August 15, 2011

Interview with Kim Shattuck of The Muffs (2007)

So, here is a really old interview that I did with Kim Shattuck of The Muffs in 2007. The website that used to host this interview is not online anymore so I decided to post it here so future Internet generations can enjoy it.
In this interview, Kim talks about the origin of the band, their times in Reprise Records and some interesting facts about Courtney Love.

Interview Date: October 5th, 2007
Alt Tank [AT]: First of all, thank you very much for your time. I know you have been very busy lately. How are you?
Kim Shattuck [KS]: I'm great, thanks. Very busy with my stuff but happy.

[AT]: What kind of music did you listen to while growing up?
[KS]: When I was a little kid I listened to Yogi Bear and the Flintstones on Hanna Barbara Records. I had a See and Say record player where you put the single on and there is a strip of slides you coordinate in the machine that plays while you listen. And you read along with a book at the same time.
The See and Say played records at 78 rpm, 45 rpm, 33 1/3 rpm, and 16 rpm. I used to listen to my favorite kiddy songs on every speed.
Then I found my parents McGuire Sisters record and learned how to sing every harmony in every song.

[AT]: Could you please tell us a brief history of The Muffs? Where are you guys from? When did you start playing together?
[KS]: The Muffs formed in 1991 in Los Angeles, CA. It was me, my boyfriend at the time Ronnie Barnett, my bandmate from the Pandoras, Melanie Vammen and Criss Crass. Then Criss Crass and Melanie both ended up quitting and Roy McDonald came into the band and we became a 3 piece.

[AT]: Who came up with the name of the band? Does the name have a meaning or a story behind it?
[KS]: I don't remember who actually yelled it out, but we were all shouting out name ideas and my only firm notion was it had to be a noun, start with a "the" and be plural.

[AT]: What artists or bands do you consider your major influence in music? What motivates you to write music? What are some of your all-time favorite bands?
[KS]: I was hugely influenced by the early Kinks, The Beatles, The Pixies and The Ramones when we first started. Then a little later got really into stuff like Dean Martin.

[AT]: In the 80's, you decided to leave The Pandoras to start The Muffs. What made you change your music style?
[KS]: My style had always been the same, and since I had no choice in the matter regarding the songwriting, since Paula stubbornly insisted that only she wrote the songs. So I bided my time and started writing songs for myself, never playing them for anyone. I started becoming better at my songwriting so I shyly played it for someone backward. Then I got braver and played it for Ronnie and Melanie and they both said they were much better than Paula's songs. Which actually wasn't saying much by then because all her songs at that time were rip offs of bad hair metal songs of the day. They encouraged me to keep going with it and I did.

[AT]: After the whole Green Day explosion in the mid-90's, many music producers started going to underground punk shows looking to hire bands for bigger record labels. One of those bands was The Muffs. How did the whole moving to a major label process go? Do you have any stories from that time?
[KS]: We were actually on Warner Brothers by 1992 way before Green Day were signed to Reprise. We came in on the grunge wave when every A & R person was looking for their new Nirvana and Mudhoney. What happened was an A & R guy was at a show we opened up and he came up to us afterwards to see if we were receptive to the idea of doing a demo deal. I was weirded out because of my bad experience with the Pandoras on Elektra Records but gave him my phone number anyway. Eventually we ended up doing a 4 song demo for them and were picked up for a contract.

[AT]: The Muffs started releasing records in small local and independent labels, later to be hired by the giant Warner Bros. Records. What do you think was the biggest difference between recording in a small studio and a major label?
[KS]: The recording budget is the biggest difference from small contract to big major label contract. That and on a major label you get in their system and their sole job is to work your band. Without the machine you have to do everything yourself and it's harder to get in the door.

[AT]: In 1994 you recorded vocals for NOFX's song Lori Meyers and in 1999 you released an album with Honest Don's Records which is a subsidiary of Fat Wreck. Are you good friends Fat Mike and the Fat Wreck gang? Do you get along with other punk rock bands?
[KS]: Fat Mike is a nice guy. The Fat Wreck gang were good to us in 1999. I guess I get along with punk bands. I don't think about it like that.

[AT]: Many fans consider Blonder and Blonder and Happy Birthday to Me The Muff's best releases. Both records were released during your stay in Warner Bros. Records. What was the main reason for The Muffs to be dropped from the label after those releases? Would you consider that major labels are more interested in quantity more than quality?
[KS]: I think the label and us grew apart. We had a manager at the time who was a lying creep and he probably messed up that relationship too. I heard they thought Happy Birthday to Me sounded too indie. I think it sounds classic. Oh well.

[AT]: What is the story behind the Courtney Love's voice message posted in your b-sides compilation Hamburger?
[KS]: Courtney was a fixture in Hollywood and read everything she could get her hands on and it was fun to fuck with her. So when we did a Fizz magazine interview, they asked me who started the dress. The dress was the babydoll job that lots of girls in LA were wearing at the time. So I purposely said Kat from Babes in Toyland started the dress, knowing that it was a point of contention with Courtney and that Courtney would react. She had my moms phone number for some reason and late one night left the drunken message. I kept it because it was so funny.

[AT]: The Muffs' newest album Really, Really Happy has a lot of happier and mellower songs than the previous albums. Would you consider that your writing style has changed? Is there a reason for this change?
[KS]: The change of my songwriting is the natural change because I am maturing and I don't want to write the same song over and over. I think they are definitely happier songs. I'm a happier person so it makes sense.

[AT]: Earlier this year, I had the opportunity to interview the lead singer of The Queers, Joe Queer and he mentioned The Muffs as one of his favorite bands. How do you feel when you hear that your music has served as inspiration to other artists?
[KS]: Joe is a great guy. He's one salty character! We toured together and had a great time. I think it's nice that we inspired a few folks. That's how it is in music. We inspire someone, someone inspires me and so on and so forth.

[AT]: What is the band currently up to? Can we expect a new record soon? Do you have any projects in mind?
[KS]: We're taking a long-ass break right now. I've gone back to school to brush up on my photography. I love photography and am starting to do it again.

[AT]: Are The Muffs going to go all political like many other bands have?
[KS]: Oh god, no. There's nothing that dates your band faster than political lyrics. And how preachy does it sound to bitch about the status quo? I should write a song about how global warming is a crock of shit!

[AT]: Last, but not least. What do you consider is the most important thing about punk music?
[KS]: like the DIY mentality and the goofy hair don'ts. I'm a huge fan of singsongy lyrics and loud guitars. Whatever punk band does that gets a gold star!