The Oxford Dictionary's definition of crud is "an unpleasantly dirty or messy substance," an explanation that's apt when listening to the band's music or, more importantly, attending one of its shows. Composed of ex-MTV star and Sponge and Orbitsuns frontman Vinnie Dombroski, ex-Stungun hottie Danielle Arsenault, Seduce guitarist David Black, Eric Hoegemeyer of Gold Cash Gold and Charm Farm on drums, and 60 Second Crush bassist Dana Forrester, the five Cruds have been local notables for years now, but this new lineup finds them reborn and re-energized. As the dictionary attests, though, there's nothing pleasant about Crud. And they are very, very dirty. Think Marilyn Manson performing with ex-wife Dita Von Teese or Rob Zombie playing in a sleazy, backstreet strip club.
Crud released its debut album, Devil at the Wheel, on Full Effect Records last year, and in doing so unleashed a hard-edged industrial metal din and gloriously trashy porn imagery on Detroit and, in turn, the world. Indeed, word of Crud's chaotic and "erotic" live shows soon reached the other side of the Atlantic with an enviable U.K. Internet buzz. Of course, that Dombroski's Sponge had shifted a few million units worldwide hasn't done them any harm, either ...
"Initially, it was just the music that inspired the concept," says Dombroski, a man who looks remarkably fresh considering his many years invested; he resembles a skinny Trent Reznor. "We did one Crud show without Danielle. At that point, prior to her being in the band, I felt like something was missing. It just felt like another rock band. It needed something more besides the songs, so bringing her in dictated the whole direction and concept. And I honestly just have a love for harder music."
Dombroski did all the band's recording on his own dime. That way, he says, "it was just a matter of firing up and writing some songs."
Now more than ever, it's difficult for Detroit bands to earn a living here or on the road. Club owners fork over less and less as each month passes, and a record deal doesn't mean what it used to — financially, anyway — even for those lucky enough to land a good deal at all. So it's not uncommon for musicians to fill their time with numerous ventures outside the main band. That's how it is with Crud.
"The way things are in the band business these days, there's not enough gigs for any one band," Dombroski says. "In the Detroit area, there are only so many gigs that we can do. There are a million $250 gigs out there, but this band requires that we make money because we've got production. We like to take the lights out and we've got to have a great PA."
Forrester is similarly content making room for two bands: "I take a cue from Vin because he balances three bands, plays drums in different projects and produces. It's funny because we have certain nights where we're playing two gigs on the same night at different venues. Vinnie inspires me. I don't complain. It's like, if he can do it, then so can I."
For David Black — whose other band, Seduce, once looked set to explode nationwide, alongside Poison and Mötley Crüe, having achieved reasonable success in the '80s Detroit market — Crud gives him an outlet for a harder style of playing.
"Seduce is more organic and guitar-based," he says. "Crud is more noise-based and sonic. With the Crud thing, I get to play in a way that a lot of guys don't get to play guitar. Because you get to play with all kinds of crazy feedback. No matter what crazy stuff I do, it always seems to fit if I put it in the right place."
"This music definitely has an energy to it, so, drum-wise, it's like running a marathon in a 45-minute set," Hoegemeyer adds.
As the chick whose power-pout graces the group's T-shirt's and posters, it's fair to say that Danielle Arsenault, with her perfectly toned, athletic figure, sultry-but-deadly glare and fuck-me aura, is the face of the band.
"And the ass of the band," she laughs
"I don't make any compromises, though. When Vinnie approached me and told me what the concept was, I was like 'I'm your girl'. It's exactly what I can do. I always downplay it and say 'I'm the mascot,' but I know I'm a little more than that. I'm like Flavor Flav."
"We're just the background for her shenanigans," Dombroski says. "We're probably more the mascots than she is!"
It's quite normal for a Crud show to involve various young ladies from the audience jumping onstage and getting spanked and grinded by Arsenault, and for the guys at the front to reach out with hopeful, groping hands. When asked to describe the average Crud fan, Arsenault, without hesitation, says "horny."
But Dombroski is a tad more thoughtful. "I wish I could nail that down," he says, trying to describe a typical Crud patron. "We get all kinds of people I would never expect. But horny is probably the one thing they all have in common, no matter what age they are."
Arsenault, though, is sure of the horny part. "There are guys pushing their girlfriends up at me, trying to make them lift their tops and stuff," she explains. "Some guy in the U.K. told me on MySpace that I had a hot ass, so I told him he could feel it when I went over there. I guess he was waiting for weeks, but I lived up to my word and let him touch it!
For her part, Forrester delves deeper. "Crud is the soundtrack to evil sex.
That it may be, but a Crud show is very much carnival-like. The kind of carnival you wouldn't want your parents to see, where cotton candy is served with bourbon, where barkers hawk pornographic sideshows with throbbing soundtracks.
Having earned local notoriety since its formation in 2000, Crud took its S&M circus to England last fall.
"I don't think it could have gone any better over there," Dombroski says. "I thought it all went great. And I thought the gig that we really wanted to make great — The Whitby Gothic Weekend — was awesome. I thought [the British] would drink more than us, though, but they didn't."
"I now really underestimated the power of the Internet," Arsenault adds, "because I didn't realize the people would already be so familiar with us, singing along to the songs. I was shown a really good time.
And if Crud wanted to kick up controversy across the pond, its cover of Gary Glitter's "Do You Wanna Touch Me?" (better known stateside by Joan Jett's hit version) was a sure-fire way. The fallen icon's child-molesting exploits are still raw in the minds of the British public.
"Isn't he in a rat-hole country right now?" Dombroski says. "I'm thinking of doing a cover of Ted Nugent's 'Free For All' next ..."
Having seen full-on rock stardom with Sponge, Dombroski's holding back his Crud expectations.
"I've never had expectations for it," he says, "but maybe that's not a good thing. I just like to go where the music takes us. We've signed a small record deal (with Full Effect) and we're promoting the band to radio. If those things work out, who knows? The whole thing is basically a labor of love for us and I do what I want with it."
Arsenault, the band's "ass," has the final word: "I like the level we're at right now because I don't have to work too hard. But I wouldn't mind working a little bit harder if it meant making a lot more. I don't want to not be able to go out of the house without makeup. I want to be able to go to the grocery store with a hangover and not get my picture taken."
Saturday, April 19, at TC's Speakeasy, 207 W. Michigan Ave., Ypsilanti; 734-483-4470.Brett Callwood, a recent Brit transplant to Detroit, is a music writer for Metro Times. Send comments to [email protected]