The man you know as Gary Wrong (or Captain Beyonce, or Authentic Metal Face, or...) has been around in numerous bands and incarnations throughout what I'll refer as the Southern garage/punk scene for the better part of a decade (and even further back than that, as we'll discover), sort of a link between the Memphis/Goner crowd and his home(s) in Alabama and New Orleans. He's played alongside luminaries from King Louie to Mr. Quintron, from Jack Yarber and Harlan Bobo to Matt Muscle. He's released records by Livefastdie, Final Solutions, True Sons of Thunder, Useless Eaters and more and even ties into the Black Metal scene and Eyehategod among many other ventures. I can't quite recollect how I first became aware of his presence - was it the supergroup that was Kajun SS? Or was it via Mangina's "At War With Black Metal" 7" (and I tried to get Gary to recount some sordid tales from that legendary band - tales that are too terrible to tell, so you'll have to make due with this or this)? Or was it the Scrip+s fantastic debut single (that people sometimes refer to as the "AJON" 7" because of the backwards NOLA print on the sleeve)? It doesn't matter in the big picture, as his rich and deep discography puts him right up there with the list of peers I mentioned above. To offer up an anecdote, the first time I ever met Gary in person was in the bathroom of a Brooklyn bar where he was attempting to piss on my leg while I stood at a urinal, after which he proceeded to destroy himself (and some of said bar) in performance with The Scrip+s at Dot Dash Year 3. I've run into him various times across the country since then - in Chicago with Kajun SS and Mangina, in Cleveland with Wizzard Sleeve and Gary Wrong Group - and found him to be just as gracious a person as he is an intense performer. I've never seen the guy play a set that was anything short of great, no matter what band or line-up. Metal, garage, synth-punk, weirdpunk, whatever sub-genres you want to cut up, Gary Wrong's done it and done it well. We've been trying to complete this interview for a year or more now, stopped and started a couple times due to time constraints and schedules, but now is as good a time as any to have finally finished up with the release of the now sold out 12" titled "Knights of Misery" from the Gary Wrong Group. There's a lot more I would have liked to address, but Gary's more concerned with the present than rehashing the past, and who can blame him. The Gary Wrong Group is now, and I'm eagerly anticipating more. Read on for some history (and some tunes) and shame on you if you missed the boat on the 12"....
TB: Where in the South are you from originally? How did you get into punk/metal as a kid?
GARY WRONG: I was born and raised in Mobile, AL - well there and Satsuma, AL which is about 20 minutes north of Mobile. I believe I was in the third grade when I got really into Violent Femmes. I wore the fucking tape (the s/t record) out, that cassette did permanent damage. I can thank my sister for the VF tape obsession. Haha, that and OMD. I started getting into punk around the tail end of eighth grade. That is when I found an 'In God We Trust Inc.' tape at a pawn shop and was really intrigued by the artwork and the song title "Nazi Punks Fuck Off." The old lady working the counter came very close to not selling it to me because of the word FUCK. I believe I also bought a DRI cassette that day as well. I dressed up as a PUNK for Halloween when I was around 8 or 9, so I guess I started out as a Fake Punk. I guess I am still a Fake Punk by all the rigid punk rules set by all these turds that will grow out of it and be working for iWhatever when their parents cut them off. Around the same time that I bought that DK tape I started noticing Vomit Spots show flyers around town. I can’t recall at the moment the first Vomit Spots show that I went to, but I do know that it was when I was in the ninth grade. Then in the tenth grade I was forever warped by Flipper. Me and my first bandmates (Cloning Mary) would ride around smoking pot and listening to 'Generic', Sub Pop compilations, Sonic Youth and Dead Kennedys in my buddy’s Bronco on the Sparkomatic tape deck. Later that year Flipper played at the Vincent Van Go Go with Ed Hall.
TB: So how long have you been playing in bands? I know of Mangina, Scrip+s, Kajun SS, WS....I'm sure there's more from the early days you could shed some light on?
GW: I have been playing in bands since I was in the ninth grade, so 1991 I guess? My first Band was CLONING MARY, we had a few originals and played a few covers. We would do "Pull My Strings" by DK, "Teenage Riot" by Sonic Youth, and "Tomorrow" by The Fluid. I’m sure there were others but that's all I can recall at the moment. Then C.F.A. (Christians From Alabama), then 8 BOMB IV that later morphed into THE MINIONS with the late great Brian Turd - R.I.P. - (he was also the frontman for Les Turdz) who was murdered in New Orleans while walking his dog. I miss that motherfucker, he was 100% Rock and Roll 24-7. I payed drums for a band called BUKKAKI BANGERS that ended up turning into the HIBACHI STRANGLERS, then I moved to New Orleans and joined the HEADWOUNDZ and was still kinda doing this band with some guys from Mobile that would drive over to NOLA at like 2am and jam, we were called the COKE SLUTS. Started the SCRiP+S with my wife and the drummer from my first band, Adam W., who played in the Superdestroyers with Joe Pestilence and the Black Rose Band with King Louie. I also opened a record store (Rocks Off) there with my wife. Shortly after, King Louie moved back to New Orleans after being exiled from Portland, we became partners in crime and I started bugging him to start THE PERSUADERS back up with me on drums since Shaggy wasn’t in town anymore. That was a bad idea because I am a horrible drummer so it quickly morphed into me on bass and the addition of Paul Rotzz (of Die Rotzz, Overnight Lows, Guitar Lightnin’) on drums - that is what became the punkest band in the south, KAJUN SS. Somewhere in there MANGINA was born and became the other punkest band in the South. Sang in a punk cover band called TEENAGE GUNSLINGERS. Jammed in the first incarnation of OUTLAW ORDER but was quickly axed for reasons unknown! (Hey Mike…I’m bitter!) After about three and a half years of doing the record store we decided to sell it, which worked out well and I was still able to work there part time! Then we decided to move away so my wife could go to an “affordable” law school. We moved to Wetumpka, Alabama two weeks before Katrina hit. Some friends from NOLA came up and stayed with us after the storm and we recorded a couple of songs as the KATRINA REFUGEE BAND (me, Adam W. and Jay from a very well known band that was made famous by Beavis and Butthead...). From there I started dabbling in adult rock with King Louie, Jack Oblivian, Adam Woodard, and Harlan Bobo in the four state spanning LOOSE DIAMONDS. Started WIZZARD SLEEVE in late 2005 with my wife and then added a couple of people from Mobile (Neil from the Hibachi Stranglers and his then wife Brooke). Met some strange teenagers (AMBER ALERTS) in Montgomery which was about 20 minutes south of Wetumpka and started recording and playing drums with them, but first I had to meet their mom in a Panera Bread parking lot so she could give me a quick look over. After three or so years up in Wetumpka we moved back down to Mobile where we are presently. Then started doing Wizzard Sleeve again with Benny Divine as a duo, toured a bit then added Bane de Crème on moogs and did an LP and a couple more tours. Killed that band for a while and now I do it with either the same line-up as GARY WRONG GROUP or with some Mobile people, Roman Gabriel Todd and Bobby Sweatpants. I played drums in the ULTRAHUMANS for a while and we were about to record a 7” and I got a call from Rob Sputin and he said he had just moved to New Orleans so that dissolved and then reappeared as the wonderful Buck Biloxi and the Fucks. There was also NAKED INTRUDER, and I just recently quit that. Now I am focusing on Gary Wrong Group and Wizzard Sleeve again.
Play "Death Ride" by The Minions
Play "Hey Little Girl" by The Minions
Play "Rock and Roll Baby" by The Minions
TB: "Later that year they (Flipper) played at the Vincent Van Go Go with Ed Hall." So did you make it to this show, and how was it if so?
GW: Yep, me and my two buds that were the original members of Cloning Mary went. It was a great experience to see real punk junkie retard burn-outs in action. On the way to the show, which was at a great now gone small rock club in downtown Mobile called the Vincent Van Go Go, I saw Bruce Loose buying dope from an old black man around the corner. I didn’t recognize him because of his face, it was solely because he was wearing a tight dirty sleeveless Mickey Mouse shirt and had either a safety pin or a razor blade earring. Ed Hall was great back then, I saw them a few times and they were always fun. It was really fucked up and loud with bad trip projections going on the whole show (Flipper used it too) which added to the entire downer vibe. Me and my boys ate acid at this show as well. I had a curfew in those days so I didn’t actually get to see the whole show but when I left, Flipper bass player (John Dougerty - also dead) was falling off stage from being so drunk, so I doubt they played much longer.
TB: What did Cloning Mary sound like? Did you play any shows?
GW: Cloning Mary was a bit of an anomaly - it went through different stages of grungey noisy punk type goofiness with different members coming and going. And yeah we played quite a few shows, I can’t remember exactly how many but a couple of notable bands or at least bands I dug that we played with were: LOAD (R.I.P. Bobby Load), Dead and Gone (first tour - they were really good!), Conniption, Muff Weasel, Schlong (I think we played with them at least). Greg Ginn...maybe we played that show, I can’t remember...probably didn’t. I should remember that! But what is funny about it is that he was doing basically the same thing that he is doing now, that is ruffling so many feathers. Playing a whole set of Black Flag songs. Which was fucking great to see as a teenager. Only difference is he probably only made a couple of hundred bucks then but is making near 10k now. Good for him.
TB: Tell us some more about the Vomit Spots - were they a big influence on what you ended up doing in your bands? Were there many other punks in Mobile then?
GW: No not really, I mean we (Wizzard Sleeve) did cover one of their songs ("Nina Haagen Daz") awhile back, but I don’t really think their musical stylings leaked into ours so much. But I do hold them near and dear to my heart. There were other punks, but most of them were not very active as far as music or art goes which is pretty typical I guess. Most of them are either dead or in jail - actually most of them turned in to gun-toting, Newport smoking wiggers.
TB: Tell us the story with Christians From Alabama? Any shows? Did any of these other early bands record demos or anything?
GW: CFA was what people called it, among other things, but Christians From Alabama was my favorite. To my knowledge no recordings exist. There was this guy who videoed a couple of shows but I was told he recorded over the tapes probably 15+ years ago. CFA shows were pretty wild. Deke Purple (Naked Intruder, Hotcakes!) was our singer and he is a very entertaining frontman. Sometimes we would have some punk lady back-up singers - they were referred to as the Doo-Twat Girls. The best show we played was with The Motards, that was a fun and very crazy night. We ended up back at a house that we were getting evicted from and completely destroyed it. Sean Chump was there too and I remember him doing some pretty cool graffiti throughout the house. I had so much fun with those guys that I ended moving to Austin for a bit. The 8 Bomb IV and The Minions had demo tapes for sure. Those were the two first releases on Jeth-Row Records!
TB: How long were Scrip+s around for? I think that 7" is really under-rated, I love it. I've always wanted to ask if there's a true story behind the song "Japanese Tourist"...
Play "Japanese Tourist" by The Scrip+s
GW: I think we were around for roughly three or four years...we managed to play some really fun shows and put out the 4 song 7" and a split 7" with Die Rotzz. I'm glad you dig the record. I think it's pretty damn good too! No, I was not a suspect in the murder of a japanese tourist, but it did happen. One of the best shows we played was opening for Rocket From The Tombs - Cheetah Chrome said we were the only band he liked that he played with on that tour, so that was cool. Another really fun one was the Atlanta vs. New Orleans Rock Fight at the Circle Bar with Scrip+s, Die Rotzz, Carbonas and Black Lips - we just had a back-line and all the bands would trade off after a couple of songs.
TB: So what exactly happened with Wizzard Sleeve - there was the first line-up with Neil and then you killed the band and then came back with the Benny line-up - how and why did all of that go down?
GW: Well, it's a long and intentionally confusing story there, but I'll try. WS was originally just gonna be me and a drum machine (the same intent as Gary Wrong but that changed too). Me and Shewhocannotbenamed had moved up to Wetumpka from New Orleans and I was just fucking around. Eventually, me and Shewho started jamming a little bit, then Neil (Hibachi Stranglers) and his wife at the time Brooke joined the band. Neil on guitar and Brooke on keyboards, which she had never played before. It was really loose for quite a while. Neil and Brooke would drive up from Mobile (about a three hour trip) for weekend jams and vice versa. Neil was doing the recording and mixing at the time and it was fun, but things got way too complicated. I'm not going to go into great detail because I'm sure I will get something wrong and piss someone off. It was a great line-up while it lasted. We accomplished quite a bit in a relatively short period of time. Neil was doing most of the recording and he also wrote thee cool synth parts for Brooke. But like I said, shit got way too complicated for my tastes and I'll leave it at that. So I replaced everyone with Benny Devine. Benny is super easy to communicate with and he is an amazing musician on just about any instrument. After me and Benny did WS for two tours as a two-piece we started recording the LP. Me and him recorded everything - guitar/bass/drums/microkorg/casio/vocals - and then got Bane to add some Moog parts on most of the songs over a rushed weekend in Wetumpka. He would listen to a song while I painted the exterior of the house, then I would come in and hit record once he had a part. We did a couple of tours with that line-up and then I killed the band again. I have recently revived it with a Mobile, AL line-up with Roman Gabriel Todd on bass and Bobby Sweatpants on drums. I'm going to continue on with that for a bit. We also got together in Chicago
with a different line-up that consisted of me, Benny, Bane, Quintron and Weird Steve.
TB: How'd you meet Benny and what's his story? I've seen you live with him a couple times and it's pretty amazing to watch him play drums and synth at the same time...
GW: I met benny from watching him play drums with Roman Gabriel Todd and drums/808 with Super Nice Bros. He is a fantastic musician and really easy to get along with - we are musically on the same page 99% of the time.
TB: So the first Gary Wrong records were just you, correct? How did that become the Gary Wrong Group? Is it the same band as the current Wizzard Sleeve line-up?
GW: Gary Wrong did two singles and it was mostly me, but Benny played on a lot of it. It has since morphed into a real band that I am very happy and excited about. The line-up is me, Benny, Quintron and Weird Steve. We are a different band than Wizzard Sleeve - sometimes we play WS songs and Gary Wrong Group songs. So the songs are shared by both bands but different versions. I dunno, it is confusing but I don't care. Whatever I feel like I guess. No rules in punk rock...right? Yeah right!
TB: What or who is the song "Setting Fire to your Loft" about or inspired by?
GW: Hahaha...uhhhh well..it’s just about being a mean house/loft/apartment/showspace guest to people that deserve it, for whatever reason. I’m super respectful about 75% of the time but every now and then I get a “wild hair” or someone pushes me to be a jerk.
TB: Why do you think the 7" on Total Punk was cursed by so much bad luck in getting released? Bad juju?
GW: It was cursed by the devil himself with help from a record broker and a terrible pressing plant called Alpha Pressing. For some reason Rich (Total Punk) decided to use a "record broker” (I didn’t know such a person existed until this record) to handle all the bullshit. Well, this “broker” happened to be named Chris Prorock and from what I was told he dropped the ball and lied about every single aspect of the record. Then when it finally made it to Alpha they somehow managed to break four plates then cut them with the wrong size holes and wrong labels. The fucking things they sent looked like they were cut by the Flintstones at the quarry. Whatever, I don’t care anymore, but at the time it was extremely frustrating. We managed to salvage about 178 of the 500 pressed. The rest were unusable/unplayable. Terrible.
TB: Covering "Streets of Iron" was a ballsy move as I think that it's one of the greatest rock songs of the modern era but you did a great job in twisting it into something else. Do you remember when you heard "Streets.." for the first time?
GW: I distinctly remember hearing and singing along with it the first time I saw them live. Bad Times shows were very rare. The show was at Ernie K-Doe’s Mother In Law Lounge on Claiborne in New Orleans. It was Bad Times, Final Solutions, and The Stacks. I still have the flyer…it’s framed in my bathroom over the toilet. That show was fucking incredible...I remember it so vividly. It was the first time I had ever seen Final Solutions too, it was before they had released anything. They had a CDR for sale which had recordings on it that I eventually released some of on Jeth-Row Records.
TB: What are the differences between living in Mobile and Wetumpka? Which is better/worse? Is there a good punk/weirdo scene in Mobile these days at all?
GW: Well, the difference is Wetumpka is pretty isolated but very beautiful. Mobile is a run down port city with not much going on. There are some people here that are trying to make things happen but there really isn’t much of a punk/weirdo scene. There are the occasional punk shows or art shows with music, but I tend to not really be on the same page with those folks, which is fine. I applaud the fact that they are doing something…anything.
TB: How rich are you from running Jeth-Row Records?
GW: I have managed it pretty well. Each release pays for the next, so that is all I can ask for really.
TB: Will the Hibachi Stranglers ever return?
GW: Hibachi Stranglers are still at it. They have been recording an LP for about four years now so it should be a monster when it finally makes its way out of the machine.
TB: What is the song "Pollen Christ" about?
GW: It is about the Lord and that pesky yellow stuff. Two things that have caused me endless grief growing up here in the Deep South.
TB: How did Quintron get involved with Gary Wrong Group? Had you worked with him before GWG? Is being at The Spellcaster as Lynchian as I imagine it is?
GW: I met Quintron a very long time ago when he played with XBXRX in Mobile (I think), but we didn’t really start hanging out until after I opened the record store. We have only collaborated on Gary Wrong Group stuff. The Spellcaster is one of my favorite places to be other than my own house. It’s great, there is so much stuff to look at and play with. It’s like a cross between a curiosity shop, a puppet planet and an underwater electronics warehouse. I spend as much time there as Quintron and Panacea will allow.
TB: IS it hard to write/record with Quintron in NOLA and you in AL? Will you be touring at all this summer?
GW: Well, I work in new Orleans quite a bit so if Quintron is in town we always try to get together to work on something. Sometimes it’s really really constructive sometimes it’s really really destructive! Wizzard Sleeve is playing Saturday night at Goner Fest 10 and Gary Wrong Group is playing the Saturday night afterPary at the Buccaneer in beautifully grimey Memphis, Tennessee.
TB: So what recordings are forthcoming from GWG and WS?
GW: Since the Gary Wrong Group 12” that Jeth-Row and Total Punk released sold out in three weeks, we plan on doing a second pressing of that pretty soon. I am working on another 12” to split release with Bat Shit Records (who also released a Gary Wrong 7”) and the 'Tarantisimo Summit Vol. 3' compilation LP that I have two tracks on. We just recorded a couple of songs at the Spellcaster this week that will get used soon. One is gonna be on a Halloween single put out by me and Pelican Pow Wow then other on the Bat Shit 12”. I have to finish up a track that will be on a Scavenger Of Death cassette compilation/zine that I have an interview in as well. I also plan on releasing a live Wizzard Sleeve LP with Pelican Pow Wow as well in the not so distant future.