Interview

The Pinx's Adam McIntyre on New Perspectives & 'Freedom'

Southern rock & rollers The Pinx released their latest album, Freedom, in 2016. A culmination of attitude and creativity, the autobiographical album puts forth stories pulled from front man Adam McIntyre’s personal life and years spent as a touring musician. With Freedom having recently been released on red, white, and blue vinyl, McIntyre kindly checked in to talk about in depth about the album and much more.

Over the years, you have been involved with various bands, but now it seems the focus is firmly on The Pinx. When did the band get its start?
I have been with The Pinx for ten years now, but the current lineup got together only last year. So in a way, we’re a brand-new band with a new focus and a new way of doing things. Over the past few years, when I was a sideman for other bands like Stonerider, I figured some things out including the fact that I was really fucking around. I was writing ok songs and performing ok, but I was really limiting myself. The record is titled Freedom partly because it’s been my journey of late to figure out what I’ve been doing to hold myself back.

And what have you learned?
All I’ve been doing for the past eight or nine years now is trying to grow up and figure myself out and own my issues - and instead of that making the music boring I think it’s made it better. The old me would have written about characters in the 70’s and 80’s, but I remembered that one of the first things I learned in college and songwriting was to write what you know because people can tell when you’re bullshitting. When I was starting this album, I realized that over the past thirty years making music I acquired stories that were hilarious, sad, and interesting – and I wasn’t putting them in songs, I was telling them after shows while we were hanging. Ultimately, I wondered why I wasn’t writing about those experiences and making them into a record, so two years ago, I asked Stonerider for one day a week off to work on my own music. In that time, I was pulling from stories that took place over the last fifteen years. All of the songs on Freedom, except for the last one which is an MC5 cover, are all autobiographical, like “Boss Man” which is the embarrassing and gut-wrenching story of my first wedding night.

 

It seems that you really put yourself out there. Was it scary to do that?
Definitely, it was scary.  Remember the television show from the 60’s, The Prisoner? It’s about a British secret agent who gets captured in a strange town where he is interrogated for the entire series. Here’s the spoiler alert, when he finally unmasked his captor, he saw that it was him. I saw that and something clicked. I feel like we’re all our own jailers and our job is to figure out what we do to handicap and hold ourselves back – and stop doing it. I try to hold myself to a higher standard now; I want to make everything not only good, but fun, and when you do that I think people dig it more.

I noticed too, the comedians I am into lately are willing to share profound, embarrassing stories - and they walk into it without fear. They set things aside and remember that it’s not only entertainment but it has the power to bring us together and might even help someone. I try to do right by everyone while being as honest as I can – and I’m already looking forward to being even more brutal and honest next go round. I’m already writing songs and am motivated to double down and put even more into it.

 

So how did you approach the business of making a record this time around?
This time, I’m trying to do things properly – and I’m uncompromising on that. After playing to 2000 people a night in Europe, I hunger to get my own band to that point in as few steps as possible, but without trying to skip any crucial steps. I’m trying not to reach for something I don’t deserve yet. I’m ambitious, but I’m trying to be real about myself and real about the level my band is on. For example, for the first year, I showed the guys a map and said the 300 mile radius around Atlanta is our office and next year the radius will increase. So while there’s good to be done by hitting the country, I try to be real about what I can do. I can’t book a national tour, but I can play the shit out of shows in the region. I’m doing what I think it is we should be doing.

We have issues in today’s climate because a lot of people see our cover and hear a song or two and before they accept us they’re thinking this is manufactured to sound like or be like something. There’s a whole rash of bands these days with young guys that look the part and sound the part, but ultimately, it’s almost like a tribute show. But I’m kind of a throwback; I’m from Alabama, which if you’ve ever been, is like traveling back in time in a way. When I was eight or nine I played my first gig with Bobby Moore and the Rhythm Aces. They were playing at a party and they let me up to play with them. And that was my first experience with a band and that’s when I knew that was what I wanted to do. At the time, Montgomery [Alabama] was full of older black musicians who played in bands on the circuit. There were guys from James Brown’s band, Little Richard’s and Wilson Pickett’s band and they would let me jam with them on Sunday nights when I was fifteen or sixteen. Later, when I move to Nash it was a culture shock. There were none of those types of guys there and since I moved the ones I play with have passed. When I moved to Nashville I figured out how to write songs and when I moved to Atlanta I figured out who I was. So Freedom to me isn’t me doing this sound just to be like rock and roll, this is me trying to get back to what I was doing when I was twelve to fifteen years old. I remember what excited me about music and that was the criteria for everything on this record. I had to know my younger self, who used to jump up and down on the bed with a tennis racquet, was truly inspired and would enjoy what I’m doing now. I wouldn’t be able to do what I do if I wasn’t serving that aspect of myself. The ideas I come up with may be more advanced than what my younger self would understand, but the music has to get the blood pumping and get me excited.

And does it?
Absolutely.

Sounds like you have gained a new perspective. Circling back to some of the songs, the opening track, “Rock All Night,” is a real anthemic way to open a record.
When I wrote that song, it just felt like it should be the first song on the record. Rock and Roll is so misogynic and I felt maybe I should write misogynic songs, but I wasn’t feeling it, so I decided to write feminist stuff. This song fits with those ideals and basically talks about  a  woman empowering me to grow.

While that’s a real southern rocker, there are more subdued songs on the album as well, like “Blue Dream” and “I Got the Cure.”
When you go back and listen to “Blue Dream” you’ll realize it’s exactly my life. I told my [now] ex-wife I wanted a divorce and we agreed that for the sake of our son, we wouldn’t fight in front of him. Well, she continued to fight with me so I threw my stuff in the car, bought a bag of weed, and went to the Highland Inn and holed up there for a week. Except for some of my friends stopping by, I was alone and sad - except for feeling optimistic. It was a rough moment and in the middle of it, a tornado passed within a ¼ mile of the Inn. The tornado sucked the doors open at the end of the hall so myself and the others there thought we were going to die with strangers. The tornado passed and everything wound up being ok, but it was a bizarre moment. It’s a heavy one, but I tried to write it in a way that wouldn’t bring people down. Now, “I Got The Cure” was just a pep talk to myself about the same thing - telling myself that I will fall in love again and everything will be okay.

We spoke about the title, but what about the album cover? What’s the significance of the classic car in the box?
I tried to keep everything, including the cover, as personal as possible, so that’s my car, a 1973 AMC Javelin on the cover which was done by Keith Brogden who has done album covers for Sturgill Simpson and Blackberry Smoke. The reason why I wanted a car on the cover is because to a fifteen-year-old boy what is freedom but a car. Growing up, I lived on a farm and I needed to be able to drive because there’s nothing happening on a farm once the sun goes down - it’s time to eat and go to bed - but I wanted to go out and play and be whoever it was I was going to be. I wanted to embody that, so the direction I gave Keith for the cover art was Evel Knievel goes to Heaven and sees his car waiting for him. The box the car is in represents the borders of our freedom and the duality we have going on with responsibility and freedom. Our country in part battles with that constantly; we want more freedom but on the other hand, we’re letting people have guns who maybe shouldn’t have them, and where is the responsibility in that? I don’t want to give people an answer, I just want people to think about it and look for the answer themselves: where is your border between freedom of responsibility?

Another thing about this record that I have no trouble sharing is that in every single stage of making the record I told myself that this has to be my happy place – “the jumping up and down on the bed as a kid what makes my heart happy” place. There is nothing on this record that makes me feel embarrassed and there is no part of the record that I want to talk over. I’m confident about it and wanted the same from all of the people involved. I told them that this was my happy place and I was inviting them in. And that didn’t mean they had to walk on eggshells, it meant that I wanted making the record to be their happy place too. I wanted the musicians, the guests, the mixer, and the engineer to make something amazing that they were going to be super proud of in twenty-five years. It even extended to the guys making the vinyl which is a clear vinyl with red and blue dropped into it. I was asked what percentage of colors to make it and I told them to have fun and do what looks cool. So they dropped red and blue onto the vinyl [there are 500] and now every one of them is beautiful and unique.

I try to be that kind of guy now who  realizes that you can’t do things without other people. The whole process was about finding the right people and not micromanaging; instead I told them to do what makes them happy and ended up with something I may never have achieved by myself. They had responsibility, took ownership, and were proud with the result. I don’t think the record could have been any better than what it is.

Finally, I always like to know who it is that you’re listening to?
Blackberry Smoke's "Like An Arrow" is maybe their best work, it has the songs and the arranging and production of a band at the top of their game. Feels almost like a Humble Pie record, but a greatest hits in terms of songwriting. Maybe a bit more drawl. I know they're levels above me but as an Atlantan that has watched them go from 40 people in the crowd to thousands, I'm very proud of them. And they've worked hard to get there, it's not a fluke where they're just in the right place at the right time.

I like Spoon a lot. As a producer and mix engineer I hear it and my inner "I could do this better" voice immediately switches off and I get to enjoy music like a normal human being. I wind up dancing around the room and singing along, and I don't do that for a lot of new stuff. My guard went up at some point and new things have to be very, very good for me to stop being objectively analyzing the parts and just enjoy the whole. So yeah, it sounds great, the lyrics are interesting, it's a lot of good stuff for a guy like me. It's like chocolate ice cream with sparse but delicious toppings.

The D'Angelo record that came out almost two years ago is another fantastic piece. The harmonies and melodies are hypnotic, and as a musician I hear the literal groove, the not-synchronized lag behind the beat and I'm intrigued. That's more and more of a thing in R&B and hip hop, that vocals or percussion might lag noticeably behind the beat and it changes the mood and feel dramatically--I like that game and I try to use that when appropriate. I do wish the vocals were a bit higher in the mix on this D'Angelo record, but I know he realized his vision on it. By the way, singers, don't bury your vocals in the mix. If you've got something to say, say it.

I'm going to intentionally go off the track here and say something about some old music that refuses to be buried: I listen to Al Green's Greatest Hits at some point every day. I think Marvin Gaye's "What's Going On?" album is 100% relevant in 2017. And The MC5 are, to me, the most important band in the world right now. It's not just about kicking out the jams, but standing up for a cause. Listen to "American Ruse" and tell me the lyrics aren't relevant. I love my country, and I subscribe to Alan Freed's theory that the purpose of Rock and Roll is to integrate the races with the goal of peace. My job, I fear, will never be done in that respect.

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Artist The Pinx