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Marvel Music

The Marvel Life: Rob Crow

The Pinback frontman discusses his huge comic book and toy collection as well as new music from Pinback and his solo material

By Blake Garris

Rob Crow is no stranger to nerd-dom. Best known as the co-leader of beloved indie band Pinback--which got their name from John Carpenter’s 1974 cult classic film “Dark Star”--he also fronts a comic book-inspired metal band, a Devo-Misfits mashup tribute band and most recently he released a new solo album with a “Simpsons”-linked title, “He Thinks He’s People,” further cementing his geek cred.

In addition to playing in bands, around 8 by our last count, Rob Crow also likes to read comics. We recently had the pleasure to speak with Rob about all this, plus  Marvel Zombies and his song about the checkered history between Wolverine and Cyclops.

Luke and Danielle Cage

Marvel.com: We’ve heard you’re and avid reader and particularly like Luke Cage. Are you all caught up with Cage and his family?

Rob Crow: I like everything that deals with Luke Cage and the Cage family is one of my favorite things in comics right now. Although, I haven't read any of the FEAR ITSELF stuff yet; I have this weird thing where I gotta wait for a whole storyarc to be done before I can start reading it. I hate waiting around, and there's so many things I haven't even started reading.

I have a one-month-old and it finally gave me the chance to [sit] around, so I finally got to sit down and read all DEADPOOL. And I still haven't read Alan Moore's [MARVELMAN]. I bought them all and I have like multiple copies of most of them, just to finally get a complete set, but I’m just waiting for that one special moment to really just plow through it.

Marvel.com: So is Luke Cage your favorite character?

Jessica Jones

Rob Crow: Well his wife Jessica Jones [is], because of her kid. I just like that whole dynamic. I really liked ALIAS a lot, and THE PULSE. I just thought she was cool, her whole story. That she barely has any powers but she's a “get **** done lady.”

Marvel.com: What other characters do you like?

Rob Crow: Daredevil, especially Frank Miller's DAREDEVIL [run]. Punisher-- Garth Ennis' PUNISHER [comics,] mostly. There's so much. (laughs) I really like the GREAT LAKES AVENGERS a lot. Yeah, I usually think Dan Slott writes very good stuff. Mostly I like writers like David Lapham and Ennis, of course, even though sometimes it gets a little weird with the crossover stuff. [Grant] Morrison, Ennis, Warren Ellis…there're so many good [writers]. Frank Miller, of course.

Marvel.com: Are you into any illustrators as well?

The Punisher

Rob Crow: I like David Mack a lot. Anybody that Garth Ennis usually uses is good. He usually just seems to have a drinking buddy, so they're just totally on the same page. And you go, “Wow, this is a guy that likes to go have a pint. I get it.”

Marvel.com: What Marvel comics are you reading right now?

Rob Crow: Right now I have been taking a break, because life got so crazy recently. I have boxes of unread comics that I have to get around to. I haven't touched the newer [issues of] DAREDEVIL. I really want to read NEW AVENGERS because they're usually totally entertaining. I just brushed up on all the ULTIMATES stuff, actually--the whole Ultimate universe. I reread all of the ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN and all that Ultimate crossovery type stuff just to get ready for the new [ULTIMATE COMICS] SPIDER-MAN. Probably gonna have to wait till the whole storyarc's done before I even start reading that guy.

Marvel.com: What are your all-time favorite story arcs?

Daredevil: Born Again

Rob Crow: Frank Miller's DAREDEVIL. I really liked a lot of the early (Brian Michael) Bendis DAREDEVIL stuff like that one with David Mack with child abuse. It was really awesome. I also liked the David Mack-written one, [drawn by Jimmy] Palmiotti and Joe Quesada. It was “Echo”; it was pretty cool. GREAT LAKES AVENGERS, I reread that all the time. Oh, there's a lot. I'm in daddy mode, so I can barely finish sentences I'm so just weirded out and tired all the time.

Marvel.com: Yeah, you have what, like three kids now?

Rob Crow: Yeah, I have three kids and I have a newborn, so everything is still quite crazy.

Marvel.com: From Twitter and from things we've read, you seem like that really cool dad. Are you getting your kids into comics?

Rob Crow: I would hope so because I think there's some really cool things in comics, things to learn. It's up to them. They seem to want to be into it; they like the characters. Like yesterday, my youngest put on his WOLVERINE costume and he was running around the house. He's three.

Marvel.com: Will your son be Wolverine for Halloween?

Rob Crow: I don't know. They haven't decided. They're also really into like Sonic the Hedgehog and stuff. I don't know how or why, but they like it, so I try to help facilitate it. Mark Millar did an entire like 60-[issue run on] Sonic the Hedgehog in Europe, so I'm trying to get copies of those for them and they're old enough to know how cool that would be. I also have all of Dan Slott's REN AND STIMPY. Yeah, if I like a writer--sometimes an artist, but more with writers--I’ll get everything they've ever done. I have multiple copies of them. I always like to have the bigger books; [an] omnibus of anything is awesome to me.

Great Lakes Avengers

Marvel.com: I know you touched on it a little bit but I hear you have a huge comic book collection.

Rob Crow: It's pretty big. I'm standing in front of it right now. It's just a load of boxes; a load of white boxes.

Marvel.com: Do you have any other cool ones you want to talk about?

Rob Crow: Let's see, there's so much of it that's good. It's kinda like, "Here's the tray of candy." I immediately take out all the candies I don't like so it's just a really big bowl of all the candy I want. And then like, "What's your favorite bit of it?" Well it's all kind of great. I have this one really weird Bendis [comic] that might be cool. I can't really get through it. I have to be in the mood for it. I like [Robert] Kirkman, he did MARVEL TEAM-UP right? That was really good.

Marvel.com: I hear you also have a really cool collection of toys too.

Rob Crow: I have some. I have a couple original R2-D2 remotes, like remote controlled R2s that are really loud and annoying, which are pretty cool. I try to get weirder vintage Star Wars stuff. I like anything having to do with R5-D4, he's my favorite Star Wars character because nothing good ever came out of it for him. He's just like, "This is gonna be great!" [broken robot sounds, laughter]

Marvel.com: Do you open your stuff, or do you keep it in the boxes?

Rob Crow: Yeah, I have this thing where I just play with all of my toys and I want my kids to know that toys are for playing with. I have some unopened cards I'm looking at right now, but I'm gonna open them. The thing is, every time my kids come downstairs they open some cards. I'm waiting on one Star Wars Lego thing out of “Episode 3,” where he becomes Darth Vader. That's like the only “Episode 3” thing I want. And I won't let my kids get wound up because I won't let them open it. It's just the day that I open that up is the day that I will come to terms with what that was.

X-Men: First Class

Marvel.com: Have you seen any of the recent Marvel films?

Rob Crow: The new “X-Men: First Class”; I'm surprised how good that was. I was really very happy. I think “Iron Man 2” is possibly the best super hero film that I've ever seen. And I know that's an unpopular opinion. Every character is interesting; there's tons of character development and tons of action and I care about every person in that film. They seem like really interesting people and cool stuff happens to them. And not "look at that over there. Boosh! It blew up. Oh no."  

Marvel.com: Anything other comics stuff you want to talk about before we get into your band and solo stuff?

Rob Crow: Gee whiz. I have to say I'm afraid to talk too much about them because then I'll get the fever. And before you know it, all my money's gone again. I had a really bad habit, I was just buying everything that came out for a while when I had a little bit of money because I didn't want to miss anything. So now I have like a crap load of variants that I'm gonna try to turn into just new comics to put on eBay or something.

Marvel Zombies

Like when they had all the different Marvel Zombie variants, that was awesome. I keep all those, that was great. I like anything to do with Marvel Zombies. I have many Marvel Zombie shirts that I wear. I was wearing one to pick my oldest up from 1st grade the other day and this little kid was all, "How come you always wear scary shirts?" And I was like, "I'm sorry that you're scared, they're just comic book characters. Sorry."

Marvel.com: You are in a ton of bands. How do you juggle that with your family and everything?

Rob Crow: Well I'm just always working on something and I just throw whatever song into whatever project it works for. But the idea of staying busy is very important to me. I'll always be doing something.

Marvel.com: You were opening up for MC Chris with some kind of tribute, mashup band recently, right?

Rob Crow: Oh yeah, one of my projects is a thing called the Devits which is a Devo/Misfits mashup audio visual project where after the set I'm just like a fake boogie boy where we cover Misfit songs in the style of Devo and then in the middle I change into the other way and I do Devo songs in the style of Misfits. And there's full visual accompaniment and films for everything; I remade all the original Devo films that they would make and show at their shows. But instead of them, I had my kids playing all the parts. It's super fun. It's a super geeky thing, though. Even amongst geeks, it’s like most people don't know what the hell I'm doing or why I'm doing it.

Marvel.com: What other side projects do you have?

Rob Crow: I have a comic book metal band called Goblin C*** and I've been trying to finish this **** opera that I've been working on for that. And I have a variety show band called Optiganally Yours which does a lot of show tunesy type things, but it's all originals. There's lots of dancing and costume changing in that. And by the way, I'm not a dancer at all. You know what I look like. (laughs) The fact that I'm just a big huge 40 year old father of three up there trying to do it as hard as possible is hopefully what's appealing. I also have a thing called the San Diego Music Awards, cause there's an awards show in San Diego called The San Diego Music Awards. So I named the band that just so that I could make people angry at me. But that's like a six-piece, full soundtrack-y Nino Rota Carl Stalling big, expansive band that has all these elements of real people music. Like, "I can't believe I'm writing stuff this lofty!"

Marvel.com: What's this comic book metal band you're talking about?


Rob Crow: Goblin C***? Yeah. The artwork is done by this guy Mike Sutfin who did a few Star Wars covers; he illustrated the Star Wars characters. He and I used to be in a band together called Alpha Males, which was a hardcore powerviolence band. He was also in a thing Charles Bronson. But Goblin C***, yeah. I have an assumed name in that band. The band is me; I record and put out everything, but I pretend it's a bunch of other people. But all the artwork and all the lyrics sheets and everything is all in runes so nobody can read it anyway. And I was making comic books; for a while I was doing it but I haven’t done it in a while where I would make a new comic for every time we played and just give them out for free and staple earplugs to them. And hopefully we'll be playing again soon; I got some new blood in the band. We'll be doing that soon, I hope when everything else calms down.

[In] the new Pinback 7-inch that's coming out in November, there's a song where it's like a conversation between Wolverine and Cyclops, and they're just trying to have a heart to heart about how they just can't seem to stand each other's company. And of course unless you were really geeked out, you wouldn't know what it was or even then I'd probably have to explain it. But I write things like that for myself, so I have something to focus on; a thing to think about when I'm singing it live. But it’s not that I’m saying "this is the Wolverine song!" 

Marvel.com: Since you've been so busy, is that why it took you a couple years to release another solo record?

Rob Crow - 'He Thinks He's People' cover art

Rob Crow: Oh yeah. And the year I put out my last solo record I put out at least three full-length records of original material. I'm always working on stuff, sometimes one folder of material will fill up faster than another. But I'm kinda happy with the trajectory of the solo work, this new record. I think I like it more than any of the other ones. It's definitely the most solid, like "this is a whole thing unto itself" record that I've done by myself. It's just so weird because I don't have anybody to bounce anything off of; it's just me. I mean most of my friends, they don't probably listen to the music I do. (laughs) "Uh, yeah, it's fine." (laughs)

Marvel.com: How would you describe the solo music if people have never heard of you before, and secondly, if they like Pinback how would you describe it?

Rob Crow: Well step one is that I rarely try to get someone to like me. It's a whole conversation that I don't really want to have. I really like it when people find it by accident and go "oh, I really like this." And then I'm like "oh, thank you very much. That worked out perfectly." But I find it hard to deal with certain people, not all, but certain people that go out there and hustle their stuff; and those are the people that actually get stuff done is the people that just hustle things. But most of the things they get done shouldn't be, and I never want to accidentally be thought of as one of those people. I just want to quietly do what I think needs to be done and hope it finds people that like it and find a home with people.

Pinback - 'Autumn of the Seraphs' album cover

But if I was to describe Pinback, sometimes I would describe it as “the lo-fi sci-fi that makes the boys cry.” But mostly if somebody goes, "Oh, you're in a band? What does it sound like?" And then I'm like, "Oh, have you ever heard Captain Beefheart?" They'll go, "No." Then I'll go, "Well you should really listen to Captain Beefheart cause it's the best music ever." (laughs)

As far as my solo stuff, it used to be kinda just lo-fi four track stuff. When I first started putting out records, I just wanted to put out a record every month of something. And now I'm a little bit more discerning to make sure that I have a bunch of songs that all fit together with one another, and singularly. They're just depressing pop songs. Like I could bop around to it and cry at the same time at how useless everything is. (laughs)

Marvel.com: Speaking of promoting yourself, you don't have a website right?

Rob Crow: No. I have a Facebook and I have a Twitter account. It'd be great if people wanted to follow my Twitter account. I say really hilarious things. I crack myself up rather.

Do you go to Comic Con?

Marvel.com: We were actually going to ask you that. Tell us about your Comic Con experiences.

Rob Crow: It's fun. I mean I got it pretty easy; it's just a cab [ride] away. But almost every year I'm on tour during it, either during it or right when it happens. So for a couple years I've just flown between shows to go just catch a few hours of it. But a lot of my friends couldn't go this year, so I didn't really have anybody to hang out with. There's some artist dudes that I hang out with a little bit every year but everybody gets so busy.

Rob Crow

It's impossible to go to any panels nowadays though. Back in the day, it was so easy. Years ago it'd be like you and 50 people watching Cup O' Joe, [with] Joe Quesada talking about whatever was gonna happen. And now it's just insane, like five hour waits for something. Mostly I just wanna watch writers talk about writing stuff and creating things. There's so many interesting dudes.

I always look for like weird TV shows and movies, things I couldn't get otherwise. And I think I have every comic book that I've ever wanted at this point. As long as I don't find out about anything new [laughs] that I can't get normally.

Pick up Rob Crow’s latest solo album entitled “He Thinks He’s People” out now. Also, to follow what Rob is up to at the moment you can Like him on Facebook or follow @rob5d4 on Twitter. For more information on Pinback, you can visit pinback.com.

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