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D.C.’s rock scene is a lot of things, but funny usually isn’t one of them. Chalk it up to the proximity to our nation’s deadly serious political classes or to the sobering aftereffects of harDCore’s programmatic puritanism, but on the mirth scale, the District’s rock scores slightly below the Heritage Foundation.
It’s not that we Washingtonians don’t have a sense of humor—we merely repress it. As we all know, however, repression (see: straightedge) is bad, because sooner or later, whatever it is that’s being repressed at Point A (e.g., a little healthy nihilism) tends to emerge in a far more unhealthy form at Point B (e.g., the re-election of Marion Barry). It’s kind of like trying to hide an unruly hard-on.
The inevitable result is the rise of a group like the Assrockers, a quintet of D.C. musicians who aren’t trying to hide anything. Indeed, the band has collected a sizable local fan base in a very short time with both its pants-dropping live shows and its dedication to an all-encompassing, tongue-in-cheek philosophy of life its members call “assrocking.”
“We don’t take [our music] too seriously,” says 26-year-old drummer Shanghai Skorz, who is seated with the rest of the band in a booth at Springfield, Va.’s, immortal hard-rock showcase, Jaxx Nightclub, where the Assrockers are, believe it or not, engaged in a real-life battle of the bands.
“Well,” Skorz adds, “sometimes we do. But we hate ourselves afterwards.” Not really, of course: The Assrockers pretty much love everything about themselves, especially their noms de rock, which they stick to like good alibis. In addition to Skorz, there are vocalist Bison Roughbottom, Misty Stainz on bass, and Killer-T Roxx and Riff Rokkwell on guitar. In addition, the band boasts its own full-time lyricist, Buck Longjohn, who prides himself on never spending more than three minutes writing a song, and at least one former drummer: Durt Sizemore, who was forced to quit the group a couple of months ago for the very un-assrock reason that it was interfering with his wedding plans.
“Do you remember when rock was fun?” says Roughbottom, 32, who’s planted, appropriately enough, under a framed picture of Molly Hatchet. “We make fist-pumping, cheap-beer-drinking, air-guitar-jamming, get-drunk, get-laid, rock-your-ass-off kind of music. What you’ve got to understand is we’re older people. We’re reliving our misspent youths, when we were 14 or 15 years old playing in our parents’ basements—except we sound better now.”
Oddly enough, given their decidedly frat-boy-ish sense of humor, the Assrockers were the brainchild of Stainz, 26, the band’s only woman. “I always wanted to be in a band,” she says. “So I bought a bass on eBay, and Riff showed me some chords.”
Stainz says she had the group’s name in mind long before she ever picked up an instrument. “We’re pretty much a concept band,” she says. “There are boy bands. We’re an assrock band.”
“We considered becoming a krautrock band,” interjects Longjohn. “But we misspelled ‘Kraftwerk’ on our Web searches. So the krautrock idea went nowhere. But Durt has become a real expert at macrame.”
Stainz jokingly says that recruiting band members was a matter of “showing off some skin, a little boob here and there.” In reality, she had to look no further than her workplace, a defunct Dupont Circle dot-com where Roughbottom was her boss and Roxx and Sizemore were her co-workers.
“The company was in bad shape,” says Roughbottom. “There were lots of empty rooms. So we’d commandeer a vacant conference room and put all our amps and shit in there and practice.”
Although Stainz’s fiance, Rokkwell, 27, had played in metal bands throughout his teens, he wasn’t sure he wanted anything to do with the nascent Assrockers. “I said, ‘I’ll come in and see how it is,’” he recalls, doing his best holier-than-thou voice. “But it worked out great.”
The band’s first show was a July 2001 house party in Mount Pleasant that has become legendary in the annals of assrock. “Two people had to go to the hospital,” says the 33-year-old Roxx, and for once it’s hard to tell whether these guys are joking.
The Assrockers followed up with another house show in October. This time, they added a fog machine. “It was leaking oil,” says Roxx. “At the party, all of this oily smoke came out of it and stank up the entire house.”
In November, Stainz and Rokkwell left D.C. for a six-month round-the-world trip. The remaining Assrockers continued practicing and even played an acoustic tribute to themselves—which they called “Half-Assed Rock”—at Chief Ike’s Mambo Room in Adams Morgan. “It’s not every day you get to be your own cover band,” says Longjohn, who filled in for Stainz on bass. “Not that I could ever fill her panties—they’d split.”
Indeed, the Assrockers continue to be very much Stainz’s vision. “The way it works,” says Roughbottom, “is that Misty comes up with a song title, then gives it to Buck, who writes the lyrics.”
“In less than three minutes,” interrupts Longjohn. (Later, I find out that it’s actually Roughbottom who has been handling the bulk of lyric-writing duties as of late. Though no one says as much, Longjohn’s under-three-minute workweeks seem to have driven him to a state of exhaustion.)
“Then,” continues Roughbottom, “Buck gives the lyrics to Riff and Killer-T and they come up with the rudiments of the song and bring it to the band.” The whole band—”even Shanghai Skorz!” says Roughbottom—then, um, hones the song until it’s deemed ready to enter the assrock repertoire, which includes such crowd pleasers as “We Will Rock Your Ass (‘Til U Bleed),” “I May Be a Hussy (But I Ain’t No Whore),” and “Who’s Got My Panties?” The last, Stainz’s signature song, also happens to be the title of the Assrockers’ first release, a four-song EP that comes with a picture of the bassist’s cutoff-clad derriere on the cover.
The disc’s rudimentary, lowest-common-denominator kinda-metal seems perfectly suited to the age of Andrew W.K., and the Assrockers are determined to make their own bid for party-hard superstardom. So far, that means unleashing what Roxx calls “a communications tour de force”: T-shirts, stickers, and a mailing list of more than 300 people known as the “Global Ass Rock Conspiracy.”
There’s also the Assrockers’ constantly updated Web site, which includes fantastical band biographies and some great descriptions of their songs, such as this one for “So You Wanna Be an Assrocker?”: “No self-respecting hard rock group can be without at least a couple tunes that are utterly self-congratulatory, self-adulatory, self-merchandizing, self-aggrandizing, self-fulfilling prophecies of power-chord greatness, babe-a-licious magnetism, and sheer pop-cultural relativism. Here’s our latest song with ‘Ass’ and ‘Rock’ in the title. Once you hear it, you’ll wish you was us.”
As for the future, the band members want to make a full-length and then “hit the van,” in Rokkwell’s terms. But first they want to beef up their D.C. fan base—maybe even play the Black Cat or the 9:30 Club.
“We’re channeling our energy into making the Assrocker brand a globally recognized entity by 2004,” says Stainz. “I think our message is pretty universal, and now, more than ever…the world really could use a good assrockin’.”
The Assrockers’ ambitions may test the patience of some of Washington’s more serious rockers. Then again, it’s not as if they care.
“If you wanna see Fugazi,” says Rokkwell, “don’t come to an Assrockers show.” —Michael Little