Cretin Hopping

Veteran roadie John Calleo brings together four rock veterans for the one-off Ramones tribute Rocket to Russia

"Someone said what I need to do is get a pipe and some bifocals and a music stand," he says of the Rocket to Russia gig. "And have the bass way up high so I can read Ramones sheet music off the stand. That's punk rock. That's like the Meat Puppets playing country music for a Black Flag crowd."

Pinkus left the Butthole Surfers in 1994, after nearly a decade with the demented Austin noise-punk quartet, because he was frustrated by the piecemeal approach that their music was taking.

"We weren't writing songs together anymore," he says. "[Drummer] King [Coffey] would start coming up with drum loops and he'd give them to [guitarist] Paul [Leary] and he'd work on it, and give it to [singer] Gibby [Haynes]. I love those guys dearly, but I need to rock. I gots to have it."

We're a happy family? Rocket to Russia bonds at a haunted-house complex.
We're a happy family? Rocket to Russia bonds at a haunted-house complex.

Details

Scheduled to perform on Friday, October 12, with Meat Whistle, and the Necronauts. Showtime is 7 p.m.
Mason Jar

Friedman's departure from Megadeth early last year was similarly about those pesky "musical differences," because he wanted to break away from metal and start making upbeat dance-pop music. He's currently working on a project called Red Dye #2, and writing music for ABC Sports.

Pinkus, who's spent the last five months living in a van while he learns the fundamentals of studio engineering, sardonically suggests that his time in Phoenix was all for Friedman's benefit.

"Actually, I came here to teach Marty how to play guitar," he says. "He wanted some tips. I was like, 'Look, I only play bass, but I'll show you what I know.' He was playing a little too fast, so I suggested Ramones might slow things down a little bit for him. And he seemed to take to it pretty well."

Pinkus' first Ramones show, at the Agora Ballroom in Atlanta, had the feel of magic in the air, not least because it was also attended by First Daughter Amy Carter.

"I remember Dee Dee handed a pick down to this hot chick who was in front of us; he was flirting away," Pinkus says. "My friend grabbed this chick's hand, and bashed it on the stage until she let the pick go.

"The thing about the Ramones is, when you're a kid and you don't really know how to play too well, they're inspirational to everybody. Anybody can play it."

Years after the Agora show, Pinkus, by now a Butthole Surfer, recalls bumping into a thoroughly inebriated Joey Ramone at New York's Cat Club. He says Joey, in vintage Rock 'n' Roll High School form, kept mispronouncing Gibby Haynes' name. "He was talking to this guy who was backstage who was also fucked up, and none of us could understand anything they were saying, but they could both understand everything they were saying."

For Friedman, the Rocket to Russia show is a way of acknowledging the sacrifices da bruddahs made, spending two decades on the road, in cramped quarters, having to literally inhale the stench of each other's perspiration.

"I have a lot of respect for those guys," Friedman says. "They weren't in Leer jets; they were in a van doing 280 gigs a year, in close proximity to each other for years. I can't even imagine how terrible it was. Who were they doing it for? The fans. It has to take a lot out of you."

After a few minutes kibitzing with his new -- albeit temporary -- bandmates, Friedman admiringly says, "Everybody's wacked. We would have so been in the same band in junior high.

But Pinkus admits to at least one qualm about jamming with Friedman.

"I got this note saying somebody representing Marty Feldman wanted to talk to me," Pinkus teases about his invitation to join the band. "So I was kinda disappointed, but I'm over it."

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