By Noah Hubbell
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Dr. Bug and I, we were basically playing in dumpsters and garbage cans in alleys around the Denver area," says Log frontman Harry Lug Nutz, the essence of haute couture in a Mexican-wrestler mask and a pink polyester muumuu. "We would occasionally go down to Tulsa, Oklahoma, for aromatherapy conventions, which is where we actually met Lenny the Uni-Dread. He was giving a very good seminar: 'The Wonders of Lavender.'"
Lug Nutz motions across the table at the Uni-Dread, one of Log's two drummers, a Bill Clinton look-alike garbed in overalls and a "Shit Happens" headband. "I've been dousing myself with oregano oil lately," the Uni-Dread offers. "It works well."
When interviewing the members of Log, the line between reality and unreality blurs almost beyond comprehension. In a conversation that covers the band's much-scrutinized history, its long-delayed album (currently in post-production), the price of fame and the horrors of acute necrotizing ulcerizing gingivitis, it's clear that very little of what the band says is technically true. Log might just be a ragtag bunch of Denver-area musicians and artists -- and its bio might be just pure fiction. But the game is too much fun not to play along.
"Our long-term goal is to have our own lunch boxes and action figures," Nutz adds, before equating the band with a sexually transmitted disease: "Log is the clap of the new millennium."
"My whole inspiration is to smoke crack with Gary Coleman," the Uni-Dread says, interrupting. "Then you know you've made it."
In all likelihood, Log is the strangest band in Denver. The group's lineup is rounded out by the usually stoic percussionist/"utility man" Jimmy the Grinder and guitarist Sigmund Dermatitis, a supposed Belgian paleontologist who actually teaches children how to play Ozzy tunes in his free time. Log's stage act involves American cheese, a legendary two-by-four, outlandish costumes, power tools and small people.
The music is similarly bizarre, but it's also pretty damned good. Log is unashamed to borrow and mutate rhythms and riffs from just about anything and anyone -- world music, stadium rock, Link Wray, Fleetwood Mac. The entire enterprise is lined with comedic, often abstract (and sometimes high-pitched) lyrics. Log's music has an improvisational feel and an exploratory bent; the resulting sound is by turns psychedelic, progressive, jazzy, and totally wacky.
"Alt-country," "lesbian folk rock," "corporate rock" and "a drunken punk band playing at a Grease Monkey" are among the labels Lug Nutz has used to describe Log's music. "For a long time, we really didn't want to have a tag, but we finally realized we needed one in order to fit in the record-business model," he says. "We are Norwegian garage-a-billy dancehall punk, with some hints of Dr. Seuss and Tiny Tim. I didn't come up with it; Dan Rather was talking about it."
Log began in 1997 as an improvisational duo made up of Bug and Lug Nutz. Soon thereafter, Lenny the Uni-Dread (also known as Herb Green) joined the fray. The three played their first show as a trio at Cricket on the Hill.
"The last fifteen minutes or so of that show was Herb playing a garbage can like a steel drum, Dr. Bug playing drums, and me playing a toolbox with a hammer, if my memory serves correct, and rambling about Walt Disney," recalls Lug Nutz, who adds that the current lineup coalesced during a warehouse party two years ago. "I think the circus was in town."
Today, Log's shows suggest that the circus never lefttown. Bug (in a plastic medieval breastplate) and Lenny (donning a rubber Clinton or alien mask) provide the interlocking rhythms, which are alternately intricate and intense. Lug Nutz dishes up verbal madness and frenetically catchy bass lines. The wizardly, robed Dermatitis plugs the sonic gaps with layers of spacey, snaking guitar while channeling the voice boxes of dinosaurs and exotic animals. Jimmy (whose stage persona vacillates between industrial robot and ballerina executioner) ties the whole thing together with assorted musical contributions, power tools and pyrotechnics.
On stage, Jimmy usually crouches on the floor between the other members of the band, selecting from various pieces of found metal and banging on them. He barks through a bullhorn for a few tunes, then employs a trumpet, finally closing the show with an impressive display of sparks and sound generated by the application of a power grinder to the aforementioned random pieces of metal (hence his nickname).
"I am mostly an artist," says Jimmy, who in real life is the proprietor of Denver's Soup Gallery. "A lot of it comes from listening to music over the course of making art. And the more abstract and the more fucked up it is, the better people like it."
Jimmy "is sort of like the toy box," Lug Nutz says. "We'll find stuff in the street and just put it in front of him, and it's amazing: He'll work it into a song, and it'll have a key to it. I had never heard anyone play the palm sander in key. He plays street signs, chains, downspouts..."
"A fucking engine!" interjects Bug.
"The nature of swinging solid metal objects, it doesn't last very long," Jimmy says. "The nature of what I'm doing destroys what I create."