Stu Spasm interview, Lit Lounge, New York City, 24th July 2012
Photos by Sondra London

Part II – “Jo Duden, ick bin ein schlecht Mutterficker!

Text: Rokko / Photos: Sondra London


Stu Spasm – mastermind of Amphetamine Reptile’s infamous heroes Lubricated Goat, who also played in Crunt, Beasts of Bourbon, and right now is orchestrating The Art Gray Noizz Quintet. Why did we meet at the Lit Lounge (RIP)? I think because there was a sculpture by H.R. Giger standing there. And the Mars Bar had already closed down to make space for some ridiculous scheissdreck. Well, the Mars Bar had stuck out of NYC’s über clean East Village like a sore thumb for years anyway. And so does Stu Spasm, but he’s still around – so welcome Stu!

And check part one of this conversation if you haven’t already done that. Otherwise, you’ll miss half the fun: HERE

Lubricated Goat in serial killer expert and true crime writer Sondra London’s condo in 1990, from left to right: Stu Spasm, Sondra London, Lachlan McCleod, Renastair EJ © Sondra London

Rokko: Alright. So, your life went: England, Australia, England, Australia – then you made the big jump to the USA. When did you land here for the first time?

Stu Spasm: Well, I always wanted to tour America and after we had done a couple of Lubricated Goat albums, Tom Hazelmyer from Amphetamine Reptile Records wrote to us ‘cause he’d heard the albums – and he wanted to license them.

Actually, two American labels wrote to us. The one was called Toxic Shock and the other one was Amphetamine Reptile. Of course, they sent us albums from their own labels, and we liked the stuff from AmRep better. We had no idea that they were gonna turn out to be such a big label, so I’m really glad that we went with them.

You know, a lot of bands from Australia would send their stuff to all sorts of labels in America and try to get someone to release it. We were fortunate, not only that somebody wanted to put us out, but it ended up being such a great label.

So, we toured America for the first time in ’89.

© Sondra London

Was this the tour when you crashed at Sondra London’s house in Atlanta?

I can’t remember if this was in ’89 or ’90. But in ’89, we did a tour in America and we wanted it to be longer, we were so into it, even though it was a convoluted tour. Various bullshit happened, but that made it interesting. I think it was the 1990 tour when we stayed with her. That tour was a lot smoother, but it was still a tour where we couldn’t afford hotels, we definitely had to stay with people and it’s funny how it comes about. You come to a town and, it seems to be part of a circle: There’s always some friends from the promoter and the band can stay at their house. And the funny thing is, a lot of the time those are girls. They are almost what you call “groupies”. And this is why some people in the ‘60s were called “groupie band-aids’” – because they were helping the bands out.

I can see how that is: you stay at the person’s house, say it’s some girl who is really into rock’n’roll, and they’re not always the best-looking girls, which is unfortunate, but they are like: “Look, you can stay at my house. One of you can sleep on the couch, and you can sleep here, and you can sleep here – and one of you can sleep in my bed with me.” There has always to be that one guy who sleeps in the girl’s bed. It’s like an unsaid thing, but sometimes you are in the course of the evening and you just happen to roll over, you know, someone has to take one for the team. There happened to be one guy in the band who tended to be the one who was prepared to oblige: “I’ll sleep in the bed with her.” And then, on the next day, it’s always like: “What happened?” “I tell you later on, in the van…”

But it was nice of her to put us up and she appreciated that this guy did the deed. I appreciated that this guy did the deed. Guy [Maddison], the one who is in Mudhoney now, he used to be the one that did the business for the team. Probably because he was the drunkest half the time. It’s not that he was doing it for the team, he was doing it because he was a horny bastard! Even when we didn’t sleep at some girl’s house, he would find some fucking girl to have sex with anyway – and they weren’t always up to my standards. I was like: “Guy, come on! You’re breaking the rules of the band!”

Cause I had a rule: no one in my band is allowed to have an ugly girlfriend. That’s bad for my image, you know. If you see a picture in a magazine of Lubricated Goat, the band has to be surrounded by beautiful women. You can’t have a guy in the band with his arm around some fucking ugly girl. That’s just not cool, that’s not happening.

When you go on a tour like that, you just feel like a fucking rock’n’roll animal, or a fucking rock pig, what I call ‘em.

But when we were at Sondra London’s house, Guy wasn’t in the band. Lachlan [McCleod] was instead. And he was the one who was setting his hair on fire at her house, that I remember. Lachlan was setting his hair on fire all the time, so he was getting a real terrible hair style.

© Sondra London

Sounds like Blixa Bargeld with fire instead of scissors.

Yeah. And it smells really bad. Then we ended up having another rule in the band: if you’re on stage, another person in the band can sneak up behind you and just set your hair on fire when you’re not looking. We did that to each other, and Lachlan would also set his own hair on fire and just let it go.

We were playing at the 9:30 Club in Washington, D.C. with the Dwarves. They were filming us and we were filming them. You see, they are a bit more confrontational and all that sort of shit, they try to get into a fight with the audience. I can’t remember if I set my hair on fire or if Lachlan did, and the audience was going: “Pubic hair! Pubic hair!” So I set my pubic hair on fire. When you set your pubic hair on fire, you don’t just pull everything out, you don’t wanna burn your dick off.

Didn’t you also have more confrontational shows, back in Australia?

Well, the first time we did Chicken Holder, I had that green outfit on I was telling you about, and I had a sword. There were these two goofy biker-type dudes and I was poking at them with the sword. They weren’t very tall, but they were causing a lot of trouble and I ended up… I think it was after we finished playing, I got one of them in headlock and I kept squeezing and said I wasn’t gonna stop until he agreed to leave, you know.

And then, another time, there was a skinhead down the front and I was patting him on the head like Benny Hill. Then, when I finished, I just went over to the side of the room and pulled my jeans and everything over the top of the outfit that I’d been wearing. And then he came up to me, he didn’t see me getting changed, and he goes: “Where is that singer of that band?! I’m gonna fucking kill him!” He didn’t even realize it was me.

[laughs] Ah, he was so full of anger he didn’t even recognize you.

Yeah, he was looking for a guy in green.

And then, when I was in Perth, I was doing Chicken Holder over there and Brett was playing the chicken. He goes: “I’m gonna upstage you tonight ‘cause I have a squirrel holder.”’ And he goes up with a squirrel which is smaller than a chicken and he had it on a drumstick: he was playing the chicken with a squirrel on there. And then the squirrel kind of flew off and I was squeezing it until the one half came out here and the other half down there. People didn’t wanna get it on them because it was gross and slimy.

And the chicken was like a chicken that you would cook at home, and it slipped down the mic stand, so the mic stand was covered in grease. One of the guys from the other band that was playing… you know what Jimi Hendrix was doing, sliding the guitar down the mic stand – he did that, so he had chicken sleaze all over the strings.

And then I went to get changed afterwards and came back from getting changed. Brett Ford was there with this guy and they were holding each other by the scruff of the neck and they were about to have a fight. He’s going to Brett: “I’m gonna stick that chicken right down your shirt!”, and getting pretty offensive, so I said: “That’s nothing. When I got the chicken, I’ll shove it down those pants.” Then people had to break it up because there was gonna be a fight. People don’t feel very tough when they got chicken grease down their pants.

So, I did all that, but I never had a manager. I had a booking agent, which is good, but when I was young, I thought, if your music is just good enough, everybody would find out about it. But that’s not the way it is. I wish from the fucking first time that I was playing I had a manager that fucking managed me, literally. I still wish that I had one now. ‘Cause every fucking band that made it really fucking properly had a manager.

Brett Ford, the original drummer of Lubricated Goat, died not so long ago.

Yeah, he died in the last couple of years.

He OD’d?

I don’t know, he was found in an alley.

Somebody cut his lips off.

Yeah, I heard about that, but I don’t even know who told me that. I really don’t know what happened.

What about the other guys from Lubricated Goat?

Everyone is alive – except for him. But the fact that he’s dead means that I can never do a proper reunion, ‘cause he really was the greatest drummer that I’ve ever played with. He used to overplay, he’d show off and play too much. At first, I used to think that I should stop him, but he was just so good at it, and eventually I thought, fuck it, I just should let him do it, ‘cause he had a skill that other people didn’t have. But sometimes I just felt like he should realize how good he was and then he wouldn’t need to quite push it so far.

There have been a lot of different reincarnations of the Lubricated Goat.

I never thought that I could bring Brett over here, because he’d get in too much trouble. He was terrible when he was drunk. He got drunk pretty easily and he acted like an idiot when he was drunk. He smoked a lot of pot and he was good when he smoked pot, but if he had a couple of drinks too many, he would, you know…

If he came over here, it would have been tough to keep him out of trouble.

© Sondra London

Can I ask you when hard drugs became an issue within the Lubricated Goat?

Ah well, it was mostly other people making an issue, you know. We were bored a lot of the time in Australia. Like, when you’ve done everything that you could possibly do, when you’ve got a new record out and you’ve been on tour and all that – and there’s nothing more you can do, you got this kind of downtime and you might end up doing drugs.

It was not as much of an issue as what people say. Like, I never had anyone in my band who was a criminal, other bands that I know have. I mean, there was one guy who used to do our sound and he would steal microphones from clubs and stuff like that, that was always a fucking big pain in the ass ‘cause the place wouldn’t pay you until you would give them back. And he would never admit that he had done it, you know, and at the end of the show the club’s going: “There’s a mic missing. We’re not paying you until we get it back.” And everyone would immediately just look at this guy, and he would go: “How can you say that I would do such a thing?!” And we’d be like: “Come on, just fucking give it back to them.” And then we’re sitting there, sitting there, sitting there, sitting there and go: “We fucking wanna get out of here! Give it back!” He’d still deny that he had done it, but then, eventually, he’d mysteriously find it.

That happened a few times. It was not just when he mixed us, it was also with other people. It was this particular guy, and it’s a shame, ‘cause he was a really good sound guy. If he hadn’t been like that, I would’ve probably brought him on tour to do sound – but he blew it. He was a guy who was trying to fucking find things that he could sell to buy drugs with. But I never had anyone in the band who would do that sort of shit. I never had any of my equipment stolen, touch wood. [knocks on table] But that guy that I just said, I’m sure that he came into my room one time and I had some money there from the gig we’d done a couple of days before and I think he stole it.

But no one in my band had ever died of a drug overdose and no one in my band has ever been to jail for doing drugs. And no one in my band has ever broken into a house and stolen anything. And no one in my band has ever stolen anything from me.

That’s a good summary.

Yeah, and no one in my band could really afford to fucking do enough drugs to do it every day. It’s expensive in Australia! I mean, when I first came over here to the USA, one of the things about it was it was cheap, and it was easy to get. So you can fucking get it and bang! That sort of fucking shit is taken care of in five minutes. In Australia, you’d have to wait around for hours for that fucking person to show up – and that’s if you had the money.

So, nobody had big fucking drug habits. You might get to the point where, you know, you felt that you had been doing too much and you’re feeling a little bit sick and you have to stop, but no one in my band was ever [Stu’s shivering and snivelling]: “I’m gonna die!” That’s fucking TV shit. Anybody that fucking gets into a situation where they need hundreds of dollars a day for drugs… maybe if you are on a big label you could do that, but on the kind of label we were on, you put out a record and you might get royalties once six months later, like $1,000 or something – and that’s it. That’s all the money you’re gonna get for the music. And then you do a gig here and there and each in the band might get $100.

Tom Hazelmyer [boss of Amphetamine Reptile Records] isn’t really a big fan of drug use in bands.

No, Hazelmyer definitely not! The first time we came over here, we didn’t have any money to do it and we didn’t know our way around. The second time we came over here, we did have some money and did know our way around in New York.

© Sondra London

In 1990, you toured Europe and there are still people who claim to have seen you in Vienna.

But I know we haven’t played there.

Because of that “incident” in Berlin?

Well, that “incident” in Berlin was: We were there and figured we should be able to get drugs. I think we just asked the wrong person. I’m pretty sure we could have gotten speed there because there was this place where the [Einstürzenden] Neubauten and that hung around all the time. But we went out to some bars, it was a Sunday night when we played, and we were hanging out with some people from Australia who were associated with Hugo Race & The True Spirit. He’s someone that people know did drugs. Anyway, we’re out in this bar and there are two girls, like girlfriends of those guys in the band, and Hugo was away, he was getting married, I think. But we asked this girl where we could get anything, and she took us to this part of town. And I don’t know if she was naïve doing it or if she’d never done it before and thought she could, but you don’t give money to somebody you don’t know. You don’t give somebody money when they say: “I’ll be right back.”

But she did.

The next thing we saw: that guy she gave money to was disappearing over a fence. So, we grabbed his legs and pulled him back. There was kind of a language barrier as well. We had him up against the wall and we had these cheap switchblades we bought in Hamburg. I think three of them went like this [the blade comes out at the front], straight up like a stiletto. And the other one came like this [sideways], they were all flip knives. So, three were stilettos and one was a switchblade. But they were really cheap, so if you hold it up against your body, it kind of comes out right against your body, it doesn’t stab you at all.

So, we were trying to rack in German, you know, and going like: “Jo Duden, ick bin ein schlecht Mutterficker!”, trying to say: “Yo dude, I’m the bad motherfucker!” We were literally saying it word for word, and it doesn’t quite work. We kept flipping these knives on each other.

I remember someone said before this tour that someone is gonna get stabbed on the tour, kind of jokingly. You know, I’d also had this dream. I was falling asleep when driving along. Our van wasn’t very comfortable compared to the AmRep van. The AmRep van was a beautiful Dodge van. The one in Europe had a u-haul on the back and the seats weren’t much more padded than this [touches hard bench in the Lit Lounge]. Anyway, I fell asleep, and had this dream: somebody had the top of their head chopped off, like an egg almost. And he was lying on the ground and going: “I’m still singing!” – and he was singing. Later on, I thought that was some sort of presentiment.

Anyway, we held the guy against the wall and had our stupid fucking switchblades, going: “Wo ist der Geld?!” The guy pulled out a knife behind his back and slashed right across Ren’s [Renestair EJ, member of Lubricated Goat who died just very shortly after this interview] head like this, he started chasing everybody around. We got him up against this car and fucking beat his knife off of him. Then we started punching him in the face and kneeing and stuff like this. So, we got his knife and we got our money back, we walked off the street like: “Oh, job well done”, you know.

But then, the guy comes running up the street with blood on his face – and he’s got another knife. The first knife was a fold-up knife, but the other knife he had looked like a kind of fish-fileting knife: it had a slim blade, he was holding it like this and was chasing me down the street.

He chose to go after you right away?

When Ren got slashed, one of the girls freaked out and ran off. Ren got stopped being involved or whatever, and I was being chased down the street. And then he chased me around a corner and there were these workmen out, ‘cause it was like seven o’clock on a Monday morning, and I was like: “Let me in, this guy’s chasing me with a knife!” And they let me hide behind this door, and that guy is pushing on the other side of that door. And then, the pushing stopped and then the workmen said it’s safe to come out – but when I come out, the guy was right in the alley next to the house.

The doctors later said that he’d wiped the knife in dogshit – and that’s when I think he did it. When I came out of there, suddenly he was right next to me and I was running again. And I ran around the corner and there was this building, and the front door was open. But when I wanted to go out through the back, it was all chained up. And then the guy figured out what to do when I was in and the front door goes like chrrrr [squeaking] and he came in. There was no way to go. I put my hands up and he just started slashing at me, like in fucking “Psycho” [makes sound of stabbing scene in Hitchcock’s “Psycho”]. He fucking slashed my face open and he was going for my jugular… you don’t see the scar in here, it’s too dark…

But I saw it outside…

my sideburn doesn’t grow properly there anymore, he went from here to there and just missed my jugular. And then he slashed me like this, and he was trying to stab me some more, he was sliding through my hair and stuff. I think now he was saying: “Wo ist der Geld?!”

What kind of guy was he?

Just some fucking dirty looking street dealer-guy. I think he was Turkish, could have been Armenian, who knows. I didn’t give him any money!

It’s odd that he chased you for so long.

I think I was the one who did the most hitting on him.

You know, I should have just fucking broken his legs over the gutter or something. I put up my hands to defend myself and he slashed one of my fingers. I’m lucky that he didn’t poke me in the eye, you know. Before that, I’d been drinking all the time, so I was in an awkward position. You try to self-defence, but it’s hard for you to come instinctively: grabbing the right arm with the knife, walking around, turning him around and getting the knife off him – I wish I’d been able to do that. But if you haven’t done that enough that it comes out naturally… So he got a good slash at me. Then he left, I think he thought he had killed me – he thought he had hit my jugular because he was so close to it.

And then when I came out, Ren was there and one girl was there too. I was just putting my hand on the wound and saying: “Oh my god, it’s so deep!” That’s what I kept saying. I put my dirty fingers inside there and I was all fucking bleeding. We got a cab to the hospital, I was bleeding all over the car. Ren wasn’t hurt as bad as me, and also, Ren didn’t get infected like me.

With dogshit.

Yeah. So, we went to the hospital and they stitched it up and then they said: “Get it checked out again in a week.” But the hospital called the cops, and they took me to the police station where I had to answer all the questions. And then they wanted me to look at the mugshot box to find the guy, but we had to keep on going. As far as we knew, we had to keep on going with the tour. But after I’d been at the police station for such a long time, when I got back to the Extasy Club, which was where we were in Berlin, we had to drive straight away. I was sitting in the van, trying to sleep. By the time we got to the next club, it hurt really for me to sing, so after trying to sing four or five songs, I had to stop.

Then I went to the hotel where we were staying at, but I didn’t have a shower or anything, by then I just laid down and slept, you know. And then when I woke up, we had to drive again, to Switzerland, and I couldn’t fucking swallow properly, I couldn’t breathe properly, I couldn’t eat. It felt like I was dying – and I was dying! My body was getting stiff.

And yet, we stopped to get to Dachau which was on the way. I walked around Dachau and I felt like I was a fucking inmate, not a tourist. I thought I was gonna drop dead any minute.

Then, when we got to the gig in Switzerland, I tried to carry in an amp. That was before cell phones, you know, our tour manager had been calling out the club: “I don’t know what’s going on with this band, you know, he’s dying or sick or whatever.” So as soon as we got there, they said: “You’ve to get to the hospital right now.” And as soon as they got me to the hospital, they just fucking knocked me out and gave me a tracheotomy straight away. Like this. [points to the scar on his throat]

Then I woke up like two weeks later.

What the fuck…

I was in intensive care for a long time. And then, when I came out, I had a tube all the way up my arm to my heart, and a tube all the way from the nose to my stomach. I thought they went in just this far in my arm and this far in my nose [indicates about three inches with his fingers], but when they pulled it out, I could feel the drag all the way, like chhhhhhhhrrrrrr all the way. It was like in “The Three Stooges”.

And I had a little periscope-shaped thing in my neck, it was white with a red cap. And when the cap wasn‘t on, if I coughed, I would spit through my neck.

And the good thing about that was, the time I was in a room with a bunch of other patients, I was so disgusting when I coughed, that they gave me my own room.

So those were your holidays in Switzerland.

Yeah. I had a fucking view of the big mountains out of my window and yet, I hadn’t even been on the ground of Switzerland for more than an hour.

How long did you stay in hospital?

A month. I had that drip up my nose and a bag on a stand so I could walk around. I looked like Jesus.

And your bandmates were already back home?

Yeah, they couldn’t stay there. The good thing was, I was in that town called Fribourg in Switzerland, and that band The Young Gods lived there. We knew them, and so luckily, they would come and visit me and stuff. When I came out, I stayed with them, two guys of the band lived together. It’s weird, The Young Gods were all from different parts of Switzerland: one was from the German speaking part, one was from the French speaking part and one was from the Italian speaking part – so when they got together, they spoke English.

Good for you!

Yeah. So, Franz, the singer, and his girlfriend’s name was Helen, when I got out, I stayed at their house. Helen drove me around the Alps and stuff and you know, that night, I was drinking and smoking hash and doing coke – making up for the lost time.

Cop Shoot Cop and The Flaming Lips were playing at the same place where we were meant to play the night when I went to the hospital. And so that’s when I met Cop Shoot Cop, got their address back in New York and, you know, Jack Natz is still one of my best friends to this day.

So that’s probably a good place to end right now.

So what were the Lubricated Goat guys doing at Sondra London’s place? She told me: “I went to see them live but I don't recall why exactly I went there. Some zine connexxx, an intro from some underworld type. I enjoyed the show. Not so much the music, but as spectacle, theatre of the real, the aesthetic of ugliness. And they said they didn't have anywhere to stay so I let them come back and crash in my condo. There was a lot of drinking and hilarity. They stuffed the drummer into the works of the fold-out sofa and he just stayed there.

The next morning, they headed out and were 100 miles away when they realized they had left their video camera and their cash at my place – so they had to come back. They had sorted the cash and there it sat in nice little stacks waiting for them to remember it.”

© Sondra London


PS: If you don’t want it to end here and can read German, check this little article from 2008 about meeting Stu Spasm in one of his regulars, Milano’s Bar – ending up in the Mars Bar – prost!