My questions are in bold; their responses are clear. Thank you, Alice "Cooper" Donut!
What in the hell happened to (original bassist) Ted Houghton and (one-time third guitarist) Richard Marshall?
David Giffen: Ted lives in Brooklyn, is the Executive Director of the NY Supportive Housing Network and still plays with different bands now and then.
Tomas Antona: Richard lives in San Francisco and plays guitar for an excellent band called the Turks.
I’m sure I’m not the only fan who expected your comeback releases to be on Alternative Tentacles. Had there been some falling-out over the years? Or was it a conscious decision from the beginning to form your own record label? On a related note, do people become wide-eyed and proud when you tell them, “Yeah, we’re signed to David Giffen’s label.”?
Tomas Antona: Actually, we’re on great terms with Biafra and AT. Dave started Howler before we were back together and it just made more sense to stay in the family.
Michael Jung: It was an honor to be on a label totally dedicated to quality and upholding the core of the punk ethic. Plus, they’re very supportive of us even though we didn’t release the last two “recordings” on AT.
Why did you break up in the first place? Personal issues, career disappointment or something else? Do you think the hiatus ultimately benefited the band, or do you regret taking so much time apart?
Tomas Antona: For me, it was career disappointment and personal issues. Flat broke and burnt on touring, techno and “faux pearl jam” bands everywhere, the future seemed hopeless. We ended when we were drawing great crowds and getting paid better than ever, but things just felt grim. Personally, I had become negative miserable dick and had to be stopped. So it was a good time to fire myself before the rest of the band beat me to death.
Michael Jung: Yeah, Tom would fire himself every year and I guess the rest of us finally couldn’t come up with a reason we should stick it out that time. I think we were all still doing stuff during the hiatus. It was a hoot auditioning singers when Stephen, Sissi and I were playing. It seems like wasted time, but a couple choice ideas survived that period. And I never regret wasting time; it’s simply unavoidable.
With its more MTV-friendly production style, it wasn’t inconceivable that “Pure Acid Park” could have spawned a hit and made Alice Donut a major popular success. If this had happened, how do you think it would have affected the band?
Tomas Antona: It’s funny how everyone thinks Pure Acid Park is our pop album when we wrote it with absolutely no intentions to go mainstream. (and succeeded!) If you remember, 1995-96 was full of horrible pre-packaged guitar bands trying to be bleak and “grunge” (like Bush and Creed, etc…). So, PAP is a reaction to that. We substituted guitar parts with casio and banjo and toyed around with arrangements. If everyone was going to be hard and bleak, we were going to be exuberantly puss.
Michael Jung: Maybe we’d have to work less and get to play more. We weren’t in search of hand jobs or castles. There’s all kinds of popular success. Look at Tom Waits.
What is your outlook for the band now, as opposed to 15 years ago? Do you have certain career goals you’d like to achieve, or is it mostly for fun?
Tomas Antona: It’s more than just fun, I want to keep making albums with Dave, Steve, Michael and Sissi until I’m dead. And we will. There are no delusions of fame or wealth or even indie coolness. Making Fuzz was incredibly satisfying and it’s important to keep doing it.
Michael Jung: It would be nice to see show number 2000.
Any disgusting tour stories you could share? I read .. about the man safety-pinning his penis to Tomas’ coat while singing “Lisa’s Father” – any comparable tales of woe for the fans?
David Giffen: I’m not sure that there is anything comparable to a guy on stage safety-pinning his penis to someone else’s clothing. That sets the bar pretty high. And anyway the inside of the average punk rock tour van generally reeks with more bodily fluids than an army combat hospital, so “disgusting” kind of loses its meaning after a while.
Michael Jung: If you remember it, you weren’t there (popular wisdom regarding the Merry Pranksters’ Magic Bus)
This question is for Tom and Sissi. Hey, Tom and Sissi – did you fall in love before or after Sissi joined the band? If after, where and how did you first meet? If before, did the rest of the band get pissed when Tom let his girlfriend join the band?
Tomas Antona: We fell in love after the band broke up with a few shenanigans during our very last tour. So for the 5 years we were touring together, we weren’t a couple.
All-Music Guide (www.allmusic.com) awards “Revenge Fantasies of the Impotent” 1 star out of 5 and calls it “Tasteless, witless and pointless.” Thoughts?
Tomas Antona: It would make an excellent caption for a T-shirt. Alice Donut, tasteless, witless, and pointless.
David Giffen: That’s succinct at least. And not the worst review we’ve gotten, by a long shot. We might be the anchovy paste of bands – some people just really fucking hate it.
Were you ever concerned that you would be written off as a ‘novelty’ act because of some of your lyrics? Do you think there is a point where too much humor can ruin the music? If so, can you give an example either in your own work or that of another rock band?
Tomas Antona: Yes. And we have been at times. Before our first album, I remember the band discussing an article on Thelonius Monster and the Dead Milkmen on who was the worst band ever. The article was vicious and uber-cool and we decided we didn’t want dogmatic assholes like that as fans. It’s easy to dismiss or pigeonhole bands, I’ve done it and if you only hear one or two of our songs, it’s easy to dismiss us as well. But, we decided that our music would be better and more unique if weren’t “scared” of being stupid and un-cool. Humor can ruin music in the sense that the joke is old after one listen. “I want your mother” is either a drunken dumb fun song good for one listen or an annoying dumb-shit song that makes you want to throw out our entire catalog.
When you reunited a few years ago, was it difficult to remember how all the old songs went? Are there any you found you just can’t play anymore?
Tomas Antona: The old songs are easy to play because we’ve played them hundreds of times before. Of course, I don’t play anything, so it’s easy for me to say.
David Giffen: I don’t even remember how to play stuff on Fuzz. We do have to pull out the actual albums sometimes during rehearsal to remember a funny change or oddly timed break. It’s a pretty good sized catalog now, so it’s not always easy to remember every detail of the 100 or so songs. There are songs we just don’t play live, but that’s not a matter of forgetting them or anything – it’s just that they’re more studio songs. Not many though.
On the topic of “FUZZ” -- How in God’s Name did you come up with so many multi-layered, musically diverse, and lyrically intelligent songs at this late point in your career? It’s probably your most musically intricate album ever, and this right after the stripped-down simplicity of “Three Sisters”? How? Did you approach the songwriting and recording in a different way?
Tomas Antona: Thanks. Actually, we approached them in a similar way. The 2 albums are part of trilogy. Like you pointed out, the first album is stripped down, the second one, intricate and the third will be spontaneous. For us, “Three Sisters” was just as ambitious as “Fuzz” because we tend to overwrite songs and parts and have a lot of different time things going on—so getting rid of sections and simplifying was difficult and something we never really did before. The most difficult thing with Fuzz was stopping. We kept writing new songs every time we got together and there’s a lot of material that didn’t make it on this album.
Will there be more albums? Are you writing new songs as we speak?
Tomas Antona: Yes. We have a large backlog of songs and sections to plow through.- And writing new stuff comes easily for us.
I’d like to finish the interview by getting your thoughts on your own back catalog. With the advantage of hindsight, I’d love to get your impressions on each release – what you were going for, how successful you were in achieving the desired sound, any interesting anecdotes or recording notes, things you would change if you could go back, etc. Here, I’ll give you the titles!
Donut Comes Alive
Tomas Antona: A mosquito on helium- I can’t stand listening to myself on this one. It’s painful.
Bucketfulls of Sickness And Horror In An Otherwise Meaningless Life
Tomas Antona: Blind fun rocker. Paint fumes and a great time in Hoboken
Tomas Antona: One of the 3 albums I’m most proud of. Ted, Michael and Dave put a lot of thought into the production. Lyrically, probably the best.
Revenge Fantasies of the Impotent
Tomas Antona: 2 good songs and some other shit recorded and mixed in 15 hours by a stoned cranky Kramer at Noise New York
Michael Jung: This one’s actually pretty good when it’s really loud
David Giffen: Weird and overlooked, I think. “Telebloodprintmediadeathwhore” might be my favorite Donut song. If the vocals were louder, anyway. Still topical today, unfortunately.
The Untidy Suicides of Your Degenerate Children
Tomas Antona: The second of the 3 I’m most proud of and probably my favorite. The lyrics are a bit over-written, but, sonically the songs most closely feel like the intent. A happy softball-playing Kramer in Noise New Jersey.
Dry Humping the Cash Cow (live)
Tomas Antona: Sound guy forgot to hit record during the first show (the good one). Don’t remember the other show. A hoot to mix with Martin (Bisi).
Pure Acid Park
Tomas Antona: Again, we had a blast making this album at Martin’s playing with all the toy instruments. It reminded me of when the band first started and we were constantly tooling around a 4 track with whatever instruments were at hand.
David Giffen: It’s the only record with all 3 guitarists on it [Michael Jung: "ahem, Revenge Fantasies"] – which forced us to be ruthless in the arranging and mixing of songs to keep it from being swamped. Everyone had to be ready to say “ok, I’m not going to be anywhere on this song.” Luckily, Martin had a bunch of rubber balls to play with in the studio to keep everyone occupied.
Michael Jung: Mmmm – rubber balls.
Tomas Antona: Like having a fling with your divorced wife.
Michael Jung: Michael discovers gear lust and learns to mix.
Tomas Antona: The third of the 3 I’m most proud of and the most satisfying to make. It took us three years and we really poured our guts into it. Getting back with Martin after so many years was really cool as well.
David Giffen: We were actually considering making it a double album, since we’d been writing so many new songs. But we were just running out of time and resources so had to draw the line and go with the first batch of songs that was ready. I really like a lot of the spontaneous rehearsal versions of a lot of the songs, which Michael has recorded on his system. Maybe we’ll release them someday.
-Jesus, Prindle...how far up someone's ass will yout toungue actually GO?
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