I was fortunate enough to see Ottawa’s THE SUICIDE PILOTS last month. Totally amazing snotty, snippy, snide punk rock with definite political slant. They’ve just released an excellent CD, “The War On Satire,” and I’ll have a review of that shortly. What follows is a bit of a chat I had with the band. Pics from the Hamilton Common Cause Benefit by Hailey Edge:
I know you guys released a demo and had a track on the Rock Against Harper compilation… any other recordings available or forthcoming?
Mr. Winky: We have a full length due out in April which we put a lot of work into – we feel it is incredible. It also reflects transitions in the band and our thinking about certain issues. Half the songs feature our old bass player, Spazzo, and half the songs feature our new bass player, who happens to be me, Mr. Winky. All the songs are quite critical of state politics and the status quo.
NaCl: Well, beyond the aforementioned full-length (The War on Satire) that Winky’s plugging – no. Not yet, anyways. Although we’re trying our best to churn out them boot-stompin’ tunes, it takes time. We’ve thrown our best works from the last (and first!) two years of our existence into W.O.S., and it’ll be a bit before we have another offering of similar beefiness to immortalize on… something. That said, what we’re doing now compared to even two months ago when W.O.S. was being finished – I’m pretty damned excited to see what comes out next time we record.
The always objective National Post described The Suicide Pilots thusly: “Musically, The Suicide Pilots sound like your average punk group – loud, crunchy guitars, three chord progressions, scream-o vocals, etc. The production values are surprisingly decent, but the songs are terrible.” An accurate description?!
bones: At least they called us loud!!!!!! Our singer NaCL has been called a lot of things, but never scream-o!!! Really, we think it’s great that those shitbags at the National Post do not appreciate our music – we would have to seriously reconsider our project if a bunch of fart-catching, war-mongering, yuppies identified with our message. The National Post (and dominant society more generally) tend to dismiss, and\or ignore most forms of political expression that don’t buy into, or conform to, the very narrow values of our rapacious consumer culture. The corporate media is a perfect example of this. All you get are reports about bullshit capital P – politics and discussions of bullshit activism (like that sac-of-shit Bono, or buying crap to “save Africa”, or Kyoto and other green capitalist bullshit, etc. etc.!). Not to mention the waves and waves of SPORTS!, crappy de-politicized (anti-political) music, or celebrity fetishisms, and most notably, advertisements! The corporate media has very little content that is critical of larger, structural issues. That is why we need to create our own collectively-run spaces – indymedia, social centres, house venues, real garden/growing space, record labels with integrity, etc. The Post thinks our “songs are terrible” because we explicitly reject all of the values they stand for. So, we are very happy not fitting in with that!
Mr. Winky: As far as our song writing is concerned, we’re trying to break through the standard song and chord progression that a lot of punk rawk is based on… some might find our sound off the mark. We are pulling in stuff from early 50s rock and blues riffs, a lot of different textures with the vocals, we’re trying to do something different with song writing, which is always a bit risky. If people don’t like it, that is too bad, but we are not writing music to fulfill the expectations of others.
NaCl: …You know, I still carry that picture of bones at the press conference around in my pocket. I think the next SP album should come with a Free Monaghan action figure. You could sharpie the beard on, and voila! Anarcho-bones!
Oh. Sorry. Their description? I’m happy enough with it – not like it’s ever going to be relevant to us. …Although being described as “screamo” does sting a bit. Punk’s always had an abrasive edge to it; almost as if it was designed to grate on the nerves of your parents, teachers, jerks you hate & conservative columnists. We’ve offended the eardrums of the petty pundits, mission accomplished. In the end, what I think it really came down to was not even so much an honest critique of a fledgling punk outfit; rather, it was the N.P. grasping at straws in a drawn-out assassination piece. It came through in the photos used, the whole tone of it.
Some people like us, some people hate us. Don’t rely on major papers to do punk rock justice, especially when it somehow involves national scandal.
The band seems to have played a fair number of benefits, including one for Books To Prisoners, and would seem to be a ‘socially-conscious’ outfit… any particular message you are trying to get across or cause you’re touting?
Mr. Winky: We are all really involved in various projects in our communities, but the Pilots don’t really have any particular message. It would be fair to say that we are interested in re-exploring the link between anarchism and punk music. Sometimes a focus on organized resistance gets lost in punk music, and the end result is thoroughly nihilistic.
bones: Punk music has a very proud anti-authoritarian history, we’re happy to contribute to that. As far as Books to Prisoners goes, we’re all members of the group so getting the benefit gig was more convenience than politics! Our real commitment at B2P isn’t to perform – although performing is really fun! The B2P benefit was in support of the Security Certificate 5 – five muslim men that have been held without trial, charges, or a chance to review the evidence against them, all under the guise of fighting “terrorism.” Mohamed Harket is one of those men and he’s currently under house arrest in Ottawa, so that is an important struggle to work with. B2P hosted another benefit last fall (at which the Pilots didn’t play!) to support the legal costs of a Stop Huntington Animal Cruelty group based primarily in Montreal. They have been targeted with a series of really fucked up charges and on-going harassment because of their animal liberation campaign. Again, it’s a really important struggle that we’re actively supporting – whether it’s through punk rock or organizing.
NaCl: This one’s been hit pretty well on the head by the others, but I’ll chime in.
We’ve all been involved in activism of varying shades, politics, conciousness-raising, benefits, actions, protests, hippy-dippy pipe dreams, militant aspirations and all form of gender-bending, boat-rocking mindfuckery… It’s all been a part of our lives for so long (and still it goes) that you can’t let these struggles & passions go – and why would you, when you’ve such a nice little soapbox to stand on? Music’s got it’s own virtues, sure – but it makes a damn fine medium. As for particular causes, between the lot of us we probably represent a sizable list. It comes out in the music, it’s an inextricable part of it, but neither part overwhelms the other – our lyrics range from vaguely allegorical to directly applicable. I kinda like the freedom that affords, as a writer and as a professional screamer-of-words.
So, sounds like you guys are keeping pretty busy in Ottawa. Any big plans for the near or not-so-near future?
Peter Pants: Yeah, you could say that. We’ve got a big CD release party planned for April 12th at the Dominion Tavern in Ottawa. Playing with us will be local sensations The Sewer Rats and Critical Convictions, both really great bands. We’re also hitting the road in late May, heading first out to the East Coast and then looping back to southern Ontario in early June. Definitely looking forward to rolling into the ‘Hammer for a big show on June 21st, especially after the great time we had on March 1st playing the Common Cause benefit! Other than the CD and the tour, hmmm… We’ll be hosting a series of shows at Fort Argyle in Ottawa over the summer. The Fort is kind of our homebase – it is where we played our first shows and where we’ve been practicing for the past two years. Unfortunately, the entire row of houses is slated for development and everyone is getting kicked out, which totally sucks because those 6 homes were affordable and have housed hundreds of lives and happenings over the years. Anyways, we’re calling it the “Burning Down The Fort” series.