Pinhead Gunpowder’s Jason White discusses 10 of the band’s biggest influences
Pinhead Gunpowder -- the Bay Area punk supergroup featuring Aaron Cometbus (Crimpshrine, Sweet Baby, the Cometbus zine, etc), Billie Joe Armstrong (Green Day), Jason White (live member of Green Day and in other GD side projects, plus Monsula, The Influents, etc), Bill Schneider (Monsula, The Influents), and previously the late Sarah Kirsch (Fuel, Fifteen, etc) -- will be reissuing their entire catalog on vinyl via 1-2-3-4 Go! Records in five phases:
Phase 1 (4/30/21): Jump Salty LP, Trundle and Spring 7” plus two shirts with art from each release.
Phase 2 (6/11/21): Carry The Banner LP, Fahizah 7” plus two shirts with art from each release and the stand alone “Kick Over The Traces” shirt.
Phase 3 (9/10/21): Goodbye Ellston Avenue LP, At Your Funeral 7” (songs from two splits, split up no more!), plus two shirts with art from each release.
Phase 4 (11/26/21): Shoot The Moon LP, 8 Chords 328 Words 7” plus two shirts with art from each release.
Phase 5 (3/11/22): Compulsive Disclosure LP, West Side Highway 7” plus two shirts with art from each release.
Pre-orders are available here.
Ahead of the reissues, we spoke to Jason about 10 songs that influenced Pinhead Gunpowder over the years. "This list includes a few songs we covered over the years on various records, along with some songs I can remember having conversations at length about with the band members individually and collectively," Jason says. "Whether you bond over the love of a song with mutual admiration, or when someone turns you on to something that you then grow to love yourself... that’s the good stuff. And when you all decide to cover a tune and put it through your filter, you learn more about who your band is. And of course, 'Pinhead' by the Ramones. Gotta have that on there."
Watch Pinhead Gunpowder perform at 924 Gilman in 2010 and read on for Jason's picks and what he had to say about each one...
"Pinhead" - Ramones
Pretty self-explanatory. So much starts with the Ramones for Pinhead Gunpowder. I think I became an even bigger fan after joining the band, honestly.
"Big Yellow Taxi" - Joni Mitchell
Pinhead Gunpowder covered this early on, before I was in the band. Such an iconic tune. However, this is still my favorite version of this song. Legend has it Howie Klein, then still president at Reprise Records, liked the Pinhead Gunpowder version so much he actually played it for Joni Mitchell. And she supposedly loved it!
"Theme from Mahogany" - Diana Ross
We covered this on Carry The Banner. Aaron brought the idea to cover it to Bill and I. It has... a lot of chord changes, let's just put it that way. We sat around for hours in Bill's Lake Merritt apartment in Oakland trying to figure out what was happening. We eventually gave up and had to wait for Billie to get back from tour to figure it out.
"Song Of My Returning" - Phil Ochs
Such an amazing song from the underrated troubadour Phil Ochs. Again, Aaron brought this one in to cover during the writing of Goodbye Elston Avenue. Billie's vocal really brought the best out of it. We didn't use even use every verse from the original, and it's still one of our longest tunes.
"Achin’ To Be" - The Replacements
It's no mystery, we're big Replacements fans. I was kind of (or totally) obsessed with Don't Tell A Soul some years before we covered this on Shoot The Moon. I played it acoustic around a backyard bonfire one night Billie and I were having beers with friends on a cold Berkeley night. And when we were rounding out the latest batch of songs, he said, "We should just cover 'Achin' To Be' and you should sing it." Life was simple then.
"100 Punks" - Generation X
Aaron and Billie would bond over their love of Generation X. And I honestly didn't know much about them until they hipped me to it. That's just one of the great things about being in a band, to me, is the sharing of music. "You-gotta-hear-this" moments. And there's a nod to this song in our song "West Side Highway," except there's 200 punks instead of 100. Twice the punks.
"Godspeed" - Swiz
Bill, Sarah and I dipped more than a toe into what later would be deemed "early emo." We hated the term as much as the next person. But I can't make a Pinhead Gunpowder list without including this. I remember having conversations with Bill and Sarah about Swiz and loads of other DC bands. Sarah's incredible guitar style just makes me think of this. Just wild and creative playing. Open strings ringing out. So cool.
"Attempted Control" - Code Of Honor
Aaron introduced me to Code Of Honor. This is Bay Area '80s punk that we followed in the footsteps of, I think. And this song rules.
"Corpus Christi" - Avengers
Another Bay Area legendary punk band that Billie and Aaron used to always bring up, it was my first introduction to this band. Maybe picture us hanging out drinking coffee late at night on a break during band rehearsal, or after, wandering the streets and hearing them speak of rare Avengers 7"s, and "that one song!!! Oh man!" I was just gettin my ear hustle on.
"Auf Weidersehen" - Cheap Trick
Much like the Ramones, the one common denominator in Pinhead Gunpowder is Cheap Motherfuckin' Trick. Always has been and always will be. You know how you'll hear songs for years and not really know what the singer is singing? Maybe a buried vocal or slurred speech? I think Aaron used to be confused by a line in this song, is he saying "Ayacucho Goodbye!" So I thought it fitting to end the list with this incredible, just totally-rocking-the-fuck-out song! Bye bye, so long, farewell, sayonara, au revoir, buenas noches, auf weidersehen, ayacucho GOODBYE!