Country Teasers fans—as well as enemies—know the Scottish band for its craggy post-punk approach to country, goth, electro, and other genres they perversely approach. Appreciators of true talent should pick up any of their recordings, especially 1996's Satan Is Real Again, 1999's Destroy All Human Life, or their latest, The Empire Strikes Back. Careful, though, as frontman B. R. Wallers tends to address touchy race issues in a staunchly antagonistic way. Country Teasers are not for the politically correct or the meek. Below, The Stranger picks Wallers's prickly brain.
You've always seemed a proponent of economical recording processes. What prompted the use of a proper studio for The Empire Strikes Back?
In the Red [CT's label] wanted a recording of the whole group, in a studio. So did I—I wanted to capture the group sound and I wanted to make a classic album, not a personal trip like the previous two CT albums, the Rebel releases, that shit. Country Teasers is a group, like Blondie. We play live much better than on any of our albums; this album tries to redress the balance.
Many people describe your music as being influenced by bands like Pussy Galore, Royal Trux, the Fall, and Butthole Surfers, but you clearly enjoy old country music, as well. Obviously it's a composite, but what musical approaches do you most closely identify with?
I'm not sure I identify with anyone else's approach, having figured out various methods through trial and error over the years. In the studio I have a very meticulous, time-consuming way of working, involving millions of takes and instruments, trying to get the right sound. I don't just chuck anything down in five minutes, as it sometimes sounds. On the other hand, I like to capture ("record") things that happen accidentally, because they tend to sound nice. I can't think of anyone I like whose method seems similar to mine. I can't even guess how they go about it. Coincidentally, I am listening to Hold Onto I.D. by the Shadow Ring. What a method! Wow.
You've said that words come last with your songwriting. Is it frustrating that so much focus is often put on the contradictory/offensive bent of your lyrics?
Rather. I'm putting lyrics onto the songs to advertise the music; and because music without lyrics isn't a song, and songs seems to be what I feel like I have to do for some reason. The offensive lyric was a concept originally—advertising, attention seeking, a way to grab people and make them notice the group. Plus, our awesome handsomeness: I wish people would make more mention of how good we look, dress, and play. But then I'm proud of my lyrics. I work bloody hard on them, and try to choose them carefully. I mean after they've all spilt-out natural, that is, word-horde loosed and all that—The Waterfall. But no, yes, the music is the thing. I'm hoping people will get into the music of Country Teasers more through the Rebel [a solo endeavor], where production, atmosphere, and musical details are more in evidence than the macho Teasers LPs, bless them.
Could you describe any notable adverse reactions to your performances in the live setting?
Er… Only one: The guy in Seattle who screamed, "Agghhhhh! How do you justify this piece-of-shit band?!" And a lot of other really passionate, anguished antipathy. Oh, and a guy called Andy Hackett—whom Fall fans will know from playing guitar on Levitate, Edwyn Collins fans will know from that sitcom about the two pop managers, one of whom [is] played by Edwyn himself—well, he went round with a hat collecting money to get us to stop playing at a gig. But I guess people were too mean to cough up, so we played on, foul mouths and all.
Empire, at least lyrically, seems much more overt than past albums, especially with "White Patches," which almost seems like a manifesto. What do you mean by "When you fuck around with words, you make the situation worse"
That lyric is pretty specific. I think I was angry at the time about press releases on the war (Iraq, or maybe Afghanistan, I can't remember) and government spokesmen on television not saying what was really happening, and news reports being shy about what to broadcast. If you don't come out with the truth at once, you will end up aggravating the situation. Well, politicians are fucking up communication and language every minute with their skirting around the truth, their euphemistic speech. No one understands anyone these days. The other verse about black people has nothing to do with that verse, though. I just stuck them together. I'm pissed off about playing to only white people, not having any black friends, etc.—the gulf between the colors. So because I'm into invective, I wrote that lyric instead of going about solving the problem positively. Well, can you blame me? "One Love" never worked.
What are Country Teasers' affiliations with Seattle?
Kanaan Tupper, our beloved driver, provider, and bassist. He introduced us to Brainbombs. We are closely linked, through his contact, now to A-Frames, in particular Min [Yee] and Constance, with whom we stayed last time. We tended to stay there and practice before tours a while back. Personally, I don't much care for the place, but I don't know why, and I change my mind every time I go anywhere.
Is irony a crutch?
I don't think so; I certainly think it's the tool for satire, you know, because you can't say, "Racism is bad!" and be taken seriously. As a satirist with an antiracist political message, it's too lame. No one wants to be told to stop smoking at age 13. "Kill all the niggers" followed by a load of horror, and then maybe a switcheroo, will get the point across so people notice and enjoy it. Shy people who can't express themselves directly use irony as a tool, but satirists use it for the purpose it was intended.