AT 30th Anniversary - Q&A with Th' Inbred
Though a relative newcomer to the Alternative Tentacles fold, Th' Inbred were of an initial generation that was directly influenced by the first wave of punk. Based in West Virginia through the mid '80s, we've compiled the band's two albums and singles for the collection "Legacy of Fertility." Singer Bobb Cotter (aka @rt reco) and drummer Billy Atwell indulged our questioning. "Legacy of Fertility" and its two vinyl volumes hits stores October 6th.
What is your first memory of Alternative Tentacles? What were you doing in 1979?.
Bobb Cotter: I was still in the process of dropping out of college. My first memory of AT is walking into a 7-11 and hearing "Too Drunk to Fuck" blasting out of a future roommate's boombox. Had to wait a couple more years before it made it to Morgantown, West Virginia, where I was living at the time.
Billy Atwell: In 1979 I was in junior high still. The action was low-key and harmless. One day I took to running over disco records with my other punk rock skater buddies during lunch hour in front of the student body. We started requesting Ramones and Devo at school dances to have pogo fits. I was busy getting my ass kicked by the public school band program, an experience I would ironically draw on in hardcore bands and allow me to sustain a career as a composer and musician years later. I lived in Morgantown, WV and everything revolved around sports events at the University. Me and my few closest friends were like time bombs waiting for hardcore to happen. We also formed bands and jammed in our parent's garages.
It was a defining moment in the fall of '81. Mike McCuskey came up to me in gym class, handed me his Sony cassette Walkman and hit play. It was the Bad Brains "Pay To Cum" and the A side of "Let Them Eat Jellybeans". Rallying around 1977 became a distant memory the second Paul Miller's drums kicked in, Darryl Jennifer's percussive bass dropped like thunder and HR's amphetimine rant of PMA logic came screaming...so much so I had to ask Mike if he forgot to change the speed setting on the turntable when he made the tape. "Is this on 45???!!!" He smiled as if saying, "I thought the same thing" and shook his head slowly and deliberately back and forth. Kinda like he just became privy to a revolution he never thought possible was actually happening and we had the guerilla ammo in the audio at hand. Then came copies of the MRR comp "Not So Quiet On The Western Front" and the DK's "In God We Trust, Inc.". On all accounts everything in my value system was about to become assessed in a way that shocked me into confirming my own disenfranchisement with what seemed to be the American standard in 1981.
Embracing hardcore became a fast and greasy incline from September to December. I got my first defiant haircut from the barber of my choice and could no longer hide my code. That totally bummed my Mom out and the community at my local Methodist church. Low income, denim and flannel sons from the pike who normally rocked on AC/DC were not into my brand of freak flag but were also a little too terrified to engage at close range to really confront their concerns. From the artwork to the lyrics of those 3 AT releases "it was on!" as they say and my life changed forever. I began questioning authority though a little too pointedly and at times misguidedly (typical high school kid) but found years later that there were certain things associated with the political extremety of the DK's and first wave of US h ardcore on the "Jellybeans" comp that became a useful ally lacking in many of my peers. The straight and narrow, the tried and true, the conventional and typical left many of them scratching their heads. For many the itch is still there. I hate to say "sheep" but...
In a strange way the reverberation of the first wave of US hardcore ties in with recent interest in samurai literature, the complete self-sacrifice for completion of the mission with absolute resolution. Was there Zen in stagediving? Intense as that is my goal in reading that literature was to find a temperament. The savagery I could call up on tap more often than not verbally and not raise a finger to the agitator. Call me stubborn but the logic of "if you don't stand for something you'll fall for anything" was seared to my brain permanently in old school HC lyrical mantras. The objective through hardcore (at least for me) became that of determining what it was you stood for and finding ways to get along with the rest of the sheep. Or not. The first MDC release and the Butthole Surfers first two AT releases just kept throwing gasoline on the fire of my newfound liberation. I may never have said this but...gosh!...THANK YOU, AT!
What is your favorite Alternative Tentacles band? Favorite release?
Billy Atwell: The DK's were tops, easily, but NoMeansNo, MDC, DOA, Butthole Surfers, as well as the Jellybeans and 1st MRR comp all got heavy rotation.
Bobb Cotter: The Dead who? BGK, Butthole Surfers and Zolar X! JONESTOWN ALOHA by BGK.
When did Jello ask you to put out a record on Alternative Tentacles?
Bobb Cotter: AT got in touch with us through Welly, a British anarchist/artist/musician who did the inside graphics to the CD booklet, and it just went from there. Jello told our bassist Duff a few years before that that he regretted not signing us to AT 'back in the day', so I guess that everybody just thought it was about time.
Billy Atwell: I could be wrong in my recollection but around the time that Grand Theft Audio had made a pretty solid commitment to do the anthology we got an inquiry from AT to put out the same release. On behalf of the band I had been talking to GTA and felt we were pretty far upstream with dialogue and a relationship and that to just cut it off at the point was not a very personable thing to do. Life got in the way on a number of levels and GTA eventually passed on the release in April of 2008. We then figured we'd just put it out ourselves through CD Baby (with WAY less artwork) and leave it at that. Welly, the artist who did the incredible layout and liner notes for the CD and vinyl releases (who was, BTW, doing the layout all along for the pending GTA release) thought to reach out to AT just to see what they'd say. Jello called me a few weeks later and the rest is history. None of us ever really thought this would materialize. It's as if we figured it was all too good to be true, Murphy's Law (the concept, not the band) would take over and that'd be that. Fortunately AT's follow through was all they said it would be and now we have these wonderful new releases with all the eye candy artwork, lyrics and editorial a once Inbred fan could want and maybe a few new ones.
How has being on the label made your life different?
Bobb Cotter: Well, it actually might have been different if we had been on AT 'back in the day', but since our anthology is coming out 20 years after the band broke up, I'd honestly have to say none at all - so far. But it's a little different now, simply having to do things like this and having "Legacy of Fertility" out; all sorts of people and memories coming out of the woodwork... as I said, we're all just genuinely amazed and honored that people remember us and consider us so well, or say we influenced their lives in some way.
Billy Atwell: I haven't fully figured that out yet. It's not like we expect to get college money together for our kids from the release but likely without the AT releases we'd be where we were on the hardcore totem pole depending on who you talked to. I found it curious that while I was actively maintaining a myspace page I'd get all sorts of emails from people in remote parts of the world talking about how they enjoyed the band and was there going to ever be a CD of the stuff. Questions about some sort of reunion are already coming in but I don't really see that happening. Not for anything interpersonal but because of where some of our personal lives are with careers and family.
Where do you see yourself in 2039?
Bobb Cotter: In Pittsburgh.
Billy Atwell: 73 years old and retired in Santorini, Greece. I intend to die watching repeated viewings of the greatest sunset anywhere next to El Paso's.
If anyone is interested I am still releasing my own material and involved with music production and recording (should there be interest in hiring me as a producer/collaborator...visit www.billyatwell.com). I'm also up for studio session gigs and small tours as a drummer or whatever. In the New York City/New Jersey area I am available for master class style drum lessons without the commitment or regiment of weekly lessons. Note too that I am in the last few weeks of school but should be a certified massage therapist by the time this is published. In addition to performing on-site massage in the comfort of your own home and likely a wellness center in Hoboken, NJ, I will also be working on volumes of music for relaxation and wellness.
Kinda like th' Inbred did only much, much slower...