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THE LOCUST ABORTION TECHNICIAN: Q&A W/ Gibby Haynes, Frontman Of The Butthole Surfers

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Valania AvatarBY JONATHAN VALANIA Saints be praised! Butthole Surfers frontman/madman Gibby Haynes will be performing Surfer classics at Connie’s Ric Rac on Friday and Saturday, backed by the kids of the Paul Green Rock Academy — and we are totally there for it. To help get the word out, we got Gibby on the horn for a wide ranging, no-holes barred interview. If you are new to the Gibby/Surfers’ weird-ass corner of the universe, I suggest you read my beginner’s guide Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About The Motherf*cking Butthole Surfers But Weren’t Sure It Was Even Legal To Ask before digging in.

One more thing before we get started. We first did this interview last Friday. Saturday I realized it didn’t record for reasons still unclear. Sunday I sheepishly texted Gibby to tell him tragedy had struck but I was happy to do it all over again — “you know, for the kids” — though I would totally understand if he didn’t want to and I apologized for wasting his time. Gibby texted back: “Call me.” Lord knows Gibby Haynes is not a role model, but he is a gentleman and a scholar. Long may he weird.

DISCUSSED: Fatherhood, penis reconstruction surgery, LSD, how to burn down the Chesnut Cabaret without really trying, the JFK Gibby_School_of_Rockassassination, growing up with a dad named Mr. Peppermint who was in Dealey Plaza when JFK was assassinated, his forthcoming Young Adult Lit novel Me And Mr. Cigar, living with Timothy Leary, the University of Texas Tower Massacre in 1966, the curse words of children, Woody Allen, the Great White Fire, getting thrown out of the Viper Club for heckling Johnny Cash, the future of the Butthole Surfers, the death of the flaming cymbal, the meaning of regret and why playing Butthole Surfers songs with the kids from Paul Green Academy Of Rock is such a gas, gas, gas.

PHAWKER: I actually met you in the late ’80s in the lobby of the now-defunct New York City night club The World where the Butthole Surfers were supposed to play with Spacemen 3, but they were denied work visas because someone had a drug charge or something like that and didn’t play. That is one of the great regrets of my life — that that dream show never happened.

GIBBY HAYNES: Oh, we were supposed to play with Spacemen 3? What a drag.

PHAWKER: Yeah, you don’t remember that?

GIBBY HAYNES: No.

PHAWKER: Oh my god, that was going to be the greatest fucking show on Earth! But anyway, I remember telling you – you had asked where I was from – and I said Allentown, Pennsylvania. And you were like, “Allentown? Didn’t something really bad happen there?”

GIBBY HAYNES: [laughing] I did, uh did it? I don’t know.

PHAWKER: Yes, yes lots of bad things. Lots of bad things happen everywhere. I only mention this because I use that as my go-to ice breaker line when I meet someone from somewhere else and it’s very effective. I just wanted to say ‘thank you’ for that.

GIBBY HAYNES: Right on.

PHAWKER: So you’re living in Brooklyn these days, correct?

GIBBY HAYNES: Yes I am.

PHAWKER: Okay, what is a typical day in the life of Gibby Haynes these days?

GIBBY HAYNES: Oh, well, I wake up. If it’s during the school year, I make lunch for my kid before I take him to school — basically my life revolves around my son nowadays. He’s really my family.

PHAWKER: His name is Satchel?

GIBBY HAYNES: Satchel, indeed. He’s named after – people always say the same thing, “Was he named after GibbySatchel Paige?” And I say, “No, he was named after Satchel Bernstein, Satchel Paige’s manager.” And a lot of times, they go, “Really?” And I go, “No.”

PHAWKER: How old is he?

GIBBY HAYNES: He is nine. And the interesting thing is that Ronan Farrow’s original name was Satchel Allen, but he hated his dad so much that I guess he eventually decided to change his name, and we found that out – we found out that Woody named his son Satchel after we named our kid Satchel. And then we found out that he named his other son Moses. So we named our son after two of Woody Allen’s sons names, without knowing that we did it.

PHAWKER: Yeah that’s some kind of weird cosmic joke the universe is playing on somebody.

GIBBY HAYNES: [laughing] I wonder who.

PHAWKER: Last time we talked you were telling me at the time that kids these days know every curse word in the book.

GIBBY HAYNES: Yeah, they do.

PHAWKER: You told me a story about one of your son Satchel’s friends who was complaining about a mutual friend saying that if his father wasn’t standing there — meaning you — he’d tell Satchel exactly what he thought of mutual friend. You encouraged him to speak freely and he said?

GIBBY HAYNES: ‘He’s a motherfucking asshole!’ or something to that effect [laughing]. He definitely said ‘motherfucker,’ which is like the pinnacle of like – I mean they don’t know what fucking is, but they know that ‘motherfucker’ is a bad word. Like they think to say “Oh, fuck,” but they don’t know what sex is. A lot of them hopefully don’t. But with the Internet, I’m sure they do. You know, I don’t think he’d tell me if he’d seen…he might’ve, well I found, well I’m not gonna say it. One time I had looked at my phone, and it had been googled, “sex in a cab.”

PHAWKER: [laughing] How do parents these days deal with the Internet and small children? I’m curious, what policies, if any, do you guys have?

GIBBY HAYNES: Oh we pretty much let him go at it. We don’t filter anything, and I’m not sure if that’s a good policy or not, but fuck, he’s gonna find out anyway. I don’t know what would be the most horrible thing that could happen. Like, what would he see…I mean it would be pornography or something. He might find a text that Paul Green sent me, which might be devastating to his development.

PHAWKER: [laughing] He could see a penis reconstruction film at a Butthole Surfers concert on YouTube.

GIBBY HAYNES: Yeah, there’s some stuff of me on there too. He could find out the truth about his dad, wouldn’t that be horrible?

PHAWKER: While we’re on the subject of penis reconstruction films, I asked you about this last time, could you just explain what that film that was almost always projected on the band at every Butthole Surfers shows back in the ‘80’s and early ‘90’s – some kind of penis surgery.

GIBBY HAYNES: Okay, yeah I’ll tell you how it happened. It’s really gross, I didn’t tell you about this part last time. But the testicular injury that he got was what they call a ‘de-sheathing.’Gibby-Haynes-Third-Man-single

PHAWKER: Sounds ouch-y.

GIBBY HAYNES: Which, you can imagine, means his skin got peeled off his weenie. But he was a farmer. Hopefully he still is a farmer. Tractors have the ability to do many things via a rotating U-joint at the rear of the tractor. I don’t know if all tractors have this attachment on them, but it’s just a rotating U-joint that can be used to drive a number of pieces of machinery that the tractor is hauling. And this particular device the farmer had, was long, and he chose the shortcut, which was instead of walking to the rear and around to the other side of the machinery – he chose to straddle the U-joint. And the bottom part of the crotch of his dungarees got caught in the U-joint, and just spun around in there. And I’m sure it spun and caught his weenie in there, and just kind of pulled and tore off his jeans. I didn’t see it, but I can imagine it just tore a big hole out of the bottom of his jeans that just left his bloody stump there. I bet it was just horrific. And not only that, but that was pre-cellphone. That was well before “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up.” So he probably took his shirt and stuck it in his crotch and got on his tractor and hauled ass across town.

PHAWKER: And what is the origin of that film? How did you come across it, and when was it made?

GIBBY HAYNES: It looked to be sometime from – it was color 16 MM – and it was difficult to tell, it looked like it was probably made in the early ‘60’s. And there was a film library at the University of Texas, that had just a huge directory of films of all sorts, just anything you could imagine. I would go into the film library and bring titles back to the band, and say, “Think we oughta drop a buck on this one?” You couldn’t preview them. There were some losers. There were some that were too mean to show. I don’t know why we thought it’d be funny, but it was an instructional film about toilet training down syndrome kid, and we never showed that one. The title of it did not give that much away. It had sort of an interesting title, but I can’t remember what it was.

PHAWKER: Well, I’m somewhat surprised to hear that there was a line even the Butthole Surfers wouldn’t cross.

GIBBY HAYNES: Well we went for weird, but we didn’t go for cruel. I don’t know, my dad was a children’s Mr. Pepperminttelevision entertainer that most people might know from Dallas, Texas named Mr. Peppermint. And he would go out and do shows, sometimes for money or for private parties, like birthday parties for rich kids whose parents were like “Wow I wonder if Jerry Haynes will come out?” But I remember the family called them personal appearances. He would say “Oh, I can’t I’ve got a personal appearance.” And he would take me out on them. He took me to several of them for the Muscular Dystrophy Association and the Buckner Orphanage Home, and I would go with him and hang out with the kids that lived in this orphanage home in Dallas. And it was this horrifying place, probably built in the ‘30s, with all of these dorms for homeless kids. He did a lot of stuff with Dan’s kids and, in fact, just recently, a friend of mine sent me a photograph that his sister found of my dad performing at his birthday party. His parents probably had some dough, and got my dad to perform. He was probably five or six, it looked like, maybe seven. The picture showed my dad playing guitar with a young Bobby Beeman, and a bunch of other kids sitting around watching my dad perform. And the funny thing is that Bobby Beeman played in a band from Dallas, later on, called The Stick Men with Ray Guns. Have you ever heard of them?

PHAWKER: I have, yes, I have.

GIBBY HAYNES: The Stick Men with Ray Guns, I don’t know what it was about Texas. But to have a state in which the Stick Men and the Butthole Surfers and the Dicks in the same state, was pretty fucking cool. I don’t know, there’s something about those bands that I just didn’t find in any other…just really original forms of punk rock, really original expressions. The Stick Men were just a wasted take on rockabilly, and the Dicks were the Dicks. I’m sure you’re familiar with them. Gary Floyd.

PHAWKER: Yep, [quoting lyric from the Butthole Surfers song “Gary Floyd”] ‘Gary Floyd and all his pals are gonna’ come on down to the roundaround.’ In retrospect, you growing up with a children’s entertainer father known as Mr. Peppermint, it was inevitable that you would become the man that you became, that you would make the music and the art that you have made.

GIBBY HAYNES: It was definitely a big part of it, yeah.

PHAWKER: You have a debut novel coming out early next year, what can you tell me about it?

GIBBY HAYNES: Ah, it’s called Me and Mr. Cigar. It’s about a precocious seventeen-year-old rave-throwing MDMA dealer with a supernatural dog. The dog’s origins are mysterious, and his abilities are amazing.

PHAWKER: Could you tell me some of his abilities?Me and Mr Cigar Cover

GIBBY HAYNES: Well, he, well there was a cigar that was given to JFK by Nikita Khrushchev. And there was…forgetting the name…the scary long-haired guy that hung around the Czar…

PHAWKER: Are you talking about a Rasputin?

GIBBY HAYNES: Yes! There are pictures of Mr. Cigar sitting on Rasputin’s lap. There are very old photographs of Mr. Cigar. So he is, apparently he lives forever. He does not age. And he basically has the intelligence of a human being. And without giving away too much else, a little bit’s explained, well I don’t want to go too far into that, it’s like the last five pages of the book where you find out some amazing stuff about Mr. Cigar. I can say that Mr. Cigar has always been the vessel for a human, and how and when and where that happens is kind of revealed.

PHAWKER: And this is in the young adult fiction genre, correct?

GIBBY HAYNES: Oh yeah, everything’s fair game in YAL literature these days. And like some of the most important, like librarians are some of the most important drivers of success in marketing books for kids. I don’t know how important they are in non-kid books. But the Texas librarians in particular are influential in that realm. That’s part of the reason I set it in Texas, I thought they might appreciate it. A book like this is a welcome, the teachers really like it, because it’s a good book for the hard-to-reach kids. Like if there’s a kid who doesn’t like to read too much, they’re like “Oh, yeah? Here’s something you might like to read.” It’s got action and it’s dangerous, and it’s kind of funny. But the Texas librarians are really enthusiastic about my book, which was kind of a shock to me.

PHAWKER: And just to be clear, is it set in present day or in the past?

GIBBY HAYNES: Maybe slightly in the future, but not that far removed. I haven’t really gotten to that. I think it’s better not to mention current presidents. I couldn’t do any anti-Donald Trump stuff, which is probably a good idea, regardless, no matter how much I want to.

PHAWKER: You grew up in Texas in the late 1950s. When you were nine years old there was that horrible mass shooting at the University of Texas, where Charles Whitman went up on the clock tower and was just picking off kids walking around the campus left and right. Was that on your radar at the time, or was that something you realized later?

GIBBY HAYNES: Oh, no that was huge. It was huge. I was really into all of the, I mean my dad was on Dealey Plaza when JFK got shot.

PHAWKER: No way!

GIBBY HAYNES: And as soon as that happened, they ran to the ABC affiliate, which was who he worked for, WFAA. They were like a hundred yards away from WFAA, and they ran back [and went on the air]. There’s some great YouTube footage of, my dad is there, and Screen Shot 2019-07-19 at 12.04.35 AMit’s the first television announcement of the Kennedy shooting, and it’s really great. There’s some of my dad’s coworkers and his boss. They’ve got their rolled up sleeves, smoking cigarettes, and my dad’s in the shot. It’s chaotic. And of course, a couple of days later, Jack Ruby shoots Lee Harvey, and I was just absolutely fascinated with the conspiracy theories from then on.

And yeah, Charles Whitman was a huge thing as well. I was on vacation in South Carolina with my parents, with my family when we heard about it. So we weren’t in Texas, but that was a big one. For some reason, those types of events were really a part of the punk rock scene in Texas. There was a guy in the Austin music scene that was the go-to man for information on Charles Whitman. He knew some of the victims, he knew where bullet holes in some of the places in Austin. But Charles Whitman, he shot some people who were way far away. You wouldn’t have believed how many blocks away they were. I mean that guy…that was the wrong guy with the right rifle.

PHAWKER: I’m actually looking up this JFK footage of your father on TV here right now. It’s amazing. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mYmpOjKUrIE

GIBBY HAYNES: Yeah, isn’t that a crazy look?

PHAWKER: Well what did your father think happened? Did he think it came from the Schoolbook Depository Building?

GIBBY HAYNES: He always said with a wink that he heard three shots. And I forget how many there were, what was generally acknowledged, I forget if it was three shots or however many there were. But my dad was like sort of cryptically always said, “I heard three shots and that was it,” in a sort of mock fear of knowing too much.

PHAWKER: I wanna ask you about the school of rock stuff in a second here, but first I wanted to ask you what else besides that are you involved with musically these days?

GIBBY HAYNES: Ehhhh… not a whole lot, I was– we were kind of actively wanting to do another record and I think we probably will…

PHAWKER: The Butthole Surfers?

GIBBY HAYNES: Yeah, yeah — it comes and goes, wanting to do that.

PHAWKER: Well, I hope you do! Any chances there’s gonna be anymore live shows?

GIBBY HAYNES: It’s too bad, like in order to play, like we get offers all the time, but in order to play on show, we literally have to prepare– it’s the same amount of preparation as if we were going on tour, right? So, ehh, ehh…. You know, it costs like.. Oh shit, you know? Like, ten grand just to just to get out the door, without even talking about the [cost of the] bus, you know?

PHAWKER: Well, I hope it comes together.Dr-Timothy-Leary-Tribute-Death-Tribute-Quote-Poster

PHAWKER: I read recently that for a time in the early nineties you and Al Jourgenson from Ministry were living with Timothy Leary and he was testing out various experimental drugs on you guys, what can you tell me about that?

GIBBY HAYNES: No, he didn’t have any…no, I was really wishing he had some, like, a stash of like, you know, Sandoz acid you know, whatever, some kind of crazy pure LSD. I asked him, ‘What is really good LSD like?’ and he was like, ‘Well, you’ve done acid, right? and I was like, ‘Yeah, I tuned in, turned on, and dropped out, and now I’m an alcoholic drug addict’ and he goes ‘Don’t lay that bullshit on me, man!’ But I was just fuckin’ with him. He said, ‘Well, have you done acid? and I was like ‘Yeah’ and he goes, ‘Well, did you trip? and I said ‘Yeah,’ and he goes ‘Then you did really good acid. It’s either really good acid or it’s not acid.’

PHAWKER: Roughly how many times do you think you’ve taken LSD in your life?

GIBBY HAYNES: Eh, I was never a big acid head.

PHAWKER: No?

GIBBY HAYNES: I mean I think I tried it on several dozen times.

PHAWKER: Okay, not like John Lennon’s one thousand trips or whatever?

GIBBY HAYNES: No, no, no, probably, you know, thirty, forty times.

PHAWKER: So that rumor that you guys were tripping all the time when you played live, that’s a myth?

GIBBY HAYNES: Yeah, but we did do that several times.

PHAWKER: One last thing on the Timothy Leary front: you and Timothy Leary famously got thrown out of the Viper Club for heckling Johnny Cash — this was right around the time of the first Rick Rubin album, I believe.

GIBBY HAYNES: Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah. Johnny Cash was playing at the Viper Room and we had like the awesome fifteen-seat away from the great Johnny Cash and I sat down in a booth side by side with Timothy Leary. Johnny Cash singing starts and Leary just starts heckling Johnny Cash. And like, I was like ‘Oh, man, NOOOOOOOOO, NOOOOOOOO!’ and Leary was yelling ‘You’re a fraud!’ I don’t know why he had it in for Johnny Cash, but we got kicked out really quick. We got eighty-sixed.GIBBY--san-antonio-basketball-butthole-surfers

PHAWKER: You famously declared in “Sweat Loaf” that it’s better to regret something you have done than to regret something you haven’t done. What is Gibby Haynes’ greatest regret?

GIBBY HAYNES: That we didn’t start our own record label and don’t own all our music. Ian MacKaye was a genius.

PHAWKER: So let’s talk about the Paul Green Academy of Rock thing that you’re playing with the school of rock kids at Connie’s Rick Rac here in Philadelphia on Friday and Saturday. Tell me about that: how did that come about and what can we expect? You’re doing Butthole Surfers songs, correct?

GIBBY HAYNES: Yes, yes. Paul, I think, picked out a set. Depends on how well they can play the songs, it’s like three practices and two gigs in Philly where– [laughs] Philadelphia– it’s a tough crowd, Philadelphia. They eat people in Philadelphia, apparently.

PHAWKER: This is true.

GIBBY HAYNES: I’ve done it before with kids of this level and they’re really good musicians. And if they aren’t at the moment, they will be soon. They’re just good musicians, it’s just hard to– it depends on how well they’re prepared.

PHAWKER: Last time we talked I made a joke that I was surprised that you were allowed to be around children, but, you know, in all seriousness, I bet you’re great with those kids and I bet they have a blast with you and I bet the whole thing’s gonna be pretty badass.

GIBBY HAYNES: Yeah, they always– I don’t know about the other, you know, they’ve done this– they did it with school of rock in Paul Green’s previous music school and they did it with various classic rockers. Like the guy from Yes. And usually it’s the singer that they get. And most of the time those guys are musicians, but I’m really not a musician. I’m just the guy with the microphone. So the first practice is really rough, cause I’m like.. “You know the part where you’re like..” and the kids are like “you mean the E that comes after the chorus?” I’m like, ‘I guess.’ Yeah, I think I get along with the kids really well, they end up liking me.

Oh, man, they come through. When they’re on stage, they’re like, that’s a big deal, when they get to be on stage and there’s people in the audience. It’s not like a recital and mom and dad are out there, even though mom and dad are there, their mom and dad are like in rock and roll mode. Yeah, it’s a trip that I’m older than a lot of these kids’ parents. Most of ‘em.

PHAWKER: I see. One last question about this performance, the last time I saw you perform in Philadelphia you nearly burned down the Chestnut Cabaret. Will you be doing the flaming cymbal trick?Gibby_Fire

GIBBY HAYNES: No, the Great White fire was the death of the fire cymbal. But, it looked cool and it’s really harmless. It’d be pretty fuckin’ impossible to light a place on fire with alcohol. The trick was, for those of you that aren’t in the know, is that you’d pour rubbing alcohol on the cymbal and then hit it with the drumstick and a huge gust of flames would like shoot up for a second. The first time we did it, I was at practice and we happened to be practicing in this borrowed practice space, and it was a weird attic that was like maybe five, just under six feet tall, so I really couldn’t stand all the way up or walk around in it very well, and I lowered the cymbal, stomped it inside out, poured alcohol on it, banged it, like as hard as I could, and dude, it shot up like three feet in the air and hit the ceiling and spread out three hundred and sixty degrees and it’s like, it went to the walls. Like, for a moment the ceiling was flames.

PHAWKER: Completely on fire? That’s exactly what happened at Chestnut Cabaret!

GIBBY HAYNES: It hit the ceiling?

PHAWKER: It hit the ceiling and just spread across the whole ceiling. It was really, like, terrifying. And I guess there were always dudes on hand with fire extinguishers when you did this, but…

GIBBY HAYNES: No, no, no. There wasn’t.

PHAWKER: No?!?

GIBBY HAYNES: No.

GIBBY HAYNES + PAUL GREEN ROCK ACADEMY KIDS PERFORM THE SONGS OF THE BUTTHOLE SURFERS @ CONNIE’S RIC RAC FRI. & SAT. JULY 19TH & 20TH

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