If you catch him at his day job, Tesco Vee is a mild-mannered telecommunications engineer and Al Bundy look-alike named Bob who will provision your iPhone or set up voice mail. On-stage, however, Bob transforms into the Dutch Hercules himself—the obscenity-slinging, ABBA-worshipping, blatantly offensive frontman for the long-lived punk-metal humorists the Meatmen. Reached at his Michigan office, the man born Robert Vermeulen admits that occasionally “worlds collide” and corporate clients catch on to who he is.
“Sometimes I have to tell people to shut the heck up, because it’s not exactly a Christian rock band that I’m in,” Vee tells the Straight. “I kinda try to keep it on the down-low. But I also don’t shy away from it. Like, every year at our big division Christmas party, I’m the MC, so I come out in these crazy outfits and blow off confetti cannons, and people are like, ‘Where do you get all this stuff?’ ‘Oh, it’s just stuff that I have lying around.’ ”
Vee leaves his giant inflatable penises at home for work functions, mind you. Selective self-representation further means that at least a few Meatmen songs no longer feature in concert. “Camel Jockeys Suck”, for instance—written before the days of Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib—is no longer on the band’s set list, though the other touchstones in the “suck trilogy”, “Crippled Children Suck” and “French People Suck” still are, despite having exactly the same tune.
“We did do ‘French People Suck’ in Montreal, I’m proud to say. But I prefaced it, because someone took me aside and said, ‘Look, the people in Montreal hate the French from France, because they come over and talk to the French Canadians, and they’re like, ‘Vat did you say? I can’t understand you,’ because they’re not speaking ‘proper’ French. And that really rankles them. So I did give a little foreword there—‘This goes out to the French people in France.’ Call that pussying out, but…”
It remains to be seen how songs like “Lesbian Death Dirge” and “Tooling for Anus” will go over on the Left Coast of Canada, especially just after Pride Week. “People need to understand what I’m all about,” Vee volunteers. “I’m the most free-thinking, left-wing nut job on the planet; I’m about as live-and-let-live as they come. The Tesco Vee character I crawl into—if I lived that persona 24/7, I’d either be dead or incarcerated. But it’s like there’s a certain element of satire and tongue-in-cheek in what I do. I’m going for the throat, I’m going for reaction—if it’s laughter, anger, whatever. And obviously I don’t think crippled children suck—or, as I say on-stage, ‘They only suck when they can actually reach my zipper.’ ”
The Meatmen’s present West Coast tour—which will see them making their first-ever Vancouver appearance—serves no new album, though one has been in the works for a while. “It’s coming along like a bowel movement in a fat man,” Vee quips. Vancouver audiences will get to hear three songs off the incomplete opus, to be titled Lansing Liberace.
“We got a new one called ‘Dinosaur’ that’s sort of autobiographical in nature: ‘I’ve been around since the dawn of punk time/I’ve been plying these punk-rock waters since 1979,’ that kinda thing. And then we have another one called ‘Kill Kunt Koulter’, about Ann Coulter, the right-wing Nazi. And then we have another one called ‘The Dwarves Are the Second Best Band in the World, After the Meatmen’—because you know how the Dwarves are always saying they’re the greatest band in the world?”
The Meatmen play Fortune Sound Club next Thursday (August 9).