Do Something: An Interview with Tim Kerr By Todd Taylor

Nov 09, 2005

Punk rock gets harder the older you get. The reaffirmation process is continual. Political ideals seem to pale in comparison to medical bills or raising a family or worrying about a job. No matter how hard it seems you push, the world pushes back harder. You have to dig deeper and really figure, "Am I up for the long haul? Am I willing to give up all these other things to be an active participant? Will I live up to what sounded good ten years ago?" Although I don't have any idols, there is a handful of people who I truly look up to, be it for inspiration, guidance, or just example. Tim Kerr is one of those people. Tim played in one of the select bands - the Big Boys - that kept my keel even in high school, that broke open my awareness that punk rock didn't have to be brain dead or reactionary if I didn't like the world around me. I could change it by first changing myself and never letting that process stop.

After the Big Boys ended, Tim didn't snap close his guitar case, get a job selling insurance, and turn his back on "youthful indiscretion." He kept going, stronger and stronger. Not only has he been and continues to be in an endless series of great bands (Bad Mutha Goose, Poison 13, Jack O'Fire, the Lord High Fixers, Monkeywrench, and Total Sound Group Direct Action Committee), he's engaged, eyes alight, ears listening. Tim's one of those guys who doesn't stop being fascinated and it's contagious.

And it's not just playing music. He's a talented painter. He's an accomplished producer (a title he's not comfortable with, but he's worked the knobs with bands as diverse as This Bike Is a Pipebomb to the Riverboat Gamblers to Throw Rag to Sugar Shack). But it's still more than all of these pieces. These parts are like vital organs, not the body. Tim's whole; all of these parts fit together. It's how he can, after over twenty-five years of continual involvement, show up with a smile and hug and see how he can contribute to what's next. Punk rock's lucky to have him.

Interview and photos by Todd

Parts of this interview have been previously printed in Bail Magazine and Verbicide Magazine.

Todd: Just to get some scope here, you started playing in a band in '79?
Tim: It gets debatable, but I'm still sticking to '78. We were at the end of the original punk rock wave. Hardcore hadn't started yet. There wasn't any kind of division between new wave and punk. It was all the same thing and under one, big umbrella.
Todd: XTC, Clash, Jonathan Richmond.
Tim: Yeah, all that stuff was a whole bunch of crazy weirdoes in the eyes and ears of the majority of people around you.
Todd: You started skating when?
Tim: Urethane wheels or steel wheels? I started skating, probably, in the early '60s when skateboards came out. I lived on the Gulf Coast. I was born in '56, so I was pretty much a kid through that whole "'60s" thing - The Munsters, Outer Limits and all that kind of stuff. I had a Fifteen Toes wooden skateboard. It had steel wheels. It didn't have the roller skate clay wheels. I pretty much skated up and down the driveway all the time if we weren't going to the beach. I started surfing really heavy in late junior high and all through high school. Pretty much, if the waves were good we didn't go to school.
In 1974, before Cadillac actually started running ads for their skate wheels, that summer, I graduated from high school. I went with a friend who everybody called Bear because on the coldest day at home in Texas, he would never have a wetsuit on. He and I went up and down the West Coast surfing. Localism was pretty bad if you had Texas plates. We surfed a lot at Malibu and Leo Correo State Park. You definitely couldn't go to San Diego. Any further south than that, you definitely got your tires slashed. We were in Huntington Beach and I saw, where that pier is, a sidewalk that came down and a pretty big bank that was attached to that sidewalk. There were three guys hitting that thing like total waves on skateboards. Urethane wheels just came out and I was pretty mesmerized by that. I was going, "Man, that's great."
I had looked at surfing magazines, but I didn't really read that stuff. I just didn't pay that much attention. So, I thought, sunny California! and I didn't bring a wetsuit. I didn't think the water was cold. We get to Malibu. It was really early in the morning. It's pretty cold. Everybody's in hooded sweatshirts. Victor, the guy who we all called Bear, was like, "Oh, well, I brought my wetsuit. You can wear it." I thought, cool. He literally walked out into the water about ankle deep, turned around, came back, put on the whole wetsuit. I'd never, ever seen this guy in a wetsuit. Holy shit!
I had brought enough extra money to buy a surfboard, but instead I spent the money on a wetsuit so I could surf while we were there. I only had enough money left over to buy a skateboard with urethane wheels.
I came up to Austin to go to school pretty much at the end of that trip. Austin's about three and half, maybe four hours to the Gulf Coast where me and Beth (Tim's wife) both grew up. I couldn't surf all the time, so I just skated. There's lots of hills here, so I got pretty heavy into skating then, just as a substitute for not being able to surf.
Todd: Did the formation of the Big Boys, and everyone involved skating, center around the Pflugerville Ditch?
Tim: Yeah, but there was stuff going on before Pflugerville. We all didn't really know, yet, how to do those forevers. We were more into going to places that were going down a hill. There was a ditch in Georgetown that we would always go to. If you knew how to forever...
Todd: Explain what a forever is.
Tim: A ramp's a really great example. In a ramp, when you're pumping back and forth to keep your speed up. It's this thing you do with your weight and your legs. It's one of those things, too, where you couldn't ever really explain it to somebody. You could show them. Even when you sat there and saw how it was done, it's just unbelievably the hardest thing to do, until, all of a sudden, you had it. Then it was so easy that you were embarrassed at how hard you thought it was. I think everybody went through that.
Todd: Same thing with dropping in.
Tim: Yeah. But a forever is basically where you can keep your speed up on a flat thing with walls. We would always go to Georgetown and Georgetown had this ditch that went a pretty good, long ways down a hill. It dropped into a whole bunch of cement walls coming in different angles and this crazy overpass thing that came down. That's pretty much where we went all the time and would pass by Pflugerville. We actually stopped at Pflugerville once and decided "This sucks." Nobody even knew the concept of pumping yet.
It's unbelievably hard to explain to people now about skating or punk rock or any of that stuff back then -you're talking '75, '76 - people had no fucking clue what was going on. First, it was like, "Those are back again? How old are you? Grow up." Unbelievable amounts of shit you would get. People just did not have a clue. When we started skating in swimming pools, in '76, I broke my arm skating in this fourteen-foot pool in Bastrop. When I went to the hospital, they couldn't even comprehend it. "You mean you were on the sidewalk and you were skating and you fell into the pool?" Its hard for people to understand how under the radar all of this stuff was back then because now, it's everywhere, everybody knows now. You see it on TV.
The Big Boys just kind of met through all of that, just skating in the hills and skating at a bunch of different places. Once the whole forever thing started up, then everybody started congregating at Pflugerville all the time because that place was really great, had lips, and you could lipslide and do all kinds of crazy stuff. That's where we would all skate.
Todd: Do you still do both things actively?
Tim: Skate and surf? I haven't skated very much since I broke my leg last year, because I really need to do some things to strengthen it back up before I start running on cement again. Surfing - I try and go. I haven't done a whole lot, especially like I used to, but I definitely try to go. The bad thing about Texas waves is that when there's waves in Texas, there's waves for as far out as you can see. Constantly having to paddle. You really have to be in pretty damn good shape.
Todd: On the coasts, at least you can rest between sets.
Tim: Right. I'm working on it slowly, trying to get my stamina back up to where I can surf a whole lot more. I really miss that a lot.
Todd: Here's a question I don't know the answer to, and it seems like a really obvious one. Where did the Big Boys get their name?
Tim: There was this party that was happening at the Vault, which was actually an old fur vault with great, big, huge metal door that was the only door in and out of this place. We were always kidding that if anybody ever shut that door when these parties were going on, they'd pretty much kill off punk rock in Austin, Texas. Basically, somebody asked me if we wanted to play this big party. There were fifteen bands. I was like, "Oh yeah, that'd be cool." It wasn't really a set thing. It was somebody asking - not even getting a hold of you to find out - just talking. "Oh yeah, here's this party. Do you guys maybe want to play that?" And I said, "Maybe so." They said, "What's your band's name?" I remembered one of the names on the list was Big Boys and it was mainly for Biscuit and Chris because they were big guys and I said that. We hadn't really decided yet. Literally, I think within two nights, Beth and I were walking down the drag and there were posters up for this party and Big Boys was listed. Seriously, the first thing out of both of our minds and mouths was, "Oh shit, somebody's got that name." Then we kinda realized, "Oh shit, that's us. We're supposed to play." That's basically where the name came from.
We had a big, long list of names. I can't even remember them at all. I think we had practiced maybe twice. The whole idea for us was to play Raul's one time. Chris Gates and me literally did flip a coin at Pflugerville to see who would play guitar or bass. He pretty much played guitar exactly how Junkyard ended up being and I played guitar like, crazy tunings and acoustic - John Martin, Nick Drake and all that kind of stuff. So, I got guitar when we flipped the coin and he got bass.
Todd: It was not from the Elvis Costello song, off of Armed Forces?
Tim: No. I didn't even think about that until you just said that. Jack O' Fire wasn't for that Gun Club song either, which was another one I didn't even think about until somebody brought up that. It's not even like, "Aw, shit." It's like, "No."
Todd: Did you guys ever get mistaken for, or call you, the Fat Boys?
Tim: No. Once again, this was a really small community and if you got any sort of ridicule at all, it was pretty much frats or the majority of the outside world who had no idea what this was. In their narrow minded safe little world you and your friends, whether it was skating or punk rock, were basically called faggot or whatever else they could come up with. If somebody was yelling out "fat boy," it wasn't really any big deal considering all the other shit you'd get, or had thrown at you. There was one time during Bad Mutha Goose, where this band in San Antonio went on as the Pig Boys and thought that was really funny and I guess were trying to get my goat up. It didn't bother me. I didn't really care one way or the other. I think, in the long run, I probably won that one.
Todd: Did the Big Boys guys get any flack for putting on KKK robes and having the Izod alligators painted on the front? There was a picture of that on your split with the Dicks.
Tim: It's really funny that you're even bringing that up. For some reason, everybody who has seen that photo, 'cause it was on the back of that record, thinks that we were trying to dress up like KKK. Hardly anybody gets that what that was Kappa Kappa Kappa. It was a slap at the fraternity for being racist and just a bunch of fucking assholes. That's why the Izod gator was painted on the robes.
Once again, most of the people who came to those shows were pretty much the whole community that supported the scene by being in bands or just coming to shows. It's not like you're at some big, huge festival where ninety percent of the people have never even been to or seen something like this. But, at the same time, there was a period at Raul's where the different fraternities would initiate their freshmen by making them come into Raul's for one night. I'm not sure what the initiation was, like were you supposed to pick up a girl or start a fight or whatever. Usually, that would get pretty bad. People would get pretty heated and there would definitely be some fights.
I remember really vividly that one night when we were playing they all came in. At first, they were kinda there and nothing was going on. Then you saw one look at another one. "Oh, wait a minute," kind of thing, "we need to start some shit here." Somebody poured beer on one of the Dicks, which is like, "Wrong. You don't do anything like that to those guys." The fight started. I distinctly remember stopping whatever song we were playing and going straight into "Frat Cars." "Okay, this song is about you fuckin' assholes." The whole crowd, fifty people maybe, pretty much circled the whole fraternity crew, just singing the words at them. It was really, really amazing and fucking great and we never played that song after that night. It was, like, "There it is. That's exactly what we wrote this for." I remember Beth was at the door, taking money at the time. One of them was reaching up for her to bring her down because she was standing on a chair, so he could talk to her. All I could see is, here's this idiot frat guy. Now he's after Beth, which is probably what I said over the microphone. Of course, everybody went running after them. Beth later said, "What he was saying was, 'We were just having fun. What happened?'" They got fuckin' chased out of there. We were hooting and hollering after it was over, patting each other on the back and going, "We're not ever playing that song again." Nowadays, it's just really hard for people to understand what it was like back then. People don't get it.
Todd: There's no context for it.
Tim: They also can't understand that the reason you were doing this was because of all of the community and your friends. The only reward of it was that you pulled it off. You had shows. People had a good time. There was no way in hell that any of this was going to be played on the radio. There was no way anybody was going to make money on it. None of that. When you have a song that's obviously about these idiot frats and here they are and you get to sing it right to them and basically win, as stupid as that sounds, that was better than having it being a huge hit on the radio.
It's the same way with Poison 13. They say Poison 13 was this thing in Seattle. Us and Tales of Terror were a big influence on grunge. Everybody knew that Poison 13 album and everybody knew the song "One Step Closer." They played it as a cover. I tried and tried to explain to Mark (Arm) and Steve (Turner) (of Mudhoney), "Man, thirty people came and saw us here at home. They hated it here." I think Mark and Steve thought it was a big thing.
Todd: To dilate this a little bit more open, you start out with a small, very dedicated and loyal local community. How did the Big Boys get on the skaterock comp, Blazing Wheels and Barking Trucks? How did you get involved with skateboarding magazines and begin to interact more nationally?
Tim: Back then, the only skate magazine that was really coming out was Skateboarder. Then, this one people will argue about, but I remember it being Steve Olson, here comes the first person I see in Skateboarder that was kind of like, "Uh, oh, here comes punk rock into skateboarding. Cool." All of us were already listening to that stuff. I remember that happening and then I remember Thrasher coming out. When Thrasher first came out, the first three or four issues were kind of like a big fanzine. It wasn't like, "Ooh, you bought this at the supermarket." It's not a big magazine like Skateboarder was. It looks like something me and you put out, which is exactly what it was. The first time the big boys went to California, we got in touch them, and not to be in the magazine either. Even at that point, there wasn't anything that was going to happen with this "punk rock/hardcore" other than you get to meet a whole bunch of people and the community of it. That was basically your reward: self-expression and having a great time. When we went, we were, "Hey, let's write these guys, 'cause when we're in San Francisco, let's find out where the ditches are." We would do the same thing if someone was coming here. That's another reason why the skating thing and the punk thing connected - because they were both a community like that at that time. Everybody was sleeping on each other's floors. "Oh man, we found this pool at so-and-so's. C'mon down here to Austin and we'll show you where it's at and let's go skate." Camaraderie and community. Punk was a lot like that back then because all those bands were staying at each other's houses and on their floors.
Todd: It was a much more closed circuit.
Tim: As big as the United States is, it was a really close-knit scene. Everybody knew what was going on. If you happened to put on a show and you were a total fuck up, I guarantee you, the next day, pretty much the country would know about it. "Don't deal with this guy. He just stole this much money." It was really super connected. With us, being skaters first and then doing this stuff, it was really natural to think... "Oh, look, here's this fanzine Thrasher, let's write these guys." They wrote back. We went up there. Met MoFo and Kevin. Went around to some places, went skating, had a great time. The next thing that happened was MoFo started up those comics: Wild Riders of Boards. It's supposedly about us, but it was a made-up story. I really, really think that MoFo was the first person to say "skaterock." We were all skaters that were in this band. It wasn't like this band was skaterock. Its just that skating was just as much a part of our lives as playing music. We didn't really have any songs about skating. We started getting written about maybe first but JFA, to me, was the first skaterock band because they were the first ones to come out, going "We're skaterock." Whereas we were like, "We're skaters and we play this." I'm not saying that that's a bad thing.
Todd: For me, JFA flew the skating flag a little bit higher than you guys did.
Tim: Once Thrasher started doing these articles - because there really was a lot of people who skated back then that were in the scene of punk rock, too - everybody saw the opportunity to be in Thrasher, then you really did start to have a lot of people going, "We skate. We rock. We're a skaterock band." It didn't really faze us at all. It kinda pissed off JFA though, so Brian wrote this letter to Thrasher and it basically was a challenge. "Okay, all you bands who say you're skaterock, I challenge you, in a pool or the ditch."
Todd: He threw down the gauntlet.
Tim: Literally, that's what it was. Calling you down. So, when they came here, this was right after he had sent the letter and we were not aware of the challenge yet. I remember taking them to Pflugerville. That was the first thing we did. "All those guys skate, we all skate. Let's go." They really weren't skating. They were kinda hanging back and we're taking off, sliding all over the place and going crazy. I kept thinking it was probably because they were kind of scared to drop in or whatever. I found out later, what it was, they were checking us out. They were making sure that we skated.
Todd: They were testing your mettle.
Tim: Of course, we passed the test. I never knew anything about that until after that letter came out. We started laughing.
Todd: Looking at the overlap between skaters and punk rock, did you know Tony Alva before the second or third show of your first Southern California tour, before he got in the van?
Tim: The first time I met Tony was in Dallas. There was a big contest and we played on the ramp there. I'm pretty inspired by a lot of people - and this sounds really fairly pretentious, which I don't mean it to sound - it's not like, "Oh my god," kind of thing. I'm not starstruck with anybody. I think it's great when people are doing stuff and I definitely want to let them know. But, with Tony Alva, I kinda was starstruck (smile). For the longest time down here, the Dogtown thing really struck a chord. Our little crew of people was kind of considered that for this area because we were a little bit more boisterous. That was an honor that we held in high esteem! The first Alva board that one of us got, we wrote, "Alva, who?" on the bottom of it out of a sort of smartass respect. Actually, there's a magazine that just came out. Left of the Dial. If you open it up in the middle, you'll see a picture of the Big Boys all sitting in the middle of me and Beth's old house, and you'll see my board laying up against the couch. It says "Dogtown Forever" under this painting on it. Those stories were just unbelievable. It was just great. So, here he was. "Oh my god, I've definitely got to say something to him but I don't know what to say." I'm trying to think of what I can do that's not just exchanging names. So, I finally get up the nerve and I walk up to him and before I can say anything, he's like, "Oh, man, Tim, you're in the Big Boys!" I was completely thrown off course. "I want to talk about Dogtown. I don't want to talk about the Big Boys."
Then, when we went up there on that tour, he pretty much latched on with us and rode with us the whole time. That's when we met Mondo and all these crazy characters. Got in with all that crew. We all just kind of felt real comfortable with each other.
The only brag I'll tell people about - you know where that dish is in San Francisco? It used to be one of the only free community cement skate spots. It was in a really, really bad part of town. We all went up there. Thrasher crew, Mondo and MoFo were there, all these different people. I came around that dish, really going fast, and Tony and Mondo were sitting on the edge of it. When I got up to where they were, I just took off and slid, like I was spraying them, like I was surfing, and went around them, got off the board, sat down, and was just sitting by them. Mondo and Tony are now talking. They're not talking to me. They're just talking loud. They're just kind of making comments. Mondo goes, "You know, if I didn't know Tim was from Texas, I'd think he's from Santa Monica. He looks just like all the Dogtown guys. He's got that style." Because I grew up surfing. Tony's like, "Yeah, he does. He looks just like all those guys." So I'm sitting there. On the outside, I'm just sitting there, you know... "Oh yeah, that's cool," but I swear to god, inside and inside for about two or three months, I was, "Hell yeah!"
Todd: Redemption.
Tim: A lot of us were really affected by Dogtown.
Todd: Shifting focus a little bit. It's 2004. Why is it still important that people start their own bands, do their own scenes, promote their own culture?
Tim: You get more out of life if you participate in what is going on and do things. If you do things - not that you're doing it to do this - but, at the same time, you're planting seeds around people because everybody is an influence to somebody else. They just are. Whether it's a good influence or a bad influence, that's kind of beside the point. At some point, you're going to influence somebody. I'm not saying that in a pretentious sort of way or anything. That's just human nature. That's just life.
Todd: That's part of sticking your neck out, too.
Tim: If I'm going to influence anybody at all, I want to be a positive influence on something. The only way that you can be a positive influence on somebody is participating in things and doing stuff and walking your walk. If I couldn't do any sort of self-expression at all, then I would definitely be there to support what was going on. That's a big part of it, too - supporting and celebrating people who are sticking their necks out although I'm not sure if I look at it that way... sticking your neck out... To me it's just living and being yourself and doing what you do.
Todd: It becomes second nature.
Tim: It's exactly like skating. When you're in a pool, you're not thinking of the danger of it. It's just, "This is great." Pretty much expressing yourself. If something happens, if somebody throws a rock at your head when you're playing the guitar or if somebody wants to fight you or if you lock up on the gutter and you fall and you break something, then, well, that's the danger, but that's not stopping you. You're not thinking of it in those terms, though I guarantee you that there are some people who do think like that. Once again, to each his own. I'm not going to stand on a soapbox.
I'm also not going to stand on a soapbox and ask the question why do people stop? We definitely all have friends who say, "Music stopped in '78." "Music stopped with Husker Du's last album." "R.E.M. That's when it stopped." And they don't listen anymore. It's really sad to me. They're really missing out. I've made this analogy thousands of times, but it's literally like going to the cafeteria and ordering the one thing every time you go or going to some restaurant and never trying anything else, never even noticing the connections between anything else. All that stuff, to me, is sad. I think one of the main things you learn, if you're aware of it when you get older, is that there's a whole lot more of them than us. So when you meet all these different people, hug 'em, celebrate 'em because there ain't a lot.
Todd: For all the negative elements that people associate with punk rock, especially from the outside, to stay sane, you have to celebrate the good stuff. You have to have fun. You have to spazz out.
Tim: We never saw any negative stuff in it. That was all them seeing that shit. That's their problem.
Todd: When you're playing music, at what time do you think, "I'd like to do something a little more behind the scenes," like producing or working a sound board? When did that first come into play?
Tim: I was always doing it when we would go in and record. Me and Chris (Gates) both were always there the whole time. Once again, it's all the same to me. Skating, surfing, playing music, painting, producing, all this kind of stuff, it's all the same. I don't really think of it as "behind the scenes." I think of it as, "Well, this is just another way to help." Playing is a way to help. It's all, hopefully, helping people and having a great time at the same time. You start realizing it ain't that hard if you just work. I guess, to some people, it would be hard, but if it's something that's you and you feel pretty great about it, it's like me painting up there. I never think of that as work. I never think about practicing the guitar, I just play the guitar all the time. When that's happening and you really enjoy it, it's not hard. It's not work. You get better because you are doing it and you start realizing all of these other crazy opportunities. "Shit, maybe I could start a band. Maybe I could start a fanzine." You start realizing how it affects other people. Not necessarily that you're doing it for that, but you kind of understand that.
Todd: You get a wheel that's much bigger than you rolling. You don't control how fast it spins, but you're definitely connected to it.
Tim: And there's definitely a responsibility there and I'm not saying you have the weight of the world on your shoulders or anything like that. It's either that you are the type of person who stands up to the responsibility and doesn't make excuses for yourself or you're the kind of person who makes excuses.
Back to the question. Me and Chris were always a part of the recording process only if it was just watching and without being aware, learning. Probably in the late '80s, friends started to ask, "Hey, would you come in with us and make sure this engineer isn't pulling stuff," or this, that, and the other.
Todd: Can you remember the first time?
Tim: Not really. There was a band here called Four Front. Josh who was in Jack O'Fire, the Sevens. Really, really great human being. Super, super nice. He can play anything. You wish you could play one thing as well as he can play anything. Right around that time, I remember them asking. I remember there was a band called the Cavemen that actually asked me to just come sit with them and do a home recording. Stuff like that.
I remember the first one that somebody said, "Hey, we're going to give you money and we want to put you on the record as being the producer," which, to this day, I'm still super uncomfortable with that label. I'm super uncomfortable with "musician," "vegetarian," "producer." All that kind of label stuff has got so much fucking baggage attached to it that is not me at all. I'm just there to be sort of the coach. I'm here to help. I'm not your typical producer and don't care to be.
The first one was Sugar Shack. Sugar Shack was going to pay me, and I thought, "Holy shit," because I was really embarrassed. To this day, I don't really charge. I pretty much let people pay me what they want to pay me or what they can afford. I have a job working for the university. I never, ever wanted any kind of self-expression to be something that I had to count on for money. I'm not stupid. I'm not going to turn money down, but I don't want that to be a decision-maker. At this point right now, I know I could quit the library and easily live off of going and recording all of these bands, but I don't want to be at the end of a month - "Oh shit, we need the rent. Okay. I'll do that band." Instead, I'm doing things that I really like. You have to be a workaholic, but I enjoy doing it, so it doesn't seem like work to me.
Anyway, so they were going to pay me. I was like, "Oh my god. I don't know if I know what the hell I'm doing. Plus, it's one of things, too, where it really is a crazy job. Any kind of self-expression: art, music, any of this stuff, is all completely subjective. People hear something their own way and that's just as valid as the person sitting by you. If somebody had the inside key to this shit, they'd be a millionaire. They'd be the one making all the hits. It's just a really odd thing to me to get asked to walk in there, give my opinion, and basically go, "Oh, that's kind of cool. Why don't you do it slower?" Then to actually get paid, that's fairly embarrassing. It's just really odd.
It took a little while, but I understand now; I don't think I'm the best. I don't think anything like that at all, but I'm good at it. I know that. I can say that now and I'll probably still wince if I see it written. At least I can say it now because it is a truth too me. I know the reason why it's like that is because I've been around doing this for a long time and, from day one, listening to anything and everything. In one day, I usually listen to Aaron Copeland, Anthony Braxton, Black Flag, just all kinds of fucking shit and I really think that if somebody does want to do this for a living, that's something they should start doing because it really gives you a lot broader musical vocabulary when bands come in and are asking you, "Well, what do you think?"
It's like reviewing a band. Most people who review bands - and this sounds awful - their musical vocabulary is fairly narrow so they don't really understand that Aaron Copeland might be in this. It's that whole thing of participating and doing stuff. You're gonna get more out of life and be a broader person if you really open up to everything and I'm not saying that you have to like everything, but I'm just saying listen to everything - see everything, smell everything - the palette gets a whole lot bigger.
So back to Sugar Shack, I asked Spot to come in with me to be the engineer to make sure I wasn't fuckin' up. Spot and me did that first one, as far as getting paid. That's where the whole Bring Me the Head of Jon Spencer came from because of Sugar Shack. Andy told me at one time while we were recording their first album that they were going to name the record Bring Me the Head of Mark Arm and I thought, that's the fucking greatest thing ever. I didn't know Mark at the time, but I was, "You should do that. That's great." It's the same way why I did it with Jon Spencer. I didn't know Jon Spencer but it was the idea like back when hardcore was first going and all of those records from back then, if you look, you'll see these huge name lists. "We want to thank" and the whole back cover is full of names and everybody did that because you didn't want to leave anybody out. If you played with this band from Podunk Idaho that you played with one time because you came through their town, you make damn sure that you put them on there, 'cause if anybody sees this, you want to bring everybody with you. It's a community thing. With that in mind, saying something like that, you were giving a shout out to him. You're giving a shout out to Mark. You're giving a shout out to Jon Spencer. If they smile and get it and kind of laugh and stuff, cool. You're part of the community. If you're so vain that it pisses you off; "That's my name. That's me," fuck you! Then you don't have the fuckin' right attitude to begin with and you should be fucked with. (smile)
Todd: It's a litmus test.
Tim: But Sugar Shack were too scared to do it because they didn't know Mark. When I told Mark, fairly soon after that, was when Monkeywrench did that first thing, he was just rolling on the floor. "Oh man, they shoulda. That would have been great." When this whole Jack O' Fire thing came out and Jon Spencer was in every magazine, it was "Howlin' Wolf this" and "Howlin' Wolf that." I thought, we're from Texas and we are playing Howlin' Wolf, so we're going to put "Bring me the head of Jon Spencer." And if you look on the single, on the inside, how they scratch on the label part of it.
Todd: On the matrix area.
Tim: Inside, you'll see "Bring me the hands of Steve Turner." I'd been in Monkeywrench by then so people should have known the spirit that those statements were coming from... But sure enough, everything that ever came out about that record, most of the time, they wouldn't even talk about the music. It was just, "Oh my god. How could they say something like that about Jon Spencer?" It was hilarious. It was great. It's just showing the stupidity of the person writing the damn review. You don't even get the community of this. Whatever, and now you're pretty much wearing it on your sleeve because you've written it all down here for everybody to read.
Todd: I'm trying to broaden what I listen to. I listened to Bobbie Vee the other day. I found a record for a quarter. I really didn't like it. What's the other side to that? Have you ever gone too far and said, "Man, I really don't like this. I don't want to be involved with something like this" and finding yourself reeling your musical tastes back a little? Is it constantly expanding or does it oscillate?
Tim: It kind of goes back and forth, but it's pretty much expanding all of the time. A really great example of this: think about the first time you heard punk rock. Or think about the first time you heard Tex Mex music, or classical. It all sounded the same. I'm not saying that in a bad sort of way. It's just a fact. When you first hear stuff - when you hear crazy metal, it all sounds the same. So, either you're the type of person who keeps listening and realize, "I don't really like that, but I like this. That's pretty cool. That's real neat what they're doing there. Does somebody else do something like that?" That's how it starts. Does that make sense? Instead of doing something like, "Metal? Fuck that shit," because you've heard it once or twice and you just write it off. There's definitely things that I'm not that much into, but, at the same time, I'm still at least going to be open enough to hear what's somebody's saying or what they're doing.
Another good example of this is paintings. If somebody came up and said, "Instead of red right there, why don't you put blue right there?" Well, to me, cool if you're going to say that. I may not agree with you and I may not like the color you're talking about there and I may think you're full of shit, but at the same time, I'm like, "I don't really like that, but blue might be kinda cool over there." It's this open dialogue. As corny as this sounds, life should be an open dialogue. You should be teaching and learning the whole time.
Todd: Are there any painters who deeply affected you? I'm not even concerned with the style of your painting.
Tim: This kind of stuff is kind of hard for me. I can tell you stuff that I remember catching my eye. Van Gogh, I thought, was/is really great because the paint was sticking off of the canvas and you could really see. It didn't look like something that was just out of a magazine. That really affected me, just to be able to see the paint. Graffiti affected me. I thought that stuff was really great. Ads affect me. Life in general.
Also, the other way around, I remember one of the things we did when I went to school. My degree is in painting and photography from the University of Texas. One of the painting classes, they basically had this thing called "The Ugly Project." You didn't know this at the time, but what they were trying to show you was that no matter how bad you think something is, somebody else in the room is going to think that's the greatest thing they ever saw. Everybody's opinion is valid. If you feel that, it's valid to you, whether I agree with it or not, it really doesn't matter. That totally fuckin' stuck with me.
In actuality, I didn't even get my piece in the room. This was before punk rock. I was skating all the time. We're talking '75 or somewhere in there. We were living in this house. There was one driveway that went in and there were six houses around this one driveway in this crazy community of people. I basically took this piece of poster board and I painted it day-glo green and then put a bunch of day-glo orange on top of it. This really clash of colors-looking thing. Then I put it outside and I told everybody to dump whatever they wanted to dump on it for the whole week. People were dumping their cat box on there, their breakfast, all kinds of stuff. It also rained during that week on it. The day we were supposed to turn in this project, I went to the five and dime and bought the biggest, cheapest bottle of perfume I could find. Even back then, I was thinking, "There's five senses." (smile) I doused that thing with this perfume. It was just amazing. I came down the hall with it and the teacher came out the door of the class and was just like, "Oh, no. You're not bringing that in here." I didn't even get to show mine. That's the thing about listening to bad and good, all that type of stuff, because that totally stuck with me as well and I learned from that.
The graffiti stuff I started really getting into during the Big Boys, that's when it first really started breaking out, when hip hop started getting going. I used to have people send me alphabets. There was this really great guy in Baltimore whose tag was Void. I had an alphabet from him and I had an alphabet from people in New York. Glen Friedman sent me an alphabet. I had stuff from East L.A. I was really into the way letters looked. Not so much artist, but art that really caught your eye. That's how I've been with art. What really struck my eye recently a couple years back was seeing Barry (Twist) McGee's stuff. That started introducing me to what Rich Jacobs was doing, a lot of stuff that people were doing that I wasn't super aware of yet as far as names and faces. I'd seen it around. I'd seen Shepard Fairey's stuff. Ed Tempelton's stuff - I'd definitely seen the new look of skateboards, but I wasn't really honing in on it until a lot of the art opportunities started happening to me a couple years back. I had been doing art all the time, but it wasn't something I was paying super attention to until I started, all of a sudden, being a part of that community.
Todd: When you're forced to slow down - sometimes with an injury, mentally or physically - and shift your creative energies, you have a quiver of things you can do. "Well, if I can't ride my skateboard for a bit, I'll read more."
Tim: I really hadn't painted painted. I drew covers. I painted little things, magazine things, ads or for posters for shows, and I've always been doing that but I hadn't really gotten paint out and started slinging that all around until, literally, this year. Once I started, it was like, "Man, I forgot how much I'd enjoyed doing this." It's the same thing with skating. There was about a year period when I really didn't skate. There was too much else going on. It wasn't because I was getting older. So, when I finally went again, it was, "This is great. I totally forgot how much fun this is. I'm not stopping again." Same thing with painting. I've been trying to average one or two a week.
Todd: I have a philosophical question.
Tim: Do something. Participate. That's philosophical.
Todd: You guessed my question. You're not in it to lose.
Tim: I'm in it for the people you meet, the experiences, the community of it. It's mainly that. It's really funny. You don't make a shitload pile of money doing any of this stuff. I guess you could if you had a different attitude about it, but to me, Beth and I have the biggest extended family all over this world and that's great. I can't even begin to say how honored I am, we are, just from that statement alone. But, that's just being a human being and that's participating. It's weird because I'm not saying, participate like, "Be political." If that's what you want to do, fine. I'm just saying life. Be aware. Be aware of your friends. Be aware of things that are going on around you. All of that stuff. I have realized that karma isn't really some weird, mystical thing that's going to happen to us after life. Karma's like - if you, Todd, had been an asshole to people, no one would want to talk to you for Razorcake. The same thing with Beth and I. If we hadn't been treating people like we want to be treated, we wouldn't have this huge, extended family. This huge, extended family is basically the karma, if that makes sense. The older you get in life, you're either going to have a huge family or you're going to die fucking alone and bitter. I'm not doing it because of that, but it's just the realization of that.
Case in point, our house is a total youth hostel all the time, which is great. HIM was here and we were all talking one day and one of them started telling me about this thing that he was involved in Chicago. Basically, they took dance choreographers and musicians and put them together, people who would never really get together, like punk rock people - which I even hate saying "punk rock" anymore, 'cause it's such a totally different thing. But get them together and do dances, where the musicians were doing the music and the choreographers were doing the dance. It's turned into this kind of big thing in Chicago. It's a festival that happens once a year. I thought, man, that's a really great idea. Somebody should do that here. In turn, not even thinking it was going to be me, I was talking to the woman at fine arts that I knew, telling her the story of what they were doing in Chicago. She, in turn, told Holly Williams, who had danced with Mark Morris, and now teaches here at UT. Holly then called me up. I've done three dances now for her. It's been great. None of that would have happened if people weren't staying over here and really communicating... the whole extended family thing.
Todd: Keeping those channels of communication open. There's this hardcore band I really like, Out Cold. And they said, "You know, most people are just genre fans. They're not music fans. We're not going to limit what we listen to and it's going to come into what we play." That struck a chord with me.
Tim: That's a fuckin' great way to put it.