"With digital music, the “skip” button is right there, so people will listen to two or three songs on an album and make their decision about the album after that. I think the record medium itself was an artform. I truly believe that." - Tony Sly


The Inertia

Before the current barrage of seasoned punk rockers tried their hand at acoustic music, Tony Sly, frontman for fabled punk act No Use For a Name (NUFAN), forged a path into the genre alongside Lagwagon’s Joey Cape with 2004’s Acoustic, a split record that featured unplugged arrangements of hit songs by NUFAN and Lagwagon. Following up on the record’s popularity, the duo decided to revisit the original concept earlier this year with the release of Acoustic Vol. 2, which features several reinvented classics from each musician’s respective band, along with two new original tracks recorded exclusively for the album.  I recently sat down for a conversation with Tony Sly to discuss the new record, tour riders, parenthood and NUFAN’s most memorable fan moment.

Corey: I understand you chose the songs for Acoustic Vol. 2 by letting fans vote for the songs on your Facebook page.  If you could have chosen the songs yourself, what would you have done differently?

Tony:  You know, it’s so weird, the fans chose different songs [than what I would have].  I didn’t really want to do “Chasing Rainbows” because everyone always calls it out when I’m doing shows and I’ve never really figured out a way to play it solo, so I kind of just did it in this strange Johnny Cash style.  I’ll do it live probably but it’ll be hard without people filling in the other instruments.  I’ll probably have Joey do the shaker. (laughs)

Have you ever considered putting out an acoustic album consisting entirely of NUFAN material as opposed to splitting a record with another artist?

Well, it’s just that [Joey and I] did a split in 2004, so we just decided to do it again.  I don’t know about Joey but people always think of me as a late comer to the solo thing – like “Oh you’re just doing the acoustic thing because everybody else is.”  Well, I think Joey and I’s record in 2004 was more of a solo thing.  It’s almost like we started [the trend].  I mean, we didn’t.  But it’s almost like we did. (laughs)

How do you approach song arrangements when translating songs from their original versions to their acoustic versions?

If a song is good, it’s going to be good acoustic. It’s going to be really good acoustic.  A good song is going to sound better acoustic than it will with a band.

Really?

Yeah, and I think that’s because you notice the nuances of the melody more than you would if you had to hear a bunch of cymbals and guitar and bass covering it up.  You really notice how good the song actually is.  Like the Foo Fighters…the acoustic version of that one song…

Oh, “Everlong”?

Yeah, “Everlong.”  It’s so much better acoustic than it is with the band.  Well, maybe it doesn’t sound “better” that way because, I mean, it is a rock song.  But you definitely notice how good it really is.

Since you brought up the Foo Fighters, tell me about [current Foo Fighters guitarist] Chris Shiflett, who was in your band for close to five years.  What did he bring to NUFAN that other guitarists haven’t?  Do you guys still keep in touch?

He’s just one of those natural guys, one of those “ringers”, you know?  He listens and plays by ear – all ear.  He has an incredible sense of hearing.  He’s a guy that can jump in and play with any band.  The first time he played with us, it was like “Ok, we’re playing our songs with this guy who is better than everybody else…” (laughs)  I still keep in touch with him when I can.  He’s a busy guy.  He does his solo thing when he’s not doing Foo Fighters stuff.  I don’t know if he does [Me First and the Gimme] Gimmes stuff anymore.  But yeah, we exchanged a few emails and did some acoustic shows together in 2010.

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  • marcellius

    Its so strange that he was talking about death, 3 days before he died :(

  • oldfriend

    Tony Sly truly had a way with words. Seems like he could make any conversation interesting. And the honesty he had was so captivating. Haven’t spoke to him for many years…but still greatly saddened that he is gone.

  • little acorn

    Tony Sly was a man of truth & amazing lyric. His reality was so easy to identity with. He is someone I will always admire and miss.