True to the independent spirit, and flying in the face of current international policies, Pistol for Ringo are eager to play in Canada during their upcoming West Coast tour, proper papers be damned. John Mastro of the band says that they love Canada; "If we were going to cover a national anthem it would be 'O Canada'". He has "fond memories of the Town Pump in Vancouver, and that was before the days when it was legal to do damned near anything in Canada."
They don't necessarily see any major difference in the Indie scene between Canada and the US; music is an area where the nations are very similar. "Although nice ideas like universal health care and liberal social policies don't seem to make it south across the border, music and other arts seem to flow either way, easily." And even if different places have disparate views on the issues of the day this may or may not show in the music produced. "It's all about the song writing. If a band can figure out a way to say there is too much mercury in the water or that Attorney General John Ashcroft is a dangerous dude, while still moving people musically, then they should." Music shouldn't be empty on the other hand, and they feel the lyrics should say something. "They also need to sing well, and not make one look too stupid. I don't think we're unlike a lot of bands in this regard. We have love songs, songs about self-doubt and alienation; songs that may point out societal inconsistencies." They don't have a good ole drinking song yet, but give them time.
The issue of contention in the music world today, regardless of borders, seems to be the downloading of music. As John points out the development of copyright laws were a breakthrough for the artist in the fact that they had a way to make a definite living from their art, and have some measure of control over it. Obviously illegal downloading isn't going to benefit the artist in the end. But legal downloading? "iTunes rocks!"
But John doesn't think that the labels being more wary of signing bands is reflective of only falling sales due to piracy; "I think that the majors stopped developing bands a long time before dropping sales could be said to have affected it. In this regard, the Indie scene is crucial because it becomes the farm system for the majors. Of course, for many of us, it is the only system that matters. Who really cares about most of the stuff the majors put out, anyway?"
The band uses many samples in their songs and their attitude reflects this. "Sampling is totally cool. Might be good, however, to first ask the person whose stuff you are sampling, otherwise you kind of get what's coming". There's a few people out in the industry who would be wise to pay attention to that.
Pistol For Ringo is the title of a Sergio Leone film from the 60's which they felt was appropriate for them, as their drummer is 'missing' (not that they have any ill will for Ringo – "he seems like a nice guy"). Influences include British pop bands but they "just write the songs we write, try to keep the instrumentation to a minimum but still try to make a lot of noise when necessary. Then we hope that the strength of the melody and the videos that we show distract people enough so that they don't realize that we have no idea what we're doing." A common fear, but usually unfounded.
In most ways they are like the rest of us. After a gig they like to relax with vodka, beer, tequila shots or gin and kick around the "farm league". But unlike hockey or baseball these guys aren't all dying to leap into the majors. You just have to know where the action is.
Writer: Nathaniel Whitfield