HOME REVIEWS CONTACT LINKS ARCHIVES FORUMS
A few months ago, myself, my attorney Dave Anchovies and three-quarters of The Blowtops drove three hours round-trip to see the United Kingdom's Country Teasers play a live set at the Bug Jar in Rochester, New York. It was the first time seeing the Teasers live for all of us. Some of us were bigger fans of the band than others, but I think we all left knowing one thing: that Ben Wallers and the Country Teasers put on a show that would have been worth a three hour WALK. Fuck, I would've walked ten hours barefoot for their performance. The weekend following the show I went to Chicago Blackout and saw thirty-some bands that represented the best in modern garage rock. And not one of them even touched the set the Teasers pulled off that evening. Not one.
On the way there, I was elected to fill the CD changer. My Selections: two by the Teasers themselves: 'Satan is Real Again' and their newest, 'The Empire Strikes Back'; Angry Samoans 'Boxed Set'; Gorilla Angreb's compilation CD; The Big Boy's 'Fat Elvis'; and Anchovies had the Dicks' compilation CD in there, which seems to wonderfully be in constant rotation whenever he's around. Creepy Dave called 'X' on Angreb almost immediately, I don't recall getting to the Big Boys, we saved the Dicks for the ride home, sang along to the Samoans and we listened to both Teasers discs, instigating a "Is it lame to listen to the band you are going to see on the way to the show?" discussion. I know people who are firm in their belief that you absolutely can not listen to anything by a band or any of its members on the way to see said band live. Me, I'm split. I'll throw something on, especially if it's new, on the way to see a band. I don't think enough of us were familiar enough with 'Empire..' at that point so it seemed fitting, and a bit like pre-battle preparation. Know your enemy or some such shit. Someone mentioned the Floyd thing right away.
TB: Syd Barret just passed, what's your perspective on him and the Pink Floyd?
Seeing shows in Rochester kind of blows. The Bug Jar is a great venue: always sounds fantastic, great decor (they have an entire living room [furniture complete with stuff on the coffe table, etc.] somehow nailed/glued to the ceiling in the room where the bands play), cheap drinks, and they also have a closed-circiut TV in the bar where you can actually watch the band without being in the room. The thing that sucks about seeing shows there: the people. I always get the impression that anyone there to see a good band somehow just accidentally wandered in and actually has no idea who they are watching. A good portion leave after seeing the local bands, who invariably always suck. I once witnessed a packed room clear out after local Rochester garage corpse-rapers The Priests played, leaving a crowd of about twenty to watch Dead Moon. Dead fucking Moon. So I have no sympathy for these people, at all. Openers this time were a local band...their name escapes me, but the fact that were not good does not. And then this group called Pengo, who I think were from Ohio, and basically played prog. The guitar player was pretty good and they had some wacky instrumentation, like a ten foot length of pipe that one of them blew into. Far out. They passed the time and I could relax and have some drinks knowing that I didn't need to be riveted to the band on stage. They made suitable sounds for imbibing.
I see Wallers around the club. He's wearing camouflage, a cowboy hat and a vest with 'KOOL KEITH' written on the back in marker. I don't approach him, because I really have nothing to say except the usual fanboy spiel. I'd corresponded with him a few times, traded tapes with him. The Rebel (and the Teasers) were not a band I got into right away. The Crypt records took quite a while to really sink in. I had always recognized they were good, but the real genius at work there didn't really dawn on me until the 2XLP comp on In the Red came out. Then it all clicked, I became fanatical to the point where I was sending tapes across the ocean to get The Rebel's solo works. One of the things that really stuck out in Ben's work was his appropriation of hip-hop at times, (a genre I have an unrequited and confusing love for) which seemed very different at first, but once you really soak in his work for awhile it makes total sense. Meaning, on a simple level, Ben has the tendency to be purposefully provocational, as a lot of rap does. He seems to talk a bit about black people; likes to throw around taboo words, seemingly enjoying his ability to get a rise out of people at times. Maybe he does it just to ruffle feathers, maybe he does it to get people to think about those words and what the signify. Who knows. The Teasers have cut an incredible Ice Cube cover, that I do know.
TB: When and how were you first exposed to hip-hop/rap? What were the first songs or records you heard in the genre, or at least the first ones you really enjoyed?
TB: I don't know about that one, but I'm no expert. The only rappers off the top of my head from Washington were Sir Mix-A-Lot and his posse...So, are you more of a beats or lyrics guy when it comes down to it?
TB: How do you think listening to rap has influenced your own songwriting? Or is it not something you really think about consciously?
The Teasers are up and I'm full of expectations, energy and beer. Someone decides it would be a good idea to drink glasses of whiskey while we watch them. The Maker's Mark bite opens me up for entry into the world Wallers unfurls before me. Opening with the sweeping "Spiderman In the Flesh", just like the album, I'm caught up in this immense wave and sucked down under the water, victim to the musical tides at Wallers command. They're an incredible band, tight when they need to be, loose when it fits. Wallers is playful, nearly childlike in the way he bites his tongue between lyrics, dressed for a game of play-war where he can't decide whether he wants to be the cowboy gunslinger or the army man. Watching him, and his group (which includes his very beautiful wife), I'm genuinely awestruck. I've seen many bands which have elicited emotions from me: bands so raging I've wanted to tear the building down, so powerful I've screamed, so rhythmic I've danced (and I'm a bad dancer), so beautiful I've had tears well up. But it's rare that a band, or a person actually in this case, actually takes you into another world, into their head, suspends time with every note, expands your mind just by virtue of playing chords and strumming strings and saying things, the type of experience where no one else is really there and your love of music is realized, truly realized, because someone up there on stage is handing it to you on a platter. It's wonderful and entertaining, thoughtful and even funny. The Teasers tore into my soul. And then they made my night even better by covering Kool Keith's "I'm Destructive". Some hippie kid (who I think had no idea who he was watching, and who later told me he wanted to get the band high thinking I was their manager or something for some reason...) asks between songs, something along the lines of "I saw Kool Keith written on your jacket...can you do one of his songs?". And they were off, Ben spitting lyrics and all...
TB: You did a Kool Keith song at the Rochester show... Do you have any other rap songs in your arsenal (aside from Ice Cube)? Was "Im Destructive" something you planned on doing, or was that spur of the moment?
TB: What was the first Kool Keith you heard, apart from the Ultramagnetic stuff?
TB: Favorite Kool Keith record/song and why?
TB: How do you feel about Wu Tang Clan's stuff? Whos your favorite?
"I'm Destructive" took this show to the next level for sure. When the Teasers play, you feel as if Ben is expressing his opinions to you while trapped inside his own world even though he is on stage, right in front of you, sharing. Not to say he's distant, even though at times it seems as if the crowd isn't there to him, just as it seems I'm standing there by myself at moments. He interacts, talks to the band and the crowd, cracks a joke or two. Taps a keyboard with his foot whilst playing guitar. Ben, and the Teasers by extension, is a singular artist, an auteur of sorts. His vision is scaldingly unique at times. It was the type of show that it was a pleasure to be a part of, and a show you genuinely did not want to end. It was the kind of show that did provide the visceral musical thrill we always seek, but one of the few that also touched on something more, something unnameable and deeper. Something amazing. After the show, everybody bought records (except me, because I'm an asshole and have them all already), everyone agreed it was a mind-blowing affair. But you always wonder if it touched anyone as deeply as it did you. I spoke to Ben briefly after the gig, asked about doing an interview, which I had planned on being about nothing but hip hop and rap records, asked if he remembered trading tapes (he didn't exactly, but was very cordial) and gave him the general great show/records/music line. Really super nice guy. After the tour I sent him some questions, we traded some e-mails, it turned out okay I think.
TB: Is there a lot of US rap on the radio in the UK? Are there UK rap artists? Or is it more dancehall/toasting stuff (Like Smiley Culture)?
TB: Do you think part of the appeal of rap for some people is the novelty/ridiculousness of some of it? Like the Wu Tang's magnificently twisted and semi-made-up verbiage, or the ultraviolent gangsta stuff, etc..?
TB: I'm not sure quite how to word this one..but, do you think that white people might be enjoying rap music for the wrong reasons? Like an exploitation kind of thing? Is there something about rap as an art that white guys will just never get, or do you think it's universal?
Driving home from the show, eating a donut and drinking a coffee and listening to The Dicks, I was deep in thought. I had just seen one of the top five music performances of nearly twenty years of show-going. What is it that makes it so? The right mix of liquor, setting and artist? I realized that Wallers, much like he later said in relation to Kool Keith, has a gift. His songs inhabit the interzone where they are personal and specific to him, his ideas, his somewhat odd vision, but they are also accessible, perhaps seeing our own odd visions reflected in his. We connect through our similar strangeties. Someone once said to me that everyone who is deeply into punk-rock (or whatever we're calling it) has some sort of social difficulty, it's inherent to the subculture and part of the reason the socially inept (on many different levels) find comfort in it. It's something that I afterward thought about quite a bit, and something that turned into a much larger answer. I suppose, being immersed in this subculture, you don't realize some of your own shortcomings, as they are apparent in everyone else as well, therefore making them seem a non-factor. I always think of why I love music so much, and how others can care so little about it. It's the music that acts as the grease, the oil that lubricates my passage through life, makes it easier to move along and thrive. It's a beautiful thing, and everyone out there, has their crutch, their escape, their thing to make life easier. So perhaps that's why I enjoyed the Country Teasers live so much. Maybe I saw a bit of myself up there, or at least was reminded of something inside me, what it is that makes me want to drive three hours to see a band play. The Country Teasers reminded me of how much I love music and why. Or perhaps they simply just put on a great rock show. Either way it was thrilling, thought-provoking, entertaining to say the least and overall a hell of a lot of fun.
TB: What do you think of Billy Childish and his work?
TB: Do you feel any parallels with the guy?
Ben: Yes I do know Kate Moss.
So that's that. Last I spoke with Ben I asked his short term plans for the Teasers and The Rebel: "Well, Country Teasers are taking a well earned rest while the Rebel (which features Sophie on drums when we play live) works on next album. No releases imminent." I'd also like to thank him for providing some great and insightful answers to an interview I thought I had little handle on at the time, but in retrospect seems quite alright, and leaves me wishing I would've done a better job continuing it. I hope I managed to make it into an entertaining read by attempting to blend it in with a live review of a show that I felt I had to say something about. And if anyone can identify the rap lyric Ben cites in the interview, let us know.
To read a much better interview with Ben go here.
Visit The Rebel on-line here.Interview by Rich Kroneiss
PREVIOUS PAGE HOME NEXT PAGE