All Grown Up

So what if middle age is around the corner? After two decades the Butthole Surfers are still the godfathers of punk rock in Texas.
LEADING THE REVOLUTION: The Butthole Surfers are eager to get their show on the road.
Courtesy of Hollywood Records

In your own illustrious past, perhaps you logged some time with a rock and roll band. Maybe you still do. If, like me, you squandered a chunk of your misspent youth on such endeavors, you remember the nights on the floor, the crappy food, the endless cramped drives, and your companions’ fluctuating states of hygiene. It’s a netherworld existence that tests the idealism of would-be stars—and it’s a hell of a lot of fun. Yet unless you were lucky enough to be among the .001 percent rewarded with R.E.M.-like success, you probably called it quits after a few years. Or months. So why is a punk band with a preposterous name like the “Butthole Surfers” still at it after two decades?

“I totally foresaw it,” deadpans Gibby Haynes, the Surfers’ vocalist. “I’m going to do this for twenty years.” Did they ever. No one ramped the hilarity, desperate poverty, and drug-fueled absurdities of the road to such heights. “You either die or succeed,” guitarist Paul Leary explains, “and I really thought we were going to die.” Haynes, the son of Dallas’ famed children’s-television host Mr. Peppermint, was a basketball star and a finance major at San Antonio’s Trinity University, where he met Leary. They formed the band in 1981, and for a while Haynes was balancing punk rock with a job at the accounting firm of Peat Marwick Mitchell. (“I was legendary there,” he says. “I’m sure they still hold my work up for ridicule.”) Day jobs quickly gave way. The Surfers traveled in a Nova with a sawed-out back seat, lived as nomads, released a string of bizarre recordings, and according to drummer King Coffey, who joined the band in 1983, “hung close to Gibby because he was carrying the cash.” Onstage they were at once intense, funny, and frightening. Haynes, wearing underwear (if that), would prowl the stage, douse cymbals with lighter fluid and set them afire, rip dummies to shreds, and bellow through a megaphone over a caterwaul of guitars and tribal drums. Strobes flashed, smoke billowed, and grotesque medical films were projected on top of the band. This was not just a show; this was like standing in the middle of Apocalypse Now.

It took time, but the rock world finally caught up to these madmen. In 1996 the Surfers released Electriclarryland on Capitol Records and scored a bona fide radio hit, the amiable trip-hop novelty “Pepper.” After five years of silence, their latest album, Weird Revolution, came out on Disney’s Hollywood Records in August. If it’s strange to see Disney releasing a Butthole Surfers album, it’s stranger still that the album’s first single, “Shame of Life,” was co-written by multiplatinum metal rapper Kid Rock.

What? The twisted creators of “Bar-B-Q Pope” collaborating with an MTV star? According to Haynes, Kid Rock wanted to use a sample from the Surfers’ Black Sabbath parody “Sweat Loaf.” “We were like, ‘Oh, Kid Rock,

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