Stick around long enough and you might get the things you always wanted. For some kids that’s a medical degree or a wedding fit for Disney. What I wanted was to hang out with Tesco Vee, the imposing frontman of The Meatmen who made me laugh on a daily basis with juvenile sexual ripostes on albums like We’re The Meatmen And You Suck. Tesco is probably the reason I own 50 band shirts and two pairs of matching dress socks but that’s another matter entirely.
Mr. Vee (known by average mortals as Robert Vermeulen) graciously agreed to chat with Decibel about some good news. Weenbags and meatheads alike, rejoice: a new Meatmen record is in the can and will be unleashed on the unsuspecting world in 2014.
The legendary Dutch Hercules gave Decibel an exclusive scoop on the comeback album and his thoughts on his politically incorrect and riotous career. Get your chips and coke and all your Blondie and Benatar and spend some time with Uncle Tesco. Then, go like The Meatmen’s Facebook page so you can get all the further information on the upcoming opus directly from the meat king.
When did you decide to take The Meatmen off the ice blocks?
I left D.C. in 1999. I decided a while ago to go back to the Northern Michigan woods and be done with the music thing for a while, if not forever. Then my son started to make overtures, saying he was too young and missed it and wanted me to do it again. John (Brannon) from Negative Approach called and wanted me emcee their first show in Detroit in like 25 years. That morphed into “hey Tesco why don’t you do a few tunes and the guys will back you.” That turned into a half-hour set with Negative Approach backing me. It was the first time in 11 years and I felt like I could do it. So we had a lineup in 2008 and the fire was officially relit. I just turned 58 and I’m still having the time of my life. Go figure?
How did your son encourage you to start performing again?
Someone gave me the sound advice that when your kids are babies you should play music at maximum volume so we played Slayer and Black Flag when they were sleeping. He’s a big fan of punk and metal and everything in between. He was fascinated with my career but was too young too enjoy it. He road managed the band until he had to go get a real job. He’s passionate about music and passionate about his Pops.
How do you introduce The Meatmen catalog to your kids?
We’ve never sheltered them from salty music or salty language. They’ve been hearing this stuff. They hopped around to punk rock classics at three or four. I wasn’t about to become a boring Dad.
That’s pretty funny considering I had to sneak We’re The Meatmen And You Suck into my house inside another record.
I’ve heard countless stories like that or people telling me they were kicked out of school for wearing a “Crippled Children Suck” tee-shirt. I think those stories are hilarious and make me proud, that I did something that still gets people riled up after all these years.
Did the publication of Touch And Go revive interest in the band?
Well, they were two separate things that came together nicely. I think people were surprised I can be a softie and that we gave U2 a good review. We liked Echo And The Bunnymen and Gang Of Four. These weren’t heavyweight hits from England. I always plugged my own band in Touch And Go but they operated in different universe. It took us five years to sell that book and the publisher (Bazillion Points) has been magical. They are a great bunch of people.
Were there some people who grew up with The Meatmen unfamiliar with your work on Touch And Go?
A lot of people didn’t know but there were others that were well aware.
This is a wide open question but what do you think of punk and hardcore now? I’m not sure something like We’re The Meatmen And You Suck could even be made…
I think you are right. I was watching television with my wife and “Where Eagles Dare” played on an ad. My wife asked why none of my songs ever end up on commercials. I said it’s probably because they are all about poop and boners and I say the f bomb every third word.
When you say punk it’s a broad term and people paint with a broad brush. There is still good punk and corporate shitty punk. It’s all blended together and you have to sort through the chaff. I do have my opinions about what is and isn’t punk but it depends on how you view the word. I actually think the scope was probably more limited in the late 70s and early 80s. Now you have legacy bands that are still doing it and new bands.
Where could a Meatmen song appear in a commercial? For Trojan? A lube company?
(Laughs). Well, times have changed. Now 40 percent of ad budgets go to social networking. I’m not sure the f bomb is out of the question. They say swearing is a sign of low intellect but I think if used properly it is a great form of expression. I’ve never catered my music to fit into any market.
Your back catalog is certainly more than swearing – people can recite your stage banter from albums.
That’s true. Some people tell me their 75-year-old grandfather knows bits. I try to reach out and touch people on every level, or some level. People come up to me and recite the banter and say “remember when you said this on stage back in 86!” And it’s actually, no, but I’m glad it stuck with you. Every show is like a fingerprint. I try not to say the same things but when something works – like saying I look like a gay Al Bundy – I’ll use that at every show.
You’ve also always been creative with name dropping in songs like “Orgy Of One”…
Absolutely. I always namedropped and had euphemisms for my penis. There was a lot of stream of consciousness involving 70s porn stars. There’s also the stuff about Von LMO and Thor and that always struck up a conversation.
I remember when the records came out even name checking a porn star was kind of shocking and now that industry has gone beyond anything you could have imagined.
To say it was a simpler time is an understatement. You’d go to the jack shacks and the peep booths and now music, culture porno and everything is exploded on the walls. Back then, we just had our world and wrote about the landscape.
Is even Tesco Vee shocked about what’s available?
(laughs). I get grossed out but I don’t get shocked. If you think about it someone has done it and it’s on the Internet. Like the whole “blossom” thing where guys stretch their buttholes (Eds: Do not Google this, especially at work). Our bass player will print sheets with all of our tour dates and in the middle of it he’ll put a shot of a guy’s wide-open butthole. He’s a fucker – Danny Dirtbag. I guess I probably do get shocked at the depravity of humankind.
Well, I’m not sure The Meatmen was about depravity as much as laughing about how absurd things are…
Absolutely, and just lampooning life. I wanted to get a rise out of people. When I first wanted to do punk I was so influenced by Zappa and Beefheart – stuff that would make you laugh out loud. I never wanted to sing about social injustice. I wanted to sing about boners and stuff that made me laugh when I was 14.
Apparently poop and boners has a much social currency as social injustice.
When you no longer think poop is funny you are certifiably old. Remember the old R. Crumb comic where the clown hits you in the face with a cyanide pie? When you don’t think that stuff is funny you need the cyanide pie. As you get older you do need to roll with the punches and things start to break down. The prostate becomes the size of a glazed donut. The bunion on my foot is the size of an eight ball. But life goes on.
So, how do you reconfigure The Meatmen for a time that is darker and more jaded?
And way more politically correct! I certainly haven’t changed things. The new album is an amalgam of every Meatmen era. We laid down basic tracks a few weeks ago. It’s seventeen original tunes and it’s a cavalcade of what you expect and maybe what you don’t expect. I have a song called “Kill Cunt Coulter” about how much I hate Anne Coulter. We have song that was inspired when I was at work and saw a giant bloody booger smeared on the bathroom wall. We have a song about the stupid marijuana laws. And we have a song called “The Dwarves Are The Second Greatest Band In The World.” They always brag about being the best band so this is for them.
Do you just hate Ann Coulter or like some people do you have a secret crush on her?
No, there is no crush. The only crush would be me suffocating her with my buttocks. I don’t know if she is a man but I do know that when I hear her talk my blood turns to ice water. I just don’t want to hear her talk.
How do you piss people off now?
Back in the day I probably tried to be controversial but now I just shoot from the hip. It’s not being premeditated and trying to be controversial. I just go off on things I hate.
Of all the albums in your career why do people have such love for Rock And Roll Juggernaut?
I have a buddy who is a wrestler named The Almighty Sheik. He’s invaded Tesco Fest two years in a row. He has a perfect explanation. He had a buddy who was done with punk and gave him all his cassettes. Nothing did anything for him but when he heard that album a switch went off. To this day it’s his favorite. There was a big change between the earliest stuff and War Of The Superbikes. Juggernaut was a natural progression where we were making fun of rock while playing rock and punk stuff like “French People Suck.” A lot of people hang their dick on that album.
“Wine Wenches and Wheels” is another great moment.
We’re coming up on the 30-year anniversary of Dutch Hercules. We’ve added that song back in the set. It’s in our quiver if people want it. You never know what people will ask for. But my wife hates the song “Blowjobs Ain’t Cheating” so we don’t play that one. In my defense I didn’t write that — it was “Stormin'” Norman Voss from the 90s Meatmen. There are hundreds of Meatmen songs and we are constantly trying to include what people want to hear and make the Meatheads happy.
Now that you’re pushing 60 is there anything you do to get ready? Pilates?
(laughs). Yeah, Zumba or whatever they call it. I live near a lake and take a 45-minute walk around it. So if you live near me and see a big Larry Bird looking guy walking around that’s me getting ready. Fortunately, I was born with good genes. My dad is almost 90. I think people are stuck with me for a while.
Could The Meatmen go into the geriatric years?
Well Iggy and Mick Jagger are out there doing it and they have me by a decade at least. As long as people are coming to see me and I don’t suck and become Greg Ginn I’ll continue to do it. In a few short months he’s reduced them (Black Flag) from a legendary punk band to a joke. The fact that he trotted out this lukewarm Frankenstein of a lineup and didn’t deliver the goods is a dagger to the heart.
Even if he laid down some of the greatest riffs ever?
That’s true. He did. I’m often reminded of how great those riffs are and it’s unfortunately it’s all become litigation.
If you did a geriatric Meatmen you could do every song in first person like “Bed Pans Suck”…
I’ve always sort of been a Borscht Belt comedian. I can tell jokes and if they bomb I just play another song. I’m having more fun than a man my age should be allowed to have.