Hammer of the Gazas

Chicago's Gaza Strippers take it all off and show their scars on a high-powered sophomore album

"Dirty linen washed up nice," is how Sims describes the dark side of domesticity on "Newburgh Housewives," one of the standout tracks on a breakneck album. "That was a true story about our bass player (Darren Hooper) who was getting propositioned by his best friend's mom. He was frightened. I think it scarred him, and he's brought his scars to the band. The whole band is scarred. Our drummer (Mark Allen) has lived in Mattoon, Illinois, all of his fucking life, a lot of family gunplay going on in his younger days. People threatening other people with shotguns when you're young. If that doesn't scar you, I don't know what else it's gonna take.

One hopes for Allen's sake that his childhood isn't the one depicted in the song "Mommy Shot Daddy" ("Mommy shot daddy/For treating her badly . . . I saw it from my bed and it's still in my head").

As for second guitarist Mike Hodgkiss, the very fact that he sounds as though Ace Frehley and Johnny Thunders are his role models is scarring enough. "Just being in a rock 'n' roll band is gonna scar ya. He's a person who's bought into the rock 'n' roll lifestyle, and once you do, you've sorta sold your soul to the devil," says Sims.

The Gaza Strippers: From left, Mike Hodgkiss, Mark Allen, Darren Hooper and Rick Sims.
The Gaza Strippers: From left, Mike Hodgkiss, Mark Allen, Darren Hooper and Rick Sims.
Rick Sims (foreground): "Once you [buy into] the rock 'n' roll lifestyle, you sorta sold your soul to the devil."
Rick Sims (foreground): "Once you [buy into] the rock 'n' roll lifestyle, you sorta sold your soul to the devil."

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Scheduled to perform on Tuesday, December 12, with Caustic Resin. Showtime is 9 p.m.
The Green Room in Tempe

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Sims' own path down the road to perdition was set in place early on, when, as a teen, he'd attend Pentecostal tent revivals and get saved every other day in his hometown. "They had a rock band playing 'Jesus Is Just All Right With Me,' and they said, 'Come on down to the altar,' and I'd say, 'Hell, why not?' It was a hippie sort of gathering, kind of bizarre when I look back on it," he says. "That was where my cousins went to religion and became Pentecostal and started the long road to their hypocritical existence."

For those of you not familiar with the Pentecostal rulebook, women seem to have it the worst. They aren't allowed to dance or put on makeup, are required to wear long dresses and serve their men dutifully. And none of that Adam and Steve stuff, either. "It's a very strict interpretation of the Bible," says Sims. "'Man shall not lie with another man' -- very right-wing approach. They also speak in tongues, too."

Although that little trick might come in handy for a Gaza Strippers show, Sims has stayed clear from the dogmatic religious doctrine and from his relatives. "I barely see them. When I did see them last, I gave 'em some records and stuff and I never heard from them again. They're probably praying for me."

Though he might be an unholy sort, Sims has been blessed with an enviable career. His first outfit, the Didjits, were a world-traveled punk trio that released six albums with bratty titles like Full Nelson Reilly, Little Miss Carriage! and Qué Sirhan Sirhanbefore closing up shop in 1993. A song off the band's 1990 album Hornet Pi-atacalled "Killboy Powerhead" was covered by the Offspring for its Smash album, which took indie punk Epitaph into the Top 5.

Were the Offspring longtime Didjits fans?

"No, they'd never heard of us," says Sims, "although we did play a show with them here in Chicago. Someone played them a tape and the guy liked my voice, liked the song and said it reminded him of some other California punk band. They put it on the record and sold 11 million." A nice chunk of change. "Yes," he agrees, "we'll be showing up in the van that the Offspring built."

As for his stint replacing Ron Heathman in the Supersuckers, Sims maintains "that was really a blip in time, it wasn't even a millisecond. I did one record with them (The Sacrilicious Sound of the Supersuckers in 1994). I got to meet John Paul Jones of Led Zeppelin, and Willie Nelson, which was cool. Then I did a little touring with them, which sealed my fate as far as being in their band because I just wasn't into it. I gotta play my own music."

While he's listed as co-writer of two songs off Sacrilicious("Bad Dog" and "Money Into Sin"), the rest carry a monolithic "Supersuckers" writing credit, which didn't sit well with Sims. "If we had all been in the band and had written the songs, maybe. Once we went out to play, it was kind of like stepchild joining the family. It wasn't any fun."

Neither was a gig playing with Fred Schneider of the B-52's in support of the singer's 1996 solo album Just Fred.

"Steve Albini produced that record and he got a band together for it and he asked me. Then I made another mistake of touring with somebody that I didn't like," he says. "Touring's just a fucker anyway. It's easier to ram a hot poker up your ass than it is to tour.

"It was hard touring with [Schneider] because I just hated the bass player, he was self-righteous and very judgmental. So that didn't go down very well, and I'm glad that I got the hell out of there after a week and a half or so. We were sleeping on the floor with goddamn Fred Schneider! He was all right, pretty much straightforward. But he's not an all-night party sort of guy. He was more 'I wanna get home early and sleep in my own bed, run an antique store' sort of guy. It's all show."

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