Good Livin’

20 June 2012 | 6:11 am | Steve Bell

"That’s kinda how the solo shows go – I let the crowd tell me what they want to hear, and I try my best to play it." Supersuckers frontman Eddie Spaghetti get us ready for his first Australian solo tour.

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There's a moment on the most excellent 1999 Supersuckers album The Evil Powers Of Rock'N'Roll – aptly just before raucous tune I Want The Drugs is about to kick in – where a disembodied voice poses the question: “Would you say that your songs are about liquor, women, drugs and killing for the most part?”. There's a reflective pause before a cheeky, “Yup!” is proffered and then the depraved goodness of those Supersuckers guitars kick in with a vengeance. The exchange was bootlegged from a radio interview, and the respondent voice harbouring the evil intentions belongs to Eddie Spaghetti, frontman and chief sonic architect of the self-proclaimed 'Greatest Rock'N'Roll Band In The World'.

And while such a tag is obviously impossible to verify, if there was to be a quest to find the world's greatest rock'n'roll band – and we're talking proper rock'n'roll, foot-to-the-floor stuff that takes no prisoners, where the sniff of debauchery and danger is arguably more important than traits like rhythm and melody – then you could do worse than kick off the search by studying Supersuckers. Founded in Tucson, Arizona in the late-'80s, they infamously tossed a coin when they wanted to get out of town and lady luck found them shunted to Seattle, where they signed to Sub Pop just as the grunge phenomenon hit – they suddenly found themselves in the midst of a massive rock explosion, just not entirely the right type of rock.

Nothing could derail Supersuckers though – they've always played the rock'n'roll card because that's what they knew best, not because they thought it was going to get them anywhere. Decades later and they're still plugging away, fighting the good fight and doing what they love because essentially they don't know how to do anything else. Eddie Spaghetti might have inadvertently branched off into a solo career – he's currently on the verge of his first trip to Australia on his lonesome – but it's still business as usual for the inveterate rocker.

“I've been super busy doing solo stuff, and I'm on tour with the band right now – we're in Phoenix, Arizona, getting ready to rock the Phoenicians,” Spaghetti offers with a chuckle. “We've been busy – we've been working on a new record, which is taking a lot longer than what we thought it was going to take to get it out, but it's in the works and should be out before too long.

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“When I come down there though it'll just be me by myself, but I let the crowd tell me what they want to hear: if they're Supersuckers fans, and hopefully they are, then I can play pretty much anything that the crowd can shout out. That's kinda how the solo shows go – I let the crowd tell me what they want to hear, and I try my best to play it. Sometimes I win, and sometimes I lose, but it's always entertaining.”

This solo career of which Spaghetti speaks is now three albums deep – his most recent being last year's Sundowner long-player – but it all kicked off somehow haphazardly back in 2004 with the sessions for what became his solo debut The Sauce.

“It sort of happened by accident – I went into the studio to record a couple of songs that I had on my own, and it turned into my first solo record, and that was such a hit with everybody that I decided to do it again, and again,” he ponders almost incredulously. “And I'm probably going to do it again and again and again after that. I've only just recently come to grips with the fact that I now have a career as a solo artist as well as with the band – you know, I always considered myself a band guy, and not really a solo artist per se, but I'm starting to get more comfortable with that notion.

“And they totally complement each other anyway. Sometimes I'll open for the band as a solo act anyway, and it goes really well together. And it all winds up in the Supersuckers bin at the record store anyway, so it's good for both things.”

While the solo records are predominantly more laidback concerns than your typical Supersuckers fare, this departure from the rock isn't a total surprise for long-term fans – the band did famously make a foray into more stripped-back country with 1997's brilliant Must've Been High record. “Yeah, I fought [country music] for a long time when I was in high school and stuff like that – I kinda fought the country music that I heard blasting out of every pickup truck in town, but eventually that shit just seeps into who you are and becomes a part of you,” Spaghetti muses. “You look at artists like Merle Haggard and Buck Owens and even Dwight Yoakam and Steve Earle – there's some great country out there, and it's too good to deny for too long.

“It was kind of rough going for a while [releasing Must've Been High], people weren't accepting of it and people thought we were fucking around with them – they thought we'd lost our fucking minds,” he laughs. “But over time I think that the country record is our biggest selling record, so it shows you what they know.”

One thing that links all of his disparate projects is the inherent humour that underlies Spaghetti's work, never overt enough to make his songs seem flippant but always present just below the surface. “It's just something that I can't get away from, for better or for worse,” he smiles. “Sometimes it kinda bites me in the ass to have some comedy in a song, because, let's face it, the comedy movies are never the ones that are up for the Academy Awards, but they're always the ones that you watch over and over and over again. I always found myself having an affinity with being on the funny side of the street.”

Unfortunately Spaghetti's sunny outlook on life doesn't extend to his take on the current state of rock'n'roll. “It's in the toilet I think, unfortunately,” he sighs. “I was talking to my friend today about it – I think rock is going to become like jazz or blues, where it's this little niche thing where a few old guys are doing it in a bar to seven or eight people. Very few people are going to have any success at it anymore. Unfortunately I think that real rock is just out of favour at the moment – I'm sure it will come back, but it's going to take some sort of remarkable event for that to happen. It's tough to think of many real good rock bands right now that haven't been around for a while – that are new. Luckily the 'Suckers ain't going anywhere in a hurry though, so it ain't all doom and gloom!”