CLASSIC UB INTERVIEW: TRENT RUANE, THE MUMMIES
BY OWEN PENGLIS
Originally published in Unbelievably Bad #5, 2007
On the road with a beyond-the-grave stink leaking from their Budget Rock ambulance, The Mummies pillaged on until the final split of the group in 1993 after a brief European reunion tour. Head Mummy Trent Ruane talks of losing teeth, thrifty living, how The Mummies only ever really appealed to drunks and balding sweaty record collector guys, and their ultimate death at the hands of primitive tribal sodomites.
You toured the US steadfastly for a while. How did you keep things together on the road, and how did you all manage to pay your bills? How did some of the varied bills go down, like the Billy Childish and Nation of Ulysses string of shows?
There were several things that occurred every time we went on tour. Of course we’d manage – the usual printing of T–shirts and packing up of 45s to sell, but we also had a few “budget-rock tricks” up our sleeves while on the road. One of them was the old “drive-thru scam.” Whenever we were in a new town, we’d steal a copy of the phone directory, locate all the fast food restaurants in the immediate area and we’d all apply for jobs – as many as possible. Undoubtedly one of us would secure a job (usually our bass player – he was the most respectable looking of the lot), and that’s all it would take. At an arranged time, we’d drive the Mummy-mobile to the drive-thru window where our “working man” would start throwing as much food as he could through the window to the rest of us. He’d then run like hell out of the restaurant, around the corner or down the street where we’d be waiting for him. As you can imagine, a 1963 Pontiac Bonneville ambulance is not the most inconspicuous vehicle to be pulling a stunt like this off. We had an amazing string of good fortune though, and in only one case did things go awry (but that’s a story for another time). We also did a fair amount of shoplifting on the road at thrift stores, guitar shops and record stores, and we’d turn around and resell most of the stuff to folks we’d stay with or others we’d meet at shows (collectibles are always a hot commodity with the hipster crowd). This would help pay for gas. I don’t know what clubs are like down your way, but clubs in America pay dick, so you have to exercise a fair amount of creativity to make ends meet. One of our favourite little habits was stealing equipment from these cheapskate clubs, like microphones, cables, stands and the like. And since you brought them up, I just want to say that the guys in the Nation of Ulysses were fucking great. We crashed at the Embassy when we played in DC and they showed us a fantastic time.
When playing live I figure the Mummies always talked between songs so much because you were either a bunch of loudmouths or you were really hot in those suits and needed to cool down for a minute. What are the best and worst jokes the Mummies have been responsible for on stage?
The actual reason for our lengthy between-song banter was due to the quality of the equipment we were using. Our drum kit would literally fall apart during a set, requiring the drummer to do a bit of on-the-spot fabrication and repair whenever we played a gig. Luckily, he was an auto mechanic by trade, and he’d always bring his big-ass toolbox with him on stage where the rest of us would inevitably trip over it. I would also fuck with the guitarist quite a bit during his solos, like pulling him around the stage by the head of his guitar or unplugging him or turning off his amp, so an inordinate amount of time was spent re-tuning or trying to find why it wasn’t making any sound anymore. I always thought the funniest joke was the fact that all these people who had paid to see a show spent more time waiting for us to play than watching us play. That is some seriously funny shit. I mean, we’re talking about incredible power here – kinda like a puppet master or something. OK, how long can I keep these people interested enough in this shit before they just pack it in and leave…? There’s definitely a limit to people’s patience, but after enough shows, you get a feel for what their threshold is, and playing with that is an incredible rush.
There’s a great video I came across of the Mummies live at the Shamrock in LA, by the last song you’re loading your equipment out into the car park while the others finish with an instrumental and it was actually a pretty fucking cool show. What do you think was the worst Mummies show ever?
Every Mummies show was the worst show ever. I think the truly worst part of playing any show though (especially if you’re headlining) is having to suffer through all the other fucking horrible bands on the bill. The cherry on top of the turd is when a really horrible band is made up of a nice bunch of people. What the hell do you say to them when they compliment you at the end of the show? What we used to tell bands like this was that they were “really tight,” which was no lie – next to the Mummies, any band pretty much fits that description. A particularly funny show though was one of the Billy Childish shows you mentioned earlier. We did a summertime tour of the Northwest and Canada with Thee Headcoats in ’91. The first show of the tour was in Seattle at a club called the Off Ramp, and after the show me and the guitarist got into an all-out, knock-down fist fight over a misunderstanding and I got kicked out of the club for trying to break his head open by throwing beer bottles at it. I also tried some kung fu moves on the bouncer, but he pretty much beat the shit out of me. So here I go, flying out the doors of the club where I land right in front of my girlfriend who then totally kicks my ass all over again (over the same misunderstanding), outside the club in front of Billy and crew (who were pissing their pants watching this comedy unfold). Anyway, the bass player and drummer had already split by then, and after retrieving my missing teeth, I decided to as well. What I didn’t realize, however, was that I took the only set of keys with me, which meant the guitarist was stuck with all the gear and the Mummy-mobile in front of the club all night. Well, as you can imagine, he was pretty pissed off the next morning, so much so that he quit the band then and there – after the very first show of a three-week tour! Well, the rest of us successfully blackmailed him into re-enlisting as he was flat broke at the time and none of us were about to loan him any dough for a bus ticket back home.
Re-releasing the Mummies Never Been Caught on CD and later the remastered CD compilation Death By Unga Bunga seemed to be the ultimate Fuck You to fans and the buying public holding the primitive scuzz of the Mummies to heart. Essentially, isn’t this the Mummies truly railing against one of their original ideals – Viva Vinyl and all that?See, the problem with the Mummies – and this is proof positive that we were never in it for the money, the girls or just to be cool – was that we only really appealed to two types of people: record collectors and drunk males. Now the drunks won’t really remember ever having seen or heard us anyway, but the record collectors can go fuck themselves. If they really want to pay a lot of dough for our old records on ebay or wherever, then that’s the Mummies curse working on them. But if some poor kid who was six years old when we broke up and is just finding out about us now, then why should it be expensive for him or her to hear what we sound like? Likewise, if one of those drunks sold off their record collection for booze money but is now a born again Christian or Buddhist or something and just wants to sit back and chill to “Stronger Than Dirt” – again, why should the poor sap have to pay a lot of dough for that? I mean, he’s probably already been through enough shit.
I figure the Death By Unga Bunga album title is based on the old joke – is that how you see the end of the Mummies career, being like a death by unga bunga? [Note: that is, like being sodomised by a gang of angry tribesmen]
Yeah, when I was working on putting together that compilation, I kept thinking about that joke because to me having heard all those songs so many times already was kinda like one of those ass-stretching shots from a cheap porno after way too much hide the salami –total distended, bloody dilation – exactly how my ears were feeling.
You had me fooled with the cover of Play Their Own Records, until I found the picture on the website revealing the curtain rod in someone’s living room the band are standing in front of – whose place is this and where did you get the idea to not only dress as Mummies, but to top it off with tuxedos?
Believe it or not, the Mummies were a class act, and sometimes we were required to play some pretty upscale fucking events – you know, black-tie things. As for the photos, they were taken at the former Mummies/Pre-B.S. HQ where members of the Mummies, Phantom Surfers, Supercharger (and for a short while the Fingers) all lived in a tremendously large and dangerous house, which was precariously perched on the edge of a cliff overlooking both the Pacific Ocean and the Daly City Municipal Garbage Dump. What made it dangerous was the fact that the house was located right along the San Andreas Fault. Nevertheless, it was a huge house and dirt-cheap rent because of the danger, and it had a three-car garage underneath it besides. The whole affair was a fantastic set-up if you were in a band. See, we were the last house on our side of the street – every other house on that side had literally collapsed during quakes. So no neighbours to our left, sheer cliff drop-off on the back side and since it was on a hill, half the right-side of the house was below grade, which meant we could be really loud without resulting in the cops getting called (much). The garage was converted into a studio where a number of our recordings were made, like the “Planet of the Apes” 45.
What is the story with the Party at Steve’s House LP, where does the noise and introduction actually come from, when was this recorded and why was it not released until the demise of the group? Furthermore, what are the origins of the track about Kingsmen founder/Stooges producer, “Don Gallucci’s Balls” and is it a coincidence this track appears on the record with overdubbed crowd noise much like a couple of Kingsmen records, and who’s playing saxophone on it?
The Party At Steve’s House LP was released as a condition of the second European tour. The songs were originally things I wrote for another band project that Darin Raffaelli (Supercharger) and I were tossing around at the time. It was to be a Northwest frat-type thing meets Alvin Cash & The Registers, but we both got busy and then a reason to sit down and record it came up. That’s actually him on bass on that album, and me doubling on the sax. The crowd noises are from “The Kingsmen In Person,” Wand 657, and well, Don and the Goodtimes were always one of the big influences on the Mummies, hence the shout out to Mr. Gallucci’s nuts.
How were the Mummy outfits constructed and how were they maintained? Were there multiple costumes per member to overcome the touring stink?
I won’t tell you how they were made, but I will say that we only had one set of costumes at any given time. We were too stupid and lazy to be more conscientious about the whole thing. After each show, we’d cram all the wet and smelly costumes into a milk crate and load it into the Mummy-mobile just like the rest of the gear. I can remember touring in Washington in the dead of winter and having to crawl into ice-cold, soaking wet Mummy costumes that smelled like asshole before going out on stage (a large reason why we didn’t appeal to the ladies much). We used to carry around a can of Lysol disinfectant and we’d take turns spraying each other down after donning our costumes. If we had time to kill after soundchecks, we’d hit the nearest laundromat and throw them into a dryer. (Of course, we were too cheap to wash them too, mind you.) Watching the costumes spin around in the dryer was pretty disgusting, as they’d smear gray grime all over the little round window. And yeah, we got sick an awful lot.
You toured Europe after the band broke up. How was that for post-break-up tension? A guy I borrowed a van off in Europe reckoned the second Mummies European tour (specifically in Groningen) was for the money and didn’t match up to that of 1992. Is he a bearded Dutch van-hire liar?
That’s just the sort of thing a bearded Dutchman would say. Honestly we fought regularly while the band was active, but mostly about stupid shit like fighting over finds at thrift stores. After we split, there was never any real tension, I think largely because we didn’t see each other much, so when the opportunity came up to do Europe, it was by mutual agreement. As far as the second tour, yeah, it really sucked. But to be honest, neither of the European tours were about money. We didn’t make anything from either tour over covering our expenses. Touring for the Mummies was always about subsidizing travel – a way to visit new places for free – even before we split. Anyway, on our first tour of Europe, I had insisted that Supercharger be brought along, and we only played like a dozen shows over the course of 3 weeks, so we had a lot of time to just fuck about and have a laugh. When we went back in ’94, it was just us and we played something like twice the number of shows we did the year before in about the same amount of time, which worked out to playing every night for two weeks straight. We were burnt out, I had become a big fat fuck and the tour organisers definitely turned it into a money-making venture (of which they kept the profit). I mean, there is a reason why we never did another tour again.
The Mummies are touring Australia in March 2016.