They are a loud, crude, Jack Daniel's-guzzling band, with a lead singer that looks like Meat Loaf on steroids. In their home base of Seattle, Washington, they host a public-access porn show, reviewing slasher films a la Siskel and Ebert. They are serial-killer trivia buffs who adopted notorious necrophile-cannibal Edward Gein as their unofficial mascot. They are Tad--four young men every bit as menacing as their grunge-metal music.
Even in the ostensibly open-minded arena of alternative music, no one seems ready for a band this subversive. Dangerous rock 'n' roll may be acceptable, but a band with a dangerous attitude is another story.
Of course, it's easy to see why some people might be put off by the group. If you don't get a case of the creeps when singer Tad Doyle bellows, "I'm a jinx, I'm a jinx, yeah!" you don't recognize psychosis when you hear it.
Several controversial acts have come off the renegade Sub Pop label recently, like the gleefully misogynistic Dwarves and the girl-group anarchists Dickless. But Tad seems to be taking the heat for all its Sub Pop peers.
Not long ago MTV banned one of the group's videos, mostly because the band members wielded knives and chain saws in the clip. But MTV's rejection was also based on Doyle's "unpleasant" redneck-behemoth appearance. For his part, the singer isn't quite sure why he's being singled out. "There are a lot of really ugly people on MTV," he notes.
Doyle isn't put out by his lack of a marketable image. In fact, it's obvious that he enjoyed frightening the staid MTV. "They should be scared," he says, only half-jokingly. "Because we're going to keep on fucking with them."
Like its videos, Tad's new album 8-Way Santa is a celebration of sleaze and gore. When asked about the origin of the title, bassist Kurt Danielson would say only that the band stole it from a "swinger's mag" and that it refers to sexual perversion. Besides smut sheets, the band draws from its favorite slasher films on the new record. "Giant Killer," which has Doyle howling, "I think I lost an eye/I think I lost a leg," alludes to such grisly epics as The Evil Dead and Hellraiser.
Gruesome lyrics aside, 8-Way Santa shows a slightly mellower Tad than 1988's God's Balls or '89's Salt Lick. But if Santa is easier to digest than the band's previous albums, Danielson insists it's not because the music's any less abrasive. "I think the different feel is a product of having more time and money," he says. "The first two records were each recorded and mixed in about two days. And it didn't take much longer than that to write them."
The band spent a comparatively leisurely six days recording and three days mixing 8-Way Santa. And instead of the 2,000 bucks the group spent on its last two LPs, Tad went hog wild with a $7,000 budget. "I think it's a better thought-out record," notes Danielson. "In that sense, it's more accessible."
Unfortunately, Santa's music has so far been overshadowed by the controversy surrounding its cover art. The record is graced by a 1973-era photo of a man grabbing the breast of a bikini-topped woman. The picture came from a photo album a friend of the band's bought at a Seattle thrift store, and Tad couldn't resist using the randy couple as cover models. "They look sooooo in love," Doyle snorts.
Handing a photo album over to the Salvation Army is only slightly less weird than donating a diary. Tad figured the photos were in the public domain. "We assumed that these people were either dead or insane or something," says Doyle. "I mean, who would let their personal photos out into the world?"
Much to the band's shock, the woman in the lurid Polaroid found out that her likeness was being used to sell Tad albums and threatened to sue. This sent Sub Pop scrambling for an alternate cover. The label eventually settled on an attractive shot of Tad posing in front of some heifers at a county fair.
The hubbub over the video and the album cover would be enough to make any other band feel persecuted. But Tad isn't whining about the situation. "We celebrate the controversy every day," says Doyle. "We're laughing all the way to the bank."
Like the 2 Live Crew, Tad has discovered controversy can yield a higher profile and increased record sales. Just a month after its release, 8-Way Santa is well on its way to outselling both of the band's previous efforts. "We always like to take advantage of a situation," reasons Doyle. "The controversy wasn't planned, but we're going to squeeze every nickel out of it we can. We'd be fools not to."
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Tad will perform at the Sun Club on Monday, April 1. Showtime is 9 p.m.
If you don't get a case of the creeps when Tad Doyle bellows, "I'm a jinx!" you don't recognize psychosis when you hear it.
"The first two records were each recorded and mixed in about two days. And it didn't take much longer than that to write them.