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Three Mile Pilot Ends 13-Year Hiatus

Three Mile Pilot Ends 13-Year Hiatus
After a 13-year hiatus and some high-profile side projects, the members of the San Diego rock band Three Mile Pilot are together again and have a new album to show for it. We'll talk with two members of Three Mile Pilot about the new album "The Inevitable Past is the Future Forgotten."

After a 13-year hiatus and some high-profile side projects, the members of the San Diego rock band Three Mile Pilot are together again and have a new album to show for it. We'll talk with two members of Three Mile Pilot about the new album "The Inevitable Past is the Future Forgotten."


Tom Zinser plays drums in the band Three Mile Pilot.

Zach Smith plays bass and vocals in Three Mile Pilot. He's also a member of the band Pinback.

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This is a rush transcript created by a contractor for KPBS to improve accessibility for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Please refer to the media file as the formal record of this interview. Opinions expressed by guests during interviews reflect the guest’s individual views and do not necessarily represent those of KPBS staff, members or its sponsors.

I'm Maureen Cavanaugh and you're listening to These Days on KPBS. Their music has been called moody, menacing, funky, paranoid, hypnotic and addictive. And if you are addicted to three-mile pilot, you finally got a new album to soothe your cravings, the San Diego paced indie rock back is back with new music after a 13-year hiatus. Two of the band members are here with with us today to talk about their new album called the Inevitable Past is the Future Forgotten. I'd like to welcome my guests, Tom Zinser, plays drums in the band Three Mile Pilot. Good morning.

TOM ZINSER: Good morning.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: And Zach Smith plays bass and vocals, he's also a member of the band Pinback. Zach, welcome to these.

ZACH SMITH: Thanks for having me.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Now, as I said, 13 years, I know that you got together about two years ago, and you've been playing but what is it that brought you back together after being away from each other for such a long time, Zach?

ZACH SMITH: It's not that we really stopped cooing three-mile pilot, it was that we sort of branched off and did other things and with the thought of always continuing the band. So we were always best of friends and -- so it was really natural. It was just a matter of finding the right time. And it happened to be 13 years later that it happened.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Right. Did it somewhere along the line for to you, Tom, we haven't played together for a long time? What's going on here.

TOM ZINSER: Well, we all understood what -- I mean there was different bands branching out from where Three Mile Pilot had started off, and we had kind -- that's when the other two bands formed and we kind of submit it off but never with the intention of giving up the pilot.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Never with the intention of never getting back together.



MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Now, the new album is entitled the inevitable past is the future forgotten.

ZACH SMITH: Well, we didn't come up with it. Actually Paul, the third member came up with that, and for me it's just a play on words, obviously. But it's an imagery thing. And so, like, when he'll present 20 different titles or whatever, 'cause he's come up with all the other titles I think, right? Na vucca Do Lupa was our first one. And that was actually his mom who came up with that.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: What's that mean?

ZACH SMITH: In the mouth of the wolf. It's sort of like a Sicilian good luck saying, I guess, I believe. But yeah, so he's always had them and so we just sort of sit there and he's firing them off, and whichever one just sort of lodges in the brains and kind of gives me imagery and I'm happy with, and the same with Tom. Then, you know, it, works out. And the idea of it being so long and how, you know, just sort of past, future, it kind of feels like it brought it all together to me.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Now, if I understand correctly, Tom, it took any five years to actually get this album together and fet it released. Why did it take so long?

TOM ZINSER: Well, because there were only, like, small intervals that we could record when both the other bands, were, like, in town and had some down time. And we'd get together, you know, just really probably a month out of the years, out of each of those years until the very -- like this last year we did a good, like 3 or 4 months couple blocks of really hard work to finish it up.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Right. To finally get it out.


MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Now the two bands this you're talking about are pin back and the black accord procession. Who's in which?

ZACH SMITH: Well, I started pin back. And Tom played with us, drums, and then Paul splintered off with another member who was with us in three-mile pilot for our last album, Toby, and they started black heart. And it just sort of -- it was more to, like, we did it because we had exhausted ourselves with pilot and we were taking a little break. But it wasn't, like, upper woo stopping. And they just sort of grew so quickly that maybe not -- I'm not saying that in fame or anything. I'm just saying they took all our time up and everything we ended up, just, like -- well, what happened to pilot, you know?

TOM ZINSER: On the back burner.

ZACH SMITH: It was on the back burner and it wasn't something that we did intentionally. We were planning on continuing.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Some of these songs on the new album have been in development for like ten years is that right?

TOM ZINSER: A couple of the tracks, yeah, we actually recorded some of the stuff that's on the record was actually recorded ten years ago.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: And how did that work out? I mean did you listen to it and say that's really good we have to keep that? Or did you say oh, I don't know what we were thinking?

ZACH SMITH: Well, I think we just do what we're feeling at the moment. And that's what came out ten years ago. And so we just had a big pot of songs, and it just went into the pot of songs and 10 years later we're going okay, let's continue with that. And it wasn't just that one. We presently had 5 or 6 other ones that didn't go to the album that were recorded at the same time. But yeah, it's just sort of -- you just bundle them all together and carry them with you. And --


ZACH SMITH: Pick them out at the end and see which ones fit together and make an album.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: We have a clip from one of the songs that you recorded many years ago, and held onto for the new album. This is three-mile pilot with the threshold. (Audio Recording Played) and that is from the track, the threshold, from Three Mile Pilot. Upon their new album is called the inevitable past is the future forgotten. You know, Zach, I think that gives people who aren't familiar with your band a real taste as to why, you know, it's called moody, it's called hypnotic. Your music's been called a lot of things along those lines through the year the. But how could you think this album is different from the music you were creating that years ago?

ZACH SMITH: Well, for me, it's just age and experience writing other songs. When we started this album we were a little concerned, I mean, I think I was. Gee, how are we gonna sound like chief assassin and the sinister, which was our second album. And you can't. No matter how hard you try. And we weren't trying but you're like I want to get in that mode again and take a little bit of that out. You can't because you're a different person you know?

TOM ZINSER: Yeah, you're in a new place. Even our third album was different. A lot different from the chief. .

Q. Right?

ZACH SMITH: So that song that you just played, which actually was called time, and we changed it to the threshold, was important to put it on because it grabbed a section of our lives that was sort of -- we were playing that song at the end of our last record. It was one of our last shows we were playing that song. And so it was important to connect the new album with some sort of bridge to the past.


ZACH SMITH: And that one was the song that made that connection for us. For me of course it made me go okay, this is genuine. You know? That way we write isn't how we write now but I want to bring a part of that and put it on this album so there's a connection.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: You know, Tom, I was reading that Paul Jenkins the third, member of Three Mile Pilot, says he can't even sing the way he used to anymore.

TOM ZINSER: Right. Yeah. He --

ZACH SMITH: He lies. He can. He just doesn't want to.

TOM ZINSER: When we went out on tour last year, he was, like, I can't do this. I can't believe I used to, you know, raise up in the higher registers -- not screaming but really putting a lot of energy.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Anger. That anger right.



TOM ZINSER: Like someone stepping on his tow.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: 'Cause he's happy now, huh?


ZACH SMITH: Well, I don't know about that. But yeah.

TOM ZINSER: No, we were never -- we've all been, you know, happy and had good lives. We're not --

TOM ZINSER: But black heart is the band that he, you upon, splintered off on, black heart procession, and that, you know, pilot's moody and maybe it started that. But Toby and Paul took it to another level and brought their music down really low and so his voice got really low, and really, like, you know, so the high like stuff that he'd been doing and screaming and all that just sort of disappeared over the years 'cause that's what heed been doing. But he has it in him.

TOM ZINSER: He just hated it.

ZACH SMITH: We just had to nudge him a little bit.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Awaken the beast?


TOM ZINSER: Kind oftory up his vocal cords a lot bit.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Let's hear from other fracture from the album. Of it's from the album, the inevitable past, is the future forgotten. That is it gray clouds from 33's new album. I'm wondering, San Diego based band, San Diego is known for sunny skies, beach culture, you think any of your music is a reaction to that?

ZACH SMITH: For me it has to be. I mean, you don't write music without taking in your environment in some way or another. And yeah, we live in a sunny beach place and that probably -- the ocean is a big influence on us, on our music, but it's an imagery thing again. So gray clouds and ships and water and all that.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: I mean, also, too, like a reaction against the poppy idea, the pop aspect of beach and sunshine.


MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: And surfer and that kind of that.

ZACH SMITH: Yeah, it is to a point. But not as much as you might think of it's just natural for us to write this way. I think.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: And would you agree, Tom?

TOM ZINSER: Yeah, I mean, I don't think we intended to make any kind of statement. It's just sort of what came naturally to us.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Okay. I want to know how you guys got together in the first place.

TOM ZINSER: Me and Zach --

ZACH SMITH: Zach and I, Tom.

TOM ZINSER: Zach and I. Sorry. Zach and I were in school learning English, and we had formed this band down in Chula Vista with my uncle. And it was an early punk band called neighborhood watch. And then we were playing the shows down there. Paul was in this -- his own band called dark sarcasm which was another kind of edgy punk band. And we played shows and we just, you know, met and talked with Paul and decided to put a new band together.

Q. So you guys have really been together for a long time?

ZACH SMITH: Yeah, well, Tom and I have known each other since we were five. Then we started this thing. He actually invited me down to Chula Vista. We had just all started learning to play strums.


ZACH SMITH: I was like 15. But yeah, and then Paul was just part of the scene down in the punk scene down in Chula Vista which was really great because that kind of shaped a lot of my thoughts all of a sudden on music, because at that time I was listening, not listening too much, but jazz or whatever was in my life around with my parents and stuff like that. Of so going down there was like what are you guys doing? What's going on? Then I was -- we were really into regee as well.

TOM ZINSER: Still are. Still are in a way.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: I gotta say, we are almost out of time which is really sort of amazing to me, but I want to ask you, are you doing -- do you have any shows coming up in San Diego?

TOM ZINSER: Yeah, what are we doing?

ZACH SMITH: Well, we're kind of in a holding pattern right now. We're waiting to -- I'm working on another album, pin back's new album. And so I think in the beginning of next year, we'll probably start doing something, you know? Touring and stuff like that.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Is it hard having an album out without doing touring behind it?

ZACH SMITH: I'm enjoying, it's one of the first times I've gotten to do that.

TOM ZINSER: Yeah, he's been touring for years, you know, ever since the pilot got put on the back burner. I am looking forward to it. . As much as I used to hate touring and the loss of personal space and your home and everything, I'm ready for some more. It'll be fun.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Okay, so that's the beginning of the year we should look for that.

ZACH SMITH: I think so.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: All right. Well, thank you both so much. We're gonna go out on another track from the inevitable past is the future forgotten, and this is called still alive.

ZACH SMITH: Thanks for having us.