Gibby Haynes Meets Jack White
The sometime Butthole Surfer teams up with the former White Stripes frontman for a new single.
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Who: Gibby Haynes. Dallas born and raised, Haynes has been the leader of the influential Austin post-punk band the Butthole Surfers since 1981. He lives in Manhattan.
Why now?: Thursday brings the release of a new Haynes 7”, a three-song collection for Jack White’s Third Man Records. Haynes recorded in the former White Stripe frontman’s Nashville studio with White on guitar and a rhythm section comprised of two of White’s go-to sidemen, bassist Fats Kaplin and drummer Ben Swank. The set features two originals—”You Don’t Have To Be Smart” and “Horse Named George”—along with a cover of the hardcore punk band Adrenalin O.D.’s “Paul’s Not Home.” The 7” is part of Third Man’s “Blue Series,” which has previously presented sessions from Tom Jones, Conan O’Brien, Beck, and The Insane Clown Posse. A limited edition version of the single, pressed on old x-rays and dubbed “flex-rays,” will be available at South By Southwest in March from Third Man’s pop-up Rolling Record Store.
How far back do you go with Jack White?
I met him briefly in 2002 in a dressing room at the Fuji Rock Festival in Japan. And then a little less than a year ago I went to see him when he played New York. I had backstage passes, and we got to talking. He told me about his Blue Series. He said I should come and record and that we could do anything. He told me we could put blood inside the record. I was like, “Cool, let’s do that.”
You went to Nashville to record. How long were you there?
One day. It was really easy. It’s kind of pitiful what singers do sometimes—you hum some words or whistle. And that’s basically what I did for the blues song [“Horse Named George”] Jack just said, “I get it. I know what to do.” He’s genuine and really musical. He’s really natural and logical. His instincts are so good—he’ll say, “Let’s do this next” and it’s exactly the right thing. He’s a totally appropriate dude in a musical way. He’s a very sweet guy. I’m amazed there’s people that hate him.
And you two got along instantly?
I think we have a similarly dark sense of humor. I showed him the most shocking, perverse photo ever on my iPhone and he totally got it. He sees the beauty in pornography.
The results don’t sound like something thrown off in a day.
I guess. But if you know what I’m talking about, musicians can just do it. And his guys are amazing. He asked if I wanted to bring a band. I considered it, but ultimately I wanted as much Jack White on the songs as I could get. He solos in every song. And his vocals are at the very end of “Paul’s Not Home.” The very last sonic event of the song is him yelling “Cut!”
What’s the state of the Butthole Surfers?
I don’t know. But I still think that Butthole Surfers was a better name for a band than Sonic Youth.
There have been sporadic reunions.
Yeah. I’m in touch with all the guys. We’re on friendly terms. We played a bunch of shows in the last couple of years. Those guys are good. They’re better musically than it’s ever been.
Why do you think there isn’t the reunion hype around the Butthole Surfers that a Pavement or Stone Roses get? Did you go away too soon or stay together too long? You don’t have that Coachella-reunion kind of buzz.
You’re saying we don’t seem like a band cashing in?
Maybe what I’m saying is that it doesn’t seem like you’ve been afforded much of a cash-in opportunity.
Ha. Maybe we have built-in political correctness. We aren’t about cashing in… unless we’re able to cash in. But any opportunities that make sense for us, we’ll take ‘em.
You’ve lived in New York ten years. What do you miss about Texas?
Mexican food. They can’t crack the code here. I’ve eaten in the heart of Tuscany and then come here to certain Italian restaurants and they get it remarkably close. They can’t do it with Mexican food. There’s a place here a mile from my house that claims to have bought the recipes from Maudies in Austin. But everyone here uses canned tomatoes and it ends up tasting like Italian food.
At 55, are you at the point where you’re thinking about legacy, what this all means?
I don’t know. I see guys that are great and what happens in the aftermath of their deaths. I don’t think anybody blinked when Mike Kelly, the artist, killed himself a year ago. What is a legacy if nobody cares about a guy like Mike Kelly?
But clearly, part of your legacy is the influence of the Butthole Surfers. Your band meant something to a guy like Jack White and a bunch of people like him.
That’s the way it’s always gone. That’s cool. I always thought the only thing I’d get from this career is free drinks. Getting a deal to record with Jack White because I was in the Butthole Surfers is a bonus.
And there will be people who will hear this who have no idea about the Butthole Surfers.
I’m sure there are Jack White fans that will buy anything he’s associated with and the vast majority of those will maybe only have heard of us in passing. I’m just happy to have an answer to one of my big questions. I asked Jack White if Jack White had met Jack Black. They had. It has been on my mind for a long time. Now I know.
Check out one of the songs from the 7″ here: