Interview by Lisa LeeKing & Tanya Richardson
Murder City Devils It's easy to see why the Murder City Devils exist?to play rock 'n' roll. And while their shows certainly up the count of believers, the lyrics are what differentiate them from other twentysomething punk outfits. The Devils' third album, In Name and Blood, surpasses 1998's appropriately titled Empty Bottles, Broken Hearts debut on Sub Pop, which itself did a good job of epitomizing all that's great about rock: riffs, women and booze. The new album's artwork may glorify death (with each member acting out his own murder), but inside it's all about the music. As John Krautner of the Go recently told us, "We all need to work together to resurrect rock 'n' roll. The youth of America depends on it."
Tanya Richardson: My favorite song on the new album is "Rum to Whiskey," despite the fact that everyone knows professional drinkers prefer bourbon?although I'd have to shoot a lot of Turkey to enjoy a song about killing a woman. You just had to remake "Down by the River," didn't you? Or am I misinterpreting?
Spencer Moody: Tanya, you are not misinterpreting the song. It is very much a "Down by the River." I have been listening to one of the Folkways ballads compilations reissued by the Smithsonian and Down in Boogie Alley. The songs on these records that stand out most for me are the songs about killing. Men killing men, women killing men and men killing women. In my song I don't think of the killing in a literal way. I think more in terms of the feeling of death we cause when we kill a relationship, and the guilt of knowing it will probably happen again. I understand why you would have reservations, to say the least, about such a song, and I can't tell you exactly what possessed me to write it. In some clumsy way, I suppose writing those lyrics helped me feel a connection to the history of American songs. Then again, I never heard anyone complain about "Hey Joe."
Lisa LeeKing: I've been listening to Alice Cooper a lot lately, especially this new album, Brutal Planet. It reminds me of the Murder City Devils, not because the music is at all similar but because of the recurring themes of death, evil and darkness. Why all the repetitive themes?being on the road, lost love, drinking?
SM: We write songs about what we know?and by the way, Alice Cooper rules. Our producer [John Agnello] made us listen to Killer.
LL: In Name and Blood combines several elements that epitomize what rock music should sound like today?strong, heartfelt lyrics, a tight rhythm section and an action-packed live show. What inspires each of you?
Derek Fudesco: Cash Rules Everything Around Me. Cream. Get the money.
TR: Spencer, how many Misfits t-shirts did you own in high school? And is it a conscious, esthetic choice to either talk or scream your lyrics rather than sing them?
SM: If I ever learn to sing I will. I didn't have any Misfits t-shirts in high school, but I did go to a high school dance with a person wearing one.
TR: I love the fact that you do epics like "Fields of Fire." I thought that kind of "Immigrant Song" shit went out with the 70s. What's your biggest gripe with today's mainstream "rock"?
Nate Manny: It's got no soul and I'm offended by what seems to be a condescending attempt at sincerity, i.e., Creed.
LL: The Devils have covered Neil Diamond's "I'll Come Running" and the Seeds' "Can't Seem to Make You Mine." That's some diversity.
NM: At this point in music you can't go a day without hearing anything from oldies to smooth jams to metal to jazz. You would have to work very hard to listen to only one kind of music. And you would be stupid if you did. A good song is a good song.
TR: Who are your favorite bands on Sub Pop?
MCD: Earth, the Yo-Yo's, Mudhoney, Supersuckers, Love As Laughter, Mark Lanegan and the Wipers.
LL: It seems like it would be hard living up to past Seattle legends, continually being compared to some band that was on Sub Pop years ago, consistently being mentioned in The Stranger's gossip section. How do you deal with it?
SM: We don't care.
TR: Leslie, the band has an incredibly macho persona. How do you feel about that, and what's it like on the road with all those mens?
Leslie Hardy: For the most part it's just like touring with six of my brothers. They're not macho at all.
TR: At SXSW Leslie dedicated a song to Ruben "nice guy" Romano [of Nebula]. What's that all about?
LH: Why not? He's hilarious and reminds me of Sam Perkins.
TR: Is it true Spencer was so out of control at SXSW that he had to be hog-tied at your hotel, Sumner Suites?
SM: At least I wasn't smoking crack in the hallway [which actually happened].
Gabe Kerbrat [roadie]: We actually had to do some factchecking on this one, to see if you were just making shit up. But Merchbot 2000 says he captured it on film, so...
NM: They had to use a phone cord to tie him up.
LL: If you could play a show with any band, dead or alive, who would it be?
NM: Rolling Stones.
LH: Rusted Shut.
DF: The Chambers Brothers.
Dann Gallucci: Erasure (I'm not kidding). And Mayhem.
LL: I'm a sucker for record packaging. All three of your album packages have a lot of thought behind them, yet stay true to punk rock ideals and always seem to correlate with the music. Who comes up with these ideas?
NM: It's important for the album artwork and other things image-related to fit the band. You usually see a record before you hear one, and as for trying too hard, I've only tried to keep things consistent. But I probably care more than anyone else. It's fun for me to do that part of the band.
LL: Derek, we heard you broke your leg in Scotland mid-windmill and hit your head on the ceiling.
LL: When you're not playing music, what do you enjoy doing?
NM: Being at home.
DF: Reading and record shopping. And going to the movies.
LH: Plucking my eyebrows. Smoking and drinking with my dog Hoax.
GK: I like to take nice relaxing baths.
TR: Was it a shock the record sold so many copies in the first week ?
NM: It was more than twice what I expected.
DF: How do you know this shit?
SM: Eminem sold 1.7 million.
TR: How many of you work at Bimbo's [local hip burrito shop that helps rock 'n' roll pay the rent]?
SM: Everyone but Nate, although his wife worked there.
LL: The MCD may have the record for the most ink of any band. How many tattoos does the band have, total?
TR: Has Brandon from Love As Laughter fixed his tooth yet, and is it true he broke it wrestling with your roadie Gabe?
GK: Brandon's tooth did not get broken when he was wrestling with me. It broke when I knocked him the fuck out. And no, I don't think he has gotten it fixed yet, but I think it makes him look much more attractive.
LL: Gabe, we've seen a picture of the TCB/Jolly Roger tattoo on your balls. Now granted, it's on your genitalia and all, but why is it so weak?
GK: Now see, why do you have to go and bring up that? I mean have you really seen them or is this just your way of mentioning them?
NM: As the tattoo artist, I have to say that this was one tattoo I did not want to spend a lot of time working on.
GK: But I think that it is solid as a motherfucker. Next time we run into you two we can give you a better look if you'd like.
TR: Do you see yourselves breaking up anytime soon?
NM: No, we have too much work to do.
The Murder City Devils play with the Yo-Yo's & the Catheters, Thurs., July 27, at Maxwell's and again Fri., July 28, at CBGB.