The Evil Powers of Rock and Roll: The Supersuckers’ Eddie Spaghetti Works to
Free the West Memphis Three
On May 5, 1993, three 8-year-old boys were brutally murdered in West Memphis, Arkansas. The small town was terrified, and the small town police department had no idea how to deal with a murder of this magnitude. The combination of hysteria and incompetence resulted in the conviction of three other boys: Jessie Misskelley, Jason Baldwin, and Damien Echols. Misskelley, Baldwin, and Echols became known as the West Memphis Three.
The West Memphis Police Department, by their own admission, were able to obtain no physical evidence to convict the West Memphis Three. The prosecution’s argument rested on a confession by Misskelley, a confession marked by Misskelley’s lack of knowledge of any of the particulars of the case, including the place and time of the murders.
Since the confession was so questionable, since there was no physical evidence, and since the prosecution was faced with a hysterical community, they fell back on the age-old method of constructing a witch-hunt. They tried the West Memphis Three not for murder, but for being “satanic.” As evidence, the prosecution brought forth Echols’ books on Wicca, Baldwin’s Metallica T-shirts, and the coerced statements of mentally disabled Misskelley. This flimsy argument was enough to award Misskelley and Baldwin prison terms of life plus forty years. Echols was sentenced to death by lethal injection.
In 1996, Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky made the film Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills. After several showings on HBO, the film sparked a new flame of interest in the case. Among those inspired by the film was Eddie Spaghetti, lead singer of the Supersuckers. Spaghetti asked himself what he could do to help the West Memphis Three, and decided to help release a compilation CD dedicated to the cause. The compilation features stars like Joe Strummer, Eddie Vedder, John Doe, Tom Waits, and the Murder City Devils. Recently, I got the opportunity to speak with Spaghetti about the West Memphis Three case and about the comp.
Looking at the band names and song titles on the comp, with bands like Killing Joke and Murder City Devils, and songs like “Fucking Hostile” and “Wrathchild,” it seems like the Free the West Memphis Three CD itself mirrors perfectly the evidence used to prove that Jason Baldwin was Satanic.
It’s kind of weird. The thing is, they were convicted for such ludicrous reasons, and all the evidence was brought up as character evidence, as some sort of proof that they were evil people. A lot of people don’t care if that hurt them. But the fact is that that sort of thinking is wrong and we shouldn’t kowtow to it. We shouldn’t change what we do. Just because their thinking is character-proof, we shouldn’t cater to it.
So was this an intentional thing?
The song selection definitely was. I mean, if you’ll notice, they basically go from songs about people’s feelings about the case and about the film to covers of songs from bands that the guys like. So yeah, we did do that directly.
What songs were by bands that Jason Baldwin is a fan of?
He’s a fan of Pantera and Kelley Deal did the cover of the Pantera song, and for the same reason, Nashville Pussy did “Highway To Hell.” AC/DC is one of the bands connected to the case.
How does purchasing the CD help the actual kids in jail?
The money from the CD goes to the justice watch, which is a non-profit organization which helps out wrongly convicted people. And the money from the CD will also go directly to Jason, Damien, and Jessie, not so much for defense funds, because their defense fund is fine. It’s more geared towards money for them for when they get out of jail. We designed it that way specifically because we want to send out a message that we really believe that they’re going to get out.
How did you come to get involved with the West Memphis Three?
Everybody who sees the film, the first thing they think about is, “what can I do?” For a lot of people that could be donating money to the support fund or telling their friends about what’s going on or just talking about it. Then again, in my case, I have resources with which to put together a record like this.
Have you met any of the kids personally?
Yeah. I went down to Arkansas and visited Damien. I didn’t get to Jason. He was farther away.
What were your impressions?
Awesome. The guys were amazing. Incredibly positive. They’re coming from a place where I don’t understand and hope to never be able to understand. I hope never to be in a situation that bleak. Jason, in particular, is amazing. He tutors at the prison school and he works with computers in the prison office and he’s not just sitting there, bitter. He’s trying to do something positive.
It reminds me of something I found doing research on this, a quote by Damien saying that he takes comfort in knowing that he’s going to be out of prison one way or another, either alive or dead, at least he’ll leave. It’s something that I’d never want to be faced with.
Their attitude is something that I totally admire and I hope to never understand on a personal level.
I know you have some particularly damning T-shirts, like “How To Maximize Your Kill Count” and “Smoke Of Hell.” What else could be used to condemn you the way Jason Baldwin’s concert shirts and Damien Echols’ Stephen King and Anne Rice books condemned him?
In my possession?
That kind of the thing. You realize that a lot of the music that they have was pretty, you know, relatively mainstream. Then I look around my place and think, “you know, if the cops busted in here, and this shit could really be used as evidence against me in court, I’d be sitting on death row.” Because I have a lot of books, I mean, I’m very into witchcraft. And the cops could find books about serial killers. But it’s interesting. A lot of people have that stuff. It’s not evidence.
And, like you said before, you can’t really kowtow to people who disagree with your beliefs just because they’re the ones in power.
Right. They’re wrong. That’s the thing. Sometimes you forget about that in order to put on a nice appearance. You gotta realize that they’re the ones that are wrong. My being into witchcraft doesn’t even make me a witch, much less a murderer.
You said some interesting things in an interview with Hit List a few months ago about Satan. You took him almost out of a religious context.
Well, not being a religious person, Satan is not. Satan is a cartoon character. Satan is the Easter Bunny or Santa Claus or anything like that. He’s just a guy who represents the underground aspects of life. To me, you know. Satan drives a cool hot rod. Satan has all the drugs and all the chicks and all the stuff in life that is rock n’ roll.
He’s kind of like Loki in Norse mythology.
Exactly. I don’t think there’s anything inherently evil about all that stuff. There’s a lot of evil in the world; there’s no doubt about that. But real evil lies in other places. It lies in racism and in people treating other people poorly. I don’t see how these things connect.
Do you have any personal stories that tie in with the West Memphis Three?
Being involved with rock n’ roll. You know what it’s like from being in Florida. It’s not as bad as West Memphis. Well, some places are. So you know what it’s like. And we grew up in Tucson. I just know what it’s like to be looked upon with suspicion because of the way I look and to have to deal with questions about Satan and satanic imagery on record covers and all that other stuff. We deal with that all the time, you know, on a regular basis. It’s particularly funny when you’re out of the country, in Europe, with the language barriers and where they don’t necessarily have the same sense of humor as I do. They really want me to explain my relationship with Satan. As if I’ve taken the Dark Lord as my personal savior. It’s just rock n’ roll. That’s all it is. It’s energy. That’s all there is to it.