Merle Allin is the bass player for the Murder Junkies, a punk rock band best known as the last group to back Merle’s younger brother GG Allin, who died of a heroin overdose in 1993. With GG, they recorded the album Brutality and Bloodshed for All, and toured whenever GG wasn’t in prison. A snapshot of the feces- and violence-filled chaos brought on by GG Allin & the Murder Junkies is captured in the acclaimed documentary Hated, which isn’t for the light hearted.
In the post-GG era, the Murder Junkies have continued their punk rock mayhem with 1995’s Feed My Sleaze, 2011’s Road Killer, and 2013’s A Killing Tradition. This interview was done by phone on 1/9/14 for a preview article for the Murder Junkies show at Muddy Waters Cafe in Santa Barbara on 1/16/14. Merle had just arrived in Las Vegas for a gig that night.
Tickets for the show may be purchased here from Electric Sex Enterprises.
Jeff Moehlis: How’s it working out to be back together with Bill Weber?
Merle Allin: Well, that’s a good question [laughs]. I guess we’ll find out tonight.
JM: Is this your first show?
MA: This is our first show tonight, so I guess we’ll see what happens [laughs]. We’ve been playing with our other guitar player now for like five years, so we had a pretty good thing going with him. Weber’s our original guitar player, so it should turn out OK. Hopefully. We shall see. It’s punk rock, you know? Some nights you’re good, some nights you suck. As long as you show up most people are happy because you’re playing.
JM: I don’t want to be nitpicking, but isn’t Chicken John actually the original guitarist, or is he written out of the history of the band?
MA: Oh, Chicken John was the original guitarist, but in Murder Junkie land, we really didn’t become the Murder Junkies until Bill Weber started playing with us. We didn’t have any of our own material with Chicken, we were just playing all GG stuff. We didn’t really have our sound yet. We were basically just GG’s back-up band at that point. It was just one tour, and he was annoying. We didn’t like him, he didn’t like us. There was no chemistry, there was no style or anything. When Weber joined the band, that’s when we became the real Murder Junkies, and came up with our sound. That’s the sound from the Brutality & Bloodshed for All record that we did with GG in ’93.
You are correct about that. Chicken was technically our first guitar player, but we don’t really consider him part of the band because he was never really one of us.
JM: Dino’s still in the band, right?
MA: Absolutely. The Naked Drummer, Dino Sex, has been playing with me now since 1991. And he gets crazier every day.
JM: That’s good to hear.
MA: That’s just the way it is, you know?
JM: David Crosby is playing in Santa Barbara the same night as you guys are.
MA: David Crosby! Maybe he can come down and we can do some blow together! Oh, he’s straight now, and so are we, I guess. Right? I don’t know.
JM: If someone’s on the fence, should they go see David Crosby or should they see the Murder Junkies? Why should they see you guys?
You know what, you might never see the Murder Junkies again. I’m telling you, this might be our final West Coast tour. I’m almost banking on it. So if you want to use that as some kind of leverage to get people to come to our show, you might want to throw that in there. I’m serious. Unless we get on a tour with a bigger band, and do a tour with someone that’s coming out here, we probably won’t play the West Coast again.
JM: Any particular reason?
MA: You know, when you have to fly three people out, and the markets are smaller. We just do so much better on the East Coast and the Midwest, the South. Not that we do so much better, just that we’re from that area. We’re more of an East Coast punk band as opposed to the California surfer punk type stuff. We’re more like old school New York style.
It’s not that we don’t do well here, it’s just that the markets are smaller. Like Santa Barbara’s not a really big market. I mean, we’re happy to play there. Don’t get me wrong. We’re glad to have shows and stuff. We’re pretty much open to playing anywhere. Don’t get me wrong. We love to play, and as long as people want to come to the show, we’ll play in Bum-fuck wherever.
MA: Of course I do. I remember the show probably lasting five or ten minutes. I think the reason the show ended was because the equipment… They only had one microphone, I believe. There wasn’t two or three different microphones for GG to break. One microphone gets broken on his face or whatever, or against somebody’s head or whatever. Then there would always be another one. But I believe that night there was only one microphone. It’s actually on videotape [and on YouTube, be warned that there is nudity, harsh language, and violence]. I think the soundcheck was longer than the actual show [laughs].
JM: You never really knew what was going to happen, right?
MA: Especially back in the GG days. You didn’t know if you were gonna make it past soundcheck. I mean, GG’s soundchecks were more exciting than most band’s regular sets. Especially back in those days.
JM: How do you balance the band’s history with GG with wanting to do your own thing and establish a unique identity?
MA: Well, you know, it’s taken us a long time. Of course we realize that we’ll never be able to get out of the shadow of GG. And we’re proud of the whole GG thing, and everything. But over the last three years, we’ve recorded two brand new albums, a single, and we’re going to record another full-length album this year. So now we play mostly our own songs. I mean, we still play GG songs, too, but now people are coming to our shows and actually singing our songs. And people are buying our records.
I mean, let’s face it, everybody’s already got the GG stuff. You either like us or you don’t like us. The diehard GG people who don’t want to like us, fuck you. I don’t give a fuck who likes us, you know? Obviously somebody likes us because we’re out here playing. We’re doing what we like to do, and we don’t really give a fuck what anybody likes. We just do what we do. If you like it, you like it. If you don’t, go crawl in a fucking hole and kill yourself, or whatever.
Nowadays, like I say, everybody’s got the GG stuff. And it’s been twenty years, and people want to hear new stuff. I mean, they’ve been wanting to hear new stuff for a long time. Our singer that we have now, PP Duvay, he’s done more shows with us than any singer that we’ve ever had in the band. He’s been with us for almost seven years now. We’ve got a good chemistry, me and him. I write most of the music, he writes all of the lyrics. We just coming up with song after song after song. Most bands, they do all their shit early in their career. For us, while all these other bands that are still touring at our age are still playing the old songs that they’ve been playing for the last twenty years, we’re actually writing and producing and making new music, and doing new shit. And people are loving it. We’re just doing what we like to do. We don’t sit down and go, “I should write the song like this today.” It’s just whatever comes out of us, you know?
JM: Do you think that the Hated documentary accurately and fairly portrayed what GG was like?
MA: Hated was basically just a time period documentary of what was really going on at that time. GG basically lived the songs that he wrote, and what he sang about were songs that he was living. “Sleeping in my Piss” or shit like that. Drinking and getting fucked up and passing out everywhere. I mean, those are songs that are part of how he was living at the time. That’s pretty much all he ever lived for, was just playing music, writing music. That was his whole life. He didn’t have another job. He didn’t have a family. He wasn’t, “Oh, I’m going to do this for eight hours, write a song maybe tomorrow.” What he did was twenty-four hours a day every day.
He just dedicated his whole life to making the legacy that he left behind. He was a prolific songwriter. Just look at his discography. He’s got more records out than you can imagine. People are still talking about him. People are still singing his songs. People can talk about him and say, “Oh, he shit onstage” and this and that, but you know what, anybody can shit onstage. Anybody can beat somebody up onstage. If your music sucks and nobody likes your music, nobody’s gonna give a shit. They’ll talk about you for five minutes and then it’s over. People fucking loved GG’s music. GG was a fucking genius. He really was. He was a great songwriter. He could sit down and whip up a fucking record in no time. He didn’t care if he got paid for it. He didn’t give a shit about any of that, because he knew he could whip up another one right after and start all over again.
But Hated… We all liked it. I mean, he liked it, for what it was. It wasn’t really a whole story about his whole life. It was basically just what was happening at that time.
You know, I met Todd Phillips. He was working at Jim’s Video store at St. Mark’s in the Village when I met him. He asked me, “You’re GG’s brother, you’re in his band. Can we get him to do a documentary?” And we were like, sure. He was just an NYU student. Now he’s like Mr. Fucking Joe Hollywood.
JM: Do you ever call him up and say, “Hey, do you need an extra for one of your movies?”
MA: No, I never call him up. But I do email him from time to time, or he’ll make a comment, “I’m keeping up with what you guys are doing”, or shit like that. It would’ve been nice if he could’ve thrown one of our fucking songs in a soundtrack.
MA: Exactly! It’s not like the kinds of movies he’s making aren’t fit for one of our songs to be in. But he never has yet. I don’t know, what are you gonna do?
JM: How do you think GG would have reacted if sometime around ’91 you said, “You know, we’re getting some momentum going. Why don’t you tone it down for a little while?”
MA: No, that never would’ve happened. Never. I tried that in the ’80’s. I used to say that to him back in the fucking ’80’s. I’m like, “You’re fucking great man, you could be fucking doing this or that”. A lot of people told him that back in the day. He didn’t fucking care. He patronized, like “Oh yeah, yeah, that sounds like a good idea”, and then two minutes later he’d be fucking tipping somebody’s table over or fucking spilling drinks all over shit. Yeah, that would never have happened. He didn’t care about all that shit. He was just doing his thing.
JM: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?
MA: Get a fucking day job, because most of the fucking bands… I mean, there’s too many bands out there today, man. I’m so fucking happy that I grew up in the era that I did, when musicians were not just trying to be in a fucking band because every other jackass in the fucking world is in a band. When we started playing music, we saw The Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show, and we saw this and that, and then we were just fucking in love with music. We lived it, you know? We had to have records, we had to play our fucking guitars all the time. We didn’t just pick some fucking band and say “We want to sound like them.” We just started playing and did our own thing. We didn’t take lessons, we learned by ourselves. I mean, we played all the time. We were totally dedicated.
These fucking jerk-offs today are just fucking “I want to be in a band. That’s really cool.” And it shows. These fucking bands have no respect for what’s going on in the scene. They don’t help each other. Everybody’s bitching about, “There’s no scene, there’s no scene.” Because nobody wants to help anybody. They play their fucking show, they pack their shit and they leave the club. They don’t hang out. I mean, we play with bands where they’re supposed to play first or second, they’ll show up fucking late and then they’ll wonder why they can’t play. When we were opening for fucking bands, when we were fucking kids, we would show up and watch their soundcheck and take everything in. It was a totally different time. Nowadays it’s like, “Oh, I’m cool. I’m in a band. I’ll show up and play my set and grab my shit and leave.” Nobody gives a fuck now. There’s so many fucking bands like that.
And, to be honest with you, ninety percent of them suck dick. They can’t fucking play. They’ve got no songs. They’re just wasting a bunch of fucking time. We play with five, six, seven bands a fucking night, and by the end of the fucking six week tour, if you can count two or three of them that you really like, you’ve done well. I’m not shitting you, man. There’s so many shitty bands out there. There’s some good ones that you can tell are really into it. But you can tell. You can see them play and you can see that they just have it. That’s just what they want to do. But there’s so many bands… It’s a joke to them. They get up onstage and they don’t take it seriously. I don’t know.
I would tell a band today, if you really want to be in a band, find some fucking dedicated people and work your ass off, and promote yourself and get out there and do whatever you’ve got to fucking do to play shows. Do your own thing. Don’t fucking listen to what everybody else is doing, or what you think you should do. Do your own fucking thing. That’s the problem, there aren’t enough original bands out there anymore. Everybody sounds the same.
So, that’s my rant.
JM: Back in the day, when you were just getting going, which bands were helpful to you guys?
MA: It’s different, because back in the day you couldn’t get on the internet and talk to… You can get on the internet and talk to some of the people or bandmembers that you admire. Back in the day you had to go to the shows, and you had to really work your way to get to talk to them. You had to get around the security guy. You had to wait around when bands would come in. That’s what we did. We were like fucking kids. We’d try to find the entranceway where they’d be coming in, or we’d wait around when they were done.
When I was playing in bands, back in the ’70’s when I was living in Boston, I was in a band that was opening for The Ramones, and The Dead Boys, and fucking Johnny Thunders, and David Johansen. The Cars, all that shit. We would show up, and we’d be thrilled. We’d be fucking in heaven for a month or two before the gig. We’d just be on Cloud 9. “Oh my God, we opening for the fucking Ramones again”, or whatever. And we’d show up, and we’d wait around all fucking day for them to arrive, and watch their soundcheck, and take everything in and just learn by seeing how successful band act and the whole thing. Nowadays, bands don’t do that. They don’t care. They just show up, and they don’t have any respect for what’s going on. I don’t think, anyway. And I’ve seen that a lot.
You found the bands helpful just by going and taking everything in, and soaking it all in and watching them. We opened for The Ramones a number of times. All the bands in the ’70’s that were popular, I just happened to be in a popular local band that got to open for all of those bands. When you’re in your early twenties and you’re coming from the country, and you move into a city where everything’s happening and you’re thrust into it all… One year you’re listening to these bands on your way to your shitty fucking day job, on a backroad in New Hampshire, and the next year you’re living in Boston and you’re opening for these fucking bands that you were listening to on your fucking cassette player. That was thrilling. That was amazing. When you’re in your early twenties and you’re doing that, it gives you hope. Look what I’m doing now! I want to keep doing what I’m doing. That’s all I ever wanted to do anyway, to play music. That was really a no-brainer for me. I’m just lucky that I got to do that.
JM: Talking about The Ramones, Dee Dee Ramone was in the band [Murder Junkies], sort of.
MA: He was in the band for a few rehearsals.
JM: Are you bummed that that didn’t work out better?
MA: Yeah, of course. It was a dream come true just to hang out with him, and rehearse with him, and bullshit with him. Just to be around him for a little bit. It would’ve been great to have done a tour with him, but the reality was that the closer that we got to the tour, it was like, he’s not going to hang with us. He was talking, “I’ll probably fly to the shows”, and we were like, “That’s cool, whatever you want to do.” He just kind of bailed on us at the last minute. I think he knew. He always said, “I want to leave The Ramones, because I don’t want to have any pressure anymore. I don’t want to have to deal with anything. I just want to relax and have a good time”, and blah, blah, blah [laughs].
JM: Do you want to set the record straight on anything about your career, or your brother?
MA: You know, I don’t give a sweet fuck. People are gonna think what they want to think. This way, that way, positive or negative. I’ve heard it all. Most of the people that are fucking talking weren’t even fucking born when GG was fucking doing his thing. They have no fucking clue who he was. I love how these punk rock kids today think, “Oh, GG wouldn’t have wanted that. I know what GG would’ve wanted.” GG would’ve kicked you in the fucking head you stupid fuck. I mean, I just laugh most of the time. I’ve gotten over being pissed about most of that shit because it’s fucking stupid. You don’t have a fucking clue, so shut the fuck up. I don’t have time to argue or try to set the record straight. Fuck it. I know what it is, and that’s all that really matters. People that know us and knew GG and knew the whole thing, they know what it is, too. Fucking asswipes today, they don’t know shit.
JM: One more question related to the Hated documentary. They’re interviewing some of GG’s high school friends, and they’re like, “Merle slipped acid into his donut.”
MA: It was a hit of acid in a French fry at McDonald’s. It wasn’t a donut. But, you know, come on, that didn’t like set him off to be the fucking mad man he was. He just wanted to play that up a little bit. Come on, it was a hit of acid for Christ’s sakes.
JM: So that’s not what sent him spiraling down the path of ruin?
MA: No, exactly. That was a slow progression, I believe. It didn’t happen overnight, that’s for sure.
JM: Can you tell me a bit more about the next album?
MA: We actually have most of the arrangements for the songs down on a tape, so everybody’s going to start working on their part. We’re going to do a spring-summer May-June tour of the East Coast, the Midwest, and the South, and then we’re going to end the tour recording the new album. So hopefully we can have that out by the end of this year. That’s the plan.