Instrumental Surf / Soul / / Rock / Lounge
Central North Carolina
Interview by email with Crispy
Bess by email on 11/12/08
1. What is the current line-up of your band?
Killer Filler currently is:
Rusty Miller, bass
Mark Murphy, drums and driveway bell
Pete Gamble, guitar, percussion and psycho-delic gizmotron
Bryon Settle, most lead guitar
Crispy Bess, keyboards, guitar,
2. How and when did you
get started with your band?
Long story: Back when I was
Southern Culture on the Skids,
I had put out a record by one of my old bands, Noises Dad Makes, which can be
They Might Be Giants on a 99-cent budget. I was selling these CD's at
SCOTS shows, and sold a bunch, but I could tell that SCOTS leader Rick Miller
was not happy with me selling these things at "his" shows; he wanted something
that at least was in a similar format to his own band. So, I set about
putting together an instrumental organ record called "Crispy's
Organ Grab", which was going to feature all of the dozen or so vintage keyboards
I'd gathered up over the years. Taking a cue from another old band of mine, the
all-instrumental Civil Tones. I worked up songs in surf, soul, country,
easy-listening, and spy-fi formats. I knocked out some demos in my home
studio, and planned to record the final deal at Rick's Kudzu Ranch studios with
a slew of local musicians from the
Chapel Hill area. But then Rick gave me the heave-ho at the end of
2003, so that nipped THAT idea in the bud.
In the meantime, Skipper and Matt at Pravda Music Publishing in
Chicago had started
licensing my demos of these songs as background music to cable TV, and lo and
behold, they used them--alot! The royalty checks were never huge, but they
sure helped pay the bills when I was between jobs. I had called the CD of
demos "100% Killer Filler", after my buddy, drummer Ted Zarras, told me what
"killer background filler" the songs were. The success of the songs on
subliminal TV made me want to do them live, so I gathered up a bunch of crack
musicians, and the Killer Filler name stuck on for the ride.
bands or music have influenced you most?
Certainly the Ventures by a big margin, and Booker T and the MG's as
well. I'm also a big fan of
Enoch Light and Henry
Mancini; in fact, the earliest record I remember listening to was
Mancini's soundtrack to the Pink Panther; it obviously made a big impression.
I also like
Laika & the Cosmonauts
(NESMA honorary band), particularly for some of the fuzzy,
reverb-drenched sounds Matt Pittinski gets out of his Farfisa.
The rest of the band has influences ranging from
Hoagy Carmichael to
Pink Floyd, so they bring
in lots of ideas I wouldn't otherwise think about, and that's good.
What is the break down of cover
vs. original material in your live shows and/or recordings?
Right now it's about 60/40 covers to originals. Our covers are, for the most
part, deliberately obscure; I'd much rather introduce the audience to some great
unknown song by Vinnie
Bell or the Jeff Wayne
Space Shuttle than have us do yet another
Dick Dale (NESMA
honorary band) or Surfaris
(NESMA honorary band) song. Plus it keeps the BMI goons from harassing our local
club owners for royalties. To be fair, though, we do perform a few better-known
songs, everyone from
Elvis to Zappa, but when they're performed in an instro band,
particularly with our twisted little minds, they take on a whole new format.
One problem with doing offbeat covers is figuring out who to pay royalties too
after you've recorded them. Our CD, "Filler Up!" should have come out in 2007,
but we were stuck in legal limbo trying to find out who owned the rights to
Santo & Johnny's "Mucho Tempo"! Thankfully, we eventually got it
all straightened out, 'cause I'd be really sad if that song wasn't on our
CD--it's too much fun.
Originals, BTW, are currently all written by me, but both Bryon and Pete have
stuff in the works that I hope will be "Filler-ized" by the time our next CD
What recording have you done?
Bryon used to run the Yellow House Studio in
Chapel Hill, and he still has the gear from said studio in our practice
space. We recorded our CD, "Filler Up!" with said equipment, as well as a
Christmas medley of "I
Saw Three Ships" and "The
First Noel" for a local
charity record called "A Holly Raleigh
Christmas 3" Soon we're
planning to record original music we made for local monster movie host Ormon
Grimsby, and his "Monster Creature Feature" TV show. One snafu is that Bryon's
vintage 16-track tape machine is
under the weather, so we're likely looking for an alternate way to record these
I also record stuff in my home studio, both for use as future TV production
music and as demos of originals for Killer Filler to learn.
What kind of gear do you use?
We're all over the map.
Mark has three sets of drums; a Slingerland Radio King set, an old Gretsch kit
he's had since he was a kid, and a set custom-made in Johnson City, TN called
Phattie. He also uses a Milton Driveway Bell, the kind found at gas stations all
over the country, for a delightful effect on the song "Gasboys".
Pete uses a
Fender Strat into a Holland amp (a boo-teek
Fender Bassman copy) in between is his Roland effects module we call the
Psycho-Delic Gizmotron, because we (and often Pete) never know what sort of
sounds are going to come out of the thing.
Rusty uses a couple of reissue Fender basses into a couple of big ol'
Ampeg bass amps. It's fun watching him shoehorn his SVT into the back of
Bryon also uses a Strat, played into a Carr Slant 6V. In between is a
constantly-evolving pedalboard we call The Pedalboard of Justice. Or Pedalboard
of Doom. Depends.
My rig is a Hammond XK-2 organ running into a Motion Sound Pro-3 rotating
speaker and an Ampeg B-15. I also have a controller keyboard that uses an Alesis
piano module for other key noises. My
guitar rig is a 1966 Yamaha SG-2, which is similar to a
Jaguar, into a 1964 Fender
Twin Reverb. I also have a
Digitech Whammy pedal set an octave lower to get Bass VI sounds
live--works pretty good.
What is your bandís favorite food/beverage?
Tough call. Some of us are health nuts, some vegetarians, some on the wagon,
some junk-food loving fiends. I do know I once got the boys some beer from the
O'Fallon brewery called Wheach, and they went bananas over it. They were also
happy when I took them to Hills BBQ in Winston-Salem before a gig. As for me,
just get me a Dr. Pepper and some Thai food.
8. How do you get
We mooch, just like everybody else does. Pestering club owners, other bands,
people on Craigslist that
have "Band Needed" ads, you name it. The secret, as our drummer/booker Mark will
tell you, is to be polite but insistent. I'm glad he's here, 'cause
I can be insistent, but not always polite.
9. What are the
difficulties you find playing your kind of music in your area?
Club owners are resistant to
the "No Words" thing; they think the crowd will hate it.
Sometimes we've had to play their clubs on
Open Mic Nights to prove that's not the case. Then we get the irony where
we've wowed the crowd and STILL didn't get booked--some folks are just stubborn,
We're also older fellas, and although rock n' roll is becoming an old man's
format, some club folk still want good-lookin' youth up there on stage, and not
old fat dudes like me.
10. What positive attributes
does your band have that sets you apart from other bands (of any genre)?
The ability to alternate from
one instrumental format to another and back again. Much as I love
surf music, there's just too much good instrumental music out there to
ignore that ain't
Los Straitjackets (NESMA honorary
band). I also think we're the perfect opening band; we're good players,
and knock out a bunch of good stuff quickly, and always make the headliner look
good, 'cause they usually sing, and we don't. Kinda' like the Shadoows opening
Cliff Richard, except we don't have to play behind the headlining singer.
Mind you, we wouldn't mind trying that someday--could be a hoot.
have you found to be the single most effective promotional tool youíve used to
further your bandís musical path?
Opening for somebody popular! We played before
Junior Brown a while back and got more hits on our website and public
recognition than ever before from that experience. Also playing lots of
festivals; more often than not you're playing to people who've never seen you
before, and many of them become instant fans. Unless you suck.
I also recommend making business cards. You never know when you'll run into
somebody interested in your band and wants to set up a gig, or hook you up with
a promoter buddy for some county fair or liquor store opening.
Whatís the most interesting performance experience youíve had?
Welp, there was a benefit gig
we did once where the crowd (an older bunch not fond of the rock and/or roll),
had us turn down so low that our guitar picks were louder than our guitars. That
was interesting. Depressing, but interesting.
What do you hope to get out of being a NESMA member?
Finding bands of similar
formats we can network with, and hopefully gig with. I'd like to get this band
as far North as Baltimore and as far south as Atlanta (both 5 hour trips for
us), to help spread our goodness and hopefully move a few more CD's. And we'd
certainly extend the offer to any band up north to come on down to Cackalacky
and introduce yourselves to our crowd; I'm sure they'd love ya'.
Here's a secret recording
tip: if you want your guitars to sound bad ass, use as small a tube amp as you
an find, with an outboard reverb unit. You'll find your guitars sounding so huge
you'll want to go find Dick Dale and taunt him. But don't.