interview by janice pictures by mike, unless otherwise credited 06.02
The guy who works at the club is getting kind-of annoyed. Pinback just finished playing an amazing all-ages early show at the Crocodile Cafe here in Seattle. But it's past 7:00 p.m., and they need to clear everyone out before the 21+ show starts. And some kids just won't leave. In fact, I'm one of them. We're all dying for a chance to talk to Rob Crow.
The Crocodile employee looks at his watch. "10 minutes, kids!" he bellows, before stomping away in annoyance. Frantically, I manage to catch Rob's eye. "Um, I won't bother you for long, 'cause I know you don't have much time..." I start nervously. But Rob just smiles at me and shrugs, completely nonplussed by the furious Crocodile Cafe employee. "Hey," he replies, "What else have I got to do?"
His amazingly cool, laid-back attitude is surprising for a guy who has accomplished so much musically in his 31-years. Sure, I'm reading more into the statement than what was intended, but What else does he have to do? Well, when he's not writing songs and touring with Pinback, he's recording with Pea Hix in Optiganally Yours. He was also in Heavy Vegetable, which eventually dissolved into Thingy, and has since broken up (but I've read that a final Thingy album might still be released). He's also in Physics, Fantasy Mission Force, and he's recorded under the moniker Snotnose. He's working on a soundtrack for an indie film, which will be done in several different musical styles. He's producing the upcoming Herc. album. Plus, he's finishing up his solo CD. "It's different than the other stuff I do and it's different than my other solo records," Rob told us. "I think I might have enough material for two records now." With so many different outlets to write for, I asked Rob if he ever suffers from writer's block. "Naw," he replied. "If I do, I just read a comic or play video games for a while. I do wish I could work faster sometimes though. I've got a million projects I'm working on all at once right now."
With such a high quality and quantity of songs, it's surprising to me that Rob Crow and Pinback are just now starting to "take off", so to speak. On the now-gone Thingy website, the discography is punctuated with remarks like "too bad nobody bought one" and "If it's so good, how come nobody bought one?" And as I mentioned on this site before, when I first fell in love with their first album, released in 1999 on Ace Fu Records, I had the hardest time finding out just who-the-hell these guys were. But quickly, word took off: in March 2001, Pinback were featured prominently on the front page of Napster, just when their whole site controversy was going down. And then back in 2000, all the Urban Outfitters stores nationwide added the first CD to their in-store playlist. "We had nothing to do with the whole Urban Outfitters thing," Rob explained. "It'd probably be a silly thing to complain about. We don't get paid for it or anything. It does bum me out when Ace Fu tries to use it as some kind of big selling point. "As heard in Urban Outfitters!". Kind of makes me feel like a jerk-off." Pinback have just recently signed to Touch & Go Records which Rob describes as a "fanboy dream come true."
Yeah, Rob is anything but a jerk-off. : ) He's so down-to-earth and friendly, as evidenced by how cool he was at the Crocodile Cafe that night after the show. And he's completely unpretentious: as you might've noticed on this website, we love that Rob is a huge Star Wars fan, like we are. (Mike much more so than I.) We freaked when we saw the Rebel Alliance symbol painted on his amp. We were thrilled listening to "O.B.1." and "Revolution in a Box". Since our friends (ahem!) constantly give us crap for liking Star Wars and for standing in line for hours upon hours to see the movies, I asked Rob if his pals give him flak, too. "Not too much," he said. "It doesn't faze me or anything. The strength of my convictions is stronger then their will to make cheap shots." So, since he's so cool about it, we thought it'd be fun to do a Star Wars portion of our interview:
Have you seen Episode II yet? What did you think?
I've only seen it 3 times so far, but I like it a lot.
And on that note, lots of old SW fans kinda thought Episode I sucked. What were your feelings on Episode I?
Oh, it certainly did suck all right. It was depressing to see toilet humor in the Star Wars universe.
Since this is the latest Pinback Poll question (on their mailing list): Be honest, did you wear a Star Wars iron-on t-shirt when you were a kid (or an adult!!!)? Honestly, I still wear 'em. : )
When I was a kid I had the whole book of Star Wars iron-ons, but my parents wouldn't iron them on for me and I didn't have any extra t-shirts anyway. I'm wearing a Police iron-on shirt right now.
You use lotsa Star Wars references in your Thingy songs, but I never notice any SW references in Pinback songs. Why is that?
Too obvious. Actually (and I don't like to just casually throw the word "actually" around, by the way), there is in a newer Pinback song called "Victorious D" that goes "she purrs and sabers light" and "she said rebellion".
Does Zach like Star Wars, too? Or does he make fun of you for liking it?
We're both suckers for it. We used to watch at least one of the trilogy every day while writing songs.
Did you ever dress up like a Star Wars character for Halloween? (As a child, *or* as an adult! Ha!)
When I was in kindergarten I went as Darth Vader, but that's when I was young and impressionable. I would never unwittingly support the dark side nowadays.
rob, craig mccracken, and pea|
(craig is the creator of the powerpuff girls)
photo credit: The super-cool Optiganally Yours site
And we're not the only ones who love Rob. A fellow fan is Craig McCracken, the creator of the Powerpuff Girls. I asked Rob about the Optiganally Yours track "Walk and Chew Gum", which is about the Mayor of Townsville, that appears on the Powerpuff Girls soundtrack. "Craig McCracken e-mailed me and asked me to do it before I'd ever seen the show. I didn't have cable. They had to send me a video. Fortunately, I think the show is awesome. It is the opposite of Episode I in the way it deals with children without being condescending. He chose the character for us. Before that, and I didn't even know it, he had created a monster called Beebo, which was inspired by the Optiganally Yours song of the same name. That's so cool! Pea Hicks and I got to go hang out with Craig and all of Devo all day at the Mutato Muzika. They had an optigan there and Mark Mothersbaugh sang "You're In My Heart" with us. That's one of those days that I just can't believe really happened. It was a fanboy's dream."
And finally, who can't love a man who loves kitties? Two Heavy Vegetable CDS were titled The Amazing Undersea Adventures Of Aquakitty and Friends and Mondo Aquakitty. With Thingy, on the Songs about Angels, Evil and Running Around on Fire, he thanks "all kitties everywhere" in the liner notes. (Guess that includes Ethel and Tobin! They say you're welcome.) And even sweeter is the song "Molly" on the To The Innocent CD, and his lines about his kitty on "My Room Has A T.V."
He loves Star Wars. He loves kitties. And, oh yeah. He's one of the most talented songwriters around right now. Really. What's not to love?