Pinch Me: SLUG’s Adventures at SXSW 2005
Free BBQ, show highlights, and interview with Billy Idol, Joey Castillo from Queens of the Stone Age and Bad Brad Wheeler from the Legendary Porch Pounders! Idol Worship: Still-Hot Billy Idol Reminisces on English Punk
SLUG had an opportunity to go to a Billy Idol roundtable at a seedy, charming Mexican restaurant. I got to ask him one question, and I was going to ask Billy which song he was the most sick of performing, but then he he felt his music was based on a “punk rock attitude.” Since SLUG is based on a punk rock attitude, I thought it would be fitting to ask Billy,
SLUG: What is it about the punk rock movement and its attitude that had the most influence on you personally?
Billy Idol: It gave us an avenue for our lives. In England in the mid-70s there really wasn’t any jobs. If you were a college grad or a rubbish collector, it didn’t matter. So our thing was, “Fuck you! We’re going to create a world. We’re going to attack your world that won’t give us shit with music! We’re going to kick you in the balls with music!” It was a great way of making a statement. You sort of reignited the power of rock n’ roll. It ended up giving me a future–I’d never thought of that. We were doing it purely in the moment. We loved music. That’s what we always wanted to do. It was great. The world made us do it. Thank God the world makes you do what you have to do. I used to dream about being in a band. I used to watch ReadySteadyGo! and look at The Who and Jimi Hendrix, and think, “They’re going all over the world, and I’m stuck here.” I hope there is somebody else somewhere going mad to Billy Idol music, just like I was getting all sweaty to the Beatles under my covers listening to Radio Luxemburg fading in and out. If you really love something, you start dreaming it up. You dream up your landscape–maybe your own mental, emotional landscape. That’s what I did, and I’ve had a great time.
Nice Sticks, Baby: An Interview with QOTSA drummer Joey Castillo
Joey Castillo took over as QOTSA’s drummer after Dave Grohl recorded the tracks for Songs for the Deaf. Castillo toured for that album and played the tracks on Queens’ latest, Lullabies to Paralyze. With his punk-rock roots, DIY integrity and vast experience drumming for well-known bands like Wasted Life, Danzig and Mondo Generator and of course, QOTSA, Joey Castillo brings his knowledge, background and immense talent to QOTSA’s music artillery, leaving a permanent mark on the-swift-becoming legendary band.
SLUG: So how was it filling Dave Grohl’s shoes? Did that make you kind of nervous?
Joey Castillo: No, not really. I think if I’d let that stand in the way, it really would have hindered what I was doing. I was always a fan of the band and I knew Josh and I’d been playing my whole life, and it was just such a great thing to be drumming for my favorite band. Not to take anything away from Dave.
SLUG: And everyone’s style is different. You can’t say any drummer’s better than another one.
JC: That’s just it. I’ve never, ever lived my life that way, trying to compete with someone else. I do what I do and you like it or you don’t. It’s not really that important. That’s like junior high or high school stuff, like “I can run faster than you;” “I can jump higher than you.” [Laughs]
SLUG: How did you start drumming? How old were you?
JC: I was about 15 when I started. A friend of mine had a drumset, and I just started messing around at his house one day. The next thing I know, I’m in Wasted Youth and I’m touring. I dropped out of school, which wasn’t a good thing.
SLUG: Who are some of your favorite drummers?
JC: My favorite drummer right now is John Theodore from Mars Volta. He’s an amazing player. I love [John] Bonham; he was just amazing. I was really into Rat Scabies from The Damned. I loved Hunt Sales … he played with Iggy Pop … he’s amazing. Spit Sticks from Fear was a big influence. He was a friend of mine. He was probably one of the first drummers that I was in complete awe of.
SLUG: So why did Nick Oliveri [QOTSA’s ex-bassist] leave Queens of the Stone Age?
JC: Josh and Nick had a really, really long history together. Nick is still a friend of ours. It was coming to a point where we knew the direction that this QOTSA record was going to take and Nick wasn’t really sure about how he was going to go about the Mondo [Generator] thing and he was having a little bit of head problems. It wasn’t so much of anything other than a worn-down relationship between the two. That [QOTSA Songs of the Deaf] tour was almost two-and-a-half years and it was straight. We didn’t really have much time off at all, and it beat us down.
SLUG: How did you regroup after the tour?
JC: When we got home, we knew that Nick wasn’t going to be around anymore, and it was time to move. Josh was like, “I don’t think we should end this because he’s not going to be here.” Josh started the band anyways. The first record he did by himself. It was a time to regroup, for everybody to get their heads on. Immediately, before we knew it, I think we were home less than a month and [Josh] was already like, “Let’s go write.” We just threw our gear in a van, went out in the desert and stayed there for about two weeks and played everyday [resulting in the Desert Sessions].
SLUG: How often does Queens rehearse when you aren’t on tour?
JC: Queens rehearsal usually begins a week before a run. Between breaks, it’s usually a few days.
SLUG: What was it like drumming for Danzig?
JC: It was quite an experience. It was fun. To be honest with you, I was never a huge Danzig fan. I was more of a Misfits/Samhain fan. That’s what I grew up on. He’s a great guy. He’s really a normal guy. He’s a bit of a control freak, though. He’s got a real fear of anybody doing their job. Overall, it was fun, and I had a great time doing it. It was a lot of ups-and-downs–changes with players and people. It was a good gig.
SLUG: So there’s a huge music scene in Salt Lake …
JC: When I was in Wasted Youth, we played Salt Lake in 1984. I wasn’t even 21 yet; I remembered I had to wait outside until we were ready to play. It was right near a freeway underpass.
SLUG: Probably The Word or The Speedway.
Joey: Yeah, The Speedway sounds familiar. I remember that.
SLUG: Have any good book recommendations?
Joey: I was reading the John Lydon [Johnny Rotten] book, his autobiography. It’s his actual writing–his take on everything, so it’s pretty funny. I think it’s called Rotten.
Pounds of Love for the Legendary Porch Pounders: Bad Brad Wheeler Talks Pig’s Balls, Blues, Brewskies
The last night of SXSW, on Saturday, Angela and I interviewed the master storyteller Bad Brad Wheeler, booker extraordinaire for Brewskies in Ogden and member of the Legendary Porch Pounders with Dan Weldon (lead singer/guitarist), at a Bill Kirchen show across the bridge from downtown Austin. Bill Kirchen is a well-known blues musician who played with the Legendary Porch Pounders during their show at Hard Rock Café in Austin.
While Brad’s family was living in Utah, Brad would go back to his Uncle Larrry’s farm in Iowa every summer for character development or a break from Utah, Brad isn’t really sure.
“There are lessons you learn on the farm that you don’t learn anywhere else,” says Brad. “You learn what a really fucking honest days’ work is. There’s a whole bunch of shit it takes to be a farmer. Some people look at a farmer as being the lowest job there is, but it’s one of the hardest jobs there is, and it affects everybody.
“One time when I was 13, we had these two farmhands, Big Eddie and Little Eddie. Big Eddie was Little Eddie’s dad. That’s how they got “Big Eddie” and “Little Eddie.” Big Eddie used to work on my grandpa’s farm, and I never knew him; he died out in the field. Anyway, Little Eddie only had four teeth in his whole mouth and he had a pot gut and had his hat always on crooked. One day we were checking on the hogs, and there were these electric wires separating the fields that you had to climb over. Eddie said, ‘Go over there and check those hogs.’
“So I go over to the wire around the hog’s pen and it turns out that the night before, it had rained. The electric wire touches the inside of my leg and balls and shit. Have you ever been on an electric wire? It makes you feel like you’re having a heart attack. Electricity gets shot through your body and it makes every muscle in your body seize. And Eddie’s just laughing his ass off watching me. Eddie came over and he fucking pushed me off the fence, and he’s laughing.
“That day that Eddie had me straddled on the electric fence was my night to make dinner. So I went and I hid every single piece of silverware we had in the house. And then all I cooked was corn on the cob. Eddie showed up and he was so pissed because he only had four teeth in his whole mouth.
“When little pigs are growing up, you’ve gotta go in and clip their teeth out of their mouth. We literally had 2,000 pigs. My uncle was sitting on the other side of the divider in the barn and I was supposed to hand him these pigs headfirst. But after a couple hundred pigs, you’re gonna fuck it. You’re gonna pick it up and hand it up backwards. So I handed up one backwards and it started squealing. So I squeezed it and this big explosion of shit went all over my uncle’s overalls, and he said, ‘You did that on purpose!’ So he grabbed a pig and squeezed it and got shit all over me and he starts laughing. ‘That’s not cool!’ I said, and I grabbed a pig …
“Another traumatic day is when you have to cut their balls off. Thousands of little pig balls all over the place with flies everywhere. Fuck, it’s horrible. They’re all screaming … Doc cuts a smiley face, pulls the balls out, grabs a brush with some Vaseline on it, wipes it on. Pigs are your investment, but you come to hate them after awhile, because pigs are fucking mean. If you don’t watch your back, a pig will come rip your fucking leg off.”
Bad Brad ran the Dead Goat from 1996 to 1997 and helped to “bring it out of the red into the black” by “selling blues.” Now Brad is the main booker for Brewskies.
“John Paul Brophy, the old owner of the Dead Goat who used to book their Monday blues night, taught me that musicians are people, and that musicians need gigs, and it’s almost our responsibility to give gigs to good musicians, because with the blues, a lot of these musicians, you don’t know when their last dying day will be.
“I think there should be a panel called ‘Old Black Men’ at SXSW. Black men have dealt with every issue in music: racial issues, contractual issue, housing issues, transportation issues. At one time, black musicians couldn’t go out to restaurants to eat–they’d have to make food in their hotel rooms while they were on tour.
“I feel like every American should go to the South. I really had no idea what it was to be white in America until I went to Mississippi. In the black community in the South, I saw a group of people who had a history of all different types of oppression–social, economic, mental, physical. As brutal as the South is on one level, on another level, almost everything that has cultural significance in America came from the South. Country music: Tennessee; rock n’ roll: Memphis; jazz: Louisiana; blues: Arkansas and Mississippi.
To read the full interview with Bad Brad of the Legendary Porch Pounders, go to www.slugmag.com and click on the “Exclusive Web Content” folder on the right-hand side of the home page.
To read the in-depth, blow-by-blow account of SLUG’s adventures at SXSW 2005 this year, go to www.slugmag.com and click on Billy.
Shows/Interviews SLUG attended:
Tuesday, March 15
Listened to QOTSA from outside the fence
WORST: Listening to QOTSA from outside the fence
Throwrag bring being a dirty sailor and a pudgy little Irishman with a strapped-on … um, washboard to a whole new level. Gritty, sincere pirate punk wedded to dyn-o-mite energy kept the youngins entranced and the over-30somethings scared.
FREE BBQ: BMI party
Wednesday, March 16
Billy Idol interview
Huberg Sumlin w/Pinetop Perkins and Steve Costello
WEDNESDAY’S HIGHLIGHTS: Huberg Sumlin, Hella, Modey Lemon
I don’t how a 91-year-old plays the keys like Pinetop Perkins without having a heart attack. He was only supposed to play one song, but he stayed on for, like, four, he was having such a damn good time. What an awesome opportunity to see legendary blues players Huberg Sumlin and Steve Costello. Thanks to Brad for recommending this show to us. Meanwhile, Hella need to stop being so awesome with their bad noise/jazz fusion keyboard buzzy selves or they’re going to spontaneously combust. It was because of getting into Hella we got to sneak through the back and catch a few measures of Sleater-Kinney, so thanks, Hella. Modey Lemon destroyed with their well-defined chunk-riffs laid over powerful drumming and their lead singer, who is as cute as a button.
FREE BBQ: Red Bull House
Thursday, March 17
Legendary Porch Pounders
Titan Go Kings
Go Betty Go
Death from Above 1979
Queens of the Stone Age
THURSDAY’S HIGHLIGHTS: Legendary Porch Pounders, Death from Above 1979, QOTSA WORST: Titan Go Kings
Legendary Porch Pounders are gonna be legendary. Dan Weldon’s steel guitar, harmonica and Bill Kirchen’s passionate guitar-playing was sexy, sultry, soulful. Two-piece Death from Above 1979, featuring bass and drums, are like Jucifer in that they play so low live that you can’t tell if they’re playing songs from their album or just jamming. Heavy as hell, defiant of the crowd and beauty contests is what DFA1979 are all about. QOTSA played mostly new stuff and were amazing, even though the owner of Stubb’s airplane hangar they played in for the DKNY Jeans party was freezing-ass cold. The light show made me think it would be even cooler for those who were high. Judging from the pot smoke, most of the audience was. Titan Go Kings, on the other hand, need to take their we’re-so-cute-and-poppy-we’re-horrifyingly-marketable stance back to Japan.
FREE BBQ: Asian Night BBQ, Red Bull House
Friday, March 18
Queens of the Stone Age interview
The New York Dolls
BEST: Crisis and Guitar Wolf
Karyn Crisis is one of the most dynamic frontpersons in the metal world. When she lurches around the stage, stomping her feet, grabbing her crotch and pointing to her head as if telling people to “Think!” her ankle-length dreads thrash, whip and curl around her head like a rabid octopus. Her face may be as delicate as a winter fairy, but inside, her soul is a raging demon. Guitar Wolf was pure Ramones-rock energy. The highlight was when the lead singer crowd-surfed and was lifted up by the audience so he was playing his guitar high above everyone’s heads. They couldn’t have had a better opener than M.O.T.O., whose horrible, diluted, half-hearted punk-rock provided a great contrast to GW’s sweating ball of frenzy.
FREE BBQ: QOTSA house, Red Bull House
Saturday, March 19
Allan Oldie Band
Be Your Own Pet
Murdered by Death
These Arms are Snakes
Flatstock Poster Convention
Legendary Porch Pounders interview
Smoke or Fire
BEST: Coachwhips and Video Screams
WORST: Bonnie Pink
Coachwhips don’t need to play on a stage; they play on the patio, invite people to play tambourine with them. Their noisy, dirty art-rock was blessed by the lead singer’s tin-can vocal effects. I was disappointed when Scarling. cancelled, but loved their substitute, Austin locals the Video Screams. They reminded me of a Lord of the Flies Locust; out-of-control wild boys in 70s jogging outfits who I had difficulty imagining as being old enough to play a bar. They were obnoxious and bratty, the lead singer getting up in people’s faces and screaming at them, until people in the audience yelled, “You suck!” “Go home!” the ultimate sign of greatness. Speaking of great bands, Bonnie Pink isn’t. Her wretched, younger-version-of-Celine-Dion Japanese pop “drove me to drink,” says Angela.
FREE BBQ: Yard Dog, New Times Party, Red Bull House