Q: (as the golf cart driver is overheard announcing to the band that they are in for a bumpy ride) Do you prefer to playing big festivals, or would you rather a small club show – or perhaps an arena?
PH: I used to judge them all is if they belonged anywhere near each other, but I don’t think they do – they’re very different animals. I enjoy them each in their own ways. I’ve always felt, though, that festivals should be more like a juke box. I really would like to see that happen, where everybody who buys a ticket, for whomever they want to see, they can dial in and just request the songs of the bands that they most want to see. For the bands whom they don’t want to see, they can just pick up one or two songs. That could be kind of fun, I think.
Q: That actually sounds amazing. I wish they were like that.
PH: Yeah, that’s the thing about festivals: attendees want to have a good time, but they don’t necessarily know who they want to listen to, or where to find them. This could help out with that. Maybe someday, it’ll happen.
Q: That would be sick. Okay, so the band has stated that Wrong Creatures is, essentially, a collection of ideas – both older and newer – which the band finally sat down and finished. Which song, for you, has had the coolest evolution, and why?
PH: Hm…I guess I’d go with the one that came the smoothest and the quickest, which is “Night Configuration.” That one, as a jam, was longer (maybe an hour), but the parts really came together in the studio – melody, guitar parts – without talking, or even thinking. Yeah, that one was the smoothest – and it kinda came across that way on the album, too, hopefully?
Q: As opposed to the ones which gave you a bit of a struggle, I guess? We’ll get to those. I really wanted to ask you guys this: the band really stuck by Leah while she was battling complications from chiari malformation – which a friend of mine actually has, so that was close to my heart.
PH: Oh, wow…
Q: Mm-hm. Not every band would have done what you guys did, for her. What has made you feel the most proud of her throughout all of this, where you just thought “Wow, you’re an amazing person, and I really want to back you”?
PH: Well, throughout the whole “Specter” tour, she was just struggling, as far as lights would go, and never being able to be comfortable onstage – it was really affecting her. It was hard just seeing her struggle, knowing that something was up, but not understanding what – wondering “Is it like OCD? Watch out for that!” and her saying “It’s not that.” She’d be playing these shows, saying “I don’t know what’s wrong with me.” So, she finds out what’s going on, and that scares the living shit out of everybody, you know? More so her, but also me – being a band mate, being a friend. Then she scares the living shit out of us again by firing right back into playing as quickly as possible. Her doctor is a fan of music, and actually knew of our band – he gave her a process of how to get back up and move. I think it started with maybe a week of two minutes of a day, just hitting the snare and the kick hard by herself, with no loud music. Then it became five minutes the next week, ten minutes the next, twenty the week after that. Then, we came in, and we’d only do five minutes of loud music, then ten, then a half hour – week by week. After about a month or two of this, we went out on the road, and she was playing, which was just like “Holy fuck.”
Q: That is crazy impressive.
PH: Yeah, she just wasn’t having it, she was like “I’m fucking doing this”, and she did.
Q: And I don’t think she would have been able to do it, if you guys hadn’t been patient, and just worked with her like that. Not every band would have done that.
PH: I guess…I mean, I don’t take much credit for her work, but yeah, we were supportive. It just didn’t feel right to start working on music without her. I didn’t play music at all while that was going on – didn’t write, probably should have, the album may have come out more quickly. I should have been working on words or something, maybe, but, for me, it just felt wrong to do that, knowing that she was still needing to be in recovery for a while.
Q: I respect that – I think that’s really sweet. So, Pete, I’ve gotta ask: what the hell type of trouble can a fourteen-year-old get into to warrant over a year’s grounding?
PH: It was drugs – I’ve had drug trouble since I was thirteen. It was me sneaking out and drinking and smoking meth, doing LSD – all the shit that was making life madness.
Q: Meth is very hard to get off of – how have you battled that?
PH: Well, I’ve battled just about all of them (chuckles). It’s just kind of an endless process, you know? It’s about learning yourself: where that lack of self-confidence stems from. For me, I’m adopted, and I come from a broken home within that – that stuff plays into your self-worth, and drugs are self-medication, that’s what it comes down to.
Q: So what are you self-medicating with now? (both laugh.)
PH: Right now, I’m sticking to cigarettes, but I’m trying to cut back down.
Q: Everything is a process. One step at a time.
PH: God, I just read this thing – I think it was in The New York Times, listing the twenty-five top things which will give you cancer. The top one was sugar, then meat, then cancer, then processed meats and foods. This, to me, means that meat belongs around second or third, pushing cigarettes even further down (giggles.)
Q: And sugar is my number one addiction, so I’m pretty screwed if I don’t start laying off.
PH: Ah, I don’t know. Hopefully, in time, we’ll look back at ourselves as a culture and say “Yeah, we were all being pretty foolish back then,” but we have to get to that point. That’s going to take time and the evolution of our healing capabilities.
Q: Well, based upon the evidence we have in The White House right now, I’d agree that we definitely need some more evolution, that’s for sure (both laugh.)
PH: You know, I wasn’t actually surprised that he won.
Q: No, I wasn’t either.
PH: I do feel bad about the way they turned Hilary into such an evil person – I don’t think that’s necessarily true -.and people fell for that.
PH: It was obvious that people didn’t want the usual. Republican / Democrat wasn’t really working. Trump happened to put himself onto that ticket, but he was kinda representing this…
Q: Himself. He represents himself.
PH: Yeah, he’s selling the bullshit, fake “American dream”, which I think is horseshit, but people fall for that. But I do see a little bit of hope down the way, that maybe this gives another chance for a Third Party to get in there, since people really do want this change – a Bernie Sanders, a Green Party candidate, whatever the fuck.
Q: Oh, I would love that so much. We need that breathe of fresh air. We need a person who remembers that there’s more than one type of American – that would be really lovely. Someone who recognizes that the voting bloc also consists of women, the LGBTQ community, people of color, immigrants, other religions, and not just a bunch of straight, Christian white guys from the Midwest.
PH: Absolutely. I’ve got a bit of hope that that door has now been opened.
Q: Peter, I hope you’re right.
PH: Hopefully. I don’t know, it’s scary that this has turned into sort of a…
Q: Shit show?
PH: Well, a joke, but a scary joke. All of this Right Wing National Pride.
Q: It’s very Fascist.
PH: Yeah, it’s spooky that it’s swung that far. Hopefully, that goes away.
Q: Hopefully, the pendulum swing back the other way. Anyway, switching gears: are the new jams being well-received on the road so far? Do the crowds know the words yet?
PH: Yes, I think? I’m actually interested in seeing the reviews from what we did last night. We had been doing two-hour shows, which gives people a lot of older songs along with the new album. But, last night, we did an hour show, with a good chunk of mostly new stuff – I’m curious to see how angry people are (laughing.)
Q: “Fuck those guys – I’m never spending my money on them again!”
PH: But it’s been cool. It’s always surprising – but always a nice thing – seeing which songs fans choose to latch onto that maybe you weren’t expecting.
Q: What do you think they’re latching onto this go-round?
PH: They’re reacting a lot to “Question of Faith”, “Carried From the Start,” and “Circus Bazooko” Not sure about “Spook” – we’ve been opening with that. You have these talks with record companies slash managers, trying to pick singles. Then you get out on the road, and you see what people latch onto, and you wind up coming back and saying “Hey, how about making a video for this one? People seem to be digging it.”
Q: You never know how well something is going to be received, or why, and it may not be the one that you thought it was going to be.
PH: Yeah, that seems to be kinda how it’s always worked, with us (chuckles.) You figure it out on the road.
Q: You don’t know what’s going to resonate with somebody, and you don’t know what’s making it do so. It may not come from the same place that you were in when you wrote and recorded it. I’ve heard a lot of artists actually say that, once a song is out there, it doesn’t belong to them anymore, and it’s not theirs to interpret.
PH: There’s a definite truth to that, yeah. For me, just to make it interesting, I find different ways to interpret each song, each night. That keeps things fresh for me, so I don’t get too bored of a song.
Q: You know, I’ve always wondered about that: if bands get tired of playing the same songs over and over again, but that’s a good strategy, actually.
PH: I’ve probably said this before, but something like “Punk Song – Whatever Happened to My Rock N Roll?” is a personal song as much anything. It’s asking myself that question, literally, what the fuck happened to myself. Like, “I don’t even talk about rock n’ roll some nights, what the fuck’s happened to me? (laughs.) But it’s right fucking here, I’m playing it.” On other days, it’s different.
Q: “Who am I?” Well, you’ve always been described by your bandmates, and by interviewers, as “The Quiet One”. I do see why, but I would say “The Mellow One”. Are you just taking it all in, or quietly plotting?
PH: Quietly plotting.
PH: You know, some guy said that to me – I actually kinda took offense to it. He told me “You seem to be careful with your words; are you scared of saying something?” I looked at him like “What the fuck do you mean by that?” (both laugh.) I mean, I’m trying to be thoughtful, but…
Q: Yeah, I would’ve said that you’re measuring your words because you’re thinking through what you’re saying as you’re saying it, not that you’re avoiding anything. I mean, it’s not like I’m asking you Brian Jonestown Massacre questions, or questions about Nick that you might want to avoid – and I don’t like to do that sort of stuff in my interviews, anyhow, so…
PH: I don’t necessarily avoid it. I can say that would be obvious, if a question like that was to come up, I would just say…
Q: No comment.
PH: No comment, yes (laughs.)
Q: Stands on its own laurels, nothing else needs to be said.
PH: No need to dance around it.
Q: Alright, so “Storytellers” time – I like to do this with my artists. Can you share an interesting tidbit from the “Wrong Creatures” recording sessions? A fun anecdote, a weird moment, an interesting story?
PH: I guess I would say…it’s a little similar to Specter. The dude that helped us with Specter – Chris Goss, I believe his name was – he’s a pretty laid-back dude, like “Just do as you do,” you know? That really gave us the confidence to just trust ourselves. With (Wrong Creatures producer) Nick Launay, he came at it a little bit differently while trying to propose the same thing. Like: “Here’s an option: maybe if this was a little shorter, it would make more sense to me, but do what you do. I like what you do, people like what you do, trust yourself.” Even when it came to mixing, and things like that. I don’t know if that counts as an anecdote, but…
Q: Well, how do you find advice like that from a producer to be? I wouldn’t know how to interpret that if I were sitting in your shoes, you know? I’d be like “Are you basically passive-aggressively nudging me in the direction of shortening my song, but wanting me to decide that on my own, or are you saying to leave it longer?” (both laugh.)
PH: Yeah, yeah, yeah! Well, the brain goes right to the paranoid, hearing “Yeah, that’s really great, but maybe if you did this…”
Q: “But you do you, Man – whatever you think is best.” I’d have so much self-doubt, like “Maybe I should shorten it.”
PH: It’s interesting how that doesn’t get easier with time, either, but that’s okay. It’s alright.
Q: I’ve heard that the self-doubt is always there, and the stage fright too. You would never know it, but a lot of artists are actually nervous wrecks.
PH: Yeah, the stage fright – that’s never gone away.
Q: It’s crazy, you would think it would over time, but it doesn’t?
Q: What do you to cope with stage fright?
PH: I do different things, I go through stages. Sometimes, I’ll sage whatever room I’m standing in, which kinda forces me to settle myself. I’m not sure how much I believe about it washing off the negativity of the day, but, you know…
Q: You do like a mental sweep?
PH: It helps me get more into a centered kind of state, like “I’m just doing music here, if I fuck up, I fuck up. If people don’t like it, that’s okay – people have not liked it before, it’s no big deal.”
Q: You know what’s funny? Unless like it’s a dropped lyric, or something that’s really obvious, even with bands that I’ve seen enough times live that I know all the songs by heart, and I know when to clap and all that, I generally do not notice a musical error until the artist points it out themselves, for what that’s worth. The artist’s reaction is the clue that they’ve dropped a chord or something. You actually won’t realize that from the audience – just so you know.
PH: That’s usually why we’re laughing onstage: we’re looking at each other like “Well, that was a good fuck-up.”
Q: Some artists have talked about using a dead mic to critique each other so we can’t hear the conversation from the pit. Okay, we actually started to talk about this earlier: I do have a “Question of Faith” question. How would you characterize the line “I’ll give you what you want, if you promise you’ll keep walking away”?
PH: What does it mean to me?
PH: It’s about what somebody needs from you – what they want you to be, as a human, what they think you should be. How far along you are in your process of becoming an adult – it’s coming from that, a little bit. There a few other things wrapped up in that, but that’s the simplest way to put it. “I’ll say what you need for now, just make sure you get out of my way for a while, at the same time.”
Q: Fair enough. How about this one, from “Haunt”: “It’s all I can leave you, Babe, ‘cause the world was never yours”?
PH: Oh, that might have been a Rob lyric. I don’t think he’d mind me saying this: the working title of that song was “Cohen Haunt”. We’re all big fans of Leonard Cohen. That’s where that was coming from. As far as that particular line goes, there are a lot of those themes in both of our writings. The way that I mean it, and the way that I take it, when he says it, is remembering that the world is not mine. My opinion – my viewpoint – of how I think things should be, and ought to be, isn’t necessarily right, and neither is yours, and it’s important to remember that. Nothing really belongs to us: not even the people we love.
Q: That’s so true. So, let’s round up the interview by having you do an inside joke shout-out to each of your band members? And an inspirational word to your fans?
PH: Let’s see…I guess for Leah, it would be “Your rack tom’s fine. It’s placed just right.” Where it’s sitting is just fine, she doesn’t need to move it anymore – it’s never in the right place. I guess for Rob…Leah’s talking in my ear right now, she says “Tell him that the other distortion sounds just fine too.” As for the fans, no encouraging words at all, we’re dark like that (laughs.) No, I’m just kidding! Mostly – and I know it’s corny – but I just want to say thank you for allowing me to get through everything by playing. We may not be selling any cds, but at least we’re able to get up there every night and scream it all out.
Q: And have lots of people screaming along with you, that’s the best part. Now go take advantage of that free barbecue, since you don’t get to eat that often. Thank you for your time.
PH: (chuckles) Okay, hopefully! Thank you.