Sandris Rutmanis - 2002

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Sandris Rutmanis was the very first drummer for the very greatest noise-rock band ever, The Cows. He only played on their first album and possibly the "Chow" single, but he left his hyperactive cow-punk smash-and-bash style all over the band as it continued on its merry way to superstardom and the huge MTV hit "Shitbeard." He may have retired from the bigtime rock and roll lifestyle, but his brother Kevin sure didn't - he continued on and is now world-famous bass player Kevin Rutmanis of the Melvins! But we're not here to talk about Kevin, goddammit. Sandris is the mandris - and you should be his fandris! We spoke out loud via email. My questions are in deathblack bold and his are in lilywhite plain text.


What was it like growing up in the Rutmanis household? And how did you guys get into such crazy loud music together?

Our family was pretty musical. Our parents both played guitar, and we would all sit around and listen, or sing along, or not. We all played everything. Besides music, we liked to drink, shoot guns and fireworks, and experiment with anything we could ingest. We lived in Nebraska, that what you do. We all grew up listening to the same type of music, our likes all changed together also, so when we started Cows, it just naturally went that way. Thats what we were into.

How did the Cows initially form? Were you the very first drummer they had?

We (Kevin and myself) decided the live shows we were attending in Mpls in the mid 80's, were like watching the stereo. Guys in flannel shirts and ripped jeans just standing there. We figured every aspect of a live show should be entertaining, and we decided we know what we like, so we'll just do it. Kevin, at the time lived with Marc Perlman of the Jayhawks, and Thor. Marc let Kevin use his bass, as well as the practice space they shared with the Replacements. Thor had a guitar, so we asked him to come jam, we needed a drummer, I happened to have a kit, that's how it started. I was with Cows for about 2 years or something.

What were those early Cows sessions like? Were they as drug-infested as Shannon claims?

Kinda got to be that way. We all had jobs, and didn't rehearse sometimes until midnight. Tripping would help out, we would turn out the light, and jam a song until it worked out. Sometimes a one song jam would go 3 hours, eventually it we would work it down to a 4 minute song. We would stay there untill 5 in the morning and kick out a couple new songs a night. We either jammed, or played out, almost every night the first 2 years. It was pretty insane for a while, I remember one show, the crowd would pass around a Visine bottle with acid in it, everyones "getting the red out" But that's not what it was about. We just liked to play, and if that was part of playing that night, then it was.

Did you help write any of the early songs?

Cows songs were written by Cows. Sometimes it would start with a bass/drum idea, sometimes a guitar lick, or Shannon would have an idea, but we all wrote our own parts, and we all had input on every song. We worked hard to write music. When we started, Kevin and I were about making the music sound like it was going to jump off the stage and punch you in the face. And then Thor, people think he just makes a feedback driven bunch of racket, but that guy's guitar work was exactly the same every time he played it, he had documentation on every song we played, and worked on his parts allot. He's a monster.

Was it difficult playing in a band with your brother? Any sibling rivalry gwine down?

Not at all, We hung out all of the time, and I think it helped, our idea's were the same, we played off of each other better than anyone I have played with since. I'm proud of him going as far as he has, for a puss.

Does it frustrate you that Treehouse won't re-release Taint Pluribus Taint Unum so people could actually BUY it again?

Well, you would think that, it was the only full length Cows release I was on, and was OOP quickly. Mark Trehus, the goober from Treehouse records, is a collector, so in his mind, why should he re-release it. Collectable LP's are still worth good coin. It's just that with CD's and the internet, the value now is in the music itself. The problem Taint has, is there were so few released in that pressing, that there aren't many out there to burn a CDR off of, or throw out on the internet as MP3's. Someone will bootleg it someday.

Why did you leave the band?

I was trying to do the "Be in a band, be married, and have a kid" thing. It was killing the family, so I made what I feel was the right choice, and left the band. It was like cutting off my nuts, but it was the right decision.

Do you still drum? Have you played in bands since the Cows?

I tried to quit all together when I left COWS, like a cold turkey thing, but that only lasted a year or so. I joined a noise band called "Bitch Christ" for a while, I played percussion on things like 55 gallon plastic drums, pipes, steel grates etc. I have been in a few other local bands. I like to play guitar and bass more now. I get together with some other ex-band folk with their nuts cut off a couple times a month (drumming) and do some metal stuff. I been doing some engineering and production, nothing notable, and lately, sound work on an independent movie.

What's your life like now? Post-Cows? Job, etc...

I'm and electronics/computer tech. I do the family thing, wife, three daughters, dog, cat, you know, that grind. . My main goal is to make it so the girls have everything available to be able to play music. We have a studio setup with drums, guitar, bass, keyboard, amps, PA, recording and sound equipment, just all the shit they need at their disposal. I want them to be able to concentrate on the creative aspect of music, and not be held back by the lack of equipment. Looking back, I would have killed for something like that.

Has Kevin become unbearably smug since joining the world-famous Melvins?

Between Melvins and Tomahawk, Kevin has been really busy, he did like 13 months in a row last year of either touring or studio work, with like no more than 3 days off in a row. I called him one Saturday morning, and Jello Biafra answers the phone, "Kevin ran down to the store, I'll let him know you called" shit like that. It hasn't effected Kevin at all. Dale and Buzz are the same way, just regular nice guys.

Do you keep up with any of the Cows aside from your brother?

Other than Kevin, not much. Shannon once in a great while, I think the last contact we had was 6 months ago when my computer got a virus, and I infected him. Actually Freddy, sends me stuff once in a while.

I did a Yahoo search on your name and some Catfishers' organization came up. Are you a Catfisher?

I live in Nebraska, I'm a redneck, I get drunk, I fish, and hunt. I try to do things that that I love, and I can still do with my kids, fishing and music are those things.

Do you think the Cows should have had more success, or were they too non-mainstream in your opinion?

When Cows did their first radio interview back in 86, some wormy little alternative DJ asked, "What exactly is the political message of your music?" And Thor "There is no fucking message, it's fucking rock and roll you ass, we play the music we want to play, and if you like it, great. if not, we don't give fuck, we're not doing it for you" and that attitude pretty much rode out the life of Cows. It wasn't about success, it was about fuck you, hope you like it.

What current bands are you into?

I guess Steroid Maximus and TVBC's new one. Actually I have been listening to older metal stuff allot lately, like Slayer (old Slayer, back when Lombardo was drumming) and Sepultura. Sepultura's Roots, I really like that CD.

Reader Comments (Dave Wagner)
Sandris would be happy to know that the first Cows album is finally now widely traded on P2P programs. In fact, all the Cows albums are readily avaliable on Soulseek, which surprises the hell out of me considering how comparitively hard it was to get those old albums back in the 90's.

Add your thoughts?

*I know most of 'em are out of print, but try buying Cows CDs here anyway