RETURN TO SUPERSUCKERS

 

Interview by Bela Koe-Krompecher

The Supersuckers have quietly, yet in their own loud way, built quite a canon of hell raisin', beer drinkin', drug ingestin', love makin' and devil lovin' songs over the past twelve years. They've been featured on MTV, been in Rolling Stone, played with Willie Nelson AND Steve Earle and even made an appearance at the Woodstock that burned down. They are one of the best live bands around whether doing rock or their own brand of Supersucker country. Eddie Spaghetti sat for a few mintues recently and filled us in.

How did you start your own label and how is it different from Aces and 8’s, which released The Evil Powers of Rock and Roll?

Well it was really on Koch. Danny Bland (former manager) and I were starting that label and it was pretty short lived. We really didn’t know what we were doing that well. But we did get to manage to get our imprint on that record. The big accomplishment was putting out the Free The West Memphis Three benefit record. So all was naught for naught.

So what’s the big difference between Aces and 8's and the new label? Do you four guys own it or do you put your name on it and hire some guy to run it?

Well we have a guy who helps us out. What we did was talk to this guy who scouted us for RCA and after talking to us he thought what we wanted to do was doing something on our own. We just got older and a little less drug-addled and stupid than we were. We were trying to eliminate all the bosses from our lives. This is a true independent thing; this is really our label, our only affiliation is through our distributor (Red-Eye). We hire own publicist and buy our own radio ads and everything.

So is it teaching you something?

Unfortunatley, yeah, well, I hate learning. It’s hard work but at the end of the day when you actually get a royalty check for a change it’s pretty sweet.

You also got a new booking agent.

Yeah we uprooted every single thing of our operation. We have no more management, we just do that ourselves. We got a new booking agent, new publicist. We just examined every part of our operation and we just decided that it’s great to have friends working for you but when it comes time to…if you get mad at somebody or if they’re not doing what you think they should be doing then they’re your friend and you have this extra complication. So we just started to hire people.

You made some career choices that to me seemed out of loyalty. Hindsight is 20/20 but you stuck around in some situations that were different than where you were going.

Yeah, it’s pretty easy to look back now and say “we should have done this then and that there.” Unfortunatley at the time you think it’s a lot cooler to stick around in either a situation that is too comfortable or uh you don’t want to snub your friends. You wanna be like a rapper and bring your whole posse with you but they kinda just keep you down. That’s unfortunate because they’re your friends and you wanna keep them as your friends.

Now that you’re older, how are your expectations different?

They are more realistic. When you're younger you do dream of selling a million records and living like fat-cats for the rest of your lives. I think now our expectations are higher than they were a couple of years ago because now we see how you can do it. We don’t have to sell a million records to make a lot of money. If we sell 100,000 we’d be so rich.

Going back to the sex, drugs and rock-n-roll ...

The good stuff ...

At one point it literally almost broke up your band. You guys had to send Ron off for a while. Obviously that’s been addressed and has been taken care of. Do you think there was a time when that really hurt you?

Yeah, that stuff is never good. We celebrate these parts of life and they’re things that should be celebrated but you learn a lot when you see your friend go through difficult times, you learn about yourself and how you react to it. It’s been an on going thing with us having friends go off the deep end so to speak. Being young not dealing with it like you wish you would, or wish you would have. Having some regrets of course, we used to have a lead singer -- he wound up dying. You have some regrets on how you handle that. With Ron we still have, um, there’s always going to be little issues with that, about how the band reacts to somebody’s problems. How you could do a little better job, stuff you learn as you go along. Then at the end of the day you put it aside, have some fun, play some rock-n-roll, the people who can drink drink. The ones who can’t don’t… People in our band try to be pretty understanding of each other’s shortcomings.

Your tongue-in-cheek cartoonish play on everything, not just the devil, but with everything else, it’s obvious you aren’t glorifying anything like, for instance, Spaceman 3 was?

Yeah we come with our fair share cautionary tales as well; hopefully all delivered in a funny way as well. Nobody likes to learn. I like rock to be a little silly, a little funny, it’s an escape.

Is there a big difference being in band in your thirties than in your twenties? You’re still basically making the same type of music.

Well there are differences for sure. I think it’s similar to when my wife and I had our baby. Everybody’s telling us how much everything was going to change, your lives are going to be SO different. Yeah, our lives are different but they’re also remarkably the same. A lot of things don’t change they just get better. I think that's the way it is in the band. You’ve gone through the “should we break up, should we stop” then you're like “what else are we gonna do, let’s make some rock and take the pressure off.” Logistical things are harder as you get older that you have to deal with it. At the end of the day it’s surprisingly the same.

Who all has kids?

Dan, Eddie and Ron

Does that make it much harder to go on the road?

It does at times. My wife and I just tend to bring him along because he’s young, he’s not in school. He’s a road dog, he’s been to Europe with us, he’s going with us on the Flogging Molly tour, an all ages’ tour, we’re going on first so it’ll be nice.

Is it different in the way you prepare for the shows?

We still don’t ever practice, maybe we ought to. Once you get on the road you play every night. We’re firing now because we just got back from Europe. Playing new songs feels like we’re moving forward. It gets stale when you’re on the same songs for a year.

Do you think the way you do the country stuff now, has that changed it? Has the country stuff prolonged you since you have this different outlet?

Yeah, definitely. This country thing has taken expiration date off the band. I think we’ll be able to continue as a band. Playing rock as an older guy is going to be less of a weird thing as rock itself gets older. It’s still, in the scope of the world (laughter) in the global time line, it’s new. People talk about aging rockers but that’s going to be less and less weird because it’s going to get old.

Onto the new record, it’s a Supersucker record. I would never use the word “mature” in the same sentence as “Supersucker” but it does seem like there are some pretty astute observations about the state of rock, the state of the Supersuckers. Nothing is serious but there are elements of something in there.

Yeah, I understand. The music itself, I hate bands that “mature” and “grow.” Those are turn-off words. I’m getting better at putting things, not wasting words. I’m trying to be less of a word-dick as I put it. I think Eric Davidson and I both did this, because we could. We would write in ways that were not really understandable or we would write about common subjects in such weird ways that people wouldn’t get it. For instance did I have to call the song “Creepy Jackalope Eye”? Couldn’t I have said something else that got that same message across? Now I try to write in a more direct simple way but still make it cool. Say these things that people say “sex, drugs, rock-n-roll, liquor, women, drugs and killing” but in a different way each time.

You have always mentioned Motorhead and The Ramones as big influences; do you have a different respect for them now that you’ve been a band for so long?

Totally, especially for The Ramones because of our holy trilogy (Motorhead, Ramones and AC/DC), the Ramones were the band that adhered to their aesthetic and remained creative and wrote good songs till the end. I think every single Ramones record has good songs on it. Are they all Rocket To Russia? Well of course not, but Mondo Bizarro was really good as was Adios Amigos. Whereas AC/DC, do they still have good records? No, not really. These are the people we really look up to. And country artists like Steve Earle and Willie Nelson.

Do you still keep in contact with those guys?

Yeah, we just saw Steve Earle in Hamburg on our last trip and hung out.

We just saw him play live. Being an old blue-collar Democrat, I loved his political stuff.

Me too. I love the way he stands up there. He gets his messages and points across and they're still funny. I just think he’s brilliant.

Do you think the internet has really hurt music as everyone says or do you think are other different factors for the way music and live shows are down?

It’s different for us right now, because our live shows are up as are our record sales. But I see the point, our record (when this was conducted) isn’t out yet but people have it and are downloading it before they buy it, that could really hurt us because we are a small business. I don’t see where a band like Metallica can gripe when they’re selling millions. Maybe they’ll sell a thousand less copies due to downloading. Where if we sell a thousand less copies we really feel it. I tend to be very pro people file sharing, people hearing your music gets them into your band, they still want the product.

Are there any bands now that are your peers that you may feel an affinity to but maybe you didn’t in the past?

That’s interesting. There are always bands that musically that we feel a kinship with. Of course the New Bomb Turks, Rocket From The Crypt, Zen Guerilla -- these are bands that come to mind right away. But as we go into business ourselves the weird thing is bands that I don’t necessarily like their music at all but they’re sort of role models on how they’ve done it. Horrible bands, like Phish and the Dave Matthews Band, these bands that are nothing musically as to what we’re doing but the way they’ve done their business is super smart. Very creative and obviously very profitable.

You guys have always taken bands along on tour with you; bands you like. Do you still try to do that?

We do try to do that. It is a little hard when you try to maximize your dollars. And you don’t want to pay your friends $50 a night. We try to find bands now that it would be a little unusual with, maybe bring two different crowds. You know we love touring with Zeke but we pretty much have the same fans. That’s why we’re doing this tour with Flogging Molly. We’re trying to lose this image of “You do it our way or the highway”; we’re not that big of dicks -- we’ll do it.

Are you looking more for different alternatives for your music than you used to? I know somebody once used a Supersucker's guitar riff in a commercial?

Yeah, we’ve branched out like that before. We’re definitely into doing those things again. I have no punk-rock sort of idealism about what is and isn’t selling out. I just think that if you can make a buck off your music than your entitled to do that.

Is it harder now that you’re managing yourselves?

I don’t know, it’s hard to cross into these opportunities. For a while there we were, kind of in a sexy place, we were in Seattle on Sub-Pop and that was kind of a coveted place. That’s just luck of the draw, those opportunities just sort of pop up. People aren’t throwing their money around like the were, they’re a little leery.

And finally, with the name of the new record, you’re certainly not looking to get added to MTV or anything like that, care to elaborate?

Exactly, the name of the record comes from Eric Davidson (singer for the New Bomb Turks). When we where on tour with them, a long time ago-early nineties, he used to go “this is from our new record, Motherfuckers be trippin.” We kept waiting for them to put this record out which they never did so finally we have.

Published: May 5, 2003