Butthole Surfers Get 'Weird'

The Butthole Surfers' forthcoming album, "Weird Revolution," due Aug. 28 via Hollywood Records, is a return to raucous, experimental form for the band, one that could delight both followers of the gro

Throughout the 20-year span of their career, the Butthole Surfers have not so much released albums as issued periodic reports from the bizarre alternative universe that the band's members call home. Fans have waited some four years for the latest of these missives, a period that has seen the band not only move to a new label and new management but experiment with an intensified technological approach to making records.

The resulting album, "Weird Revolution," due Aug. 28 via Hollywood Records, is a return to raucous, experimental form for the band, one that could delight both followers of the group's '80s indie work and a new generation of converts.

"In the bizarro world that the Butthole Surfers inhabit, their organized chaos can be taken as a return to form or a divergence from that form," says John Kunz, owner of Waterloo Records in the band's hometown of Austin, Texas. He adds, "Our store has grown up along with the band. Everyone locally was waiting for their stalled release with Capitol, so this new one is much anticipated."

Kunz refers to "After the Astronaut," the projected follow-up to what would become the band's final release on Capitol, 1996's "Electric Larryland." "Astronaut" was mastered and sent to press before being pulled from release. "To this day," drummer King Coffey says, "I'm still not sure whether it was a decision made by our management at the time or by the label." The band retrenched, using the bed tracks from seven "Astronaut" songs to begin an extended re-recording process that saw the original tracks re-emerge in radically altered form alongside new songs. "We've created a stronger album," Coffey says, "though it took a lot longer than any of us dreamed it would."

"Weird Revolution" is charged with riotous energy, harking back to the raw, noisy Butthole Surfers albums made independently in the first decade of the band's existence rather than the two '90s albums that both Coffey and Butthole guitarist/producer Paul Leary characterize as "big, slick major-label rock records."

The overall sound of "Weird Revolution" is informed by recent developments in music technology; programmed beats and loops form the rhythmic basis for most of the album, and digital editing played a substantive role in shaping each song. The objective was to make "a more truthful record," Coffey notes, adding that the band is "returning to our experimental roots with this one, but we're trying to write songs that will work on the radio as well." The album's first single, "The Shame of Life," was co-written by Kid Rock.

Coffey describes the band's current rhythm base as a mixture of live and programmed drumming, noting that "technology has gotten so much better, cheaper, and more approachable for lunkheads like ourselves. It reflects the music that we're listening to these days, a lot more loop-driven, computer-written music."

As a balance to the album's high-tech infrastructure, vocalist Gibby Hayes delivers manic performances that producer Leary describes as "garbled transmissions from deep space." On the title cut, Hayes assumes the character of a street preacher, launching into a hellfire-and-brimstone rant based on a speech by Malcolm X, whose family denied the band the rights to use quotes from the speech.

The Butthole Surfers' renewed enthusiasm embodied by "Weird Revolution" is echoed by their new label. "We love the record," insists Daniel Savage, Hollywood senior VP of sales and marketing. "It's got singles, and there's some performance art, some techno/electronica, some modern rock. It's everything you'd expect from the Butthole Surfers, with surprises thrown in."

Concurrent with the album, look for Internet-based goodies from the band and its label, including a "Weird Revolution" Java-animated video game available at weirdrevolution.com and buttholesurfers.com.