We were recently discussing music of the 80’s and 90’s and comparing the grit and originality the punk scene spawned throughout those 2 golden musical decades that followed the late 70’s punk explosion and realised that we were bloody lucky to have had our ears sat right in the middle of it all.
It was a great time for punk rock, so many variations came from this scene, some were poppy, some were raging, some sludgy, others offered 60’s garage but one band in particular offered the equivalent of taking the most potent psychedelic drugs and that was the Butthole Surfers.
Back on 17th September 2004, lead singer Gibby Haynes was doing some promo for his solo record Gibby Haynes and His Problem and we managed to interview him over the phone. It was a wet and cloudy evening and Gibby had just woke up in NYC. We thought we had lost this interview as it was posted on our very first website back then but after a thorough search we managed to dig it out of the archives of an old hard drive today.
The Butthole Surfers are one of the most talked about bands in the underground punk rock and experimental scenes who have influenced some of the biggest artists in our generation. You can add Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain (interviews here) to a huge list of great musicians who dug their art. In fact there’s a great story of when Kurt meets Gibby in rehab amongst many others in this interview below. Enjoy this one as it’s one of our favourites.
Photos have unfortunately had to be found online via Google images so if you are reading this wanting to sue us, please contact us. Also, thanks to Morbid for requesting it and reminding us it should be on here.
Full name please sir:
Gibson Jerome Haynes!
Where were you born?
1957 Dallas Texas!
Any scouts badges?
I tried to join the scouts and went on one camp and it freaked me out man, dude, it was too grabby and too touchy!! (laughs!)
So what about jobs, had any crap jobs before your band kicked off?
Er…yeah. The first job I ever had was washing dishes in a restaurant, and the highlight of that job was that was er….washing Rock Hudson’s dishes!
Let me see, my last job I had was also washing dishes too and I got promoted to cake cutter! That was my last ever job for beer money. I remember quitting and telling this guy I was gonna go on tour and take 6 weeks off and the boss was like…”dude, I think your band will be great, but you can’t come back here”! (Laughs)
What you up to right now? (don’t forget that this was shot back in 2004)
I’m in New York City. I just came back from a bike ride on the Lower East Side in a
park that goes all the way round the island of Manhattan on this walkway…so I rode my bike down to Wall St and back round…in fact, I was with a British guy!
What have you been doing for the last few years?
Well during the last year, I have been playing in this band I’m in now, and the Butthole Surfers did some shows the year before that in Japan and Australia, basically exotic gigs that somehow we were inclined to do and we have not really managed to put any stuff out until now. The new band, Gibby Haynes and his Problem is going to be released this month and Peaches has just remixed one of the tracks from it, a track called “Redneck Sex”. I thought it was right up her alley. My people contacted her people and she just did it!
How many years has it been since you last released a record?
Er…proper record…er..4 years ago…uh 5 years ago…uh shit maybe 10 years ago!! (laughs!)
Did you make a conscious effort to have a more mellow record or did it just come out?
It just came out that way. We were planning on doing a 2 guy thing, as we really into the possibilities of using computers to make music. There was gonna be a guy with a laptop and a guitar and a guy with a laptop and a microphone with an impetus on audio visual that is choreographed with the music. But we got a drummer for some reason and the music took a different turn….so yeah, it’s a mellow record! (laughs)
How do you find working with computers?
Well, I’m having fun with a program called Reactor right now…apparently a lot of stuff from Squarepusher is made with the use of Reactor…you know those resonate sounding fucked up noises? Well that is Reactor…fucking amazing noises! Generally when you get a software synthesizer there is a like a keyboard on your screen, but this one is the same but there are 50 different instruments to use and on their website there are 1600 user-created instruments to use so you can build delay, build synthesizers and build things that do crap to sound that no one has ever done before!…it’s an amazing fucking program!
Sounds fun! Like the Buttholes sounded back then huh?
Yeah, if you ever remember seeing the Buttholes live, I used to sing through a bunch of delays? Well the night before last we were over at Ween’s house and I was using this machine and it was making an awful racket, and we needed a ground lifter plug, and people were like “we don’t have one”, and were like “hey it don’t work, cos it’s not a mac” and I was like “Fuuuck You!”, and then Mickey was like “that’s deep man, something’s fucked up with that machine!” and I’m like “Hey Man!” Then the next morning we fixed the noise and jammed for a few hours as all my shit was working! It’s sick! Have you ever fucked around with an echoplec?! It’s got that vibe that goes ten yards long from a 40 second sample to a one tenth of a second sample….but it’s fucking cool as shit when you hear it, real fun to fuck around with you know!
How did you find the rest of the band, where they from other bands you knew? How did you find The Problem?
Well the bass player in his problem was the last bass player in the Buttholes and we were always wanting to do another band, but I moved to San Antonio with my girl for 2 years, and about 6 months into living there, I found out that I was only gonna be living there for a year…so I rented a practice space in Austin Texas and we started doing this…but now I’m in New York and the rest of the band are in Austin, so we will have to see how it all pans out but we will tour this record in September here in the US and we are hopefully planning to come to Europe in November and December. I have always worked with Paul Leary as we go way back. Paul is playing keyboards on this new record and Paul mixed 4 or 5 songs and we did the recording s ourselves. Hold on there a second…..(clunk clunk as he leaves the phone)…Hey Julie Andrews is on my TV!?
Let’s talk Butthole Surfers in 1983. What music first influenced you when you first started – how did you end up sounding like you did?
One of the main themes was how horrible music was at the time and in the late 70’s music was fucking dead,dead,dead! And then the 80’s came along with all that headband, rock shit like Guns ‘n Roses and crap like Motley Crue, you know…just fucking pukey shit!
And then the Ramones, the Dead Kennedys and Circle Jerks started kicking it and they were real noisy man! You know, growing up to shit like classic rock sucked and all of a sudden this shit is going on with bands like The Cramps doing traditional music but fucking it up! It was real noisy and it seemed as though it took a lot more imagination that talent to do and that is what we had – we had imagination. Paul played guitar when he was real young and picked up the guitar again and we started making noise because it was idea based and not musical talent base and that was the bullshit of the 70’s.
It wasn’t about who made the best music, it boiled down to who was the best guitar player? Was it Clapton? Who was the best drummer? Was Ringo the best drummer? No!!! Ringo didn’t even play on Beatles songs and all that shit, so it was all about musical proficiency and blowing the audience away with how good you could play and just real self absorbed crap! Then idea music came along and we jumped on the bandwagon!
How did you get hooked up with Alternative Tentacles Records and Jello Biafra?
Oh…God, how did that happen? We just went to the West Coast to play, and back then, if you were that kind of band all the scenes stuck together. Like the Meat Puppets were part of a scene and they had their own scene in Phoenix and they would go to LA occasionally and we had the Texas scene and when we would leave town and driving through Phoenix – you could just go to their house and you could expect them to know who you were, give you a place to stay. It was part of the deal, man!
So we hooked up with the Meat Puppets on the way out there and it was such a fucking blast! The first show was with Descendents, us and the Grandeur Ballroom and the LA weekly came out and it said that we were playing with the Dead Kennedy’s and T.S.O.L at the Whisky-a-go-go, and we had no idea that we were playing that day! People were like hey dude, you are playing at the Whisky and we were like no way! So we played, Jello saw us and heard we did not have a label and hooked us up.
Could you imagine the Butthole Surfers reunion shows without Gibby Haynes?!
Er…no I don’t think so! Jello Biafra is a weirdo! If I saw him I would say hello, but he said some shit about us in a magazine a little while back that I thought was real lowdown. There was a guy writing an article in Spin Magazine and instead of doing his own article about us, he decided to call people up who had been associated with us and got quotes from them. So for example if you were doing an article about George Bush and you only ask high up democrats for quotes about George Bush, it would be completely different than if you asked a bunch of high up Republicans for quotes on George Bush. So Biafra said that we were rip off’s and in it for the money and basically accused us of being thieves…..and then to find out that he was stealing from his own band mates and being sued to get the money! I felt that was fairly ironic…but I’m sure that Jello is about as good a person as I am! (laughs!)
Visually the Buttholes was always a delight to see. Which band member was responsible for the visual element to the band?
Well, I was the person that did it and everyone was into the ideas, and sometimes they would not understand what I was doing and I would explain it to them, and were would be like “hey, whatever!”. One time there was this club that had big holes behind the stage and I saw an opportunity to use this hole and hung a mattress over it and told everyone what was going on, and this mattress starts to bleed and turn red and it gets ripped open and these bloody hands come out of it and I just come tumbling out! That was my big Gibby intro! Paul didn’t know what was going on so he just stood in front of the mattress the whole time so no one saw what happened!
You have been guilty of showing penis surgery movies in your live shows, where you aware you would start reality TV to large audiences?
Haha! Well, that was fucking great! I remember when I first found that film and it was soo classic! In American libraries they have these places called ALS which is like a like a search engine so you can look up anything, just like google, and I would look up various things. There was some great footage like toilet training films for people with kids of Down Syndrome and I really am a big fan of kids with Down Syndrome. If I had a kid like that I would think it was great! I think they are the sweetest little things! They are children forever!
Kozik designed that fantastic Buttholes poster for a show back in the 90’s, did you ever work with Winston Smith who did the Dead Kennedy’s stuff at all?
We had a friend of Winston’s do some artwork for us called Paul Mavarites. He did a cartoon image of an ear with a pencil through it for us. Winston was always a cool guy.
I remember some funny old skate story about the Buttholes borrowing the Big Boys tour van first time they went outta Texas, tell me the whole story!
Well, I went with them to California one time and they certainly were one of our favourite bands of that time and we had a good scene in Austin and they were kinda the rulers of that scene at the time. We went to LA and went skateboarding with Tony Alva. When I grew up back then, the skateboards had metal wheels and big heavy wooden planks and you could do 24/7 tail slides with those things and kick the rear out and with some effort you could kinda ride them sideways and grind the metal wheels and they make this rad noise and glide around! So anyway we went skateboarding with Tony Alva to schools and out to the highways and pools you know, a total Dogtown tour, and I got on a skateboard in front of Tony Alva’s house and rode like ten feet and hurt myself so bad and hid behind a dumpster and was just crying for ages man! My knee was shot to bits!
Let’s talk about the “Shit Lady”. She is on the cover of the surfers live album, what was the story with that?!
Kathleen? She was our dancer! Kathleen worked at a Times Square peepshow place, like one of these rooms that are lined by windows and there is a naked girl inside the room stripping or whatever and when you pay your money the door slides open so you can see through the window. It was a real surrealist thing.
So Kathleen was stripping for the men in the peepshow and she thought she was just gonna fart but instead, she shit when she was totally naked and she like squirted this diarrhea onto the ground and did not really know what do, apart from to go turn round to people and go…”Tah Dah”!!
(massive belly laughs from us both!)
So we actually was known from then onwards as “Ta-Da – the Shit Lady”! and the reason that we called her the shit-lady was because there was people who were standing in front of the peep shows and there was this big old black chick that stood in front of the screen and she would shout out “We got Black Chicks, we got White Chicks, we got Chinese Chicks, we got Mexican Chicks, hell, we even got The Shit Lady!”.
Haha!! I need to compose myself wait a second!!!! I’m glad we got to the bottom of that! What was the most insane recollection from all of your touring with the Buttholes then?
Ah, there are so many, but one of them was that we were playing in the Danceteria, one of the first of the big shows in New York here, and we went on about 4 o’clock in the morning and we were waaaaasted! The first band had played for about 3 fucking hours and we were ready to play at midnight man! So we had just kept drinking the hard stuff, oh man, we were wasted, and we went on stage and we immediately just took off all of our clothes and just started making noise! I tried to burn one of our amps and it wouldn’t stop working, it was just burning! And I tried to kick it with a bare foot and stubbed my toe! I was totally naked and I remember looking over at Paul was behind the drum kit without any clothes on with 2 drum sticks playing with his dick!
And then I started dancing with Kathleen our dancer and I grabbed her and was like humping her between her legs, and then my dick started to get hard and I was like “whoah this shouldn’t happen!”, so I put her down, and she was like “whoah!”, and I walked back to my gear to fuck around with the delays or something and I looked up and there was this guy with a 16mm camera filming this and he was freaking out, and when I was walking towards the camera, my dick was sooo big, I looked like a God! (haha!) That was a crazy night!
Hahah! Doing drugs to Butthole Surfers records was always a recommendation to others in my town, were you guys into drugs in a big way?
At that time, not really hard drugs. We smoked pot and drank beer and hard liquor and we took a lot of acid, it was a psychedelic thing. You know, we would have an all night drive to make and decided to take half an acid to stay up. I guess a lot of bands take coke these days but we would take acid to stay up!
What about mushrooms?
Yeah, those were the preferred psychedelic, as mushrooms are way more dependable than acid!
What about making Buttholes records whilst tripping?
Making music whilst you are tripping is really hard. When you get the basics of a song down, and are just doing over dubs, that is the best time to record when you are loaded as the song is basically already defined. I did a lot of songs like that. Like the vocals for Cherub and the vocals for Concubine.
I remember I did the vocals in one take for that and I was drunk and tripping. It was cool as shit as I was in a dark room with the headphones taped to my head because they would feedback due to the mic being pushed into a distortion pedal in a little dark cocoon entry way that was about 3ft by 4ft! And on the other side of the wall outside the studio, there was a bunch of hookers, cos it was a bad neighbourhood, and they could hear everything I was screaming! I was tripping with these headphones on in another world in what was like being in a secluded drug womb!
Were you one of the last people to see Kurt Cobain in rehab?
Yes I was. Yeah, it was not exactly cool, but rehab is like an extended party. It was the like the morning after the big long party and everyone there was cool and everything, hot chicks and stuff, and the first couple of days you get given a lot of valium and stuff – benzos and shit, so you are all mellow and everything is groovy. I had a girlfriend who would drop by and give me blow jobs and stuff and I would tell everyone in the group and they be all pissed off at me!
But Kurt came into that place after I had been there for about a week and I remember he was in detox. He came out of his room for the first time and came down to the outdoor area and sat down at the table we were sitting at. We were talking, and it was a Saturday, and everybody except for him and another couple of people were gonna go to an outside AA type meeting, so we would get into these little vans and get transported there.
He didn’t want to go to this meeting as he was all blurred up and I was talking to him about a friend of mine who was in the same position we both were, who had climbed over the wall. I went off to this AA meeting and when we came back he had decided to leave rehab, climbed over the wall and broke out! You know, he didn’t have to break out; he could have just walked down the hallway and walked out the doors! We were laughing!
When the “Independent Worm Saloon LP” was released in 1993 after Nirvana broke, it was produced by John Paul Jones, how did that work for you guys?
Oh, yeah, he was like a horrible drunk when we were doing that record, but we were loaded too. We spent so much money on that record! We basically spent a fortune to hang out with some guy from Led Zeppelin!
Nirvana were also doing big stuff back then at the same time and I know Kurt was a big fan of the Buttholes. Did you guys ever play a show together?
Yeah, there was a bill with us, Soundgarden and Nirvana, and then like 6 months later it would have been Nirvana, Soundgarden and Butthole Surfers! (laughs) It was in a big grain station in Seattle and there were so many fucking people packed in there! The promoter was selling tickets out front in the parking lot even after the cops had told him to stop selling as it was rammed and made so much money he felt guilty and gave us an extra $1000 that night and we were like ..”well how much money did you take?!” The stage actually buckled in there that night. There were so many people pushing against it that it was waving like a foot up in the air and amps were falling all over the place. It was a trip man, it was out-there!
How did it feel to have some big attention at that time, we saw you at Reading on the main stage hurling abuse at the sound guy!
It was fun, you know. Was that Reading show the one with all the mud men?!
Yeah, the very same..
That was the worst thing. People throwing dirt clots from the crowd throughout the entire show! It pisses you off after a while man. It really sucks. If you ever get hit on a stage like that, you gotta just leave! Reading is known for rain huh? Always rains at that festival!
Will there be another Butthole Surfers record?
Yeah! We are gonna get back together and I do believe we will make a real noisy record! Like metal machine music but our version man!
That’s great news! OK last question – If it’s better to regret something you have done – is there anything you actually regret throughout your career?
Yeah, well, something you have done could be something you haven’t done, as in if I have neglected to do something, so yeah, there is a lot of stuff that I wish we hadn’t have done but it’s done and that’s life! I wish we were still playing live all the time, cos we could have a real kinda jam band/vibe going on. It would have been cool if we had of cultivated a low rent hardcore Grateful Dead thing!
I think you already did mate! Thanks for coming out to talk to us and good luck with the new record…
Alternative Tentacles have this week released Brown Reason To Live + Live PCPPEP available on black vinyl as well as on a one-time Gold vinyl pressing, visit www.alternativetentacles.com for more info and snap these up before they are all gone.
Watch these classic clips of the Buttholes if you want more of this malarkey:
You can also hear some vintage Butthole Surfers tracks like the “I saw an X-Ray of a girl passing Gas – Live” – “The Shah Sleeps in Lee Harvey’s Grave”, and “Creep in the Cellar – Live”. All of these are available to download for free from here.