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An Interview with America's Favorite Junk Rock Band, Sloppy Seconds

Shirtless, sweaty, and unleashed. ...Ladies?

Whether you view KISS as an elderly band of money-hungry perverts, or consider them messiahs of 70s arena cock rock, we all can willfully agree that the impact of KISS on rock and roll is an undisputable fact of music history. To deny this is basically refuting the existence of 80s glam bands like Poison and Motley Crue, which is fine by me, and speed metal assholes like Anthrax and Metallica. But most importantly, without the cartoonish novelty factor KISS trademarked, packaged, and capitalized to holy fucking hell, Indianapolis “Junk Rockers” Sloppy Seconds would have ceased to exist, and their 1989 debut album Destroyed, a parody of the 1976 KISS album Destroyer, would’ve denied us from punk rock’s most iconic moments of absurdity.


So, thanks to KISS, singer B.A. and his childhood friends Bo’Ba Jam (bass), Steve Sloppy (drums) and Ace Hardware (guitar), formed Sloppy Seconds in 1985 and entwined their love for KISS, comic books, porn, horror films, and late night television programs on four studio albums and six EPS over 25 junk rockin’ years. Recently, I had the chance to talk with Bo’Ba Jam over the phone about his thoughts on Sloppy Seconds from the 80s to now, Alternative Testicles, playing with a Ramone, and their current tour of the East Coast starting today.

Noisey: Do you enjoy playing 18+ shows?
Bo’Ba Jam: Our crowd has pretty much grown up with us, but we’re also excited to meet new listeners: people who are 16, people who are 18, people who are 21, people who are 15. As far as music is concerned, when I went to see my first concert, it was AC/DC with Bon Scott opening for KISS and there was no age limit. So it really depends if there’s a demographic in a part of the country that we love. All ages? Even better. But 18+ is fine. As long as the venue is cool.

You just mentioned that your first concert was KISS. What impact has KISS had on Sloppy Seconds?
The impact that KISS had on me was that not only did I really enjoy their music, but they were simply comic book characters in my head that were onstage playing guitars. So when you can cross a comic book character with music, to me, they were larger than life. They accomplished everything in the junk rock culture that myself, my brother Steve Sloppy and then B.A.—whom we met when we were in third grade and were all KISS fans—loved. Nothing was better than KISS. We’d sit around and draw illustrations of KISS playing guitars. It had a huge impact on us. There was nothing like it at the time, at least for me. Also with Alice Cooper and their live shows. He was totally amazing.


The greatest homage to KISS ever

There’s actually a documentary coming out called Super Duper Alice Cooper. Have you heard about it?
I have not.

From what I’ve seen from the trailer, it looks pretty amazing. But Alice Cooper was also significant as well?
Yeah, I loved the original Alice Cooper lineup. They also kind of crossed over to the Stooges in their appearance. When I saw Alice Cooper back in the day, it was like a musical performance. His album, From the Inside, when I saw that tour, there was a theme there—“The Crazy Man.” And they would use a lot of projection imageries. It was interesting. When Alice came to our town, the local radio station had a contest where the first caller got to be a cast member with Alice Cooper on the production of his show in Indianapolis. So it was cool to know that it could have been me. You just wanted to be there and be a part of the show. With KISS’s live shows and Alice Cooper’s live shows, the audience was part of the show, which we try to encompass with Sloppy Seconds. We want the people who come to hear our music to be part of the show. They’re there with us. We wouldn’t be there if it wasn’t for them.

Do ever miss that time for music, in the 70s, when you had a lot of hard rock bands like KISS and Alice Cooper?
I like to hear new music, but with KISS, the Ramones, Alice Cooper, Cheap Trick, we listened to these bands on the radio and shared their records with friends – there was more of a loyalty there. There are a lot of loyal Sloppy fans, which we love, and we love to know that there’s new listeners that will come see Sloppy live. We try to bring the nostalgia of performing live from when we saw shows, to someone coming to our shows that have never seen us play and then buying a vinyl record from us. There’s kind of a 70s nostalgia that comes with seeing a band, going back home and listening to the record on the record player. With the technology today, I think it’s more difficult for bands—despite it being easier to share their music on the internet—to be intimate with their fans, which comes from performing shows live and touring.


Do you think it’s detrimental for a band to rely on the internet as opposed to going out, like Sloppy does every year, and touring?
I think bands are hungry. But there was nothing like getting our first EP [1987’s The First Seven Inches] pressed on our own label. At the time we created a label called Alternative Testicles, which was a parody of [record label] Alternative Tentacles, and we sold the EPs out of our house. That was just the best as far as putting out our own music. And we would go through Maximum Rocknroll and check out all the new bands and those bands were really cool because they were new to us and we didn’t have a thousand other bands to choose from in a single click. When we saw a band and we read the byline and thought they were cool, we’d order the seven-inch. We were really excited to get it and it would take a while to get it delivered. So I guess you could say with music today, a lot of people don’t have patience. They want it now. We were so looking forward to getting that record in the mail. We would sell our records through Maximum Rocknroll. It was really cool to get a response from the people who purchased our records. To this day, we still have all of our snail mail fan mail. It’s still pretty cool to go through it.

What’s the Sloppy Seconds back story? I know you guys grew up together, but I’ve also heard it has something to do with a party.
Sloppy Seconds was formed when my brother and I met B.A. It was, and still is, about friendship, the love of music, the love of the Junk Rock influence. When we were kids, we were really into watching late night television, horror movies, KISS, the Ramones. And with that, we just developed a friendship and a loyalty. And one day at a party, we decided to grab some instruments. I had met Dr. Roadkill—our original guitar player—and was jamming with him for a while and I brought him over to meet Steve and B.A. and we were just jamming at a party. That’s how everyone met Roadkill. He was on the first two albums but departed around ’93, and with that came Ace Hardwhere, our current guitar player. Ace has been in the band longer than Roadkill. The thing about Ace is that even though he didn’t grow up with us, he grew up listening to the same style of music, which was our connection. I also think that when four people perform together, it should be an honest performance. That’s the beauty of performing with my brother and B.A., who’s practically my brother. We know what we’re doing.


Do you still feel a connection with your older material?
I still feel a connection to some of our older songs. Without naming the songs, there are some that don’t mean much now, and there are songs from back then that are making a better connection with me today. I kind of get it. It’s like rearranging your furniture: you like it one day, you’ll hate it the next, but you’ll eventually come back to rearranging it because the way you moved it originally worked, and you understand it.

I’m curious as to when you guys start playing instruments. Was it around the time that you met at the party?

When we were younger growing up, Steve and I used to bang on guitars and bass guitars and dressers and wooden boxes. We were always making music with something. We were never professionally trained—laugh out loud! But one of the funniest things that we always liked doing was dragging spoons up and down the neck of a guitar while we were plucking it and writing songs when we were kids. Then we progressed to figuring out songs on the guitar as we grew older. Then, when all four of us met, we kind of just flunked into Sloppy Seconds because that’s the only band I’ve ever been in and the only band I will ever be in.

What was the music scene like in Indianapolis at the time Sloppy started playing?
You had your basic 80s music scene that every city in the United States had. There was a punk scene, cool record shops. Primarily, there were really cool shops, like old restaurants, that we’d play in. I remember seeing the Replacements perform at this taco restaurant. They just moved the chairs out of the way and the band performed on this 12-inch stage. Also, we had the Arlington Theater, which was an old movie theater that would have bands perform like Gwar, Minor Threat, bands like that. The scene is only good as the support of the people.


I recently saw a video on YouTube with Roadkill from like, 1989, where he’s talking about Sloppy Seconds as a novelty act. Do you agree with that?
I mean, think about it: how many bands back then had a 600-pound guitar player playing punk rock? Sure, you had Poison Idea—you had that attraction. But I think primarily at the time, at least locally, we were playing a style of music that we only knew how to play. A lot of people at the time weren’t playing—and I don’t want to call it pop punk—but Ramones-influenced jams. We were writing songs that were very simple while at the same time some bands were trying to reinvent music. We just played what we loved to play and when we put out records we put out records for ourselves hoping that other people would like it.

I think it was either you or B.A., or both of you, that mentioned that you’d always wanted to play with the Ramones. Do you ever regret that not happening?
Well, when we were bangin’ around the first time at a party doing lousy covers of 50s songs and punk songs, we said, "Man, it would be hilarious to open up for the Ramones," jokingly. And we never thought this would happen. We’d say, "Oh, we’ll open for the Ramones and then we’ll break up because we don’t want to anything else other than that." Ironically, years ago, when Marky Ramone was playing with the Intruders, we already had a tour booked and our booking aganet contacted us and said he wanted to add Marky Ramone and the Intruders on our tour. Long story short, we were on a seven week tour with Marky Ramone and the Intruders. To be sitting in a booth with Sloppy Seconds, Marky Ramone, and the two guys from the Intruders—[bassist] Johnny Pizano and [guitarist] Ben Trokan—it was just really cool to look over and see Marky Ramone sitting there eating Denny’s. It wasn’t the Ramones but those seven weeks with Marky, those were some great times. And we did get to meet Johnny Ramone and CJ Ramone at a highway kiosk in New York. I just walked over to Johnny and CJ and said, "Oh, Johnny, CJ, cool!" It was a surreal moment for me.

You’ve mentioned Junk Rock throughout the interview as applied to Sloppy Seconds’ music. How would you define Junk Rock?
Junk Rock is primarily subcultures and pop cultures of generations of music and movies that affect us. It’s the junk stuff—the subterranean pop culture. It’s more than just music. It encompasses art, literature, cartoons and monster movies: JUNK. ROCK. That’s what we were writing about, junk culture: Fat, junk, and stupid. That’s probably the novelty that people might see. We had written songs that were true to us and at the time some people were listening to that subject matter, but others regarded it as derivative, boring, funny music; a funny band. But we knew what we were doing and it didn’t matter to us what other people thought because the fans and the listeners who enjoyed our music, that’s what mattered. So the people who understand Junk Rock, which touched on more than just music, that’s the appeal.

And Sloppy junk rockers can see you guys on your East Coast tour starting this weekend. What can fans expect?
There’s gonna be songs from all the records that we’re going to play. Probably a few unexpected cover tunes. But it’s probably going to be a night where B.A. is once again shirtless, sweaty, and unleashed. So ladies, beware. And don’t bring your cats. Usually when B.A. is shirtless, he scares cats, so leave them at home.

Stephanie Dubick is on Twitter, applying KISS makeup - @SteffLeppard