DFW Music News

Q&A: The Meatmen's Tesco Vee Talks Offensive Humor, Old-School Punk and Life After It.

There wasn't a more offensive punk band in the early '80s than The Meatmen. Even in a market cluttered by hardcore bands popping up in droves in Los Angeles and Washington, D.C., the Lansing, Michigan, band, led by Tesco Vee (a third grade teacher born Robert Vermeulen), distinguished itself with its irreverent -- some would say sick -- sense of humor.

It helped, probably, that the band had a megaphone of sort sot spread the word: In 1979, before the band really got rolling, Vee helped co-found the Touch and Go record label and magazine. And, soon after, The Meatmen began their assault on the world.

Beginning with 1983's We're The Meatmen...and You Suck, Vee and his band pushed the boundaries of offensiveness like no other act before or since. Unfortunately, the original line-up fell apart in 1996. But Vee started recruiting new members, and a new Meatmen began touring in 2009.

On Sunday night at the Double Wide, Vee will bring the latest incarnation of his band to Dallas. In anticipation of that performance -- and his Sunday afternoon appearance at Good Records to sign copies of his recently released Touch and Go retrospective book -- we caught up with Vee to chat about his punk rock legacy. Check it our after the jump.

Is there a new Meatmen album in the works?
No. I mean there is a greatest hits double-album that a guy in Ireland wants to do, but there is nothing in the can. We're just out doing our thing, plumbing the depths of our legacy out on the road again.

You don't sound too enthused at the prospect of that.
No, I am totally excited about it. This current line-up is firing on all cylinders. This could be the best version ever, and that's saying a lot. I'll let the people in the crowd be the judge. But we're playing 25 cities in 25 days, and that's a marathon for an old man. Some people say that I'm going to keel over and have the big one. I guess they would all say I died doing what I love.

Why did you decide to tour with an entirely new line-up?
I've always operated that way. Ever since the beginning, it's always been me. I am The Meatmen, with a supporting cast. I do it for a while. It's like a hobby. It's not like a full-time vocation. When I get weary of it, I give it up. I thought I was done for good the last time. I was off for 12 years, and my son, who was 18 at the time, lit a fire under me again. I did a quick 30-minute set with the guys in Negative Approach back in 2007. It felt so fun. And now, I am back at it again.

What were you doing during those 12 years?
Just doing my thing. I collect old toys. I work at the straight job of a family man and a normal dude. I have this alter ego, and his name is Tesco Vee, and periodically he must come back and stick an ice pick in the brain of the politically correct. I like to shake people up and show them how old-school punk rock is done.

Many publications have said that The Meatmen were the most offensive band ever. Did you start out intending things to be that way?
Absolutely. I've always made a concerted effort to be funny. My favorite bands have always been The Fugs and Frank Zappa -- stuff with a sense of humor to it. So I started a punk rock band with a tongue in cheek sense of humor. I wanted to mess with people and push the envelope, to be as offensive as I can, blatantly and overtly. A song like "Crippled Children Suck" -- that was definitely a knee-jerk just trying to do the most offensive thing I could. I wanted our record to stand out from the others on the shelf. That song is still a part of our set today.

Besides that song, you've also written "Camel Jockeys Suck" and "French People Suck." Who is next to suck?
That's the suck trilogy. We could go on and on and on, but we stick to the tried and true. It takes all of about two minutes and change to do all three. We do a couple of set changes as well when I throw offensive banners into the crowd. We give out a lot of free stuff because I feel if people pay ten bucks to see a band, they should get something in return.

Did you ever get negative feedback about the "humor" in your songs?
Yes, but not as much as I would have hoped. The kids nowadays are such emo pussies and they are easily offended and our music still gets under their skin and that's cool. It's kind of a generational thing, too as we see a lot of younger kids out at our shows. It's resonating with the young folks, which is cool. We're not just playing to the aging hipsters. We are an acquired taste. If you get it, you get it.

Do you keep in touch with guys like Ian MacKaye from Minor Threat or Henry Rollins?
Ian was nice enough to do an interview with me for the magazine. I had lost touch with him. The guy has a photographic memory. He remembers everything from that time. He really understands how the whole punk rock scene went down. He can connect the dots. There was so much going on. There were so many independent labels and bands. There would be 50 or a 100 copies of a record, and somehow you got your hands on one. For the anniversary of the Touch and Go magazine, we all got together. Henry Rollins and Keith Morris of the Circle Jerks were there. They wrote forewords for the book. The book [which collects the entire anthology of the magazine] came out in June, and we've already had three pressings. I am tickled to death about that.

Are you going to write more books?
I've thought about it. People are always after me to write. That's what I do. I've never thought about writing a novel or anything like that. I definitely think I have more writing inside me.

Do you keep up with the many people who have been in The Meatmen in the past?
No. Not at all. It's kind of weird. They say that being in a band is like having four girlfriends at the same time. I am on good terms with a few of the guys who were in the band in the '90s. But, for the most part, I've lost touch with all of them.

The Meatmen perform Sunday night at The Double Wide. At 4 o'clock that afternoon, Tesco Vee will sign copies of Touch and Go: The Complete Hardcore Punk Zine '79-'83 at Good Records.

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Darryl Smyers
Contact: Darryl Smyers