Levity with R.H. Bear
BILE is a 10-piece industrial (pardon my French) monster from New York. Their latest CD, Suckpump, is on Energy Records. This interview with keyboardist R.H. Bear took place on Sunday, March 5, 1995, at the Off-Ramp in Seattle (The Chaos '95 Tour ). We were sitting on the BILE/VIRUS 23 tour bus, which - after the interview - I was given a tour of. 14 people had to live on this bus: 13 guys and Sin-D . Then there's the driver. I couldn't even have lived in it by myself. We had much fun, though.
LEVITY: Okay, do you want the serious P.R.-type interview, or just "anything goes? I mean is there anything I should steer clear of?
BEAR : Oh, no. Anything goes.
LEVITY: And it's okay if I tape it, right? Sometimes people don't like the thought of having everything they say preserved on tape. You can't take it back.
BEAR: Yeah. That's like Pro-Pain ; they always get upset. They always say things they don't want to say because they're always drunk when they do interviews. They're like, "I didn't mean to say that. Don't print it." ...Well then, DON'T SAY IT! You know, those are the best things to print, though.
LEVITY: That's true. (Bear reaches for a shot of cough medicine.) So how has the tour been going so far? Pretty smoothly, or...
BEAR: Oh, it SUCKS! Nothing like we expected. We expected it to be a lot nicer. We expected to make some sort of money. We expected to see some sort of people at the shows. It's just been very badly-promoted, and the places that did promote, promoted the wrong day! Like tonight: If you look in the paper, it says Saturday the 5th (It was actually Sunday the 5th)... And then they try to blame us, and they don't want to pay us, and that's not helping us any. Poor promotion. This tour is probably going to be shortened. Then we can go home and just sleep and get better.
LEVITY: Sounds like a plan. Now, what exactly happened in Minneapolis?
BEAR: Oh. Well, now were not allowed near there because they're trying to bring us up on obscenity charges.
LEVITY: Because of the video that you guys played as part of your show...
BEAR: Yeah. We did play the video, but what they accused us of having in the video WAS NOT THERE. They said that we showed a man putting his fingers into another man's anus, and then his whole fist. That is in there. But then they said that he used a metal instrument, pulled out part of his intestines and there was all this blood and... We wish that was in there. They described things that weren't in there. It was two 14-year old kids who shouldn't even have been at a club where there was alcohol being served, anyway. I think that's wrong, right there. It's up to the parents to know what their kids are doing. And the club should have known what they were booking in the first place. I mean, GWAR fucks a priest up the ass with a cross. That's fine, whatever, but I don't think that's for 14-year-olds, either. I guess it all depends on the child. I'm not too worried. I mean, it worked for us. It sold albums. Negative publicity always works. It's publicity. The only thing that upset me was all the gay action leagues that came after us. They didn't even watch the video, and just said that it was bad and wrong and anti-gay and all that. I was like, "You didn't even find out if anyone in the band was gay before you printed this, and I take total offense to that. Why would I be promoting violence against gays?" You know, if I'm going to beat somebody up, I'll pay them for it. It's much more fun that way. I think, with my video and the violence that's going on onstage, some people perceive the tape in the wrong way. I don't think that they're seeing it in the way that I want it to be seen, as far as opening up people's minds and showing them that there are a lot of different things in this world, so just accept it and don't attack it. Those are my views on that tape, and I really don't care what happens to Minneapolis. They're just a waste of my time. That's just what makes me mad, more of a depressed person: that there's no fucking hope for most of the people in this world, and that they're never going to "see the light" in any sort of way. I just wish people would at least admit it, even if they don't accept it. It's there. Gay people are not evil, we don't rape children... I'd rather have their fathers! I'd rather have a consenting person. I think that people who do things to people against their will, or do things to animals, or anything that can't fight back or tell them to stop... that's wrong. I wouldn't want that to happen to myself; I'm not going to do it to someone else. I do have morals in here somewhere, which is unbelievable. People see me, this big, hairy, tattooed man, and they think I should be riding a motorcycle or something. I'm someone people look at and would never think was gay. I'm gonna do my best to corrupt the world and show people exactly what it's like, the people who don't realize it already. I sound like a politician or a preacher. Oh, god, I should put on big fake eyelashes like Tammy Faye Bakker and it would be a lot funnier.
LEVITY: You could incorporate that into the stage act...
BEAR: I'd get a big kick out of it. A big hairy guy with tattoos and Tammy Faye make-up... That would be great! (Laughs) But... we'll show the video again; we do all the time... if we have the videos and the TVs... but we've broke them all since we've been on the tour. We had actually had the video last night, which was nice. All 20 people got to see it.
LEVITY: 20 people?
BEAR: Yeah, 20 people. Well, that was a lot. Berkeley, CA really sucked. There was like... 10, due to poor promotion. And then the places blame us. They're like, "Well, you're beating the record here." For what? "For the least amount of people. " Cool! Glad we could bring your club down to an all-time low. That's all BILE 's good for.
LEVITY: The TVs and equipment: broken purposely or accidentally?
BEAR: Accidentally. Tapes got stuck. They ate the tapes and we pulled the heads out trying to remove the tapes... The next tour we do, after the next album comes out, I think we'll get more updated stuff that won't break so easily. And maybe something to contain it all in. I wish I could just throw the TVs around. That would be great! I would be really happy. Get all my anger out.
LEVITY: Performing doesn't do that enough for you?
BEAR: No. Actually it just makes me angrier, when you're playing to like... 10 people. But the thing is, I guess those 10 people were really into it, so I'd rather play to 10 people who are really into it than 1,000 people who don't know who the Hell we are and couldn't care less. So in a way, it's worth it. But then we have the club owners, who are complete assholes and blame it on us. Well, we're out touring and don't have a chance to promote. It's your club, your job... Fuck off. They try to tell us we're not doing our jobs... Like that First Avenue club in Minneapolis. They tried to cover their asses by calling us a "no-count, no-talent band," which is fine, considering the show was sold-out. It was us and GWAR . They can go fuck themselves, you know? We have no problem offending fans of Prince . It was wonderful: I got to play on the same stage as Purple Rain, which was nice. I'm a Prince fan. I just think that Minneapolis is full of self-righteous idiots. Especially the club owners. We've run into a lot of those along the way: Club owners who are just self-righteous assholes, thinking they deserve all the profits from what we do. Good, you're going to get your dick sucked tonight because we played well, that's really nice. But then you call us a no-count, no-talent band... Which is fine; I never said I had talent. I just happened to be in the right place at the right time to do what I'm doing. Give it a go. Maybe in the end we'll make some money, be a little happier, a little more comfortable.
LEVITY: Speaking of talent, do you have any prior training in music?
BEAR: Bass player.
LEVITY: You're trained in bass and you're playing keyboard...
BEAR: Yeah. They needed somebody who did sick things, and I do sick things no matter what instrument play. I've known Krztoff for a while, and he knew that I could do sick things, and he asked me I wanted to play. I ended up playing keyboard. I've only been playing keyboard for a little over year. I can play BILE stuff, but that's about it. If you ask me to ply Billy Joel or Bach , I ain't gonna do it. As long as it's on the sample disk, I'm fine. I'll stand there and look like I'm playing. And I hump the keyboard, so... Who needs to know how to play...?
LEVITY: You can play BILE stuff, and that's all you really need to do.
BEAR: Yeah. That's all I need to do. I don't need to do anything else.
LEVITY: So how long have you all been acquainted? Have you all known each other since before the band was formed?
BEAR: Well, I knew Krztoff and Jeff , the guitarist, and... I had met other people along the way with them. Everybody's sort of seen each other in clubs in New York, or have just been around. We all just sort of "found" each other in the end. Just a fucked-up gathering of 10 sick people... And we're certainly proving it on this tour! Krztoff pulled us all together, and people have come and gone along the way, trying to find the perfect fit. Hopefully it's down to what it should be now. I guess time will tell.
LEVITY: Who writes most of the music and lyrics?
BEAR: Krztoff . 95% of what was on Suckpump was written by him. And it will probably be that way with the new one, too. It's going to be called TeknoWhore . But you know, it was his idea, his conception, so we're just here to help make it a realization for him. We're here to make it come alive. We all enjoy it. It's very depressing. We belong doing stuff like this.
LEVITY: What kind of stuff were you doing before BILE?
BEAR: Heavy metal bands. We've all been in all types of bands. I would have rather been in a country-western band. Would have been a lot more fun. Cuter guys in the audience. I hate heavy metal long hair guys.
LEVITY: I don't know of many country-western bands out of New York...
BEAR: Yeah... No, no. Well, I enjoy all types of music. I enjoy what I'm doing now. I liked Skinny Puppy when they first came out. I really like experimental music. I like things that are "strange" and stuff. It doesn't make you money usually, but... I would like to be able to play some sort of music that could make me some money -- which isn't everything -- but it makes you more comfortable, and helps you enjoy what you're doing more. Not that I don't enjoy this. I mean, the 30-45 minutes the I'm on stage is just fine. The other 23-and-a-half hours or so really suck. You have to sleep on the bus, get subjected to other people's problems. I don't care about their problems. I've got my own. I'd rather deal with my own and get them over with. So... I've got my Robitussin with me. It's a plug. Maybe they'll give me an endorsement. I can live on the road on Robitussin. It gets you wasted. It the only kind of drug I'll do.
LEVITY: Robitussin is nice.
BEAR: Oh, it works real great. You take this and a few antihistamines and you feel great! That's why I'm feeling a little better right now. I'm not coughing anymore. When I do, it sounds like I've be smoking for a few years.
LEVITY: So when you're not out on the road, suffering, what do you do?
BEAR: Well, I have a job now. I called my boyfriend and he told me that I have a job cleaning someone's house and doing their laundry, which is what I enjoy doing. I'm the happy homemaker, actually. This (the house-cleaning job) is for money, it's what I enjoy doing, and there's nothing else for me to do: I'm a freak. You have to find people who trust you, and will actually let you into their house to clean. But these people are friends of ours, so... Otherwise, I've been a bouncer. Someone else in the band does telephone sales. Somebody's a nurse. Some very diverse thingd. Somebody lived off the government. Somebody's a garbage man. Sin-D' a topless dancer. So everybody has their own thing. I have been totally unemployed until now, which is nice. I get to sleep all day. I get to cook dinner.
LEVITY: Okay. So that kind of answers my next question: What would you be doing, if not music?
BEAR: Sleeping. Cooking and making dinner. Having sex. The three things I miss the most right now.
LEVITY: What's the music scene like in New York now? Is it pretty supportive?
BEAR: It's okay. Better than others. Like L.A.: There are parts of California, like San Francisco, that are nice. But people in L A. have major attitude problems, for some reason. I think Melrose Place gave them a reason to have an attitude. New York has a "scene" of sorts, but nothing ever catches on because no one will let it catch on. The promoters always move on to the next thing that they think will make them some money. They're more interested in money than in sticking with something. That's like the Limelight. They're forever having changing nights there. The promoters are dicks. They want you to play there, they want you to play there. And then after you play there, they tell you to get the fuck out, after they get what they want out of you. Sort of like bad sex for money. There is no real "scene," so there's no place for us to try to fit in, except on certain nights at certain places, over and over and over again. There's an underground scene, I guess, but you just don't see it because it's so far underground. People keep shoving it there. I'm sure it's like that in other places. I mean, around here, the only thing that really exists in Seattle that I've seen is Grunge. Grunge people. Everywhere. We were riding around before they took us to the gay mall and... That was really cool. That would never exist in New York. People would blow it up! As permissive as people think New York is, that would not exist. People would not like that there. It's too open. It's too "right in your face." And anything that's right in your face in New York, people want to get rid of. There's something to be said for grunge, as much as people supposedly hate it. The fact that it has been around for so long, and is still popular, and is so supportive, and still doing so well, that's amazing. New York's not like that. The only thing New York has is uselessness. The people... They're all useless. I think all the useless people move to New York. California should move to New York.
LEVITY: But you've got to have one on each coast... Keep the balance...
BEAR: That's okay. Maybe if they all moved to New York, it would fall in the ocean and totally break off.
LEVITY: You're a very negative person, aren't you?
BEAR: But it makes it more fun for you, doesn't it? You're laughing...
LEVITY: I suppose... It's entertaining.
BEAR: Yes. It makes for the whole amusing aspect of the interview.
LEVITY: Yeah, when everything's all happy and smiles it gets kinda boring.
BEAR: Right. I mean, I could be sitting here talking about how great music is and how wonderful the life is, but it's like... IT SUCKS! You know, sometimes the things you wish for the most really suck. If you really want something bad, I don't think you should ever spend a lot of time wishing for it because when you get it, you end up hating it so much . It's supposed to be so good, then you get here and you have a toilet that you can't shit in, you have a microwave that doesn't work, you have a generator that blows, you have 13 different people farting in all different directions, which is not the prettiest thing. I mean, I
don't just do that in front of people. Me and Sin-D were talking, and I said I'm more of a lady than she'll ever be. It was hysterical. She's great. We're having the best time. She's fun. But to live with so many different personalities on one bus... it's just... not what I wanted. I just stay in my bunk and listen to my Bette Midler tape.
LEVITY: Bette Midler fan...?
BEAR: I'm gay; I have to be. It's a prerequisite. Barbra Streisand, too.
LEVITY: What kind of non-musical influences and interests do you have?
BEAR: Wrestling. I have The Road Warriors tattooed on me.
LEVITY: No way... (He shows me his wrestling tattoos.)
BEAR: And I have movies. I like musicals mostly. I like tattoos, obviously, and I'm a big collector of toys. I found a whole bunch of Nightmare Before Christmas bags, 99 cents each! I love stuff like that. Movie paraphernalia: All my Pee Wee Herman toys, Beetlejuice toys. A lot of fun stuff like that. You find some really good stuff when you're out on the road... When we have money, it's wonderful! Then you get to actually buy things instead of just looking at them.
(Bear starts relating the horrors of the tour bus and its 14 inhabitants: "Sleeping in a little coffin... Someone always has to be touching you, have their feet on you. It's like, 'I'm going to amputate that if you don't get it off me...' You have to sit in this bus and wait until everyone is ready to go wherever you want or need to go. I'd rather have vans and still be uncomfortable, but be able to go wherever you want, you know?" ...etc., etc.)
LEVITY: This is kind of off-the-wall, but...
BEAR: Off-the-wall? That'll be perfect for me!
LEVITY: Okay... What to you do when you're on stage and you have to use the bathroom?
BEAR: Well, I usually wear a jock strap and chaps out there, so I can pretty much go wherever I want. We're only out there for 30 minutes, and if you can't hold it you have really bad muscles. That's when it's time for the Depends instead of the jockstrap. That would make it a lot easier. I would just walk off the stage if I really had to go. I'd just leave. I'd throw my keyboards on the floor and walk away. Doesn't matter to me. Now that you said it, I'll probably have that problem.
LEVITY: I'm sorry. I've cursed you... Another dumb one: What do you think happens after death?
BEAR: You rot. I don't know what happens to you. I know there's something else, I mean, I'm sure your soul goes someplace, just somewhere else. There has to be something else out there, because we wouldn't just exist this way, and know that something else exists. Otherwise, you'd just have no preconception of where you're gonna be or what you're gonna do. You wouldn't even ask that question because you wouldn't even think about it. So there must be something after this. I know there's a "God" somewhere. I just don't think he's on our side most of the time. I think he just created what he did and said, "Well, do what you're gonna do." And I think that most people make Hell out of their own lives. I'm sure I did. And I'm doing it still. I think He has a few people who make life more amusing, though they're usually so dark and depressing that they become sort of amusing. That's what I'm here for! I'd rather see someone else happy than just myself. I'd rather contribute to someone else's happiness. I'll give anybody whatever they want. I just wish people would have done that for me, you know? Hopefully, when I do go someplace else after I'm dead, it'll be a lot nicer than this. Watch, I'll probably be stuck on a tour bus in fucking Burbank, CA. That's where you go: Burbank. Wouldn't that be crummy? ...With a toilet that you can't go to the bathroom in.
LEVITY: Eew. Yeah. I hope it's not like that... Okay. The last frivolous little attempt at pulling an anecdote here: Do you remember your first kiss?
BEAR: Yeah, I sort of remember my first kiss. I used to kiss girls at that point. Let's see... I think it was behind the piano in kindergarten. It was this girl, Anna . I think I attacked her because she scratched me. I could have been an abusive person at that point. She was a big girl... Bigger than me. I think I liked that, I don't know. But I do remember her scratching my face, so I guess it wasn't that pleasurable, and I ended up turning gay...? (Laughs) ...And my first kiss with a guy, I was... 17? I was horrified. It was disgusting. I was not into that.... took me a long time to accept it, so...
LEVITY: He kissed you?
BEAR: Yeah, he kissed me, totally out of the blue. He was eating my butt then he came up and kissed me, and I was like "Eeew!" It was horrible. Wasn't that a wonderful story? I was just... like... horrified. I was just not ready to kiss a guy. Now I love it. There's nothing better than a real long kiss... Well, sucking dick is, actually, but... Kissing is just fine. I'm sure the record company warned you about me. They always do. "Don't bring up sex or you'll be sorry... They love talking about that." ("Who doesn't?" I wonder.) People always think I'm sex starved, but I'm not. I just want my boyfriend.
LEVITY: Is there anything you'd like to add? Anything else you'd like to talk about? It's wide open...
BEAR: Like various parts of my body... Ummm, I just want it to get better. A little more bearable, no pun intended . Everybody's been doing that to me lately. They keep coming up with new ones. I'm like, "It's not funny anymore. Stop it, or I'll do something nasty to you when you're asleep." I just want people to enjoy the music and recognize it for what it is. It's all sarcasm. Don't take everything so seriously as you see it or hear it. Just have a good time. Do what you want without hurting anybody else. That's what we do. We do it all on stage. We should start doing it off-stage and see if we can get paid. Yeah, that's it. Rent BILE, send all money to... "The BILE Escort Service ." I don't know. I'm brain dead. I think that Robitussin and the antihistamines are working wonders. I'll just curl up in a little ball under the table here... Put one of those blow-up mannequin dolls on stage, with the painted-on body hair. We were looking at those at the sex shop. They were really quite funny. I was like, "Oh, that's really pretty. I wanna sleep with that one " I liked the blow-up goat a lot more... Have you ever seen those?
LEVITY: No... They really have those?
BEAR: Oh, yeah. Blow-up goats, blow-up pigs. They're wonderful. Can you imagine having your mom walk in and find you with a blow-up pig stuck on your dick? And then sitting on the blow-up doll's dick, having that stuck to your back, and running round the room. Now that's a pretty picture!
LEVITY: You do go off when it comes to sex, don't you?
BEAR: Oh, I could just go on forever about sex things, and it keeps me laughing. My favorite movie is Arthur, and there are times in that movie when he says things that are funny so he just starts laughing. I do that. I'll think of something funny -- no one else would ever find it funny -- and I'll just start laughing. I think people think I'm deranged. I'm not; I'm just old. That kind of stuff happens as you get older. My Geritol's just not working like it used to. My hair's turning grey... (Whining) I don't wanna play tonight... I wanna go home!
LEVITY: Awww, don't cry!
BEAR: There's nothing worse than seeing a big fag cry.
LEVITY: It would be a first for me.
BEAR: Would it? Maybe I'll cry for you later... I'll take two or three more antihistamines. It'll be funny.
LEVITY: Make sure you're wearing your Tammy Faye make-up first! Add that realism to it...
BEAR: (Laughs.) Then I'll start singing really bad Christian gospel songs. (Laughs) I'd need a picture of that. I don't think my boyfriend would like that. I think he'd break up with me.
BEAR: But that would be worth it. I think that would be funny. Just the thought of me in Tammy Faye make-up. (Laughs) Actually, my mother does have a picture of me in a pink prom gown with long blond hair, a big black beard, a riding crop, and Gene Simmons boots.
LEVITY: Wow! (The boots!)
BEAR: Everybody always wants that picture. And I'm like, "You're NEVER getting that. No, no, no." We all have that picture that just hides in our backgrounds and comes out at the worst time. My sister will probably send it to a magazine. She'll wait until she can get some money for it. Then I'll have to break out the prom gown, come out on stage. I don't even think it would fit me anymore. I've gotten fatter. I'm on a rampage... So what other bands have you interviewed?
LEVITY: Ummm... Marilyn Manson...
BEAR: Did you? I think they try too hard to be strange. I think they're really trying to push people's buttons, and you can tell. I mean, in interviews, he's like, "Well, I was abused as a child, and..." When you say that in every interview, it gets a little boring. You know, it's like, yeah, he was abused as a child... He wanted it, he liked it. I wanted to be abused as a child. I said that in one magazine, and I think people got very upset at that. But that's my own personal view; I don't think it's right for just anyone to go around doing that. But I knew I was gay all my life, and I always liked older guys. I always wanted someone to touch me, always wanted someone to abuse me, and no one ever wanted to. This is terrible! Where were all these molesters when I was growing up? What, did it just happen after I was older? But I think Marilyn Manson 's just trying to push people's buttons. And that's fine; I'm not trying to take anything away from them. If you can do it, and you can get away with it, that's great. I think people really get off on interviews like that, which are funny. I'd rather read an interview like that, as opposed to one where it's like, "Well, we've been playing for two years, we use this type of equipment..." Oh, how exciting. Why don't you shove it up your butt? That would be more fun.
LEVITY: Yeah. I like to try to keep away from interviews like that. You can go get SPIN for stuff like
BEAR: I did a 2 1/2 hour interview with SPIN magazine. I kept saying things, kept going off on them. I got in a lot of trouble with Hit Parader. I told them I really loved Traci Lords, and the guy was getting all into it. Then I was like, "Well, she sucks a really good dick, and that's where I learned my technique." And the guy called up the record company and complained about it. He said I was too shocking. I was like, "I'm just telling the truth. My boyfriend's quite happy." I'm just here to prove a point and shove it down people's throats at various different angles. I want to ring up the wrong price on the register. I just wanna go home.
LEVITY: It always comes back to that, huh?
BEAR: Yeah. I think if it was going a little better -- if we weren't all sick -- it wouldn't be like it is. We've had a lot of different names for it: "The Going Nowhere Tour"; "The Blue Balls Tour"; "The I Think I'm Sick and I Wanna Go Home Tour"; "The Feeling Like Shit Tour," which is definitely perfect. (They have a song called "Feeling Like Shit.") We should make up T-shirts for that one. And I think we're gonna go to Europe, where they show our video. They don't show our video here. America is so fucked up. People get on Sin-D for wearing a dog collar. Little do they know, her mother gave that to her. It used to be her mother's. People take it the wrong way, but it's her choice to wear it.
(Krztoff gets on the bus, obviously not amused with the way thing are going inside the club. We continue with the "Feeling Like Shit" theme, and spend the rest of the evening, all the way up until BILE goes on stage, fucking around on the bus).