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EXCLUSIVE: Amino Acids To Disband Because "The Drummer's An Asshole" Says Founding Member

DC is a longtime contributor to the MCB.
She can be reached at [at]

If you've ever spent three weeks in Detroit, you probably saw the Amino Acids play twice. And if you're here and have never seen them? Go to their farewell show on the 11th and then kick yourself 450 times for all the shows you missed; you're really going to hate yourself.

It's true; after 12 years of relentless performing, the faceless quartet are hanging up their stockings. At least, and I begged them to reassure me, until further notice.

The band is typically publicity-shy because that's just not what they're about. They play because they love it – and when you see the energy they bring to every single show, that's very easy to believe. But when MCB got the bulletin, we wanted to get the scoop straight from the alien's, well, non-mouth in this case. So we tracked down original member and local human interface, Scotty Boyink, who agreed to round up a couple of bandmates to meet with me and spill the whole Aminos story.

This was a first; the band had never spoken to the press "out of character."

When we sat down to talk, I realized a couple of the guys looked awfully familiar, and wondered how many times I had unknowingly tipped a drink shoulder-to-shoulder with one of the musicians who had just had me bouncing off the walls. Chances are, you've seen the guys around town, too, and if you'd asked them flat out, "Hey, are you in the Amino Acids?" you may or may not have gotten a straight answer.

Photo courtesy the Amino Acids

"There's no other alien surf band in town."
The Mythos

In 1998, Scotty Boyink answered Dave Taylor's ad, looking to put a band together. After one or two practices, Scotty showed up with a bassist, and boom, they were a band. Then came a period of figuring out just what they were going to be. At the time, they were being heavily influenced by the likes of Aphex Twin and Pink Floyd's The Wall. It's a surprise to no one, though, that one of their biggest inspirations was DEVO.

Scotty explains, "Dave showed me a copy of live DEVO from 1978, The Men Who Make The Music, and pointed at the TV and said, 'I wanna do something like this.'" Since the decision had been made early on that this band would be purely instrumental, they were free to experiment with their overall visual. After a few different uniform/militaristic/space alien looks, they landed on their now-iconic masks under stockings. The backstory evolved as well, painting the musicians as human hosts to alien invaders, complete with official aliases. "We were space fascists. We'll kick your ass! But about nothing in particular!"

And so they became the foundation of Dave Taylor, aka Reverend Angry Larry, on lead guitar, and Scotty Boyink, aka Senator Thompson Speck on drums, along with a revolving crew of bassists, eventually adding what turned out to be their most visible member, the theremin player.

Photo courtesy the Amino Acids

Jeremy Altier, aka Ambassador Chuck "the Conqueror" Bronson, joined the band on theremin in 2003, almost by accident. "I saw the Amino Acids before I joined them, obviously. I used to go all the time, I used to listen to that first album all the time. It blew me away, a band like that, in Detroit." He had come to a show during one of the periods when the Aminos were down to three members, the previous theremin player having just left the band. "I was talking to Dave, who I knew from their shows, and on a whim – and maybe I'd also been drinking – I said, "I can totally do this!' It was almost a joke when I said it, but I also knew I could handle it. That night, I joined the band."

"You can carbon copy that story, and that's exactly how I felt about it, except that by the time I discovered the band, Destroy The Warming Sun was out. I went to a show and got that disc, and then had it on constant repeat, at work, in my car, at home..." says Rick McGregor, aka Duke Reginald Von Hasslehoff, who took Jeremy's spot in 2007.

When you watch the band, the backstory holds, as the most visible character in the band, the frenetic, audience-molesting theremin player, really does seem like the same entity over the years, simply occupying different bodies. "I took a lot of my moves from what Jay used to do. Jay was awesome, Jay looked like an alien up there. One thing he did occasionally was jump into the audience. I mean, he didn't do it a lot, so I thought, what if I jumped into the audience more? And I started doing that, and went from there... hurt myself a lot, it was fun!" Jeremy says with a big grin.

"I pretty much jump into the audience a lot because there are a lot of songs that don't have a theremin part. So I can either stand here and look stupid or go wrestle with people," Rick adds.

"What are you doing tonight?"
The Work Ethic

Scotty admits this isn't the easiest band to play for. Last-minute fill-in gigs have not been uncommon – not because they felt like they needed to play, but simply because someone called. This resulted in a crazy gig-to-practice ratio of about 3-to-1, or maybe more. "Everyone thinks they want to be in the band, but then they realize, whoa, this is a lot of work!"

As a result, Dave Taylor, who joined us for a few minutes via remote, claims there have been at least 15 band members over the years. "Mostly bassists. I don't know what it is about bassists."

Basically, if you'd ever treated them well – or maybe if they'd never even met you – the Aminos would play for you, any time, anywhere. Scotty, who booked the shows, says, "When people treat you fairly, it's hard to say no to them. We always ran off the philosophy that it's nice to be wanted. That's what we got into it for, so that maybe you do it and people like it enough that people say, 'I wish I could get the Amino Acids to play in my bedroom...' It's so much cooler to say 'Sure, we'll play in your bedroom!'"

Some 450 shows later, the Aminos have bounced coast-to-coast a couple of times, and have toured around the midwest, playing everything from festivals with hundreds in the audience, to a converted 2.5-car garage in Kansas that held about 10.

"It was never really about being famous," says Jeremy, "it was just about doing it."

"I just wanted to be able to get into clubs and not have to pay!" Rick adds. "Plus I get to dress up and act like a goof for a half-hour."

Dave asks me, "Did Scotty tell you about the laundromat?"

"What, did you just drive by the place and think, hey, we need to play there?" I ask.

"No, it's where he used to do his laundry. The Missing Sock in Clinton Township. He got to talking to the owner and just asked if we could do a gig there. We played there twice."

Photo courtesy the Amino Acids

"We could play all the time, so we did play all the time," says Scotty. "My thinking was always that if we just played enough, even around town, if we just keep attacking, eventually, everybody will have seen us."

"I think everybody has!" Jeremy laughs.

And they never needed to fill a room to feel like a show was a success. For them, a 400-person show can be fun, if uncomfortably big, but they were just as happy to play for 5 people, as long as they felt the love. With too many people in the room, they didn't feel like they could touch everyone in they way they prefer.

"I loved the 2500 Club because there was only a little bit of a stage, and there wasn't enough room for me up there, so I was just right on the floor" Rick says, "and there'd be people surrounding me, so I was already in the middle of the crowd. I always liked that because I started off watching Amino shows from the crowd, and once I was in the band, I didn't want to lose that ability to stand in the back and look up. If there's a mosh pit, I'll go get into that, then I can turn around and point at them up there on the stage."

"We don't like big rooms, huge stages," Scotty continues. "We're like ATTACK. I like the low-risk nature of a dive bar, in terms of being accepted by the people there. But there's really not much more left in town to do."

"We're just out of good ideas."
The Hiatus

"The Aminos are not finished," Dave assures me. "We'll always play Subgenius shows," of which there are a few, in rotating locations, every year. "There are other bands to fill in the gaps, like the Minoan Brain Eaters, The Slot Rods, John Deere Tractor Beam... and you never know, the Aminos could always show up."

There are side projects as well, like current (as of 2008) bassist Bob "Scout Master Hank Bloodfist" Impemba's Almost Free and Dave's garage-surf outfit the Casket Bastards.

All three Amino Acids CDs, Man... In the Universe? (2002), Destroy The Warming Sun (2004), and Humanity Will Fall Like Pins (2007) are also available through CDBaby.


"We talked a lot about putting another record out, but to do that, we'd have to rehearse a lot, and everybody's really busy. In order to do anything more, in terms of writing and stuff, it's pretty important right now that we just stop. Get away from it. And really," Scotty says slowly, "we're just out of good ideas."

While I find that a little hard to believe, what the Amino Acids are certainly not out of is energy, respect and good will. I can't imagine it's all that common to sit in a room with a musician and the man who assumed his role and sense absolutely no bad feelings. When Dave made the crack about the band breaking up because Scotty is just such an asshole, everyone laughed because it's clearly so far from the truth. All four of the men I met seem not only big fans of one another, but genuinely fond of each other as well (between you and me, the word "sexy" got thrown around once or twice). Even after leaving the band, several former members remain loyal fans, regularly appearing at shows and filling in at gigs.

I thought "demystifying" the band held the danger of draining some of the joy of their performances. Turns out, the opposite is true. This is a group of guys who are not just talented and fun, but funny, authentic and extremely likable. If I wasn't already in love with the Amino Acids, I would have been after this interview.

Which just makes it all the sadder that after their farewell show this Saturday, Dec. 11, at Small's, there's going to be such a big hole in Detroit's collective calendar.

On my way out of the loft where we'd had our chat, I shook Scotty's hand and told him that I was looking forward to seeing him Saturday. "Well, not looking forward to it exactly," I grimaced.

"Oh believe me, no one is sadder about this than me," he said. "It's not all over though. There'll be the Subgenius events, and maybe a few local gigs here and there, if you're cool enough, and the show is good enough..."

"Yeah? Well, my birthday is in July," I grinned broadly at him, "and I think my garage is bigger than some of the places you've played..."

"July..." he considered seriously, "July sounds good."

Oh, it certainly will.