The Queers' Joe King Talks Auto-Tune Bullshit and Keeping It Punk
When Portsmouth, New Hampshire's the Queers roll into Churchill's on January 15, punk rock fans can count on the crew to give us what we want. We can pretty much guarantee that we're gonna get to sing along to hits like "I Can't Stop Farting" and "Teenage Gluesniffer".
We contacted frontman, songwriter, and lone remaining original member, Joe King to talk about the Queers' nearly 30 years of punk rock business as well as the band's upcoming Miami show and its new album, Back To The Basement.
New Times: The new record has a lot different Queers styles -- some stuff that reminds us of 1994's Beat Off, some pure pop, and some tunes that could fit in with the earliest stuff. What did you envision when writing this record?
Joe King: We were thinking of how everyone likes our early stuff and how it was recorded in one take. We would usually go into a studio back then for just, like, four hours. We'd be short on cash due to buying coke and booze, so we wouldn't pussyfoot around. We never wanted to piss off the engineers too badly. So, as long as we were in tune (sort of) and started and ended together, we kept the take. On this album, we took the same tack. Just tune up, bang it out, and don't get all cute with trying to make the song perfect. We went for spirit and enthusiasm, like the old days, and didn't waste time picking apart each little note we played.
We did it all on tape; no endless cutting and pasting and moving shit around like with digital. It's an honest recording of the Queers. I think so many engineers and producers have taken the recording process hostage and the honesty and integrity is gone in punk recordings. Everyone uses the same production values used on Top 40 albums by rap artists. It's phony as hell. Auto-tuned bullshit vocals and Beat Detective drum replacement. It's fucking ridiculous.
You never disappoint the fans when you play live. How do you pick the songs for the live set?
We wing it. We don't use a set list. I feel out where the crowd is going and follow their lead. If the pop stuff is working, we'll do more of that. Or the earlier punky stuff. It keeps it fresh and we never know what the fuck we're playing. I will yell out a song we haven't played in a few years. Like, we did "Boobarella" a few nights ago and we haven't played that in ages. We pulled it off. Someone yelled it out and we were like, "Yeah, let's try it."
The guitar sound of the new record is really raw and strong. What records inspired you to get those sounds?
Black Flag, early Social D., and Ramones. Just raw early punk I love ... Angry Samoans, Dickies, Descendents. All that West Coast stuff really influenced us.
The Queers have been very consistent throughout the years. Are there any records you're not so proud of?
Eh ... Move Back Home and Beat Off weren't as good as we could have done. If we'd just waited a few months on each one, they would've been way better. [Original drummer] Hugh wasn't on Beat Off and that sucked. Panic from Screeching Weasel did drums. But it wasn't our style. [For] Move Back Home, we were all fucked up on booze and shit and just needed more time.
Photo by Pat Schumacher
You're a big fan of Jesus and Mary Chain, would you ever cover any of their jams?
I was thinking of doing "Between Planets." I love them a lot. I emailed Jim [Reid, frontman for Jesus and Mary Chain] about doing lyrics for a song I have called "When I Look In Your Eyes." He said he'd do it. But those guys are so busy. I'll maybe do it next album. "Psychedelic Mindfuck" is my take on a JAMC song. I always loved them 'cause I grew up listening to Lou Reed and the Velvets.
What inspires you to keep it punk?
We were never trying to make it in the biz. And we never put money in front of our morals. I've seen it change a lot of my friends in the music business. They start out really honestly. And then when they get money offered to them, they jump to that major label or just get greedy and really cheap, say, with opening bands or roadies. They go from righteous dudes to money mongers. It's really disappointing.
So many people think if you have a mohawk and studded leather jacket, you're punk. We turned down The Warped Tour. (It) was just rock star shit and exactly the sort of stuff punk rock started out against. Everyone seems to have conveniently forgotten that, though, 'cause they all made money. We started out in the basement playing to have fun. So our trip in the music world has been all gravy for me.
The Queers with the Apers and others. Saturday, January 15. Churchill's, 5501 NE Second Ave., Miami. Call 305-757-1807 or visit churchillspub.com.
Get the Music Newsletter
Keep your thumb on the local music scene with music features, additional online music listings and show picks. We'll also send special ticket offers and music promotions available only to our Music Newsletter subscribers.