If you know of Green Jellÿ (with the ÿ pronounced as an o—the band’s name was changed after a lawsuit by gelatin peddlers), odds are it’s from “Three Little Pigs,” a music video that received endless play on The Box and MTV in the early ‘90s. Taken from the “video only” release Cereal Killer on VHS which featured a video for every song of their album, the low budget claymation video is an enduring cult favorite and the accompanying video is out of print and long in the realm of mythos.
Although, you might bump into an illegitimate copy here and there.
Even prior to Cereal Killer, the band was known in the Southern California area for their outrageous puppet antics—kind of the west coast’s answer to GWAR—during their live shows that prized theatrics well above musicianship. In fact, you could call Green Jellÿ the worst band ever, which was the group’s original goal.
But they’re fun as hell, and their success seems a sheer force of will via Bill Manspeaker, the group’s only stable member (in their quoted roster of 253 musicians). In a world where so many things go wrong for bands, Manspeaker embraces chaos and appears to thrive on it.
When I talked to him, he just got a new bass player that day, right in the middle of their tour—one which stops in New York harbor on April 8, the first Rocks Off Concert Cruise of the year. We also talked about taking out his young son (who signs boobs) on tour, the famous story of getting signed, midget wrestling roller derby extravaganzas, living with Tool and Rage Against The Machine in the same house, and pressing a record from a demo cassette.
It’s the kind of story so outlandishly ridiculous, you almost have to believe it’s true.
I was under the impression that last year when you had come around, that was kind of the last time you planned on doing this?
Oh no, never, ever, ever. I plan on passing this on to my son who will pass it on to his son. (laughs). My 15-year-old boy is on tour with me right now. He sings in the band.
That’s what I had heard, that you had starting touring again to bring him out.
Exactly. It was all his idea. I stopped touring when he was born because I didn’t want to be that dad, you know? And when he turned 13, I asked him what he wanted to do for summer vacation, he said ‘Dude, let’s go back out on tour!’ So I booked 130 shows, and we played all of 2008. His school gave him all the time off he needed. And then 2009 we took off, and I booked at least 150 shows this year. I have a show booked until July 4, a show every day.
In the beginning of June, we’re hooking up with midget wrestlers. We’re doing the rocking midget wrestling show with Green Jellÿ. And then eventually—I got Doc McGhee from KISS—we’re going to do the Green Jellÿ midget wrestling roller derby freak show.
The mini-wrestlers are all going to be mini-rockstars, so it’s going to be mini-KISS vs. mini-ZZ Top, mini-Axl Rose vs. mini-Dio. And so we’re going to have the same revolving group of like six midgets, and they’re going to dress underneath the stage as they come off. This is for the bigger show, not the one we’re doing in June. And then the band Green Jellÿ is going to play the first verse of each song—‘She’s got legs / She knows how to use ‘em.’—and [the midgets] will go up on the stage and wrestle. I’m going to put the midget wrestling ring in the middle, the roller derby track will go around the midget wrestling ring, and the band’s going to go in the center around the ring.
So at one time during the grand finale, the girls are gonna be roller derbying, the midgets are going to be wrestling, Green Jellÿ are going to be playing, and all the Green Jellÿ puppets are going to be out fighting with the midgets and the roller derby girls and the band. And there’s going to be this giant puppet chaos.
I’m guessing this is outdoors?
Yeah, we’ve got a couple ideas, either we’d follow around a fair with rides and stuff, or we’re going to go to the bigger parking lots like Target or Wal-Mart. Real basic stuff for roller derby, just gonna put down orange cones. Gonna have the same 12 roller derby girls traveling in the same bus. Familiar with a site called Suicide Girls?
My friend Sean and I actually started Suicide Girls out of Green Jellÿ productions about ten years ago, so we’re going to get all the Suicide Girls, and we’re going to dress them up in latex costumes. I have this guy Hunter Jackson, who created all the GWAR costumes.
One of the head slaves.
Yup, the founding member. He’s developing all the roller derby costumes for the girls. Right now, he’s making this really cool velociraptor that he’ll be riding, cause it’s going to be a team of six girls with one diabolical leader. So the guy from GWAR’s going to be the diabolical leader, and he’s going to be riding the velociraptor, and his team is the Suicide Girls. And that’s going to be against the Sinister Minister, and it’s going to be the seven deadly sins, each girl will be greed, envy, etc. And then there will be a boy leader and he’ll do the track thing.
It’s like the Harlem Globetrotters—we know who’s going to win, we know what fights are going to happen. It’s all pre-conceived. I’m doing the beginning stage of that in June with the midgets, add the roller derby as it goes along, and then the freaks.
Are you involved in the GWAR Crack-A-Thon?
Yup! We’re going to Richmond, VA, on April 5 to go over the whole Crack-A-Thon thing with Dave [Brockie, a.k.a. Oderus Urungus]. I actually talked to Dave yesterday. We’re going to set up some stuff while we’re in Richmond and even film some stuff for the Crack-A-Thon.
We’ve been friends forever. In fact, Hunter Jackson lives with me in Hollywood. He lives at my house. All the puppet people all hang out together (laughs). There’s no puppet animosity between us.
It’s so funny that that circle is so small.
Yeah. There are a couple other bands that are costume bands. The Radioactive Chicken Heads, Rosemary’s Billygoat, they’re all from L.A., and we’ve merged them all into Green Jellÿ. So we’ve got this super powered puppet band. It’s pretty humorous. Literally, the trailer that we’re pulling, it’s filled with puppet costumes and very minimal band equipment.
It’s funny, because we’re adding members as we go. There’s a band on this tour opening before us, called Psychostick, and we’ve already added their members to our band, you know? We pick up people along the way. Our guitar player I didn’t meet until the day we were leaving for tour, and I met him on the bus. Never met him, he never played any songs, and he actually plays guitar in the Residents. He’s on the tour with us, and he’s leaving in about a week. So we just picked up another guitar player in Nashville, where we are today, and we’re rehearsing. So we find musicians along the way (laughs). Some add and some go off.
Right now I’m at 253 people in my band. We were at like 190 for the last tour in 2008, and I’ve acquired a good 50 new ones since then. It’s so hilarious. Because along the way—it’s basically just me and the two other singers—we sort of get the band as we need it. I’m like, ‘Dude, we’ll find ‘em on the way, don’t worry about it.’ And sure enough, we found this guy in Phoenix, he’s like ‘Dude, I can play the bass.’ Found another guy in South Carolina. Picked up more today.
I think if there’s one thing about Green Jellÿ, people know about it, and the right people know about it. It’s a credit to it the approach that musicians are just like, ‘Sure, fuck it, I’ll be in Green Jellÿ for a couple weeks.’
Yeah, exactly. Like all the Tool guys. Maynard, Danny Carey and Adam Jones were all in Green Jellÿ way before Tool. The whole Cereal Killer album is Danny Carey playing drums.
I was just telling this Danny Carey story the other day. We all still live in the same place, Danny still has the same rehearsal studio that he had for 20 years where we made all the Green Jellÿ videos, all the Tool videos, all the stuff came out of there. And he lives one block away, drives by my house every day.
The dude’s got Porsche whale tail convertible black, a gazillion dollar Lamborghini, two giant houses in Hollywood Hills, and he drives his beat-up 1972 pickup truck. It’s all dented, smelly exhaust comes out of it, there’s rust on it because it was his truck that he had in Kansas that he drove out here with. Just really funny, you know? I see those guys all the time.
I’m surprised Maynard didn’t take you out for Puscifer.
Yeah, you know what? Puscifer is his Green Jellÿ. It’s kind of funny. I’m sort of actually honored. I figure eventually he will (laughs). It’s so funny. Maynard was my roommate forever, we lived together. And he was this guy that was my grumpy roommate that sold lizards for a living. He had a license to buy pets. Me and him would go to downtown L.A. and we’d buy lizards in bulk. We’d buy 100 lizards every other day. And we’d go to the pet stores and he’d sell lizards. And that was his job.
And we were like, ‘Dude, we need another singer in Green Jellÿ, why don’t you sing?’ He started singing the songs, Danny was already in the band, and then some of his friends were getting signed, and he was like ‘Fuck this man, I’m tired of selling lizards, I’m going to make my own band.’ Literally, I was sitting there the day I said that. Adam was there, he said, ‘Yeah man, let’s start something. I’ll play guitar.’ Paul d’Amour just moved into town and he was staying at the loft we were at, and he played guitar too. And he was like, ‘Oh man, I’ll play the bass.’
And boom, all of a sudden Tool was made. And they made up the band—because we used to have these parties at our loft—they just made up the band to play the parties, and they got signed right out of my living room.