Sonically charting the odd, downright quirky & strange [2022-06-20]
One of the more entertaining, yet still informed and critically balanced music review series on YouTube at present is The Worse Album In The World Ever. Started in 2018 by Garrett of Cactus Malpractice, with so far twenty-five episodes under its belt- the series has seen all manner of wonderfully, wacky, and strange fare covered. Going from releases from more known cult fare likes of The Residents, Captain Beefheart, Lou Reed, Nurse With Wound, Ween. And lesser-known odd-ness like all-female outsider guitar band The Shaggs, the shrill and off-tempo renditions of popular songs by Mrs Miller, and the skewed country/ rock ‘n’ roll of Hasil Adkin. We tracked down Garrett for an email interview- discussing his influences, the series, and what’s coming next for him.
M[m]: What were some of your early introductions to strange/ odd music, and do you feel any of these informed you're starting off the worst album ever made series?
Garrett: Well to be honest I was a little sheltered when it came to music as a kid. My music options usually boiled down to Christian Rock, My Dad’s country records, or my brother's Broadway musical CDs. (Love me that Rocky Horror and Chicago btw). I was 11 when my cousin showed me bands like Queen, The Who, Aerosmith, Nirvana bands that are more universally known and since I had no internet or pocket change, I could only really listen to “new” music when I could visit him, or I wore down my parents enough to get a new guitar hero. My freshman year of high school came around and I was given a lot more freedom in what I could listen to and with finally getting internet at the house I spent a lot of high school playing catch up. I listened to a lot of Pink Floyd, Kimya Dawson, Weird Al, Offspring, Panic! At the Disco and They Might Be Giants. Stuff that made me say whoa this is nothing like what I’ve heard before. Basically, what this all boils down to is I really didn’t know a lot about music, and I still feel like I’m playing catch up. Really my first exposure to very strange and odd music was Trout Mask Replica but we can talk about that later 😉
M[m]: Christian Rock- well that’s a genre I’ve never dipped into, but I’m always curious to investigate other genres- what do you suggest checking out?
Garrett: Well, I only listened to Christian rock as a kid. It was the card I was dealt with, so I just made do lol. I don’t listen to any now but as a kid, I had Toby Mac’s first three albums, Skillet, Mercy Me, Creed’s whole discography, Several compilation albums that sort of stuff. When I was younger my family would travel many hours to go to this big, huge Christian Rock music festival called Winter Jam. It was a packed house each time with a who’s who of all the popular Christian rock artists and I just found out It still goes on today. When I go back and relisten to everything all I can do is laugh. It’s so far removed from the music I listen to now I wouldn’t say I would recommend anything really. No shade to Christian rock fans though I had a lot of fun at the time and Skillet really rocked that stage!
M[m]: nice to hear you mention They Might Be Giants, as your video you did on them I really enjoy. What do you see as your favourite albums from them, and do you still pick up each new album?
Garrett: Lincoln is always my go-to favourite. It’s filled with so much imagination, experimentation oh and not to mention joyously sad music! Snowball in Hell is my favourite thing they have ever done but also Ana Ng, Piece of Dirt, Mr. Me, They Need a Crane, Kiss Me son of God are all here and they still dazzle me with every listen! If anyone is reading this and needs more recommendations, I would also check out John Henry (1994), The Else (2007), and I Like Fun (2018). I try to pick up everything new from the John’s which I’m happy to say still releases new music frequently. I also pick up old EPs of theirs when I get some extra money here and there. I would love to own the full discography but that’s probably a pipe dream they have released so much over the years.
M[m]: Please tell us a little bit about how and when you first came up with the idea for the worst album ever made series?
Garrett: Ok so in 2017 the YouTube channel Vox made a video called “Why this awful sounding album is a masterpiece” Now the video never states this album as “The Worst Album Ever Made” but somehow, I thought it did. I have always been fascinated by the worst. I have a collection of comics with terrible punctuation and grammar, I like to watch bad movies, read about awful video games. It’s just something I’ve always been interested in. Now that I had a new “worst” to add to my collection I made it my quest to own it, but I didn’t want to just buy it online that would be lame so every time I went to any record shop, I would look for it and it became a little in-joke with my friends. After about 10 months searching, I finally found it! I was so excited to finally have this album in my hands I decided I needed to make a video sharing my discovery and I named it “Reviewing all 28 Songs off of Trout Mask Replica – The Worst Album Ever Made” Usually the videos I posted to my channel might get a hundred views tops. This video got 1000 views in the first month and people were not happy. I found out that people did not think this album was “The worst album ever made” in fact the opposite! After some time, someone said in a comment “The Shaggs are worse” and I said “who” then I realized how big this rabbit hole went. I looked up to see if there was a definitive answer to what “The Worst Album Ever Made” was and there wasn’t one. So, I decided well I guess I’m going to try to find out.
M[m]: you mention enjoying bad art in general- so what stands as some of your fav examples of this, that are not musical?
Garrett: OH! Well, Superboy NO. 105 is a personal favourite where Superboy is just a huge idiot because he touched red kryptonite and that’s the whole conflict of the story. He forgets he has powers and when he does use them he uses the wrong ones. People are mean to him the whole time. It’s a riot. Spoiler alert! He was just pretending to be dumb to trick some bad guys because red kryptonite doesn’t make him dumb it just makes him grow an extra finger on each hand OBVIOUSLY. Jon Morris has written two great books if you’re into awful comic books. One on awful superheroes and villains I would highly recommend as well! I got rid of a lot of awful VHSs when I moved into my new apartment, but I still own some. Line Dancing for Seniors, How to Break Dance Vol 3, and for the fans of Red Letter Media’s Best of the Worst series I own a copy of Mr Wiggles sessions Vol. 1 King Tut Style.
M[m]: the series kicked off with Trout Mask Replica back in late 2018, with you so far going on to select thus far another twenty-four albums. What made to decide on Trout Mask as your first pick, and have you revisited it, or dug deeper in Capt Beefheart's discography further?
Garrett: As stated before, Trout Mask was just going to be a one-off video and that was going to be it. I am beyond grateful for the road it has taken me because I have really broadened my horizons since episode 1. I do revisit Trout Mask Replica from time to time and with each listen I just have a huge smile on my face. Songs I previously wasn’t much a fan of like Dachau Blues has really grown on me. I didn’t like It at first because I thought it was just too scary but now, I’m like yeah, it’s kinda supposed to be it’s about the holocaust! This is just one example but overall, the album just gets better with every listen. Sadly, the only album other than Trout Mask I’ve listened to is Safe as Milk. One day when I get more free time I’d love to listen to everything ol’ Beefheart has in store!
M[m]: I first became aware of you and the series when you reviewed The Resident’s Meet The Residents in 2020. I’m a huge fan of The Residents, and of course, they have a host of weird ‘n’ wacky albums…have you thought of covering any more of their work, and for that matter have you ever thought of covering another release from an artist you already featured?
Garrett: This is a question that has been a little monkey on my back for a while. Should I cover the same artist twice for WAEM. I’m still not sure really. There is plans to review someone I have already covered on WAEM later this year, but the album is wildly different and covering it would be more interesting the 2nd time around. I also stated in my K-Fed review if he ever made a new album, I would cover it on the show and see if he improved. With The Residents review I went in blind and had no idea what to expect because I never heard their music until that point. Now that I know their music and have said “This is the best thing I’ve heard on this show” It would be weird If I covered them on WAEM again after such praise. I still get suggestions to review Not Available and I think I might review that as a separate video altogether without having to tie it down with an existing series. When that would happen, I’m not sure.
M[m]: You seemingly spend a month playing/ living with a record after you select it- please tell us a little bit about your listening/ reviewing process?. And can this at times become a little overloading?
Garrett: When the album is chosen, I give myself a 15-time listen minimum unless I just can’t handle it. I listen to the album front to back 14 times and I shuffle it once. I can certainly go more If I need to. I tend to go on all day walks so I have nothing to distract me while I listen. I listened to Jandek’s Ready for the House while I was sleeping on top of the 15 times as I was really having a hard time with that one for some reason. I had some freaky dreams that month I’ll tell ya what! The latest album review for Hello Kitty Suicide Club’s ^_^ gave me migraines consistently and I would have to go into work right after listening to the album. That weighed me down a good bit during that time and people could notice I was not doing that well. That’s why I have to take occasional breaks from WAEM just to help me recharge. because only listening to one album for a month is a lot even if it was something that I loved. So, I introduced my Top 10 series just to give my brain a rest. Which I’m working on my next one right now!
M[m]: What can we expect from the next Top 10 series episode then, and have you planned any more ahead?
Garrett: I’m doing a weird one this time around. I’m covering the classic 30s to 60’s music that’s featured in the Fallout video game series just cause I thought it would be fun to do a video inside the lore of that world. Other Top 10’s I would love to tackle off the top of my head: Ween, Moxy Fruvous, Crash Test Dummies, Kimya Dawson, Half Japanese, and Jim Johnston.
M[m]: I love the way you’ve grown/ developed the series with the introduction of the Wheel of W.A.E.M, and longer bizarre skits added into the format. Have you got any ideas moving forward you’d like to add to the format?
Garrett: One of the albums I’m going to cover in the future is a long one. About 6 hours long. Now an Idea I had was what If this was like a competition. I can get a whole bunch of people together and see who can go the longest listening to it on repeat with a time limit of three days. That’s just one Idea I had cooking up! I usually come up with skits and little edits when I’m doing my research and they kind of just pop into my head and I just go oh yeah that would be funny. Like when I had my friend's poor blood on me, and my other friend handed me a hot dog during the intro to the “Out to Hunch” review. I really have no idea how I came up with that it just popped into my head and it made me laugh so we just did it. I really don’t know what I'd add to the show in the future. The show is always changing and evolving as I do and the less planning the better I say! I think that’s what gives it its energy.
M[m]: I love the distinctive cut-off boiler suit you wear for the series, how did this come about? And ever thought of producing these for fans, or other similar wacky merch?
Garrett: Ah the suit! I found it at a thrift store in town and It happened to fit and I was like omg this actually fits me and I bought it instantly. I didn’t know what I would use it for but for 4 bucks I couldn’t not buy it. I used it for one video where I got pelted with eggs and that was going to be it but I still wanted to use it. When the 2nd episode of WAEM was being made I was thinking well the fine people of the waste disposal industry wear jumpsuits when dealing with garbage. I want people to send me garbage I think that’s fitting. I’m surprised how little people have asked about the suit I think you are the 2nd person in two years of doing the show! I want to get a new jumpsuit in the near future the zipper is broken and it’s always been a little big on me. Maybe next year I’m not sure. It would be so funny having people walk around in WAEM jumpsuits that’s not a bad Idea really! Merch may be a couple of years away but I do have ideas of what I would be looking for when that opportunity arises.
M[m]: You started Cactus Malpractice, the channel that hosts the series six years back- tells us a little bit about how/ why you first came to YouTube. And how do you feel it’s changed for the good/ bad since you started?
Garrett: I’ve been making videos as long as I have been able. When I went to my cousin’s we were both trying to make stuff with our old razor phones to post on stupidvideos.com in 2006. They were awful but I loved doing it. I wanted to make videos ever since then. My cousin and I later made a now lost YouTube channel called The Wrestling Cave where we made videos and music all about wrestling which was our passion at the time. Later I worked on a skit channel called Schmedia with a high school friend. After we had a break from recording, I started doing my own stuff and used my channel to practice my editing and camera presence. I just never stopped using it. After 4 years of uploading, I never got over 1000 subscribers so It's really crazy that the channel has grown in such a short amount of time. I like that over the years I’ve noticed my skills improving and I’m grateful that this was the time I’ve been getting noticed. I feel like I have matured a lot and grown and If I was getting this attention when I first started then that would have been a recipe for disaster. I didn’t expect the channel to evolve into a music channel and I think the only negative thing that comes’s to mind Is I know there are a lot more talented and knowledgeable music creators out there who have less of a following then I do now. I tend to get a bit of imposter syndrome when I think about it.
M[m]: what is the origin of the Cactus Malpractice name, and did you have any other names you thought of using?
Garrett: The channel was originally called Garrett’s Secret Account. I named it that simply because no one knew about it. When I reached 1000 subscribers, I thought about switching the name to what I put on my serious work Cactus Malpractice Studios. The name comes from two things: Cactus Jack a wrestler played by Mick Foley someone I looked up to for thriving in an industry that favored more chiselled hunks than just some guy making home movies in his backyard and Weird Al Yankovic’s song like a surgeon. The name was going to be used for an album my cousin and I were going to make but we decided to go with something funnier. I still liked the name so It just kind of stuck.
M[m]: Over the years you’ve dabbled in creating your own music- would you like to expand this, and if so what musical genre would you like to investigate further?
Garrett: I think writing songs is fun but it’s never been a serious venture for me. When I was in middle school band my buddies and I had a screamo band called Kaos. I was the drummer but that was just because I was a first chair percussionist. I wasn’t good or anything I could hit eighth notes on beat but in middle school that was enough, I guess. We were awful and couldn’t finish even one song, but it introduced me to the idea of writing lyrics which I liked to do. My cousin and I made our own folk band for the Wrestling Cave called the stalactites which was garbage and years later we had a new heavily inspired by Tenacious D band called Periwig which was garbage but more on purpose. I don’t really play any instruments myself, but I do still like to write songs today. I have a solo project called Hot Pete were I write songs with royalty free music. I’ve thought about making my own avant garde music project as well and experimented a little bit but nothing serious as of late.
M[m]: on the subject of your own music- can we find samples of your work for both stalactites & Periwig online, and if not what about some of your other musical work?
Garrett: Oh christ lmao! Periwig’s album is called Better Than Nirvana and you can find that easily on Bandcamp and also available on my Patreon. Every Hot Pete album is up for free on youtube. I’m going to do a Worst Album Ever Made on The Stalactites one of these days so we’ll just let sleeping dogs lie….for now.
M[m]: What are the possible titles have you got presently on the wheel of W.A.E.M, how do you go about selecting them, and is there some form of sound you wouldn’t review?
Garrett: Current stuff on the wheel is suggestions from patrons and if I have space left I fill it with YouTube suggestions that piqued my interest. The YouTube suggestions I listen to for maybe 30 seconds and I put it on if its interesting or awful. I refuse to cover stuff made by children if it was made after the year 2000. Just seems to mean spirited. I’ve had people I was going to cover ask if I don’t review them and I will always apply to that request.
On the wheel right now: I have Crazy Frog – Crazy Hits, Beach Boys – Summer in Paradise, Smosh – Sexy Album, Merzbow – Noisembryo, Village People – Renaissance all from Patreon . From YouTube suggestions I have The Most Unwanted Song, Limp Bisket – Results May Vary, The Legendary Stardust Cowboy - For Sarah, Raquel, and David, an Anthology, Metallica – St. Anger, Lemon Kittens - We Buy A Hammer For Daddy, William Shatner - The Transformed Man, An Evening With Wild Man Fischer, and The Toilet Bowl Cleaners - You Thought We Ran Out of Poop Song Ideas. You Were Wrong.
Big thanks to Garret for his time and effort with the interview- here’s a direct link to The Worse Album In The World Ever playlist https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLqdnPjlTIxCQS4dRgQPwN0-Sl8yn4txal Roger Batty