Casket Salesmen (Phil Pirrone) - 06.20.06
Frank: Introduce yourself and give a brief background on your musical career.
Phil: Hello, My name is Phil Pirrone. I've been playing music since I was thirteen years old. When I was seventeen I started A Static Lullaby (ASL) with friends Joe Brown and Dan Arnold because we all felt we should play in a band together because we had similar goals and ultimately, we all wanted to play music full time. So, we came together and formed ASL. We started touring right away, our first tour was with our friends Finch, who I met when I was about fifteen. I played in a band called Nothing 2 Prove and did some shows with those guys. A Static Lullaby started hanging out and playing shows with Finch and eventually we toured together, twice in 2001. They introduced us to our manager, Rodney Afshari, and, after playing Hellfest and Furnace Fest in 2002 while we were label-less, we met & signed with Ferret Records. We released "....And Don't Forget To Breathe" (ADFTB) in January 2003. Following thatrelease,Columbia came along really quickly and signed us that same year. We toured on "...ADFTB" for the next few years relentlessly and got a good fanbase going. I felt we had really great fans and I got to know a lot of them, that's something I miss about being in ASL and I can't wait to get back on the road. We released our Columbia debut in 2005, "Faso Latido", and continued to tour. We then began working on the third record, but, I got into a car accident, which put me in the hospital. As a result of this accident, I missed an entire tour with the band. While recovering from the accident I decided to leave the band (for many reasons).
Frank: You said you left A Static Lullaby for "many reasons", care to share those reasons with me? Was the split between you and ASL an amicable one or an ugly one?
Phil: Well, first and foremost I really really didn't want to make another screamo record. Somewhere in my mind I thought we could evolve as ASL into something progressive, something experimental, but something still heavy as fuck. All in all, we'd become a really great rock band. When I realized that wasn't possible (or at least what I had in mind wasn't possible) I had to leave. Nate and I see eye to eye on pretty much everything. Nate wasn't happy in the band creatively either and we love playing together and we live together so we left the band together to form Casket Salesmen. We have a special connection on a musical and spiritual level. He understands that I am not nuts even though I seem nuts sometimes. He knows I've got something and I know that he's got something as well. We had spoken about leaving or not leaving ASL during the end of the "Faso Latido" cycle, and after the accident it didn't matter how much of a risk it was to leave a band that was already known and had a fanbase and a steady income...We didn't care how hard it would be or if we had to start all over because we just had to do what was best for us... I feel it has worked out! Nate and I wanted to grow and evolve and ASL wont be affected by that influence any longer. I think ASL fans will be happy with what they make. Honestly, there are no hard feelings and they have my blessing. I recently hung with all of them (including the new members) and everything was civil and friendly, It was a very mellow gathering and both parties spoke about our plans for the future. We are both really happy and really happy for each other so I think things are great. I'm just really excited and happy and I used to be really jaded and negative. So, things are looking up.
Frank: That's really good to hear. You and Nate's decision to leave the band seemed extremely abrupt and sudden. The reason I say this is because after you're terrible car accident, thank god you're alright by the way, you posted a message on the A Static Lullaby website. In this update, you made it seem like everything was running smoothly with the band and sounded excited to be writing new material...2 1/2 months later, you and Nate weren't in the band anymore. Was there a huge fight or blowup, did things go downhill really fast, or did you just kind of hide your true feelings in that update?
Phil: At the time of the post I was pretty excited, I felt like things might actually end up working out, but as things went on in the writing process things just got awkward. Dan and I and Dan and Nate just didn't want to do the same things. Everything he came up with we hated and everything we came up with he hated. Like I said before, we had been thinking about leaving for a few months, but we'd always come to the conclusion, "We can make it work, we're still happy, we still love the guys, we can eventually grow up with this band." The deeper we got into writing the third record, the more awkward it got. By that time we really really didn't wanna do the same thing that Dan did and it was really fucking obvious... it just wasn't working at all. When I made that post, it really seemed like we had all started to see eye to eye, but I was dead wrong. When the accident happened, I was in a coma for three or four days, in and out, ya know? So when I finally came out, I was talking about how I had to get out of the hospital because I had to tour and record with my band. My manager and family humored me for a while and then it became obvious that I couldn't do it so my friend filled in for me on the upcoming tour. And during that tour, I went to see the band live at the Troubadour. I had been thinking for a few weeks while they were out on that tour, about what I wanted to do musically. And after seeing the band at the Troubadour that night I decided I needed to propose a change. I planned on talking to Joe when he got home from tour about having the band evolve and this and that. I know the guys had enough on their minds so I decided I would wait until Joe got home. Well, he got word that I wanted to quit, which originally was not my plan, but, he called me from the Canadian border and began to ask me what was up. I told him what I was thinking and I proposed a change in the lineup of the band. He didn't want to change any members so, I told him that I loved him and I hoped we could remain friends and that I was quitting. I also told him, I can't speak for anyone else, but I'm pretty sure Brett and Nate are quitting too... he seemed ok with it. For a second, it seemed like the band was breaking up and rumors went around because Joe said something at a Canadian show from what I understand, but I'm glad they didn't break up, that was never what I wanted. In the end, I quit, Nate quit and Brett quit. We all felt the same way for a long time and I think me leaving was just a catalyst after the fucked up accident and the shitty response to Faso and the unsure future of the style of music we would be a part of creating. I think it was just a good exit point for the three of us...among other reasons.
Frank:So the band almost broke up? With so many member changes, don't you believe it may have been in everyone's best interest if you all just parted ways and cleaned the slate?
Phil: I don't know if I wanna open that can of worms because everyone has their own opinions. I guess its how you look at it. Personally, I don't mind that they carry on. It was just as much mine as it was theirs but I walked away, ya know? It's hard for me to be pissed and I'm not. But, I guess it could go either way- 3 out of 5 of us left. That's what you could consider "grey area" or "borderline". If there was only one dude left, that would be kind of ridiculous, and if it wasn't Joe, then even more so. Since the two dudes left in the band are Dan and Joe, I think ASL is still alive, because ASL was always a representation of Dan and Joe, more than it was of Nate, Brett, and myself. What people say about ASL is usually in reference to Dan or Joe. I am not upset that they continued to go on, but if I were Joe, I would of just started a metal band and been amazing...I really feel that way. It would of been better if Joe started a metal band. but, there's nothing saying he still cant do that and kids are going to be excited about the new ASL... it's hard to say if they should have let it be or if they are right for carrying on!
Frank: Jumping off track for a second: I hear a lot of stories about Joe. For lack of better terms, I hear he's a "drunken asshole" on stage. Show goers claimed that you guys, particularly Joe, would make really rude and offensive remarks towards the crowd and appear extremely intoxicated. Do you care to clear this up?
Phil: Joe and Dan would do that shit and it fucking embarrassed the shit out of me. It's one of the many reasons the three of us left the band. I have no problems saying I was nothing but nice to fans and when I spoke on stage I said thank you or something to that effect. Joe and Dan were also very nice with fans...But, on stage, they acted like rock stars and it bummed me out.
Frank: On the topic of intoxication, was the band ever involved with substances other then alcohol? A lot of "friends" of the band have claimed that some of you guys had some serious drug problems. If this is true, how did it affect the band?
Phil: Other than drinking and smoking (probably) too much pot, no, there were no drug problems in ASL. Everyone parties and dabbles on the road. Outside of dabbling, there were no serious issues with drugs.
Frank: Hahaha, Phil...are you lying to me? I do not doubt your honesty but for lack of better terms I heard you guys were complete crackheads.
Phil: Haha, no. I've done drugs. But I didn't do them to "party". What I am about to get into may go over some peoples' heads but, basically, I've done mushrooms, and I've done acid...not many times, but I have done them to experiment and to take something from it. Other then that, no, no white powders, no white rocks...nothing like that. Until taking acid my mind was very narrow and it helped me see things in the big picture a little more. It helped me focus on the beauty in the world, rather than the ugliness. Life is what you make it. If you make it ugly and grey, it'll be just that. If you choose to see the sun shine, you will. However, some people can take advantage of drugs like that and fuck their minds up... its sad. So, please, do not take drugs because I have.
Frank: So what you're saying is, "Hey young and impressionable kids! I suggest you take acid, but just don't do it routinely"?... I'll be sure to forward parents' hate mail to you.
Phil: Hahaha, no, no , no! I don't mean it like that at all. I'm just clearing up that "this boy here" doesn't like white powders or drugs that make you crazy. These days I keep it very chill...I don't drink very often anymore and I feel that if I'm not just taking a long break from mind expanding drugs, then I am completely done taking them. Like I said, I took something from it and what else is there? I don't take these drugs to escape because that's where people get fucked. They do drugs for the wrong reasons.
Frank: Back in A Static Lullaby's early years, there were a lot of rumors about the band "screwing over" Drive-Thru Records (DTR). Do you mind giving us a little insight on that? Why did the band ultimately decide to not sign with that label and how big of a falling out was there?
Phil: Drive-Thru Records invited us to their offices and house a few times and talked to us about signing. For a bit, it seemed like a good plan. In the beginning, DTR told us that if we ever felt like this wasn't the label for us, to let them know and we would remain friends & be able to do whatever we wanted. Well, after a while their enthusiasm turned into not returning calls and us feeling neglected, so, when we told them we wanted to go elsewhere, they flipped out. Telling us we were idiots and calling us every name in the book and doing everything in their power to spite us. Richard and I went back a few years, so he always acted like it was my doing or something; he kind of took it out on me. He actually dragged my name into an interview, which was totally unnecessary and unprofessional. The label wanted to sign us and they seemed excited for a bit but then they lost enthusiasm, and so did we. We acquired management who totally believed in us and we moved on and in my opinion did the right thing in signing with Ferret. After DTR started talking to us, Finch suggested that we contact their manager, Rodney Afshari. He loved the cd and we told him DTR wanted to sign us but things were weird. He said, "I want to show the cd to a few people". When he showed it to Ross Robinson, he loved it and wanted to do the record. We met with Rodney, and we loved him, we also met with Ross and it seemed like the place for us, more so than DTR. We started going down the road with Ross, but that never ended up working out. Ross signed Blood Brothers to Artist Direct then wanted to take us there. Artist Direct told Ross, "No, not another screamy band", or something to that effect. So, Ross told us, "guys, you can wait around another year for me to bring you to a label that'll sign you or you can go free and we can be friends and it'll be all good". We ended up signing to Ferret and Ross has been to many ASL shows in LA and I can say we are still friends.
Frank: Wow, I didn't realize the falling out between you guys and DTR was so ugly. Are you still on bad terms with Drive-Thru? Being as open and honest as possible, how do you feel about Richard and Stefanie at this point in time?
Phil: I haven't spoken to them in years. The last time we spoke it was neither friendly nor rude from what I recall. I had almost forgotten about them and to be honest, they just aren't on my mind. I don't hold grudges, and I don't hate anyone, so I've forgiven them for being unprofessional and nasty towards me. In the end, what goes around comes around.
Frank: As you stated earlier, Carl at Ferret saw the band at some festivals and signed them, correct? Well, rumor has it, Columbia signed the band originally, and then signed you guys to Ferret in an "upstreaming"-like deal. Is this true at all? Didn't Richard start this rumor?
Phil: From what I understand, Richard started this rumor. I can't be sure though. So I am not accusing anyone of anything. The idea that Columbia signed the band or even talked to the band first is completely retarded. Carl from Ferret saw the band at Hellfest and then Furnace Fest (2002), we hung out in a hotel room with some of the dudes from God Forbid and we were all drinking and were sweating bullets because we were all in Alabama mid August. A Ferret employee, who shall remain nameless, got punched by this drunk girl and he stole her pot, then gave it to me as my birthday present...it was awesome.
Frank: How was A Static Lullaby's experience with Ferret Records ? How was it working with Carl and all of the people over at that label? Was Carl bummed when you guys decided to jump to Columbia?
Phil: Carl and I still refer to each other as homies. I never felt like Carl or Rick or Todd or anyone else at Ferret were anything other than dudes who had a label. The Bronx say, "life is dudes", and they're right, life is dudes, and Carl and Portland and Rick and everyone at Ferret are dudes. I will always love them, support them and consider them part of my family. I don't know if Carl was bummed or happy for us...I'm sure a little of both.
Frank: How was the relationship between A Static Lullaby and Columbia? Did the band regret making the jump from Ferret to Columbia?
Phil: I regretted the move because It ruined shit for a year or so. It seems like things are finally getting back on track for those guys (ASL), which makes me happy. At first Columbia said everything we needed to hear. They told us we had six singles, they set us up with nice hotels and nice car services and nice dinners...it was nice, very nice. As a result of all of this, I always thought, "They seem to really back this band"...But, it's obvious they didn't give a shit and dropped the ball, then went "oops.....sorry". They never told us we needed to write a hit because they said we had six of them on "Faso Latido".
Frank: So they pretty much blew smoke up your asses?
Phil: Yes, dude, to sum it up- my ass is still sore... WE GOT FUCKED!
Frank: Damn. So there was nothing good about the experience? I heard your A&R guy and ex MTV VJ, Matt Pinfield, really supported the band and really backed you guys. Is that true?
Phil: Matt was really enthusiastic about the group. Just another reason why it just didn't make sense...the whole thing didn't make sense. They all seemed so jazzed on the band but nothing happened. Matt and I have lost contact since my accident. I've been trying to find him, but no luck so far. I'd like to talk with him... I have no hard feelings towards him, at all.
Frank: Did he leave Columbia while you were in the band, or after? Also, how did it feel being a part of a label that was in the process of dismantling itself?
Phil: I have no idea. It was so hard to get a hold of Matt, so I don't know when he left. It makes sense that the label is dismantling itself because they didn't have their shit together at all. That bullshit with the encoded cd's and whatnot...If they weren't doing a complete overhaul over there by now, I'd be shocked.
Frank: Speaking of the copyright protection stuff on your album, how did Columbia react when you guys openly voiced your opinion on that issue. I mean, you even went as far as to tell kids how to get around the protection software...that couldn't have made them very happy, right?
Phil: I don't know how they felt. And I don't care how they felt. I cared more about our fans being happy and being able to do whatever they wanted with the cd they bought. Columbia didn't care how we felt or how our fans would feel when they just pressed our album with that encryption on it and then didn't tell us. I guess if they were really pissed they would've called us. They fucked up with doing that cd protection bullshit and it blew up in their faces. They never told us about it... I was fucking furious.
Frank: Do you think this protection software garbage hurt the band's sales at all?
Frank: What happened with Columbia and ASL, did the band ultimately get dropped or request to leave?
Phil: Right after my accident, I got word from our manager that our lawyer had begun negotiating with Columbia to have ASL leave the label. So, as far as I know, we left the label and were not dropped. Were they going to drop us?...Maybe. I really didn't know and they never brought it up whether or not they were going to, but, its very possible that they were planning to do so. We officially left the label from what I understand.
Frank: With all due respect, with the #s "Faso Latido" put up, how were you guys NOT dropped?
Phil: I agree, the record tanked. Like I said, they might have been planning on dropping us. But, when we told Tim Devine we wanted to leave, he said, "Ok, I want you to be happy"...no joke.
Frank: Let's say, for hypothetical purposes, the band never signed to Columbia, do you still think you would've ended up quitting? In other words, how big of a role did Columbia play in your decision to leave?
Phil: Good question. Columbia had little or nothing to do with me quitting the band. The reason I left the band is because I felt that I could no longer be creatively happy. I didn't quit because it didn't work out (with Columbia), I didn't quit because I felt it was a good business move, I quit for what I believe to be "the right reasons".
Frank: When "Faso Latido" was released, kids made comments such as, "A Static Lullaby sold out!" and "Columbia Records forced the band to change their sound!". Are any of these claims valid to any degree?
Phil: Those claims are not valid at all. Columbia never told us that we needed a single, and never once told us to do anything other than what we did. While making the record, I think Lou Giordano (our producer at the time) felt the songs were done before Joe got to them. I've said before that I feel Joe wanted to go crazier on the tracks, and to be honest, I think he should of, but he never did. At first, I was so wrapped up in the process of making the record I thought I liked what it ended up sounding like. But now when I listen back, I think maybe Joe should've went bigger and maybe Lou was telling him to contain it a bit too much, which sucks. Joe could've said, "No dude, I'm doing it this way", but maybe he did do that, I'm not really sure. It seemed to me like Joe wasn't happy with the way his parts came out on the record though. I know, as a band, we weren't thinking about what would be best for Columbia, but I have some suspicion that certain members thought with that mentality from time to time, but, speaking for myself, I wanted to make a kick ass rock record with heavy stuff and some spacey stuff...reflective of Cave In and Jimmy Eat World and Saves The Day and Hot Water Music. We started getting into Pantera and I was hoping we would start getting heavier, we tinkered with some heavy stuff, but it ended up being what Faso was. Bottom line, I never wanted to cater to anyone but myself.
Frank: A lot of people bash Lou Giordano because they felt his production on Taking Back Sunday's album, "Where You Want To Be" was sub-par. How was it working with him? Do you feel it was a good decision to bring him onboard for "Faso Latido"?
Phil: I love Lou and I love Todd (the engineer on Both TBS and ASL)...I love them to death! To be honest, I don't know if they knew what they got themselves into, with "Faso Latido". Columbia wanted a hit record, ASL wanted to make what they wanted to make and Lou had to make it work for both parties...that's tough. I have to be honest, Steve Evetts became more like a 6th band member. While, Lou was more like a little league coach, "That was great" and "Thats a keeper" were said a lot. I would respond with, "Really? Are you sure??" and he would go, "Yeah, oh yeah, that had charisma". I think maybe in his opinion it did, but I thought at times maybe he was not that concerned or that into it. I could be totally wrong though. It just seemed like going with Steve Evetts would've been a better choice for that particular record. But, with that all said, I would love to work with Lou again because I think Lou makes records sound good. I think Sunny Day Real Estate's "Rising Tide" sounds great. If one day, I had a record that I wanted to do, and the parts were all there and I didn't need any help from a producer, I just needed someone I trusted to be there running the rig, I could call on Lou. I love Lou, I love hanging with Lou. Lou gave me a Frank Zappa cd as a gift during the recording process of "Faso Latido"...it really touched my heart. And shot-gunning beers with the guy that did Sunny Day Real Estate's "Rising Tide" was something I'll never forget.
Frank: At this point in your music career, with your new band Casket Salesmen, are you looking to please the fans, please yourself or please a record label more?
Phil: At this point, and at any other point, I am and always have been playing music to please myself...that's what it is to be an artist. You create something you dream, you make it tangible...you have to be completely selfish and true to yourself. Then and only then can you expect other people to really attach to it. Sure, with marketing and the right look, these days especially, you can get a band going for a few years, make some money, and sell some records, but, to really change someone's life, the music has to be sincere and from the heart. You should always try and please yourself, and when you do, show the world. There are many fish in the sea that look and feel just like you do, you will find them and they will find you.
Frank: How do you feel about the current state of rock music? How do you feel about bands like Fall Out Boy, My Chemical Romance and Panic! At The Disco making it big? Do you think these bands are "writing music for themselves" like you just stated?
Phil: I don't know Fall Out Boy so I am not about to act like I do. But, to be honest, they don't seem sincere. They seem like they know what it takes to succeed and they make sure they have it. To me Fall Out Boy is like professional wrestling, It's fake, but nobody cares...they are entertained because they are American and they have ADD. I know nothing about Panic! and wish to know nothing. My Chemical Romance on the other hand, I have known them for some time and remain really good friends with them to this day. I think if one band from this whole shit storm should stick around, it should be them...they deserve it. Gerard is one of my good friends and he has a vision and I respect the hell out of that. It may not be what I would choose to play or wear or say or whatever, but, I think MCR have become this generations Green Day... whether you like it or not
Frank: Would you rather starve and write music you love, or live luxuriously and cash in on the current fad?
Phil: I don't think its as black or white as that. I don't think I have to starve. I'm too smart to starve. I can write the music I love, start a record label, and put out music I love. I could write songs and beats and sell them to publishers who then sell them to rappers and pop stars (that's just an example of work, I'm not saying I'm gonna do that) I could do voice-overs (which is something I am very interested in doing) I could do all sorts of musical work to make ends meet. There's always tour. Jonah (Onelinedrawing, Gratitude, Far) hasn't "made it" or anything, he works year round and makes enough to keep doing this and
support his family. Seeing him do it is an inspiration. I have started a clothing company with Nate called Sacrelicious Clothing...If you work hard then you'll make money. What people need to realize is that you don't need to do what everyone else is doing. You don't need to go to college and step into the real world....well, I guess you do have to at some point.....But, not if you can dream of something you love, and create it. To actually make it happen. To turn it into something tangible. If you can do that, you don't need to sell out, sell yourself short, or do anything other than exactly what you want to do.
Frank: I see. What's worse, Drive-Thru Records or Columbia Records?
Phil: Do I have to pick one? They are equally bad, and ran by people who don't like music...they sign acts based on image. The Fenix TX / New Found Glory formula isn't working anymore, and it stopped working a long time ago. I guess I regret signing to Columbia but that isn't completely true. I don't wish that it never happened, because everything that has happened has delivered me to this point in my life. Without it, I might be someone or somewhere else. Going back to DTR, people think there isn't more to this universe. People think, "I can be a cock, I can treat people badly, I can disrespect myself, do things for
money and not for love and nothing can touch me"...they are wrong. If you are leading a nasty life, no matter how long your winning streak is, it's going to come and bite you in the ass one day. So to answer which one is worse is very hard. They are both spiritually fucked, and no matter how much money they make while in this plane of existence, they can't buy their way out of whatever hell they create for themselves.
Frank: Wow, very bold words. I wouldn't be surprised if Richard and/or Stefanie contacted me when this interview hits, haha. Do you think it was smart of the band to go back down to an indie-styled label like Fearless Records? If you were still in the band, would you have been supportive of such a decision?
Phil: It's a good plan, given that Warner is the upstream label for Fearless. They will win their fans back with a Fearless release and probably upstream to Warner, so, I think it's very smart of them to do it. Kids on Absolutepunk.net seem happy about it, based on their responses. If I were still in the band, I would support the decision but, I wouldn't be totally happy. Personally, I couldn't be happier with where I am. And, when I hung with Joe and Dan (and Dane and John) they told me they were happy. "Fearless rules", Dan said. They say Smartpunk is all over it, things are good, things are good, so, it seems like things are good, no?
Frank: To sum this all up, what have you gotten out of your experiences in A Static Lullaby? Will you be approaching things differently with your new project, Casket Salesmen, as a direct result of anything that happened in ASL? What can we expect from Phil Pirrone in the coming days, weeks, months and years?
Phil: I'm super lucky to have gotten the opportunity to get a "head start", if you will, on the rest of the game. I started touring at seventeen. Every moment with ASL was a big learning experience. As a result of our time with Columbia Records, I learned what not to do when putting out a record. I learned some great things about breaking a band from Carl and the Ferret dudes. I learned a lot from Rodney, our manager. I got to see the world and meet a lot of great people. I will be approaching everything in life with love, compassion, an open mind, an open heart, and an open ear. In the next few days I will be planning my trip to NYC where I will be firming up the release plans for this fall (for Casket Salesmen's debut, "Sleeping Giants"). In the next couple of weeks I will be looking for a bass player to join Casket Salesmen on the road because, as of a few days ago, the bass player we had lined up decided he couldn't go on the road. In the next few months, the band will begin to tour in support of "Sleeping Giants". Right now, Mythmaker is finishing up their debut EP, which will be released through Longhair Illuminati this year, Umbrella Tree will begin to record their debut album soon and a 2007 release is most likely.
Frank: Do you have any last words or anything else you'd like to share?
Phil: I really appreciate you taking the time to do this with me, I had a lot of fun. I really hope people can take a listen to the new track "Dr. Jesus" in our new Absolutepunk.net profile, we haven't shown the world too much music yet. Our stuff is really diverse, so, if you haven't checked it out yet, please
god fucking damn that is long.
that's a good interview though, kudos to you frank even though you don't like me.
thats a good interview. ive been waiting for this one for awhile. interesting stuff.
That was a fucking awesome interview...best I have read on this site.
great interview, i really like phil.
I have never heard this band, and judging by the "screamo" mention in his description I have no interest in doing so, but this was a very good interview.
...ADFTB was pretty screemo and if you dont like that you wont like the cd, but Faso Latido was a very different sound that you should at least listen to and decide on, a lot of ppl i know hated it but after a few time i grew to love it and its...differentness
frank pulls no punches.
great great interview.
phil is so awesome to talk to.
yes a little too long 4 my short attention span
great interview. I like how he answered all the questions and didn't hold back much
Great Review, its good that he left for his own sake. Even though ASL is one of my favorite bands, and its sad to see him leave, its good hes doing something he really wants to do. :) Good luck Phil!