Every Wednesday is Heritage Hump Day! That's because every Wednesday from now to the end of the year or before someone really big stops us, Heritage Hump Records (a temporary subsidiary of Onus Records) and New Times will be bringing you a limited edition collector's item of a much beloved Phoenix band that walked the scorched earth of Arizona around or shortly after the year 2000 A.D. We will honor that band with a commemorative digital single that you, the digital public, will have a limited time to download to your computers and smart phones before this single gets marked up to an exorbitant price as determined by the mp3 collector community. When that happens, a new Heritage Hump subject will be chosen and the free-for-a-limited-time-only cycle begins anew.
This week, it being Halloween and all, it's only fitting we should honor Psycho Gypsy, a Phoenix band formed in the early ’90s that walked the walk when everyone balked — four guys who would dress in glam garb just to go to Circle K to buy beer, which you could see them do proudly on their onetime public access show.
I first saw Psycho Gypsy in 1994, when every hair metal band's segment on VH1's Where Are They Now? ended with playing at some podunk state fair grumbling "and then Nirvana knocked us off the radio." I like to think Psycho Gypsy was glam and hair metal's alternate universe if those bands weren't so plum tuckered out from the ’80s excess and fought back, going toe to toe (or Doc Martens to platform high-heel boots) with the likes of Mother Love Bone and Gruntruck.
First impressions are what count. I first saw Psycho Gypsy play before a room of mostly non-believers grousing "What is this shit?" when they played a unique open-mic night at the now-defunct Atomic Cafe, which supplied a back line for bands to come perform three- and four-song sets — a great concept I wish someone would bring back. They worked the room like an arena, even going so far as invoking the words rock ’n’ roll, which were pretty verboten in 1994. From my February 1998 profile of the band "Glam Slam":
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"Psycho Gypsy had a massive sense of self even at that embryonic stage. If you couldn't be in awe of the members' loop-de-loop hair choreography, you had to admire their cheek for taking a piece of rock's recently discarded past out of the Dumpster and parading it for all the awe and majesty it was worth. The song intros said it all.
"This isn't Lawrence Welk—this is about something we believe in—the power of rock 'n' roll!"
"This next song is about your dad locking you in your room because he doesn't like the way you look. And it's called 'In a Darkened Room!'"
The difference between the audience reaction now and then is worth mentioning. Back then, if people wondered if Psycho Gypsy was for real, it was meant as a putdown. Now it's as if your 4-year-old wants the real skinny on Santa. They wanna believe in the power of something.
"I can look down from the stage, see people tapping their foot and tell they want to do more but they're waiting for someone else to," says Tim. "You kind of have to use psychology on them and make them feel they're stupid if they don't scream. I used to have to say, 'It's okay to jump up, scream and yell and have fun. You shouldn't worry about what the person next to you is thinking.'
The band was able to parlay their uniqueness into Glam Slam nights, where they would find the one like-minded glam holdout in another city and bring them here, no easy feat in those pre-Internet days. Soon the band was headlining on the weekends. Later, they parlayed their love of Mötley Crüe into a successful tribute band called Shout at the Devil.
This week's Heritage Hump single hails from the band's self-titled debut album. "Wanna Be in the Show" might be a line out of Loverboy's "Everybody's Working For the Weekend" but outside Psycho Gypsy sharing Mike Reno's love of head scarves, the similarities end.
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Says Psycho Gypsy co-founder and bassist/guitarist Tim Cheney, "'Wanna Be in the Show' is the first track from our 1999 debut release and the song every radio station we sent the album to wanted to play first. The song itself is blatantly sexual in nature, with its not so subtle references to what some people will do to get to the band. Some of the most beloved songs in history are about as deep as a spoon and yet enjoyable to listen to. Despite the lyrics, that's what the song means to us to this day which is our desire to get on the stage and take people away from real life for a while. That to me has far more value than a song about politics."
In between reboots of Psycho Gypsy and Shout at the Devil, Eddie Electra has been a member of Peppermint Creeps. Drummer Mykel Geyman, always the most menacing looking member of the group, hung up his codpiece and Styrofoam spike shoulder pads for good in the year 2000 and became a pig farmer in Iowa. Sadly, in 2006 he was killed in a motorcycle accident and is still very much missed.
Cheney recently left Snake City Playboys and has been singing in Absinthe Mind as of late but is also working on something he's never done before, a solo album.
"Why the hell not?" he reasons. "It will probably be out in 2017. However nobody will be hearing anything until it's exactly the way i want it. It WILL be worth the wait though. KEEP IT LOUD!"