How not to interview the Butthole Surfers

I FIND out about the gig just two days beforehand, by chance. The Butthole Surfers are playing in Manchester on Saturday night.

The Buttholes! Manchester! Saturday night! What the fuck?

As far as I can make out, the band (the same line-up I interviewed in 1987) are only able to do this European tour because of financial assistance from the Paul Green School of Rock, whose young charges Haynes has been tutoring of late. Ahead of the tour, he was asked about gigging with kids by Mojo magazine.

“Well, at the earlier shows I played with them I said some very provocative things which I do not wish to relive,” said Haynes. “Mindbendingly inappropriate. The kids loved it. It’s all about the kids, man! My obligation is to them, not their parents.

“I was privy to an email from the parents after the last set of performances, which said: ‘How much more inappropriate behaviour are we to expect from Gibby?’ I promised to do nothing out of character.”

Trouble is, we’re skint, and despite my best efforts, I absolutely fail to get on the guesty via the tattered remains of my rock’n’roll contacts book. I resolve to work the old fanzine trick of going down on the night, hanging around before the soundcheck and asking for an interview direct – and by the way, could you also stick me on the guest list, plus one?

A couple of kids and an older bloke are throwing a ball against a wall by the side of what looks very much like the Buttholes tour bus. They’re speaking with American accents so I introduce myself and find that the guy is the tour manager. So what do you think? Will they be up for it?

“You need to speak to Tina,” he says and points me at the formidable vision in leopard skin and fuck-me boots teetering round the corner of the university towards us. The woman is fierce. She appraises me coolly as I explain what I want to do.

“It’s really up to Gibby,” she tells me. “But I’ll see what he says.”

Well, I dunno if it makes any difference, I add, knowing how lame it’s going sound even before I say it, but I interviewed them like 20 years ago. I know their stuff. I’m not coming into this cold …

“I’ll ask, okay?”

Okay Tina. I’ll wait here then.

Half-an-hour later I’m still waiting. Fucking hell. It used to be easier than this, didn’t it? I look over my questions: What’s it like being icons of alternative rock? Have any of you found God yet? Etcetera, etcetera.

A short while after I direct a couple of the School of Rock kids towards the right entrance – stupidly, I resist the urge to ask them about Gibby’s mindbendingly inappropriate comments – I see a bedraggled, vaguely familiar figure walk up from the direction of Rusholme, do a circuit of the bus and stop before looking around uncertainly.

Teresa?

“Hello!” says Teresa Taylor, obviously very relieved someone knows her and that she’s probably at the right venue.

You can get in that entrance over there, I tell her.

“Oh thank God. Great. And thank you.”

She notices me looking at her mouth.

“I fell over in Amsterdam and knocked out my two front teeth,” she explains.

I take the opportunity to clue her up about the plan. Could you remind Tina about the interview if you see her?

“Y’know, it’s really up to Gibby, but I’ll definitely mention it …” she tells me before disappearing into the building.

Half-an-hour later, I hear the soundcheck begin. I can’t make out the song but the familiar big, blustery Buttholes sound, muffled though it is, sends a distinct tingle through me.

Twenty minutes after the soundcheck finishes, I’m ready to go home. I’ve had it. It’s too much like hard work. The fact is, I’ve got fifty quid in my pocket and that’s got to last me and the missus until I get paid next week. I can’t really justify paying into the gig if I’m not going to get an interview I can sell for cash money – even if it is the first opportunity I’ve had to see the Buttholes in years. I’m going to give it another ten minutes and then I’m fucking off home.

Everything has gone tits up. And it’s started to rain. I’m not happy.

I clock this geezer walking by a couple of times – shaved head, Van Der Graaf Generator T-shirt, a certain gleam in his eye. Buttholes fan, no doubt about it. I decide to continue in my self-appointed role of on-site tour-guide for tonight’s gig and see if he’s lost. It’s not like I have anything better to do.

We get talking and I tell him I’m waiting around to interview the band but it looks like it’s not going to happen. “Oh, I thought you were a tout,” he tells me. Makes a change from a drug dealer, I suppose.

Forty-something Eddie is a roofer from Southport and a long-time Buttholes fan. He says that he doesn’t think the band do interviews these days, so, of course, I can’t stop myself telling him that I interviewed the band 20 years ago blah blah blah. And then we get onto Big Black and he’s very impressed with me interviewing Albini and all that. It’s great to speak to someone who understands about all this shit, but finally I decide I’ll have to admit defeat and get off home.

I tell him I’m going to leave him to it. Though I’m sorely tempted to blow 17 quid or whatever it costs on the door, I just can’t do it. I’m gutted. Eddie digs into his pocket and pulls out a ticket.

Since him and his missus split up, he explains, he doesn’t have anyone to go to gigs with anymore. He bought an extra ticket to take one of his mates along but he’s decided he can’t be arsed with them. None of them ever really liked the Buttholes in the first place, so why should they get to go to see them now? He’d rather it went to someone who is actually into them.

I can have it if I want.

I don’t know what to say to him. Apart from: Yes. Thank you. Fuck. Can I buy you a drink?

We walk over to Big Hands – I’m resigned to the fact that Tina isn’t coming to get me tonight or any other night – and swap war stories from the mid-Eighties UK psychedelic underground for a while. I leave him to go and grab something to eat at home, promising I’ll hook up with him at the gig later.

Though Mrs Undeleted says she’ll come to the gig with me – “I went to Wire and it wasn’t that bad at all” was the exact quote I think – I can’t expose her to the full-on Buttholes live experience in good conscience. Well, I could, but it’d just end up with her insisting on leaving the gig halfway through. I leave her at home.

I miss the band’s entrance and most of the first number – 22 Going On 23 – because I’m in a queue at the bar, loading up on vodka, Red Bull and strong lager. Student twats. They need to buck their ideas up. They’ll never get a permanent bar job like that.

As I find a spot, in what looks like a capacity crowd, where I can see a bit of the stage – and avoid the frankly offensive body odour and/or behaviour of certain of my fellow punters – I suddenly realise that this is probably the first Buttholes gig I’ve ever been to where I may not have actually done enough drugs.

Luckily, there are people in the audience who’ve done enough drugs for all of us.

Despite coming on the back of a string of European dates, it seems to take a while for them to warm-up – and in fact, they even mess up one song so badly they give it up as a bad job – and I begin to wonder if this was such a good idea after all. As my man Rae in Vinyl Exchange said, maybe some things are best left in the past.

Once they get into their stride however, any lingering doubts vanish.

I’ve no idea about the order – and I’m not very good on titles – but from what I remember, they played a greatest hits type set, with material from throughout their long, varied and illustrious career.

The raw sound of 100 Million Dead and a particularly hypnotic Cherub slam up against stone-cold mid-period freak-out party classics like To Parter, Moving To Florida and Cowboy Bob, and more sophisticated (it’s all relative) later cuts like Graveyard and I Saw An X-Ray Of A Girl Passing Gas.

Standing in front of an ever-changing backdrop of Farrah Fawcett movies, kiddy-cartoons, The Faces Of Death, collages of ripped-up porn mags and the like, the classic Buttholes line-up are older, if not wiser. They still make for an incredible spectacle.

Throughout the lengthy and intense set, I barely see Teresa at all and my main impression of King Coffey is of seeing the top of Jack Skellington’s head every so often.

Meanwhile, in front of the two drummers, much of the hair on Jeff Pinkus’s head seems to have migrated to a long, faintly gnomic beard growing from the bottom of his chin. He looks like a righteous Lord of the Rings One-percenter.

Gibson J Haynes still looks like the biggest stoner you’ve ever seen in your life, like Shaggy from Scooby-Doo gone satanic and depraved, only now he wears fashionable glasses and a goatee. He’s still fiddling with his trusty, weird tape-loop machine thing.

On the other side of the stage is Paul Leary, also now sporting glasses and almost looking a little preppy. The man who might just be the very best guitarist in the whole wide world only decided to come along at the last minute but he looks like he’s making the most of it.

Leary looks a good deal less preppy when he’s gurning, smirking and leering his way through his trademark extended solos, before inevitably holding his guitar up at the end of the song and shaking it at the audience triumphantly.

The School of Rock kids – who played a support set earlier – join the band on stage at various points in the set, muddying the sound somewhat, but what the heck. How could you deny anyone the chance to get onstage with the Butthole Surfers?

At one point during a truly majestic rendition of Sweat Loaf, Haynes, Leary, Pinkus and about a dozen kids are highkicking to the big mutant Sabbath riff at the tune’s heart.

I feel absolutely trollied all of a sudden.

“We’ve got one last song for you tonight,” says Leary. “We will share with you all of our experiences, with this one song. And I want you to all walk out with the love .. because there’s a time to fuck and a time to crave, but the Shah sleeps in Lee Harvey’s Grave!”

It’s hardcore.

I have a moment of lucidity and look up. The Buttholes aren’t even onstage anymore, leaving the kids blasting out a good five minutes of teen-angst noise in their wake. The house lights come up and performers and audience shout abuse at each other and throw plastic glasses back and forth. It’s a bit confused and chaotic.

I think I like it.

[The fantastic photo of Paul Leary, taken at the Manchester show, is by ijbison]

See also: Butthole Surfers 1987 interview and Psychic, Powerless, Another Man’s Sac & Cream Corn From The Socket of Davis

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24 Comments

Filed under expletive undeleted, features

24 responses to “How not to interview the Butthole Surfers

  1. You sick limey fuck, horseshit krunkaslona horrelemccalin ca-ca vagina and vulva ketchup homosexual.

    Nice article! BHS4LYFE, 2008, goan down BITCH!!! I ain’t even trippin’!!! Knowhumtalnbout?????? Jeah!!!!!!!!

  2. undeleted

    English as a second language?

    Thanks for the comment Cuntsauce – can I call you Cuntsauce? I’m glad you like the tale of my miserable failure.

    In le Grande Britannia, BHS means British Home Stores.

    Think on.

  3. Pepper is their best song. Was never too into Psychedelic rock, if thats what the holes fit into. Psychedelic furs have a few good tracks as do the holes

  4. So tell me – which part did this Gibby person play in ‘Mamma Mia’?

  5. Well, I looked at the clip. Is that you in the glasses? Have you been living a double life all along and the post is really aboutyou trying to interview yourself? That would make a good film in fact…in double fact maybe I’ve already seen it…

    This multimedia life…I think it’s taking its toll…

  6. undeleted

    I’ve not had the pleasure of Mamma Mia as yet – the threat is hanging over me like a cloud – but if there was a role of someone you would absolutely not allow your kids to go on tour of Europe with, Gibby would probably be playing that.

    You might actually like some of their stuff. I’m serious. You’ll definitely recognise the riff from Sweat Loaf (click on the link above), I reckon ..

    xx

  7. undeleted

    Well, I usually get Wayne Hemmingway, so Leary is definitely an improvement on that.

    It’s a nice idea. It would have been a great kicker if I revealed at the end of the piece that I’d actually been trying to interview myself all along. It’s like something Philip K Dick would have come up with. Smart idea.

    Buttholes not doing it for you then?

  8. It’s true…being accepted and allowed in is overrated. You think you want it…then you get there and…it’s really quite dull.
    Rejected individuals forever!
    As for the music…very noisy and I have always been funny about liking singers and people who actually sing (even a wail is better than nothing). Also as you say just not drinking or drugging enough these days to appreciate it. Unlike the band by the looks of it. Interesting high kicks from guitarists! I have some respect for people who can keep caning and not wear themselves down to nothing (I said some respect…nothing major). I admit it I couldn’t take it! Am now much more Emily Dickinson than Courtney Love. And if you remember I missed punk altogether…no great loss!
    x

  9. andrewlos

    Top stuff as ever Mr Undeleted. In a strange way, I’m glad you didn’t make it onto the guest list. Reads much better that way.

  10. undeleted

    You’re probably right Andrew. The journey can be as interesting as the destination, I suppose. Still think it’s a shame it didn’t happen though ..

    I like the noisy and the soulful too, Rachel. I’m just a crazy mixed-up kid .. well, you know what I mean.

  11. I had to look up the definitions of skint, guesty, tout, arsed, and trollied, ya coont ya.

  12. undeleted

    You fucking love it, you big Anglophile.

    Here are more Northernisms for your delectation and delight:

    I’ll go to the foot of our stairs.

    I can’t be mithered with barm cakes.

    Where ast a bin since I saw thee?

    Can’t think of any more at the moment. I may return to this theme …

    Sithee?

  13. doug

    Oh, my sainted aunt. I had to look up “cuntsauce dripping” and now I’ve come over all peculiar.

  14. undeleted

    Aren’t there ‘online resources’ for those kind of enquiries? And those plaggy keyboard covers are quite cheap aren’t they?

  15. doug

    “Well, I usually get Wayne Hemmingway, so Leary is definitely an improvement on that. ”

    Feargal Sharkey, Wayne Hemmingway, now Paul Leary, eh? You always were such a handsome fucker.

  16. doug

    I don’t remember the Royal Park Doppelganger incident specifically, but there’s no shortage of bespectacled, short-haired studey-types in that neck of the womb. Anyway, faces like yours are ten a penny, mate. Always have and always will be. What you need is a face with character, one that’s not easily forgotten.
    Was it shortly after the Doppelganger incident that the landlord got those Rottweillers?

  17. doug

    Weren’t you also frequently mistaken for a member of Kitchens Of Distinction?
    (An uncanny resemblence, as I recall. You used that to wangle the odd shag, I’ll be bound)

  18. undeleted

    It’s actually a downward trajectory, I think.

    Do you remember the time I had to leave the Royal Park because there was a doppleganger in there?

    Or did I just make that up as well?

  19. undeleted

    Any port in a storm.

  20. I missed 22 Going On 23, too. Stood at that same fucking bar, furious, frustrated and firsty.

  21. undeleted

    It’s a disgrace ij, it’s almost like they don’t have any pride in their work and are just doing it to supplement their meagre loans by working in a bar. Piss poor.

    On the night itself, I would’ve been very happy to see them all taken out the back and shot but I realise now that would probably have been a bit of an over-reaction.

    Still, we got to see the Buttholes again, didn’t we? By any standards, that is definitely a result.

  22. undeleted

    And have I actually said thank you for letting me use your awesome picture of Leary? If not, thanx!

  23. Fantastic….I still, unfortunatley, not seen them, but love having the house to myself so I can crank them up on the stereo.

  24. undeleted

    If they ever make it back here again, you really need to see them. They were just amazing.

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