For long-time Asheville music fans, watching the Mad Tea Party develop its sound has been a consistently fascinating delight. On the occasion of their second Halloween 7”/download, Rock ‘N Roll Ghoul, I sat down and geeked out with Ami Worthen and Jason Krekel on a variety of topics, including the liberating aspects of writing about monsters, the benefits of being on boingboing, and that other Tea Party.
The duo will be playing with Mark Sultan (BBQ of King Khan and BBQ). Full disclosure, your humble interviewer will be there as well, spinning his (un)usual gaggle of junked-up 45s. Now pull up a tombstone and sit down.
You guys excited to be doing a show with Mark Sultan?
Krekel: It’s really awesome. When we decided to take Mad Tea Party back down to a two-piece, I saw King Khan and BBQ Show for the first time, and that gave me confidence that a duo can rock. He’s my favorite one-man band.
I think that before people hear you they think you’re just going to be some “cute” band …
Worthen: Actually, I just want to be gnarly. Just a gnarly middle aged woman trying to rock out in the bars … We beat up cute!
There’s also this macabre side to what you guys do.
Krekel: That mainly comes from me. I was a total monster kid. I saw all the old black and white classics, read Famous Monsters. I was obsessed with the whole thing. The cover to the new record is inspired by old EC horror comics.
You managed to get last year’s 7”, Zombie Boogie, posted on [big deal internet cool stuff aggregator blog] boingboing.net. How’d you pull that off, and did it help your sales?
Worthen: That all came from the fact that I play ukulele. There’s a pretty big ukulele community online, and a friend of ours in the “scene” pitched it to them. And it took the whole thing through the roof. Somebody called me and said we were going to be on boingboing, get ready, and then my blog and download orders really took off.
You got anything to say about the profound joy and wonder of a good rock ‘n roll song about monsters?
Krekel: For me it is a chance to embrace eccentricity and to shed ego and have fun with the musical process. It’s funny, because we talked about doing a Halloween record for years, but Ami’s the one who ended up writing our first “monster” song, the “Zombie Boogie.”
Worthen: I’d never really seen a zombie movie. So I asked Jason, what do zombies do? OK, they eat brains, what else?
So who’s the “Rock ‘N Roll Ghoul?”
Krekel: That came out of me listening to a bunch of Guitar Wolf.
Worthen: I’m really excited we have that song now, because it’s very therapeutic.
Krekel: Originally it was about music critics – you know, somebody who feeds off the soul of the artist. And then I came up with a verse about opening bands who wait too long to go on and then play for an hour so nobody’s left when you go on. “Rock ‘n roll ghoul – eatin’ my crowd!”
Now let’s talk about something really scary. This year has seen your band name get contextually appropriated by an organization that’s been getting a whole lot of media attention. Has that affected you at all?
Worthen and Krekel (at the same time): It’s been irritating.
So it has affected you.
Worthen: Oh, yeah. First I should say that, of course, the name is not ours; we kind of co-opted it, too, so I don’t feel like they stole it from us. But Mad Tea Party is about fun, and joy, and debauchery, and the name is being associated with things that aren’t fun. We want to keep the “party” in Tea Party.
Krekel: We have a response coming. It should be here around Election Day. [Actually, it’s here now — check out “Hey Teabaggers, Leave Our Party Alone!” on the band’s web page.]
Worthen: Yeah, it’s annoying, but here’s a true thing I believe: We will outlast them. They will be a distant memory, and we’ll go down in rock ‘n roll history.
Krekel: There you go.
— Whitney Shroyer can't wait till Halloween to find out if it's trick or treat.
who: Mark Sultan (BBQ), Mad Tea Party and Dr. Filth
where: Stella Blue
when: Friday, Oct.15 (10 p.m. themadteaparty.com)