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Thong Wrong

Phil Buckman May Be An Offensive Pop Genius As I Hate You When You’re Pregnant

By Ryan Boddy | Posted 7/6/2005

For more information, visit www.ihywyp.com.

Phil Buckman is six feet, six inches of big dude. He’s often the center of attention even when he’s not wearing a pink Speedo and kicking out his best jazzercise moves as I Hate You When You’re Pregnant, Flagstaff, Ariz.’s answer to every performance-art gimmick act on the planet. The difference between Buckman and any other Ritalin-addled, cheesy nightmare—see: Atom and His Package, Men’s Recovery Project—might just be that Buckman contains a kernel of pop genius in his songs that has nothing to do with the gimmickry.

“When I first started doing this I was totally unaware that anyone else was doing stuff like this,” Buckman says over the telephone from Arizona of his 2002 birth as IHYWYP. “I had no idea that people were doing shows in houses and starting bands and touring without passenger buses. So when I stumbled into one of those shows it really gave me a lot of ideas.”

Buckman grew up in northern Arizona during a time when the area had little to no overt youth culture and very little community outside Northern Arizona University’s very migrant student population. “There was this house full of kids who didn’t grow up here but went to school at NAU that sort of took me under their wing,” he says. “Eventually I was going on tour with these kids as their roadie, and I just brought along this drum machine with these songs I’d made up, and this whole thing happened.”

“We met Phil at one of our shows,” says Ray Walker of Flagstaff prog-metal outfit Jetomi. “He was hanging out of the window of his Geo Metro totally passed out, and this cop was trying to get him to get out of the car. So we took him inside and let him stay at our place. And the next thing we knew he was touring with our old band wearing a thong.”

Thong? “It was all just a way for me to act like I did in high school,” Buckman says. “I needed an outlet for all this energy, and it just sort of evolved into me doing all of this. I had said something to my friends about watching their merch table in a thong while we were on tour. I had no intention of becoming their supporting act, but I ended up onstage—in the thong.”

Subsequent short one-off dates with relatively prominent bands, such as Arizona Nintendo-rockers the Minibosses, earned Buckman exposure in Los Angeles and other parts out West. “I got back from that first tour, and my friends the Casebeers helped me record my first demo CD,” he says. “I didn’t have any idea how to distribute it or get signed to a record label so I just started giving burnt CD-Rs of the music away to people at my shows. And then it ended up with me mailing them around to people I met on the Minibosses message board. I’ve recorded five demos now, and no one has paid a dime for any of them. I’m not doing this to make a living. It’s just cool to know that people can hear what I’m doing for free.”

The music itself has progressed from simple house-inspired drum-machine loops to dense, layered pop songs. “Dollar Tree,” from his new demo (titled: I Hate You When You’re Pregnant: The Fifth Demo), somehow manages to evoke the Beatles, though it was made on the cheap; the vocal harmonies meld seamlessly with the low-tech equipment. Considering his no-frills approach, Buckman’s melodic tunes are no small feat.

“Flagstaff isn’t a very rich town,” Buckman says. “Kids can’t afford thousands of dollars worth of equipment. We use what we can find laying around. It really is a great place to live, but there isn’t a lot of opportunity for younger people to find good work. The kids that live here and stay here are starved for culture.”

And when he makes his boogie pop, people come to dance. “Phil brings all the kids together,” Walker says. “I’ve seen New Age hippies dancing alongside crusty punks and mod kids. He transcends genre, man. He transcends cliques.”

And with a name like I Hate You When You’re Pregnant and the sense of humor needed to smirk at such a name, Buckman has wandered into a few political stews. His pseudo-“hit” song, “Hey Hot Bitches,” has gotten him tossed out of 2003’s Neon Hates You Fest at Los Angeles’ Casa del Pueblo and attacked in Flaglive, his hometown’s liberal monthly rag, as a misogynist. He’s even been boycotted by feminist groups at the local university.

“My songs are meant to be provocative, and sure, some of the things I say can be taken as offensive,” he admits. “But how can you really take a dude in a leather thong doing jumping jacks all that seriously? At that L.A. show, we got shut down at the co-op, and within 20 minutes someone had set us up to finish the whole thing at their house down the street.”

His is an admittedly acquired sense of humor. Songs such as “Hey Hot Bitches” or “They’ve Got My Picture in an Issue of Thrasher” taken out of context could be construed as extremely offensive or just plain inane—but so could anything by the Frogs or Happy Flowers.

“It’s funny that people can’t see that I’m being ironic,” Buckman says. “I’m not trying to necessarily be anti-politically correct. People should figure it out themselves. People are so serious about their art and their politics, it’s natural for me to do what I do.”

While Buckman’s stage persona was initially a means of creating an outlet for more excitable aspects of his personality, he admits that the whole thing has helped him come out of his shell. “I was a pretty quiet person once before all this,” he says. “When I met all of these people doing things that I didn’t know could be done it definitely changed me. I don’t really have a problem separating my stage persona from my real one—but I do really like wearing the costumes.”

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