Asylum Street Spankers
By Ronnie

This month's EAR CANDY seems to focus on the more eclectic side of music. Well, the Asylum Street Spankers seem to define eclectic music. While they have an ever-changing lineup, their unplugged/vaudeville/blues/country/ragtime music always has that definitive "Spankers" mark. Just don't call them SWING! They run rings around bandwagons, they don't jump on them. One constant in the "Spankers", the member known as "Wammo", recently granted me an interview to discuss the phenomenon that is the Asylum Street Spankers.

E.C.: The Asylum Street Spankers have been together for about 5 years, right?

Wammo: Six years, Seven in April.

E.C.: How did you guys get together in the first place? It seems like it would be tough with an average of 10 members of varying ages with different musical tastes. Or does that element help the Spankers?

Wammo: We met at an orgy. Anyone with different musical tastes is immediately reprogrammed at our compound.

E.C.: I lived in Austin for a few years and it was the coolest musical city I have ever seen! Since the band hails from Austin, do you think that the varied, diverse music environment helped make the Spankers so interesting?

Wammo: Austin used to be a cool musical city but now it's becoming so damn expensive a lot of musicians are moving. We probably have about a year before we'll have to move. Any city that wants to bid on us, contact us at

E.C.: "Wammo" was a well-known name among the rock and roll circle when I lived in Austin. How did you get to this genre of music (the closest I can get to naming it would be "modern vaudeville")? I mean, the Spankers formed before it was "trendy" to do all this> retro-swing. I know that the Spankers are definitely NOT swing, but you must get the comparisons often?

Wammo: I have always loved the kind of stuff we do. I still love to play rock and my new solo record will be quite a departure from the Spankers. As far as getting compared to all of those tired swing bands goes... We killed anyone who called us a swing band, this kinda put a damper on that label.

E.C.: Has "Spanker Madness" done as well as you anticipated? It took a lot of balls to put out a pro-drug record in the middle of all this anti-drug frenzy going on today.

Wammo: The album has done very well and it has really increased our fan base. The big plus is the amazing variety of people who think it's an idea that's time has come. I've talked to all kinds of folks: professionals, cops, students, doctors, blue collar workers, executives, etc... who dig the record. We all know that the drug laws in America are are ridiculous but nobody has ever had the balls to do anything about it. In some schools of thought, people who smoke pot might as well be crackheads. That's why everyone is afraid to admit they get high. Look at both of our presidential candidates, they've both smoked dope, hell they probably still do once in a while but they'll never get the drug laws reevaluated because of the fears of a very small percentage of the populous.

E.C.: On "Madness" you also had a different producer and some new members. Is this a sort of master plan for the Spankers, so that each album has a different feel?

Wammo: Sure, why not?

E.C.: I notice that unlike some of the other bands out there, the Spankers put a lot of work into their lyrics, both to make them interesting AND humorous. For example, the use of the word, "callipygion" in the song, "Fanny". Speaking of which, "Fanny" is almost a vaudeville version of Spinal Tap's, "Big Bottom". Did that comparison ever cross your mind when writing that song?

Wammo: Actually, when we do the song live, we always bust into one chorus of "Big Bottom" at the end. (If you'll pardon the pun.) I wrote that song specificly for Mysterious John, who is sadly no longer in the band but I'm sure he's still a total ass freak. I am but a mere amature in comparison to his anal adventures.

E.C.: I have a lot of friends in bands and the toughest thing is to get everybody's schedule together for touring. How do you manage to do that with 10 or so band members?

Wammo: We end up getting new band members. There is a slow rotation of musicians who jump in and out of the band. That's not really the way we want it, we'd love to have permanent bandmembers but it's hard to find people who can balance their personal lives and travel as much as we do. We've still never found a bass player that lasts more than a few tours. There has got to be one out there though.

E.C.: On the positive side, it must be cool to not have to worry about sound systems and electric instruments while you are on tour?

Wammo: That's the reason we do this. There is no experience I can think of that compares to singing and playing into a room full of people without any sort of amplification. That's how it was done for centuries. In these times of huge P.A.s and amps, it's so liberating to fill a room with sound without needing a single microphone. People who have never seen the band have a hard time believing we pull it off but they always walk away converts after they see a gig. The more popular the band gets, the more we end up playing rooms or festivals that are so large we have to use mics but we prefer not to. Even if we get so popular we can't play clubs anymore , we'll still have special unamplified shows for our hardcore fans.

E.C.: Playing without a sound system, have you performed at any clubs where the audience was just too rowdy? Have there ever been any fights over this?

Wammo: Never actual fights but we have had some close calls. Most of the time it's not much of a problem.

E.C.: With so many members (and songwriters), how do you decide which songs will be on the next album?

Wammo: That process is different with every record.

E.C.: Any idea yet on a new album? Concept?

Wammo: We'll be releasing a live box set, an anthology of the first five years, then we're going back into the studio. It's all very hush hush. Ooooooh, spooky.

E.C.: Finally, tell me about your solo album? Is there a label yet? What type of songs? Have you written songs that just didn't seem right for the style of the Asylum Street Spankers?

Wammo: My new record, "Faster Than the Speed of Suck" is a movie for the ears. It tells a story, has dialogue, makes jokes, pokes fun at advertising, waxes poetic and of course has the best songs ever written by a human being - AAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA.... excuse me... I'm killing me... [sniff] We're probably gonna release it on our label, Spanks A Lot. One of the actors on the record starred in the film "A Perfect Storm". His name is John Hawkes and he's a neat guy for an actor.

Click here to visit the official Asylum Street Spankers website