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Tuesday, October 12,2010

Meet the Meatmen — again

Veteran punk band reconnects with fans old and new

by Rich Tupica
With song titles like “Crippled Children Suck,” and “1 Down, 3 to Go” — written just after John Lennon was assassinated — The Meatmen have always been known for vulgar and oddball punk rock songs.

Tongue planted firmly in his cheek, Tesco Vee, the Lansing band’s legendary mastermind and vocalist, broke into the hardcore punk scene in 1979. That's when he co-founded the Touch and Go fanzine and record label (which later, under a different owner, evolved into an enormously influential indie label). In 1980, Vee decided to not only write about bands, but to start his own — and to add some raunchy and politically incorrect humor, something he thought the scene lacked.

Today, Vee is living in the Lansing area and is playing Meatmen shows with a revamped lineup. He is also promoting the recent release of “Touch and Go: The Complete Hardcore Punk Zine ‘79-’83,” a book that chronicles every issue of the now legendary zine.

Vee admits, even at the band’s earliest stage, his main intention was to offend and provoke people.

“We were just having fun when we first started,” Vee said. “We weren’t attempting to take over the world. We wanted to make people think and get ticked off. I think we succeeded on both fronts. We have a hefty dollop of humor injected into the music, which I think is sadly lacking in a lot of bands even to this day. It’s way too serious — lighten up.”

After years of gigs, Vee said he’s acquired an array of stage props, something the band’s earliest shows somewhat lacked.

“I didn’t have confetti cannons and pyrotechnics in the early years: That came later in the ‘80s. But we had various dildos and funny costumes," Vee said. “We’ve always had the funny costumes. I was wearing these engineer boots I’d spray-painted silver with these heavy pink, plastic pants. It was the most ridiculous stuff I could come up with. Stupid is what we were going for with The Meatmen. Punk rock with the brains kicked out of it … but with some brains hidden behind it.”

In 1982, after two years of gigging around Lansing, Tesco and his wife relocated to Washington D.C., where he and his family stayed for 17 years. While in D.C. he kept the band going sporadically. For a period of time, he even had members of Minor Threat, an iconic hard-core band, backing him up.

Today, Vee said, his current shows are as energetic and fun as they were 30 years ago.

“It still feels the same. It’s weird being how old I am, but I still enjoy it,” he said. “To some people, at this juncture, playing the old songs might be like going through the motions, but to me it’s not. I still feel like a 25-year-old kid hopping around on stage.”

While The Meatmen name still draws many veteran punks into venues, Vee said he is noticing a growing number of newbies in the crowds.

“We played down in San Antonio, and there were a bunch of Hispanic kids who knew all the words," Vee said. "It was cool. You don’t just want to preach to the choir all the time, you want to reach out and touch some new people. I really want to concentrate on going forward and doing all-ages shows. I really think the bar scene has shriveled up in a lot of markets around the country and it seems like the way to go is with all-ages shows.”

The Meatmen are also preparing to head overseas early next year: a landmark for Vee’s band.

“We are actually going to tour Europe in March and April,” he said. “We got an offer from the company that books Gwar, Sick of It All, Agnostic Front — all the big hard-core tours over there. They contacted us, so we are going to Europe — for the first time, I might add! I’ve never been there. It’s pretty exciting.”

The Meatmen
w/ Easy Action, Hellmouth, Know Lyfe, Occasus
Friday, Oct. 22    
The Loft
414 E. Michigan Ave, Lansing
$10 in advance. 18 , doors at 8 p.m.
Tickets available at FBC, Music Manor and The Tin Can
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