Fire Retarded's Bobby Hussy on his record label, the band's new album and tour


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Musician Bobby Hussy is best known for his work as guitarist and singer for Madison, Wisconsin, garage-rock duo the Hussy. He's also the man behind Kind Turkey Records, which has released material from the Pharmacy and TV Ghost. Currently, however, he's playing guitar and touring with Madison's Fire Retarded, which has its debut full-length, Scroggz Manor, due out on Big Neck Records in April.

Given that Fire Retarded is playing the Union on Thursday, January 16, with Thuggees and Dated, we figured this was the perfect time to catch up with Hussy about Kind Turkey, the Hussy, and how he came to be playing with Fire Retarded. We spoke with him by phone from Nashville.

The Pitch: How did you come to be part of Fire Retarded?

Hussy: They were just a good band in town, and I saw 'em in October of 2012. It was their first show, and they were in a couple of other bands around town - Giant People and New Year's Gang - and I knew who they were. I'd heard this demo that they made, that was like a super lo-fi demo, but I really liked it. I was like, "This is pretty good. These kids might be on to something."

So, I went and saw them, and they played this weird show outside of Madison, in Kenosha, Wisconsin. It was awesome, and they were really good, and for a couple of months after, I was like, "You guys are really good. I'd really like to play guitar in this band. I'll record your records." That's how it happened. I played the first show on New Year's Eve of last year, and then I played on New Year's Eve this year, so it's been a year, playing with them.

It just kind of worked out. The band sounds more full. They needed a second guitarist. I'm not the lead guitar player. We're both kind of lead guitar players, but it's more Tyler running the solos and stuff, but it's just kind of nice to have a [second] guitar filling out the sound when he's soloing and stuff. We do a couple dueling guitar solos and that sort of thing - back and forth solos and that sort of thing - or I'll do little riffs and stuff doing the verse. Stuff he wouldn't be able to do and sing. It just adds a dimension to the band.

They went on tour without me and toured as a three-piece. That's what I've always said with the band. I've always told them, like, "Whenever you guys want to walk away from me being in your band, that's cool. It's going to be no hard feelings if you don't want me in your band anymore. I've got my own band going on," you know? This is just a fun thing to do right now, which is cool.

Is this Fire Retarded's first big tour cross-country?

This band's gone to New York once before, and we had done a little Indiana tour, but this is the first bigger, longer tour that we're doing.

It's kind of interesting, because you guys are doing this tour before your album comes out.

Yeah, it was actually just booked for this time. This time was booked before we even knew we were doing the record, kinda - because the one kid graduated school, and the other got off of college, having the month off for school, so we were like, "We can go right now."

So, we [decided] to tour. Then right before we started booking the tour, Big Neck was like, "We'd be interested in doing a record," so we jumped in the studio and recorded it. Then it's going to come out, and we'll tour on it. We have a 7-inch out, so it's good to hype up the 7-inch before the LP. It's just good practice.

Were all of the songs on Scroggz Manor in rotation already, or did you have to write some stuff as you went into the studio?

We had an album already planned out - it's actually another kid's band more than it is my band. Tyler Fassnacht - he writes all the songs, and he had a lot of songs. We were going to make another 7-inch before we made an LP, but just the way the cards landed, the label wanted an LP. I was just thinking, it would be good to make two 7-inches before doing an LP, but this label was just like, "We'll do an LP," so why not? 

So we just recorded the songs that we really, really liked that we had been playing. We started practicing to tour, and we thought that we would record right after tour, but the label deal came along, so we just quick hopped into the studio and did the record really fast, knowing that that's a label deal. They wanted to get the record out by April. We did almost all the music on the record live, tracked together. That's the way we wanted to do the record from the beginning. We did the record fast - which isn't a bad thing. It's actually usually a good thing.

You recorded it live-mic'd, all in one room?

Yep. Like, I put everything in one room with a Tascam 388 tape machine, and yeah, we tracked the tracks there like that, all together. Almost everything was first take, 'cause I didn't want to waste too much tape. A couple of songs we had to do over a couple of times, but everything's on fresh tape. It went pretty smoothly.

You do a lot of recording on your own, right?

Yeah, I do all of the Hussy recording, a lot of recording for other bands. I do recording for my friends' band. I do those part-time, though. Like, if there is a band in town that needs me to record them, and they're going to pay me, I'll do it. Usually, though, I'm taking bands that I like and doing them, you know?

Have you recorded a lot of the stuff that you put out on Kind Turkey?

I recorded a couple of things - like, a lot of the tape stuff, and one of the 7-inches. I recorded the Lonesome Savages 7-inches. The other stuff, I've had other people record, or people brought me recordings that they'd already did. I would like to record more bands on my label, but I'm also trying to get away from doing too many local bands. I want to spread my money around to the national scene, more than just some small subset of the scene. I mean, I want to support Wisconsin bands, and I am always going to, but I don't always want to be just a Wisconsin label.

Like, some labels will do that, and that's cool. That's their thing. But it's not not my thing.

Have you found that, as the Hussy has kind of taken off, you don't have as much time to devote to Kind Turkey?

That's 100 percent true. That's why you've seen things dwindle over there. I make all of the decisions. It's my thing. I just don't have the time like I used to, to be doing a lot of records or a lot of tapes. I'm focusing on finishing Hussy records because I gotta record them, I gotta mix them, and then we have to tour on them, and there are a lot of tours, so most of my time is devoted to that, this new band, and Kind Turkey gets whatever time is left over after that.

I've got some things in the works, and I usually just put them out when the pieces fall together. It's kind of like, when the time's right, for things like that. I'm gonna keep that label going forever, probably. I don't ever foresee that stopping. There might be lulls here and there for six or seven months, or something, but I don't plan on stopping putting out records ever.

Fire Retarded plays at the Union in Westport this Thursday, January 16. Note: This is a venue change, as Fire Retarded was previously scheduled for the Replay Lounge in Lawrence. Check the Union's Facebook page for updates. 

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