Interview: Tony Leeuwenburgh aka Tony Slug
Known For: bassplayer for Nitwitz and B.G.K., editor for Vögelspin fanzine, founder for Vögelspin label
How: Face to face
When: Juni 2005
Tony Slug (bassplayer, vocalist and leader of The Nitwitz) is a bonafide Dutch punkrock legend who started Nitwitz, ‘the least popular band in Holland’, over 25 years ago! Later he also played in bands like B.G.K., Loveslug and The Hydromatics (with Detroit icon Scott Morgan). I visited him and his ‘incest brothers’ The Felchers in Amsterdam some years ago, and had a good drunken time and went back home to Copenhagen with Nitwitz’s awesome “Dark Side Of The Spoon” album. Recently he sent me their two latest 10″s, “Totalitarian Rock’n’Roll” and “Nibble The Giblet”, which more than confirmed Nitwitz’s status as one of Europe’s most superior kickass punkrock’n’roll combos. As you will experience in the interview, Tony is man of strong opinions on anything related to rock’n’roll. He’s also born in Denmark, and have still have family here, so he knows a lot of Danish cusswords, which might come in handy since The Nitwitz’s upcoming tour includes some Danish dates (March 17th).
LC: Gimme a run down of your musical history, you started Nitwitz around 1978, and later B.G.K.?
Tony: Yes, Nitwitz started in May 1978, barely catching the last glimpses of the first punk wave. By 1981 we were the most popular punk band in the country because we emphasized playing FAST instead of bleep bleep ‘innovative’ bullshit. So the Nitwitz played ALL the time, every bar, barn or bar-mitzvah. And 25 years later the Nitwitz are the LEAST popular band in the country, he he. By 1982, this English Oi thing was so nauseating we morphed into B.G.K., and we played what was later to be known as US hardcore. Even the punks didn’t like us, they said it was too fast. We sped things up considerably after hearing the first US records that trickled over the pond, like Hüsker Dü’s “Land Speed Record”, and especially the Bad Brains cassette tape on Roir. Jesus Christ. The best show I ever saw was the Bad Brains play to 40 people in 1981. UNBELIEVABLE! A bunch of dreadlocked brothers from DC doing it better faster and harder than ANY of those English spiky haired doltfucks. It was just what punk rock needed. Then by 1986 the whole scene had changed. You had all these metal guys trying to claim punk roots, punkers trying to play metal, I mean, what’s the use. On the other hand you had all these whitebread suburban straight edge geeks, being right wing/reactionary and hardline about non-issues such as who does and who doesn’t drink. Who needs another 7th generation Minor Threat clone? I sure as shit don’t. I love Minor Threat, but Youth Of Today? I don’t fucking think so. And then there were all these bands doing the “jazzcore” thing which I found not so bad, but essentially it wasn’t all that different from virtuoso Yes or Santana doodling, just faster. So I wanted to bring some original punk roots back in, you know, Stooges, MC5, Dead Boys, but played faster, at HC speeds. I thought that was the shit, so I formed Loveslug with a bunch of other knuckleheads. We were just a bunch of silly drunks, and the time wasn’t right for this stuff yet.. I’m five years ahead of my time, hahaha!
LC: Loveslug was a pretty successful band which records got distributed all over the world?
Tony: Well, I don’t know about being successful necessarily, I guess the records are distributed, and somebody is probably making off them but it sure as hell ain’t me. The records weren’t so great anyways. Still it was fun. We toured a lot and I like to think it had some impact, judging by the bands who play covers of our shit. People didn’t know what to think of us. We had long hair, but didn’t play metal, then when we did two LONG tours with the great The Fluid from Denver, and people lumped us in with all that grunge stuff, which we had nothing to do with. We were a good time rock’n’roll band, and those were some fun times indeed. In Spain some people claim we were the first to do the rock’n’roll thing, together with Union Carbide Productions so that’s quite flattering. Nobody should take it all that seriously, though.
LC: There’s been several line up changes in Nitwitz, gimme a 2005 update?Tony: Oh man, got a MONTH? Right now Dick Ginger quit playing bass with the Nitwitz to focus on the Felchers, Steven the Gadge is out of the Felchers and back in the Nitwitz. He plays industrial strength wood chipper. Then we have Dutch Frenchman Laurent van Bouvelen the Rickenbacker tamer, doing a great job and wild man Mr Paul ‘SuperSonic’ Smith from German great Dumbell and the Damagers fame on 5 string Gibson SG guitar. I have to say this line-up whups a woolly mammoths musty ass with a belt. It’s totally working, at last.
LC: Tell me about your r’n’r brothers in The Felchers (http://www.lowcut.dk/004_lc/front/index.htm) , which I had the pleasure of meeting some years ago?
Tony: Our incest brothers. Very good band, friends. We hang with them a lot and cook together because they’re also hot pepper freaks. I can totally recommend their records. The Felchers ROCK.
LC: You recently had a show cancelled in Germany because the ‘sexist’ cover art of “Nibble the Giblet” 10″? Any problems before with ‘politically correct’ people?
Tony: No problems as far as I’m concerned, we don’t give a fuck. I mean the Nitwitz aren’t all that hard up to drive 600 km to play some stank ass squat house to 30 sleeping crusties and their mangy fucking dogs for 150 lousy Euro’s you know. If they want to censor us they’re being like the Punk Rock Talibans. So fuck ’em.
LC: Nitwitz had some serious troubles over the years with labels etc. according to some of your ‘rants’ at the website?
Tony: You must know this is a very dirty business. EVERYBODY gets paid, except the band. And the labels are always covered on every angle. When they say “50-50 after break even”, it usually means 100 – 0 and we end up being stuck with a studio bills or 4 grand or so. That’s the way the cookie crumbles, I guess. It’s very frustrating to be hamstrung because the line-up changes every year and to not have a supportive label. But I’ll do it the hard way, because I don’t know any other way.
LC: Your heroes and inspirations? There’s a tribute to the late Johnny Ramone on your webside, and you done covers of Radio Birdman, Nervous Eaters and The Nomads.
Tony: Johnny Ramone was the first to emphasize the importance of playing downstokes and hanging your guitar at knee height. Great! I totally stole his whole stance from day one. My other heros are the French writer L.F. Celine. And Fred ‘Sonic’ Smith of course. Chuck Berry, others. We like all those bands, so when we were asked to participate in the ‘tribute’ albums, which I’m personally not a big fan of AT ALL, we said yes. By the way, we decided that we could be bothered to spend our precious 15 minutes of studio time on quickie recordings.
LC: I really love the shitraw production of the two 10″s (“Nibble The Giblet”, “Totalitarian R’n’R”) you sent me, ballsy, man!
Tony: Well, that’s the Tube Tech compressor unit for ya – our secret weapon! As you know the Nitnitz are fighting for the right to be infantile with Friday nite sized loads in our balls , so “ballsy” it shall be, hehe! Mange tak, glad it found a good home. Good to know some people in my beautiful birthcountry Danmark can dig the SLUGROCK sound. We can’t wait to rock København. (March 24th according to their tour plan)
LC: Turbonegro’s Happy Tom and “Nuke Rock City?
Tony: Well Thomas and I were discussing all kindsa silly crap and making fun of numbskulls as we do regularly. Then I went, Dude, I’m staring at a writer’s block the size of the Cheops Pyramid here, we’re recording this weekend, This is the title, this is what the song is about, help a brother out, yo. Then he immediately sent me a few funny verses the same day. We only ended up using 2 or 3 lines of those, but it fit, nicely. And we thought it’d be neat in a name dropping marketing scheme kinda way. And boy were we ever wrong!
LC: Tell me about the new album “Sex, Lies and Duct Tape”?
Tony: Duct tape, it’s known as gaffer tape in Europe, in the US they call it duct tape. Anyways it’s that silver super-strong kind. Essential part of the Slugrock van repair kit, which also contains an empty beer can, a ballpoint , and a baseball bat , among other useful items for on the road. We actually fixed a busted muffler on the Slugmobile van with it once, on tour. It reeked like hell, but it worked ! For about 60 km to the next garage. Well the title is a spoof on the “Sex Lies and Videotape” movie. I guess Ministry are gonna steal this title too like they’ve done before with “Dark Side Of The Spoon”, those faggoty Goth nerds. But that’s just our luck, maybe.
LC: You also running the Rocketdog label which has put out several bitchin’ comps?
Tony: Well, ‘running a label’ as big words for such a low profile endeavor. I did the Nitwitz/Hellacopters split, the Hydromatics debut single, and the “Here’s Fifty Bucks” comp, which sold a staggering total of FOUR copies in Scandinavia. I’m not fooling. Sex Lies and Duct tape will be next.
LC: Hydromatics and Scott Morgan, plans of new tours and records? What do you think of The Solution?
Tony: It would be safe to say the Hydros are finished and over at this point. We’ve done 4 tours, it was fun, Nicke and myself had been talking about doing some Sonics Rendezvous Band cover/rip off thing, then one thing led to another. After Nicke left, being too busy with the Copters, we were basically on our own, a band without allies, although the Radio Birdman guys were really supportive and Deniz made sure we got to open for them a few times, which was super cool of him. Those guys are amazing btw. We did get to meet a lot of good bands and people all over actually. Holy Curse in Paris, numerous great Spanish bands, etc. But as far as organising stuff we were alone without label support, no management, no booker. And I ended up doing everything myself pretty much. As Theo went AWOL last minute the amount of stress became surreal. Thankfully Laurent, of French punk band the Dogs was willing to fill in, two days before the tour started. We had to make do. But all things come to an end. I’m glad to have been part of it. Plus we got to record most of Sonics Rendezvous Band’s at the time unreleased material. So, that’s a “Mission Accomplished” right there.. Pitshark from france put out a 10″, and Suburban is gonna do a posthumous live CD. That one is almost finished and rocks nicely. As far as the Solution goes, Nicke sent me a raw mix CD-r of it which I played more often than the finished record. Overall it’s a bit too lightweight and MTV friendly, non confrontational for my narrow minded tastes on occasion, but overall it’s a solid good soul kinda record. Something different. They’ve got some great drum sounds. Glad to see they’re being successful cause they’re good at what they do and, they’re hearts are in it, and they totally deserve it.
LC: Whats your take on Dutch rock’n’roll anno 2005?
Tony: If you mean the crop of Zeke/Glucifer wannabes with flames, hotrods, fuzzy dice and 8-ball imagery, there’s no shortage of that, like anywhere else, I guess. Peter Pan Speedrock are HUGE. It’s pretty mind bogglingy, but they’re cool guys. Felchers and Lo-Lite are great. Lo-Lite are this two piece playing this crazy distorted bluesy noise, really cool ! The Stilettos and 69 Charger aren’t bad. I’m not very interested in the Zeke/Gluecifer clones.
LC: Any new year resolutions?
Tony: Not really.
LC: Anything to add?
Tony: Thanks for the support Jens, we’ll see you soon