THE FUZZTONES, CRANKY LITTLE YANKEES WITH THEIR BOOTS POINTED HIGH

published in Zigzag magazine, August 1985

The Fuzztones are the type of band who inspire thoughts like, “Rootless beat, ruthless rhythms, voxed-up twang at maximum volume, magnified beyond belief. Bourbon, drugs, cigarettes, bad air, rotten food. Just fuel, just fuel. Refocussing on something primal, stripped to the bone. Bad dreams, drunken dreams but . . . . . always the skinny hope of redemption. The sound of something falling apart quicker than we can put it together again.”

In short, the Fuzztones are the most exciting trashadelic outfit I’ve seen or heard for a long time.

At the ABC offices the band drape themselves around furniture and fittings. Rudi Protrudi, Michael Jay, Deb O’Nair, Elan Portnoy, Ira Elliot: A vision of long blonde / black hair (as in hep, not hippie), leather, plastic, denim, tattoos, bones, sneers / vacant stares and jet lag. In other words, the full rock ‘n’ roll schmaltz show. Here! For you! Now! But natural: rough, tough and tender – day by day. Catch ’em before they get too sleazy. Or, God forbid, too slick.

They’re over here to promote their “Lysergic Emanations” LP, which will hopefully not get lost amongst the plethora of recent trash / garage / psychedelic releases. It is, after all, outstanding. A mix of the ’60s West Coast sound (Doors, 13th Floor Elevators, etc) with the ’60s New York Beat (Velvet Underground, The Fugs, etc) and the ’70s Detroit monster rock experience (The Stooges, MC5, etc).

“We’re an East Coast band,” asserts Deb. “And we have nothing in common with the modern mellow West Coast bands at all. The Rain Parade, True West, The Long Ryders – that’s all music that you have to ‘get into’. We like to go out and smack people in the face. I hate all that sleepy, laid back, ‘let’s smoke dope’ Paisley Underground scene. My favourite mellow music is ‘Metal Machine Music.”

Psychedelia?
Protrudi: “Our music is psychedelic only to the extent that it grabs you and twists you around a bit. But not to the point where it’s like ‘Oh what a beautiful trip’ That’s Acid Rock and I always thought that Acid Rock and psychedelia were two different things.”

Protrodi shakes the skeletons in his cupboard.

“I used to play in bands in the ’60s and we were offended if people called us psychedelic. We were groovy man, and psychedelia was trash. It was the Count Five and the Seeds, all the stuff that I love now. We were into Jefferson Airplane and all those groups that I despise these days. We knew where we were at and we called it ROCK. But at least I never played disco. . . “

Disco?
Deb: “Punk Rock in the US came about from people hating disco. All that turned into New Wave, then New Music, which eventually fused with disco. Now bands like us are starting to rebel against that. It’s like a new punk scene.”

If, in terms of precise context. The Fuzztones are not traditionalists, their sound is purist to say the least. To do this justice, let’s get a little technical.

Protrudi: “We’re using equipment that took forever to find. if you hook us up with Strats and Marshalls we wouldn’t even come close. A Vox guitar, amp, and Jaguar organ – there are no other instruments that sound like that.”

Trash?
“We love TRASH,” screams Deb. “Just trash. Trash horror movies, trash teen movies, trash food, trash TV. We don’t throw anything out, there are no garbage cans where we live.
“I come from Pennsylvania, from a real trash town – trailer parks, pick-up trucks, drive-in movies, drag races, motorcycle gangs. It’s just a way of life. There’s nothing else to do out there. We would hang around the basketball courts, smoking cigarettes until we were sick. But on weekends we’d watch monster movies on TV. I’d get up early for them.”

Obsession?
Michael Jay: Our audiences are pretty obsessed to the point where one guy actually gave me the Vox Phantom that I use now. They put drugs on Deb’s organ.”

Misfits?
Protrudi: “The people that follow us on a regular basis tend to be of the sort that don’t fit in anywhere else. They identify with us because we’re pretty much the underdog too.
“But we get different elements from each section as well. We get hardcore kids coming because we’ve got the same high energy level. But, we’ve also got enough melody to be on MTV. They don’t realise yet but they will.”

Deb: “Let’s split up now before we become uncool.”

Published by Colin Mason

serious collector of 1960s vinyl records and archivist of vintage music magazines

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