The Buck Pets

Interview with Andy Thompson

by Karl Rumpf

Transcribed verbatim from Flipside fanzine (March/April 1993; 3 page interview)
© 1993 by Karl Rumpf and Flipside.
Accompanying photos (also by Karl Rumpf):
Andy | Chris 1 | Chris 2 | Ian
(live shots from the Whiskey in Hollywood, December 1990)

"Feeling good and feeling pain
are starting to feel just the same"

-Chris Savage, "Hey Sunshine"

The Buck Pets . . . Even the name itself carries with a formidable sound. Sowed and reaped in Plano, Texas, "the Pets" surprised their hometown when as teenagers they landed a contract with Island Records in 1988, thus becoming the second band (after Edie Brickell and New Bohemians) to exit the Deep Ellum scene with a contract in their pockets and optimism in their hearts.

Plano was honored for a while with the title of "teen suicide capital" of the nation in the early '80s. But, the Buck Pets fought against the doldrums of suburban life hitting the road for their first tour when some members were only 16 years old. They then had the nerve to open their 1989 self-titled debut LP with the song "Iron Cock." The record led to a tour with Jane's Addiction and personality differences led to their being asked to leave the tour shortly thereafter.

Their second album "Mercurotones" was released in 1990 and April 1991 culminated into the high point of their career when the opportunity arose to open two shows for their long-time hero Neil Young at the L.A. Sports Arena. And then just as quickly as the spark had been lit, the lights went out.

But now, almost two years later, the Buck Pets are on the brink of releasing a new album and this time they just might be able to ride in on the coat tails of the "alternative" music scene. With the newest addition of Ricky Pearson on drums; Chris Savage, Ian Beach and Andy Thompson are ready to get things back in motion. Maybe this time they'll stick around a little longer.

Karl: I guess my first question is what happened with Island Records? I know they kind of "cleaned house," did you get dropped before that or...

Andy: No, after Polygram bought Island they just wanted to go with the money makers and we weren't above that line. At first it was kind of a shock but then it was like, there were so many things that they weren't doing for us that we were kind of bummed on so it actually worked out for the better, I think.

Karl: What have you been doing since then? I hadn't heard anything about you guys for quite awhile so I thought you had broken up.

Andy: No, we just came back home and played every once-in-awhile but really worked on writing new songs and re-evaluating everything; where we stand and what we want to do. We replaced our drummer. We're still friends, but it was just something that wasn't working. We needed something to happen for us to grow and that's what it was.

Karl: Do you actually have a record label you are signing to, now?

Andy: Yeah, we just signed with Restless. We kind of shopped the majors for awhile and I don't know if it was just the economy or if labels just weren't signing bands or if it was just us or what. But after awhile we were getting kind of distraught that no majors wanted us to do anything. But then we started thinking about what had happened to us on a major label and started thinking that an independent might be a little better for us right now. So we'll see if that's the case. I think we're ready to have a company, even if they don't have as much money, that's really going to get behind us and do something. They have a reason to want to make a record do well. With most majors, you sign and they think you're going to be the next big thing, and and if you're not, you get shelved. If you don't sell 500,000 copies....

Karl: Do you think it hurt you that "alternative music" (is there such a thing anymore?) is taking off right now and you don't have a record out at the time it's taking off? You know, Nirvana's getting big right now. I don't think you guys sound like them, but it's that same grain of music, the harder edged.

Andy: We've had people say, "God, if your first record was released right now it would be doing well." So that's a little frustrating. But I think that whole Nirvana/Soundgarden thing, those bands breaking it open is not just a short-term thing I think it's going to have long-term lasting effects, just as far as opening people's minds up. I don't feel bad... in fact it might be a little better that we didn't come out with something right as all that was breaking so we weren't lumped in with that. But, I don't wish that we had done it then. I'll feel good if we can get a record out in January or February.

Karl: Who is going to be producing the album?

Andy: I don't know. We're talking with David Briggs who has done all the Neil Young albums. We're talking with Steve Albini (Pixies) and we're also considering doing it ourselves. So it's pretty much between those three right now.

Karl: Has your music changed at all in your opinion? Drastically or is it pretty much going along in the same grain that it was before?

Andy: Well, it will always naturally come from the same base. We'll always draw from the same source. But, over the last year and a half, we've all personally gone through a lot of changes. Growing up a bit. We've all come together ideologically. Before we were young and a little bit in awe of having a major label deal. We were just out there having fun and not really thinking too much about... not that we weren't thinking about what we were saying, but now we're really focused on that more. And we have a little bit more of a grip on what's going on around us, how much control we have over where we're going and what happens to us. Before, we were enjoying the ride, so-to-speak.

Karl: How did you get signed to Island? Did they approach you. Were you looking for a label?

Andy: It was back in '85, '86, '87, there was a scene down here in Dallas that was starting to happen. It was actually a pretty decent scene when you compare it to now. But back then there were decent bands and good clubs.

Karl: Yeah, I have the "Deep Ellum" compilation. (Deep Ellum is the name of the warehouse district in Dallas where this whole scene took place. Edie Brickell is probably the most well known figure to come from there. She, along with the Buck Pets and about 20 other bands, were featured on an Island Records compilation entitled "The Sound of Deep Ellum.")

Andy: That was sort of attracting some labels down there. As a matter of fact the first time our A & R person from Island saw us she hated us. We were terrible.
But I think the fact that we played a lot outside of Dallas, that we liked to go on the road and tour, that kind of ... helped a little bit. It was basically just playing in Dallas and they found the band.

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