Searching around the backstage at the Vogue Theatre during the soundcheck for the recent Veruca Salt and Muffs show, I luckily ran into bassist Ronnie Barnett and lead singer/guitarist Kim Shattuck, who lead me into their dressing room where we found drummer Roy McDonald tuning one of his drums and getting ready to fire up the Juiceman juicer for some healthy refreshments. We talked for awhile about their new line-up, Joan Jett, and their new album, Blonder and Blonder.
What would you say is the reason for the... Ronnie: Ah, well, she quit
Kim: What? Is that what you're asking?
No, that's not what I was going to ask.
Kim (jokingly): Shut up! Okay what? Look, he's blushing!
Was it the California suburban angst that needed to get out?
Kim: I'm definitely a suburban person and I have my share of angst, definitely, but no, I have no reason. [It's] just because deep within my soul I have this need, this very great need to write music.
Ronnie: We just wanna play some songs...
Kim: ...and be creative...
Ronnie: ...and then we did it and it turned out that we had fun doing it so we still do it.
Kim: Yeah, we almost stopped doing it because we weren't having any fun, but then we realized why we weren't having any fun and now we're having fun.
Ronnie: And now we've arrived at the definitive line-up.
Roy: Yeah, the trio?
Kim: We're not blaming the other two members, but we are. But we're not. But we are.
What's changed for the Muffs since you played the Starfish Room last time you were here?
Kim (laughing): We dropped two-hundred pounds!
With what system?
Kim: The system of not kissing ass.
Ronnie: Well, we've made a record and we're three now.
Roy: And then there were three.
Kim: We're a happy trio as opposed to an unhappy quatro.
At what stage of a band's existence are things the most fun?
Here and now?
Ronnie: Here and now in Vancouver!
Kim: Every part of it is fun, but the touring is actually the most carefree.
You've got more worries when you're doing the other part.
Ronnie: But this is pretty much what we do: play.
Kim: Yeah, playing live is fun. Records are a little more angst producing. Roy: You gotta put more time into [the record] cuz it's forever. If people see a bad show they'll forget about it maybe next week, but...
Ronnie: Yeah, making a record, we gotta go out there and compete with like, Springsteen.
Kim: Oh God!
There's Hole, there used to be a band named Kreviss, I've heard of a band named The Slits - where are the Muffs in the line-up of band names that sound like locker-room talk for female genitalia?
Kim: What about the Fuckheads and The Cocksuckers and The Cunts? What about that?
Were you guys the pioneers in the...
Kim: No. You know what? You know what muff really means? It means to make a mistake, to bungle, to goof up. Ronnie: To mess something up.
Kim: I've actually personally never referred to my "puss" area as a muff.
Ronnie: I think that's just in, like Hustler magazine or something.
Kim: But we almost didn't get into England because of it. I guess they use that word over there like we use the word cunt.
What was the first gig each of you saw?
Kim: The Go-Go's in 1982!
Ronnie: The first show I saw that I wanted to see was KISS when I was 10, but my mom took me to Elvis. I don't know which one to count - the one my mom took me to or the one that I chose to want to see.
Kim: Both of 'em count!
Roy: My first show was Gladys Knight and The Pips when I was 3. But I don't know if that was really, cuz that was in like '68.
How much does it cost to get guitar picks made with personalized writing on them?
Kim: I don't know, we got ours for free the first time and we're never gonna do that again cuz it's DORKY!
Ronnie: It was a tour manager we had at the time [who arranged to have the guitar picks made]. He asked me what I wanted on them and I was like, 'Nothing!'. I still have those picks now.
Kim: "Mr. Muff" it says.
The first song I heard from the Muffs was on Nardwuar's Clam Chowder and Ice Vs. Big Macs and Bombers compilation...
Kim: Was it "Get Me Out of Here"?
Yeah, and I fell in love with the Muffs right then and there.
Kim: Thanks, we did that on my four-track. Roy: I've never heard that song before.
Kim: We're gonna do our third album on my eight-track. We're gonna save money this time and come away kazillionaires.
When you listen to these recordings from, say, '91 and stuff, like your 7"s....
Ronnie: We don't
Kim: I did recently.
Roy: I do! But I didn't play on them so I can be detached about it.
Kim: He's detached.
When do you think of them?
Kim: I like the new "Love"[er- that should be "New Love" - D.M.] single. That's great, it's my favourite one probably. I like the Sub Pop single, I like the Au-Go-Go single, the other ones...
Ronnie: That's all the singles!
Kim: There's one more single that just comes off the album. I hate the first album and I like the second album the best of all. That's my opinionated opinion. I'm not detached.
Roy: Not due to the songs, the songs on the first album are great.
Kim: No, no, no, [I'm] not blaming the songs, [I'm] just blaming everything else.
Roy: It just didn't turn out the way the band wanted it to.
Ronnie: We didn't like that record and we asked that they withdraw it.
Kim: We wish that they would just make it go away.
In comparison to your vinyl release your two latest CD's have much more production, and you say that you might be going back to your eight-track. Do you prefer the less produced, a little bit thrashier sort of garage sound you had at the beginning?
Kim: Well, that's just the way we are, that's the way we sound normally.
Our new album doesn't really sound "trashy", but it shows more of the edge that we have and the first album didn't. The first album was just bland as fucking shit. Bland as baby food.
I thought it sounded great.
Kim: Thanks. A lot of people actually said they like it and I shouldn't really complain about it, but it's bland as baby food. We perform all those songs, or a lot of the songs, way better live. And especially way better live now with Roy.
Ronnie: We perform all the songs better live.
Kim: Yeah, we're better live.
Ronnie: That first album is one of Anita Gordon's favourite records of all time.
Kim: Shut up name dropper!
I read an article in some 1991 music magazine and it said that the Muffs were one of the top LA bands eligible to be signed by a major. Was getting signed something you expected back then?
Kim: We weren't trying to. One of our band rules was not to ever send out demos cuz we thought that was really tacky and cheap and we're not prostitutes. So we never did and then we just got checked out by Warner and they liked us and we said, "Aaarrgh!"
Ronnie: [The deal] kicked ass, it was the best deal. It was better than the independent details that we were offered...
Kim: Yeah, independent records are fucked up.
Ronnie: The guy that signed us, he smoked pot with us and stuff and he was younger than us, you know. It's cool.
Ronnie, why don't you use a G string on your bass?
Kim: Cuz he's wearing it!
Ronnie: That's a good one. Um, it's back on now, but I still don't play it unless I'm hitting all the strings or something.
Kim: He doesn't need it.
Ronnie: Yeah, I don't need it. Actually, I broke the key off and just didn't put it on. And at a show recently I broke the D-string thing and I had to play the show with two string. But there was only one song where it mattered.
In general, what's better: 'A' open chord or 'A' power chord?
Kim: God, you know, I don't think any one thing is better. I think it just depends on the stuff [you're playing] because open chords are really great for some things and they sound...
Ronnie: But in general the power chord!
Kim: Well I'm sure that's what you want me to say! No, no, no, power chords are great. I play 'em a little more than the open chords, but the open chords are great and you can actually get better tone out of the open chords. But I like them both; I use them both.
Hypothetically, Suzi Quatro versus Joan Jett in a streetfight circa...
Kim: Joan Jett! Are you kidding me?
Roy: Joan Jett'll kick her ass!
Kim: Joan Jett might have completely ripped off Suzi Quatro's image and sound and everything, but Joan Jett rules over anybody.
Ronnie: I'll take Suzi myself.
What about Suzi Quatro's album, Quatro?
Ronnie: Incredible. With the bass guitar!
Roy: With the bass, yeah! That's a good album.
Ronnie: Suzi Quatro's album covers definitely kick Joan Jett's
Kim: Yeah, that's true about the album covers.
But in a streetfight - Joan Jett takes her?
Kim: I think Joan Jett's tougher, yeah, and plus she's younger.
Ronnie: Suzi writes better songs.
Kim: Oh God! No way!
Roy: What? Suzi Quatro didn't even write songs.
Ronnie: What about Joan? She's no stranger to covers!
Kim: That's true, but she rules anyway.
Ronnie: Yeah, I think we need another version of "Everyday People!" That's what we need!
Kim (yelling): Okaaayyyy! Alright, don't bag on her! I love her!
Ronnie: I'm not baggin' on her, but I mean, you know...
Kim: I love her, shut up.
Ronnie: You guys are puttin' down Suzi.
Kim: No, we're not puttin' down Suzi. She was fuckin' Leather Tuscadero for Christ's sake!
I recently saw the interview you had in Details magazine...
Kim: Oh, goody!
Is it strange that The Muffs appeared in Details magazine?
Kim: Strange to us, but it's just part of the whole she-bang.
Roy: It's just our label getting the media circus in gear.
Ronnie: Details is cool, actually.
Kim: Details stinks though, it has all those yucky perfume ads. And they're not exactly good at picking out good photos of the band, are they?
Were you honoured to appear in the "Sex" issue with Traci Lords on the front? Roy: Not particularly.
Kim: I would have rather been in a non-sex issue since I figure I'm sorta non-sexual.
Ronnie: But it was better. Originally we were supposed to be in the "Music" issue and that would just be full of bands.
Kim: Full of it.
Ronnie: But now we're in the "Sex" issue so it's...
Roy: ...full of sex.
Kim: Oh well.
Kim, is it a drag living back at home being a ** year-old rock n' roller? Do you have to pay rent and take out the garbage and stuff? (At this point, Kim grabs the recorder and rewinds over this question so that her age remains a mystery)
Kim: It's wrong! I'm not any age.
Roy: For the record I'm twenty-nine and I'm proud of it.
Kim: I'm thirty-one and I'm proud of it but I don't want anyone to know. So I don't wanna talk about it. And no, I love living at home because look where I am right now, I'm on the road and I wouldn't want to be paying rent. Basically, my parents are kind enough to let me live there and have my stuff there and then I'm hardly ever there.
Ronnie: She doesn't sit down to dinner with them every night. Kim: But if I did there's nothing wrong with it.
Ronnie: Well, yeah, okay!
Roy: What are you saying Ronnie?
Ronnie: I don't know. Everything's weird now! Everything got weird all of a sudden!
Kim: Oh shut up! Anyway, ask the next question. No age questions, God.
I hear the Beatles and the Stones somewhere in your music there... Kim: Don't you hear The Kinks?
Kim: Jesus Christ! If The Muffs could be any rock power trio from the 70's...
Kim: There are none.
Roy: Dick Boger and Apache. Cactus.
Kim: I'd say The Ramones. I think The Ramones are a three-piece. Well, Joey just sings and the singer is worthless unless he has a guitar.
Ronnie: The Ramones are about to cut their last album.
Kim: Oh good.
Ronnie: It's called Adios Amigos.
Kim: Oh Geez.
Ronnie: Yeah, cuz who gives a shit anymore...
Roy: That's what they should call it!
Why didn't you ask me if I wanted to see your underwear?
Kim: Because I wasn't holding any in my hand. In the Details article they failed and neglected to say that I had my underwear in my hand cuz I was just about to go out and change. And they're my lucky underwear, which he also neglected to say.
Roy: He makes it sound like she's flashing her kootcher or something.
Kim: Yeah, I was not flashing no Virginia.
Ronnie: Yeah, fuck all that sex shit! You wanna see my underwear though?