Rock and roll is essentially licentious. Though, at its essence it is a fiery and ultimately liberating art. This July, the World/Inferno Friendship Society will release its new record, an amalgamation of cabaret, sailor songs, and drunk punk shouting. With songs entitled “Only Anarchists Are Pretty” and “All of California, and Everyone Who Is In It, Stinks,” one assumes a sense of satirical rebellion. But they have the cultural and artistic sensibilities to back their middle finger tastes up, turning life into a grand and decadent dress-up party. A world in which fashion sense, intelligence and group sex were never mutually exclusive.
Coincidentally, I attended one of the Inferno’s shows last weekend. Their stage show featured two horn players, a drummer and a separate percussionist, an accordionist, a pierced and tattooed rock guitarist and a singer who called himself Jack Terricloth. Pulled from the Artsweek archive, what follows is the interview from a few months ago after this reporter witnessed them live. Jack Terricloth – a.k.a. Peter Vantantonio from seminal band Sticks and Stones – is an eccentric personality, to say the least. He looks like Boy George, sans the outrageous fashion statements. During the show, he convinced about 60 crust-punks to ballroom dance in the “mosh” pit. And if that wasn’t enough, he wooed a 16-year-old girl at the front of the stage to, shall we say… orgasmic rapture. This is Jack Terricloth, complete with all his good – and bad – and traits.
What was the first instrument you ever learned to play?
Jack Terricloth: Oooh. I think it might just have been the guitar.
So you weren’t in bands in high school or anything?
Yeah, yeah I was. I’ve been in a band since I was 16.
Was Sticks and Stones your first serious outfit?
I was a fill-in player in a bunch of bands before that, but that was my first band.
A fill-in player?
A fill-in, like the first time I went out on tour as a bass player in a band called TED from New Jersey. I didn’t really know how to play bass, but I wanted to get the hell out of New Jersey, so I got in a band.
When did the World/Inferno Friendship [Society] first start out?
When did we first start? The first show was in ’97, but I think we put a record out before that. It was setup but loosely organized.
Do you guys have revolving, different members during those shows?
No, we pretty much have a core of nine people, 10 people. Some people can’t make every tour and sometimes we have up to 13 people. I think there was one time [during] the last European tour when we were down to five people. But that just sucks, you know?
And you guys are working on a new album right now?
We just finished mixing it last night.
What’s it called?
It’s called Red Eyed Soul.
When’s it going to be out?
It’s coming out in June. There’s the scoop for you. You’re the first media person I’ve told.
What do you think makes a good rock front man?
Shamelessness, I’d imagine.
… The ability to care deeply and not give a damn at all at the same time.
I’m from California, and you all wrote a song called “All of California, and Everyone Who Is In It Stinks,” do you guys really hate California?
No, we just hate hippies, mostly.
Would you guys consider yourself primarily an East Coast band or something that transcends that?
We’re an international band actually. We’re about half American. A good deal of our members are from other countries. Yeah, we just don’t like California, mostly it’s just Hollywood. But then you know, we’ll never forgive your state for Ronald Reagan. Most people won’t forgive your state for Nixon or for Pete Wilson. And now who do you have?
It’s a celebrity culture out here.
It is, it is. It makes all of us feel bad, for not being skinny enough or attractive enough.
I assure you, there are plenty of unattractive skinny people out here too.
Does it ever get crowded on stage when you have all of you guys up there?
Yeah. Sure. (Laughs.)
That was a stupid question.
You think the stage is crowded, try the van.
Why is Halloween your favorite holiday?
It’s a kid’s holiday. You go walk around people’s houses and ask for stuff and they have to give it to you.
If you guys became a platinum-record selling band, what would be the first thing you’d do?
I probably wouldn’t do much different, dude. I would just … I’d take everyone out for dinner. I might pay my back rent, but why bother?
On the album, Me Vs. The Angry Mob, you make a lot of references to famous figures from history. As college students, we were wondering, what would you recommend as a college class for every student to take?
Gosh, I never went to college, so I don’t know. I would say, “Pick up the bass and join a punk rock band and go on tour.”
If you could have any famous philosopher in your band, who would you have in it?
Umm, Dan Bailey; I’d really wish he’d come back.
Who’s Dan Bailey?
He was our baritone player. Hmm, famous philosopher? Philosophy ain’t that much fun. Let’s think, who’d be a fun philosopher? Bukowski. I’ll give you a California reference there.
What’s your favorite children’s television show?
I don’t really hang out with kids much younger than fifteen anymore. “The Muppet Show,” of course. I mean, look at my lifestyle. I’ve pretty much joined that circus.
Does Sticks and Stones [Vantantonio’s former band] plan on making another album, or another reunion sometime soon?
We talk about it a lot. I’ve been in touch with those guys. I don’t know. I think we’re going to get time to get together this month, but those guys have all moved on a lot in their lives. (Whispering) Most people my age are grownups. I’m still running around the world, yelling. I would love to, because that’s the only time I see those guys and it was a great show this year. It went really, really well.
What are some of your primary fashion influences?
Oh, whatever’s clean? Gosh, I don’t know. Trying to look good, I’m trying to dress for every occasion. I have not owned a pair of sneakers or jeans since I was a pre-adolescent.
Let me ask you a tough, stupid question. What do you think defines punk rock?
Oh, punk is as punk does. I’m going to quote myself again, how sadly. Once again, caring about the world but not giving a damn at the same time. At that point, you can really get down.
What’s your favorite book in the Bible?
It’s licentious, isn’t it? (Laughs) Job actually came to mind first, but I figured probably everyone says that, don’t they Matthew?
A lot of people do.
I like Leviticus. That’s the one with all those laws, isn’t it – where they have all those laws that never really worked out in real life.
Well, actually, I think that’s about it that I have for you, Mr. Terricloth. It was really great talking to you. Good luck with your album. Where do you guys live in New York?
Brooklyn. Very trendy.
I used to date a girl who lived in Staten Island.
Ah, that’s the New York City garbage dump.
Yeah, that’s where all the landfills go.