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Joey Bradford

Joey Bradford, guitarist of the Used, knows touring — from all angles. Right out of high school he jumped on the opportunity to sell merch on the Warped Tour for Saosin. Never looking back, Bradford’s talent and tenacity continued to open doors (like the time he was approached at the merch table and asked to fill in on guitar for Thrice!). In this episode we speak with Bradford about making his way in the music biz, trying out for the Used, collaborating with artists such as Mark Hoppus, and creating music with turbocharged producer John Feldmann.

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Transcript

Evan Ball:
Hello, and welcome to Ernie Ball 'Striking A Chord' podcast, I'm Evan Ball. Today I'll be speaking with guitarists of The Used, Joey Bradford.

Joey Bradford of The Used joins us today. He's got a great story, a really interesting career trajectory, especially for anyone interested in making music, their livelihood. When he was just 18, he hit the road to sell merch on the warp tour, and hasn't looked back since. He knew what he wanted to do and did whatever it took to live it selling merch, tacking, and now he's in The Used. So we talk about his path and we get a fascinating behind the scenes look at their last album. Specifically, we look at the high energy, fast paced, creative environment and creative process that their longtime pal and producer John Feldmann brings to the table. So without further ado, ladies and gentlemen, Joey Bradford.

Evan Ball:
Joey Bradford, welcome to the podcast.

Joey Bradford:
Thank you for having me.

Evan Ball:
Our pleasure. All right. So you joined The Used in 2018.

Joey Bradford:
Yeah.

Evan Ball:
Have you known or listened to The Used for a while or what's the relationship to the band historically?

Joey Bradford:
Before I started playing with the guys, I did know them vaguely. I played in a band before called Hell or High Water, and we had toured with The Used, we did a short run. Man, I guess that was like 2011 or '12, way back when, but we had done a short run with them and became buds and then really vaguely kept in touch with each other as you do with touring buds. But yeah, I wasn't close to the guys, I didn't call Bert. When it was time, I ended up coming into the band through Sean, the band manager. Aside from me knowing the guys, I grew up a big fan of the band. So I was at some of their shows when I was in high school front row at the show. So there's a-

Evan Ball:
That's cool.

Joey Bradford:
... There's a handful of these spots that we've played since I've been in a band and I'll have those trip out moments where I'm like, dang, I was that kid right there in this exact moment.

Evan Ball:
So when did you graduate high school?

Joey Bradford:
2005.

Evan Ball:
So, you would have been in that early stage, watching their gigs.

Joey Bradford:
They were breaking and back when people were still buying tons of records and going to shows all the time and all that fun stuff. So I got to watch them on the 'In Love And Death' tour with all their fun production, and that was the first time I'd ever seen a rock band come out with crazy, all these dummies on stage and this big heart hanging and just extra stuff that I didn't even realize was part of rock music until I watched The Used do it. So pretty nuts.

Evan Ball:
So when they call you in, is it a result of that tour you did with them earlier? Or is it disconnected from that?

Joey Bradford:
No, It was pretty disconnected. I'm sure that had some impact just because we already knew each other and it was an icebreaker, but I found out that there was an opening in the band through some other random circumstances, and I reached out to our manager, Sean, and was just like, "Hey dude I'm available. I don't know if you're auditioning guys or what the process looks like, but I heard a rumor that The Used might need a guy. I would love to try out, one of my favorite bands, I fit the role. I'm a singer. I play guitar as well as I can. Let's see what happens." And then, he hit me back a few weeks later and said, "Hey, you want to try out?" And we set a date and all this stuff, and I almost didn't get to make it to my audition in LA.

Joey Bradford:
My daughter was born three days before I auditioned for the band, and the three weeks leading up, I was learning the songs and practicing my wife's insanely pregnant, and I'm just texting with the guys like, "Hey, hopefully I can make it. But I might not be able to come up. I can't leave if my kid is one day old or not born yet."[crosstalk 00:04:11]

Joey Bradford:
So she ended up being born. She was a little late, but early enough, so we got to spend a few days together and I rushed up to LA to try out for the band and came straight home after, I hadn't practiced in a week, and I was just like, "Well, that didn't happen. That's not going to work out, but it was fun to jam with the guys," and then they called me a couple of weeks later, "Do you want the job?" Like, yes, yes I do.

Evan Ball:
Wow. Yeah. Hectic times.

Joey Bradford:
Very hectic. I thrive under those.

Evan Ball:
Yeah. Well, Hey, at least it was a three days after, instead of the day of.

Joey Bradford:
Yeah. All right. Yeah. Okay. Nice to meet you. I got jam.

Evan Ball:
Right. So what was the tryout process like?

Joey Bradford:
It was so casual, and it's so interesting, for my career, I've auditioned for some stuff and I've had guys come in and out of bands I've played in, so I'm used to the process. It was interesting coming in with a band that's like, we pretty much had the same guys involved through their whole career. So coming in and I'm expecting, let's play the songs a bunch of times, let's talk about everything, it was not like that. It was like I walked in with my amp and my pedal board and they're like, okay, cool gear. Let's play the songs, and then I set up and then they clicked it off, and we started playing, we played three songs one time each and just barely got through the song.

Joey Bradford:
Like it was rough we weren't communicating, hadn't played together before, and that was it. I was like, well, I blew that one, but super chill guys love these people. They're the sweetest people in the world, a lot of common interests. Like it would be cool, but maybe they'll call me to be their guitar tech someday, and I left, and so when I got the call to come and play with them, I was pleasantly surprised, and it's been such an amazing journey thus far. These guys have become my brothers and all of our families hang out and spend time together when we're on tour, and yeah, it's been incredible.

Evan Ball:
I'd always think that they'd want to like hang out, go to dinner or something, make sure you're compatible socially.

Joey Bradford:
It's was so quick. They're just like, well, you don't seem like a punk so...

Evan Ball:
You must have given off good vibes.

Joey Bradford:
I guess I did, and I am very appreciative of them giving me the chance to be in their legendary band.

Evan Ball:
It sounds like it wasn't exactly a peaceful transition of power. Did this put you in an awkward position?

Joey Bradford:
You know what, I think it helped the situation having me be the guy, just because I knew the last guy and I had a previous relationship with him and I had somewhat of an understanding of the situation that they were in. So I just came in with my mouth shut, my peace sign up, like I understand the situation there and I'm just going to try to make it as easy as possible for them to deal with it. That's been my role, my whole career. I take pride in just being the vibe tech. I'd say 50% of my job title since I've been touring has been a therapist and bring the mood up in the room, that's my thing. So I think that was a contributing factor to the transition, and I think they just wanted someone in that wasn't going to be hard to deal with, because there was guys that were way more qualified than I am that shred way harder than I do that could have gotten the job so.

Evan Ball:
Well that, and that's why I asked about like going out to dinner or whatever, be it is such a valuable trait. It's not just who can shred the fastest, your lives are so intertwined that you want to make sure you got the chemistry right.

Joey Bradford:
I've been working with Sean forever and we have a personal relationship as well, aside from just working together. So I'm sure that was a contributing factor [crosstalk 00:08:02]

Evan Ball:
Right, and he can vouch for you.

Joey Bradford:

Yeah they've had a friendly relationship with him for 20 years, 20 plus years.

Evan Ball:

Gotcha. Yeah. All right. So where did you grow up?

Joey Bradford:
I grew up here in Vista, California, just a little town in North San Diego and it's just gave me an opportunity to be away from the water enough to where I wasn't engulfed in surfing, and close enough to LA and San Diego to where I got to play with some really talented people growing up, but it's just a little chill town, no one really knows about it, and we're tucked away in between some other cool cities and it's beautiful out here though. I have a home here with my wife and kid now, and my recording studio's on our property, and we get a lot of creative people coming through in the studio and we've created a nice little compound situation down here. It's cool.

Evan Ball:
Yeah. That's it. You know what, I'm just remembering. I did a podcast with Eric Wilson of Sublime. I think he might be in your area. He mentioned Sublime playing on his porch sort of rural San Diego.

Joey Bradford:
Yeah. Eric was just down the street from me. He's a buddy of mine, Dakota [Rasik 00:09:26] was one of his guitar wizard guys has worked with them forever, but he's just down the street. We've definitely done the gear trading thing and come check out my spot, come check out my spot, but that guy's a legend. He's got a cool place too. Stunning view, got this deck that just oversees... it's like a 360 view almost.

Evan Ball:
Are you in that setting too?

Joey Bradford:
Yeah. It's in the country. So, where we're at on our property is in a little Valley and it's like a four acre spot surrounded by some nature preserve. So it's this epic little jam of a quiet space. It feels like you're in Montana. You know what, We're 15 minutes from the beach, so it's-

Evan Ball:
That's awesome, and city, if you want it right. You're not too far from San Diego.

Joey Bradford:
Exactly, so everything's pretty close, but far enough away to where we have this little quiet Zen Den out here.

Evan Ball:
So you grew up there, when does guitar come into the picture?

Joey Bradford:
When I got into middle school, I think about sixth grade is when I saw some of my friends starting to play guitar. I grew up playing sports and I got into playing music, I played clarinet was my first thing. I got obsessed with that, and tried to try to get really good at classical music and all that, and then just into middle school, it was like, "All right, I'm a grownup now, what do grownups do?" So that's when I picked up a guitar for the first time and it had a lot to do with my older brother. My brother's five years older than me, and growing up, we were super competitive. So anything he would decide was his new interest. I would swoop it.

Joey Bradford:
Like, "Okay, well, this is what I do now, and I need to thrive to be as good or better than you at whatever you do," stupid brother stuff, but that honestly got me really, really into wanting to be a guitar player, and then I became a bass player for a long time, but it was getting into punk rock music and the idea of just picking up a guitar and getting to play power chords and getting to write a song really, really quick. I've always been a songwriter more than like I need to be a riff dominator. So really quickly, it was like, all right, let's get into power chords. Let's figure out how to make this thing... Give me a template so I can write some lyrics and sing some shit. So bands like Blink-182 was San Diego royalty. So especially at that time in my life, I was like "I need to learn every animal of the state riff and I need to become the guitar player for the Blink-182, one day.

Evan Ball:
Yeah, and were they Poway? Is that close to you?

Joey Bradford:
It's pretty close. Yeah. That's also pretty much North County. So all of those little cities in San Diego, about 20 minutes away from each other. I mean the lyrics of their songs are referencing the places I go to eat and hang out with my friends. So they had a huge impact on all of my friends growing up, and that's what we did. I mean, when I was in high school, my first proper band was pop punk band. I'm sure we covered Blink songs and we covered Starting Line songs and Rufio whatever we could do, but pop punk was my introduction.

Evan Ball:
It is such a good entry point to if people have the passion for it, because it's accessible. I mean, like you said, you can get these power cords down and get up to speed pretty quick and be playing.

Joey Bradford:
Yeah. My brother was always such a... he still is, but he's been such an incredible songwriter in my whole life, and he wasn't this amazing guitar player, amazing bass player. He was just pretty mediocre, but he was coming home and writing these songs that were so good, and I watched it and compartmentalize what's important, like dang, "He's writing songs that are catchy and stuck in my head and he can't really even play this thing. So if I can get halfway decent at the guitar and write songs as good as he can, I might be able to do this," and maybe that's giving myself too much credit when I was that young. I don't think I was thinking that far ahead, but I think I was just like influenced watching people around me able to write really good songs without having to spend 10 years practicing how to play the guitar first so.

Evan Ball:
Well, that's probably a big advantage having a brother five years older that you're looking up to and wanting to sort of keep pace with. I mean, that's a decent age gap, but you're probably getting pulled ahead pretty hard having that sort of role model.

Joey Bradford:
So he was feeding me music. I didn't find out till later in life that my parents were actually pretty big into music when they were growing up, but my brother, he would feed me these bands and these albums, maybe a little younger than most people had gotten into them. So I was in sixth or seventh grade starting to get into guitar and trying to learn Blink-182 riffs, and he's like, "Hey bro, why don't you check out this band Radiohead, and why don't you check out all these Beatles records that you should have already heard," and he fed me some stuff right at a really spongy moment in my guitar journey, where I was just blown away really quick. I graduated from the power chords and angry riffs really quickly into, okay, what's a delays about, what's clean tone about, and then dove into those amps and those sounds and what are those players doing?

Joey Bradford:
And I think that's been a good example of the way I still play guitar. I would say random, but I would say some of my biggest influences would be like a cross between Blink-182 and Radiohead, if that's not illegal to say.

Evan Ball:
That's awesome.

Joey Bradford:
Those are my favorites. Like anything in the pop punk world or the pop world or the rock world. Like if there's a big catchy chorus, like those hit rock songs, those were my money for sure, and then transitioning into anything that radio had ever did was so far left of that, and I found myself wanting to be in the middle. So which is great being in The Used it's like exactly what The Used is. Aggressive, modern rock with elements of beautiful, analog, classical influence all over the place.

Evan Ball:
Do you have a favorite Radiohead album?

Joey Bradford:
I mean, for me, it's a toss up between 'Hail To The Thief' and 'In Rainbows', and I know that, no one's going to diss those records. I know it's not as cool as saying like, Pablo honey is my favorite record of all time, but honestly in rainbows it's probably gotten more spins than almost any record I've ever listened to.

Evan Ball:
Great album. Is that the one that they gave it... They didn't give away, but they asked for donations. Do you remember?

Joey Bradford:
That was the one. Yeah. They were the first band ever, go online-

Evan Ball:
That was a business model.

Joey Bradford:
... Nothing or a million dollars. Yeah. Well, it must be nice to be Radiohead and pull that off.

Evan Ball:
But it's an interesting psychological experiment, because it's at a time when everyone was just stealing music. Trying to remember, maybe it was right after what were those platforms?

Joey Bradford:
Oh, Napster and-

Evan Ball:
Yeah. Napster yeah.

Joey Bradford:
Oh man. Yeah.

Evan Ball:
So just giving them here, you can have it for free or you can choose to pay money, and I forget the stats. I remember most people paid though.

Joey Bradford:
Most people paid and I think they made way more money than they would have, and everyone was talking about it. I can remember vividly being outside of my studio, talking with all my buds. Do you guys see this thing Radiohead's doing? I wonder if we could do that. So innovators in a lot of ways love that band.

Evan Ball:
All right. So when do you hit the road?

Joey Bradford:
Hopefully spring.

Evan Ball:
Oh, no, sorry. Back to the history. So we're in high school.

Joey Bradford:
Oh my God [crosstalk 00:17:15]

Evan Ball:
Sorry. We'll get back to that.

Joey Bradford:
So my first band in high school, my pop punk band, there was four of us. It was me, my buddy Victor was playing drums. My buddy Kellen Asebroek was playing guitar and he's still in a touring band called Fruition out of Portland. That's incredible, and then Cove Reber was also our singer and he was in Saosin and for a long time. So that was a springboard for a lot of us was co-join that band. He was still a senior at our high school.

Evan Ball:
Are they Vista or San Diego? I thought they were Orange County.

Joey Bradford:
They're an Orange County band, but Cove was from down here and he and I were actually big fans of the band. We were on their message board. We were full dorks in high school, just diving into band stuff, and he saw... I think it was Bo who posted on their message board, "Hey, we're auditioning singers," and I say Cove was the lead singer of our band, because the story make sense now, but he wasn't even like the lead singer, he played bass and kind set it back up, and then he comes to us in the middle of a school day, he's like, "Hey, I'm skipping school. I'm going to go learn these Saosin's songs, send a demo to their guitar player and try out for the band. We're like, "Okay, bud, but that's not a real thing."

Joey Bradford:
So, but yeah, sure enough flash forward a couple months and he had basically joined the band. They're like, "Hey, we're going to a work tour, do you want to come? And you're going to sing half the set. We're going to have a Phil from story of the year is going to sing half the set and you're going come out. We're going to like slowly audition you on tour and see how you [crosstalk 00:18:51]the team and who knows what's going to happen. So, they did that, and then about halfway through that tour, I got a call from Cove and he was like, "Hey, our merch guy has to leave, we've sold shirts before in our shows, you want to come be our merch guy? I'm like, "Sure, that sounds easy." So I flew out and met them.

Joey Bradford:
I was 18. Cove had been on tour for a little bit, and then all of a sudden I was a touring guy and I work with sales and for a couple of years on and off and then bounced around to a ton of bands. I worked with dredge. I did some stuff with Thrice, Delta Spirit, I was just like jumped in deep into being a merch guy, because that was all I could do, and I was playing guitar[inaudible 00:19:34] bands and I was at home on a local level, and I had had a band. We had got signed to a small label and we would do a couple tours here and there, but mostly the beginning five or six years of my touring career, I was selling t-shirts or filling in for a band or guitar checking, but I didn't really get that chance to be on stage for a while.

Evan Ball:
So that decision to sell merch, is it that you like the idea of being on the road or just being around music or is the goal in your mind still about getting closer to playing music yourself, maybe you'd make connections get in the scene?

Joey Bradford:
It was always about stepping stones and I was super impressionable and super intimidated and really stayed in the corner for those first couple of years selling shirts, especially being 18. Oh my God. Like when I meet these young kids on tour now, I feel like it's my duty to go make them not be scared of this whole world, and like, "You're going to be fine. Everyone's going to take care of you and whatever," but at the time I just laid back and I was trying to make my band at home work. I really loved... It was called Thieves and Liars. We signed a face down records as little hardcore label, like a Led Zepplin classic rock thing, and I was the lead singer and I played bass, but we're a baby band.

Joey Bradford:
The tours that we were getting were playing in front of 20 people, opening for some band that people also didn't know of, just hemorrhaging money. It was impossible to make it work, and so I would bounce around and it's in between working in that band, I would go work for whoever would pay me. So I didn't have to go get another job and I can meet some new people, and then really quickly into the merch stuff. I got opportunities to fill in for bands. I was actually working for a nonprofit organization 'Invisible Children.' And we were out on tour with Thrice, and on that tour, Teppei had to leave the tour early. He had to leave a few shows before the tour was over for some family stuff. Also side note, I grew up the hugest fan of Thrice, just being on tour with them, with the nonprofit was cool for me.

Joey Bradford:
When I get to watch one of my favorite bands every night, that's Led. So then Teppei is getting ready to leave the tour, which had come out of nowhere and Dustin comes up to the merch booth and he's like, "Hey Joe, you play guitar right? And I'm like, "Yeah, dude, totally." And at this point I hadn't played guitar on stage in probably four or five years, I had been a bass player. That was it. So I'm like, "Yeah, dude, what do you need? Why are you asking?" He's like, "Hey, Teppei has to leave. We're going to have a couple guys from the tour, fill in for him, for the rest of the tour, would you be down to learn five songs, and play guitar for the rest of the tour?"

Joey Bradford:
I'm like, "Yeah, dude, easy. Of course." And he walks away and I'm just like, "Oh my God, what did I do? I can't do this shit." But real quick after the show was over hopped on the bus, went into the back lounge with Teppei he hands me, his black beauty. To me, that was such a legendary guitar. It was in their old music videos, and I'd grown up watching him play this guitar through my computer and TV. So he hands me that guitar, and he starts showing me these rifts that I secretly already know from sitting in my bedroom growing up, and he was just like, "Oh, you'll be fine. It's super easy. Here you go. Here's the riffs," and then left, and I'm sitting there going to, "Dude, this is not easy. You've been playing these your whole life. I get it, but please."

Joey Bradford:
And that was the first time I ever had to do any sort of tapping riff. I remembered like, Oh, here we go. This is my Van Halen moment. I've never done this. So let's see if it works. But I had 48 hours and I sat in a hotel room to learn the five songs and then jumped on stage. First show was in Colorado Springs.

Evan Ball:
What was the first show like?

Joey Bradford:
I vividly remembered. I was so terrified before I walked on stage, and it was me and two of the guys from Deerhunter that played the rest of the set, but I had the first chunk. So it was like I had to open the show and the whole thing and Oh my God-

Evan Ball:
That's crazy.

Joey Bradford:
...[crosstalk 00:23:45] awesome. It was the coolest experience. Everything went over really well, by the fourth show, I was like sneaking in some harmonies on the mic and was like, "Okay, I'm in now," and honestly that moment, that opportunity, that was when I really had a fire under my ass to make this happen. I was like, "Okay, I need to figure out who needs a guy or how can I start a band or what's the move, and from touring for a little bit, I'd started to collect some connections and some people that could help me out.

Evan Ball:
That's crazy. So you put your time in. You never know when you're going to get the payoff or if it'll happen, but eventually those connections surfaced and you took advantage. Hey, what's road life like in general for a merch guy?

Joey Bradford:
It's busy, busy, busy days. My life was wild. It's crazy thinking back to it, because I did so many clubs tours, but the only things I can remember are all the festival tours. I did work tour a few times and that was grueling. This last work tour, when we were out with The Used and I was playing and had this plush life, there were certain days where I would go out when it was real hot, I would go bring water to the merch guys and go sit down and talk with some of them. Like you're going to get through this.

Evan Ball:
Those are brutal days, it's hot and humid in most of those dates and long days.

Joey Bradford:
What a life. I remember waking up, you had to be ready to go by 7:00 AM with your tent and all your merch to get your merch spot at the festival. So 7:00 AM, we're up, we get the spot, we set up it, takes a couple hours to set everything up. I was working for sales in all those stores. So there were selling tons of merch the young kids coming up, and so the setup took forever and then all right, doors are at 10.30, and by the time eight or 9:00 PM rolls around and the day's over, that's what I'm finally getting a break, and then you got to break it down and then everyone's partying. So it's like, "Okay, well I want to be social and hang out and do that thing." So 6:30 AM till 1:00 or 2:00 AM every day for eight weeks.

Evan Ball:
Are you on their bus?

Joey Bradford:
Yeah, I had a bus, fortunately, which was nice. So I was on the bus with the band, but you don't interact with anyone. The five years that I sold merch, there was almost this invisible wall between the merch guys and that whole world, and even the guitar techs and the tour managers, and it was just like two different worlds because you didn't see each other. And even on club tours, like merch guy. Go load in through the front door and where the merch and you hang out there-

Evan Ball:
And everyone else was backstage?

Joey Bradford:
Yeah, and I remember when I was a guitar tech, when I jumped into guitar teching, it was like, Oh man, "I haven't even seen where merch is sold or where the merch guy is ever on the store." Things I didn't think about previously, but it's been awesome. I mean I feel so blessed to have been able to do so many different jobs in this industry. I tour managed for a little bit. I sold merge, I guitar teched for a while, staying off stage for some bands, I've just done whatever it takes to continue to be in this industry, and now I'm to a point to where all of the people running the show are my peers and people that have come up with me over the last 15 years on tour, and even people I was selling t-shirts next to are now working at labels or management firms, or guitar companies or whatever it is.

Evan Ball:
That's awesome. I would think doing those long days of the merch table, that's got to be so motivating for you to... Didn't you want to get home and work on your own band?

Joey Bradford:
Oh my God.

Evan Ball:
Like, no, I want to be up on that stage?

Joey Bradford:
Guitar teching was almost worse, because you get that short moment every day where you do get to play guitar on a stage but it was such a, just the tip moment where it's like, all right, everything sounds good, and there's all these people fired up and ready to be entertained. Here's your guitar go have fun. I've always been the guy to... Even when I was teching or whatever, I'll weasel my way in. I filled in for a band called A Static Lullaby a few years back, they had done a reunion tour. They were a band active in the early 2000s, and I was on a tour, I was guitar checking for a [trio 00:28:02], and I was walking by a couple of buds that were just having a random conversation and I heard blah, blah, blah. Yeah, we need a bass player, but we'll figure it out.

Joey Bradford:
I'm like, "Oh, I'll play bass. What are you talking about?" And they're like, "Oh, we're doing this Static Lullaby reunion tour. You want in?" And I was like, "Sure." And he was like, "Okay, cool. I'll send you the songs." And went back to work, and then, I literally ended up doing a full tour with that band[crosstalk 00:28:25].

Evan Ball:
You just got to be there. You [crosstalk 00:28:27] the right mindset at 18, saying I'm just going to dive in.

Joey Bradford:
Just show up, dude, be useful, be a dude, that's what I try to live by. Just be chill and be good at what you do and don't let people down and opportunities will show up.

Evan Ball:
All right. So you guys put an album out this year Hardwork?

Joey Bradford:
We did put one out this year. Yes. In April.

Evan Ball:
With John Feldmann.

Joey Bradford:
The incredible guy, that guy is.

Evan Ball:
Well, it seems like he's been a staple of the band since really early on. Obviously you weren't there for the earlier collaborations, but did you get a sense for their history and relationship working together?

Joey Bradford:
Absolutely. Oh my gosh. Yeah, once we were past all the decision-making and figuring out what we were going to do for this record, and it was like, "Okay, let's go in with John and do this. I was not, I wouldn't say intimidated, but I was just really excited. I guess it would be a great way to put it, because from my perspective growing up, a fan everything that, that band and that man have ever done together has been something that I've genuinely adopted into my life and loved and been influenced by. So the idea of getting to go into the studio make a record with The Used and John Feldmann was really exciting and day one, when we got in there... I shouldn't act like I wasn't intimidated. It was definitely intimidating the first day or just like, Holy shit! You walk into a studio, surrounded by platinum records and gold records from the band that I'm in-

Evan Ball:
So this is the studio at his house?

Joey Bradford:
Yeah, his studio, an incredible facility. But yeah, I walk in and, they hadn't seen each other in quite a while, so it was just like a family reunion, immediately. So there was just that warm and fuzzy feeling right off the bat. There was no, "Let's get to know the producer and see how this is going to go, and hopefully you like what we like," and it was just like, "Okay, here's a guitar, let's start writing a song." We went out on his patio almost immediately with an acoustic guitar, and it was like, he was feeling me out, I could totally tell. He was just like, "All right, what do you got?" And like "Play some rifts and play some chords, and here's a melody idea," and then I was like, "Okay, cool. Here's what I'm going to do.

Evan Ball:
So you guys are doing the writing there at his house, or have you done a lot of it earlier?

Joey Bradford:
Well, we had worked for about a year at my house. My studio here in Vista, the band had flown out a few different times and we had written, I guess, close to like 30 songs. I also think I keep inflating that number every time I tell this story, but we wrote a bunch of songs when we decided to go in with Feldmann that first day that we got into the studio, it was like, "Oh, Hey, we have all these songs. Let's sit down. Maybe we'll take a day and listen through and see what we want to use and whatever."

Joey Bradford:
And John was just like, "No, we're not going to listen to those. We're going to start over." I was like "Okay. I'm not going to argue with whatever your... Because it obviously has worked for the entirety of this band's career." Still to this day, John hasn't heard any of those demos that we were doing for the whole year.

Evan Ball:
No way!Oh man.

Joey Bradford:
He was just like, no. So, we went and started fresh and we wrote everything almost a song a day, his system, and the way that he keeps the flow of traffic going when you're riding is on another level. I learned so much from this session and I feel like I grew immensely as a songwriter as well. Just learning other ways to do it that are effective, but what an incredible guy I haven't ever seen a producer pull out so much magical stuff from the people in the room.

Evan Ball:
What do you think his tricks are?

Joey Bradford:
Caffeine is one of his tricks. The dude is like a drug addict for caffeine. It's awesome. He's just reaping [crosstalk 00:32:19]

Evan Ball:
So its his energy just keeping you guys moving.

Joey Bradford:
Yeah, and it's one of those things where you feel like if you're not keeping up with him, you're going to be left behind he's just like a moving train and I didn't see it stop once. Never once did I see John hit a wall or get tired or not continue to be creative, and it's such a motivating thing to watch and he's just a wizard man. He's creative a hundred percent of the time and it's so inspiring. You feel like you really have to show up and come with quality stuff, be it lyrics or rifts or ideas or whatever. So he just brings everyone to another level that you didn't expect yourself to be in.

Evan Ball:
I guess that's not too surprising when you look at how prolific his career has been in his catalog, tough to fit that much in there. He's got to be just moving.

Joey Bradford:
He's got to be from another planet. There's a handful of people that I've worked with in my career that just have this thing that you can't explain, and it's like, "Why don't I have that? I try to work just as hard and do all these things, but it's like he was born with some weird genetic next levelness that I am proud to be able to write alongside, but I don't have it."

Evan Ball:
He was on this podcast. So he's got some great stories too, and you can see his energy now. Just imagine what a wild man he was back in his early days.

Joey Bradford:
Oh my God, dude, for the stories that I won't repeat, but the stories that the two of them have from their previous years are wild.

Evan Ball:
Hey, was The Used his first major project apart from Goldfinger?

Joey Bradford:
Yeah, it was, and there was one other band he worked on, I want to say it was Messed, but The Used was like together, they both broke. People knew who John Feldmann was and knew who Goldfinger was, but The Used record, and signing the use and producing that record, both The Used and John really exploded from that, or at least that's my understanding from listening to the history and fly on the wall during some of those stories, and that's another thing that's so beautiful about getting to work with John is I feel like the way that John and The Used rights of record is unique to this band. I know that it's probably similar when he's working with everyone else, but it feels like John is a member of The Used and not even in like a, "Oh, like we're writing this record and you're part of the deal." No John's input and influence and ideas absolutely count as much as anything anyone else in the band will say in the room and no one questions it. It's just, we're on the same page. She is a part of the sound of The Used.

Evan Ball:
Hey, do you know how the guys in The Used even knew to reach out to him in the beginning? Because like I said, this is the beginning of Feldmann's producing career. I believe.

Joey Bradford:
There's a few different versions I've heard, but I want to say that the one I've heard the most is Brand, and the bands old drummer was a big Goldfinger fan. He was a huge fan of the band and he mailed John a demo or something. I want to say that there was a demo mailed to John that had Box Full of Sharp Objects on it, and maybe it was Taste of Ink as well. He was in Sweden and someone got the CD and mailed it to him to Sweden, you got to check this out. [Pre 00:35:53] send me an MP3, and he was in Sweden on tour and got the demo and called the guys and was like, "Hey when I'm done with this tour, you guys are going to come out to California, we're going to make this album. Let's do this. I'm going to help you get signed the whole thing." So that's one of the stories I've heard, and honestly, the guys in the band can't even give me a straight story, there's so many different[crosstalk 00:36:15]

Evan Ball:
He's just always been there.

Joey Bradford:
He's just always been there. Exactly. And Bert always says a really quippy thing. He goes, "If you would've told me when I was 10 years old, that I would be the singer in a rock band and get to do this, I would've told you of course I fucking am." He always was like, "This is me. This is what I'm destined to do, and I'm going to be the singer of a rock band, and no one's going to get in my way, and Feldmann was a huge springboard for the band to get to do that and still here.

Evan Ball:
So it sounds like those two guys together are pretty driven.

Joey Bradford:
Absolutely. Yeah, and the two of them, it's like, they feed off of each other, like who can have more energy and who can have ideas.

Evan Ball:
And you sort of have a... Judging by your last album, a network of collaborators with Feldmann, I see Fever and Blink-182.

Joey Bradford:
We worked with a ton of people. Some incredibly talented all over the board type of writers that we worked with. The day would basically start, we would come in the room, grab an acoustic guitar or get on the piano or whatever it was, and start coming up with some chords, a vibe, an idea, maybe a chorus that started to feel like something, and then generally around that time whoever we were going to do the co-write with that day would show up, jump into wherever we were at with the song, and it was such a cool thing. I hadn't done a ton of co-writing with my own band. I've done co-writes with other bands where I've come into the room and helped them write a song, but getting to have these resources, and these incredibly talented people come into the room and start to throw ideas at us while we're writing the song.

Joey Bradford:
It was so helpful, and so creative, and I think we came up with some beautiful portraits of the lyrics that Bert was really wanting to get across, but so cool. I mean, we work with this woman, Simon Wilcox. Again, she's very much like Feldmann where it's like, you couldn't have been born on this planet. Everything that comes out of your mouth is it seems the stroke of a paintbrush. How are you so full of incredibly intuitive, lyrical and melody ideas. We finished with her and it was like, "Oh, what is Simon now done? What's her big credits." Because she's so insane. She has to have worked with some incredible people, and he was like, "Oh yeah, she's she's worked with Sia and she's worked with Kanye," and we're just like, "What the hell?

Joey Bradford:
That's insane." And now this, but all over the place, I mean, some of these younger kids coming up that would walk in the room with ideas that never, in a million years, we would have thought would make sense with The Used, but once we would flesh them out and start to turn it into what our band is, it was like, "Oh, I don't think that we would've come up with that on our own, without some of these weird ideas being thrown at us and then us molding it into what the band is."

Evan Ball:
So these are just guys that Feldmann has in his rolodex, maybe younger bands, and he just knows their idea sparkers and brings them in.

Joey Bradford:
Absolutely. Exactly. So it was almost every day when we were writing the record, there was someone new. There was only a couple of people that we worked with more than one time, but it was always, "Oh, there's this kid that I think you would be awesome to work with. Let's see what happens, bring them in," and then there's, "Oh, this dude's awesome." And then we'd start looking up some of these artists are like, "Oh, you're a huge artist. We're just getting old." But no, it was incredible. I mean we worked with this dude, JP Clark, who is an amazing songwriter, and he's worked with tons of artists.

Joey Bradford:
We worked with [Fem 00:39:59] on this track and she was incredible to work with. Mark Hoppus, we worked with a couple of songs with him and those turned out insanely awesome, and that was a really cool thing for me having grown up in San Diego as a blink kid and then being in Feldmann studio with The Used, writing a song with Mark and Travis, it was like-

Evan Ball:
Oh, I bet. So is that deal where you'll have a preexisting song and Feldmann will say, "Hey, that'd be cool if you split those verses up with Mark Hoppus, he'd be a good guy."

Joey Bradford:
Even before that, we really were writing a song a day. So we would start the song, writer would show up to contribute with us and bounce ideas off, and by the early afternoon, late afternoon and the song was almost finished.

Evan Ball:
So Mark Hoppus is there from the inception of the songwriting process with you?

Joey Bradford:
He was showing up at 1:00 PM when we were getting there also, and it was like, "All right, here's the first couple of chord ideas we have," and you will be like, "Oh, cool. I have this idea in that vein, maybe we could add this, and it's like, "Oh, that's cool. Let's take part of your idea and put it in with this, and before you blink, there's bones, there's structure of something that we can lay some melody and lyrics over, but I was extremely impressed with Mark and so stoked to work with him. He's just very creative, insanely creative ideas, deeper shit than I expected to come out of Mark Hoppus from Blink-182, but he's an incredibly smart dude, a sweet man, and we wrote two songs with him.

Joey Bradford:
We wrote The Lighthouse with him, which is one of my favorite songs on the record, and that was actually a really cool experience too, because we were halfway through another song. We took a lunch break and I was just sitting in the control room with an acoustic guitar, just playing this random riff, over and over again, and Feldmann walks in the room and he's like, "Oh, that's cool. Let's record that real quick." So I jumped in the room, Mike has already set up record this one riff and Mark walks in, oh, that's cool.

Joey Bradford:
Have this melody idea that might make sense, and then Burt walks in and he's like, "Oh, let me go first." And Burt runs in and does this melody, and then again in the blink of an eye, the song is in the shape that it's now in and that we released, and I was like, dang, that was such a cool, quick, awesome experience just, because everyone is firing on all cylinders at all times.

Evan Ball:
Man, that sounds awesome. Everyone just juiced on creativity all on the same spot.

Joey Bradford:
Absolutely. Super cool.

Evan Ball:
All right. I got a series of stock questions I've been asking.

Joey Bradford:
Let's do it.

Evan Ball:
Okay. If you could tour with any band or artists past or present, who would it be?

Joey Bradford:
Oh, past or present. Oh my God. I hope everyone answers it like this, where they go, holy shit.

Evan Ball:
They do.

Joey Bradford:
Honestly, I think right now and the first thing that's coming to mind, I would be really stoked to go out with MGK. I think it would be a really weird, interesting vibe for the band, but I think it could be something really cool and modern, and I could see some deeper collabs between us, but as far as ever, ah, man, I can't lead with MGK. I mean I would love to go out and open for Radiohead and do an insane left field set with The Used.

Evan Ball:
There you go.

Joey Bradford:
That would just be the craziest thing of all time. If I could sit down with Tom York for five minutes and just listen to him, say nothing. That would be an interesting, awesome experience. There's so many artists I would just trip to get to go hang out with and jam. I love, love, love, love Jimmy Eat World. I'm sure we'll do stuff with them. Touring with Blink would be amazing, but past or present. I mean, Zeppelin would have been a huge one for me. Pink Floyd would have been the craziest David Gilmore is probably my favorite guitar player of all time. Dammit, I don't know how to answer that question.

Evan Ball:
That's good. You gave us a top seven.

Joey Bradford:
[crosstalk 00:43:57] One of those [crosstalk 00:43:59]let's go

Evan Ball:
Ideal set length.

Joey Bradford:
I think an hour and 15 minutes is the perfect set for any band. I only say that because I have a hard time, once a band has passed, I don't know, 13 or 14 hits and they're an hour 15. I'm like, okay, if you leave now, you're going to leave me wanting more, but once you get past the hour and a half, hour 45, then I feel like people are just tired, and again, this is coming from a rock perspective, but I love the energy being at 11 for a whole set and then just leave people wanting more.

Evan Ball:
So do those warp tour 30 minutes sets feel short to you or?

Joey Bradford:
They do. They go by so fast, but it's so rad. To go out and play seven songs. You know what I mean? Especially with The Used, I mean, you're going to get seven songs that every kid in the crowd knows all the words to. So there's not a lot of opportunity to like, "All right, we're going to play a new song or we're going to play a B-side or whatever, that's for the club tour, but going out and playing those grip it and rip it like 30, 45 minute sets are bad-ass.

Evan Ball:
Yeah. All right. Favorite way to pass your time on tour.

Joey Bradford:
Oh my God. I do so many things. I wish I had the luxury of a hobby on the side, but I manage four bands. I run a recording studio. I do some session stuff. My hands are so full. So when I'm on tour, I'm just computer nerd. I'll sit in the back by the trailer and drink my red bull and smoke my juul and rip emails, but we used to get down on some hacky sack and some lawn games and a good old hang session, but I haven't been able to have any fun hobbies in quite a while.

Evan Ball:
All right. Well, you mentioned early on that you grew up playing sports. If you were a professional athlete, what sport would you want it to be in?

Joey Bradford:
I would have loved to have to have been a pitcher in the MLB. That would have been super cool.

Evan Ball:
Really?

Joey Bradford:
I was a pitcher well, most of my life, but all through high school, I loved it. I was so lazy to pitch one every third or fourth game, I got to play a few innings. This is for me, I'll hang out here with the guy you put me in a little bit, I'm good to go.

Evan Ball:
Do you have a best gig or a worst gig ever, anything that comes to mind?

Joey Bradford:
I have a couple of those, yes. We did a festival a few years back. What was it? I think it was Welcome to Rockville, and we got to play a soccer stadium that was densely packed from the whole front of the field, the stands, everything. It was just wild. It was one of those-

Evan Ball:
Where was this?

Joey Bradford:
It was in Columbus, Ohio, at a soccer stadium at Welcome to Rockville, and it was just wild. We were in our dressing room most of the day we had been doing a bunch of festivals, so I hadn't even walked on stage. The band hadn't even walked out to see where we were playing. We're just like, "Oh, another festival. This would be awesome. Probably a few thousand kids, will be super cool," and we put our ears on getting ready, jamming in the dressing room and it's time to go. We walk up to the stage and we're like, what the hell are we playing right now? There's 35,000 people here, densely packed, ready for us to play.

Evan Ball:
Oh, man.

Joey Bradford:
There's massive stage, full film crew, the whole thing, and the whole band, even having done this all our whole lives, we all had a panic attack real quick. It was like, "Okay, we're going to be fine. Let's go do this." And the sense starts and the energy's through the roof, and that was just one of those shows where it's hard to explain how that feels. It's like, man, just a sea of people and you can literally see a wave of happening in the crowd, and on our song Taste of Ink we have a spot where the band cuts out and the whole crowd will sing the lyrics back to us, and there's a different effect when you do that and you have 25, 35,000 people all singing that lyric back to you, it's just like, Oh shit![crosstalk 00:48:09]

Evan Ball:
Oh, I'm sure.

Joey Bradford:
You [inaudible 00:48:11] forget to keep playing the song.

Evan Ball:
The song that gets the biggest reaction for you guys, when you play live?

Joey Bradford:
There's a few that people go really, really hard to, but that song, I think that's 'the one.' People know about the break and the live set, and they're excited to sing that one line, and every time we play that song, the chorus is almost louder from the crowd than our [inaudible 00:48:34] are with what we're playing. And that's one of those trippy things for me with this band. It's like, man I have so many young memories attached to this song. So getting to play it from this perspective is... what a wild thing.

Evan Ball:
Yeah. I bet. Do you have a worst gig ever?

Joey Bradford:
Yes. I wouldn't say it's the worst because-

Evan Ball:
honorable mention.

Joey Bradford:
Yeah, there we go. So we played a show in Oklahoma, man it might've been on that same tour, to be honest, now that I think about it, but it was a festival. It was the last show of the tour in Oklahoma, and we played after the Colt and we were playing right before A Perfect Circle who was headlining the show. So there was 15,000 kids, a flat grass spot and we're on song two or three of the set, like halfway through the song, and my guitar cuts out, just gone, nothing, no guitar, and I'm the only guitar player in the band. So at this point it's like, Oh cool. The drums and the bass and the vocals are continuing to go in front of all these people and there's no guitar.

Joey Bradford:
And I'm looking around at everything, my pedal board, my heads, my guitar techs, freaking out, running all over the stage. It's now long enough to where our drum tech runs over from the other side of the stage. He's trying to figure out what's going on. It was a full minute of no guitar. The show must go on, we never stop keep playing the song kind of thing, and the song ends, everyone in the band's frustrated like, "What's going on, dude? Last show of the tour, come on." Burt's talking to the crowd as long as he can, and at this point it's been like three, four minutes of silence on stage. So then Burt's just like fuck this, we're going into the next song. So he just starts singing Tastes of Ink, which is our 'the song.'

Joey Bradford:
He's just like, "I don't care. We don't need the music. You guys know the song, right?" And just start singing it, and at that point I took my guitar off and set it down and I got on the mic and Burt and I just wailed that whole song, acapella, like as loud as we could, and the whole crowd was singing back to us. It turned from this is my nightmare to, this may be the coolest moment in the band so far. So I wouldn't call it the worst show ever, but it was like, Holy crap, how could this have gone wrong in front of so many people? And it felt like how unprofessional, and then for Burt to have the mind space to just say, you know what, we're here to entertain these people. They don't give if there's guitar, they want to hear the song. Let's go and it turned into a really special moment.

Evan Ball:
That's awesome. You did it.

Joey Bradford:
Yeah.

Evan Ball:
What's the phrase, turn lemons into lemonade?

Joey Bradford:
Absolutely. Yeah. There was plenty of sugar in the lemonade. It tasted delightful.

Evan Ball:
Fantastic. All right. I got one more question.

Joey Bradford:
Yeah.

Evan Ball:
What is your favorite set of guitars strings?

Joey Bradford:
Oh my God. Ernie Ball, where we got 10 to 48s, 11 to 52s, heavy bottom. All of them. I mean[crosstalk 00:51:32]

Evan Ball:
Do you move around gauges?

Joey Bradford:
I move around gauges. I play six different tunings live with this band. Six different[crosstalk 00:51:39] Legendary Tim Dove keeping me laced up. He probably just hasn't been on speed dial now, because I hit him up so often, but I'm all over the place with gauges. Some of the tunings, I prefer some heavier gauges on the lower strings and all the tunings for the most part, we play in a drop version of it. Drop C-sharp, drop C, drop A-sharp. There's so many, but they're all dropped. But for some reason, some of the lower tunings, I really have to beef stuff up and with like drop D, I can play a somewhat standard gauge set of strings and still feels really good on the guitar, but these new Ernie Ball music man stingray RS's that I have now exclusively playing have also-

Evan Ball:
Oh, I didn't get the memo. You're playing a stingray.

Joey Bradford:
Oh my God. I love them. I'm fully laced up now, and they're incredible instruments.

Evan Ball:
What color do you have?

Joey Bradford:
I have five different colors.

Evan Ball:
Oh, there you go. Well, you've got six different tunings so.

Joey Bradford:
Yeah, dude, I've been hooked up and all my dream guitars do, and these necks are incredible. I got the block Berlin lays on all of them. All of them have matching head box. I got a couple of black. I did one of the stealth black and we put all gold hardware on it and that is [crosstalk 00:53:03] loving it.

Evan Ball:
All right, Joey Bradford, thanks for being on the podcast.

Joey Bradford:
[inaudible 00:53:09] Appreciate you having me. Love it.

Evan Ball:
Thanks for tuning in to Striking a Chord and Ernie Ball podcast, and thanks to Joey Bradford for sharing his story. If you'd like to contact us, please email strikingacord@ernieBall.com.

Joey Bradford:
Punk Rock music is what really got me excited about playing guitar, and I just wanted to write those aggressive like mean heavy gained rifts. That was my first love.

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