xtra large guitarist inspired by Keith Moon, Andy Kaufman, and pimento loaf

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ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN THE GEORGIA STRAIGHT, FEB. 4, 1993

By Steve Newton

Before potential listeners can get to the music on the new xtra large CD, NOWiEATthem, they have to get past one freaky cover illustration. Fashioned by acclaimed American artist Mark Ryden (who did Michael Jackson’s Dangerous cover), it portrays two women being wed by a huge praying mantis in priest’s robes while a horde of tuxedoed bugs looks on. It’s strange stuff indeed, but definitely in keeping with the California band’s thematic preoccupations.

“Generally, we write about mental illness and death,” guitarist/co-songwriter/producer Warren Anthony Fitzgerald says with a long-distance chuckle, “but it’s not like we’re some gloom-and-doom kind of people. To me, something like death is just such a great subject and so ignored. Everyone pushes it out of their mind and doesn’t want to deal with it, but we’re kinda fascinated with the fact that life is a finite thing and you get an opportunity to do whatever you want for this small amount of time.

“So that’s where the death angle comes from. As for the mental illness thing…I think it has a lot to do with growing up in Orange County.”

Fitzgerald doesn’t limit his comments on the scary side of life to xtra large’s funky hard-rock sound and brutal lyrics, though. He brings his twisted visions alive on canvas, as well.

“Me and [drummer] Bob Thomson both paint,” he says, “and we contributed a little bit of art to the album. But my art, generally, is so offensive and borderline pornographic that—of the few galleries that I’ve had shows at—they generally have to put some sort of disclaimer up. People get real terrified of some of the things they’re seeing, which is fine—I mean, it’s good to express yourself in an art way as opposed to…you know…”

As opposed to striding into McDonald’s with an Uzi and turning innocent folk into your own special sauce, perhaps? Well, Fitzgerald may be able to keep his primal aggressive urges in check when he’s on the street, but from the wild stories about the xtra large live show—which comes to the Town Pump on Tuesday (February 9)—anything goes on stage.

“It seems like every night when we play, one of us ends up slightly injured. No one’s died yet, nothin’ major, but, I mean, we’re tryin’ to have a good time. We’re tryin’ to entertain people and make fools of ourselves and go to whatever extreme it takes to get some response out of people.

“And we’re willing to do anything,” he adds. “It’s like, we’ll take requests, but not song requests—physical dares.”

In a band-member profile that comes along with the xtra large publicity kit, Fitz claims that his musical inspirations include Keith Moon, Andy Kaufman, and pimento loaf, so that gives you a hint of where he’s coming from. And his personal philosophy is: “If at first you don’t succeed, tell everyone you weren’t trying,” which makes sense, in a way. But what’s this boast about him pioneering the incorporation of genitalia into slide-guitar playing?

“Well, I’m working on an instructional guitar video down the road—it’s actually more of a spoof—and I want to do kind of a striptease, guitar/porno thing, so that’s where the slide guitar would come into play. It’s not for all ages, but…”

Sounds like it could be painful.

“Oh, I mean, it could be,” agrees the 24-year-old wild man, “but it’s a small sacrifice for art, I guess.”

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