|December 1991||Alterative Press||#43|
|Article on Boss Hog from Alternative Press, 1991.
Thanks to Skeleton Boy for the scan.
|“If there could be one word that captures the spirit of Boss Hog, it would be “Power” contrived or not, Boss Hog’s creative core has found its wellspring in the constant battle for control between its two compatriots in sleaze’ the verbal, and sometimes physical, fight for domination has become the stuff of legend among the underlings of the New York scene. But make no mistake – despite prior incidents, artistic or otherwise, Boss Hog is the sole vision of a woman who knows how to win, and doesn’t ever lose.
“I’m self-centered, and I want to get myself out there. This is my vehicle.” says Cristina, the lead creative force behind Boss Hog. She’s holding court in a cosy Italian Cafe, flanked by three of her bandmates, who are by no means simple Jackeys for Cristina’s artistic whims. Jon Spencer – former Pussy Galore leader and Cristina’s longtime collaborator, the mysterious Jens Jurgensen, and Charlie Ondras – drummer extraordinaire and the Flavor Flav of the group, argue, joke and scramble for the last say in a conversation dominated and skilfully steered by Cristina, who is as persuasive as Jon Spencer is bluntly domineering,
“Boss Hog happened probably as a result of me being kicked out of Pussy Galore,” Cristina admits candidly. She seems weary and guarded when asked about her involvement in Pussy Galore and her relationship with Jon. Indeed, the conflicts between Jon and Cristina during the Pussy Gold 5000-era are well documented and ended in Cristina’s rather public departure from the group. After leaving, she kicked around with a few New York locals and then rejoined Jon Spencer and Kurt Wolf to form a band on her own terms. Boss Hog was born 1988, but the shadow of Pussy Galore loomed largely over Cristina’s band: most perceived Boss Hog as a Jon Spencer outfit, and as a natural extension of Pussy Galore.
“If any two members, or three members, as in our case, of one group go on to form a new band,” explains Cristina calmly, “there will be certain factors that sound the same, and you can’t deny that.”
Jon is quick to refute any such allegation, “A natural extension?” he asks. “I wouldn’t agree with that, though.”
“Jon likes to deny this,” says Cristina.
“It’s not, really,” he insists.”
Jon Grimaces. “It’s not my band.”
“Don’t listen to him,” demands Cristina, getting the last say. “It’s not his band, but we were all in Pussy Galore at one point and we are all in this band. “It’s a different thing, yet it stems from that. I think that Boss Hog is a lot groovier.”
Boss Hog’s first commitment to vinyl, Drinkin’, Lechin’ and Lyin’, was a blast of warped blues rumble, with Cristina’s unique vocals taking a forefront to Jon’s guttural growls. Songs like “Fix Me” are a visceral punch to the kidneys, guitars storming over thick ropy bass. But the music, as hard hitting as it is, took a back seat to the controversial cover of Cristina. She is more than used to defending herself about the nude photos, as they have garnered more than their fair share of attention.
“I don’t think it’s sexist at all in any way,” emphasizes Cristina. “It’s self-promotion, self-exploitation, I’m all for that. I don’t think any of my covers are negative, especially my first cover. If you feel good about your body and if you feel as if sex should be a very free and open thing, then why is a naked body so offensive?”
“I just don’t get it, because I thought we were supposed to be above taboos,” she continues, “But I’m glad that they’re still there and I hope that they never end, I like that people are disturbed by it – but it’s very hypocritical. I think it’s surprising in a way because people I know to be cool have given me shit about record covers.”
Last year’s second Amphetamine Reptile release Cold Hands, on which Cristina also appeared nude, was a surprising progression from their debut, but the more conventional rock style explored certainly does not detract from their appeal. The humour was just obvious on the album as it was on Drinkin’, Lechin’ and Lyin’, perhaps even more so, with songs named after Boss Hog’s “fine and fairly intelligent bass player” Pete Shore and their good friend Gerard Cosloy, record company co-mogul and curator of Matador Records.
“Gerard paid us a substantial amount of money,” Jon Deadpans.
“He gave us 25 copies of Bands That Could Be God that he had lying around the Matador offices to name a song after him,” Charlie snickers. “We were supposed to promo that record in the song but we couldn’t fit ‘Bands That Could Be God’ in the rhythmic scheme. So it didn’t work out.”
Such close fraternization with other New York notables is commonplace from Boss Hog. Although Cristina emphatically denies the existence of a “scene,” the members, current and former, of her group all have a vital function in other local bands. They may, as she asserts, have numerous friends that are not musicians, and their ties with groups such as Unsane and Honeymoon Killers may be irrelevant to the overall vision of Boss Hog, but gossip is gossip, and Boss Hog are in the thick of burgeoning musical circles.
Boss Hog’s, popularity in New York was well-proven at a recent barbecue/clam back/champagne toast, with numerous musical celebrities making an appearance in Jerry Teel’s (ex-Hog, now Honeymoon Killer) cozy apartment and spacious roof. Before the obligatory Mudhoney show, Kim Gordon from Sonic Youth and Julia Cafritz from Action Swingers came by, while Tod A. from Cop Shoot Cop and various members of Die Monster Die lounged, drank beer and ate chicken leftover from Cristina and Jon’s recent post-wedding party. Bob Bert was one of the first to arrive, hanging our in the kitchen, and Al Kizys from Of Cabbages and Kings supervised the copious ingestion of vodka (straight from the bottle), Marcelius Hall from Railroad Jerk (and also current Hog) strummed an acoustic guitar while Otis Redding crooned from the stereo speakers. Charlie Ondras badgered the guy from They Might Be Giants about which ATM he used, and nearly bared all before being whisked away by Pete Shore and Chris Spencer for undisclosed purposes. And Jens just lurked about looking mysterious.
No matter who’s there and where it is, Boss Hog know how to through a party. Even without a bathtub full of bottle Bud and ice, they have fun, especially if they’re on tour. Upon the success of Cold Hands, Boss Hog managed to jaunt through Europe for the first time, cavorting through a number of glamorous countries and trying in each local beer.
“Touring Europe is always great,” enthuses Cristina, “They put you up in hotels, we have free food and lots of free beer, and there’s lots of excised fans.”
“It ranks a close second to playing Boston,” Jon adds dryly.
The conversation picks up as the European tour is recalled. Cristina gleefully plays reporter and extracts intimate answers.
Cristina: “Was that your first time in Europe, Jens?”
Charlie: “Tell us about your previous experience in Europe.”
Jens: “It was more fun than Dinosaur”
Cristina: “Can you elaborate on that a little?”
Jon: “You can’t keep this secret about you being the second guitarist in Dinosaur any longer.”
Cristina: “You can’t keep this secret about being the fifth Beatle – oh, I mean, Dinosaur Jr. Was it more fun touring with Dinosaur Jr. or Boss Hog?”
Jens: “There was way better food this time.”
Cristina: “And more general fun and rockness and craziness.”
Jens: “Yeah, you can say that.”
Cristina: “So you could definitely say that Boss Hog was much more rockin’ groovy.”
Cristina warms up to the interrogation. Her smooth yet demanding style of questioning convinces one that she should be a writer, not just the production editor that she is at US magazine. Her attention focuses on Charlie, as everyone snickers at her gruelling Q & A.
Cristina: “Charlie, were you ever in Europe before.”
Charlie: “No, I’ve never been to Europe before.”
Cristina: “Ah, that’s right. You were the virgin. So who got more action on tour, you or Kurt?”
Charlie: “Uh, Kurt Wolf, I’m afraid to say.”
Cristina: “Jens, how many times did you have to put up with either Charlie of Kurt getting action?”
Jens: “Twice. But I didn’t see Charlie. I got to see Kurt.”
Jon: “Always a bridesmaid, never a bride.”
Besides providing action for the various members of Boss Hog, Europe also resulted in the obligatory John Peel Session in London. They were so pleased with the results of the radio session, they decided to cull a few songs from it to include as part of their latest release, the Action Box double 7″ E.P. Although it was the first time Boss Hog had recorded in a foreign nation, the exotic locale did not faze the jaded New Yorkers.
Jon: “England is a dump.”
Cristina: “I would compare this to assholes from the Midwest who say stupid things like , ‘New York is a dump.’ London’s just a city; it has its good points and its bad.”
Cristina: “England is not a dump. If you want to say that Australia is a dump, you could say that legitimately – about people being dumped there…”
Jon: “They don’t have central heating, they don’t know how to prepare food…”
Cristina: “They had a really good coffee machine! What more do you want? They had a fine cafeteria, with tons and tons of candy in it and canned beer.”
Jens: “I like those hallways, walking around in there.”
Cristina: “And we got studio three, the biggest studio. Cop Shoot Cop got studio five, a lame small studio.”
Jon: “Everyone gets smaller studios than Boss Hog.”
Cristina: We go the biggest, best studio because were so big and great.”
Charlie: “It was beautiful, man. Bing Crosby made his last record in there and that was really inspiring to me.”
Cristina: “There was a big plaque on the wall that said, ‘Bing Crosby’s last recording here,’ which we all speculated was ‘The Little Drummer Boy’ with David Bowie, so we were really excited about that. And we didn’t have to pay for it, so that was exciting. They paid us to do it.”
The tour not only provided a recording locale for the most of the Action Box double 7″, but it also supplied part of the inspiration. The conversation becomes more heated as we verge onto a subject Boss Hog are very fond of: sleaze. Self-proclaimed experts in the subject, the group gets excited and begins talking over each other to explain the origins of the Action Box. Charlie, an expert on all things concerning action, begins.
“Ever since Cristina, Jon and I met Billy Idol at Jones Beach a couple of years ago, the phrase, ‘More, more, more’ really got into my mind.”
Cristina picks up the story. “We got to got to a Billy Idol photo shoot,” she continues, “and he kept going into the bathroom with his assistant. I wasn’t really paying attention, got bored after he started grabbing his crotch, and left. But I heard the next day that he’s infamous for going to do coke in the bathroom. And then we heard this story…”
“…that he was in the toilet stall getting a blow job and he was yelling, ‘More, more, more!'” Jon concludes with a flourish.
“So after that I started referring to Billy Idol as ‘the action man,'” smirks Charlie. “And ‘action’ was one of the many catch phrases I popularized amongst me and my friends. We were on this tour in Germany, and on the first rest stop we were in, they had these condom machines, and there was this condom package which they sell, two pretty bad condoms, actually…”
“Works fine for Charlie,” Cristina interrupts.
“…and this mysterious creme in a tube,” Charlie continues enthusiastically, “packaged inside this box with this firework display and wild type on it and it was called the ‘Action Box.'”
“We tried to duplicate the cover,” explains Cristina, “and we were initially going to put in two condoms and a little tube of lubricant – stay hard creme – but it was way too expensive. It didn’t work. We wimped out.”
The overall theme of action is carried on throughout the songs on the EP, especially on “Black Throat,” an all-star jam with Jim Thirlwell of Foetus (“When you think of porno rock you think of Jim Thirlwell,” opines Jon.) and Bewitched’s Bob Bert and DJ Cream O’Wheat. The song itself is a cover version of the theme from a movie made by the Dark Bros.
“The Dark Bros. are these wacky guys in California who make porno films,” Cristina smiles. “They made New Wave Hookers, Traci Lords was in a lot of their movies and had to be edited out. So we have this preview tape at home and it has this great brilliant song on it, really funny.”
“I was in Philadelphia playing with the Honeymoon Killers,” elaborates Jon, “It was part of a Honeymoon Killers-Bewitched Bill. The guys from Bewitched went out to a thrift store and they came back with this rubber rat, which is one of the main characters in the film Black Throat. It was sort of the narrator.”
“Which tells you the flavor of this fine porno film,” Cristina interjects.
“Bob Bert came back to the venue with this thing,” Jon smiles, “and he couldn’t believe that I recognized it. It was very particular type of rubber rat. So we figured if we were going to do the cover, we’d have to include Betwitched.”
“Because they were purveyors of fine filth such as ourselves,” Cristina quips.
The Action Box, which is Boss Hog’s finest specimen in sleaze fuelled rock yet, seems indicative of the direction in which they plan to head. Forget about the false filth rockers: Boss Hog will teach you everything you want to know about “action” and more. the band often verges on the truly offensive, but that, and a thirst for control, are what Boss Hog are all about. As always, Cristina, most gracious in her words and performance, puts it succinctly: “We like to fight it out.”
Boss Hog Musical Chairs
“We deny the existence of any New York scene whatsoever,” Snaps Cristina, the imposing queen bee of Boss Hog, and you’d be hard pressed to find someone that would want to argue with her. Despite this, Boss Hog have had a number of hard rockin’ locals that are in one, or two, or even three other bands that keep the hapless plebs like you and me confused as to who’s in what band. So as we go to press, here’s a list of who’s been, still is and may be part of the Boss Hog Merry-Go-Round.
D.J. Cream O’Wheat
Clint Ruin (A.K.A. Jim Thirlwell)
Well, there you have it, a glimpse at the “There is no New York Scene” family tree.”