With the sun shining and a breeze cooling our sweaty necks, North Carolina’s Weedeater began their set at the 2013 rendition of Maryland Death Fest at 4 p.m. Within 15 minutes, at least 1,000 people were moshing, dancing and banging their heads to the sounds of Southern sludge. Dozens had clambered up to surf, including a man in a chicken suit; another was adorned in a banana suit. As frontman and bassist “Dixie” Dave Collins contorted his face ridiculously, howled incoherently and sprayed liquor across the stage alongside his hard drinking and playing cohorts, metal legends Wino, Kirk Windstein and several others gathered on the side of the stage, taking in the spectacle.
Let’s transplant this scene into a basement bar in Calgary. The stage is mere inches above your feet, and you have several hours more to get fubared. It’s motherfucking party time and that’s exactly the way Weedeater likes it. After all, that 50-minute set was and always will be for them and whoever happens to be along for the ride.
“We are acting exactly the way we act around each other. Fuck everybody else if they don’t like it, that’s really not the point,” says Dixie, who spoke to BeatRoute on a Friday night from his home state. The previous two days had been a sweltering 90 degrees Fahrenheit plus and, after discovering he actually didn’t have a shift that day at the head shop, Dixie enjoyed several “Bourbon drinks” and bought an inflatable pool at Walmart.
“We’ve been doing this for this long and making minimal amounts of money, if any, it doesn’t really matter: that 50 minutes is for us,” he says. “We try as hard as we possibly can, everything we can do and we do it for each other. Therefore, if everybody enjoys it, they do and if they don’t, they don’t, but those fuckers can’t say we didn’t try.”
As a former member of legendary nihilistic sludge crew Buzzov•en, Dixie knows a thing or two about out-of-control performances — and just generally living in a fashion many would dub out of control.
“My track record doesn’t look too good there, as far as that goes,” admits the bassist. Indeed, a quick Google search yields two jaw dropping results: one reiterates the musician blowing his big toe off while cleaning his shotgun in 2010, the other depicts him taste-testing a variety of cough syrups with Noisey. This representation matches Weedeater’s music and attitude, to which vague adjectives like drug-addled and fuzzed-out apply. Another way to put it would be to say their music is slow, features a ton of crashing percussion, reverb-soaked guitars and growling vocals. Pitchfork cleverly summed it up, saying the act “traffic in uppers and downers, convictions and addictions.”
“People are going to latch on to and or embellish the weird and we are a bit weird. You know, we won’t deny any of it,” says Dixie. He explains the cough syrup interview came about because “20 days into a tour” his throat becomes sore, so he takes “tiny sips” of the medication to soothe his throat while onstage.
“But at the same time, yes it does fuck me up, especially with the amount of liquor that I’m drinking at the same time. But, I got that from my father, so what am I supposed to do about that… People will latch onto that weird stuff of course, but that’s fine, we’ll do weirder shit than that.”
Indeed, the band has clearly absorbed and embellished elements of their environment and are aligning with the stereotype of hillbilly drug addicts. After all, “Dixie” Dave is borrowing the nickname for the region and the band’s 2011 album, Jason… The Dragon, features a banjo played by Dixie himself. A sample at the beginning of the track “Potbelly” intones, “I was born in South Carolina man, I can’t read.” Their imagery is rife with symbolism plucked from American history. Not to mention that the first image of Weedeater that comes up on the Internet is the trio preparing to mow down on a plate of marijuana.
“We are inbred, whatever you want to call it,” says Dixie, laughing. “We do live in the Deep South and you can’t help but be a product of your environment, to some extent. We definitely listened to all kinds of weird shit that wouldn’t be equated to the south and, at the same time, I grew up on everything from the south, from Delta blues, all the way to 38 Special or Lynyrd Skynyrd, Southern rock… Old school country, which also came from Delta blues.” With that, he clarifies, “We definitely put as much Black Oak Arkansas [in our music] as we do Black Sabbath or Black Flag.”
This is a fitting assessment, although more current comparisons could be Eyehategod, Bongzilla (Dixie has been in their ranks as well), Floor and Sleep. Given that the band is 16 years and four full-lengths in, they’ve also integrated slower acoustic segments and the aforementioned banjo into the mix. On their next record – which they will do with Steve Albini, as they did the previous two – expect a logical continuation of this sound, although many other details remain up in the air, in particular, who will be drumming on the record. As of press time, longtime drummer Keith “Keko” Kirkum is M.I.A. and Dixie and guitarist Dave Shepherd will be bringing along Whores drummer Travis Owen to fill his space.
“Our original drummer… we love him to death… we’ve been together over 20 years, this and that, but on top of that, he’s got a new baby and his father is ill, and we’ll be able to work it out and get back into it whenever we can with him. For the time being, Travis is doing a great job and we love him to death.”
Last thing to consider is whether or not the drug-addled trio can make it over the border. No worries, he says: they’ve got their passports and a plan in motion due to past experience.
“We had to ditch a crossbow one time. I bought a crossbow on tour and I couldn’t bring it into Canada because it was a pistol crossbow… you can bring all kinds of shit to Canada, but it can’t be fired with one hand,” he explains. “So, I hid it in the bushes and marked it on the GPS and we got it coming back out. The GPS took us right back to it. That’s an old trick, you can put all kinds of shit in a Gatorade bottle, mark it on your GPS and go back to it.
“I actually learned that years ago from a Terrorizer magazine — band tips,” he seriously concludes. “It was: GPS your stash and come back and get it.”
Sounds legit to me.
Experience Weedeater when they perform at the Palomino on Thursday, July 18 with Witchstone.
By Sarah KitteringhamAB, Alberta