Bangin’ the walls of stone

Aug 30, 2000 at 12:00 am

“After the show was done, we got started on the drinking duties, and I came to realize that three bottles of Jack Daniels a night, as well as three cases of beer, was just the right amount, for at the end of the night all of it was gone. Not to mention all the deli meats and cheese that ended up all over the place in a drunken rampage. It was a good start to the tour that we deemed the rolling destruction tour.”

So goes an early entry in the European tour diary of Erik Larson, guitarist from the stoner rock outfit Alabama Thunderpussy. The guys got back to Virginia and their “shit” jobs just a few months ago to make enough money to get back on the road. The thrash-metal trash-rockers stop in Detroit this weekend and Larson managed to wake up before 1 p.m. to chat.

“Thunderpussy,” the “moonshine metal” guitarist assures me, is one word, even though it’s often printed as two, which leads me to ask what a “thunderpussy” is and what makes thunderpussy from Alabama so great. “It comes from a 1970s porno movie,” Larson says. “There’s a scene where a transvestite walks in and claims to be the Alabama Thunderpussy.”

When I let him know that at least 25 other bands have “pussy” in their names — including Nashville Pussy and Shaved Pussy Love Porn — he seems slightly amused. But more pressing issues, such as nonrelevant genre labels, are more likely to fire up the pot-free Larson.

“I think (the label stoner rock) is kind of silly. It doesn’t really apply to us, but I don’t think it applies to most of the other bands either. I know it’s just a label to give people an idea of what the music sounds like, but they could have chosen a better word, don’t you think?”

The English media used “knuckledragger” to describe the band during its European stint.

“I guess it means redneck rock. It’s just like hairy dudes. It means less-intelligent people — just kind of meatheads.”

The members of Alabama Thunderpussy are not meatheads. And neither is Kyuss (often named a pioneer of the genre), Queens of the Stone Age (formed by members of Kyuss), Monster Magnet, Atomic Bitchwax (includes a member of Monster Magnet), Fu Manchu or Nebula (created by members of Fu Manchu), just to name a few.

A strong DIY ethic prevails among the heavy-hitters and heavily touring up-and-coming bands. Frank Kozik’s Man’s Ruin is at the forefront of independent labels pushing the sound, not to mention Detroit’s Small Stone Records. ATP contributed its psychedelic, up-tempo, heavy-on-the-distortion version of “Sweet Emotion” to Small Stone’s recently released Aerosmith tribute, Right in the Nuts.

“When Scott (Hamilton) said we could be on it, I went out and bought a bunch of the old albums. ‘Sweet Emotion’ was the one everyone seemed to agree on. Granted it is more of a familiar song, but it’s a good song.

“One reviewer wrote, ‘ATP chose this song,’ and then in parenthesis, ‘they would.’ People either love us or hate us. Which is fine by me. I don’t want anyone to feel mediocre or lukewarm about the music I play. I want people to feel moved by it or inspired by it.”

Larson (who used to be in Avail) describes the stoner-rock scene as somewhat of a backlash to the mainstream watering down of hardcore.

“A lot of people who were involved in punk and hardcore music are kind of jaded and bored with it, so they’re trying to do something new. In a lot of ways, this particular scene has the same feeling and atmosphere as punk rock did or hardcore did in the early ‘80s and early ‘90s — as far as a networking system.”

Overanalyzers also describe the burgeoning underground scene as post “minimalist-bore-core,” postmetal, postgrunge or post anything else you can post. It’s also a backlash to poor-quality, overcommercialized, neometal acts gaining popularity as of late.

The only logical explanation for ATP’s placement within the categorization is the feeling you get after hearing the band, that ear-ringing, fuzzy-brained, squinty, smoke-singed-eyes haze. How else could you feel but stoned after an onslaught of sludgy guitar-guitar-guitar plus Southern charm all cranked out at amp-blowing, soundboard-sparking, fire-inducing volumes?

“Sometimes when it’s a really hard show, I might get a little more aggressive,” says Larson. “We played in Fort Walton Beach, Fla., at a coffee shop with a bunch of younger people. They were just sitting down. So I started screaming for them to get up. They got up, but they still stayed kind of back. So I jumped off the platform and ran right into them with my guitar and started playing until they moved closer to the stage.”

Other times, fans get too close for comfort.

“A guy threw up on my pedals once. He was standing up front and rockin’ out and decided to puke and happened to do it on my distortion pedals. It was mostly just beer. There weren’t any like chunks or anything. After the show I just wiped them down.”

Melissa Giannini writes about music for Metro Times. E-mail her at [email protected]