5 Jan 2015
Multiple Exposure Vol.9 – King Coffey (Butthole Surfers)
We start 2015 with Volume 9 of our ongoing 'Multiple Exposure' series where we ask musicians to tell us about their favourite pieces of 'repetitive' music.
This time we are honoured to have a list of 15 tracks from King Coffey – drummer of the legendary Butthole Surfers!!
The Butthole Surfers are extremely influential on Rocket Recordings, they are easily one of our favourite bands of all time... so we are extremely stoked to have King take part in our 'Multiple Exposure' series.
So here is his list:
V/A - Music from the Morning of the World LP - Ketjak
Aka - “The Ramayana Monkey Chant”. I first stumbled across this in my high school library. The album is a beautiful compilation of Balinese music, however the Monkey Chant is what stunned me the most. A hundred strong chorus, but instead of singing, they are using their voices as percussive instruments. It’s action packed, timeless and psychedelic as hell.
The Ramayana Monkey Chant
Suicide - “Radiation”
Around that same time I was listening to monkey chants, I saw Suicide on late night tv and they freaked me out. “Is this even a band?”, I thought. The next day I went to a chain record store and bought the only thing in stock - the “Dream Baby Dream” 12”. I played it and was fascinated by the layers of sound and rhythm. “Radiation” was my go to side. Sinister, hypnotic, spooky - still my favorite Suicide track.
Noh Mercy - “Caucasian Guilt”
A female duo of one drummer and one singer. The drummer plays the most amazing beat anyone outside of the Royal Drummers of Burundi has ever attempted. Just the one manic beat, pausing briefly to let the singer deliver a punchline - then back to the beat. It’s stunning. Years ago, I met the drummer, Tony Hotel, and apologized for inadvertently playing a dumbed down version of her pattern on the Butthole Surfers “Jimi” (the first song on Hairway to Steven). Tony was gracious and suggested a drum exercise that might help me improve my skills (didn’t work).
Loose Joints - "Is it All Over My Face?" (Female Vocal Mix)
Perhaps my favorite disco song. What on paper should be a joyous lyric, "is it all over my face, I'm in love dancing?”, is delivered like an admission of guilt here. As if the singer is rather sad about her involvement. This was done in 1980, so the disco party was pretty much over. Maybe the producers had a sense that dark days were ahead. They still found a way to make a haunting dance record.
Flipper - "Love Canal"
They were punks, but didn't play punk. Rather they would take one riff, slow it down and repeat it, until it was beaten into a bloody mess. They rarely made it all the way to a chorus. It was the all about riff, delivered in distortion, sludge and feedback.
Stick Men With Ray Guns - "Kill the Innocent"
Meanwhile back in Texas, we had Stick Men With Ray Guns. They had a similar m.o. as Flipper, but with a more psychotic take. While Flipper out in San Francisco could indulge in occasional party rock (“Sex Bomb”), I think life in Texas made things a little more paranoid and hostile for Stick Men. They were the band I saw the most in the early 80s, since basically they were the only band in town. I realize now how incredibly lucky I was.
Stick men with ray guns
Creation Rebel - Lows and Highs LP
Not my favorite dub record, not my first dub record, but it was the first dub record I heard while high on purple microdot acid. I spent a fantastic night playing side two of this record over and over again. I think more than anything it revealed the beauty of dub to me. Stripping away all the excess to just the barest essentials: a rhythm and a few ghosts that come and go.
The Fall - "Tempo House"
Doing this list, I realized that the Fall use repetition as one of their core strategies. They can be content to lock in a groove, not particularly concerned with strict verse/chorus structure. There are other Fall songs that use repetition to a greater degree ("And This Day", "New Big Prinz", um, "Repetition"), but this is fantastic.
Killing Joke - "Unspeakable"
This is where I start to get drum obsessive. Paul Ferguson is an amazing drummer. His work on the early Killing Joke albums were really influential to me; it became part of my drumming DNA. The “Unspeakable” song structure is not particularly repetitious, but Ferguson plays the same exact, insane beat for the entire five minute duration, verse/chorus structure be damned. It's hypnotic and was particularly awe inspiring to this seventeen year old wannabe.
Blue Cheer - “Second Time Around”
Another one for the drummers. While I was listening to Killing Joke, another obsession was 60’s hard psych, particularly Blue Cheer’s Vincebus Eruptum. It was a punk album in some respect - distorted, primitive, knuckle dragging. My favorite track was the closer, “Second Time Around”. A few chords, a screaming singer, all very punk, but then it goes into a drum solo. God, I HATE drum solos. Except this one. He repeats the same busy tom pattern, over and over again. It’s not particularly difficult to play, but it’s relentless, like a boxer landing repeated punches. After one minute the fight (and the solo) is over.
Trouble Funk - "Drop the Bomb"
If there is a genre built on repetition, it's DC gogo. It's all about the gogo beat. One majestic, glorious beat. Bands might play the beat for an hour or longer, working songs around it, but the beat itself never stops. Virtually unchanged for 30 years, it's still going strong in DC. It strikes me as maybe the greatest achievement of mankind.
Virgin Prunes - "Red Nettle"
I always loved the Virgin Prunes. On our first European tour, a British writer said the Butthole Surfers were an American equivalent to the Virgin Prunes. I felt perhaps we were doing something right. Okay, so Gibby was wearing a dress at the time, maybe the Gavin Friday comparison was more about fashion sense than anything else. Still, we loved the Virgin Prunes' beauty, bravery and freakishness. "Red Nettle" is them pursuing art. A simple five second loop, repeated for several minutes. Nothing more. It's beautiful and somewhat unsettling, just like they were.
Butthole Surfers - "Legless Eye"
Ok, screw it. Since I'm already thinking about Gibby in a dress, let's do "Legless Eye". I had nothing to do with this. We were staying at our friend’s place in Brooklyn. While the rest of the band took off to see Manhattan, Gibby chilled with our host’s four track machine for the afternoon. When we came back, this was waiting for us. A guitar, a keyboard, and a slowed down coffee percolator. A perfect soundtrack for a gray day.
Boredoms - “7 → (Boriginal)”
The most amazing band on the planet. Many Boredoms songs use repetition, but let’s go with with the centerpiece from Super Roots 7, an exhilarating 20 minute ride. Here they become mad scientists, grafting DNA from 40 years of musical evolution on to a single Mekons riff. The genius at work here is stunning.
Shit and Shine - “Ladybird”
I’ve had the good fortune to be an occasional drummer for live Shit and Shine performances. It’s taught me the value of repetition as liberation. It might be the same loop, but your brain begins to sense new aspects, as the sound practically morphs before you. After a while it’s like Altered States but with a better soundtrack. Shit and Shine have put together a stellar catalog through the years, but let’s go way back to the track that served as my gateway drug.
Shit and Shine