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 left town. 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."
Not every venue is enthused by the prospect of a maelstrom of sparks flying every which way. While Log played some of its formative gigs at Cricket on the Hill, today, says Lug Nutz, "they don't like us there. They don't let us use the grinder."
Regardless, the machine has yet to start fires in any of the clubs in which Log has played, though bandmembers have suffered the occasional minor burn. "It's nothing like Ace Frehley," Lug Nutz says.
"The cheese causes more damage than the sparks," says Bug, referring to the individually wrapped American slices that have been a Log stage staple for most of the band's existence. Before a gig in 1997, Lug Nutz bought a package of processed cheese at Kelly's Superette on 13th Avenue and threw it at a Cricket crowd.
"I want it to be like a hockey game," Bug explains excitedly. "You have to be careful. You have to watch what you're doing. If you're not watching the puck, you're going to turn around -- boom! It could be sparks, it could be cheese, it could be a variety of things!"
"We're bringing out the performance-art aspect of it, with sound and visuals," he adds. "That's what we really want to do."
Besides the airborne cheese and the incendiary power tools, Log's stage shows also involve the playing of an amplified two-by-four with one string and one pickup; a pitch bender that transforms the vocals, transforming the band into the "Midget Death Squad"; and Lug Nutz reading children's books during "story time." Other live Log presentations have featured a square-dance competition (with such prizes as a brand-new toilet brush, green Jell-O and Lug Nutz's ex-girlfriend's deodorant) and the playing of 647 different rock-and-roll endings, including Flock of Seagulls circa '86 (#295), Foghat circa '74 (#14), and Cheap Trick Live at Budokan (#412.5). The band also breaks for inter-song commercial jingles that push such fictional products and services as drive-through haircuts and Spam Pops ("The world stops and pants drop for the candy treat filled with meat").
Log's future plans are even more gleefully demented. "Once we find the right venue, a Slip 'N Slide and a petting zoo will be incorporated," says Lug Nutz. "I'm not joking."
Just how many gimmicks can one band have?
"I don't think they're gimmicks," answers Lug Nutz. "What's wrong with entertaining people? I like the word 'novelty.' People think of that as a negative term, but if you look up the word 'novelty' in the dictionary, it's 'something used to amuse people.'
"I don't necessarily consider myself a musician; I consider myself a poor entertainer," he continues. "These guys are definitely musicians -- they know how to read music, and I've seen them play with charts and graphs before. Deep down, I'm just a punk-rocker. If it's more than three notes, I get confused. I bring the beer, the cheese and the insanity."
"But he writes the damn songs," Jimmy counters.
Musically talented or not, Lug Nutz certainly has a knack for absurdity. Take "Big Ol' Neck," a Log original on the darker side of weird: "Chia Pets and Percocets/The damn place smells like a Port-O-Let/Bacon on a turkey neck, uh-huh!/Moonshine!" Or this verse from the spastic jazz of "Jesus Lives in Jersey": "Jesus lives in Jersey and he has a Web site/Or so I was told on the PATH train last night/He will sell you a T-shirt and promise salvation/Shares an office in Bayonne with his good buddy Satan." They're words laced with a love for brand names, toilet humor and hillbilly culture, spun together "Jabberwocky" style.
Log's mishmash of oddball humor, DIY philosophy and overall proficiency appeals to fans of many diverse musical persuasions. The band recently performed a successful show at Quixote's and was one of the only acts to please both the Deadhead contingent that currently frequents the Broadway space and those shabby punks who knew it previously as 7 South. (As a prototypical Quixote's customer observed in the men's room at that gig, "These guys are out there.") Because Log melds punk attitude and outer-orbit humor with jam-band-style psychedelic odysseys and complex rhythms -- letting its collective freak flag fly a mile high in the process -- fans of all kinds turn up at its shows. "We've had four-year-olds in the crowd that have really loved us," says the Grinder. "It's really quite amazing."
"We get different reactions from different people," Lug Nutz says. "If they're slightly older, we sound like Zappa and Beefheart. If they're younger, we sound like Primus and Ween."
The band doesn't name any of these artists as an overriding musical influence. Instead, Log is content to let the comparisons land where they may. "If we were worried about people understanding, we would have stopped a long time ago," says Lenny.
"We go out of our way not to pander," adds Bug.
Lug Nutz relates a true childhood story as a stimulus for his art. "I grew up across the street from a clown," he recalls. "I once got my head stuck in the railing of his porch, and he came out in clown garb and spread the railing apart to help me get out.
"So now you understand," he says, a philosophical glint in his eye. "Perception is reality."
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