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Music profile

Welcome to the Cadillac Steakhouse. May they rock your face off?

Last summer, friends and bandmates Erik Ketchup, Aharon Lund and Miles Bartlett were walking home from the bar, discussing a future collaboration that needed a strong female presence. As they turned a corner, they saw Nikki Rosing relieving herself against a wall, standing up. A few minutes later, she was brawling with a bum. Instantly, Cadillac Steakhouse was born.

A few months later, a show at the band’s home base and rehearsal space, Hangart, revealed the band to the world, in all its raw glory. Rosing, a natural belter, actress, sex symbol and comedian, stood front and center. 

Between songs, she cocked a hip and announced her arrival on the pages of Tucson’s punk lexicon. “I’m Iggy Pop! I’m Iggy Pop and these are the Stooges!”

Clearly this natural inheritor of territory claimed with much bloodshed by the likes of Patti Smith, Poly Styrene, Lydia Lunch, L7, Bikini Kill and others is not troubled by gender distinctions. After all, she is 23, and grew up with high-profile superstar women like Gwen Stefani to show her that any level of rock success is possible for women:

These guys are my minions, my manservants, they do what I tell them. Practice is really easygoing. If I want to do something again or change it up, they let me. And I tell them, too, that if they don't like something, they can tell me. But either they are too afraid or they like what's going on, so they're obedient.  

Rosing’s lyrics are largely unprintable, but frequently vacillate between the outrageous and the socially-conscious, between expletives and naked honesty. In the song “I Love You John Smith,” Rosing fills a bridge with a Holden Caulfield-esque disdain for America: “What can you expect from filthy, rotten scoundrels/that whole entire race is like a fucking curse.”

Such dark sensibilities are countered by Rosing’s banter between songs. Her stage presence is caustic, oversexed and hilarious, as non-sequiturs and one-liners intersect with the the usual punk rock crowd-rousing hollers. Rosing will scream “Who wants a bacon enema?” and ease right into the chorus of Warren Zevon’s “Werewolves of London.” She solicits sperm donors from the audience and then comically simulates labor.  On and offstage, Nikki Rosing is fearless.

Bassist Ketchup is quick to insist that while there was an embryonic version of the collaboration between his and Lund’s other band, Flagrante Delicto, and guitarist Bartlett of Mr. Free and the Satellite Freakout, the Steakhouse is entirely inspired by Rosing. “She's definitely the backbone. We really just wanted to rock, and we knew we needed a strong female force in this band. Nikki would have eventually just started something on her own. She didn't need us. She's been a rockstar her whole life.”

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Drummer Aharon Lund, a local live sound engineer, adds:

She's more punk rock than any of those a-holes I mix at Vaudeville who call themselves punk because they have a mohawk.

Let's say you name your influences, and then you create enough of a riot that people know who you are. And then it gets back to that musician, and it turns out they hate you!

Lund, a transplant from New York, had planned to mix live bands and not to perform in them until he heard Flagrante Delicto. Lund is a fiend for new music of all sorts, and his playing reflects his diverse tastes.

He and Ketchup are an incredibly tight and sophisticated rhythm section, and are bolder with tempo and beat changes than an average punk band; they are reminiscent of the more sophisticated D.C. punk of the 1980s and '90s, though they avoid veering into math rock territory.

Bartlett’s guitar is equal parts '60s garage and post-punk relentlessness. A pop riff will give way to distorted power chords, and in turn, Barlett accompanies Ketchup and Lund into a more irruptive, dislocating rhythm than one would ever find on a Nuggets compilation.

The funk influence in Cadillac Steakhouse is clear at moments; at others, the band plays straight-ahead hardcore of the early Suicidal Tendencies variety. Lund makes it clear that while he once suffered from some anxiety of influence, “Now I want to hear everything, to take what I like from it, to eat it, and to say ‘Okay! More, please.’ ”

The band’s process is loose by design. Songs are composed in practice, a policy Ketchup is thrilled about. “None of us is bringing anything into the band from the rest of our lives. The music is being invented right here, in that moment, in practice.”

Says Lund:

Tucson is entering a new phase. We needed something new, and now is the time. We're in an uproar.

Without recording a demo — a vinyl split with Otherly Love is in the planning stage— or playing more than a handful of shows, Cadillac Steakhouse has generated a ton of buzz. When one befriends the band on Facebook, the Steakhouse is likely to write something on one’s wall, like “Welcome to the Steakhouse. May we take your coat?”

When pressed for the origin of the band’s name, Cadillac Steakhouse will dole out red herrings and crass jokes, including the intimation that it refers to a part of Rosing’s anatomy. "I worked at a steakhouse for three years,” says Rosing. "I've got those juices running through me.”

There is certainly something of the ugly American in the band’s name, combining as it does two exemplars of American excess. And Cadillac Steakhouse, while wild and punk, are smart enough to know exactly what they are doing. They are full of sass and petulance and tantrums and squalling.

Dissatisfied with the version of American rock being offered by the vast majority of media, they would rather show Tucson something else. Lund says, " I love playing this fast, heavy, aggressive music played by thinking people.”

Rosing says it more simply: “This band is letting me be exactly who I am.”

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1 comment on this story

1
9 comments
Feb 13, 2010, 5:36 am
-0 +3

Excellent interview. Fusking awesome band. Nikki is a goddess! I am super excited for the Saturday show at The District.

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Click image to enlarge

Courtesy Cadillac Steakhouse

From left: Erik Ketchup, Aharon Lund, Nikki Rosing, Miles Bartlett

“She’s been a rockstar her whole life.”

— Erik Ketchup

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If you go

Cadillac Steakhouse plays the Radio Chukston benefit Saturday Feb. 13 at The District Tavern. Local legend Al Perry and Golden Boots round out the bill. A $5 donation is asked at the door.

The District Tavern, 260 E. Congress St.