Band of the Week: Butthole Surfers

Resident sound-nerd thumbs through reams of musty vinyl so you don’t have to. Here are his weekly recommendations…

#22: Butthole Surfers

Who: Gibby Haynes, Paul Leary, King Coffey. Jeff Pinkus, Teresa Nervosa.

When: 1970’s-Present.

Where: USA.

Why: Few bands can claim to have achieved as much infamy and success having given themselves a ridiculous, entirely uncommercial name as the Butthole Surfers. Hailing from Texas, Gibby Haynes was the son of local TV personality ‘Mr. Peppermint’ and seemed primed for a conventional life; captain of his college’s basketball team, and the school’s ‘Accountant of the Year’. But, despite his jock veneer, Haynes was a freak at heart, publishing a zine full of comedic descriptions and pictures of diseases called Strange V.D. with partner in crime Paul Leary. The pair dropped out and tried to start a business selling Lee Harvey Oswald fan merchandise, before deciding that forming a band might be a better venture. It didn’t take long before the two, having recruited a rhythm section in brothers Scott and Quinn Matthews, were spotted by Jello Biafra of the Dead Kennedys, and signed to his label Alternative Tentacles.

After a couple of years, and following the release of their insane debut LP, which combined rabid punk with multifarious surreal elements, the line-up fell into place. The band became a word-of-mouth live spectacle, with twin drummers King Coffey and Teresa Nervosa and, of course, pet pitbull Mark Farner of Grand Funk Railroad becoming a lunatic caravan, nomadically travelling through the U.S.A. on a permanent acid trip. Shows would frequently feature Hawkwind-style nude dancers, amateur pyrotechnics, and close-ups of penis surgery projected on the band. Not the sort of thing you’d take your grandma to. The music reflected the band’s drug-addled, out of control existence, their apex being 1987’s Locust Abortion Technician. One of the greatest alternative albums of the 80’s, it sums up the Buttholes in the most glorious, profane way – one of those records that sounds like shit on first listen but, on repeated trips, becomes a sprawling psychedelic masterpiece. From the opening Black Sabbath cover, mutilated through Haynes’ ‘Gibbytronix’ vocal effects, to the final chilling cow-screams on ‘22 Going on 23’, replete with radio samples chronicling sexual abuse and the eeriest guitar solo in history, the album is a wonderful holiday in the left side of your brain.

From this artistic highlight, the Buttholes set out achieving perhaps their greatest upset to the mainstream – making warped pop songs, getting critical acclaim, and even snagging a couple of Top 40 hits. Having shockingly signed to Capitol, the group proved an inspiration to grunge, Courtney Love and Kurt Cobain meeting at a show in 1991. Their major label debut, Independent Worm Saloon, was bizarrely produced by John Paul Jones of Led Zeppelin, and garnered them MTV fame. Soon they began cropping up on movie soundtracks (Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo and Juliet, for one) and Haynes even ended up playing in a band with Johnny Depp and Flea of the Red Hot Chili Peppers – they were rocking out in the Viper Room the night River Phoenix overdosed on speedballs outside. Sadly, the ascent to mainstream acceptance caused a rupture in the band’s music, and albums have become distinctly non-essential since the second half of the Nineties. But ‘Butthole Surfers’ still remain the first and last words in psychedelic punk.

Influences: Mothers of Invention, Black Sabbath, Black Flag, Residents, Grand Funk Railroad.

Influenced: The Flaming Lips, Faith No More, Boredoms, Ween, Ponytail.

Sample Lyric: ‘If you see your mom this weekend, be sure to tell her / SATAN SATAN SATAN’.

Which Record: Locust Abortion Technician (Touch and Go, 1987)

3 comments

  1. I don’t know who that band is, but it’s not the Butthole Surfers. They’re just aping the interview with the BHS from the concert DVD “Blind Eye Sees All.”

    Reply Report

  2. yo bullshit cow, you done fucked up, i see you, cunt.

    Reply Report

Leave a comment



Please note our disclaimer relating to comments submitted. Please do not post pretending to be another person. Nouse is not responsible for user-submitted content.