10
Apr
09

AN INTERVIEW WITH THE SUICIDE PILOTS

Here’s an interview with a band that ‘s been heralded on this blog more than once…check the previous entries for more on THE  SUICIDE PILOTS. Thanks to Stephe and the crucial Exqualizing X Distort radio show/zine for sliding this my way.

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THE SUICIDE PILOTS are from Ottawa and have an interesting history outside of the band. They were in Toronto on June 7th and stuck around to do an interview for EXD. Interview by Stephe.  

Introduce yourselves and tell us what you do in the band ?

Bones (B): My name is Bones and I play drums.

Kev (K): I’m Kev. I play bass.

Peter (P): My name is Peter Pants and I play guitar.

Nacl (N): I’m Nacl and I holler.

How long has the SUICIDE PILOTS been around for ?

N: About two years, I think.

And how did the SUICIDE PILOTS form?

B: Well, Pete was the original member and he was jamming with some folks under the name; there was one practice …and then we ran into Nacl. Pete and I lived together.

P: Well, you have been in it as long as I have been in it.

B: Well I thought you had that one jam that one time.

P: Oh yeah.

B: That was when the name was born. The band wasn’t really born yet, not until we started using Fort Argyle (where NaCl lived) as a jam space in December. Our first show was January 5th, 2006.

N: We waited a paltry month before hitting the stage.

B: With our first five shitty songs.

N: It was fantastic.

B: No,  it was a great start.

P: Yeah it was great. 61 Argyle. Basement show. Across from the police station.

Any altercations ?

P: Never. They don’t want to come over and cause any trouble.

N: You have to keep the windows closed on the side facing because apparently the sound will reverberate on the glass windows of the police station and it creates a big sounding box in the lobby…. So after 11:00pm they are there right away with noise complaints.

From themselves. What was the idea behind the SUICIDE PILOTS when you first started to form ? Was there a type of band that you wanted to start ?

N: Myself ? No. I had been in a punk rock band years prior, and I had taken a really straight forward approach to song writing and singing. There was a lot more screaming and it was fun and there was a bunch of energy in it, but I wanted to hit the stage again.

Did you want to try and do something different ?

N: Yeah, exactly!. Live the life of a has been, and experiment at the same time. The SUICIDE PILOTS was that big out for me. Awesome people. Awesome politics. You couldn’t ask for much more.

What about the rest of you ?

P: Our group of friends came up with the idea. I think Bones actually came up with the idea of the name even if he wasn’t part of the first folks to jam. But that first jam wasn’t really anything but a one-off. Bones and I got together with Nacl a couple of years ago, we all thought the name was cool. We had a lot of good ideas surrounding the imagery we wanted to use and wrote some songs. It wasn’t really that difficult of a concept for us. We were just fucking around and having a good time.

B: We never really had any specific designs for sound. But the sound that we have has just kind of grown out of jamming and writing songs together. We would like to think that it is old done new. It is an old school classic sound just with a bit of a new twist.

N: That’s what I like about this – we never actually set out with anything in mind of what we were going to sound like. Things just happened organically. I’ll talk like a hippy for a second, say “it just happened”. We sound like we do by chance, as opposed to really shooting for a particular genre.

It does sound like it came together organically. And it does sound like a renaissance sound if you will for lack of a better term. I do want to discuss sound a little more. I want to ask about previous bands first. Was anyone else in previous bands ?

N: I was in a previous band under the auspice of DISGRUNTLED. I guess there is a DISGRUNTLED in Montreal. We are pre that DISGRUNTLED. We were mid-90’s Ottawa. We played a couple of shows in Sarnia and Toronto, just kind of puttered about southern Ontario for about six years. That was my brush with punk rock. It was fun. We played every week back when Ottawa had a really powerful thriving all ages scene, but lack of venues has kind of nixed that lately, though house shows are making a resurgence.

K: I played in a band called VOID. We toured around Canada a couple of times. We have four albums. I used to play in a band called the JUNIOR PANTHERS. They suck a lot of face.

B: Literally and metaphorically. I have never played in another band. I have just been a music geek all my life.

P: I was the drummer in a band called the MATT RAY EXPERIENCE back in grade 9. Matt Ray is a blues … well, he plays everything. He is the best stringed instrument player in the world. Other than that, not much. Just puttering around with different things.

We talked briefly about the band name. Can you tell me where the SUICIDE PILOTS name came from ? And why the name ? It seems to have a 9-11 reference.

B: I think that some of the artistic contributions I’ve made and the imagery that we play with is explicitly meant to question the whole “war on terror” and the dominant culture that plays into it. There is so much going on that doesn’t question the ridiculous notion of the “war on terror” and it’s permeating everything. It’s permeating cops, it’s permeating employment measures, and all the kinds of surveillance and the real reactionary politics and the rise of the right and real conservative ideas that are playing out everywhere. Racism is on the rise…

Through the use of fear largely.

B; It’s a lot of fear. It’s a lot of bigotry. It’s being played out everywhere. So we’re four white kids, myself from an affluent background, coming out and taking a good shot at the system and the dominant culture. Doing it in Ottawa – it’s a bit of a stale shirt and tie town – so its good to get out there and wear a t-shirt that’s got a happy-face plane flying into the most sacred cow of Ottawa’s social atmosphere and culture [the “peace” tower]. It’s good to take a shot at the nose of Ottawa.

So I understand you have gotten some flack from officials like the federal police. Can you tell me a little bit about what happened and what’s the deal. Like I read that there is a story about the cover of the CD with the plane flying into the Parliament Building. What’s the deal ? What happened ?

P: Basically Bones got some information back …

N: …. On an ATIP, an Access to Information request. We did an Access to information request on some previous shit that we had been tagged with and we got back that there had been a 182 page report printed detailing the band, its politics, and Bone’s involvement in the band and his politics. It is strange. I don’t know exactly where it came from. I can understand briefly looking into the imagery, but it’s a punk rock band. It’s satire and the fact that this was a huge deal, I mean it took hundreds of man hours to do this.

182 pages is nothing you put together over night.

N: Nope. It had been shared through INSET which I understand is a North America-wide network of security organizations. This has potentially gone everywhere. We did find out it was eventually tagged with “No further action required. Cancelled here.” So they have kind of left it alone, but the fact that it went that far before it got cancelled…. all over the fact that there are some anarchists in town that don’t like Stephen Harper and are using inflammatory imageries. Surprise.

So did that lead to the name of the CD release “War on Satire” ? Is that a reference to this?

N: No. The name “War on Satire” came long before this. Yet again I have to bounce that back to Bones because that was your brainchild.

B: That was just another wordplay on a “war on terror”. The important part about the INSET spying goes way beyond us, we’re just one band. This huge bloated security network that has happened since 9-11 has given the rationale to give all kinds of resources and money to the police to spy on people. We just found out that it happened to us. There doesn’t seem to be any kind of regulation or accountability for these spies, because INSET is a spy agency. We have a domestic spy agency in CSIS but INSET was created so that the RCMP and the police would have a spy agency so they could be spy cops and not just spies. Who knows what they are doing ? This is just one little glimpse into the world of INSET. Our lawyer when he saw the file, and he has been working …he is a pretty awesome activist lawyer in Ottawa and he has been working on security certificates …he has been working on the [Abousfian] Abdelrazik case who is a Canadian citizen of Sudanese dual citizenship who is being left in exile in Sudan. We’re not allowing him back in the country. He is one of the first examples of a Canadian citizen being exiled. Anyways, he’s working on all of this and he has never seen one of these files. We are one of the first times to see some of these internal “Person of Interest” spy files and it was completely generated because they saw artists who were challenging the state, giving a good kick-back, and [the result is] they feed this information into “intelligence” networks and who knows what happens to it.

Hasn’t the access to information request process been restricted now ? I heard something on the CBC where requests for access to information that they are just not even going to get to. I don’t know if you know anything about this. I just think that you are kind of lucky to even get an access to information request, which seems to me to suggest that it has even gotten worse in terms of restricting information.

B: Sure. We are not experts in the area. Wib and I have done a few things here and there. All I keep seeing is that the government is getting more and more secretive and more and more centralized and more and more authoritarian and I don’t think that is a product of conservative government. I am sure the Liberals would have gotten away with it too. They are just using these kind of rationales of need for security and playing on the culture of fear to lock down more and more stuff.

And it seems like once they have lots of money in one area they have to justify why they have it to keep it around.

N: Police budgets keep swelling every year and the money has got to go somewhere… so they need to make more work So why not start spying on activists and artists? They show up at protests and make noise and raise the rabble. If we have been targeted, anyone else can. It sounds paranoid, and before this report I would have been tempted to dismiss it as a bit out there but no it totally happens.

I wanted to stretch the paranoia envelop a little bit further and ask you, Bones about your association with the government leak. Were you involved with the leak for the environment thing ?

B: Alleged. Yes.

Can you tell me a bit more about that ?

B: Well, I was a temp worker working for a temp agency part time at Environment Canada. They alleged that I leaked a document on my last day of work. They marched me out in handcuffs. Got the jack boots in there, sent out a press release. It was totally unprecedented, saying “blah blah blah” and the media ran with the anarchism punk rock thing.

So do you think this is a continuation to try and scapegoat you or badmouth you or stigmatize you ?

B: The spying thing ?

Yes.

B: I don’t think it was some vindictive Stephen Harper plan. I really don’t think he gives a crap about us.

He had a flunky out on you, and that’s all.

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B: Sure – and this entire “war on terror”, security intelligence mega-structure is extremely bloated. This is a good example of how these cops can take a lead off of something, put you through the information databanks, and start “intelligence gathering”. I think it has a lot more to do with that than anything with Environment Canada.

P: The allegations against Bones came first. Then they found out he played in a band and was involved in some activism so that’s where the access to information request ….

Were they collecting this data ?

P: Once they found out what he did with his spare time they started compiling information because we had an on-line presence. That’s the way it goes I guess.

I am curious about the story because we only heard mainstream versions of it. I didn’t realize it was an allegation. I didn’t realize there was trumped up stuff. It is interesting to know that.

B: The real story that the corporate media didn’t catch up with was that the proposed charges were breach of trust, and if you look at the case law on breach of trust these are cases that are against either elected officials or executive level officials that use their power for their own personal gain. So it was totally trumped up. It was manufactured. They picked the charge that would get headlines, sent press releases out to get headlines. It was done as propaganda. The news media didn’t question that in any way. They just thought that the kid is a punk rocker anarchist. He’s guilty. Whatever. They didn’t question the whole process. The whole process was politics. It was propaganda on their part. And the most important thing that I stress to people is that leaking … there is no precedent for going to jail or being charged criminally for leaking. It is not a criminal act. If it was the jails would be full of politicians. That’s what they do. They go around leaking shit all day. That’s their thing. The entire thing is total bullshit.

They leak stuff trying to get coverage or do damage control.

B: Sure. Play their little games.

N: Come election time, they’re always letting plans go to the media in order to build up hype. Nothing new. But – right around the same time –  the PMO’s office was handing down all these gag orders to smaller departments. A great example is how Environment Canada scientists are no longer allowed to speculate or comment on the science of climate change without having their statements run through the PMO’s office. They have to give it the okay …

They seem very guarded.

N: The masters of truth. They have to decide whether it can be passed on. All of this came a few months after this happened. There was a lot of talk about gag orders being handed down, they want a centralized controlled environment. This is the new form of governance now. It is all centralized.

In some ways it reminds me of when Bush was first in power and he was trying to muzzle the media over the Gulf War and he used the phrasing “No More Vietnams”. That was his excuse to muzzle the media. It seems like Harper has taken a cue from the American government in terms of trying to wrangle in the media. Control the access to whatever information they get. I imagine they would print things verbatim because they don’t have good sources within the government that would give them any kind of information so anything they have they will probably just run with it just so they have a story. And they are driven by deadlines and they need a story out by 5:00pm or whatever. I’m not making excuses for them. I think there is a convergence happening that fits in within different power structures. There is a wave of conservatism that is happening in North America. You don’t even have to look past their party lines it is right there. We have talked briefly about this stuff but I want to ask you about subject matter that you guys talk about in your songs because this is external to the band slightly although you guys seem to have become a bit of a target and I think unfairly. Can I ask you about some of the things you sing about in terms of lyrics ? Things that you have written songs about. What are some things you have written about ? I don’t have specific song titles. Do you want a CD to see the song titles.

N: I remember it all. The question is what do I want to talk about ?

In terms of general themes what are some of the things you sing about ? Maybe we could start off with some titles perhaps.

N: Well, we write the songs about 50/50, Bones and I splitting it. We take different tacks on some of the same issues. I can only speak for myself here. We all have politics that are woven in the music – but it shouldn’t be your only place for politics. I can’t avoid singing about things that effect me.

Well I think most punk bands, part of the thing is that the message is inherent in the music.

N: Sadly, not always.

But it should be. You’re right. It isn’t always. I am happy to see a band that is actually expressing themselves using their opportunity to say something with their songs. I’ll give you a song. “Historicide”. What is that about ?

B: In Ottawa, there is quite a bit of work going on around indigenous sovereignty and indigenous rights. Just outside of Kingston there is a land occupation that has been going on for a long time. There is another one down in Brantford at Six Nations. “Historicide” was a word that I heard in a really great radio documentary that I heard out of Halifax’s radio station called “Hoping Against Hope” which came out about a year ago. It basically talked about how colonial cultures like we are in Canada, we have not de-colonized, these kind of colonial and imperial cultures go around and erase the histories of the people that they dominate …. the cultures of the people that you are ultimately killing. It is another form of genocide. Another form of violence against people.

P: Not to mention any form of responsibility for history.

B: It is just representing dominant history. The story of settlers, the story of Europeans, which is the story of Canada, right ? We haven’t de-colonized. We haven’t recognized the fact that we signed peace treaties that we haven’t lived up to, we have stolen land. We still are outright killing the indigenous people who’s land this still is. So we have really as settlers reconciled those things. “Historicide” happens in schools all the time. Its part of mainstream curriculum. Its part of CBC’s programming. It is something we have to come to terms with.

Can I ask you about “Harper Youth” ?

N: “Harper Youth” was written over the expanse of five minutes at a practice. Someone came up with a tune and I fell right into it. It’s simple, it’s fun. It’s a bit of a rallying cry. It’s a mish-mash of ideas and general fears about the rise of conservatism in this country, particularly among the youth. I think there has been a bit of an upswing in the last six years in terms of being critical of the government, especially critical of our own politics. A lot of people moving further to the left and off the political spectrum to wonderful anarchism. Then there are backlashes, people getting incensed with these touchy-feely leftist ideals .

I have seen it particularly in the punk scene.

These kids coming along with this bizarre sense of entitlement… “Here we are! We are going to support the status quo – simply because it is here, it is dominant, therefore it must work.” That serves as their total justification to tow the line and pull others along with them. They are people I have found very hard to argue with because they don’t operate along the same lines of logic. Their logic isn’t even open for discussion on terms other than theirs. They only see simple rights and wrongs, truths and lies. It all depends on which way they are looking at the time.

P: Meanwhile the conservatism is based on exploiting every aspect of our environment and society, the people we share the city and the urban space with. It’s a pretty nasty world that we fall in line to prop up.

N: In the end, to cap it off, its about the fact that there are young people out there, that after all we have been through … even when mainstream media is having trouble glossing over all the shit – that there are people very devoted to perpetuating the status quo and all the mistakes that go along with it … tax cuts and all sorts of strange back doors for industries that aren’t sustainable; operating without question.

…and that ultimately are killing us.

N: Yeah. And it’s scary. It’s a great big “I am scared by the young conservative right” song. They are creepy little buggers.

For sure. “Yuppie scum” ?

N: I wrote that sitting outside of a government building office complex watching people come in & out and park their SUVs. A lot of people who get lost in the rewards system that goes along with wage slavery. Like the middle class is the buffer between the rich and the poor. It’s dangled as that little carrot above your nose – If you make it you can get a house in the suburbs with a pool, and we are going to feed you everything! You’ll get high speed internet, you’ll get a thousand channels on your TV and as long as you work day in, day out, and be a good little cog in the system:  we will give you all the opiates you could possibly want. Life will be heaven on earth. You won’t have to stop and think about it. Shoot up and forget. That’s what it is about.

P: To a certain degree these are the Harper Youth we are talking about. Maybe a little bit older.

B: There are all kinds of folks who fall into this and identify as “progressives”.

N: Some people think “I’ve made a good run of it, I have fought the good fight. I have done my fair share of protests, paid my dues –  but you know what? This is easier, and I really like my couch and my TV and my air conditioner… Hell, if I have this why can’t everybody else?” It’s grossly excessive. It’s going to be interesting in the next couple of years when the middle class explodes out in China where there is huge things going on with copper mining because so many in the Republic want the heavily-marketed, traditional middle-class American lifestyle. The actual hard resources involved in leading this lifestyle are astronomical. We’ve got another hundred million people over there who are wanting to pick up this tremendous footprint and this big wasteful sack of shit life.

B: That certainly isn’t to say that we should be entitled to our footprint and they shouldn’t be entitled to theirs.

N: Oh no. Thank you for covering my ass.

B: Our lifestyle has spun out of control.

“Save or be Severed”.

B: It’s kind of a nerdy song actually.

It sounds like it has religious connotations.

B: Well, it is a song that is inspired by reading too many books. It is about how the major power institutions in our society and in all dominant capitalist liberal societies, the school, the church, the law: they portray themselves as these neutral benevolent institutions. We always talk about how great our schools are, but these things really work in perpetuating dominant capitalist cultures and ideas –  but in doesn’t inculturate ideas of critical thought, challenging authority, not wanting to be in this crazy fucking hierarchy that we have. It is just taking a shot at these quasi-neutral institutions in saying we really need to question these things.

N: They are not neutral. Either you tow the line and spout the doctrine and pass the bar or you question it and you’re off on the side.

I am going to ask you know to single out a song from a lyrical standpoint and tell me why you like it ?

B: The song “The Parade of the Old and the New” is an adaptation of a Brecht poem called “Parade of the Old and New”. It’s very poetic. It is an awesome poem. We saw it and we said we need to make this into a song. Wib describes it the best way with a dark and dynamic song. It’s a real treat to me.

Who wants to go next ?

P: I think my favourite song from the lyrics is “Raise” because Al just really fucking throws it down in that song –  especially at the end with the thing you do.

N: The ramble?

P: It is really good. And he has this high scream in the song,  you know what I mean ?

Like a falsetto scream.

P: I think the lyrical content is awesome but I really like the delivery. That’s what really does it for me.

N: It’s one of our really positive “you can do it – stop wasting time” kind of songs. I have a lot of favourites. I would probably go with the one that I most recently wrote. It’s not on the album but we played it tonight. That’s “Nameless”. It had a name, it got lost, we named it again, it got lost again. “Nameless” kind of sticks and it fits in a way in that it is similar topically to another song called “Hand in Mouth”. It’s about getting lost in wage slavery and just going through life in this absolute haze as the stress is building and building,  and we are not sure where to put it. There is an urge to bust out and smash something. To destroy. At the same time to channel into something positive otherwise you are going to tear yourself down. That’s it. It is nice, thick, and heavy around the middle. And it has an interesting flow.

K: I like “Parade” as well.

I wanted to go back to influences. Musical influences. Who do you consider influences on the band ? You were talking about older stuff, but you never really mentioned anything. I can hear lots of different things in your music. I could start it off but I would rather hear from you guys.

N: I think this would be best answered by a little bit of each member because the way we write songs is that each member comes in with their own influences.

So what do you come in with ?

N: I hate to say it, but the KENNEDYS was a major influence. Not just for the vocal stylings. I have been told I sound like him a bit.

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You do sound a lot like Jello.

N: It is one of those things that came out. I didn’t intend it. I spent most of my time screaming and when I finally started singing, I warbled and it stuck. If there was anything I’d really want to lift from DK, it’s what I really can’t replicate: the wit and the absolute lack of fear in poking holes where they need to be poked.

He was fearless. He called a lot of people on their shit.

N: Calling people on their shit is great. NO MEANS NO is another huge influence for me. Biafra, NO MEANS NO and ….

NO MEANS NO were on the intelligent side of things with the “Read a Book” slogan.

N: After that probably David Byrne would top off the third because he always had an interesting take on things. He approached things from a really bizarre angle.

So people are getting you then. You were saying that you heard someone compare you to David Byrne.

N: I like to feel that it is unjustified but that made me feel good. I feel warm and fuzzy when people make the Biafra comparison, but I also worry because I don’t want to be perceived as just harping on a really well established punk rock style, but it’s not a style.

It’s not.

N: It is so different.

So many people haven’t been able to do it. You do it well though.

P: I think my favourite band is the CLASH. I listen to them all the time. Almost every day.

Do you listen to bands like the MINUTEMEN?

P: No.

GANG OF FOUR ?

P: No. I’m not really well versed in punk music.

Because I hear a crunching guitar sound that plays with … MINUTEMEN have a sort of a jazz fusion kind of thing. There is an openness to it.

P: I really like bands like the STOOGES. That album “Raw Power” with IGGY POP is pretty fuckin’ awesome. I’m a big fan of JOHNNY CASH. I listen to a lot of country music actually. A lot of blues music too.

A lot of punk people are coming out saying JOHNNY CASH was an influence these days.

P: Yeah well that fuckin’ movie came out and ruined it for everybody.

B: For all the authentic fans like Pete. I asked Pete if he liked the movie and he was like “Awwww”.

P: It was good but it was a romantic film.

B: He was like ‘all these people like JOHNNY CASH now.’

N: Same thing with JOY DIVISION and Ian Curtis. You can’t talk about him anymore because he has become so popular.

B: Because people watched the movie and now know the band.

N: The movie nicely illustrated that he was kind of a dick and he was only so eloquent because that was the only place anything ever came out – in his lyrics. Otherwise he was a closed mouth little knob who kind of shuffled through life.

P: I am also a big fan of the WU TANG CLAN.

N: I actually was… don’t joke about that.

P: No, I’m not. “36 Chambers” is probably one of the best albums of all time.

K: In Carrot River there was a jukebox and it had Merle Haggard and Willie Nelson on it. I have never owned any records or CDs or tapes. I never really listened to music much except for Merle Haggard and Willie Nelson.

Because of the jukebox.

K: Yeah.

B: And Kevin can do some of the most solid covers ever heard. In fact, on the karaoke machine Kevin is the best star outside of the Elvis clubs in Las Vegas.

N: Before we lost our acoustic guitar in Trois-Rivieres, Kevin and Pete were our entertainment – belting out old country songs.

B: I wouldn’t call it entertainment. I would call it a headache in the back of the van.

N: Torture for some, entertainment for others. Your  reaction to it was amusement enough.

B: Yeah. That’s why they kept playing.

Okay Bones what do you bring to it in terms of sound ?

B: All of my records are old ones. I can’t keep up with the kids anymore. Every song I write sounds like DOA in my head and then Al makes it sound good.

DOA were good.

B: No. I love DOA. They were probably the most influential politicizing band on me. I would say in terms of influence right now is SKARPRETTER.

Oh yeah, from Denmark.

B: Danish band associated with the Ungdomshuset squat so they grew out of that. They have an amazingly crisp straight forward punk rock sound. All their lyrics are about fighting fascists and fighting cops.

Yeah. With good reason.

B: Their politics are awesome. Their artwork is awesome. All their tracks are downloadable on-line. You can actually print out the cover and the lyrics. Too many bands are protecting their copyright or being propertarians with myspace and stuff like that. And as someone who hosts a radio show and someone is coming to town and you go to their myspace site and you can’t even download their music to play it is one of the most ridiculously frustrating things.

Especially because when punk first started out tape trading was okay because everything was so rare that people were fine with it. It was more flattering that you got heard.

B: SKARPRETTER are just awesome.

As a band I want you to limit a collection of five punk releases.

B: That we would take with us as a band ?

Yes.

P: We won’t count our own CD.

B: How about PROPAGANDHI ?

P: Some PROP. I would think that DOA would have to be in there too.

B: I would have BAD RELIGION “Suffer” in there. BAD RELIGION nowadays totally grind me the wrong way but “Suffer” is twenty two minutes of non-stop music with awesome fuckin’ lyrics. It’s a good one.

N: I would have to say the TRAPT, which is a band from …. You might have heard of them …

…from Ottawa.

N: They played a reunion show this past winter and these thirty-or-forty year-old guys ….

How were they ?

N: They were amazing. They did not miss anything. That was the band that really got me into punk rock.

Did they record anything ? Are they going to be releasing anything ?

N: They re-released their 7” and they slapped on another forty minutes of unreleased material. CD. 

I did a tape comp, which was one of the first things that I ever did when I was first getting into punk and I have unreleased FLAG OF TRUCE songs on them.

N: If you have any BLACK TRIANGLE… I will kill you to get it.

Actually I might. I’ll look for it. It’s on a tape somewhere in a box in storage.

N: That needs to be immortalized. That needs to be heard.

I agree with you.

N: Digression.

Anything else ?

P: I don’t know if they can be counted as punk rock but the BLOODY HOLLIES ? They are probably the hottest band.

B: Their recordings are huge. I love listening to their CDs because it is huge sounding. And they are amazing live. When you have huge sound on your CD you better put out.

P: I think if I could be in any other band in the world right now it would be the BLOODY HOLLIES. .

I wanted to ask you about the scene in Ottawa. What’s that like ?

P: There is some great folks in Ottawa. A band that we play with is CRITICAL CONVINCTIONS and they just put out a tape. It seems like a lot of people are putting out tapes these days.

Yeah. Same here. The tape is being brought back as a format.

B: Yeah, it’s awesome because all we have in the van is a tape player.

Anything else other than CRITICAL CONVICTIONS ?

B: There is a lot of bands.

I got a CD from GERM ATTAK.

B: GERM ATTAK are totally awesome. They just put out a brand new one.

N: There is a punk house in Ottawa known as the DisHouse which is central to the activities and a lot of kids from there have gone on to do the info shop. They keep on forming bands and spitting out new bands. There is some amazing music coming out of there.

Exile infoshop. What is that ?

P: That’s the anarchist bookstore in Ottawa. It’s on Bank Street downtown in a cool neighbourhood. Bones actually volunteers there.

Is it just an info shop or do they do shows as well ?

B: The space just moved and there is going to be shows but there is not enough room. It has been a contentious issue. There is not enough room say some to have a kit and a P.A. There is lots of stuff you have to do. It is a room that is 20’ x 10’ and it has windows. Half the space is commercial and half is not. We have a lending library of anarchist literature of really rare stuff that we have been able to collect over the last little while. There is a computer lab. On the other side is a book shop and we don’t identify with the book shop. It is really packed. We are not going to have shows in there. But we are looking to move next year on May 1st. May Day. Our dream would be to involve a punk rock culture around it. A lot of us want to have shows. That is something to work up to. Rent is theft. It is hard on the soul to be dependent on selling stuff and it is hard to be selling stuff and pay rent. We have looked at places but we don’t want it to be a venue. We want it to be a resource centre for people who are organizing. We want to be a place where people can come and use the free space. We don’t want it to be dependent on being a venue either. These are very big arguments that we have.

I heard of a band called BOMBED OUT.

N: Ya, Crazy Ben. I know Ben pretty well. He used to go to my old band’s shows. They have been playing a lot lately.

Can I ask about venues ? Are they mostly house shows or is there a mix ?

P: There is a mix of house shows and bars.

Where can bands play ?

N: For house shows there is 59 Argyle, which is a little more scenester, dance rock. Probably the furthest thing you could get from punk rock, but still underground. 61 Argyle is where I live and where we practice. Those two houses are about to be closed down. They have been bought up by a private owner who is fixing them up and turning them into high-priced single family homes. There is the DisHouse on Gladstone and then A&A Speed shop on Flora, further down, about the same area of town. Probably the saddest part about Ottawa is that … there are a few bars but they have sketchy track records dealing with bands, dealing with kids. The Dom is a nice place, but by and large if you want an all ages space in Ottawa bigger than a basement, you are screwed. The last big, successful all ages place that I can think of was Two Steps Above which was an awesome space around eight years ago but the whole Rideau Street BIA (Business Improvement Association), leaned on it and brought in the cops until it eventually got shut down. Kids just wouldn’t stop drinking at the shows. It was just so frustrating to see it tank. So house shows are the best way to go in Ottawa right now. Bars can be done if you got cash to shell out.

Okay Bones, you work at CKCU ?

B: Yeah.

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Can you tell me if there are any good punk shows on the radio ?

B: Yeah. “Minimum Wage” has been playing for years. “Friday Morning Cartoons” is not just punk rock but it’s been on for about twenty years. The host is John Birdman, who runs Birdman Sound. He used to work as the Program Manager. He was the frontman for RESIN SCRAPER an old Ottawa band who were pretty awesome. He is playing on the kit for an old band called FOUR N’ GIVER. Kind of like stoner rock. But his show is totally diverse. He has four hours on Friday mornings. It is really awesome. CKCU has an overnight slot which is two to seven. Pete did that for a while. It’s normally got a lot of punk or metal, but during the normal programming there is not too much. There has been a real upswing in indie rock shows. There is a core program block of guys and girls who have been on the air for a long time that do a lot of stoner rock and old school rock. That’s a lot of it at CKCU. “Minimum Wage” is on Friday nights and has been on for eight or ten years. It is just an hour, but it is an awesome show.

Tell us about the release, “The War on Satire”. When did this come out ?

N: It came out in January.

B: No April was the CD release. We finished recording in January. It’s a compilation of two different sessions.

N: One with our old bassist Greg Szabo.

So its only been out for about a month or so ?

B: April 12th was the official release.

And where did you record it ?

B: Its called the Recording Stereo.

P: It’s in the basement of a church. I don’t think it goes by the name of the church.

N: It was weird recording with people singing Jesus hymns in the other room.

P: This guy named Dean Watson uses the space in the basement. He does a pretty good job. We have worked with him twice. He is a really nice guy and he knows what he is doing.

SIMPLY SAUCER from Hamilton just recorded something in a church, which they just released. I guess the acoustics are good in a church. And I think the COWBOY JUNKIES did the same.

N: We didn’t get so much of the church acoustics. We were in a cement room in the basement. I have a friend who is a folk artist,  who got to record there in the upper level of the church. The sound is amazing. Religious bullshit aside the architecture was meant to conduct sound really well.

B: Sound and god.

Is it self-released ?

N: Yes. Completely.

How can people get a copy of this ? How can they write you ?

P: One of the easiest ways is through interpunk. Do we have it in any record stores in Toronto?

B: No, but there is the new record shop that we wanted to put it in. I think if people want to get their hands on it a) come to our shows, you can check them out on myspace, or contact us through myspace. We have a thing up there. Or you could do the interpunk thing if you are buying the new PENNYWISE release and you want to tack something on there!

You said you were coming back next week. What’s the show next week that you are playing ?

N: The show next week is a tad mysterious. It’s the Cycle Messenger World Championships and they have an outdoor stage. I guess they are working it in with NXNE, but North by North East won’t have us – but we get to use their stage. We got thrown on the bill due to my life as a messenger – which is great because it is my other big community beyond activism and punk rock.

It is something associated to bike couriers. Tell me a bit more about it.

N: They do them every year. They do North American comps,  and then they do the Worlds. All the couriers that can coming down to party and compete at what they do every day. Flying through traffic. All sorts of madness. A lot of bike polo this year.

Can you tell me what bike polo is because I don’t know what it is ?

N: Bike polo is the greatest sport known to man. It is the most beautiful game. I can’t plug it enough.

What is it though ? Is it polo on bikes ?

N: To give you a quick picture: we usually play it in a fenced-in tennis court. Like a cage match, like the thunder dome. You have three people on each team on bikes. There is a goal at either end that is a bike’s length wide, play with a road hockey ball. You’ve got mallets made out of PVC tubing stuffed on the end of ski poles cut off and filed so you don’t gouge anyone. The only rules are that you can’t score with anything other than the end of your mallet and you can’t touch the ground with your feet. If you touch the ground you have to go hit a cone or a bell or do a 360 – something weird before you enter play again. There is a bit of a gentleman’s code built in where you refrain from smashing people’s spokes, or any out-of-control body-to-body contact. It’s further away from polo and more resembles hockey on bikes. It is really kind of violent sometimes, but it is fun all around. Everyone rides away with a smile on their face regardless of how bad they get dinged up.

I have heard of a sport called bike jousting out in Newfoundland. I don’t know if you have heard of it.

N: There might be jousting at this world’s. I am not going to speak of it. They have all sorts of weird events running on the side. It’s all about anything you can do on your bike.

How can people get in touch with you ?

P: Through myspace.com/thesuicidepilots.

 

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