Rancid Vat - We Hate You All The Way From Texas!

By Jens Hellroute

For 25 years this group has been spreading punkrock havoc across the US of A, from Portland, Seattle, Hollywood, Philly to the current home of San Marcos, Texas. I vividly remember reading about them in Maximum Rock'n'Roll in the political charged 80s, they differed a bit from that scene with their anti-social rock'n'roll, haha. With their new strong "We Hate You All The Way From Texas!" album I thought it was time to investigate the secrets of Rancid Vat which is spearheaded by The Whiskey Rebel (bass, guitar) and his wife Marla Vee (guitar), both friends of Jello Biafra and AntiSeen. Other members include Bobo (drums), The Texas Stud (vocals) and new guitarist Mark Von Diehl (ex-Dual Exhaust). Thanks to Mark for setting up this interview with The Rebel, a passionate connoisseur of pro wrestling, chess, and (of course) whiskey.

Wormwood Chronicles: Lets start with some Rancid Vat history, the band originally started in 1981 on the West Coast (Portland, Oregon) and released the "Stampeding Cattle" album?

The Whiskey Rebel: Yeah. We were instructed to start up the band during a Ouija board session on New Years eve / New Years day 1980-81. My Wife Marla and I had been in a more straight forward punk rock band called the Spaztics previously and we had been invited to have a band of some sort play at a big benefit show in January 1981. We had both played in various other bands seperately in the mean time. We were trying to decide what sort of band we wanted to do together. One of the options was an instrumental "surf" sort of band which seemed like fun (a 7" exists from the rehearsals using the band name "Rumpus Room"). Frankly, though, I was more ready to piss off listeners at the time than entertain them. Besides pissing people off, we wanted to express our disgust for mankind more or less, and go places musically that violated the 'rules' of rock and roll circa 1981. We had influences but reviewers never figured them out really. The album "Stampeding Cattle" has sold for big bucks for many years. It was likely our most original recording. I've seen it described as unlistenable noise, clever neo-psych, 'art', 'trash', etc. We had changed our approach quite a bit already by our next release. It would seem unrecognizable in many ways compared to our recent stuff, except in spirit. A cynical, bad attitude has always been at the forefront.

WC: Rancid Vat's 'refreshing anti-humanity attitude' must've been differed a bit from the political hardcore bands of that area and period?

WR: Hell, yeah. We played with a lot of well known bands of that ilk live over the years...but our songs made fun of them in both obvious and subtle ways. We only recorded one 'political' song ("Clusterbombs") that I can remember. Our first singer wrote not all but most of the lyrics the first dozen years. he was damned good and original. In the mid 80's we'd hear cliche punk rock types in the audience begging us to "play something fast!". We weren't 'slow' by rock and roll standards, only in comparison to the rash of 3 letter band name bands.

WC: How about "The Darkest Souls in Rock and Roll", "31 Flavors Of Hostility"?

WR: Those were albums of course recorded much later in the 90's. Our more 'accessible', shall we say, LP's of the 80's were "Burger Belsen" and "Rancid Vat Justice". "31 Flavors of Hostility" was our first recorded with Philly personnel. We were a rock and roll band plain and simple by that point, with only occasional bursts of racket from theremin's and my clavinet. "The Darkest Souls In Rock and Roll" was a masterpiece ,if I do say so myself; the title track wound up in a horror film titled "Cold Hearts" a friend taped off of Showtime for me. That album is LOADED from top to bottom with anti-social anthems. I've loved all the albums we've ever done, but that one was a milestone for offensive music ,if I do say so myself.

WC: In 1994 you moved to across America to Philly and met The Cosmic Commander (also in Johnny Casino's Easy Action), the notorious wrestling manager? Why the change of scenery?

WR: We moved to Seattle for a while and Hollywood, too ,over the years. The real reason has nothing to do with the band. I just didn't want to waste my entire life living in a pretentious hell hole like Portland. I convinced my Wife and son we needed to experience the beautiful Eastern seaboard of America. It was a good move, damnit. My son's 20 years old and he's been to 38 or so States of the union. Also, ECW wrestling was just busting out a mile from where we lived in Philly. Our timing was perfect.

WC: In 2001 you moved again, this time Austin, Texas?

WR: What can I say? Again, our reasons for moving were outside of the band. We love Texas. We miss a lot of things about Philly, but there's a lot of great things about the lone star state. I've run out of places I'd like to move to though unless I inherit a lot of money or sell some of my books to be made into movies. Most of the propaganda you hear about Texas is pure bull shit. Texans in general that we know have disappointed us in a couple ways, but I won't reveal them. I'm a proud Texan, my paternal Grandfather evidently left a few families spread across the even though I've never met 'em I know I have a lot of cousins down here. I have ROOTS here in other words.

WC: There's numerous bands connected to 'the Confederacy Of Scum' like Anti-Seen, Limecell, Hammerlock (who recorded a "Whiskey Rebel" tribute) and newer ones like Cocknoose, Hellstomper. Tell me a bit of what 'C.O.S.' is about?

WR: Hey, the C.O.S. doesn't exist anymore. I drink to all of those bands though. I still love 'em all.

WC: You had several lead vocalists over the years; Elvis Rotten, The Texas Stud etc.?

WR: Actually, our Son Elvis was a sort of interim singer. He'll eventually inherit the whole pile of records and song publication rights when his Mother and me are dead fucks, so he has a vested interest in helping out when he can. Steve Wilson was our singer for 12+ years in Portland, Cosmo for 7 or so in Philly and the Texas Stud down here for a few years now.

WC: Last year guitarist Mark Von Diehl of Illinois' Dual Exhaust joined the line-up? Is Dual Exhaust still around?

WR: Well, you better ask Mark that one. The band is seperated by several hundred miles..but you know how anything is possible when it comes to rock and roll. Incidentally, I loved Dual Exhaust even before I ever met Mark. He's a fine guitar player needless to say...and a helluva tattoo artist.

Mark: Unfortunately, I was unable to convince the other band members, primarily Germ, the drummer extraordinaire and co-founder of Dual Exhaust, to move down here to keep the band going. I'm hopin' he gets his ass down here so we can continue on our path to glory! (I can confirm that Dual Exhaust is sorely missed in the local music scene--Dr. Mality)

WC: Rancid Vat records are pretty hard to find here in Europe, will Steel Cage Records change that?

WR: There's a lovely Steel Cage 2 CD collection featuring music from the past 25 years coming out in November 2005. It'll get good distribution in Europe. We sold quite a few records over the years to Europe and had some released there of course, but they were likely all snapped up by alert record collectors. One of these days we'll come over there and go on a live rampage.

WC: What can you say about the latest "We Hate You All The Way From Texas!" release? There's two Ramones tracks and one Sonics cover, some of your musical heroes?

WR: Well, the Texas Stud hates the Ramones (Cosmo wasn't a big fan either), the rest of us loved 'em. The Sonics greatness cannot be denied by any band member as far as I know. As the years have gone by we have more and more in common with great rock and roll bands of course. Since rock and roll has been near death in America since the 90's for all practical purposes, we've come around to standing up for it I defend rock and roll bands now that I didn't even really like much in the 70's and 80's. Why?? The crap that people have tried to replace it with is boring and pretentious. FUCK commercial 'rap'. Cram 'electronica' up your ass, and those droopy pants along with it.

WC: Who's Bruiser Brody ("Portrait Of A True American Hero")?

WR: You've gotta be kidding me? Is this interview from the Netherlands or some insane asylum in Peru? Bruiser Brody was a man's man, a mighty professional wrestler who not only annihilated all comers in the Southern United States of America, he's considered a GOD in Japan. He stood 6 and a half feet tall, and could wallop any half dozen of the toughest bastards in any bar in the Netherlands on his day off. (Brody was one of the greatest wrestling "wildmen" ever, but he wasn't so tough he could get up after being stabbed with a butcher knife. R.I.P., Bruiser!--Mality)

WC: Your songs is mostly about hate, violence and wrestling so I was a bit surprised when I heard you're doing a split with Melvins who recently made a highly political charged album with Jello Biafra on Alternative Tentacles?

WR: Jello's an old friend of Marla and I. He somehow got ahold of "Stampeding Cattle" in the early 80's and we met him and have visited back and forth many times over the years. He's obviously politically inclined as opposed to us, we're 'social critics' shall we say. He's a great friend, bottom line. The Melvins evolved out of the Western Washington State ooze a few short years after we did. Marla and I met Buzz recently in person and instantly hit it off. We have quite a few mutual acquantances shall we say from back in the day. The other guys in the band grew up listening to the Melvins. It should be a beautiful blend of racket.

WC: You're a avid chess player who hates Jägermeister?

WR: Hey, I don't hate Jagermeister, I prefer whiskey; Jim Beam and Rebel Yell and Makers Mark to be specific. I'm very wary of Jagermeister since I'm a creature of habit as a drunk..and I get shitfaced really fast breaking from my routine. I've drank my share over the years. I don't recommend it to novice drinkers, since it's 'sweet' and will lead you to a hellish over the top drunk in no time. I came back to tournament chess after a 23 year vacation. I compete in tournaments and am ranked as what I believe is referred to in Europe as a 'first category' player, close to being a 'candidate master'. I study a few hours per day and am better than I ever was. It's sort of a way to prove to people around me and myself that after a quarter century of constant drinking I haven't completely gone nutso.

WC: Have you ever toured in Europe? Anti-Seen has been over here many times.

WR: The AntiSeen guys are like family to us all. I'd take a beating, literally, for any of them. We met in the 80's and have done 4 vinyl splits with them so far. We've had a couple chances to play in Europe that didn't work out. The last time was a big tattoo convention in Amsterdam. Damn, I couldn't get away from my job at the time. No doubt we will make it over at least once. We've been around for 25 years's time for some bookers and promoters to hook something up.

WC: Next year Rancid Vat has been raising hell for a quarter of a century, whats your take on punkrock today?

WR: Here's the truth: it'd be predictable for me to go off on young bands and say they all suck..but that's not true. Most, but not all, commercial punk rock bands are 90% nostalgia, reinventing the Buzzcocks or the Clash or whomever. The really best stuff to me is from lesser known bands from remote corners of the world, like the Dog Shit Boys from Finland or the Radfords from Canada or the Bad Vibes from Philly or Born Bavarian from Germany. I could name many more. If you really dig in the record and CD bins of the world you can find lots of punk rock type bands to listen to, although some of them don't like to be pigeonholed as 'punk rock'.

WC: Anything to add?

WR: I visited Amsterdam as a teenager and got fucking smashed drinking all night for free at the Hilton hotel there. I can't wait to go back. I don't think our current drummer Bobo has been mentioned at all, so here's a shot to you Brother. I'm washing it down with pure Lone Star beer.