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Good Stuff: Catching Up With the B-52's

The B-52's are still dancing their mess around

July 2, 1998 12:00 AM ET

It's hard to believe the B-52's have been forcing their unique brand of kinky, energetic dance music down our throats for more than twenty years now. As pioneers of so-called alternative dance music, the quintessential party band burst out of the New York post-punk underground via Athens, Ga., in 1979 and haven't stopped shaking their cosmic things ever since. They've survived the death of original guitarist Ricky Wilson to AIDS in 1985, the flight (and eventual return) of co-vocalist Cindy Wilson in the early Nineties and the evolution of dance music from idiosyncratic party songs to countless genres and styles. Over the years, their beehive hairdos, quirky fashion habits and otherworldly obsessions have become as instantly recognizable as their pop-perfect hits.

The highlights of those twenty years have been documented on the recently released Time Capsule: Songs For A Future Generation, which will surely become a theme party necessity for all generations to come. The band is also co-headlining their first tour in five years, a whammy of a bill with Eighties cohorts the Pretenders. Rolling Stone Network caught up with vocalist Kate Pierson and guitarist Keith Strickland as they criss-crossed Virginia in their love shack on wheels -- the tour bus.So how do you guys pass the time on the bus?

Keith: We decorate the bus and watch movies. It's a very exciting time. We brought all of the Pee Wee's Playhouse collection, all the Ab Fabs -- whatever anyone gives us because you can't rent videos on the road.

How's the tour been going?

Keith: Very good. We are about two weeks into it now so we're beginning to get our tour legs out.

Any complaints so far?

Keith: No, complaining is out this year!

Excuse me. What's in?

Keith: Garden burgers, Kool-Aid -- Those are my fashion tips for this conversation!

What's the most difficult thing to find on your tour rider?

Keith: It's difficult getting good beer. Can you hear me?

Just barely ... are you going through a tunnel?

Keith: No, we're not. We're just out here in the middle of Virginia! But we never have good beer for some reason. I'm not really a big beer drinker, but it's just funny that whenever I reach for a beer, it's Bud Light or something! That's my pet peeve for the tour, but again, I'm not complaining because complaining is out this year.

Right. What's the most appalling thing Fred Schneider has ever done to you guys?

Kate: Chase me around the stage with a giant lobster in front of thousands of people! That occurs almost every night.

Keith: There's not one specific thing. I can't answer that one.

The new single, "Debbie," is sort of an ode to Debbie Harry. What's the silliest thing you've ever done while listening to Blondie?

Kate: I've listened to it having my hair teased up to the roof!

And dancing around naked?

Kate: Of course! Haven't you danced around naked to everything?

I used to dance around semi-naked to Alan O'Day's "Undercover Angel +"

Kate: Only semi-naked huh? Well, when I was six or seven, I used to strip off all my clothes and dance the Hula.

Can't beat that. So where are you guys living these days?

Keith: Woodstock, New York. My nearest neighbors are the crows and the turkeys in the front yard. And every summer the bears come down and walk around the house looking for cake and champagne! There was an article in the Woodstock Times about this bear that broke into someone's house just before they were having a birthday party. The bear broke the bottles of champagne and started eating the cake.

Kate: I'm about five country miles from Keith.

Growing up, what was the one Christmas present you always wanted but never got?

Keith: A Beatle wig! My parents never would give me one. I was around seven or so. But my best friend had one, so I would wear it when I was over at his house.

Kate: Clothes that I liked!

Are you guys writing any songs for a new record?

Keith: No, but we had a few extra tracks from the sessions for "Debbie" and "Hallucinating Pluto" that are sitting around. But no, we're not. No plans to either!

So what does the future hold then?

Keith: I'm not sure. We've been doing this for a long time, and I think we are all interested in trying some other ventures at this point. We'll see though. Having said that, I don't think we ever thought when we started this that twenty years later we would still be doing the B-52's.What do you want to do?

Keith: Well, Kate and I have been writing some stuff together and just trying something else to get out of the framework of the B-52's.

What kind of direction are the songs y'all are writing together going?

Keith: They are really a lot simpler. I've been writing some songs that would just work with a keyboard, guitar and vocal and that's it. Some of it is a little bit country sounding, but it's really all over the place. I'm pretty much just letting the songs find their own atmosphere.

Sounds like Beck.

Keith: Actually, I like his stuff a lot. He's one of the more inspiring artists of the last five years.

Kate: The songs are a little more melodic and laid-back but not folkie. We're just experimenting now.

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