TRACTOR SEX FATALITY
I was first made aware of Tractor Sex Fatality probably a year and a half or so ago when Aaron from The Blowtops told me Bart at Big Neck had received this great demo from them and was going to put out their record. Being the record jerk I am, I was of course intrigued by the name and set my hopes pretty high. After some research, I found out they had a self-released single out already (the "Tiny Parts" EP), were from Seattle, and heard they had like eight guys in the band creating total mayhem. So eventually, I get the single and a copy of the stuff they had sent Bart, and am totally pleased to find out they aren't yet another 'punk' band, but a bunch of monsters creating a sonic mess along the lines of Scratch Acid, Debris, Monoshock, and other noise agitators. Soon after, I got word they were actually flying in from Seattle to play Buffalo's annual Rock'n'Roll Bloodfeast, a two day Fall fest of sorts put together by the Blowtops and Big Neck Records. As the story goes, Rob, TSF's singer, is a big Blowtops fan and was flying in for the weekend to see the show anyway, so the rest of the band came along to play on one of the nights. They ended up playing the best set of the entire weekend, a balls-kicking affair full of proplusive drumming, Rob alternating between writhing on the floor and screaming his head off, a bass player full of tattoos and energy running rampant throughout the room, and lots of feedback. I think it ended in a dogpile. Either way, everyone there was floored, and I was thankful they made the trip. And they actually turned out to be nice guys too. Weird, huh? So, the band has a just-released CD on Deadbeat ("Peel & Eat") and a forthcoming LP/CD on Big Neck entitled "Black Magic, White Pussy" which was preceded by the "Live it Down" 7". They're embarking on a jaunt down the West Coast with Buffalo's own Blowtops this month, so go and check them out if at all possible. I guarantee entertainment.
Tb:How, when and why did Tractor Sex Fatality come together? Give us a bit of the history of the band...
Rob: The first time it was attempted was at a birthday party for a friend and I, way back. 2000, methinks. The Blow Up, Texas Funeral, and Double Fudge played and I thought it'd be a good night to attempt a "performance". The day before the show we practiced for 20 minutes. Covers of Rush's "2112" and Bread's "Everything I Own". I quickly realized this is gonna be awful! It was. There was nudity and feedback and lotsa broken stuff...for like a half an hour. A year later we reformed to do some soundtrack work for one of John's (TSF guitar player) 8mm films. This time it felt like, uh...music. Sorta. Then we got the ball rolling and started writing songs. It started out with a cocktail garbage drum kit, 3 guitars (one acoustic plugged into all kindsa shit), and AM radio chatter. Somehow this led to what it is now...
TB: Please humor us and explain how you came up with the TSF name.(For all of those who don't own the first single)
Rob: Back in college (1991 or so) I picked up a magazine - SPY, I think. It was a tabloid-ish thing put out by National Lampoon. Kinda' similar to BIZARRE today. This was the "Auto-Erotic Death Issue". It had a breakdown pie chart of percentages each year for different forms of auto-erotic deaths. Asphyxiation, sex during car crashes, etc. But there was this tiny little sliver on the chart, like 2%, for Tractor Sex Fatalities. All the others were talked about in detail. This one, nothing...I laughed my ass off. There was nothing else in the magazine about it other than this little sliver on the pie chart. It stuck with me for years. Then when I was printing the sleeve for the 1st single, I was looking for some tractor accident photos on line, and found the doozy of the story your talking about. There was documented history of people falling in love and trying to "become one" with their farm equipment. In this particular case the man wrote love poetry to his tractor ("Stone" was its name) and built a suspension system so he could mount it. He died there. Soaring high, I suppose.
TB: Please clarify TSF's actual line-up for us, or at least what the current one is. The Big Neck single lists a six-piece, the Deadbeat CD list a four-piece, we've heard there was a seven-piece version, and the line-up we saw at the RNR Bloodfeast was even some sort of mutated line-up. What's going on?
Rob: The line up history is crazy. Right now it's: John-guitar, Dave-bass (used to play guitar as well), Ward - drumming, and I just yell. This is the Dead-Beat line-up...also what you saw in Buffalo. The longest running line up, the one on the Big Neck stuff and 1st single was: John and Dave on guitar, Karlis playing bass, Ward drums, I sing, and Eben played sax and sang and anything else that came out of his nutty mind...We would have Sally play extra cocktail drums and the car door at shows on and off for the first couple years. WAAAAY back....early first six months or so, Al payed guitar with us before Dave and Karlis. This stuff is home recorded and floating around on CDr....painfully noisy, but I still like it. The only recordings with me on guitar as well. I'm gonna press some of it next year.
TB: Some more clarification: Which record is your actual debut record? The soon-to-be-released "Black Magic, White Pussy" LP/CD on Big Neck or the "Peel & Eat" CD on Deadbeat?
Rob: The "Black Magic..." LP is the legit debut. It was recorded in 2003-2004. When we shrank to a 4 piece I had an idea of releasing a 12" four song EP of newer stuff....more along the way we are right now. Tom at DeadBeat contacted me and asked if we wanted to put something out and I told him about this EP idea. He said he was thinking of putting out a full length instead. So, I kinda' did some checking out with Bart to make sure he wouldn't beat me up over this, and we came up with some more songs. The DeadBeat CD is the initial 4 or 5 tracks we planned on doing, some singles tracks that didn't come about, and a few really old songs we dug up and revised. It was all recorded in March and April 2005. Quick as hell. It feels like an earlier record to me, just because it's so raw and stripped down. Some of those songs were from 2001 and never recorded. It sounds like a really great live or radio show to me. The thing only has 3 or 4 overdubs, stuff we couldn't do with just one guitar. The Big Neck LP is a lot more produced. So it seems like the 2nd album is the 1st to me. Or vice-a-versa. Weird.
Is "Peel & Eat" about delicious shrimp?
Rob: It's about eating eyeballs. Quite similar really.
Rob: Be honest here, are you kinda’ bummed that "Peel & Eat" is CD only?
Rob: Sure. I'm a total record snob. A singles collecting idiot. Not everybody is though. Most people are gonna' burn it or stick it in an Ipod either way, hahaha. I'm just glad it's out. We needed something to tour on asap. It'd be great on vinyl, but it wasn't our money, soooo..... If somebody is willing to spend their own cash to release our stuff, they can do 8-track only if they want!
TB: You guys and The Blowtops seem to have buddied up. What are you thinking throwing your lot in with those guys? And you can't possibly be excited about seeing them for like eight days in a row on tour...
Rob: "It's fuckin' retarded...", that's the tour mantra. Thanks Aaron. I'm into seein' them as much as possible...I love those guys (and gal). Old stuff, new stuff, everything. Will we tire of each other? Who knows? We've got separate vans, It should go smoothly. If Creepy Dave and I can keep from killing ourselves out on the dance floor every show. Not sure if my body can take the abuse 8 nights in a row...Everybody’s pretty excited about this tour. We've never been past Portland. I don't think the Blowtops have been past Chicago in the 8 years they've been around. Should be fun. Once it's finally booked completely. Ugh.
TB: Speaking of songs, how does the song writing process work for TSF?
ROb: It just kinda happens. John and Ward will come up with something in our down time or Dave will just start playing a bass part and we join in. I show up and go something like "doo-doot-bada-bum-bada-bum-bum" and they stare at me. It's that easy.
TB: Where does the lyrical/musical inspiration for TSF come songs come from?
Rob: Homeless people on buses...seriously. Lines like "honey toast and tang make the knees all fuckie". I can't make things this good up. Also, horror movies and exploitation trailers. I've never chopped up a dead hooker, but I'll sing about it.
TB: What kind of shit have TSF been listening to lately?
Rob: I can't speak for everybody but I'll try...the new Sightings. Alicja's Black Sunday LP. AluminumKnotEye. No Doctors. YellowSwans. Debris. Still the Hunches a lot. I'm really hung up on an old NY band, Rat at Rat R, right now. Laughing Hyenas. Necrophagia. Sunglasses after Dark. Simply Saucer. The new Burmese album. Catholic Boys new Bancroft single. The Skullening. Any of the 30 odd singles I buy weekly. I bought the Dean Dirg 7" yesterday...that's great! All the Sagger stuff. The Swimmers. The unreleased Sores stuff. Goes on and on...
TB: What's your favorite soundtrack LP?
Rob: Toss up right now between 'Danger: Diabolik', Kenneth Anger's 'Lucifer Rising' re-issue, and 'I Drink Your Blood'. Someone needs to release that one! All the Goblin stuff is way up there too.
TB: What's your favorite Debris song and why?
Rob: “One Way Spit” or “New Smooth Lunch”. “One Way Spit” is like the best Electric Eels track, if they could've played better...hahaha. The strangled guitar sounds in “New Smooth Lunch” are just bad ass. That’s the reason I like Sagger so much. Those strangled drug-out guitar sounds. Plus the Debris demo stuff sounds like our practice tapes. ”Zebra Girls” and the like...
TB: If you had to describe what TSF sound like, what would you say? Because I have a hard time coming up with something when people ask...
Rob: Ass Mess Choke Rock. That's my fave. Sloppy and spastic attempts at short boogie rock tunes flopping all over itself. Or, white noise with a backbeat? I don't know.
TB: How's the Seattle "scene"? Are you guys in other bands there? Are there any bands we should be looking out for that we might not have heard of yet?
rob: Seattle took off, as everyone knows. We're kind of "the wart" on the scene. Don’t really fit in anywhere. Dave is in New Fangs. He fronts it and plays guitar. Karlis, our old bass player is in that too. They're doing really well from what I can tell. Record comes out in a couple months I think. It sounds great! They were in The Blow Up together as well. John and Ward had Samsonknight Feathergun. They broke up last month. LOUD loud band. Cheater slicks meeting up w/Unsane and Karp. John's got a bajillion things going on w/his girlfriend and such. Lotsa' improv noise stuff. He self releases a record weekly! I'm not kidding. Go to his MySpace page and find out what he's doing daily...
Newer bands around Seattle I like that no one knows really: Mod.Lazer, Swimmers (mostly Portland based), Black: Japan and their offshoot- Hunk Parade, The Pyramids, etc. I still really like Charming Snakes, Cripples, and such. I miss a lot of Seattle bands that called it quits years ago. One of the reasons I started a band was the demise of Double Fudge and The Blow Up. Also had a love for Steel Wool live and any Rob Vasquez project . Right On, Night Kings, etc.
TB: Are the A-Frames pulling the rock star trip around town now that they're on Sub Pop? Have you noticed them growing out their hair and wearing a lot of flannel lately?
Rob: Not really. Never really known any of them all that well. Still don’t. Off and on known Lars through friends and such. They seem the same-just not around town as much. Weirdly huge crowds now though. All kindsa people coming out of the woodwork. I saw their 1st show in like 1999 or 2000? Something like that. The night they changed the name from Bend Sinister to A-Frames. It was a Double Fudge show as well. I've seen Lars in a flannel, I think. Might have been a checkered coat though.
TB: What were you guys doing when the whole grunge thing exploded years ago? Any grunge skeletons in the closet?
Rob: Other than Karlis, no one was from Seattle area. I was in Rockford, Illinois listening to Mudhoney and Flaming Lips. Oh, and some really bad metal. Testament and such. I did like flannel though. And cut-offs. Dave's first band was The Gimmicks. He’s from California, I think. John played in some weird Ween/Butthole Surfers band back in NY that played talent shows and office parties. They'd come out and play the same Sonic Youth cover twice in a row and then leave. I find that funny in a good way! It had to piss people off. He still does...Ward was playing in surf and garage bands. The Primate 5 would be the big one. Sinister Six for a while too. No one was old enough to "ride the wave", really.
TB: So what's up next for TSF? Records in the works? Tours? Merchandising opportunities?
Rob: We've got a couple of compilation tracks to record. One for a friend who's putting out a Repo Man anniversary soundtrack. One for Bart at Big Neck. Another for a compilation of bands that play The Funhouse in Seattle. Brian Foss is hoping we'll do our "incredible" Cheap Trick cover of “Elo Kiddies”. We'll see...I'm putting out a tour split 7" with TSF and The Blowtops and I hope the test pressing shows up today. It's been a pressing hassle. I wanna work on some new weirder shit. I'm hung up on soundscapes and movie scores. I have an idea of doing 6 tracks based on old Italian Giallo and Crime scores. Like take a riff or piano piece and build a rock song around it. Maybe a really long composition on the B-side. Just to get this out of my system. Gobs of layers and overdubs....exactly the opposite of the last record. More horns, organs, samples, contact mic’d stuff. Who knows. I plan on releasing the vinyl version of "The Early Years/Album: the E.P." best of as well. Then a nap would be nice. And pizza.
TB: And finally, one of the lamest of all interview questions, if TSF could play on a bill with any three bands from any time, who would they be and why?
Rob: I'd say, for me personally: 1986 - Pussy Galore ('Groovy Hate Fuck' era), Flaming Lips or Butthole Surfers (whoever is available), and Scratch Acid. Why? To see me cry happy tears. And buy a bunch of old t-shirts!
Tractor Sex Fatality: www.myspace.com/tractorsexfatality
Interview by Rich Kroneiss
Pics by Dale Nixon and some other people
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