In 1990, the indie label Amphetamine Reptile signed the band, released a couple of singles and an album that drew critical praise and a widening audience--a lot of strippers, for some reason, maybe because the music's so sleazy"--and Surgery hit the road. Quite literally.

"We've had three van crashes," says McDonnell, hacking again briefly. "We went across the country in a huge, old, ex-UPS truck painted black with 'Surgery' in bright green written across it. And we had a trailer with two motorcycles. We lost a rear axle, which is a double-wheel axle, and the whole van almost flipped. It was skidding out, and shot oil and smoke and fire everywhere. If we didn't have the trailer with the motorcycles, we figured we would have flipped."
But they didn't. Instead, Surgery drove itself all the way into a contract with Atlantic Records; for all the seemingly careless tales of debauchery and excess, this is a band that knows what it wants.

"We want to be as big a band as possible," states McDonnell. "We want to be huge, tour with ZZ Top and the Stones, live that lifestyle. We never had any apprehensions about wanting to be a big band. And Atlantic has been really good. They haven't given us a phone card, but they do give you a lot of money."
Don't worry, Surgery is not about to let money and major-label status induce star trips and dullness. "We've been best friends for five years, and we pretty much watch each other's backs. It's cool, but there's still fistfights and stuff like that," says McDonnell. "We definitely have a sense of humor about ourselves. We're definitely pretty outrageous and fun. We don't want to be this serious, tough-guy, Rollins-type thing; we just go up there and rock out."

And McDonnell has but one regret:
"I really wish we hadn't named Surgery as a name. It was just stupid . . . I wish it was 'Sugary' or something.

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