Flipper was a band from San Francisco, CA.
They formed in 1979 with the original members Bruce Lose (bass+vocals), Will Shatter (bass+vocals), Steve DePace (drums) and Ted Falconi (guitar).
They released their first song, Earthworm, on the SF Underground EP in 1979 on Subterranean Records which released most of their albums. Following the single «Love Canal/ Ha Ha» they released their debut and best-known album, Generic Flipper, in 1982.
In general their music can be described as being droning, noisy, trashy, slow and loud. It can´t really be called punk rock, but as they said, pet rock. One member said in an interview back in ´86 «yeah, when I take off my shoes and my socks we sound pretty good.»
Among their first gigs were several shows at a venue called «The Deaf Club». It was kind of incredible, because it was a club for deaf people, so the audience couldn´t actually hear the music, but feel the vibrations through the
The band was very funny in their own way, using social commentary in nearly all their songs. At their best they were totally outrageous, original and hilarious, while at their worst they basically rumbled into town and onto stage in a messed up incohearant state, leaving the audience dissed that the band even bothered to show up.
In 1983 Flipper appeared in Rick Schmidt´s movie «Emerald Cities» and Shine found its way on the soundtrack.
They´ve influenced many other bands including Mudhoney (Mark Arm wrote the liner notes for their album Sex Bomb Baby), Nirvana and the Melvins who covered Way of the World, Love Canal and Sacrifice.
But they were also notorious drug abusers and Will eventually died in ´87 of an accidental heroin overdose. The band broke up after that.
In 1990 the three remaining members re-formed, recorded two songs and released their album American Grafishy. It was the first official release on the new label founded by Henry Rollins and Rick Rubin. They toured with Gwar and the Melvins with a new bass player, John Dougherty. Bruce Lose sang all the songs.
In 1993 Bruce had a car accident which forced Flipper to break up again, because of injuries at his spine he wasn´t quite able to perform live anymore. Later, in 1997 John overdosed on heroin as well.
Flipper was founded by former members of the Sleepers and Negative Trend. Founding member and original vocalist Ricky Williams was fired from the band before any recordings were made because he was deemed too messed up to remain in the band. The name is often seen to be a reference to thalidomide babies, such as the one featured on the cover of their early «Love Canal» single . In fact, the band was named Flipper after Ricky Williams’ curious habit of naming all of his pets «Flipper», regardless of their species.
Flipper made their first recordings available in late 1979 via the SF Underground 7» compilation series released through Steve Tupper’s newly-formed Subterranean Records. In 1981, a 7» comprising «Love Canal/Ha Ha Ha» followed, and the original lineup made two full-length studio albums on Subterranean, 1982’s Generic and a 1984 follow up Gone Fishin’.
Flipper’s music was very shambolic and noisy, and often considered «slow» for a punk band of the time. In many early shows, the band had half the audience on stage with them singing backup vocals, and encouraged horn players to join them for their anthem, «Sex Bomb»; the crowding on stage usually knocked the stringed instruments out of tune. Guitarist Ted Falconi installed spikes in the head of his guitar to help prevent this, but blaring, out-of-tune dissonance became part of the band’s signature sound.
Flipper was often as strongly in league with conceptual art and atonal music as with rock or punk. Years after the band’s demise, its spray-painted dead fish logos were still visible in San Francisco (although signs on the city’s Clipper Street have since been reverted from «Flipper Street»).
Some[who?]say that Flipper’s charm as a band lies in their ability to upset audiences, while attracting their undivided attention and curiosity at the same time. Their first single, «Love Canal»/»Ha Ha Ha», was widely derided, not only for its offensive cover art, but its bizarre sound, and yet sold many copies in the underground. This, in brief, was the band’s concept: to be bad in ways that no band had ever been bad before. However, in true Flipper fashion, they even failed to fail, and their audience continued to grow as their outlandish approach appealed to those seeking something different.
Two more singles on Subterranean followed, «Brainwash»/»Sex Bomb» and «Old Lady That Swallowed The Fly»/»Get Away» before Album (also known as Generic Flipper). Their debut LP sees the drone and blare molded into startlingly effective songs, with a lyrically bleak outlook, but humane vulnerability in the vocals, and flashes of genuine musicianship. It is widely considered a classic album of this era. The mayhem contained on the disc is infectious as Will Shatter repeats «Life! Life! Life is the only thing worth living for!» Similarly, «Sex Bomb» is a seven minute track with only one lyric, «She’s a sex bomb, my baby, yeah.», intertwined with a raucous yet melodic musical interplay. The original release of the «Sex Bomb» single featured individually hand-made covers.
The follow-up studio album in 1984, Gone Fishin, was even darker and artier than the first LP. It featured the disorientating opening track «The Lights, The Sound, The Rhythm, The Noise», the haunting «Survivors of the Plague» and the decrying of the war machine in the song «Sacrifice». The multi-colored delivery step van pictured on the cover was also where Ted Falconi lived when the group was not on the road. The van, along with figures representing the band and their equipment could be cut out and folded with Subterranean offering extra covers through a small mail order fee.
In 1984, the ROIR cassette label released a live Flipper document of a CBGB’s performance entitled «Blow’n Chunks» that became available on CD in 1990, and goes in and out of print. A 2001 reissue includes four outtakes from the live sessions. The performance included material from all phases of the band’s existence thus far.
John Lydon’s Public Image Ltd was widely accused in the U.S. of stealing the cover art and concept of Flipper’s album, Album. Consequently, Flipper entitled their 1986 double live album, Public Flipper Ltd. The album unfolded into a board game complete with a cutout spinner and game cards with Subterranean once again providing extra covers through mail order.
The original lineup began splintering after a long debauched period of touring, and singer and core member Will Shatter eventually died on December 9th, 1987 of a drug overdose after forming A3I (Any Three Initials, a punk outfit whose title mocked the prevalence of acronymic band names). Subterranean packaged the band’s most popular recordings in a greatest hits collection titled «Sex Bomb Baby» released in 1987. The cassette edition and later CD rerelease featured three bonus tracks.
After Will Shatter:
By the early 1990s, the band resurfaced with a new single on Subterranean called «Someday»/»Distant Illusion» and began performing again, releasing an all-new studio album in 1993, American Grafishy. Bruce Loose had become a heroin addict by this point. After Loose allegedly stole the band’s master tapes from Subterranean’s warehouse, he and DePace brokered a deal with powerful Los Angeles-based music industry figure Rick Rubin. Rubin used his attorneys to quash Subterranean’s claim to the music and soon re-released Album Generic Flipper and the singles compilation Sex Bomb Baby on his Infinite Zero label. Even with Henry Rollins onboard as the latter label’s A&R, the label soon went defunct. By 1997, Flipper’s groundbreaking music went largely out of print, with Rubin still holding onto the rights, though tentative plans had been made for the band’s catalogue to be re-released on Rubin’s American Recordings in 2007.
As part of the legal settlement Subterranean Records was awarded the right to reissue its Flipper records on vinyl in the United States.
The band continued playing from 1990 to 1995, pursuing a more straightforward rock sound and attempt to cash in on their notoriety. In 1992, the new lineup released «American Grafishy» on Rick Rubin’s Def American imprint; this is their only recording that is still consistently (legally) available. Their demise was again forthcoming due to another death by heroin overdose, this time that of replacement bass player John Dougherty.
Loose once commented to SF Weekly on the band’s history as «like Spinal Tap, except the bass player keeps dying».
In 2002 Bruce Loose, father of a teenager, using a cane to get around (following a horrific car accident), resurfaced with a one off gig at Berkeley’s 924 Gilman Street space as «Not Flipper». Falconi is somewhat reclusive. DePace is reportedly shopping Flipper stories to potential publishers. He lives in the L.A. area and works in the animation industry.
The original members of Flipper, barring the late Will Shatter (with Bruno DeSmartass replacing Shatter once again as he had done for a 1982 tour), reunited to support CBGB on August 22 and August 28, 2005. Singer Bruce Loose appeared on stage with a cane. This line-up of Flipper then continued to play live again beginning in 2006, with plans for a new album to be recorded and released in 2007.
In December 2006, DeSmartass was replaced by Krist Novoselic on bass for a tour of the UK and Ireland, as well as several US shows.  The song «Scentless Apprentice», which the band recorded (without Novoselic) for a 2000 Nirvana tribute album, was added to the band’s setlist.
Novoselic is recording a new album with the band. The album is produced by Jack Endino, the sound engineer who recorded Nirvana’s debut album Bleach. As of January 2008 the album is «99% there». As of March 2008 the new album is officially done, however the band is apparently still searching for a label to release it.
Krist Novoselic has announced his departure from the band as of 22 September due to responsibilities at home. As a result of this, the band’s tour has been cancelled and the remaining members of the band are currently searching for a replacement bassist.
Influence on other musicians:
Kurt Cobain was a great fan of Flipper and often wore self-made Flipper t-shirts, e.g. in the booklet pictures of Nirvana’s In Utero and on the band’s first performance on Saturday Night Live in 1992.
In the documentary American Hardcore, Moby stated that he fronted for Flipper for two days while singer Will Shatter was in jail because he «knew all of their songs».The band denies this however.
Eric Avery of Jane’s Addiction has said that Flipper’s rolling rhythms and repetitive riffs were an influence on Jane’s early sound.
Henry Rollins of Black Flag has mentioned Flipper as one of the heaviest bands he has ever seen.
Bruce Loose - vocals, bass (1979-present, born Bruce Calderwood, 6 June 1959, Fresno, California)
Ted Falconi - guitar (1979-present, born Lawrence Falconi, 2 September 1947, Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania)
Steve DePace - drums (1979-present, born 29 January 1957, San Francisco, California)
Ricky Williams - vocals (1979, born c. 1955, Palo Alto, California, died 21 November 1992, San Francisco)
Will Shatter - bass, vocals (1979-1987, born Russell Wilkinson, 1956, San Francisco, died 9 December 1987, San Francisco)
John Dougherty- bass (1992-1997, born 20 April 1961, Oakland, California, died 31 October 1997, USA)
Bruno DeSmartass- bass (1982, 2005-2006)
Krist Novoselic - bass (2006-2008, born 10 May 1965, Compton, California)