Interviewer's comments: I saw Kinghorse's first show in 1988 when they opened for Fugazi at the Clarksville Sports Center. I was very excited about seeing the band because I figured that any new band combining elements of Maurice and Malignant Growth just had to be incredible. And it was. Even now, seven years and dozens of shows later, I still can't fully describe the feeling that overtakes me when I see Kinghorse go at full throttle. My friends and I pestered Sean from day one, asking for lyrics sheets and wondering when the next show was going to be. A Kinghorse show was truly an event that left a heavy, dark mark on you -- physically and emotionally -- and they still are. With their new bassist Jerry Cunningham, they continue to throw down hard at every show they play. New converts are appearing and the old fans are coming out of the woodwork.
Editor's comments: The original Kinghorse line up formed in 1988, was Sean A. Garrison, vocals, Mark Abromavage, guitar, Kevin Brownstein, drums, and Mike Bucayu, bass guitar. After significant success in the regional music scene and an international release, the band dissolved following a series of personal and professional problems in '93. The last show took place in July of 1992. Early in '94, the city was rife with rumors of a Kinghorse reunion. The rumors were denied by all four members of the band. In May 1994 Kinghorse appeared as the headlining act at an all-ages show at the Grand Theatre in the Louisville suburb of New Albany, Indiana. This was the first public performance with their new bass guitarist, Jerry Cunningham. Mike Bucayu declined an invitation to return to the spotlight in the interest of his record store, Blue Moon.
As difficult as it is to create a coherent interview with a group of intense individuals, it is even more difficult to pare that interview down to a relatively short, concise article. What to leave out? How to rearrange? Still, Kinghorse makes for an easy, entertaining interview, since they jump from topic to topic and are so interested in everything that any subject that arises is sure to elicit, at the very least, interesting opinions. Please forgive the seemingly rambling style of this article. We really did edit out the irrelevant and redundant parts, few though they were. While certainly not the first interview granted by the band, this is, perhaps, the most introspective talk with Kinghorse published to date.
Sean A. Garrison, Kevin Brownstein, and Jerry Cunningham were interviewed by the magazine on July 19,1995 in Sean and Kevin's apartment in the Original Highlands. Interview by Rev. Jamie Miller, editing and transcription by Stan Baker. Brackets indicate additions by the editor, ellipses indicate subtractions.
JM: Jamie Miller
SEAN: Sean A. Garrison
KEVIN: Kevin Brownstein
JERRY: Jerry Cunningham
JM: Let's start with this: Why did everybody start coming out in the first place?
SEAN: Uh, like in general?
JM: In general.
SEAN: Well, my appearance in this community was based on - Well, I went to high school with Brett Ralph [Ed: poet of renown and lead singer for Malignant Growth/Fadin' Out] and I was buying all these records that I was getting at Phoenix Records. They had some pretty damn sophisticated things, I guess for the time. They had a whole lot of independent singles and crap that everybody has now. Everybody tries to act like it was a big deal. Back then when I started buying that stuff it was 1981 and it was pretty crazy to be able to go to the corner of Dixie Hwy. and Greenwood Road and find, like, Misfits singles and Minor Threat singles and all that stupid shit.
So, anyway, my brother started bringing home all these weird punk rock records and that was the only kind of rock and roll I was listening to at the time. So I started going there and buying the most screwy, screwed up things I could find. I found out that [Brett] Ralph was into the same stuff and had joined some sort of band. He had joined a punk band that was already established. I went over to his house one day ... Ralph had a whole lot of the same records I did and he was really, really heavily into it at the time. He played a tape of The Growth [Ed: Malignant Growth, aka MFG]. I remember that particular visit was punctuated by Ralph breaking a copy of High Infidelity by REO Speedwagon over his head. It was crazy, because it's not like one of those thick vinyl 78's that will shatter on your head. It's one of those flexible ones, and he just busted that son of a bitch on his head! I dunno, just to prove that he was an artist. It was a very bizarre evening.
And I started hanging around with those guys. My first show was: I saw D.O.A. downtown at The Beat, and there were about five people there. I just got into it because Ralph was there, and that's how I met all those other people; Like Mark and all those people that have been hanging around this neighborhood all those years. Mark used to go party at that house at 1069 [Bardstown Rd.] where the [Taco Bell] is now. There was a house there where the Babylon Dance Band and all these other people lived, and it was the first house of its kind. All these people went to the Louisville School of Art. Mark hung out with them, even though he was of a different kind of background. Anyway that's how I met all those people. I guess that they tried him [Kevin] out for Fadin' Out, so he could tell you about that.
KEVIN: My younger brother knew Brett Ralph. That was when The Growth had just broken up. They were trying out new drummers, I don't know if they were broken up, but they were trying out new drummers. Ralph had come over to my house to play me a tape of the Fadin' Out stuff, and I just wasn't into it at the time. I was just into metal at that point - "the lost years." I had gone out and tried out for Malignant Growth but I hadn't listened to the tape because I didn't like the music. I had told him I was going to go out, and they called me up and I had already committed. So I go out, set up, didn't know any of the songs. Chris [Abromavage, brother of Mark, also in MFG] bitched me out the entire night. They called me a couple of days later, told me they liked me, but they wish I had put a little effort into it. At the time I just had my head up my ass, wasn't into it. I was living at home, had no responsibilities, so you know how that goes.
It wasn't until a couple of years later that Joe Grissom at Electric Ladyland talked to me about playing with Mark. I had liked Mark right off the bat. I liked his playing. I got hooked up with those guys again. We did the Fadin' Out stuff for a while, but everybody knows what happened with that. [Ed: Fadin' Out did a one-show-only reunion, which was perhaps the best-attended event in Louisville scene history] Then I went into a stupor for many, many years - "the hermit years."
SEAN: Well, you were only out of the loop for about a year and a half, really? Weren't you? When Joe started freaking out and started going crazy and all that shit?
KEVIN: I just decided that I wasn't going to do it. And it wasn't until I hooked up with you guys -
SEAN: I think you called Mike out of the blue, didn't you?
KEVIN: I had liked Solution Unknown at that show where Fadin' Out played.
SEAN: That was at Swiss Hall.
KEVIN: When I found out they broke up I called Mike [Bucayu] to see - at the time I thought he was a guitar player. I didn't know him. So I called Mike to see if he wanted to try to get something going and at that point you had already been talking about getting something going.
SEAN: Right. It was like the same day. The same day that Mike and I talked at JCC about going up and talking to Mark. Mark was living a very domestic, normal life at the time, so was I...[I was] taking a few classes at JCC for something to do. The very day that Mike and I talked about it he said that Kevin called him out of the blue. So we didn't have any problem setting it up at all. It just kinda fell together.
KEVIN: I was working sixty hours a week at a machine shop at the time.
SEAN: I was working about forty, fifty hours a week iron working, he was working in the machine shop. At that point, Mark was on the [garbage] truck, and Mike was - I don't know what he was doing, I guess he was just being Mike; working at the record store, which everybody knows that he did for centuries.
As far as Mark goes, he started coming out in 1979, I think. That's the earliest - I don't know how he hooked up with the [Babylon] Dance Band, but Mark was the Roadie Extrordinaire for the Babylon Dance Band. I don't know how him and Chris and the original South End crew got hooked up with the Dance Band. It may have been through Kenny Ogle, the original singer for The Growth, I don't know. I just know that Mark started coming out, probably in 1979 when he was a tiny tot. He roadied for the Dance Band and it just went on from there. Him and Chris started a band and they were together for a long time.
JERRY: I was living in Arkansas for about eight years, but I had always lived here before that, so I always had ties here through my father and what not. Through a friend I always had through this period of time, on one of the visits that I had down here, he'd loaned me a copy of the self-titled Kinghorse album. And that was the first time I had really been shown what all of this is, whatever was going on at the time.
SEAN: It's very demented that our record would be the first one you would know.
JERRY: It was actually the first record I had ever heard, any local stuff here. I guess a year later, I believe, I finally moved here. I had been playing bass for a period of time, even when I was living in Arkansas. So when I finally got here I started out doing numerous projects that never worked out. Then I started the band Raze about three years ago, that is still playing out. I was about to leave that band and was approached by Mr. Garrison. He harassed me at Doo Wop one day, and just asked me if I wanted a job, and I said sure. I totally thought it was a joke at first and I was pissed as fuck! And I wanted to beat the fuck out of him! 'Cause I was like: who the fuck is this bastard to come into my world and fuck with me like that! It was obvious who he was talking about, and who I'd be playing for. Of course I thought it was a joke. Later on that evening, I guess after got home from work, I got a call on the answering machine that was: "Jerry this is Sean, call me about the Horse." From that point forward we had numerous phone assaults. I finally got to work with Mark for about a month or so. Then Kevin came back into town and the day after we had full rehearsal for the first time, with the entire band, I was hired.
SEAN: That's it. That's what happened with that.
JM: How many people did you ask - how many people did you go through before you reformed the band?
SEAN: The initial person that I wanted for the band was Tara from Rodan, Tara O'Neill.
KEVIN: I had a couple of guys in Dallas that I was interested in, as well.
SEAN: But Tara has her hands in all these baskets. She's got a whole lot of projects going on. She sounded flattered like she appreciated being asked, but I ran into him (indicates Jerry) the next day. I think we would have had a whole lot of trouble had I not bumped into Jerry. I think we would have had a whole lot of trouble getting anything going at all.
KEVIN: Me and you talked on the phone for a month and a half before we even got to the point of :"We need to find somebody." There was a lot of groundwork that needed to be done.
SEAN: Well it obviously sounded crazy to everybody. Everybody, even me. It sounded the most crazy to me. I had a hard time believing that I could back pedal and ever be in that mind set again. I don't know. I was trying to get my head clear. Trying to assimilate my - trying to disappear. It didn't work. There are so many young bands out there, as far as underground, really underground, goes. I didn't even take this remotely seriously until this time around. I can't overemphasize that. People may have liked the band before, but I didn't really care about what was happening to us. I really didn't. Just being at the age that I was and slow to grow up in lots of ways anyway, I just didn't take music seriously at all. I thought that it was something that I was eventually going to somehow work out of my system. And that I would be employable. That it would be possible for me to exist outside of this artistic community. Unfortunately it is not.
I just realized, something happened, I think I had a whole lot of other reasons for being in it before....It was a good way to interact with a lot of people who would never, never have anything to do with me before. Not that I necessarily needed them per se, but the thing is, I was making a contribution....I respected what we were doing before, but I just didn't look at it the same way I do now. I think I had a whole lot of really screwy reasons for doing it even though I can't really remember what they were. I just know that for some reason I don't feel the same about it. All those other reasons seem to be just burned away and gone.
The reason now is: I'm good at this. Kevin's really good at it, too. For as long as he's been playing, for his age, Jerry's perfect for us. The way he plays, what he does on stage, he is exactly what we want. On our new material he shines, and will shine on the recordings. I started learning how to play an instrument myself just a couple of years ago and that made my respect what Kevin and Mark could do, and I just didn't understand it before. After being able to play a little bit myself something happened, and I took them a lot more seriously, too. As talented people, and not just as other freaks.
KEVIN: I think a lot of it, at least for me and Sean and Mark, the three of us have gone through a lengthy period of trying to go the straight way. We've all had full-time jobs, relationships, tried the domestic thing, tried the all-American-work-ethic thing: try to make a life for yourself. I can point out where I realized that it's never going to work. I beat my head against the wall too many times. I know Sean has been through a lot of hard times in the last five years. Mark is an exception to the rule. He is able to hold a job down and keep it, and do this as well. I think this time around everybody's finally realized, we're at an age where it's time to decide what it is you're capable of doing.
JM: So, how far do you think it will go this time?
SEAN: [to Kevin] You're going to have to answer that.
KEVIN: I think the reasons that caused it to end last time cannot exist this time around. We've discussed all the things that were taboo to discuss before. We've come to a point where everybody has tried different lifestyles. Different ways of trying to get by. It came down, for me, to what is satisfying. I was holding down a great job down in Dallas. It was something I had gone to school for. Something I had spent a lot of money and time in, and I was fucking miserable. I had spent many a night -
SEAN: This was after being totally successful in the pursuit of this particular vocation.
KEVIN: Well, on the fringe of success at least. We accomplished a lot that just fell into our laps. We weren't trying to get a record deal the first time around. It just happened.
SEAN: Literally, it was an accident.
KEVIN: At that point it was strictly for fun. The thought of this actually being a career; it just wasn't there.
SEAN: It never entered my mind.
KEVIN: It was almost as if the career idea was being forced upon us. And we were not ready to handle it. Everybody had too many things going on. I think this time that we burned out so many dead ends that we finally focused. There's no more things to try. There's no more unknowns.
SEAN: What's even crazier is Kevin and I living here together, in the way we've reset life here in this apartment. Even now, you can see elements that in the past would have rattled our cage, like human elements and situations, that now absolutely bounce off us. We're just not affected by things that would have aggravated us before. Simply because we're immune. It's almost like I've broken through some final membrane and I almost now feel immune to a lot of stuff that would have absolutely inhibited me from being able to cooperate with the other guys in the band, or the label or anybody else.
KEVIN: We finally found a way to have a lifestyle that is satisfying to us, that focuses around us. Whereas before, this was an interference to our lifestyle.
SEAN: Right. We've also given up on a lot of things that normal people - You know, there are some things that we've just dropped. Like some goals that adults pursue, we just drop them. I mean, really wholeheartedly just forgotten about them.
JM: Like what?
SEAN: Well, just like - and I don't want to talk about this long - it's not possible for Kevin or I to have any kind of relationships, which are successful, outside of the band. As far as heavy ones, heavy duty ones, you know what I'm saying? It's almost like the way the stars are set up it's all predestined to fail. I almost feel like now, that it's inevitable that we get another record deal, it's almost inevitable that we get more control and be able to make this work. Because, literally all the other stuff that used to work, now, doesn't even get started.
JM: If you make this work, then what's going to happen? Kinghorse succeeds: what is the definition of that success? Obviously it's not a lot of money and extra cars, it's something else. It's probably something up here. Both here in your heads and here in your audience's heads. What is it?
SEAN: See, that's a different issue.
JERRY: It all depends on your point of view.
SEAN: That's true. It also does exist concurrently on two different levels. It's an absolute must that we be able to figure out a way to not be taken advantage of by record labels and clubs and all that stuff. We're not at the age where we can talk a lot about how we don't need anything. How could we dismiss something like How We Deal With the Money. Because this is a job. This is what's feeding our asses now. Kevin and I spent every dime of our savings just to get the band back together. We are in financial ruin. We don't want to worry about that. We don't want to think maybe we're getting the wool pulled over our eyes, ever. Now we know what to do and that's one side of it. I'm not going to lie and say that's not something that's a concern, because it is a huge concern in the situation we're in now. We've got to be really careful so that we don't get taken advantage of. That record label we were on made a great deal of money off of us that should have went into our pockets.
JM: Wouldn't you expect that from any label? Even labels which you'll sign to in the future which are even bigger?
KEVIN: They saw us coming though, and we didn't even attempt to - The way our contract was written, it had sucker written all over it. We just didn't care.
SEAN: I think we probably even knew it had sucker written all over it. We just simply didn't care.
KEVIN: It wasn't a concern for us at the time. This was not a priority at the time; this was a fringe benefit.
SEAN: The band was actually an outside concern to all of us. Now as far as where the head trip goes, the band will be successful if we can make one record that sounds and looks exactly like Kevin and I envision it. We have always agreed on every conceivable point: about presentation, sound and everything. We know exactly what this is supposed to be like. Exactly. Mark does his part. He writes however much music - he plays the guitar and he concentrates on his instrument. Jerry concentrates on his instrument. Kevin and I know exactly the way things were supposed to look all along, and sounded. They've never gotten anywhere near the record we should have made both times. Everybody who likes this band knows this. Everybody knows it. That if we got in there and did it right, we could make something that was unbelievably huge and out of control.
Nothing has ever been presented, ever, or documented, the way that we want it to be. And that has got to be done or we'll - No, it's gonna be done. It is going to be done if we have to do it ourselves.
KEVIN: Unfortunately for us, we've come to the point where we are almost enjoying the fight to get it done.
SEAN: Sick, but true.
KEVIN: It is sick but true.
JM: Right, so what happens after the perfect record comes out?
SEAN: We make another god damn perfect record. That's what. We go on a tour with the right fucking bands. We need to be able to present what we do to all kinds of crowds, and have it set it to where it's already impartial. To where we're not pigeonholed. Everybody in this business wants to take every band and immediately slot 'em. We've finally come to this period now, now that this retro-punk thing is losing steam; what the hell's next?
I personally think that the industry wasn't ready for our band. I absolutely insist that they weren't. Most people didn't understand any of the ideas on the first record.
JM: Is that why you ended up at the Foundations Forum?
SEAN: Right. Whereas now, think about how the Foundations Forum is promoted now. What is it called now? "The only hard music convention." Now when we were there, it was the heavy metal convention, now it's the hard music convention. They've got totally different packaging for the entire thing. A whole different visual presentation which is moving away from pigeonholing anything. It's moving away from the hair bands. That should have happened to us before. We should have been able to force the issue. The label wasn't behind us, and at the time - I don't have any problem saying this either - we caused our record label a great deal of trouble. I mean, a lot. We annoyed them very badly. We annoyed everyone they introduced us to. Everywhere we went we fucked stuff up and were generally stupid and annoying. We asked to get the ax, because we weren't happy in the first place. We all had to bide our time about that record cover. We had to bide our time about Glenn's name being that big. We had to bide our time about Glenn, since he was so radically different in the year and a half that I didn't see him, before he produced the record. I didn't even recognize him. He was like a totally different person. It was too late, we were already in the soup. When he comes in with the entourage he came in with we were like "Oh, my god, we're doomed!" We knew right off the bat we were fucked. We knew it. Now we're free of all that shit. We were released from that contract. We don't owe anybody anything. We have to scavenge for food. We even have to totally establish our local supremacy again. There are a lot of people who were at that Grand show who will never come to another gig. Maybe they will in six months. I hate to say it, but it was almost seemed it was the will of something that was way bigger than us. Like a pre-disastered start to which nothing else can pale. Now I feel as if this band is almost pre-disastered. Everything bad that could have conceivably happened to this band has already happened. I can't conceivably imagine anything else happening, unless one of us commits suicide, or is hit by a car. I can't think of anything else that hasn't gone wrong. Already!
KEVIN: But the desire is still there. It just seems to increase the desire. At this point at least for me, part of what success means is for me to have a record out that I can tour on, and just play to utter exhaustion. I want to play 150 shows a year. I want to play until I never want to see another set of drums.
SEAN: I want to play until they have to take me out and put me in a hospital. And then I'll recover, and I'll go out again. The only way to get this out of our systems, and to get on with other artistic pursuits is to make this fit the way Kevin and I have always seen it. Kevin did a live video, five songs from five different shows, for the record labels and stuff, that is exactly how I would have done it. It's very, very, very, very crazy. There's a whole lot of - It's not nice.
KEVIN: It's brutal.
SEAN: But it's not pretty, it's not supposed to be pretty. We like that, kinda like, playground kind of atmosphere. Maybe it has a little bit of a jock kind of thing to it. But I don't think that has the stupidity that comes with most jock-oriented stuff. It's almost like a Romper Room type atmosphere. I know that we come across so heavy-handed that it's almost funny. And it is. I was not able to laugh at it, at all, before, but now I see how damn funny it is. I watch film of us and it's like, "Man, this is just ridiculous." We don't take it so damn seriously,. so we're not really bothered by all those things that we were bothered about before. It's very hard to explain. Like he said, the desire level is there more, because everything that could go wrong has gone wrong. We've got to start from the ground up. This time we just don't seem to care. When before, right off the bat, when we got started that everybody should be kissing our asses and giving everything to us, gratis. We don't expect anything now, from anybody. We just do our job.
JM: Things aren't taken as seriously anymore. It's okay to crack jokes during the shows and -
SEAN: Right, but the overall goal is the same. We ascribe to the philosophy that harder is better. That the harder way is better. Wouldn't you agree?
SEAN: We have tried the other paths, and they don't apply to us. As far as rock music goes - because we have other interests. Kevin can sit at home and play his keyboard. I play in The Spurs with Dave [Bird]. We do other stuff. But as far as this goes, this being our primary source of trying to break through membranes - It's almost like it's a spiritual thing, because every time I get up there and I'm totally exhausted and I don't think I can do the gig, and I actually do the gig better than the night before, and then pass out. It does do something to sharpen your mind. We just get a lot out of it personally, and we're trying to get the crowd to do the same thing. Through taking the hard way, through self-examination, the artistic side of it, even if it seems a little melodramatic and sometimes stupid; that's all right. I don't see any point being overtly intellectual about it, because then you're ignoring the whole physical side of your life. The physicality of playing with instruments - I mean it's a very physical activity. You're struggling with the thing, and if you play hard or fast at all, you start to get into a - you know - it is physical. We just are into that "Harder is better". It's better for us. I think that I've grown over the years. I think that these guys have helped me become more than what I was. And I'd like to think I've done the same for them. And I'd like to think we've done that for the town, in a lot of ways. And I'd like to think that the town did it for us. Now whether or not we can take that whole idea, and make it work nationwide, or worldwide remains to be seen. We have to visit lots of places very often. We have to interact with these people. I don't think, on the surface, what we're about, is very easy to understand.
JM: Hopefully, it's not just a local phenomenon.
SEAN: Well, we have yet to see that. We'll see. Sometimes I have my doubts as to whether or not it's possible for any other place other than this city to understand what we're about. Do you ever feel like that?
KEVIN: We've definitely played some shows, out of town, where people are getting the big picture. There's definitely a connection being made. Then again, we've cleared a lot of clubs out, as well. A lot of people give us five minutes, and they're disgusted and they leave.
JM: Is it disgust out of boredom? Or?
JERRY: No way!
KEVIN: I think it's overwhelming for some people. We have a tendency, when we're out of town, to act like complete idiots.
SEAN: Well, if we try to come off as heavy as we do on stage, we just look like fools. We just try to relax and have a good time. You're stuck and you don't know anybody. You might as well relax and not take it so damn seriously, until you're up there. I've found, and I don't know if Kevin or Jerry agree with this, just about every town has its own very unique, uh -
KEVIN: We've played a lot of shows where we're playing to three or four people in the crowd. You can tell. They're getting the picture. They know the lyrics. They are having an experience during the show.
SEAN: Every town is so different.
KEVIN: It's like an existential crisis going on in front of you. And if there's a hundred other people standing around trying to decide whether their friends like it or not. if you've got three or four guys up front who are losing their fucking minds -
SEAN: Kicking the shit out of me, stuff like that.
KEVIN: It tells you that the potential is there. It's not so esoteric that nobody can connect to it.
SEAN: Every town is just so fucking different, man; their vibe. And it changes from year to year. Take Lexington. We just went back there for the first time in three years. The last time we played there, there was 270 people there who went bat-shit crazy. I mean, they went fucking berserk the last time we played the Wrocklage. It was out of control.... We go back and there's nobody there. It was like 45 people, 50 people there.
JERRY: And they just happened to be there because they were drinking.
SEAN: I was saying, "Where the fuck are the people who used to see our band?" What did they say?
JERRY: They got into, like, funk or some crazy shit.
SEAN: Yep, so they're all into funk now. They were saying "Everyone in this town is really into ska and funk now." They're gone. They were absolutely gone. And a lot of the all ages people, in that town, that whole retro-punk thing, people walking around with Sid Vicious shirts and pink hair and all that shit is gone. It's strange because, when it comes to other towns you've got all the weird scene subdivisions. You've got the emo division. You've got the fucking hardline division. You've got the retro-punker people.
JM: The raver-punk cross-overs.
JERRY: There are all sorts of cross-overs.
SEAN: We don't have the ready-made audience that other bands do.
JM: Because you're not slotted.
SEAN: Exactly. Everybody else has a pre-created, pre-digested crowd -
JERRY: [loudly] That follows them around and when any other band of their camp comes to play, they automatically go to see them. It doesn't matter if they're good or they're bad. It doesn't even matter if they've ever heard of them before. It's just that if they can relate, or they think they can relate then they will go. It does not matter; nobody knows us out of town. Nobody thinks they can relate unless they've gone, or understand what we're doing.
SEAN: They know us, but we're dealing with so many sub-camps at this point. That, as you can tell by the way he's talking (points at Jerry), it's infuriating.
KEVIN: But, we are able to recruit people from all camps.
JERRY: Oh, yes!
SEAN: The problem is that it takes a whole lot of work to get to them and go "Can't you see that this is -"
KEVIN: Unfortunately, we're dumb enough to do all that work.
SEAN: All these subdivisions are just fucking it up for everybody. If you are tailor-made for one of those slots, you can't play to other crowds. They don't know this. Most of those hardline bands don't understand that they are in a tiny, tiny box. They'll never break out.
JERRY: They're gonna make, like, five or six records. They're gonna be on independent labels and -
SEAN: What's worse, most of those guys, their band will break up. They form another band, it doesn't matter. Even if they try to drop their previous straightedge thing, it doesn't matter. The only people who will come and seem them are the people who identify with what they used to be.
JERRY: [sarcastically] "You used to be one of us and we know secretly, down deep inside, that you're still one of us."
SEAN: Our whole thing is, and the reason that The Horse has always been so fucked up, is that there have been all these crazy - Our band attracts all different kinds of fruitcakes, because in this town, we've had the ability to strip away all that crap. Even though, right now, we're dealing with it worse than it's ever been before. Where you're dealing with such inbred little subcultures, they won't even listen to you.
JERRY: If you don't fit in you're nothing.
SEAN: We have that to deal with now.
JM: There was some show at the Zodiac or something, I don't even remember, but I was behind the stage -- for a change -- and I could look out and see everybody's faces. Every face was different. Everybody was wearing different clothes, had different styles. But from the little Avalon girls to the great big 250 lb. skinheads with suspenders, they were all staring right at the stage, all singing along.
SEAN: That's the key. How do we get that thing back? I think that the music scene nationally is in a desperate need to be able to do that. Now, it's like England was for 20 years. Remember the new romantic tribe? You had mohawk freaks. You had skins. You had punks. You had mods. You had fucking antpeople.
JERRY: I can't remember the damn names.
SEAN: There's millions of them. At one time, in the early eighties, it was absolutely unbelievable. I remember when I started buying fanzines and alternative publications you would get from England and I was just amazed at the fact that these groups of punks would go and fight groups of mods. They were fighting based on how they looked. When a style-war becomes physically dangerous, I mean, that's nothing to fight about. That's crazy. That's stupid. People just want something to get wound up about. Every interview we grant from now on: we are probably going to spend a significant amount of time just trying to get across the fact that this is all so insane. Literally, there are people who won't go see our band because of the length of Kevin's hair.
JERRY: Or the size of his drum kit. Or the fact that my head is shaved. It makes absolutely no sense.
SEAN: Or that I have absolutely no cute appeal. Zero. That is fucking us up. That's fucking everything up. It's stupid. Come see the band. We give it our all every show. The songs are good, y'know? I dunno man, the whole Chicago post-modern thing and then you've got the big-pants - We don't fit in any of these camps. We fit nowhere, but we want everybody to also drop out of all that shit; to just stop it. To just drop the whole thing. To stop addressing any one camp. Don't even address it. I don't even see the point of trying to create music or art, to where you're just trying to speak to something that's already made for some sort of audience. I'm just trying to talk to people!
JERRY: This brings us to the topic that a lot of the people who are going to shows now have grown up in these little camps that have been made throughout the past couple of years since the band was originally broken up. I can't remember a band that united the majority of the underground like this band did. There was never one, because as soon as this one split up there were 5,000 little camps -
SEAN: I hate to agree with that, because it looks so - but I'm sorry. It seems like when we stopped, and I hate to say it, that there was almost an excuse to draw all these lines in the sand.
KEVIN: Let's stop talking about fashion.
JERRY: It's not necessarily fashion. It's a mental thing.
KEVIN: It's a mental fashion.
SEAN: The reason that it's important is that it does inhibit your ability to get across to people in a crowd. If we leave a show and we know exactly why the little five people who were standing over there at the show that we all noticed, the reason that they were scowling at us and they walked out on us is because they were all wearing a certain uniform, and we didn't seem to have anything going that way. And they walked out. That fucks with your head. So, that's the reason I've been harping on it, at every show it happens to a certain degree. It fucks with your mind.
JM: Are there any other bands now that are crossing over like that?
JERRY: Are you talking on a national scale or local?
JM: National and local.
SEAN: Well, Hedge, definitely.
JERRY: Definitely. But the plus that they have is that they're starting out with this young crowd. This band already has a reputation, and a lot of people are intimidated by that reputation. That's the damn truth.
SEAN: Mule is pretty successful at it, nationally.
JERRY: And Tool.
SEAN: Yeah, they're real successful at it. The Jesus Lizard. I mean thank God that the Jesus Lizard may be the standard that is going to set for a few years. Let's hope. Because so many people are into that band that are into all kind of different shit. They're not easily identifiable in any way. I can't really conceivably see a whole crop of Jesus Lizard imitators. I think we've finally, maybe, found a band that if they do break big, that it just isn't really going to be possible to ape them. Like Fugazi had been aped. Like the Chili Peppers got aped. I don't see it happening, except in attitude, to where these dudes on stage are not pigeonholed. Except that they're just going crazy. That's the key. That they're just totally vomiting forth - they're just going berserk. They are, like, 35-year-old men just going berserk-o. They're nuts. The crowd's nuts. Everybody's flipping and having a great time, and that's the way it should be. To where it's violent in a cool way, like hardcore was in '82. The [Dead] Kennedys had this interesting vibe where the entire show was totally out of control, violent, and not one person got hurt. It was like a big goofy fake wrestling match. Now, Black Flag crowds tried to be like that, but the band at that time was so completely freaked out by their inability to get people to understand the same idea that we are. Just that, I can have long hair and dress like a disco dancer, and I'm still totally punk. The crowds would come up and go, "Why do you have hair?" I don't think they were successful at it. Anyway, I think that there are some people who can do it. I just think that some of the labels are going to be a little bit scared of us, simply because a lot of them are still in that mind set of trying to pigeonhole.
JM: So when the labels ask "What else is there like you?" you can say there's other unclassifiable bands like Mule or The Boredoms or something like that who are just nuts, who are not classifiable.
SEAN: The Dwarves. I thought The Dwarves were going to be horn-rimmed-glasses, art music, then I heard that record and I was like: Whoa! Man, that ain't arty at all. That's fucking totally out of control. I mean it was really stupid and red and fucked up. And at the same time they come across as, "Our ideas aren't completely inane, some of them are quite well developed." Then they're just going berserk. That's the key. Nobody wants to be overtly stupid, now, really. Nobody wants to be overtly, insultingly, artistically distant.
JERRY: Artistically superior, intellectually superior. Well, some people do.
SEAN: They're wrong. That's not right.
JERRY: It's alienating your audience.
SEAN: It's alienating people. If you're in the business of communication, why do you want to alienate some poor chump just because he's from Idaho.
JM: Some people just eat it up. People eat it up if you say you know something and you're never going to tell them. They're just like "Maybe someday you'll tell me, I'll follow you around 'til you do."
SEAN: You see, being involved with this all these years, know, that's one of the big messages of our band, that the whole concept of the secret Knowledge, it's almost like mysticism. You can see bands and people who are into these bands and they're just like "I've been given the keys, and you are unworthy."
KEVIN: But we know the true secret; that there's nothing to know.
SEAN: There's nothing that isn't out on the table. Holy shit. That whole, trying to come across as being unknowable-
KEVIN: It's so blatantly obvious, it's ridiculous.
SEAN: Not everybody understands everything that we write, but 99 percent of the people do. I'm sorry, there are bands out there where I feel insulted, not because I don't understand what they're saying, but because they're trying so hard to make sure that I don't. The attempt to make sure I don't know what they're saying absolutely infuriates the fucking shit out of me. "So what you're telling me is that I'm simply too stupid or unworthy of you." And it's just, like, so fucking mean.
JM: OK. Next question. People come up and tell me that I'm too busy, that they feel like I'm doing a lot. I don't feel like I'm doing enough. Do you feel the same way?
SEAN: I definitely feel as if I am not producing as many lyrics, I'm not writing as many songs as I could. And everyday I'm inching toward the point - Look at Matisse. How old was Matisse when he died? Like 83? [Ed: Henri Matisse was 85 years old when he died.] The week that he died he cut out something like 12,000 shapes out of colored paper and stuck them on various other large pieces of paper. This was the week that he died! He's snipping fourteen hours a day, going berserk. He can't even stand up. He's wrapped up in a blanket going "Woo hoo hoo!" Picasso's throwing paint until the very moment he [makes throaty gasping death noise]. That's the key, get to the point where the momentum is like a snowball and you can keep producing, produce, produce, produce, produce, produce, produce, produce, produce. That's your job: to produce. And in this world that we operate in there's so much other social stuff that makes you think what you're producing is valueless. So you're inhibited by the ideas, of not just your parents, but literally everywhere you go. The media, especially. That's how come we don't have a t.v. or read newspapers anymore - It's better to even turn away from media forms that are trying to get you to slow down or stop or "get with the program". Just don't even look at it.
JM: Until you feel wise enough to deal with it.
SEAN: Some of us are never wise enough to deal with it.
JM: Until you feel far enough apart to turn around and take a look at it again.
SEAN: OK, right, right. I don't look at billboards, magazine covers. We were in the grocery today and Jerry was like "What are you looking at that for?" Y'know the magazines at the check-out line? "Don't look at that." I was thinking I was looking over it and he was saying, "What are you doing?" He understands. "What are you doing looking at that trash?" You can just see the way everything's designed is to try to titillate you into becoming less of a problem. I don't know what it is. There's like a great country-wide conspiracy based on lameness. Lameness in the hipster sense. I don't mean, like the inability to walk. The thing is that it is so cool to be lame.
JERRY: Look at the music culture, the whole alternative/punk rock culture.
SEAN: That's the worst, but it's everywhere. I've never seen such utter devotion to -
JERRY: It's the most conservative movement of all time!
SEAN: Well, it's the most conservative time that I've ever lived in. It makes the early Reagan years look like a joke. Conservatism in the early Reagan years was a subculture. People in the suits and the people who were into being "good Americans" were a laughable subculture. They were like hippies. It was just another freaked-out thing to see. But now all across the board, every person has this weird wax plug in their butt, and every-fucking-body's sitting there going, "don't watch, don't touch, be quiet, don't see it, don't move." Everybody. So everywhere we go we're trying totally to make the biggest asses out of ourselves we can. Because everywhere you go, on the street, in every social situation, colleges, grade schools, the park, everywhere you see: (authoritative voice) "Uh, sir you're making an ass out of yourself, please stop." It's like the Dumbass Police. The Dumbass Police are going to cart us away. The thing is, we've gotten to the point where the Dumbass Police are even afraid of us. That we are so over the top and so stupid, and so ridiculously larger than life in flying the flag that no one dares approach the field. The second we get out there the field clears. I only feel like we've made headway since I've started meeting other people who think like me. Guys who are totally devoted to peeing on everything.
I never thought I'd be in a world where everyone's hip, where everyone is hip.
JERRY: What's regular looking anymore?
SEAN: We've come down to the terrible truth: that if everyone's hip, no one is hip. Nobody. We're either all hip or nobody is at this point. What we're trying to do is to figure out a way to become a total pain in the ass to the whole concept of what hip is now. To be unidentifiable, a complete mess. That's the only way to be free. Hip is so huge and across the board that it's normal. Normalcy is conservative thought.
JM: Quirkiness is normal. Eclecticism is normal.
SEAN: To be an ass, a total dumb ass, like Alfred E. Neuman, that whole Mad magazine approach to life, no one does that. That is very uncool. Do you think Steve Martin could break big now?
JM: I dunno. We have Beavis and Butt-head and Howard Stern.
SEAN: Oh no. That's very much tongue in cheek. That's cultural elitism.
JM: The creators know it's tongue in cheek, but the audience is eating it up as their cultural cake.
SEAN: The problem is that Beavis and Butt-head is very, very based in cultural elitism. What do they do? They sit around and make fun of everything, and they themselves are free of any return fire.
JM: They don't do anything at all.
SEAN: But you see, they don't have to. They trash everything. They are a parody of what all Americans are. All Americans sit around and think "I am so much more. That doesn't fool me. I am so much more with it than that." Whatever that is.
And then the tape runs out.
For a sample of the Kinghorse sound, please acquire Too Far Gone - Unreleased Recordings 1988-1992, a nineteen track CD from The Slamdek Record Company. This compilation references the entire Kinghorse experience, and is an interesting look at the characters who make up the band and their experiences on working for the "corporate machine." This is the closest thing yet available to Garrison and Brownstein's vision.