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Jon Caspi Talks About New Version of "Raise 'Em High", New Beer, and New Label

By Gary Wien

originally published: 09/23/2022

Jon Caspi Talks About New Version of "Raise

On September 23, 2022, New Jersey punk/americana rock outfit Jon Caspi & The First Gun shared a new version of their fan favorite barroom sing-along song, “Raise ‘Em High!”, featuring Jesse Malin on vocals, and Dez Cadena (known from Black Flag and The Misfits) on guitar. The band also announced a new EP titled, Raise 'Em High! and other delights, which will feature the new version of the song. It will be released on October 14 via Fake Chapter Records. The single will also be coming out as a 7" in March, 2023.

"I'm blown away by all the momentum behind the song. We originally released the first version in 2013 and it just keeps getting bigger and bigger. Now we have this new release with Jesse and Dez and a label and even a Raise 'Em High! Beer with our band name on it, it's crazy!"

“Raise ‘Em High!” was originally released almost a decade ago on the band’s 2013 album Sucker, and quickly became a staple of their live shows. A couple of years ago, legendary WFMU DJ, Jonesey (Sundays from 12:00pm-3:00pm), chose “Raise ‘Em High!" as his official 2:00pm toast song which has increased the band’s fanbase and is at the center of a large Facebook group where folks post selfies of themselves toasting each other to the song. One of Jonesey’s listeners just so happens to be legendary rock singer-songwriter, Jesse Malin.

In 2017, Dez Cadena became a fan and friend of the band, soon joining them on tour and in the studio recording new material.

“‘Raise 'Em High!’ is a testimony to friendship and the friendship which Jon Caspi & The First Gun has brought to me,” says Cadena. “I am fortunate to be blessed with this. Also, it's like waking with morning wood. When I first started playing with Jon Caspi & The First Gun, ‘Raise 'Em High!’ was probably the second song they showed me after another I recorded with them. I thought it was a fantastic song. It's an anthem for underdogs, like my beloved Mets."

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Due to the song’s new momentum, on September 24, 2022, Alternate Ending Beer Co. is releasing a beer called Raise ‘Em High!, and the mayor of Aberdeen will sign a proclamation making it the official beer of Aberdeen Day. The band will be playing a show at Alternate Ending Beer Co. in Aberdeen on September 24 to celebrate.  The band is also releasing a "live in the studio" full-length album The Studio 650 Session on streaming services, which will be available to buy at the show.

The members of First Gun are: Jimmie Mizell (drums), Doug Lane (bass), Pete Jager (guitar), Bob Bailey-Lemansky (keyboards), and the ringer when called up, Dez Cadena (guitar).

New Jersey Stage reached out to Jon Caspi to learn more about the band's latest news.

Congrats on all of the recent news.  What led you to sign with Fake Chapter Records?  

The guitarist in my band, Pete Jager, played in fairly successful punk band called Dodgeball in the late 90's early 2000's. Fake Chapter put out a 7" with them  so Pete knew of them and thought they'd be a good place to reach out to regarding this new release and they were excited to partner with us. We liked them because of the prior relationship and because they have distribution in the U.S. and in Europe.  


What does a label do for you that wasn't being done before? Or does it just make things easier on you and the whole distribution/promotion process?

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It makes things a lot easier. They take care of assembling all the pieces and putting a solid project together. There are so many details in a release. It's nice knowing someone is taking care of it. Especially, someone who has been doing it for a long time and knows how to do it right.  Plus, they do have distribution for their artists, which helps get the product out.  

Could you ever believe the legacy of "Raise 'em High"?  Between DJ Jonesey and now the beer, it's had a life of its own.  Did you ever imagine a beer named off one of your songs? 

No, it's still hard to believe!  Since we released it in 2013, the song has always garnered the most attention, but it has taken off in ways I could never have imagined. Jonesey choosing it as the song to play every week for his 2:00pm toast, Alternate Ending Brewery putting out the beer inspired by the track, Jesse Malin knowing the tune and agreeing to be on it. It's crazy!  We also have national radio and press campaigns coming up due to the song. I am looking forward to seeing where this ride takes us. Hopefully, it's not a short ride! 


Tell me a little about the "live in the studio" album.  Any unreleased tracks on it?

Right before COVID hit, we recorded ourselves doing our set live in our studio (650 Studios in Hazlet).  We didn't think we'd put it out. It was more for us. A snapshot of what we were doing and what we sounded like at the time.  But, it ended up sounding pretty good. It's live and so it's there warts and all. No edits.  We did more covers than usual that night so the album has some Black Flag, a Misfits track, and even a Greg Kihn song.  But, it's a "greatest hits" of what we were doing at the time...with the exception of Raise 'Em High! because we didn't want two different versions coming out at the same time. Too confusing!

Fake Chapter will be releasing a digital ep of new materials in October.  Any plans for them to release a full-length sometime?

The release is a 5 song EP which includes Raise Em High! (ft Jesse Malin & Dez Cadena) and a song we released in early September called Watching You. The other three are previously unreleased.  We're not sure what the future holds. My guess is that multiple EPs is more likely than a full-length. It seems to be a fading format... even though we have Studio 650 Sessions coming out and that has 11 tracks.


Finally, I'm assuming The First Gun is the longest band you've ever been a part of.  What's been the secret of the band's longevity?

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Ha! This is an interesting question. It is absolutely the longest band. I think it's a combination of things. First, when my last band broke up in 2002, I felt like I had to start over again. People and booking agents knew the band, they didn't know me. So I decided I would use my own name moving forward to keep consistency despite member changes. This of course changes the band dynamic from an egalitarian democracy to a band with one clear leader. I actually think that has a lot to do with the success. Everyone in the band has gotten behind my vision and supports what I do. If they disagree, it's cool, we just talk about it and often I change my mind. Push comes to shove and I get the last say in everything but also most of the work falls to me. That said, my bandmates are all super nice guys and help out a ton. So, I really don't do all the the Pete hooking us up with Fake Chapter Records.  Second, twe are older now and less intense than when we were younger. I think everyone has good perspective about what we are doing. Also, no one in my band is a problem child. All great people.

Gary Wien has been covering the arts since 2001 and has had work published with Jersey Arts, Upstage Magazine, Elmore Magazine, Princeton Magazine, Backstreets and other publications. He is a three-time winner of the Asbury Music Award for Top Music Journalist and the author of Beyond the Palace (the first book on the history of rock and roll in Asbury Park) and Are You Listening? The Top 100 Albums of 2001-2010 by New Jersey Artists. In addition, he runs New Jersey Stage and the online radio station The Penguin Rocks. He can be contacted at



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