Nearly 15 years ago, Los Angeles band Pigmy Love Circus enjoyed modest success when their anti-rock-star single "King of L.A." went to #1 at a local alternative station, thanks largely to lyrics like "I'm the king of L.A., I killed Axl Rose today."
One night during the band's brief radio reign, Pigmy Love Circus frontman Michael Savage was hanging at a bar when a guy came up to him and said, "You know, Slash is here." At the time, Guns N' Roses were the biggest thing in rock, but Savage, who stands well over six feet tall, was hardly intimidated.
"I said, 'You know what? Guns N' Rose are at the top of the heap, and I'm at the bottom, and I'm sure they could really care less,' " the singer recalled. " 'If I met Axl Rose I'd probably buy the guy a beer if I had the money.' And the dude shook my hand and said, 'Well, I'm Slash. Your band rocks.' "
The story is a legend of biblical proportion for Savage, who cherishes his memories with the band. And while they never became a global phenomenon, back in the day Pigmy Love Circus turned a few heads with their bulldozer rock songs and theatrical presentations, at which Savage would wear masks, swallow swords and converse with a ventriloquist dummy. The band released two albums — 1990's Live and 1992's Drink Free Forever — but Savage and his bandmates never made enough cash to quit their day jobs, let alone buy drinks for rock stars.
Now they might have a second chance. On June 8, Go Kart Records will release Pigmy Love Circus' first record in a decade, The Power of Beef, produced by Tool drummer Danny Carey, who also performs on the disc. Carey and Pigmy Love Circus go way back: He joined the band in 1992 but left a year later to devote his energies to Tool.
"We'd been friends for so long that I couldn't be pissed," Savage said. "When I see a friend of mine in this business climb up out of the scrapheap, I'm excited for him. And when they started getting bigger and bigger it was exciting for us. He's still our pal. That'll never change."
Pigmy Love Circus soldiered on with another drummer, but they ran out of Love juice in 1995 and went their separate ways. Then in 1999 guitarist Peter Fletcher returned to Los Angeles and Savage orchestrated a reunion that included Carey.
"That gig got everyone fired up and more focused again," Carey said. "Whenever this band plays live, it works real good. Everyone in the hall is just slayed. So all of a sudden we got all this momentum going, and we were all fired up and they had some songs written already that were ready to go, so we just took the next logical step."
Pigmy Love Circus wrote most of The Power of Beef at practice sessions in Tool's studio after Savage, Fletcher and bassist Shepherd Stevenson got home from their day jobs. Even though the songs came quickly, the album took 18 months to complete because the Circus could only come to town when Tool weren't working.
"It's not as technically demanding as Tool, so it's easier to bash these songs out," Carey said. "It's more about capturing the energy and the vibe of the thing."
The band chose the album title The Power of Beef in part to piss off their vegetarian friends, but also because they liked the energy and strength conjured by the word. "The ultimate power that you have is your beef," Savage explained. "And that goes for a killer set of wheels, a big gun, ... a rockin' band. Beef is like, 'Oooomph.' It's the crunch, the chunk and the badassness of it all."
Because of Carey's schedule with Tool, Pigmy Love Circus won't tour extensively. But they will play spot shows and may launch a two- or three-week tour while Tool are on a break. For Savage, the more shows, the better. As much as he enjoys cranking out songs with his pals in the studio, he lives for the adventure of the road.
"I call the stage my ultimate mistress," he said. "She demands more, she's unforgiving, she will punish you if you do wrong. But the rewards are mighty in a spiritual sense. There's nothing like playing onstage to an audience that connects. Nothing."