We weren't punks, we were assholes. Assholes are punks without a sense of community,
without even a punk's code of etiquette or fair play. Assholes are punks whose parents
put them through college, pay their rent, buy their instruments and bail them out
of jail. Assholes are punks who slag women and minorities. They vote Republican,
drive Corvettes and steal things, not because they need something, but because it's
a kick to steal. Assholes go on stage late, sometimes hours behind schedule, to piss
you off. Assholes preach to their fans, whom they hold in utter contempt. They are
musically incompetent prima donnas, who spend more time on their makeup and clothes
than on their music. They overcharge promoters and underpay their opening acts.
They dress up like Nazis and dine at German restaurants for grins. They screw virgin
groupies, accuse them of spreading VD and then sing about it onstage. They break
into houses on acid and scare the shit out of old people.
As drummer, songwriter and dramaturge of the Huns, I was there.
After our first show caused a riot and generated gobs of local frontpage press —
not to mention blurbs in Rolling Stone and New Musical Express —
we became international celebrities in our own minds. (It doesn't take much to inflate
the egos of pseudo-intellectual hicks prone to megalomania). We at arrived at parties
early, scarfed the refreshments and split. We booked gigs and didn't show. We insulted
friends, fans, other bands, sound engineers, journalists, managers, producers and
club owners. (Once, backstage after a show, Joseph Gonzales, proprietor of Raul's,
was forced to pull a loaded .38 on our lead singer to rectify a personal slight).
We were mean, arrogant, pedantic, petty, pious, selfish, whiny, insensitive, greedy,
lying, effeminate, lazy, lecherous, inconsiderate, self-aggrandizing, vindictive
pricks. For a brief, glorious period at a little club in Austin we were on top,
and the world was our bottom. We had a license, perhaps an obligation, to be assholes.
But the public, which issues sphincter permits, is fickle, and they soon revoked
ours. We went from critics' darlings to pariahs within a year, and then spent another
year pathetically trying to regain the ground we lost. Bands that we inspired, that
followed us at Raul's — the Dicks and the Big Boys for instance — surpassed
us by gigging steadily, mastering their instruments and embracing their audience.
Gary Floyd and Biscuit Turner were people with whom you'd want to share a beer, people
you'd trust with your firstborn. The Huns were boors, backstabbers, wife beaters,
bigots, freeloaders, carpetbaggers, perjurers, adulterers, blasphemers, pedophiles,
gluttons, Reaganities, public urinators, nose pickers and quitters.
People at the time thought our signature number — the song that got us arrested —
"Eat Death Scum", was a daring broadside against the Austin Police Department, when
it was really a vile attack on a girl who Phil thought had given him the clap. The
only line I can remember is, "I want to bludgeon your pussy with a mace"; so it's
just as well that the words were never audible above the din, and that even now
it doesn't exist on record.
THE BUST & THE TRIAL
What possessed Phil Tolstead to kiss a cop on the night of September 19, 1978? It was
a mad urge, a dramatic notion, an instinct for contradiction, and John Lennon saying,
'Give me a kiss' to a bobby in Hard Day's Night. Most newspapers at the time
described it as an attempted smooch; but I'm telling you it was full lip-to-lip
contact, however brief, which caused the chain reaction that ended in a police riot
and the beating and arrest of several of our friends and fans. Phil's charges were
disorderly conduct, resisting arrest and abusive language. No mention of forcible
At the trial, it appeared that we lucked out, when the hirsute Steve Russell, ex-campus
radical, — the most liberal judge in Austin — was appointed to adjudicate.
All Phil had to do was lay low, and he'd walk. The proceedings began with testimony
from punks, cops and barmaids, followed by expert witnesses. A prof from the UT
music department validated the artistic legitimacy of our music (how dare him!),
and another Ph.D. from drama testified to the delicate contract which had been entered
into between performer and audience at Rauls — and the inappropriate violation
of that covenant by a third party (the police).
Just as Russell's bleeding heart was about to break in our favor, Phil launched
into an incoherent discourse on Antonin Artaud's
Theatre of Cruelty.
Somehow that prompted the justice to make reference to his glory days in the sixties,
to which Phil sneered, 'I hate the sixties.' All semblance of jurisprudence went
out the window as defendant and magistrate hotly debated the merits of the Woodstock
generation. The hippy found the punk guilty of disorderly conduct and fined him
$53.50. Later that winter at a separate hearing before another, less progressive
judge, Phil was found guilty of resisting arrest, charged $2000 and sentenced to
jail. He appealed both convictions.
The case went as far as the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, and as late as 1983
Phil's lawyers were dreaming they had a first amendment ride all the way to Washington.
Who could blame them? They'd been working for free for five years. But after Phil's
conversion to fundamentalist Christianity, he pulled the ultimate boner, changing
his plea to guilty and abandoning the appeal process. I'm not sure what happened
after that, I guess he got probation.
EAT DEATH SCUM
The original lineup of the Huns was Phil Tolstead (vocals), Dan Transmission (keyboards,
vocals), Joel Richardson (bass), myself on drums and Manny Rosario on guitar. Manny
was a tough-talking, paranoid Puerto Rican with an inferiority complex. He tended
to write sincere, iconoclastic punk anthems, ripped riff-by-riff from other artists
(usually the Buzzcocks). Punk rock was his savior, and he considered himself one
of only a handful of authentic punks in Austin. Faster-shorter-louder was his mantra.
He would threaten to beat us up when we veered from the party line.
Manny was the only band member who went to Phil's aid during the bust. With his
guitar as a cudgel he smashed the radio out of Officer Bridgewater's hand as he
was calling for backup. The bluebelly parried with his blackjack. Manny sailed backwards,
hit the floor and sat up with Tweety Birds circling his head. He made a beeline for
the back door, hopped the fence and called us from Florida the next day, convinced
that if he'd stayed he would have been fish bait for the A.P.D. He snuck back into
town just in time for our second disastrous gig at the Union Ballroom 21 days later.
He joined us for only one more show at Raul's, where he abandoned the stage mid-set
in disgust at Phil's drunken antics, and then divorced us for good over creative
differences. Manny was a punk, not an asshole; so he didn't fit in. I was sorry to
see him go. The rest of us couldn't play.
It took a while to find a replacement. Not just anyone was worthy to call themselves
Hun. Phil anointed John Burton, an excellent drummer and Judas Priest devotee, who
longed for the extra attention afforded guitarists. Although he'd only recently
acquired his axe, John was destined to be one of us, based on his personality (perfect
asshole) and looks (6' 3" with a face like Boris Karloff. He was a gadget freak and
his mother bought him whatever he wanted. His four Marshall amps are still ringing
in my ears.
A member of the audience at our second show told a reporter, "These guys would be
nothing if it wasn't for the cops." How right she was; we sounded like the Pistols
with Sid on every instrument. But then our mission wasn't musical; our mission was
to stir the shit, cure boredom and strip the gears of musical privilege in Austin,
represented by the folk, blues and cosmic cowboy oligarchies.
Each of us had less than six months experience on our instrument. We learned to
play on stage, like an anxiety dream. We didn't write songs we wrote bumper stickers:
Eat Death Scum, Kill All Men, Legalize Crime, Fuck Mommy Kill Daddy. Only John's
four amps and phlange covered the rinky-dink quality of the rest of our equipment.
The guarantee that we'd never be musical, no matter how much we practiced or upgraded
our gear, was the indisputable fact that Phil couldn't sing. He was a master of
prance and patter, maybe the best I ever saw, and looks-wise he was a regular punk
poster boy, but he was behind the door when they passed out the pipes. Once at a
band meeting I suggested that he lip sync and let Dan (who had a voice like Pavarotti)
sing lead, but it never came to a vote.
It's just as well that we never put out a studio LP. The Huns were psychodramatic chthonian performance art; and
the gauche and vulgar, spectacular meaning of it all could only be fathomed live.
Like Kiss, Bonzo Dog Band, Gwar, Devo, The Tubes, Uranium Savages, or GG Allin, we
were capable of evoking a unique, transcendent experience for our audience and
ourselves. On the eight or nine occasions when the alchemy really worked, we bore
a hole to hell and stole the devil's own fire. Otherwise, we sucked.
— Tom Huckabee
Hollywood Hills, February 1995
The above notes (which I consider the best a band member's
ever written for me) were part of a booklet included with the Huns: Live At The
Palladium 1979 LP, an album I released in 1995 after locating the master tapes
for the Dallas “Battle of The Bands”. The six hundred issued on vinyl
are long sold out. Get Hip did a CD reissue
which is still available. Have a listen to Murder In Texas outlining the sordid tale of
getting away with murder not 300 yards from my house in Fort Worth. Tom adds his own bizarre intro...
At the time of the release, I'd only been
able to locate two out of five Huns. Mind you, “five” means counting
Phil Tolstead who'd been born again not too long after the Huns' demise and had
even appeared on the 700 Club denouncing punk
rock and showing Huns footage! I never planned on asking Phil his opinion or permission.
Anyway, instead of letting a great recording rot (and the tape was indeed decaying),
I went ahead with production. I eventually reached Dan Transmission (three outta
five ain't bad) who seemed pleased about the release, though unhappy with the drummer's
portrayal of the band. John Burton (who, by the way, produced the first Big Boys EP
and the first Red Rockers 45) would occasionally stop at Sound Exchange in
Austin and gripe about the LP... poor performance, unflattering liner notes, no one
asked him, etc. My continued efforts to get in touch (phone calls, info left with Sound
Exchange employees) proved unsuccessful. So here's my public announcement of what
I've said to Dan Transmission in private... I welcome any Hun to step forward with
his version of events. I'll post 'em right here alongside Tom's. John, consider this
an olive branch from a dedicated Huns fan. Get in touch sometime... I'd love your
take on the bad ol' days.