Flipper (band)


Flipper at the 9:30 Club, Washington, DC, 1984
Background information
Origin San Francisco, California, United States
Genres Noise rock, punk rock, post-punk, hardcore punk, experimental rock, lo-fi
Years active 1979–1987, 1990–1993, 2005–present
Labels Subterranean, Alternative Tentacles, ROIR, American, Domino
Associated acts The Sleepers, Rad Command, Negative Trend, A3I, Nirvana, Frightwig, Mudwimin, Van Gough's Daughter, Scratch Acid, The Jesus Lizard
Website flipperrules.com
Members Ted Falconi
Steve DePace
Bruno DeSmartass
David Yow
Past members Will Shatter
Ricky Williams
Bruce Loose
John Dougherty
Krist Novoselic
Rachel Thoele

Flipper is an American punk and noise rock band formed in San Francisco, California in 1979, continuing in often erratic fashion until the mid-1990s, then reuniting in 2005. The band influenced a number of grunge,[1] punk rock and noise rock bands. Their slowed-down, bass-driven and heavily distorted style of punk is also considered a key forerunner to sludge, and influenced bands such as The Melvins and Nirvana, whose bass player Krist Novoselic played with the band in the 2000s.


Early years (1979-1989)

Flipper was founded by former The Sleepers member Ricky Williams (vocals), former Rad Command member Ted Falconi (guitar), and former Negative Trend members Will Shatter (bass) and Steve DePace (drums). Founding member and original vocalist Williams was credited for naming the band, but was fired before it made any recordings. Bruce Loose and Shatter then went on to trade vocal and bass duties, with both bringing a bass onstage. Falconi, a Vietnam War veteran, played a uniquely distorted style of guitar.

Flipper's first recordings appeared in late 1979 on the SF Underground 7" EP released on the newly formed Subterranean Records, followed by the "Love Canal"/"Ha Ha Ha" 7" single in 1980.

"Ha Ha Ha"
Sample of the 1981 Flipper single "Ha Ha Ha." Characteristic of the band, the heavy bass and vocals primarily carry the melody. Also exemplified is Ted Falconi's unique style of distorted guitar playing.

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In 1981, the "Sex Bomb"/"Brainwash" single was released, featured individually hand-made covers. The lengthy A-side had minimal lyrics ("She's a sex bomb, my baby, yeah") and gained the band notoriety within the punk community. The original lineup released their first full-length album, Album – Generic Flipper, on Subterranean in 1982. It contained a new version of "Sex Bomb". It was followed later in the year with another single on Subterranean, "Get Away"/"The Old Lady that Swallowed the Fly".

The band regularly performed in the San Francisco area and attracted a large following. Simultaneously, their uniquely slowed-down and raucous approach to punk managed to infuriate other members of the local punk scene, especially with the burgeoning popularity of faster-paced hardcore punk. Mark Arm claimed, in the 2006 documentary American Hardcore, that Flipper's charm as a band lay in their ability to upset audiences while attracting their undivided attention and curiosity at the same time. One of the ways the band promoted itself was spray painting "Flipper Rules" in various locations around San Francisco.

In 1983, Flipper appeared in Rick Schmidt's independent film, Emerald Cities. Footage of a live performance was interspersed throughout the film, showcasing three songs: "One By One", "Get Away" and "Love Canal".[2]

The cover of Gone Fishin' in 1984. The pictured van was where Ted Falconi lived when not on tour with the band. Photo by Vincent Anton.

A follow-up 1984 Subterranean studio album, Gone Fishin', featured the opening track "The Lights, the Sound, the Rhythm, the Noise", as well as "Survivors of the Plague" and "Sacrifice". The colorful van on the cover, along with figures representing the band and their equipment, could be cut out and folded. Subterranean also offered extra covers through a small mail order fee.

Cover of Blow'n Chunks, featuring the dead fish used as Flipper's mascot

Also in 1984, the ROIR cassette label released Blow'n Chunks, a live document of a Flipper performance at CBGB. It included material from all phases of the band's existence to that date. It was reissued on CD in 1990. A 2001 reissue included four outtakes from the live sessions.

Flipper titled their 1986 double live album Public Flipper Limited. The album unfolded into a board game with a cutout spinner and game cards, with Subterranean once again providing extra covers through mail order.

The original lineup splintered after a period of touring, and singer and core member Shatter died on December 9, 1987 of a drug overdose after forming A3I. Subterranean packaged the band's singles and rarities as the 1987 collection Sex Bomb Baby. The cassette edition and later CD re-releases featured three bonus tracks.

After Will Shatter (1990-1999)

The band resurfaced in 1990 with a new single on Subterranean, "Some Day"/"Distant Illusion", and began performing again. Nürnberg Fish Trials, another live album, was released in 1991. This lineup released an all-new studio album in 1992, American Grafishy, on Rick Rubin's Def American imprint, which was not as well-received as their previous work. After the album was released, replacement bass player John Dougherty died of a drug overdose. In addition to the deaths of Shatter and Dougherty, founding member Williams also died of a heroin overdose.[3][4] Loose once commented to SF Weekly on the band's history as "like Spinal Tap, except the bass player keeps dying".[4]

Rubin also reissued Album – Generic Flipper and the singles compilation Sex Bomb Baby on his Infinite Zero label. By 1997, Flipper's music went largely out of print, with Rubin holding on to the rights. As part of a legal settlement, Subterranean was awarded the right to reissue its Flipper records on vinyl in the United States.

Reformations (2002-present)

In 2002, Loose (using a cane) returned for a one-off gig at Berkeley's 924 Gilman Street space as "Not Flipper". He stated that he had changed his name from Bruce Lose to Bruce Loose "because he wanted to be less negative".[5]

The original members of Flipper, save for the late Shatter (with Bruno DeSmartass again replacing Shatter, as he had done for a 1982 tour), reunited to support CBGB on August 22 and 28, 2005. This lineup then continued to perform live beginning in 2006.

In December 2006, DeSmartass was replaced by Novoselic (ex-Nirvana) on bass for a tour of the UK and Ireland, as well as several US shows.[6] The song "Scentless Apprentice", which the band recorded (without Novoselic) for a 2000 Nirvana tribute album, was added to the band's setlist.

Cover of 2008's Love, written and recorded with Krist Novoselic of Nirvana on bass

In 2008, the band recorded a new album with Novoselic,[7] On May 19, 2009, Flipper released a "twin album" featuring one album, titled Love, of new studio material, and a second live album, titled Fight featuring both old and new songs. Both of these albums were produced by Seattle producer Jack Endino and were well received. Novoselic announced his departure from the band in September 2009 due to responsibilities at home, forcing a tour cancellation.[8] He was replaced by Rachel Thoele, formerly of Frightwig, Mudwimin and Van Gough's Daughter.

Several Flipper albums were reissued during 2008–2009 in a variety of formats. Album – Generic Flipper, Gone Fishin', Public Flipper Limited and Sex Bomb Baby! were reissued on compact disc by Water Records in the US and Domino Records in the UK, and on vinyl by the Runt Distribution imprint 4 Men with Beards.[9]

Flipper played two shows at San Francisco's Bottom of the Hill on October 10 and 11, 2015, with DeSmartass returning on bass and David Yow (formerly of Scratch Acid and The Jesus Lizard) on vocals.

Influence on other musicians

Along with Black Flag's My War (1984), Flipper's slowed-down, bass-driven and heavily distorted style of punk is considered a key forerunner to sludge metal and bands such as The Melvins. Kurt Cobain wore a self-made Flipper T-shirt, seen in the booklet pictures of Nirvana's In Utero,[4] on the band's first performance on Saturday Night Live in 1992, and also in the music video for "Come as You Are". Cobain and Novoselic cited Flipper as one of their band's influences.[10]

In the documentary American Hardcore, Moby stated that he fronted Flipper for two days while singer Will Shatter was in jail because he "knew all of their songs". The band denied this anecdote, however.[11]

Eric Avery of Jane's Addiction has said that Flipper's rolling rhythms and repetitive riffs were an influence on his band's early sound.[12]

In Get in the Van, his memoir of the early 1980s punk rock scene, Henry Rollins of Black Flag described the Flipper experience: "They were just heavy. Heavier than you. Heavier than anything...When they played they were amazing".[13]


Melvins have covered several Flipper songs: "Sacrifice" on their Lysol album; "Love Canal" and "Someday" on a 5-inch single released by Slap-A-Ham Records; and "Way of the World" on the Singles 1–12 compilation.

Belgian electronica/industrial band Lords of Acid covered Flipper's song "Sex Bomb", and released a live version on the 1995 "Do What You Wanna Do" maxi-single. The track started with Praga Khan giving credit to Flipper. It was later reinterpreted in the Lords' typical style on the 2000 album Farstucker, and is a staple of their live shows.

UK band Terminal Cheesecake also covered' "Sex Bomb" on their second album, 1989's V.C.L. (Wiiija Records).

Unsane covered the song "Ha Ha Ha" on their 2012 album Wreck.


Current members
  • Ted Falconi – guitar (1979–present)
  • Steve DePace – drums (1979–present)
  • Bruno DeSmartass – bass (1983, 2005–2006, 2015-present), guitar (1983)
  • David Yow - vocals (2015-present)

Former members
  • Will Shatter – bass, vocals (1979–1987)
  • Ricky Williams – vocals (1979)
  • Bruce Loose - vocals, bass (1979-2015)
  • John Dougherty – bass (1990–1993)
  • Krist Novoselic – bass (2006–2009)
  • Rachel Thoele – bass (2009–2015)


Studio albums

Title Year Label
Album – Generic Flipper 1982 Subterranean Records, reissued on Water Records in 2008
Gone Fishin' 1984 Subterranean Records, reissued on Water Records in 2008
American Grafishy 1993 Def American
Love 2009 MVD Audio

Live albums

Title Year Label
Blow'n Chunks 1984 ROIR
Public Flipper Limited 1986 Subterranean Records, reissued on Water Records in 2008
Nürnberg Fish Trials 1991 Musical Tragedies
Live at CBGB's 1997 Overground
Fight 2009 MVD Audio


Title Year Label
"Love Canal"/"Ha Ha Ha" 1980 Subterranean Records
"Sex Bomb"/"Brainwash" 1981 Subterranean Records
"Get Away"/"The Old Lady that Swallowed the Fly" 1982 Subterranean Records
"Some Day"/"Distant Illusion" 1990 Subterranean Records
"Flipper Twist"/"Fucked Up" 1992 Matador Records/Def American
"Sex Bomb Remix"/"Sex Bomb Remix" 1993 Fear and Loathing


Title Year Label
Sex Bomb Baby 1988 Subterranean Records, reissued on Infinite Zero Archive/American Recordings in 1995, reissued on Water Records in 2008


Title Year Label
Flipper Live February 19, 2008 Music Video Distributors

Other appearances

Title Year Album
"Earthworm" 1979 SF Underground
"Falling", "Lowrider" and "End the Game" 1981 Live at Target
"Ha Ha Ha" 1981 Let Them Eat Jellybeans!
"Sacrifice" 1982 Not So Quiet on the Western Front
"Life" 1982 Rat Music for Rat People
"Ever" 1983 Eastern Front
"Ever" and "Sex Bomb" 1992 The Wanna-Be-an-Indie-But-Got-Too-Much-$ Sampler
"Some Day" 1993 SXSW
"Love Canal" and "Get Away" 1994 Infinite Zero Promotional CD#2
"Ha Ha Ha" 1998 Old School Punk
"Scentless Apprentice" (Nirvana cover) 2000 Smells Like Bleach: A Punk Tribute to Nirvana
"Sad But True" 2001 A Punk Tribute to Metallica
"Problem Child" (AC/DC cover) 2002 For Those About to Rawk: A Punk Tribute to AC/DC
"Ha Ha Ha" 2006 American Hardcore's Official Movie Soundtrack
"Hash Pipe" (Weezer cover) 2006 A Punk Tribute to Weezer


  1. Seattle Weekly (author: Nirvana's bassist), The Austinist
  2. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0085484/soundtrack?ref_=tt_trv_snd
  3. "Toiling Midgets". last.fm. Retrieved 2011-11-02. (Click "Read more" to see referenced text)
  4. 1 2 3 Athitakis, Mark (1999-02-10). "Flipper Redux". SFWeekly. Retrieved 2011-11-02.
  5. York, Will (March 2–8, 1999). "This punk's not dead". San Francisco Bay Guardian. Retrieved 8 June 2014.
  6. Jasmin, Ernest. "Krist Novoselic to play with Flipper". TheNewsTribune.com. September 25, 2006.
  7. Prato, Greg (4 January 2008). "Flipper Drafts Novoselic For New Album". Billboard. Retrieved 2008-01-06.
  8. "News Ticker: Radiohead, Aerosmith, War Child and Flipper" (22 September 2008) RollingStone.com.]
  9. "About Flipper," Flipper MySpace page, Retrieved on January 6, 2009
  10. |"Both Krist & Kurt were influenced by Flipper's heavy, raw punk sound. Krist was honored to join Flipper." (quoting homepage of novoselic.com)
  11. http://www.stereogum.com/3426/moby_blogs_about_the_flipper_show/news/
  12. http://thetalkhouse.com/eric-avery-janes-addiction-polarbear-talks-ben-frosts-aurora/
  13. Get in the Van: On the Road with Black Flag by Henry Rollins, 1994

External links


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