Roadworn and weary

The Supersuckers get in the van to prove they're the greatest rock-and-roll band in the world

After all, if a group is a real rock-and-roll band, they're going to fall naturally somewhere outside of the mainstream. "Right," notes Spaghetti, "because that's what real rock and roll is."

Spaghetti confesses that the music that first "turned my head as a kid was new wave -- Blondie and The Knack. They were sort of edgy, but they were brushed up enough for a kid to like," he explains. "That's what made me decide to play music. Then, later on, I got into some pretty crappy metal, just due to my environment, which was growing up in Tucson, Arizona, on the east side of town, where all the metal heads lived. Then The Ramones came into my life, and that just changed me for the good forever. So then it was all Motörhead, Ramones, and AC/DC."

The Supersuckers all hail from Tucson and formed the band -- originally named The Black Supersuckers -- following high school graduation, "just for the sake of cranking out simple music and having a good time," Spaghetti explains. They moved to Seattle in 1989, totally unaware they were relocating to ground zero of the last big rock music movement of the 20th century.

After a stint on Interscope Records and a stab at country, The Supersuckers are once again independently preaching the gospel about the evil powers of rock and roll.
After a stint on Interscope Records and a stab at country, The Supersuckers are once again independently preaching the gospel about the evil powers of rock and roll.

"We had a friend who had moved up there, and I had kept in touch with him. And he said, 'Hey, if you're bored of living down there, and there's only one bar to play down there, why don't you come on up here? There's three or four bars you can play at.' So basically, just on my friend's recommendation, we moved up there, and it was great. It turned out to be a really good idea. We had no idea that we were moving into Rock City, U.S.A., because it hadn't really happened yet. I definitely wasn't expecting that one. I thought we'd get up there and be the best damn band in town. Then we got there, and saw there were a lot of good bands."

But with typical outsider's pluck, The Supersuckers didn't jump on the grunge bandwagon. "The big cash cow hasn't come our way, but quality has been the idea," Spaghetti says. "And we've made good records that we've been proud of, and hopefully we will continue raising the bar with each record." They've also ended up outlasting many of their grunge-rock contemporaries who also recorded for Sub Pop. "Yeah, most of them. That feels good as well, to not only survive but thrive at the level at which we do." I offer Spaghetti my theory that the best rock-and-roll bands perhaps need to operate at a lower level on the radar screen, and in opposition to the star-making system. He agrees. "It creates a hunger and appetite to prove yourself over and over again," he says.

Since these are days of rampant pop conformity and success-driven careerism in the musical world, Spaghetti feels that, in the record industry, "everyone is maybe a little bit scared of real rock-and-roll bands right now. If you don't have a rap-metal thing going on, they don't think they can sell it after all the big mergers and drops and stuff like that." But the experience on a major label hasn't totally soured the Supersuckers. So what if they didn't fit in during the late '90s? Perhaps they will at another time. "I think after a while, after things settle down a bit, people will be ready to take a risk on a rock-and-roll band again. It seems like whenever people are pronouncing rock and roll dead and part of the past, that's when it's really good. If you just scratch below the surface a little bit, you'll find a lot of bands like us."

I ask him who those peers might be, and he's ready to tout some faves out there, bubbling under the current pop-infected chart scene just like The Supersuckers. "Rocket From The Crypt, Zeke, Zen Guerilla, and Electric Frankenstein -- lots of great, gritty rock-and-roll bands. The Lazy Cowgirls have been doing it for years, decades even. They're bands that do roughly the same sort of thing as we do, only their own interpretations thereof. And do it on their terms. And no, they're not on the charts or on TV." Just like back in the days when there was no MTV.

While The Supersuckers may portray themselves as part of the permanent opposition, Spaghetti isn't opposed to some of the benefits that might come with breaking big. "Of course, it would make my life really comfortable," he says, "but I would be able to spread the good word about other good bands out there and influence people where music can be heard."

And he is aware of the traps that come with breaking big: "It seems like with every band that gets real famous, they get obsessed with their own fame and just want to perpetuate their own success more and more." Spaghetti seems to be aiming for a big time that would help the band get better at what they do and not take them too far from the street.

Ultimately, for The Supersuckers, it all comes right back to the true evil power of rock and roll -- being independently minded. "You do what you are going to do," concludes Spaghetti, "regardless of what people are going to think about it."

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