By Noah Lopez
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Merkin-Mania swarms across Tucson this week, as Club Congress gets ready to throw open its doors for Tucson's garage punk monsters, the Purple Merkins. Ravi Merkin Ä "the first Irish Eastern Indian guitar player in history . he's spiritually enlightened and drunk," Randall Merkin, Rusty Merkin, Itchy Merkin and frontman Tim Merkin will all take part in dionyssian festival of rock and booze. The Wildcat talked to Tim Merkin himself to get a handle on what would be taking place this Sunday night.
Wildcat: Describe your sound.
Tim Merkin: I'm glad you asked that. It's a cross between the Beatles and Sir Mixalot. We sound like we're from the '60s, but all our songs are about sex. We're also influenced by the long standing tradition of shtick rock.
WC: What do you think is the reason behind the recent shtick rock explosion?
TM: A couple of reasons actually. The first one's a little cynical. I think people in the industry have run out of ideas. Rock has just ran out of steam . Labels are looking for people who have a gimmick, not necessarily talent. People like Gwar and Green Jelly have millions of dollars behind them. Secondly, I think people are so bored with the traditional form of rock. Their looking to blend different genres of rock together. They want rock, stand up comics and jean commercials all rolled up in one. Actually, shtick has been around for a long time. Look at AC/DC and their schoolboy outfits. Or Twisted Sister, the transvestite rockers.
WC: How did the Purple Merkins get together?
TM: Its kind of an interdimensional thing. We share all the same members with the Overcoat, just with different names. It's the worst kept secret in underground rock. Our first 45 was put out by a Canadian magazine, and the magazine wrote and article about us and how we were the Overcoat in disguise. It's another one of rock's long-standing traditions. Groups that have alteregos. The Stranglers had the Purple Helmets . The Damned had one, The Fuzztones had one. We're much cruder, more spontaneous. We don't take it nearly as seriously. This takes us more to our garage roots. It's more fun than being a real band. I'm Timothy Merkin, Ravi Merkin is the first Irish eastern Indian guitar player in history, spiritually enlightened and drunk . Randell Merkin, bass, Rusty Merkin, keyboard, drums is Itchy Merkin .
WC: Where does the name come from?
TM: A merkin is in most dictionaries. There was a guy, like a Harry Merkin or something, and he designed, over 100 years ago, what is basically a pubic toupee. For various medical reasons, people just don't have pubic hair, so they basically put on a merkin the same way you put on a stage mustache or beard Ä with spirit gum. Also people in the orient who want to be more bushy. Then we were on tour, and we went into a huge sex shop in Canada that had everything, including purple merkins. I didn't know what one was before then Ä it was the education of a lifetime. Some dictionaries are wrong and say that a merkin is for women, but they're for men and women. It's the '90s. Anyone can use a merkin and be proud.
WC: Tell me about "Beefy Slide-Down Studios."
TM: In keeping with what we're doing, the Overcoat got to the point where record companies were giving us money to go in the studio and do these elaborate pop songs. This is against that. We had more beer than microphones. It took us 15 minutes to set up microphones, 30 minutes to go to the store and get the beer, and less time to record the actual songs. The results are incredibly crude, but kind of refreshing.
WC: What's in the Merkin's concert rider?
TM: Beer. The beer has to be as cheap as possible without being generic. We're professionals, after all . no generic beer. Iron City Lite is good. We're similar to Mojo Nixon actually. All liquor must be in plastic bottles, so we don't slosh around and get hurt. Also, we must have purple towels. Or we'll trash the place. Actually, a few years ago a band played Centennial Hall before they refurbished it, and their rider said that they had to have blue towels to wash their faces and hands with. Not white. And when they didn't get blue towels, they trashed the green room. I think that might be part of the reason why they don't have rock bands play Centennial Hall now.
WC: What can someone expect from the Merkin show on Sunday?
TM: Intoxication. It'll be pretty fun. A lot of incredibly short tunes. We have a problem remembering songs over a minute long. What I hope it will be is an unpretentious fun evening of shlock rock. We've got some pretty talented guys . we're sounding pretty good actually. The final irony of the whole thing is that A&R men are bugging us! We never intended to be an industry thing, but they keep asking for demo tapes, asking to come see our shows and stuff. There are going to be A&R men there on Sunday night! It's ludicrous! I haven't told the guys in the band that though. I don't want them to be worrying about that while they're trying to play.
The Purple Merkins will be playing at Club Congress this Sunday night, starting promptly at 9 p.m. Free records and merkins will be given away during the performance. For more information, call 622-8848
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