Thursday, March 8, 2012

The Bigfoot Diaries Interview with Rudi Protrudi

Back in the day my buddy, Brian Patterson and I would always do these road trips to Des Moines or Iowa City checking out dusty old book stores and second hand record shops. We were probably what you would consider classic rock guys and we were into some heavy metal. (This was back just before, or maybe right about the time when all those pussy primadonnas were coming to the forefront.) The only thing I really knew of punk rock was the Ramones and the Sex Pistols which I liked fine but it didn't go much deeper than that. Brian and I would always scour things like Rolling Stone and Spin magazine to catch some kind of minimal mention of something off the beaten track that might spark our ever growing mania in all things connected to the Big Beat.



So on one fatefull day in one of those record shops I happened upon the record Lysergic Emanations by The Fuzztones. Upon immediate sight and grabbed the thing in my hands. The cover art (done by Rudi) was like something out of a lost EC horror comic. The band depicted as zombies rising out of a haunted swamp. Yeah man, this record was mine. The title was perfect, because I tell ya I could feel my stomach tighten as I took it up to the cash register. Colors were starting to become more vivid and I thought that I could faintly hear the pounding of jungle drums off in the distance. Was this a record or some kind of voodoo talisman I had here? Needless to say I got home went immediatly to the turn table and played the thing.

I've been hooked on The Fuzztones ever since.

The Fuzztones are really the first band that led me down the path of 60's punks. It was because of Rudi and The Fuzztones that I started to delve into bands like The Seeds, The 13th Floor Elevators, etc. It was because of them that I was exposed to the mad brilliance of Screamin' Jay Hawkins.

The Fuzztones celebrate real rock 'n' roll... Ya know, dirty, wild, and savage. Their sound is a hedonistic Bacchanal with biker barbarians who also just happen to be werewolves. They sound like the second coming of The Count V and The Standells filtered through a Vault Of Horror comic book.

Rudi Protrudi, the driving force behind The Fuzztones and their caveman clang, was gracious enough to answer a few questions for us, so lets get it going.

The Fuzztones have changed base of operations a few times. From New York City to L.A. and now to Germany. Do you find Europe to currently have a better environment for the kind of primal beat garage that you play?

You bet. American music, especially roots music of any sort, has always been appreciated in Europe more than in the States. Hendrix actually had to go to England to get noticed, for instance. Blues music was ignored in the States until the Stones and the Animals rediscovered it and introduced it to American teenagers. When it comes to music, Americans are complacent and lazy. They want their music spoon fed to them. They tend to not support their own, especially underground artists. We've always been treated with way more respect in Europe, so it made sense to move here.

"...Biker barbarians who also just happen to be werewolves"
Is the current line up of the band still the same as on the "Preaching To The Perverted" album?

Keko, the drummer on the album, plays local gigs with us, and Rob Louwers, who's been with us for several years, plays the tours. Lenny, the guitarist on the last two albums, has moved on - he has his own band now. Lana is still the organist, and Fez Wrecker is still the bassist. Vince Dante has been touring on and off with us for the last 8 years, and is the current guitarist. And then there's me, of course.
How did The Fuzztones come about working with the late great Screamin' Jay Hawkins?

I was walking around the Lower East Side (Greenwich Village, NYC) one night in '84, and saw a black and white xeroxed handbill tacked onto a telephone pole. It was advertising Screamin' Jay playing at a little rib joint up the block. I couldn't believe that he would play a place like that, so I had to go just to see if it was true. He was sitting at a piano, alone, no band, dressed in a suit and tie, and playing old R&B standards. Not even his own stuff. The audience was about 30 yuppies, sitting around eating ribs and drinking beer. They didn't even know who he was, and weren't even paying attention to him. The old guy who ran the place kept coming up to Jay, in mid-song, telling him what to play, what not to play, or to make announcements, like "there's a special on draft beer for the next five minutes," shit like that. Horrible. I approached him during the breaks, and got to know him over the course of his three night stand there. He was obviously down on his luck at the time and I wanted to help him out, so I hooked him up with Midnight Records, the label we were on.

What was it like working with a legend like that?

Jay was apprehensive at first. He was quite honest. He told me he didn't like white people. But I won him over, and we became good friends. In '97, after the Lysergic Emanations line-up had our reunion at Cavestomp, an Italian label was interested in releasing the record we did with Jay. I contacted him and suggested we do a tour together, he and the Lysergic line-up. We were in the process of working out the details when he died. His last words to me, by the way, were, "Rudi, I ain't gonna die."

The legendary Screamin' Jay Hawkins. He passed away in 2000.

I have been a fan of your artwork as well as your music. It has a cool hallucinagenic pre-code comic style. What have you been doing lately in that regard? Will we ever see a Fuzztones comic book?

Thanks for the compliment. I've always done art on the side. I just did an album cover for the Raymen's newest, Sinister Funtime. I designed a tattoo for someone last month. I've often thought about doing a comic book. I loved EC pre-comics code stuff, so if I ever did, those comics would be a big influence on mine.

I heard a while ago that you had been in a couple of movies. Do you enjoy making films?

There were some fun moments but there's a helluva alot of standing around. But the pay is good. I did some extra work in a few films you might've heard of: The Doors, a cult film called Liquid Sky, a few German films whose names I no longer recall - one was about Ushi Obermaier. Oh yeah, and a made-for-TV flick starring Bruce Willis as a blues harp playing rock star. With the exception of one of the German films, I believe all my scenes ended up on the cutting room floor. I was interviewed for the documentary on the Monks, but because I had a falling out with the director, I demanded he remove my bit. You can still see it on YouTube but it's no longer in the film. My contributions to the Screamin' Jay Hawkins documentary, "I Put A Spell On Me," remain intact though.

One movie in particular sounded pretty interesting, "Night Tour". Will that ever be released?

I hope not. I played the lead role, a vampire named Snake. We did alot of filming in the California desert at night in the winter. Not really what I'd call a good time. The film might've had a chance as a cult film but the director didn't want to put any T n' A in it. His budget was too low to try to make art so he shoulda just went for Sex and Gore.
You did some acoustic shows a couple of years ago in Berlin. Have you done more or do you plan to?

I still do solo shows every so often, usually around Berlin. I was going by Rudi Protrudi Unfuzzed. It started as a trio - me on acoustic guitar, backed by a stand up bassist and a drummer - on just snare with brushes. Since then we've added a blues harp player and a pianist. We do acoustic country delta and swamp blues and play a few times a month at various smaller venues in Berlin.

You've been writing your memoirs. That's a book I'm really going to want to read. Is it finished?

I wish! I've been working on it on and of for ten years now. It's getting close to being done. If I could stay away from touring for awhile and just work on writing, I might be able to finish it before the End of The World (Dec. 21, 2012, for anyone who's keeping track).

This Rudi never played for Notre Dame
Talk a little about the "Snake Oil" record. Will it get released in the States?

Well, Snake Oil is a two CD set intended to be a follow-up to Creatures That Time Forgot, the rarities album that we put out 21 years ago. I've compiled something like 34 tracks, most of which were either never released, or were only on a rare comp or b-side of a single. And a few alternate takes of songs released previously. We've incorporated loads of soundbites between songs - lots of rare interview stuff, with guest appearances by Little Steven, Martha Quinn and John Peel. There's a very funny snippet of Question Mark raving about The Fuzztones to an absolutely clueless DJ. Some great and very rare live stuff, including Ian Astbury singing Kick Out The Jams, backed by The Fuzztones, and a studio recording of Sean Bonniwell (Music Machine) and I doing a duet on the Music Machine classic, "The People In Me." There are even two live tracks by the ORIGINAL line-up of the Fuzztones which pre-dates the Lysergic Emanations line-up that most people mistakenly assume was the original line-up. It's a very entertaining collection. Whether it will be available in the States, I do not know yet. It will be out on an Israeli label called Third Ear. That's all I know for now.

Since you've been residing in Germany what's the wildest thing you've seen?

Believe it or not, I haven't seen much that I would consider "wild" here. A lot of gays and drag queens, but nothing I haven't seen all the time in New York. Personally, I think Berlin is kind of conservative.

So what can we expect to look forward to from you and/or The Fuzztones in the near future?

The Fuzztones usually tour a few times a year, all over Europe. I expect we'll continue to do that, as we still have quite a large following. We always vary the set so it doesn't get old. We try to put out at least one album a year. We have a great live album in the can - we recorded it when we did the Fuzztones Gonn primitive tour in 2005 with Craig Moore of Gonn, the 60's garage band that did the original version of "Blackout of Gretely." Stag-O-Lee has been threatening to release a live Link Protrudi and The Jaymen album which will be called Naked Crisco Twister Party. It was recorded in 1996 when I used a Dutch rhythm section who later became Link Wray's rhythm section. It's a brutal record. But best of all, I have a project on the back burner that will blow alot of people's minds. It's an album that I've been working on for about ten years and, for certain reasons, I have had to keep it a secret. I can't say anything more at the moment but I hope to have it out within a year. Maybe around the time my book comes out, if all goes well.

Thanks Rudi.

Well there ya have it, another BigFoot Diaries conversation with legendary cool.

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