I have said it before and I will happily say it again: There was never a band that was as extreme live as the Butthole Surfers. None came even close. Not before and certainly not since. They raised the insanity bar so high with their violent, chaotic, druggy, duel-drummer götterdämmerung that they probably merit a special category of high weirdness all to themselves. Maybe someday someone will coin a term—like surrealism—to describe their potent and singularly evil—yet juvenile, often silly—art form.
During their mid-to late-80s heyday, the Satanic mayhem of a Butthole Surfers show was probably about as far as most people would have ever wanted to go in search of entertainment. For what foul-minded, dark ritual would lie beyond them? The Butthole Surfers pulverized their audience, who were often as lysergically loaded as the demonically jerking jesters onstage. One did not simply attend a Butthole Surfers show, one chemically prepared for it like some horribly fucked-up pagan ritual. Volunteering, as it were, for a very bad acid trip.
Aside from the vicious and lacerating sonic assault of the music—which was fucking loud, I can assure you—there was also the incomparably incomprehensible nude go-go dancer, Kathleen Lynch; seizure-inducing strobe lights and 16mm projections comprised of Faces of Death-type footage, cheap Mexican horror films and 1950s era shots of people with Down’s syndrome ballroom dancing. Gibby Haynes would douse his hands (and the cymbals) with lighter fluid and then stare at the flames like a drooling idiot before putting the fire out by sticking his hand down the front of his pants.
Perhaps the most legendary of their many legendary interviews was for Forced Exposure, the greatest underground music “zine” of the 1980s. Forced Exposure, like Mondo 2000, was produced erratically, so when a new issue came out, it felt like an event. The Surfers were the cover subject of Forced Exposure, issue #11 in 1987 and much of the “mythology” of the band comes from this one source. Like their hilarious “bed in” interviews (a John and Yoko parody) on their infamous home video release, 1985’s A Blind Eye Sees All, the extra-lengthy Forced Exposure interview is a masterpiece of stoned Jabberwocky and nutty road stories:
FORCED EXPOSURE: How were the shows there?
GIBBY: They were fun. They were really fun. I couldn’t tell if they liked us. We did a good job. We had fun at the show in…
GIBBY: Wales, yeah.
GIBBY: Yeah. What a show in Rotterdam. We used to have a cassette of the radio interview that was played over the Dutch radio station.
KING: Yeah. Gibby was put on videotape putting his dick on the record executive’s shoulder from behind. For a long time. The guy didn’t even know it was there for a long time.
GIBBY: Yeah. And Kid Congo Powers was following me around ‘cause he wanted to be my friend. Then I realized that he thought I had all the money, and he was waiting for me to pass out so he could take it all out of my pocket. I was walking around breaking bottles and trying to push people over these fifty foot things ...
PAUL: Gibby took on five Dutch security guards. That was a fun night. I ended up trying to carry all the band’s equipment back to the hotel by myself. I almost left an overcoat and something else behind because I couldn’t carry them, not knowing that all our money was in the coat. Everybody else took off.
GIBBY: I didn’t take off.
PAUL: Gibby was taking on the entire bouncer scene looking for the money that I was getting ready to leave in the bushes.
FORCED EXPOSURE: You playing Rotterdam again this time?
GIBBY: I don’t know. Those people put a lot of mayonnaise on their french fries.
Continues after the jump…