Rock Metal Punk 2010 Interview

Here’s an interview I did with a Belgian fanzine called Rock Metal Punk. Check it out at their site, or below.

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‘We actually don’t have a tour bus. Maybe if someone out there gives us a tour bus, we’ll tour more. If anyone has a tour bus they don’t want, shoot us an email’, says Nate from Banner Pilot as he answers our related Groezrock questions.

Banner pilot celebrates his 5th birthday this year. How do you look back on the previous years?
Nate: ‘It’s been really fun! I feel like we’ve gotten better as we’ve gone along, too, which is better than the opposite trajectory. And we will last as long as it’s still fun, and we don’t suck, or at least aren’t aware that we suck. Hopefully that’ll be awhile!’

The volcano made it hard for a lot of bands to get here. But you made it. I heard you’ve made a song about it. Do you intend to put it out on your next record?
Nate: ‘Heh, that was just a joke I made before we left. But yeah, maybe we should do that, now that we’re back. I don’t think there’s enough songs where the band taunts a volcano. I mean, probably a couple dozen, but the world could use more.’

You first studio album came out in 2008. The second was already there in 2009. Can we expect a third one later this year, or are you planning on taking more time for it?
Nate: ‘Well, that’s sort of misleading because Resignation Day got delayed for a long time. It was recorded in September 2007 and Collapser in April 2009. So, at that rate we’ll hopefully record a new album early in 2011. That seems about right. We already have a handful of new songs that I think are pretty good.’

Collapser was released on September first, 2009. It’s your first record on Fat Wreck Chords. A label that houses lots of great punk rock bands. Do feel like real punk rockers?
Nate: ‘Hmm, I guess I’m not sure what a ‘real punk rocker’ is. When I hear that phrase I think of Mohawks and bullet belts and stuff, and we don’t really fit into that. I’ve been meaning to get a bullet belt, but nothing yet. So, I guess I’m not sure. I think the two bands I grew up on as a kid that stuck with me were Jawbreaker andScreeching Weasel. I mean, I also listened to Dead Kennedys and what not but in the long run I don’t think that had as much of an effect on me. But aside from that, I can say that Fat Wreck Chords is a fucking great label and it’s really cool to be on the same label as so many awesome bands.’

Belgian fans of Banner Pilot will be really happy to see the band perform on the biggest Punk festival of the country. As this is your first visit to this festival, what are your expectations?’
Nate: ‘I didn’t know what to expect exactly, but I had an amazing time. Huge field, tons of wasted people stumbling around, and great bands! What would you want more?’

You’ll be in Europe through April and May, and then fly back to America to have some concerts on the west coast. Are you ever home? Or did home change in your tourbus?
Nate: ‘Oh yeah, we’re home more often than we’re not. We tour maybe, i dunno, 4-6 weeks a year? A lot less than a lot of bands. And we actually don’t have a tour bus. Maybe if someone out there gives us a tour bus, we’ll tour more. If anyone has a tour bus they don’t want, shoot us an email.’

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Maximumrocknroll 2007 Interview

This is an interview I did with the magazine Maximumrocknroll. I forget which issue number; I think it was in 2007 or 2008 but I’m not sure. Read it below, and check out MRR here.

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Zines often have a reputation for being selective windows into people’s lives, only revealing what they want or feel is appropriate. In contrast your zines feel extraordinarily honest. Do you feel your run of zines as a whole as truly reflective of yourself? Do you hold back to not expose things about yourself?

Well, my zines are definitely selective too, but it’s for the purpose of making the end result more entertaining. I mean, if something interesting happens to me on Monday and then I trudge through some boring bullshit on Tuesday through Sunday, I’m just going to write about the Monday. So in that sense, I think having a zine function as a selective window is a very good thing, and the zines that don’t do that tend to be ones I don’t like. Like, being “personal” doesn’t in and of itself make for good reading…. If you woke up and ate a bagel, did some laundry, and then read a book, I don’t really give a shit. Well, maybe that’s too harsh but I definitely don’t give enough of a shit to want to read about it.

Are you happy with the things the zine community have provided for you over the years? Are you happy with the role that you’ve played in that community?

Yeah, I’m happy with what’s been provided for me for sure. The community of distros/review mags/etc has been pretty… well, I don’t want to use the word “inspiring” cuz that’s a bit excessive… uh… “cool”? That’s a little better. It’s definitely provided me a way to get my writings read, and also to check out some good zines I wouldn’t have come across otherwise.

However, other than writing zines (which thousands and thousands of people have done) I don’t really think I’ve played a role of any significance in that community.

I hear a lot of people frustrated that the volume of books collecting zines is destroying the validity of the zine as a medium on their own. Obviously, this is not the point of compiling them but it made me more conscious and I decided not to compile issues of my own zine, just keeping the back issues in print instead. As someone who has taken the plunge of compiling their zines, how do you feel about this with a few years of perspective?

Nah, I love that stuff. I totally prefer the “bunch of zines in a book” to a single zine. There’s something really satisfying about a bound book, and for some reason putting out a full book just feels more rewarding than releasing a zine.

If it really was destroying zines in any sense I might feel differently, but I don’t think that’s the case. The two formats seem to coexist just fine as far as I can tell. If anything is destroying zines, it’s the “blogosphere”, not books.

Who are the contemporary zinesters and artists that most impress you? What kinds of zines are you reading these days? What excites you?

The ones that I’ll make sure I have every issue of are mostly the older ones that aren’t published that often anymore… Cometbus, Burn Collector, Murder Can Be Fun, I’m Johnny and I Don’t Give a Fuck etc. I’m definitely forgetting some but to be honest I haven’t run across that many new zines lately.

Can you talk about the motivations for putting together “zine street”?

Well, at one point I was trying to get my zine distributed by as many places as possible, and it was tough finding any sort of comprehensive list of what was out there. So, I decided to get a list going myself and then I figured I’d put it on the web so other people could use it too. It ended up being more work than I expected, though, so I got lazy and quit updating it. I still think it’s a good idea and maybe I’ll get it going again someday in a format where people other than me can keep it up-to-date and relevant (ie, a Wiki or something). The current one, if it’s even still up, is probably hopelessly out of date.

Most of your zines are about humor. Why is this? What motivates you to publish thes things?

I dunno, I guess on the one hand it’s simply easier for me to write that way, and I think on the other hand it can be more effective. In You Idiot I try to point out and goof on various absurd things, and to take a dead-serious, non-humorous approach to that would be ill-fitting and make for a boring zine. If I wrote a serious, well-researched article about the ineffectiveness of anti-drug cartoons—talk about a snore-fest! Much better to just hurl insults at the subject.

Will “the punks” ever understand “the art”? Why not work in fine art? Why not find out where the mythical big bucks are? Why not just put your work all over the internet? Did you find that punks at Rivethead shows were interested in your zine? Did it mix at all?

Yeah, it mixed a little bit. I still sell zines next to CDs and t-shirts at shows and they tend to do OK.

How has your own definition of “success” evolved over the lifespan of your publishing?

Initially, I was just in it for the stamps. Now, it just basically boils down to writing as much stuff as possible that I’m happy with, and having as many people as possible read it. Note the word “basically”—if some company was like “we’ll publish 200,000 zines for you but half the profits are going to go towards melting the ice caps”, then obviously I would think about it harder.

So overall, I guess it really hasn’t changed that much—if I get a bunch of people to read my zine, and they enjoy it, I consider that a success. And that’s the same thing I was thinking when I started putting out Pick Your Poison.

What new projects are you working on?
Well, I’ve been doing a lot of music stuff over the last 2-3 years. I play bass in Off With Their Heads, Banner Pilot, The Gateway District and The Pyongyang Metro, and used to play in Rivethead. That’s stuff always been a lot of fun.

Writing-wise I’m finishing up a full book that compiles all the old You Idiot and Whiskey Plus issues plus about 60-70 pages of new writing. After that I’ll put out the Pick Your Poison book, which will have the first 4 issues plus two or three unreleased ones. I’ve also been writing a blog on and off but I sorta hate that shit so it’s updated very infrequently. I want to try doing it more though just because, despite how stupid it is, it is easy.

Even if I shift more towards books and blogs, I’ll always still put out zines. Typically here I would say “It’s in my blood” to cheesily end the interview, but that’s not true so instead I’ll end with “because it’s always easy to fold eight pieces of paper together”.

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Spinner 2010 Interview

Here’s an interview I did with Lauren Modery from Spinner.com. Read it on their webpage or below.

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It’s no surprise when a good band comes out of Minneapolis. Up-and-comers Banner Pilot have emerged as one of the city’s most promising new punk acts, following the Twin Cities musical lineage ofHusker Du, theReplacements and Prince, to name a few. One of the strongest and most steadfast genres in the city is its hardcore punk scene. With years of experience and two albums under their belts, Banner Pilot continue to wow audiences, and are on their way to SXSW 2010 to do just that. Spinner caught up with guitarist/bassist Nate Gangelhoff before the fest.

Describe your sound.

Imagine if Jawbreaker, Lawrence Arms and Alkaline Trio got in a knife fight and Jawbreaker won, but just barely. That’s what we sound like.

How did your band form?

I got this cheesy drum program called PC Drummer that helped me write song ideas. Previously I was pretty bad at keeping time and stuff, and it helped. Nick [Johnson, guitars/vocals,] and I had talked about starting a band for a while, so once I had some song ideas from fiddling around with PC Drummer, we added vocal ideas and released a demo. It was terrible. But we stuck with it, and then got a real drummer and started an actual band. And that’s the Banner Pilot story.

What are your musical influences?

I suppose Jawbreaker, Dillinger Four, Screeching Weasel, bands like that. I’m guessing those are the bands we collectively have listened to more than any others over the years.

How did you come up with your band name?

We were having a hell of a time coming up with something, so at some point we started looking through lists of old books. ‘Bannertail’ was one that seemed plausible, but still pretty stupid. We had a lot of stupid names we considered. Can you believe that at one point we were considering Break September? Break September! Anyway, Bannertail lead to Banner Pilot, and that one stuck.

Have you played SXSW before? If not, what are you most looking forward to at the event and/or in Austin?

Nope! Really looking forward to it. I think the two bands I’m most excited about areSuperchunk and the Muffs. But in general I’m just looking forward to hanging out with friends of ours in other bands, checking out the house shows, parties and barbecuest. Also, it will be nice to escape the frigid grip of Minnesota’s winter for four days.

What is in your festival survival kit?

One water for every two beers. That’s not really a “kit,” I suppose. Maybe this year I’ll make a physical kit that contains beer and water, in a 2-1 ratio.

What’s the craziest thing that ever happened to you on tour?

We all got the swine flu. That was pretty crazy. Crazy terrible.

What is your music guilty pleasure?

You know, I’m drawing a blank. Stuff that would have seemed like a guilty pleasure years ago — say, Tegan and Sara — is now among my favorite music, and I feel no shame about it. So I guess I have overcome my guilt!

What is your biggest vice?

Probably my Stanley Maxsteel 83-069 Multi-Angle. It’s made of durable cast aluminum, and its 2 7/8″ jaw opening can hold a wide range of items. Oh wait, I thought you meantvise. Vice … Hmm, I guess I probably eat too many egg and cheese sandwiches. I’m out of control.

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True Punk 2009 Interview

Here’s an interview I did with TruePunk in 2009. Check it out below or on their site.

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Banner Pilot is a very young punk rock quartet from Minneapolis that formed in 2005. Their new album “Collapser” comes out on September 1st 2009 on Fat Wreck Chords. We sat down with Nate and asked him some question about his band and their upcoming projects.

What’s your name and what do you play in Banner Pilot?

Nate: My name is Mike Johnson (ed: ??? Weird typo on the website’s part. I did not forget my name!). On the record I play bass and lead guitar and live I play bass.

Your new album “Collapser” comes out Fat Wreck Chords on September 1st: how would you describe it to people who never heard of your band before?

Nate: Well, if I was describing it to someone who doesn’t listen to punk music I’d say it is fast music with loud guitars that sounds a little like Green Day. If the person looked at me in confusion after that, I’d say we sound sort of like Nickelback but better.

If I was describing it to someone who *does* listen to punk music, I’d say that we’re melodic punk rock similar to Jawbreaker or the Lawrence Arms. That’s probably enough for someone to have a decent feel for what we sound like.

You released a couple of albums before this new one. What changed in the approach of writing songs, if anything changed ?

Nate: The basic process has always been that #1, I write the guts of a song at home with a drum machine, then #2, Nick and me come up with vocal melodies over it, and then #3, we take that to the full band and flesh the song out. On the new record, there was less time spent on #1 and more time spent on #3. We were able to spend more time on the songs and have more input from everyone. It was fun to do and I think the end result is a little more varied and interesting.

How did you sign to Fat Wreck? Did you send a demo or did you receive a call from the label?

Nate: It was pretty straight-forward– we’ve always wanted to do a record with them so we sent a copy of some demos we’d been working on. They liked the songs, and that was about it.

Collapser” is filled with great pop punk melodies: what are your musical heroes?

Nate: Thanks! Well, I’m a pretty big fan of stuff like Jawbreaker, Dillinger Four,Lawrence Arms, Superchunk, Screeching Weasel, and so on, and I think our tunes end up sounding similar to some of those bands.

You come from the Midwest punk scene: how is it? In which ways does it differ from the east and the west coast scenes?

Nate: I like it. It’s a good scene; there’s been definite ups and downs over the years but I think the current crop of bands and basements and labels are pretty great. I’ve never lived on the east or west coasts, so I guess I can’t really say how our scene compares to theirs. But probably, their scenes fucking suck and ours is totally awesome. Just kidding. I don’t really know. But I will say, Minneapolis feels kinda like a little city or maybe a gigantic medium sized town — if that makes sense — and I think that’s conducive to having a good scene. If you live in a huge city, it’s so spread out it’s probably hard to really have a “scene”, and if you live in a little town there might not be enough stuff going on to truly form a scene. So I think we kind of fall in the middle of that and it makes it easier to have a situation where you have a lot of different bands and a lot of different styles but it all feels at least a little bit connected

It looks like there are a lot of new bands coming out on No Idea and Fat Wreck that have great records: Dear Landlord, Off With Their Heads,Banner Pilot, Dillinger Four, Lawrence Arms, and so on. How do you think that these punks bands (you included) are making great records while older bands (as Pennywise, Lagwagon, No Use For A Name) are getting to sound a little bit old? Do you think kids are looking for something new, fresh and different these days?

Nate: Well, it’s probably just a simple difference in style I guess; the first set of bands you mention play a slightly different style of punk music than the second set of bands. So if you like that type of punk music you’ll probably be into those bands right now.

I didn’t really grow up listening to the other bands you mentioned — I was more into stuff like Screeching Weasel / NOFX / Rancid / Dead Kennedys / etc — and I’m honestly not that familiar with their stuff. But all of them have been around for 15-20 years so even if they’re still putting out awesome records, it’s pretty hard for them to be perceived as new or fresh, you know? I’m sure the OWTH and Dear Landlord and Lawrence Arms records of 2026 will be awesome but I doubt they’ll be viewed as, you know, “new” by anyone.

A lot of labels are making a hard work to promote their music, even lowering down CD prices: Fat sells cd’s for about 8 dollars, No Idea for about 7 dollars. What’s your position on the crisis of the music industry, mp3 piracy and record labels selling less and less records?

Nate: Well I think there’s good and bad to it, but mostly bad. The long term result of everyone grabbing albums for free will be less bands, less labels, less music, and what’s left will probably be of lesser quality. In an ideal world, an album would only be available for free download if that’s the way the band wanted it to be.

The good part is that if you’re a band your music will get around more now. And that’s pretty cool on an individual level, but on a large scale I think music piracy/illegal downloading/file sharing or whatever you want to call it does more harm than good for music.

How does a band like Banner Pilot survive in this chaotic world?

Nate: With album sales down, I think bands will have to start resorting more and more to weird things like endorsements and product placement if they want to make money off their band, but we’d never resort to something like that.

Hold on a second, I need to take a drink off of my delicious Mountain Dew so I can get the energy to be xtreme and finish this question. Ahhh. That really hit the spot. I hear that Mountain Dew is available in a store near you.

Anyway, we’ve certainly lost money on the band, but we’d be insane if we started a punk band to try to make money. It’s a fun thing to do– we write songs and hopefully people check them out and enjoy them. If at the end of the day we can break even that’s a nice bonus, but all it’s really about is playing music and having fun

You have a twitter account (twitter.com/bannerpilotband): is it helpful for a punk band to keep it? I have subscribed to some twitter accounts of some bands but what I mostly read is 140 letter bullshit.

Nate: It’s just a goofy, sorta fun thing. I don’t know if it’s really all that helpful necessarily but I suppose it’s a way for people who listen to your music to keep up on what you’re doing.

You’re right, though– most twitter accounts are just full of inane self-absorbed blather. Still, it’s entertaining to scroll through a bunch of updates a couple times a day and it can end up being a useful communication tool (like with the Iranian elections this year for example).

Speaking of tours, you will be playing at The Fest 8, and I will be there: what do you expect from this? Have you already played there? Which bands are you excited about? Any new band at The Fest that you might want to recommend to people, Banner Pilot aside?

Nate: This is our fourth year playing. It’s a blast! We’ve always had a great time and it’s one of the highlights of the year. I would recommend that people check out The Dopamines– great pop punk band who put on a super fun show. The band Good Luckis also really fun live; they were probably my favorite set from Fest 7.

Will you tour Europe to support “Collapser“?

Nate: Definitely! I think we’re aiming to head over there in March or April. Not sure for how long or to which countries, but we’ll be over there!

Thanks a ton for your time! Your music is awesome!

Nate: Thanks man!

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