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Interview: Piston Honda

Piston Honda
Questions Answered By:
Jake Cook (Vocals)
Interviewed by Pedro Einloft

Related Links:
Official Website Website

PRP: Ok, can you do the interview now?
Jake: Sure. I'm just eating spaghettios.

PRP: Good. So, let's do it. I'd like to start with the basics by asking you to share a bit of information about Piston Honda's past. How did you guys get together, the line-up changes and the choice of your name, for instance.
Jake: It started back in high-school, with Jason and I. We played in a few bands together, and we came across Patrick in that scene. Jason joined another Memphis band, and Patrick and I started our own band which eventually became Piston Honda. Jason came back into the band after the breakup of Loudermilk, and since January of '98 has been our guitar player. At that point, it was Jason (guitar), Patrick (bass), Jake (vocals), Jason L. (drums) and Chris (guitar). After a few line-up changes, we parted with our drummer and found Austin Morlan, our current guy. Chris Mitchell left the band in August of 2000 for musical differences but remains our best friend. As far as the name goes; we were called "Further" for the first few years, but changed to Piston Honda after NES and alcohol.

PRP: Hehehe, thanks to your name, I'm assuming that you're all big videogame fans, so here goes a tough one: Nintendo or Sega?
Jake: Nintendo is classic. I guess it's just a nostalgia thing for us, you know: 3rd grade = Nintendo.

PRP: I've always been a bigger fan of Sega myself.
Jake: Sega is good, but it will remain the Pepsi to the Nintendo's Coke.

PRP: Hahaha, I disagree. Anyway, you guys have been receiving some label interest as of late, and recently hit the studio studio to record three new tracks for industry purposes. What do you think will happen from here for Piston Honda?
Jake: We plan on taking our indie recordings to an outside perspective, a producer to "trim the fat" off the songs, and seek some sort of management. Oh yeah, and then world domination.

PRP: Hahaha, very well. How different, in your opinion, is your new material from that which is shown on "Paradigm Shift"?
Jake: "Paradigm Shift" is a raw, emotional, at times angry record. It has songs that are about 2 years old on it. Our new stuff has a bigger sound, more mature, more melodic. Though somewhat different, the new songs are in keeping with our sound and feel. It hasn't been a conscious decision to change our music, I guess it just comes with growing up.

PRP: Focusing a bit on your album, how satisfied are you with "Paradigm Shift"?
Jake: There are things that I would change, looking back... maybe some production or arrangements. There are a few songs that we have written recently that I wish could have gone on that record. All things considered though, I'm pretty happy with the album.

PRP: Lyrically, what were your inspirations for "Paradigm Shift"?
Jake: Relationships, general attitudes of the masses, different perspectives on life changing situations. The album urges people to dig deeper, to challenge themselves more, and to find what it is that drives them.

PRP: Sounds great. Are lyrics considered an important part of Piston Honda's music?
Jake: I always thought that lyrics were secondary. Good lyrics are a plus, but sometimes lyrics are so unintelligible that they really don't matter. However, if lyrics are stupid, that can take away from music. I consider my lyrics strong. I write as abstract as possible so people can apply the ideas in the songs to whatever is going on in their lives. So, yes, the lyrics are important, but not as important as the melodies.

PRP: Ok, cool. Being that "Paradigm Shift" might be most people's introduction to Piston Honda, do you think it accurately represents your sound as of now?
Jake: I think so. Our new songs are not an over departure from "Paradigm Shift", but show more maturity. Our live show is still predominantly comprised of the "Paradigm Shift" material. I think it's a pretty accurate representation for what we are doing right now.

PRP: Rumor has it that you're intending to record a new EP soon, featuring the three new songs you've just recorded, plus a couple of others. Any truth to that?
Jake: Some. We were throwing around the idea of releasing an EP, but we decided just to focus our energy on writing more songs. We want to stockpile material so we can pick and choose the best ones for future releases.

PRP: You have a little EP that was released prior "Paradigm Shift", titled "Fortune of Failure". Any particular reason on why you don't promote it anymore?
Jake: "Fortune of Failure" was a name that our guitar player, Jason, gave to a demo. It featured six songs from "Paradigm Shift" recorded before we really had the means to record them right. The quality is, to say the least, sub-standard.

PRP: I know that all band members are big time fans of post-hardcore, more specifically the band Quicksand. Considering that you're involved with releasing a Quicksand tribute through your own label, End of The Circle Records, with bands such as GlassJAw and Biohazard being featured in the line up, how important was / is Quicksand in your musical direction, and what's the current situation regarding "Driven State", the tribute?
Jake: OK. Quicksand and Helmet changed the way I looked at music. Quicksand, musically and vocally, has been one of the most innovative and underrated bands of the 90's. We draw comparisons to bands like Quicksand, Helmet, and Fugazi with no argument from us. Although they have been a great influence, we are moving in a direction that Quicksand never went, but they will always be my favorite and most influential band. As far as "Driven State" goes, our guitarist Jason is in charge. We have received most of the submissions, but there is still much work to be done. Melinda Beck, who did the artwork for both Quicksand albums; "Slip" and "Manic Compression", has agreed to do the artwork, but the real obstacle is the legal aspects with Island Records, who has the rights to Quicksand's music. Walter, Tom, Sergio and Alan all gave their blessings, though.

PRP: So here goes another one on the same subject, how much do you like Walter's new band,"Rival Schools?
Jake: Best album since Quicksand's "Manic Compression" in 1995; a bit more indie/emo influenced, but I wasn't expecting Quicksand II.

PRP: I see. After bands such as Primer 55 and, more recently, Saliva, got record deals and are tasting a considerable amount of success, have you noticed any changes / improvements in the Memphis scene at all?
Jake: Improvements, not really. Changes, certainly. There is a band every 3 feet in this town. Everyone is "record deal happy". Some bands a bit too much. Sometimes image gets put in front of actual songwriting. Some bands are even getting a bit "glam" on us. I really think that when it is all said and done, the bands that pre-existed all this hype will be the ones standing strong.

PRP: Ever thought of relocating from Memphis, now that Saliva is big, so people could never relate you to them? Hehehehe.
Jake: Hahaha; nah.

PRP: Hahaha. Apparently, Saliva mentioned you guys (as well as Logic 34) in a recent interview with MTV. Do Memphis bands have a tight relationship with each other?
Jake: Some do. There is a fair share of trash-talking that goes on though. We get along with almost everyone: Saliva, Logic 34, Crippled Nation, the Internationals, and Breaking Point to name a few. Some bands get frustrated with the scene and take things out on other bands. The only thing that frustrates Piston Honda is glam. We absolutely hate leather pants.

PRP: Hahahahaha.
Jake: Grown men in leather pants...c'mon, I thought Poison broke up. Haha.

PRP: Come on, leather pants are always a plus. Try to play with leather pants sometime and you'll see that chicks dig it, hahahaha.
Jake: I just can't bring myself to do something like that. It takes away from the music. I would laugh at me. Hell, I'd probably kick my own ass.

PRP: Hahaha, I wouldn't doubt it.
Jake: Let me clarify. Some bands get all decked out in flashy clothes and whatnot. There is nothing wrong with that if the guy ALWAYS dresses like that. For example, Josey from Saliva always wears those flashy suits and stuff. He can get away with it because it's not an act with him. That is who he is. Other bands will be wearing t-shirts and cargos before a show, and then go change into their "rockstar" gear before they hit the stage, and that's just silly.

PRP: Hehehe, I understand. Ok, let me ask you this: How exactly would you label your band's music?
Jake: Ok. That's the hardest question in the world.

PRP: Ok, then let me rephrase that. Forget the label idea. Try to explain in a few words how your bands music is. For instance, what words come to mind when you think of Piston Honda?
Jake: We are definitely aggresive without being "metal". We are melodic, but not "emo". We are heavy, but not "hardcore". We either fit in no musical category, or every musical category. I guess the best label is "melodic post-core", but if you say that to Joe Q. Public, he has no idea what to think. "Hard Rock" is the most accurate, but does not do us justice in describing our sound at all.

PRP: Does it bother you at all that people can't pinpoint a genre to label your band's music? As you've said it yourself, you're not "emo", "hardcore" or "metal", but kind of the intersection between those three genres. Is that positive in your point of view, or do you get scared that more radical people might not consider you a band with credibility and that you're trying too hard to sound like everything?
Jake: Well, we just write what comes out. It's unfortunate that some people only like one type of music, being metal or hardcore or whatever. I think that our sound shows our versatility as musicians, as well as our ability to integrate many different genres to create something original. I don't think that we sound like we are trying to sound like everything. We aren't doing the rap/rock thing, nor are we trying to fuse funk with metal, or any other combination that doesn't make sense.

PRP: Agreed.
Jake: Piston Honda is a logical progression from metal, hardcore, and emo. It has all the elements of those types of music, but it doesn't clash.

PRP: What is your attitude as far as how a Piston Honda show should be?
Jake: Piston Honda shows are honest and intense. No leather pants. No shiny shirts. No bullshit. Just 4 guys pouring out their souls via the music. It's hard to come across as intelligent or honest while wearing a costume.

PRP: I see. One of your new songs has "Benton Diehlstadt" as it's title. Who (or what, if that's the case) would be "Benton Diehlstadt"?
Jake: Mr. Diehlstadt is an old german guy who lives about halfway between Memphis and St. Louis, MO. Scariest man alive. I've never met him personally though.

PRP: Hahahaha. What's so scary about him?
Jake: He's a guy I made up while on a road trip to St. Louis. Interstate 55 North to St. Louis is a bleak drive. Nothing there. I was thinking that some weird "Children of the Corn" stuff would be likely to go on in the back woods of Arkansas/Missouri. I bet Benton Diehlstadt lives there somewhere. I would run fast and far from him.... You could imagine what I was like as a kid. Haha.

PRP: Hahaha. So let me ask you about influences. Quicksand is obviously one, but who else would you add to the list?
Jake: Tool, Failure, Helmet, (early) Filter, and Hum; but then there's Sunny Day Real Estate, Smashing Pumpkins, and Alice in Chains; even though we don't sound anything like those bands. Oh yeah, don't forget the Deftones and Far.

PRP: Cool. What about albums? What have you been listening to lately?
Jake: The new Rival Schools, of course. 6gig - "Tincan Experiment", Align - "Some Breaking News", Thursday - "Full Collapse", Haste - "When Reason Sleeps", Handsome - "Handsome", Dig - "Wasteland", Fugazi - "Repeater" and Shun - "Michael in Reign".

PRP: Align, huh? That's cool that you dig them.
Jake: Yeah, We are going to play a show with those guys in Mid-August here in Memphis.

PRP: They're definitely a talented band. How much strain on your personal life has the band brought upon you?
Jake: None really. It is always tough dealing with things like paying rent for the practice space and finding funds to pay for CD's and merchandise and stuff, but it's a small price to pay to play music. I just realize that we have to follow the band dream now, which means putting off other careers and school until their times come.

PRP: That's good. Do you think you're all in perfect condition, not only physically, but especially mentally, to sign a record deal with a major label and tour the world? Are ALL of you ready for fame and pressure?
Jake: Who knows? I know that if it were to happen, that would be a pretty good incentive to get into shape to tour nonstop. We could use some time to really concentrate on some things, arrangements, vocal training (for stamina) and such, but I think we are ready, all of us.

PRP: That's good. What is the most negative / optimistic thing the band has been through to date?
Jake: The most negative thing is constantly seeing what direction rock is headed. There are rap-metal bands and then wuss bands like Lifehouse. I think we may be a bit too "middle ground" for our own good. Listeners seem to be extremists, either liking pop music or music that is ungodly heavy or rappy. I'm just not sure where we fit in. Optimistically, the same could be a good thing. It always takes one band to set a standard for the next wave of music. Nirvana did it in '91, Korn in '95. I truly believe that if music is honest and good, it will have it's place.

PRP: Now that you mention it; to wrap the interview up, elaborate a bit on your views of the current music situation....
Jake: I vaguely remember the late 80's, but I do remember a lot of bands that sounded and looked the same. I remember that image took the front seat, and songwriting was forgotten. I remember how ridiculous it all became. I think that is exactly where we are headed. I don't know what it is going to take to open up people's eyes and make them realize that they are being forcefed the same crap over and over. I guess it is going to take another Nirvana. I wish Kurt was still here, and maybe this would never have happened.

PRP: If you think about it, Nirvana also created a trend.
Jake: You know, I've never heard a band that sounded like Nirvana, but they did create a trend in that they almost single-handedly destroyed hair-metal; and if you got my parallel between hair-metal and adidas rock, exactly.

PRP: I understand. What I meant by Nirvana creating a trend was, Nirvana were the godfathers of grunge, and it's undeniable that grunge music was pretty much a trend, with bands featuring people with flannel shirts appearing everywhere.
Jake: Sure, that could be said, but "grunge" never referred to a particular sound. The "grunge" bands (Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden and Alice in Chains) were all from the same city, but didn't sound a bit alike. Perhaps the grunge trend wasn't as widespread as the rap-metal trend, or hell, maybe it was just better.

PRP: Hahaha, ok, agreed; but it brought terrible bands also. I mean, who the hell can handle "Candlebox"? Hahaha.
Jake: Good point, but I would take "Far Behind" over "Bodies" any day.

PRP: Hahaha, I'd take "Bodies" because of it's deep and intense poetry.
Jake: Oh please lord, tell me you are kidding.

PRP: Haha, I am.
Jake: Good.

PRP: Well, I guess we are done here, Mr. Cook. Any last comments, shout outs, thank you's or fuck you's?
Jake: Shouts to all the bands being honest and resisting the urge to buy leather pants.

PRP: Hahaha.
Jake: And a big "fuck you" to the manufacturers of leather pants and shiny shirts. And long live flannel, like so much lumberjacks.

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