An Emotional Interview with Guitarist Ben Meyer
David Lee Beowülf
Let me tell you folks how important the Gardy-Loo boys are in the great scheme of rock and roll history. A year ago last April, the world lost a great, well, maybe not great, maybe; hmmm… Is there a word for anti-hero that’s applicable to someone like El Duce? Rock and Roll Anti-Hero it is! Anyway, we lost a great rock and roll anti-hero when the mighty El Duce, leader of the rape-rock band the Mentors, was run over by a train while on a three-day alcohol and probably lots of other stuff binge.
For those of you who weren’t aware, the Mentors were the first band in the crosshairs of Tipper Gore and the PMRC. Yes, Tipper made a name for herself by introducing the world to such songs as “Golden Shower” and “Sandwich of Love.” All the bands of today who attempt to disgust owe their artistic existence to the Mentors.
In the years past, El Duce (who played drums, sang, made an appearance on Jerry Springer, claimed Courtney Love paid him to off Kurt Cobain, and even starred in an episode of Tales From the Crypt) was championed by such bands as GWAR, the Revolting Cocks, and Anthrax. But one band stands apart from all the rest, and that’s Tampa’s Gardy-Loo. For on the last ill-fated Mentors tour with El Duce, Gardy-Loo managed to collaborate with the “misunderstood” Duce and record a full-length album, Perverts on Parade, released on Off the Records. A little while after the recording was finalized, Duce was dead.
Gardy-Loo, formed more than six years ago after the break-up of the brutally metal Nasty Savage, is no stranger to somewhat disgusting, Duce-appropriate rock and roll lifestyle. Their band name derives from a call English chamber maids would make when emptying the chamber pots out the window in the days before toilets… One of their four previous albums even has a custom album cover painted by now-executed serial killer John Wayne Gacy. For some strange reason, all their songs are concerned with excretory functions of one kind or another.
I spoke with a very solemn Ben Meyer, who along with Richard Bateman on bass and Toby Casky on drums, recorded this important rock document, a “rock-u-ment” immortalizing the one and only, El Duce.
Was it a surprise to work with El Duce?
Yeah! We didn’t expect it. The way it happened was we did five or so shows with the Mentors, but Heathen [Dr. Heathen Scum, now known as Pope Scum of the Church of El Duce; he’s the Mentors’ bassist] wanted to bail soon afterwards, but Duce wanted to keep going. The rest of the band wanted to bail, too. So it ended up that Duce comes back to Tampa and says “I’m stayin’ here!” We had a few Gardy-Loo songs written already and used some extra studio time we were owed.
He just invited himself?!
Yeah, but he had lots of friends in Tampa because the Mentors played here so many times.
In the liner notes, it says that he wrote all the songs, is that true?
The lyrics? I’d say he wrote 85-90%. I helped out on “Buck Naked.” We really rushed the album, `coz we kind of knew Duce wouldn’t be around too long. You just never know with him; he’s kind of unpredictable, he might want to go back to California or somewhere else; wherever the party is! So we wanted to do something with him as quickly as possible and we put the whole the together in less than a month. Some of the music has old Nasty Savage riffs that I wrote back in the old days…
I saw Nasty Savage with Sick of It All and DRI back in 1990 in Melbourne!
That was a strange one, eh? We were kind of the oddball of the bunch. I’d say about 30% of the album is old Nasty Savage riffs! Not just bits and pieces, lots of it is of Nasty Savage stuff.
So you got to use it on a record, finally!
That’s what I figured. I always like to dig into the archives of old… I had them on old tapes of songs that were never used and I thought, “why not use them?” “Golddigger,” that whole song was a Nasty Savage song, originally called “Illusion,” but I changed it. “Clitoctomy” was going to be a Nasty Savage song. The “New Gardy-Loo,” which sounds like an old Judas Priest song, was a Nasty Savage song with lyrics we thought weren’t any good at the time. We made up new parts, too, and figured, “hey, let’s get this thing together as quick as we can.” We didn’t super-rush it but we were doing it consistently for a month to get it tight.
Well, when you were in Nasty Savage, the lyrics were, um, you didn’t have the shit fixation, right?
No, unfortunately not. I think sometimes Nasty Savage might have been too serious. I just did a big interview about Nasty Savage, one guy from France put a seven-page interview on the web! It’s weird how it’s still selling. Every now and then I get a royalty check, not much, though. Once in a while I get a statement saying “we won’t cut checks for under twenty-five dollars!” We recorded our first album in ’85, and it was supposed to be a seven-year deal but they’re still pressing them! I didn’t sign nothing!
It’s weird the `80’s metal is kind of coming back all of a sudden! Young kids calling me up, like 16 years old, telling me Nasty Savage is their favorite band! It’s like, “how the hell… He wasn’t even born yet and I’m writing these riffs!” But it makes me feel good with a new generation appreciating what we’re doing. I always felt we were underrated a bit. We started a new project, which I really think’s going to be a hot one, it’s got Curtis the drummer from Nasty Savage and Alan West from Obituary and Six Feet Under and the old bass player from Death, Scot; it’ll be a cross between Nasty Savage and Obituary; real heavy, a hell of a combination! We just put together five songs and they’re really good, I think.
It’s very unfortunate about `Duce, he was one of a kind, a genius.
A genius? [Of course I agree, but this second opinion intrigued me]
I think he was. You know, hanging out with him for two months was weird, I was cleaning up a couple of months ago and underneath the couch was his I.D.! And I couldn’t believe it, he was looking all over for it! He couldn’t be on The Jerry Springer Show without it! So he was going crazy, he was freaking! It’s like the song, “First Shit of the Morning,” he used to tell me about his dad (or was it his uncle) would always go in the bathroom and take a shit and he’d hear it falling and he’d go “bombs away” and you’ll hear that in the song! “Bomb’s Away!”
Did he write it all or did you contribute?
I think I contributed a couple of little parts because I was telling him about the truck stop part where it says, “pull over to the truck stop/you can hear the echoes of the shit’s `ker-plop.'” We were discussing ideas about the Gardy-Loo song “Dumping for Knowledge.” I threw him ideas, but didn’t tell him “use this.” He’d go “yeah, that one sounds good… ” He drank a whole pot of coffee one day when I went to work in the morning and wrote up three or four of those songs that day! It’s like, he was really putting them together when he was drinking that coffee!
Well, he’s a poet, all the songs rhyme…
I’ve always thought he was the “King of the Rhymes!”
What about the song “Clitoctomy?”
Well I had this picture book of vagina diseases that…
Why do you have that book?!
Somebody gave it to me… They know I’m sick! I remember I brought this one girl over and she was looking at that book and she goes “I probably would have had sex with you but that book turned me against you.” This book is the nastiest book you could ever imagine! It has everything! It’s fully illustrated… Duce loved it! I think he even jacked off to that book! Because, when he went to go take a shit or something, he’d take that book with him…
This is horrible!
It had tumors and shit; it’s like a National Geographic of every different disease on vaginas, thousands of them. Duce loved that book.
It was supposed to be only for gynecologists, but somehow it got to me. I collect sick videos, too.
How did you get so involved with gay serial murderer, John Wayne Gacy?
Yeah, I met him. We were doing a tour throughout the US and I had written him before that we were doing the paintings. I just said, “hey, we’d like to meet you,” and he gave me the time… He was only allowed two visits per week of no more than three people. So we went in there and we had to go through three different chambers, of stop, and they’d let you in, stop and they’d let you in, stop, and they’d let you in… So you see these little cubby holes with people looking out at you thinking “wow, free people!” And it was the most eerie thing, when we first walked in, I thought there’d be a glass barrier there, but there was just this little table between us. And he just walks right in with his handcuffs to the front of him. And he goes, “let’s move this table!” And he pushed the whole table by himself with his cuffs and goes, “there!” Then he goes, “If I wanted to I could kill you right now!” And in the other room they had the interstate killer, and [Gacy] says, “he could walk in too, if he wanted!”
Could he have killed you? Was he a big guy?
Naaah! He didn’t look that tough, they make him look a lot eviler in the pictures, maybe ten years ago… He didn’t scare me as far as me being able to take care of myself, but somebody like a young guy, half his size, I could see him doing it. And he goes, “I like to make that first statement to shock people.” He showed us a picture of his daughter and she was like beautiful and he goes, “she brought her fiancé there and I says to him, `so you’re the one fuckin’ my daughter!’ That’s a shocker to him.”
How did he go about doing your album cover painting?
It took about ten letters. Altogether, I’ve got about twenty-five letters from him. He actually wanted to get to know you first, to make sure you really wanted something, kind of like a mind game. He did an interview with me and I asked him something like “what’s it like not being able to walk on grass” or something like that and he came up with a pretty good answer, but he never admitted doing anything. And he goes, “I’m not gay, everyone thinks I’m gay; I’m bi-sexual!” Like, oh, that makes it so much better!
I understand you had to kick El Duce out of your house after a while.
Well, he’s a tough roommate! I mean, I have a day job and I can’t have somebody home forever, and he knew that. I dealt with it, though. But one day I come home from work and my whole stereo is apart, the wires are hanging out, it’s all unplugged and he’s wasted on the couch. He didn’t break it or nothing, but I kind of… The next day and he dyed his beard black to get that devilish look and make him look younger. He told me that it “turned the women on.” But the dye got all over the bathroom. I have a white bathroom and when he was done, it was black! I had to re-paint it, I was like “you just have to find somewhere to stay.”
Did he go back to California after that?
He bummed around Tampa for a while and we did about ten or fifteen shows with Duce and we performed these songs and I have a couple on video. On the album he sounds great, but live he doesn’t sound so great, that’s because the songs were so new, not because he was wasted. He’s really talented when he’s sober!
One thing he told me that I’ll never forget was “Ben, you’ll make it. Me, I’m not going to make it. I chose beer; alcohol as my way of life and that’s where my weakness is.” He knew it. And he goes “I know you chose music, that’s why you’re going to make it.” That kind of hit me hard. He was always constantly thinking no matter what was going on… And he would entertain me, we’d go out every night for two months and he was the life of the party. He’d make strangers laugh or piss them off, he was so hilarious… Over all he was well-behaved, when he got out in public, though, he’d turn into instant asshole! He’d just walk up to a stranger and take their beer and drink it and he wouldn’t say nothing!
What about Courtney Love and Kurt Cobain?
I think he did it. He’d always ramble on about it. He also hated that, what’s the singer for Guns `n Roses? He told me Axl Rose was a gay prostitute.
Yeah! He said he used to hang out with Axl in the gutter before Guns `n Roses was ever popular and they be hanging out in the gutter in LA somewhere and Duce’d see Axl get into a car… He’d come back to the ditch a couple of hours later with a handful of money and he’d buy Duce some beer!
It’s got to be true! So do you keep in touch with Heathen Scum et al.?
Yeah, he knew that Duce meant a lot to me. We talk or write letters every now and then. After Duce got back to California, I mailed him another copy of the [Perverts on Parade] tape, his was ripped off! I told him we had a label interested and he was really happy to hear what was going to happen… I got the Duce wisdom at the end of the record from a microcassette I recorded back on our ’94 tour with the Mentors, I taped about two hours of El Duce. I’ve got him yelling back at a religious radio station where girls are talking about the Lord and stuff, and he yells “you’re just made fer sellin’ yer ass on 22nd street!” He was hilarious.
There needs to be a Duce movie! You’ve got two hours! Put it on a record! Worldwide response?
El Duce was the most unique guy I’d ever met, I guess I’m fascinated with bad people, I always called him the king of the low lifes, and he liked that. He wanted to write a song about that. I don’t know what the proper thing to do is, it seems like Gardy-Loo is getting more popular than it’s ever been!
There needs to be a Mentors tribute album or maybe a festival! Duce-Fest!
Let Ben and the gang know you’re out there: Gardy-Loo, 6912 Westinghouse Avenue, Tampa, FL 33619