Picking the easy targets since 1993
When I first met Sluggo, aka Sweaty Shawn, I thought he was an asshole. I was waiting tables at a bar where he's a regular, and he motioned for me to come over to his booth with his little finger. I went to see what the hell he wanted and he said, "Oh, I wanted to see if I could make you come with my pinky." I was pissed. I told him off and ignored him for a few months, but as time has passed he's become less of a pervert and more of a friend. Not only is he the only one of my friends to offer to pick me up from the airport, he is also very generous in sharing his wealth of musical knowledge, especially '80s punk rock. When Sluggo was a wee punker he attended Black Flag shows at the Metro, hung out at Exit and Oz Park, was conveniently unemployed for entire summers, and be-friended bands now considered legends. And he is still involved with the Chicago music scene, booking bands and DJing at various clubs.
RW: What kind of music videos have you been in?
SLUGGO: Let's see... I was in Infectious Grooves with Ozzy Osbourne, Reverend Horton Heat, I was in a Megadeth one. I was in Skid Row. Some other local band stuff I can't think of right now.
RW: How did you get to be in these music videos?
SLUGGO: My girlfriend at the time was a hair and make-up artist and I was always asked to be an extra. What type of things did you do? In the Infectious Grooves, I was a mental patient. Did you have to dig deep inside of you to do that? No, I had to wear one of those hospital gowns and a party hat and sunglasses and sit there and blow one of those noisemaker things that uncurl, and stand behind Ozzy and dance. Horton Heat, I'm just friends with him. When they did the video they asked all of our friends from Chicago to be in it. But it got me on Beavis and Butthead.
RW: Whoa, whoa, wait a minute! This interview is spiraling out of control. How did you become friends with Reverend Horton Heat and how did you get on Beavis and Butthead?
SLUGGO: I became friends with Horton Heat because I used to book his band here in Chicago. I always loved what he was doing and especially at the time, late eighties, there was nothing even remotely as cool as that going on as far as rockabilly and a country swing. He had a nice combination of stuff that I always liked but that I'd never seen in most bands. I was on Beavis and Butthead because they played the "Wigglestick" video on Beavis and Butthead and the video starts out by panning across my face. So the first day it played I come home from work and there's six messages on my machine, "Sean, I saw you on Beavis and Butthead last night." Do you think you helped turn a lot of people in Chicago on to Reverend Horton Heat? I would say so, yeah, 'cause I'd always bug my friends and when Danny Bonaducci was here on CKG (WCKG), or the Loop, and had his radio talk show, I got Horton on the air to do an interview and play a couple songs and the first time, that was his first sold out show at the Metro.
RW: When did you come onto the music scene in Chicago?
SLUGGO: The first show that I saw as far as punk goes, would be Black Flag at the Metro and that was probably '81.
RW: Were you in high school?
SLUGGO: No, I was just out. The Black Flag show at the Metro, now this was my first time, I'd only been down to shows at Navy Pier. So, were waiting in line and they're frisking everyone as they're coming in and we just figure they're looking for booze. Usually they just grab your booze and throw it in the box. So instead of booze there's knives and brass knuckles and guns and I'm like, SHIT! And they tell you you can get them back at the end of the night, and I'm like what the hell am I doing here? But that was my first local underground show. Everything else was power pop kind of stuff.
RW: So how would you describe the music scene then? It was a riot.
SLUGGO: It was so much fun. I grew up in such a small town, I was totally an outcast. I had no idea what people saw in such shitty music as REO Speedwagon and Journey and Boston and crap that was on the radio, but I used to listen to The Fire, it was a great oldies station. I think their cut-off date was about '65. And I used to listen to that until I finally started finding stuff like the Pistols, Devo and Ramones. I come out of this Black Flag show and its packed. There's like 800 people in there, everybody's so freaking cool. It's like having 800 friends that you grew up with your whole life. Everybody's into what everyone else is into, glad to see you. There was no bullshit. Was this one of the first times that you didn't feel like an outcast? First time I knew I fit anywhere. I made a lot of friends there. Some friends I still have today, the ones who didn't die. It was just a riot. So you made a lot of friends at the show.
RW: Do you think you guys formed a community then?
SLUGGO: Yeah, definite community, but it was already going on. I mean there's a lot of people who were already hanging out before I found out about stuff, and there's still a lot of people I still hang out with, maybe not as much, some people got married, a lot of people moved away. For some reason there was a great exile to England at one point. A bunch of my friends moved there. Some moved back. Some I don't know what happened to them. Yeah, we'd always meet up. If we knew something was going on we'd call and meet up usually at Oz Park. Hang out there for a while and drink and then go to whatever show was happening that night. Whether it was at Tut's or the West End, Huey's or 950 or whatever. The bigger clubs were West End and Tuts. They had the bigger shows besides Metro. Then 950 and Misfits and Huey's still had good shows.
RW: If the Webster's dictionary asked you to describe the punk scene in the early' 80s what you say?
SLUGGO: Definitely the seedy underbelly of what was going on in the world. Wow. Not an easy definition by any means. It's kind of hard to explain especially from me coming from basically a town of 3,500 people. My backyard was thirty acres of corn, and getting into this and having so much fun that I would make myself unemployed about the end of the school year and take all summer off and ride my bike down to clubs . . . I was at the clubs five or six nights a week and doing whatever I could to make a little money without losing my unemployment. I survived on the unemployment for three months during the summer. I did that for five years after high school, until I got a real job. That ruined everything. Of course by '85 the scene was still there but really dying out. A lot of shit was going on, a lot of bands were turning kind of crappy. All the punk bands started learning how to play and became too metal for me. There's always an underground scene but sometimes it gets hard to find. Its like kind of back now . . . but its nowhere near as large. I'm sure a lot of it has to do with Eighties and Reaganism and massive unemployment and people had nothing better to do. If you went out to Neo or Smart Bar, or Exit, 950, any night during the week, almost every night was packed except Sundays. It was amazing how many people were out all the time. It just doesn't happen anymore. If you go to a bar that's packed it's usually something special going on. Or its some stupid yuppie bar because they are just vacuous idiots.
RW: When did you start getting involved with booking bands?
SLUGGO: I used to DJ at this roller rink in Crystal Lake. I was still the outcast 'cause I was playing new wave music. A couple of the other DJs hated me because they were like into what was to become house music. I said hey, I like funk and some of the stuff you're doing.
RW: What bands were you playing?
SLUGGO: Go-Gos, Devo, Ramones, power pop, The Kind, and Off Broadway, Bow Wow Wow, 999, on occasion Oingo Boingo-another good band. A lot of stuff like that, the emerging new wave stuff. That's how I started booking bands. For some reason we started having shows. I met this one guy who used to come in and he was promoting stuff so since I had the music taste, I could talk to the owner and say we should have these guys play. So through this guy, Steve, I made a connection and getting free shit and loving it. And going to shows for free and I wound up booking the Buzzcocks at my high school in 1982. Which was a big fiasco.
SLUGGO: Because nobody came. Nobody had any idea who the Buzzcocks were. I'm sure they were playing the Metro and they couldn't play The Beginnings in Schaumburg and Steve asked me, do you know any place we could do this? And I'm like, yeah, I still know somebody from school and we could get into the high school auditorium. So we did it. And then the next night they played Rockford in a bowling alley so I guess that wasn't their worst show.
RW: Haven't you brought a lot of bands from Detroit to Chicago?
SLUGGO: Oh, yeah. Detroit had a great music scene. I was just actually talking to Dean from the Come-Ons about that. Detroit music scene was really cool in the late '80s. Kind of like the early Chicago scene. Everybody would help each other out . . . would help each other get shows, make flyers. Detroit's close enough so I'd go up there on weekends when I knew nothin' was going on and I'd always usually wind up seeing a bunch of good bands, having a lot of fun. Detroit was even dirtier than Chicago and a little more scary but probably the closest success story was Elvis Hitler. I had to BEG him to come here. He got really big in Chicago and doing really well and then one night The Cult and Metallica showed up for one of his shows at Exit. And I think there was somebody there that night and they got his number and he got signed to Restless Records.
RW: How did he come up with that name?
SLUGGO: Two of the greatest names in Rock and Roll under one haircut.
RW: What are some of the other bands you have booked from Detroit?
SLUGGO: The Gories, The Come Ons, The Dirtbombs . . . these are more current bands. Oh, one of my favorites 3D Invisibles and The Zombie Surfers, basically the same guys.
RW: What are the Punk Rock Clubs now?
SLUGGO: Exit. And that's just a shadow of its former self. Its nowhere near as weird and cool as it used to be. Nowadays there's just nothing comparable. I think part of it's because of expense. The rents are so high that you've got to be worried about bringing people in no matter what. So before it was more affordable to pay rent? I'm sure it was way more affordable. People didn't want to live in the city. Its not like now where you have all these yuppie scumbags. When I moved to the city, they're like, "Oh my God, you're going to live in the city with all the gangbangers and crime. How can you stand to be there?" And now they're all here. Everything I moved away from is now my neighbor which I hate again. Except I ain't got no place else left to go. The other thing that I've noticed, and I'm sure that it has a lot to do with Reaganism and high unemployment, but there was people out seven nights a week. You went out during the week it was pretty damn crowded.
RW: Was it in support of the bands or just to get out?
SLUGGO: People had nothing better to do. It wasn't always bands. 950 and Exit never had a whole lot of bands. Neo never had a whole lot of bands. But they had good DJs and good music. If you didn't have a job, why not stay out until 4am and dance and drink and have fun. I think that had a lot to do with it, cause there's nowhere near the amount of people. You don't have that kind of crowds at bars anymore. Smart Bar used to be crowded. You'd start at Smart Bar, if that wasn't happening you'd go to 950, Neo, Exit, and that was just for DJs, the dance club thing. And then you went to see the bands.
RW: At the Beat Kitchen you've gotten bands such as The Real Kids, Lazy Cowgirls, Cheetah Chrome--these people you obviously have connections with--is this from being involved in the scene in the '80s?
SLUGGO: I still get phone calls from people who I either helped them out or took care of their friends. At the Lyons Den I just had The 3D Invisibles play with The Fuzztones. People that I 've known for 15 years! Hey, its Halloween I think you guys should do a show! I pick up on it and do more when I can and when I can't I send people elsewhere where people will take care of them. It seems like it's more helping out people you think are good more that its been looked at as a job. It was never a job. Its just to get bands I wanted and liked here so I could see them play live. I used to drive up to Detroit on a regular basis because Detroit had such a great music scene in the mid eighties. And now everybody's into Detroit now with the Von Bondies and Soledad Brothers and the Come-ons. Actually that scene really hasn't changed much.
RW: How do you find out about these bands?
SLUGGO: There's always the warmup bands, which can become bigger bands, you just don't know. Smashing Pumpkins warmed up for my band. Things break for one band and not another. Going back to Detroit. My friend Marie used to have these record conventions which I'd go to to get hard-to-get used records. Whenever I was at her booth, she would have all these records I wanted to get. We wound up hanging out all the time. She was the one who convinced me to go to Exit the first time and to go to Detroit the first time. Once I started going to Detroit I'd see these bands. The weird part of the Detroit scene was everyone was friends. Was the early Chicago scene like that? No it was not. That's how I wished it was. There was a lot "Oh, we're better than them, we can't play." So the Detroit scene was great cause everybody showed up for each others shows, I'll play bass for you or drums for you.
RW: What do you think is lacking in the music scene in Chicago now?
SLUGGO: Venues. There's really no good hang-out places. Those were hangout places no matter what, even when there wasn't a band going on it was the kind of a place you wanted to hangout at. They'd have compilation tapes behind the bar. You had your choice of so many bars and so many have been closed down. There's no way near as many bars as there was twenty years ago.
RW: Describe a crowd walking into a show in the early 80's.
SLUGGO: Well one of the things I used to get a kick out of, there was always a group of people, even if they didn't work there wearing these shitty job work shirts. 7-11, McDonald's Burger King, Wendy's Midas Muffler. Salvation Army clothes thing. Usually the people that could afford the good stuff, Boy of London, got laughed at. People made fun of you. Most of the stuff was pretty well worn. I always considered myself the weird one. All my friends would have these beat to shit army boots with holes in them, duct taped. And since I paid like fifty bucks for a good pair of engineer boots I kept mine polished, cause I wanted mine to last 'cause I didn't have a whole lot of money to keep buying boots. A lot of variances of mowhawks. I remember this one chick, I'd see her at all the shows, she had the hugest damn mowhawk. I finally asked her about it. Her friend would iron it out. It was at least a foot tall. She'd spray it with the egg yoke and iron it. It was always just perfect. And you'd just see that big fin in the crowd, you know the head bobbing and she'd jump up onstage and dive into the crowd. She was one of those people I always saw on a regular basis. There was always different colors, different styles. This one guy had this intense, intensely done spiral. It was like a half inch tall a perfect spiral from the center of his head all the way out. And whoever did it had to take hours on it. It was dyed green, it was so meticulous. At one point I remember there used to be a group of girls who would sit on the edge of the stage and when people would stage dive they would hold up the cards like the Olympics, 9.0, 3.2. for a while that went on.
RW: It was shaved into his head?
SLUGGO: It was a spiral cut shaved to the skin but the hair part was a half inch tall, dyed green. It just spiraled out from the center of his head all the way down to his ear. It was perfect. Absolutely perfect. It used to amaze me. Because even if you've never seen the leopard spot, that's an insane amount of time to do. So, there was always something, overload. Every time you'd walk in it would be overload.
RW: Would you see the same crowd at the shows? Would you recognize folks?
SLUGGO: There was always a core group of people I would know. A lot of people I'm still friends with now. Like Larry from Pegboy. Larry and John were always at the shows. These guys were built like football players and they were always wearing jeans and braces and combat boots. And get into a blender and you'd always stay away from them cause you didn't want to get hit.
RW: What's a blender?
SLUGGO: Like a mosh pit. Originally called a blender. You get into a blender start doing the thrash around. And you'd stay away from guys like Larry and John cause they were like hitting a brick wall, they were solid as a rock.
RW: Did you ever get hurt in a blender?
SLUGGO: I got hurt plenty times. I did a stage dive once and it's like when you go to do a stage dive you do a little skank across the stage and you pick your spot, and you point and its like you normally get some kind of eye contact from some people so they knew you were heading their way. So you just dive off. So as it got more and more common, people got fancier with the stuff. So they started doing back flips and aerial twists and stuff. There was one day that I thought I had my "spot" at a Naked Raygun show and I went flying off into nothing. This one guy saw me coming and he went and grabbed me, but when he grabbed me he basically pinned my arms at the side and when I was on his shoulder I went into the ground as he fell over backwards and went and smashed my nose into the floor of the Cubby Bear. Did you continue drinking? I continued stage diving too. There was another time when. This is just hard to explain. We used to do our version of break dancing where we'd lock arms and spin each other around and then kind of give the signal for one to let go of the other one. And you'd get on the ground and be spinning around on your ass. My friend Eric from Life Sentence and I were doing that one day. When I was done spinning, I jumped up just as he turned around and he wasn't swinging, he was just turning around and he cracked me right in the eyebrow and cut it right open. And I was blinded by blood. I never got hurt bad, but I remember this one guy at a Dead Kennedys show. He was huge. He was like six five and 375 pounds and he got on stage and went to stage dive and everybody just cleared out of his way and you heard him hit the ground. He just went thunk.
RW: What happened to the community? I thought there was a community.
SLUGGO: Well, we weren't stupid.
Sluggo's List of 11 Essential '80s Chicago Punk Rock Bands
1) Naked Raygun
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