Elevating Disreputable Musical Forms: The Influences of Family Plot

It all comes back to Mötley Crüe.

Yeah, I like to talk about my influences in a way that makes me look as cool as possible, like someone with the most impeccable music taste. I can discuss all the cool, “underground” bands that have influenced me. I can get into my punk-rock bona fides, and I often do, unprovoked. I can speak at length about how much blues, R&B, funk and soul have impacted and directed my musical output and inspiration. I am well versed in numerous popular and unpopular musical forms and artists. And when I talk about music, I mostly refer to only the most reputable artists and forms. Again, in an attempt to make me look as cool as possible.

And then there’s Mötley Crüe. There might not be a more disreputable popular rock band. Their values suck. They aren’t really that great at songwriting. Vince Neil is a terrible singer and possibly an even worse human being. They promote misogyny and homophobia in their songs. They glamorize destructive behaviors. They embody a distasteful aesthetic.

And they are one of my biggest influences!

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“It’s not Shout WITH the Devil…”

My album Family Plot was influenced and inspired by some really cool and hip artists. Artists like the Minutemen, Melvins, Pixies, Bad Brains and PJ Harvey. Artists that, when I mention them, I can feel the cool-cred points add up almost physically. Those influences are absolutely noticeable, I think, when you listen to the record.

But goddamn, it’s also pretty obvious that I was listening to Mötley Crüe’s 1983 album Shout at the Devil on repeat.

This is particularly true when you spend time with track 14, “Celebrate The Sensitive.” The guitar riff is a slowed-down ripoff of something Crüe six-stringer Mick Mars might come up with. I spent serious time attempting to approximate Mars’s guitar tone, as well. An ugly, snarling mess of a sound that I achieved by leaving my wah pedal on and fixed at an ugly angle.

I have to be honest – Shout at the Devil was also a huge influence on my first album, 2021’s microorganism. The spoken-word track as track one that goes into an energetic opening song; that whole idea was stolen from SATD. Not gonna lie!

A Big List of Unhipness

So I guess I should mention some of the other disreputable influences and inspirations that guided me during the making of Family Plot. Put it all out there. Repent! Show just how uncool and unhip I can be.

Here’s an incomplete list:

  • Judas Priest
  • Def Leppard
  • Poison
  • Cinderella
  • Quiet Riot
  • 311
  • Creed
  • Danzig
  • Huey Lewis & The News
  • Red Hot Chili Peppers
  • Rush
  • Spin Doctors

Huh. Yeah, it’s a lot of artists that were immediately made uncool once Nirvana and the grunge movement (also hugely influential on me!) happened in the early ‘90s. Interesting. But it’s also artists (like Spin Doctors and Creed) that were seen as uncool and unhip in a post-Nirvana world in which they defiantly operated against the dominant values of alternative/indie culture (as dictated by the players in and around the grunge/punk/post-punk/hardcore scenes from which bands like Nirvana sprung).

And yeah, there’s a lot going on with these uncool and unhip artists that have relegated them to the outskirts of critical favor, at best. There’s the music, sure. But I feel like it’s mostly the values and aesthetics that make these artists disreputable. In many cases, for good reason. Those are some shitty, shitty values and aesthetics!

There’s Something There

But for me, there’s a big beautiful baby splashing around in that dirty, ugly bathwater and I don’t want to throw them out. So I’ve taken inspiration from the good bits. The sonics. The danger. The attitude. The over-the-topness of it all. And there’s so much there!

Big riffs and cool-sounding drums. Song forms that are not needlessly complicated and-or precious/pretentious. Distorted guitars that sound HUGE and play beautifully within the stereo field. It’s the ‘80s hair metal thing, sure. But it’s also an approach to making music that acknowledges a larger audience.

All those disreputable artists I mentioned up there had gigantic, monster hits. On terrestrial radio. Massive! They wanted to be popular and reach large audiences. Today we see them as fringey weirdos with dated-tunes and styles. But in their era, these artists were superstars and monarchs of the entertainment industry. And that went against the grain of hipster indie culture. Somehow it STILL goes against the grain of hipster indie culture.

But fuck it. I love that music. A lot of the time, anyway. And I want to be big, too. I want to have hits! There, I said it! I want people to know my name and know my art. I don’t want to be relegated to the hipster, too-cool-for-school indie pile. Fuck that. To me, it’s better to sell out and be heard by the masses than it is to retain whatever hipster cred and serve an audience of dozens.

What Is Hip?

I don’t care about Pitchfork or Stereogum or Brooklyn Vegan or whatever. Sure, yeah, of course I would love to be featured and written about by those publications. But not if I have to hide what I’m really about, the stuff I love and-or what my aims are with my music.

And so I guess I don’t mind if I become a “disreputable” artist. Bring it on. I know I’m cool. I’ve got the cred. I’ve got the bona fides. But I’ll be your Huey Lewis if I have to. I’ll be your fucking Scott Stapp. I’ll be your goddamned Vince Neil.

And what passes for cool and hip these days is actually pretty dumb, anyway. Fuck that. It’s all soft and safe and gentle and sanded down and is delivered increasingly from the corporate top down anyway. Fuck that shit.

And so it all comes back to Mötley Crüe. I dig that music a lot. I find a lot of inspiration in it. And I’m going to tell people about it, even though they might deduct several cool points from my total.

What are some of your most disreputable influences and inspirations?


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