Tucson Born

The Supersuckers are finally starting to grow up

In decades past, much of the top-heavy music industry was oriented toward making money from album releases, and concert tours were vehicles to promote record sales. As the business has evolved, that dynamic has been flipped: Concerts often are primary sources of revenue, with albums serving as promotional tools for the performances.

This suits Eddie Spaghetti, singer and bassist for the venerable Seattle-based rock band Supersuckers, just fine.

"That's the whole deal for the Supersuckers; always has been," Spaghetti said. The Weekly reached him on his cell phone while he was—where else?—on the road.

"The live show is where we do our business, really," he said. "We have songs that involve the crowd and make them feel part of the show. That's where you can get the true Supersuckers experience. It's one of the few true experiences left that a band and its fans can have. I think we make pretty good albums, but when we play live, that's the Supersuckers—it's what we grew up wanting to do, and it's what our fans want from us.

"You can watch videos of riding roller coasters all day long. But you can never really live the experience, feel exactly what it feels like, until you actually get on the ride."

The authentic Supersuckers experience returns to Tucson for a gig Wednesday, Dec. 5, at Club Congress.

Recent arrivals to Tucson may not know that the band actually began here almost a quarter-century ago. But longtime local music buffs will remember that this group started in the Old Pueblo in 1988 as the Black Supersuckers, a name borrowed from an advertisement in the back of an adult magazine. The band featured five pals who grew up together and attended Santa Rita High School. (Those days are immortalized in the tune "Santa Rita High" on the 1999 Supersuckers album, The Evil Powers of Rock 'n' Roll.)

The personnel back then included bassist Spaghetti (né Edward Daly), drummer Dancing Eagle (aka Dan Siegel) and guitarists Dan "Thunder" Bolton and Ron "Rontrose" Heathman. Spaghetti wasn't singing yet; those duties went to Eric Martin, with whom Spaghetti had previously played in a glam-punk band called Thai Pink.

The group abbreviated its name and moved to Seattle in 1989. Martin promptly left the band, his departure a result of "creative differences," and Spaghetti took over on vocals. Soon after that, Martin died of a drug overdose.

The Supersuckers carried on, releasing a spate of loud, fast and catchy proto-punk tunes, many of them collected on the band's first full-length album, The Songs All Sound the Same, released by Empty Records in 1992. Their album The Smoke of Hell also came out that year, on the mighty Sub Pop Records, for which the band recorded during most of the tumultuous 1990s. They were the self-proclaimed (perhaps ironically) "Greatest Rock 'n' Roll Band in the World," proud to fly the flag of three-chord punk and hard-rock as grunge, urban soul, country-pop and jam-band acts took over the world of music.

They briefly went country with the popular Must've Been High in 1997, drawing from their shared exposure to the collective unconscious in Tucson.

"I grew up on the eastside, and country music was all around us," Spaghetti says. "I guess you could say it was the music du jour all that time, and I totally fought against it all along. But then, one time, somebody gave me a cassette tape of The Best of the Best of Merle Haggard. Once I heard 'Mama Tried,' I completely changed my tune about country music."

Although the band still relies on hard-rock and punk-derived songs of a few basic chords, twang is now an occasional ingredient in many Supersuckers tunes. They've also played with respected country stars such as Willie Nelson and Steve Earle. Nelson's harmonica-player, Mickey Raphael, often sits in with the Supersuckers, as does the pedal-steel player, Jordan Shapiro.

Inevitable hip-hop influences infiltrated the Supersuckers' music on the 2003 album Motherfuckers Be Trippin', one of several released on the band's boutique imprint, Mid-Fi Records, which is no longer active. "We kind of came to the end of our rope putting out our own records," Spaghetti said.

The band also has succumbed to writing the occasional catchy power-pop harmony or Americana-sounding number. How could they not with Spaghetti on vocals? He's charismatic, talented and can sing in tune. Such attributes also have been on display on his three solo albums, the most recent of which was 2011's Sundowner.

Although the Supersuckers have occasionally taken breaks from recording and touring, Spaghetti keeps running.

"It never really stopped for me. I kept going on as a solo act," he said. "Whenever I'm not playing with the band, I miss the band, and when I'm with the band, I miss the solo thing."

He has a fourth solo album in the can. That will have to wait until after the release of the next Supersuckers album, tentatively scheduled for next summer.

The new material—with current guitarist "Metal" Marty Chandler and drummer Christopher "Chango" Von Streicher—won't be a drastic departure from the band's Motorhead-meets-Sex Pistols style, but some elements may seem more mature, Spaghetti said.

"It's sort of a tough rock-pop sound. It seems like some of the new songs we have been making up are not limited in scope. There are a few more chords, and maybe not so much cursing," said this father of three.

"We've been fighting against it for 20 years, but I think it's about time we grew up."

Another style of music that Spaghetti initially resisted was disco, but he (and the rest of the band) came around to that, too. It hasn't really influenced the Supersuckers' music, but it has provided the soundtrack for many a social interaction going back to the band's Tucson days.

"Around the end of our time in Tucson, the band lived together in this old adobe house across from Catalina High School, and we started throwing these disco parties. It was the late '80s, so disco had been gone for about 10 years, and it was cool again. We'd go to the thrift stores and get all these disco 45s. I was sort of the 'Duke of Disco' at the time."

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