BUTTHOLE SURFERS: The Shit Lady and other stories (1993)

Published on February 12th, 2018





By STEFFAN CHIRAZI
DO NOT adjust your set.
This is the Butthole Surfers. Gibby Haynes (voice etc), Paul Leary (guitars etc) and Jeff Pinkus (bass etc) and King Coffey (drums etc) are responsible for more than you know right now. Ministry’s Al Jourgensen is a worshipper and the Red Hot Chili Peppers have always vocalised their appreciation of these fine young suaves. Are they kool snuff for you? Kool? Check it out.

This is the band that once moved to Athens, Georgia, to be near REM, only to find an exploding van and distraught locals. This is the band that toured constantly for years in a small vehicle maxed to seven plus equipment. This is the band that had Kathleen, aka The Shit Lady, a woman who once hit a glass pane in Seedysville with her rich anal fluids before dancing for the ‘Surfers. Wild and weird? Most bands try, but can’t even spell ’em.
I forfeited the chance to see them rehearse in Austin, Texas, simply because the option was to experience a video shoot – and the thought of a band so immersed in visual tricks being given the budget to create optical magic was too much to refuse. A sick, lowly, twisted bunch with a fat, hefty budget… give that pyromaniac some more gasoline and make sure he’s got enough matches.
Director: Get him some petroleum jelly!
Gibby: Uh-uh, you don’t wanna get that, it’ll hold the heat and end up burning me up real bad. Don’t worry, leave it to me. I’ve done this a few times…
Gibby, who looks like a Jesus freak saved by Satan, is never out of control, even when he is. The video is a wacky combo of live and animation, featuring a guest appearance from friend and bass-ace Flea. You’d expect no less.
Despite the friendly and calm demeanour of all involved, there is nothing very normal about The Butthole Surfers. What’s so normal about having John Paul Jones (yes, that John Paul Jones of Led Zeppelin Paul Jones) readily agree to produce your album, while his ‘wild’ old partner trudges off and tortures himself stupid with a two year ‘rock wank marathon’?
“They just interested me, there was no one thing. I just found what they were doing extremely interesting – It’s that simple,” he explains.
Before Capitol Records and before JPJ, it started off in 1981 with five people and a dog cramming into a two seat car with the back bench ripped out and a bunch of equipment wedged around them. No room for fat people or agoraphobics. At truck stops the dog would protect the equipment while The ‘Surfers did their dastardly deeds. This was more or less a 364 day-a-year experience, this was back in the days where you relied on your own shiny arses to get the message across and not five minutes of video magic. Gibby would wear dresses and spurt fake blood upon the lunatic fringe audiences.
“We had a ’77 Chevy Nova, two door, and our friend Bun had to saw out the back seat so we could fit three people and the dog in the back, and we also towed a trailer around. We painted it up real good, ’69 and Ladykiller all over it and a roll of barbed wire on the front grille with pieces of clothing and baby doll arms. It was always fun in New York City, where people who don’t usually look at cars were scared of ours.
“Amazingly, we never did get arrested in it though,” Paul says thoughtfully.
Never one to shirk on a performance, the Butthole Surfers continually worked on the visual elements of their show, reinvesting tour money over and over again.
“We had a dance, Kathleen, aka the Shit Lady. She made he debut at the Danceteria in New York City with plastic Flintstones baseball bats filled with urine…” Gibby says.
“Piss wands,” Paul explains.
“The show finally collapsed into a mess and I ended up naked holding a pair of drumsticks,” Gibby adds.

“We were told we’d never play the Danceteria again but they closed shortly after that and we’ve been back to NYC many times! It tells me that with a piss bat, you can go far!” Paul says with a laugh.
“Good name for a band, Piss Bat!” Gibby interjects.
“We wanted to do something to cove up for our musical ineptness. In the early days we had cheap smoke machines, shitty strobe lights, and cheap movie projectors. – the fire was always a favourite. Gibby had a broken cymbal which he’d fill with flammable liquid, light and beat, which made a huge fireball that leapt to the ceiling. And as the years went on things got bigger and better — better strobe lights, walls of computerised strobe lights, massive projectors. Then we had a naked dancer, you know, just for the hell of it.” Paul finishes.
By 1986 they had a ranch in Austin and a small studio they called home. No thanks to anyone but themselves. But it’s hard to understand what blend of influences could have produced such beautiful subversion.
“We were influenced by early American hardcore, SPK, Devo, The Jam, Throbbing Gristle, Grand Funk Railroad, Blue Cheer, Allman Brothers, Black Sabbath…” Paul begins.
“The Allman Brothers was the first gig I ever went to I was 13 and they were killer,” Gibby says.
“Mine was the Ohio Players, KC And The Sunshine Band and Hot Chocolate. My dad took me — we were the only white people there,” King offers.
“Mine was Pat Travis,” Jeff says.
“Mine was Grand Funk, the next one was Creedence Clearwater and I got thrown out of both of them by the cops. Me and my best friend Flavin were carrying switchblades and canteens full of liquor,” Paul says.
“We had my Pa drop us at the the arena so we could jump the fence. We told him there was this ‘special entrance’ so he took off. We got rowdy, flipped the bird at the pigs… Then I remember seeing the Brownsville Station and in their second encore he started saying it wasn’t over, that we were gonna get the train and rock’n’roll all night long and I was really let down to find that there wasn’t this train outside and that we weren’t gonna rock’n’roll all night long, but that it was the end and we were gonna go home. I was ready to leave home and the fucker let me down; no train no nuthin! I once worked for a guitar hero of as all, Billy Thorpe — you wanna beer belly, boy, he’s got the best! He was firing roadies from the stage and he was shaped like a turkey!

Ahhh, memories.



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