In an irony well-suited to the band's name, The Pimps used Mickey Mouse, then chucked him.
The Rockford, Illinois, rock/rap/funk (and sometimes jazz and country) band signed with ABC/Disney subsidiary Hollywood Records ($1 million for two albums), released last year's To a Cool Person, Stay That Way, toured with Insane Clown Posse, nabbed a spot alongside Metallica and Limp Bizkit on the Mission: Impossible 2 soundtrack, and then left the label.
"They let us go, which was so cool," said Tony Crisman, The Pimps' bassist. "They really helped us out a lot. ... They squared us away hard."
Major labels are known for treating bands like indentured servants - acting like pimps, in other words - but Hollywood played against type. When the label asked for lyric changes on the band's forthcoming album - after a promise before signing that there would be no censorship - The Pimps were allowed to walk away. They had to give up $400,000 of the their $1 million contract, but they left with their record and dignity intact. And they got the rights to their M:I2 track, "Rocket Science," which they've put on the new CD.
The newly liberated band, which will be playing with Purkle at a newly renovated RIBCO on February 1, is trying to make the most of being (once again) unsigned. If Crisman is upset about losing a major-label sponsor - or even if he's just spinning the story the band's way - he doesn't show it. "We are a bit jaded about the whole experience" was the most negative thing out of his mouth.
The new album, More Songs about Drugs with Curse Words, should be out in late February, and "we're getting it out as fast as we can," Crisman said, instead of waiting to find a label.
The bassist said that the songwriting on the new record is more mature, even though the band stays aggressive and doesn't lose its sense of humor. "The old stuff seems so dated," he said.
For those who haven't witnessed a live Pimps show, be prepared for bedlam. The band combines a speed-metal pace with tongue firmly in cheek, touching on styles that range from funk to rock to rap to metal. It's a no-holds-barred event that has the audience either thrashing at the head-banging style or laughing hysterically at the band's cynical takes on commercial radio, Southern rock, and life in the Midwest.
The band doesn't know yet whether it will try to parlay its Hollywood success into another major-label deal or instead go the indie-label or do-it-yourself route, both of which would guarantee more creative freedom but without the distribution and marketing muscle of a big player.
But the band has momentum on its side. The Pimps (formerly The Goodyear Pimps, until the corporate blimp blew some legal threats) have already had a couple tracks selected for a new soundtrack.
And by the way, The Pimps' Web site is (http://www.thepimps.org). Surfers who slap on the conventional dot-com will find something a little less musical. "My grandma found that out the hard way," Crisman said.
RIBCO Gets a Facelift
The Pimps and Purkle will be the first bands to play a new-look RIBCO. The club closed after its January 13 show to do the more cosmetic components of its renovation. (The owners in recent years replaced the heating and air-conditioning systems and the roof.) "It's finally time for the facial part of the project," said Deb Parker Tilka, RIBCO's business manager.
Customers will notice new carpeting, new booths, refinished wood floors, new tile behind the stage, and new bathrooms. The club also features a new kitchen.
The biggest difference for fans of live music, though, is that the sight lines to the stage have been improved. "The archway that connects the bar side and stage side has increased greatly," said RIBCO's Bill Douglas.
Even more changes might be looming in the future. Parker Tilka said her company has purchased a building adjacent to RIBCO. "We don't have any big plans," she said. "[But] we'd like to do something by summer."
Possible uses include tearing down the building and using the space for an outdoor stage for RIBCO, opening a separate club, or expanding RIBCO. "We're not committed to anything," she said.
The Pimps will play with Purkle at 10 p.m. on February 1. RIBCO's post-renovation lineup also includes the disco revue Generations on February 2 and a Bob Marley birthday bash featuring Aswah Greggori & The Enforcers on February 3.