An Interview with Dead Boys, Rocket From The Tombs, and Batusis Punk Legend, Cheetah Chrome
by Mike Huberty
November 2010

Batusis - Sylvain Sylvain and Cheetah Chrome - photo by Sandy Carson

Batusis - Sylvain Sylvain and Cheetah Chrome
photo by Sandy Carson

Two seminal members of two of the most influential New York City punk bands, THE NEW YORK DOLLS and DEAD BOYS, join forces in BATUSIS (Yes, named after Adam West’s ridiculous dance in the 1960’s Batman TV series), a straight up rock and roll band with an upbeat and catchy sound. With their image, sound, and attitudes, guitarists Cheetah Chrome (also a founding member of ROCKET FROM THE TOMBS) and Sylvain Sylvain were at the forefront of the underground rock and roll movement that would eventually lead to being able to buy CBGB shirts at the mall. But back then it was the most dangerous music around.

Their first concert was at this year’s South by Southwest festival in Austin and they were backed up with the rhythm section from Joan Jett’s BLACKHEARTS. Cheetah explains how they started, “Syl’s manager and my label guy got to talking” he says, “and they suggested that since we’d known each other for a long time that we should do something together. We said ‘Hell yeah’! It sounded like fun because we’ve always wanted to play together. Basically it started off as just the EP and it went so well, we went off to do some touring and now next week we’re going to do a full album.”

Sylvain and Cheetah also share a common moment that made them want to pick up instruments in the first place. Along with much of their generation of musicians, “the thing that inspired us both was seeing The Beatles on The Ed Sullivan show.”, Cheetah says. Syl’s a little bit older than me and had lived in New York. He was able to go places like the Academy of Music and see a lot of the bands. I grew up in Cleveland and we did get to see some of the bands, but it was a little more backward, ha. I always was a musical sponge, though, and listened to a lot of music, between the Beatles, Stones, Ten Years After, and Steppenwolf, it led me to Alice Cooper and the MC5. I always had a preference for the hard stuff, it was the natural progression into what Rocket From The Tombs and The Dead Boys became.”

As they start to work on their first full-length album as BATUSIS, Cheetah is looking forward to the recording process. “We’re a fun band, we’re not limiting ourselves to do any one thing.”, he says. “I think people are going to be surprised by the album, we’re doing what we want to do. We’re not going to pigeonhole ourselves into being the party band or anything like that, but we like to have a rock and roll show and we like to have fun. We both have the same approach to writing, that the song will tell you how it wants to be written, what it needs. If you’re smart, you’ll follow the song and let it take you to where it wants to go.”

Both Chrome and Sylvain have had careers extending into their fourth decade and have survived the rock lifestyle that’s ended the lives of many of their peers. Cheetah explains a little bit about how he’s still goings what continues to makes them tick. “In my case,” he laughs, “it was getting off drugs.” But he gets more serious when he discusses how they feel about music and the performance. “We both love rock and roll and we love to play. We’ll jump at any chance or opportunity we get to do it. We never thought that we were too young or too old. Or it had been too long or we can’t play anymore or it’s not dignified. We don’t give a shit, we just love to play. We have a blast at the shows. Me and Syl, we get up there and start playing, there’s a couple times each set we look each other in the eye and give a wink. We both are up there smiling and playing our guitars, it doesn’t get any better than that.”

THE BATUSIS hit Milwaukee on December 2nd at Shank Hall and Cheetah promises it’s going to be a lot of fun. “You laugh, you cry, you flash your tits.”, he says with a giggle in his voice. “We get a good reaction from the audience. People come home happy from our shows and we’re getting really good reviews. You get to hear some old favorites, and some new stuff, and some more surprises. you guys are gonna get more out there, because it’s right after we finish the album and you’ll hear songs nobody has heard yet. It’s just fun. If you like the circus, you’ll love us.”

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