Kim Shattuck: The Culture Brats Interview

Last week, Omnivore Recordings released a remastered edition of The Muffs' debut album, which also contains ten bonus tracks. We caught up with Muffs singer Kim Shattuck to discuss the debut album, the excellent new Omnivore reissue, The Pandoras, the Pixies, the five songs that define The Muffs, and "Kids In America."

What made you decide to do a resissue of your debut album now?
Actually, we just got asked. It's not like it's a significant anniversary or anything. When Omnivore presented it to us, it sounded really cool. And they're tied into Warner Brothers, so it wasn't like just anybody was doing it.

In the liner notes, Ronnie Barnett mentioned that there may have been too many cooks in the studio during the recording...
Oh my God, that's even an understatement. Everyone seemed to have a say. Everyone. Seriously, even people walking by when we were picking mixes. It was super horrible. It was not a good way to operate a band. Everyone should get a say, but not everyone should get a say at the same time. The person deciding should probably be the producer and not everybody. It was very frustrating. It pretty much formed the way I ran the band the rest of the time.

So how much of that album was your vision, given that everyone had an input?
The songs were songs that I had been writing since 1988. The ones before '88 sucked. There was nothing good coming out of me until about '88. I got better and better at songwriting in my own opinion. I was like, "Ok, I can see this being a song. I can see a band playing this song."

The songs were the vision I had, but the collection of songs weren't necessarily the collection that I wanted it to be. That was more Warner Bros. having to do their A&R job. Some of the demos that I presented to them were rejected. When I listen to them again, I'm thinking, "Hmm, these are actually pretty good. I wonder why these got rejected."

He also said that you and he used to dismiss the album. Have you come to embrace it?
Now that it's remastered, yes! The mastering job was so terrible. In the past, I always blamed the mix. Bad mastering can make a good mix terrible. I knew I liked a lot of the songs, but I didn't like the recording of it. Now that I hear the remastered thing, I've changed my mind completely. I love it.

Let's talk about the previously unreleased demos. Were they recorded around the same time as the original album?
They were recorded pre-band. A lot of my demos were recorded around 1989 or 1990. That was pre-band.

I really like songs like "Do You Want Her" and "I Don't Expect It." What kept those from showing up on future albums?
I had forgotten about them completely. I did the demos and I put them away. They were rejected for some reason, I'm not even sure why. They kind of went on the back burner. Eventually, I got rid of my 4-track or it broke or something. I really had no way of listening to them. Part of the process of this Omnivore record was to go through the demos. They wanted to know if I had stuff and I thought, "You know, I do have stuff but I can't listen to it." So I went on eBay and I bought a new TASCAM and I listened to them like that. It was hard because it kept breaking down. I had to hit it like Fonzie to make it come back on.

The answering machine messages at the end of the album... Who's Dave?
Who's Dave? Dave was one of the co-producers of the album and also our co-A&R guy. We had two A&R guys, Rob Cavallo and Dave Katznelson. We decided to have both of them produce, even though Dave had never ever produced before and Rob had only produced one thing. I had never produced.

Does he know those messages are on the album?
He does. We reconnected with him. He's a super nice guy. This answering machine message came after the record was recorded and released. I was really mad at him and I didn't want to talk to him so he drunkenly called me up one night and tried to get me on the phone. He thinks it's funny. He has a really good sense of humor and he was like, "Yeah, put it out. It's funny."

I read on Facebook where you're working with Melanie Vammen again. What are you working on?
The Pandoras. We put The Pandoras back together with me obviously singing. We're not trying to do new songs, we're trying to do the old songs the way we remember them and the way we like them. Melanie and I hadn't worked together in forever, so we're excited to work together again. We've done some shows and we're about to go to Europe and do a big European tour, so that's what we're doing Pandoras-wise.

The Muffs recently did a string of dates in Spain. How did that go?
That was really fun! It was the most sweatiest time. Every club was super hot, super packed, super excited and fun.

Before the end, what was it like performing with the Pixies?
Before the very end? Actually, it was fun playing with the Pixies. It was really fun. Their crowds, the people that go see Pixies shows, are really into it. It was fun performing for those people. The behind the scenes stuff was a little bit awkward. Sometimes it was fun, but sometimes it was awkward. I feel like it was a good experience overall.

I've got one more question for you: what five songs do you feel define The Muffs?
I always pick my favorites, I don't know... I'm going to say "Sad Tomorrow," "From Your Girl," "Honeymoon," "Lucky Guy," and unfortunately or fortunately, "Kids In America," not even a song I wrote.

Were you involved in anything regarding the twentieth anniversary of the Clueless soundtrack?
We were asked to play on the VH1 morning show with Nick Lehee... Is that his name? Lahee? I don't know how you pronounce it.

The guy who was married to Jessica Simpson?
Yeah! It was his show. We played "Kids In America" on his show. We had to learn the song because we had never ever played it. We learned it and now we play it live sometimes. It was funny. We had never really considered playing it live. It was always a thorn in our side but we ended up doing it.

Why did you feel it was a thorn in your side?
The lyrics are really stupid. It's very embarrassing to sing them. I just had an attitude about it because I didn't write it. We play other cover sometimes... I don't know. It was just kind of weird and awkward for us to play it but once we started playing it, we realized people really enjoy seeing us play that song and the fact that we didn't really play it was kind of rebellious for no reason.

Thanks a lot for taking the time to talk with me today and I hope this reissue leads to further reissues down the road, too.
There are more coming down the pipe!

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