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
Keith: It’s difficult getting good beer. Can
you hear me?
Just barely … are you going through a
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
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
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
Can’t beat that. So where are you guys living these
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
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
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
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
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.