20 Questions: Pinback’s Zach Smith

Another day, another musical project for Zach Smith.

At least, that’s how it seems to go for the celebrated guitarist behind such groups as Three Mile Pilot and Pinback. Zach Smith’s playing style has always been a bit off-center and deceptively complex, but his love for his craft has shown through in each song he’s created during his nearly two-decade run in the music industry. As if he wasn’t busy enough, in 2004 he released a solo EP under the moniker Systems Officer (portions of which can be heard here) — a fun little one-off that simply allowed Smith to work through some songs he had been composing just for himself. Only in late 2009 — following a Three Mile Pilot reunion and still basking in the glow of all the good press of Pinback’s last few albums — did Smith finally follow through on what he set out to do five years prior and release the debut album by Systems Officer.

Now, in-between recording new albums for both his “regular” bands, Smith answers PopMatters 20 Questions, noting a love of all things Slint, sci-fi, and — of course — Japanese green tea.


1. The latest book or movie that made you cry?

Well it’s not quite a movie, but the NFL’s Play 60 commercial with Drew Brees passing to President Obama in slow motion kind of tugged at my heart strings.

2. The fictional character most like you?

Doctor Zachary Smith from Lost in Space because we share the same name of course.

3. The greatest album, ever?

Slint’s Spiderland or Devo’s Freedom of Choice.

4. Star Trek or Star Wars?

I’m not picking either one, I love them both! Star Trek is great for playing late at night. It puts me to sleep every time with that mesmerizing low engine sound. Star Wars for blowing me away at age seven.

5. Your ideal brain food?

Watching bad blockbuster movies. I just finished watching Pandorum and it was awesome.

6. You’re proud of this accomplishment, but why?

Underslept is my first full-length solo album. I’m just happy that I finished it.

7. You want to be remembered for . .?

I want to be remembered as the guy who never stopped writing music.

8. Of those who’ve come before, the most inspirational are?

My grandfather Chick Smith.

9. The creative masterpiece you wish bore your signature?

Ringworld by Larry Niven

10. Your hidden talents . . .?

Excellent sky diver, trapeze artist, juggler, and slap bass master.

11. The best piece of advice you actually followed?

“Check Yourself Before You Wreck Yourself”.

12. The best thing you ever bought, stole, or borrowed?

An Alembic Stanley Clarke bass. I can’t live without it. My first Alembic Bass was stolen and I was devastated.

13. You feel best in Armani or Levis or . . .?

Levis, I guess.

14. Your dinner guest at the Ritz would be?

My beautiful wife Rachel.

15. Time travel: where, when and why?

I would like to go to a point in time where personal time machines exist. Then I could just go wherever I want, whenever I want.

16. Stress management: hit man, spa vacation or Prozac?

I like to play basketball or soccer when I am stressed.

17. Essential to life: coffee, vodka, cigarettes, chocolate, or . . .?

Well, chocolate for sure as I have to have it everyday or I can’t function. Also? Eto-en! My friend, and Pinback’s soundman, Kris Poulin turned me on to this green tea delight from Japan. Now I cant get enough, I’m hooked — ugh.

18. Environ of choice: city or country, and where on the map?

The country would be lovely. The Systems Officer album was mastered by Skye Mastering on The Isle of Skye off the coast of Scotland. It sounds like a perfect location to live and have a studio.

19. What do you want to say to the leader of your country?

Let’s go back to being Isolationists. Pull out of all foreign affairs.

20. Last but certainly not least, what are you working on, now?

A bag of tear and share M&M’s . Why did they go and change the name from King Size? Because I’m definitely not sharing. Oh yeah, I’m also working on the new Three Mile Pilot and Pinback albums.