Cheetah Chrome Talks Dead Boys, Dissing Devo, and His New Band Batusis

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Cheetah Chrome and Sylvain Sylvain are considered founding fathers of punk rock, as original members of Rocket From the Tombs and The Dead Boys, and New York Dolls, respectively, but the two are far from mellowing out with their age. Their new project, Batusis, roars and rips with just as much fury as their classic bands, albeit with a bluesy, classic rock tinge.

The guys bring their rock n' roll sideshow to town on October 27 at the Rhythm Room, and Up on the Sun was lucky enough to ask Cheetah a few questions about his new band, and what exactly happened that time with Devo. 

Up on the Sun: You and Sylvain are both considered founding fathers of punk, but in both cases you predated punk, and with Batusis, you don't really claim the title of "punk" so much as "rock n' roll." Do you draw a clear line between the musical styles?

Cheetah Chrome: We don't but a lot of other people seem to. We prefer the term "loud rock and roll," it doesn't limit us as much as "punk" or "glam" does.

UOTS: You and Sylvain go back for years. What was your initial reaction to hearing the New York Dolls when they first came out?

CC: My first reaction was to grab my guitar and play along! I loved that record!

UOTS: You've played with a bunch of truly inspiring artists, of course Rocket from the Tomb and the Dead Boys, but also artists like Jeff Dahl, Nico, and Ronnie Spector. How have these artists influenced your approach to rock music, and what artists originally kicked in your drive to create music?

CC: Well, with Jeff it was because we're very good friends and have a lot of the same tastes in music; it was natural that we would get together and do something. The stuff I did with Jeff is great, I'm very proud of it. Nico was fun because it was a chance to be a bit experimental, more like my early Rockets days. Ronnie as well; it's nice to step outside what you normally do , I 've always been sort of a musical sponge, just about everything I listen to influences me.

UOTS: I'm really interested in hearing about your legendary goof on Mark Mothersbaugh. Would you share that story?

CC: Well, we played a gig with Devo in Akron; during "Jocko Homo," he came out in his Booji Boy costume. I just went up front and pulled down his gym trunks,and a bunch of his fans started hitting me. It's been blown way out of proportion over the years.

UOTS: Batusis is a play on the "Batusi," the dance Adam West's Batman did in the '60s show. Are you a comic book/pop culture fan? I like to imagine that Batusis will inspire Christian Bale to do some sort of dance in the next Batman film, but that doesn't seem likely, does it?

CC: Oh yeah, I love my comic books! I sure as hell hope Bale doesn't do any silly dances, he's my favorite Batman so far.....

UOTS: Ken Coomer, formerly of Wilco, produced the Batusis record. Wilco famously used some of Rocket From the Tombs guitarist Peter Laughner's lines from "Amphetamine" lines in their song, "Misunderstood." Did you guys talk at all about that connection?

CC: Yeah, a little. It was more of a Jeff Tweedy thing....

UOTS: Coomer isn't exactly the first name that comes to mind when talking about garage rock, despite the high energy of the Uncle Tupelo stuff, but clearly he knew what he was doing on the album. What do you think he added to the production aspect of the EP?

CC: Well, being a drummer, he had the room set up for a HUGE drum sound. And Ken is a very unobtrusive producer , he listens more than he talks. He's very good at getting sounds, at getting what you hear in your head onto tape.

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