Return to Eddie Spaghetti

Supersuckers bring roots, country, urban rock to Duffy's
BY L. KENT WOLGAMOTT / Lincoln Journal Star

Eddie Spaghetti was in a Vancouver, British Columbia, hotel room last week, killing time with his family before the Supersuckers show that night at GM Place, the first of a half-dozen arena appearances the band was scheduled to make opening for Pearl Jam.

The Supersuckers will play at Duffy's on Sept. 13. (Courtesy photo)

“It’s payback for some old hits we did for them,” Spaghetti said with a laugh. “Then it’s back to the dumps. But what else do I have to do? I could wash dishes somewhere, I guess.”

The third show after the Supersuckers return to the clubs where they make their living will take place Tuesday at Duffy’s Tavern, a rare local appearance by the band that unironically calls itself “the greatest rock ’n’ roll band in the world” in its biography.

Formed in 1988 in Tucson, Ariz., the Supersuckers soon moved to Seattle, hitting town just as grunge exploded.

While the band’s high-horsepower, two-guitar garage punk was rootsier than many of the Seattle acts, including Pearl Jam, the Supersuckers got signed to Sub Pop, the label that launched Nirvana, Soundgarden and Green River, the band that included future members of Pearl Jam.

Unlike most of the Seattle contingent, the Supersuckers didn’t ever land a major label contract, but they came dangerously close. Instead, they’ve become one of the stalwarts of independent rock ’n’ roll, constantly touring, recording and living the rock ’n’ roll lifestyle for two decades.

Spaghetti scoffs at the idea that either he or his band is getting too old to rock.

“Putting an expiration date on your rocking is one of the silliest things bands do, and fans do it too,” Spaghetti said. “People aren’t used to seeing the Rolling Stones up there in their 60s. But rock ’n’ roll is still a new art form — it’s only 50 years old. It’s becoming more and more common to see old guys up there rocking. It’s like painting — the artists don’t just go away when they’re a certain age.”

For a perfect example of an artist who flourished well after his 20s, Spaghetti turns to Willie Nelson, the country icon with whom the Supersuckers have played live shows. Nelson didn’t become a “star” until he was in his 40s and he continues to record and tour at age 70.

The Supersuckers’ collaboration with Nelson, which has included backing Willie on “The Tonight Show,” has led to a friendship. Spaghetti got a birthday call from Willie earlier this year and as the Supersuckers shift from punk to rock to country from song to song, he embraces Nelson’s musical philosophy.

“He’s of the opinion that it’s all just music,” Spaghetti said. “You wish you didn’t have to categorize it in order to sell it. We play the music we like, which is roots country and urban rock ’n’ roll.”

With the exception of tempo and volume, aren’t roots country and urban rock ’n’ roll nearly the same thing?

“You change the doublewide to an apartment and all the things that go with that and there you go,” he said.

Don’t look for any country music to come from the stage Tuesday night. “I think we’ll just be rocking the house there,” Spaghetti said. “We’ve got a bunch of new rock songs we’ve been working on.”

Those songs will turn up on a new Supersuckers album that the band will release on its Mid-Fi label late this year. That will be the prolific band’s second record of 2005.

“That’s one of the advantages of doing everything yourself,” Spaghetti said. “There’s no label to tell you no. It’s not going to hurt you giving people more. A lot of bands could benefit from just being bands and putting out music.”

In April, the Supersuckers released “Devil’s Food,” a collection of country versions of rock songs, singles that weren’t on albums, previously unreleased material, etc. It hasn’t yet sold the 20,000 copies the band aims for with each album, but it’s probably already making money for the Supersuckers.

That, of course, wouldn’t happen if the band was on a major record label. But with discs selling up to 35,000 copies and more than 200,000 sold, the Supersuckers are doing just fine on their own.

“You’re not going to sell enough for them (major labels) to be happy,” Spaghetti said. “But you’re going to sell enough for you to be happy. You keep your overhead down and your expectations realistic and you can do this for a long time.”

The next Mid-Fi release will be “Old No. 2,” a Spaghetti solo album that is primarily country and includes covers of songs by Bob Dylan, The Coasters, AC/DC, Tom Waits and Nick Lowe along with Spaghetti’s own compositions.

But don’t read too much into his solo venture. He’s sure not leaving the band he co-founded long ago.

“It all goes into the Supersuckers bin anyway,” Spaghetti said. We wind up playing most of the songs as the Supersuckers. It’s not like I have some great need to express myself outside the band. I just like making records alone.”

Even though he dropped a reference to record store bins, Spaghetti is preparing for the post-CD era in which people download all their music from the Internet. He believes that age has nearly arrived.

“I’ll miss records. I already do,” he said. “But I’m in favor of working with however people want to get music. It’s like going back to the ’50s where they made singles and then put together an album. I think that’s fine. I’d much rather have two solid songs from an artist and spend a month with them than get the record and still only like two songs.”

Success with the label is just one part of the Supersuckers story. The other is the band’s unceasing touring — it plays more than 200 shows a year — and the incendiary live shows that have created a loyal fan base that will allow it continue its rocking ways for as long as it cares to do so.

“I think that’s one of the things we can definitely pass on to other bands,” Spaghetti said of the band’s determinedly independent approach to its career. “We’ve been able to make a modest living doing what we want to do and not really compromising very much.”