Heart To Art: An Interview with Tim Kerr

By Danger Coolidge
Unbelievably Bad Editor

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Pic: David Campbell

Australia is about to be blessed with a rare touring appearance by spore-radical rock vagabonds The Monkeywrench, a band’s band of dudes that came and went in 1992 and have come and gone a couple more times since.

And UB is blessed to speak with their guitarist / vocalist / mouthharp player Tim Kerr – who’s legend status was assured long ago through his efforts with Big Boys, Poison 13 and more, and his production work on hundreds of very loud noughties-era garage records.

The Monkeywrench tour starts this Friday [November 17] in drummer Martin Bland’s hometown of Adelaide [dates listed below].

Tim explains how the tour came about (it was all his idea), tells us about the pop-up art show he’s having (at Outré, Melbourne on November 19), and gives his opinion on newly elected President Trump (“Worry”).

 

 

Tim, we love you because you are a man who does things, not someone who sits around and talks about what they did. But… can you talk a bit about what you’ve done? What is one piece of music or art you’ve done that you really loved but felt the rest of the world never appreciated as much?
Well, first off, thank you so much for the compliment (big smile). To each his own but I just can’t imagine living a life where you think you have seen or done the best thing you are ever going to do. I am humbled and honoured by all that I have gotten to be a part of, but I always hope that I still haven’t seen the best thing yet. As to your question, the newest thing to come out I did on Monofonus. It’s called Up Around The Sun. I am really proud of it, but I think because it is acoustic and melancholy it has been sort of passed by those that know me more for loud “key of free” feedback (smile). But, then again, if we knew the secret to why people pick up on things (music, art, books, etc…) we would all be rich! Case in point, MonkeyWrench started up because the second band I was in after the Big Boys, Poison 13, had made a big impression in the Northwest back in the mid eighties. At home in Austin Texas, we were way too blues for the punk rawk crowd and way to loud punk rawk for the blues crowd. We had a blast (big smile). Third Man Records is now going to reissue all the Poison 13 music.

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The Monkeywrench was intended to be a sort of one time, one LP band – what (or who) keeps prodding it back to life?
The first record [Clean As A Broke-Dick Dog] was pretty much what the third Poison 13 record would have been. I went to see Mudhoney play in Austin and we met. When Mark [Arm] found out there were a bunch of songs that I had that were never recorded, he talked to Sub Pop and we recorded and played some shows and that was that. Steve Turner played bass because we had to have Tom Price for the other guitar. Tom had been in an amazing band called The U-Men and they were the only Northwest folks that had seen Poison 13 play back in the day. Martin Bland had just moved to Seattle from Australia and he and Mark were friends so he played drums. His bands before were pretty great as well. Ten years later when Mudhoney was losing Matt [Lukin, bass] and were trying to decide what to do, they [Mark and Steve] called and asked if I wanted to get together again. That was Electric Children. That record was more of a “band” collaboration and we ended up playing a lot more shows. By that point, everyone involved all had other music projects going on and I was also recording a LOT of bands for Estrus, etc… I even had recorded some Australian stuff like Thee Crusaders and Kimo Sabe. We got back together to record four or five years after Electric Children and that ended up being the Gabriel’s Horn record. We never really played shows for that, though. Last year Drive Like Jehu asked if we would play All Tomorrows Parties. When the answer was yes, Graham [Williams] then asked if we would also play the Fun Fun Fun Fest (now Sound On Sound). When the answer was yes to that I wrote everyone in the band an email saying, “I am going to put this out there one more time, I have never been to Australia. Does anyone want to do that?” I knew that Martin really wanted to play one more time in his hometown. Everyone said yes, and here we are doing this interview (big smile).

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Monkeywrench circa Broke-Dick Dog

Are there certain members who keep the embers burning between times? Who is usually the first band member to make the call to the others?
As I said above, it’s been different circumstances every time. I don’t think any of us sit around thinking about what this band might do next. I don’t even think any of us think of it as a band. It is friends celebrating friendship and self-expression together. It’s always “the last time”, because it very well could be for any of us. That goes for anyone reading this as well. Hug and celebrate your friends. You have no idea what could happen in the next five seconds so celebrate your time here with every breath.

What other bands or albums that will always go down well with everybody inside the Monkeywrench tour van? The stuff you collectively agree upon.
There is a really varied and extensive music vocabulary among this group of people. Stooges to Sun Ra is not that big a leap (smile). I know Steve and I like the first three Cockney Rejects records and Mark does not (bigger smile).

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You are having a art show while in Australia. I know you’ve been doing lots of murals lately but what kinds of things will be in your show?
I have been doing art and music since before elementary school and I don’t really separate them. It’s all coming from the same source and the older I get, the more vocabulary and ammunition I have to work with. I paint people that have done or said something, because something had to be done or said at that point in time. They did not do it to be famous, they did it because they felt that they had to do it to keep really living. I can only hope that the viewer might realise that he or she is just as capable as the next, because we are all in our own way, making history. I sign everything “Your Name Here” as a sort of call to arms that you can do something too. As corny as it sounds, I honestly believe it to be a truth. I also try and paint at least a few people from the area I am having a show. Peter Norman is a good example of someone from Australia, or Bobbi Sykes or Myra Hilgendorf. The idea is that if someone walks in and sees someone on the wall that they knew, or are related to, or were there when the incident happened… it’s a sort of thank you to them.

What advice could you give to a young creative person that wants to make their mark today?
I would ask, “Why do you do what you do?” You need to be doing what you do because you NEED, like the air you breathe, to be doing what you do. To each his own, but if you are seeking validation for your choices of self-expression, or you are only looking to make a name for yourself, or you think this might be an easy way to make lots of money…. for the most part you really should look into pursuing another career choice. Like I said earlier, if there was some sort of game plan you could follow for a life of self-expression that actually made sense, we could all be rich.

Trump – A worry?
Yes, worry.

 

 

Monkeywrench Australian tour dates:
Nov 17 – Crown & Anchor, Adelaide
Nov 18 – The Tote, Melbourne
Nov 19 – River Rocks, Geelong
Nov 23 – Brisbane Hotel, Hobart
Nov 24 – The Basement, Canberra
Nov 25 – Newtown Social Club, Sydney

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