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A conversation with Wammo


The solo Spanker on his new record, rock 'n' roll, and how a certain rock star ripped him off.

Dig Wammo. He's one subversive, pot-smoking, beat poet, trouble-makin' S.O.B. He's a rocker, a roller. Wammo is a man for our time. From the arguments he starts with strangers in bars, to the poetry he slams, to the incredible music he makes with the Austin, Texas-based The Asylum Street Spankers, Wammo leaves no turn un-stoned.

            It's with The Spankers' no amps, no mics, no frills approach to classic Americana roots-jazz that Wammo wreaks his lyrical insanity and makes poignant observations on topics such as the war on drugs, the joys of sleeping in the wet spot, and his scrotum.

            During the Spankers' last visit to town, back in November, they shocked and awed the crowd at Milestones, many of whom didn't know what to expect. The band entreated all the musically rebellious freaks there to get down, hoist a pint skyward, and sing along. Because of the Spankers' complete lack of amplification, Wammo suggested several times that folks "just shut the hell up."

            After the show, some of the Spankers, apparently enemies of this activity we call "sleep," drank Monty's Korner out of top-shelf scotch. As their intoxication hit epic proportions in the wee wee hours, they taught several eager Rochester rockers how to read minds, baffle the Philistines, and amaze their friends.

            The Asylum Street Spankers will be back in town for a show on April 8. Behold. Marvel. Lock up everything.

            A fresh Spankers platter is on the way. Wammo's got a new solo album brewing, as well. And he's got an ax to grind.

            We talked on the phone recently. We laughed, we cried, we exchanged war stories, we name-called, and, ultimately, decided to change a few of those names --- them lawsuits is a bitch.

City: Wammo!

            Wammo: What's up, biznitch?

City: You're wrapping up your new solo record. What's it called?

            Wammo: I'm not gonna say. It's so cool, someone'll steal it.

            City: Why? Has someone stolen ideas from you before?

            Wammo: Well, I went backstage at a show in Austin, where a guy fronting his own band, who came to fame by playing drums in a very famous grunge band we'll call "Enlightenment," was playing. He's now fronting this band I really like --- let's just call them "Friendly Finger." We were talking back stage, and I gave him a CD-R of my album, Faster Than The Speed Of Suck. He asked me about it, and I explained the theme: two people traveling across America, the tape player's jammed, so they have to listen to the radio, and basically it's a spoof on how commercial radio in America sucks.

            And he said, "Wow, what a great idea for a record."

            So, two years later, sure enough, another band, let's call them, oh let's see, "Kings Of The Paleolithic Age," put out a record with the exact same theme, right down to the same sound effects I used on mine: the car starting up, the scrolling down the radio and catching static and snippets of radio stations. Guess who was playing drums on that record, but that very same rock star I initially gave the album to.

            City: How'd that make you feel?

            Wammo: First, I felt a little complimented that he would steal from me. But [later] I felt pretty betrayed and extremely disappointed in somebody whose music I really dig.

            City: Are you going to respond artistically?

            Wammo: Write a song about it? Fuck that. I'm just gonna keep putting out original stuff that I dig and let the chips fall where they may.

            City: But you're covering your ass in the meantime with this new record.

            Wammo: Somebody might already have a record in the can and like my title. The only thing you can rip off from this record is the title. It's just a rock 'n' roll record, man.

            City: So who are you ripping off with this record?

            Wammo: Musically, the Beatles, AC/DC, The Stones, X, and Black Sabbath. Yeah, this is a full-out rock record. I've already made Tommy. It's time for Who's Next. You know what Pablo Picasso said, he said, "amateurs borrow, professionals steal."

            City: What's new with the Spankers?

            Wammo: We have a new single out on CD called "Stinkin'" [backed with] "Goodbye Cousin Early." It'll be available on vinyl, too. We just finished recording a record live to two-track on a bunch of old, old recording stuff we'd been dickin' around with. We rented an old empty church and recorded it in three days.

            City: A church, huh? Any religious or gospel tunes?

            Wammo: Nooooooooooooo.

            I really dig the line-up we have right now. We're working on a bunch of new stuff. We have some new songs and at least one new cover that's gonna blow people away.

Come watch Wammo exhilarate, pontificate, titillate, rage, croon, and swoon with the sensational Asylum Street Spankers, in all their ragged, Tin Pan Alley glory, on Tuesday, April 8, at Milestones, 170 East Avenue, at 8 p.m. Tix: $12-$15. 325-6490.