Interview with Paul Zamost, bassist for the Effigies (he played in Laughing Man at the time of this interview). Interview takes place at Laughing Man’s practice space in the Rogers Park neighborhood of Chicago on January 19, 1993
(M)att: What was the difference between now, being in Laughing Man, and being in the Effigies?
(P)aul: There’s a big difference because you go back to 1980 and call yourself a punk rock band and you’re up against a stone wall. There’s no place to play.
M: Is that when you started?
P: It was about ’79 when we formed, but ’80 when we played out. Actually, we were looking for a guitar player for a long time and then we finally found Earl and it all clicked together. So it was about 1980 when we played out. No place to play. Not much of a scene back then at all. And if you were a punk rock band you were still pretty much a freak. People didn’t like you.
M: Did you advertise yourself as a punk rock band or did other people place that label on you?
P: We came right out of the punk rock scene at the time, which there was one at the time in Chicago. And the fact that we were pretty competent musically and were able to write songs, people did take to us pretty much, more than the normal band that you can’t take seriously. People did take us seriously. And at that time one thing we did have going for us is we were probably the only punk band in Chicago. So actually we did make a name for ourselves. Any band that came through town we got to play with. We got national attention fast. Whereas now there are so many bands. The field is different nowadays.
It was still new to a lot of people. I got beat up for being a punk rocker a couple times. Nowadays it’s so widely accepted that you can walk around looking like anything and nobody’s gonna hassle you. But back then I got hassled a lot.
M: So what was it to be a punk?
P: It was rebellious. It meant something back then.
M: Was it more than just music?
P: Yea. It was a lifestyle. It was an attitude. It was, “We’re a bunch of misfits and don’t belong here. Go away.”
To me punk rock has always been pure rock and roll. You think back to the late ‘70s with Fleetwood Mac and all these super groups that were dominating music. It was all this formula rock out there and all of a sudden this punk rock thing hit that was real high energy rock and roll from the heart. Forget the bullshit, forget the posing. “We’re just a bunch of guys and the music is what’s important. We’re gonna go out there a go crazy.” I think that’s almost the same type of energy and feeling that there was in the ‘50s when rock and roll broke with Buddy Holly and stuff. It was taboo even though it is corny stuff now, but back then it was hip as hell and it was hard and it was rockin’ and it brought out that same emotion in people. Rock and roll got so blasé in the ‘70s and clichéd and, you know, you gotta have a big light show and a big stage show and that didn’t mean shit to punk rock bands. The music and the energy was what it was all about.
M: Don’t you think some of those big bands were honest rock bands?
P: I think they got to believe their own hype. Just think about it. Say you’re twenty years old and the next thing you know you’re the fuckin’ biggest thing in the country, in the world. You’re traveling the world. And most of these guys are really stupid. Something I learned later in life is that most musicians are stupid fuckin’ idiots and they just happen to have a hit song out and people put them on a pedestal. And they believe that they’re bigger than. . .The only difference between them and the guy workin’ the door at Exit is maybe a song. Your ego gets fed so much when you’re that big. You believe you’re bigger than life.
M: Do you think when a band like that goes to write music they. . .
P: They get complacent. When you’re struggling you’re gonna write from the heart cuz you’re struggling, man. You’re feeling pain. You’re feeling, “I want something so bad and it’s not here and it’s not happening.” But once you’re there and you’re happy, you’re complacent. That’s why most bands, you take their first three albums and they’re always their best stuff. The fifth and sixth albums are never as good as their first three. It’s like, “These guys used to be real good.”
M: Can you think of any bands where that’s not true? What about REM?
P: REM has maintained. . .I mean really good bands. REM has maintained. You could say they’ve sold out, but they’ve done it on their own terms. I can’t say that REM’s music is really what I’d call sell-out music, you know, just goin’ for the big buck. Nirvana’s gonna be the prime example of what. . .They’ve had one album, let’s see where they go from here. I mean, take a band like Pink Floyd. I grew up on Pink Floyd and they weren’t really a sellout band. They seemed to separate themselves from. . .
M: Even now? I’ve heard people say that after Syd Barrett left. . .
P: I don’t think so. David Gilmour is such a phenomenal guitar player to me. There was that period of time when if you didn’t listen to Pink Floyd you weren’t hip, you weren’t cool. And I was like, “Hey, I still like their songs.”
M: So Pink Floyd, to you, is an example of a . . .
P: A band that stayed within themselves. They called their own shots. Listen to the song “Have a Cigar.” It’s all about being in a rock and roll band, how record companies treat you, and that’s a great song for what it’s all about. They’re cynical. They didn’t lose they’re cynical edge.
M: And that’s an important part of rock?
P: To me it is.
M: Are there cynical sounds as well as cynical lyrics?
P: No. You can be some folky that can be cynical as hell.
M: does rock have to have a certain sound?
P: No. To me rock is what runs through your veins. If you’re a country rocker and you’re not compromising your integrity. You play what you feel. You don’t compromise. You don’t say, “I’m gonna write a reggae song because reggae is big this week.” You play what runs through your head. I don’t sit and write songs, they just come to me. That’s the way it should be for most people. I think that some people ware just out there, just like, “this is the way it should be and this is the way bands are doing it now, let’s play it this way.” That doesn’t work.
M: What bands would you say, can you notice, do it that way? That aren’t authentic that are big right now?
P: Look at Bon Jovi right now. They’re a prime example. He had this power pop teeny bopper thing, now he’s like, “I want to shun that and I want to be this hip U2 guy,” and it’s not working. People aren’t buyin’ it.
M: So it’s obvious to you that Bon Jovi isn’t writing music coming from the heart.
P: Bon Jovi is a classic example of a stupid guy who wrote a couple songs that got him big.
M: Do you think those couple sons he wrote might have been from the heart?
P: From his heart, yea. To me it’s what the person is. If you’re just some stupid fuck who wrote a good song, that’s all it is. You’re just a stupid asshole who wrote a song that other stupid assholes listen to. I look at who the person is and what they’re actually writing. I mean, Slippery When Wet, what is that? To me it’s like a lot of these guys are forever fifteen. They might be forty years old but their mentality is still sixteen. You look at Motley Crue. Those guys are like sixteen year olds if you look at what they’re playin’ and what they’re singin’ about. I’m sure it’s comin’ from the heart, but to me that’s all they can do.
M: So what is a successful rock band? Is it possible to be successful and never make a dime?
P: There’s been some bands to me that have not found huge fame but to me have been successful. Take a band like the Stranglers. Well, they were really big in Europe, so it’s hard to say. They were never big here.
M: They were a late ‘70s, early ‘80s punk kind of band?
P: Mid ‘80s. They’re still putting out stuff. Their stuff lately has been kind of watered down.
M: What were your goals in joining the Effigies?
P: We never wanted mega-stardom. We just wanted enough to live off our music. To make a living not having to go work a job we hate and be a musician and that’s the way you live your life. You pay your bills and make ends meet by playing music.
M: And you guys did that for awhile?
P: No. We tried to but we never successfully did it.
M: Were you ever able to not have another job when you were in the Effigies?
M: You always had a job?
P: Yea. We didn’t make that much money.
M: How much did your biggest album sell?
P: Probably about as much as it cost, which was about $8,000.
M: So you never sold very many records.
P: We sold about 3,000 records.
P: No. For Ever Grounded I think sold 3,000 copies.
M: So your name seems like it was bigger than the albums you sold.
P: Well, if you sold 1,000 records in Chicago, and you grew up in Evanston, right?
M: No. I grew up in California. I saw you guys in San Diego.
P: Oh, that’s right. We did go up and down the west coast. We did good in Chicago, Minneapolis. Maybe we sold a few more. I’m not exactly sure. I think we got ripped off. We might of sold 5 or 6,000 copies. You got to figure that a lot of the stuff people tape, and give out tapes.
But the scene wasn’t that big back then either. In Chicago at that time not many people came out to shows. No there’s tens of thousands of ‘em.
M: Why do you think it’s changed? Do you think the music is better now or do you think that there’s some kind of industry. . .
P: I think that some of the people in the industry grew up. They got rid of some of the old guys that did things a certain way. It’s an industry that nobody can figure out.
P: It’s probably like the movie industry. People come and go so fast. They get successful and then they bomb on the next five. It’s like, “What have you done for me lately.”
M: Do you think the Effigies were a successful band? Personally?
P: There were some personal successes. There were some things we did achieve, personally. But on the whole? No.
M: What did you achieve personally?
P: Self-gratification. Just goin’ out, putting out three albums. Touring around the country. Getting on some. . .playing some giant shows.
M: What kind of giant shows did you play?
P: We played the Olympic Auditorium in L.A.
M: Who’d you play with?
P: G.B.H. and Gang Green, was it, from Boston. And we played with the Toy Dolls at some gigantic Olympic Auditorium. And we played some big shows. The Circle Jerks, Flipper, the Dead Kennedys.
M: Those are all cool bands.
P: Yea. D.O.A. and Black Flag and all those bands. We played some big shows and we got some success. We did get to go for a few months at a time and just travel around the country and get fucked up and bang broads.
M: So for you that was personally gratifying?
P: Yea. To know that I’ve done things that 90% of the people haven’t done. Something that most guys that are accountants, all their lies never dream of doing something like that. Well, they dream about it but. . .All my friends were just, “gotta go to the job, gotta go do this, gotta go do that. You’re goin’ on the road? What, are you crazy!”
M: Did the company pay, Enigma?
P: No one paid me nothin’. Back then if you had the unfortunate experience of being. . .following Black Flag on a tour. IF they came through San Diego on Monday and your were coming through on Wednesday, chances are that club would be totally destroyed and your gig wouldn’t be there. That happened to us, like, ten times. “Oh yea, Black Flag came through and there was a riot and they tore apart the club. Sorry guys. The gig’s called off.”
M: Did you ever play any gigs with violence like that?
P: A couple. Once in Detroit a big skinhead riot broke out.
M: Who were you playing with?
P: We were headlining. That was another problem that happened that lead to our demise, the skinheads.
M: That was later, I’d imagine.
P: Yea. We had this skinhead following that we couldn’t shun, we couldn’t get rid of.
M: Was it a fascist racist skinhead following?
P: Well, in the beginning the skinhead movement wasn’t fascist. It was almost another fashion statement.
M: They turned violent pretty quickly.
P: All of a sudden it was like. . .There was a time when just all of a sudden skinheads became Nazis and fascists. Our politics, at least John Kezdy’s politics, were always a bit right of center, which was pretty unheard of, especially for a punk band.
M: Well, punk always had its fascist elements: “We’re the best, fuck the rest.” San Diego was really violent.
P: L.A. was violent as hell. I couldn’t believe some of the stuff I saw in L.A.
M: I saw G.B.H. and Youth Brigade. . .
P: We stayed with Youth Brigade.
M: The L.A. Youth Brigade?
P: Yea. We used to stay at their. . .
M: They were two brothers.
P: I remember those guys.
M: They were skinheads.
P: They were skinheads in BMWs. We used to laugh our asses off at them guys.
M: The show I saw was at the Olympic Auditorium or something. Outside there was this huge, after the show there was this huge wall of cops and a huge wall of punks. The punks were running at the cops and throwing bottles and the cops would chase them back down.
In San Diego, T.S.O.L. would. . .
P: Yea. We hung out with them guys for awhile.
M: I saw them get beat up, like, three times in San Diego. They were a bit too artsy for the San Diego punks. The Southern California punk scene was really raw.
So, like, T.S.O.L., especially the lead singer, Jack. . .
P: No that guy was a maniac. I was at a gig, and he was there, and he threw a fuckin’ fire extinguisher through a window. It was at a high school. It was packed. First time I ever met this kid and he was. . .he was a big kid, sort of muscular and he had the giant Nazi shirt on, big swastika. I remember seeing him standing in line acting like a big tough guy. I remember seeing him about an hour later laying on the ground with his head bashed open and, like, ten guys beating the crap out of him. Finally, he started a riot. I came out of the school and there were just cops lined-up everywhere. They were just grabbing people and beatin’ on them. Somehow we escaped and we all got separated. I didn’t even know where I was. I went over to this guy’s house. I didn’t have any idea where the band was. But we knew where we were playin’ the next day so we just all met there.
Yea. The L.A. scene was violent. I’ve seen girl fights where girls just got the shit knocked out of ‘em. They beat her up because she was pretty.
M: Did you ever hear of a San Diego band called Battalion of Saints?
P: I remember that band.
M: The guitarist had a big ole stand-up Mohawk.
P: Who’d we play with in San Diego?
M: I don’t much remember that show. I went to a lot of shows.
P: I remember it being like 150 degrees in that place.
M: It was like a Lion’s Club kind of place.
P: Yea. It was like a hall.
M: Fairmont Hall. It was a sweat box. It think you opened for some L.A.. . .Black Flag, Circle Jerks, kind of thing. . .T.S.O.L.
P: I might have been the Toy Dolls. We did a lot of shows with the Toy Dolls.
M: I never saw the Toy Dolls. I have their first album.
P: They were good.
M: They’re really tight on that first album.
P: They were amazing live. This little skinny, looked like Albini, this little skinny guy with these big black Buddy Holly glasses and he was such a dork, but he was such an amazing guitar player and performer. He had this drummer. All he played was a snare, kick, hi-hat, and ride cymbal. That’s it. He has no drum. He just [makes bashing sound effect]. He was amazing. They were a good band.
M: Getting back to the skinhead following of the Effigies.
P: Well, that sort of lead to our demise because what ended-up happening was, this use to kill me, you pull up to a club and there’d be twenty or thirty skinheads hanging out front. So most people are gonna pull up and see the skinheads out there and they’re gonna blow the gig off. They don’t want to go in there with those assholes. But they’d never fuckin’ come in. They’d just hang outside all night. So, like, ten times we ended up playing to nobody cuz the skinheads would hang out in front and scare away the crowd and they’d sit out in the parking lot drinking beer all night.
M: Did you ever say anything to them?
P: Well, another thing is like, “Do you mind not coming to our gigs” and they’d end up turnin’ on you. So it sort of fucked us.
M: So what relationship does a band have to its audience? Does it have a responsibility? Especially when you start building some kind of following.
P: At that time there was no way to communicate that. Because most people are gonna say, “Ah, there are skinheads. I’m not even bothering to come anymore.” And then the skinheads left.
M: What about bands in general. Rock is a performance art. It’s something that supposed to be played live, it’s supposed to have an audience.
P: You can’t dictate to an audience until you get an audience.
M: But when you write songs, you’re thinking of some kind of audience.
P: I’m not, no. I just write what I want to hear for myself.
M: And you don’t think about how it might sound differently recorded or live or. . .
P: I’m at sort of a disadvantage cuz I have to rely on other musicians. I’ll write something and it’ll be in my head and usually I can come pretty close to getting Andy and the drummer to play what I hear in my head. But I don’t think about anybody else, how anybody else is going to draw from it.
M: So you don’t care about an audience?
P: I feel that if it’s good enough I’ll get an audience. If it’s not, I won’t. At this stage in the game I’m only playin’ for myself. I’m only playing cuz I. . .it just won’t go away.
Think about it. I know a lot of guys that were in bands and have walked away from it and they can’t get it out of their systems. It just doesn’t go away. Especially if you’ve had a taste. There’s never gonna be a time when I can just not be in a band.
M: So this is something you plan on doing ‘til you’re dead.
P: Probably, yea. And it might not ever amount to a hill of beans but I guess that there’s a self-gratification you get form playing, even if you’re playing to nobody. To write a song and have it come together and become something.
M: Do you need to be in a band? Why couldn’t you just sit at home, in the bathroom?
P: Well, cuz (1) as a bass player, you need other musicians to feed off of. It’s just more. It’s the volume and the energy you get from playing. There’s nothing like being on stage. There’s just nothing like it.
M: So then you need an audience.
P: Oh, you need an audience. You do get that feed from the audience, it’s the ultimate reward. If people told me I could get $1,000 to play, and the audience wouldn’t like it, or you could play in front of a huge crowed and they’ll love it, but you’ll get on money, I’ll take the no money any day. That’s something you can never buy. You can’t put a price tag on that.
M: What’s so exciting about it?
P: It’s hard to explain. It’s probably like hitting a home run. It’s something you created that people thought was great. That’s the whole thing. I could play in a wedding band, make a lot of money. I’m good enough to play in a wedding band. Could make a ton of money. Get no gratification from it.
M: What if the wedding crowd liked what you were playing?
P: They’d like what I was playing because it was somebody else’s music. You’re just furniture. You might as well be a record that they could spin.
M: So it’s important to be writing your own songs?
P: Yea. Yea. I just don’t understand how other bands could play cover songs in cover bands. I don’t know how guys can do that. It’s like whoring yourself.
M: Okay. Speaking of whoring yourself. I talked to you and Andy’s wedding and I asked you about your Effigies thing. You told me the best thing was the money you made. Were you joking? Why did you guys do that? You’re not thinking about getting together on a regular basis, are you?
P: Oh, no. You mean about the reunion?
M: Yea. What was the purpose behind that?
P: It was. . The main reason, I think, between all of us was that when the band broke-up there was a big open wound. And this sort of put the band-aid on it. There were many reasons. Of course the money was good. We each made, like, $600.
“Why did you guys do it? You hated each other?” It was just good to do again. We wanted to show people that we were this band, we were capable of being legends or whatever. Cuz we were good. We were first. We opened the door for a lot of bands, if you think about it.
P: Because in this town nobody took punk bands seriously until we came around. I hear it all the time. “I grew up listening to you. You guys influenced me to get into music.” We made it easier for the other bands. We were good. We drew a crowd. And they were like, “Hey! You’re not one of them punk rock bands. These guys can play.” So that’s something I think we did for a lot of bands. You didn’t have to be embarrassed of us. There were a lot of bands you were embarrassed of. There were punk bands that you were embarrassed the hell out of cuz they were just so stupid and obnoxious. And half of them were friends.
M: Any famous ones that you’re talking about?
P: Take a band, Millions of Dead Cops, MDC. To me they were an embarrassment.
M: Then they changed to Multi-Death Corporation.
P: They were noise. Screaming. . .
M: They were from San Francisco, weren’t they?
P: I’m not sure exactly where those guys were from. They were one of those kind of bands that lived on the road. Dirtbags. To me they were an embarrassment. You listen to that shit and, “No, I don’t like that shit. There’s nothing good about it.” Black Flag walked that line, but their stuff was actually good. It was tongue and cheek. It didn’t take itself too seriously. Where MDC actually took themselves seriously.
M: I bet a lot of clubs didn’t want Black Flag just because of the violence.
P: Exactly. They sort of promoted that.
M: But that is different from being an embarrassment.
P: No. No. They were Black Flag. They just were Black Flag.
M: They opened the doors for everybody.
P: Somewhat. You look at a lot of bands today. You can see that Black Flag was their influence I some way or another. I mean they really weren’t good musically. You didn’t walk around singin’ their songs, except their first record with Keith Morris was real good.
M: “I was a surfer, I was a hippie.” That one?
P: Yea. That was great.
M: I was so stoned I was out of my head.” They were particularly cool in Southern California.
P: My friend Don called me up, he was at the Starwood. He got the shit knocked out of him. “Oh, it was a great time until I got the shit beat out of me for jumpin’ into the pit.”
To me it’s not so much of them sellin’ out, it’s just a matter of who the person is. A lot of ‘em are just stupid idiots. They just happen to get big. Just look at a lot of these guys today. Look at Bono. He even says it. “We’re just a bunch of pompous Irishmen.” I’ve heard him say that before.
M: So, is he being honest?
P: Somewhat. People tend to put these guys on a pedestal and really think that they’re some kind of geniuses. And it’s not. .. They’re just. . .If I was all of a sudden tomorrow a huge star. . Today I’m driving a truck, tomorrow. . Who am I? I’m just the same guy. People tend to forget that. If it wasn’t for a lucky break, Bono could be tending bar somewhere. Very easily.
There are exceptions to the rule. There’s guys that are greatly talented.
M: Some people can write good pop/rock songs. So it seems to me the REM can consistently write decent. . .
P: REM works together really well as a unit. Which is very important for a band. They keep themselves in check. They’re a unit. They’re not Michael Stipe, they’re not Peter Buck, they’re just REM. They’re intelligent guys. That’s another thing. They’re not dummies, they’re not morons like some bands are. That’s basically what separates a lot of bands. If they’re idiots or they’re not idiots.
M: Let’s fast forward to Laughing Man. What type of band is Laughing Man as opposed to the Effigies?
P: Laughing Man is similar to the Effigies in the sense that I gave the Effigies a lot of their sound, the same sound as here.
M: Did you write songs with the Effigies?
P: Oh yea. I wrote a lot of their stuff. I didn’t’ write the lyrics or anything, but I wrote a lot of music.
Andy is probably the most talented of the guys I’ve played with so far. Again, we play what we feel. We’d much rather be accepted. . .money comes later. We have to be liked first, and then the money comes second.
M: Nowadays there are bands that play very few gigs and get signed. Like this band Paw, from Kansas. They got signed I the whole rush for the next Nirvana. They played ten gigs in Lawrence, Kansas. They had a demo tape made. Somebody at Smart Studios thought it was wonderful and they got signed to A&M Records.
P: And then, if all of a sudden they believe that what you’ve done is worthwhile they’ll throw you on the shelf and that well be the end of your band.
It’s nice to get that big deal. How big it’s gonna be is yet to be seen. You’re sort of at their mercy, too. If they don’t put anything behind you, if they don’t get their instant gratification, they’re just gonna shelve you and you’re gonna die.
M: Did the Effigies have a contract?
P: Yea. But the people there. . .At that time Enigma was still in their larval stages. Just a bunch of dummies.
M: Are they still around?
P: No. I heard that they put all their money into the resurgence of David Cassidy. [I laugh] That’s the truth.
M: I remember about eight months ago he was on t.v. a few times. I knew somebody was trying to promote him.
P: Supposedly Enigma put out a David Cassidy record a few years ago. Spent a lot of money getting him and promoting him. Why? Why? David Cassidy.
The Smithereens put them on the map.
They were pretty incompetent it seemed, at the time. They had some decent distribution, but the people we dealt with were real, total morons.
That’s the problem with this business. There’s a lot of idiots out there. There’s a lot of incompetence and people want to be great.
I think there’s a lot less drugs prevalent today. I’m not sure. But back in the mid-80s, late 70s, there was so much drugs. The industry was so fueled by drugs. Especially cocaine. Coke was so huge back then. I don’t know how it is today. Drugs was a big part of it. We had problems with our guitar player. We had to switch guitar players, in the Effigies.
M: Did you do much drugs?
P: We all could do. . Well, Kezdy, he never did anything. He was straight as an arrow, except for drinking. I could always handle myself. I knew when enough was enough. I was responsible with it. Our guitarist was a total fiend.
M: Is it just like the stories where you just go and people offer it to you left and right?
P: I used to walk in Exit and people would hand me their vials and say, “Do as much as you want.”
M: When did you get married?
M: So the Effigies were still a band.
P: Yea. She knows that I need to play music. It keeps me centered. It probably gives me my most self-esteem.
M: Have your ideas and goals changed since you’ve had children?
P: Somewhat. I want success. Maybe I realize that I don’t have to be as heavy handed as maybe we were in the Effigies.
M: What do you mean by “heavy handed?”
P: Our music sometimes was thrashy. Our singer was very limited, too. He couldn’t carry a tune all that well. There was a lot of things we couldn’t do cuz of him. That was another reason we broke up. We were tired of writing songs that he couldn’t sing.
M: Did he just sing, or did he play an instrument, too?
P: All he did was vocals. The second guitar player had to be real talented, and he could write some pretty intense stuff and the singer just couldn’t deal with it. “We don’t need to play this shit. We need to play ‘Body Bag.’”
There was a lot of infighting going on.
With Andy, he can sing really well. He can carry a tune real well. And I’m doing vocals with this band, too. That’s another thing I like about Laughing Man. I never did vocals with the Effigies. I can write my own lyrics and sing what I feel.
M: So as far as your goals with Laughing Man, are they any different than with the Effigies?
P: They’ve always been the same goals: To get signed. I’m not looking for mega-stardom. Something like Helmet or Faith No More would be fine with me.
M: That’s a lot of money.
P: Yea. But those bands are still in touch. They’re not sell-out bands. I mean, now they’re just popular. Sell-out today, I don’t know what sell-out would be.
M: Is it a contradiction to say that you sell-out if you’re not playing for yourself but then you say you want to get signed? Is that important?
P: No. Playing for myself means I play because I enjoy it. Cuz I get self-gratification out of it. The more I can get, the more I get gratified! If I never get anywhere I will still have got something out of it. That’s what I mean by it. I get my self-esteem from playing. If I get monetary gains from it then I get more self-esteem, of course. Everything snowballs to something better, but the least I get is self-gratification. And that’s the least I get out of it.
M: Do you do specific things to try and get signed?
P: No. I don’t know any specific things. To me it’s a lot of luck. But you can’t get signed unless you’re out there playing. You can’t get signed unless you are somebody doin’ something. Nobody is gonna knock on your door and say, “Hey, what are you doin’?” You gotta go out there and do it. I don’t know what it really takes. Look at Peg Boy. They could fill up the Metro but they can’t get signed to a label. And this band, Paw, they couldn’t fill up the Metro but they can get signed to a label. I don’t know this business. It’s luck. It’s somebody believin’ in you and takin’ a chance on you. There’s nepotism. It takes some money, unfortunately.
M: Why did you guys get rid of Tina [Laughing Man’s drummer]?
P: Tina is sort of thin-skinned. She didn’t take criticism very well. Sometimes Andy can be critical. She didn’t practice. She didn’t take care of her equipment. She stopped showing up for practice. Sometimes I come a long way to get here. It’s not an easy place to get to. Say my last run of the day, I drive for a living, could be Joliet. And I drive all the way over here to come practice and she don’t show up and don’t even bother calling about it. Do that to me four or five times and I start getting pissed. And then you show up at a gig and you can’t play your drums because you haven’t been practicing. That got old. Her attitude was, “Fuck him! Fuck him!” She wasn’t that good of a drummer. She got good. We made her good. When we first got her she couldn’t play for shit. Then her drums would fall apart. We said, “You’re bringing us down.” That’s what it was, she was bringing us down.”
We got the guy [their new, current drummer], he takes care of his drums, he plays all the time. He’s at least good. Drums mean something to him. He loves playing the drums.
M: How many people did you try out before you chose this guy?
P: About four. Pretty awful.
M: They were awful?
P: Yea. One heavy metal drummer that was really awful. One guy was pretty good, but we couldn’t get excited about him.
M: What were you looking for?
P: Basically what you saw. We wanted an enthusiastic drummer who could really play. This guy can really play. He is into what we’re into.
M: Had he heard of your band, Laughing Man?
P: He was out in San Francisco for a couple of years playing in a band.
M: Had he heard of the Effigies?
P: No. He’s only twenty-four. You got figure he was only about ten when we started.
I get guys all the time, “You played with the Effigies!?” We were big in Minneapolis, Detroit. Detroit had a skinhead crowd, Nazi skinhead crowd. There was this one guy who had “Effigies” tattooed on his lip.
M: How does that make you feel?
P: It was okay until I saw the swastikas on his chest.
M: He had “Effigies” tattooed on his lip?
P: The inside of his lip.
M: That must be kind of a head trip.
P: I was like, “Wow! Now that’s a fan, man!” But fans like that you didn’t need, unfortunately.
M: And you can still pick up record guides and your albums will be listed in them.
P: Yea. We got a lot of good press. It was good to see that.
M: Looking back, do you like the music you guys made?
P: Sure. There was a lot of good stuff we did. Could’ve been a little better maybe, if our singer was better. It got to the point where I realized, around our last tour, that he could never appeal to a mass audience. I felt that whatever he could do I could do just as good, so why bother putting up with his asshole fuckin’ attitude. It would be one thing if he was a nice guy, but he was an asshole. He’s a character. He’s in the perfect field that he belongs in.
M: He’s a lawyer?
P: Prosecutor. He’s a strange guy.
M: Do you feel you’ve got a different perspective than your band mates about what this is all about because you were in the Effigies?
P: No. I might have a little more seasoning and a little more experience, but as far as a clue? No one has a clue. Andy is a pretty focused guy. He’s been around himself, a little bit. This guy [new drummer] we don’t know really well yet.
M: How long has he been in the band?
P: We’ve practiced with him probably eight times. It’s only been about a month. I didn’t even know his last name ‘til tonight. Me and Andy have been together about three years. We’re both on the same page. That’s one thing. We pretty much clicked right off the bat. Andy can criticize me and it doesn’t bother me. When he criticized Tina, she’d get all upset and storm out of here.
M: Have you been in any other bands other than the Effigies and this one?
M: After the Effigies broke up we had a band called Machines in Motion which was the Effigies second guitar player, me, and the Effigies drummer, Steve. Bob brought his wife into the band. It was pretty bad. It was too flighty. We do a heavy fuckin’ metal song, some light la-de-da pop song, and an industrial song. The band had no direction. I couldn’t stand being with him and his wife.
M: What other bass players do you really admire?
P: There’s so many of them. JJ Burnel from the Stranglers has always been one of my almost idols. I don’t really idolize anybody, but he would come close. I like Flea a lot, even though I’m starting to get tired of him. As a bass player he is phenomenal.
M: Do you like them just because of their musical abilities?
P: Basically now I only like them for their musical ability. They just become saturated. Everywhere you look you see they’re mugging for the cameras. I just want to tell them buys, “Slow down.”
M: Don’t you think the visual is an important part of rock?
P: Yea. But you’ve really gotta walk a fine line with that. It’s best to show yourselves somewhat but not too much.
M: Punk wouldn’t have been punk without the look.
M: The whole idea was sort of like a non-look. A lot of bands were just very plain. There were some bands that didn’t’ make it cuz of their look. All they had to sell was a look. It’s a fine line. It has to be the music first, the look second. You look at bands like the Minutemen, they weren’t much to look at. It’s mostly the English bands that, you know, safety pins and . . .And bands like 999, they were just normal guys. The Stranglers.
M: I like 999.
P: I saw them at Gaspers, which is Schubas now. One of the best shows I’ve ever seen. They were phenomenal. Those guys could play. They were pop. I mean it was just power pop. Call it punk rock, but that was just power pop. The Vibrators. The Buzzcocks. It was just pop music being a little sped up. They didn’t have to rely on ten minute guitar solos. Look. If you got it, flaunt it. Some bands got the look, but it’s not that important.
M: It seems like it’s important for a band to be mega-stars.
P: Right. To be mega-stars, you’re right. Because it’s a whole entire package. You gotta figure you’re pullin’ in people who like you for your style, people who like you for your music, people like you for your ability, your musicianship. But then again, a band like Nirvana. Go figure. They’re not much to look at.
M: But that’s the importance of their look, that they’re not much to look at. They’re just a bunch of scrappy looking guys.
P: They don’t play all that well. They do play well. They play well enough. But they write catchy tunes.
M: What about Pearl Jam. Whether you like them or not, they’ve been more of a success than Nirvana.
P: I don’t think they’ve sold as many records.
M: They’ve been in the top twenty consistently now for over a year.
P: I don’t know. Their music, to me, is not half as catchy as Nirvana’s. Then again, you’re borrowing that old 70s supergroup. . . Pearl Jam is sort of in that cliché. Their sound and their look and their songwriting. Screaming Trees, I was just saying today, they’re so Led Zeppeliny, these bands now. I see a lot of Led Zeppelin and AC/DC in Pearl Jam. Not so much the song writing but the look and the way the guitar player runs around and stuff. Nothing’s new. I don’t know if there can be anything original anymore.
M: At least not and still be called “rock.” Anything new is something else.
P: I have a theory that some day every hit song from the sixties and seventies will b redone into a hit song. Almost every hit song has been covered by a band, and they made a hit out of it.
M: You guy’s too. You played “Ace of Spades” at your last show.
P: Like the Lemonheads have “Mrs. Robinson” now. Every song. “Spirit in the Sky” was a hit a couple years ago.
M: Why do you suppose that is?
P: Cuz they were once hits. They’re still good songs.
M: A lot of Nirvana songs sound like songs that have been done before.
P: They’ll just drain that record dry. They’ll just milk it forever. Used to be, in the old days, a band put out two, three albums a year or so. Nirvana has been almost two years now. They’re still releasing. . . “In Bloom” is now, like, #2 on MTV. They probably have an album done, ready in the can, but they’re just gonna wait and milk this one as much as they can. That’s what’s killing bands, I think. They’ll come out with their second album and people will be so sick of them. They can never live up to this Nevermind record, no matter what they do.
Living Colour. They milked that record for almost three years. That second record came out and it was good, probably even better, but people were tired of them by then.
M: So the industry is not good for rock?
P: No. It’s never been. It’s good for rock because you have to other alternative really. Their best interests are not the band’s. “Have a cigar, you’re gonna go far.”
M: Anything else interesting? You obviously like to talk about this stuff.
P: It’s always good to reflect. I’m too cynical.
M: Like you said, it’s a music that needs cynicism.
P: It’s always been an outlet. Mostly, to me, rock and roll is somebody’s got something to say, someone who’s got a chip on their shoulder. I don’t know if that’s why they wrote “Rock Around the Clock,” but. . .
M: Some people say the opposite. They don’t like the idea of politics in rock.
P: I don’t like politics all that much, where it’s preachy. Unless somebody has an idea and you can draw your own conclusions from it. That’s the way I would tend to write things, be objective. The Dead Kennedy’s to me were just a little ridiculous about politics.
M: Did you like them overall?
P: No. Their music kind of got on my nerves. His voice was kind of irritating. They were more entertaining in person.
M: Did you ever meet him?
P: Yea. A few times. He was way out there on the left. He was way out there! I hear some of his stuff on WNUR, his spoken word stuff. God! Where does the guy get his. . .I’ve heard of anti-establishment guys, but this guy is just a little too out there. I don’t know if he could ever substantiate what he comes up with as claims. Government blowing up busses and trying to kill him and shit. Tried to portray himself as being the dangerous guy. Please. They don’t even give him a second thought. But it gets him $1,500 to give a lecture.
M: Have you heard Lard?
P: Yea. They had that one song that was really cool, with Jorgenson. What was that song they did, the one I used to hear on ‘NUR all the time? There was one song that was really cool.
He was an interesting guy. His band was sort of interesting.
M: Do you think they were good musically?
P: They coud’ve been. “Holiday in Cambodia” is still a classic.
M: Their whole first album is pretty good rock ‘n’ roll.
P: They’re not the nicest guys. Or at least they didn’t like us. Kezdy bumped heads with those guys. I remember him and, cuz Kezdy leaned to the right and Jello was way out there on the left, they used to have two hour debates. We’d be like, “Let’s go get fucked up. Let’s go find a broad.” Earl would fuck anything. He was terrible.
I would wake up and there would be purses on the kitchen table in the morning cuz he had some broad in the bedroom. And I’d look through them and see who he had in there, find their driver’s license. I was like, “Oh, man! He must’ve been drunk last night!” He never fucked the same one twice.
I occasionally would get something, but not like that guy. They’d be fighting over him. And he was just a slimy fuckin’ guy with greasy hair and a pimply face. He was a good looking guy, but he was a sleazy guy. He used to get all kinds, too.
M: And your singer was straight laced?
P: Pretty much. Very uptight guy. Real uptight. He hated Earl cuz everyone loved Earl and nobody took to him as easily as Earl. A lot of jealousy and conflict.
M: So basically you guys just didn’t like each other anymore and stopped?
P: Yea. After seven years. I just couldn’t deal with the fighting. I just didn’t see us getting anywhere. Our last tour was just a total disaster, thanks to the Enigma people. They would just book shows and never confirm the dates. Told us, “Come on out, man. We’ve got all these shows for you.” We got out there and half of them were there.
M: So you’d show up some place and they would say. . .
P: Yea. We showed up at Mabuhay Gardens in San Francisco. It was a great place to play. We played with the Minutemen there once on New Year’s Eve. It was great. But they, like, “Oh, man! I haven’t heard from anybody in a month. I booked somebody else.” Part of this was our drummer’s fault, too, cuz he was the one who was setting this shit up.
There was just all this fighting and, “I don’t need this shit. I’ll go play in another band.” It took awhile but I got in this one.
M: And you’re happy with this band?
P: I hope it’s the last band I’m ever in.
P: Cuz it works.
M: It must be a pain in the butt to start a band from scratch.
P: It is. The Vibrators got a song called “Start at the Bottom Again.” Nowadays there’s so many bands that. . . There’s so much politics. Joe Shanahan now is a guy with a lot of power in Chicago. He runs the Metro. He got Smashing Pumpkins. He really had a lot to do with their success. Every time a major act came to town he would put them in front of ‘em. Eventually you’re gonna guild up an audience that way. Go out and play in front of 1,500 people every weekend.
I still think our best shot is the European market.
P: They seem to like American bands and alternative type music. I hear a lot of bands get major success over there. That’s part of the thing that we fucked up with the Effigies. If I had to do over again, I’d really pursue the European market. Just think about it. With Eastern Europe opening up, there’s gonna be a lot of . . .300 million people over there that want rock and roll. There’s a big market out there. It can still be captured.
M: You think the U.S. market is too formulated?
P: There’s a lot of stupidity in the American market. All the stupid bands that sell. Who’s this new band, Saigon Kick. There’s always gonna be that shit. Pretty boys, guys that look like girls.
MTV’s Top 10 is ridiculous. You’ve got Nirvana, Whitney Houston, Saigon Kicks, REM. . . it’s that diversified. At least Nirvana is in there. They’ve done a lot for a lot of bands, our type of bands.
M: At least for the past year. It might not last.
P I figure it will last now for a while. As long as the bands that are good are putting out good stuff. I always tell people, “Say what you want about Nirvana, it’s good.” Your can’t ignore that fact. That stuff is good.
M: Do you listen to a lot of new music?
P: Yea. I know a lot of guys my age that are done with music. They’re just gonna listen to the songs they grew up with, reflect back to the greatest times of their lives. That’s why ‘CKG is so popular. Guys in their thirties who want to be reminded of high school.
M: But that’s not rock?
P: Some of it was.
M: But remembering back. Rock is something that should keep being new.
P: You gotta take the new with the old. I love to hear old stuff, but I’m not going to not listen to new stuff. Their attitude is that everything that’s good has been done already. Why bother with listening to anything else. It’s just not important to them anymore. I know people who go out and buy a CD player and what do they do? They go out and buy Elton John’s Greatest Hits. That’s what they’ll keep buying, all that old shit that they have on album already. There’s so much new stuff. I listen to lots of different stuff. There’s two kinds of music, good and bad.
M: There’s nothing in between?
P: There’s good country & western and there’s bad country & western. Good classical and bad. Good jazz and bad.
M: Any last comments.
P: If I had a clue, I would tell you.