Upon returning from a European tour with Anti-Flag and Darkest Hour that Ean Elliot deemed “probably the best tour we have ever participated in” and from which he never wanted to come home…, the vocalist answered some of my pesky questions about his unbelievably intense band Pipedown (the sheer passion, vision, and progressive mindset of this outfit is simply unquestionable…) and their two albums on A-F Records – the still-to-this-day powerful-as-ever 2001 debut ‘Enemies of Progress’ and their latest, 2003’s ‘Mental Weaponry’.

About how the writing process differed between the two albums, Ean reveals that ‘Enemies’ was actually “a collection of the music we had written since the band had started including some songs from out-of-print EPs and singles.” In contrast, all the music featured on ‘Weaponry’ was created solely for that release, “with a clear vision of what that group of songs [was] trying to convey.” And what exactly IS Pipedown trying to convey? The one thing that comes through in much of their material is the idea of rising up against society’s preconceived notions of what “progress” is, by fighting back with ideas and knowledge rather than weapons. Hence, the titles of the LPs and the telling moniker of a song off ‘Weaponry’ - “Knowledge the Weapon”... Yes, people, it’s all relevant… In any case, they also sing of humanity and the importance of thinking for oneself. As Ean says, “As a whole, we try to focus on acquiring knowledge about the reality of the world with both human and non-human systems. We try to give the listener tools to discover their own meaning and value behind the subject at hand and make conclusions for themselves.”

And the frontman feels that their style of music – incendiary, urgent-sounding hardcore punk with usually harsh, screamed vocals – complements the topics Pipedown tackle in their songs wonderfully. Take, for instance, the song I always go back to – the composition that perhaps defines Pipedown (for me, at least) – the opening track of their first album “Risin’ Up”, which gives us hope with pleas of “It doesn’t have to be this way/Break the bottled dissention/Wage the war – tearing normalcy/Explosion causing attention/Tear down the factory/Give back our broken lives,” ending on manic screams of “TEAR DOWN THE LIMITS OF YOUR LIFE.” A similar motif can be heard on “Control” from ‘Weaponry’, on which Ean proclaims, “I don’t wait for change, I rectify/Don’t we need a change/Tear free from their control/Don’t we need a change from this shallow fucking grave?” Both these songs are appropriately fast-paced and heavy. “Our style of music is aggressive and full of energy,” Ean concurs, adding, “I think this is the best way to manifest the lyrical subject matter into something real and tangible.” On the same note, the frontman fully believes that change in society is possible. “Of course I do!, If there wasn’t a solid, concrete obtainable end to all of this revolting/revolution speak, all of our efforts and goals would be pointless,” quipping, “We might as well be talking about unicorns and funny little men with capes!”

Yet, as for as crucial and relevant the issues are that Pipedown - which also includes bassist Doug Wellmon, drummer Jack Jeffries, and guitarists Jason Omundsen and James K. - touch upon, Ean still believes that the band’s messages are by no means more pressing than the music, explaining, “I think that the messages of Pipedown are just as important as the music. Our music is the vehicle for getting a message to the people and,” he concludes, “if for some reason we can’t reach people solely by what we say, hopefully we can reach them through the music.”

And so after releasing two full-lengths, I wondered if Ean had any preferences in songs – if any perhaps for some reason or other meant more to him personally than the rest. Well, he was able to choose one even though it was a difficult task since he puts his “heart and soul into each song and [feels] passionate about each one.” The song he chose is a scorcher and a composition I agree to be one of the band’s absolute finest off ‘Enemies of Progress’ – the profound “Human and Human”. Ean explains why this song means so much: “[It] discusses the topic of same-sex lifestyles and the lack of support it gets by the majority of this country,” an EXTREMELY timely issue especially as of late with all the controversy over the constitutionality of gay unions. “I felt that this issue needed to be addressed because it seems to be overlooked and not brought up as much as other social justice issues.”

Though ‘Mental Weaponry’ has its brutally searing moments – man, does it have its moments, check out the blistering, immediate “Order” and “Muppet Goes to Washington” – there seems to be a bit more melodicism on the whole and it features way more gang-vocal parts than found on ‘Enemies of Progress’, which is just pretty relentless and visceral throughout. Take, for instance, from ‘Weaponry’ songs like the AFI-tinged “Losing the Sum”, the aforementioned “Knowledge the Weapon”, and the extremely melodic “Ammunition” and “Leviathan” – nothing like these offerings can be found on their debut (well, I shouldn’t say NOTHING – they do have the slower “The Dark” and “Mid Tempo Song”, but these two are still quite harrowing). Yet the expected edge of Pipedown is still present throughout ‘Weaponry’, even though some new elements have been added.

After they wreak some havoc on this year’s Warped Tour, expect a month-and-a-half-long U.S. tour, which, according to the frontman, ends at the beginning of September. And as he should, Ean hopes Pipedown will be able to head over to Europe again in October.

Interview date: Apr 7, 2004

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