In Memoriam: Kim Shattuck July 17 - October 2, 2019

Interview with Kim Shattuck of the Muffs 11-9-99
By Ronnie

I've been on cloud nine lately, because I've acquired two new Muff's CD's within a month. That's roughly 43 "new" songs from one of my fave bands! There are a lot of cool bands that never even record that many songs, much less release them in one year &

The Muff's new album, "Alert Today Alive Tomorrow" follows the standard set of their first three albums: top notch, catchy pop songs that haven't been this infectiously fun since the 60's. I'm talking pure pot ecstasy. The Muffs may not have invented the 2 minute pop song, but they deliver this lost art form in spades! Then you add the release of "Hamburger", a sort of Muffs-Anthology, which covers material over their career that didn't make it to their first four albums.

You would think that radio stations would eat this stuff up. But sadly, the truth is a glaringly honest look at radio today: it just plain sucks! The Muffs formula runs diametrically opposite to that of radio today, radio espousing disposable songs that sound the same and faceless bands that are discarded after their one "hit". The Muffs story seems to run parallel to that of the Kinks. When the Kinks were at their most prolific, their sales were at their lowest. But the Kinks stuck it out and hopefully so will the Muffs: God Save the Muffs!!!

I recently talked with Kim Shattuck (guitarist, songwriter and vocalist) about their new albums, the critics and those amazing "boner vocals"...

E.C.: First, I want to ask you about HAMBURGER. Usually a record company doesn't come out with a group's rare/unreleased tracks until years after the group has broken up. Now, you are up there with the Beatles...your own "anthology"! I love the cool liner notes and archive pictures-especially the picture of the band made up like KISS! How did HAMBURGER come about?

Kim: This friend of ours with a CD burner made a comp of favorites for his friends and gave us one. We took his idea and made it real.

E.C.: Will the Muff's be playing any songs off of HAMBURGER live?

Kim: "Beat Your Heart Out", "I Don't Like You", "New Love", "Right In The Eye"....stuff like that.

E.C.: The new album , ALERT TODAY, ALIVE TOMORROW, is a definite departure from your last three albums. Was this intentional?

Kim: I don't really think it's much of a departure from Happy Birthday To Me at all. Maybe from the others though. They both have depressive lyrics. When I was writing songs for Alert Today Alive Tomorrow I was sensitive to the worry of having all of our records sound alike. I don't really think they do but we were getting some comparisons to the Ramones that I just couldn't stomach anymore. I mean, really! We have more than 3 chords, lots of jazz changes and jazzy chords. The melodies are not necessarily the most obvious ones. People were basically saying our music was shallow and simple.

E.C.: The first reviews I read (before I even got the album) slammed it for not being "as loud and ferocious". Obviously, they didn't count "Dear Liar Love Me"! Do you think that they reacted this way, just because you put two slower songs on the album ("Prettier Than Me" and "Room With No View")?

Kim: We've always had really slow songs on each album. On this one we put them right up front so naturally people are going to think it's slower in general. Put it this way: Our first album has "All For Nothing" , Blonder and Blonder has "End It All" and "Just A Game" , Happy Birthday To Me has "Pennywhore". I really think it's all in the order. Some of the new songs are also a bit more dynamic which compared with our runaway freight train sound from before is not as dynamic as most other bands.

E.C.: I like it because it is more experimental, but retains that definite Muff's trademark! You've survived being dropped by a major label (Reprise) and still managed to land on your feet with a great new record. Did you feel that you had something to prove?

Kim: I ALWAYS feel like I have something to prove. Our first album was such a fiasco that it split us in two. So with Blonder I had a lot to prove. The addition of Roy on drums and the subtraction of Melanie on continuous overbearing chainsaw guitar was exactly what we needed. A lot of people hate change so any change in personnel is gonna be met with groans. On Happy Birthday to Me I produced that one myself and so again I felt the pressure to prove that I could be trusted. It was the same with the new one. Oh, and have you ever noticed that people always like the album you recorded right before the current one the best. On every album of ours it's been proven. Next album everyone will say they like Alert Today the best. Or maybe we just stink!

E.C.: Actually, "Prettier Than Me" is my fave song on the record. I read that you had the song for 10 years. What took so long to get around to recording it? Was it because it was a slower song? Did you ever try to rev up the tempo?

Kim: I thought the song was too repetitive. It had nothing to do with the tempo for me but I definitely didn't feel like having Melanies' clunky guitar mucking it up. I know instinctively that speeding up the tempo would ruin that melody.

E.C.: Are you getting more introspective in your songwriting? Do you follow that Ray Davies school of thought that your best songs come to you when your personal life is in upheaval?

Kim: Oh god, did he say that?? It's true. That must be a common thing with most creative people.

E.C.: My second favorite song would have to be "Your Kiss", one of your sexiest vocals! Only one other female vocalist has ever had that "effect" on me and that is Susanna Hoffs. And some of your fast songs have this allure as well. Has anyone described your vocals as "sexy"? (ha ha, I know my EX described them as, well "annoying" [expletive deleted])

Kim: Hah, people say it's annoying when I scream, now its annoying when I whisper. I can't win! The boner vocals. I know for a fact that guys like whispery vocals on girls. ie: Marilyn Monroe, Liv Tyler, Susanna Hoffs. Once a guy I dated commented on how, after a series of phone calls where I had no voice and had to whisper, I seemed to him to be really horny. Ha ha. In reality the whole time I was bitching about how freaked out I was to have lost my voice right before we were recording but since I was whispering he took it to be sexy. Hmm, I guess he wasn't really listening. Also once a guy who hated my guts heard that song and was overly aggressive about his hate for it. Hmm.. Maybe it made him a little crazy and he was really disgusted at himself and his reaction. How funny, "Prettier Than Me" and "Your Kiss" are my favorite songs on that album too.

E.C.: Did "Jack Champagne" ever have words, or was it always considered an instrumental? Brian Wilson would sometimes put out songs as just instrumentals that onetime had words...

Kim: I intended for it to have words but didn't have them when I made my demo for the guys so I played the melody line on my guitar. Then I got lazy about writing lyrics and since we all liked it better that way we left it.

E.C.: I was listening to your first album in my car the other day and my son recognized "Everywhere I Go". "It's the Frutopia band!", he said. It must be a blast being part of that truly American art form, the TV commercial?

Kim: We were also the answer to a Jeopardy question recently. (Real Jeopardy, not the rock and roll version believe it or not) That was the weirdest thing actually.

E.C.: Hopefully we will have the Muffs around for many more moons...are there more albums and tours planned?

Kim: We'll keep putting out records if we can.

E.C.: What about more film cameos (like "Father's Day")? Which reminds me, has the band done any videos?

Kim: We have videos for "Lucky Guy", "Sad Tomorrow", and "New Love".

E.C.: Has the band thought about any doing any more hoaky songs for film soundtracks (like "Kids In America"on the CLUELESS soundtrack)?

Kim: I'm kinda through with the hoaky covers. I actually didn't want to do it.

E.C.: Finally, which one is it: The Beatles or Stones?

Kim: The Beatles, they were original. Although their songs have been way overplayed. The Stones didn't come into their own until later and I don't like their later stuff. They are cuter though.

E.C.: The Who or the Kinks?

Kim: Oh god, a tough one. I only like the Who from 65-67 and I like the Kinks from 64 to 68 so I think I'll have to say the Kinks.

E.C.: The Sex Pistols or the Clash?

Kim: Easy! The Sex Pistols! The Clash bore me.

Click here to visit the official Muffs website