Spike Slawson is certainly no stranger to fans of punk rock. He’s been an active member in the scene since the mid-nineties, playing bass for Swingin’ Utters, and fronting the immensely entertaining Me First And The Gimme Gimmes. I recently had the chance to chat with him for the second time this year; this time regarding his newest musical project, Uke-Hunt.
What inspired you to pick up the Ukulele after years of playing punk rock? What convinced you to pursue that instead of something normal, like electronic music, or space exploration?
I guess you could say that playing “punk rock” and playing with other “punk rock” bands inspired us to do something different. Punk music, or what’s been passing for it for the last 25 years, is like what happens when you speed up a series of clicks—eventually they will make an indistinct hum. A drone, even. We just wanted to hear the clicks again. Also, our name is our message, and you can’t spell Uke-Hunt without uke, so there you go.
To my knowledge, you have the privilege of being the first ukulele-driven band signed to a punk rock label. Do you think that gives you an edge in the highly-competitive punk-rocker-playing-ukulele-covers market?
Our discipline, passion and intensity give us all the edge we need.
All joking aside, you’re about to hit the road for a nine-date tour, playing shows in Canada, and northeastern United States. What can a potentially diverse set of intrigued fans expect from a Uke-Hunt show?
You can expect low-brow to meet mid-low-brow as we mercilessly appropriate the contents of the outsider-pop songbook. You will learn to accept bizzare musical instruments you would once have thought of as off-limits within your narrow conception of what constitutes live entertainment. Acceptance will lead to exultation as you laugh and dance away your discontents. Oh yeah, and some T-shirts, too.
For those that don’t know, it’s more than just a solo show. You’re bringing along a band of talented musicians to play instruments that are really cool compared to yours. How would you describe the collective sound that you guys create?
We didn’t choose our sound, our sound chose us. It’s hard to describe because it’s not something we were ever consciously aiming for. Rock and roll tempo and energy with gratuitous use of esoteric instrumentation. Picture a two-sheets-to-the-wind lounge-act in Sears blazers and green visors performing Harry Nilsson songs in an undiscovered dive-bar in San Francisco’s Tenderloin district and you’re still only halfway there.
Is this sound much different than what’s been recorded on your 2014 self-titled album? If so, can we expect this sound to be featured on an album in the near future?
Yes, this sound is different from anything we’ve recorded thus far. We’ve lost some players to straight jobs. We’ve lost some due to our band’s name. New players, new sound. I think we’ve evolved from a novelty uke act (like the “competition” you mentioned before) into a unique rock and roll outfit that incidentally features a uke, and we can’t wait to put our new sound on wax.
The theme of Me First and the Gimme Gimme’s discography can be broadly summarized as “Contemporary Hits”. Does Uke-Hunt’s list of cover songs fit that description as well, or does this different style come from some radically different inspiration?
If pressed, I guess I would say that most of what we choose to plagiarize falls under the category of outsider-pop.
Are you the sole arranger of Uke-Hunt songs? How is the process different/better/worse than arranging new covers with a group of other musicians?
Mr. Tambourine Man was practically written for Will Shatner, whereas Leonard Nimoy’s rendition of If I had a Carpenter is a revelation in its own right. Everyone tends to their own covers garden.
What elements of your touring life with Uke-Hunt would you say are either surprisingly different, or surprisingly similar to your experiences with The Gimmes?
It’s totally different. By now with the gimmes, people generally know what to expect—we just try not to get in the way of their good time. With Uke-Hunt however, we’ve got to earn their respect, admiration and laffs.
I need a Ukulele player for a Jack Johnson tribute band I want to start. Tiny Tim’s my first pick, but for some reason, his management insists he can’t do it. So far I got Randy Blythe on vocals, and Les Claypool on bass. They just gotta answer my letters first, but I think they’re interested. When they come around, can I count you in as well?
Lemme know what Les Claypool says…
I may have just given you the answer to this with my last question, but, what’s left on your bucket list?
I renew my bucket list every year, and put dinner at Maison Publique and a macchiato at Caffe Italia right at the top. See you there!
Be sure to check out the dates for Uke-Hunt’s upcoming tour right here.
Written and Compiled by Mathieu Perrier
Header Photo: Greet Druyts Gresle Photography