Pleaseeasaur's Spastic Successes
Fri Sept 28 at Graceland, $8.
"Quality is a term that doesn't mesh well with Pleaseeasaur," says John Peter Hasson, the band's shy, seemingly self-effacing founder. If such a declaration is a bit confusing from an artist with a new release to promote, then you've obviously neither seen nor heard Pleaseeasaur.
Hasson's one-man project is difficult to describe, because what he does with a few key accessories--a DAT machine, a couple of projection screens, an abominable-snowman outfit, and a disco ball shaped like an eye--renders him nearly peerless. You can't get the full comedic perspective until you've seen him live, gesticulating around like a mentally impaired action figure, singing songs about dog shit and the Olsen twins.
Motivated by a fascinating dichotomy of indie-outsider ethos and a tenacious business sense, Hasson has managed his own career for nearly 10 years, booking his own tours and self-releasing all his work. He's recently signed a deal with Warner affiliate Razler Records for three EPs. The first, Beef Flavored Island Adventures, was released on September 11.
Growing up in the small Washington town of Indianola, Hasson began playing music at the age of 12, in a band with his friend Ben Blankenship (the two still collaborate) and a couple of local Christian kids. Although some of the earliest strains of Pleaseea- saur's sounds began to develop there, the union was soon severed with the reliable precision of a punk-rock baptism.
"One day, Ben went to Fallout Records in Seattle and bought a T-shirt of this band called the Hell Cows," Hasson tells me. "It was a cow with devil horns. He brought it over to practice and showed it to them, and they were just blown away--not in a good way."
Continuing on his own, Hasson raised himself on a diet of Dead Kennedys, Black Flag, the Melvins, and fittingly, the Dead Milkmen. "They were a big part of my influence. I was obsessed with them."
When Hasson was 15, the Milkmen came through Seattle and Hasson connected with guitarist Joe Talcum. A reciprocal pen-pal relationship formed, and Hasson was eventually invited to Philadelphia to record with Talcum. Hasson returned so he could finish school, but within two weeks of graduation he moved to Philadelphia and started the band Touch Me Zoo with Talcum.
After a series of cassette releases, one LP for Restless Records, and a string of dates on the 1995 Lollapalooza side stage, Touch Me Zoo disbanded. Hasson returned to Seattle and began to focus his efforts on Pleaseeasaur. He began making loops from kids' records and noodling with a growing collection of samplers and keyboards, drawing topically from Star Wars, Asian convenience foods, and '80s TV shows. With the assistance of Blankenship and a few other friends, he began incorporating costumes and other props into his performances. "My friend found a black and silver Evel Knievel-style jumpsuit and gave it to me the day before my first really big tour." He began touring religiously and preparing to record As Seen on TV, released in 1999.
His devotion to extensive touring has paired Pleaseeasaur with an odd selection of equally deranged artists, including Buckethead and Neil Hamburger, and has taken Hasson to a handful of European countries. A spring tour of Australia is in the works. His interest in film scoring and soundtrack work has yielded a few projects, including some intro music for a CNN program and a satirical soundtrack to a nonexistent thriller. The remaining two EPs will be released over the next two years, and another full-length is slated for early 2002.
I ask Hasson why such a shy, soft-spoken individual as himself is making his way as a spastic satirist.
"I've always been that way," he replies. "If there's something to be said about something and I'm going to say it, I think it's better to say it funny. I'm a really shy person. I have to flip everything in order to even talk to people a lot of times. The easiest way is to be an ass."