PopMatters is moving to WordPress. We will publish a few essays daily while we develop the new site. We hope the beta will be up sometime late next week.

20 Questions: Pinback's Zach Smith

Pinback? Three Mile Pilot? Systems Officer? All in a day's work for virtuoso guitarist Zach Smith, who presently answers PopMatters 20 Questions and reveals a love of slow-motion Obama, a hatred for stolen instruments, and a desire to move to Scotland.

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.

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology and hosting provider that we have less than a month, until November 6, to move PopMatters off their service or we will be shut down. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to save the site.





The 13 Greatest Horror Directors of All Time

In honor of Halloween, here are 13 fascinating fright mavens who've made scary movies that much more meaningful.


British Jazz and Soul Artists Interpret the Classics on '​Blue Note Re:imagined'

Blue Note Re:imagined provides an entrance for new audiences to hear what's going on in British jazz today as well as to go back to the past and enjoy old glories.


Bill Murray and Rashida Jones Add Another Shot to 'On the Rocks'

Sofia Coppola's domestic malaise comedy On the Rocks doesn't drown in its sorrows -- it simply pours another round, to which we raise our glass.


​Patrick Cowley Remade Funk and Disco on 'Some Funkettes'

Patrick Cowley's Some Funkettes sports instrumental renditions from between 1975-1977 of songs previously made popular by Donna Summer, Herbie Hancock, the Temptations, and others.


The Top 10 Definitive Breakup Albums

When you feel bombarded with overpriced consumerism disguised as love, here are ten albums that look at love's hangover.


Dustin Laurenzi's Natural Language Digs Deep Into the Jazz Quartet Format with 'A Time and a Place'

Restless tenor saxophonist Dustin Laurenzi runs his four-piece combo through some thrilling jazz excursions on a fascinating new album, A Time and a Place.


How 'Watchmen' and 'The Boys' Deconstruct American Fascism

Superhero media has a history of critiquing the dark side of power, hero worship, and vigilantism, but none have done so as radically as Watchmen and The Boys.


Floodlights' 'From a View' Is Classicist Antipodal Indie Guitar Pop

Aussie indie rockers, Floodlights' debut From a View is a very cleanly, crisply-produced and mixed collection of shambolic, do-it-yourself indie guitar music.


CF Watkins Embraces a Cool, Sophisticated Twang on 'Babygirl'

CF Watkins has pulled off the unique trick of creating an album that is imbued with the warmth of the American South as well as the urban sophistication of New York.


Helena Deland Suggests Imagination Is More Rewarding Than Reality on 'Something New'

Canadian singer-songwriter Helena Deland's first full-length release Someone New reveals her considerable creative talents.


While the Sun Shines: An Interview with Composer Joe Wong

Joe Wong, the composer behind Netflix's Russian Doll and Master of None, articulates personal grief and grappling with artistic fulfillment into a sweeping debut album.


Peter Frampton Asks "Do You Feel Like I Do?" in Rock-Solid Book on Storied Career

British rocker Peter Frampton grew up fast before reaching meteoric heights with Frampton Comes Alive! Now the 70-year-old Grammy-winning artist facing a degenerative muscle condition looks back on his life in his new memoir and this revealing interview.


Bishakh Som's 'Spellbound' Is an Innovative Take on the Graphic Memoir

Bishakh's Som's graphic memoir, Spellbound, serves as a reminder that trans memoirs need not hinge on transition narratives, or at least not on the ones we are used to seeing.


Gamblers' Michael McManus Discusses Religion, Addiction, and the Importance of Writing Open-Ended Songs

Seductively approachable, Gamblers' sunny sound masks the tragedy and despair that populate the band's debut album.


Peter Guralnick's 'Looking to Get Lost' Is an Ode to the Pleasures of Writing About Music

Peter Guralnick's homage to writing about music, 'Looking to Get Lost', shows how good music writing gets the music into the readers' head.


In Praise of the Artifice in George Cukor's 'Sylvia Scarlett'

George Cukor's gender-bending Sylvia Scarlett proposes a heroine who learns nothing from her cross-gendered ordeal.


The Cure: Ranking the Albums From 13 to 1

Just about every Cure album is worth picking up, and even those ranked lowest boast worthwhile moments. Here are their albums, spanning 29 years, presented from worst to best.


The 20 Best Episodes of 'Star Trek: The Original Series'

This is a timeless list of 20 thrilling Star Trek episodes that delight, excite, and entertain, all the while exploring the deepest aspects of the human condition and questioning our place in the universe.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.