Photograph by Stephanie Neal
The evil powers that be: Eddie Spaghetti (second from left) and the Supersuckers play the Catalyst in Santa Cruz on Saturday.
No. 1 With A Bullet
The Supersuckers have blazed a trail through the post-Internet music industry
By Steve Palopoli
LAST year, the Supersuckers' latest single "Paid" rocketed to the top of the American music charts, giving them their 12th Top 40 hit. They've had more No. 1 songs than Queen and have sold 65 million albums in the United States, putting them on track to overtake AC/DC's career total with their next release. Their entry in the Rolling Stone Rock and Roll Dictionary consists of a single sentence that was once just their personal motto: "The greatest rock 'n' roll band in the world."
Of course, all of this happened in an alternate universe, not ours. But there's still time, because Supersuckers frontman Eddie Spaghetti writes pretty much nothing but hits. It's just that sometimes only the band's fans know.
"Whether they're actually hits or not is another story," says Spaghetti.
Yup, the Supersuckers have more solid-gold anthems, pound for pound, than arguably any rock outfit working today. The fact that they never went gold is beside the point.
The band has a long and strange history—they formed in Tucson in the late '80s, got bizarrely lumped into grunge on Sub Pop after moving to Seattle in the early '90s, got signed to a major that never put out their record, then came back to put out one of the Top 10 rock records of the decade with 1999's The Evil Powers of Rock and Roll, before becoming one of the first and most prominent post-label bands with their own miniempire, Mid-Fi Recordings.
Through it all, they've pumped pure adrenaline through their chunky riffs and middle-finger-flying lyrics. You'd be hard pressed to find a Supersuckers song that's not an anthem, from the fan favorites "Born With a Tail," "Pretty Fucked Up" and "Creepy Jackalope Eye" through "Bruises to Prove It," "Fisticuffs," "I Want the Drugs" and every other song in their arsenal about getting it on in any way possible.
"I think pretty anthemically when I write," says Spaghetti. "I think 'How can this song be bigger?' I enbiggen them."
The song "Rock Your Ass" serves as a de facto manifesto, from his pledge to "cut the crap and bring the hits" to his bottom-line declaration: "I'm ready and I'm Eddie and I'll rock your ass steady." Ironically, considering the band's gift for tongue-in-cheek megalomania, that last line was written by longtime band mate Dan Bolton, and initially Spaghetti wasn't sure about singing it. Finally, he says, "I embraced the idiocy of it."
It's that humor underneath the Angus Young slabs of sound and the energy of their live shows that have hooked fans from all over the musical map. A Supersuckers gig draws a disorienting mix of indie kids, metalheads, roots-punkers and Americana fans. They are down for anything the band can dream up.
"Anything" has included covers of not only Merle Haggard and Thin Lizzy songs, but also Ice Cube's "Dead Homiez" and Outkast's "Hey Ya." Even as a suburban white kid in Tuscon, Spaghetti was influenced by Run-DMC's Raising Hell and NWA's Straight Outta Compton. It shouldn't be any surprise the Supersuckers' 2003 album was titled Motherfuckers Be Trippin.'
"I use hip-hop songs for my writing a lot. The syllable count and the rhyming schemes are something I borrow from quite liberally," he says.
Meanwhile, the Supersuckers have made themselves into what up-and-coming bands would do well to study as a model for the post-Napster decline of the music industry. After endless frustration with both major and indie labels, the Supersuckers set up their own Mid-Fi Recordings, which has been shepherded to success by innovative record-company exile Chris "The Mid-Fi Guy" Neal. The band have worked hard to put out everything they can in terms of live recordings, and consider their studio work basically advertisements for their live show. They also have built a close relationship with their fans that flies in the face of the archaic rock-star model—over 30,000 people receive Spaghetti's email newsletters alone.
Even in the Internet age, though, a band can still have a hit song, and don't be surprised if the Supersuckers do. Spaghetti won't be.
"It's what we call the rock & roll lottery," he says.
The Supersuckers perform Saturday, Aug. 18, at 9pm at the Catalyst, 1011 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz; $12/$15. (831.423.1336)
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