December 1st, 2008 | Interviews

john henry

Stream: Human Eye “Rare Little Creature”


(from Fragments of The Universe Nurse out now on Hook or Crook)

Human Eye is one of the many mentally deranged brainchildren of Timmy Lampinen, which also include Clone Defects, Epileptix, and Reptile Forcefield. He’s been releasing albums out of his hometown of Detroit for years and has toured the world over. Art-damaged psychedelic punk overload is an understatement of what their live show and records inject into today’s musical organism. These are the secretly important deviants of Detroit. This interview by John Henry.

I know it’s been a few years, but I was at that Horizontal Action Blackout Fest in Chicago when you pulled the dead octopus out of the bag and wore it on your head. Can you tell me the whole story?
Timmy Lampinen (vocals/guitar): Well, I called Matt Williams and he put together the Blackout—and Todd Killings from HoZac Records and Victim Of Time—but I was like, ‘Yeah, Matt, can you get us on the Blackout? You know we want to play the Blackout.’ He was like ‘ Yeah, we can only get you on third Thursday.’ Third on Thursday—that’s kind of a crappy slot. I had been playing Chicago for five or six years and it was like the fifteenth time I played. I thought maybe we should play a Friday or a Saturday or something. So I was thinking, ‘Man, third on Thursday—alright, we’re gonna give you something to remember.’ So I went to Eastern Market in Detroit. They got this crazy fish market that has all kinds of weird fish and stuff and I was like, ‘I gotta bring something weird on stage. I don’t know what but I gotta bring something.’ I was like, ‘What the fuck is that octopus?’ And it was like this frozen block about as big as a brick you put in your house. A little bit bigger but it was in a brick and it fit perfectly in this six-pack cooler that I had. So I put it in the six-pack cooler and I put all this lime and lemon juice all over it—marinated it. I marinated that motherfucker because I was like, ‘You know that thing’s probably gonna end up in my mouth—HA HA HA.’
Johnny Lzr (pianos): The trunk of my car still smells like octopus.
TL: Are you serious?
JL: A little bit yeah. It’s funny that people remember that. They even used it on the flyer of the Budget Rock Festival we just played.
I saw that caricature they used—I mean it’s a pretty memorable and notorious moment.
TL: Yeah, so I put it in Johnny’s trunk and it was the beginning of summer. It was hot—80, 90 degrees—and as soon as we got there, I pulled that cooler out and we were ready to go on stage. I put the cooler on stage, had some paint, and got ready to play. We got into the fourth song and I was like, ‘All right, octopus time. I don’t know what the fuck I’m gonna do with this but I’m pulling it out.’ It was nice and cold and thawed out. Perfect. It wasn’t warm or nothing. It was just thawed out from the hot trunk. Then I pulled that thing out and everyone was like ‘fuck!’ and just staring at it like deer in headlights. I was holding it up and started pouring green paint all over it and put it on my head. Then I threw it out in the audience and hit Billy’s mom with it.
Billy Hafer (drums): No you didn’t.
TL: No, someone said it hit your mom. Your mom was in the audience and it hit your mom.
Hafer: I was just kidding around.
TL: You were just kidding about that? Hey, put that in the interview—that’s funny shit. I threw the octopus at the audience and everyone scattered. It was like if I were throwing money out there. Everyone would implode but it was like they filmed that and rewound it or something. That doesn’t make any sense but anyway everybody just scattered and it slid across the floor. Somebody was really pissed off. It must have hit their girlfriend. You know the face you make right before you say the F word—like ‘ffthghtffth’? That’s what he looked like, and then he threw it on the stage and I grabbed it and I was like, ‘Sorry, dude.’ I picked it back up and put it on Billy’s cymbal and he was playing a jazz beat with an octopus on there. I don’t even know if we played a full set, maybe five or six songs. When I went back to get my stuff they put it under a table where all the gear would go in a little bag for me. They saved it and didn’t throw it away or anything. So it wound up at a party with us at Brian Costello’s—who’s in a band called Johnny and the Limelights who rule. I got there before anyone else and threw the octopus in the freezer and sprawled it out like it was just beamed up from outerspace. It totally looked like an alien creature. People were taking pictures of it and people were taking pictures of people taking pictures of it. It was fucking hilarious. So then it froze in there and we went to the show the next day and the club has a new rule sheet and one of the things was ‘No Squids.’ I could have brought an octopus still. So that’s the octopus story and then we got into seafood after that. We did a tour later on that summer. I don’t know why but this is cool—the seafood thing. We became the seafood band. Like a restaurant or something. Now we just gargle paint.
Was that vampire blood or something you were drinking at the Redwood?
TL: No, it was glitter slime. Yeah, I drank the glitter slime.
Do you make all the costumes and props and that weird Cthulhu glove?
TL: No, I got that mask at Kmart. It was on sale. No, just kidding. I made the mask and I made the glove. We’re regulars at the dollar store.
Brad, I know you’re the newest member of the band. Don’t you run a record store in Detroit?
Brad Hales (bass): Yeah, Tim came into my record shop and said they needed a bass player and they had a show in ten days in New York. I was like, ‘I really want to do it’ and he was like ‘I heard you can’t tour.’ I was playing in Easy Action but I opened my own record shop and I didn’t want to tour as much but I was like, ‘No, man, I’ll do it, I’ll do it.’ My record shop’s called People’s Records. It’s a busy secondhand record shop. We got about 70 or 80 thousand records in there. People bring them in off the street all day.
TL: He’s the king of northern soul, selling all these rare northern soul 45s. The BBC is going to do a documentary about his store and shit.
Hales: It’s going to be about the fiftieth anniversary of Motown, which is this year. They came to Detroit and interviewed my friend Herman Weems who painted the cover of Psychedelic Shack by the Temptations and was a songwriter in Detroit for decades.
So what’s going on in Detroit lately? You were talking earlier about the Terrible Twos and bands like that helping bring back the scene.
TL: Terrible Twos are like the bastard children of the Pirahnas and Clone Defects. Those are like my best buddies. Terrible Twos rule.
JL: It’s like a new generation of music kids that are coming up there.
TL: You know what? It blows away the Gold Dollar days, the bands right now in Detroit. It’s real, it’s snotty, it’s mean, it’s art damaged, it’s avant-garde, it’s punk, it’s crazy and there’s probably about ten kick-ass bands right now in Detroit. People were like, ‘Detroit’s slow,’ and no one was coming out to shows and it got a bad reputation. It kinda sucked because I was a booking agent and I was getting blamed for these sucky shows and I was trying my best and having people stay at my house and feeding them, letting them borrow my towel and shit. It’s way better now, totally—the Frustrations, Fontana, Terrible Twos, Gardens, Fake Blood, Druid Perfume, Johnny Ill Band, Demons, Rise of The Peace Balloon. There’s more but I’m not thinking of any—Human Eye! Detroit’s kicking it like Bruce Lee, man.