Interview: Pilot To Gunner

interview by jason schreurs

With a stellar new album, “Get Saved” an upcoming UK tour, and opening slots with the SuicideGirls Live Burlesque Tour, a lot of you will be hearing the name Pilot to Gunner in the coming months. Do me a favor and go check ‘em out, will ya? This band is one of the only reasons why the word “emo” hasn’t been eradicated from the face of the earth. As the band would say, believe it!

Okay, “lazy journalists.” I know you guys hate ‘em, so here’s your chance to talk about what you really want to talk about. What’s been exciting you these days?
Russia was really exciting. It’s a wild place, in a good way and a bad way. Border guards taking bribes, ambulances acting as taxis, and the most open, friendly people. We’re excited for the UK and for the SuicideGirls tour, for the brutal heckling we know we’re going to receive every night. It’ll be fun to see what people come up with.

What’s been bugging you or getting you down?
I have to walk with a limp ‘til my knee gets better (dislocated it on stage), and it’s really affecting my self-esteem (laughs, drinks).

Anything else you want to talk about before we move onto my questions?
Thugs in Budapest ripped us off at a club a few nights ago, but we got the money back. Long story, could’ve ended badly, as “badly” as it gets, as it appears now that one was armed (laughs). No more shows in Budapest, I think.

What article or review really upset you and did you contact the writer at all?
One writer criticized us for waiting an hour to take the stage supporting Jets to Brazil in Milwaukee, I think, so I felt the need to make it known to her that it was not our decision, it was the club’s. As if we had a say about anything on that tour. We were happy just to be on it. I hate when bands get primadonna and make the crowd wait so I didn’t want anyone thinking we had done that. So she was clearly a lazy “journalist” and I use the term incredibly loosely in her case. She also became very hostile when I very politely — I´m serious, I was very nice about it, from what I remember — let her know she was mistaken. Or maybe I wasn’t all that polite. I probably threw in an insult disguised as politeness. I do that sometimes (laughs). That was the only time.

What Pilot to Gunner story would really capture the band realistically and fairly?
The time we played in Little Haiti, a really bad neighborhood in Miami, a few years back and I had to run the door and turn bikers away who didn’t want to pay and avoid some un-upstanding guys who were looking to steal the money from me. Kurt, our drummer, had to run the soundboard because the sound guy quit as we walked in (total coincidence), and the bartenders were trashed so we ran the bar too. Then we had a great show while a deaf hooker gave blowjobs to some locals in the back of the bar. We don’t play places like that anymore. Thank god. At least not in America (laughs).

I’ve heard other bands who have worked with J. Robbins say he became like the fifth member of the band. How was it working with him, and did you feel that way about him?
Absolutely. He had a lot of ideas and about 99 percent of them were used. The chamber orchestra was not used, but his chamber pot was. So it was very give and take. He sang on the record, played guitar, and his genuine enthusiasm was, how you say, infecting? Infected. Infectious. Yes.

The new record is very cohesive and complete sounding. What was the process of writing this one and what needed to be done, if anything, at the last minute to put the finishing touches on it?
This record was written over the course of like two years, so there was plenty of time to rework the songs. We recorded more than we needed to, to be safe, and we had a month long tour right before recording, during which we listened to the songs repeatedly, made notes, so when we got home we knew what needed to be done for all of them. And then of course a ton of work was done with J once he sunk his evil claws into them.

“Metropolitans” is my personal favorite. What is the song about and how did the music come together for it?
That song is not positive in the least (laughs, drinks). It’s about someone who can’t connect with people. It’s just about the miserable, closed-off people I’ve met since I’ve been in New York. I think the city makes them that way. They’re “metropolitans” – they’ve got it together on the outside, good job, look good, have money, but are just so unhappy. I’ve met far too many people who fit this description since moving to New York City. The music came together really quickly, musically it’s a very simple song, and we’d wanted to write a song with that rolling kind of rhythm for awhile and couldn’t really nail a song with it ‘til then.

“Barrio Superstarrio” is another one that really stands out. It almost doesn’t fit with the rest of the songs, but is perfectly placed on the album.
We just wanted to write a fast one, I think Patrick had the chorus guitar written and it was so big that we wanted a really stripped-down verse, like an anthemdouble vocal verse, and when we had all that, we came up the bridge on the spot. We worked out the details with J in the studio and the words were written on the way to Baltimore to begin recording.

Have you put much thought or strategy into what you might do if the major corporations come calling? (And they will!)
We’ll handle that when it happens, I guess. I really don’t see anyone getting in our way creatively. We’re not a boy band. We don’t really require primping or outfits or The Neptunes or anything. Though working with The Neptunes would be cool.

What’s your opinion on the Suicide Girls? Positive role models, or a step back for the women in the punk/hardcore scene?
Well, I don’t think they’re trying to be role models, but I do think it’s positive. Everything is on the girls’ own terms. They’re presented as people and not as objects. Anyone in hardcore who thinks they’re setting women back has issues of their own. Not all the girls are textbook “attractive” either. I think the universal attribute among all the girls that makes them all hot is that they have the balls to do it. They are obviously happy with their bodies and that’s hot. And all the posts from guys -that I’ve seen anyway – are respectful, so I think that’s the proof of the positivity right there. It’s not always lust that they inspire.

Anything else you want to add?
Yes. Get me another drink please.