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It's not easy being a horse's ass. It certainly hasn't been easy for Miles Hunt. The lead singer and chief wise guy for England's alterna-pop band the Wonder Stuff has developed quite a r‚sum‚ as a snotty, grade-A jerk.
"I pay no attention to it, really," Hunt sniffs. "It's just the rumors of other people talking about what I'm supposed to be doing. I'm thoroughly unaffected by it. I'm far too self-conceited to worry about other people's opinions."
Even so, the accumulated evidence against Hunt is substantial. Consider the Wonder Stuff's first LP, 1988's peppy The Eight-Legged Groove Machine. There was Hunt, chirping away, extolling the benefits of greed, pride and other heady self-interests. Sample song title: "Give, Give, Give Me More, More, More." Sample lyrics: "Forget your heart, it's your bank/I want to break, it's just/Yer money I'm after, baby." And the best song on the album featured Hunt on a gleeful chorus of "I didn't like you very much when I met you" repeated three times, followed by a pithy, "And now I like you even less."
Subsequent discs by the Wonder Stuff weren't quite as catty--or as good--but Hunt still managed to successfully ream pop culture (Radio Asskiss," "Who Wants to Be the Disco King?"), along with other suitable targets.
All of which endeared the singer and his bandmates to a sizable mob of "Stuffies," an enthusiastic if impressionable mob of followers eager for contact with their hero.
Hunt handled the attention in character. Once, after being approached on the street by a shivering, faint-hearted fan, Hunt advised the frail, young thing to "fuck off and grow up." Similar courtesies were extended to other ill-fated Stuff-heads. It got so bad that one cautious sycophant reportedly came up to Hunt and nervously asked, "Will you tell me to fuck off if I asked to shake your hand?"
A real pip, that Miles Hunt.
"Those things happened years ago," Hunt explains via phone from London. Hunt's voice is strong, his manner cheerful and straightforward. He doesn't sound like a horse's ass at all. A pony's, perhaps.
"When we first started, I had no aspirations to become famous," Hunt continues. "I felt awkward. There were a couple of incidents where people would come up to me and they'd know everything about me--but I knew nothing about them. And so I'd be brisk. But I've grown up. I'm more appreciative these days. It's just a learning thing."
Indeed, Hunt now sounds like he's serious about learning how to turn the Wonder Stuff into more than just a multi-ped "groove machine." The band's latest effort, Construction for the Modern Idiot, is waist-deep in grandiose arrangements, lush production (keyboards, strings) and other studio artifice, all shaped by producer--and ex-Vibrator--Pat Collier.
"Pat produced our first two albums," Hunt says, adding that the band's third LP, 1991's Never Loved Elvis, was manned by a different producer, Mick Glassoc. "We wanted the change because [Glassoc] had worked with the Waterboys and other bands we liked," Hunt says.
But recording Never Loved Elvis proved to be a "painful experience" for Hunt. He says the band hadn't written much material before going into the studio, and they wound up "piecing ideas together" as the sessions went along.
"Generally, me and Mick argued with each other, which didn't sit too well with the other people in the studio," Hunt says. "I enjoyed it, though."
For Modern Idiot, Hunt says the band knew what had to be done. "We had to write a lot of songs, rehearse them endlessly and then go into the studio and put them all down. Simple as that." The result: 31 tracks recorded, the top 12 making the final cut. "It's a gradual process," Hunt says of the band's development. "This is our fourth album, and there is a difference from what we did back on the first record. There'd be no point, really, in recording the same album over and over again."
Hunt pauses. "You know, like the Ramones."
Yes, Miles Hunt still has a spleen. And though Hunt brags that the Wonder Stuff's new CD is a more "mature" piece, he doesn't apologize for the occasional well-placed uppercuts peppered on the disc.
The most noticeable attack tune is "I Wish Them All Dead," a bouncy little number aimed directly at the notoriously nauseating North American Man-Boy Love Association (NAMBLA), a San Francisco-based group that advocates sexual relations between men and lads.
"That song started when we were on a tour with Siouxsie and the Banshees a while back," Hunt says. "I was in a hotel room, watching TV, and Geraldo had a show on about NAMBLA. I was just sitting there, writing down my impressions, and I kept coming up with the phrase, 'I wish them all dead.' I went back to England, and when I was writing it out, I thought about including everybody I hate in the song instead of just these particular people. But I kept it limited to this group.
"I'm not on a crusade," Hunt continues. "I don't want to get all Sin‚ad O'Connor on everybody. It's just that when it comes to NAMBLA, I really do wish them all dead."
Hunt's other impressions of America aren't quite as volatile. For example, he fondly remembers the band's stop in the Valley a couple of years ago for one of those music festivals put on by ex-AM alternative station KUKQ. The Wonder Stuff played the second night of the two-day, multiband shindig and wound up as the hit of the weekend.