Onstage, David Yow staggers and mumbles like Iggy Pop and Lee Ving's retarded child. The Ex-Jesus Lizard/Scratch Acid singer has cultivated the stage persona of a whiskey-addled force of nature, incoherently conversing with the burning bush where we only see golden arches. Before handing Yow the phone, Matt Cronk—the guitarist in Yow's new band, Qui—complains about the band's third member: "He's trying to grab my junk. People don't know, David's the biggest dick toucher in rock 'n' roll."
Actually, anybody who witnessed Yow's lack of compunction (and often pants) in Jesus Lizard will not be surprised. He was always pegged as a perverted derelict saved by rock 'n' roll. Rather than stagnate or become a parody when Jesus Lizard broke up, Yow hung up the mike and retreated to a graphic design job. Can you imagine the water cooler conversations?
But offstage Yow sounds more like Rushmore Bill Murray than the derelict he portrays in front of crowds. That doesn't mean he didn't have fun when he met Cronk and drummer Paul Christensen at a barbecue. "We hit it off, drank a lot of beer, abused a lot of substances," he says. "Then they asked if I would do [Frank Zappa's] 'Willie the Pimp' with them live."
Cronk and Christensen had been making music for half a decade as Qui. They weren't asking Yow to join their band, and he wasn't looking to join any band. It just happened. Suddenly Ipecac was competing with Touch & Go to put out the band's album, Love's Miracle. Ipecac won.
"The music they play is different enough from the stuff I've done in the past," Yow explains between tour stops. Qui's jerking, slide-rule rhythms and the angular, Primus-inspired torrents of guitar provided an appropriately chaotic bed for Yow's Tourette's-like muttering. But now, he even sings in three-part harmony. "And the things that they've taught me like harmonizing... [make it] viable. Otherwise, I wouldn't do it."
Yow, now 47, says he couldn't be happier to be in the van again: "We fit like a leather sock."
Qui plays Local 506 with Hazerai Sunday, Oct. 14, at 9:30 p.m. Tickets are $10-$12.