By LA Weekly
By Henry Rollins
By Weekly Photographers
By Shea Serrano
By Nate "Igor" Smith
By Dan Weiss
By Erica E. Phillips
By Kai Flanders
“We talked shit because music was so sacred to us,” Keller says of Buddyhead’s irrepressible urge to tar and feather musicians it deemed unworthy. “Music’s my religion. It’s like, dude, you’re pissing on my shrine.”
Buddyhead’s band of critics were as — if not more — provocative than the topics they wrote about. When Keller accompanied bands signed to the label on tour, Buddyhead’s mischief-making often leapt off the computer screen and into real life. Like in 2001, when on tour with The Icarus Line they spray-painted “$ucking Dick$” on the side of the Strokes’ tour bus. Or in 2002, when Aaron North used the base of a mike stand to smash the glass case protecting Stevie Ray Vaughn’s guitar and tried to plug it in and play it during his band’s SXSW performance at a Hard Rock Cafe.
In 2001, Buddyhead secured a place in rock infamy, when its public feud with Limp Bizkit boiled over after Keller snuck into singer Fred Durst’s Interscope Records office, heisted three of Durst’s red Yankee baseball caps by stuffing them down his pants, auctioned them off on eBay and donated the cash to a rape charity. More than just a prank, this act was meant as a razor-sharp statement aimed at the band for the reported gang-rape of a female fan by male concertgoers, which allegedly happened in the mosh pit during Bizkit’s Woodstock ’99 performance.
“I hate to pigeonhole [Buddyhead],” Keller says, visibly annoyed when Durst is brought up, “because [the Bizkit feud is] all anyone ever remembers. But at the time I remember thinking, ‘Wow. This is the biggest band in the world? I can’t believe no one else thinks this is totally hilarious.’ It’s weird to think back, because now it’s totally obvious that those guys are dipshits.”
The Bizkit incident turned a lot of heads and thrust Buddyhead further into the spotlight, while at the same time sharply illustrating to the public that there was a lot more to Buddyhead and Travis Keller than flip blog talk.
Jeff Anderson, a music-biz veteran who worked A&R at Interscope at the time of the Durst stunt, remembers, “When I worked at the label we would always check Buddyhead out, like, what are these clowns up to now? It was always great shit. You went to the Buddyhead site to get a fuckin’ laugh.”
It wasn’t uncommon for major-label employees to feel a kinship with Buddyhead’s point of view, even at the expense of their own artists and label mates.
Anderson laughs. “It really started with the whole Fred Durst thing for me, when Travis came into the Interscope office. It was awesome.” Even more so than before, Anderson notes, Buddyhead 2.0 is coming back at a time when Keller has the technology resources available through Topspin to turn what began as a funny, sarcastic site into a profitable business, and become even more influential than when it first started.
Two cups of coffee down at Swinger’s, and the sunglasses have come off. Keller excuses himself to answer a phone call. He returns beaming; it’s surfing season, and his friend just hooked him up with a new wetsuit. Though later he will joke about being too old to keep up with kids at skateboard parks, Keller is a beach junkie, and with a nod to the hangover from hell that was Medieval Times, he insists the ocean is a great cure. We circle back around to Buddyhead and whether the Web site’s abrasive tendencies ever went too far.
“We probably stuck our foots in our mouths a few times, but who the fuck doesn’t when you’re that age?” Keller asks. Indeed, the original crew lied so much and took the piss out of so many people that even now, speaking with Keller, there are jarring inconsistencies in certain stories, dates forgotten and facts left out, making Buddyhead’s chronology look less like a timeline and more like a drunk driver swerving through traffic on the 405.
“I made a lot of dumb mistakes, which are great stories, but I don’t regret anything. Now I’m just not getting punched in the face all the time,” he says with a laugh. Then, his tone turns serious. “Yeah, it’s fun to make fun of people. But a lot of our stuff got overlooked when it came to what bands we turned people on to. I grew up liking Nirvana and Mudhoney; Mark Arm and Kurt Cobain would always call people out. It didn’t seem out of line to call people pussies or tell people they’re doing shit wrong. Creating rad music and making good art have always been what Buddyhead’s about — even though people might remember us for stealing Fred Durst’s hat. That was cool, but it did have a message. I want the rebuilt Buddyhead to be a center people go to find out about real music.”