Born out of the ashes of the Los Angeles hard rock outfit The Pandoras, The Muffs featured former Pandora bandmates Kim Shattuck (lead vocals, guitar) and Melanie Vammen (guitarist). Criss Crass (drums) and Ronnie Barnett (bass), rounded out the foursome. With their hard driving guitar riffs, punk attitude and growing underground following, The Muffs quickly signed to a major label (Warner Bros.) who released their volcanic self-titled debut. As quick as the band “made it” was as quickly as the wheels fell off. By the time The Muffs went into the studio to record their follow up, the equally impressive ‘Blonder and Blonder’ they were now a three piece with Crass vacating his drum kit and Warner Bros. departing. Former Redd Kross drummer Roy McDonald took over behind the drum kit and Shattuck would now handle all the guitar parts.
The Muffs would go on to become a force in the alternative music tornado which was whipping across the globe. They toured extensively, released a few more studio albums (the latest being 2013’s ‘Whoop Dee Doo’) and compilations, but it would be those first two albums which put The Muffs on the rock & roll map and make them darlings of the “X Generation).
Recently Omnivore Records honored the first two Muffs albums by reissuing them remastered, with bonus tracks including B-sides and demos plus extensive liner notes and photographs.
We sat down with the singer/songwriter/guitarist/bassist/producer (yeah, she does a lot of shit) Kim Shattuck to talk about the reissues, the future of the Muffs, gardening and red lipstick.
Innocent Words: How did you hook up with Omnivore, did they approach you or were you looking to reissues your albums?
Kim Shattuck: We weren’t really doing anything like looking around to put out reissues. We were just minding our own business at the time because the Warner Brothers/Reprise albums were still in print, so we never thought about it. Ronnie works at a used record store and Greg, from Omnivore approached him about reissuing our albums. We met everyone at the label and they were very, very nice. We could tell right off the bat they were a really good label. You know how with some boutique labels, you don’t even know how to get a hold of someone, not with the people at Omnivore, they are very hands on, which is how I like it.
Innocent Words: Omnivore has reissued your first two album with bonus material, are their plans to reissue other albums at this point?
Kim Shattuck: Right now, I only know about the first three. We will do the third one later, I think early next year. ‘Happy Birthday To Me’ was pushed back because they had the test pressing of the vinyl and didn’t let me hear it before they ok’ed everything. I was like “whaaaaat?” They told Ronnie and he said Kim is going to be so pissed, don’t tell her, but I found out about it. So I called up Omnivore and told them “Don’t be afraid to tell me something that might disappoint me.” Because I want to be all in on these reissues.
I don’t know if they were intimidated or what. I am pretty picky. I am totally nice about things, if I don’t like something, I make them do it again. ‘Happy Birthday To Me’ is my baby it is my favorite Muffs album of the ’90s we put out. I just want everything to be perfect.
Innocent Words: Do you think it is the way the music industry is today or is it nostalgia for bands reissuing their albums?
Kim Shattuck: It’s always that 20 year thing. In the ’70s the ’50s were popular with shows like “Happy Days,” in the ’80s the ’60s were popular, in the ’90s it was the ’70s. Now it’s the ’90s and grunge. I don’t know why it is, that’s just my theory anyway.
Kim Shattuck: We never played an album front to back until a couple weeks ago. We were playing at the record store Amoeba, we played ‘Blonder and Blonder’ from beginning to end live and it went really well. At the very end we came back on and we were going to do a B-side called “Goodnight Now,” which is kind of like The Who, I thought it was a good song to end the set on. However, Ronnie being absent minded he left out the song “Ethyl My Love” when he was making up the set list. So I ran up to the guys and told them he forgot that song and we had to play it. We ended the show with that song after “Goodnight Now” instead, and it turned out to be a nice ending. The show went long, we were only given a 35 minute set, so as were playing I saw the secrurity guard come through the crowd and stand in front of the stage staring at us. I knew we were running long, but I was playing that last song damn it.”
Innocent Words: The Muffs went through a lot of changes in the beginning, took a lot of time off, but had a resurgence with ‘Whoop Dee Doo.’ What has kept The Muffs going after more than 25 years?
Kim Shattuck: Well, you know, when we switched from a four piece to a three piece it pretty much solidified us as a band. We did three records in the ’90s and toured constantly behind them. Then I just needed a break. I was losing inspiration. I was getting into that hamster wheel as I like to call it, where we released an album and toured every two years. We took time off and it took me about five years to get my inspiration back. Then by the 2000s we realized we don’t want to do van tours anymore. We were reaching that age where you really don’t need to play on a Tuesday night in the middle of nowhere. I mean, the middle of nowhere sometimes has some great shows, but for the most part, they are half-filled cubs. So we became one of those bands who do fly in tours where we play four nights over the weekend or go out in short bursts like a week at a time or something.
Innocent Words: Are their tour plans in the future? What can we expect from the band coming up?
Kim Shattuck: We are going to do a short run of the east coast this summer, then in August go to the Midwest.
I am working on writing new songs and showing the guys the songs as I go. We are on more regular practice now. And I stopped demoing now so I have to teach them things. I hate demoing songs. I will play it on a phone and send it to the guys last minute before practice. Better late than never I suppose, but they say they never get it anyway.
We have about a half an album worth of songs we really love right now, so we are working on more songs, then who knows how long it will take to record.
I am also back playing guitar with the Pandoras. We had our reunion show and it went really well, so we are working on some things right now. All in all, it keeps me very busy.
Innocent Words: What makes you inspired to write a song?
Kim Shattuck: My inspiration comes from inside. Whatever starts to come out, I write. It’s all mumbled at first, I don’t even think about it. I just have words forming when I am working on melody. It’s cool how that works. It is when my inspiration is the most honest and it seems to work for me. Sometimes when we complete a song and I listen back to it, I will wonder where did that come from, but it’s part of who I am.
Innocent Words: Of all the things you do with the Muffs, what gives you the most pleasure?
Kim Shattuck: All of it gives me pleasure. Performing is very fun. I used to get nervous before going on stage. I would have stage fright and get stomachaches. But once I hit the stage, I was just fine. It was that anticipation leading up to the show that would make me feel sick. I realized what a waste of energy that was. I should be saving that energy for the show so I had to school myself not to get worried and make myself sick.
Innocent Words: You post quite bit on Instagram with kissy faces, is the red lip stick your trademark?
Kim Shattuck: I think it’s my trademark. I like red lips on me, it gets all over the place, but it suits me, I think it looks good. I mean I have other shades of lipstick, but red is my favorite. My face looks perfectly good without lipstick so I am not covering up anything.
Innocent Words: What’s something that might surprise people about Kim Shattuck?
Kim Shattuck: It’s funny, but sometimes people are surprised that I do my own shopping. My career isn’t so stellar that I hire people to do things for me. I still lift a finger, many fingers in fact. The Muffs are an underground rock band. I am a normal person. I also do love to sit in my garden and plant my flowers and pull weeds. That is what I was doing before you called me. I have had people stop in front of my house and ask if I am Kim from the Muffs, like they are surprised I do my own gardening. I tell them, ‘No, I am the gardener’ and they just move on.