Reagan's Polyp graciously consented to a brief interview to promote the upcoming Vetoxa remasters of facefuckingbatspermantidotepudding, Deadenator, and America Needs More Ass. The interview was conducted on July 5.
The label says there are twelve Reagan’s Polyp remasters coming out over the next two years. Why lead off with these three albums in particular?
ASTRONAUT BODY: The label had the idea of putting the albums out in groups of three, and immediately we suggested these, since they sort of go together. They’re all studio albums and they’re all song-based, and they span the various periods, I guess, that we went through. Facefucking was our first time in the studio; there were two previous albums, both recorded live. It’s very much a debut album, you know, with the sense of discovery as well as all the limitations that implies. Deadenator was the fifth studio album, and by far the most elaborate, in terms of what we were attempting to achieve with pure sound. And then America Needs More Ass was sort of the final song-based studio album; after that, everything we did was firmly in the experimental-improv vein.
KREL: Facefucking is a rock album – it’s a collection of miniatures, but the textures are usually rock and roll textures, and the sounds are classic rock sounds, like the guitar solos and the way that the drums are featured. But with Deadenator we really figured out what Reagan’s Polyp was supposed to sound like. Even now, I don’t think that album sounds like any other album I’ve ever heard.
ASTRONAUT BODY: It’s true, nothing else sounds quite like it.
KREL: The sheer density of it still amazes me. And More Ass is even more extreme and concentrated.
Deadenator is the album you seem to consider your top achievement, but your fans say it’s Cream Gun.
KREL: The fans are wrong.
ASTRONAUT BODY: Everybody likes Cream Gun because, out of the thirty albums we did, Cream Gun was the only one we actually had printed up on a professional-style compact disc, a thousand copies I think. Everything else was on cassette or on these burned CDs in editions of twenty or fifty. So it’s just a matter of numbers. More people know Cream Gun, ergo, more people think it’s the one they like the best.
KREL: Cream Gun was an extremely ambitious project, technically speaking, and my feeling about it – and I think Astroboy agrees, right? – my feeling is that we just didn’t really have the ability to bring off the ideas we were trying to put forward. Whereas I think with Deadenator we were fully in control and the ideas were much more unified. And everything is much freer. We learned to trust ourselves.
ASTRONAUT BODY: I’ll say that the ideas on Cream Gun were ambitious but sometimes not great. Neither of us is very fond of “The Bathtub Samba.” But Deadenator is just so gigantic. It sounds like a volcano erupting.
What was the inspiration for America Needs More Ass? It seems very Arkansas-specific, like it’s an in-joke, and maybe some parts of it might be hard for someone like me to understand, for that reason.
ASTRONAUT BODY: Well, it kind of is an in-joke, and yeah, maybe the other musicians who work in central Arkansas might get a bit more out of it. Where do we start? In the early days, we played out a lot more than we did later on. We’re talking early 1990s. And we were always finding ourselves hanging out backstage with these punk bands, central Arkansas punk bands. Now, I’m predisposed to like punk rock, whereas Krel is not. However, these kids…
KREL: They were laughable.
ASTRONAUT BODY: It was hard to take them seriously. They made it hard. There were apparently these rivalries between the various suburbs of Little Rock – it was Benton vs. Bauxite, you know, and everybody hated Jacksonville. But all the bands were exactly alike. Angry middle-class kids, always white guys, who had some half-ideas they thought were oppositional or something, but they were all just these ultra-misogynist creeps.
KREL: Who couldn’t play their instruments.
ASTRONAUT BODY: Well, there was always one person in the group who could kind of play. Kind of. Usually the drummer. I don’t know, maybe it’s the same in Kansas City or Mobile.
KREL: Man, there was one band in particular, they were absolutely the worst. I don’t remember what they were called. The lead singer thought he was Jim Morrison. He sang songs about stealing cocaine from his girlfriend’s parents because they were bourgeois hypocrites and how he was going to rape and kill his stepmom, and then he ended their set by snarling, “Thank!” into the microphone and dropping it on the stage floor with a loud bang and walking offstage. He really thought he was an original. That was 20 years ago. He’s probably an entertainment lawyer now.
ASTRONAUT BODY: Well, another thing to mention, these bands, they all hated anything involving synthesizers or keyboards. We’d get up there on stage with a Moog and they were like, “these fucking stupid old people.” And we were, like, seven or eight years older, tops.
KREL: Yeah, but even more than synthesizers, they hated hippies. Hippies! I mean, say what? I know that the punks always hate the hippies, but I don’t think any of these kids had ever seen a hippie. Maybe on television.
ASTRONAUT BODY: They knew they were supposed to hate hippies, so they hated hippies. Yeah, they didn’t have any idea what they were talking about. The lyrics were meant to sort of satirize that.
KREL: With this particular album, we wanted to make the ultimate punk-rock record, where everything’s all fast and shouty and adenoidal. But completely without notes. No tonality anywhere.
You mentioned satire. I think a lot of people don’t understand that there’s an element of satire going on, like in the reviews that say that the lyrics are lowbrow or stupid. Why do you think that is?
ASTRONAUT BODY: That’s an interesting question. My guess is that, a lot of the time, it’s the simple fact that humor doesn’t belong in music, right? Rock and roll must always take itself very, very, very, very seriously, and if there’s humor in it, then – turn this shit off! But past that, I think a lot of the time, people know that something is supposed to be funny, but they don’t really know what part is supposed to be funny. Is “Pony” supposed to be funny? All the weird childhood stuff, the sort of horrific view of human sexuality, the infantile stuff backed up against things like the academic presentation in the middle of “Tunky the Talking Bear” – what’s the funny part? It’s just too ambiguous and just too much work for some people, which we’ve gotten used to.
KREL: It’s also that sometimes the person listening to the album is the person the album is actually about, or the type of person anyway. There was this one music critic for the local paper who wrote a column asking, where are the local Brian Wilsons? Where are the people recording really deep, personal records in their basements? So we sent him Deadenator, and man, he just couldn’t handle it. He really, really, really hated that album because –
ASTRONAUT BODY: – because it was about music critics who are looking for Brian Wilson.
KREL: That was a classic review. He wrote that he threw the disc across the room.
ASTRONAUT BODY: Yeah, that was gratifying.
KREL: I think we sent him a tin of cheese sticks afterwards. Just to say thanks.
ASTRONAUT BODY: We’re very classy.
Fifth question. It’s the 21st century. Do you think the world is finally ready for Reagan’s Polyp?
KREL: I certainly hope not!
ASTRONAUT BODY: We both want money, but there’s no money in music today. We’ll settle for real estate.