By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
By Scott Reitz
Since the Toadies' major-label debut Rubberneck was released, Barry Switzer began his first season as the Dallas Cowboys' head coach, won a Super Bowl, then got replaced by Chan Gailey. O.J. Simpson has been found innocent and guilty of killing his old lady. Bill Clinton has been re-elected, only to now await impeachment proceedings. The federal courthouse in Oklahoma City was destroyed by Timothy McVeigh, and the Unabomber was caught. And Princess Diana, Sonny Bono, Mother Teresa, Jimmy Stewart, Frank Sinatra, Phil Hartman, and Pol Pot are all dead.
It has been a very long time.
Guitarist Clark Vogeler hears about how long it has been "at least 10 times a day," he says, his voice full of amused exasperation. It has been so long since Rubberneck's release that frontman Todd Lewis is often asked, "Like, did you guys break up?" He answers no, but fewer people believe him. That question has lingered so long in the air, it almost doesn't exist anymore; make the people wait long enough for you, and they stop caring altogether.
So where in the hell is the new Toadies record? "Seriously," says Vogeler, who joined the band two years ago. "I get asked that all the time. It's kind of annoying."
But it's the inevitable query placed to any band that's not Boston or Hole, especially when more than four years have passed since the last album was released. Four years is a lifetime ago in pop music--long enough for the public to make a band platinum, and long enough for them to forget your name. And do not think the band doesn't know this. Lewis, when speaking of the delays, very often uses the word "frustrated"; he also mentions that the idea of playing any more shows without a new record to support is "just fucking depressing."
What makes it worse is that the second record is not even finished. It does not have a name. It does not have a release date. Likely, it will be in stores in the spring of 1999. But it was due out in the summer of 1998. Do not hold your breath. Even Lewis says, "I'll believe it when I see it."
The reasons for the holdup are multiple, and Lewis is happy (well...) to explain them--if only to get people off his back about the subject. He doesn't have time to answer the question anymore; he is too busy trying to finish the damned record, so he and his bandmates can get on the road and start playing new songs instead of the same ol' old ones, many of which date back seven years and at least three guitarists ago.
To begin with, Rubberneck may well have been released in August 1994--more than a year after it was recorded--but it did not begin to receive radio airplay or sell until almost a year after it hit stores. Initially, Interscope promoted the record with so little enthusiasm, you would have never even known the disc was out, even if you worked for the label; after all, the Interscope folks had Marilyn Manson, Bush, and Nine Inch Nails to foist on the public. By Christmas 1994, the band members were contemplating getting day jobs; Interscope had told the Toadies that perhaps it was time to record the second album and hope it would stick to the wall, because clearly Rubberneck wasn't going anywhere.
Yet by December 1995, the record had been certified gold by the Recording Industry Association of America, selling more than 500,000 copies--thanks, in large part, to a Florida radio station that began playing "Possum Kingdom" long after Interscope left the album for dead. By December 1996, Rubberneck had sold more than a million copies, and the band was still on the road playing "Mister Love," "Possum Kingdom," "I Come From the Water," and so many other songs that had been part of the set list since damned near the beginning of the decade. "And we never write on tour," Lewis says. "It takes a lot of time, and it's too hard to concentrate." Also in '96, guitarist Darrel Herbert was ousted and replaced by ex-Funlander Vogeler.
The band began writing and demoing new material throughout most of last year and into January 1998; Lewis estimates that they went into the studio and recorded about 20 songs, which were shipped off to Interscope for the label's approval. In January, Lewis, Vogeler, bassist Lisa Umbarger, and drummer Mark Reznicek went down to Austin to record 15 new songs with Butthole Surfers guitarist Paul Leary acting as producer. (Leary had been behind the boards for most of the band's post-Rubberneck material, including the "Santacide" CD single and songs included on soundtracks for The Crow: City of Angels, The Cable Guy, and Escape from L.A.) By March, the record was completed.
But not really.
Because the album was actually finished later than scheduled, Andy Wallace (who had mixed Rubberneck, in addition to Nirvana's Nevermind) wasn't available to put the finishing touches on the disc before it was presented to Interscope. As a result, the Toadies ran into some unspecified "red-tape bullshit," as Lewis puts it, and ended up presenting the label with a rough version of the album--unmixed, unmastered, unsequenced.