Beware of the Dogs
Throw Rag : A medical observation

The following is an interview conducted with Sean, (aka. Captain Sean-Doe) lead vocalist of the musical ‘group’ Throw Rag. Doctor Kevlar was monitoring symptoms of the Rock n’ Roll sickness that the members of this ‘band’ were displaying. Kevlar notes that only an accelerated case of this disease would cause the members of Throw Rag to exhibit such extreme behavior, as made famous by the band, in front of an assembled group of watchers. Thus begins his account of the insightful interview. As the nurse lead the drooling Captain Sean-Doe in, I fixed Sean with a good long stare, turned my tape recorder on, set pencil to notepad and asked my first question in an attempt to understand this mental condition. This question dealt with how the identity of Throw Rag became different over time. Sean’s head rolled around for a little while and then he set a solid eye on me, “The first disc was more like a country-punk disc that had a lot of rockabilly to it. Desert Shores is actually our third disc, the second one was never released. Desert Shores was more rock n’ roll because it worked better live, playing those songs like that. It was never a conscious effort to change the sound. We were into a band called The Humpers and we wanted to write songs that had that kind of energy. The second un-released disc, called 2nd Place, was kind of the bridge between Tee-Tot and Desert Shores. 2nd Place had songs that sounded like stuff off the other two albums; one day I want to put out that second album.” He then began to babble about his dog chewing on his wallet. However, I knew I had to forge ahead with my next question, which was about the future of his ‘band’, if he ever became sane enough to leave the hospital. That question brought Sean to sudden attention and he excitedly answered, “We plan on putting out a new disc in February, it will be called 13th Street and Rising and it will be a little different then Desert Shores. We recorded Shores quickly, not focusing on redoing things over and over again. Shores has that live raw fill to it, which was great. On the new disc it will still be raw, we did not want to over produce it but we wanted it a little bit more thought out then the last one. It will have a ballad, and it will have some weird symphonies on it. Jacko will sing two songs and they will be ones that he wrote himself. We will also have a live DVD coming out in October on Kung-Fu Records.” Sean began to lurch in his restraints until he tired himself out.

Once he was giving his medication by the nurse and he began to show signs of response, I asked my third question about the idea of a washboard player in what seems to be a conventional rock n’ roll band. Sean threw my candy dish full of Jelly Beans into the air and then told me, “I met Jacko when I was putting the band together and he seemed cool, so I asked him what he played and he told me the accordion. However, when he came down to the studio, he was not very good. I asked him if he could play anything else and he told me a washboard which sounded really good, so it was added to the sound.” Sean tapered off here as he began to lick each of the Jelly Beans that had been in the dish at least once. I pointed to Sean’s sailor hat and asked him about other journalists attempt to classify Throw Rag’s sound, my favorite being ‘Pirate Rock’. Sean giggled hysterically while throwing the licked Jelly Beans at me and then answered, “I have heard some pretty funny equations of what we sound like. We sound like too many things to be easily compared. People equate Throw Rag with the sailor hats, I just hope I don’t have to wear this hat for ever.” He then began to scream lyrics from “Beware of the Dog” and “Bag of Glue” which he had written in a haze of insanity. I thought I would query about those lyrical scribbling’s. Sean clamed down and whispered, “I write things I have seen or things that I thought I saw. It’s mainly about experiences in life. Secretive meth cooks whose mission message is to have everything a secret, stuff like that.” Sean began to ask for some whisky and beer, which meant the interview was coming to an end. I asked my final question about the bands equally maladjusted “fans”, masochistic groups of people who range from underground social groups as retro-rock n’ rollers, rockabilly, punk rock, and ska. I wanted to know why Throw Rag had so many followers from so many different genres of music. Sean became instantly serious and explained with sign language type hand gestures and motions. “We like anyone who has an open mind about music. We will play with anybody, and hope that their fans will like it. I think kids of today are bored with what’s out there and are looking for something different. Hopefully, we are able to give them something different.”

Sean began to bang his head on the table in frustration at what could possibly be his inability to communicate what he really wanted to say. I had the nurse come and lead him back to his room while I pondered my notes, Obviously, I sent in my recommendation that he was too mentally incapable of being released. Unfortunately, he escaped with his “band” mates and is on the loose. Readers are advised to keep a cautious eye open since authorities suggest they are headed for Salt Lake City.

While Phil made a final comment, “If you like the Liars new record, then you will like our new stuff,” the three of them stepped out into the night. The door slammed shut and I was alone, quaking from the encounter. The storm raged outside. My mind began to deconstruct the events of the evening, working backwards to the beginning of that dark and stormy night.

[Modey Lemon]Phil continued with his answer to my question, “We have 12 new songs. The new stuff will be different then the older, but it will still rock pretty intensely. The new songs will just be stronger. We haven’t played any of the new stuff live yet and we’re excited to see how it turns out when we hit the road in September.”

The three of them retreated to the doorframe. Behind them, the rain came down in sheets and lightning flashed constantly. I knew one more question would get them out the door and fortunately, I knew what to ask, the most cliched line in rock journalism: “What is the future of Modey Lemon?”

Sweat rolled down my head from the intensity of the situation I was in. In desperation, I thought back to my earlier research. Suddenly, a revelation sparked in my head. The three began to lean over me as I shouted out, “You guys started as a two-piece guitar-and-drums combo, but you added a third member just recently, why?!”

Phil leaned back smiling and answered, “As a two-piece, it forced us to be more creative; it was more of a challenge. We were able to deconstruct our influences until it was what we wanted. For our new material, we wanted to try more texturing and depth. We added our friend Jason, who also produced the second album. He plays guitar and keyboards, which frees us up to pursue more things musically.”

The demand came again: “Ask another.” Fearful of the consequences, I complied. “What is the mission statement of the band?”

Phil replied without pause, “We try to channel the music that we love and admire. We don’t want to completely replicate those sounds but incorporate them together, but with a degree of musical freedom -psychedelic, garage, electronic, folk, repetitive monotonous sounds that are like Kraftwerk. Basically, we make records that I would want to listen to. An album that could be listened to early in the morning, when I’m sharpened but delirious from lack of sleep, so that I would be able to focus on all the sounds that come out in one song.”

The three of them moved menacingly closer. I was filled with immense dread and decided I better think of better questions, starting with the one that nagged at me the most: “What exactly is a Modey Lemon?”

The three figures backed off a little. Phil quickly replied with eager enthusiasm, “It does not really mean anything; it’s just an absurd name. We wanted a name that when people heard it, they would associate it instantly with the band.”

There was another pounding knock on my back door. I quickly opened it, expecting to see the announcing crow on its balcony perch again. Instead, there were three hooded figures. I fell back into my chair and stared in shocked bewilderment. They silently entered and stood in front of my chair. One of them threw his hood back and I instantly recognized him as Phil, lead singer/guitarist/keyboardist of Modey Lemon. He stared at me with a hardened, puzzled look on his face and then said starkly, “Ask me a question.”

Modey Lemon is a three-piece band from Pittsburgh which is made up of two guitarists; one which sings, and both alternating with keyboards and a backbone drummer. They have two discs, the latest on Birdman, which is also the label of The Warlocks. However, there is a darkness and menacing approach to Modey Lemon’s blend of metallic garage and keyboard mixture lacking in The Warlocks.

The door flew open and I spied a crow sitting on the railing. It tilted its head and croaked the words, “Modey Lemon, Modey Lemon!” It then flew off, leaving me puzzled as to its appearance and message. I closed the door and went back to the search engine on my computer to find out what a Modey Lemon is.

It was a dark and stormy night. The tempest outside raged as I sat at my computer in the gloom punctuated occasionally by bright flashes of lightning. Insomnia had forced me into a late night net-surf of news and porn when there was a knock on the back door. Fearfully and hesitantly, I reached for the door handle. Who could be knocking on my back door on a night like this?

Last night I had a dream. Or was it? A giant black-and-white spiral pulled me from my bed. I passed through its middle and found myself in a science lab with a strange-looking man on an operating table. He had dark hair, pale skin, a thin body and flamboyant 50s clothes. Hovering over this man was a woman stunning to behold. She had fiery long red hair, a skimpy 50s-style outfit and wicked heels.

It was Poison Ivy; the guitar player for the rockabilly, B-movie nastiness godfathers The Cramps. She told me she was working on her mate and lead vocalist for The Cramps, Lux Interior, putting all kinds of evil and perverse things into him to prepare for their upcoming tour.

SLUG: Punk rock versus rockabilly?

Poison Ivy: Rockabilly without a doubt. Rockabilly is sexy. Rockabilly musicians were the rebels of their time. I think a lot of that is missing in today’s music.

SLUG:You guys just released a new record and your last one, Fiends of Dope Island, last year. Previously, The Cramps put out a disc every three, four years. What has changed?

Poison Ivy: We can put the records out now because we own our own record label, Vengeance. We had a bunch of new material and wanted to put a lot of older records back out there. However, it turned out to be a lot of work that took a lot of time and money. We originally wanted Fiends of Dope Island to come out in 2002, but because of all the work on the label, we were not able to put it out until last year. In the past, we also had all these problems with other record labels and band member changes.

Poison Ivy assured me that the band has not diminished over the 27 years of being together; in fact, they are even more crazy and wild now then ever. Lux’s eyes grow into black-and-white spirals which hurl me through their center until I emerge in my parent’s basement watching the “Bikini Girls With Machine Guns” video on 120 Minutes in 1989.

SLUG: A lot of your lyrics are rooted in perverse sexual themes. Does writing them come naturally since you and Lux are a couple?

Poison Ivy: Absolutely. Most of it does have to do with our relationship, but it also has to do with the fact that rock n’ roll has a lot to do with sex. We try to channel that sexuality into our music. After all, in the beginning, rock n’ roll was street slang for sex, and that is something that we wanted to recapture in our music.

Mesmerized by the kinkiness and sassy fun of the band’s video, I vowed that I would buy their album, Stay Sick, the next day. The black-and-white spiral came out of the television and I was in an audience crowd waiting for The Cramps to hit the stage. It was the Look Mom No Head! Tour. The Cramps hit the stage and pandemonium exploded.

SLUG: Your live shows are wild craziness that words can’t do justice in describing. How do you prepare for that kind of energy?

Poison Ivy: Before a show, we like to prepare mentally by ourselves. We don’t really hang out with anyone before the show. However, we do invite certain entities to join us backstage, but I can’t really discuss that in great detail. When we go onstage, it has a lot to do with the audience; whether they’re into it or not. Lux is quite the character onstage whereas I’m a lot more introverted then he is. I tend to let my voice come out through my guitar. It’s like I become a part of my guitar.

Halfway through their first song, the house lights suddenly came on, blinding me. Suddenly it was 1997 and Epitaph Records had just released The Cramps’ Big Beat From Badsville. I was reading their CD review in Alternative Press.

SLUG: Some critics complain that you guys have not changed your sound much over time. How would you respond?

Poison Ivy: We arrived when we started. We are keeping the rock n’ roll torch alive. There has been a lot more attention to this kind of music lately and we are glad to be out there keeping the spirit of it alive. It’s not radio music and it cannot be dismissed as something classified within the music industry by their terms. Sure, some will see this music as the latest fashion trend, but there are those who enjoy the music for what it is: primal energy.

After reading the negative critique of The Cramps record, I tore up AP and leaned back on my bed.I woke with a sudden start. I checked the clock. Oct. 1, 2004: four in the morning. I sighed. It was just a dream. Then I heard her voice calling me.

SLUG: Last year, you came to DV8, but the show got cancelled one hour before the doors were to open. What happened?

Poison Ivy: It had something to do with the club not having the right kind of permit. We had sound-checked and were ready to go when they told us about the permit. We had heard stories about bands having their equipment confiscated by the police and we did not want that to happen to us midway through our tour. We were really bummed about not playing since we had driven a long way to get to Salt Lake, but it really was out of our hands since it had been a screw-up by the promoter.

Her voice was a soft whisper. “The answer to your question is, if I were to become a monster, I would be Dracula and Medusa combined. Lux would be the Werewolf and Frankenstein mixed together. Now go to sleep and dream about old cars and pin-up girls showing you their underwear.”