12 YEARS DOWN THE DRAIN

Text and Interview by Shagpoke Whipple

Abby barged into Blue Iguana and felt as ridiculous as a teenager at a Barney concert. A punk rock band called Sugar Shack played their ear poison at blistering speed. They were loud, rude, and obviously still angry at their parents. The people graffiti of fans pumped their fists in the air, slammed bodies, and more or less agreed with Sugar Shack's fuck the world attitude set to music.

Remember September by Jon Salem (Pinnacle Fiction 1999).

Indifference. Indifference is the key. If you had to summarize the 12-plus year career of Sugar Shack in one word, it would have to be indifference. Indifference to style; indifference to trends; indifference to technical competence; indifference to financial success; indifference to worthless women, soul-numbing jobs, and Dave Crider's bottom line. Indifference to the indifference given them by Houston audiences. Put aptly by Jeff Halls, their erstwhile Aussie tour manager, "You guys give less than a fuck."

I've had the pleasure of watching these clydes evolve from a late '80's proto-grunge hair shake to a full-on honest-to-god-no gimmick, straight-up, kick in the nutbag rock band. When the gauntlet is thrown down - as at this years' GarageShock - Sugar Shack is fully capable of kickin' it fully auto - eating nitro and crapping thunder. Frontman Mark Lochridge has honed his younger, bad boy bellow into an acidic sneer. Guitarists Andy Wright and Kyle G. Otis have tapped into some voodoo-like sixth sense for great riffs, the likes of which have not been seen since the Sonics. Smilin' Johnny Gibson lays the foundation with his sure handed heavy cabled rumblings, while the whole shebang is propelled by the foxy tub thumper, Stefanie P. Friedman.

On the eve of their stepping back inside Tim Kerr's Sweat Box to crank out their sure-to-be worthy successor to "Get Out of My World", Sugar Shack's guitarists, Andy and Kyle took time out to answer some aimless questions:

Rock and Roll is here to stay, and no one has done more staying than Sugar Shack. To what do you attribute your longevity?

Andy: It seems like we've always got something we're looking forward to, like playing some gig, learning some new song or making a new record. So, it would be a shame to quit before we've accomplished that certain little goal. It's an endless cycle and before you know it, twelve years have flown by. We all get along well, so it's pretty painless.

Kyle: Actually, I think it's that we get along well and like each other's company. There isn't any agenda really, other than to have fun. Amazingly, it still is fun, although probably not for anyone else at this point but us. I have always felt that keeping a low profile can keep people from getting sick of your band. However, i'm a record buying (not collecting) geek, so my opinion is probably completely irrelevant. I have to admit, as i slide into middle age crisis years, I do have brief moments of jealousy towards people who live off of their music, no matter how financially successful they are. But if you're gonna do that - don't have children (spoken in bitter, middle aged man's voice)!

Who has had the shortest tenure in Sugar Shack and what was the duration?

Kyle: That would probably be maximo, a drummer we had for about two weeks until he got deported back to italy. He was extremely fun to party with. I think the only bands he liked were "ze stooges" and "ze new york dolls". Andy got a 3 am phone call from him one night from the ins detention facility - he just screamed over and over "fuck your country!"

You guys used to play, but never recorded, "I Saw Billy Gibbons", any notable sightings of the Rev. Willy G?

Andy: I recently saw Dusty Hill at the Superstand. [ed. Note: Superstand is a mega-magazine store.] That was a refreshing change from increasingly mundane Billy Gibbons sightings.

Kyle: Actually, I saw billy the other day near the place where I get my car worked on. He was walking with an extremely fat man. Billy G. was carrying a box over his head and they were both wearing too many layers of clothing for the temperature that afternoon.

Vans has opened a new skate park as part of a huge entertainment complex. Compare the new Vans park with the old Texas Pipeline.

Andy: The Texas Pipeline was pretty much just another 70's-style skate park when it was open for business. Too many rules to really be fun. Once it went under, that's when things got good. It was immediately covered in spray paint and became the central meeting place for suburban skate punks. It was the site of many after show, all-night parties and all-day skate sessions. The Big Boys always stopped by when they were playing in town . For some reason the mean 'ol Houston cops pretty much left it alone. The place had an "anything goes" atmosphere the Van's park ain't ever gonna have.

In twelve years, you have played in some strange venues. I have seen you play from the pristine multi-thousand seated Aerial Theater to an all-night disco, Power Tools. What is the single strangest venue you've played?

Kyle: Not so much the venue, but the circumstances of the gig - we agreed to play at a our friend marek's record store in sydney australia. When we got to the store, he told us we could not play electric. Not wanting to disappoint our friend, we agreed to play acoustic guitars and our drummer used boxes. Mark had to just sing with no microphone. It was the most ridiculous sounding thing ever. We were so ashamed we couldn't even look up. Supposedly a girl who wrote for the australian rolling stone was there -she must of thought we were the biggest losers in the entire history of rock. We played a poison 13 song!

Any truth to the rumors that a member of the band will require hospitalization in the future to remove a growth?

Andy: Yeah it's true. Stefanie is "with child" and no, I don't mean me....

What's the deal with this album-ending long cuts? How long will this trend continue?

Kyle: What is long? 3 Minutes and 20 seconds as opposed to 2 minutes and 20 seconds?

The Houston Press remarked after Kyle G's debut that he single-handedly ruined Sugar Shack. Why is he still in the band?

Kyle: I think the rest of the band liked the fact that there was someone around to blame for things. I really did suck at that gig; I think I sucked at about my first 10 gigs actually. Occassionally I still suck pretty righteously.

Andy: Somebody's gotta play the guitar parts that I don't feel like playing.

Andy, you were calling out the Fatal Flying Guiloteens at Garageshock. Care to elaborate on the "Soul Cracker" comments?

Andy: Me and Stefanie got totally obsessed with VH1's Bands on the Run. We'd plan our lives around that stupid show. The drummer from Harlow, the all-girl goth/metal band on that show was always referring to Soul Cracker as "that fucking Sugar Shack". It hurt. Suddenly being called Sugar Shack meant you were an overly ambitious goo goo dolls rip-off or something.. We e-mailed Harlow and all we got back was a confusing reply that didn't alleviate any of the pain. The Guiloteen's thing was for laughs...That singer never comes to Sugar Shack shows, but got so caught up in the Estrus brotherhood spirit that he actually watched our entire Garageshock set. Haven't seen him since though...Come clean.

What is the worst record in Tim Kerr's collection?

Andy: Tim's collection is actually pretty spotless...but he does have alot of unopened things that people have given him over the years...

Kyle: Charmer. Just kidding, i don't know, if you don't like acoustic folk things you wouldn't like a bunch of his records. Same goes for free-form avant-skronk jazz. I'm ok with both, so...

"Go Space City" comes as close to encapsulating the fierce, ass-backward pride Houstonians have for their city. What bands make you proud to be a Houstonian?

Andy: Moving Sidewalks, Really Red, Judys, Doomsday Massacre, Bark Hard, Geto Boys, Rusted Shut, Jewws, Guiloteens, Junior Varsity, Mirrors, Poor Dumb Bastards, Sunshine Supergirl. I used to love ZZ Top, but I'm still mad about that free show they did awhile back. That's pretty bad when you leave a free show feeling ripped-off!!

Kyle: I personally enjoy the jewws, fatal flyin guilloteens, junior varsity. Houston is a great place for us in general. Practically every time we play live, someone (whom i've never seen before and will never see again) says to me "hey you guys were great. Where are you from?" Where else can a hometown band experience that?

The new Sugar Shack LP/CD is due on August 20th, 2002.
In the meantime checkout these other releases (click on image for more info).