Friday, August 19, 2005

PUNKOBIT: Randy 'Biscuit' Turner

Randy 'Biscuit' Turner, singer with punk band The Big Boys, has been found dead at his home in Austin, Texas.

Alongside Tim Kerr, Chris Gates and Rey Washam, Biscuit's Big Boys attempted to throw off the increasingly dogmatic tone of US punk between 1978 and 1984; creating a funkier, less uptight branch of punk which would eventually lead to the likes of Fishbone and the Red Hot Chili Peppers and crystallising a punk scene in Austin which remains active today:

It's hard to overstate how huge they were in Austin," Butthole Surfers drummer King Coffey said Thursday evening. "They weren't just a punk band. A really wide spectrum of people would check out the shows. It was due in a large part to Biscuit. Everyone in the crowd would be dancing and having so much fun, and Biscuit was like the ringleader of this band that would sometimes have a full horn section on stage. The band's motto was 'fun, fun, fun,' and that was Biscuit to a T."

Austin's love for Turner was reciprocated. On the day his body was found, he had been interviewed in the local paper, the Chronicle, and described how the city had felt like a spiritual home:

"Austin opened me up to the vastness of other people like myself, people I could really trust artistically and with my soul. People who would reassure me that I'm not crazy, that who I am is okay, and that the most important thing is to be happy. And I think moving to Austin showed me that right away.

"I had grown up in a horrid little backwater East Texas town and been earmarked almost from day one as resident weirdo. I remember I had to tuck my hair under my graduating hat in high school so that they'd let me graduate with the other students. I had a peacoat mod outfit and a little John Lennon hat I would wear that would freak people out. It was pretty weird, and that sort of leaves an impression on you. Even now I equate things like this: If it's not at Wal-Mart, it doesn't exist. And that's what I think all these small-town Texans think. If it's not at Wal-Mart, it's not real."

His nickname had come from the effect of just-dyed yellow hair peeking out from under a chef's hat, which made him look like a biscuit. The American sort. Apparently.

After the end of the Big Boys, Turner moved on to the sort-lived Cargo Cult and then the eight-member Swine King, while all the time developing a second career as a cut-and-paste artist. His art was inspired by the obvious reference points of Mark Ryden, Alexander Calder and Dali, but also Frank Lloyd Wright and Henry Moore. Asked by the Chronicle to describe his work, Turner eventually came up with "If clowns had art shows, then Biscuit would have the biggest red nose."