BACK TO THE PISS CAVE, WITH BLACK FLAG

By Melanie Rogers

[audio:http://www.youbettershutupandlisten.com/mp3s/black_flag_-_no_more.mp3]

It’s an every day thing. Gravity puts its invisible lead boot down on the top of my skull and grinds me down into the primordial gruel I seeped up from; and gradually, I will be comminuted to a similar pap, too. My existence is the hum drum pinnacle of tedium. My life has turned into a sort of perpetual yawn, with its jaws locked, aching, and engorged with the ruddy glow of hope that its very own hinges will snap fatefully. I wake up at 6:50 every day, and I see the gaping mouth hovering over the tangle of bed spread and leg muscle, like that giant motherfucking head from Zardoz. But my god doesn’t spew guns and dick jokes. Instead, from those lips curls a spiraling fog of mundanity. I ooze off my mattress, play with my turn table, and slather myself in dirty laundry. At around three, I return from class to my animal den, where I simmer in the stale stink of my own sleep and pity. Then the head rears again and tells me to go to work. I hunker into my jew oven on wheels, and grudgingly barrel toward minimum wage at the local supermarket. The second my finger punches in the necessary identification numbers, I become completely anesthetized. The only thing charging through my wits is the hiss and crackle of silence. My brain curls and sputters like a strip of pig skin on the surface of my second nature. Continue reading

THE CRACK PIPES: WHITE PEOPLE ARE POOR, TOO

By Max Dropout

[audio:http://www.youbettershutupandlisten.com/mp3s/crackpipes-q_and_a.mp3]

The greatest misconception permeating the American underbelly of social wreckage must be that suffrage is defined by boundaries of ethnicity. The warmth and spectacle of flaming racial division is, above all, a distraction from the rampant classism to which human beings, regardless of color or nationality, will inevitably fall victim. For if ever there should be any sense of unity or commonality discovered between the chaw-spewin’, cousin-fuckin’ trailer park Neanderthal and the forty-swilling, KFC-licking ghetto thug, the upper echelon might find one holy Hell on the stoops of its white mansions. Is it any wonder, then, that Cromwell’s merry Irish exploits (which fed the fine four-century tradition of white slavery in colonial America) have been stricken from state-issued historical texts? Indeed, Chuck D and Ray Pride’s ancestors might just have more in common than you think. Yes, Virginia, there is an underclass, and despite cultural differences, I’m as poor, pissed, sick, and unaided as the next bean-pie schillin’ whitey stomper… and though he might not be aware of it yet, there exists a bond between us: a sense of entitlement to the blues.

For at least two years, I pounded New York City pavement to the pummeling tempo of “The Truth About Money.” I was an agitator of the subway-goer, broadcasting the Crack Pipes’ hyper-mangled blues punk through banter-blocking headphones at an obnoxious volume. Those sonic lashings against the unfortunates surrounding me were my religious pamphlet, so to speak. This was some spiritual shit. Too complex for mainstream’s garage rock ga-ga trendiness, it was no postcard from Memphis, either; it wasn’t the blues as defined by journalists masturbating to Charlie Patton’s scales, or as interpreted by cookie monster pot heads. This was pure gospel, impaled by some ungodly yowl from the side of the train tracks where used condoms and needles grow like the poor man’s wild flower, sprung out of some unlucky concoction of toxic soil and black cat shit.

Prior to my first meeting with Ray Pride, I had built up an image of this music�s source as a weathered survivor of fiendish lower class distractions–a modern Apostle Paul to white trash–with stark, hollowed features and those candy corn teeth found only in junkie mouths. Almost three years after discovering the Crack Pipes, I found myself in the presence of the man behind the curtain, appearing before my eyes as precisely the opposite of what my imagination had led me to believe. The angelic Pride stood before me, with a warm handshake, a sober, soft-spoken manner, and at times, a sweetly-toned self-deprecating sense of humor. The people who suffer aren’t always monsters.

I had an opportunity to sit down with Pride recently and discuss the band’s latest effort, �Beauty School,� an experimental Afrocentric p�t� of psychedelia, funk, and stomp box blues. It ain’t confidential.

The first thing I wanna ask about is the title for the new record, “Beauty School.” Where’d that come from?
I have a hat that says “Baldwin Beauty School” on it. I’ve had that for a long time, and I thought it would be kind of funny to tie it in with the hat, and then it became a personal thing. I was thinking about beauty schools, and I kind of came up with the whole concept… if you’re watching TV, or listening to the radio, or you’re on the internet and you don’t filter everything that’s coming in, you’ll probably develop a pretty negative view of the world and humanity at large, so you gotta kinda teach yourself to look for the beautiful things in life. Otherwise, you’re just gonna get real cynical and focus on the negative, especially after 9-11.

How does it pertain to the new record?
The song “Beauty School”… it’s about a guy who wishes there was a school he could go to, to learn to find the beautiful things in the world. And then there’s this kind of reverential part, a churchy part, where he’s allowed to go to a beauty school, and he’s touched, maybe by a higher power… or… we don’t wanna define it too much. But it’s in the proud tradition of gospel songs. He has a revelation. The second part of the song, which is the electric part, is more upbeat, where he finds beauty in the smallest things. It’s all in the lyrics, which you probably can’t understand… (laughs)… maybe they’ll be posted on “the internet” someday, though.

Y’all don’t have liner notes on the new record?
No, we can’t afford enough paper to put the lyrics in our records (laugh).

Where’s Beauty School coming from as opposed to Snakes In My Veins?
I think �Snakes in My Veins,� and the record before, �Every Night Saturday Night,� are both pretty similar. I see �Snakes in My Veins� as a polished version of �Every Night Saturday Night�… it’s almost the exact same record by the way the songs are placed. You know, “mid-tempo, mid-tempo, mid-tempo, fast”… almost the exact same kind of songs, too. Some short rockers, then a long jam. �Beauty School� breaks out of that previous formula, so maybe it comes across as more varied. On �Snakes in My Veins,� we had “Super 8 Motel”, this Dylan-sounding song. That’s pretty different. So was the murder ballad, “Jawbone Blues.” Then you had the more rocking songs, like “Avenues & Boulevards.” That’s way more soulful than a lot of the other stuff on there. We’ve even covered Johnny Paycheck. We’ve always been pretty eclectic and varied, but I think it sticks out more on �Beauty School� because we’ve broken away from doing the same amount of more rockin’ songs.

There seemed to be a lot more punk on �Every Night Saturday Night,� though.
Well, I wasn’t as good of a singer on that record. We recorded more of it live, and I would do live vocals, so it sounds raw. On �Beauty School,� I did all the vocals after we recorded the music. Because the songs are actually structured, as opposed to… the word “jams”… I know what it means within the context of our band, but other people, they’re gonna see that word and think “String Cheese Incident” or something. But we use the word jams for songs that aren’t necessarily structured, where I don’t have to sing the same thing, and the band doesn’t have to play the same parts every time. There is a basic riff, a beginning, and an end… like “Hooker’s Blues,” (which isn’t on any record that anyone will have), or “Downtown Diddly”–

That’s one song I wanna talk to you about, actually. You’ve been doing a version that’s relevant to the overseas conflict…
Yeah, I did it right around when the war started, or was about to start. In that original version, this kid’s caught in a cycle of poverty. He wants to get out of it, and make money for his mother, who’s been working hard, and so his little brother can have nice things. He doesn’t have any skills, except he knows he can make money selling pills, and gets busted after doing so. In the anti-war take, this kid is in the military for economic reasons. He doesn’t wanna be a burden to his mother, and he wants to bring some money in, go to college, better his life. It’s one of the few options he has. That’s the way it really is for a lot of people. So, in the new story, he’s doing tank support, and some sort of explosive goes off. He wakes up on a hospital ship and he’s lost his right arm. There’s a great song by Bill Withers, he did this anti-Vietnam song called “I Can’t Write Left Handed”… we reference that. But the main thing is, this kid’s life is changed, maybe ruined. It’s the same theme, different story. We did a different version recently, where we prettied it up and tried to make it so that we weren’t just putting a new story on top of the first one. It’ll probably turn into a totally new Bo Diddly-derived song.

Speaking of things changing… after recording Beauty School, which is one of the best records to come out of Texas in perhaps the last ten years, looking back on �13 Poison Sermons,� how do you feel about that effort now?
Not to shock too many people, but I was always a Beatles fan. Not everybody else in the band is, but I’m a Beatles fan. One of the things that the Beatles brought to rock n� roll was the concept of evolution. Musical evolution. They always seemed to be trying to better themselves or expand their musical palette, and that’s been a big influence on me. At that point in time, I was really proud. Some of that stuff is a little harder for me to listen to now, because I know what I was trying to do, and I couldn’t do it. Now, I can sing a lot better, or in a different style and it makes me happy that I can express myself this way. There are so many people I wish I could sing like, and in my head, I think I can do it (laughs), and then reality comes and hits me in the face.

You have a pretty calamitous holler. When I picked up �Every Night Saturday Night� back in New York, I developed my perception of who you are based on your voice and lyrics. When I first met you, I was pretty scared. I was intimidated by this image I had built up.
There’s some dark stuff in there, but that’s part of the reason we’re called the Crack Pipes. We’re gonna sing about stuff that happens on the bad side of town, when the sun goes down.

How much of it is personal experience?
I’ve seen a lot of that stuff. I grew up where there wasn’t a lot of sunlight. I grew up in Alaska, around working class people, who partied and drank and had their little blue collar soap operas, and at the same time I also read Faulkner and On The Road… all this great literature that celebrates the wild side of life. There’s a romance to it. We’re definitely, by strict definition, a romantic band. We romanticize this idealistic classic rock n� roll mythology. We’re carrying that torch on for a shrinking audience (laugh).

Austin can be dangerous for artists, because it isn’t challenging. You can fall into what they call the “velvet rut,” where you carve out your niche, and it’s comfortable and reliable. A lot of people are satisfied with that. Creative evolution, as you were just talking about, isn’t necessary down here to survive– it can even be bad. A lot of the older artists in Austin verge on parody, or caricature after a while. How do you fight falling into that? Is it conscious?
We change to keep it fresh for ourselves. Hopefully, the people who come out and see us appreciate it. On the last record, the Dylan-sounding song, “Super 8 Motel,” we did that and I thought people would hate it or laugh at it, and think it was stupid. But we were all huge Dylan fans. And we said, “Hey, let�s do this song in a kind of Dylan style. We love Dylan, and it would just be cool.” I really thought people were gonna hate that song.

“Save Me” is kind of a wild take, too…
…The first time we played “Super 8 Motel,” there was a lot of applause. I didn’t see that coming. I was really proud that the audience went with us. And “Save Me”… at that point in time, when we tried to cover it, I couldn’t sing it as fast as Aretha Franklin does on her version. When I got into Aretha Franklin and listened to a lot of her records, and that song came on, I thought, “What a great opportunity to play ‘Gloria’ without playing ‘Gloria.’” I’ve always been a big fan of Perry Smith’s version of “Gloria”… it’s amazing. But you can’t cover it really without being cheap. It’s the “Gloria” riff, but it’s a legitimate R&B song, so we get props for doing an R&B cover, have the fun of playing the “Gloria” riff, and that’s kinda where that came from. We went crazy with it.

Out on the road, what’s the response?
Usually positive when there’s people there (laugh). I was talking to the guys in the Deadly Snakes about this: there’s some great rock cities in this country, but they’re all about a hundred miles apart. You have Seattle and Portland, and then you have Chicago and Austin. Maybe not New York… but Cleveland… all these places you have to drive really far to get to. You play these towns in between and they don’t know who you are. They don’t have a cool record store. The internet is great, but it’s too overwhelming. I don’t know what the tastemaker is. Who will help you connect with your audience? We do well in Chicago. Ohio is a great rock n� roll state. Ohio is like Austin, where going out and seeing live music is an actual entertainment option. They like their rock n� roll and there’s some great bands out of Ohio.

The garage punk community has been pretty Crack Pipe-friendly, too.
Which is, I think, strange, because we’re really not garage by classic definition. When we first started out, we were really under the cloud of the Oblivians. I was really enamored by the Oblivians. We wanted to sound like them, like a dozen other bands, I’m sure. But we were immediately different because of our guitarist, who is a little more of a purist when it comes to R&B, and he likes to play more notes. He kinda kept us from being a copy of them, but we were definitely influenced by them in a lot of ways. But there’s different kinds of garage, and part of the reason why I liked the Oblivians was that they were definitely influenced by all kinds of crazy R&B, Memphis rock ‘n roll, old garage, but when you listened to their records, you understood that they knew Methane had happened. That punk rock had happened. That hardcore had happened. That’s all in there. Then you have these other bands, and I like some of �em, but they were really trying to live in a time capsule. They played through their vintage equipment, and they dressed vintage, with their vintage haircuts… and some of ‘em were really fun, but for me, it reminds me of rockabilly a little bit. I like noise, I like feedback. I don’t like being limited by a fashion, where you have to wear the right stuff and play the right songs in the right key. The Rolling Stones, you listen to their records, they’re all over the place. They played porchy blues, yet they have stuff with horns, and later reggae and disco. I think that’s good, when you don’t box yourself in.

Speaking of boxed in, people seem to have a very narrow view of what the blues is when they come to Austin, and one of the things, when I first heard and finally saw you, I thought of you as being very much in the lineage of classic blues… a modern form. You’re an evolved blues. What reaction do you guys get from blues fans?
Gosh, I don’t know if we’ve ever been exposed to them. We never played Antone�s. We have played the Continental Club. That’s a pretty good story. We played the Continental Club, which, if you’re familiar with Austin, is not as bad as Antone�s when it comes to Hawaiian shirt blues music. It’s a little more legitimate. But we played there when we were still a three piece, without a bass. And I think our guitarist Billy Steve really summed it up… they were looking at us like a dog looks at a radio or something, where they cock their heads. They don’t know what to think of it. Because we didn’t have a bass at the time, it was incomplete to them. Since we added a bass, we’ve definitely broadened our base of fans (har har). We get some people who think it’s a good time. We definitely haven’t been embraced by that community. We’re not trying to be embraced though. What’s that band? Grady? I know those people thought we were nuts… “What is that? That guy’s playing through four amps. The guitar sounds like something off of a Ministry record.” Grady are more accepted by people who call themselves a blues audience than we are. We’re closer to Howlin’ Wolf or Muddy Waters, Little Walter. There’s a long, proud tradition of the wild, raw blues that we play… we can go there. We can go to the house rockin’ style. But that’s been out of favor with blues people for decades.

A lot of kids who are into punk rock right now, they identify with the blues because of its liveliness and emotional depth. There’s a spiritual force behind it. Overly-technical blues seems oxymoronic.
Blues music has always been an emotional outlet. A lot of blues down here now seems to fit a mold. The flavor these days is BB King… the urban blues. You have the south Austin thing going on now. Fat Possum, though, those guys are great. That’s really wild energy, and that’s probably why Epitaph picked them up for distribution. We’ve been lucky enough to meet those guys and play with them at Beerland and stuff, and that was a blast. T-Model Ford and Paul Wine Jones. But then we played with the Neckbones. They were the only white band on Fat Possum and they spurred off into all these other bands, like the Preacher’s Kids. That’s a great rock n� roll band– blues influenced, but more of a rock band. They live the rock n� roll lifestyle, that’s for sure. We try to write lyrics that have some sort of meaning, but can be fun. Even a stupid rock song, we try to give it some sort of meaning. That’s one thing that sets us apart from what’s coming out nowadays. I’m not talking about grindcore. I’m talking about what’s on the radio and what’s left of music television. There’s always gonna be an audience for meaningless love songs, though. We all really worship at the altar of the late-sixties/mid-seventies artists who put a lot of meaning into a dumb three chord dance rocker.

The moniker “pop,” to a lot of people, has a negative connotation. But when you look back at the sixties, we had pop music, but it meant something. Like Motown… Marvin Gaye, he wrote things that were poignant and beautiful … but they were pop. Today, we have nothing in that realm.
It seems that way, yeah. You’d like to think somebody out there is trying to get something in. Maybe some stuff in hip hop, but there’s a lot more poignant hip hop that people never hear. It gets filtered out before it hits the mainstream. Pop is a really bad word amongst everyone right now, yet a lot of the stuff I listen to was pop in its time and the cool people would not have listened to it. I really like Burt Bacharach. He’s an amazing arranger. I got into Burt Bacharach because James Brown covered a Bacharach song, “Any Day Now.” I still don’t have the James Brown version, but I have the Bacharach version, and it’s an amazing song. He produced the Carpenters stuff, and you listen to those songs and you get a lot of great ideas. All the percussion was on tambourine, but it’s tight and fun to dance to.

From soul music to punk music–specifically genres that you could consider to be apart of the counter culture movement–a lot of that stuff was at its creative pinnacle during times of extreme political and social unrest. Eighties punk was a reaction to Reagan’s suburbia. Sixties soul and funk tumbled out around the time that civil rights was on everybody’s tongues. Right now, it seems we’re on the verge of another such period.
Well, half the country doesn’t feel like they have a say or a voice. Hopefully that will spawn some good stuff.

You were recording Beauty School during the presidential elections.
Yeah, we were doing the mixing in the studio with Mike Vasquez over at Sweat Box, and we watched the results. I brought a TV down to the studio, and we watched them as they came in, and it was depressing. Very, very depressing.

Was your record at all kissed by the current climate?
If you listen to the new record, particularly something like “Q&A,” there’s definitely references to the White House… “the fools in the White House.” In one sense, we’re like, “Okay, now that song is more relevant because Bush is still in office.” But of course I would have loved for it to have been a general regard toward the people in the White House who know they’re doing evil. It makes that song a little more desperate than most political songs on there. Getting back to your very first question, the whole record is maybe a little more personal and less “sign wavey” than our previous records. We make music that to a certain extent is obsolete. It’s not music that the majority of kids would be into…

Why do you think that is?
It’s based on what they’ve been listening to. Like when I was a kid, listening to AM radio, FM radio, the first kind of music I was into was hard rock. I didn’t even know about Motown, or old blues. I had to educate myself. We’re like a link to older stuff, though we do it, hopefully, in a new way. We like to think if you dig us, maybe you’ll find out what influenced us. Just like Tim Kerr’s band, Jack O� Fire. I learned so much about old blues bands… a lot of their songs were covers– crazy interpretations of them. I was like, “Okay, I really like this song, who did that? That’s Howlin’ Wolf. Okay I’ll go out and buy a Howlin’ Wolf record.” There’s so much stuff out there, you never know what’s good or bad, but I could go through and just buy every artist they covered and never get burnt, and I hope we can be a link like that. Like he was to my generation, we can be to the next generation. We’re appealing to people who are actually looking, and a lot of kids aren’t looking anymore. Music’s not the most important thing in their lives.

In the context of music over the last century, a lot of what comes out now is awful. It seems if the music industry supported anything that served as a basis for comparison, they’d pretty much be screwed. Audiences would crave substance.
I think it’s always been that way to some extent. A lot of the people who write about music are probably in their fifties. They’re products OF the sixties, so they focus on the great folk movement, and psychedelic rock n� roll and R&B. They’re not gonna sit around and write big thick tomes about Leslie Gore, Edie Gourmet, or all that other horrible pop that we’ve luckily kind of forgotten, which was selling more records than the Kinks. The Beach Boys sold a lot of records, but Sinatra sold more. There was a lot of pop on the radio at that time. The folk thing started on college campuses, and enough college campuses got turned onto it, and then it became a thing, and then they started going, “Oh, well, we need to cash in on this folk thing, and that’s how it still works. They’ll just give you the junk until you say you want something a little better. So, right now, it’s all about American Idol and these porpoise singing people just butchering these great soulful songs, and the people will eat it up and think its great music. Hopefully they’ll want something more substantial. That’s all you can hope for.

Are you at all resentful of that mindless pop contingent’s success?
I don’t think we’d ever really wanna be that big. That sounds clich�, but we don’t wanna be big anyway. You read these biographies of bands like the Stones and the Who, and it doesn’t sound very fun playing in giant football stadiums. How fun can that be? “Hey you fifteen thousand people, lets rock!” It might be frustrating financially and it might be weird when you’re older, like Muddy Waters, who’s in his seventies and still playing small places. I’m sure it’s frustrating, and if given the opportunity to make a lot of money and play an arena, they would. But me, I wasn’t born on a cotton farm. I didn’t work really hard. Music wasn’t my escape. I’m a lazy white kid who’s avoiding responsibility and adulthood, and my going into music is for a completely different reason. For me, never making it is kind of the goal almost.

There’s a skewed logic when it comes to money and success… I’ve seen bands go out of their way to sabotage their success because they wanna avoid sacrificing their credibility maybe. I view money in the way I view energy or a gun. It can be either destructive or helpful, depending on who’s holding it. I don’t understand why people don’t go for the dollar and then bring it back to their community.
Popularity and making money are not necessarily the same thing. A lot of people associate popularity with that whole teeny-bopper-playing-to-the-lowest-common-denominator thing, and it doesn’t have to be that way. You can make a lot of money playing to the lowest common denominator, playing to big drunk crowds, sure. You can make a real good living doing that. For us, we’d love it if people danced to our music, but we’re gonna play the music WE like, and hopefully people will dance to it, as opposed to playing the kind of music WE KNOW people will dance to. Those are two different things. There’s a lot of backlash in this scene. I’ve seen people get big, and everyone thinks they’re rock stars. Some people change. Some people don’t. I’ve seen it with Sixteen Deluxe. I don’t think I saw it with Ed Hall. They were always so weird… I think most people are pretty proud of them.

Conrad, from Trail of Dead, seems almost resentful when someone doesn’t treat him like he’s just Conrad. He seems to appreciate normalcy.
But at the same time, see, I knew them when they first moved to town, and they always acted like rock stars, even when they were sleeping on floors. They always had this mindset that they were doing something grand. For me, their band grew into the ideas they had. Sure, they rub some people the wrong way. I rub people the wrong way. Everybody rubs somebody the wrong way. A lot of people are rubbed raw by them because they have preconceived notions, with some built-in resentment toward their success maybe. But they’ve got a lot of worries, too, you know? It’s a tough business when you try to get to that next level.

Does that look like a nightmare to you?
Not a nightmare… I think they’ve been pretty smart about it. They’ve been lucky with who they’ve been doing business with within their record company, and the guy who signed them. It’s a weird business. It’s not free money, and there are expectations. And there again, maybe that’s part of my character. I don’t like expectations. I was an underachiever in school, and I wanna be an underachiever in rock n� roll (laughs). When it comes to music, we wanna be a grade “A” band. When it comes to money and success, “C” band.

Visit the Crack Pipes at:
www.thecrackpipes.com

LOOK WHAT’S HAPPENED TO MONTY BUCKLES

By Max Dropout

[audio:http://www.youbettershutupandlisten.com/mp3s/lamps_-_rototiller.mp3]

Beyond some awareness of what a wrist watch represents, there is only one pivotal difference between a dog and its owner. If you beat on a dog regularly, the consequence of consistent beatings will eventually shape that animal into a bristling beast of vengeance that salivates with fury over the sight of another human being. Conversely, abuse a man repeatedly for long enough and through his understanding of inevitable and regular occurrence, he will teach himself to lap up every lashing with relative relish and complete abandon.

When deprived of either natural outlet or numbing mechanism, the aura of discontent can swallow a man whole if he’s not careful; negativity and cynicism come in big and natural cupfuls every time you so much as pop your head out a doorframe. However, if you’re fortunate enough to evade falling in line with the mass of commoners out there, with their abortion clinics for minds who consider the atmosphere you breathe merely a dump for their half-formed ideas, then you’ve probably got a sense of emotional awareness and some keen ideas on how to exorcise your evils, or at least on how to cope with them. In the case of the Lamps debut EP, a riotous strain of only the basic essentials, from the highest grade minimalism to concrete-grating vocals, you have an exemplary channel of destructive energy so atomic its brief flash is bound to leave your shadow permanently tattooed on the wall behind you. It staggers toward a clamoring deliverance, just as any sincere blast of displeasure refuses corporeal containment… and this is where the appeal of the Lamps’ punk noir lies, standing as a veritable photonegative depicting the release of mottled ire and discontent. It sounds at times upliftingly menacing enough to render a Small Faces cover more appropriately yelled out the windows of unmarked vans parked in sordid alleyways. Buckles’ spastic moan on the ominous sprawl of “Ron Campbell” stands out like a twisted black silhouette against the burnt oranges of L.A. industrial haze. And yet it’s just upbeat enough to elicit some party stompin’ from audially shell-shocked listeners on tracks like “Rototiller” and “Sores,” moments of retarded joy bursting from the seams like demented pilferings cushioning this sinister Faberge egg of an EP. Because spontaneous frenzy can induce more than just wrath, why wallow in despair when there’s escape elsewhere? Lyrically, the Lamps have struck a match made in God knows where, pairing up a health-hazardous sound with bizarre subject matter ranging from unsightly skin infections to Planet-of-the-Apes-meets-Lord-of-the-Flies simian supremacy.

It should also be noted that pocketed throughout all this are moments of clarity, fleeting sonic havens for the perhaps fainter-of-heart where each crunching, erratic note solidifies into a truly heartrending onslaught– I refer here to the bridge of “M. Malloy,” where following a cathartic count-off, the Lamps’ usual jagged antagonism takes on another, slightly different energy, sounding like a damn-near epic contained within less than twenty seconds. Nai Sammons, former guitarist of the now-sadly-defunct Piranhas, unleashes his own brand of sonic chaos on this track and on “2 Left Legs,” the album’s slide-drenched closer that could better soundtrack a Deep South front porch brawl. Pounding and joyous, the Lamps have generated a sound that is not feigned, not flashy, and certainly not forgettable. Upcoming showcases of their guerilla musical tactics are highly anticipated, but until then, we’ll settle for an interview with singer/guitarist Monty Buckles, where he finally tells us what he’s saying.

You’ve been hanging around the music scene for a while. Why did it take you so long to start a band?
General shyness. The thought of standing up in front of a bunch of people held no appeal and seemed frightening. Also, the Los Angeles “scene” seemed totally unrewarding and unwelcoming. I was happy just seeing music and avoiding any of the other elements, social or otherwise. Other factors include no local friends that were into the same type of music, distaste bordering on pathological social practices, and again, shyness. I also didn’t think I possessed the necessary element that makes the difference between a band that is average versus a band that’s really good. I had a guitar, which I was never really comfortable with, but that I enjoyed sporadically playing around on. I’ve got ears where I cannot for the life of me figure out how to play a song by listening to it. I can’t sit down next to the stereo and find whatever key the song is in by strumming along. Nor did I ever jam around and come up with chord structures or riffs that I thought were good. But I liked playing. Guitars are one of those things, where once you know even a tiny bit about them, are intensely difficult not to pick up when you see one around.

What exactly made you feel like this was the time to do it?
There was no one defining bolt of lightning from the heavens that made me decide to start playing. I had begun playing guitar more in earnest, and my friend Josh started playing drums. We talked more about it and began playing together in my apartment; me plugged into a tiny amp and Josh playing along quietly with his sticks on muffled drums. Since I knew nobody with any aspirations of being a front man or singer, the task fell to me. So, I had to learn how to “sing” and play guitar at the same time, something that took awhile. In addition to being petrified of actually singing into a microphone in front of people, I had problems just strumming and singing at the same time. The thought of singing gave me a pervading fear, which I gradually got over. I don’t know if it was vestigial self confidence, or comfort. I think much of it was the fact that Josh was an excellent drummer, not so much from a technical perspective, but he plays in with really loud simplicity, and it just worked really well with my rudimentary guitar playing. The way his drumming sounded with my guitar was enough encouragement to continue.

What do you all really think of the band?
That’s a very difficult question. I don’t really think of the band from a personal critical perspective, beyond “that sounds good” or “I don’t like that.” I have never done a personal aesthetic in-depth analysis. I can’t really answer for Josh or Tim, but speaking for myself I’m the type of person where if I don’t like something and I have a choice of avoiding it, I will abandon it in a hot minute. There’s stuff about the band I don’t really like, aspects that I can’t really articulate, or ways I wish we sounded, or ways I wish we played. But overall, I am happy with it. But, like I said, I don’t really think about it.

How long have the Lamps been around?
I don’t know… I played in a two-piece band with Josh, and then he stopped. Then it started up again, with Tim and then Josh had to move before our first show, which went okay (he drove in from out of town). We were probably semi-active for a couple years. We are all really lazy. I kind of like bands like that though, where they aren’t really motivated by anything. Does that make sense?

I think when you aren’t motivated by your career, and you’re playing for mere enjoyment, it’s pretty obvious. Success turns that sort of thing into routine. What sucks is that the bands who avoid that are the ones I generally wanna see go somewhere and be successful.

Yeah, but you can be like the Hunches, and rarely play outside of your hometown and it all kind of adds to their mystique. Not that they (or us, for that matter) are that calculating.

You guys definitely have a mystique. Everyone has been going, “Where the fuck did these guys come from?”
Yeah, I’m afraid when we play we’ll suck and blow it.

So, what, is this a lot of pressure?
Sometimes. It’s just kind of stressful, like beyond all the coordination between the various members, there is the headache of getting everyone plus the equipment to the show, then there’s talking to the booker, the other bands, and the bar… the headache of the god damned guest list. Saying hello to all the people you know. It’s really tiring.

Funny you mention all the pressure. I was thinking recently that your band was like a release valve. I sense a lot of frustration from you. You have some really dark pent up emotions, and I guess perhaps that explains why everything on your records sounds so gnarled and vicious. But then again, your record is a total party machine. It’s a really great piece of escapism. It’s not a lot of whining or bitching.
I can be an intolerant, impatient, angry guy. But I like meeting people in other bands that I like and such. I feel more comfortable around those types of folks than most other aspects of life (work, everyday shit, etc). So for me, to bitch too much is gratuitous.

Well, there’s a lot of whimsy on your records. The music seems somewhat cathartic, I guess? But the actual intellectual property, the lyrics and all that are real fun. It’s an odd juxtaposition.
Yeah, I don’t know. It was just kinda, just doing it and seeing what happened. There was no really calculated motivation, other than not wanting to do “oh, baby yeah, wow I got the blues” type lyrics, or ’77 appropriation.

A lot of your lyrics are brilliant in the way the Three Stooges are brilliant, though.
Writing lyrics is my least favorite part of making music.

Really? The opening lines to “Rototiller” are phenomenal. I wanna punch an old lady whenever I hear them. That’s how good they are.
Thanks, that came from Tim, who wanted to call a song “Pushing Idiots Down the Stairs,” so I just kinda filched it.

What are the rest of these songs about? What the hell are you saying on this record?
I think that in general too much importance is placed on lyrics in the wake of Dylan. With the occasional exception, they work best if placed contextually with the instruments, so it just kind of blends together into one whole. But, yeah.

Rototiller: Portions are about a girl I used to know, although some of it is just nonsensical jabbering. To my knowledge, she did not own a rototiller, but I thought the main riff kind of sounded like one.

M. Malloy: True story… Mike Malloy was a drunk who a group of bumbling gangsters, called “the murder trust,” insured and attempted to kill in order to collect the insurance money. Initially, one of the murder trust, a bar owner, gave Malloy all the booze he could drink, thinking that the old rummy would drink himself to death. It didn’t work; Malloy would drink himself comatose and be back for more. When it became apparent that this approach was far too subtle, they began giving him booze laced with turpentine and roast beef sandwiches filled with thumbtacks, which Malloy consumed without any apparent ill effect. Once, after giving him enough turpentine to make him pass out, they rolled him into a winter night’s snowdrift and poured water on him; Malloy survived. One of them even hit Malloy with their car and he wandered back into bar a few days later. Eventually, they shot him, killed him, and got caught. Nai Sammons of the Piranhas contributed some wonderful guitar to this number.

Hot Plate: I was head over heels for a girl, who had completely shit-canned me. Her shit-canning me sent me into a tailspin of depression and self-doubt, and I was already kind of fucked up emotionally and certainly didn’t need anything else to accentuate it. Years later, I ran into her at a supermarket more than three hundred miles away and we had a brief conversation. She gave me her phone number. We were going to catch up on old times, etc. I called her, we talked some, and I was supposed to see her again, but she never returned my next call. I realized that, like an idiot, I intentionally placed myself in a situation that I knew would cause me pain that was otherwise totally avoidable.

Bertha Walt: I had bought the book “Maneaters” by Peter Hathaway Capstick, along with a book on contemporary Japanese sexual practices at a thrift sore. “Maneaters” is a really strange Reagan-era book whose author had a bizarre point of view that encouraged the shooting of any animal capable of killing and/or eating a man. Anyway, the book had some great stuff on famous cats that killed people, like the Panar leopard, as well as cannibals, piranhas, bears, sharks, alligators, carnivorous ants, giant snakes, wolves, pigs, and the sad account of Bertha Walt. She (at least I think it was a she) was a zookeeper who was killed and EATEN by an Indian elephant in Zurich in the 1940s.

Ron Campbell: Josh’s friend, supposedly a king amongst men. I would happily vouch for this, but I have yet to have the pleasure of making Ron’s acquaintance. Do not know if Ron has heard the song yet.

20″ of Monkey: Very straightforward song about getting stuck on a deserted island inhabited only by monkeys, and the monkeys eventually teaming up and killing you.

Hey Girl: Small Faces cover.

Sores: So named after someone I knew, who had a really horrible skin problem all over her arms and would wear sleeveless shirts and/or tank tops which just served to further illustrate her skin problem. I could tell everyone wanted to ask her what had happened, but not being rude, overcame all inquisitiveness.

Whale Hunt: Instrumental… the title probably influenced by reading In the Heart of the Ocean, which is a pretty hilarious book.

2 Left Legs: You’d have to ask Josh. He came up with the lyrics for this one. This song also featured the guest guitar of the talented Mr. Nai Sammons once again.

I find listening to your record a really enjoyable experience. Nobody ever describes music as “fun” or “funny” anymore. Why do you think that is? It that something you’re trying to go for?
Thank you. I am in no way a skilled enough musician to try and evoke a specific reaction. I try to play music that I would like to hear, and if someone finds it fun, I’m really happy. But to answer your question, I don’t know what exactly I was going for. I still think some bands are fun. I think the Black Lips, whom I love dearly, are fun, for example. I even think the Hospitals and the Brainbombs are fun, but I might have a different definition of fun than the average record consumer.

You had Nai on the EP. Anything unique pertaining to this experience?
I had the tremendous fortune of accompanying the Piranhas on their one and only trip to the west coast. I rode up with Larry Hardy from In The Red and filmed every show. I have the mini DV tapes sitting on my record shelf right now.
But… all the stuff I had heard about the Piranhas seemed so mysterious, and I didn’t think I’d ever get to see them. I heard vague word that they were going to tour the west coast, then Brian e-mailed me asking to help him book a show in L.A. We exchanged emails while I tried to find a show (the show I booked was cancelled because the venue was shut down) and I remember talking to Brian on my cell phone while on a layover at an airport bar in Hawaii. All the stories about the Piranhas I had heard involved blood and dead rats and general craziness, and when I talked to Brian he was such a nice, articulate guy that it threw me for a loop. Larry and I met the Piranhas for the first time outside the Comet in Seattle and I was struck by how nice they all were. The first night of the tour was an incredible show with the Piranhas and A-Frames, both of whom were great. The Hunches had come up and we all went to a party after in a multiple-story apartment building with only one unit rented out. I drank too much and kicked down a door and slept in the van with Ryan and Ami, while everyone else slept on a cold Seattle floor sans blankets. The tour itself, despite some setbacks (mainly involving San Francisco) was a success and I went to sleep every night happy as a clam knowing that the next night I would get to see another great show. In a row I got to see, in addition to the Piranhas every night and the aforementioned A-Frames, the Hunches, and the Hospitals. I got to climb to the side of the stage and film everything firsthand. Anyway, we had our overdubs at McHugh’s studio a day or two after the tour was finished, and Nai and his girlfriend were staying an extra few days in L.A. on vacation. Since I knew he had the spare afternoon, I asked him if he wanted to overdub some stuff. He stayed at my apartment, we went out to Mexican food and got some beer, I played him roughs of “M. Malloy” and “2 Left Legs” and picked up a guitar and figured out what he wanted to do immediately. The next day he drove down to the studio and overdubbed his tracks in about half an hour. If memory serves, I don’t think Tim has ever met him.

I heard something happened that delayed the record coming out for a while. If that’s true, what was it?
After Josh and I had been playing, Josh had to leave and stopped playing, and I started playing with Tim for a little while. Then Josh came back and Tim started playing bass and everything began to blend together really nicely. We played for a while, recorded a demo tape on cassette which was a recording of the songs we had on a cassette in a RadioShack tape recorder, which we thought sounded good. We got more ambitious and attempted to record some songs onto an 8-track Tim had, and we weren’t very happy with it. Josh then again had to leave the band; due to fiscal reasons he had to move out into the desert. We played at a party at a friend’s and it went pretty well. Then we got our first show with the Orphans, the Flash Express, and American Death Ray at the sadly departed JUVEE venue in L.A., due principally to the kindness of Brian Waters. We did well enough at this show that we got offered to open for the Deadly Snakes a few weeks later (so for the first half year or so the Lamps worked with Josh living a few hours away with no car, and we would periodically practice and he would get out here to play shows). At this Deadly Snakes show Larry Hardy of In The Red offered to do our record, and we didn’t think it would be the best time, with the band having started only recently and our being incapable of consistent practice. After Josh moved back we began practicing in earnest. It was incredibly difficult to schedule something that would satisfy all parties, with Mike McHugh’s studio, the Distillery, being (rightfully so) in very high demand. After we laid down tracks, it took fucking forever to find an appropriate open day to do mixing and overdubs and all that shit, which stretched it over a long period.

Are you happy with In The Red? I know Stonehouse from the Hospitals recently departed due to some differences in opinions with Larry. How has your experience been thus far?
I couldn’t be happier with the In The Red. Not only am I fan of the label, but I like Larry personally, he’s just a nice guy. I don’t know what exactly happened between the Hospitals – who I also love, I’ve seen them at least six times – and Larry, but I don’t think any real bad blood exists between the two. My experience has been great. I got to meet McHugh once before when I went stopped by with Luis from The Fuse! to see them recording the Hospitals’ first record. Just seeing the way he operated, and I think this word is used far to often and I would only use it to describe three or four other people I have ever met, I thought he was genius. You’ve heard just how harsh the production on the first Hospitals record is, and hearing it for the first time in that studio was insane. So, getting to record in there later was a incomparable treat.

The cover of the EP is one of the best we’ve seen in a while. I’ve seen it elicit a lot of different reactions. I even saw one girl cringe in repulsion and throw it across the room. Can you give us a little back story on the art and artist? Why did you go with that image?
It really just seemed to fit, and it’s not a personal effort to be mysterious on my part, but I’d rather not mention where I got the image from. I’m surprised it elicited enough reaction to have someone throw it across the room; this person seems rather high-strung.

Doesn’t one of you guys work at a funeral home or something?

Josh, drummer extraordinaire, was employed for a while at a mortuary with the aforementioned Ron Campbell, and for a year or so every night, Josh would go pick up bodies all across Southern California in a white van and drive them back to the mortuary. I think he got paid forty bucks per corpse.

Tell me a bit more about your band mates. They’re kind of phantoms in my perception.
Tim is really funny. A friend of mine described Tim as being like an alien from a very smart race that got sent to earth to monitor humanity, so he flies to earth and tries to blend in, but gets everything just a tad off. Tim prefers pinball to the Lamps, but comes along for the company. Josh is one of those people who can be happy doing anything. I don’t know if that makes sense.

We heard you recently helped Tim Warren move. Any funny or interesting shit happen during that whole process?
Probably the most fucked up thing that happened was Tim and I were in separate trucks driving through Utah on the salt flats. There were very high winds buffeting the truck when there was a flash of white in front of the windshield and the truck violently shifted. I got out and climbed up the cab and saw that the wind had torn the entire twenty-two foot long fiberglass roof off of the rear of the truck, and it was wedged in some undergrowth a couple of hundred yards away. I called Budget and they didn’t believe that such a thing was possible, without hitting anything. But the wind had just torn off the entire roof like the proverbial sardine can. Budget had a hard time locating another replacement vehicle, so we spent half a day in Salt Lake City, which was boring as shit. Also, later, due to strange house purchasing legal machinations, Tim, his wife Micha, and their dog Bando had to ride in one truck from Wyoming to western New Jersey in a single thirty-six hour period, while I was allowed the luxury of taking a few days by myself to do this. I had never seen the Midwest or the East Coast, so driving across the expanse I had never seen before was incredible.

I had actually helped Tim move into his place a year or two before that, and upon arrival from the mountains he found that he had this horrible hippy lady in his own house that refused to leave. California has some very good laws protecting the rights of renters, so she was able to weasel her way into squatting through some kind of loophole. A compromise was reached, and she eventually paid me and a friend of mine to move her shit out to her place, where she stiffed us on our check. We also had to move a whole truckload of her shit into an already stuffed storage space she had previously assured us was empty, and I distinctly remember violently throwing old furniture from the 1920s on top of this giant, twisted pile, out of sleep deprivation and annoyance and having to deal with this intolerable, intractable person.

When are we going too see The Lamps on tour, and what can we expect in the way of a live performance? I don’t know anybody who’s seen you guys play yet, so I’m really eager for you guys to get out here. How would you describe your live persona?
It looks like we are going up to the Northwest this summer. We are planning on going out to the Southwest too, and depending on our reception, and more importantly, how much fun we have, we may go do the East Coast and Midwest. But, we haven’t even begun to plan it. We would really like to play Austin, though. As for our shows, we just go out and play and try to do a good job. Tim used to dance quite a bit, but he has hurt his knee. Hopefully by the time we get back on the road, Tim will be healed and up to his former capacity as an excellent dancer.

Are you surprised at all by either the reaction to or the results of what you’re doing at all?
Sometimes, yes, when we get a particularly enthusiastic review, ’cause I don’t think we’re necessarily better then any other good band. I am happy, but it’s strange. It’s like, “SHIT, if I can do this, then anyone can!” So, being in a band perceived as being pretty good is some easy shit to do.

Have you been getting any negative feedback from people?
Not overt. We got some bad press in Arcata, but I think most people if they don’t like it just keep it to themselves, which is fine, I guess. I think they are afraid of saying anything bad about In The Red. I was actually afraid because ITR had been doing so well, I figured they were due for a backlash and we would be the ones to trigger it.

I think the Ponys are getting that.
Yeah, it’s inevitable with that crushing amount of hype. It’s just kind of sickening to me how someone champion a band, and then when they get popular abandon them and change their whole tune.

A whole lot, which surprises me. But then again there are a lot of bands out there that I think are awful which are receiving a lot of underground cookies and gold stars and shit. Why the fuck do you do the band, though? Are you a masochist or something? I am trying to figure out how the gratification measures against the hassles and the pressures for you since it seems like your life is kind of hectic as it is.
It still can be fun. I want to record another record. You do a song, you want it to be recorded so there is a record of it, and I still enjoy meeting people, y’know?

Well, you could still be meeting people outside of the band. Socially, how does your band affect your interactions with other musicians you admire?
I don’t really consciously sit down with a guitar and try and come up with a riff, thinking of all the people I could meet. Most days I feel like I have met more then enough people and would be perfectly content never meeting another one. Then again, I’ve met all sorts of great people through being in the Lamps, both through people who I’ve initially come in contact with through the band, or other bands we’ve played with or people we’ve met through our limited traveling. I think the remark might have come from my thinking that when I was in my formative years, none of my peer group really listened to the same type of music I did, read books (much less the kind I was reading), or was into the same cultural what have you that I enjoyed, so it was a lonely, alienating pursuit. Now, I’m still kind of bowled over when I meet someone who has similar tastes because when I was a kid the possibility seemed too abstract. I had met lots of musicians I had admired before I was in a band. There’s something really egalitarian about enjoying this sort of thing because you can meet someone who is doing really great, incredible stuff, and they are just riding around in van playing bars. But being in band, and getting to play with other bands you like is one of the most rewarding things about being in a band in the first place. It’s fun. I don’t know what difference it makes being in another band or not, because most bands are just happy to see any kind of friendly face, whether they are in a band or a fan.

Are you generally a social person? How do you feel about people in general? And if so, how do you react to the public’s response?
I’m not a very social person. I’ve got my friends and enjoy meeting people to some extent, but usually going out to a bar or a party makes me want to want to live in a sewer and eat rats rather then continuing to interact with the outside world. Even crowded shows give me the jitters. In general I try my best to be polite and friendly, but I’ve got a short temper and, as anyone unfortunate enough to know me personally can attest, am subject to drastic mood swings for no reason whatsoever, which isn’t a manner conducive to making good first impressions. More often then not I am content being by myself or with my circle of friends. Overall, I think people (with a few notable exceptions, such as Mike Lucas) are a horrible ignorant selfish scourge on the face of the earth, myself included.

I’m happy people seem to like the record, though.

What’s the L.A. scene’s response? I have no comprehension of what’s going on out there now.
The L.A. scene’s response seems to be pretty positive after our initial reaction of thorough ambivalence. L.A. has some good bands, the Starvations, the Flash Express, the Guilty Hearts are all friends of ours, and it seems like anytime we play a show one of those familiar and welcome faces are on the bill. The Lamps probably would have dissolved and never played a show in the first place if it wasn’t for my friend, Brian Waters from the Flash Express, who got us our first show without ever hearing us, just because he is that type of guy. Edgar from the Guilty Hearts is doing an exemplary job here, booking shows and finding venues and in general just giving the local ‘scene’ as such a shot in the arm by making it a desirable place to play.

I was reading through some weird contract thing for people who perform at our venue, and it refers to the performers in the bands as characters. In fact, there are certain things that you can’t legally do in public but you CAN do on stage as a performer if it were germane to the “character” of the band… describe you and your band mates as “characters” for me.
I don’t know. This probably sounds terrible, but when we play a show we just try to play the best we possibly can. I don’t assume some kind of persona like James Chance or something (not that there is anything wrong with that), we just go out and play. Tim has done two “Cowboy” shows, where he becomes a mean-spirited, homophobic, racist cowboy while playing, shooting at the audience, abusing them verbally, etc. – which was great the first time but I think I ruined the second one because we were playing so poorly and I was in such a disenchanted, low mood that I think I ruined Tim’s cowboy show enthusiasm forever.

We hear that you’re a big record collector. What kind of stuff do you look for in a band? Do you incorporate any of that same line of thinking in what you do? Is there stuff you listen to that you would never EVER want to play?

I don’t know what I really look for in a band, I think just in general you are always searching for something that’ll knock your socks off. And since I only listen to stuff I like, there isn’t much I wouldn’t attempt to play. I think one of the things the Lamps do is that, by musical incompetence more then design, whatever we try and play just ends up sounding like the Lamps. I wish we could do a proper ballad though. I love ballads but my only attempts and writing one have turned out dreadfully.

What level of importance do you place on your band in terms of career? Most people are very “career”-minded. Very serious. You at times seem self-deprecating about the whole operation. Where are you taking this?
The Lamps aren’t a career at all. If I was self-delusional enough to be serious about the Lamps as a career, I had better buckle down and get used to eating garbage and living on the street. We’re not especially commercial, we have a poor work ethic, and our ambitions have pretty much been completely realized already. I am tremendously lucky that I am fortunate enough to get to make records in my spare time, and I’m happy to leave it at that, rather then any aspirations/pretensions of a long-haul career.

I honestly don’t know where we’re taking it. Hopefully to Europe.

Tell me something I don’t know, Monty.
Did you know Rosey Grier tackled Sirhan Sirhan after he shot RFK? That Lars Finberg’s (from the Intelligence and the A-Frames) uncle went to high school with Captain Beefheart? That I got in a fist fight in elementary school with the son of the lead singer of the band AMERICA? That Josh’s grandparents tried to get him expelled from the Mormon Church because he lived with a girl? I’ve got some more, but I cannot think of anything else at the moment.

What’s the problem with Monty Buckles?
There’s a whole shit-load, let me tell you. Ask around, they’ll tell you. Keep your distance folks, because I’m one shit-bucket human being.

Thanks for your time… we really enjoy the record, and hope you come to Texas soon.
You’re welcome, glad you like the record, and I hope to see you in Texas soon, too.

MIDNIGHT COMMUNION WITH THE CATHOLIC BOYS

By Johnny Vomitnoise

[audio:http://www.youbettershutupandlisten.com/mp3s/catholic_boys-hurt_to_hate.mp3]

I first got in touch with Paul Reject due to a mutual fixation on archiving music; the worst part about nursing an unhealthy preoccupation with the less-heralded end of the punk spectrum is the cost, so I’ve been fanatically downloading music – poor man’s record collecting – and abusing the internet as a punk rock research tool since my early high school years. My friend Kevin once commented on how “dedicated” I was to amassing downloaded records and using the internet as a bottomless source for unearthing a steady stream of old punk records to ensure I leave home even less than I do presently. “Dedication is one word,” I told him, “and obsession is another.” My program of choice is Soulseek, a little blue bird that sits in the bottom right of the monitor (the bird icon actually spreads its wings), and once opened, you’re immediately let loose in a world where every hyper-obscure, foreign, or long-lost punk record you could hope to find is virtually at your fingertips (time is, of course, no object). Soon you’re mainlining badly dubbed singles and flexis (not to mention videos of only the shittiest quality) left and right, building a collection massive enough to (hopefully) satiate your pathetic punk rock lust.

One day I stumbled upon the username “paulreject,” and I don’t think I can recall a day passing that I didn’t take a look at his files, given that he always seemed to have something I’d been digging after for quite a while, or something I’d never realized existed. Being, you know, a complete fucking moron, it took me long enough to put two (the username) and two (the tastes) together and get in touch with him, finally asking one day if he was the same Paul Reject whose records were then currently sitting in my collection; and considering the time frame, I’d probably only just then picked up the second Teenage Rejects single. Of course, it was him, and he told me to check out the Catholic Boys when I got the chance, the band being the latest thing with which he was involved.

I did, of course, and upon receiving their split with the Kill-A-Watts (Electrorock Records No.01) in the mail, I took it right to the turntable. I’ve always been addicted to noise and static, and the Catholic Boys had that in spades. Everything is overblown– each instrument, as well as the vocals, emanating the most raw ferocity. Rhythmically, this band was a hell of a step (but a logical one) from the Teenage Rejects. Abandoning the previous project’s non-stop approach, the Catholic Boys employ more of a start-and-stop feel within their songs, jerking back and forth with psychotic progression and tight beats akin to being strangled, but all the same managing what the Teenage Rejects proved these guys could pull off long ago: violently noisy rock music that comes off screaming and pissed with genuine intensity. Upon that first listen, the one layer that really seemed to separate the two bands was the Catholic Boys’ slightly more angular approach. I know from my own personal prejudices that “angular” can be a pretty loaded word, I’m damn hesitant to use “matured,” and maybe “technical” would be more appropriate, but I’m a writer … scratch that: a collector-loser, not a musician, and anyhow, these words can only be used positively describing the self-proclaimed “Catholic Fags.” For this non-derivative approach (comparable really only to the Reds, yet still a far cry — or painful screech — from that band’s sound; maybe at times sounding like the best moments of the Suicide Commandos on a broken stereo) never manages to gloss over the underlying static appeal, and instead provides the Catholic Boys with a unique sound, an unmistakable definition that is truly rare today, even in underground circles. All of this seemed pretty apparent just from this first release. The next was 2003′s “Brainwash City” single on Kryptonite Records followed by the Trick Knee Productions 2004 CD (and more recently LP), “Psychic Voodoo Mind Control,” both bearing fascistic attitudes to match the titles, the latter of which is a fairly acute description of the Catholic Boys’ overall sound, and both with content that definitely delivers on the promises assumed from just hearing the split release.

A little more than six months after briefly speaking with Paul, it was on New Year’s Eve that I found myself DJing at Beerland here in Austin, with the Catholic Boys headlining. After finishing walking the equipment in, they splinter off and eventually Eric makes his way to the DJ booth to browse my 7″s. I introduce myself and we go over our mutual acquaintances from Milwaukee, realizing that about a month earlier I’d been at his house, fucked over on whiskey, and, as I was told later, had attempted to climb his backyard fence to escape the Kylesa show my friends had come to see (the band later told some friends they could spot the Texas kids a mile away, passing around a gallon of cheap bourbon in the center of the room with a halo of irritated locals keeping their distance). Eric was working that night, and soon after the fence thing it was deemed inappropriate for me to be in public and I was dragged to the nearest friend’s home, so I never had a chance to talk to him then.

After the show, the Catholic Boys stayed at my house where we proceeded to play records all night and smoke them into oblivion, instead of using my downtime productively and conducting this fucking interview then. They awoke to “WHAT THE FUCK?” — my roommate Roxie, undoubtedly still drunk, naked, and covered in marker from having passed out at a party the night before, howling and tearing open ramen packages on them for reasons that I’m relatively sure everyone in the band and my house remain unclear on to this day. I was still passed out in my room at that point, and they left soon afterward, but a few months later I found myself getting in touch with the band again to see if they wouldn’t mind filling out some questions for me.

Alright, who am I talking to?
Eric: This is Eric Apnea, the drum ruiner.
Nick: This is Nick.
Paul: I’m Paul.

So I know three of you comprised the Teenage Rejects, but before that, as individuals, how did you get into playing music? Subsequently, how did the Teenage Rejects come about?
Eric: I was a Reject. Before that though I was in a band called the Lookers (not to be confused with the lesbian group from Ohio). We started in Merrill, WI, and I’d have to say that seeing live music made me want to play it. I had seen bands play that had less talent than we did just fucking around, so it was really inspiring. Green Bay always seemed to like us, and was the perfect place to grow up playing music. The Rejects formed without me, and I think I’m actually their 4th drummer or something?
Nick: I wasn’t in the teenage rejects, but I guess I’d say I got into playing music just like everyone else. I liked music and guitars and stuff, and thought it would be cool to play one. Then, ya know, played with other people that played things.
Paul: I bought my first guitar when I was in the seventh grade. I didn’t have any friends, so when I got home from school I would lock myself in my room and teach myself how to play. Maybe a year later, I got a phone call from Jon, who I didn’t really know at the time, sayin’ he played bass and wanted to start a band up. Jon liked some of the same bands as I, and we started goin’ to the Concert Cafe in Green Bay together, where we saw an ad for an “all-covers show.” We decided we wanted to do Teenage Head, so I called up this kid Sam, a drummer who I knew from junior high, and got him to play drums. We came up with the name “Teenage Rejects,” just for the show. Since we we’re doing Teenage Head songs and we were a bunch of losers, we thought it’d fit. After the show, we were asked to play again, so I decided to try and write some songs. I think the first ones I wrote were “We Don’t Like You” and “I Feel Sick.” Sam was two years younger than us and his mom hated our guts. She slowly made it next to impossible for us to practice, so we decided to ask Eric (who was in the Lookers at the time) to play drums, since he wrote me a letter saying we were his favorite local band. He agreed to play, and that was that.

What led to the transition from the Teenage Rejects into the Catholic Boys (in terms of the sound expanding, the member change, etc)?
Eric: Well, there was another secret group in between, a few cover groups. Catholic Boys had a different drummer at first, and I’ll let them give you sonic details. They were really fucking good before I joined, and I tried not to miss them playing. They also played their first show as a Kids cover band (this was typical in Green Bay where there were cover shows one or two times a year).
Nick: Really, the two bands aren’t as related as people like to think. Like Eric said, we had another drummer before him, and even tried out another before Eric finally helped us out with a show. There was definitely a time between the Teenage Rejects and the Catholic Boys, which I don’t think some people understand. So the sound changing and stuff, I guess it just happened ’cause it was a totally new band and the people who originally started playing had never really played together before, except Paul and Jon. Then Eric came along and pretty much added what we were missing, and it turned out to be a different band from the Teenage Rejects. Or at least I’d like to think so. There are similarities, obviously.
Paul: After the Teenage Rejects broke up, I joined this band Sick Sick Sick. That didn’t really work out, and I quit. I met Nick G through him being in the Strong Come Ons. One day we were both talking about how much we loved the Kids, and sure enough, there was an ad for another cover show at the Concert Cafe. We got our friend Lugs to play drums, and we started practicing for it. Originally it was Nick on bass, me on guitar, and Lugs on drums, but Jon just got kicked out of his band Yesterday’s Kids, so I asked him to play bass, and Nick moved to guitar. At the time, just like with the Teenage Rejects, we didn’t have any real intentions of starting a legitimate band, but after playing together, we decided we should write some songs, so we started the Nazi Shocks. After our first show, we changed it to the Catholic Boys. As time went on, we pissed Lugs off over and over again, pretty much driving him out of the band, and out of my house (he was my roommate at the time). He quit, and we were without a drummer. I decided to ask this guy Logan, who none of us knew personally at all. He was in a band the Teenage Rejects had played with called Los Nosferatu… kind of a Supercharger rip off with a vampire theme. Anyway, he decided to do it, so we started practicing. He was a pain in the ass from the start, and a week before our first show with him (with the Lost Sounds in Green Bay), he told us he couldn’t make it ’cause his cousin was having “hot chicks” over at his cabin that weekend. We told him to fuck off, and called Eric and asked him to play the show. After practicing two or three times, we played the show and we had never sounded better. Eric said he only wanted to be in the band until we found somebody else, but we never bothered looking and just hoped he’d stay, and he did.

I remember Paul being involved with the Kill-A-Watts at some point. Was this before or after the split 7″ was released? How did that release come about?
Nick: I’ll let Paul talk about being involved with the Kill-A-Watts. The split happened just ’cause Ryan wanted to put out a record, and I think he had a crush on Paul at the time, cause he asked us if we’d do it after only seeing us one time. If I remember we were really, really, terrible that show, too. So I don’t think he was motivated by liking the band. Then it was like, “Yeah, we’ll be on a record for free. Woo!”
Paul: At the first Catholic Boys show in Milwaukee, which was probably our fourth or fifth show ever, Ryan approached us and said he wanted us to be on a split with the Kill-A-Watts. We only had about six songs at the time, so we picked two, drove up to Milwaukee one night and he recorded us on his 4-track. I still remember making up and writing down the lyrics right before we did the vocals, we didn’t really know what we were doing. After the split, when I moved to Milwaukee, Ryan and I started hanging out and started a band called Vic Modem and the Monitors. Late one night, he called me up and said Jennifer had quit the Kill-A-Watts and he wanted me to think about joining. I didn’t realize that would mean no more Vic Modem and the Monitors, but the Kill-A-Watts ended up being his priority. I showed up at a handful of practices and played one show before I realized that although I liked the Kill-A-Watts, I didn’t want to be a permanent member of the band, so I quit.

And how did the “Brainwash City” 7″ on Kryptonite come into being?
Eric: One of the Lookers put it out! And the infamous Roy Oden!
Nick: I think this also had to do with people liking Paul, oddly! Not just person, but PEOPLE. Paul has such an amazing allure.
Paul: I knew Wendy since I was sixteen, when she was in the Lookers. She was dating Roy at the time, who used to be in the Last Sons Of Krypton and ran the Kryptonite records label. After seeing us play a couple times, they offered to put out a 45. We recorded all of the songs that didn’t get put on the Kill-A-Watts split (8 or 9) with Jordan and Mike from the Mystery Girls and sent them a tape. They picked the four songs they liked best and it came out a few months later. One of the remaining songs (a cover of “I Got a Right” by the Stooges) ended up on a Big Neck Records comp, a few were redone for our album, and one of them (“Razorblades For Sale”, originally by the Kids) hasn’t been released.

And, yes you saw it coming, what led to the full length?
Eric: Todd Kellner and lots of songs.
Nick: Todd got laid off so he had a bunch of money and wanted to put out records of local bands he liked. He did a good job and is still doing an awesome job. Since that time it’s been Mystery Girls, Tears, Catholic Boys, Aluminum Knot Eye, and a Hue Blanc’s Joyless Ones 7″. He’s gonna keep doing more, too. I guess I don’t really know, but it seems like it’s going well for him, at least as far as he enjoys it. I’m high, I’m sorry. I can’t stop rambling. What was the question?
Paul: We all knew Todd Trickknee from the Concert Cafe. He set us up with a tour, and after we came back, he said he wanted to pay for us to record, and that he’d release the CD version and find a label to put out the vinyl. We went to Simple Studios in Green Bay to record it with our friend Justin Perkins. We got completely wasted and recorded the thing in one day.

What do you think of the various labels and people you’ve been involved with as a band?
Eric: I like it A LOT. Compared to any other band I’m in, other people that aren’t me are paying to put out my music. I don’t give a fuck how long it takes. I’ve lost a lot of money trying to make music available to people, and it’s a financially losing battle! I think with this band, it would be possible to break even; but when you don’t have the initial capital, it’s hard to reap any potential gains. I wish Roy and Wendy would repress the Brainwash City record. I hope Rich represses the LP. I hope No Fucking Chance gets that Blue Balls 2XLP out before I’m dead.
Nick: I’ve never had any complaints.
Paul: Todd Trickknee has always been our good friend, so it’s always cool to do anything involved with him. And he’s the only label so far that hasn’t completely hated us after releasing out stuff. Our relationship with Kryptonite totally soured, especially after word got out that Roy was trying to get a gun so he could kill me. And after a while, Ryan got pulled into the “We Hate The Catholic Boys” club also, but I haven’t talked to him for a while. We’ve met lots of awesome people on tour, and have made a lot of friends. But we have definitely met our share of douche-bag asshole cunts as well.

What’s the songwriting process like for the Catholic Boys?
Eric: Very cooperative! I like the song writing process. It involves shit-loads of weed, jamming in our jam space, and letting everyone do their own thing. You don’t think we would sound the way we do without the weed, eh?
Nick: Well, Eric pretty much summed it up, I think. I really like how it goes. Someone plays something on their guitar, then everyone else does what they wanna do, and it works out.
Paul: Either Nick G or I come up with a basic song, we bring it to practice and play on it for a while until each of us makes up our own respective parts that we think sound cool. Once we think it’s good enough, we add vocals. Even though Nick and I write pretty much all the songs, the songwriting turns into a group effort once they’re brought in. Eric wrote a couple songs too.

As a band, is there ever any conscious effort to work certain influences into songs? What about as individuals? I realize as an obsessive loser who listens to music non-stop that “influence” questions can be damn hard question to answer, but I’m just curious if any of you had anything in mind when you started the band, or try for any certain sound writing songs, when recording, etc.
Eric: Having written only like three songs for this band, I can honestly say I didn’t set out to cauterize influences into my writing. I think all the songs we play of mine were actually written as part of a six song piece I had written about the life cycle. Oh wait, “Selfish Asshole” is actually about Tom and Jerry cartoons.
Nick: There are definitely records where the production is something I really like about it, and sometimes I want our recordings to sound similar, but that’s about it as far as EFFORT to include any influence. I’d say I personally probably wear my influences on the snotty wrist of my sleeve, but I don’t try and sound like anything in particular as far as the songs or whatever go. Thinking of it in the band as a whole, I remember someone asking me, when we first started, what kinda thing we were planning on doing. I said I didn’t know, but that we covered the Pagans and the Dead Boys (this was awhile ago, heh) and something else, and the person was like, “Oh, so kinda like the 70s rock punk thing,” or something and I was like “Well, no…we just play those songs cause we like ‘em.” Cause we never really sounded like those bands or anything. Maybe it’s naive and even pompous to say but I like to think we at least kinda got our own thing going. As much as we can, anyway.
Paul: For me, there’s no conscious effort to write certain type of song really, but in lots of my songs, I can listen back and say “Oh, you can tell I was listening to lots of Devo when I wrote this one.” Recording is a little different, because as a person who listens to records twenty-four hours a day, there are lots of songs, records, recordings, etc. in particular that come to mind when recording certain songs…I can’t think of any good examples really, but when we recorded with Jay in Memphis, Nick wanted the same vocal effect used on the Reatards’ “Grown Up Fucked Up” on one of his songs, because we liked the way that sounded. Little things like that.

I love that fucking Haskels cover, and I assume it was chosen, apart from being such a damn good song, for it coming from an old Milwaukee band. Are there any other old local (Milwaukee, the Midwest, etc.) acts you would say you guys look to?
Eric: Shivvers, Die Kruezen, No Response, Clitboys, Minors, Yipes!, Mentally Ill… my brain is dead, I can’t think of anymore.
Nick: I don’t know really that there are any I necessarily look to (did you mean, like, influences?), but I really like the Shivvers!!
Paul: That Haskels 45 blows my mind. Lubricants, Shivvers, and the Orbits were all radical Milkwaukee bands during the late-70s/early-80s. As far as Midwest bands… Dow Jones and the Industrials, Zero Boys, Mentally Ill, 20/20, Gizmos… just to name a few.

What about currently active locals? Anyone to look out for?
Eric: Terrior Bute, Period Three, The Kind of Jazz Music that Kills, Hue Blanc’s Joyless Ones, High On Crime, the (Love) Movement, Roaring Girls, and the rest of my bands: the Boos, Quest for Fire, Total Boring, Holy Shit!, and Sludgy McStonerPants and the Bongriders.
Nick: I can’t remember all the ones Eric said, but I’m pretty sure he covered all the ones I’d've said. But I wish the Jukeboyds were still a band. I’ll say that.
Paul: My friend Colin and I just recorded a demo for this band called Jazz Music That Kills, who are fucking awesome noisy punk. The Monitors (feat. Ryan and Chad from the Kill-A-Watts and Wendy Looker) are really good bass/drums/keyboard punk. A teenage band called Terrior Bute who sound like the Screamers are one of my favorite local bands. There are more, but those are my favorite ones.

Apart from it being the brew city, what keeps you guys in Milwaukee and how’d you get there?
Eric: $3 twelve-packs and a lot of cool people, that’s what keeps me here… Paul and I moved here at about the same time. Green Bay basically died and we left to come ruin Milwaukee. I don’t think we’ll be here forever. I love shit city, but I’m already getting sick of the cold.
Nick: I basically came here ’cause I didn’t like where I had been living, and I was always coming to Milwaukee for shows or for practice and just to hang out anyway. I had nothing holding me where I was, so I came here. I just stay pretty much because I like the band I’m in and there’s lots of chances to see shows here and whatnot. I like some of the people, too. And I definitely don’t have money to move, or a great idea of where I’d go other than here anyway.
Paul: Once the Green Bay music scene was completely ruined by the cops, some of us moved to Milwaukee, and a bunch of people followed. I honestly don’t know what’s keeping us here, ha. We all live in shitty neighborhoods, but despite our cars getting ripped off and getting mugged constantly, it’s a pretty fun place to live.

What else are you guys involved in musically? Bands, labels, writing?
Eric: I already listed the bands I’m in above. I book one million shows in Milwaukee and distribute a calendar of, basically all the DIY shows in the city for a month, bunch of different houses and clubs… During summer it was easier to walk around and just put them in punk house mailboxes. Now I’ve been gone for the last month, so I gotta get back on that shit. Since I’ve been dropped from school and am unemployed, that shouldn’t be a problem! There is a new label in Milwaukee that is operating as a coop, too. It’s called Dingus records, and Dan from Modern Machines is basically the spearhead. I think the goal is something similar to what Chattanooga does with This Here records. If you can get together the money, the label will help a little, and then help A LOT with distribution. We are the most organized yet, but I think things are going well. Dingus has at least three releases:
1. Fury of 1,000 Zeueses, “Habenero Enema” 7″
2. Bob Burns and the Breakups, “s/t” 7″
3. Chinese Telephones, “s/t” 7″
Look out for Modern Machines/Ergs 7″ soon.
Nick: This is the first time in awhile where I’ve only been in one band. I have nothing to do with any labels or anything like that. I always have plans to start a second band, but there are always obstacles and drawbacks. Anything I do other than the Catholic Boys I’ll probably just do myself and then have other people learn it. I’m sure you wanted to know all that about me. God, it’s late.

Have you guys toured in bands before or was your first with the Catholic Boys? How’d it go? What were some of your favorite cities and people to play with?
Eric: This tour was amazing… the last one was even better I think. The Real Losers were with us, and those blokes were the best. I miss them. I have also toured with the Boos twice before. Holy Shit!!! has been on tour twice as well. One time it was Catholic Boys and Holy Shit!!! together. That one was fun, too!
Nick: I’d toured in the Strong Come Ons a bunch of times, and the Tears a few times, and the Catholic Boys a few times. This was a real fun one, probably one of my favorites but we all got sick and that really blew. If it hadn’t been for that, I’d probably have enjoyed it a lot more, but I have a feeling I got sick because I was enjoying things too much. There were definite highlights, though. Our show in Vancouver B.C. was totally rad. We played with Das Pussyhound and the Nons and they both kicked ass. And the people there really rule. I also had a blast in Berkley when we played at Gilman Street. There were a ton of people there for the headlining band, and it was like, just a sea of kids. And everyone was having a really great time and I was gettin’ tossed around this way and that just like in high school at the concert cafe where people actually had fun at shows. Those were the two places I’d never been that I really liked. Oh, and our show in Reno was a blast as well.
Paul: Catholic Boys was the first for me. Vancouver and Montreal are my favorite cities to play ever, and my favorite bands to play with are the Real Losers and the Feelers.

What have the Catholic Boys been working on lately? Any upcoming releases planned? Or just general plans for the band?
Eric: We have two singles coming out soon. One is on Bancroft, one is on No Fucking Chance. Seven new songs.
Nick: I just really wanna get some more stuff done so we can put out another record real soon. Oh, and Eric forgot one. Mitch Cardwell is gonna do a split with us and the Feelers from Columbus! They totally rule and it’s gonna be a great record I think. And basically this is happening because we’re holding Mitch to his drunken promise.
Paul: We’re doing another album later in the summertime, and maybe a couple more 45′s, and that’s it. We got two 45′s that should be in the mail to us any day now; I’m excited to get those!!!

And finally, any last words?
Eric: Can’t wait to see ya’ll again! Holy shit! In summertime or something.
Nick: No, I have a lot more to say. These are just the first of many words. I’m a retard.
Paul: I suck at filling out interviews.

RUMBLE AT THE PEDESTRIAN BRIDGE

By Max Dropout

John Babbin, former manager of Naked Raygun/The Effigies and co-proprietor of modern punk staple Criminal IQ Records, mixed his fragile smirk with a furrowed brow of concern while watching dozens of rabid punk rockers descend upon the jock-ish brood of sore thumbs. Only moments earlier these golden lads made a Buick-sized error by tossing some poor girl’s purse and car keys into the Colorado River below after she violently rebuffed a sexual suggestion from one of them. As the magma tidal wave of retribution came crashing in after them, Rob Karlic’s (the Worst/Functional Blackouts) camera flash blazed in antagonistic pursuit, undoubtedly capturing choice shots of the group’s token eighty-pound gorilla as they dragged him back to his mom’s SUV.

Five minutes before APD’s presence throws another block of tension on the flames, Babbin’s remarks summed up the appeal of a Lamar Pedestrian Bridge event: “Man, this is just like the eighties.”

Anyone old enough to remember a time when punk venues were an endangered and unstable facet of our culture, mostly relegated to American Legion halls and warehouses, knows what Babbin is talking about. The violence that once permeated your average punk-oriented hole has been replaced by a numbing sense of security. The establishment has neutered punk’s threat by accepting and ultimately integrating elements of its culture into mainstream consciousness, thus bogging it down in the mire of lawful legitimacy. Gone are the days when the show’s security were you and your friends; underage dick suckers don’t run unchecked, nor do they even get anywhere near you these days, and pharmaceuticals are no longer as common as cans of Budweiser. Back then, the sounds that now haunt the coffin-like holes in your downtown areas might have brought a blue knee down across the back of your neck. A show on the bridge is a shot of nostalgia, preserving an endangered aura that so strongly fed the eighties punk movement: a sense of uncertainty and danger that inspired a bond against any sort of threat against your community. In fact, an odd sentiment surrounding a bridge event is that if the cops don’t show up, it lacks punctuation, and is thus incomplete…

Two months after the above-mentioned evening, the cops failed to appear for the Tigers/ Peach Train/Afterglow three-way dance on the bridge, but the atmosphere was, as usual, rife with a celebration of community and uncertainty. Lately, bands playing the bridge have forsaken the practice of playing through common equipment while rotating every two or so songs, so that everyone gets a chance to play. Thankfully, though, this was not the case tonight, with not only common equipment shared, but also multiple set-ups to allow for a quick rotation.

The Tigers are a recent punch to the Austin scene’s temple, and one of the most maligned to boot. You’re either gonna loathe it, or shovel it down your throat with bile-singed fingers. I’ve heard catty remarks from the younger crowd referring to them as an “LA Drugs cover band,” but this is a grossly misappropriated title, especially when you consider that the Tigers probably have more potential than LA Drugs. Unfortunately, the band hasn’t received much encouragement from their elders, either, but you can’t expect much from old people other than rocking chair creaking and a shot gun cock. These precocious little shits are hyper-adaptable, and depending on the crowd, they can either be gratingly awful or surprisingly good. Aaron, Jeremy, the lovely Veronica, and their percussive conductor Omari (ex-Jewws) are entertaining even when they’re terrible, as opposed to most local bands who aren’t very entertaining even when they’re “good.” At their core, their songs have either serrated vocal or guitar hooks that you can’t remove without creating sufficient damage, so they’re worth listening to. Combine that with loudmouth minimalist Jeremy and his attempts to suture audience members together with massive amounts of yarn with Veronica smashing her teeth out against a microphone, and you get a worthwhile show. This is a good deal more than I can say for the brand of spit polished, glam-infused punk that their crotchety detractors warble through. I’d rather watch cute jailbait smash glass candy over her head any day than endure another set by the Applicators.

Lead singer Veronica is a realistic poster girl for the modern nuclear family seedling. Monotone and pill-plied, she dismantles P-O-P, and sticks a capital C where the O should be. Meanwhile, her band mates buzz about with all the useless concern of your average family. This was actually one of the best sets I’ve seen from her in particular, with a little more physical animation and some actual singing as opposed to her typical high-pitched drone. Once Veronica learns to actually use their voice, this is going to be a dangerous band.

Following the Tigers were the Afterglow, featuring Dean Beadles (Ape-Shits/ex-Hatch Backs) and Lisa DiRocco. Still behind the drums, albeit a modified standing kit, Lisa has made her much anticipated return to the vocal helm in what can only be described in cinematic terms as a damaged Butterfly Nation clone pulling a jizz-spewing train on Lisa’s other outfit, the Kodiaks. Think Kathleen Hanna if she wasn’t an uptight cunt, fronting Houston’s Solid Gold countdown, the Ka-Nives. Beadles provides some of his most devastating guitar work to date through a quadrafuck of ampage. Whatever this sonic Fagan can get his hands on, you can bet he’ll use it to pickpocket your shaking ass. If ever they commit time to a studio, they could feasibly be the most house-rockin’ garage punk duo since the Bassholes. Some great covers here, too, including tunes by the Gossip, the Oblivians, and even the Motards‘ unsung Texas anthem, “I’m a Criminal.” Word has it that the Afterglow will be contributing “Then I Fucked Her” to an upcoming Oblivians compilation within the year.

Batting our heads back to the opposite side of the bridge was Peach Train, featuring our own Ari Blowup, formerly of Chicago darlings the Audreys. While an impressive addition to Austin’s rotation, the band has still a long way to go. Tonight was probably one of their first performances with new guitarist Christian. Beefing up their sound a bit, they’ve gone from sounding like a hybrid between Cupid Car Club and Flipper to a looser Nation of Ulysses. Herein lies Peach Train’s problem: Ari can add Ian Svenonious-pretension to his list of rock iconography he can effectively ape, right alongside Raw Power-era Iggy Pop’s swish. Since Ari is beyond adequate as a guitarist, I’m positive that beneath the amalgamation of other personalities, there is a unique style and voice that will emerge with time. Hopefully, he’ll loose the Svenonious chatter soon, as his talkativeness often hampers their performance. Yes, Ari, you do have the floor, but please don’t abuse it. It’s kind of like when you see assholes standing on the sidewalk. It ain’t called a sidestand, so fucking move. If you’re on a stage, you should shut up and play rock n’ roll.

Peach Train are one in a number of recent local bands offering a sloppier interpretation of Dischord-type hardcore, and the addition of their latest guitarist, who fiddles through meandering proggish rhythms that sound more like inept leads, is a seemingly crippling addition, though it’s hard to tell how he’ll be integrated into the band once they write songs with him. All eyes were on bassist Turbo Terebecki. This kid has something very special: remarkable technical ability and a strong sense of showmanship, which had me a little nervous at points, as he teetered on amps while sliding the neck of his instrument across the railing.

While some of the faces are familiar, these incarnations are forcing a gust of baby’s breath down the local scene’s lungs, and we recommend giving them a shot, so keep your eyes peeled in the meantime. And if you go to Lamar Bridge, please refrain from being a shit head. Thanks.

BODY AND BRAINS AT THE EISLEY IN-STORE

by Max Dropout

[audio:http://www.youbettershutupandlisten.com/mp3s/coachwhips_-_body_and_brains.mp3]

Whenever I begin my transaction with the smug, aging hipster rabble behind the counter at Waterloo Records, I feel like I’m handing my papers over to the Nazi guard for inspection. It’s that reigning attitude of condescension and supposed coolness that comes with these prized positions that makes me wanna stab a motherfucker in the eyeball with a Phillips head. Get over yourselves, assholes. You’re not scouring powerful sphincter at the UN. You’re a record store clerk. The only difference between you and the shit head who hands me my McNuggets is that you don’t benefit from of the ambiguity a uniform. You sell Modest Mouse records to dorky fifteen-year-old girls and recommend Bright Eyes to shaky mid-lifers. You derive power by eating the pride of your customer after you’ve wounded them with a vaguely clever quip. When I think “cool” I’m not thinking “thirty-three and still working retail.” If you’re lucky, by the time you’re forty-five, you’ll have saved up enough to afford the gun that will end your tragic trial of dire social want. Number one that with a bullet, assholes.

Unfortunately, though, because of Waterloo’s varied selection, at-times-decent pricing, and punctuality when it comes to new releases, they could probably afford to populate their floor with intestine-spewing Ebola sufferers. And of course, I still go there occasionally, like some hell-bent Argonaut fending off attacks from Moby-headed harpies and skeletal warriors spawned from the teeth of the hissing jowls of a Hydra to get what I need. However, I faced a more modern horror on the day I went down to Waterloo to pick up the Coachwhips’ new record, “Peanut Butter and Jelly Live at the Ginger Minge.”

What I mean by “it was no coincidence that an in-store performance was going down when I walked in,” is that my luck is for shit. A sea of assholes greeted me the minute I stepped in the door. As I pushed my way through the crowd, rudely, I noticed something peculiar about the pale suburban youth movement pinning me in: most of them looked nearly perfect. Their skin was porcelain, and nary a hair on their heads was out of place. They were groomed ’til they glowed like shellac under gallery lighting– their shagginess was invariably well kept. The budding female specimens, I swear, had these genetically altered lungs that exchanged oxygen for a florid solution to male impotency. But still, there was something off about them. Though they were all molded to mannequin perfection, there was something queer about each and every one of them, as if they’d warped in the sun. Their eyes varied between lidless, fish-like, and obscenely large. Queer shapes aside, the sizes of their heads approached proportions that you could easily file under other natural oddities, such as bumblebee flight. They stood fine under the immensity of these extremities, by some mystical means.

Befuddled by the odd mixture of wild science and my own arousal, I finally caught a drift of the band on stage. The first thing I thought when I saw them was, “hey, these fuckers remind me of the Kelly Family.” For the uninitiated, the Kelly Family were like the albino Menudo of Europe– kind of like if the Smurfs were white and had David Hasselhoff‘s writer. The band on the stage, however, was Tyler, Texas’ own Eisley, pollinating the imagination of their idiot congregation with a mixture of indie and Christian pop. Don’t let anybody fool you. This is a Christian pop affair at its most bland– milky, watery, soulless, meandering crap intended to sedate the guile of today’s youth. This is the modern equivalent of your Rosemary Looney. In the past, music has been used by governments to seduce the public with calm, while abrasive sounds were used to inspire violence in the hordes that pursued and defended against an enemy of the state. This is the shit they stick in your head because it is free of sass. There’s not even a slight hint toward the concept of rebellion. There is only sexless, angst-free, depressive ambience. Think this is perhaps a little paranoid and extreme? We live in a country that spends millions on studying the flow of ketchup from a bottle of Heinz. Nothing is too absurd or farfetched when it comes to any government ANYWHERE.

Motherfucking Children of the Corn!

Perhaps this would explain why Europeans are so docile. There’s less radio variety than we’re used to here in the states, and pop dominates the airwaves absolutely. Perhaps it isn’t the violence in our films, video games, and television that compounds our crime rates. European television is undeniably more extreme and sexually charged than that which we are permitted to see here even during our latest broadcasting hours. Indeed, perhaps it is the violence on our radios that’s to blame, the dumbed-down dementia of riffless, repetitive crunchiness pummeling the eardrums and plundering the senses of mushy-headed dipshits like your Eric Harris types. Eisley may combat the extreme idiotic static that’s currently corroding the nature of your average teenager today, however, Eisley fans are still mindless, droning simpletons… they’re just easier to maintain. They are spineless, simpering, trouble-free, inoffensive, and dull: a carbon copy of the music they so adore.

Here’s a good example of what this music is doing to these little prisses. Eisley, in an ironic swipe, end their nonevent of a performance and a line for the autograph session begins to form. Fortunately for me, it’s forming in the same aisle I’m moving down, in my desperate attempt to get that Coachwhips’ record. As I push past one of these sycophantic sissies with privatized educations, he reaches out and stings the back of my shoulder blade with his palm, obviously under the impression that I was cutting in line. My reaction says a lot about what I listen to, I guess: I grabbed this motherfucker and slammed him up against a bare section of the display wall. He crumbled in my fist like the twenty-dollar bill I was aching to spend. I was disappointed by his reaction. He looked like he was going to cry all over his cardigan or something. Spot, one of the few exceptions to the dickhead Waterloo clerk rule, quickly defused the situation, admonished the fan, and helped me find what I was looking for.

I drove away listening to my purchase, and really putting into perspective the shit kids listen to today. Certainly, the Coachwhips are no less aggressive than your typical nu-metal radio fare, but their music is executed with grace and humor, and its minimal content is approached with warped genius and tender finesse. It’s sexually charged, it’s raucous… it’s got some dirty, dirty gumption to it.

SHAWN CARPETBAGGER IN TOO MUCH MONKEY BUSINESS

By Shawn Carpetbagger

We had reached the end of the driveway. My dad laid on the horn. If the “No Solicitors”, “No Trespassing,” “Private Property”, and “Keep Out” signs didn’t scream “I want to be left alone,” the “Trespassers Will Be Shot” most certainly did. Chuck Berry duck-walked out the door; he looked wild-eyed and pissed. That wasn’t a guitar in his hands, it was a rifle and he was pointing at me. A white flame shot out of the barrel and I felt a sting in my chest. Chuck duck-walked back into his home, smoking rifle in hand. I was in total disbelief. I put my hand on my chest and pulled it away. My palm was dripping with blood… my own blood. I closed my eyes but when I opened them again, I was staring down at my own tombstone:

Shawn P.
October 14th, 1977 – July 21st, 1994
Killed by a shotgun blast from rock n’ roll legend, Chuck Berry.

My dad let up on the horn for a few seconds and then let it blast again. It rattled me out of my daydream and back to reality. And then the door opened; but maybe I should back up a bit.

As I sit here at my computer, drinking Budweiser, brewed in St. Louis, Missouri by the Anheiser-Busch company, I realize that it is almost ten years to the day that the story I am about to tell you occurred. My parents are divorced and my brother and I would spend a week out of every summer with my dad in St. Charles, a working class suburb of St. Louis, located on the banks of the scummy Missouri River, which makes every day punishably humid.

My dad is a real character. “Angry, white male” is a good descriptor. He is union and proud, enjoys classic rock, beer, pornography, and really loses it in rush hour traffic. Despite the fact that he has never met him, Pat from the Riverboat Gamblers does a dead on impression of my dad. He does this bit where my dad tries to explain to my brother and I how he has pissed off his (now ex-) wife: “Guys, if Kathy seems pissed this weekend, it’s because she’s not talking to me right now.” If you ever see the Gamblers, this impersonation is worth the price of admission alone.

Most days on vacation with Papa Carpetbagger were spent indoors, on the couch watching cable television, as my dad ranted and raved about the latest verdict on Judge Judy or the topic on Ricki Lake. Apparently, this quirk is genetic, because my wife often asks me to leave the room when she watches her favorite television shows because I can’t shut my mouth and keep myself from making smart ass comments, but I digress.

Needless to say, this routine became mind-numbingly dull especially when I thought about what I could be doing back home, namely party hopping from satellite to satellite in Chicago land and getting loaded with my pals. Nobody has ever accused my dad of being the most perceptive or sensitive guy, but even he could tell that my brother and I were bored to near tears. “Hey guys, want to go to Chuck Berry’s house?”

My dad’s Master Plan is that we would drive by Chuck’s home, Berry Park, in Wentzville, Missouri, located about a half hour outside of St. Louis. Maybe we would get lucky and he would be out getting his mail and we could stop him to get his autograph, a picture, maybe even a quick chat. I own a total of three autographs: one from the Dictators’ “Handsome” Dick Manitoba, one from the New York Dolls’ Sylvain Sylvain, and another from former St. Louis Cardinals catching phenom and major league journeyman Todd Zeile. In all three cases, I felt weird about asking for the autographs, I never saw the point in them. And I was certain that this hair-brained scheme would amount to us driving past the locked gates of Berry Park and turning right back around to head home, but once my dad has an idea in his brain, it’s impossible to talk him out of it.

We hopped into the car and hit the road for Wentzville. On the way there we passed the abandoned building that was once the Chuck Berry owned restaurant, Southern Air. If you are familiar at all with the infamous Chuck Berry piss video (“don’t kiss me baby, you smell like piss”), you know that Chuck has a thing for water sports. His pursuit of piss was a costly vice. A female patron of his restaurant was sitting on the toilet, happened to look up at the ceiling, and noticed a camera lens peeking down at her. According to a Southern Air waitress, Berry had filmed as many as 200 females, including two or three minors, using the women’s restroom. Chuck avoided prosecution by compensating his victims. A note to aspiring restaurant entrepreneurs: These things are not good for business, as Southern Air shut down soon thereafter.

I’m sure you couldn’t even get within a mile of the mansions of rock n’ roll “legends” who used Berry’s tunes as a blueprint like Paul McCunt…er, McCartney, or dinosaurs like Keith Richards and Eric Clapton. These second generation rock n’ rollers had become filthy rich while Berry, due to a naive country boy’s business sense and a heathen’s sense of morality, isn’t nearly as wealthy as he deserves to be. But here we were in my dad’s Dodge Aries, cruising down this anonymous back country road, on our way to Berry Park– it was all very unglamorous. It was a typical rural back road, lined with barbed-wire fences, the occasional cow or horse, and modest country homes that had seen their better days. Finally, we had arrived at Berry Park.

Berry’s home was nice, but was not very fitting for a rock n’ roll legend of Chuck Berry’s magnitude. The Berry Park sign was partially obstructed by overgrowth as there hadn’t been a concert on this property in years. My dad brought the car to a stop and we took it all in. The gate to his home was wide open, so we got a good glimpse at his property. I could see his home, his garage where he kept his vintage cars. And as I expected, Chuck Berry wasn’t in his bath robe fetching the St. Louis Post-Dispatch from his driveway. He wasn’t anywhere to be seen. “Well, I guess it’s time to go home.”

The Aries’ tires screeched as we sped past the open gates. “It’s time to meet Chuck!” My dad had a faraway look in his eyes, like the time he downed his Xanax with a six-pack of Bud Light. He chuckled to himself as we sped down the driveway, my brother and I trying to figure out exactly what the fuck he was up to. We reached the end of the driveway with a screeching halt. My dad laid on the horn.

HONK!!!

No answer.

HONK!!!

Again, no answer.

HONK!!!

I thought about all the signs on the gate. I’m sure this shit doesn’t fly with an aging rock n’ roller who by all accounts is bat shit crazy. And then the door opened.

An older woman, huddled up in a bath robe came out of the house and made her way to the car. She seemed nervous as she looked into the car. I immediately recognized her as Chuck Berry’s secretary of many years, Francine Gillium, of ambiguous racial stock, from the documentary Hail! Hail! Rock n’ Roll. She couldn’t have felt much comfort as she took a look at each of us. My mustachioed father was still perming his graying hair at that time and looked like a creep. My brother was a fourteen-year-old marijuana dealer with the requisite stoner ‘stache. And I was a sixteen-year-old punk rocker, complete with Black Flag t-shirt and freshly shaven head. “Can I help you?” She gulped and waited for the eventual home invasion.

“We’re here to see Chuck!” My dad acted like he had known him for years and this was perfectly normal and appropriate. “Well, he is performing in Las Vegas this weekend. I’m afraid I’m going to have to ask you to leave the property.” Francine tried to come off stern and authoritative, but she sounded terrified. “Tell him Tom P. and his boys say ‘hi!’”… She huddled up in her bath robe and quickly made her way back into her home.

My dad fumbled around for his video camera. This wasn’t one of your new handheld camcorders, this was one of those video cameras connected to a battery powered VCR unit. He pressed record and began to narrate our encounter. He zoomed in on Francine with “that’s Chuck Berry’s secretary of thirty years, she just kicked us off the property.” He scanned over to Chuck’s garage, “and that is where Chuck keeps all of his convertibles…” I noticed some movement over by a group of small buildings at the end of the property.

“Dad, we need to get the fuck out of here!” I pointed at the rather large redneck speeding toward us in a golf cart. Francine had called security on us. My dad turned the camera toward the oncoming security guard. “And here comes someone to arrest us.” He shifted the car into reverse as my brother yelled at him, “Dad, you asshole, get us out of here!” My dad swatted back at him in the backseat as he tried to film the oncoming security guard and drive in reverse at the same time. He lost control of the car and backed into a ditch. “Holy shit!” We screamed in unison.

The redneck was gaining on us and I noticed another golf cart on its way, with an even bigger country bumpkin behind the wheel. In a move worthy of Steve McQueen, my dad spun the Aries out of the ditch in a 180 and floored it out of the hole we were stuck in and off of Chuck Berry’s property just as the golf carts were closing in. As we drove away, the security carts followed us on the opposite side of the fence line. We waved to them as they angrily pointed us to leave and never come back.

A week later, at home in Naperville, Illinois, home to a future school shooting, coming to a high school near you, I get a phone call. It’s my dad and he is excited. “You wouldn’t believe who I ran into at the airport!” The past week had been so surreal, I already knew the answer.

“Chuck Berry!” He answered before I could chime in. He had been to the Lambert-St. Louis International Airport to pick up my aunt and uncle who had taken a second honeymoon in Hawaii. As he was waiting for their flight’s arrival, he noticed our pal Chuck, guitar case in tow, hurrying out of the airport. “Chuck! Chuck!”

Chuck Berry turned around. “Chuck! Chuck!” My dad ran after him. I can only imagine the scene, Chuck Berry turning around to see what this crazy white man was going on about. My dad recounted the whole story about our visit to his property the previous week. Chuck apparently humored him. He went on and on about how his boys were rock n’ roll fans and would love to meet him. “How would you like to meet with Chuck Berry and get your guitar signed?’

I was psyched. I had just recently started to fuck around on guitar again and besides aping Ramones and Rip Offs records, I picked up on Chuck Berry leads as well. Of course, I’d love to meet Chuck Berry and talk shop with him. “There’s only one catch.” Oh, Christ!

“I told him you have leukemia.” Of course, you would. I told my dad I didn’t exactly know what having “leukemia” entailed. I rubbed my shaved head, that would pass for a recent chemotherapy session, but beside acting “sick,” I didn’t know enough about the illness to pull off a convincing acting job. “I don’t know”…”we’ll just tell him it’s in remission.” I can’t say that I’m totally sold on the idea of karma, but I’m sure if it exists, I’d eventually pay for pretending I was suffering from leukemia. “Alright, I’ll do it!” I agreed after deciding that Chuck Berry teaching me the duck walk and getting my Harmony guitar signed was worth the potential karmic leukemia I would suffer from years down the road.

The next week, I got another call from my dad. Chuck Berry had given my dad a business card and told him to call the number on the card to set up a meeting. I had gone over what I would say to him when we met, what I would ask, I was ready. “You wouldn’t believe it…” He sounded upset. “The phone number he gave me doesn’t work!”

INTRODUCING MISS ALEX WHITE

By Rachel Perry

[audio:http://www.youbettershutupandlisten.com/mp3s/alex_and_chris_-_pop_stall.mp3]

It’s weird what a person can find herself stumbling into. In the summer of 2003 I returned to Chicago, a city I’m very proud to call home, after nine months of seclusion in college. I don’t remember how I started hearing about them; I really didn’t know the first thing about local music, but all of a sudden these bands seemed to be showing up everywhere: the Ponys, the Tyrades, the Ms, and the Hot Machines, to name a few, as well as a young woman who went by the name of Miss Alex White. Alex, who I soon discovered pulled double duty as a guitarist in the Hot Machines, played with a drummer called Chris Playboy. The idea that rock n’ roll fit to out-do any and all other rock n’ roll in the world was being made right under my nose left me basically awestruck. It’s a hyperbolic statement, I know, but the music in Chicago was and is impressive, exciting, and dangerous to the unassuming. It’ll blindside you. I downloaded three songs from Alex White’s website and listened to them over and over, throwing “Pop/Stall” in particular onto nearly every mix tape or CD I made for people last year. I was especially impressed with Alex’s voice: raw and throaty, utterly belying of her nineteen years; I couldn’t believe that a girl my age from the North Side could sing like she’d been raised on dirt and rubbing alcohol. I still can’t.

In January 2004 Miss Alex White & Chris Playboy released a four-song 7″ called the Young Monsters EP,as the first release on Missile X Records, a label they started together. The single arrived not three days after I ordered it with a very cordial note: “Hi Rachel! Thanks for buying our first single, we really appreciate it! “Alex and Chris.” The single is, well, something of a force. Alex’s vocals sound like she’s trying to cough up a switchblade, and the songs, which go from a fast, pissed off pace to plaintively slow(er), all point to music we’ve heard before, but the influences aren’t immediate. It’s punk-y, it’s got soul, maybe it’s blues, but maybe it’s not. The roots are familiar, but it’s ambiguous enough to be interesting. I hung on to that note they sent me; absently tucked it in a drawer because I thought it was nice of ‘em. When Chris was hit by a car and killed crossing the street outside the Empty Bottle a week later, it made me shudder to look at it. I never met Chris; by all accounts he was a truly wonderful person, and hearing about his death was awful.

It took about a year, but I finally got to see Alex play in June of 2004 at the Bottom Lounge in Chicago. Unfortunately, I’m into a lot of music that my friends aren’t familiar with (or just hate), so more often than not, going to a show means spending some quality time enjoying music by myself in a room full of strangers. Gets real old, real fast, so I wheedled a couple of my friends who are far more likely to listen to Belle and Sebastian than the Baseball Furies into joining me. Alex and Matt Williams, who has been playing drums for Miss Alex White recently, were great that night. Of course, I had been looking forward to seeing them for so goddamn long that they could’ve gone up there in kimonos and yodeled for thirty minutes and I would have declared it a rock n’ roll epiphany. Instead, they played a strong set of two-, maybe three-chord grime-coated songs that were furious, sad, desperate, but, as really good songs can be, weirdly inspiring. Awesome. Danceable as well. I was so intrigued by their set that it was only after they left the stage that I turned around and realized that one of my friends had not only fled the room, but the entire building. The entire block, actually. The other buddy who had the guts to stick it out I later found at a Dunkin’ Donuts, complaining of a headache. “It was just too fucking loud,” she explained.

This is an e-mail interview I did with Alex — the first interview of any kind that I have ever done — and fortunately, she was very obliging. Take a look at what she has to say about her short-but-action-packed history, Missile X, the Hot Machines, and the records we have to look forward to.

How long have you been playing music and writing songs?
You know, time has been a blur since early pubescence… I had to call my mom to figure out that I actually picked up a guitar at thirteen. As far as writing songs, I suppose I’ve been doing that since the beginning, primarily because I never learned how to play other people’s songs! I never had much of a mind for playing by ear, so I learned a couple dumb chords and started noodling around by myself. Sometimes a pinkie or index finger would slip, and before I knew it, I figured out a new chord, and soon thereafter, a song would follow.

When did you start playing shows? How did the Miss Alex White band begin?
I started playing shows at fourteen, with my first band, the Psychotic Sensations– the first and only band in which there was a bassist. This guy, Winston “Todd” Burdick the III, was a fucking badass bassist, and I’ve never found another man who could add up to him. Whatever the case, within the last five years, Todd sort of disappeared– became a circus clown and started riding the boxcars. The drummer, Kevin Johnson, is a playwright in New York now. We used to play basement shows at my house, in my garage, at other garages, all over Chicago. I still have a couple tapes of this crazy shit we played, but nothing was ever released. Then I started a two-piece band with my friend Alisa called the Red Lights, when I was sixteen or so. We were playing a show at a communist bookstore, I was wearing hot pants and my face was covered in blood, and incidentally, a couple guys from the magazine Horizontal Action showed up. Immediately, they booked us for “real” shows, opening for bands like the Clone Defects (whom I was obsessed with at the time). Alisa eventually became disenchanted with playing in a band, and so my best friend Chris Playboy filled in on drums. We didn’t know what to call ourselves when we were playing our first show, so Phillip from the Afflictions listed me as “The Young Miss Alex White.” From there, we became Miss Alex White & Chris Playboy. Pretty distinctive, right? And at the first Miss Alex White & Chris Playboy show at Cal’s Liquors in downtown Chicago, Jered from the Ponys and Matt from the Baseball Furies approached me, asking to start a band, which would later become known as Hot Machines.

You’ve played around Chicago, as well as in Milwaukee and recently New York City. Are there plans to do an extended tour?
When the live In The Red record and proper In The Red record come out, I assume that we will be extensively touring the United States and southern regions of Canada. I guess around fall and winter. I look forward to it… I like traveling, driving, looking out the window and drinking, so touring should prospectively be ideal.

Your voice is an essential part of your songs– it really stands out. Have you always been able to sing like you do? Is that grated tone something you work towards or something that came naturally?
Hmm. Well, I’ve always been a “belter”. I have two younger brothers, so screaming was an essential component of my childhood. Musically though, I remember Alisa and I were playing the song “Stranger” and this weird yelp escaped me… we both stopped and looked at one another, and with this ghostly face she asked me, “What the FUCK was that?” I kinda grabbed my throat, and was like, “Did I just die for a second?” So yeah, my voice just happens the way it does. And given this opportunity, I would like to personally thank booze and cigarettes for lowering my voice an octave lower than it should naturally occur. Unfortunately though, I do lose my voice pretty often– but what’s weird is that I can still sing– I just can’t talk. This leads me to believe that my singing comes from some nether-region that is in no way related to my speaking voice.

You write songs for both Miss Alex White and the Hot Machines — the two bands have different set-ups and sounds. When you’re writing, do you keep in mind which band you’re writing for? Do you have specific people, bands, or influences in mind when you’re writing, or is a song just a song?
The Miss Alex White band is normally a two-piece, as opposed to the Hot Machines, two guitar/two vocals and drums set up; I write for both bands. However, I’m not the type of person who sits at home with a quill pen and a piece of parchment, pouring my soul out over scales and measures. I simply convene with my band mates, we turn the PA on, and I just start playing two or three compatible chords. From there, a second part will naturally develop, and so on. In this respect, there is no difference in the songwriting between the two bands– the songs are fluid and unforced. I make up the words as we go along, which is why many of them are strange and incoherent. The dichotomy lies in the fact that I have Jered to bounce ideas off of in the Hot Machines. We trade off singing, and it’s texturally more complex. Other than that, I develop songs very similarly in both bands. And no, to answer your other question, I don’t think of any one else when making a song– unless it’s an asshole boyfriend or some other jerk, or someone I love. Instances influence me.

It’s strange that often musicians are asked about their influences, and they’re able to spit out two or three bands they think they draw from. How is that possible? Are you conscious of specific musical influences on songs as you are writing? And, well then, who are your influences?
You know, that’s actually an interesting observation– that people can readily answer “Definitely Guns’n'Roses, Heart, and I’ve always liked Fleetwood Mac.” It’s almost as if some one can condense a lifetime of music listening into three dumb bands (like the aforementioned, who I fucking hate). I know that when asked this question, I usually feel like I’m on the spot, so I blurt out the Modern Lovers, because that’s one band that I love unconditionally. However, I feel that I’m more so influenced by particular songs, as opposed to entire bands or records. For instance, I’ll listen to “1969″ for a week. Then I’ll listen to “I Can’t Sleep at Night” (Deadly Snakes) for two weeks. Then I’ll listen to the Remotes song “Transylvanian Dutch” for a couple days, then Viva L’American Deathray’s “Zipgun Blues” for hours. I become extremely addicted to songs. For instance, it would almost be unfair for me to claim that I “absolutely” love the Rolling Stones, because I think most of their songs are awful, and I’m a Brian Jones kinda gal. However, I can confidently say that I specifically love the songs “Fade Away” and even “Shattered,” ya know? But Forty Licks? Common.

What’s the story behind your record label, Missile X? I know that you have a few singles in the works– do you want to do more than that (i.e. release LPs) or keep it small?
Chris Playboy and I started the label last summer, to put out our own debut single. We figured that it sounded easy enough to start a label, so why the hell not? And so we saved a couple hundred dollars from show funds, had pieces of plastic transformed into music-playing discs, and thus began Missile X Records, “Dirty but Danceable since 2003.” I’m putting out the Dirges within the next month, which is Ross from the Brides and A-Ron from the Baseball Furies, I’m putting out a Spits single on Halloween that will have a little toy in it, and then there’s a couple other fantastic surprises planned for the next year. I’d like to be able to put out LPs one day, but I’m in no rush. A band would really have to deeply strike me to do that.

Speaking of which, what has the reaction been to the Miss Alex White single? Has it sold well? Have you received orders from exotic locales?
The Miss Alex White & Chris Playboy single has sold amazingly well. We pressed five hundred copies, sent out fifty or so for promotional purposes, and I currently have about seventy-five left in a box under my bed. That means that I have sold roughly three-hundred seventy-five copies since late January 2004, when it came out. So technically, I’ve sold at least 62.5 singles every month over the course of six months, without ever playing out of town– almost strictly through mail order and playing four shows. To me, that’s an overwhelming success for a 7″ debut on a completely unknown label by two unknown friends who play music. The reviews I have read have been very positive, ranging from Maximum Rock’n'Roll, Horizontal Action, Venus Magazine, etc., and the feedback has been quite good. They’ve sold everywhere from the Philippines, to Australia, to New Zealand, to Newark, New Jersey. I’m very pleased, and I know that Chris Playboy would have been very pleased as well.

Word has it that Larry Hardy is going to release a live Miss Alex White & Chris Playboy record on In The Red. How did you get connected with Larry, and do you know if there will be more Miss Alex White records in the future?
Todd from Horizontal Action sent my single all over the place, and Larry Hardy got a hold of it. He sent me a very flattering e-mail, and I happened to be going to LA that weekend to visit my boyfriend at the time. So to make a long story short, Larry and I met up, went record shopping at Amoeba, and discussed uniting forces over Cuban coffee next door to the Silverlake Lounge. Larry Hardy is releasing the last show Chris Playboy and I ever played, which will be “Miss Alex White & Chris Playboy Live at the Double Door.” That will be released on In The Red Records as a tribute to Chris Playboy, my best friend, who was killed while crossing the street by a drunk gang banger only a month after our single came out. We never had an opportunity to record an album, so this live record is an attempt to capture the songs we made together. Then Larry suggested a proper Miss Alex White studio record with all new songs as a prompt follow up. [We] have a new line up: Wes Kerstens from the Clone Defects on guitar, and Eddie Altesleben on drums.

As for the Hot Machines, you guys are on hiatus right now, correct? There’s apparently a single coming out anytime now– are there any plans to do a full-length, possibly with In The Red?
The Hot Machines are currently taking a break as the Ponys continue to support their In The Red record[s], “Laced with Romance” [and 2005's "Celebration Castle"]. As far as releases go, there is a two-song single out on Cass Records. There are two songs on the “Maybe Chicago” compilation. There is also a previously unreleased track on the Foundation skateboarding video, “That’s Life” [it's during Gareth Stehr's part]. There is indeed talk of a Hot Machines In The Red record, because there’s a crazy demand for it, and it must be recorded for historical purposes. I get at least a hundred e-mails a week asking if we have a CD, to which I reply, “Buh, duh, like, no.”

And last, but not least…

Who are some of your favorite bands to play shows with?
Black Lips, Clone Defects, Tears, Hunches.

Who was the first band that you listened to as a kid that had a big impact? In other words, who was your first favorite band?
I distinctly remember picking up “Who’s Next” when I was eleven and nearly shitting my pants. I was in my living room, and I didn’t know how to dance, so I just kept spinning around.

Favorite show you’ve seen?
There are a few: the Real Kids at the Double Door last year [for memorability]. The Ponys’ first show with Ian at the Fireside last year [monumental]. The Hunches at the Cactus Club [fucking CRAZY]. The Coachwhips at the Fireside [they played on the floor]. The Intelligence at Subterranean [lost my shit].

Best thing(s) about living in Chicago?
Ten dollar thirty packs of Old Style. Not LA, not New York. Backyards, beaches, alleys, and tall buildings. Cheap handjobs. The Horizontal Action Blackout.

THE GREAT SAN FRAN MISFITS RIOT OF 1982

By Manny Badtimes & Max Dropout

Glenn and Doyle, circa '82.

Most of us were probably a watery load of DNA festering in a teenage womb at the very moment the Misfits destroyed Frisco back in 1982. This important piece of music history, which has nearly slipped through the cracks of pop culture’s brain, is perhaps the most significant event in the Misfits’ chronology; their explosive menace tattooed a permanent shadow of the band across the face of the West coast hardcore punk community, and was nearly grounds for a state-wide ban against Danzig and his associates. Though things may have initially seemed bleak, the event and the subsequent hoopla surrounding it may explain why Misfits iconography has as strong a presence on the West coast as it does on the East. Continue reading

DEATH OF THE TEENAGE RIOT

By Max Dropout

[audio:http://www.youbettershutupandlisten.com/mp3s/gg_allin_-_drink_fight_and_fuck.mp3]

I was under the age of 14 the first time I timidly crept through the half-assed black paint job that coated the Mogz stairwell like gizzard gloss; and all the while, my back was prodded by fingers, slapped by limp palms, and stained by warm tar-drenched chiding from the yellow-toothed, nicotine spewing pack of punks who at the time considered me a ward of sorts.

Mogz, known as “the underground upstairs,” was probably the only “legal” punk rock club in my town at the time, located up the block from the Catholic-run and tactlessly-titled charity shop, “The Retarded Children’s’ Store,” and right above some bullshit neo-beat coffee joint. The street all the time reeked queer of Colombian grounds and almond extract, attracting piss-stained vagrants from the near-by public park with their windowful of petite Louise Brooks wannabes, scrawling high-strung passages in their dainty little notebooks. The park urchins would stand on the curbs at night, pushing their bum gloves down past their rope belts, delighting themselves while tucked between fly-by-night porno paper dispensers, ogling the pretty malcontents, who were kept ignorant of these offensive scenes by the bright counter lights reflecting against the shop front’s dark panes of glass.

It was a struggle to keep that sort of place open at the time. Aside from the vagrant attraction to young girls and loose change, there were the numerous violent clashes with your affluent, white high school football kids and local black and Mexican gang members, both of whom would often gain admittance to clubs to hassle the weird (white) kids–add an emerging skinhead culture into the mix, and you have a recipe for a volatile atmosphere. There was no solidarity amongst the lower class kids, due to racial division.

I still remember my first show at Mogz. Earlier that day, some friends of mine who managed a local comic shop were contemplating out loud whether or not they ought to go to that night’s show at the “underground upstairs” — GG Allin & The Murder Junkies were playing in only a few hours… hell, at that time, we speculated that GG was probably buying heroin from some 24 karat mouth down on the avenue or raping some cheerleader as we spoke. Strangely, in spite of our wild fantasies of GG prowling our fair city streets, there was still the question as to whether or not the show would be worth the admission cost. Years later, after moving to Texas, I learned that GG, at the height of his nihilism, would charge a three-dollar admission to get in… the catch was, it would cost you something around seven dollars to get out, though. Either the show would end prematurely, never occur at all, or we would surely be trampled or split in half by the psychotic popster.

By that time, I was familiar with only the imagery of Allin. I’d seen him on several talk shows, including an appearance on Geraldo, which amounted to little more than a scab-chested GG in shades, flapping his gums to the scathing drone of one long, continuous “bleeeeeeeep.” His shit-smeared likeness was plastered all over the interiors of respectable record-cum-head shops, on posters, T-shirts, and I’d always run across those bootlegs with the color cover of Allin looking like a one-man Tolos-Blassie brawl. Based on that alone, I had disregarded him as a meat head spectacle. Nevertheless, Allin was a piece of counter culture iconography as immediately identifiable as the Misfits, the Cramps, or Morrissey.

When my “associates” jokingly suggested taking me, the little underage punk, to Mogz for the inevitable GG Allin melt down, my apprehensive response clenched the deal, and hours later I was being propelled up that ominously shaded stairwell.

Allin never played one song that night. I remember hanging back in some dark recess with my friends, watching him sputter out of control, naked, like some tweaking, bulimic ape — a primordial man stroking the underbelly of modern pharmaceuticals. GG dominated the club floor by running in a mindless circle with all the centrifugal momentum of a white trash Whirlitzer, smeared in blood and other bodily pastes; meanwhile, his band shuffled around the club, looking bored. Anytime any of the staff or the security approached him, GG would wallop them in the face with a pair of flailing fist — all while still in full stride.

After a thirty minute witnessing of his stamina, we’d had our fill of GG’s performance and split in the event the cops might show up.

My initial reaction to the mess was one of revulsion and fear, though the longer I endured it, I became increasingly aware of the aura of attraction that peeled off this guy like a stink. He had no sleeves to stow any surprises up, and yet every action he committed himself to had all the intrigue of some carnival horror show. I wasn’t watching a performance so much as I was rubbernecking, like one does while crawling past the scene of an interstate accident, searching for some smattering of blood on the asphalt out of the corner of an eye. The walls that night were awash with a dark energy, one I tracked inside my home and that stayed with me for months to come. I never heard a single song that night, but I was compelled to spend every dime I made over the next week at our local record shop, Wild Planet, purchasing everything I could find by GG, starting with the shocking pop mastery of The Jabbers.

As that initial thrill faded out, I began to regularly tag along with my roommates, sneaking into bars and venues in search of the sort of stimulation that Allin’s psychotic intensity had wrought. And I found it once again in the reciprocal relationship of frenzy between many of the punk bands in Orange and Ventura County and the kids who showed up to watch them play. They would crank out their anthems, and kids would go apeshit, feeding into a cycle of benign pandemonium. As I indulged in these violent spectacles, I developed an awareness that the seemingly vicious nature of these events had a built-in sensitivity and consideration… an etiquette if you will. If anything malicious ever went down, you can rest assured it was perpetrated by someone who was probably at that show for the wrong reasons. There was a common misconception by most average citizens at the time that “punk rockers” were some apocolypse-chasing band hooligans, and so if ever you were looking for trouble, you ought to check into your local punk dive. For the initiated, it wasn’t about wreaking negativity so much as it was about dispelling it… it was about a naked and faceless aggression… it was about the energy. If someone fell down in a crowd, you picked them up and did your best to guard them until they had their balance. Yes, there were sinister things that went down from time to time, but you could credit the bad blood letting to the constant invasion of tough guy squares, who’d waltz in, looking for a fight. On the street, too, there was the continual discrimination often manifested as a physical threat. Numerous ingredients fed into the underlying current of tension that stirred a crowd… on a subconscious level, the expulsion of energy at a show was tied into the intolerance we faced on a daily basis.

Most of us had been driven into more comfortable arrangements by misdirected frustrations over economics and politics. The average adult American psyche at the time was a hyper crock-pot of hatred, hissing messy threats. I think many of the politically active punks were probably fighting a cause for their parents, latently, since their parents were too blinded by the patriotic condition to focus on the root of their discontent. And away from home, there was the reality of survival.

If you’re suckling from mainstream culture’s recollection of what punk is or was, then you will equate it with an obnoxious, contrived, store-bought look, and an angsty attitude that shuns all things authoritarian or conservative. The look you see typical “punk” kids flying these days is a garish retrospective mutation, the content of which is neither an honest recollection of what occurred so many years ago, nor is it in any way associated with the modern underground lifestyle or music scene.

The media is largely to blame for the distorted perception of punk rock imagery, thanks to its need to meet a shock-hungry generation’s increasing appetite. In the same manner that right wing conservatives try to mislead the public into believing that all homosexuals dress like Carmen Miranda and urinate on each other amid grand cocksucker parades by honing in on a minority of gays, most documentarians and journalists focused on the most flamboyant subjects they could find while initially reporting on the “punk rock phenomena.” Thus, the public were misled to believe that all punk rockers played with their hair too much, dressed like the road warrior, and spit heroin on old ladies–angst ridden sociopathic brats bent on grabbing attention through any means necessary.

Before mainstream culture began marketing punk, there was a zero tolerance policy toward anybody who sought to be different, and therefore it was never in any of our best interests to walk around looking like zipper-laden, safety-pinned Christmas trees with shitty attitudes. Since most of us were on our own, a primary concern was always finding a piece of security. You had to work and be somewhat presentable; unfortunately, trying to achieve that sort of look on low-rent means often times resulted in a sad and unintentional perversion of formal wear. None of us ever wanted a “Punk Planet.” But instead, we just wanted to be left alone, in our own corner of the world. There you have the root of the underground’s disdain toward any mainstream attention our culture received, as it was often a misrepresentation of what we were about, and attracted the wrong kind of person into our clubs and neighborhoods.

Aside from the typical trivial emotional and personal shit that frustrated us on an average day, we had a society against us to contend with. While the overall aesthetic of the music and the image probably grated on them, it was what we represented that they hated most of all. We were the musty bloom of America’s moral and social decay. We represented failed concepts of family, parenthood, and neighborhood. We had defected only a few blocks away with some vital information about just what was really going on behind blinding white picket fences. When I look back at the sweaty throngs of kids twisting like some 80 mile an hour maelstrom through clubs, it was a completely necessary and sensible REACTION to what was happening in our lives, and probably the healthiest way of exorcising mounting tensions; certainly moreso than picking up a gun, hitting a random stranger, or moving out to the solitude of the suburbs to pump out punching bags. We, as a culture, were a symptom of our society’s shortcomings, and our art was a reflection of everything we’d seen. The subsequent adversity we faced was rooted in the fear and subconscious guilt of our peers. They suffered from an inability to accept responsibility for what they had created, and so they truly loathed themselves deep down.

Close to three decades ago, our culture gestated in the heat of misdirected violence from wobbling community pillars. All that so-called “free love” jargon led to maternity wards, which weren’t so cheap. Accidental children were like a 38 special aimed at the back of a household head, and reluctantly, they would resign to jobs and marriages. That’s when abuse became as valuable a vice as alcohol or tobacco.

Fourteen years after that first GG Allin show at Mogz, I’m standing in a club where I now work, watching a band of eighteen year old kids sputter across the stage with all the frenetic vibrance of Korean cartoon windups. The aesthetic is in tact, but the energy is different, if not lacking for the most part. Even when the kids on stage launch themselves at the stoic congregation of bobble heads, little else happens other than some backward shuffling and wide-eyed grinning. Someone does something that’s more like hissing than whispering into my ear, yawning out some hypothetical nostalgic diarrhea about what would have happened years ago had these kids thrown themselves at the crowd. His tone implied bitterness toward the kids, and with some further prodding, he made some statement that suggested that the kids on stage weren’t real punk rock because they never had to suffer for their art or image.

[audio:http://www.letthemeatlead.com/mp3s/flesheaters_-_because_of_you.mp3]

That night, everything started to make sense. Over the years, I’ve watched the underground rock n’ roll scene morph into something lethargic with soft rounded edges–a safe and docile shape. I recognized my own frustrations toward the fact that no one seems to move anymore, or take anything seriously, really. I sat in my room, laying on my bed, listening to the FlesheatersNo Questions Asked reissue on repeat, and thought long about my teenage days, which seem romantic in retrospect. And finally, I not only began to understand the modern calm, but perhaps appreciate it as well.

I’ve had contempt for the crusty punk for about as long as they have existed. They define their aesthetic by some word that refers to an unpleasant texture. They sit on the sidewalk scrounging for change and absorbing dirt, and with a wry-witted menace they enjoy and abuse the social progress that people like my friends and I made decades ago. They create and contribute nothing, but take, take, take. Their existence revolves around a bottom feeding lifestyle, while their cultural droppings are nothing but an odorless void, fading without any lasting impression. You may gauge the reality of a man’s life by the quality of his teeth, and in spite of their filth and repugnance, many of them have charmed smiles. They have no cause to fight for, since there was a whole other generation before them that took punches to the face every day, so that they wouldn’t have to later on. They reap the tolerance we have won, and have done nothing but take up a stationary occupancy within it, while running it down into a perverted waste. And so, my relationship with the contemporary hardcore child has a hint of parody, recalling my own domestic dejection. Sure, they have it easier than we did, but I don’t resent them for it. Instead, I despise them for their lack of initiative or movement. They are, offensively, quite easy to ignore. They stole our momentum, and forgot about it when they found a fucking faggot puppy. This is not to say that every punk rock kid is a wastrel, but it certainly explains apathy or a lack of ire the new breed are generally known for.

All the malcontents I used to know have retired to respectable corners where nobody bothers them. They have no reason to be frustrated any longer. There is no need for violence, as discipline has become an antiquated and obsolete device in almost every sector of society. The explosion in front of the stage no longer exists, and if it does, you can rest assure that it’s probably just as cosmetic a put on as a Bob Ross-kissed mohawk.

People have gotten used to the existence of punk culture, and it has been absorbed into the flow of every day life–it is as common a house hold brand as “corn flakes” is today. Those who lived through the beginning may not even realize that we finally got what we’ve always wanted: a place of our own in the world. A new generation sits comfortably in the refuse of cushy ribbon shed from the conflict before their time, and there is no longer any need to defend through force — this easing tension is symptomized by a burgeoning sophistication amongst the voices of the underground. Security provides room for experimentation, and our art continues to advance further from a text book definition of its origin.

Punk culture initially inundated a public with a barrage of constantly violent images and concepts, and the result was a desensitization that gradually rendered the defending arm of shock value obsolete. In change, there is certainly an element of death, as elements are exfoliated on a continuous basis. There is a certain casualty though that has caused a significant shift in the face of punk rock: tension. The illiberal dogmatic constraints which once opposed us may now be finally diminishing, but they were the main motivating factor behind our stress. Punk was a direct response to it. While some might argue that without its catalyst punk is truly dead. It would be more logical to suggest that today punk is merely an orphan; a motherless child left to its own designs and finally grown up away from home.