In the years before the Butthole Surfers had a radio hit with “Pepper”—a single that, Billboard noted at the time, “borrows liberally” from a much better song by DM’s Marc Campbell—not much was heard from the band. About a year after I saw them (billed as the “B.H. Surfers”) at the bloody, fiery Castaic Lake stop on 1993’s Bar-B-Que Mitzvah Tour, I heard that singer Gibby Haynes had roomed with Kurt Cobain during Cobain’s final trip to rehab; one year after that, I caught a glimpse of Haynes at the business end of a blowjob in Jim Jarmusch’s Dead Man. One day bled into the next. Butthole Surfers news was scarce, and Butthole Surfers kicks were scarcer.
(I was unaware of P until the late 90s, when I asked a record store owner to explain why the Buttholes’ 1993 promotional 10-inch, wrapped in Mylar in parody of Madonna’s Sex, was no longer prized by collectors. He told me that everyone stopped caring about the Butthole Surfers when the P album came out.)
During some of that period, Haynes hosted a radio show on Austin, Texas’ brand-new alternative rock station, 101X (KROX-FM), which has recently posted a few clips in celebration of its 20th anniversary. It’s a good time. When he wasn’t forced to play the period’s dreadful “modern rock” product, Gibby took calls in rapid succession, dispatching listeners’ requests and opinions with psychedelic non sequiturs, and he fit in some quality music when he could, too. Sometime co-host Robbie Jacks and Gibby’s father Jerry described the chaotic radio show in SPIN’s oral history of the Butthole Surfers, “Feeding the Fish”:
Robbie Jacks Gibby hit rock bottom. He had just rehabbed. He was at the point where he needed money, and he really wanted to do a morning show [on alt-rock radio station 101X in Austin], cause his dad did a morning TV show, Mr. Peppermint. We always gave out the wrong time [on the air], and Gibby always spelled the words backwards on whatever we were talking about. He’d say sgurd for drugs: “I spent all my money on sgurd.”
Jerry Haynes It was great. He was really funny. He’d introduce all the songs he didn’t like as “puke chunks.”
Robbie Jacks When the station got enough publicity out of the morning show, they told him, “You’re too rank for the mornings,” and put him on at nine at night. Instead of going to bed at nine at night, he was going to work, and so it was time to party. He just degenerated into drink. I called the station manager on the first night and I was like, “Do you want me to go down there? I mean, he’s falling apart, just listen to him.” And she was listening and she found it compelling.
One night he locked the engineer out of the door and then just rambled for two hours and he didn’t even do an air call, and it was hysterical. He had Mike Watt on the phone and he wouldn’t let him go. I think the band getting back together saved him more than anything, not AA.
Some of Billboard’s “local radio air personalities of the year,” 1996
As the unnamed station manager suggested to Jacks, if there was a problem with the show, it wasn’t the DJ or his “sgurd” habits. The problem was the miles, acres and tons of grade-N horseshit music demanded by the 1995 alternative rock format—a format I remember all too well, since it was invented in my hometown of Los Angeles, where the only entertainment option in my teenage car was a 20-year-old stock radio that picked up about three stations. Listening to these broadcasts from the grim days of the 104th Congress, I heard long-forgotten songs by Soul Asylum, Hum and Green Day that made me wonder what the opposite of the word “nostalgia” is. Take the top clip below, in which, after playing a killer set of Jon Wayne, Chrome, Mudhoney and Cycle Sluts from Hell, Gibby is reduced to setting up this “rock block” of undifferentiated hog slop:
I regret to inform you that we’ve done enough damage to radio programming in general, at this point. Now we’re forced—we’re literally being strong-armed by a woman with blood on her shoes—into playing Live, whom I hear from a reliable source cries onstage. I want to cry onstage, and I have cried onstage, and I will continue to cry onstage. One of my favorite ways to cry onstage is to do it alone while playing an acoustic version of “Daniel, My Brother.” And, uh, this would be, we’re gonna totally throw up on ourselves as we play Live, Bush and the Offspring all in a row on the X.
(Happily, Gibby improved the Offspring song with judicious use of a Jeff Foxworthy sample.)
There’s much more after the jump!