When Rob Crow and Armistead Burwell Smith IV's named their project Pinback, a reference to an obscure science fiction movie of the 1970s, only the nerdiest of film nerds got the joke.
The San Diego indie rock stalwarts were paying tribute to a key character in John Carpenter's low budget debut Dark Star. In 1974, the future director of Halloween and Escape From New York put together a direct descendant of Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey but with a wacky sense of humor. Informed by the Cold War hysteria of the time, the film followed a small group of interstellar adventurers from Earth on a mission to destroy unstable planets... Until one of their spaceship's talking bombs gains self-awareness. Co-writer Dan O'Bannon played Sgt. Pinback.
New Timesspoke with Crow last month about the band, a mutual appreciation for sci-fi, particularly an appreciation for the genre's game changer Star Wars, could not be avoided.
New Times: I love the origin of your band name. Have you seen Dark Star on Blu-Ray, yet? Does it still hold up?
Rob Crow: I mean, I watch it all the time (laughs). It's just a good movie that I like to watch. There was a period in my life when I watched it every day. It was either that or Duck Soup [the Marx Brothers classic] or all sorts of things.
Sci-fi seems part of the influence in your songwriting. What do you like about the film genre?
It's the genre with the least amount of good films attached to it. There's tons and tons of science fiction films and maybe 20 really good ones, and that's counting the ones that are good by mistake. The ones that I like most are the ones that have like dirty technology. Like Silent Running or [Star Wars: Episode IV] A New Hope or Dark Star. Things that are futuristic but run down.
Yeah, I liked it.
Can you even count how many times you have seen the original Star Wars?
Oh, that would be impossible, and then I saw it nine times when it came out originally.
What do you think of news of the sequels?
Well, I have high hopes. I mean, J.J. Abrams did real good with that first Star Trek. Yeah, I liked it a lot, and [screenwriter] Michael Arndt worked on Toy Story 3, which I loved a lot. Let's just hope things don't get really convoluted.
All I can do is cross my fingers and hope for a hero, like some real characters that my kids can look up to like I looked up to Luke Skywalker and Han Solo and Princess Leia and Chewbacca and R2 and C-3PO and Obi-Wan. That would be great, somebody like that for them, for their own generation.
You're talking about what a mish-mash those prequels were...
Oh, those prequels were terrible. And here's the thing, so I'm like a completest with a lot of things. Like, I can't start reading a good comic book story arc unless all of them are done. It'll just drive me nuts. So, they announce, I don't know how many years ago, maybe 15 years ago, that they were going to start putting out Star Wars movies -- the classic Star Wars films-- in 3-D. They had shown the entire first reel of A New Hope in 3-D, like when they first started talking about digital technology and 3-D coming back the way it is now. It was one of those things that kick-started the whole deal.
So I've been waiting this whole time for them to finally release it. So they started trickling it out with the first prequel, so I ended up going back to the theater, watching the goddamn Phantom Menace again to see what it's going to be like in 3-D, and then they're going to put out the next two, I guess, this year, and then they were going to put out the classic trilogy, and then all of a sudden they're like, "Nah, we're not going to do that. We're not going to release any more." So they halted the plan, so now they tricked me into going to see Phantom Menace again and not giving me the classic trilogy in 3-D like they've been promising forever (sighs).
Oh, no. That's terrible.
Well, at least I heard good things about the possibility of Star Wars Land, which is happening in Disneyland, and I'm close to that, not super close but just an hour, an hour and a half away. But you know, there's a possibility of quitting everything and just going up there and getting a job being a custodian at Star Wars Land. I think I can see myself doing that.
And all those music projects you have?
I'll do them at night. I'll clean up droids all day (laughs).
It will never be the same as when you were a kid in the '70s. It is really one of my first vivid memories in a theater. I was in kindergarten. My brother was all worried about the Jawas being burned, and I told them it was OK.
(Cracks up). Why is it OK?
I told them it brings them back to life, which happens off screen, of course.
(laughs) You were a Star Wars revisionist before the film had even gotten anywhere.
I was six!
You were like, "You're right. It's horrible. That Empire sucks, and they should do everything in their power to defeat them."
How about you, any early memories of Star Wars as a kid - how old were you when you saw it?
Oh, man, I don't know. I was real young. I know it was before kindergarten because I think the second time I saw it was kind of a treat after going to my first kindergarten class, or maybe it was first grade, I'm not sure. I remember seeing it many times in the theater. Whatever excuse I had to see it I did.
"Oh, the folks want to go shopping at the mall? Is Star Wars playing? Can I go see Star Wars while you guys shop?" It was usually a good way to placate everyone. Last time I saw it in a theater, like that, before the re-releases, it was when my parents went bowling, and the bowling alley happened to be next to a drive-in, and as soon as we pull in, it started playing at the drive-in, so I just hung out, outside the bowling alley, and you could hear it just fine from all the outside speakers. It was before radios at the drive-in. So that was a fun time seeing it too.
But then came the special editions with the digital effects added. It takes you out of the movie, didn't it?
Yeah, it did. It ruined it. Especially, like the dance scene at Jabba's palace in [Return of the] Jedi. That was just horrible, horrible revisionism.
Pinback, with JP Incorporated. 8 p.m. Wednesday, March 13, at Culture Room, 3045 N. Federal Highway, Fort Lauderdale. Tickets cost $15 plus fees. Call 954-564-1074, or visit cultureroom.net.
Follow Hans Morgenstern on Twitter at indieethos.
Keep New Times Broward-Palm Beach Free... Since we started New Times Broward-Palm Beach, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of South Florida, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering South Florida with no paywalls.