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Butthole Surfers are perhaps the most perversely confrontational and calculatedly outrageous American post-punk band. Their stage shows have included everything from backdrop projections of auto accidents and sex-change operations to androgynous nude dancers, crude pyrotechnics, and the incessant gross-out shenanigans of singer Gibby Haynes. (At an early show he removed the dress he was wearing during a performance and-depending on who tells the story-either simulated sex or had sex with one of the band's dancers.) Though the Butthole Surfers' music combines the noisy, avant-garde tendencies of late-Seventies no wave with the throbbing, distorted drive of hardcore, much of it is informed by classic, psychedelic rock.

Haynes, whose father hosted a children's TV show in Dallas under the name Mr. Peppermint, met Paul Leary in 1977 while attending San Antonio's Trinity College. Four years later, Haynes, then doing graduate work in accounting, and Leary, son of the business school's dean, formed a band. They became Butthole Surfers when an announcer mistook one of their song titles for their band name. In San Francisco in 1981, the Surfers met the Dead Kennedys' Jello Biafra, who signed them to his Alternative Tentacles label. The band's self-titled first album contained the legendary dada-hardcore anthem, "The Shah Sleeps in Lee Harvey's Grave." Between 1982 and 1985 the Surfers went through a succession of bass players and drummers. They toured constantly, perfecting their bizarre show by adding dancers, sometimes two drummers, and cultivating a hard-core cultish Deadhead-style following. Membership stabilized with the addition of King Coffey on drums in 1983.

In 1985 the group signed with Touch and Go, and its music got even weirder and more depraved. Haynes' gut-wrenching sleaze and pseudo-Satanic ranting hit an all-time low on such songs as "Lady Sniff" (Psychic... Powerless...) and "Sweet Loaf" (Locust Abortion Technician's spoof of Black Sabbath's "Sweet Leaf"), while Leary's inventive lead guitar chugged and meandered around newly added instrumentation such as acoustic guitars, piano, organ, violin, and strange effects, like speeded-up and slowed-down vocals, and tape manipulations. Rembrandt Pussyhorse stands as one of the most "out" psychedelic albums of the post-punk era, featuring snaky, Middle Eastern-like instrumentation and drones, twisted folk melodies, avant-garde improvisation, industrial noise and feedback, and gastrointestinal sounds. Haynes' attempts to shock include deranged laughter, Exorcist-like growls, and lyrics such as "There's a creep in the cellar that I'm gonna let in... and he really freaks me out when he peels off his skin."

After appearing on the first Lollapalooza Tour in 1991, the Surfers signed with Capitol. Two years later the band released its major-label debut, the slightly more accessible Independent Worm Saloon, produced by former Led Zeppelin bassist John Paul Jones. In 1993 Haynes also formed a side band with actor Johnny Depp called P. The Butthole Surfers' music has received radically mixed reviews, with underground observers generally applauding the envelope-pushing experimentations, and many mainstream rock critics put off by the band's constant arty attempts to shock. Through it all, the group is among the few Eighties fringe acts to rise from independent to major-label status with its core audience and sound intact. Formed 1981, San Antonio, Texas

Copyright © 1983, 1995 by Rolling Stone Press





List all available merchandise by Butthole Surfers



1984 Live PCPPEP
2013 White People And The Damage Done

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