Q&A With Sam and Jon DeStefano of the Hate F**k Trio
Although the Hate Fuck Trio was one of the most popular and enjoyable Denver bands of the ´90s, the combo led by twisted siblings Sam and Jon DeStefano faded from the scene early into the new millennium. Now, the boys are back, sort of, and their explanations for their absence and return are as entertaining as they are tough to swallow. A December 13 Westword profile is a mere sample of the bizarre obfuscations laid out in the following Q&A.
The conversation begins on a typically surreal note. Bart Dahl, a onetime Hate Fucker who now works for Madison House, which manages Dinosaur Jr. and helped place the Trio on Dino’s upcoming local date, provided me with Jon’s cell phone number. When I called to schedule an interview, Jon was in a place where he couldn’t speak freely – or at least that’s my guess based on the fact that he whispered the middle word in HFT’s name. Below, however, he avoids revealing where he was at the time – meaning he could have been anywhere from a day job to his mom’s house. Shortly thereafter, Sam takes over – or at least I think he did, since he and Jon have similar phone voices, and they seldom bothered to say who was speaking. At any rate, the riffs include really credible claims about post-9/11 guilt over the word “hate” in the band’s name and three years allegedly spent in Costa Rica; boasts in regard to aging, weight gain and instrumental incompetence; tales of past Trio shows, including a disastrous gig with Bad Religion and a concert for a group of bouncy pre-teens; an endorsement of teaching tots how to swear; and hints about future Hate Fuck Trio recordings, which may or may not include a tune dubbed “Scott Hamilton’s Shaved Cock.” Jon then returns toward the end to talk about his new musical project, Chewbacca Bukkake, which will undoubtedly zoom straight to the top of George Lucas’ hit parade.
Or his lawyer’s.
Westword (Michael Roberts): Why couldn’t you say “fuck” the other day?
Jon DeStefano: ‘Cause I was right next to my – there was this older lady there, this grandma, and she was eating a sandwich. And I didn’t want her to throw up.
WW: So you were in a restaurant?
JD: No, I was just in this… place where this was… this person where… I couldn’t really talk.
WW: You’re being very mysterious.
JD: Well, I’d prefer not to make some old lady lose her lunch.
WW: So, how did this show come about? Was Bart key to making it happen?
JD: Yeah, Bart’s done a lot of work with Dinosaur Jr., and he’s been trying to get us to play together. The situation was right. We’re huge fans of Dinosaur Jr., so we couldn’t pass it up.
WW: What have you guys been doing since the last Hate Fuck Trio album?
Sam DeStefano: It’s kind of interesting. We really only came out with three different records, but we recorded five, and almost finished a sixth one that never came out. So there were three lost records. These records had disappeared. There’s a lot of great music on there, and we were kind of working on it, and we were about ready to put a bunch of stuff out. And I feel like September 11 really had an impact. It was a bizarre thing for us, because culturally, the word “hate” was so unacceptable, and I think we felt bad pushing it. Even though our entire band was about the idea of not reading a book by its cover, at the time, we wanted to make it very clear. Thank God we’re now back to a point where hate is widely accepted again. Years down the road, Americans have bounced back to being their old selves, and maybe even more ugly than ever.
WW: After 9/11, did you fear that if you called up a venue or a record company and said, “We’re the Hate Fuck Trio,” you’d be identified as terrorists?
SD: No, we just didn’t want to push hate accidentally to people who weren’t our audience. We didn’t want it to be misconstrued by all the people who didn’t realize that we’re about love and all that. The Hate Fuck Trio was always about good times, and always about testing the boundaries, and we felt like, at the time, having our message be misconstrued wasn’t a great idea. And it was kind of good timing for us. So we pretty much all just decided to go explore the world and stuff like that. We went down as a band for a while to Costa Rica.
WW: Was this in 2002?
SD: This was in the spring, right after the 9/11 deal. We went down to Costa Rica, and we were investigating a lot of nature things, really getting into nature.
WW: How long were you there?
SD: We were there for three years.
WW: You were in Costa Rica for three years?
SD: Yeah, as a band. We were studying the gigantic banana spider.
WW: Well, you probably know more about the gigantic banana spider than anyone if you spent three years studying it.
SD: It was a really important thing to us, because as you know, their venom is a thousand times more powerful than Viagra.
WW: I understand their skin is the most vitamin-enriched part.
SD: It is. They have a lot of different uses. But our goal was in harnessing their venom to develop a product for the American culture that was a thousand times more powerful than Viagra.
WW: Is that where “hate” and “fuck” come together?
SD: It was another one of our experiments. It’s not always about music. It’s about pop culture and about good times, as we said. And we felt we could bring something to the world that it was really lacking.
WW: So after your three years in Costa Rica, where did you go from there?
SD: We came home and we got really old really fast.
WW: Had punk rock passed you by?
SD: No, we passed punk rock by. That’s really what happened. You’d like to think that we grew up, but really what we’re doing is devolving. Are we not men?
WW: You are Devo.
SD: We are Devo (laughs). Honestly, we went out and did a bunch of things and we all grew up and a bunch of us had kids. We’ve got enough kids to inspire a true trio with more than three members, just like the original generation.
WW: Who had kids?
SD: All four of us had kids. Pete [Cassidy] had kids, we had kids and Jason [Segler], our drummer, had kids. And this show came up, and we were kind of talking about finishing some of the songs we had. And the Hate Fuck Trio was never famous for being very talented. And we felt like, in our old age, being a little fatter, a little uglier, and devolved a little more, we could really make one of our worst shows of all time. And really bring something to the audience that they’ve never seen. Kind of hit a new low. A couple of shows we played with Bad Religion were the most embarrassing things that could ever happen to anybody in the universe.
WW: When was that?
SD: There was this one time we played in San Francisco, and the entire Fat Wreck Chords catalog was in the front row – everybody from Lagwagon to Fat Mike to who knows who else. It was like this private party with Bad Religion of us playing at Bottom of the Hill, which is a relatively small club out there, especially for a Bad Religion show. And I don’t think we finished a song. We played ten half-songs. And in a weird way, it was one of my favorite shows. You never know what you’re going to get between broken amplifiers and no strings on guitars, not knowing our parts very well, being sloppy musicians, trying to play too many songs that we didn’t even know how to play. It was the worst. But now, we get to come into this show so much less prepared. It’s going to be bad. It’s going to be one of our worst shows of all time.
WW: Have you done any rehearsing? Or would that improve the quality to a dangerous level?
SD: We’re trying to rehearse just enough to make it more of a mess. It’s like people who have enough knowledge to fuck everything up. That’s where we’re trying to get to. I think three or four practices will be just enough to be dangerous and really fuck the whole thing up.
WW: Are you working on some of those unreleased songs, to add a degree of difficulty?
SD: We will definitely play three or four of them. One of them we wrote, and it was one of our favorite things we’ve ever done, and of course we didn’t record it five or six years ago, and so we’re trying to remember it. We know we were funny for a second, so we’re trying to recapture it. That’ll be like a bad joke, that particular song.
WW: Is it sort of like that Tenacious D song – this isn’t the world’s greatest song, it’s a tribute?
SD: Oh yeah. It’s called “Scott Hamilton’s Shaved Cock.”
WW: That’s the name of the song?
SD: Alias “Grandpa’s Hot Dog.”
WW: That sounds fun for the whole family.
SD: It was inspired by the whole family. It was a barbecue, and there was a grandpa there, and he was making hot dogs. It was really weird. But no, we have these great songs, and they’ll obviously be half of what they were six years ago. That’s another reason to come and see us fumble our way through those half-ideas. But my biggest thing about coming to see the show, there’s a lot higher risk that one of us could have a heart attack onstage.
WW: How much weight have you guys gained?
SD: Collectively about 364 pounds. Is that correct?
JD: Last time I checked.
WW: Could that number go up before show time?
SD: Easily, with the holidays. That never helps. We were all cleaned up. We didn’t drink or do anything bad for six years, and then just the thought of a show has put us right back into twenty-something, eager-to-play-the-Lion’s Lair, let’s-get-high-and-drunk-and-fuck-up-all-the-time mode. That’s another incredible element of our show.
WW: So how has having kids influenced the music? Has it made you more childlike?
SD: Having kids has only reiterated that we’re free thinkers and we appreciate unconventionality. We want our kids to be intelligent in the world and not to be so judgmental and not to be closed to ideas. So being the Hate Fuck Trio is no different than it was before. We were never embarrassed about anything. We want our kids to say the word “fuck.” We’re Italian, so when we say “fuck,” it’s just another word. I have two kids, and one’s too little to know, although I’m sure somewhere deep down, she instinctively knows the word “fuck.” But my son is three and a half, and I’ve said “fuck” in front of him more times than I’ve said the words “the” and “a.” That’s just the way we talk. In Italy, you can say the word “fuck” and it’s not derogatory. We’re not angry people, we’re not into pissing people off, we’re not the idiot behind the wheel who has all the courage because he’s behind the wheel of his car. We say “fuck” like it’s just another word, and we’re no less intelligent and no less creative for that. In fact, I’d say that we’re more so than a lot of people. We’re just not confined to convention. We want our kids to be creative people, and we don’t want them to be closed to ideas. “Fuck” is only a word, and we’re looking to alienate the people who are conventional thinkers. There’s a very small world of people out there who are actually trying to be free thinkers to some extent. More people than ever are infatuated about playing their role in cultural convention, and that’s not us – and we don’t want our kids to be people like that. So we’re going to fucking teach them every possible way of saying “fuck” all day long, and I hope my kid goes to preschool next year, and I hope the teacher tells him he should sit in that chair, because that’s where good little kids sit down, and I hope he tells her… whatever.
WW: And when you get called into a conference and the teacher says, “Junior told me to fuck off,” will you say, “Well, he should have”?
SD: I’ll tell her that the letter “f” and the letter “u” and the letter “c” and the letter “k” are all letters she’s been teaching my child, and if she can’t handle the way he’s putting them together, maybe she shouldn’t fucking be a teacher.
WW: You’re going to be busy with those calls over the years.
SD: We will. We’re connected with the kids, we’ve been coaching little kids. The whole time we were in the Hate Fuck Trio, we were always associated with working with kids. One of our best gigs, I don’t know if you know this, but we played a nine year old’s birthday party during the heyday of the Hate Fuck Trio. We called ourselves the Hate Firetruck Trio, and all of their parents came. It was amazing. There were twenty little nine-year-olds down in our rehearsal space, and then thirty of their parents behind them, and we were jumping around, smashing our guitars, playing all our songs. And in that one instance, we didn’t say “fuck” all the time. Instead of playing “My Dad’s a Fuckin’ Alcoholic,” we played, “My Dad’s a Really Neat Guy.” And that really went over with the parents. There were a couple of them banging their heads a little in the back. They loved it, and they people who don’t… We don’t do anything that South Park doesn’t do forty-eight times a day on Comedy Central. It’s just that we don’t have somebody bleeping us out.
WW: Will this reunion gig inspire more Hate Fuck Trio-ing in the future?
SD: We’re definitely talking about putting out a record in the spring. We’ve got a bunch of great ideas. It’s fun. You can’t put an age on it, you can’t put a time on it. It’s a new thing. If we write a new album, it’s going to have a different sound. We’re not going to be cornered into a bunch of different boxes politically within the music scene. A scene is probably one of the ugliest places any creative artists can live, because they’re trying to live up to what the expectations of their audience is instead of just being the artists that they are. And we feel it’s a fun place for us to go back to the place we started and just say, “Hey, let’s be free with the music and have fun and do something that’s funny, where we have something to say.” And I feel like, with the political situation the way it is – as you can imagine, we’re not really fans of politics, but now, with what’s going on, now’s a good time for the Hate Fuck Trio again, I think. I see us going way back to our roots, back in the early ‘80s. A lot of people think punk, but I’m thinking Yes, Foreigner IV, and some early Howard Jones kind of stuff. Pet Shop Boys. All the greats that were the predecessors to our band, and doing a kind of gay heavy metal thing.
WW: That sounds very promising. Now, Jon, tell me about the musical project you’ve got going: Chewbacca Bukkake.
JD: Well, basically I’ve been studying. Way back in the Hate Fuck Trio, we had this experience where we spent a lot of money, and we finally got our own studio, and I’ve been practicing engineering the whole time, developing my craft. I’m an artist, I’m a musician, and that’s what I do. And Chewbacca Bukkake, I have a cool video game idea for it. It’s kind of like Grand Theft Auto. Basically Chewbaccas go around the city and they bukkake cars and cats and grandmas. And the more they bukkake, the more respect they get from other Chewbaccans. The idea is, you gather as many Chewbaccans to go around the city as possible, and your skills as Chewbacca increases as you bukkake. So it’s a video game idea, too. I’m not just thinking of the music. But the music of Chewbacca Bukkake, to me, it’s a really innovative way of looking at music. Some really good stuff.
SD: At the end of the Hate Fuck Trio, we were really experimenting a lot, and Jonny just let it evolve musically, and it’s really become a cool thing.
WW: Is the name of the project a clever strategy to get George Lucas to sue you and get huge amounts of publicity as a result?
JD: Well, I’m sure I’ll get the cease-and-desist letter before long. But it’d just be nice to talk to Lucas. It’s not like that happens every day.
WW: And then after that, you’ll have to come up with some clever spelling, so you can claim it’s not really a reference to Star Wars. It’s about chewing baca.
JD: Maybe Chewkakke Buhuey.
WW: Well, I think we’ve covered a lot of important ground here, and I feel like I’ve learned a lot. Is there anything I might not have asked you guys that you feel is important to add?
JD: Well, we’re really excited to play with Dinosaur Jr. We’re huge fans of Dinosaur Jr., and our friend Bart really hooked us up. We’re happy. We’re artists: We like to think that artists like Kubrick and Scorsese are artists until they do, and I feel like we’re cut from the same cloth in terms of wanting to be creative people. We’re excited for this opportunity, and we’re going to try to have a blast.
SD: So invite everybody out to see one of the worst, most embarrassing Hate Fuck Trio shows of all time. Come drink some beers with us. Have some weed in the alley. Whatever gets you going.