drummer Lenny Palmieri left tour for a few days for family reasons]. Lenny was kind of the glue that kept us all level headed. So it’s been a little bit of a learning curve just getting used to being on this tour since the other three haven’t. I’m a veteran of this tour and I’m trying to teach them the ins and outs of hitting the lines, getting your CD player out there and trying to get people interested in us.
GTV: You just released Back Again a couple of weeks ago, which is your debut EP as a full band. Have you received any fan feedback on the album yet?
KS: Everybody has been cool because bands and fans have been shocked that we’re bringing punk rock back. A lot of people in the lines say they didn’t expect it since there’s a lot of screamo and hip hop artists; it’s definitely a weird mix this year. A guy in line wearing a Bag Religion shirt listened to the album and said it felt old-school, like 1995. It’s an honor to be on the last Warped Tour and be able to kind of bring that back.
GTV: This album took a lot of songs that were originally written for the solo act and transformed them into full-band pieces. Do you plan on reworking any of your other solo songs?
KS: We’ve got probably about 30 other songs that we’re working on. This album was kind of rushed. We built the studio, Ground Zero, in Rochester and Kevin Lyman helped us with it and invested in it. The other aspect of this tour for me was that most of these cities we’re touring in I’m able to select a local band to play onstage with us. Back home we had the local bands come together and barbeque and actually build a stage that we call the Korner Stage. So now we’re having that in Texas, Buffalo, and the last Florida shows. So it’s more than just us playing. We’re trying to raise the ante. I’m a big believer in communities and scenes and through my travels I’ve seen bands divided so I hope this can help bring them together and create a community.
GTV: It seems that your song ‘Bill Murray’ is already a fan favorite. Please tell me you actually crashed some parties with Bill Murray!
KS: Years ago, I was in Denton, Texas and this rumor came out that Bill Murray was party-crashing around the country on an actual tour schedule. So I went to all these cities. He didn’t show up, but I did! I did actually get to meet him this year. He was on tour in Rochester and all my friends told me I had to go try to meet him. I busked at a hotdog cart by the theater he played at. I walked behind the theater to get a cigarette and there’s a little RV loading in and there he was. I have a friend who actually worked on the Bill Murray Stories documentary who told him about the song. So apparently he knows I exist and that the song exists. I hope that a real face-to-face encounter will happen one day!
GTV: I read that you guys would play outside of punk shows like NOFX and Pennywise. Did you ever garner any attention from the bands by playing outside?
KS: Actually, Fletcher from Pennywise helped with gas money. Fletcher’s always called me the crazy man of punk rock. When we did the Pennywise and Unwritten Law tour, they came out. We had Jim from Pennywise and Strung Out singing the choruses with us. I’ve just learned through all these tours to always do it my own way.
GTV: Do you have any plans for the fall that you can share with us?
KS: We’re going to be going back and recording another record. We’ll definitely be hitting all these cities again. We’re doing some DIY shows at Riot Fest and then staying on the road. I believe in going out there, gaining fans and friends, and not giving them the opportunity to forget you. I’ve been telling everyone that as soon as we’re done with this tour we’ll be right back on another.
Check out Kaiser Solzie’s album Back Again
Connect with Kaiser Solzie
Photo credit to Go-Go