Under the suspicious gaze of Mr. Buzzcut, the day’s designated dispenser of dining-room discipline, I unpacked my tape recorder and notebook. The stainless-steel caldrons of generically boiled food, the long line of kids with haircuts that seemed to belong on somebody else’s head, the deathly pallor of human skin under fluorescent lighting, an ancient fear in the pit of my stomach — all bespoke two words: high school. In this case, Highland High School, an educational institution indistinguishable from thousands of others across the United States, except that this one happens to be educating America’s two most famous teen-agers, Beavis and Butt-head.
Sitting across from me at one of those long linoleum picnic tables on wheels, Butt-head attacked a couple of hot dogs with an appetite that indicated lunch was the first meal of his day. Emitting his familiar chuckle, Beavis pulled from under his tray a couple of extra milks he had stolen from the cooler in front of the cashier. A lot had changed in their lives since I’d interviewed them last summer (RS 663). In October, MTV had moved the earlier of their two daily half-hour episodes from 7 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. — and Beavis had been miraculously cured of pyromania. (Despite the time change, they still draw three times the network’s average audience.) They’d published a best-selling book, This Book Sucks (written with the help of series writers Sam Johnson and Chris Marcil). Their album, The Beavis and Butt-head Experience, has gone platinum, boosted by a Butt-head and Cher video duet on “I Got You Babe.” Series creator Mike Judge recently began work on a screenplay for a full-length Beavis and Butt-head movie. And the pair been denounced by liberals and conservatives alike on talk shows, op-ed pages and the floor of Congress. If anything in all that changed them by a subatomic particle, I could not detect it. They appeared utterly unimpressed with themselves.
And yet, here they were: the most powerful critics in rock & roll, able to put lesser-known bands like White Zombie and Babes in Toyland on the map with a single word (cool) and destroy established acts with another (sucks). But they had never explained the logic behind their aesthetic judgments. Until now.
Like it or not, you guys have become authorities on current music. Some people have even called you the Siskel and Ebert of rock & roll.
Butt-head: That’s stupid! Those guys like all those wussy movies. They never say anything cool about movies that kick ass, like Killdozer.
Beavis: Yeah, but they liked Backdraft. That rules.
Anyway, we’re going to profile three acts you guys like — Danzig, Joan Jett and the Beastie Boys — and you ‘re going to explain why they ‘re cool.
So why are they cool?
Butt-head: Didn’t you, like, ask us this stuff last summer?
All you said was “We like bands that are cool” and “We don’t like bands that suck.” That’s not enough.
Butt-head: Why not? Huh-huh.
Because Kip Winger and Warrant haven’t had careers since you dissed them on your show. They have a right to know why.
Beavis: It’s not our fault they suck. Heh-heh, heh.
Butt-head: I think those guys are trying to kill us.
Really? You think you’re being followed by music-industry hit men? Is there any evidence you can cite?
Butt-head: Uh… well, like, one day I woke up, and there was, like, the head of a dead squirrel next to me.
Beavis: Oh, yeah, heh-heh! I put that there, dumb ass! Heh-heh, mm, heh-heh. That was cool.
Butt-head: Well, what about that time that somebody mailed me a Ziploc bag with a turd in it?
Beavis: That was pretty cool. I still have it in my basement.
Butt-head: I think it was from Warrant. It’s their next album.
OK, let’s get back to the point. What I’m trying to establish here is, why are Warrant shit, and why are the Beastie Boys cool?
Butt-head: Just look at ’em.
Beavis: Yeah, heh-heh, heh. Just look at ’em, butthole.
So you just look at a band and decide whether or not you like them? You don’t even have to hear their music?
Butt-head: Yeah, huh-huh. Sometimes we don’t even have to look at ’em. You can just tell they suck from their names.
Beavis: Yeah, heh-heh, mm. Like Blind Melon. Heh-heh.
So do you like the Beastie Boys’ music as well as the way they look?
Could you elaborate?
Butt-head: Uh… OK. [He farts.]
Butt-head and Beavis: Huh-huh, huh-huh, huh-huh.
Beavis: I just elaborated, too, but you couldn’t hear it. Heh-heh, mm, heh.
Now that we’ve cleared the air, which Beastie songs do you like?
Butt-head: The one where they fight for their right to party.
Beavis: Yeah! They fight for their right to party with chicks with big thingies!
Joan Jett doesn’t have big thingies, but you still like her. Why?
Butt-head: Uh… because she’d be a really good mother?
Beavis: Yeah. Heh-heh. She’d, like, take her kids on tour, and her kids would hang out backstage and party with Ozzy and stuff. And then, she’d, like, teach them about doing it, and she’d, like, show her thingies. That would be cool.
You guys weren’t even born when she started out. How much do you actually know about her?
Butt-head: Uh… she used to be in a band with Lita Ford called, like, the Sluts or something. But Lita, like, went and did a song with Ozzy. And, like, Joan got all jealous and stuff. Because she, like, wanted Ozzy. She, like, you know, wanted to do it.
You guys have all this influence on record sales, and you don’t even know that Joan Jett’s first band was the Runaways. The Sluts were from England, and they were the Slits.
Butt-head: Well, she looks like a slut. That’s pretty cool.
Beavis: She’s from England?
So that’s why Joan is cool, because she looks like a slut?
Butt-head: No… because she acts like one.
What’s your favorite Joan Jett song?
Butt-head: We like that song where she takes off her clothes, and she’s almost naked.
Beavis: Yeah, it give you a special feeling deep inside.
Why? Is it the guitar tone? The drums? Her voice?
Butt-head: It’s like, if you turn it up really loud and stand next to the speaker? It vibrates your ‘nads.
Do you listen to a lot of her music?
Butt-head: Uh… if she’s, like, taking her clothes off.
Let’s talk about somebody a little closer to your generation. What’s the appeal of Danzig?
Butt-head: Beavis likes his butt. Huh-huh.
Beavis: Shut up, Butt-head! I do not! I saw him from behind that one time, and I thought he was a chick.
Butt-head: Pretty big chick, Beavis!
Beavis: Shut up, Butt-head! I’ll kick your ass!
Hey, guys, no fighting. Let’s just get through the interview.
Beavis: We heard, like, one time Danzig got in this fight with that dude from Def Leppard. That drummer dude with one arm. And, like, Danzig kicked his ass.
Butt-head: It’d be an easy fight, ’cause, like, the dude has only one arm. And, like, Danzig? He’s got, uh, two.
I thought it was the guitar player.
Butt-head: Whoa. Like, how does he play guitar with one arm?
Beavis: He must, like, put the guitar in his butt and…
What’s your favorite Danzig song?
Butt-head: The one where he drools on that chick. Huh-huh.
Does originality play any part in determining what you think is cool? I think Glenn Danzig sounds exactly like Jim Morrison.
Butt-head: How do you know that Jim Morrison doesn’t sound like Danzig?
Beavis: Yeah, dumb ass!
Because Morrison came first. Danzig just copied him.
Butt-head: Did Morrison have a big-skull belt buckle?
No, but every heavy-metal band in the world has skulls.
Beavis: Did he drool on chicks?
Butt-head: Did he have a bald spot?
Butt-head: See, huh-huh. Danzig is, like, really original and stuff.
Danzig’s audience is almost all male, and Glenn Danzig often goes shirtless at his concerts. Why do you think that is?
Butt-head: ‘Cause even if there’s only one chick there, that way he’ll get her. And if there aren’t any chicks, he can always get Beavis. Huh-huh, huh.
Let’s talk about your album. How did you get Primus to write a song for it? Everyone else gave you a cut that wasn’t good enough for their last album.
Butt-head: Shut up, ass wipe! Our album rules.
Beavis: Primus is cool. “My name is mud, m-m-m-m-mud!”
And how come Jackyl’s on the record?
Butt-head: Uh… they gave us some chain saws.
But doesn’t their music suck?
Beavis: Chain saws kick ass! Rrrrrrrrrr — aaoorrr!
Butt-head: Settle down, Beavis!
Did you guys pick all the bands that appeared on the album, or did someone else pick them for you?
Butt-head: Uh, no.
Beavis: Yeah, heh-heh, mm, heh-heh.
Which is it? Did you pick them or not?
Butt-head: Uh, sort of. They gave us this list of bands and told us to pick 11 of ’em, but then it was all, like, complicated and stuff — so we didn’t do it.
Beavis: Yeah, heh-heh, it sucked! We just didn’t do it! We thought about doing it, but then we, like, thought about something else.
Butt-head: Yeah, then, like, some dude got all pissed off and did it for us. Sometimes if you, like, just don’t do something, someone else does it for you. It’s cool. Huh-huh, huh-huh, huh.
I heard a strong Barry White influence in the song “Come to Butt-head.” How did you even know who he is?
Butt-head: Uh, there’s this dude? And whenever he visits Beavis’ mom, they go into her room and turn up Barry White really loud. Then we have to leave. Huh-huh, huh.
Beavis: Yeah, heh-heh, mm, heh, my mom’s a slut!
Butt-head: Yeah, I bet I’m gonna score now ’cause I did that song, huh-huh.
Beavis: Yeah, heh-heh, me, too!
I thought you already scored with Cher. [Cher refused to comment on her relationship with Butt-head. Ed.]
Beavis: Butt-head touched her leg. Heh-heh.
Butt-head: Yeah, huh-huh, huh, and you know what her leg’s attached to!
Beavis and Butt-head: Huh-huh, huh-huh, huh-huh, huh-huh, huh-huh, huh-huh, huh-huh, huh-huh.
At the end of your video, it looked like you were dumping Beavis for Cher. What actually happened there?
Butt-head: I told Beavis to get his sorry ass out of there so I could score.
Well, a lot of your fans were worried that it was the end of your relationship.
Butt-head: We’re not in a relationship, butthole!
Beavis: Yeah, fart knocker!!
Well, for all the talking you guys do about girls, you seem to spend 99 percent of your time with each other.
Beavis: I’ll show you 99 ways to die, ass wipe! Yeah, heh-heh. Nnnnnninety-nine ways to diiiiiiiiiiie!
You know, there are a lot of rumors going around about you two.
Beavis: Well, I heard a rumor that I’m gonna kick you in the ‘nads!
Butt-head: Settle down, Beavis! Huh-huh.
It looks like lunch period is almost over. Any final thoughts, guys? A word to your fans?
Beavis: I got a word for you. Bungholio! Heh-heh, mm, heh heh.
Butt-head: Huh-huh. Yeah. Uh, here’s, like, some advice or something. Give us some money. Huh-huh.