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At a time when many alternative rock bands were either filtering hard rock tropes through a filter of irony (such as Urge Overkill, Big Chief, and Redd Kross) or reworking them into grunge (like Soundgarden, Pearl Jam, or Stone Temple Pilots), the Supersuckers stood out as a band who approached their music with tongue firmly in cheek while still making it clear they loved arena-ready hard rock, both for its absurdity and for its punch-to-the-gut power. Playing like they should be in a 20,000-seat arena even when they were playing bars that held 200 people, the Supersuckers sounded like the bastard sons of Foghat, AC/DC, and ZZ Top after being weaned on punk rock, unafraid of massive guitar riffs, outsized personalities, or pledging allegiance to sex, weed, and Satan with a wink and a nudge. Rising to nationwide recognition while signed to Sub Pop, they made their debut as a rather ordinary punk band with 1992's The Smoke of Hell, then dove head-first into speedy hard rock with 1994's La Mano Cornuda and 1995's The Sacrilicious Sounds of the Supersuckers; they then detoured into reefer-addled country with 1997's Must've Been High. While their Sub Pop era contained most of their best work, they were still capable of making their sound work in the studio, particularly on 2003's raucous Motherfuckers Be Trippin' and 2008's (relatively) thoughtful Get It Together.
The Supersuckers were formed in Tucson, Arizona, in 1988 by high school friends Eddie Spaghetti (born Edward Carlyle Daly III, bass, vocals), Ron Heathman (guitar), Dan "Thunder" Bolton (guitar), Dancing Eagle (born Dan Seigal, drums), and Eric Martin (lead vocals). After playing the local scene for about a year under the name the Black Supersuckers (taken from a pornographic novel), the band moved to Seattle, ostensibly in search of a climate more conducive to leather jackets. Martin left the band not long after, and Eddie Spaghetti took his place on lead vocals. Shortening their name to the Supersuckers, the band recorded singles for several indie labels, including eMpTy, Sympathy for the Record Industry, and Lucky; these were collected on the eMpTy compilation The Songs All Sound the Same, which became the band's first CD release in 1992. That year, they signed to Sub Pop and issued their proper debut album, The Smoke of Hell, which was produced by Jack Endino and featured cover art by renowned comic artist Daniel Clowes. Featuring one of the band's best-known songs in "Coattail Rider," the record also spun off the single "Hell City, Hell," whose B-side was a fan-favorite cover of Ice Cube's "Dead Homiez."
The Supersuckers came into their own with their second album, 1994's La Mano Cornuda, whose title translates as "the horned hand" (i.e., of Satan). It featured signature songs like "Creepy Jackalope Eye" and "She's My Bitch," and is still regarded by many fans as the band's best. Following its release, Heathman temporarily left the group due to drug problems and was replaced by one-time Didjits guitarist Rick Sims on their next album, 1995's The Sacrilicious Sounds of the Supersuckers. Produced by the Butthole Surfers' Paul Leary, the album was noticeably different from the Supersuckers' usual pedal-to-the-metal roar, owing to Heathman's absence, despite some worthy additions to the group's catalog (like "Born with a Tail"). Fortunately, Heathman made a full recovery and rejoined the band for 1997's Must've Been High, a full-fledged excursion into country music that even featured a guest appearance from Willie Nelson. It was released concurrently with a five-song EP that featured country maverick Steve Earle fronting the band.
After issuing their country project, the Supersuckers signed a major-label deal with Interscope. Unfortunately, in the wake of some massive label mergers at the time, Interscope underwent a restructuring and wound up dropping the band without ever releasing the straight-ahead rock & roll album they had recorded. Strongly disenchanted by the experience, the Supersuckers landed on the small Twenty14.com label and finally recorded the proper follow-up to Sacrilicious, recycling some of the material from their ill-fated Interscope debut. The result, The Evil Powers of Rock 'n' Roll, was released in late 1999, and featured the band's affectionate look back on their high school days in Tucson, "Santa Rita High." The same year, Sub Pop issued a generous 27-track retrospective of the Supersuckers' stay on the label, How the Supersuckers Became the Greatest Rock and Roll Band in the World. After contributing two songs (including a collaboration with Pearl Jam's Eddie Vedder) to the benefit album Free the West Memphis 3 in 2000, the group cut a split-LP with Electric Frankenstein in 2001.
Burned by Interscope and seeking a permanent home, the Supersuckers formed their own label, Mid Fi, in 2002, and inaugurated it with a live document of their country phase, Must've Been Live. A new, hard-rocking studio album, Motherfuckers Be Trippin', followed in 2003. After its release, longtime drummer Dan Siegel left the group and was replaced by Mike Musburger. While tinkering with a new studio album, the Supersuckers kept the Mid Fi release schedule full with a pair of archival live albums and a collection of singles and non-album material, Devil's Food. The Paid EP and Live at Bart's CD Cellar & Record Shop followed in 2006. 2008 saw the release of Get It Together, one of the band's strongest and most thoughtful releases to date, which also returned Dan Siegel to the lineup. The Supersuckers took a breather as Eddie Spaghetti released a pair of solo albums through Bloodshot Records, and didn't return until 2014, when Steamhammer Records released the tough, hard rock set Get the Hell, which featured Spaghetti and Bolton joined by new members Metal Marty Chandler on guitar and Captain Von Streicher on drums.
In June 2015, it was announced that Spaghetti had been diagnosed with Stage 3 oropharynx cancer, which impacts the back of the throat, close to the tongue and tonsils. Undaunted, Spaghetti underwent surgery and radiation treatments, and the Supersuckers were back with a new album in October 2015, the country-leaning Holdin' the Bag. The album debuted a new three-piece lineup of the Supersuckers, with Bolton out of the band and Spaghetti, Chandler, and von Streicher still on board. The group were back in fighting shape for 2018's Suck It, which found the Supersuckers once again flying the flag for hard rock, and they sounded even stronger on 2020's Play That Rock N' Roll, which included a revved-up cover of Ernie K-Doe's R&B classic "A Certain Girl" as a bonus track. On August 18, 2020, the group revealed on social media that original guitarist Ron Heathman had died. ~ Steve Huey
- Tucson, AZ
- Hard Rock
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