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Asylum Street Spankers

Posted by August 15th, 2003 No Comments »

Interview – Asylum Street Spankers
Q & A With Cristinna Marrs
By Matt Ashworth

NadaMucho.com: I’ll probably be too lazy to write an introduction for this, so give us a short history.
Asylum Street Spankers: There’s no such thing as a short history when your band’s been together for nine years, but I’ll try. We got together in the spring of 1994, a collective of people that all somehow knew Guy Forsyth (founding member who left the band six years ago but still plays some gigs with us and played on our last two records). We had a rehearsal, played a gig or two and started performing regularly around town. About three years into it we started focusing on touring. We hardly ever play Austin anymore. About 30 people have come and gone through the years. We’ve never recorded a record with the same exact band as the previous record, and Spanker Madness was recorded with two different bands. Our travels have taken us to audiences from Fish Creek (pronounced “crick”), Wisconsin to Fukuoka, Japan and lots of other places in between. In the meantime, we’ve all gotten much older.

Interview – Asylum Street Spankers
Q & A With Cristinna Marrs
By Matt Ashworth

NadaMucho.com: I’ll probably be too lazy to write an introduction for this, so give us a short history.
Asylum Street Spankers: There’s no such thing as a short history when your band’s been together for nine years, but I’ll try. We got together in the spring of 1994, a collective of people that all somehow knew Guy Forsyth (founding member who left the band six years ago but still plays some gigs with us and played on our last two records). We had a rehearsal, played a gig or two and started performing regularly around town. About three years into it we started focusing on touring. We hardly ever play Austin anymore. About 30 people have come and gone through the years. We’ve never recorded a record with the same exact band as the previous record, and Spanker Madness was recorded with two different bands. Our travels have taken us to audiences from Fish Creek (pronounced “crick”), Wisconsin to Fukuoka, Japan and lots of other places in between. In the meantime, we’ve all gotten much older.

NM: What, exactly, is an Asylum Street Spanker?
ASS: A “Spanker” is a person who plays an acoustic instrument with skill and gusto. Asylum Street refers to Guadalupe Street, or “The Drag” in Austin. In olden days it was the road that went out to the State Asylum, then on the outskirts of town.

NM: We snicker every time we abbreviate your band name. When writing shorthand do you use “ASS” like we do? Does it make you giggle?
ASS: Wow! I never even realized! That’s so cool! You know, ’cause like the whole spanker thing, kinda makes you think of like, spanking someone’s ass, and then like, our initials spell ASS. Cool!

NM: Speaking of snickering and giggling, any progress in the war on drugs?
ASS: We’re doing just fine.

NM: Do band members tend to snicker more often than they giggle or giggle more often than snicker?
ASS: That would really depend entirely on whether or not we’re out of weed and beer.

NM: As a port city and the country’s “Gateway to the Pacific Rim,” we feel we’ll be invaluable in your War on Drugs. Anything we can offer for your stay in the Northwest?
ASS: Yes, actually. We have the Sunday after the show OFF. We’re not flying out until Monday, and we’ve been talking about doing a big group mushroom trip, but we don’t have the supplies. A band bonding ritual kinda thing. The last time we did that was at the Strawberry Festival in Yosemite Park. We had a great time, everyone in the band took them, except the drummer, he was more into picking up chicks. A few of us took shrooms and went to the Hirshhorn modern art museum at the Smithsonian. I think the museum guards were onto us.

NM: That reminds me of the scene in the Doors movie where Morrison takes the band out to the desert. Only you won’t be reciting bad poetry in melodramatic fashion, I assume. Go to the water. Rent a boat and go out on the sound. Or, if that’s not your speed then go to that one park down on the water where they usually hold Hempfest. It has a name but I can’t remember what it is.
ASS: All this sounds good, but it depends on whether we can find all the necessary ingredients. The rest is easy. Wish us luck.

NM: Hey, you ever been stalked?
ASS: Well, not in the creepy psycho kinda way. We have a few fans who will show up at more than one show in their region of the country. Kinda like Deadheads, except they eventually do go home, and they actually have homes. Suffice to say, with as many fans as we have, odds are a
few of them are gonna have that “stalker” vibe.

NM: Your latest album just arrived. Is it any good?
ASS: You mean My Favorite Record? I really like it, especially the title track. I think it’s really representative of everything we do. That might seem a little biased, but we’re actually our own worst critics. There are a couple of our records I can’t even listen to. People will comment to us about them: “I love this record. It’s your best one!” And I’m thinking, God, I hate that record. The Christmas record (A Christmas Spanking) is a good example. It’s a live record, and I had the flu the night we recorded it. I felt like shit, could barely sing and when I heard the mixes I knew I’d never be able to listen to that record without cringing. So, of course, it got the most positive critical acclaim of anything we’d put out up until then. People absolutely raved about how good it was.

NM: I heard the Drugs album first and the Sex EP second, which for my money makes up one of the greatest 20 song sets I’ve ever heard. They feel like you’re poking fun at novelty/concept records, yet they are novelty records, but even after the 100th listen, when you’ve had enough of the sex and drugs gag, the music and the songs just don’t let you write it off, so you’re hummin’ along to “Blade of Grass” and realizin’ what a great fuckin’ song it is even if you don’t think metaphorically and before too long you’re happy and smilin’ and ready for more sex and drugs. This isn’t a question at all, but if you care to share your thoughts on those two pieces of work and/or make fun of my preceding comments, please use this space to do so.
ASS: Which sex record did you listen to? We have two. Nasty Novelties came first, then Dirty Ditties. You should really have both, they’re kinda like a companion set. The sex and drug records were fun to make. I wouldn’t want every record to be that way, but it’s fun. Spanker Madness was originally going to be an EP, just 4 or 5 songs. Then we decided we had a lot more to say on the subject. Doing a reefer tune record just felt like a natural thing for us. Our set had always included old reefer tunes from the 20’s and 30’s, and a few of us had smoked marijuana once or twice, so we figured we could fake it, at least. We’ll probably have more theme records further down the line: a children’s record, a gospel record…maybe even another sex record?

NM: We finally played My Favorite Record in the car yesterday and it’s a fine document. Please tell me you’ll play “Insane Asylum” for us?
ASS: Sorry. That song features the aforementioned Guy Forsyth on vocals, and he won’t be on this trip with us. That was just a studio kinda thing. I don’t think we’ve ever done it live. That’s the cool thing about the studio, you get to do all kinds of fun stuff. We actually had a guest sax player on that song, and our drummer overdubbed a trombone part, and the horns really make the song. Unfortunately, our drummer can’t play the trombone and drums at the same time.

NM: Bummer. Any other hints as to what we can expect from ASS live in Seattle?
ASS: No. It’s a secret. But I would venture to guess that Wammo will be drinking some beer.

NM: OK, and finally: which member of the band has the biggest feet?
ASS: Wammo.

Visit the band’s website.


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