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The Raw Essence


Seattle's blitz-rocking Supersuckers are delighted to put their drums and guitars at the service of Willie Nelson. Also their woods, irons and putters.

A steady thwack and pop, the sound of golf balls being swatted, could be heard in the background as Eddie Spaghetti, Supersuckers' singer and bassist, called last week from a driving range in Dallas.

Having collaborated musically with Nelson on "Twisted Willie," a recently issued tribute album in which some of the country-music hero's familiar sidekicks join a surprising array of noisy young alternative rockers, Supersuckers are now ready to team up with golf-nut Willie on the links.

"We're practicing up in case Willie asks us to play golf," Eddie said. "I'm lousy, but our drummer's good."

Possible duffing aside, Nelson and Supersuckers had some mutual music-making on their agenda for this week. A "Tonight Show" appearance was booked for Tuesday, with Willie and Supersuckers planning a rendition of "Bloody Mary Morning," the song they play together on "Twisted Willie."

Nelson was also expecting to sit in Wednesday as Supersuckers headlined the Roxy in West Hollywood. Nelson and Supersuckers will both be holding forth in Orange County on Friday night, but hooking up will be harder: Supersuckers play the Lava Room in Costa Mesa, while Nelson and Leon Russell play two shows at the Coach House, opening a four-night local stand.

Eddie, in his late 20s, said he got an early indoctrination into Willie Nelson's music as a kid in Tucson, Ariz. His parents had a collection of Nelson albums, along with the Rolling Stones and Creedence Clearwater Revival records that helped motivate young Eddie to become a rocker.

When Supersuckers began in 1988, the plan was to play hellbent rock 'n' roll--fast, fun, and frill-free with lots of tongue-in-cheek devil imagery and high-octane celebrations of rowdy living.

The band started with a simple-enough founding philosophy, Eddie said: "Let's try to be Motorhead, with maybe a touch of the Replacements in there--that garage-rock thing--and don't forget the Ramones and AC/DC."

With Gibson Les Pauls cranking and wah-wah pedal solos wailing, Supersuckers have pretty much kept to that philosophy, with satisfying results for anyone who feeds on rock's rawest physicality.

The cowboy-hatted foursome's releases include "The Smoke of Hell" (1992) the 1994 album, "La Mano Cornuda" (which means "the horned hand"--the familiar heavy-metal hand-signal symbolizing a devil's head) and, most recently, "The Sacrilicious Sounds of the Supersuckers."

While it may not always show on record, Eddie said, "Our band has been pretty heavily into Willie the last four or five years. On the road, we listened to a lot of Willie as we traveled. That snowballed in the last few years to where he's one of the few people we can all agree is truly great."

Eddie says the Supersuckers' manager, Danny Bland, came up with the idea for a Nelson tribute with noisy rockers attacking the country star's twangy repertoire.

Justice Records, which released several recent Nelson albums, got behind the project, and last March, Supersuckers found themselves in Austin, working on their contribution.

Others on the album include include old-line Nelson buddies Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings and Kris Kristofferson, along with such new-generation fans as X, the Reverend Horton Heat, L7 and the Presidents of the United States. Also involved are two Texas acts currently opening for Supersuckers on tour: the ZZ Top-inspired Tenderloin and country traditionalist Jesse Dayton.

To the Supersuckers' delight, Nelson accepted producer Randall Jamail's invitation to sit in on their "Twisted Willie" session, and he wound up playing guitar and sharing vocals with Eddie on "Bloody Mary Morning."

"I was flattered, first of all," Nelson said last week from his tour bus. "Flattered that the young people knew these obscure songs of mine, and flattered that they wanted to do a tribute album."

He was happy to join the Supersuckers in revving up one of his oldies. "I'm glad to have that energy, to have my lyrics going along at that speed," he said. "I didn't know ["Bloody Mary Morning"] could go that fast, but I'm glad it can. It's like an old Texas hoedown--as fast as you can play, and then a little bit faster."

The Nelson connection continues on "The Sacrilicious Sounds of the Supersuckers." Though Willie isn't on the record, his older sister, Bobbie Nelson, who plays in her brother's touring band, adds piano and gospel-style organ to "Don't Go Blue," a rare Supersuckers ballad.

Another object of veneration for the Supersuckers is Ozzy Osbourne, who receives a catchy, yell-along homage in a song called, simply, "Ozzy."

"Ozzy to me embodies the rock 'n' roll aesthetic," Eddie said. "He's not good-looking, he doesn't really sing that good, but he just put it all together. He's my kind of hero."

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