FOREWORD: Here’s a fun read. The Unband took very little seriously, especially rock critics. And their manager, the truly sexy Erin Norris, was a dominatrix who I’d befriended in Manhattan over the years. She told me about some strange requests beyond spanking and whipping that she had to turn down from horny males. As for The Unband, whose 2000 album, Retarded, kicked up dust, I have no fucking idea where they are now. This article originally appeared in Aquarian Weekly.
Terrorizing New York-via-Boston bad boys with an unavoidable penchant for sleazy antics and chemical indulgence, the Unband collide heavy metal thunder with MC5 punk gism and New York Dolls glam-rock spunk on their TVT Records debut, Retarder. By touring in their ‘Vangina’ (which guitarist Matt Pierce claims “is as cozy as a pussy”), the trio have gained a reputation for both exciting live shows and aggressive behavior.
Popular Soho dominatrix/ band manager Erin Norris initially met bassist Michael Ruffino at Tramps for a Gov’t Mule show while he was twitching on speed. While he’s first to greet me at TVT headquarters this March evening, guitarist Matt Pierce soon walks in wearing a black t-shirt with glittery silver Cocaine lettering. The Unband’s most turbulent ‘member,’ drummer Eugene Ferrari (a penis-bearing extrovert once arrested for lewd on-stage behavior), arrives shortly afterwards with Norris.
“We’re the call of the wild,” Pierce shrieks on Retarder’s bludgeoned, Sabbath-like “Rock Hard.” As if to further prove his point, the anthemic stadium rocker “Drink And Rock” states the bands’ intentions up-front and center with even more attitude and spunk. The explosive, turbo-charged “Geez Louise,” is a rollicking, straightahead hard rocker emblazoned by stratospheric, angular three-chord riffs and Ferrari’s demonic rhythmic thrust. Just for fun, they pump up Billy Squier’s cheesy ‘80s smash “Everybody Wants You” and frolic through a tunelessly stark piano-based faux-Blues novelty “Cocaine Whore.”
Supposedly all first-born sons from well-adjusted homes, I spent over an hour burning rope, discussing The Simpsons and The Sopranos, and drudging up dope quotes from these reckless subversives. Who knows if I quoted the correct band member half the time for this piece? Anyway, proceed with caution.
How has the Unband progressed since its formation around ‘90?
EUGENE: We’ve stunted.
MICHAEL: He’s lying. We have grown.
EUGENE: I was reminded recently we had a brief Hawaiian music period before we did hard rock. Struggling is very easy to do.
MICHAEL: It takes a lot of drugs and very little motivation. We live off the chicks.
How’d you guys originally hook up?
MICHAEL: That’s a hard question.
How do your live shows compare to your albums?
EUGENE: You could probably imagine. (laughter)
Great answer. If you guys get successful…
EUGENE: We won’t have to talk to assholes like you anymore. (more laughter)
You’ll be talking to better-known assholes. If you guys get huge, will you get a pompous rock star mentality like Ritchie Blackmore or Puff Daddy?
MICHAEL: We were assholes years ago.
So you guys are extreme bohos that sit around and fuck off without caring about society because we’re all going to hell anyway? And are we gonna get a president besides Clinton who could get his dick hard this year?
EUGENE: I certainly hope so.
MATT: At least he has smoked grass.
He won’t legalize it.
EUGENE: Neither would I. My best friends are surviving off of selling pot. They’d have to get jobs.
MICHAEL: When we were in Chicago, Cynthia plaster caster came to the show. I tried to get her to do me, but she said, “I don’t just do it out of the blue.
Will she do it into the black? And what about people who claim rock is dead?
EUGENE: Do you know where to get any rock? (laughter).
MATT: People who say that never liked rock in the first place. Anyone who likes it listens to it all the time. There’s never gonna be a time when they’re gonna say, “Gee. I only have my crappy records to listen to.”
MICHAEL: It’s not like the records evaporate because someone decides staring at your shoes and singing about buying sox is cool.
EUGENE: When I was young and going to shows, it was shit like the Circle Jerks. They’d sit around, drink beers, and make up dumb shit. They rocked. We’re a natural progression.
MICHAEL: I still own every Ramones record. They’re all great.
Do you guys enjoy the new metal bands?
MICHAEL: I’m just confused about what the term metal means now.
MATT: It needs more subgenres.
What percentage of drugs should listeners use while listening to the Unband?
MICHAEL: I think it depends.
EUGENE: You get something different out of every combination. You could do 100% cocaine and that would be an interesting way to listen. I’ve got to try to be careful of doing blow before we play because I play fast enough anyway.
ERIN: It gets to the point where he forgets to breathe.
MICHAEL: Did we have mushrooms the other night?
ERIN: Last summer was great for mushrooms. It was the Summer of Shrooms. We were on them from Memorial Day to the Fourth of July. It was fantastic. I just like it because everything becomes fun.
MATT: You’ve got to mix mushrooms, coke, and ecstasy for whatever. Getting up in the morning. Then you drink all day and night.
ERIN: You like the cocaine.
MATT: Yeah. But not when I’m tripping my face off.
MICHAEL: The coke keeps you awake while the booze keeps you…
MATT: In theory, yes.
EUGENE: I like mixing crack with coke. Two great tastes that go together well.
Erin, aren’t some of the men you dominate in the torture chamber hung like a pimple? Is that embarrassing?
ERIN: (laughing hysterically) No. I see all shapes and sizes and tiny mushroom caps.
Do you ever hurt the guys on purpose during a session?
ERIN: It’s all controlled. It would be great to kick the shit, throw them up against the wall, grab them by the hair, and throw them on the floor. Someone would get hurt and I’d be sued.
Do you ever get guys who want diapers changed or have Marv Albert fetishes?
ERIN: That’s out. Marv’s more into infantilism and cross-dressing. I don’t feel a kinship to the big babies. They look silly. Masochists are fun because you could do all sorts of shit.
Get any hairy lesbians with a vertical unibrow?
ERIN: (gagging) I’ve seen gross stuff like leather dykes, but not in my dungeon. They’re hardcore scary.
Was the “Numbskull” video for Brit-band Ash deemed pornographic by Dreamworks?
ERIN: It couldn’t be shown on MTV so there was no outlet for it. There was fellatio. He was sucking my dick.
Would you wager the dildo you used in that video was bigger than my pecker?
ERIN: It was a stake so it was a different kind of thing. Would you suck cock for AC/DC tickets?
If you had a cock, Erin, I’d suck the shit out of it.