Concealed Weapons

Despite some misfires, The Pistoleros keep looking for a break and say that rumors of their demise are greatly exaggerated

Hollywood Records asked Smithereens frontman Pat Dinizio to collaborate with the Zubias on the album, and the result was co-writing credit on three songs.

"Lawrence is one of the best lyricists around," Dinizio says in a telephone interview, mentioning that he's been working on final mixes of a new Smithereens album and noticed a Pistoleros-like sound creeping into them. "Their style may have rubbed off on me.

"There are few people who I like, who I think are talented. But Lawrence has a real gift for lyrics and melody. They make the kind of records I like to buy," Dinizio says.

As for chaos in the music industry, he thinks The Pistoleros will find the backer they need. "If they can make it through this period and keep the band together, the work will prove itself."

Before Hang On to Nothing was released in 1997, guitarist Pete Milner left the band and was replaced by Laufenberg, who ditched a job offer with Ardent Studios in Memphis to join the Zubias.

The album, with songs Lawrence had written while overlooking the apartment where he had discovered Doug Hopkins' body, came out in late 1997.

It's February 16, and The Pistoleros are waiting their turn to play at L.A.'s Opium Den in front of recording industry types, and Mark Zubia is feeling tight.

His brother Lawrence jokes with the band's new industry backer, who is named, appropriately enough, Steve Backer. The diminutive EMI man has brought along Peter Stewart from the band Dog's Eye View with a notion that Stewart and other EMI artists will work with the Zubias on future songs. (In recent months, for example, the Zubias have crafted new songs with EMI writer Marty Frederickson, who co-wrote four songs on Aerosmith's Nine Lives album).

Tonight is The Pistoleros' chance to impress, and Lawrence, Andrews, Laufenberg and Smith seem loose. It's just Mark Zubia, for some reason, who's letting the pressure get to him.

Still, the set is hot, and the band really gets into "Wasting My Time," a song, one of very few, that particularly features the three non-Zubia members of the band. After the final chorus, Mark and Lawrence hang back as Andrews, Smith and Laufenberg unleash a meaty grind.

Offstage, Andrews laughs, saying that Mark had hurried them from one song to the next. "Just go, just go!" Andrews says Mark had yelled at them.

Rob Seidenberg, however, who is no longer The Pistoleros' A&R man but shows up anyway out of his esteem for the group, tells them that they'd pulled off a good set. Backer seems happy as well.

Mark Zubia cannot be consoled as he judges they only managed a 6 or 7 out of 10 in the performance. Lawrence is more pleased. He says the presence of industry types didn't rattle him. By now, he says, he's achieved a resolve he couldn't imagine just a few years ago. "Regardless of what happens with the record companies, we're in a good place. Because we're writing," he says.

He gets a handshake from bassist PC of the Tempe band Satellite, who has come on the trip to L.A. to lend moral support.

PC shakes his head at the idea that anyone would think The Pistoleros wouldn't survive losing their record contract last year.

"I think they're as strong as fucking ever," he says.
After the gig, the Zubias hear that Backer was impressed. But as the weeks pass by, they're less sure the EMI man will really get them anywhere. Soon they're placing more hope in a new lawyer, Alan Mintz, with impressive connections.

Over a recent dinner of mariscos, Mexican seafood, Mark and Lawrence talk about their prospects with their bandmates, and they perform a curious ritual. They gripe about the industry and seem to feed off of each others' assurances that they will persevere. One complains about the industry only for the other one to defend it. A moment later, they trade places and the other is griping.

"There's one thing that we do that's unspoken," says Mark. "If we get, say, a disappointing call from someone in the industry and one of us is taking it hard, the other one will almost always take it an opposite way. We switch that role back and forth without it being planned. I guess it's a brother kind of thing. It kind of just works out.

"We're like an old married couple. We've been through our bad shit already, and now everything's easy."

The Pistoleros are scheduled to perform on Thursday, April 8, at The Green Room in Tempe. Showtime is 11 p.m.

Contact Tony Ortega at his online address: tortega@newtimes.com

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