Pirates Press threw a pretty decent party for their decade anniversary five years ago. An impressive lineup for their “Rock The Ship” outdoor festival that drew punks from across the West Coast to the Bay for two days of loud, fast Oi! music.
But, to celebrate the 15th anniversary of the label and vinyl manufacturer, founder Eric “Skippy” Mueller and his crew went big. Like ‘the godfathers of punk rock on a massive war ship’ big!
For the latest iteration of their “Rock The Ship Festival,” Pirates Press rented out the flight deck of the USS Hornet Aircraft Carrier. Cock Sparrer, one of the greatest street punk bands to ever plug in guitars – and a longtime member of the Pirates Press family – are headlining this massive show on Saturday, October 19th, along with Subhumans and a crew of other bands.
But the show on the carrier is just one of many sets planned across four days in the Bay, running from October 17th – 20th, and boasting groups like Bad Cop/Bad Cop, Old Firm Casuals, CJ Ramone and The Bar Stool Preachers.
Skippy spoke recently about the festival, the bands and why porta potties should top every festival organizer’s priority list.
You had a 10-year anniversary festival, but in comparison, this one seems much more ambitious. What is different about this year’s?
This year, to celebrate our 15-year anniversary, and our move to the East Bay, we are throwing a massive event. The first show kicks off on Thursday, Oct 17th at the Starline Social Club with CJ Ramone, Bad Cop/Bad Cop, The Bar Stool Preachers, and Lenny Lashley performing. We’ll have club shows all weekend with the final club show being held on Sunday, Oct 20th at the Starline Social Club with Charger and Old Firm Casuals.
Check our site for all the shows happening, but the main event is on Saturday, October 19th, on the flight deck of the USS Hornet Aircraft Carrier! The legendary Cock Sparrer from the UK will be headlining along with Subhumans and a slew of other bands. The event kicks off at 12 PM with the last band finishing at 9 PM, followed by three different afterparties at clubs in Oakland! It’s going to be epic!
What mistakes did you learn from the last festival?
Definitely more bathrooms! This year we’ll be all set.
How did the idea for hosting this on an aircraft carrier come about? Logistically, did it create any more challenges than having it at a traditional venue?
Some friends of ours tried to arrange BOBB festival aboard the ship a few years ago, but unfortunately it did not work out. We reached out to the folks at the Hornet, and they were very excited for the opportunity to create a roadmap for doing this kind of event in the future, using ours as the “test” if you will… This is the first proper rock show that has ever been put on, outdoors, on the deck of the Hornet! The way this is all shaping up, people will have a blast – so it will not be the last!
The two biggest challenges perhaps have been arranging a 27-foot set of stairs to be built in one of the giant elevator shafts to get everyone up to the flight deck quickly and safely… and figuring out how to crane a stage up there as well. It is apples and oranges from putting on any other show, even one on the streets, let alone in a venue that has its own amenities and infrastructure. With all the extra hoops to jump through and things to factor in, we might as well be throwing a punk rock show on the moon!
It’s a pretty impressive lineup. How difficult was it to line up schedules?
The whole weekend is a family event. All of the bands are in one way or another connected to the Pirates Press Records family. Our record label is very much the advertising for the manufacturing company that fuels this whole operation, but the community that the record label has fostered over the past 14 years is the reason why an event like this can take place. We have about 30 bands from all over the world coming to celebrate their common bond. As much as we are through the moon about the whole thing, and the fans are obviously ecstatic, the bands are probably the most excited for the opportunity to play with each other, see each other play, and just hang out and celebrate the fact that they have something significantly more special than bands working with other labels! This – and the pride on behalf of all of my Pirates in throwing an event like this – are what make me the proudest, and the most excited and optimistic for the future for all of those bands – and our company’s future as well.
Anyone you really wanted to book but for whatever reason it didn’t work out?
Scheduling this many bands for one weekend is extremely difficult. Like herding kitties, pretty much. To get many of the bands here involved them setting up tours, which can’t all happen together, and can’t end up in the same cities at the same time. The logistical nightmare that I’m sure we put on many of our bands and booking agents is something they dealt with brilliantly. All of the different tours weaving around the country and hitting the Bay Area at the same time will make our weekend even more special!
We would have loved to include everyone – the Aggrolites, the Slackers, the Interrupters, Bishops Green, Antagonizers ATL, The Ratchets, The Restarts, and of course the hometown heroes, Rancid; but in some ways it leaves us with plenty of ammo to dial-in another incredible (and fresh!) lineup the next time we want to have a Pirate shindig!
Any thoughts of making this an annual event?
Unless somebody else comes forward to handle all of the logistics of it on a yearly basis, we don’t have the bandwidth internally to add this to our yearly to-do list. Making it yearly also presents new concerns like keeping the lineup fresh each year, and making sure that it is successful, and worth all the time it takes to organize. The way we are doing it, as a celebration of our anniversary, we are less concerned with making money, and much more concerned with everyone just having a ball!
There’s also a charity component to the festival. Can you talk about the auctions and the charities that will benefit?
Many of the Pirates, even some native to the Bay Area, went to public schools – me included. Many of us are now parents as well. Lots of us found some of our passion for music and art through programs we were fortunate enough to partake in at school. Today, schools are significantly less funded when it comes to art and music education, and while we certainly won’t be able to have a nationwide effect on the problem, we have enough likeminded friends to at least make an impact in our area.
Tons of local businesses, artists, tattooers, bands and others have donated amazing items to auction off, both online leading up to our event, and also at the events themselves. We have a limited run of 10 different T-shirts designed by some pretty well-known tattooer friends of ours being sold at the events as well – all Pirate, and Pirates Press themed. All the proceeds from the auction and the sale of those shirts will be donated directly to the art and music programs at local east bay public schools. Based on the amount of money we generated for the San Francisco School District five years ago, and the sheer quantity and quality of the items people have donated this time, we expect to be able to handover a significant chunk of money to the school district on October 20th!
In addition to a ton of merch to get the bands all stocked for their tours, Pirates Press Records has some key new releases that are coordinated with the event.
– Special re-issue of “Back In SF,” the live album from our 5th Anniversary party, at Great American Music Hall
– Picture Disc re-issue of “Forever,” their latest album. (Originally Released in April 2017, when they came to play UC Theatre)
– First NEW album in over 10 years, “Crisis.Point” hit the stores on Sept 13. A limited colored vinyl edition will be sold ONLY at the event.
– New Picture Flexi for “DEMONS”
– New 2-Song 12” and CD/CD-Record single to promote their upcoming full- length “Under Tension,” coming Jan 2020 on PPR
– New Picture Flexi for “THE LOCKDOWN” aimed at creating increasing the nationwide dialogue about ‘lockdown’ drills at schools, and gun violence at schools more generally. PIRATESPRESSRECORDS.COM/TTV (we are getting help from kids and teachers to hand out 50,000 of them at schools!)
– New 2-song double-A side single (with 50 different colored jackets)
CJ RAMONE – Three picture disc reissues of his 3 albums!! (LAST CHANCE TO DANCE, AMERICAN BEAUTY and RECONQUISTA)
Both Grade 2 and Off With Their Heads have brand new albums as well on Epitaph/Hellcat.
…and as we took back most of our distribution from Rev earlier this year. We are also releasing our very first print catalog at the event. In addition to getting them out to store buyers and one-stop distros, we designed it to be something fans of the label will really enjoy as well, and it will be available for free to everyone at Rock The Ship.