Their famously brief lifespan belies their lasting influence, which should be noted anytime a guitar sticky with beer plugs into a buzzing amplifier. Principal members took their tunes with them and splintered into Pere Ubu and the Dead Boys before they could even enter a proper recording studio. Songs like “Ain’t if Fun,” “Final Solution,” “Sonic Reducer” and “Life Stinks” endure as anthems at countless substance-fueled parties. Now, 37 years after first disbanding, Cleveland’s Rocket from the Tombs (with Television’s Richard Lloyd in lieu of deceased Peter Laughner) have resurfaced with Barfly, their first album of new music. Vocalist David Thomas was patient enough to answer a few questions.
What was it like writing with Cheetah Chrome again? You two set off in different directions in 1975.
Cheetah and I have always shared common ground. We like raw midwestern groove rock. We like a good riff played hard and fast. Writing with him and the others again was like falling off a log. No problem. Cheetah could have easily gone with me into Ubu and fit right in. Don’t underestimate the artiness in Cheetah.
There are going to be people who say that the book on Rocket From the Tombs has already been written and a new batch of songs is unnecessary. Any response to that attitude?
No, there’s not. And if there are such people then what the hell do I care what they think? What have they done? RFTT is our band. We get to do what we want. We’ve done something. We continue to do something. I can’t tell you how little I care about what other people think. I got stuff to do. I’m getting old. Time is running out. I have never stopped pushing. We felt the same way 37 years ago. We continue to feel that way. That is what drives RFTT and Ubu. Thirty-seven years may seem like a long time. It’s not. It’s a blink of an eye when you wake up each day thinking, “Time is running out, I gotta do something.”
How is the songwriting process different this time around? You can’t possibly have survived this long to write another tune as twisted as “Ain’t It Fun”? Can you?
It’s no different. Why would we want to write something that we wrote 37 years ago? We don’t pretend. We are the kind of men who deliver the goods. We are not a pop band. We don’t do this to get neanderthals to like us. Keep up with the moment or leave us alone and go follow some manufactured group that tickles your ears. That reinforces your own dim perception of the world, that makes you think your own opinion actually matters. (I am speaking broadly here, not specifically to you!)
Years and years from now, how should people remember RFTT?
I don’t know. I can’t think in these terms. That’s the sort of thing you have time to think about when you’ve got nothing else to think about. Me, I’m busy.
Rocket From the Tombs perform Sun., Dec. 11, 8pm. $15. Kung Fu Necktie, 1250 N. Front St., kungfunecktie.com
The Pack A.D. are built for the road
PW's Music Issue 2014