Spike Slawson is at it again. Armed with his ukulele and a new cover band, Uke-Hunt just released their first full-length on Fat Wreck Chords. ReadJunk caught up with Mr. Slawson asking him questions about Pittsburgh, his crazy 2014, and the new band.
I want to go way back. You grew up in Pittsburgh, which has always had a very unique but vital punk scene. When did you start going to shows and what was your time there like?
My first show was Black Flag, with Saccharine Trust and (I think) 99 cents at the Electric Banana in 1984. I went with my friend Luis. It was scary, but fun. Within a year or two there’d be a kind of uniform look but at that point it felt like just a bunch of genuine, art-damaged, steel-town weirdos.
Was the Electric Banana ground zero for shows and the scene while you were growing up?
The Banana was it for shows at that point. The Graffiti did shows, too, but I never went. I saw Carsickness at CMU once…
Have you eaten at Jonny Z’s restaurant that used to be the Banana?
I ate there once, and Judy (owner of Electric Banana’s wife) was the Hostess/Server. Now that was genuinely weird.
I believe you have Iron City Beer and Pittsburgh Penguins tattoos, do you have any more Pittsburgh related tattoos or is that it?
I also have a Heinz bottle.
How often do you get to town and what hotspots do you hit up?
Not nearly often enough. I go to Aiello’s Pizza, and Jerry’s Records, and take long walks around Shadyside.
You have a spectacular voice, when did you begin singing?
You’re sweet to say that. My mom turned me on to the Beatles and Stones when I was very young, and I would sing along.
When did you decide, ‘hey, ukulele songs’?
We built a band around the name.
The instrumentation behind you on the recorded songs is a little different than your typical drum/bass/guitar set-up but fits perfectly with the music. How did the arrangements develop and how did you land on that sound?
We tried to stick as close as we could to original arrangements, and the sound kind of fell together–more a matter of what friend was around that played which instrument than a preconceived idea.
What was your selection process for covers?
We went out to Fisherman’s Wharf to play for tourists and derelicts, and we figured out pretty quick which songs worked (generally the songs that got the derelicts all agitated).
When you play live do you have the same backing band as on the record? Who all is in the line-up?
So far we’ve got Randy Burk (percussion), Jamin Barton (jack-of-all-trades), Joe Raposo (bass) and myself. And at a show recently, our friend Doug helped us out with some dirty guitar on The Prettiest Star, and we’re hoping he might become a more permanent presence. I’d love for Karina to do some of the vibrophone parts she did on the record at a live show, but also understand how fucking heavy those things are to haul to a show.
After Flogging Molly blew up, we saw a number of copycat Celtic Punk bands. Are you ready for all of the sound alike punk bands with ukuleles?
There were already a number of ukulele outfits–some right here in town, even. Beth from the Loudmouths plays in one called Pineapple Princess. I’m sure there’s room for a few more.
Name one thing that the common fan of yours would not expect of Spike Slawson.
My love of Mexican Trios. Listen to Los Panchos.