Sunday Old School: Anal Cunt
Band Photo: Anal Cunt (?)
If Seth Putnam had lived, he'd no doubt be celebrating 25 years with Anal Cunt this year. He was taken from us at the age of 43 a year and a half ago, young - but not unexpectedly. He lived his life hard and fast and on his own terms, surviving to an age none thought he would. He didn't battle his inner demons, but rather got on the same side as they were. We lost that 'voice' that would come into our stereos and give us a dose of that sick humor that would parody anything into the realm of stupidity. Before forming Anal Cunt as a joke, Seth was a big fan of metal, alternative rock and hardcore - being a fixture in several Boston bands. It was this old school street cred that made the fans understand the joke that AxCx perpetrated. The year was 1988, a good one for the scene and one in which everyone was looking for something a bit different. And different was what they got. Seth Putnam was a twenty year old living in his mother's house in Newton, Massachusetts. He had been in and out of several area bands and was briefly in Shit Scum with Fred Ordonez. They guested on a radio show and jammed at Fred's rented warehouse.
Seth had the idea for a 'noise/blurcore' band which resulted in him recording a demo in his mother's attic. These old demos from the first few years, "47 Song Demo," "88 Song Demo," "Unplugged" and the "5643" EP," were pretty rare and ended up being re-released years later on "The Old Testament" two-album set. That "5643 EP" is the old prototype demo that was the blueprint for the early AxCx sound. Each side of it, allegedly, contained over 2,000 three-second songs mashed together to form this ground-breaking dissonance. It nearly got them signed to Earache, but ended up getting some of their material released in the form of the "Morbid Florist" EP on Relapse. On the cover of that EP, Seth chose what he thought was the 'gayest' word to combine with 'morbid.' Actually, those are funeral flowers and the mortician on the cover is none other than Pete Shelley of legendary punk band The Buzzcocks - so it actually was quite ironically evil. Shelley's image is lifted pixel by pixel from his solo post-Buzzcocks's single "Homosapien" and he was given a nice upside down cross on his forehead.
Anal Cunt, despite the popular misconception, was not named after the GG Allin song. Jesus Christ Allin put that song out five years later on "Brutality and Bloodshed." (AxCx did do his song "I'll Slice Your Throat" as a tribute some years down the road). Around this time, I interviewed Seth and he said that he chose the two stupidest words to combine together to form a band name. The list of musicians in and out of Anal Cunt began, topping the dozen mark towards the end, but always revolved around anti-hero Seth. So began the early days of the band, seeing AxCx do a European 'tour' and breaking up before reforming and touring Europe once again. When drummer Tim Morse left, Seth put two drummers onstage to see who was faster and got second guitarist John Kozik to usher in a new era.
Instead of just recording noise, Putnam wanted to expand a little and write at least some semblance of actual songs. He thought he'd be selling out by naming the tracks, but the way he titled them showed his nature. Song titles to him were pointless, thus giving us tracks like "Song # 6" and whatever was on his mind at the moment. He also liked to make fun of bad pop hits and "Morbid Florist" lit the fire for that. AxCx's 46 second version of EMF's "Unbelievable" was the beginning of many cover tunes to come. Nobody was immune, really. Seth made fun of everyone from MC Hammer, Elton John and Supertramp - even widening it to include metal bands too. And of course, like the Meatmen, he derided dark popster Morrissey. "Morbid Florist" got reissued in 1998 with a bonus track.
Anal Cunt shows were the thing of legends around this time. Seth Putnam liked to divide his fans into two groups - the troublemaking, unemployed alcoholic losers (which he said he could identify with) and the artsy folks. A friend of mine saw them at a rundown hardcore club and got his head kicked in by Seth swinging from a light fixture. Seth would stagedive and instigate brawls as well. Touring was his thing, and he actually got on Earache for the debut to finance the tours and keep the albums in stock. By the time AxCx signed to the label, they decided to stick to one guitarist.
1994's "Everyone Should be Killed" was their official full-length debut, some of the 58 songs on it coming from the EP. Mostly featuring tracks that clocked in at the 30 second mark, the album did have a few oddballs on it timewise. "Alcoholic" was a shocking four minutes in duration, because as Seth disclosed - "Have you ever seen an alcoholic? They're really boring and long-winded just like the song." The burst of growls from hell, falsettos and blur of guitar were made funnier by the obtuse song titles. There were tracks about the Judas Priest drummer's afro, "Electric Avenue" rasta singer Eddy Grant and of course the puke-inducing "MTV is My Source for New Music." On the cover were a couple of AxCx's inner circle, beating each other up. Ketchup was used in the shot, and it would be one of the last times the band would choose a picture rather than go with a cartoon.
By the next year, Anal Cunt got to tour America and Japan for the first time with Incantation. Kyle even inspired Seth to write a song about his moustache, another track about facial hair after the song "Art Fag." John Hull of Agoraphobic Nosebleed/Pig Destroyer entered the fold and the second album of 'half noise/half songs' titled "Top 40 Hits" was unleashed. If you were around in the seventies, that cover art made you immediately think of all those K-Tel compilations that were out. This is my favorite AxCx album, since it blends all their elements of humor so well. Putnam made fun of that 70's AOR hit "Escape (Pina Colada)" and kept the tradition of writing 'some retard' under the song credit instead of putting the actual person who originally recorded it (like Rupert Holmes).
Seth told me how influenced by TV he was around this time, so transfixed that he named songs after his favorite shows. Looking back at the titles now is like entering a time capsule when you see Three's Company or the A-Team. This album was also littered with songs about gay waiters and a flower shop guy and the hysterical 'oi' version of the Bee Gee's "Staying Alive." The grind/noise version of "American Woman" is as good as the cover that the Butthole Surfers did, and showed that Seth could write a good normal song if he felt like it. He preferred to be funny, though, with songs like "Living Colour is my Favorite Black Metal Band."
1996 brought "40 More Reasons to Hate Us" and a two-week tour with Eyehategod. The album featured a Manowar cover with Phil Anselmo on backing vocals, "Van Full of Retards" and a style of insults like the song "Al Stankos is Always on the Phone with his Bookie." As every AxCx fan knows, Seth got off on insulting places, people and his bandmembers. It was an honor to be immortalized on an Anal Cunt track like "Shut Up Mike Pt. 2" or "Tim is Gay." Early guitarist Mike Mahan had several songs written about his gingivitis and how he gave Seth athlete's foot. You would think that "02657" would have been about Seth's least favorite zip code, Allston, but it was actually about Provincetown (Cape Cod), a place with a large gay mecca.
NYU student Josh Martin joined the band, having known Seth from other groups such as Adolf Satan and Impaled Northern Moonforest. Then a period of inactivity ensued, in which Seth did a song for a Smith's tribute album and backing vocals on Pantera's "The Great Southern Trendkill." "I Like it When You Die" was the next album released a year later in 1997. This further combined the ubiquitous use of 'gay' in the song titles, which Seth explained as 'any retard would know the difference between wimpy gay and homophobic.' Pottery and wind chimes were 'gay,' but 311 just 'sucked.' The classic "Your Band's in the Cutout Bin" was on this one, along with "Branscombe Richmond," Lorenzo Lamas' sidekick Bobby Sixkiller on Renegade. "Technology is Gay" was Seth's very early opinion on the internet, but years later he still hated it. The album got its name from when one of the members of Sock Eyed donned a t-shirt that said 'You're a bastard...I Like it when You Die.' After this album, Seth did a Black Sabbath tribute split release with Eyehategod.
What did AxCx do when they almost took things as fast, insulting and ridiculous as possible? Well, they changed it up a bit. 1998's "Picnic of Love," produced by my old friend/ex-coworker Mike Z Livingston, was Seth's idea of deadpan irony delivered to sound serious. Do a whole bunch of squeaky clean acoustic ballads like "Saving Ourselves for Marriage" and ones about respecting women. Also, bring in Allison Dunn as guest vocalist on a couple of the songs, and truly make the album a parody of themselves. Seth didn't care, since to him everything is a joke and this was another way of expressing himself. He was back to his old ways by the next year after this one off.
"It Just Gets Worse" could have been a metaphor for Putnam's mental state by the time it was released in 1999. Somehow the song titles went from very general innocuous insults to pretty graphic ones. When Seth and Chris Barnes had a well-publicized melee in which Chris sikked his roadies on him, Seth's salvo was to write "Chris Barnes is a Pussy." While almost everyone gets a laugh out of that one, the songs about giving pictures of your kid to NAMBLA, Eazy E getting AIDS from Freddie Mercury and Connor Clapton's death pretty much crossed the line. Earache had to change the name of that latter song around to prevent a lawsuit. The "Defenders of the Hate" EP came out a year later on Menace To Sobriety records, featuring tracks about beating up hippies and the nu-metal plague with "Limp Bizkit Think they're Black...they're just Gay." It got re-released in 2007 with ten bonus tracks.
You wonder with Seth Putnam - is he the ultimate troll like he seems, or does he buy into some of the things he sang about? Probably both. I've read several interviews where he insults blacks, gays, jews and women and read articles where he mentioned stealing ashes out of one of the ovens at a couple of concentration camps he visited while on tour. But yet, I've also spoken to a black dude who smoked a big spliff with him and mentioned how cool he was. He was a paradox and got off on inciting taboo subjects and shocking others. I couldn't say I was surprised at all the Holocaust tracks, since he has collaborated with North Branford, CT band Vaginal Jesus several times.
Earache had asked them back on the label in 2001, but by then Anal Cunt had dissolved yet again while Seth spiralled out of control into more partying. Seth Putnam was the epitome of hardcore badassery when it came to drug abuse, by his own admission. He'd even ask interviewers where he could score some. He had several scares before his major OD in October of 2004. Booze, crack, heroin and a bottle of Ambien pills left him in a coma that he almost didn't return from. In an interview, he said he was upset that he didn't see anything on the other side like some do during a NDE. Legally dead four times, Seth mentioned that if he had ever seen a vision, he still wouldn't have changed a thing. He kept doing drugs and thought that AA meetings were for losers and that he'd rather be arrested than go to one. He came out of that coma speaking haltingly and confined to a chair for his first performances back. He said being in a coma was just as 'gay' as the song he wrote about it. He could dish it out and take it, too.
When you nearly die, your body's organs get depleted of oxygen and never really fully recover. It did a number on Seth, but he remained active until the very end - appearing on countless split releases, a dozen and a half other bands and also on the two LP release with his group Full Blown AIDS. He collected government disability after the coma and married for a second time to Julie Putnam, a woman with a masters degree and a good job. Even though Seth writes lyrics about women being punching bags and fodder for rapists, he spoke glowingly of Julie in an interview - saying she was just like him and shared his views on everything. By 2010 he was also earning a living giving 'professional' services to others in the form of guitar, production and vocals while publicizing how anyone could get their name on an AxCx song title by sending in a hundred bucks. Dumb as a fox.
Later that year, he tried his hand at another side of Anal Cunt, just like he did with "Picnic of Love," putting out "Fuckin' A" on Dan Patac's label. The obvious Motley Crue parody of an album cover graced a record whose aim was to parody cock rock in its songs "Crankin' My Band's Demo" or "I Wish My Dealer Was Open." This release was originally slated to be part of "Wearing Out Our Welcome" but got released partially in January of 2011. The latter did get released, but only months after the fatal heart attack that killed Seth in June of that year. There would never be a fourth reunion for Anal Cunt, because dying is gayer than a reunion. Hopefully Seth has seen something on the other side.
Anal Cunt - "I Got Athlete's Foot Showering At Mike's"
Anal Cunt - "You're A Cop"
Anal Cunt - "311 Sucks"
Anal Cunt - "Branscombe Richmond"
Anal Cunt - "Stayin' Alive"
Anal Cunt - "Technology Is Gay"
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