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 Three Chords and a Grudge

An interview with Richard Oliver of Cooterfinger

By Bob Ignizio

If you like raw, raunchy garage rock it doesn’t get much rawer or raunchier than Georgia’s Cooterfinger.  Cooterfinger is, for all intents and purposes, Richard Oliver.  Richard also has a record label, Illbilly records.  He's released two compilations of garage rock and country punk music, and of course his own projects.  His latest release is the second Cooterfinger EP, ‘Three Chords and a Grudge’.  I recently had the chance to talk with Richard about his one man, three-chord crusade, and he was kind enough to fill me in on the details. 

Utter Trash: How did you get started playing and recording and when did Cooterfinger come into existence? 
Cooterfinger: I started playing when I was thirteen, and by the time I was fifteen I was playing in places I shouldn't have been in. After too many years of that, and what seemed like an endless stream of failed bands, I decided to spend some time recording songs I wrote and let the band thing rest for a while. I still play in a couple of bands, but I've kind of given up on the ideal band situation. You know, three or four people with the same goals musically speaking. Just hasn't happened for me, but I guess my location could be my biggest holdback.  Cooterfinger came into being a little over a year ago, I believe. I was wanting to move in a more garage direction, so I created Cooterfinger. It has a half psycho-hillbilly, half James Bond feel to it, don't you think? I figured I could go in a variety of directions and the name would still fit, but what the fuck do I know.  

Utter Trash: So the name Cooterfinger...that's not some sort of cheap sexual innuendo, is it?
Cooterfinger: No! Not at all. It's actually derived from the latin phrase "CU-TA-FI-GA" which literally translates into "Crank it up asshole". Latin has always been somewhat of a hobby of mine. I find it simultaneously relaxing and stimulating. Much like a coffee colonic with a Zyprexa chaser.  

Utter Trash: You're new CD is called '3 Chords and a Grudge'.  The 3 chords part is obvious, but who or what is your grudge against?
Cooterfinger: My ex-wife, every insurance salesman I've ever met, whoever wrote that "Hey Ya" song, and a few others that will have to remain nameless at the moment due to the gag order. Actually, I stole it from a Stiv Bators quote I read somewhere. It seemed to fit my present situation at the time.

Utter Trash: Is Cooterfinger just you or is there a full band?
Cooterfinger: It's just me as far as the writing and recording end of it goes. I do have a group of different guys from other local bands that I use when I play out. I usually do the same shows as their bands.  That way I can kind of count on them to be there to back me up.  Musicians are not the most reliable people, so you've got to think these things out way ahead of time.  I would eventually like to put together a full time band, but finding a drummer that won't try to screw your wife is pretty hard to do.   

Utter Trash: What bands/artists warped your mind during your formative years resulting in your particular approach to rock 'n' roll?
Cooterfinger: The Cramps of course, the Plasmatics, the Ramones.  Before that I had the standard KISS addiction like most kids growing up in the late seventies early eighties. That was back when Creem was a decent read. That was a rock n' roll magazine, for all you younger folks out there. 

Utter Trash: What do you think are the necessary ingredients for great rock 'n' roll? Cooterfinger: Wow! Great question. I guess I'd say the necessary ingredients for great rock 'n' roll would probably be. one: a shitty day job, B: a drummer that's going to try and screw your wife, three: a 7" record collection, D: more alcohol than your body can properly absorb and 5: some traumatic schoolyard experience involving a bully or school janitor.  

Utter Trash: On your EP, you have achieved one of the dirtiest, raunchiest sounds I've ever wrapped my ears around.  Is it just as simple as cranking the levels up as far as they can go, or is achieving that sound more complicated than that? Cooterfinger: No, cranking the levels up as far as they go is pretty much it.  

Utter Trash: You've got your own label, Illbilly records.  Do you want to continue going the self released route or would you ever want to sign with someone else?
Cooterfinger: I could say that I like the freedom of releasing my own material which would be like a homeless man saying he liked the freedom of the outdoors. It's all a matter of circumstance. Nobody is going to sign me because they won't make any money. I play to a very small fanbase, which is fine with me. If I did make any money at it I would probably feel like a sellout. Don't get me wrong, I'd take the money and spend every dime, but I wouldn't feel good about it and I probably wouldn't respect myself in the morning.  

Utter Trash: Aside from the 'Dropped on the Head' compilations you've put out, any plans to release artists other than yourself through Illbilly Records?
Cooterfinger: Yeah, I would like to do some 7" splits of different garage and rock n' roll bands sometime in the future. Maybe when the whore money starts rolling in.  

Utter Trash: Do you prefer your style of music to stay underground, or would you like to see it get big so you can make millions of dollars, blow it all on drugs and hookers, and get your own episode of 'Behind the Music'?
Cooterfinger: Underground definitely. If I saw the local high school punks riding around in their little Fast and the Furious Hondas and Toyotas with the Richmond Sluts or the Black Lips blasting through their subwoofers I think I'd puke or get religion. But, fortunately for me, the local Hondas and Toyotas only run on rap, so my lunch is safe for the moment. I don't think I've ever wanted to fit in with the masses. Besides, there's too much mental illness in my family for that anyway. 

Utter Trash: Anything else you want to say that I didn't ask you about?
Cooterfinger: Yeah, buy some of my shit so I can afford to record something new. You can get it at www.cdbaby.com , www.towerrecords.com or direct from the smelly source at www.geocities.com/illbillyrocks  Also, I want to say thanks for the interview. I feel all warm and fuzzy inside like Justin Timberlake. Oh, wait... it's just the Zyprexa kicking in. Well, piss off. I need a nap.

Visit the Illbilly Records website.