[Originally appeared in STUMPY fanzine #5, February 1995]
SUNDAY AUGUST 14, 1994: a ball-wrinkling winter night on the Sunshine Coast
watching the touring American 'ROADKILL' carnival of Supersuckers and Killdozer. About 30 face the stage, half punk rock zealots, half paraplegic bevan surfers who knew all the words to "Sweet Rome Alabama". What a crowd.
Armed with tape recorder and bogus fanzine credibility, this sham reporter cons his way back-stage to the, post-gig beer frenzy. Eddie Spaghetti, ten gallon hat-totin' head cheese for Supersuckers, has just been larnin' the term "seppo" and is out for blood. In the far corner, Killdozer's bassist/singer Michael Gerald is in mid-dress sporting a polka dot pair of boxers and sucking on a HUGE Costa Rican stogie he'd slid past Customs. Greek guitarist Paul Zagoras and drummer Dan Hobson sip their tour-regulation Victoria Bitters and survey the proceedings. Between Arizonian bozo hero antics and the dwindling beer supply, the following interview was pieced together.
These, my friends, are the Godheads of Gumby Punk Noise. Yee-fuckin'-har!!!...
Michael: We ate in a restaurant that serves Buffalo Burgers served from the herd that appeared in the Oscar-winning film 'Dances With Wolves'. They had to do something with those things. Now they've come up with a...uh... Kevin Costner Burger! I wouldn't eat it ... but I'd cook it!
Andrew (To Paul): You're the new Killdozer guitarist.
Paul: YES...I don't know...I've been it for two and a half years. Not in Australia.
Andrew: What were you doing before?
Paul: I was workin', and I was playin' in local bands. We were too lazy to get shows outta town. So, y'know, working with computers, I couldn't smoke on the job and I couldn't drink on the job, and it's very different with Killdozer, I do both.
Andrew: And you get to travel the world. ("Yar!') How far's this tour gone?
Paul: This is the last thing we're doin'. We were in Europe - we did like ten countries in Europe, and that was six and a half weeks - we did the US in six and a half weeks, went into Canada, and now here we are for the first time.
Andrew: How ya doin', Dan?
Dan: (deep-voiced) Pretty good.
Andrew: Did you hear one of the B-Side (Sydney fanzine) staff had named their dog after the band?
Dan: We MET the person that named the dog.
Andrew: You didn't meet the dog?
Dan: The dog has been destroyed. Unfortunately. It was a real bummer, man. We met Caroline Birkett and we also met her boyfriend (Peter Hill from King Snake Roost), he was a very wonderful fellow. He took us to this place called the Taxi Bar which is a strange transvestite bar, there were men in dresses dancing on stage. Wasn't my scene but it was interesting. I don't usually go to gay bars, I'm a married man.
Andrew: What town are you from?
Dan: We're from actually Madison, Wisconsin, which is about an hour and a half from Chicago. It's the middle of America.
Andrew: It's not part of the Bible Belt?
Dan: Oh, definitely the Bible Belt. Actually where we live it’s like a college town, it's like a whole genre of towns here.
Andrew: You assume if you live in towns like that you grow up surrounded by...
Eddie: Wisconsin rates among the highest in states with crazies per capita.
Dan: We had Dahmer, Gein - what more can you say?
Eddie: “Welcome to Wisconsin!"
Dan: Maybe I can field a few Supersuckers questions...
Andrew: How do you get that cheesy bass sound?
Dan: Well, you get a really shitty amp that sucks, and you play it because you got no choice.
Eddie: And because you don't care.
Dan: AND also no-one gives a shit about the bass player.
Michael: What helps the most is you gotta be an idiot in a stupid hat!
Eddie: Nobody listens to the bass. What is the bass? The Bastard Child of Rock’n'Roll. No-one wants to admit being a bass player.
Michael: They say "I play the bass GUITAR!”
Dan: And on a status level drummers are on an even lower level than bass players.
Andrew: Do you know any good drummer jokes?
Dan: I've heard a few of them. I don't participate in them.
Eddie: Why do drummers leave their drumsticks on the dashboard? So they can park in handicapped spots! (laughter)
Michael: Here's one for ya - if a bass player and a drummer both fell off the Empire State Building, who would hit the ground first? WHO CARES?! Ask me another question.
Andrew: I always wanted to know where the inspiration for “The Puppy” (from LITTLE BABY BUNTIN’) came from. Is that based on fact?
Michael: Oh, it's true, There's this 'gang' in quotes, a group, a CLUB of bikers in Madison, they're called 'Satan's Dragons'. Not one of them actually owned a motorcycle, they'd get around on the bus - they were saving up to buy a Harley Davidson between them. The leader of the gang's name was Tex, I don't know his last name. But they came into the news in Madison and all over Wisconsin when they committed a murder. There was this guy, he was an 'initiate' to join the gang, they were making him go through all these hazing things like lying down in a bathtub while they all stood around and pissed on him. And then they made him get naked and roll a potato across the floor with his nose. Sounds like a birthday party game to me, but except for the naked part (laughs). This guy was killed. He was found out in a field, they found his dead naked body with his dick cut off and shoved in his mouth, and then mutilated in other ways. And they found under his body, under his head was a Harley Davidson finger ring. The case was pretty much solved when one of the members of Satan's Dragons reported to the police that his HD finger ring was stolen! (laughter) They're kinda like what I call 'dim bulbs'. Anyways, and they did this because the guy had made some rude comments about Tex's old lady. The ‘old lady' of Tex. The 'Bitch'. That's pretty much it in a nutshell. There's some other funny things about them too...you know how normally the neighbours in a murder case, they always are interviewed on TV and they'll be saying “Oh, he seemed like such a nice man", because obviously the neighbours don't want to admit to the fact that they thought they were living next door to a would-be murderer, but didn't SAY anything about it! But in the case of these people, the neighbours came out and said “I always knew these people were trouble! You know the handsome little kids over there - they'd send those little kids out with their little red rider wagons down to the LIQUOR STORE and have them come back with a wagon on full of Budweiser!" Anyways.
Michael: If America wasn't a cesspool we couldn't write songs. At least not the songs we write.
Andrew: Someone said Killdozer songs go down well with Australians 'cause you share the same twisted sense of humour.
Michael: I have noticed that in every town we played there's a group, not a large group... ("Fanatical?”) Yeah, there's a big group of fans that know all our songs. Tonight we figured after the Supersuckers, "Oh man, we're gonna have to just go on and do nothin' but covers like THEY did!”
Andrew: I noticed the set was pretty top-heavy with covers...
Michael: We watched the Supersuckers and saw that it worked, so we copied that idea...
Dan: Covers go over with this crowd.
Michael: ... then we went out prepared to do all covers and we did, but at the end for the encore that the FIVE HUNDRED PEOPLE wanted us to do, we were gonna do more covers, but then we realized "That's not what they want". Everyone else may have wanted covers, but they weren't speaking up. We just play to those who speak up.
Dan: Sometimes it's more fun to play covers though.
Michael: Covers are usually better written than what we write!
Andrew: Did you ever get those 13 to 17 year-old girls you tried to target with FOR LADIES ONLY?
Michael: Nope. We figured out what the problem is - we play nightclubs with no-one under 18 allowed. It's not our songs so much, I'm sure they'd come if we played at the roller rink.
Andrew: Which of you were set up as the sex-god, Bill or Dan?
Dan: Me. ("Any fan mail?") Yeah, fan mail, but I'm a married man so I don't partake in the pleasures of that kind of thing. Paul can.
Michael: Paul’s our new sex god.
Andrew: A rock’n’roll prostitute?
Michael: He's not a prostitute - he's looking for a wife! He does it for free! (laughter) Paul’s Greek, so young boys are not excluded from this.
Andrew: According to the Killdozer story you're all college bums.
Michael: Paul has a degree in business administration. I have a degree in mathematics education - just last week I was helping Paul with his multiplication tables. And Dan has a degree in being a Social Studies teacher. The other day he was explaining to us what was the first state of the US.
Andrew: Do you ever get the urge to give up the rock’n’roll circus?
Dan: We already gave it up. But we're back.
Michael: If you followed our history you mighta noticed we were gone for four years.
Dan: We just kinda put it on the way-back burner.
Andrew: Ever get the urge to take up Maths teaching?
Michael: Oh no! Kids are horrible people.
Dan: Especially in America.
Andrew: You gotta be armed yourself?
Michael: Yeah, it's not like it used to be. Can't go in just armed with a quick wit. They'd probably strap someone like me to the ceiling, y'know, up around the lights and set me on fire. Senior citizens are horrible to each other. That's what I hate about the Gold Coast and Sunshine Coast, all the fuckin' old people.
Andrew: This would be like Florida.
Michael: Yeah, it's what we've been sayin' the whole day we were here. Crawling with the elderly. The only thing missing is a bunch of anti-Castro Cubans.
(Paul says something...)
Dan: Go ahead, Paul.
Paul: Paul? No, I'm the NEW Paul. I'm a drunk and a cheap-skate!
Andrew: Is VB the beer of choice on the tour?
Michael: We don't get anything else. See, Paul’s drinking something real
Andrew: That's Queensland beer, XXXX.
Michael: A 'Four-ex'. That's what I had at dinner today. Ex-ex-ex-ex. Tastes like piss. That Coopersville (actually Coopers), shit, that was pretty good. It's got sludge on the bottom!
Andrew: Tastes like home brew - three inches of sludge that makes you shit through the eye of a needle.
Michael: THAT explains it! (laughter)
Andrew: What's your beer of choice in the US?
Michael: My favourite would be Leinenkugal’s (spells it), it's got a picture of a Chippawah Indian on it. That's made in Chippawah Falls, Wisconsin. That's pronounced 'Chip-wuh'. Buy 'em by the case of 24. ("A slab.') Or a 'suitcase' if it's cans.
Andrew: You heard of the legendary drinking exploits of the Australians?
Michael: We toured Europe - our road manager was an Irishman from Killkenny, so you got no chance against them. I don't think anyone in the world can touch the drinking skills of an Irishman. They seem to have no actual skill in holding it! (laughter) This guy saw Sheena Easton on the TV set in our motel room one night when he was totally loaded, and he walked up and starting humping the television. And the last thing I remember him saying was waving a bottle over his head and sorta singing “I'm a fuckin' Irishman, Yanksl"
Andrew: What's your background as a child?
Michael: Well, Dan and I grew up in the Raspberry Capital of the world. Other than that...I was a white boy in a town of nothing but white people. Indians too, but now they're called 'Native Americans'. Before that they were called 'Redskins', before that I think they were just called 'savages'. They didn't seem to make as much money as the white people did. But they went to our school. There were Indians that live on the reservations, but Indians that live in town are just like the 'other people'. The ones that try to retain their Indian identities are treated like shit. They always wear feathers and put on shows for tourists.
Andrew: Growing up, did you develop a love/hate relationship with those wonderful songs you cover?
Michael: Growing up I simply loved them 'til I got to be about 16 years old and heard an Elvis Costello record, and then someone lent me a Ramones record. Then I just started hating all that shit. And then I got over the hate and it became a love/hate thing. But now it depends on the song. If it's Bad Company I love it. If it's Don McLean I hate it but I have to listen to it. But there's other bands like Boston, I just hate it. I hated it then and I hate them now. Always hated Boston. YES was a band I loved in Junior High ‘til about Tenth Grade, then I hated them and continue to hate them. YES is a band that to this day I bring up and put on display the fact that I used to really be into them, just because I gotta be honest, I wasn't always really smart.
Andrew: Now you've started to do a few 80s covers like “Nasty” and “Unbelievable” - that'd be pure hate?
Michael: Yeah, well...Janet Jackson I kinda like, y'know, once she lost some weight, but... (laughter) “Unbelievable” is good for Tom Jones. I'll say nothin' about EMF's version 'cause they gave us permission to do it. Next time around we're back on the Seventies. We're gonna do “Disco Inferno” by the Tramps. I got it on one of those 4-record sets of Disco hits of the 70s.
Andrew: It summarizes the whole...
Michael: ... Killdozer mentality! And the Seventies.
Andrew: Had you heard the term “seppo” before?
Michael: No! When we find out who made it up, we're gonna kick their ass into the middle of next week!
Andrew: Butch Vig (producer of all but one Killdozer records) would be pretty unattainable these days?
Michael: I haven't talked to him in three years. He came to our show in London, he actually called our record company in London and asked to be on our guest list. Fucker's a millionaire and he wants to be on our guest list! He's a millionaire and we make thirty bucks a day - fuck him. I used to think he was a friend of ours. But money makes people, I guess, NOT FRIENDLY anymore.
Andrew: It seems he hit it big about three years ago...
Michael: Yeah, he's in a different league and that includes his personality. He charges $950 US a day. That's to use his studio. I dunno what it costs to actually WORK with him. We recorded our EP BURL ...
Andrew: That was your first with Butch Vig?
Michael: Naw, they were all with Butch. The new one's the only one we did without Butch.
Andrew: It seems like as soon as you hit BURL you got that huge wall of sound.
Michael: You see, the studio he owned when we did the SNAKEBOY and the INTELLECTUALS... record, they're an eight-track studio in some warehouse space with no air-conditioning, so the windows were all open, you got street noise and shit, egg cartons on the walls. Then for BURL and thereon after we moved up to 24-track, that was the difference. Though we did pretty good with eight-track. But, for an example BURL, we recorded it, took four days in Detroit. Butch flew to Detroit, we paid for his airfare and we paid him $100 for four days. And then we went back to Wisconsin from Detroit, he rode in our van. We just went back to the airport with his return flight ticket and tried to sell it - nobody wanted it. So we got him for $100 plus we covered the cost of getting to Detroit. Plus on the fifth day we played a live show and he just hung out for that. So... he used to be one of the guys who liked what he was doin’. I'm sure he still loves what he's doin', just now he's a millionaire. I'm sure when we hit it big like that we'll be pricks too! There's only one thing I hope though - they always say you'll meet the people you left behind when you fall back down again. But I just hope when he meets us we're on the way up. I don't want him to meet us back on the bottom. Put it this way - he used to be a geek. Now he's a geek with money. I don't want to totally badmouth him, he is incredibly talented and we would have
still worked with him if he didn't raise his rates so high...
Andrew: The record TWELVE POINT BUCK - the sound is not top-heavy but it's intense.
Michael: It's BIG, a big sound. When we went in, he really wanted to make...he was into it like we were, he said he wanted to make it our “White Album” - I hate the Beatles, I don't really know what that means. That’s why we had all the ‘shit' between all the songs. My whole attitude was, let's have this song go from beginning to end with no empty grooves in the way - if we can't put the songs flowing one into the other, which you can't do unless you play them live, let's put 'shit' between all the songs. And he came up with a lot of 'shit'...I don't remember what the 'shit' is anymore, I don't listen to our own records. I remember Dan's dog's in there. We just don't hold out any fantasies of working with him anymore. And besides that, if we did, he and we would be under the pressure of coming up with something to match TWELVE POINT BUCK. And well, we did that, I thought that was a 'masterpiece' on his part. And there's some pretty damned good songs on our part.
Andrew: What do you think of the new record (WAR ON ART...)?
Michael: I wasn't satisfied with it. The guy that did the mixing, the producing, I thought he could work with what he had to work with. But someone else recorded us, and they worked in Butch's Smart Studios in Madison - they were a total idiot. They recorded vocals so high they distorted, they recorded drums so low they're just this tap-tap, and he gave us instructions like telling Dan, “Oh don't worry about actually PLAYING the drums, just keep a tempo - we'll put drum samples in the mix." And Dan just took his advice, tut tut... So I thought Brian who mixed it took THAT and did a good job of actually trying to build a sound of drums out of it, and did what he could with all these heavily distorted vocals. The guy recording it was doing this shit like - Paul was playing these particular chords - being a bassist I don't know how to play chords at all, complicated finger things - and he had Paul play the chords ONE NOTE AT A TIME. Each note on a different track So he had to take five tracks off the 24-track, then put 'em together to make a chord!
Andrew: Is there one particular story you like that you've never turned into a song?
Michael: Some fucked-up people I haven't written a song about? (Thinks for a while) In Madison there was this woman that lived in an apartment complex, whose neighbours began to complain to the landlord about the horrible smell comin' out of her apartment. The landlord said "I can't tell her how to live.” This went on for weeks and weeks and months, and the landlord finally just decided, well, he's gonna have to have the police come and do something about this - all the neighbours are complaining about this horrible smell, and even he was noticing this horrible stink, even when the door's shut. So the police came and entered her apartment, and what they found there was, 20 or 25 years she's lived there, she'd never thrown away ANYTHING. She'd never thrown away her garbage. There were piles and piles of newspapers stacked to the ceiling, and she had paths like little narrow hallways through every room where you get through the garbage. Pizza containers with pieces that she didn't finish eating still in there, and piles of chicken bones...it was the food of course that was the source of the stink. When they cleaned this apartment out - she was of course evicted and taken to a mental hospital - the people who were doin' the cleaning were wearing the same sort of suits, like totally sealed suits, masks and everything, like they used at Chernobyl to repair the failed reactor. And if they tore the suit they'd go outside and quickly change into a new suit. Anyway, the way they got all the garbage out of her apartment was to break all the windows and put it out into big dumpsters that were probably taken away to a hazardous waste site. I thought that was an amazing story, I just never got a grasp... What made it even funnier was once on tour Dan and I stayed at the house of somebody who apparently never threw away any of the garbage. The kitchen had stacks of pizza boxes up to the ceiling, and every square inch was covered with newspaper. Never trimmed his toenails neither...