- Interviews - "Negative cheese-rockers, eight to eleven - AluminumKnotEye"
While theres been a lotta interest in cheese-rockers recently, there are still some corners of the state that remain completely unknown to music fans outside Wisconsin. The best, unheard shit involves one KeithV, whose bands (AluminumKnotEye and the Squish) are up there with our best live products we have to offer (Mystery Girls, Catholic Boys, Mistreaters, Leg Hounds, what have ya). AKE has morphed over the years into some kinda spooky Electric Eels/Alice Cooper/(pick yer AmRep/Touch n' Go product) dual-guitar attack unit; The Squish are in the Wire/Pagans vein. As with all of Keith & Companys output, however, it aint that easy to point to concrete reference points.
Keith isnt exactly afraid to speak his mind, which has caused a good amount of problems along the way neither band has any vinyl output as of yet, and only AKE has played outside the state. That, apparently, will be changing soon. Lucky you!
BG: Who the hell are you?
KeithV: Keith Vercauteren, founding member of the Wisconsin bands AluminumKnotEye and the Squish. Ive lived on this planet for 25 years.
BG: Tell me a little about your hometown of Chilton, Wisconsin.
KV: Small town. Tractors going down the main drag. County seat of Calumet County. Lots of mutant individuals lurk amongst the fields. When I lived there, a field existed behind my house. Most years it was alfalfa. One year, the farmer did corn. Bad idea. My friends and I trashed the field. Made forts out of the corn stalks and had corncob fights. Corncob fights drew some blood. It was a lotta fun living in Chilton during my early years...
BG: How long ago was AluminumKnotEye born? It was just you in high school out in the cow paddies, wasn't it?
KV: Well, I was relocated to De Pere (a sorta suburb of Green Bay) right before my high school years after my parents got divorced and my mommy got a job up there. AluminumKnotEye existed as a name in 1994, when I recorded a primitive cassette on a piece-of-shit "boom-box." Since the rednecks in De Pere weren't as real or sincere as the ones in Chilton, I did indeed spend a lot of time holed up in my mom's basement, making all sorts of noises - some of it was masturbatory crap, some was unintentional genius. You decide! AluminumKnotEye didn't really exist as a full band till the end of 1996, when I'd been here in Milwaukee for a year, doing college and feeling quite agitated. I'd recruited a few like-minded individuals, regardless of whether they could play their instruments or not. That's the basic story...
BG: Ah, I though you were still in Chilton at that point. Tell me more about the earliest incarnations of AKE.
KV: The early stuff was just me. I had a shitty guitar, a toy keyboard/sampler, and a drum machine. I'd record some guitar/drum machine parts onto one cassette. On another cassette I'd record some weird noises and vocals, which I did through this dinky sampler device because I didn't even have a microphone! I'd play the two tapes through an amp and then into a recording device, and let things land where they landed. Totally random. It was entirely insular, but I'd always hoped to make a real band out of it...When it became a real band, it became more rock-n-roll oriented, even though some people still dont think we rock enough. Theyre wrong!
BG: They certainly are. We've discussed this before, since I grew up watching sprint cars and whatnot, and your Dad is in charge of some racing federation, but how do you feel racing influenced your interests in music?
KV: Some of my earliest memories in life involve stock car racing. I remember being a little twerp sitting near the front stretch wall at Wisconsin International Raceway in Kaukauna, WI as cars flew by, their motors belching sounds and smells that molded my mind. It's a big deal, the sound of the engines, the scrape of the sheet metal hitting the concrete, the announcer echoing above the din I've tried to replicate it in song form since. My guitar sound certainly has the feel of a car skidding against a wall. So, I sincerely believe hearing these sounds in my infancy meant I was thoroughly prepared and accepting of noisier forms of music. Plus, there were some great personalities involved in Wisconsin stock car racing when I was a kid. For instance, Dick Trickle was a chain-smoking, cowboy-boot-wearing, coffee-drinking, beer-slugging motherfucker who won more races than anyone ever! I got to ride in his car once during the parade lap/national anthem. It was truly inspiring to be around this shit when I was a young'un. Dont watch the races on T.V., visit a Wisconsin short track and see what the real shit is...
BG: Yeah, Trickle, Pete Parker and Mike Melius were total rockers. Kevin from Hatefuck once told me that the only time he was actually scared of a band was the first time he saw AKE, with you contorting, spitting, grunting and whipping that walker around. What's your take on the band/audience relationship? And what happened to the walker?
KV: I usually end up hating the audience. I'm comfortable with hating the audience. It brings out the best in me. Most of the faces out there are either really smug or stupid. I do get off on people getting scared, no doubt. What throws me off is when I can tell that someone is actually "getting it" and they have a big knowing grin on their face. That causes me to smile rather than present a scowl. Not good. Hell, when I go to shows, I'd rather see bands that are sorta mean onstage... The walker was left in the basement of a house I moved out of. I may get a new one someday...
BG: Well, at least you sent a picture of it. Why did you drop keyboards for a more "traditional" line-up RIGHT before keyboards became the bees knees with the intelligentsia? Ya dumbfuck! Don't you ever want a record out?
KV: The keyboard player left. I wanted more guitars. I could give a rat's ass about some Gary Numan wanna-bees cocksucking their way up the new wave totem pole! I do like warped sounds and keyboards may return, but not to please the geeks. The geeks started HATING AluminumKnotEye once there were no more keyboards. Our fan base, if there ever was such a thing, dwindled to nothing and we've been all the better because of it. If people are only interested in knob-twiddling, they can go elsewhere...AluminumKnotEye is stock cars, wild sex, beer, glaciers, amputees, mental patients, Transformer-impersonations and rock-n-roll! And, yes, we'd like to put a record out...
BG: Well, what do you think the main reasons are that AKE, which, in my opinion, is better than every GSL band ever, only plays out a couple times a year and has never released anything?
KV: What does GSL stand for? Gay Slavic Lovers? I dunno...AluminumKnotEye only plays out a few times a year because most people don't like us and I'm retarded when it comes to soliciting shows. The worst part of being in a band is trying to convince some self-important fuckwit that your band is self-important enough to be given a "slot" at their venue. Of course, most "promoters" want all the bands on the "bill" to have some sort of similarities. And since AluminumKnotEye isn't very similar to many bands, we get fucked and all the silly emo and pseudo-garage bands play tons of gigs and promote mediocrity. I'd love to play every fucking week, but it doesn't happen. Maybe we need a manager...We haven't released anything because we don't have the smarts or the dough to do it ourselves. If anyone is smart enough and doughy enough to attempt such an operation, let us know! Another reason we dont play out much is that I get wild and sometimes break stuff onstage. A lot of sound guys HATE me and weve been blacklisted at a few venues in our time...
BG: Moving forward, was the Squish your attempt at opening up to a wider audience? You mentioned that the Squish was the Pagans to AKE's Styrenes. Describe the Squish's sound and give a bit of a history.
KV: Actually, AKE was the Electric Eels, not the Styrenes, but...
BG: Stupid beer...can't remember shit no more!
KV: The Squish was essentially formed after I'd been ousted as the singer for a band called Sagger. I'd repeatedly called the guitar player in that band a "cocksucker", so they got rid of me and got some muppet to "sing". Around this time, I'd got an offer from future Squish drummer Chuck to appear as a frontman for an all-covers show with his then-current band. We were gonna do the Damned. Well, he got sacked from that band and I got sacked from fucking Sagger in the same week. So, I said "what the hell" and asked him if he wanted to start a new band. Mark, who plays guitar in AluminumKnotEye, offered his services as bass guitarist. Then we got Maciek, who was an original member of AluminumKnotEye and sang for a punk band called the Droids, to be the vocalist. The Squish is more streamlined than AKE, sort of mod-meets-punk, but with enough Wire-meets-Pagans-meets-Stooges weirdness going on to make it worthwhile...
BG: I'd say that Wire probably stands out the most, but yeah, it's all there. Since you're always holding a guitar in the Squish, your antics are toned down a bit, but remember that show with the Catholic Boys where you accosted the old flower vendor who wandered in off the street? One of the funniest things I've ever seen...
KV: Like I told em', there ain't no flowers in rock'n'roll!
BG: Immortalized in that Blue Balls tune. "He's an asshole/But he's OUR asshole/He's an asshole/And he's from Chilton!" Forming the Squish seems like it's paid off in terms of getting a lot of shows around Wisconsin (weren't booking agents telling you that you were the "hottest band in the state" or something equally retarded?), but when are you going to start playing around the country?
KV: Soon. For both bands. Hopefully...
BG: What are your favorite bands to play with?
KV: Wisconsin bands such as Death and Taxes, the Strong Come Ons, Glacier, Blue Balls, the Shutups, the Mistreaters, etc., can be fun to play with. Both AluminumKnotEye and the Squish have played with several touring bands that were quite swell. Too many to mention, really...
BG: What's your take on the "garage scene?" How about the newly popular "art" wave?
KV: These are both little cliques bands can join if they are bereft of their own ideas. "Garage Rock" has a handful of great bands, but a bucket load of shit; same thing with artsy-fartsy stuff. "Garage" is pretty big here in Milwaukee. You see guys who used to be in emo bands a few months ago forming "garagey" outfits. I suppose "garage" is some sort of national trend, because a few bands were selected by the press to save rock n' roll. A lot of it is just a scam. "Art wave" is the same thing; theyre just ripping off different bands. Its tough to find stuff thats genuine. Its also tough to make genuine music. I feel my bands do that...At least, I hope so...
BG: Man, I thought I was gonna get a far more venomous response. You must be mellowing out or something. Finally, anything you want to add? Can people out there hear your stuff?
KV: I do this music stuff outta instinct. This drives me to do certain things, make certain sounds. Im not in it to make friends.
Both AluminumKnotEye and the Squish have material recorded. Some old mp3s might be around. I dunno. If anybody wants to hear it in full, they can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and they might get a cassette or a CD-R chock full of stuff. Its all 4-track-recorded screechy primitive stuff and anyone who likes it raw should dig it... One of these days Im gonna get my shit together and all you fucks better watch out...Im coming!
Interview and pictures by Todd Trickknee.
© blankgeneration.com 2003