Always a lightning rod of controversy, Chris Lutzko’s jihadist approach to punk has been beneficial in getting the word out about his local terror cell, the Unholy Two. But after three years of live shows met with confrontation and polarized minds corrupted by conspiracy propaganda and subversive volume, the pivotal “put up or shut the fuck up” moment has arrived. As the country’s best hype man since Flavor Flav, Lutzko knew that all of his vitriolic soapboxing—not to mention the tweeter-busting feedback from the stage—had to be manifested in $$kum of the Earth, the Unholy Two’s debut album for Columbus Discount Records. Though priceless fodder still comes from his mouth at a steady stream—just in our interview alone there were talks about Nazi occult blood rituals hidden in the tracks, finger banging the girl from Sleigh Bells last Friday night, and questioning if promoter Todd Patrick really does anything productive for music in Brooklyn—he shows the band’s extremely unique worth in the heavy punk that fills the album.
On $kum of the Earth, Lutzko is aided mostly by Adam Smith on “power electronics” and Bo Davis on drums, but he also invited a collection of townie notables, including the Shannon brothers (Cheater Slicks) and Anthony Allman (El Jesus de Magico), to make for what seems like an all-night basement session in Washington Beach gone horribly out of control. With the simple speed and relentless chaos of “Nazi Nailgun,” much of the record sounds like the Columbus gauntlet laid forth by CDR and the bands that comprise the roster taken to a level of extremity no one has yet to cross. That line in the sand has always been defined by a barrage of shock and awe theatrics, here coming in titles like “Do the Horse (Cock)” and lines about defiling Prescott Bush’s skull, but $$kum is just as offensive sonically. “White Devil” is riddled with nitrous trails leading down a crusted abyss and holds a mirror up to ugly, bloody-knuckled thud-punk metal to show a reflection that’s as invigorating and creatively kinetic as it is bleak and cathartic. $kum of the Earth is not only a punch to the gut, it’s what many who have heard it already call a “game changer.” Though there are plenty of bands these days that writhe in the same aggressive, sludgy histrionics as Lutzko and company produce, the Unholy Two have created a record that transcends all that.
In my conversation with Lutzko, I found that the Unholy Two have matured out of the performance art pratfalls of their beginnings, and have become a band that wants to be judged just as much by their recordings as they do their patented room-clearing live shows.
I know you are a big fan of a lot of ’90s bands who fall under the umbrella of “pigfuck.” How do you think those records on Amphetamine Reptile have held up? Is that an aesthetic you try to emulate?
Chris Lutzko: That’s funny because we were listening to Killdozer at Bourbon Street last night, and I thought it was perfect because it was repetitive and soul-sucking. It just sucks your soul out. It captured the vibes of Bourbon Street and bad vibes of Washington Beach.
Do you think there’s a use for an AmRep anniversary festival in modern times? Is that music relevant in the present?
CL: I went to the Touch and Go thing a couple years ago and it was actually kind of lame. Killdozer was the only sweet band. Negative Approach was alright, but seeing Big Black play just four songs was kind of lame.
Even though I hear the influence of those bands, I think you’ve taken steps to make things sound even more abrasive and visceral. I don’t think of most of that music as psychedelic, but $$kum of the Earth doubles as a headphone record and something you can play loud at a party. What was your objective when you went to record?
CL: We wanted to just have a bunch of things coming in and out. When you hear Exile on Main Street—or any Rolling Stones record—there’s a lot of things coming in and out, lots of different tracks and instruments. This is our first album and we really want to make records. We play a lot in Columbus, and set up shows for a lot of out of town bands coming through, but we’d much rather be a band that makes records. On “Sullivan Killed Benoit,” Adam added a lot of electronics and guitar overdubs. We were listening to a lot of Crass at the time, so we kind of wanted guitar tones that sound like that.
Feedback plays an important part on the record. Were you consciously altering the feedback to play as a stand-alone instrument?
CL: Like the different ways you can bang your guitar against your amp... you think you’d be able to drop your amp and it will explode and make this amazing sound, but instead it just falls over, the cable comes out, and you don’t hear anything.
You’ve played quite a few shows on the East Coast now, and it seems like out in New York that there’s been a proliferation of bands that share the same aesthetic of playing loud, visceral punk. Sometimes it almost feels like there are already Unholy Two cover bands. Do you have an opinion on why that might be?
CL: For us, we just have what we call an East Coast crew, with Rot Shit, Puffy Areolas, Pop. 1280, and Twin Stumps. They’re bands that, even if we don’t play the same music, like things loud and like to party. It’s a cool thing. We just really want to make loud music. I like how people at our shows don’t tell us we suck or “good set,” they just say it was loud. Probably the best moments, when we played and I fucking knew we were doing what I wanted us to do, was when Reagan, the worst bartender at Bourbon Street, came running up to us in the middle of the set like someone just ran over her child and told us to turn down. Or when we played Massillon and this pregnant bartender was yelling at us to turn down.
If you didn’t have Bo and Adam by your side, how would you carry on with Unholy Two by yourself?
CL: You mean like hit the drum with your foot? Adam and Bo put a lot of time into this record. At first, we didn’t get together as much and practice. It didn’t really seem like a band. But now, with this record, Adam put a lot of time into recording.
So the record was for the most part produced by Adam? Alex Empire didn’t really record “Nazi Nailgun?”
CL: Um... yeah, he recorded it, yeah. It was him and that babe with the tattoos on her face. I think that’s his wife. It was Alex Empire’s wife and the girl from Sleigh Bells.
When you write lyrics and song titles and make your (sometimes) controversial flyers, do you ever stop and wonder who it might offend?
CL: No, never. It’s really awesome to be in a band where you get to do whatever you want to do. I thought that was what music was about. We’re not really trying to sound like anything—just to be really loud. We are like some of the bands you’ve mentioned, but I think we take it a bit farther. We go out there. A lot of bands start off with their punk record first and then just get weaker. We want to only get better and louder, kind of like how the Times New Viking records have only gotten better as they move on.
Well, then I guess I’m interested to know what inspires a song like “Sick Fuck.” I thought it was about necrophilia, but you told me earlier it was about Prescott Bush’s skull.
CL: It’s the same thing. I guess it’s about going down to Greenlawn Cemetery, where Prescott Bush is buried, and stealing his skull, like he did to the skull of Geronimo, and then getting a little weird with it.
That’s Grandpa Bush? He’s buried in Greenlawn Cemetery?
CL: Yeah. The Skull and Bones skull is the skull of Geronimo, which he personally swiped.
Are you getting out the vote? I know you have a strong opinion of local politics, so I’m curious to know what side you’ll be on come Election Day next week?
CL: I’m not going to vote at all. We’re over all of that. I think there’s a point where music can become so punk that it becomes wrestling. We’re at that point where we just don’t give a fuck about anything. We want to get a bad review. In Columbus, everyone is so stupid. Nobody really respects the Cheater Slicks or anything good, but outside of your hometown, people are awesome.