If there is ever an orgy when the world goes up in flames, Apocalypse Hoboken would be the live band. If there was ever a band screaming to be the soundtrack to a movie that was simultaneously spliced together with hardcore porn, Fellini, The Surgery Channel, and The Sears Catalog, little ‘uns underwear section, they’d have their hands up be included. They’re a musical pill that’s shaped like regular cereal yet contains a spool of barbed wire wound tight into a harmless-looking shape and once you bite down, it all unhinges, whipping and cutting and flailing around; leaving the uninitiated more than a little scarred, confused, at a loss for words, and gun shy. More importantly, with each new outing, they keep their fans, myself very much included, yearning for more of their splatterhouse, moneyshot, wickedly insightful songs.
As one of the band members said after the interview, Apocalypse Hoboken is like they’re singing a lullaby while shoving a hand down your pants. And that’s a perfect feeling: molestation, celebration, and self-styled wonder fills their music.
If you have at least one intrepid bone in your body, may I suggest “House of the Rising Son of a Bitch,” “Microstars,” (both on Kung Fu) or the healthy collection of singles, comp tracks, and 7″s called “Inverse, Reverse, Perverse” (Suburban Home Records).
They aren’t for everyone. But they should be.
Interview and pictures by Todd
Todd – Singer
Andy – Drums
Eric – Guitar
Curt – Bass
Scott – Guitar (not present)
Todd T.: So, Todd, have you ever tasted your own come?
Todd: UmmHmm. It was ten or eleven when I first started masturbating and just out of curiosity I tasted it. I don’t know. Do you think that come smells like bleach a little bit?
Todd T.: I never thought about it.
Todd: My grandmother, when I was little and I would stay at her house, she would wash my feet in bleach and it used to make me sick because it smelled like come, and to this day I can’t stand bleach.
Todd T.: Is or was drug use an incremental part of the band’s musical direction?
Andy: I think that depends on which member you talk to. I just drink. Kurt… I don’t want to get Kurt in trouble with his parents.
Kurt: How drug use influenced how I play?
Todd T.: Yeah, how you play.
Kurt: No, I don’t think it’s instrumental in anything that I do, as far as playing or how I approach songs and stuff.
Eric: I do a little bit of everything.
Todd T.: Well, I guess I’m asking because you guys are kind of… wacky. Wackier than your prototypical punk band. So where does that wackiness come from?
Todd: For me, in particular, I have somewhat of a fascination with drugs, and I experiment here and there. Lyrically, the subject of drugs comes up quite a bit and it’s kind of left up to the listener exactly what I do and what I don’t do, but I think an altered state is something that’s important to me. I mean, bands like Butthole Surfers and Jesus Lizard and stuff, those were bands that I would get fucked up to. Their music did something to me when I was in an altered state. I don’t know if Hoboken did that for anybody else, but I would kind of hope so, ’cause at least that’s my angle on it.
Todd T.: Looking around you or looking back, is this a big mistake?
Todd: What do you mean? The band?
Todd T.: Yeah. Are you happy with it?
Kurt: I just laugh it off. It’s a huge mistake but it’s a fantastic time and I think we’re doing good things. Todd: If anything, we’re in our own favorite band. We’ve met a lot of totally great people and the band in itself isn’t a mistake at all, but a lot of our touring has been a mistake. I honestly think we could do things in another way because we’re not going to just cram ourselves down someone’s throat. We’re not an easy pill to swallow and touring with bands like Strung Out and The Assorted Jellybeans and even The Suicide Machines, just isn’t going to do it. Those people going to those shows want nothing to do with a band like us. It’s not their fault and it doesn’t mean that we’re a bad band, but it’s just the way it is.
Todd T.: Would there be any bands, currently touring, that would complement what you do?
Todd: I honestly thought that going out with Murder City Devils and At the Drive In was going to be a godsend, but it was the same type of thing. I was stoked to go out with them and it just wasn’t happening at all, so I don’t know what the answer is.
Todd T.: What was the most drastic artistic change you’ve experienced?
Andy: I think I figured out that all the music I was listening to when I was growing up was the music that really formed all of my style and everything and we got into punk rock because it’s aggressive music and it’s fun to play, and you can get shows and stuff, but I think, lately, I’ve gone back to the music that I listed to when I was younger, like before punk rock, just like ’70s music and stuff like that. And I’m starting to think in terms of just music instead of being punk rock music specifically. And that’s one of the major changes that’s happened with the band, and with myself, specifically.
Eric: I think all of us have been doing that a little bit.
Todd: It’s been a natural progression. That’s what happens to any band and it’s been in all of us to do what we’re doing now and our next album will be completely different.
Todd T.: If a little girl came up to you on the schoolyard, how would you explain what Apocalypse Hoboken sounds like?
Todd: How it sounds or how it feels?
Todd T.: Either.
Todd: We’re kind of like sitting on grandfather’s lap and he slips his hands down your pants.
Todd T.: So it’s a bad touch?
Todd: Yeah, pretty much so, but it’s a touch that can be pleasurable also. You just have to give in.
Kurt: Because you know grandpa.
Todd T.: How would you explain it to somebody who’s wearing a tie?
Kurt: I wouldn’t even try.
Todd: The people who wear ties are the freakiest so they’ll probably enjoy it the most.
Todd T.: What are the largest travails the band has had to overcome? I know that someone close to you died and one of you was severely ill.
Todd: Phil Bonnet recorded us, pretty much from the conception of the band, before I was ever in the band, and…
Kurt: He recorded everybody we know, almost.
Todd: I was with Phil the night that he died and we were doing drugs and that’s what happened, and it changed a lot of things from then on; for us as a band and me personally. But he was a very important part of the band. He was the one person who was always in our corner and it was a huge loss to lose this man that truly loved us. But he’s still with us.
Todd T.: If you could trade one year of your life for one scene in a movie, what would it be… I’m going for “The Blues Brothers” driving the car through the mall scene.
Eric: Any Savannah movie.
Andy: I just always wanted to be the guy who turns to the girl and says, “Come with me if you want to live.”
Kurt: I think mine’s kind of stupid so I’m not going to say mine.
Todd T.: Say it, say it.
Kurt: I was going to say the death star scene in “Star Wars,” where they’re all leaving, when they’re shooting all the stormtroopers and shit. I thought that was pretty cool. I could dig that.
Todd T.: What are some symptoms you can fake to get some really good drugs from a doctor?
Todd: Oh boy, Eric would know this also.
Eric: Maybe a sprained ankle for some Vicadin. I got turned on to Percodin on this tour, which I like a little bit better than Vicadin because it doesn’t make you sleepy.
Todd: You’re turning into Jerry Lewis.
Todd T.: Do you ever feel that your band was signed to Kung Fu Records to be a tax write off?
Todd: Hmm, that’s an incriminating question.
Andy: I hear that a lot. Is there really such a thing as signing a band as a tax write off?
Todd T.: You want to hear how it works? [Turns off tape and explains that instead of having to pay “x” amount for taxes, labels often sign bands at the end of the year to boost the label’s expenses and lower their net profit, only to drop the band a couple months later.]
Todd: We have no clue what’s going on. We’ve never signed a contract but this label keeps on putting out our records.
Todd T.: Wow. And you’re on a label that’s run by a lawyer. (Joe Escalante of the Vandals owns Kung Fu Records.)
Todd: Exactly. And we’ve wanted to sign a contract and there was a three-record contract, and he continues to do good with us, so, you know, I don’t know what to say to that because it’s been a really strange situation. I could complain that I don’t see enough ads – the usual complaints that anyone’s going to have with their record label.
Eric: You go into some bumblefuck town in the middle of Idaho and you see other bands that are on your label and their records are on the shelf and their posters are hung up, but not a single pressing of any record anywhere to be found Apocalypse Hoboken on it.
Andy: I don’t know if we want to get into conspiracies or anything, but it is a legitimate question.
Todd: We got a lot of flack for going to Kung Fu in the first place. I mean, that’s mainly coming locally, from people in Chicago. I was afraid we weren’t going to reviewed in any of the zines and our album came out and everyone reviewed it.
Todd T.: At the Drive In was facing a lot of the same questions you were. Flipside put out their first full-length record and when they were looking for labels to put out their second, people were saying, “Don’t sign to Fearless. You’re going to get killed. They only put out pop punk.” And ATDI were pretty different than that but Fearless did a great job with that record. But I see that you guys are in a pretty similar situation, artistically, on a solid pop punk label.
Todd: I really think that Joe likes us a lot but he honestly doesn’t know what the fuck he’s going to do with us.
Todd T.: What’s the last thing you got your finger really, really stuck inside of?
Todd: I really haven’t got my fingers stuck but the last thing my fingers have been in have been my butt.
Andy: I got mine caught in a cat’s butt.
Todd T.: What’s the biggest audience complaint, right or wrong, about you guys?
Todd: That we’re mean to our audience.
Todd T.: How so?
Todd: Tonight was a good case. Those girls were saying that I was hitting them with the mic stand… I know what I’m doing with that stand. If there’s an accident, they can sue me.
Andy: Plus, you’re very sarcastic.
Todd T.: Have you guys ever been contacted by the Hoboken Chamber of Commerce?
Todd T.: Has anyone from Hoboken come to kick your ass?
Todd: We’ve never even played Hoboken.
Todd T.: So, is the name essentially meaningless?
Todd T.: Then why did you pick that name?
Todd: I think just for that reason. Scott came up with that and it was just two words that he felt fit well together.
Todd T.: It’s pretty easy to say.
Todd: Yeah, but most people can’t spell it, for some reason.
Todd T.: Most people can’t spell.
Todd: It’s like how the Butthole Surfers would name their records: “Locust Abortion Technician,” “Rembrandt Pussyhorse.” Those were words that they just thought were funny.
Todd T.: Did you know that the Butthole Surfers, until they got paid for their first gig, always changed their name.
Todd: Yeah. They were the Undeniable Right To Eat Fred Astaire’s Asshole or something.
Andy: That would have been much better.
Kurt: It’d fit on a sticker nicely.
Todd T.: From listening to your albums, I get the following themes: summer stickiness, languid Asian women, betrayal and dismemberment – both figurative and literal. Is this part of a persona or do you think about this stuff all of the time?
Todd: A lot of things are actual events that have happened. Asian women, in particular.
Todd T.: [quoting a song lyric] How do “Filipino women taste like mugs of spoiled milk”? Can’t you request a douching beforehand or something?
Kurt: That’s for you to find out.
Todd: Yeah, you’ll have to go to Reno and figure that out for yourself.
Todd T.: Pick your favorite of the two or tell me why you can’t pick a favorite and everyone has to answer this question. The Big Boys or Big Black?
Todd: I’d have to say the Big Boys.
Andy: Big Boys.
Eric: Big Black.
Kurt: Big Boys.
Todd T.: Black Flag or Black Sabbath?
Todd: Black Sabbath.
Andy: Black Sabbath.
Todd T.: Butthole Surfers or the pencil eraser that was twirled in Tabitha Soren’s butthole?
Todd: I’d have to go with the pencil even though I love the Butthole Surfers.
Kurt: Is that really a band?
Andy: I don’t know anything about that but I’m intrigued.
Todd T.: It’s a rumor that Tabitha likes the soft end of a number two in her number two and somehow Eddie Vedder has been a twirler. I have no idea if it’s true or not, but it sure is fun to say.
Andy: I’m there.
Todd T.: Pink Floyd or the movie “Pink Flamingos”?
Eric: “Pink Flamingos.”
Todd: Pink Floyd. I’m not a John Waters fan at all.
Andy: I’ll take Syd Barrett.
Kurt: I’d go with Pink Floyd, too.
Todd T.: Prince or Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince?
Todd T.: Fresh women or fresh milk?
Todd: Fresh women.
Andy: Fresh milk.
Eric: Fresh women.
Kurt: Fresh milk.
Todd: The two married guys…
Kurt: I like cereal.
Eric: Couple of pussies.
Todd T.: What, exactly, is a microstar? (The title of their latest album.)
Todd: That song’s about us being microstars. It was something I thought of a while back. In fact, Mark, the guy who runs Johanns Face (a record label), him and I were talking once and he brought it up to me that all of the bands in Chicago were microstars in a certain aspect that we could play Fireside and play in front of five hundred people and then you could go to the store and there are kids that recognize you and he just brought up the term microstar and I thought it was cool.
Todd T.: Are people bummed that you aren’t more straight-ahead punk rock anymore? Have you got more complaints?
Todd: We read one review, as of recently, that if they wanted to hear songs about whisky, they’d buy a country album and if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. But, as far as I know, things have been going pretty cool. Have you heard anything?
Todd T.: Nope. The people I like, most of them like your stuff.
Todd: I think that people that are truly into us are going to enjoy anything we do.
Todd T.: If you could blow something up, like with a bike pump, so it was huge, what would it be and why would you do it?
Andy: Tabitha Soren.
Kurt: A pencil.
Eric: It would probably be my ball sack. Then it would look proportionate to my cock.
Todd T.: What insult can be hurled at you that you can not deny?
Todd: You’re a bunch of queers. No, that’s not an insult, right Kurt?
Todd: Married man.
Kurt: I don’t know. We’re all babies. We’re all moody.
Todd T.: What are some microstar bands from the midwest that people on the west coast wouldn’t know?
Todd: Psychic Kato, Oblivion, The Traitors, No Empathy, Blue Meanies… the list just goes on and on.
Todd T.: Has any label that you’ve been on so far said that you can’t do a specific song or didn’t accept a certain mix. Any album covers get nixed?
Todd: Our latest album, we had to re-sequence it because the label wanted the quote, unquote punk songs first because people who listen to Guttermouth would put on our album and not listen to it, but all of us could truly care less if anyone that liked Guttermouth listened to us anyway. But that’s the one thing and the only thing that’s ever happened to us in that way.
Todd T.: So you didn’t have any trouble with the dental shot from “Now’s Not a Good Time”‘s cover?
Andy: The record labels we were working with weren’t like “record labels,” in that sense.
Todd T.: Even some small labels can exert too much control.
Andy: I think they’re all afraid of us. They wouldn’t dare.
Todd T.: What piece of music have you shamelessly ripped off and you’re surprised that no one’s called you on it?
Eric: Take your pick.
Todd: With the new album, we kind of ripped off a lot of things.
Andy: I think “Little Fingers” is “Runaround Sue.” I don’t know. This is all going to be too incriminating, though. In a lot of ways, it’s all stolen, but you just change the emphasis on it.
Todd T.: Give me more examples.
Eric: I don’t have anything to share.
Todd: I’ll steal vocal patterns from Wall of Voodoo and Adam and the Ants. I do it all the time.
Todd T.: Where do you steal your dance moves from? You’re smooth.
Todd: James Brown.
Andy: All bands steal and that’s just the way it is.
Todd T.: What are you surprised that people don’t recognize? I’m not asking for influences, but has anyone come up and say, for example, “That’s a Rush drum fill”?
Todd: I don’t think anything is really that obvious. We know where it’s coming from.
Todd T.: It’s more imbedded?
Todd: Yeah. I really don’t think anyone could really pick out what we’re doing and say, “That’s stolen from that.” I don’t think so. We steal a lot from At the Drive In.
Eric: What’s the song with the long ending with the horns and stuff? The super long ending. I don’t know the name of it.
Todd: “One Last Tasty Morsel.”
Todd and Eric: We kind of stole that from Rocket From the Crypt.
Andy: They didn’t patent the excessively long ending.
Todd: The formula’s not theirs but I think we kind of got the idea from that song on “Circa: Now.”
Todd T.: The “everybody smoke pot” one?
Todd: Yeah, yeah. And they stole that from the Beatles.
Andy: I just hate that song. It’s just one of those things – a Beatles song, “everybody smoke pot,” and all that – I just think it’s really lame. Everybody’s wink, wink, nudge, nudge, “You know that Beatles song where they say ‘smoke pot,’ ain’t that funny. We’re gonna do that on our song.” I just thought that was so fucking lame. I don’t know. I don’t like anything, anways.
Todd T.: What’s your hidden talent? What can you do, Andy, besides play drums?
Andy: I don’t know. Make tapes. I’m really good with cats.
Todd: Eric can suck his own dick.
Eric: No, that was a guy I knew in middle school.
Todd: I’m really good with kids.
Andy: Kurt knows macrame.
Todd T.: Do you guys have day jobs?
Todd: Yes. I’m a painter. Paint apartments.
Andy: I do inside sales, which means I just answer the phones and I take orders and I buy things.
Eric: I’m a painter.
Todd: Eric and I are actually partners.
Andy: Eric does murals.
Eric: Mostly landscapes.
Todd T.: Todd, how did your blood poisoning come about?
Todd: Our last show in Denver, Colorado, I was already getting sick and I needed to get my tonsils taken out, so I think from just singing on microphones that other people were singing on, I got a staph infection and during that time, I don’t know if you remember, but at least in Chicago, a lot of people were dying from staph infections and it’s the same virus that I caught. It knocked me out for a long time.
Todd T.: How long were you in the hospital for?
Todd: I was in the hospital for a week and a half and at first they couldn’t figure out what was wrong with me. They thought I had an abscess on my tonsil so the doctor, he wanted to drain it – so I’m in the emergency room and he sprays some Novocain stuff on my tonsils. He goes, “Is it numb?” I’m, “Not really.” Opens my mouth, and jams this needle into my tonsil and he tries to drain it, and I’m like, “Oh, god,” pulls the needle back out, sprays more Novocain on it. By this time it was numb, jams it back in there again. “I don’t know what’s wrong with you. It’s not draining.” Two days later – they sent me back home – I went back to the hospital. I was delirious with a fever. I was hallucinating. Went back there. They still didn’t know. They gave me a shot of antibiotics. Went back again and then that’s when they admitted me and did a blood culture and found out that I had a staph infection. It was pretty intense.
Todd T.: How long did it take for you to get back on track?
Todd: It was a good three weeks and everything was fine after that.
Todd T.: If you could Ebay your cock, what would be the product description and how much do you think you could get for it?
Eric: Well used but in good condition. Hand accessories. The Cadillac of cocks. Looks larger in a small hand. I’d rent it out, probably. Wouldn’t want to sell it.
Andy: Brand new. In the box. Just like the one you had when you were a boy.
Todd: Mine would be: Slightly bent, with pro gear and attitude.
Eric: Gig bag a must. Has own transportation. Already has a record deal.
Todd T.: Have you ever been in the middle of a fight, just lowered your fists, and conceded to getting hit?
Todd: I usually curl up in a ball and scream like a baby.
Andy: That sounds like this tour.
Eric: I’ve never dropped my guard. I’ve got my ass beat.
Todd T.:Any inspirational words for today’s youth?
Todd: Yeah, just stay away from Apocalypse Hoboken.
Eric: Check my ad on Ebay.
Todd T.: I think bands like Apocalypse Hoboken remind me of bands like The Pixies. I remember times when I saw them with 40 people in the crowd. And now, their albums sell probably stronger now than they’ve ever sold before. And there’s more and more people influenced by them over time.
Andy: That’s definitely how I feel about it.
Todd T.: And not to sound corny and not to make it bigger than it is, but you guys may be ahead of yourself in time, or at least sideways in time. There are things that are very, very difficult and things that may be outside of your influence that may come around to helping you. Even if it’s a radio station, a magazine, a group of people you don’t know yet. I don’t know quite where I’m going with this.
Todd: [to Andy] You have been playing in this band for eleven years.
Todd T.:And why are you guys virtually unknown in California? That’s an anathema to me. I don’t understand it. And I don’t have an answer to it.
Andy: Most of the bands that I really, really liked completely died.
Todd T.: Who?
Andy: Victim’s Family. I think those guys, from what I understand, their last tour was really, really bad. They didn’t go out in a blaze of glory. I can think of bands like Beefeater. I thought they were tremendously important bands. At least to myself, they were so obviously good and they went nowhere and no one gave a shit. And there’s a band like the Descendents who write a song about how much they like to eat a pussy or something like that and they’re the biggest thing in the fucking world.
Todd T.: Bands like Pegboy came out to California and played to fifty people. That sucks.
Todd: That’s happening in Chicago to them now. I don’t know what that reason is.
Todd T.: I don’t mean this line of questioning as a negative thing at all.
Andy: I was wondering.
Todd T.: You guys are in a difficult position, but if you’re making the music that you want to make, then that’s a positive thing.
Andy: We are now.
Todd T.: How did you come to realize that?
Andy: I think the last time we went on tour with the Murder City Devils and At the Drive In, we had serious discussions on what we wanted to do as far as the next records. And one of the things was, we were going to stop thinking about who we were supposed to be playing for and just do things we wanted, even if that meant we did an acoustic number or some James Brown-sounding thing. And once we started doing music like that, it was so easy and it was so much more interesting.
Todd T.: What keeps you going, then? You guys are up against almost overwhelming odds, to a certain extent – especially touring and playing in front of ten people.
Andy: We do think we should be the most popular band in the country. We’ll stop if we don’t get a kick out of it anymore but we believe in what we do. It’s not anything we can control – if people are really going to dig us or anything. It would help a lot if we were on Fat Wreck Chords or something and we’re not, so we kind of have to look at it that way. There are some bands out there, it happens for them so quickly. Everyone’s there and they just bitch about it and they have an awful time and they don’t know how lucky that they have it. Every once in a while, we’ll have a really good show and we’ll all look at each other and go, “That was worth it.” It just takes guts, you know. If it was easy, it would be kind of pointless.