It’s been ten years since LA pop-punk band The Muffs put out their last album, Really Really Happy. Yesterday they came back with their sixth studio album set available to pre-order on Burger and Cherry Red Records.
Fun-loving, bold, and uncompromising, Kim Shattuck has returned with the fierce attitude that defined The Muffs’ origins in the early 1990s. Lucky for us, we got a chance to talk to Kim about the new album, guitar gear, and her experience with both the Pixies and the Pandoras.
You and the Muffs are about to release a new album on Burger /Cherry Red Records. How would you say it compares to the bands’ previous albums?
When I started to try to write songs for this, I didn’t know that we were going to do an album, but I always like to write. One of my goals of songwriting was to get back to my roots a little bit, just to remember what used to inspire me because my inspiration changes.
What are some of those roots?
The stuff that I liked when I was first writing music was really kind of fast, melodic…I don’t strictly like the Ramones, but some of the Ramones’ songs – I would call them the non-angular Ramones’ songs (laughs) – I liked “Sheena is a Punk Rocker” or “I Wanna be Sedated” type of music. Stuff like the Beatles. Stuff that I liked back around 1990.
Can you say more about how your roots affected your song writing process for the new album
The way that it translated into me writing was that I picked up more aggression. As I was getting more soft in my old age with ballads…and being happy, and writing about stuff like that, I started getting back to my roots of aggression and being snarky (laughs) and sarcastic and mean and vindictive – in the lyrics I mean. And maybe a little more upbeat, up tempo. I decided I needed to start writing more fully fleshed out choruses.
Can you give any advice to our readers out there who may experience writers block?
The harder you try, the less you’ll get done…I have to sit down with my guitar and just sing and play it – just make stuff up – just pretend like I’m writing… If I look back on it later, I realize that …I’m writing without thinking…it’s coming out of my soul. I realize that I’m working on issues or I’m experiencing some kind of storytelling that I wasn’t even thinking about. Something that’s happening in my life is coming out and I’m not even trying.
When did you first pick up a guitar and what inspired you to do so?
I was older than normal people who pick up guitars. I was 19…I got really inspired by seeing Brian Setzer – I saw him on TV playing a guitar really well and cool and singing… And so I was inspired by that to go and buy my first guitar and learn how to do little things here and there. But I’m a slow learner. It was hard. I used to throw the guitar across the room and get really mad and frustrated (laughs).
What was your first guitar?
I still have it actually. I wanted really bad to get one of those semi-hollow body Gibsons but I ended up getting an Ibanez semi-hollow body – it looks just like that Gibson – but it’s called an Ibanez Artist. I still have it – it’s a great guitar.
Before the Muffs, you were involved with the Pandoras. Can you talk about what it was like joining an already established band?
I used to see the Pandoras’ girls around at clubs and stuff but I didn’t really know them but one time I ran into them at a shop with my boyfriend and he knew them so I got an introduction to them. It turned out that they needed a bass player … So I auditioned and I got it….I was really elated. I thought it was going to maybe be the funnest thing ever. I was 22. I was pretty young and I was really excited. It was a whole new world.
Was that experience at all like joining the Pixies on tour last year?
Yeah, well the Pandoras were really young, fun loving and wild…and the Pixies were way more popular than the Pandoras obviously and very, very stodgy old men. The Pandoras were crazy and wild and the Pixies were more set in their ways and you know, very precious about every little thing. Not really that fun. They were nice to me
While it seems your time with the Pixies may not have ended on the best note, did you gain anything positive from your time with them?
Oh man, there are so many positive things. I know it ended bad and stuff but one of the things I thought was really cool was to learn their whole catalog like that…to learn a band’s entire catalog was really super hard and their music is difficult ….It was good to not be the leader of the band. It was good to be doing something for somebody else for a change.
What do you think makes or breaks a successful collaboration with other musicians and bands?
With both bands, there was good and bad. With the Pandoras it was good in that we all had a lot of fun and we played and we rocked out. There was a lightness to it…but as the leader Paula was writing songs to change her style so severely that it became a band I didn’t like the music of because I don’t like metal or hard rock really.
With the Pixies, the good part was learning all the songs. It was fun to play for those amazing audiences because their audiences are really friendly and really into the band and so they were super nice to me for the most part. I didn’t really get any Kim Deal fall out or any of that…Some of the inter-band dynamics were strange to me and I didn’t really understand the lack of communication and I didn’t really understand some of the preciousness. Everything is planned out so extremely that there’s no spontaneity.
You’ve mentioned in past interviews being very inspired by the Ramones, the Beatles, the Kinks, and Joan Jett. Is there anything more current that you’re listening to these days? Anything you’d recommend to our She Shreds readers?
There are not many bands that I’m super into right now but one of the local bands that I really like is called Honeychain…their music really inspired me. I really like Redd kross. There are a lot of good bands right now coming out of Burger Records…it’s a really good scene. A lot of 20-year olds are super into it.
Can you tell us what gear you’ll be using on your upcoming tour (or on the album itself)?
I’ve been playing the same guitar since at least 1991, 1992. I’m seriously a creature of habit. I don’t go and buy new gear that much. My guitar is a solid body Gretsch from the 70s called Gretsch Beast (BST)…I hated the pickups so I changed the pickups. And lately I’ve been playing a Fender Vibrolux amp because it’s way less obnoxious and it sounds very good and it’s very versatile. I now use two overdrive pedals…one’s an Ibanez Tubescreamer and the other is called Little Green Wonder.
What are you most looking forward to about touring again?
I really like when we start playing a bunch of shows in a row because we get really good….it’s amazing to feel confident with everything. ..I really like playing to our crowd. The people that come see the Muffs are really super into it.
How do you think you’ve changed while being in the Muffs? What would the Kim of 1991 think of you now?
The Kim of back then was a wild animal…I swear I was like a pirate…I had a lot of raw energy and crazy thoughts…now I’m more controlling about stuff. The Kim back then would be amazed that the Kim now is doing all of this adult stuff, like reading contracts.