Testicular Manipulation

For Scratch Acid's reunion, David Yow will keep his pants on.

"You'd laugh if you knew what I was doing right now."

Given that the voice on the other end of the phone belongs to David Yow— the legendary frontman of both the late, great Jesus Lizard and the recently (and temporarily) re-formed Scratch Acid, who's known for, among other things, perfecting the art of onstage testicle manipulation—the mind forms all kinds of twisted visions.

"I'm [lying] in bed with my old girlfriend!" he exclaims. Whew. "We're not doing anything, though—we're watching The Jeffersons."

The 46-year-old singer is in Austin, Texas, where the previous night Scratch Acid performed live for the first time in nearly two decades. Formed in Austin in 1982, the group blended Yow's deranged shrieks, Brett Bradford's jagged guitar shards, and the ultraprecise, punishing rhythm section of bassist David Wm. Sims and drummer Rey Washam into a chaotic, blistering Molotov cocktail of hardcore, psych-rock, and cowpunk. The quartet unleashed an EP and two full-lengths, and loads of touring mayhem, before disintegrating in the spring of 1987.

Subsequently, Yow and Sims reteamed in the Jesus Lizard, which stomped the Earth from 1989 to 1999; Washam hit the skins in Rapeman, Ministry, Tad, and several other bands (he's currently a session drummer in Los Angeles); and Bradford remained in Austin, playing in a string of lesser-known outfits to this day. Currently, both Yow and Sims are essentially out of the music biz; the former's an L.A.-based freelance Photoshop wizard, the latter an accountant in New York City.

Hanging out and playing with the guys all these years later, Yow laughs, is kinda like kickin' it with his ex-girlfriend. "Being in a band is very much like being married to the other guys, although you gotta believe me, none of us have ever had sex with each other. But yeah, it's been really cool being around them again. We chuckle about old memories and poke fun at each other about all the stupid things we've done. And the show last night was great. I haven't been that nervous in a long time, but it came off really well and it seemed like everyone was really happy we were there."

The seeds of the Scratch Acid reunion were planted in early 2005, when Chicago's Touch and Go Records—which released the 1987 Berserker EP and the indispensable The Greatest Gift (the 1991 28-track compilation of practically all the band's studio recordings)—contacted Yow about the label's three-day 25th anniversary festival, which was held in the Windy City last weekend. The label initially wanted the Jesus Lizard to play, but Yow balked at that notion, suggesting instead that he get in touch with his old Scratch Acid bandmates to see if they were up for it.

"I never, ever thought that we would re-form for any reason. Over the years there've been lots of offers from promoters to have Scratch Acid or the Jesus Lizard play again, and I don't . . . I'm not into that idea. I mean, goddamn, if we did a real tour we'd come back rich, but we never did it for money before, so it would be pathetic to do it for money now. But when we got an opportunity to say thank you to Touch and Go for everything they did for us, it was like, 'I don't care if we get paid a nickel, I absolutely want to,' and then the other two shows sorta worked out."

Indeed, once the Chicago appearance was confirmed, the band decided to play Austin as well, feeling like they couldn't re-form without playing a hometown show. But why Seattle—the third and last date of Scratch Acid's brief reunion?

"Because of all the places that Scratch Acid ever played, Seattle seemed to be the most crazy about us," Yow explains. "Simple as that. We only did that one West Coast tour, in '87, and the Seattle show was fuckin' over the top."

Yow, who says he has zero desire to ever be in a full-time band again, vows that Seattle will be witness to the absolute final Scratch Acid performance. Though it promises to be an incendiary, demented affair, the singer cautions that fans shouldn't expect him to get naked, crowd surf, or engage in the other stage antics that made him infamous during his time with the Jesus Lizard.

"I didn't really do any of that so much with Scratch Acid, so, y'know, I want to reproduce it as accurately as possible, but with a whole lot more wrinkles and a bigger bald spot. I mean, I was ugly then but I'm hideous now—I look like Jack Elam's scrotum."


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