Before he was the contortionist front man of Jesus Lizard, David Yow was honing his wild-man skills with noise-rock pioneers Scratch Acid, who helped develop the driving, angular Touch and Go sound. The band called it a day back in ’87 but reunited for a handful of dates in 2006; they’re currently on a full-fledged U.S. tour. Rob Warmowski was playing in local punk band the Defoliants back when Scratch Acid was in its heyday and now fronts postpunks Sirs (who just released their Boo Hoo EP on 12-inch vinyl). He was so excited to interview Yow that he couldn’t keep his clothes on. Scratch Acid plays Metro on Sat 11/12. —Luca Cimarusti
How are you? It’s been a weird morning. I’m in New York, and it seems like every time I come here to play a rock show—we have to keep in mind that I’m a nice guy but not so bright—the phone has been ringing off the hook, texts have been shooting left and right. This guy gets flustered. But other than that I’m fine. How ’bout you?
I’m great. I’m eager to get started. And to get into the spirit of the interview I have removed my pants, so may we begin? OK.
The mournful beauty of the Scratch Acid song “Owner’s Lament” has made some pretty tough-guy friends of mine cry. Was this your intent, and if so, what do you have against my friends? Do you know Dave Riley?
I do know Dave Riley. He’s the only guy who ever cried from that song, and I just wanted to make him cry for some reason other than what he usually cries about. That was my intent.
Who are the Gary Numan fans in Scratch Acid? Probably David and me. I’d be surprised if [drummer] Rey [Washam] gave a poop, and I’d be surprised if [guitarist] Brett [Bradford] gave a poop. I don’t give that much of a poop, I just like Replicas and Tubeway Army. After that I don’t really care.
Yeah, I’m the same. Well, actually I like Pleasure Principle. Do you? I don’t really know what’s on that.
That’s the one with the big hit on it, “Cars” and stuff, “Metal.” Sure, sure.
Your singing includes lots of expressive sounds and noises. One time I saw a documentary about U.S. Maple, and they were recording an album—and I was surprised to see that their singer diagrammed out everything that he sang, including the way that he sang it. What would I have been surprised to see you do in the studio? I might have to talk to [U.S. Maple front man] Al [Johnson] about that. I find it really hard to believe that he’s charting that shit out.
He had diagrams and everything, he had positions for his throat. I was surprised. Next question: Sometimes in the band that I’m in, when we’re writing stuff, the thought occurs to us that some idea might owe too much to an obvious influence, and I’m always curious if other bands go through that. Did that ever happen with Scratch Acid? Oh, of course, especially early on. I don’t think you can help that, I think that’s natural and there’s nothing wrong with it, but it’s also natural when you realize it. There’s a degree of embarrassment or humiliation. For a long time, particularly with Scratch Acid, I was so taken with the Birthday Party that I would deny it. I remember I was doing a radio interview with Michael Gerald of Killdozer in 1984 or 1985 and the guy said, “Are you guys influenced by the Birthday Party?” And at the time, I would always go, “Well yeah, you know, they’re OK.” I was too embarrassed to say I really liked ’em. I think that in any sort of artistic endeavor, and maybe even outside of the art world, it’s normal for you to emulate those that inspire you. Ideally, you grow and metamorphose into your own thing.
I heard you refer to Scratch Acid on this tour doing “young guy” music. I can guess what old guys you’re talking about—yourselves—but what young people are you thinking about? Just music that we created while we were young. And by the way, I’d like to add that I said that in the presence of my girlfriend. She goes, “Bullshit, it’s old guys teaching young guys how to fucking do it!”
Nice! Yeah, she’s a good’n.
Maybe there’s an interest rising in the aggressive music of the postpunk era—Archers of Loaf showing up on TV or whatever. I want to know if you thought that was a real thing. Would it eventually lead to stuff like your song “Crazy Dan” being played in baseball stadiums when Dan Uggla goes up to bat? I was completely unaware of any of this. I didn’t know Archers of Loaf had been on TV. I really hope that “Crazy Dan” ends up in baseball stadiums alongside all the English homosexuals who usually decorate baseball and football games. Right? Isn’t it usually Gary Glitter and Queen and stuff like that that the baseball fans listen to?
Often enough. And it’s funny that you bring up Gary Glitter, because right after the Gary Numan question I skipped over another question, which was, “Who are the Gary Glitter fans in Scratch Acid?” Seventy-five percent of them don’t even know who he is.
What are you listening to lately? I don’t listen to music very much—mostly when I’m driving, almost never at home. On this trip so far, in the van, we haven’t really listened to anything, except the night after we played in D.C. with Kepone I played a Kepone song and then a bunch of Erik Satie.
Have you heard Dead Rider yet, out of Chicago? No, but I’ve heard of them.
You’re living in Los Angeles, and I’ve heard that you are open to looking for acting roles. If someone out there were to green-light an adaptation of the long-running underground comic strip Red Meat, would you read for the part of Bug-Eyed Earl? I don’t know that comic strip but I’m sure I would.