Picking the easy targets since 1993
Can You Dig It?
Published in RW#1, 1993
For the past six years, MotherScratcher has been stuck to the underbelly of the Chicago music scene like bubble gum on a Doc Martin. Some say MotherScratcher is too completely inaccessible to ever be anything but an underground novelty. Others say that MotherScratcher collectively, are too stupid and lazy to ever make anything out of their talentless existence. Some call them geniuses. Most have never heard of them.
I first saw MotherScratcher in 1989 at a loft party in Wicker Park or somewhere around there. They played with such a drunken intensity that it was . . . well, really embarrassing. I was actually embarrassed for them. They looked very foolish up there on that honky-rigged stage with their tiny amps and fucked up guitars. Their drummer didn't even have a drum kit back in those days—garbage cans served as the tools of his trade. It's no wonder that MotherScratcher was expelled with physical force from that residential venue and their instruments destroyed by angry party-goers.
MotherScratcher have been banished from just about every club in the Midwest, a feat they take pride in, but goddamn it's hard to get a gig!
I had the chance to interview the band, which has since relocated to Aurora. What follows is a transcript of the event. Event? Nay, a drunken ordeal it t'was.
JG: So, how you guys doin'?
BC: Ain't complainin'.
JG: You guys got any gigs lined up in the near future?
JG: What's so funny?
BC: Man, nobody's gonna book MotherScratcher no more. We've been run out of every cow-town, kicked out of every poseur club, beaten up by every jocko-fraternity-alternative-closet homo, man, it's been a trip. No more gigs for MotherScratcher.
FF: Yeah, fuck that!
JG: Does it bother you guys that you can't play anywhere and that you've been around for six years and can't get a real record contract?
FF: Hey man, uncool.
JG: You know what I mean. You've got two records out, both of which are extremely limited editions on labels that have since gone belly up financially as a result of them having faith in your ability to sell records to the indie rock community.
FF: Yeah, that's true.
SS: We have more than two records though, man. We got, like dozens, but they're all bootlegs, you know, recorded when we practice and then given to our fans. It's a very intimate scene we're in right now. We only let our closest friends listen to our records and watch us play.
JG: That doesn't sound very profitable or rewarding, I mean, from an artistic point of view.
SS: Yeah, well, it's just our own little trip, man, nobody's got to dig it except us.
FF: We're musicians. This is a band of musicians and artists, not poseurs and wanna-be's. We don't wanna be anything but what we are. And we're happy to be playing basements and garages, just making our music.
SS: A major label deal would be sweet though.
FF: Hell yeah! A major label deal would be sweet. But we don't compromise and we don't kiss ass.
BC: And we don't suck dick.
FF: Hell no, we don't pose, kiss ass, suck dick, compromise or wanna be something we ain't.
SS: We could probably work with a major record company though, you know, improve our sound a little, but that's as far as it would go, man. We're MotherScratcher, not, you know, Pearl Jam or somethin'.
JG: I just wanted to let you guys know that I'm a big fan from back in the day, right? The whole late eighties MotherScratcher scene that kind of fizzled when you guys failed to stay sober long enough to gig.
J2G: Thanks man, we appreciate it.
JG: What I want to know is, is it still possible to get a hold of your first record, Rock'n'roll Jism or is it totally lost in the sea of bad punk rock—I mean, you guys were—are great, but you know how you sort of get lumped in with bands like Terminal Justice and Righteous Youth, The Weed Eaters, those kinds of local hacks.
BC: Dude, you just sort of slammed three of my all-time favorite bands, but I'm honored you kind of compared them to us.
BC: That's cool, but anyway, aaaah, I don't think you could possibly find a copy of Rock'n'roll Jism anywhere since there were only one hundred copies pressed and seventy-five of those were tracked down in the stores by the FBI or CIA or whatever, and destroyed. And the ones that survived, well, there was a major glitch at the pressing plant and the whole fuckin' record can only be played at seventy-eight RPMs.
FF: That's were the title, "Fasted Band on the Planet" came from.
BC: And all the Chipmunk references.
FF: Yeah, and all the Chipmunk references.
BC: They called us Chip Punk.
FF: Jesus, that's right. I forgot about that.
JG: What about your concept double album. What was the concept again?
J2B: There was no concept.
BC: That's not true. I wrote most of the tunes for that record and I'm just about sick of being misunderstood.
JG: So what was the concept? Lay it on us, Billy.
BC: Aaahh, you fuckers wouldn't understand it anyway. Why even bother?
JG: You guys have had a bunch of records that you recorded for various independent labels but then weren't released once the labels heard them, what's up with that?
FF: Yeah, our record Sabrina was dumped. Lizard Man was shit-canned, and rightfully so. The Can You Dig It? EP was scientifically proven to be not music in any capacity.
BC: Some of my best guitar playing was on Lizard Man. That record sounded great!
SS: You didn't even play on Lizard Man, man. You were in jail for the whole two hours it took us to record it.
BC: Yeah, I always wondered who narked on me. Some guitarist, inferior in talent, who maybe wanted a little glory of his own.
SS: Kiss my ass, man, statutory rape is still a crime in this country. You did the crime so you did the time.
BC: I did your seventeen year old sister, like everybody else. Tell me that's not a load of complete bullshit.
(The interview breaks out into a little scuffle at this point. Although it takes a lot to rattle Joseph Titanium Germ, I felt compelled to edit out about thirty minutes of this minor altercation.)
JG: All right! We done fuckin' around? Jesus, you guys want to be interviewed or not? You know, I'm just doin' your manager a favor here. She's a friend of mine and I owe her one, but I don't have to put up with this kind of crap from a bunch of doped up, drunk losers.
SS: It's cool, man. Sorry.
J2B: Yeah, this happens all the time.
JG: All right, it's cool. Apologies accepted and I'm sorry to any one of you I might have slugged, but shit, you guys are nuts.
FF: It's cool.
JG: Cool. Now any-motherfucking-way, it says here in Flipside that Sam Slam claims that MotherScratcher invented Grunge. What's this bullshit about?
BC: No bullshit dude, it's true. Cobain ripped our shit off, man. He said it like a hundred times that Peace, Love & MotherScratcher was one of his favorite records.
SS: Hell yeah, he liked our records better than any Melvins record. Coincidentally, that new Melvins disc sounds just a little suspiciously close to the Slumber Party demo we sent to Sub Pop in '88.
JG: Wait a minute, The Melvins were never on Sub Pop.
SS: So what? All those Seattle cats know each other. They all ripped each other off and they all ripped us off.
BC: This is the truth, man, I sent a demo of some of my tunes to Kurt in '86, we were penpals through this Flipside ad I ran, and he wrote me back a letter that said, "Dear Billy Crank" or whatever it said, but it said—and this is a quote—"dug your riffs, dude, sounds grungy. Great stuff. Keep on rockin'"
JG: I highly doubt that Kurt Cobain would say, "dug your riffs, dude."
BC: This is in like, '86, man, pre-MotherScratcher, pre-Nirvana, but NOT pre-Grunge. If our song "Asshole" doesn't sound almost exactly like "Negative Creep," I'll eat a big ol' pile of dung.
JG: I've never heard "Asshole", what record was that on?
FF: That was on . . . aaaaahhh . . . some unreleased LP we recorded for RoosterCow.
JG: What happened with that? Why didn't it come out?
FF: They didn't like it.
JG: OK, guys, I gotta jet. Richard, you haven't said much, what is your take on the long illustrious career of MotherScratcher?
RP: Well, I really don't like these guys too much, or this band for that matter. I'm just making an appearance and going through the motions.
RP: It's not funny, man, it's the truth.
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