BACKFLIPS, GIDDY FANS IN COSTUMES, ONSTAGE VILLAIN FIGHTS, SWEATY HARD ROCKIN', AND MORE FUN THAN YOU CAN SHAKE A LANCE BASS AT. KIDS LOVE THE AQUABATS, AND THE AQUABATS LOVE THE KIDS. ONE OF THEIR BIGGEST (AND POSSIBLY OLDEST) FANS, MISS MONSTER MEL, GETS CRASH McLARSON IN THE BACK OF HER TRASH-FILLED TRUCK TO TALK ABOUT BEING A REAL SUPERHERO.
Miss Monster Mel: Howís the tour going?
Crash McLarson: Itís been a lot of fun. We havenít toured in awhile, so it felt good to get back on the road and rock across America!
MM: Rock across America, huh?
MM: Alright! So how did the whole superhero thing get started with The Aquabats? Why goggles and neoprene?
CM: Itís kind of a long, stupid thing, so Iíll try to give you the more condensed, interesting version.
CM: When we started the band we were listening to a lot of surf music. So the Commander and I were thinking... you know how those old surf bands all dressed alike?
CM: And so (laughs), our friend Boyd happened to play the trumpet, and I was having this Madness flashback, so we started to play this band. We wanted Boyd in because heís our homie... or Catboy. You know Catboy?
CM: So we just got together. We practiced once and were going to play a show that night. So we thought, "Since we only practiced once, we should probably put something together to make it interesting." So Catboy came up with the costumes. Originally, he came up with the helmets--
MM: The Anti-Negativity Helmets!
CM: Yeah, the Anti-Negativity Helmets. So we all played the show. Even though The Aquabats is a superhero name and the outfits are similar, it really wasnít a superhero thing, at first. It was sort of like... well, Devo, surf bands, and ska, because our friend plays the trumpet and I like Madness. So thatís kind of how it all originated, and it just sort of evolved out of that.
MM: So then you brought in the villains, the allies, and the Saturday morning cartoon kind of feel?
CM: Yeah. That all evolved over time. It started out really simple and evolved into what it is these days.
MM: You mentioned ska. You guys used to be very influenced by ska. Iíve noticed thatís kind of gone away in recent albums.
CM: There are a lot of reasons for that. One, ska rhythm is kind of limiting. A lot of our songs are themes, and even though we originally wrote theme songs with the same ska rhythm, we found that it limited the songs a bit. And we couldnít always make the songs sound good by playing them real fast. I think some of the guys evolved as musicians-- not saying that I am not included here-- so they wanted to experiment with different things and not limit it to just ska. We havenít really gone back to it much.
MM: How would you describe the music now?
CM: Itís kind of hard to describe it. In The Aquabats, there are a wide variety of people and music tastes. So, when we write songs, we donít always necessarily agree; everything comes out a compromise. If it were up to me it would have been new wave from the beginning. Old school punk rock... but itís not, unfortunately. (laughs)
MM: (laughs) Yeah, well, iTunes lists you guys as either "metal" or "folk rock".
CM: (laughs) Well, the band listens to different music. When we ride in the van we donít always agree what to listen to, but we do agree on a lot of music together.
MM: What are you listening to now?
CM: I really like the new Ima Robot record. I think they are one of the newer new wave bands to come out that are really talented. They write good songs. I like The Shins, as far as new bands, you know? Iím still locked in the era that I grew up in. I still listen to The Circle Jerks and Dead Kennedys. Even though Iíve played those records a million times, I still listen to them a lot. I guess it's because it reminds me of my youth.
MM: Gotcha. So, do dogs have lips?
CM: (pauses) Well, they are always sticking their mouths somewhere.
MM: So is that a "yes"? Itís the standard tastes like chicken question.
CM: (laughs) Then I would say... yes!
MM: (laughs) Okay! So, the merchandise you guys have is pretty interesting. Besides the wide array of shirts, thereís a little action figure, a coloring book, and costumes you can buy. Iím curious about the Saturday morning cartoon aspect. What made you guys decide on this kind of merchandise?
CM: Some of it came from thinking, "What can we do that hasnít been done by a band?" Thereís definitely a marketing ploy behind everything.
CM: Weíre always thinking in terms of money and collectibles, or cool things that not every person has. Even though we mass-produce a lot of this stuff, we will discontinue items. So it definitely comes from a marketing aspect. Like, if you buy a New Found Glory t-shirt, you pretty much have them all. You only need one. But if you buy an Aquabats shirt you might look at the other shirts and go, "I donít have that one."
MM: Right. There's 15 to choose from!
CM: You might have to buy, like, eight shirts just to cover the spectrum of what you like. Whereas, with the other guys, you can just buy one shirt.
MM: And you guys make girl shirts, too, which is very much appreciated! A lot of bands donít do that, and it drives me nuts.
CM: Yeah. There is a certain aspect of it that is artistic, and the members of our band that do the designing really enjoy it.
MM: Cool. And thereís a Paul Frank connection, too. I noticed you were on his website links awhile back.
CM: Yeah. In the early days of The Aquabats, Paul Frank was in another band that we played with all the time. Back then he was just our homie. He came up to us one day and said, "Hey, I made these belts for you guys." (referring to the Aquabats costume belts)
CM: He brought them to our practice and said, "Iím starting this company. I have this little monkey guy." And I was all, "Yeah, buddy. Good luck with that." (laughs)
MM: How long ago was that?
CM: Like, ten years ago.
MM: Heís all over the place now.
CM: Yeah. Heís successful and doing really well. Iím happy for him.
MM: Thatís cool. Heís got some neat stuff.
CM: And he has a band now. Itís awesome!
MM: Whatís the band?
CM: The Moseleys.
MM: I had no idea.
CM: Well, you wouldnít. They have never recorded anything, and they never will.
MM: Oh. They just play?
CM: They just play. The only thing you could ever get is some bootleg show.
MM: Ah. So... cartoon?
CM: Yeah! (laughs) We originally tried to develop a TV show-- a live action show. We went to FOX and got sent to development hell. Cartoon Network is interested in a cartoon, so we are working on that.
MM: So you were thinking about doing live action and cartoons, or just all cartoons?
CM: Well, if we went with Cartoon Network it would be a cartoon, but maybe with some live action.
MM: And ya'll would do the voices?
MM: You would think.
CM: You would think, yeah. I mean, every time we have done a deal there has always been a clause in the contract.
MM: Would you guys still have The Aquabats name?
CM: Yeah. We actually own the name. Thatís kind of been the problem with getting anything developed. We fought for creative control, and no one really wanted that. They donít know they can take an artist and let him run free with what would sell. They donít think artists can think in terms of what would sell. I think they are wrong. We always think hand in hand-- creative marketing and exploitation.
MM: Not everybody can do that. There is a stereotype that artists canít do real marketing or manage themselves.
CM: Yeah. And I donít see why not. Iím sure many artists are starving, but I donít think thatís a requirement for me. I have no problems with the bling, you know? (laughs)
MM: Youíre down with the bling! (laughs) Okay, so, whatís worse: having someone say you remind them of Drew Carey or Ellen DeGeneres?
[NOTE FROM MISS MONSTER MEL: After the show the night before while chatting with Crash, a young man I had been bumming cigarettes to told me I reminded him of Ellen DeGeneres. "But not, you know, in a gay way," he said after I was obviously not flattered. He had meant it in a nice way. Crash, feeling bad for that comment, told me it could be worse. He told me that once, while wearing glasses, a nurse had told him he looked just like Drew Carey. Not cool, especially because Crash is way handsome, and Drew Carey ainít.]
CM: (laughs) I would have to say Drew Carey.
MM: Drew Careyís worse? (laughs)
CM: Yeah, because Ellen DeGeneres is better in the sense that sheís rad in her own way, even though sheís maybe not attractive. Youíd definitely not call Drew Carey attractive, but I donít think heís all that funny, either.
CM: I think Ellen DeGeneres is kinda funny. My wife watches her show and likes it, and Iíve had to watch it before.
MM: So you can tolerate it?
CM: No! But I think sheís sometimes funny.
MM: So, better Ellen--
CM: Yeah. I would say Ellen.
MM: What is Digital Unicorn?
CM: Itís a side project of Prince Adamís. Heís the musical genius behind The Aquabats... or one of them, anyway. Heís the more educated musical genius.
CM: Educated. He studied at UTSC, music major. One time, our opening band fell apart, and he had this music all sampled onto a digital audio tape with keyboards. So he just went on as Digital Unicorn and grabbed whatever was readily available for a costume. So it just became that; sort of performance art. You can only really understand it if you see it, but itís great.
MM: So you kind of have to be there.
CM: The CD is really good. Itís worth it. Iíll give you one.
MM: Yay! So, tell me about your stage antics.
CM: What we do is pretty retarded.
CM: A lot of people think itís pretty lame, which makes it cool, you know? So the fact that we are totally, 100% committed is rad; itís so dumb, but we are all in. I love it when the fans come to see another band we're playing with, and they donít get it and get bummed to the point where they get a bit angry.
MM: You have gotten bad reactions?
CM: Oh, yeah. All the time.
MM: (shocked) Are you serious?
CM: Yeah. Especially when we are playing with some new so-called "punk" band or whatever the new rap/metal thing is... the new tough guy thing. We try to play with everybody. So when a tough guy image crosses with a dorky image--
MM: They kinda get pissed.
CM: They get mad because they think thatís us; that weíre a bunch of lame, dorky guys-- which we are-- but at the same time we could probably beat them up.
CM: But we donít.
MM: Because you are the good guys!
CM: But weíre not just tougher than the bad guys, weíre smarter, too.
MM: I notice the good guy thing. There is no swearing on your songs, and ya'll donít really seem to drink or smoke--
CM: Some of the guys drink, and one smokes, but we are committed not to do that on stage, just because everybody else does that. To me, it kind of breaks the character of what we do.
CM: If a superhero gets up and goes, "Hello, F-ers! Thanks for coming!", then heís not really a superhero. Heís an ironic superhero, which I donít think is very cool.
CM: Iím a real superhero. (smiles) So doing the swearing, the bad guy thing-- the drinking and profanity-- I think there are enough bands that arenít role models and tell kids, "Masturbate. Be bad. Whatever." Why not have someone that doesnít do that? Weíre here to have fun, so have fun! Youíll get enough of that stuff from everybody else.
MM: Thatís something I first noticed about The Aquabats that was different, and I really dig that. The music is positive and fun. Nothing gross or mean, just goofy. I can tell you guys have a good time making this music.
CM: We do! There are a lot of jokes for the kids, but there's also stuff thatís just between the six of us, and thatís cool. We laugh amongst ourselves every night; at some point in the evening someone in the band will make me chuckle on stage. Itís one thing to get up and put on a show for the kids, but itís another thing to make each other laugh. The Commander or Chainsaw or Prince Adam... they always like to chuckle.
MM: You guys get along well, huh?
CM: Yeah! I mean, itís a band-- a family-- so you fight and stuff. We threw the Commander in the trash at one point.
MM: Ass-first, right?
CM: Well, he asked for it, so, there you go. But heís my homie.
MM: My dad used to do that to me when I was little. He would fold me up and put me in the trash so I couldnít get out. It was funny, but that was my dad. He would also fart in my bed to wake me up in the morning.
CM: Thatís kinda funny.
MM: Yeah. And then he would do this "Viking Howl" outside my bedroom window; it embarrassed me and got me out of bed. So he had all these weird little ploys and ways to mess with me. And the guy is a respected attorney.
CM: (laughs) Rad!
MM: (laughs) Yeah, my dad is cool. Okay, so, am I hot?
CM: Yeah! Smokin'!
MM: Good answer.
CM: I donít think you look like Ellen DeGeneres.
MM: Say that again, louder.
CM: (screaming) No, you don't look like Ellen DeGeneres!!!
MM: The guy was young.
CM: Yeah. He was trying to make a compliment, but it went the wrong way. Maybe he loves Ellen DeGeneres and thatís the highest compliment from him.
MM: Thatís possible. He meant well.
CM: I was at this barbeque restaurant today, and they had a sign that said "No shoes, no shirt, no service... unless you're Dolly Parton."
CM: So, you know, if you walk in there and they say, "You look like Dolly Parton!" that would be a compliment. But in reality you might think, "Damn. Thatís not very cool."
MM: I see your point. Maybe heís not that good at talking to chicks yet.
CM: Well, most 13-year-olds that dress up like superheros and go see The Aquabats are probably not ladies men, or they would be somewhere else.
MM: At the tough guy show, right? Getting his freak on and whatnot?
CM: (laughs) Yeah. Theyíd be out dancing to New Found *NSYNC.