Interview from K Composite Magazine, Issue No. 1, 1992
Peter Searcy is the singer for Big Wheel. He previously fronted Louisville’s legendary punk band Squirrel Bait who recorded two albums on Homestead Records. Through these records, released in 1985 and 1987, the band gained worldwide recognition. Big Wheel’s first album in 1989 on Giant Records took his fans into some slower, cleaner territory. Now appealing to a somewhat different audience, their soon-to-be-released second LP shows a more refined and focused sound. Here’s what Peter Searcy has to say this summer about primates and his memories of senior prom.
For $10 would you kiss a big hairy dirty gorilla on the lips?
I would kiss a gorilla on the lips a lot sooner than I would kiss most people on the lips. So, you wouldn’t even have to pay me. I like primates.
Who’s your favorite TV personality and how does he or she compare with your best friend?
My favorite TV personality is, what’s his name, I can’t think of his name right off the top of my head. The evangelist on… Robert Tilton is my favorite TV personality. It seems like any time I turn the television on past midnight he’s on. I like it and the reason I like him so much and can compare it to my friend is because my friends are constantly speaking in tongues. And he speaks in tongues except he only knows a couple things in tongues… whatever tongues are.
How many cars have you had, and have any of them had names?
I have had two cars. I’ve had a 1963 Bug and a white Rabbit. The white Rabbit I called Piece Of Shit and the little black Bug I called Black Beauty. Isn’t that darling?
That is nice. The original Big Wheel ads all said “Featuring Peter Searcy” in big letters. Was that flattering or embarrassing, and why?
Very embarrassing. I made a flier up myself that said “Big Wheel featuring Mike Braden,” our bass player, “former bass player of Ivy Beats.” Just to give a little of the same medicine back. Yeah, it was embarrassing. We’re a band.
What is your fondest memory of Ayr-Way?
My fondest memory of Ayr-Way was the time Brian McMahan from Squirrel Bait shoplifted some records out in between his own records. He brought in some old scratched up records after school and he stole like, it was “Blizzard of Oz” Ozzy Osbourne and something else, I can’t remember what it was, between these two records.
What’s your favorite Indiana joke?
I don’t like to make fun of our Hoosier brothers.
Is MTV good or evil, and why?
MTV, I hate bugs, put that in there. I think MTV is very evil. And I’m not one to judge anything, I try to leave that up to other Louisville bands to judge things…. that’s not even a judgmental statement in its own. But I think it has too much power over people because there’s too many people that can’t make decisions for themselves. They watch something like MTV and let that dictate the styles. Pretty much anything that happens on MTV, a style comes out of it. You know, pretty soon you’ve got kids walking around with their overalls half undone. That’s one side, then you’ve got another side of kids who are playing the keyboards and dancing like they’re in a Euro-fuckin’ whatever, a Manchester band. So, I’m not up for it. But, you know, it’s hypocritical of me to say that because at the same time we’re shooting a video probably in November. And I would love it, you know, I would like nothing better than for it to be in heavy rotation on MTV. You know, I can’t lie, but I would hope that whatever we did on stage or whatever we did in the video would dictate the way anyone would dress or act. Certainly I don’t think we could dictate anyone with any good reason or bias.
Tell me about your senior prom.
My senior prom, I took a girl named Erin Rink, we went to Atherton High School. It was at the Seelbach and I remember not staying very long. And I remember a couple days later being accused of being on some very nasty drugs by a counselor at school, of which I was on none. So I took that rather… I was very angry with that.
Who was the band?
Oh gosh, it was like some DJ. Like a DJ spinning oldies or something like that. I went back to the Motel 6 and, you know, didn’t even do the wild thing. You know on prom night your girlfriend always throws up. It’s almost a written law that if it’s prom night your girlfriend will throw up. I went fishing the next day, some buddies and I.
Did you catch anything?
Some bluegills. You wanted me to say buzz, I know, ’cause that’s what most people say when you say, “Did you catch anything fishing?” you’re supposed to say, “a buzz.”
Have you ever been rushed to the hospital?
Ha! Millions of times! Almost went last night. Yes, definitely yes.
How do you feel the release of the new Big Wheel album will change your life?
Um, I’ll be a lot more busy in music whereas I haven’t before. I mean before I’ve been someone doing music who has to have a job at home. Now I’m going to be someone who will occasionally have a job at home. I’m just going to be more busy doing music. I think I’ll have a lot more time to be creative. You know, rather than hustling to make money to eat and stuff, I’ll be able to spend more time doing music and get paid for it. Not a lot, but a marginal amount of money, enough to where you can get by. I’ll be more into music which will make me a lot happier.
Have you ever been in the Ohio River, and did you swallow any?
I swallowed some Ohio. With my times I’ve been rushed to the hospital, I have a little problem with water skiing and stuff like that. So I’ve gotten pretty good on the old kneeboard. I think I’m gonna make it the thing to do! If I can influence anybody it’ll be to do more kneeboarding. It’s gonna be an expensive hobby, that’s for sure, you’ve gotta have a boat, but… or a friend with a boat, as the case is with me.
What were you doing when the Space Shuttle blew up?
I was in school in a lunch line, and it’s funny that you say that because I think it’s one of those things, everyone knows exactly what they were doing. I was in a lunch line. I saw the very first Space Shuttle go up, I was down there. I was in Jacksonville and we drove down to Cape Canaveral, or whatever it is Cape Kennedy, I get ’em confused. And we saw the first one go up. We saw the aborted one, then we drove back down and saw the first one go up. It was pretty amazing being in the midst of about a million some-odd or more people.
Feel everything going grshhhh…
Nah, from where we were it just looked like a big ol’ cloud going up ihn the air. But it was pretty neat. You can see it, you can literally see it anywhere up and down the coast of America.
If drafted for the Gulf War, would you have shown up? Why or why not?
(pause) God, that’s a tough one. No, I would not have. Because, ehh, I could come up with too many reasons not to go. Physically, and too many reasons in my psyche. I don’t want to kill anybody. I don’t want to fight to protect someone’s interest with money. But I, you know, someone has to do it and it’s not me. It’s someone else, I’ll pass the buck, so to speak, to protect the buck.
After being in Squirrel Bait, you only now realize that you’re in it for life. How does “ex-Squirrel Bait” help or hinder your growth as a singer?
Um, it could go in so many directions, you know. I’ve got a voice that I can actually do things with. But anybody who has a voice who can do anything with it drives me nuts. With any kind of voice, you can change or adapt. Squirrel Bait was great for what it was and it got me where I was, and I’m bound to gain and lose fans now with the new music. I just hope they don’t feel betrayed, that no one feels betrayed, since I’m doing something new, because they haven’t been.