Pussy Wagons, Bank Robberies And Bare Butts: Richard Haskins’ Wild-Ass Rock Band Keeps Laughing It Up And Living The Dream.
March is typically a chaotic month within Wee-Beasties frontman Richard Haskins’ already chaotic life.
At the moment, he’s seated across from me in a fold-up lawn chair near a fire pit in his band manager Stephanie Holloway’s backyard. But he’s visibly antsy as hell.
His band has gathered here this afternoon to ostensibly prepare for their first string of shows in over a year — a run that includes a gig this Friday, April 2, at Lola’s Trailer Park in Fort Worth and another one slated for Friday, April 16, at Three Links in Dallas.
As Holloway and the rest of the Wee-Beasties toss a frisbee around the backyard while shotgunning beers, Haskins takes a rare break from the mayhem that is his life and gets kinda dark.
He admits to me that his thoughts these days are fully consumed by his disappointment over what fate brought him this month last year. He remembers how his band was scheduled to headline the Granada Theater alongside the Grammy-winning (and also Denton-based) Brave Combo — a gig later canceled by a viral contagion that has since claimed the lives of over 46,000 Texans.
Granted, one canceled show isn’t quite as dramatic as the time in March 2016 when Haskins was arrested on attempted bank robbery charges that landed him in the clink for a year — but the lost opportunity to perform with his band at one of the premiere venues in Dallas still wrecked him nonetheless. Haskins and his crew had big plans for that night; they’d even hired party buses to safely shuttle their frenzied Denton fans to and from the event.
Speaking on it now, Haskins is visibly bummed that Granada gig got canceled. What a missed opportunity, he say. It would’ve been a time.
“C’est la vie,” says Haskins, citing a common Wee-Beasties rallying cry. “With anything that we do, we always put in a shitload of work and elbow grease. We were supposed to make a shitload of money [at that show].”
Before he can get too in the business weeds, though, Haskins’ eyes suddenly catch some shenanigans going on behind me. Immediately, his face brightens up substantially, and — following his gaze — I turn to find Wee-Beasties member Paul Burke’s bare ass hovering just above my right shoulder.
“Document that!” Haskins bellows to me, the journalist on the scene, before I can even react to the chaos at play. “That’s Paul’s ass!”
I quickly realize that all the Wee-Beasties embody the c’est la vie mindset. They smash beer cans after chugging them unprompted, then keep on laughing. A few of them even join in Burke’s juvenile prank.
Then, just like that, an afternoon that was supposed to be part jam session, part photoshoot and part Denton tour suddenly turns into another round of the band’s favorite pastime of trying to make Burke puke. I’ve lost whatever control I thought I had over the situation. Haskins is fully in charge.
“Remember that time Ginny Mac puked and I ate some of it?,” Haskins yells at a green-faced Burke, fully gleaming while hoping to further turn his bandmate’s stomach. “There were, like, crunchy bell peppers in there!”
The reminder is plenty. Burke heaves.
Point, Haskins. And he absolutely thrilled about it.
Wanna Go For A Ride?
I specifically came to Holloway’s house with one thing on my mind: I wanted to cruise around Denton’s square in the pussy wagon.
In the wake of all his band’s gigs getting canceled, Haskins was forced to get creative to cobble together an income. One of hiss more successful ventures was somehow finagling an old beater of a car and convincing people to pay him a few hundred bucks to spray paint various messages onto its exterior.
Haskins compares it to the advertisements sold on NASCAR cars.
“50 bucks and I’ll spray-paint whatever you want on the windshield,” he offered up in a recent Facebook post promoting his efforts on this front.
Past commissions have included the phrase “Fuck Cops” being emblazoned on the back bumper, and a giant penis getting placed on the roof of the car — although that may have been done
“We’re still racing the number 69,” Richard says, slapping the roof of the car he’s lovingly dubbed The Pussy Wagon, as if the words clearly painted on its hood didn’t make that clear.
“I’ve never been pulled over, but I’ve pulled up next to cops,” he says, jovial as ever, as is his character. “They just laugh. It’s like when you show off your sack and you’ve got a big ol’ pair of balls. They don’t expect anyone driving a car like that to be totally illegal.”
Responds one bandmate immediately: “But he totally is.”
Here’s a few things you should know about the “The Pussy Wagon”:
- It was sold to Haskins by a cousin of Wee-Beasties trumpeter Tomo Hanson.
- “It has seat warmers,” Haskins says, although that’s just a fancy way of saying you can warm your buns on the hood while sunbathing.
- Wee-Beasties member Randy Lincoln captured what Haskins says “a dick and balls should be” on the hood of the car. Marvels Haskins while showing it off: “Check out the vein work.”
- Band manager Holloway advises that you should absolutely, under no circumstances, ever trust Haskins to drive you around in that thing.
Welp. So much for my plans, then.
“You absolutely shouldn’t trust me!” Haskins drunkenly admits when I look his way. “But I’ll still do it!”
Assessing the situation, I decide it’s best to stay grounded. Haskins has been slamming beers from the minute I showed up here.
Is this guy really serious?
In This For Life
Ask Haskins, and he’ll tell you that the Wee Beasties are the greatest rock ‘n’ roll band on the planet.
They’re loud, obscene and definitely lewd. Each member can play their instrument pretty well — so, sure, Haskins affords each player space to do their own thing. Why not? They’re all punk as fuck, and the whole premise hinges on that playful experimentation.
The band may be Haskins’ brainchild, but the Wee-Beasties aren’t relegated to traditional three-instrument punk rock structures. Quite the opposite, really; the band prominently incorporates brass elements into its mix these days — along with pretty much any other instrumentation it can convince to join the fray.
The Wee-Beasties abide by very few rules at all, frankly. Pants, for instance, are very much optional. Haskins, for one, regularly drops trou during his band’s renowned, wheels-off live performances. As his band holds court around him, Haskins — who, god bless him, is especially committed to the punk rock cause, describing himself as a “lifer” in this realm — plays the court jester, commanding the full attention of anyone within earshot and visual range.
It’s no matter that the band hasn’t release new music since 2011’s Kill Them LP — or that they swear up and down there’s new music coming. The Wee-Beasties’ appeal is its raw live offerings. Period. End of story.
Sadly, finality is something Haskins has been thinking a lot about lately, as his father “Big Poppa Richard Haskins” recently passed a year-long battle with pancreatic cancer.
To hear the younger Haskins tell it, Big Poppa didn’t understand his son’s obsessions with punk rock at all for a long time. On multiple occasions, in fact, he tried to get his son to stop pursuing music as a career, always telling young Richard about new job openings he’d heard about.
Eventually, though, he started to accept his son’s riotous lifestyle as just a part of the man he’d become.
“He was a little harder on me when I was first starting out,” Haskins says now. “But as he realized that I was a lifer and wasn’t going to stop, he was totally cool about it.”
It was actually Haskins’ father that sowed the seeds of his son’s love for rock and roll, turns out.
“I remember when the movie The Doors came out,” says Haskins, who also attributes his boisterous personality to his pops. “My dad had just bought this big Chevy van, man, and he had his buddy put these crazy speakers and amps in it — and we just blasted The Doors. It was fucking rock ‘n’ roll.”
Even amidst the party atmosphere around him in his band manager’s yard, Haskins’ can’t help but get emotional when remembering his father on his deathbed.
“That shit fucks you up,” he says. “You’re like, ‘I have to do something about this.’
What Haskins did was bring Brave Combo accordionist Ginny Mac to his father’s hospital room to perform a heartbreaking rendition of Elvis Presley’s “Can’t Help Falling In Love With You”, after which his step-mother collapsed into Big Poppa Haskins fragile arms in a moment Haskins will never forget.
“I got to have that,” he says before snapping out of a daze and noticing all his rowdy bandmates goofing off around him in other parts of the yard. “And I get to have all my best friends around me! And I get to be in the best rock and roll band on the planet!”
“It’s awesome,” he says.
Strength In Numbers
Haskins’ friends are something else, really.
Beyond providing infrastructure around Haskins in the form of the band, this crew really cares for him.
Before his father passed, Hanson and Wee-Beasties drummer Zack Haygood bought Haskins his dream guitar — and had his father pen a touching note to pass along with it prior to his passing.
Read the letter from Haskins’ dad: “When you find something you love and want to go for it until you succeed. I love you, Richard. Wee-Beasties rule.”
As he recalls receiving that gift, Haskins has trouble explaining just how much that gesture from his bandmates meant to him.
“Imagine picking up an instrument that you weep every time you even think about playing it,” he says before trailing off.
It’s not just that, though. Along with the guitar, his bandmates also gifted him a G40V Pignose amp that they all signed with affectionate notes for Haskins of their own.
Chaos may be the name of both the Wee-Beasties and Haskins’ game, but there’s a supportive infrastructure in place beneath it all. Put another way: Haskin’s isn’t just some yahoo screaming for attention by his lonesome; dude has back-up.
“I’m the luckiest man on the planet,” Haskins says, scanning about his band manager’s yard as his bandmates drink themselves into a stupor.
After a extending smile, his eyes settled on his outlandish Pussy Wagon — all outrageously tagged-up as it is — sitting in the driveway. He crakes a joke bout how we never got around to riding it around after all.
I tell him it’s no big deal. He agrees.
Laughs Haskins: “Imagine a guy like me just driving around in a fucking Mazda.”
C’est la vie, indeed.
All photos by Forrest Cook.