|July / August 1993||Fiz||#7|
|Article on Boss Hog
Two-part article from issue #7 of Fiz magazine on Boss Hog written by Chesley Hicks (East Coast) and Dave Mcconnell (West Coast).
Thanks to Skeleton Boy for the scan.
High on The Hog
an east coast/west coast examination of the boss ones
East Coast by Chesley Hicks
In the beginning, I had an amorphous idea of what exactly Boss Hog is all about. i had seen them play live once, enjoyed the show, knew some of their history, but still found it difficult to clearly identify who this band was, where they fit into history and where they were going. This was mostly due to their fluctuating line-up and irregular stage appearances in the U.S.
However, following this interview and the subsequent receipt of their latest EP Girl + on Amphetamine Reptile, a cleaer and better picture of the band emerged. In order to get a grasp on what Boss Hog is, it has been necessary for me to understand what they are not. they are not a follow-up to Pussy Galore. In fact, they bear little resemblance to that band and do not alight themselves with its legacy-Nor are they just another side project for Jon Spencer. They aren’t young and naive, yet they certainly are not old and jaded. They aren’t punk and they’re not pop, and most of all, they are not nostalgic.
“Boss Hog started while Pussy Galore was still around. It’s not like the influences on Boss Hog are related to Pussy Galore! It’s a totally different group. It’s a totally different group. It’s really changed. We just started playing with Hollis [the perpetually smiling, latest addition to the band] a year ago and she had just picked up the drums and we started approaching writing a song in a totally different way,” Jon explains. “I don’t know. Pussy Galore was a long time ago. I think that there were lot of more simple lyrics and Boss Hog is sort of different.”
“Gone off on its own tangent,” Cristina resolutely adds.
Throughout the interview Cristina spiritedly answered questions and provided a generally positive and willing disposition to the whole process, which makes sense, because she is far more than aesthetically pleasant lead singer for the band. she produced Girl + because, “We wanted it done right,” Jon relates.
“We generally produce our own stuff, I mean, whoever is the producer is really an engineer,” she explains.
The five-song EP is a strikingly blazing collision of rough into smooth, alternating between smouldering tension and flaring anger, altogether creating about 20 minutes of intense, hip-grinding, shoulder-rolling, occasionally head-banging sound. It sounds somewhat like the career of Boss Hog itself.
So how do long-time PG fans enjoy the sounds of Boss Hog? Or does the band really even care?
Jon responds, “I don’t know. I guess we’ve never really toured Boss Hog besides Europe. I mean, yeah, there are people that like Pussy Galore and Boss Hog, sure.”
“No one has ever complained about us not being radical enough,” Cristina laughs, “No one has said, ‘Hey, you produced this mediocre middle-of-the-road stuff.”
That is appropriate, considering that the band is not making mediocre music.
Despite the obvious prominence of Cristina and Jon, they both emphasize that Boss Hog operates as a group, enabling its sound to evolve as it has, along with the line-up.
Jon describes, “The new record comes from everybody. Most of the songs are collaborative.”
Cristina continues, “Pretty much, Jon and I will sit down and come up with ruffs and go in [to the studio] and they will totally change as we write them as a group.”
How do you record your albums?
Jon: In the nude. We get really drunk…No, we just all set up and play live.
Cristina: I record the vocals afterwards.
Jon: But she’ll dance and inspire the band.
Cristina: I’m the cheerleader in the band.
So when did Boss Hog solidify as a band?
Cristina: It hasn’t. Jon: It’s still in the process of solidifying.
Cristina: (laughing) We’re still a liquid.
Jon: Jens has been with us for two or three years? This will be the first record he’s really played on though.
Cristina: Jens has been around for a long time. He has supported the band for a long time and sort of gotten the short end of the stick because he joined after another person recorded with us. He’s always supported us and been an important part of the band, but unfortunately, came in after someone else had recorded.
The band was not especially enthusiastic about discussing contemporary music, although Railroad Jerk, Unsane, Cop Shoot Cop and Jesus Lizard were mentioned as current favorites. “We all listen to current records and go to shows. It’s just that after a while, there are so many it’s hard tp be totally excited about something,” Jon asserts.
And how about Boss Hog’s shows? Why have they played so many shows in Europe and so few in America (outside of New York)?
Cristina answers, “Well, it’s just that it’s easier to tour over there because they pay for everything like hotels and stuff like that. I don’t think I’d have any problems touring here and having a full group of shows, it’s not that. It’s just that there are further drives and it’s harder to book. There aren’t as many clubs in close cities and you have to take more time off.
I have a full-time job [at Allure magazine], as does everyone else in the band besides Jon. So it’s harder for us to take time off and do a proper U.S. tour. You need, like, six weeks and we just don’t have that kind of time.
So whenever we get two-week chunks we tour. We’re going to be touring on the West Coast in July, from L.A. to Seattle – just four dates. And we’ll be touring in September – just a week out to the Midwest and back. And then we’re going to Europe in November. It’s the first time we’ll be doing U.S. dates first as opposed to last.”
Therefore, you had better watch your local listings closely or you might miss them. In closing, I asked if they had anything to say to Fiz readers, and Cristina responded immediately, “I love Fiz and when I get there, I want that little girl…”
Jon interjects, “Vivien.”
Cristina concludes, “We want to meet Vivien.”
West Coast by Dave Mcconnell
Well, I realize this was supposed to be Chesley’s New York thing, but I just couldn’t help getting my own schnoz into the picture. I mean, c’mon! We’re talkin’ Cristina here folks, and my blood is as red as it comes. Not only does she front a group that boasts the best of the best players in the galaxy (not to mention that she is Mrs. Jon Spencer), and work a bitchin’ day job for that slick fashion rag, Allure, but she also willing had her nipples painted black for your benefit!
Despite the mysterious image some may have of Cristina, I found her extremely warm, open, and friendly – not to mention good humoured, which goes hand in hand with being in Boss Hog. They’re starting their first U.S. tour in July. Go see them, or be a pathetic twerp. The choice is yours. By the way, if you can give them a place to stay when they get to your town…
Fiz: There have been a lot of players in Boss Hog over the years, and most of them are more of less known for their style. I wanted to know if Boss Hog sounds the way it does simply because these people happened to be in the band, or were they chosen specifically to create that sound?
Cristina: Well, originally it was just who would be in the band. Charlie [Ondras] wasn’t the best drummer that I knew, nor did I particularly like his style of drumming in Unsane, but I really like him personally. He sort of adapted to our style. we told him we wanted very simple things, so he took off his tack toms. I hate lots of drum rolls, so he kind of toned that down. He just sort of adjusted. As far as guitar playing goes, I think we picked people a lot more for their style than we did drummers. Kurt [Wolf], I’ve always been fond of his very chunky, very heavy guitar style. He didn’t want to be in the band anymore, which is unfortunate. Then it took a sort of new direction. We thought “OK, lets try something new.” So Jerry Teel [Honeymoon Killers], who’d been with us from the first record – he plays more “noodley” kind of funny stuff, and we liked that. After we asked him to be on the record we asked Marcellus Hall [Railroad Jerk] to do it because he has that some kind of rockabilly, twangy, very nice style. On this record we decided to make it with less instruments. It seemed kind of redundant to have two people who have the same kind of style, which we had done on tour. Last time we went on tour we had both of them, and it was really great because it sort of frees everybody up. You don’t have all the responsibility of making all the guitar sound all the time, so it was pleasant for Jon. And it was nice. Although they are very similar stylistically, they also have their own personal style.
Fitz: Well, I can see a similarity, but I wouldn’t think there would ever be a problem with those two getting in the way of each other.
Cristina: Oh, no. But in the bigger picture, they are kind of similar, so that’s why this time we decided to break it down and just have a bass, one noodley guitar – we didn’t need any filler – and the drums. We wanted to make it really, really simple. It worked out real well. I think everything sounds full and clear without sounding muddy – as muddy as stuff sounded before. On “Ruby”, that was something I just dreamed up with the horns.
Fiz: I haven’t heard the new record, so I have no idea what it sounds like yet.
Cristina: Oh, well the song “Ruby” is really wacky. It has finger snapping, and back up vocals and horns. It was just some kind of great vision, or nightmare…
Fiz: Sounds swingin’.
Cristina: It is. Totally swingin’.
Fiz: So there is a lot of change from that last record?
Cristina: Well, just on that one song particularly, and I’ve never had anything come so clearly to me. A lot of other stuff, you know, you end up with the instrumentation that you have, and you’ll think of other things that you want to put in – like maybe more percussion, metal percussion, or harmonica – something else will pop out and you’ll want to put it in there. But this one was very clear for me from the beginning. It’s about a drag queen cooking show here in New York on cable called Come and Get It with Ruby Stone and it’s really, really great. If anybody gets Manhattan Cable or ever has the opportunity to see this, it’s on Saturdays on channel 17, at one o’clock. It’s fantastic!
Fiz: Now that you have this stripped down version of the band is that how you are going to tour?
Cristina: Um, I don’t know. See, touring is a totally different thing than recording. It would be nice to have another person along to tour with, but for the U.S. dates I think we’ll keep it as is – with four of us – just for financial reasons. Were flying out there, and to pay for another ticket …we’re barely breaking even as it is with this West Coast thing, and to add another person now would be…
Fiz: The West Coast seems to be a trouble point for a lot of bands.
Cristina: Oh, no. It wouldn’t be if we had the time to tour properly with, like six weeks to do the U.S. But we’re flying out there to do four dates and then flying back. We have four dates to make up all the airfare and it we ever have to get a motel, which, hopefully we won’t have to do…
Fiz: Who is your new drummer?
Cristina: A friend of ours. Her name is Hollis Queens.
Fiz: Has she played with anyone we would know about before?
Cristina: No. She just started playing drums. Actually, she’s our bass player’s girlfriend. She used to go out with Kurt Wolf, and then she ended up going out with Jens, our bass player. We’ve sort of known her for a long time. She’s a great person, real funny, and we liked her a lot. She had started to teach herself to play drums, and in the interim of looking for a new drummer after Charlies death, she came down and played with us a couple of times. We had enough faith in her to keep her on.
Fiz: Well, that will probably make for a better band member in the long run.
Cristina: Yeah, I’ve learned that it’s always better to have a friend – even if they have flaws – in a band than it is to just have musicians.
Fiz: You have to be able to get along.
Cristina: And we do. We’re ABBA now! But the initials don’t work out.
Fiz: Was there ever a time after Charlie’s death [tragic drug overdose] that you thought you didn’t want to go on with it?
Cristina: Nope. No, I never thought about that. It was tragic and I miss him dearly. It was really hard for me, he was a really good friend of ours, but I never considered for an instant that I would not go on with the band.
Fiz: I apologize if I’ve opened up any wounds here.
Cristina: Oh, no, no, it’s fine. It’s been almost a year now – it will be a year on the 22nd [June] – and I can talk about it now.
(We talk a bit about the circumstances of Charlies death and heroin in general, of which she is understandably highly opposed to.)
Fiz: Does Jens currently play with anyone else?
Cristina: No. He used to play in Loudspeaker, and maybe… Gobblehoof? I don’t even know if that’s true. I think that’s true, but it may just be a bad joke that I keep hearing (laughing).
Fiz: I remember a time when almost every member was in another band. And I remember thinking “How the hell do they get anything done?”
Cristina: Yeah, it was really, really hard. it still sort of is, but now the only person in another band is Jon, so it’s a lot easier. Everybody is a lot more dedicated now, so it’s great.
Fiz: He seems to be pretty busy these days, though.
Cristina: Yes, he is. he’s always on tour.
Fiz: I’ll bet you love that.
Cristina: I’m the very happy tour widow right now (laughing). No, I hate it. I absolutely hate it. But what can I do!?
Fiz: Boss Hog has been around for, what, six years now?
Cristina: Yeah, something like that.
Fiz: And nobody has ever seen you play.
Cristina: I know, it’s bad. I feel bad about never going on tour in the U.S. We’ve played Boston, and Washington D.C. and I feel real bad about that, but we’re taking care of that this year.
Fiz: How does your job feel about you taking off like that?
Cristina: Well, they don’t know about it (laughing) I sort of spring it on them as the time comes, and I don’t really give them much of an option. I want to hold on to my job.
Fiz: What is it that you do exactly?
Cristina: I’m the editorial production manager for Allure magazine.
Fiz: Wow! That sounds like a pretty good job.
Cristina: Yeah, it’s a great job. And it pays really well. if you have to work, it beats bartending or waiting tables.
Fiz: Oh, I’m a messenger, I know exactly what you’re talking about.
Cristina: I sit in a nice air-conditioned office and tell people what to do all day long.
Fiz: There have been a lot of things said about the covers of the records [controversial shots of a nude Cristina]. I was wondering if the new record will have a racey cover? I’m sure you’re sick of the subject, but the readers will want to know.
Cristina: Uh, I’m naked on it.
Fiz: In what sense? I mean, I thought the Cold Hands cover was very tasteful, and quite a departure from the campiness of Drinkin’, Letchin’, & Lyin’.
Cristina: It’s the more sophisticated nude! And this one is the implied nude.
Fiz: Well, I though Cold Hands was implied nudity.
Cristina: No, that’s a full nude shot. A sophisticated nude! (laughing) It’s also a real famous pose.
Fiz: You know what I mean. All the shadow effects – it’s not like the first one with the thigh high boots.
Cristina: Right. Well that’s raw – it was our first thing. It was raw, it was coming out. Then we got a little more sophisticated, and now we’re very demure!
Fiz: What’s the new album going to be called?
Cristina: Girl + [positive].
Fiz: Cristina, are you a Riot Grrrl?
Cristina: No, not at all!
Fiz: I’m just joking.
Cristina: I don’t subscribe to anything like that. I figured a lot of people would ask me that question, and you’re the first person who has. I’m really surprised by that. This is the fifth or sixth interview I’ve done, and nobody has asked me about that yet. It’s really funny because, if anything I’m the complete antithesis. I’m like, “Negative Woman.” It’s a total joke to me because, of course, I’ll defy any stereotype, damn it! But nobody has asked me about it and I’m disappointed.
Fiz: There are women or girls that I suspect aren’t riot Grrrls that I feel somewhat obligated to give a hard time about it to. Because it seems like a real “male” thing to do and because the feminists all hate me as a male.
Cristina: But see, that’s were the problem seeps in. Well, what do you call a feminist?
Fiz: You’ve got to understand this is all with my tongue placed firmly in cheek. I’m married to the editor of this magazine. I’ve worked as her employee in the past. Believe me when I say I’m as feminist as they come. I have no particular male price. I just don’t subscribe to this extreme radicalism that seems to go hand in hand with feminism these days.
Cristina: I think feminism has now come to mean separatism – which it shouldn’t mean.
Fiz: My idea of it is…
Cristina: Equality for all humans!
Fiz: Exactly. Pure equality. I feel the same about racism or anything else. Just treat people like people and nothing less or more and everything will be OK.
Cristina: I think it’s come to mean this horribly gross, kind of militant, separatist thing – which it shouldn’t – because it’s not what feminism is supposed to mean.
Fiz: Yeah. The Riot Grrrl thing, thought, I get a real kick out of it. So I like to bug people about it. Just goofing off, you know.
Cristina: Yeah, the Riot Grrrl…I get a real kick out of it too. Although, you know, really like Bikini Kill (laughing)
Fiz: The bands are fine, I don’t mind that at all.
Cristina: It’s just weird that you associate this movement or whatever, with this one band. All the other so called Riot Grrrl bands are …what are they anyway?
Fiz: Well, the bands are one thing. I’m really glad for them that they’ve found this common cause to get together and say “OK, we should be in bands.” It’s just the non-conformist thing has taken to these ridiculous levels. Like it’s not important to try and be a good band as long as you are all girls.
Cristina: I think there is a problem with any kind of organized … religion like that it becomes ridiculous no matter what it is because you have to subscribe yourself to this whole rigid idea of whatever it is, even if you don’t necessarily agree with all of them.
Fiz: How is someone going to get through life by alienating or discounting half the population?
Cristina: Yeah, or why try and stereotype yourself in any way? Why say, “Oh, I’m part of this” or “I’m part of that?” There is nothing more frightening to me than having to be responsible for any grop of people. A big thing with the record covers has been, “How could you do this if you are a woman?” And I’m saying, “Because I’m Cristina. Because that’s me, and I’m not doing it to represent women, or to represent anything other than myself.”
Fiz: I personally like the record covers a lot. Not just because you’re naked on them, but because I think they are great covers.
Cristina: Cool. Yeah, I think they’re really beautiful, graphically speaking. Aside from the fact that there is a nude girl on them.
Fiz: The first one has that real cheesecakse/pinup girl look to it. I like that kind of stuff.
Cristina: It’s supposed to be like Femlin, the party joke girl in Playboy.
Fiz: Wow, I never even equated the two. I didn’t even realize she had a name.
Cristina: Just a bit of trivia for you. But yeah, that’s what I was going for there. I actually had this make up artist there who painted my nipples black! It was really funny. Having some woman, while I’m sitting there having a cigarette, painting my nipples black.
Fiz: Why would you do that?
Cristina: (laughing) Because Femlins nipples are black! She’s just an outline. We were trying to make it as high contrast as possible, so it was like an outline with black gloves and boots, black hair and black nipples.
Fiz: Oh, I’m sorry, that was a real dumb thing to ask.
Cristina: (laughing even more now) Oh, that’s OK. I don’t mind explaining.