Editor’s Note: Headlining the two-day Crispy Music Festival on August 19-20th will be The Meatmen, appearing on August 19th in the parking lot and inside at White’s Bar. Spearheaded by Chris Palmer, the two-day festival will also feature headliner’s Tension Head, fresh from their appearance at this year’s Mayhem Festival at DTE, filling in for The Meat Puppets, who had to cancel their appearance (see accompanying letter at this end of this feature). The Crispy Music Festival will also feature The Tosspints, Easy Action, The Ruiners, The Banana Convention, the Mongrels, Neighborhood Muscle and numerous other local rockers; plus it will feature a Tattoo Contest sponsored by Drunken Monkey Tattoo. The Review is proud to be a co-sponsor of this ambitious Festival, showcasing a cominbation of local and national talent. Tickets are only $5.00 for each day and the Festival starts at 5 PM outsoide on Friday and 12:00 Noon on Saturday.
– Bob Martin • Editor & Publisher
Tesco Vee originally formed the Meatmen in 1980, shortly after graduating from Michigan State University. School was cool but Vee wanted more from life than the 9-5 soul killing, mid-management, grey business suit ethos promised by his Bachelor’s of Science Degree.
As an astute English major who had a way with words and a sense for the absurd, Vee began writing the most profoundly foul satiric music since Captain Beefheart did the low yo-yo stuff and Zappa ate yellow snow. The Meatmen found a niche and made it their own. They would write such over-the-top and in-your-face songs like Tooling For Anus, The Suck Trilogy (French People Suck, Crippled Children Suck, Camel Jockeys Suck), and 1 Down, 3 to Go (a reference to former Beatle John Lennon’s murder).
Politically correct they’re NOT. For sure. Yet behind the rude remarks and blue language is Tesco Vee’s keen grasp of social issues and the erosion of independent and original thinking. In 1979, Vee launched Touch & Go Fanzine with compatriot Dave Stimson in order to lampoon, chastise and even praise musical culture in Lansing and around the globe. They issued 22 stellar editions of the Fanzine before calling it quits. Anyone who has read Touch & Go will no doubt vouch for Vee’s purity of vision. The latest Meatmen CD Cover the Earth was released in 2009 and they continue to record with a new lineup consisting of guitarist Leighton Mann, bassist Dan Gillies and drummer John Lehl of the Detroit based rock band Chapstick.
By anyone’s standards you’ve had a long career in an industry filled up with disposable artists, one hit wonders and so. You have never had mainstream success. Why do you keep resurrecting the Meatmen? What’s in it for you?
Tesco: Great question. It ain’t the money! I thought I was done at 40, who wants to see a 40 year old Punk rocker...then at 50-something I’m back hoppin’ around like a Tallahassee fairy in a devil suit having a blast. Its fun is the short answer! I’ll be pumping out ‘Tooling For Anus’ in the Holiday In Lounge when I’m 70, as long as the loyalist punkers still fork over a sawbuck to see me! My business model is simple. Play the hits with flair and panache, thrill the masses with between song witticisms and scatological profundities, and don’t suck!
In your bio/history it states that you bristle at the joke band tag? What’s upsetting about that tag?
Tesco: It just seems dismissive, and my undercurrent of humor runs deep. Lumping me in with (much as I loved him!) Neanderthal lunkheads like El Duce are fine, but I have a college sheepskin and like to keep ‘em guessing, and off balance....’is he serious? He can’t be serious?? I think he’s serious!!!! My heroes are Frank Zappa and The Fugs because they inspired me with knee splitting hits. I knew in the late 70’s I wanted to start a punk band, but things were way too serious in 1979 , so it was my purpose on the planet to get a reaction outta people be it with mirth, or vitriol..
How does humor drive the hell bound train? Is this a form of what Mose Allison calls “kidding on the square” in which humor usually contains a much deeper message?
Tesco: Yes! I jumped this question in the last one. The Meatmen are kind of like Larry David in Curb Your Enthusiasm to a catchy hardcore beat, saying things people don’t say, in these overly PC times, and damn the consequences. My lyrics are wittier than most but still under-appreciated. Someday when I’m tats up with Lilly taking a dirt nap in a horizontal phone booth people will realize…that guy was genius!
Does the profanity serve as a vehicle to deliver the message? That anger and humor are fated to be inextricably linked?
Tesco: But of Course…my college roommates girlfriend was listening to me rant back in the 70’s and she said with great earnestness ‘You curse better than anyone I’ve ever heard’ I took that as a high compliment. Some say foul language is a sign of ignorance, but I disagree…when woven into the semantic fabric with proper timing and aplomb, a potty mouth rant can be quite illuminative and entertaining. Plus I have invented or co-opted various euphemisms and framed and shamed them in many of my songs about boners and poop.
Do French People really suck?
Tesco: Oh yeah…they are the worst humans on the planet bar none.
Doug Wood implied that the return of the Meatmen is also the rebirth of “Hate Rock” – is that a misnomer? Can hate and humor co-exist?
Tesco: Sure they can…Hate Rock kind of sounds like its going to be off the chain racist or homophobic but that ain’t my definition. People who label me that don’t get it. You either get it or you don’t. In reality I am a free thinking left wing nut job who just loves to push buttons…but I wont play the race card overtly – OK, I may have used a few ethnic slurs along the road to punk rock infamy but only out of necessity. Hate and Love and Laugher and Despair all ride the same tightrope and they overlap. Are there goons out there who take the hate too seriously? Sure…but you cant fix stupid nor should I change the way I ride this happy freight of hardcore transients currently gracing a stage in human form as The Meatmen.
Can you describe your music – would you call it hard core metal, punk, hard rock? Or are you simply eclectic, incorporating diverse elements into a hard rocking format?
Tesco: I have always been a passionate fan of music...Hard Rock/Punk Rock/Metal...I love the fact that I don’t have to conform to any genre. I threw some of my old school fans for a loop when ‘War of the Superbikes’ came out in 1985 but won over still more. I’m all over the place and hard to pin down…it varies from platter to platter, keep em guessing …what will he do next? I had great fun with my all cover record ‘Cover the Earth’ Who else could have Jimmy Dean’s ‘Big Bad John’ alongside GG Allin, 10CC, and the greatest group ever in the history of pop music ABBA.
Your music has topical themes politics and the Pope. Do you have a message? Or is the message nihilistic, that no values exist? e.g., the lyric “I’d rather drink than screw”, not much leeway for peace and love with that statement
Tesco: If I have a message its screw convention and established morays and live your own life, try and have an original thought for God’s sake. Organized Religion is the root of all evil. If I had one message that doesn’t involve my tongue in my cheek that is it. The fact that there are websites for www.churchrealestate.com means that people are wising up and not giving all of their money to these corrupt and anachronistic institutions.
Why did you get into the music biz? Were you originally a college band from MSU poking fun at middle class pretensions?
Tesco: I was writing a fanzine Touch and Go and reviewing hundreds of records and thought ‘wait! I can do this too…the beauty of punk as it manifested itself stateside with what some have deemed as American hardcore. It really set off and inspired me to have a band…
Your song College Radio Loser is a hilarious put down of those musical elitists who like those “ultra hip” bands? Great song! Was this inspired by the local music scene and university culture?
Tesco: Yes, we spent years trying to get played on college radio with mixed results, pre-internet so I was making fun of them. We mailed unsolicited copies to many stations and got some real huffy responses from the snobby elite - mission accomplished!
Did you attend MSU?
Tesco: Yes I graduated in 1978 and am a proud Spartan! I earned a Bachelor of Science English major. It really prepared me for this crazy world. I used to be petrified of public speaking…maybe I was just stoned. I became serious about college when I got to MSU from community college and laid off the ganja - loved my time at MSU, beautiful campus, beautiful girls...not that I scored any!
Your cover of Deep Purple’s Space Truckin’ with your own incredible lyrics is outstanding, as is your version of Green Acres – this is perfect rock and roll parody? Do you enjoy incorporating parody into your act?
Tesco: Oh yeah, I have lampooned the best - imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. In R&R Juggernaut we were making fun of hard rock and metal tinged with adoration of same...Making fun of anything and everything is what makes me wanna keep keepin on! I ain’t done yet so stay tuned weenbags!
Any last comments?
Tesco: Go to my website and buy something! Trust me, this ain’t no tired comeback crap…this line up is firing on all 12 cylinders and I will pit these cats against any Meaty assemblage I have put together in the last 3 decades...our show is like a raging bash in Hades so check it out heathens!
Meat Puppets have friends in the Saginaw area who suggested we speak with Chris Palmer about plans for the 2011 Crispy Festival. Mr. Palmer worked his tail off and put more time and care into this event than any single promoter I can think of in the 25 years that I've helped arrange band appearances. Sometimes ideas like this are a bit ahead of their time. Starting a festival with national bands as headliners is not easy. Most festivals require community sponsorship to fund the costs of talent, accommodations, venue, security, ticketing, accounting, fees, advertising, staffing, and the various other costs associated with a multi-day event. These costs easily exceed five figures. Ticket sales are just one element of the source of funds. Community sponsorship is an equally important component.
To his credit, Mr. Palmer has been very candid about what support he had solicited and its present status. He kept us informed and he was straightforward with his reports. Knowing the tough environment in all communities these days, and knowing funding for arts is under extreme pressure, we were not surprised to be told sponsorship activity was not at a level it needed to be to keep the event financially on an even keel.
Mr. Palmer and I decided that rather than burden the festival with the costs that are required to have the Meat Puppets perform at this event, it would be a smarter course to scale back the talent costs, and allow Crispy Festival to build up its status with less financial risk. There is nothing tasteful about having a charitable-minded event take a loss and so we decided to tell Mr. Palmer that if he was willing, we would release him from the contract terms that were agreed upon earlier this year.
We hope the community turns out, buys tickets, and gives Mr. Palmer its full support. We hope this enables Mr. Palmer to attract sponsorship in future years. We have been impressed with his commitment and dedication, and we would be honored to perform at Crispy Festival when we know it will benefit the charitable purposes of the event.
Meanwhile, we will be touring Michigan later in the fall and look for dates to be announced quite soon.