Few artists in the Boston scene are so unique as Fat Shuggy, frontwoman of The Corpsefuckers, spoken-word rap lyricist, jazz multi-instrumentalist, and gore enthusiast. In anticipation of her new album, we sat down over energy drinks in a Cambridge park one cool fall afternoon to talk music, composition, disembowelment, and so much more.
Boston Hassle: Right off the bat, how would you actually describe your own music?
Fat Shuggy: I don’t know. I think about that a lot. I feel like music is an interesting category where I don’t know if I’m comfortable fitting into music where music was forced upon me because I’ve always done some sort of creative outlet and my family was musical and I kinda felt like I had to play an instrument or be part of music to succeed within a creative field. I’ve always been a story writer first of all. Anything I do musically I consider it a form of telling a story more than I consider it as a song. Instrumental parts I often try to think of environments more than notes. So I guess storytelling would be the answer to what I do.
BH: Is that where the whole Queen of Pus thing came from? Your albums seem follow a, concept feels wrong.
FS: What do you mean by the concept feels wrong?
BH: Describing your work as just a concept album feels wrong somehow.
FS: I don’t really understand that term, concept album. I feel like every album has some underlying concept. I feel like it can be applied to anything in some regard
BH: That’s a reasonable assessment.
FS: Yeah, it all goes off my first album, Espro Cru Oyni si Luo Sym, all my albums are canon with each other.
BH: Can you elaborate on that?
FS: Yeah. My first album, Espro Cru Oyni si Luo Sym, is the story of the Entrail Princess. It was a very interesting time in my life where I wrote those songs. Puppy was the first song where I felt really good, like this is what I wanted to do. I felt really good when I made the song Puppy. All the songs, some of the songs I don’t remember, but other stuff on that record, I wrote it before Puppy and I didn’t know what to do with it until Puppy came into existence. All the songs have her at different ages of her life and I released that record. What’s interesting is that I didn’t think of it as a lyrical record at all. I was considering myself much more of a guitarist at that time. When I was doing the shows live and getting more into character and developing her and thinking about how the Entrail Princess lived. Then I released Revada Casa Enoy Reve which is a much more developed character of the Entrail Princess. Then from there I felt like I really developed who I was as an artist. From there I did my Christmas album which is a fucking terrible album. Then I did Queen of Pus and I’m always trying to add more characters. My next album, that I’m releasing on Halloween, is going to have a lot of characters. It’s very personal to me and it’s very narrative. It’s going to have an easier narrative to follow than Espro Cru. I enjoy having a narrative that’s hard to follow because it makes the audience do their own interpretations of what I’m thinking
BH: I got a bit of a cut-up vibe. You know that, this is pretentious, what I’m going to say is pretentious, you know the part in Naked Lunch where the dude’s asshole consumes him?
FS: Slightly. I love that movie, love that book.
BH: For some reason, the way you write reminds of that very intense disjointed…
FS: Oh yeah, I dig that. Ornette Coleman’s one of my biggest influences, and the Master Musicians of Jajouka.
BH: I was going to ask you about that shit later.
FS: Oh, you were?
BH: Yeah, like inspirations and stuff.
FS: I thought you meant about the Master Musicians of Jajouka.
BH: No but that’s good too.
FS: When I was looking for colleges, I was looking at colleges in Morocco because I was really into them. I didn’t end up going but it inspired me to travel. I ended up learning jazz in Guinea, West Africa. I really want to go back. I have some friends, Corpsefuckers, yeah, Corpsefuckers will be doing a West African tour, I will say that. In terms of influences, John Frusciante, I love all of his solo work, Guerilla Toss, Melt-Banana, oh Salad Fingers too, David Firth is amazing.
BH: I’m just surprised you cite that as an inspiration. I don’t know why.
FS: That was all of me as a teen was watching Salad Fingers and crying. What stuck with me to, right now I’m homeless but I grew up in a very rich family and school, it was really fucked up was seeing how racist the world was from that perspective. Growing up in that kind of community, I have to have some kind of tolerance for filthy fucking Nazis. It was really weird to have only white teachers in school and then I got really into Tupac and I actually learned about issues I should have been learning about. I really found myself in hip hop, Tupac especially. I remember bursting into tears when I first heard Brenda Got A Baby. That’s such a beautiful song. I love the storytelling too. I found myself there too. I knew I wanted to write stories. Tupac was doing that.
BH: That’s really tight. I also wanted ask, I noticed the term “lightning metal” in some of your releases and you have a track called Rest in Peace Danny.
FS: Lightning metal? I don’t know that term. I think Danny Cruz said that.
BH: Yeah, I wanted ask if there was any connection to Flaming Dragons of Middle Earth.
FS: Yeah, that’s Danny. He was a really big influence on me. It was really shocking when he died. I knew he would die at a young age. I have CMT which is in the same family as muscular dystrophy and Danny has Duchenne which is a very severe form of muscular dystrophy. I relate to him so hard. I remember when I first saw him performing with a big smile on his face. He’s so moving, especially to me as another disabled performer. I don’t know any other disabled performers. It’s so fucking difficult. He’s an amazing musician. I’ve never seen anyone lead a band in the way he did. I got to play flute at one of his shows. There was no practice at all. I played a solo set before he went on. I had a flute with me so I was playing it. It was really cool seeing him be like “I want the guitar to go ‘boink-a-doop-boop’” and then the guitar goes “boink-a-doop-boop” and that’s the song. He’s grooving on that shit. Danny starts singing over it and that’s how you’re composing the music. It’s such a simple yet complicated mindset that creates such amazing music.
BH: It was amazing music. I just wanted to ask that as a clarification.
FS: Where’d you see my music tagged as lightning metal?
BH: On Disembowelment Choir, and then there was another release. Hold on, I’ll pull up your Bandcamp. It was on your last thing, I’m dumb though.
FS: I don’t remember tagging it like that.
BH: Experimental, hip hop, metal, spoken word, trap, free jazz, hardcore, horror, lightning metal…
FS: Oh that’s weird. Maybe it was Bandcamp. Or maybe I tagged it and don’t remember. That’s hilarious. Okay. I guess yeah, I must have done that as a Danny reference. I was processing a lot when that happened.
BH: Oh boy, I’m sorry. So now we get to the disembowelment. Given that body horror comes up so much in your work, what specifically draws you so much to the removal of intestines?
FS: What specifically? It comes from the Entrail Princess. Even without her, my piece Gruesome on my spoken word record, I was in Guinea when I wrote that. Actually that piece goes back way further than that. That was when I put that down on paper. I thought of that when I was like ten or so. And The Window too, I wrote that when I was eight I think. That’s one of my oldest pieces. It’s always been there. I’ve always associated with horror. I think horror is one of the most wonderful things. It’s so ridiculous to get scared of something that isn’t real. Like I’ll get scared of a guy with a fly for a head. That’s fucking hilarious. In that second where I’m afraid of something on a TV screen and that makes something like depression or being in pain feel less scary. There’s a lot of fucking scary shit in the world and it’s hilarious that Salad Fingers is fucking horrifying and it’s a fucking flash cartoon. It’s really wonderful to me.
BH: I think your aesthetic has a big draw to horror. I don’t know where I was going with that. Just a follow-up, was Cronenberg an influence?
FS: Yeah. I went through a phase, and with Naked Lunch
BH: I take it they combined?
FS: Yeah. The Fly was pretty cool too. I dig. I love Tarantino, Robert Rodriguez, Frank Miller, that’s who I was thinking of. Frank Miller was huge to me. I read every Naked City book. I don’t read a lot too. I remember when my brother showed me the movie and it just really drew me in. There was so much to it that really inspired me. I was thinking of directors, I just lost track.
BH: Frank Miller, Rodriguez, Tarantino…
FS: Oh yeah, I mean David Firth of course I watched all of his work. I already said that. Lydia Lunch too, she’s not a director, she’s probably a director. I got that same vibe feel from watching a movie from Lydia Lunch. I was studying jazz music at prep school. I couldn’t think of what I wanted to do. I was way behind the other kids, then I heard Lydia Lunch and said “That’s what I want to do”.
BH: That’s fantastic. I’m just bad at reacting. So there’s a large visual component to your work. How’d you first get into the combination of the two?
FS: Good question. Don’t even know. I played maybe one show, my first show I didn’t have much visuals other than my instrumentation. I had some interesting instrumentations when I was first starting off. I think I was seven when I first made this. It appears on every record cover of mine. It was like Led Zeppelin, like each band member had their own logo.
BH: Oh, like a sigil?
FS: Yeah, I thought that was cool and I wanted my own logo so I created the twelve sided star that’s on all my covers. I wanted that star somewhere at my performance so I took a Sharpie and drew it on my forehead and went, “Huh, I kinda like that.” so I put more Sharpie on my face and covered the star with a hat. Then I started playing and halfway through, I threw off my hat while they could see Sharpie around my eyes. I went “Hey, that’s funny, the idea of that, like I have more shit under the hat”. So I elaborated on that, I drew more stuff on me and halfway through the set threw off my shirt. I also had duct tape on my nipples before I knew I was trans either, that was a statement about nipples. I liked that statement so I went more with that statement and started shaving my armpits on sets and then eventually I started shaving my pubes on sets too. I was using red Sharpie a lot because it looked like blood so eventually I just said “Let’s get some fucking blood”.