Gibby Haynes talks about his problems.
By Austin Powell,
1:00PM, Fri. Sep. 7, 2007
On Saturday, Gibby Haynes returns to Austin for the inaugural Damonfest at Trophy’s, a tribute and benefit for his close friend Damon O’Banion, who passed away earlier this year. The enigmatic Butthole Surfer is singing with O’Banion’s former hardcore outfit, the High Divers, and donating some of his artwork for a silent auction, which begins at 4pm. Off the Record caught up with Haynes recently to reminisce about O’Banion, discuss his recent happenings, the psychology of kid rock, and why he’s just not crazy enough.
Austin Chronicle: When did you first meet Damon?
Gibby Haynes: We met in the early Nineties when he was doing the magazine Thora-Zine. It was a fanzine that him and his buddies had. It’s too bad they didn’t continue on making it. They totally could have had something like Vice. They were on track to have something like that, but then it all crumpled apart like things like that do from time to time.
AC: My cousin passed down a few issues to me last Christmas. In one of them you interviewed Willie Nelson. Did he set that up?
AC: Did you and Damon cross paths often?
GH: Dude, we got married together. We had a double wedding in Hawaii. His wife and my wife are sisters. He was one of my favorite friends and a really good guy. In the last year, it seems as if there have been many people dying. Damon was always the person to organize and to help when a situation like that arose. He’d organize benefits. We really need Damon to organize this event for him. God bless Jeff Pinkus for doing this in Austin, but Damon would have done a better job of doing this than anybody. Damon had so many friends. If he was organizing this the money would multiply by ten.
AC: Did you collaborate musically with Damon?
GH: No, not really. There were so many things we had planned on doing. Damon had recently got a thing going for Jad Fair to go to Japan and do some music performances as well as some art gallery type stuff. We were planning on doing something like that with my music and artwork. In that respect, we were planning on collaborating. Damon would have been a really big part of it. We collaborated on the pond. I’m a big water feature freak. So when I moved into this new house we built a pond together and stocked it with two turtles. They promptly disappeared. We found the body of one of them. Then we decided to get a couple more turtles and they promptly disappeared. There was one major tragedy with the pond in the next year of its life. Then about five or six months ago all three of the turtles appeared in the pond. They had been hiding! They did an amazing job hiding, an impossible job of hiding. They somehow hid in a completely drained pond. We did much violence to the area in order to refurbish it and they somehow survived and they do so until this day.
AC: And now you’re going to be performing with the High Divers. Is that something you’ve done before?
GH: No. Damon was a big fan of the more hardcore, punk rock stuff, which I’ve never really been into that much. It’s going to be kind of different for me. I don’t think we’re going to only be doing a couple of songs. I wish I could say the Butthole Surfers were reuniting. In fact, you ought to, but the guitarist won’t play. It’s too bad. It would have been a good time for us to do it.
AC: Why won’t Paul [Leary] play?
GH: Evidently he’s got better things to do [laughs]. I don’t know why Paul won’t play. That’s a good question. He certainly had the opportunity. Jeff tried to get him to do something. It sure would have been cool to do just a few songs. We wouldn’t have even had to practice. Then we could have probably done alright by Leslie, Damon’s wife, but such is not the case. You didn’t know Damon?
AC: Unfortunately not.
GH: He was just one of those guys, just a great guy. He really was one of those rare people that care about people and was willing to work. He’d make t-shirts for an event. He would show up with T-shirts.
AC: I’ve heard nothing but good things.
GH: It really seems like only the good die young.
AC: You mentioned the Butthole Surfers. Do you have any plans to pursue Gibby Haynes & His Problem?
GH: I don’t know about that particular band, but I’ve got about seven songs or so that are almost completed with a band here in Brooklyn called Vietnam. I’m going to try and put that out on a record with a few other songs, collaborating with a few others. One song I wrote with a local Austin guy who will probably be at the show, Alex Weeden, who's playing in a country band that’s on tour with Toby Keith right now ... John Frusciante - I want to do some kind of electronica track with him. It will be a mixed bag record. I’m hoping to do something with Mickey from Ween too.
AC: You recently appeared on the Tiny Masters of Today album. How did that come about?
GH: The Tiny Masters of Today live down the street from me. I met them through a mutual friend, Phil Hernandez, who is another person I’ll probably do something with. Have you heard the Tiny Masters?
AC: Yeah, I listened to the record the other day.
GH: How is it? I haven’t heard it.
AC: It’s surprisingly good.
GH: There are several teenage kids bands in New York that are kind of happening. There’s one I saw at a performance space in Brooklyn that does more avant-garde kind of stuff. They were like 12 or 13 at the oldest. I saw this killer band called the Pantyliners, boys and girls from like 10-14. They did a 20-minute set and the drummer broke down halfway through with a five-minute solo. He was on top of the drum kit and banging on the kick drum, totally going for the rock ‘n’ roll cliché. He’s a really good drummer, actually. There’s like five or six bands that are pretty good. It’s like the thing to do.
AC: Why do you think that is?
GH: They’re parent-driven. There are so many people that wish they could have played. It’s parents trying to live through their kids. I’ve really wanted to see the crowd dynamic at some of these shows. I want to see where the kids hang out in the audience and what the parents do. Who rocks out the most? The Pantyliners were just thrown in with a mixed bag lineup.
AC: So what you made you want to record with them?
GH: The producer was a friend of mine and told me how cool they were. Have you listened to the track that I was on? They took what I did and really went with it. I was just doing background shit basically. They kept a lot of what I did. It almost fell into songwriting I added so much. I was really happy with that. It sounds like I had more to do with it than I actually did. It’s too bad the kids weren’t there when I did the track.
AC: You’re also hosting a radio show right now?
GH: No. I wish I did, but no one will give me a job. I actually won a Billboard small market DJ of the Year award, which I was very proud of. I thought for sure that would help me get a job one day in radio, but nope.
AC: I thought you did something with satellite radio?
GH: I’ve gone through both of them and tried to get jobs. It’s tough.
AC: I found it fascinating that you were in the documentaries last year for both Daniel Johnston and Roky Erickson. What do you make of that connection, being one of the links between those two artists?
GH: Wow! It was the year of documentaries for me. I did those two and the Flaming Lips. As far as Roky and Daniel, the similarity is the mental issues.
AC: Do you find it interesting that your paths crossed with both of theirs?
GH: Yeah, especially because they’re coming from totally different time periods. It’s definitely an honor to be involved with those guys no matter what. It’s weird. That’s a good question. I’m definitely not that good of friends with Roky. We just played a couple of times together. He’s a pretty difficult guy, at least he was. I don’t know how social he is nowadays. He was a pretty difficult guy to even talk to back in the day. I hear he’s doing a lot better now. I think I became connected to those two people by virtue of the crazy guy connection. You have to have the crazy guy talk about the crazy people.
AC: Are you comfortable with being the crazy guy?
GH: No. It’s a real drag, because nobody wants to work with a crazy guy. And there’s a reason people don’t want to work with crazy guys. Everybody has this romantic notion of insanity. It’s the eccentric old man that lives down the block and is just endearingly crazy and wears weird clothes, and everything he does borders on art. Real insanity is when it gets to the point that no one wants anything to do with them. They can’t handle them anymore. They’re dangerous to be around, and they have to be institutionalized and it’s just a bummer. That’s the real insanity. So not only are truly crazy people impossible to work with, but they’re also kind of a bummer.
AC: You’re not truly crazy then?
GH: No. Not like that. But I’ve got enough crazy in me to not get a job, to qualify for unemployment. I guess I’m not crazy enough. If I was just a little bit crazier maybe I could have gotten into the Whitney Biennial.
AC: Are there things you wish you could go back and change?
GH: Oh yeah. Oh yeah. Definitely, definitely, definitely. Drugs and alcohol … bad move. I would not recommend drugs and alcohol to anybody. I guess some people need those things in order to maintain their sanity, but that’s what really blew it for me. You always hear the story about the guy who got clean, who turned his life around. Man, no one wants to hire those fuckers. No one. As far as Damon is concerned, take that out of the equation and Damon would still be around. I know it’s not really a cheerful subject to talk about, the way that he died, but man, he’s going to get such a bad rap for that. Unless you knew him really well, you would just see a guy who died of a heroin overdose. But he wasn’t a junkie. He wasn’t your classic drug addict. He wasn’t that heavily involved. He might have been steering in that direction, but I don’t think he really would have lost control of the situation before he would have turned it around. I’m not trying to imply that some people deserve to die, but if there was ever someone that didn’t deserve to go that way it was him. It was really a bad, bad accident is what it boils down to.