In the late 1990s, Jeff Simmermon formed a band with two chickens as members. This is his story.
The keyboard players in my band were spacier than Sun Ra, more abstract than John Coltrane and brought more sheer, squalid anarchy to the stage than GG Allin and the Sex Pistols combined. When they weren’t playing music they were either feeding, fighting, or shitting on the floor – and they managed to do a lot of that onstage, too. But they didn’t just act like barnyard animals, they were barnyard animals: the keyboard players in my band were two chickens named Kitty Wells and Patsy Cline.
I played percussion on a modified vintage typewriter miked up loud enough to sound like the thunder of an angry God. At that volume, the space bar and shift keys rumbled like a kick drum, and the letter keys snapped like a tight snare. My friend Tim, the band’s other human being played the guitar and bass semi-simultaneously, wearing the guitar up by his collarbone and the bass slung low at his hips – he’d loop the bass notes through a pedal and play rhythm guitar against himself while I thumped and cracked the typewriter. Once we hit a stride of sorts, we’d pull a blanket off the top of the cage where Kitty Wells and Patsy Cline sat with two little Casio Keyboards.
We’d glue chicken feed to the keys we wanted them to hit the most, the ones in tune with Tim. But really, whatever the chickens played was up to them – we just tried to follow along as best we could. We told ourselves that we were influenced by classic country, John Cage, dub reggae and Gonzo the Great. But really, we just tried to create listenable backing rhythms while two birds with brains the size of your pinkie nail took center stage.
Brainless Barnyard Keyboards: The Short Saga of Royal Quiet Deluxe, Chicken Band.
(If you just want to hear what the music sounds like, listen to "Royal Quiet Deluxe" here.)