Jon: Yeah! I encourage all of that.
As well, recently someone posted to the site wanting to know more information about being vegetarian and numerous people replied with helpful advice and links. Obviously the center of all this is the band's music, but it is great to see people taking an active interest in what the band is involved in politically and philosophically and, more to the point, addressing and re-evaluating their own viewpoints and lifestyles as a result.
photo by craig young
Jon: Some of them are, yeah. I mean, obviously, it's okay not to. There is no written contract that states you must instantly join Greenpeace or Amnesty International to attend a concert. If people just want to dig the music then that's perfectly fine, but we obviously do talk about other stuff. It seems like there aren't a lot of bands that do that, because it's so "uncool" to care about anything. People wear their Wrangler jeans, smoke their Chesterfield cigarettes, wear their leather jackets with their slicked back fucking Top Gun hair and say [with a drawl]: "I dun give a fuhck!"
Well, I do!
You make people think, and that's a positive impact.
Jon: I think people are curious anyway, they're just never presented the opportunity to investigate it. And even if a tenth of the fan base looks at the things we support outside of the music, it's a good thing and is much better than me going: "Hey...huh...look at my beautiful girlfriend and my big car!"
Another interesting thing about your fans is the number of Pitchshifter related tattoos that are out there amongst the masses. And it almost seems like you've been encouraging it by telling people to e-mail the band with pictures of their PSI related ink and skin.
Jon: I've always been kind of freaked by all that. Being a typical male, I have a great fear of responsibility. And when I see people with my stuff tattooed on their arms, I feel in some way responsible. I designed the logo and when people come up and go "dude!" I can't go, "I think tattoos are stupid and I hate them," because it will crush them. I do think tattoos are cool if it's the right thing, but I don't like the weight of the responsibility of someone having my work tattooed on their body.
I'm reminded of the guy at your Seattle show in '98 who had your song title "To Die Is Gain" inked in big, black, bold letters across his back. Didn't he come up and ask, "What does it mean?"
Jon: Fuck, yeah. "What does it mean?" Whoa...it's on your back for life, Homes, and you don't know what it even means? Yeah, well, you know I'm totally for tattoos and any kind of self-expression...so many people seem to have them. I'm not trying to encourage it, but I'm curious to know how many freaks out there do have our band tattooed on their body.
How many people have sent in pics?
Jon: A few. You know, some are girls with these tiny little shoulder tattoos of the PSI eye logo. And then there is this guy who has the eye logo tattooed on the inside of each of his arms. They're huge! It looked like he picked up the cauldron in Kung Fu or something.
I'd just like to state for the record that I'm a girl and I don't have any tattoos at all. Ha!
You were forced to change the cover for Deviant by MCA. What is the story behind that?
photo courtesy pitchshifter
"To Die is Gain" MP3
Jon: Oh, classic fucking big business shenanigan, fucking ass covering bullshit. The original cover was a parody of that famous Thanksgiving painting by Norman Rockwell. You know, all those happy fucking '50s type of families that always look so painfully fucking happy. So we took a picture of Grandma and Grandpa and the family sitting around a fat turkey and mangled the whole perspective of it and messed about with their faces, and instead of a big turkey with all the sprouts around it, it's a giant hand grenade. It's like this surrealist weirdo thing. And so the Rockwell Foundation got in touch with MCA's legal department and said that it was too close to the original image, and MCA said that they felt like we could win the court case, but the higher "powers that be" in the company said, "We don't want to spend the money to find out. You've got five days to come up with a new album cover." So I'm on tour somewhere and I get the phone call and I'm like, "You're giving me five fucking days to come up with a new album cover when I'm on tour and away from home?!" Fuckin' hell!
So I just trolled through loads of stock photographs...which is what I usually do. I usually buy a stock photograph and fuck it up in Photoshop. And that's where the covers for Infotainment? and dot.com came from.
The new cover is by Gee Vaucher, who was the singer of Crass and did all their album covers. It's actually a black and white painting she did years ago. She's a friend of ours, so we licensed it from her and colored it in, made the Queen's eyes green and put the mad red background in.
It's a pretty interesting melding of the face of the Pope and the Queen of England. I'm surprised MCA let that one go over. Any complaints about it?
Jon: Uh...yeah, it's been fucking banned in Poland! They're all up in arms about it in Poland. "Why did you insult the Pope?!" There's some bullshit where they have to cover the album cover or something.
I kinda like both of the covers.
I liked the "Rockwell" one a lot.
Jon: I don't even own that! I coerced this old guy, William George, who's like a classic cowboy, John Wayne-type scene painter. Any scene you see in a magazine that has a cowboy riding a horse, smoking a cigarette with the plains in the background has probably been painted by this guy. So I met him and explained to him the concept, and he was like, "Hmmm..." And I was telling him that I wanted it to look so painfully happy that it was sick. So this old guy is sitting there in a boardroom at MCA in Los Angeles going, "Hmmm... I see..."
He did the painting, but he doesn't sell any of them because he keeps them for himself. He licenses full resolution scans of them, but because he finished the painting and all this shit with the legal department I don't own the painting, and it was never scanned because we didn't want to waste money on something that wasn't going to be used. So I've got a jpeg on my screen and that's it. 72dpi jpeg and that's it. It sucks...
Ahh...the music industry...
How did you end up including a Rat Bastard comic with the new album?
Jon: Cliff from the Huja Brothers is a friend of mine. He runs Crucial Comics and does the Huja Brothers. I've always wanted to do a comic. There's a few things I've always wanted to do. One is a doll...not like the Rob Zombie doll, but like those old Mego Batman things with the shit joints and the little suits. I really badly want to do Pitchshifter dolls like that. And I always wanted to do a video game or a pinball machine, and a comic.
I think since the decline of vinyl, CDs are so impersonal and they're so unartistic. A lot of 12-inch vinyl albums are pieces of art; you can stick them in a frame and hang them as they are. But with a CD it somehow belittles what it's about, so we try to put as many folds in as we can. We always argue with the record company about it. I wanted to make the first pressing of the album special so we included the comic.
I love the small print along the perforated edge of the comic that reads: "Detach here to completely de-value this limited collector's edition package and have your very own Rat Bastard comic book!"
Jon: Yeah, it's great!
Along with cool little things like comics, one of the things I've noticed about your albums is their affordability. Even new releases are priced under $10 in most music stores. I think that's pretty unique in a time where places like Tower Records and Virgin Megastores retail new releases at $17-$18, if not more.
Jon: We try. There are these programs you can sign up for that we always fight to be included in for the first six months of the release or whatever. We do our best to go in there with guns and insist, "Ten fucking bucks!" A lot of bands don't care about those kinds of things, and if a lot of the kids knew just how little the bands they buy albums from care about them at all they'd never buy their records again.
We try to do the best we can because they're the people who pay to come and see you...even when the shows are shit. Even when the shows are shit we still rock. Even when we're crying about how bad the gig is, we still go onstage and give it our all. You know that.
Yeah, the one-off CBGB show back in July. We were talking before the show about the lack of turnout and what not. It doesn't matter if 2,000 people turn out for the show or just two there were many more people than just two at CBGB, btw]--those two came to see the band put their best out, regardless. Pitchshifter always comes out and kicks out the jams, that's something the band have always done.
How does it feel to have people come up and say to you that Pitchshifter have been a big influence on their band?
Jon: I pity them...
Ha! But you read all the time about people asking Mark what his bass setup is, and saying how much his bass sound on "Genius" influenced them...all the time!
Jon: We did a show with Godsmack, Static-X and Staind, and the bass player from Staind come up and said, "Hey, I'm really sorry we're playing above you. It's kind of embarrassing, I based my entire bass sound on the song 'Genius.' I love you guys and I'd never be where I am today if you hadn't written that song." It was insane. We were all like, "Really?!"
photo by craig young