Chris DeMakes – ‘I’ve always wanted to write a book, so this was a dream come true’

Words: Miljan Milekić

For more than three decades, Less Than Jake have been a mainstay in the punk rock scene. So, introducing someone like Chris DeMakes feels a bit unnecessary. However, Chris is so much more than a singer of one of the most influential ska punk bands in history. Jingle writer, podcast host, and most recently, the book author, Chris is an all-around creative force, but even more importantly, one of the nicest people I’ve met.

Back in 2013, I had a chance to interview him at the Less Than Jake show in Zagreb, Croatia, which turned into one of the funniest concert experiences I’ve ever had. Not only because they squeezed ‘Look What Happened’ into a setlist after hearing about my friend’s and mine trip from Serbia only to see their show, just because we like it. Not only because we got a shout-out from the stage during it, but because he spent a good twenty minutes going through the sleeve of my beat-up copy of ‘Losing Streak,’ telling us stories about every page, every photo, and every person on that piece of paper. That alone was more than enough for me to know his new book is something I need to have. But until then, we jumped on a Zoom call and brought you this interview. Check it out!

How are you? How did it feel to be on the road again, after all these lockdowns and travel bans that happened in the last year and a half?
Chris: It was good. It was great to be back out. I didn’t think that I needed the break until it was over with. The first three or four months, when nothing was happening show-wise, I was trying to question everything. And then, I just stopped. I just dove into other projects that I had going on, and that took over. So, I didn’t realize it at the time, but it was actually a good thing for me, personally. You know, we have been on the road for almost 30 years as a band, one tour into another, into another, into another, all these years. And it was good to step away. So, to come back now is even more special to me because I haven’t been waiting for it, if that makes sense. It’s kind of like it’s here again, and I can embrace it in a different way.

So, as you said, the pandemic gave you some time to reflect on some things and to dig into some other stuff and some other projects. Knowing that you were writing your own music for years now, how does it feel to finally get the time to put it out and to have a proper release instead of just a song here and there?
Chris: Well, my solo music is secondary to pretty much all my projects and definitely secondary to Less Than Jake. I wrote a book, and I am writing songs about the book now. So it, kind of, goes in reverse. And these songs are just part of the book, and the book was THE big project.

Then, I have my songwriting podcast that I’ve been spending a tremendous amount of time and effort on. I also write personal jingles and songs for people, and I’ve been doing that for the last two years. And it’s insane, but that just keeps getting busier as well. So, my solo songs are great, they’re fun, but I have no aspirations of putting a solo band. I’m never gonna go out and tour with a solo band. I already have a band. (laughs) So, the songs are fun, but they’re not the center point of what I’m trying to do.

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I wanted to mention your book. So, are you happy with how it goes so far? I know it’s a big project, and I can only imagine how much of yourself you’ve poured into it.
Chris: Books, I imagine, if you’re a huge celebrity and if you got a book publishing deal, they could bring in a good amount of money. This – I’ve always wanted to write a book, so to me, this was a dream come true. And the fact that I can hold a book in my hand that says my name on it, that’s cool. I made a little bit of money on it, but it’s nothing crazy. I’m not buying a new house or a new car with the book. That wasn’t what it was about. Just to be able to hold my own book in my hands is the coolest thing. And yeah, I did put a lot of work into it, but it was a lot of fun.

And it’s great to see it from a fan’s perspective too. Do you feel like projects like these can also help you connect with fans even more?
Chris: Oh yeah. I mean, in the last two years, I’ve pretty much tripled my social media followers because I’ve been connecting with people in a different way, outside of the band. So it’s been rewarding in that sense. It all kind of goes together. The solo songs with the book, to the podcast, to my jingles, and custom songs that I do for people. It all ties together in what I’m trying to do, which is, ultimately, the connection.

I don’t have anybody that works for me. The only person working with me is my producer on the podcast, Chris. Everything else – like, if you write me and want a song for your friend, you’re gonna get me writing you back, you know? A lot of times I’ll have to call the person ’cause I don’t understand their email or want to clarify something. I got on a phone call yesterday, and that’s what I think is special, that connection. I’m not paying someone to write people back. It’s not about the money to pay someone to do it – I wouldn’t have the time to coordinate with somebody to do it. It’s just easier for me to do it. And it’s more fun.

And how challenging was it to tie all these projects together to set up the book release, single releases, podcast, and everything in the moment when the world was practically shut down?
Chris: It wasn’t difficult. The hardest part was being able to get the actual physical product of the vinyl record. Pressing plants are tough to get because they’re there so busy. Other than that, it was pretty smooth because of a lot of preparation. The book started getting planned around late 2018, early 2019. So it was about two years in the making before it was finally released last December. There were lots of small steps that led up to everything. It wasn’t like – “Oh my God, it’s this a big undertaking. How am I gonna do all of it at once?” It got rolled out in increments to where it was finally all done.

So the hard part was actually knowing that you’re sitting on something great and not being able to share it with the world until the right time?
Chris: Well, the right time was waiting for the project to be done. I mean, the first thing that I had to do was the book. I was posting one picture a day on my Instagram, starting on December 5th, 2018. And I did it for one year – the last post was on December 4th, 2019. So I had one year of pictures and stories. That was the leading up. I knew I was writing my book one day at a time. It was 365 days. But then, I had to take all those stories and then re-look at them in terms of a book. It’s different – the language that I used online, some things don’t translate to a book. or some things were grammatically wrong. I had to figure out, you know, if the sentence wasn’t right or if I put a comma in the wrong place. So, all the editing that took place after, that’s where the real work began.

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And, are you happy with the feedback so far? Now that it’s been ten, eleven months?
Chris: You know, I wish more Less Than Jake fans knew about the book because I think they would really, really love it. That’s been the challenge, reaching everybody and getting the book out there. But the response from the people who have had it, they love it. It’s been very rewarding. I mean, if you’re a fan of the band, there’s not too much not to like. It’s silly pictures and stories of all our years together. It’s a pretty neat little read.

So, do you have any plans or upcoming projects that you would like to share, or you can share at this point?
Chris: Not really, but, kinda, everything that I’ve been talking about. If anybody out there would like me to write them a song, a jingle for their business, or a song for their boyfriend, husband, girlfriend, friend, co-worker, their boss that they hate – I will write you a song. You can email me at chrisdemakes@gmail.com. Find me on Instagram at @lessthanchrisd. My podcast is called Chris DeMakes a Podcast, or you can checkChrisDeMakesABook.comto find the book, all my solo material and merchandise, all that good stuff. Other than that, I have a bunch of stuff in the works, but nothing has materialized enough to talk about. But I’m trying to put some new projects together for the next year.

Follow Chris DeMakes:
Instagram: instagram.com/lessthanchrisd
Facebook: facebook.com/ChrisDeMakesOfficial
Twitter: twitter.com/LessThanChris
Podcast: open.spotify.com/show/34AUlv2aNj8zyCoAHl6mIq
Book: ChrisDeMakesABook.com

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