Seattle-based magma rock three-piece Event Staph have a scrappy, raw, and punk quickness. It's not power rock, but there's power in the chunks. With well-aimed fingers, it slaps you in the face. You don't even realize you've been slapped—you were gazing sluggishly at YouTube cat videos, and then WHAP. Guitar-firing vocalist and lead man Shawn Lawlor screams and scurries torrents on the frets. Jamie Jaspers and Brian Voss lock and explode respectfully on bass and drums. In their song "Woody Allen," Lawlor expounds: "Woody Allen is an asshole! You don't adopt a kid/Bring her in your home... Leave her the fuck alone!" This Event Staph combo sprouts boomed-out inklings of Dead Kennedys and Imperial Teen hooking up at a NoMeansNo show. Shawn, Jamie, and Brian spoke. I was not slapped.
What's the origin of your band name?
S: Our name was Event Staff initially because we could find one-of-a-kind shirts already made with our name on the back at thrift stores, usually for 99 cents, and we'd give them away at shows. Then I got MRSA on my hand—that's methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus—and soon realized changing the spelling would be a little cheeky [laughs].
B: Our previous band was called Studfinder. Event Staph was for our gigs for events. Weddings and birthdays and stuff. It evolved with the MRSA.
Let's talk about your song "Woody Allen." What are your Woody Allen thoughts?
S: Any way you look at his marriage, it's pretty fucked up—there is a 35-year difference in their ages. This song was written as a reminder to people of what Woody Allen is. People like to defend his "brilliance" as a director, but this song is a call for everyone to STOP watching Woody Allen movies.
Who produced your recording? Do some guitar talking. Are you a guitar nerd?
S: The great Gary Mula engineered and coproduced us. I'm playing the same guitar I bought in 1988, a 1976 Les Paul Deluxe; I wanted a guitar like Curt Kirkwood from the Meat Puppets, and then I bought one. I'm not much of a guitar geek; I just love the feel and sound of my guitar. I play through a Marshall JCM800, so it's the classic Les Paul and Marshall combo. For effects I use a nice analog delay pedal, a graphic EQ to boost for louder parts, and a rare Octaver, which is always a nice touch.
Let's get into gay band domination. Anything special planned for Pride?
S: Playing Pride weekend is always a great time. I've played at quite a few Pride events over the years. Wildrose really set the mark for putting on a great lineup of bands with a really fun three-day beer garden. The Funhouse also hosted amazing Sundays during Pride. My goal with Pride events is to try and get TWO new people of gay persuasion to actually come see a punk rock show, to step out of their gay comfort zone and experience something new. Do you really need to listen to a one-hit-wonder diva from the early '80s singing along to a prerecorded karaoke-style rendition of her hit? Don't get me wrong: I love me some '70s/'80s divas, but until Grace Jones makes an appearance at the Cuff, I won't be making it [laughs].
And I'm not saying that the music we're playing is groundbreaking and all crazy-ass new, but there's something to be said about trying new things and possibly hearing some local gay/straight/trans musicians sing/scream about what moves them. The lineup this year at the Highline is great; it reminds me of old-school shows, where you could have a punk band, a ska band, and then some trippy psych-rock band. The fact that we are playing right before Glitterbang from Seattle and Double Duchess from San Francisco goes to show how eclectic this lineup is.
What are your Pride Parade memories or thoughts?
S: My earliest Pride Parade story was when my parents came over and stayed with me and my partner many years ago. The parade was on Broadway then, and seemed much more manageable. My parents really enjoyed themselves. Then we went back to our apartment and blasted Bad Boy Bill from our deck speakers until the manager came and shut us down—I think it might have been the sample of "I want to fuck you up the ass" blaring at 10 that got complaints. With my parents hanging out, dancing, getting all crazy! I stopped going to the parade long ago when I first saw an influx of major-corporation-sponsored floats. It didn't feel local anymore, and I don't need to see gay Bank of America employees handing out pamphlets.
But I do think the parade, and the whole weekend really, definitely serves a purpose. People from smaller towns looking to feel part of a bigger community? Check. Visitors able to experience their first time feeling comfortable with PDA? Check. People making new friends and possibly meeting their future partners? Check. So for those purposes alone, sure, keep having the parade. I'll be at Pony.
Pickles or cucumbers? Which is gayer?
S: Cucumbers are definitely gayer. Easier to, well, you know. Pickles are just a little too... soft.
Cantaloupes in the microwave?
S: Off the record, cut a hole in the side, stick it in the microwave for a few seconds—not too long—then take the cantaloupe out. Experiment. Let me know how that goes for you.
What's up with Wenatchee?
B: The eternal question.
J: Apple capital of the world, and a real fun li'l thing happening over there. Snatchee Records kids have been real supportive and keep having us over—we're on an amazing bill over there August 17 at Wally's Tavern.
S: They love rocking out to shows. Great scene. Snatchee Records: Check them out. Wenatchee is the new Olympia!
Who are some of your favorite bands and musicians?
S: Definitely Imperial Teen, what with two homos and all. Roddy Bottum and Will Schwartz. Their lyrics are bratty, fun, and queer-identified, and that drew me in. Torche: I call it dirge rock. I'm sure there's another genre name. They're fronted by a singer/songwriter with a great melodic sense for heavy-ass music. Love it. Judas Priest, Rob Halford. I still marvel at how different it is today with him being out and back with Judas Priest. Seeing all these dudes who would've tried to beat me up in high school totally rocking out to Judas Priest. That's a testament to some of the change in attitude toward homos—and for that I smile.
B: Big Boys. MDC, though technically not gay, they had some of the first and best anti-homophobia hardcore. Clitboys. Heard this stuff at age 15 in suburbia, probably before I'd ever met anyone gay. Of course, Pansy Division is hilarious.
J: Also, we don't want to out anyone here, but Lemmy.
What did you seek out in music growing up? When did you find your voice?
S: Well, I didn't really seek out gay musicians to listen to when I was growing up; I just wanted to play the guitar and write songs. Finding my voice, lyrically, was a slow process. I feel like my songs evolved to include lyrics with gay themes and overtones. My lyrics were heavily disguised—in the closet, so to speak, in 1986. By 1992, I was writing songs about crushes on men, and using "he" as the subject of my lyrics. It wasn't until about 2000 that I started referencing my prostate in songs [laughs].
I felt pretty isolated back then, but I think that Bob Mould was one of the first alternative rock musicians that I remember hearing about coming out. It may sound cliché, but I do think out punk/rock musicians are important to help younger queer people feel like there is a subculture out there with people just like them. That there is a place for them to do whatever they want musically and artistically; there is an audience, and their voices should be heard. I've been fortunate from the get-go to be able to play with some of the best musicians, and they've always been completely open-minded and accepting of who I am.
What Seattle music are you digging right now?
S: Glitterbang are definitely one of my favorites. I also really love Witchburn. Opposite ends of the spectrum from each other, but that's the way I roll.
B: Shake Some Action, Warning Danger, the Knast, Helms Alee, Sandrider.
Shawn, it's time for goatee talk. You always have such a sturdy, stylized, ginger plumage of froth growing from your face. It's like the Nile River, but strawberry. You're going with a mean and beautiful handlebar right now. What's the key to it all? Do you have special names for your goatees or techniques? Like "The Strawberry Shortcake"? Or "The Cormorant"?
S: Cormorant like the bird? Haven't named any of my facial hair stylizations yet. Good idea. Ginger-Pop? [Laughs] Since I keep my hair cropped short on my head, I use my facial hair to change the shape to my face. Plus, when I didn't have facial hair, I used to get the Andy Dick reference. And I don't really like hearing that reference.
You are somewhat of a connoisseur of fine bears. What's the best way to attract bears? Where are Seattle's best bears?
S: I like all kinds of bears. You can attract most bears with the scent of booze. You can also leave a trail of crumbs from your supply of special gingersnap cookies. You can hunt for bears anywhere, anytime, but here in Seattle they tend to hibernate in bars like C.C.'s and Diesel.
Do I hear some Jane's Addiction influence in your song "Undone"? Are we huge Perry Farrell fans? Ritual de lo Habitual is an undeniably good album, don't hate. What's undone? Why not just try Velcro?
S: Great call on that one—I do love Jane's Addiction. Strays is an amazing album as well. This one is basically about people picking other people apart, ridiculing them, criticizing them, and how I won't be drawn into that mindset. Undone can mean falling apart. As in how a person who is constantly ridiculing others eventually becomes undone and hollow.