If it hadn’t been for a slight misunderstanding, the hilariously vulgar one-man keyboard dynamo known as The Infamous Sugar might have been known as the Infamous Roach. It just doesn’t have the same ring to it, does it? But as it turns out, the man known as “Suge” (real name David Simmons), got his nickname when listeners thought his song about a studly guy named “The Sugar” was autobiographical.
The Infamous Sugar will be playing with The T’s for Abe Quinn’s birthday this Friday at Slim’s, and both will premiere lots of new material. In the meantime, he took the time to give some very candid answers to five questions for New Raleigh.
1. Why are you the Infamous Sugar and not the Famous Sugar?
Well, if I was the Famous Sugar I probably wouldn’t be so goddamn poor! I’m not so infamous in Raleigh because I’ve mellowed out a whole lot since I arrived here a little over a year ago. In all honesty, what I’m really known as is the Infamous “Roach.” That’s the nickname the punk rockers gave me when I arrived in Portland in 1995 and that’s the name most people call me there. I am infamous because I’m known as a wild, eccentric, hard partying, kinky sex loving freak who is outrageous on stage. For most of my music career I’ve been not the front man, but the crazy keyboardist that likes to get annihilated on stage, jumping around like madman, and playing very crazy and loud, always with constant Nat Shermans hanging out of my mouth.
The Sugar moniker came about because an old bandmate of mine from Portland gave me Eddie Taylor from The Loners number. I called him shortly after I arrived here and he said “Why don’t you open for us?” I told him I had no band yet and he told me to just bring my keyboard and bring on the rock. So since I sang a song called “The Sugar”, people started calling me that and I went with it. But my real nickname is actually Roach.
2. Tell us the story behind your favorite tattoo.
My favorite is my pigeon tattoo. My pigeon obsession started when I was in Barcelona and met up with my friends from Portland, Jedidiah and Private Mike from Diamond Tuck and the Privates, who were living there at the time. We spent most of the time drinking absinthe, smoking Moroccan hash, and chasing hot European girls. One day, Jed taught me how to gently catch pidgeons, talk to them, and let them fly away. I became completely obsessed and wanted to start a pigeon lovers website and a homing pidgeon club where we could send pigeons around the city with messages like the old days. But you know, “best laid plans of mice and men”. One of my bands, Starantula, even wrote a song about this deranged obsession called “Skyy Ratt”. Thus, the pigeon tattoo.
3. If you could perform one show with one other person, alive or dead,
who would it be and why?
That is a very hard because I have shit tons of musical heroes but if I had to pick one I’ll go with James Brown. He has made many of the funkiest songs ever written. He toured constantly with some of the best musicians ever and put on wicked shows night after night. And when he took a break and hit the studio, half if the stuff he recorded would be long, improvised funk jams that made people get their freak on. The only thing that was fucked up was the ridiculous fines he imposed on his musicians. But then, they just quit and started or played with some of the best bands ever.
4. You’ve been very open about struggles to get and stay clean. Is it
difficult to sing a song like “Sloppy Drunk” knowing you can no longer
go out and get sloppy drunk?
Well, I’ve probobly been too open about my drug history since gossip is so prevelent in the music scene, but I’ve got a big mouth and am too honest for my own good! So, to set the record straight, I have been clean for a little over a year now. It was easy for me to get into heroin since about 75% of my music heroes have been strung out at least once. Many artists have demons and heroin seems to quell them. So even when you kick, it’s hard to stay off of it. In the club scene there’s always a shitload of temptation, and many of my musician friends have dropped out of it because of these temptations. But I refuse to give up playing shows. I like to hang out at bars and afterhour parties because I love live music and hanging out with my friends. I actually don’t have much of a problem staying away from drinking because it has caused the most problems for me and I’ve lost the taste for it. I have been on pain management because of fibromyalgia for a while now and, while it was hard at first, I’m doing well and it actually seems to subdue my temptation for heroin and cocaine. Staying clean is hard, but I deal with it because if you let it drag you down, it most certainly will.
On a lighter note, it’s never been hard to sing songs about drugs and alcohol because it has been so fun most of the time and it continues to be fun for most people and always will. I like to sing about fun things like getting fucked up and having sex and all the stuff that most clubbers like to do because I play for the crowd instead of what I call “musical masturbation”. And I like to add humour to all my songs, even when I’m writing about shit I hate (like cops, religion, Republicans, etc). I’m not very subtle, deep, or profound when I write lyrics because I’m just not that kind of lyricist. By the way, “Sloppy Drunk” is originally a Sonny Boy Wiliiamson song called “Sloppy Drunk Blues”. A few of the songs I do are actually old blues songs where I change a lot of words and music and take half credit.
5. Why did you get a drum machine rather than hiring a drummer?
Actually this project currently called The Infamous Sugar is about 3 years old, and was a 3 piece in Portland called Pure Decadence that was successful but unfortunately, I couldn’t move them to Raleigh with me. When I played my first Raleigh gig, I was pretty well recieved and was labeled a one man band. I tried to find musicians to play with but everyone said they were too busy and in too many bands (I can totally relate to that). So meanwhile I kept getting show offers and wasn’t about to turn them down. So I bought a drum machine to fill in the sound. I’ve seen a lot of great one man keyboard/drum machine bands like Quintron, The Voodoo Organist, and the king of the Casio, Wesley Willis. I loved the other band and I also like this one man band because it has funk/R&B/hip-hop elements as well as the rock element it always had. I’ve always tried to be an innovative and experimental artist and I love when many genres are mixed together to form a unique sound. So I went with it and recorded a bunch of tracks with the mastermind David McConnell producing. I’ve always wanted to do an all keyboard album and I am very pleased with the way it’s going (it’s still unfinished.) I am currently writing a lot of new songs and will be debuting a few of them on May 1st.