Drag, strip, please

Demolition Doll Rods is the rock band equivalent of Detroit techno. That is, band members who are substantially less well-known in their hometown than in several other towns around the globe. Here in Detroit, the exhibitionist trio, which performs as near-naked as the law will allow, is more heard-of than heard. But thanks to national and international touring under the patronage of fans Jon Spencer (of Blues Explosion fame) and Iggy Pop, the Doll Rods are steadily furthering their high-heeled stumble toward world conquest. The campaign takes another lurch forward next week when they join the second leg of Lollapalooza's Second Stage.

Like all global domination movements, the Doll Rods began with a modest proposition. "Hey kids, let's start an all-girl rock group," singer-guitarist-composer Margaret Doll Rod thought to herself back in the spring of '93. That she couldn't sing or play an instrument or write a song were minor details that could be sorted out later. She already had the important stuff -- the band name and a bunch of cool song titles.

In Margaret's fantasy, it also didn't matter that the first member she picked for her all-gal band was a guy. "She said 'Do you want to be a girl in my band?,' " remembers Danny Doll Rod. Margaret's instincts were quickly proven correct; Danny looked fabulous in a dress. Having played rhythm and lead guitar in the minimalist Detroit house-and-garage-rocking outfit the Gories, he automatically became lead guitarist of the Demolition Doll Rods. The original lineup was completed by Karen Doll Rod, whose talents included being able to drink with one hand while drumming with the other. (Currently on drums is Christine Doll Rod, who'd never played before.)

But what about the reality?

Margaret: "We were awful. I couldn't sing or play. Not that I do such a hot job of it now, but ..." Danny: "We've come a long, long way." Margaret: "Right, so you know we were really, really bad." Danny: "You couldn't tell we were playing songs. We were playing songs, at least as far as we knew, but other people didn't get it." "Like me," cuts in Christine, who at that time was only Margaret's vision-impaired sibling. "I heard them rehearse and thought, 'Wow, my sister's in a free-form noise band.' " "Hey, we were trying to play songs," Danny insists, sounding slightly wounded. "We were trying real hard."

Musically their hearts are pure, but their fingers don't always work so well. Calling their music primitive doesn't go back nearly far enough; it's more like prenatal rock 'n' roll. (It isn't that the punkish bubblegum trio doesn't need a bass player, just that the concept may be a little too advanced for them yet.) There's nothing like a little incompetence to make even the hoariest clichés sound freshly discovered.

But those who would dismiss Doll Rods as nothing more than a T&A novelty act are invited to remember that most folks laughed at Alice Cooper too, right up until the day they heard "I'm Eighteen" on the radio. The Doll Rods' album Tasty doesn't threaten such a move just yet, but don't rule out that possibility. Few things in rock 'n' roll are quite as endearing as a fantasy too stupid to know it has no chance whatsoever of coming true, and fewer still are as dangerous as when that fantasy begins to come true anyway.

"From the beginning I thought we were huge," says Margaret. "I thought we were the best ever, that we would blow people's minds and be great. Nobody else seemed to hear it like that, so I guess it was all in my own mind. That's cool, too; I've always lived in my own little fantasy world. But I'll share it with my friends."

"It was never a question of when we were good enough," Danny adds. "We began performing live from the get-go. We were already legends in our own minds, so it didn't really matter what other people thought. What was really special about us was the fact that we had the balls to get up on stage knowing nothing. At first a lot of people were embarrassed for us. But if we weren't embarrassed, how could they be?"

In what would seem to be the opposite of conventional show-biz thinking, the better the Doll Rods got as a band, the fewer clothes they wore. Margaret gets many of her best costumes from the Dollar Store and the Doll Rods will customize to suit any occasion. Food has proven especially versatile. The first time they played with Fortune Records legend Andre Williams, they wore fried chicken, and they appeared in Philadelphia with cheese-steak sandwiches taped to their naughty bits.

Because their lack of inhibition invites close scrutiny, we wondered how Margaret and Christine handle the fact that the prettiest girl in their group is a guy. "Sometimes you'll get a little jealous," Christine admits. "Like when we were in Vienna and this man kept going on and on about how Danny has the nicest butt in the band."

"Yeah," sister Margaret interjects, "but it can work the other way, too. There was a time when these girls came up to us and said, 'We feel really bad for your sister. You two are so voluptuous, but your other sister got nothing.' "

To Danny, this is the whole point of the Demolition Doll Rods. "We want everybody to get loose, shake their ass and have a good time," he says. "Whatever you have or don't have, just shake it, man." Ben Edmonds writes frequently about music for the Metro Times. E-mail him at [email protected]

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