Kim Shattuck on How Getting Fired by the Pixies Named Her Album
The Muffs (Kim Shattuck, Ronnie Barnett and Roy McDonald) have been writing and performing spirited, clever and fierce pop-punk tunes since they formed in the very early 1990s. Their first full-length release in 10 years, Whoop Dee Doo, hit the streets this week and both fans and critics are eating it up like candy, rightfully so. The 12-song recording is loaded with exciting, dynamic and catchy songs delivered with all the punch and spunk these longtime rockers have made us expect. Kim Shattuck, the band's lead vocalist and guitarist, was in the garage rock band The Pandoras, prior to The Muffs, and most recently did some time with the Pixies. Shattuck, whose voice can whip from snarl to sweet before you can blink an eye, got chatty with us about all that and more.
The reviews [of your new record] so far have all been over-the-top good. That has to feel great
I am very happy with the reviews. The thing about reviews is, though, if I do see a bad review, that's fine, because I feel very good about this record. The only time bad reviews make me mad is when I'm feeling insecure about something. I feel confident with this one in a positive way, not at all in an arrogant way. I'm just very, very happy with how it came it out. When I was listening to the mastered tracks the first time, it wasn't quite sitting right. I was in a super critical mode when I listened to it. This was before the Pixies tour. When I got back from that tour, I went and did a little tweaking with the mastering guy and when I left there, I was listening to it and I started crying. I just kept thinking, "I love it, oh my God, it's perfect, it's done." I got really emotional -- that's how I good I feel about it.
This is the first Muffs full-length in 10 years. Why so much time in between releases?
After Really Really Happy (2004), I just wanted to take a little time off to do some things I wanted to do, like photography and to focus on home life. I guess time just kind of slipped away. Around 2006, I started writing again but I didn't tell the guys at that point that I was writing new stuff. It was a couple of years later when I told them they really wanted to hear it so I sent them demos and they were like, "We can't believe you haven't shared these songs yet -- we gotta make a record!"
Whoop Dee Doo is on Burger Records. How did you guys hook up with get involved with them?
I originally heard about them from our drummer Roy who heard about them from Steve McDonald from Redd Kross -- Roy also plays inRedd Kross. Steve is the kind of guy that knows everything about everything that's going on in the music world. I am the opposite of that kind of person; I live under a rock and do my own thing. Steve was telling us that Burger was amazing. Roy met them with Redd Kross and they were great. I really liked their name. Burger is like the best name for a label, ever. Right before it came out that I was gonna play with the Pixies, we went down to their store and had lunch with them and talked. I was stoked by how sincere they are. They have their shit together and know what they're doing. Super cool guys and the whole thing they've created is perfect and perfect for us.
They've definitely got presence and have developed a great scene.
It's definitely nice to have something with that good of a scene and great vibes, all the people we have met are really nice. I haven't seen anything like that in a long time. I'm so glad they took us on. Some of the labels we talked to didn't seem as enthusiastic and didn't have the vibe we wanted. The Burger guys are happy, positive and make things happen.
Do you actively go out to see new bands?
Like I said, I'm kind of in my own world. I don't really go out to clubs unless I really know that I want to see a specific band. I don't just go out and see whatever band happens to be playing. I usually have a plan. I go to more baseball games than I do to clubs lately.
So now that Whoop Dee Doo is out, will a tour follow?
We are taking an interesting approach to touring right now. We picked specific spots for this year. Next year we'll probably go on a longer tour. We're playing west coast, then east coast, followed by a trip to Japan and then a couple different things in December. We're going to do it in spurts rather than long drawn out tours because that's just hard to do. I have a really nice family life and I like being home. You know, we're older now. I have a dog, who's like my son.
Are you completely over talking about your experience with the Pixies?
No, not at all. I'm like an open book; there's no topic that is off limits with me.
I guess it's safe to say you named the album Whoop Dee Doo based on Black Francis' quote regarding your dismissal from the Pixies as "A shift in the line-up, big whoop-dee-doo?"
Oh, totally! What's really funny about that is that we were done with the record even before I was asked to be in the Pixies. We were just finishing the mixes and I was being really slow with them, taking a lot of time with the process because I can be a perfectionist, though I am trying to work on not being one all the time because it can be a bit of a bummer. Anyhow, I wanted everything to be just right like I knew it could be. We finally got the order of the songs right, got through everything else but we didn't have a title. I had one idea that the guys didn't like at all and then all of a sudden Charles [Pixies front man Black Francis] says in the press, "whoop-dee-doo," and all three of us texted each other at once when we saw it saying "Now, that's an album title - - that's an amazing album title!" We thought it would be funny. We titled Blonder and Blonder after something Courtney Love said to me once when she walked by me in a club, because my hair was blonder than she'd seen it and she felt threatened. She said "Blonder and blonder, I see," [which Shattuck utters in a funny, witchy voice]. Ronnie brought it to the table that "Blonder and Blonder" should be an album title. Our next record, Happy Birthday to Me, got its name because I was in the studio recording on my birthday and the guys said they'd come down and take me for a drink but then they ended up going out to a show instead and flaked on me so I was all bummed, like, "Well, happy birthday to me," [laughs]. So, yeah, when "whoop-dee-doo" came tumbling out of his mouth we decided it would be our album title. We did all the artwork with the title on it, had the press release ready to go and then Ronnie decided he was having second thoughts about using that title and I was like "Fuck. You. No. It's done. Too late." (Laughter). He's fine with it now.
Did you work with anyone new or different in the production of this record?
I produced it. We used our engineer from Happy Birthday to Me, Steve Holroyd to engineer the basic tracks, and that was awesome, he's a great guy. I did some engineering, too. We mixed and mastered with the same guys we always work with. I feel like when you have a great team you should stick with them forever.
You've done one video so far with a Whoop Dee Doo song, that we'll get to see soon, right?
Yeah, we did a video with our good friend Sara Radle, who we've known forever, since she was a teenager. She did everything, the filming and the editing. The song is "Weird Boy Next Door." It's really goofy and silly and funny. We're like the Monkees, being goofy is just kind of who we are.
Nothing at all wrong with having some fun
Exactly. It's like all those Pixies videos. They're just so artsy fartsy, they're unwatchable.
Back to the Pixies for a minute, did you ever get anything definitive on why they dismissed you from the band?
No, they didn't tell me anything. The manager, I could tell, was trying to not use the word "firing." When he "let me go," he told me that the band picked someone else. I asked questions and got answers that didn't really explain anything, like, "Did I suck?" "No, you didn't suck." "Did I let anybody down?" "No, you didn't let anybody down," And then the reason nobody talked to me after that was because I announced it -- I announced that I was disappointed that I wasn't going to be in the band anymore. I guess they wanted to put out the word first and make it seem like it was something that we all agreed upon. I kinda blew up their plan!
That's just so weird. But while you were doing it, it was a pretty positive experience?
Yeah, yeah. There's obviously some weirdness there with some of the members but doing the shows was amazing. I was always awaiting the shows, themselves, because that part was the most fun I was having on the tour. It's not as much because of the band that I was having fun, but more because of the audiences. The crowds were just great.
From everything I read, the fans seemed pretty jazzed about you being there. The whole firing thing seems bizarre
I think my personality was too aggressive for them. Not in how we interacted throughout the days. I was pretty quite and always really nice to everybody, but I think my stage personality was a little more amped up than what they are used to. I wasn't trying to show off, or anything. The audiences were so excited and good that I couldn't have just stood there and it would have been fine but I naturally move to the music.
Are you doing any other projects aside from The Muffs, currently?
I'm doing some producing and I'm getting ready to do a little project with my sister which I'm really excited about because I always wanted to work with her. She's guested on some of our stuff. She's really talented -- I'm really looking forward to it -- we're gonna do kids music. I'm so super excited about it. I have a lot of different irons in the fire right now.
I heard from my friend David Camp, who is a radio guy up in Portland, that you're producing the California band Honeychain.
I am. They're super cool. It's my friend Hillary [Burton's] band. When I met her, she didn't have a band but she had all these amazing songs that she'd recorded herself and put out on an EP. I was like "You need to have a band and play live shows and just do it." So she started a band and they're really good. Then she wrote a bunch of new songs and I asked her who was going to produce her and she named a few people and I was like "I would totally do it," turns out she did want to ask me but felt kinda weird about it, so it all worked out great. I love producing. I find it really fun. Their songs are so catchy -- their songs stay in my head for days.
You mentioned that you do photography - can you elaborate?
I majored in photography in college but I didn't graduate. I worked at a newspaper for awhile and then I joined the Pandoras so I kind of let all that go for awhile. I really enjoyed it, especially documentary photography and little arty farty stuff. I went back to school, took some more classes and started doing some portrait photography. I did some weddings but that's it for the weddings, I am never doing that again. I like the reception part but not the ceremony. Although, I did go with [Muffs member Roy McDonald] and his wife when they eloped and shot their wedding and that was my favorite time of all because it was just so beautiful. I've known him so long. It was on the beach, and keeping with the theme of this interview, I cried. I couldn't even take pictures -- they had to stop for me a couple times (laughs) at their own ceremony. During the long Muffs break, I assisted a really good photographer and learned a lot from him. And then the band started back up again so I started doing music again.
Sounds like it's something you'll always do.
Yeah, but I don't like doing it for money. I like doing it just for the joy of doing it. I'm thinking of maybe putting a book together because I have a lot of really cool photos. It is more of something I like to have for myself. It's my private occupation.
Speaking of the Pandoras, I know there's an active formation of the band called the 21st Century Pandoras. You're not involved with that, right?
No, no. It's kind of hard for me to get behind it, I don't really like the songs. The girl (Susan Hyatt) that got this new thing started was in the Pandoras for a short time and then left when the band got dropped from Elektra Records; it just seems kind of weird. She has also made some mention of "rebranding" the Pandoras. When anyone uses the word "rebranding" in relation to music, the hair stands up on the back of my neck -- it's creepy. It always makes it seem like the person saying that isn't genuine. That said, I have been rocking out with some of the other Pandoras -- the ones that rejected the 21st Century Pandoras thing -- and that has been super fun. In the end, I'm fine with 21st Century thing, it's not something I really have anything to say about. It is funny though, because I've heard around town that I hate them, which I never said. It's almost like someone's trying to make a rivalry out of it, which is weird. I've made up with everyone and told them not to say that -- don't say I hate you. I never said that. Do your rebranded Pandoras, that's fine.
Any good Phoenix memories or stories?
Musically or otherwise?
Well, for several years now, my husband and I go to Arizona for spring training. Oh my God, it's the most fun thing ever. We watch the Dodgers, we watch the prospects, and we watch everything. I love baseball so much. We love the Arizona restaurants and just hanging out there. I really love the desert. My in-laws live north of Phoenix and I love the setting. It reminds me of the Flintstones. It's just really beautiful and rugged. On one of the recent trips I saw a bunch of javelinas. I was so excited. I was also really excited to tell that to the Pixies on tour 'cause you know they have that song "Havalina." and I tried to school them on the correct spelling of the name (laughs). Whenever I'm there, I definitely think about buying a place there.
Will we see you on this tour?
Not right away but we're definitely gonna make our way there soon!
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