San Francisco’s Flipper were one of the most unique hardcore bands to come out of the Bay Area, or indeed to spring out of any US city’s punk scene. Their slow, sludgy, THICK bass-led sound made them seem extra heavy—much more heavy metal than any mere heavy metal group—and would influence The Melvins, Nirvana (who were huge boosters of the band) and the entire “Stoner Rock” genre.
Flipper’s live shows were utterly insane and intimidating. A pal of mine back in the early 80s suggested that the ultimate drug cocktail for a Flipper show was to sniff glue and smoke Angel Dust. Although I personally never tried that, I think he was probably correct. On record you only got half of the Flipper experience, live you got the whole thing pounded into your skull like a spike.
I first discovered the joys of Flipper via a friend who had secured (against all odds, I grew up in West Virginia) a copy of their “Love Canal/Ha Ha Ha” single in 1981, which I then got my own hands on (and have to this day). Their disturbed, demented and deranged “Ha Ha Ha” is something I used to stick on mixed tapes all the time, especially ones that I’d hand over to friends about to take a road trip telling them “Don’t listen to this one until late at night.”
I recall seeing Flipper co-bass player/singer Will Shatter stumble into the Odessa Diner on Avenue A one night in the mid-80s, looking like he’d gone to Hell and come about halfway back. I was eating with my friend Hillary—who actually knew him—but he was in such bad shape that she opted to leave him in peace to shove his eggs into his face. Shatter was dead not long after that of a drug overdose, and two more members of the band would also fatally OD over the years..
Bruce Loose has apparently appeared on-stage with a cane and heart monitors when the band has reformed in recent years. Nirvana’s Krist Novoselic was a member of Flipper from 2006 to 2008.
Below, is Target Video’s document of Flipper’s May 29, 1981 opening set for Throbbing Gristle at San Francisco’s Kezar Pavilion. At a certain point Loose’s bass breaks, and Genesis P-Orridge lends his axe so the show could go on. Set list: “Shine,” “nothing,” “Low Rider,” “one by one,” “Hard Cold Old World,” “Life.”