Musician Tesco Vee interviewed by Christy Mag Uidhir
Tesco Vee…Drum Major in the Squadron of Doom and sworn enemy of the politically correct…is the creator of Touch & Go Magazine and soon to follow Record label and has been plying the punk rock waters off and on for the last 35 years. He hath resurfaced once again with the first new platter of Meaty originals in almost 2 decades and sat down with Christy for some heartfelt anti-social intercourse.
It’s of course notoriously difficult to define Punk and well-nigh impossible to do so in terms of some shared musical sound—even within a small time frame and regional scene like early L.A. punk you still get bands with radically divergent sounds (e.g., The Go-Gos playing shows with The Germs and Fear). The closest things I can think of that seem to unite the punk movement across time and place would be some attitude of rebellion and a strong DIY sensibility. Given that you’ve been part of the larger “Punk Rock” movement since the late 70s both musically (as founding member of the seminal band The Meatmen and later Dutch Hercules and Hate Police) as well as culturally (by helping shape, disseminate, and ensure the survival of such music as co-founder of Touch and Go Records), has anything struck you as being particularly essential to the notion of Punk Rock?
I marvel at the staying power and the fact that this music so resonates with generation after generation of folks…representing the outsider movement I suppose keeps it relevant…bands I covered in Touch and Go magazine over 30 years ago still plying the waters and not sucking in some cases! I both bristle at and embrace the words ‘punk rock’ and it can mean myriad things to different people.
The Meatmen are known for their less than wholesome songs, many of which adopt in a tongue-in-cheek manner various offensive viewpoints, from the radically politically conservative and super-macho (“True Grit”, “French People Suck”) to the ultra homophobic, xenophobic, racist, and downright misanthropic (“Tooling for Anus”, “Camel Jockeys Suck”, “Blow Me Jah”, “Cripple Children Suck”). How often do you find fans embracing the offensive superficial message rather than the satirical content underneath? Do you notice a difference in this respect from your American fanbase to that overseas?
I write for reaction and some of what I write represents who I am but I also write in the 3rd person in “True Grit” lampooning Americas greatest export the White Trash…I’m actually a left wing free thinking and free swinging verbal machine gun who just says things for effect sometimes and for a laugh most of the time…Yes people take me literally but you either ‘get it’ or you don’t…in these hyper sensitive PC times we live in I just continue doing what I do…take it for what it is…as long as I make you laugh, ponder, get pissed, it doesn’t matter to me…Punk is about anger, hostility and fucking shit up after all…and I choose to do that with my verbal Tommy Gun…We toured Europe and they didn’t get it…Germany especially…they have no sense of humor…Patton Oswald does a hilarious bit about this…in Europe Hardcore and Punk are two separate spheres of orbit…good scenery, good food, loved Italy…but tongue in cheek humor is lost on those folks.
Do you find the line between adopting hate-speech so as to satirize it and good ol’ fashion hate speech anything more than just the line between satirical success and satirical failure (e.g., a line I take to have been crossed in the case of El Duce of The Mentors)?
It’s a fine line…and yes, the Mentors rode over it with a Sherman tank…I always called the Mentors, ‘The Meatmen with the brains knocked out of them’…but I still love them…they make me laugh…and they made the PMRC hearings and I didn’t…that will forever chap my nuts! El Duce was annoying as fuck but a good guy buried under his alcohol sodden carcass…a promoter in Florida back in the 80s said the 3 of them drank 8 cases of beer between Noon and 11 PM…now that is Punk Rock.
The Meatmen and yourself in particular are also know for your live performances and stage antics. Do you think that to truly appreciate your music, one must see it performed live or is the live show just something extra for the fans of the music? Do you think that Punk Rock perhaps more so than other subgenres of Rock Music places greater value on the live performance as opposed to the studio track?
I think for the true Meat experience you need to experience it live…get off your wheelchair butts and go to a show…but either way my job is to paint a picture through words and music and entertain your ass…I try in every way I know how to put on a show…a Hades Meets Las Vegas Extravaganza of cosmic fun and frolic.., with confetti and T-shirt guns…goofy costumes, offensive throw rags, and a between song banter that would make Shecky Greene proud…This line up I have now is as good as any I’ve ever had, and we do not disappoint live unlike some other legacy punk acts.
What changes in Rock Music over the years have struck you as being either particularly positive or negative sorts of shifts (musical or otherwise)?
Man, I haven’t kept track of all the shifts, ups and downs…all I know is I like what I like…and hate what I hate…the difference is if I hate a band I say so…on stage…I really don’t care what other bands think of me…I enjoy my status of cult hero…also ran…footnote…my lyrics ride hard on alla you fuckers! You are all swimming in my verbal wake, bitches! I’m an English major and a semantic tactician and I ain’t done yet! (insert mad scientist laugh here)
Perhaps my all time favorite cover song has to be The Meatmen cover of “How Soon is Now?” by The Smiths (I even philosophized about it here). You’ve done several covers over the course of your career (e.g., “Razamanaz” by Nazareth, “Dance to the Music” by Sly & The Family Stone, “What’s This Shit Called Love” by The Pagans, “Crazy Horses” by The Osmonds). What is it about a song for you that makes it worth covering?
To have fans…you need to BE a fan…I am a HUGE Fan of music…people ask me are you a fan or a band first and foremost…no question a FAN…I have my heroes…people that inspired me like Zappa, The Fugs, Black Randy…funny, clever, inspired, creative music that made me who I am…I pay homage to all of these greats on my Cover The Earth CD…I always try to make ‘em my own.
For more information on the man, the myth, the legend Tesco Vee, as well as The Meatmen’s new album Savage Sagas, go to Tescovee.com