Along with Eyehategod, North Carolina's Buzzov*en helped to define sludge metal in the early '90s. Marrying feedback to creepy movie samples, the band, led by Kirk Fisher, carved a swath of mayhem and mischief across the Eastern seaboard with their live show. Buzzov*en left bloody noses, broken mic stands, and irate club owners in their wake, in what has been described as Sherman's March to the Sea during the Civil War. After the release of 1994's Sore on Roadrunner Records, Fisher began a destructive cycle of drug addiction that plagued him and the band for a decade. Sporadic EPs and albums were released on labels that eventually folded, and now Fisher is in the process of cleaning up and reorganizing his life. Much like Dax Riggs after the demise of Acid Bath, Fisher is pursuing a solo acoustic blues act, K-Lloyd. Jello Biafra and his Alternative Tentacles label released Welcome to Violence, a compilation of the band's early out-of-print records. Now Relapse has followed suit with Violence from the Vault, formerly lost recordings from the Sore period. Fisher was eager to tell me about the old days, the clashes with the past, hope for the future, and taking things one day at a time.
Why was Violence from the Vault never released until now?
Just never really tried to do anything with it and had honestly lost track of my master of it. I regained a decent copy of it and thought, "Why not see about getting it out?"
Did Roadrunner not offer to release it back then? How about Allied?
It was done as more of a demo for a second release that never came to be on Roadrunner. I never really pursued releasing it because I was more into pushing the ...At a Loss line-up with Dixie [Collins, bass] and Ramzi [drums].
Are you satisfied that it was recorded onto CD un-remastered from the original cassette? Would you have rather had it remastered instead?
I like the rawness of it. I think it gives some quality that goes with the whole idea that it was kinda dug up. I mean, they are good songs; I think one of 'em we redid for Gospel...II, and that's what I wanted people to hear.
I read a review that brought up the debate of remastering or not. Not remastering lets you hear the rawness and power, but it ends up sounding like a bad mp3 recording that drops out in parts (I'm paraphrasing here.) What do you think?
I don't know, man. I'm one for a good, thick-sounding recording, too, but you know, I don't see what everyone is talking about. I think it sounds fine, considering ― and what you hear took some cleaning up by Billy Anderson, so my opinion is if it's too raw, sorry. I think it's meant to be more for fans, and maybe some people will dig it who have never heard Buzzov*en as well. Most everything is outta print except for Welcome to Violence on Alternative Tentacles, but that may be changing very soon!
Arik Roper said once in an interview that you were his inspiration for his hillbilly characters that he's now famous for. He used to do flyers and T-shirts for the band, and you introduced them to the guys in Sleep. What was it like working with Arik back then?
Arik is a great guy. I met him at a party in Richmond, and we used to crash at his apartment in NY. He lived like right in the middle of a major dope spot back in the day, and he said when we were coming to town he would tell his roommates to hide their weed, etc. Arik has quite a career, and his music stuff started with the astronaut shirt he did for us. My only complaint is he's always too busy to get to do anything anymore these days. I'm sure, though, if we do a new Buzzov*en record and give him enough notice, he would do it. I'm happy for him 'cause he's an awesome artist.
What was the scene (or lack thereof) like in Charlotte when the band first started? I remember the days in the early '90s of going to Tremont, the Milestone, Jeremiah's, Heretics, and other clubs around Charlotte. I think more metal bands came back then than now!
Yeah, there wasn't much of a scene back then. I used to do shows at the Milestone Club, and that's how I met a lot of the Bay Area bands that I'm still friends with to this day. We had a house over on Oakland Avenue in the Elizabeth neighbourhood, and we really kinda stayed there a lot 'cause if we didn't ― well, if I didn't ― I would tend to find or get into trouble. We weren't exactly welcomed with open arms at all clubs around Charlotte. The scene was what it was. Antiseen was from here, too, but they were the same way: they kinda kept to their own unless they were playing a show. Me and Brian Hill drove up to a club in Hickory called Cadillacs and saw Alice in Chains once, and another time it was Pantera opening for Prong. Charlotte and the Carolinas will always love their '80s hair metal bands like Dokken, Ratt, Poison, etc.
Why did you move to Richmond? Was the scene better there?
We decided to go to Richmond, from what I can remember, mainly because we were just tired of Charlotte. We were banned from every club but the Milestone. Richmond just seemed a little more crazy and geared around house parties, and there were a lot more people who were in bands that we thought were cool. It just seemed like a good place, and we would still be in a good position to go North or South for shows at anytime. We were going and playing up in NY a lot back then.
How did you meet the guys in Gwar? Was it cool touring with them and all their costumes?
I had met Dave Brockie way back when he got arrested here in Charlotte for obscenity law or whatever. I was the third person they locked up outside of him and the club owner. I was charged with inciting a riot. Imagine that! I was telling everyone they were arresting Gwar 'cause I knew what Dave looked like outta costume. Touring with them was cool but also a challenge, 'cause we had to get to the clubs by like 5 p.m. each day, but it was fun to watch each night...whenever I opened my eyes, anyway.
What were your initial influences for the sludge doom with movie samples? I don't think there was anything like that at the time, other than Eyehategod ― though you both appeared around the same time.
The movie samples first came about because I didn't want to talk to the crowd between songs. I've always kinda hated that with a lot of bands. Of course now with a lot of the stuff I'm into, I dig 'em talking, like Johnny Cash or Kris Kristofferson, but I'm talking about the band whose singer has to explain what every fuckin' song is about and blah, blah, blah. I just liked to make like a barrage of loud volume, from sample intro, to songs, then end. That's the only way I can put it. But us and Eyehategod never knew who each other were; I think they were probably around a little earlier than us. Mike [Williams, EHG vocalist] came and saw us play at a record store in NOLA, and then we went and watched them play over on NOLA's West Bank. We were shroomin' hard, and Phil [Anselmo, Pantera vocalist] was walkin' around, poundin' on the stage and there was like no one there. We were obviously trippin' and not local to the West Bank, and the club owner was lookin' for Mike Williams after just two songs 'cause he busted the microphone and shit. I just remember it bein' really fuckin' weird, but I was also like these guys are fuckin' sick heavy. Me and Jimmy are really good friends to this day. He's done a lot to help me with my K-Lloyd solo stuff, and all those guys are just good dudes who are a bit too much like me. I'm glad they're back out there doing their fuckin' "Look at me, I'm 48 but I can still Sab out" tour, ha ha. Nah, I'm jokin' ― it's great they're back active. These kids today need to see what a real fuckin' heavy-hard band is. Jimmy has been really sayin' we should do some Buzzov*en shows as well, and it's in the works for later in the year.
Would you consider early Buzzov*en to be derived from the pre-hardcore scene, like early Neurosis or maybe Black Flag?
Yeah, we were definitely derived from the early hardcore scene with the whole crossover thing as well. Early COC was like one of my faves, and Black Flag was one of the first shows I ever saw when I was like 15 in Florida. There was a little of the early Seattle Nirvana/Mudhoney as well, 'cause I was diggin' that stuff before it got big, like the Bleach LP and Mudhoney's In 'n Out of Grace. Shit, I remember Nirvana playin' for like 15 people at the Milestone on the Bleach tour. They were awesome. But I also dug my Dio, Sabbath, and Judas Priest. I would say we leaned towards the hardcore side but not on purpose, it just kinda happened that way.
I read that you often left the movie sample tape running through the entire show. Was this intentional? Why did you do this?
Yeah, it ran all the time because we used thrift store-bought tape decks for the samples when we should have had a sampler. But we blew all the money on drugs, so we made do and sometimes it was funny 'cause ya never knew what might come up.
Was it hard finding a label back then? How did you find Allied way out in San Francisco, or did they find you? That was before the internet, so you had to rely on tape-trading and sending real mail with stamps.
Yep, no internet ― these fuckers don't know how easy they have it. You also had to actually call people to book shows and send packages to get shows if you weren't known. I spent all the money I made workin' at a car wash on beer, guitar strings, postage stamps, and long distance bills. Trust me, our roommate that had the phone in his name would threaten me on several occasions, 'cause it wasn't unusual to come home from a tour with a $800-$1,000 phone bill. Allied came about 'cause I was going to try and put out our first seven-inch and I wanted John Yates to design the cover after seeing Neurosis' Empty. It was a limited seven-inch he did for them that I wish I still had, 'cause I'd sell it for $500 on eBay today.
When To a Frown came out, did you do more touring for it? Was it at this point when your shows became notorious, or before that?
I don't know when the shows became notorious, but I doubt they were all notorious. I would say that we were definitely a lot more like, just on fire and full of energy back then. I mean, those shows were my therapy. I still believe if it weren't for the music and performing side of Buzzov*en, I would have been fighting in a bar every night at the very least. Oh shit, that's what I was doin' anyway! Fuck, I don't know; what does notorious mean? Isn't that some rapper from Brooklyn?
Reportedly, when Roadrunner was courting you, the money started flowing, and that cash led to the drugs and addiction. What was your craziest story from that time period?
Yes, when the money started flowing (and I'm only going to speak for myself here), I got more and more out of control with my using. My craziest story is not entertaining; it's sad, but I will bite since I just know y'all can't stand to not have something ― and personally, I've never really gave a fuck what the majority thought. When we got our initial advance from our Roadrunner deal, I said we should go cop like 3-4 bundles (which we did) and go back to their offices on Broadway and overdose on the steps. We would go down as the first band to sign a record deal and go directly to the end and just die on the steps of the label that just signed us. Instead we taped like over 1,000 bags to the top of our van and headed for Richmond. A habit was much more interesting and fun.
What was one story that made you think, "I gotta quit this or I'm gonna kill myself"?
It was just a miserable way to live, and I don't think I realized how easily your tolerance can build up. You just can't afford to keep a habit like that up unless you're Nikki Sixx, and then if you are maintaining a habit of the capacity I got too quickly, it will kill you. When the money ran out after a tour and I was faced with other ways of acquiring the money is when I said, "This ain't gonna work," but shit, the damage was already done. It's 15 years later and I'm still dealing with it.
Why did Roadrunner decide that you couldn't tour Europe with Neurosis? That seems to be a tipping point that created so much hatred between the band and the label.
The only thing I remember was the little German guy who owned the label didn't want us to go to Europe for some reason, and yeah, I was pissed. They told us they were pulling our support the day of our record release show at CBGBs, and I fuckin' just went ballistic the whole day. Got thrown out of our own party and shit, I didn't give a fuck back then. I loved the drama, I think. Who knows.
Why did you end up releasing so many EPs between 1994's Sore and 1998's ...At a Loss? Was it because of the line-up changes?
No, just hadn't found a label that was willing to put out a full-length, so I did what I had always done. Do what you can to tour and hope for the best, and most importantly try and have some fun. It's so silly when these bands wait for the right deal or a better deal and end up just never doing anything.
I was incredibly stoked when ...At a Loss came out, and I reviewed it very enthusiastically. How did you feel about that album, versus your earlier work? It is still my favourite Buzzov*en album.
Yeah, ...At a Loss is my favourite of all the Buzzov*en records. I really dug the line-up with Dixie and Ramzi. It was more involved than the original. With Ash and Brian it was more I told them what to play. Brian just followed the guitar part and Ashley, well, he's a great drummer but usually he copied from others on ideas. Plus, I think the sound on ...At a Loss is real warm and thick!
What happened to the band after ...At a Loss? I heard that Revelation: Sick Again wasn't released because the guy at Off the Records would sue you or something. Will Revelation: Sick Again ever be released properly? Will Buzzov*en ever reunite and tour again? If so, what's your price?
As for Revelation I plan to talk with Hydra Head in the near future about its official release, especially if things come together to do some shows with that line-up. As for Off the Records, fuck that dude! That's all I say there, not gonna waste my breath. We'll see about the tour, and I'd love to do a new album. It's not about price, but I'm not goin' out on the road to not make any money like the old days. We'll see.
I know you're still writing and performing as an acoustic blues act, K-Lloyd. Has this helped you to kick your addiction?
It's helped me see that I can still play and not have to be either raging drunk, tearing up shit or so numb that I felt nothing. I'm still struggling, and that's just being honest. Am I still on heroin? No, but I have to take medicine. I hope one day that I can be totally clean but I'm not there yet. I'm working at it, though. Especially when I play the Solow stuff alone makes me really feel an array of emotions. Buzzov*en was more just all anger and hate fuelled. There is nothing more humbling and scary than stepping onto a stage with an acoustic and nothing else. No samples, no nothing. It's scary as hell.
Do you only have the one album, Solow, out now? Who are the Disciples band, and how is that music different from your solo stuff?
Yeah, the only official release is Solow and I don't think it's getting distributed. As for the Disciples, it's Jimmy from Down/EHG on drums, Earl Jr. on slide guitar; he was in Clearlight. Then Brian Patton from EHG/Soilent Green played some on the recording and plays bass sometimes for shows, and Andy, formerly of Clearlight as well, played bass the last couple of times I was down there. There's an album's worth of tunes that I think are incredible, and we just need to mix them. We need to find a label 'cause it's got to get distributed better than Solow did. My passion is for what we were doing with the Disciples and me, and what me and Jimmy get done working together on more outlaw country type stuff.
From your MySpace: Will you lose your mind and go on to the bitter ends or will you come back better than before?
As for the MySpace quote it's kind of a daily thing for me. I struggle, man. People don't realize that addiction is a chronic disease of the mind, body, and spirit. The drugs are just the surface of the problem. Change is hard. I'm being very forthcoming here because I know there is someone out there reading this that has no clue they have a disease. I don't think society gets it, even though they say they do. I'm trying to deal with it myself and get better, but it's not fucking easy. So a lot of days I feel like I'm gonna just lose it eventually, but some days I feel like I'm gonna be okay and I'm gonna be able to get back to who I wanna be. Guess we'll have to wait and see.
One more question: what does the name Buzzov*en mean, anyway? I read two explanations: (1) it was a melding of "buzzed often"; (2) it means "buzz oven," like a cooker.
It's two words I put together that I thought sounded like a cool name for a band. No deep meaning.