There can be no doubt that the spirit of rock and roll is alive and well in Teri Gender Bender.
Like so many of us, Teri (born Teresa Suarez) was an introverted teen, spending her time behind the closed doors of her bedroom, losing herself in a world of music. It’s an image that would almost be cliché it didn’t resonate so hard. There’s a loneliness and fear that comes with adolescence and Teri, again like so many of us, found solace and kinship among the music of her idols.
Among them—amidst a sea of punk and hardcore—perhaps none affected her more than the Melvins. Talking to Teri, her reverence and awe of this legendary group is more than apparent, it’s downright tangible. The conversation we had—about the upcoming Le Butcherettes/The Melvins tour—felt less like an interview, and more like a discussion between two fans just talking about one of their favorite bands.
Indeed, while it may not be obvious from listening to their music, the influence of Buzz and the Melvins can be seen in the fearlessness of their performances. Teri has fostered the image of a sort of rock and roll madwoman, flailing and wailing on stage wearing an apron covered in blood while invoking the ghost of punk rock in ways that haven’t been done in decades at least. “Peculiar,” is how Buzz Osborne himself described their live set, in an almost masterful display of understatement.
The Chaos as Usual/Hold it In Tour kicks of tomorrow night, June 6, in Tucson. In part one of our preview, we spoke with Buzz Osborne about his love of Teri and Le Butcherettes. In part two, we speak with Teri Gender Bender about the lasting impressions the Melvins made on her as an influence, the honor of sharing the stage with one of her favorite bands, and what she learned from them on their previous tour.
So this is your second time touring with the Melvins. What kind of influence would you say the Melvins had on you and your music?
Oh yeah. It’s so surreal, I can’t believe it. The last one was half a month and this one is going to be almost a two month tour. I’m looking very, very forward to it. Buzz’s lyrics, they’re just so out there. If you think Sid Barret’s lyrics are out there, which they are, when I started reading Buzz’s it just made me feel—I’ve never taken drugs before—but it made me feel like I was on an acid trip. Sometimes the words don’t rhyme, but yet they go in together so great. I think his words alone are pure poetry. Adding the element of the great, visceral, hard music, [while] still managing to keep tempos slow and on point. Before I started playing in a band, I would listen to the Melvins alone in my room, [their] music would make me feel not so lonely, in a way.
You kind of just described me growing up, listening to punk rock in my room. Like you said it’s got to be surreal to be sharing the stage with a band like that. I don’t think there’s a kid in the world who doesn’t listen to their favorite band and dream of being on stage with them.
Definitely. If you think about your favorite band, if they’re not influenced by the Melvins then [that band’s] favorite band is influenced by the Melvins. Somehow there’s always a connection that leads to Melvins. I was watching this Iggy Pop interview where even he’s talking about the Melvins. It’s always connected to them somehow. There’s that Kurt Cobain documentary that came out, Buzz is there talking on the phone with him. Nirvana, of course, Tool, they all took from their essence. And they’re still holding together strong after 30 years. That’s insane. That’s them putting up against a lot of music industry double standards, trying to sell yourself, prostitute yourself, basically. They refuse to be music industry slaves, and still they made it on their own. That’s something that not many bands have done.
Would you say that in touring with them you’ve learned anything about music or performance or even yourself?
I’m not the only introvert. They’re also introverts in their own way. Yet they’re not rude. There’s always an art to just being yourself without offending someone or something. They’re welcoming. I learned to be aware of space, especially when you’re touring with someone else [and] you’re the guest band. You don’t want to be in anyone’s space. I don’t want to go up to your dressing room and just be there and punish you. I don’t want to be someone’s punisher. I’m always very aware of other people’s space. I [don’t] want to make anyone mad. But the Melvins, they were very welcoming from the beginning. They were the ones that were coming over towards our dressing room, or if we didn’t have one they’d be like “hey we could share a dressing room.” Sometimes Buzz and Dale would come up to our van and help us load in. I’m not used to that at all. In Mexico, when you have a little one hit wonder there, those bands they’re [acting] like Lady Gaga. They don’t want to do any of the rough road work themselves. They’re used to people hauling in their amps. So I’m used to being around bands that are pretentious and into themselves. I’ve been kind of traumatized, so I’m always keeping to myself. The Melvins were the complete opposite. They were the ones offering to help. They asked me to sing on stage with them on the last show [of the last tour] which was insane. It was just on a whim. Buzz looked over at me and was like “come on up!” I was just like “OKAY! AHH!!” They have a very family environment going on. My face was hurting from so much smiling. You know like the rock star pose? The Melvins are nothing like that. Whatsoever. They know everyone [but] they have no reason to feel like their egos are inflated or pumped. That’s what I learned. You can keep being in a band for as long as you want. It’s really all in your mind. The good things and the bad things, you make it what it is.
How do you think Le Butcherettes compliments the Melvins in a live setting? Do you think that it works well together?
I think that, on a primal basis, we get along. I think both bands, we’re good people. Our drummer Chris Common he’s such a hard worker. He’s always busting his ass off. Not just for us, he also techs for other bands. So he’s very conscious about space and schedules and being there on time. If there’s no money made that night, we will put into our own pockets for per diem. It’s little things like that that mean the world to our guests. It’s the same way [with the Melvins]. I think that’s why it fits in well. It can be completely different genres of music or different generations, but the point is that we’re both good people and it helps. It’s hard nowadays to find someone that’s considerate. Let alone a whole band, a whole crew.
So the Melvins have been around three decades and they’ve got such a wide audience that spans generations. Do you feel like you’re getting more exposure to different audiences than you might be otherwise?
I think so. The first time we did the tour with them, people obviously don’t go to see the opening band. They go to see the main band. [However] there [were] definitely some people walking out when we loading out [who] would approach us be like “whoa we never heard of you guys but super great set!” We’ve been getting that, and that’s been awesome. I’m too much of a pessimist. You have to understand, in Guadalajara, as much as I love my country, if you’re a women there in the music world, you’re gonna get eaten up alive. “Oh she’s a whore. Oh of course, she’s doing this because she slept with them. People just like her music because of her tits.” Those are all things that I’ve heard before. So I’m always kind of like “[gasps] the audience is probably going to hate us.” But I don’t care. I’m living the dream. I’m playing music with my favorite bands. I’m always expecting the worst from the crowd, but their crowd has been nothing but nice people. It’s definitely been helping.
That’s interesting to me. Your live set is just so ridiculous and wild and crazy. Do you think that you feed on that animosity?
Oh definitely. I feed on the negative and the positive and I think in a way that’s the same way with the Melvins. They’ve seen a lot of crazy things on the road. A lot of unjustness. They meet pretty crazy people that are just rude. I’m guessing that feeds them on the writing. For example [their name], Melvin was one of their boss’s names, when they were working at a store. Melvin was kind of rude person. They thought that was such a ridiculous name, that’s the reason they named their band the Melvins, based on someone that was rude and ridiculous. I think it’s also due to the stupidity of people that art is beating strong. Imagine, if there was no corruption in Mexico, Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera what would they be painting and writing about? We need fire just like we need water. You need a little bit of everything to feed off of. You can’t just eat tuna for the rest of your life. You need that disgusting stink.
So you’re on tour with them day in and day out, but do you still take the time to watch them play?
Oh yes. Oh yes. I think the few times we couldn’t stay and watch them play is because we had to keep driving right away after the show, because we had long drives. But every show they give it their all. That’s what’s so fascinating. Every show. And they’re tight, their rhythm section. And Buzz’s moans. And the crew, their soundman is perfectly right on. It’s obvious that they work all together to serve the music. They all work with people that they like, and that’s how it should be. That’s basically what I want Le Butcherettes to accomplish. Right now I’m looking for my perfect team. So far we have the label, Ipecac. Great team. Great family. Chris Common, the drummer. A new bassist, Jaime. She’s an all-around musician but more importantly she’s a great person to travel with. That’s what I want to aspire to. To have what the Melvins have. A good family, team, that have our backs. That’s not easy to find. That’s why I think a lot of bands break up. Le Butcherettes has had a lot of lineup changes. Sometimes you feel like the musician is working against you than for you. That’s the worst thing you can go through. Maybe they don’t do it on purpose but it’s definitely in the air. When you change that, when you have people that are there to serve the whole concept and that have good work ethic, you realize that you have less headaches, that you’re sleeping more, you just feel like you’re taken care of. The Melvins, they’ve been together for 30 years, they’ve got that down. I can’t really think of another band that has that. Let me think…Rolling Stones? That’s not the same. There’s something dark about that. There’s something evil about that. I love the Rolling Stones, but there’s something evil there that I can’t put my finger on. [laughs]
I feel that. With them it’s like they made so many bad deals with the industry that took so much money out of their pocket. Whenever I see them go on tour it feels like a gut punch.
That’s the thing. That’s what I really love about the Melvins. They’re very anti-the main music industry. Like Record Store Day and all those other details. At the end of the day, it’s not about the music it’s about who sells more. [It’s about] who can prostitute themselves more. “I’ll find the little artist but you’re going to have to keep giving me 50% or more of your publishing, and three records will be owned by us.” It’s really good to have these intense awakenings, when I see bands that can make it without having to feed the big machine. Why not make your own little machine that you can sustain off of?
When I spoke with Buzz he told me a little bit about the split 10” you guys recorded. Can you tell me anything about it?
Oh fuck, so many things want to come out of my mouth and I’m just like AHHH. First of all, I can’t believe that. If my old self were to know that the future me would be able to collaborate in anyway whatsoever with the Melvins I would not have believed it. It came about in natural way. It’s all about the process, it’s all about meeting people and…I’m trying to say con vive, [Spanish for] to live with. I hate the word organic, but it came about so natural. Buzz said on tour before playing in Austin, he said that an idea of doing a split vinyl with us. I right away was like, “Yes! Yes!” I couldn’t believe it. As soon as we got back from tour I polished the songs and we recorded everything and I sent it over to him and I asked him, “Hey it’d be amazing—I know I’m asking for a cherry on top of the sundae—if you could add your vocals on the choruses and do whatever you want on this bridge with your guitar.” Again, I’m a pessimist. I was already expecting “oh, we can’t do this, there’s no time.” But he said yes and it happened! All I can say is wow. How lucky can I be? I don’t deserve it. Holy shit. I can’t believe it. And the name is beautiful, Chaos as Usual. I can relate to that completely. Especially when you’re on the road, it’s perfect chaos. Everything is scheduled, you have to be at a certain place at a certain time. Every day it repeats itself, but there’s still that chaotic element. You lose your mind somewhere in the process.
Les Butcherettes joined by King Buzzo on this track “We No Owe”. Buzzo doing some background yowls and foreground guitar screeching. The Chaos As Usual tour fires up in days!!From Melvins / Le Butcherettes “Chaos As Usual” – tour 10″
Posted by Amphetamine Reptile Records on Tuesday, June 2, 2015
You know, I’ve got to wonder, as a fan do you think this could spark a long term collaboration? You’ve collaborated with Omar Rodriguez-Lopez, and I know Buzz has done a lot of collaborations…
Yeah, and he’s worked with Jello Biafra, another one of my favorites. And Fantomas. I don’t see why not. The only reason why there wouldn’t be any future collaborations is because I end up being an asshole. I just turned 26, I’m still young and naïve. Of course I’m knocking on wood, [but] I could be manipulated by the evil guns in the music industry. That’d probably the only reason. If everything goes good and if God wants it to be that way then yeah. Fuck. My hope is that yes. I’m open, that’s all I’m saying. I’m open, if he’s open, too. I admire him so much. I’m just happy this tour is happening. I don’t want to feel like I’m taking [too much] from the horse. I don’t want to exhaust the horse.
I don’t want to speak for Buzz or put words in his mouth, but I will say I asked him a similar question yesterday and, based on that, I’d say it’s worth discussing…
Whoa. Oh my god. [laughs] Wow. That would be amazing. Amazing. [catches breath] You know when I was little, with my mom, we would take buses and there was this one man with a big white beard. He was very kind. [One time] he came up to me and he gave me a Teddy Bear. For no reason at all. Then he got off on the next stop and my mom said, “That’s the real Santa Claus.” Somehow, I just see Buzz as the real Santa Claus. [laughs] He’s very giving. A very giving man.
Hold it In/Chaos as Usual Tour (with Le Butcherettes)
June 6, 2015 – Tucson, AZ – Club Congress
June 7, 2015 – El Paso, TX – Lowbrow Palace
June 9, 2015 – San Antonio, TX – Korova
June 10, 2015 – Austin, TX – The Mohawk
June 11, 2015 – Dallas, TX – Trees
June 12, 2015 – Norman, OK – Opolis
June 14, 2015 – Lawrence, KS – The Bottleneck
June 15, 2015 – St. Louis, MO – The Firebird
June 16, 2015 – Grand Rapids, MI – The Pyramid Scheme
June 17, 2015 – Clarkston, MI – DTE Energy Music Theater (w/System of a Down)
June 18, 2015 – Columbus, OH – A&R Music Bar
June 19/20, 2015 – Montebello, QC, Canada (Amnesia Rockfest) (not Le Butcherettes)
June 22, 2015 – Toronto, ON, Canada – Danforth Music Hall
June 23, 2015 – London, ON, Canada – Call The Office
June 25, 2015 – Cleveland, OH – The Grog Shop
June 26, 2015 – Syracuse, NY – The Westcott Theater
June 27, 2015 – Boston, MA – Paradise Rock Club
June 28, 2015 – Hamden, CT – The Ballroom at the Outer Space
June 29, 2015 – New York, NY – Santos Party House
June 30, 2015 – New York, NY – Santos Party House
July 1, 2015 – Philadelphia, PA – Underground Arts
July 2, 2015 – Baltimore, MD – Ottobar
July 3, 2015 – Carrboro, NC – Cat’s Cradle
July 5, 2015 – Nashville, TN – Exit In
July 6, 2015 – Louisville, KY – Mercury Ballroom
July 7, 2015 – Indianapolis, IN – The Vogue Theatre
July 8, 2015 – Chicago, IL – Double Door
July 9, 2015 – Madison, WI – High Noon Saloon
July 10, 2015 – Rock Island, IL – RIBCO
July 11, 2015 – Minneapolis, MN – BASH 15 at Grumpy’s Downtown w/ COWZ, Hammerhead, Gay Witch Abortion
July 12, 2015 – Fargo, ND – The Aquarium
July 13, 2015 – Sioux Falls, SD – The District
July 14, 2015 – Omaha, NE – The Waiting Room
July 16, 2015 – Ft. Collins, CO – Aggie Theatre
July 17, 2015 – Denver, CO – Summit Music Hall
July 18, 2015 – Taos, NM – Taos Mesa Brewing
July 19, 2015 – Albuquerque, NM – The Launchpad
July 21, 2015 – Phoenix, AZ – Crescent Ballroom