Interview: Pipedown

interview by pr!

PR: What’s the story on Pipedown’s origin?
Ean: How we got together? Well, James?
James: Myself and the drummer of my old band wanted to start something new, so he and I, and guitarist started a band. So, then we’re looking for a singer, and Ean was the first guy we tried, and then we picked up a bass player. We practiced for about six months before we played a show. We’ve been thru 4 bass players, and on our second drummer, but now we’re here to stay. The band has existed for almost five years now. Pipedown started playing with bands right away, like A.F.I, who we played with on our second show.

So you guys have any material before this current album?
James: We have three demo’s that we did before, which we distro’d. The demo’s had like four to seven songs each, the first two were on tape, and the third was on CD.

Is your current sound the same as the music in the demos?
It’s no totally different. At first, were on that straight edge hardcore sound, but we decided we could start broadening our way of music.

Do you like the (International) Noise Conspiracy?
Oh yeah, we’ve actually played with them a couple of times, and their probably the best live act that I’ve ever seen. We just played with them a few months ago.
Ean: In Chico.

How is the acceptance of Pipedown’s style of rock in Northern California?
James: we’re probably the biggest draw in this area, but the Northern California music scene, things are pretty pathetic. If you’re down with some people, you’ll get them at your shows.
Ean: There’s not really a lot of people putting an effort into the scene. It’s funny, when we came thru with The Mobilize Tour with Anti-Flag, Thrice, Virus 9, and Against All Authority and played in Sacramento, 95% of the crowd was totally new.

Most of the scene is happening down in Berkeley, or San Francisco?
James: Yeah, I’d say so. It just seems like the scene here is so scattered around in tiny venues and the such. When we first started here five years ago, the scene was alive with a community. The punk and indie scenes were huge.

How would you explain Pipedown to your mom, who knows nothing about music?
Ean: Our band, or our music?

Ean: I’d say we’re more of an artistic force. I mean, we’re about the music but we, especially James and I, are motivated politically and environmentally. I’ve always kind of felt it, and since we’re given an audience to play that in front of, we hope that people will hear a little of what we’re saying.
James: It’s cool how one person will just be able to get into our band. I remember talking to some kid online, an 18 year old kid, and was getting pulled into the mainstream idea. You know, college, get a job, get married and that’s it. It’s cool, seeing people kind of wake up by listening to our music and what we have to say.

Can you sometimes tell, while you’re playing, that people are actually listening to you?
Ean: It’s surprising when your message can connect with our influence. One cool thing is that we get emails from all sorts of people. The song ‘Human in Human’, about the proposition 121 that failed in California to give gay people rights to be just like other couples, was written by me because I was so damn pissed. So we get all sorts of emails from the supporters of that bill, which is kind of cool, considering a band with all heterosexual males can actually get that out.

I think the influence of bands like The Refused and Anti-Flag are pretty obvious in your music; what are some bands that you guys listen to that would surprise a Pipedown fan?
Ean: One of my, if not top, favorite band is Radiohead. I love that band.

James: Jason loves rock, like AC/DC and that type of stuff. I don’t know why, but I listen to cheesy stuff. Like right now, I’m way into Andrew W.K. It’s so sick to listen to, it’s almost infecticious.

Rolling Stone did name them “the savior of rock and roll.”
Are you serious? Hahaha
Ean: Hahaha. That’s scary.

Do you read the reviews of your music?
James: Yeah, we do. It’s fun to read what someone thinks about your music.

Because I found a review online, with the quote “hearing some young well-dressed white kids sing about tearing down factories gives me intestinal cramping”. Does that make you angry?
James: Hahaha, that’s awesome. It’s cool, there are different viewpoints, and they’re allowed to think that.
Ean: In the big picture, it’s not going to effect what we’re doing People are going to love or hate us, and that doesn’t dictate the band and really doesn’t stop us being a positive force.
James: We’ve had some shots at us before, like locally. Someone will call us the Backstreet Boys of punk or whatever, which is easy to disprove once you come out to a show and see how we play.

That’s what I told the guys in Strike Anywhere. You know that band?
James: Yeah.

Well, what I told them, from personal experience, is that some critics out there do the skip and listen method. They listen to the first two or three tracks, and then skip thru the rest of the CD. Since they think they know all music, they can then form an opinion about an album that they hardly know. It’s a little unfair, because I know that some groups will put so much heart into a release, only to have some jerk off spend 15 minutes with it and trash it.
Ean: Yeah, 15 minutes into something that some band created.
James: The only review that bothered us was the one in Maximum Rock and Roll. They tried to totally pull this hypocrisy about us, like how he (reviewer) read about our political views and what not, and then how he read we were sponsored by a clothing company, and called us out on that. Which was stupid, because that clothing company is made by a friend of ours out of his garage.

So it wasn’t Gap or something?
James: No, of course not

Maximum Rock and Roll is a shitty magazine.
James/Ean: I know!

I’m not just saying it because they are another magazine. There are plenty of publications out there that are worthy. Any hint of integrity disappeared from that magazine long ago. It’s like Rolling Stone, a magazine that used to have its finger on the music pulse; now, people have to check their pulse. It’s just a medium for advertising to the teenage crowd, nothing more. What are the steps in creating a song for Pipedown?
Ean: In the beginning, people would bring in two or three parts, and then I would lay in the vocals last.

Is the more trebly bass sound Doug’s idea?
James: He was our second bassist, and actually our last addition to the band. He just fucking rips. First practice, he learned all the songs. He was in the band right away.

I noticed both of you had involvement in the album insert’s creation and design. Where did that come from?
James: Initially, we had this other insert design, but the record label said it was too expensive.

Is that something you’ve taken elsewhere, aside from Pipedown? Like art projects?
Ean: I like abstract shit, like oils or impressionist stuff. Jim’s a graphic artist, so we’re always doing layout type things.

Jim: I’m into photography also. I have a darkroom in my house, where I can make all sorts of things. Right now, I’m working on 4×6 foot prints.

Is Pipedown something that you can focus solely on?
Ean: I wish. Hopefully, after a few more tours it will be. We just need to get the word out. I’m also a full time student and work full time also. Our drummer’s a student also.

How old are you guys?
Ean: we’re anywhere from 19 to 29 years old. Doug’s 19, Jason’s 29, I’m 25, and Ean’s also 25. Our drummer is 21.

You guys look a lot younger in the picture.
James: Thanks!

What percent of Pipedown is focused on musical sound as in comparison to lyrical points and motives?
James: I think it would be unfair to split it up like that. We’re the biggest critics of our own songs. It’s amazing how much work we put into each song, even before the lyrics are in.
Ean: We’ve got a lot of songs that won’t get played, because we just didn’t like them enough.

On that note, I’d like to move the focus towards the heavy political fist Pipedown shakes in its lyrics and the CD insert. What are you feelings about Howard Zinn’s approach on laws and prisons?
Ean: We put that in there as a reference point for people who are interested in learning about that. Personally, you could ask me anything about any of the other guys on there, but I just don’t know much about Howard Zinn. (laughs)

If a terrorist started mailing bombs (like Anthrax) to people, and ended up killing a few (three) and injuring two dozen (23) others, would you care about what he had to say? (referring to Ted J Kaczynski)
Ean: I would defiantly care what he had to say.
James: With something so drastic, I would want to know what he had to say.

So what’s up with your support of Ted Kaczynski? I personally don’t know shit about him, besides that little thing about killing and maiming people. Give me an example; tell me a message or idea he supports that you support him for.
Ean: First of all, I want to say that, like we said in our insert, knowledge is a weapon. The actual use of violence is totally wrong, and we don’t advocate that. But, if you can get behind that. I mean, he was a little aggressive-

Aggressive? He killed three people! He ended three people’s lives, and permanently damaged their family and friends.
Ean: Yeah. But if you read his manifesto, some of his views, like deep ecology, are what we support. Do you know anything about that?

Ean: It’s a philosophy that was created by this guy, who wrote a book called ‘Deep Ecology in the 21st Century’, which is basically the idea of yourself encompassing everything, including the planet. When you start thinking of everyone else and the planet as yourself, you start taking care of it, and you don’t want to inflict damage and will counter that self survival instinct.

James: It ties into the negative aspect of technology, which is to go full steam ahead, and don’t worry about the consequences, and that’s where environmental protection comes in. if you can identify with everything on the planet, as an extension of yourself, you want to defend that. You can work together. So that me hurting you is me hurting myself.

Ean: So it wouldn’t just be you, and your brother and sister, but everything. If you blow up a mountain, the ecological damage is huge.

James: Everything revolves in a balance with everything else. When you start messing with one side of the spectrum, it will fuck up the other side. The problem with humans is that we don’t look at the long term scope; we just rely on short term. We don’t look ahead 10,000 years.

Ean: It’s like the Yucca mountains thing. They’ve got 77,000 tons of nuclear waste that they don’t know what to do with. It was easy to dump it there at the time, but now they don’t know what to do.

So you think people will be here in 10,000 years?
Ean: I hope so. We love people. We’re willing to fight to make it comfortable for us later in time.

But you see where people are coming from, when they get mad that you support the Unabomber.
Ean: Yes, I do. But it’s like that saying in Fight Club, you have to hit someone with a brick to get their attention. You can’t just tap people on the shoulder anymore; you have to do something else to get their attention.

Like blow up people with mail bombs.
James: Unfortunately
Ean: We’re not advocating that. People are so brainwashed, especially here. It’s mostly the media brainwashing the public.

So, how much don’t you like (George W.) Bush?
Ean: (laughs) Like between 1-100?
James: We got no love for him.

Who did you guys vote for?
Ean: I was torn. I wanted to vote for Nadar, but I voted for Gore because I know people won’t vote for Nadar. I like Gore’s view on the environment. I know he’s still bad, but he was the way lesser of two evils.
James: I didn’t vote.

Well, you showed them. I voted for Gore. Check this out, and correct me if I’m wrong. Picture a scale, with Nadar on the good side, and Bush on the bad side. Now, considering that most of the voters out there are old white people, it would be hard to convert people that are so used to voting more on the bad scale to go completely opposite. So, I proposed bringing up politicians that are half and half, because someone like Nadar wont get in, but someone (just an example) like Gore, with half of Nadar’s views and half of Bush’s will, you see? Then, the guy that replaces gore can have even more ‘good’ and even less ‘evil’, and so on and so forth. It’s hard to convince millions to vote just totally AWOL, and I think that’s where Nadar and his backing fail miserable.
Ean: I agree 100%. I’m constantly trying to think of ways to evoke thought in people, and you are so right. I think that you just can’t convert people over to what they aren’t used to. The system is different, and people won’t just automatically accept that. It will be gradual.

I think that with things like your music, it gets people thinking, and that’s always a good thing. You can’t just convert them. They’re used to voting for evil? Give them diet evil. They won’t notice that it’s half the evil they were used to having.
James: (laughs) I love that.

So, going by the “enemies of progress”, should current medical progresses into cancer cures be vanquished, and past breakthrough’s like smallpox be considered a waste? How far should that idea be taken?
Ean: I think you take it how you want to take it. I think we all want there to be a point behind everything.
James: The keyword is ‘is’ it progress. Progress in huge corporations usually hurts something.
Ean: at the same time, I don’t want to cop out. We’re for the progress that stops people suffering, but not for the progress that makes people suffer. It’s not black and white.
James: The system we have now is not working.

Can you foresee America improving?
Ean: I think it’s possible. Having faith in people helps, because I think if America wanted to, we could do the right thing.

James: People are so brainwashed into the consumer culture, they don’t know anything else. People will die for this kind of life. They don’t care where their Nike’s are made. It’s an uphill battle?

So, off that, is Microsoft a corporate monster?
(long pause)
Ean: I think… hmm, I don’t know. Microsoft is a tough one.

Well, like what people attack Microsoft for is their appetite for other companies, but when you think about it, what are they supposed to do? Let competition rise and/or take them over?
Ean: Yeah, people attack them because it’s a monopoly, when it seems that it’s a bit more of a capitalist. I mean, obviously the guys a bazillionaire, and he has some obligation to give some of that money away to charity-

-which he does. He gives millions out a year, to his own and other charities.
Ean: Yeah, and that’s a good thing, but I think anyone in his situation with that much money isn’t a good thing. There are people dying, rainforest being cut down; lots of shit that he could lend a hand into and fix it, but he is doing the right thing. There are a lot of other corporations that I would bad mouth over Microsoft.

And on the band sense, if you get as big as a corporation, like a Green Day or something, you’ll have everyone calling you a sellout because you make so much money and all that.
James: If your motivation is the same, then you are okay and very justifiable. Like, look at Rage Against the Machine. They were on a major label selling a gazillion records, but they brought issues up to the forefront.

So, I guess if you make a lot of money, just stay off MTV cribs.
Ean: Or just don’t buy a big fucking house!

Does Pipedown practice veganism?
James: Myself, Jason, and Jack are vegetarian. Doug isn’t, I don’t think.

Ean: I used to be, but I fell of the wagon.

James: He went back to meat, because he got way sick.

Ean: Yeah, when I didn’t eat meat, I got way sick. I think I’m just a sickly person, and that I don’t really eat like a good vegetarian. So now, I eat more meat. I’m sick almost every other week, it seems like.

You don’t take your Flintstone vitamins.
Ean: But I do! I also take herbal remedies also, and I try to exercise a lot. It’s weird.

Herbal remedies, huh?

So, is Pipedown straight edge?
Ean: We never claimed it. The band has never claimed it, and I have never practiced it myself.

What’s the best band nobody knows about?
James: Modey Lemon, on A-F Records. Is that a cop out, saying a band that it on your label?
Ean: (laughs) Man, who do I like right now? I’ve been listening to syntho stuff lately. God, I hate to say it, but The Code is what’s in my CD player. I love that album. It’s awesome.

Yeah, they’ve got that op ivy going on.
Ean: Yeah, my girlfriend loves it also.

What’s the worst band nobody realizes?
Both: (laughs) Andrew W.K.

Any new bands you look forward to seeing/touring with?
James: We had a great time touring with Thrice.

They were on our January cover.
Ean: Yeah, we saw that. They just got a huge record deal. You hear about that?

No, they did? Crazy.
James: They got signed to Island.
Ean: They had so many record companies talking to them. its way cool for them to be signed now to a big label like that. I’d like to go on tour with Atari Teenage Riot. Those guys rip.
James: Didn’t one of those guys die?
Ean: Yeah, I think the singer, or guitar player or someone died, but they are going to keep it together.

Are you fond of bands that go on after someone dies?
James: Yeah, it’s weird. I’m not sure; I think it varies from band to band. Their music is so good; I hope they keep playing

Final thoughts?
James: Um. Final thoughts? You have any final thoughts?

Ean: Not really.

James: Do you want to know what cartoons we’re into?

Umm… okay. (in anal retentive voice) What cartoons are you into, Pipedown?
Ean: I’m pretty into Dexter’s Laboratory still.

James: I like the Smurfs, but it’s never on.

You guys every check out Invader Zim?
Ean: No, what’s that?

A sick ass cartoon on Nick. It’s on kinda late, but it’s like Futurama kinda. Really cool. By the comic book writer who did Johnny the Homicidal Maniac.
Ean: I’ll definatly check it out. Sorry about the delay for the interview. We’ve been so fucking busy.

Oh hey, I forgot to mention, I noticed on the Pipedown website that you have gear… but I couldn’t figure out how to see it. Maybe I’m retarded…
James: Dude, I told you that you have to make that bigger.

Maybe it’s just the stoner in me, but even the intro of your site is bewildering and confusing. I get lost easily. It’s like, “there’s a picture, and then, a countdown! Ahhh, what’s happening!” kind of thing
Ean: That site confuses me also.