By Team Backbeat
By Amber Taufen
By Jon Solomon
By Tom Murphy
By Jesse Livingston
By Alejandra Loera
By Stephanie March
By Tom Murphy
"We are headless hobos," he says. "We're idiots and we're busted -- busted in the gutter."
"I'm still living at home," Jon chimes in. "I'm living at home in the basement even though I've been married for three years."
The impending appearance of Good Songs to Fuck To may not change that, but at least the CD will be widely available. In the U.S. it's being put out by HairBall8, a division of San Diego's Cargo Records that's home to Barnyard Ballers, the Scotch Greens and Furious IV (Cargo is also re-releasing the Trio's Shaky Records material); in Japan and most of Europe, it'll come courtesy of England's Boss Tuneage; and in Poland, it's set to wear the logo of Lasagna Records, chosen in deference to the DeStefanos' Italian ancestry. Says Sam, "We're really hoping they'll put out a seven-inch of 'Grandpa D.'"
Ah, yes -- Grandpa D., better known among true-crime aficionados as "Mad Sam" DeStefano, a contemporary of notorious capo Sam "Momo" Giancana who Sam and Jon say was their paternal grandfather. "I'm named for him," Sam declares about the man FBI-agent-turned-author Bill Roemer once described as "the worst torture-murderer in Chicago's history," with more than two dozen cadavers to his credit.
Considering the DeStefanos' well-earned reputation as pranksters, doubters are hereby given permission to do their thing -- but let it be known that the sincerity with which they talk about "Mad Sam," not to mention the voluminous detail they offer, is awfully convincing. They clearly enjoy being thought to have inside-the-Mafia knowledge that still might be dangerous to divulge: When Jon mentions Giancana, who reportedly shared a lover, Judith Exner, with President John F. Kennedy while JFK was in office, and then says, "You know, about the Kennedy assassination...," Sam yells, "Stop!" But at the same time, they're careful not to imply that they are living such lives themselves -- "I don't want anyone to think we're connected," Jon allows -- and argue repeatedly that people with a vested interest in keeping the mob legends alive have exaggerated the sins of the man the Chicago Tribuneonce called "a notorious extortionist, juice-loan operator and psychopath." In Jon's mind, "A lot of that is just lore."
And what lore it is. Author Roemer, in his book Man Against the Mob, writes about a back-up in a Chicago sewer that was caused by the frozen carcass of a guy "Mad Sam" had finished off using his signature weapon, an ice pick, while the May edition of Playboy recalls the demise of William "Action" Jackson, an overweight bag man whom "Mad Sam" left hanging from a meat hook for two days, during which time he was "beaten, shot, carved with a razor and burned with a blowtorch; a fed bug caught one of his killers gleefully reminiscing about the ordeal, regretting only that he died too soon."
"Mad Sam" met a violent end, too; in 1973, when Jon and Sam were three years old, he was shotgunned to death, allegedly at the hands of Tony Spilotro, the renowned goon who served as the model for the Joe Pesci character in the Martin Scorsese film Casino. (The DeStefano boys say that their grandmother received a courtesy call from the mob in 1986 informing her that Spilotro himself had been offed; his body wasn't found until several months later.) But the lyrics to "Grandpa D. Was a Gangster" don't linger on such moments; instead, they declare that "Mad Sam" had "enough juice to be a rock star" before reassuring their own loved ones, "Don't worry/I'm not gonna kill you/Let's enjoy the evening."
"If Jonny and I want to scare ourselves, all we've got to do is imagine, 'This is in our blood,'" Sam says. "So the song is really about breaking free from our history at the same time that we're celebrating the good side of him. And there was one."
Elaborates Jon, "Our grandpa had so much pride in Sam and I, because we represented a bright future free from all that crap. He saw us as hope for the future." After a pause for comic effect, he adds, "And now, of course, we're in the Hate Fuck Trio."
That's not so bad. The new CD, featuring guest appearances by pudgy porn celebrity Ron Jeremy ("Coming Soon," March 23) and All bassist Karl Alvarez, plus bassist John "Norwood" Fisher and saxophonist Angelo Moore of Fishbone, which may tour with the Trio later this year, is jammed with catchy, good-timey tunes. Highlights include the acoustic "Tomato Tomahto," the hooky slam-fest "Hit by a Bus," the battle-of-the-sexes farce "My Girl Do Not Think I Funny" and "My Dog, Auto," about Sam's excitable German shepherd, who's "bitten more people in the balls in this town than I can count," his owner admits with delight. But even though humor is sprinkled throughout the LP, Sam doesn't see the songs as mere jokes.
"We're experimenting, but we're doing it in a different way than we used to," he says. "We're actually trying to sing, which is a big change; when we first started, the best we could come up with was trying to sound like Jamie Lee Curtis in Halloween. But now we can even sort of do harmonies, and we're getting more of an understanding of how really simple music can still be really great."
So does that mean you're maturing?
"Maybe," Sam says. "But hopefully not too much..."
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