A Screaming Good Time with Kim Shattuck and The Muffs

The Muffs’ Kim Shattuck at the Burger Boogaloo in Oakland, Calif.

With this post, we are starting a new feature where we will cross-post with There’s Something Hard in There, a Seattle-based music-focused blog. It’s kind of like exchange students, but with writers and photographers. The blog’s writer, Andy Nystrom, is a  former grade-school and high-school classmate of Beat Editor Elise Thompson’s from the South Bay. We’re excited to have Andy and photographer Cat Rose aboard!

The Muff’s new album, Whoop-de-do is now available from Burger Records

Written by Andy Nystrom/Photos by Cat Rose

This article originally posted in “There’s Something Hard in There” July 13, 2014

Kim Shattuck missed her band.

When she was playing bass for the Pixies and was glancing at drummer Dave Lovering, her mind often wandered. She was thinking about The Muffs.

She’d ponder: “‘Dammit, I wish that Roy was playing the drums with me right now instead of Dave,'” Shattuck said over the phone from her North Glendale, Calif., home on a recent Tuesday afternoon. “Roy is an amazing drummer and any other drummer you play with that’s not as good as Roy, you’re gonna know it, you’re just gonna notice it. My favorite drummer in the world is Roy.”

Guitarist and vocalist Shattuck can now dig on Roy McDonald’s drum beats and Ronnie Barnett’s bass lines with The Muffs again. And she was grooving on it big time during the band’s raucous set at the Burger Boogaloo on July 6 at Mosswood Park in Oakland, Calif.

Roy McDonald

“Getting fired was like, ‘Oh, good, now I can concentrate on my band again,’ which I was probably chomping at the bit to do anyways,” said Shattuck, whose 11-month stint with the Pixies began in January 2013 and ended in late November 2013.

“I’m really happy to be doing (The Muffs) because we’ve been together a really super long time. The record we’re about to put out was already done before I joined the Pixies,” she added.

The Muffs unleashed their blistering brand of punk/garage/’60s/jazz/rock/pop, etc. onto the Los Angeles scene in 1991 and they’ll continue their rampage with the release of their “Whoop De Doo” album on July 29 on Burger Records and Cherry Red Records. Last month, the digital single “Up and Down Around” saw the light of day. According to Shattuck, Burger selected the poppiest tune on the album to get things rolling, and it was a solid choice: “I love the song so much,” she said.

EARLY TUNEAGE, INFLUENCES

Turning back the clock, Shattuck’s childhood life didn’t include much rock ‘n’ roll since it wasn’t her parents’ thing, but she did get a taste of The Beatles from her aunt and uncle.

When Shattuck began compiling her own record collection, she initially leaned toward the kid-friendly rockin’ tunes about cartoon favorites like Yogi Bear, The Flinstones, Felix the Cat and others.

Today she laughs when mimicking the bouncy guitar sounds on those records that paved her musical path. As she grew older, early Kinks “started getting under my skin,” along with early Who and Beatles and then the Sex Pistols.

“As long as it had a melody… and Sex Pistols were completely and totally melodic,” she said.

While attending college to study photography, Shattuck began playing guitar, became interested in songwriting and formed a band that never garnered a moniker.

She pokes fun at herself when reminiscing about the experience: “I wrote really super terrible songs. I tried to write them on sheet music and they were just really awkward and over thought out. We never knew how to end a song — it would just peter out. It was so sad.”

Shattuck put her voice out in the open from the get-go, but it wasn’t well-received by one of her bandmates.

“I broke up the band when the drummer finally said, ‘Why can’t you sing more like Siouxsie Sioux?’ And I was just like, ‘Fuck you!’ And I had this big old complex that I didn’t have a good voice… whatever,” she says laughing.

When Shattuck hooked up with garage rockers The Pandoras in 1985, the bassist was reticent about contributing backing vocals, but she went for it anyway.

The Pandoras’ singer Paula Pierce (RIP) influenced Shattuck with her melodic and screamy style that she brought to the table when The Muffs took action. Shattuck used Pierce’s vocals as a template and then went all bombastic on us, making an impact from Day One and continuing to rattle listeners’ cages today.

It all comes back to The Beatles when Shattuck digs into her singing bag of tricks.

“For the melodic stuff, I always wanted to sound and sing like John Lennon. The way he sang with kind of a screeching (tone), but the melodic bits that he would do, the growls that he would put on the high notes — I still am a huge fan of that. So anyone who sounds at all like that is inspiring to me,” she said. “Jeff McDonald from Redd Kross, he has a very Lennon-esque voice.”

Aside from Pierce, Shattuck said she sticks to the guys when it comes to vocal guidance, but then notes that Joan Jett creeps into her vocal style, as well.

“I don’t even think of (Jett) as a woman. I think of her as like, at times, dude-ish — she has a dude-ish sounding voice and I guess so do I,” she said.

AT HOME ON THE STAGE

Shattuck’s voice remains stellar after 30-plus years of playing in bands. At the Burger Boogaloo, she sang, joked with her bandmates and the crowd and gave her guitar a serious workout. She’s a shot of energy, aggro, confidence and joviality. She’s a rock ‘n’ roller to the hilt.

Nowadays, Shattuck is in her comfort zone once a gig begins, although she used to be a nervous wreck prior to strumming that first chord.

“Is it worth it to get this nervous about something that’s fun?” she asked about the old days. “I wrapped my head around the fact that I’m just not gonna get nervous ever again… never ever, ever, ever, ever again. I couldn’t take it anymore. And it worked out well when I was doing the whole Pixies thing because the manager kept trying to make me nervous, just saying things to me that were really obnoxious, like, ‘Oh, billions of people are going to be watching you, so you better be perfect.’ And I’d be like, ‘Good thing I don’t get nervous then’ … whatever.”

Speaking of the Pixies, Shattuck said it was a fun experience playing their songs in front of enthusiastic audiences, but replacing original bassist Kim Deal was also a tough job. After nine months of learning their songs on her own and enduring intense rehearsals, Shattuck played her first gig on Sept. 6 in LA. Her tenure included a 17-date, sold-out European tour, which began in Vienna, Austria, and finished with a pair of dates at the Hammersmith Apollo in London, England.

“Their songs are not easy, they’re not typical blues-based songs,” said Shattuck, noting that playing some of the “weird” song structures challenged her to improve her skills. While singing backup vocals, she toned down her wild side and went the lighter route, which she said was good training if she wants to tackle other musical styles.

On the downside, Shattuck didn’t get paid for the lengthy rehearsals and had to deal with a clash of personalities.

“I always liked the Pixies and was excited to be a part of it, (but) you don’t know what people are like until you’re around them on a tour — or a trip or a vacation — that’s my opinion,” she said.

So why was she fired?

“They never told me why. They never even talked to me,” she begins. “I was pretty shocked being fired after everyone acted like I was still in the band. So I was only left to speculate. It was pretty obvious when I was first in the band, I got really enthusiastic and I jumped into the pit at a show. Right then was exactly when Dave Lovering stopped talking to me — completely would ignore my ass. Unless I asked him a direct question, he would just grunt something. The only time he would talk to me was when he had a criticism and about the show or something.”

Following the feet-first stage dive at The Mayan in LA, Shattuck apologized to the band and said she got carried away. She knew it wasn’t a Pixies-type thing since they’re a more reserved bunch — not a frenetic Muffs group.

“I’m like a toddler, I push my boundaries for a few minutes and then I realize that no one’s pleased,” Shattuck said. “I know Charles (Thompson IV aka Black Francis) liked my stage presence. I know that after I played with them live, Joey (Santiago) said that he needed to up his game.”

Shattuck was obsessed with the stage-dive situation and located footage online. She laughs when describing herself landing, popping up and then hugging people in the crowd.

“It’s so not a big deal, because I’m not really a stage diver cuz I don’t like to get groped all the time and I don’t wanna break my neck…just little preservation things” she said.

At age 50, Shattuck is enjoying her music career and her life more than ever.

“Wow. I don’t even think I thought I would be alive this far into the future. I wasn’t taking amazing care of myself or anything. I didn’t have a deathwish, either, but I didn’t think that far into the future. I think that’s typical of a 20 year old to not really think about it. I think when I thought about my old age, I just figured I would have kids and be a grandma and do all that stuff, and it didn’t turn out like that. It’s fine, I’m good. I’m glad it lasted this long. I’m having a ball,” she said.

DODGER BASEBALL FANATIC

When Shattuck’s not doing Muffs stuff, at least seven months out of the year she and her husband can be found at Dodgers Stadium, rooting on their favorite LA baseball team.

“We’re so close and we have such a good view. We’re behind the net, so we don’t get foul balls in our face, which is kind of nice,” Shattuck laughed about their season-tickets spot.

On June 18 (a day after this interview), the couple witnessed Dodger lefty Clayton Kershaw toss a no-hitter. She said it was the best game she’s ever seen and that fans were moved to tears and were screaming at the game.

It may seem very un-rock ‘n’ roll, but Shattuck enjoys the slower, more methodical aspects of baseball and golf.

On baseball, she said: “It’s like a suspense movie, like an Alfred Hitchcock movie as compared to a Bruce Willis movie where it’s just action all the time.”

As a kid, she watched Dodger games on TV and finally made her way to the majestic confines of Chavez Ravine to watch the team in person as a teenager.

It was a love-hate relationship with the team in those early years.

“I got mad at them after they lost the World Series twice to the Yankees (in 1977 and 1978) when I was a little kid, so I stopped liking baseball for a couple years. I rejected it,” said Shattuck, who watched slightly from a distance when the Dodgers got revenge on the Yankees and won the World Series in 1981 during the “Fernando-mania” days.

Following her time in The Pandoras, Shattuck returned to the Dodger-fan fold and hasn’t looked back. If you’re at a game these days, you might even hear her Muffs vocal scream fill the air when her team is on point — or off.

“They can hear us yelling. If you really are mad at them, you go, ‘Hey, what was that?'” she said, noting that some expletives may fly now and again. “There’s too many little kids, I don’t wanna be a bad influence. We do swear, but we try not to swear loud.”

Shattuck saves that for the stage. 

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