Tartar Control's Drummer is a Robot. He's Also Kind of a Dick.
Patty Courtland Photography
There's a website called DrumJokes.com devoted to nothing but slagging skinsmen; many punch lines deal with drummers' inability to keep time, their penchant for sleeping with other band mates' partners and not knowing how to read sheet music. These jokes are funny because they're kind of true, which might explain why punk duo Tartar Control doesn't have a drummer. Instead, they have a robot. And its name is Robot.
Using sampled drums since their inception six years ago might lead you to praise singer Robert Selander and guitarist/singer Sean Hart as the smartest musicians ever. However, similar to other drummers, Robot can talk, and it turns out he's kind of a dick. So much so that he stormed out of a recent phone interview after becoming upset when I asked what he did in his spare time. "I get more puss than an animal shelter. I can't help it. I have a magnetic personality--literally."
Robot's foul mood didn't surprise Selander one bit. "I've looked inside that robot, and it's all sass," Selander says.
You'd think Robot would be in a better mood since Tartar Control has so much on its calendar. In addition to Saturday's performance at the Doll Hut, there's a new record titled We Forgive You out April 6 (featuring 16 songs and five comedic skits), a show May 25 in Las Vegas as part of Punk Rock Bowling, and the filming of the second episode of an online show starring the band.
There's even talk of upgrading Robot to Robot Version 3.0, which Selander and Hart hope will include eyes and a mouth that flash to the beats-per-minute for each track and a large screen in his chest so people can "see the artistic visualization of waveform of the music he's playing," Hart says.
These additions will keep Robot's TI-81 computer parts intact, but sadly, wiring and electronics won't be the only characteristics fans will recognize. "His personality has actually gotten more potent," Hart says.
Being in a band with such a demonstrative member requires the others to be perfect angels. As the story goes, Selander and Hart met years ago in Salt Lake City, Utah, and formed a hymnal duo called the Smiths. After discovering another group had already claimed that moniker, they began listening to punk rock and later moved to Los Angeles as part of a religious mission; there, they decided to form a band. As you might imagine, finding other musicians who shared a love of both the Holy Ghost and groups such as the Vandals wasn't easy. "It's hard to make friends when everyone thinks you're going to convert them," Selander says.
After building Robot (who also plays bass), Tartar Control in 2011 released the 30-track Holy Crap!, which includes songs such as "Jesus Is Love," "Satanists Are Fucking Dicks" and "Smoking Crack." Lest anyone get any ideas about Tartar Control's drug intake, Selandar says he and his band mates use something such as smoking crack as a metaphor. "I was addicted to Sudoku for years," Selander says. "It was like I was snorting numbers." "Any addiction can be a crack addiction," Hart says. "We've never smoked crack. I understand it's terribly bad for your teeth."
Tartar Control perform at Mac's 40th Birthday Party, with Terminally Ill, Clepto, DMF, Defects, Karate In the Garage, TTM, Bear Fight and the Leftovers, at the Doll Hut, 107 S. Adams St., Anaheim, (714) 533-1286; www.facebook.com/worldfamousdh. Sat., 6 p.m. $5. 21+. For more info on Tartar Control, visit www.facebook.com/tartarcontrolisyourfriend.
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