Jack Black may have popularized the notion of a fantasy school of rock, but for 3200 students at 40 schools around the country, the School of Rock is very real. Each school — and there’s one in Watertown — offers six hours of tutoring a week. And for a group of 24 kids, ages 11 to 27, the local School of Rock has delivered an improbable bonus: the opportunity to back Butthole Surfers frontman Gibby Haynes downstairs at the Middle East this Friday. Yes, the mastermind behind “Kunts” and “The Lord Is a Monkey” will be performing with impressionable future rockers. As Haynes puts it over the phone from his current home in New York, “Under the word ‘irony,’ there’s a new definition.”
BROWN:School of Rock founder Paul Green considers Haynes’s stint with the kids “a Yes enema.”
Each year, the schools assemble four all-star groups for short tours that have included Eddie Vedder, Peter Frampton, Perry Farrell, Adrien Belew, and Yes’s Jon Anderson. With the Surfers on “permanent hiatus,” Haynes has committed to a six-city tour that he admits could be a “train wreck.” But in the world of a Butthole Surfer, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The Texas-based band were responsible for some of the more perverse noise rock of the ’80s and ’90s — a squall of punk psychedelia that, in a live setting, could teeter on the edge of anarchy. I’ve seen Haynes douse an upturned cymbal with alcohol and set it ablaze, the flames licking the club’s ceiling. I’ve also seen him fire shotgun blanks from the stage toward the crowd. And I’ve seen the band accompanied by videos of penis operations and a nude female dancer.
There will be none of that this Friday — Haynes and the school’s head and founder, the New York–based Paul Green, agreed that it wouldn’t be right. Haynes has in fact been sober for some time. “I did all my drugs and I drank all my booze and I did some of your drugs, too.”
Haynes and Green met through Dean Ween and Ween bassist David Dreiwitz, who’d played on the School of Rock tour with Jon Anderson. Since Ween likes to refer to anything that’s cool and twisted as “brown,” Haynes is aiming to get his group of kids to “understand the concept of brown. It’s kind of a punk-rock æsthetic.”
Green brought Haynes on board the School of Rock train in part as a counter-reaction to Anderson. “The kids were getting a lot of exactitude,” he explains. “I needed to push these kids the other way. This is a Yes enema.” Plus, he adds, he was a big Butthole Surfers fan.
Haynes formed the Butthole Surfers with guitarist Paul Leary in Texas in 1981. Their early recordings were chaotic and noisy — it was live that the band made their biggest impressions. But by 1988’s Hairway to Steven (Touch & Go) and ’91’s Piouhgd (Rough Trade), they had begun to stumble toward tunefulness. The alt-rock revolution brought major labels knocking, and that led to the band’s most accessible disc, 1993’s Independent Worm Saloon (Capitol), which, produced by Led Zep bassist John Paul Jones, yielded a radio single, “Who Was in My Room Last Night?” The 1996 Electric Larryland (Capitol) was certified gold, thanks to a bona fide alterna-hit, “Pepper.”