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Music: Butthole Surfers

Butthole Surfers is a Noise Rock band formed in San Antonio, Texas in 1981, well known for its disturbing lyrics, heavy synthesizing, and macabre live shows. They also use a lot of Black Comedy in their lyrics.

The Surfers began in 1980, when lead man Gibby Haynes met Paul Leary while going to college in Texas, where they became friends due to their shared overall weirdness and interest in strange music. They published a magazine, Strange V.D., with a lot of pictures of strange diseases and illnesses, long before they actually started playing in 1981. They were small names until their album Electriclarryland was released, containing their first big hit, "Pepper", which topped the Billboard Modern Rock charts in 1996. Afterwards, they became featured on many movie soundtracks, such as William Shakespeare's Romeo + Juliet and John Carpenter's Escape from L.A..

Albums:
  • Psychic... Powerless... Another Man's Sac (1984)
  • Rembrandt Pussyhorse (1986)
  • Locust Abortion Technician (1987)
  • Hairway to Steven (1988)
  • piouhgd (1991) —Pronounced Pee-Owed
  • Independent Worm Saloon (1993)
  • Electriclarryland (1996)
  • Weird Revolution (2001)

Band Members:
  • Gibby Haynes - lead vocals, guitar, saxophone 1981–present
  • Paul Leary - guitar, vocals 1981–present
  • King Coffey - drums 1983–present
  • Jeff Pinkus - bass 1986–1994, 2008–present
  • Teresa Nervosa - drums, 1983-1989, 2008-present


Butthole Surfers Provide Examples Of:

    Songs 

  • Black Comedy: A lot. Especially "Pepper" and "Jimi".
  • Careful With That Axe: "Jimi", to a disturbing extreme.
  • Country Matters: Subverted with their song "Kuntz" — The clip is edited to make it sound like the other word, but it's really just the Thai word for "itch".
  • Cover Version: Of a more interesting version, "Dum Dum" is basically an original composition over the drum beat from Black Sabbath's "Children of the Grave". They'd revisit the idea of sampling portions of Sabbath songs later in their career when they slightly altered the main riff to "Sweet Leaf" for the opening track of Locust Abortion Technician, appropriately titled "Sweat Loaf".
    • "Kuntz" is a remix of a song by Thai artist Phloen Phromdaen the band allegedly found on a mix tape at a takeout place they frequented.
    • Donovan's "Hurdy Gurdy Man" from pioughd.
    • They've also covered The Lovin' Spoonful's "Summer In The City" for the benefit album M.O.M., Vol. 3: Music for Our Mother Ocean, The 13th Floor Elevators' "Earthquake" for a Roky Erickson tribute album, The Guess Who's "American Woman", and the Underdog theme for Saturday Morning Cartoons' Greatest Hits.
  • Harsh Vocals: Possibly parodied by "Mark Says Alright", which uses the growls of a pitbull as "vocals".
  • I Call It Vera: Non-weapon example. Lead singer Gibby Haynes named his system of distortion pedals/effects that he's used in studio/live since the Locust Abortion Technician era his "Gibbytronix" system.
  • In The Style Of: When they re-recorded their early song "Something" for pioughd, they did it in the style of The Jesus and Mary Chain as a joke. This version is in fact deliberately suspiciously similar to JAMC's "Never Understand".
  • Intentionally Awkward Title: Just try to say Butthole Surfers in a public conversation. Or, the names of most of their songs. College radio DJs, wishing to avoid the wrath of the Moral Guardians, usually referred to them as the B.H. Surfers.
  • Long Name: They come up with some... interesting titles in this vein. A good example: "I Saw An X-Ray Of A Girl Passing Gas".
  • Non-Appearing Title: "Pepper", "The Annoying Song", "Sweat Loaf".
  • Recycled Lyrics: Recycled scatting, actually - Much of Gibby Haynes' manic scatting on Ministry's "Jesus Built My Hot Rod" was taken from a Butthole Surfers song called "Watlo". "Watlo" was being played live before "Jesus Built My Hot Rod" was released, but a studio version didn't come out until afterward (it appears on Independent Worm Saloon as "Some Dispute Over T-Shirt Sales").
  • Scatting: Used a lot, one notable example being The O-Men.
  • Sensory Abuse: Arguably, in the case of their music. The earlier into the band's discography you go, the more likely their music will fall under this category, especially to those who aren't used to noise rock.
    • Their live shows during the 1980's on the other hand, are undoubtedly examples of this trope. For starters, the band would be playing at absurdly loud volumes, flashing strobe lights at the audience at speeds that would induce nausea and seizures in some members of the audience, and displaying a combination of 16mm films Gibby had fraudulently obtainednote  of things like male to female sex change operations, autopsy footage, driver's ed gore, medical examinations of people with sexually transmitted diseases, and even "innocent" things like episodes of shows like Charlie's Angels - played upside down in reverse, of course. The band would then compliment this with a series of props/stunts (flaming cymbals, dual-drummers, papier-mache dummies being ripped to shreds, copious amounts of fog, a naked dancer...), and improvised various other stunts on top of that to create a complete hellscape of a live show.
  • The Something Song: "The Annoying Song", "The Wooden Song"
    • "Fast" is also known as "The Fart Song" among fans.
  • Step Up to the Microphone: Paul Leary sings "The Shah Sleeps in Lee Harvey's Grave," "Something," and "Bar-B-Q Pope", all from the self-titled debut EP. This actually means he sings exactly as many songs as Gibby does on that particular release note , but after that he'd never get a lead vocal on a Butthole Surfers song again.
  • Studio Chatter: "Birds" begins with Gibby Haynes saying "alright, what are we doin' here?" over the intro, then laughing and clearing his throat, before starting the song more properly with a scream.
    • "Lady Sniff" has a brief sampled musical interlude (if it could be called that) where a barely audible "Got it?" can be heard before it cuts back to the song itself.
  • Surprisingly Gentle Song: "The Wooden Song", a Folk Rock-influenced ballad featuring acoustic guitar, is probably the straightest example they have.
  • Title Only Chorus: "Kuntz" again, if you consider that to be a chorus.
  • Toilet Humor: Starting with the band name.
  • Word Salad Lyrics: "The Annoying Song", "Lady Sniff", "I Saw an X-Ray Of A Girl Passing Gas"...hell, a decent chunk of their discography have Word Salad Lyrics.
    • "Moving To Florida", though it seems to just be written from the point of view of a Talkative Loon:
      Well I been movin' down to Florida.
      I'm gonna potty train the Chairman Mao
      I'm gonna make the governor write my doodoo a letter, child
      And I'm gonna grind me up a White Castle slider out of India's sacred cow
  • Word Salad Title: Almost every album, and many of the songs as well.
  • Vomit Indiscretion Shot: An audio version can be found in "Clean It Up" from the Independent Worm Saloon album.

    Albums 

  • All Lower Case Letters: The title of piouhgd is always rendered this way.
  • Ear Ache: The cover for Electriclarryland. Apparently it was potentially squicky enough that the "clean" version of the album substitutes a closeup of a groundhog (which is one of the pictures inside the booklet of the explicit version).
  • Extra Eyes/Eyes Do Not Belong There: The cover for Hairway To Steven.
  • New Sound Album: The Weird Revolution had a more electronic sound and added more Rap Rock elements (as did the more experimental Missing Episode album After The Astronaut, which had different versions of many of the same songs). The new direction was hinted at by some of their late-90's soundtrack work - "Whatever (I Had A Dream)" from William Shakespeare's Romeo + Juliet was a moody trip-hop song, while "Tiny Rubber Band" from the live action Spawn film featured contributions from Moby. A less direct precursor was The Jackofficers, an Acid House-influenced electronic side project of Gibby Haynes and Jeff Pinkus, who put out their only album (Digital Dump) in 1990.
  • No Pronunciation Guide: piouhgd again. It's supposed to be pronounced "Pee-Owed", as in the euphemism for "pissed off", but the album doesn't let you know that.
  • No Title: None of the songs on Hairway To Steven had titles, and were instead marked by crudely-drawn sketches. However, the self-released Live Album Double Live featured almost every song from Hairway To Steven, and the tracklisting to that album revealed the "real" song titles - or at least the ones the band used on written setlists. The one Hairway To Steven track that didn't appear on the live album is pretty much universally referred to as "Julio Iglesias" due to its lyrics.
  • Non-Ironic Clown: The cover for Locust Abortion Technician.
  • Pun-Based Title: Hairway to Steven is a play on the title of the Led Zeppelin classic "Stairway To Heaven".
    • Electriclarryland is a Parody of Jimi Hendrix's Electric Ladyland.
    • Sweat Loaf is a parody of Sweet Leaf by Black Sabbath. Bonus points for (sort of) using the same riff.

    Music Videos 


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alternative title(s): Butthole Surfers
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