"Interview: Christopher Guanlao (of Silversun Pickups)" (Consequence of Sound)

by Alex Young on March 31, 2010
from https://consequenceofsound.net/2010/03/interview-christopher-guanlao-of-silversun-pickups/

[Note: this is an interview that's currently still available and this archive is meant only to keep the contents and discussions inside preserved and visible online. Please follow the link in the header and read more from the source if you're interested.]

Christopher Guanlao

How often do you get to take a half hour break from your day job to spend some time speaking to a genuine member of an arena-filling rock band, albeit the opener… but who cares? That's the opportunity that was placed before me on a sunny Friday afternoon as I was told Silversun Pickups drummer Christopher Guanlao was on the other line. The upbeat, always on-beat Guanlao happily spent a half-hour of his few days off the road, opening for Muse, to speak with me about the band's future touring plans, Rock Band, and pre-show dance parties!

First off, how do you pronounce your last name?

It's Guan "laow", you wouldn't believe the many ways I've heard it said, thanks for asking!

How is the tour going so far?

Going great, we've been on break for a few days. Usually when we start the arena is already three-fourths full. Everything has been awesome, Muse, the crowds, just awesome in general.

I heard their were a few of the dates where there were some "in the round" issues?

Half of the venues became in the round, basically 360 degrees. It's fine for Muse because their setup can work both ways, but we're not set-up for that. The people in the back usually can't see us. On some of the dates, they have video cameras, in the back, so they get some kind of idea what we are about.

Your setup is fairly similar to Muse as far as your touring band, how has that played into it all?

We actually do have a very similar setup, their keyboard guy plays a very similar role with what Joe [Lester] does, filling in all the gaps live. What's cool about them is that they are totally live and they sound amazing, like I said earlier our musical connections feel very strong. I think that if anything, if they don't know us, people might recognize one of our songs and be able to put a face to them. Hopefully the energy of our show will convince them that we can play music.

How do you enjoy time off between shows?

I just was just saying to Nicole [P.R. manager] that it's really nice to get back to the real world and just come back home for a few days and rest up and stop… or start drinking. It kind of builds up anticipation and it's exciting to come back. It's a lot easier than just going six weeks straight. It kind of re-energizes you.

In what ways do you guys try to connect with fans on an arena tour versus one of your smaller headlining shows?

Big shows we don't really expect much, we know 95 percent are there to see Muse. This is this closest band we have ever opened up for musically, so the idea is, if you like them, you might like us, so we can kind of win the crowd over easier. As far as hanging out with fans afterward, if they wanna hang out after the show we are happy to hang out with the kids that wait after the show for us, but that's not always going to be the case. We are here for a purpose of making new fans, but it's different when we headline because we are already kind of preaching to the converted.

Any specific pre-show rituals?

Not really. I think we all kinda do our own little thing, Nikki [Monninger] likes to have dance parties sometime with our sound guy, and I do a little stretching, no rituals, nothing as a band.

Is it inspiring or disheartening seeing Muse finally catching on in the United States in a huge way on their fifth album release?

Our fifth record is a really long way away, Muse's trajectory is a lot different than ours though. They are huge in Europe and have been for years, it just so happens that their last two records finally caught on here. As far as where we are going to be by our fifth record, it's totally up to you, but as far as what we've accomplished back to our first EP, it feels like we have been going at a nice steady pace upwards. We have to concentrate on doing what we do, and being better each time. One of the bands we look up to is Radiohead, and we would love to have a career path like they have.

Silversun Pickups

How do you feel about having your songs available for anyone to drum to via video games?

It's really cool that Guitar Hero or Rock Band players are learning about music both old and new. When kids are like, "I want to learn how to play guitar," and then they get a video game, it feels like they should get an actual guitar or drums instead, but it's important that the music gets to them.

What is the reasoning behind your cymbal setup?

That's just the my own little style. It kind of happened over the years and it got higher and higher, and eventually it got a little bit of novelty. Any little bit of attention it can bring to me as a drummer is alright too.

Has that ever caused any less than graceful moments behind the kit?

I wouldn't describe my style as "graceful" by any means! Our techs always tell me they want to take it down some or nail it to the ground so it doesn't move. Sometimes it tips over a little bit, and if it falls, it falls. I guess that's just part of the "live" experience. If it falls it's cool, the only thing I worry about is when Brian [Aubert] gets too close and I hit it and it could fall on him, but our techs stay on top of it.

Any plans past the tour?

We take a month and a half off, Brian is getting married during that time and then we start up again on a headlining tour in early June. We haven't headlined shows in larger cities for Swoon. Our last tour was basically our grassroots tour and we had a good go with Cage the Elephant and Manchester Orchestra and we realized it's 2010 and we haven't had a headlining show in cities like New York!

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