Few people were as synonymous or odorous in the punk world as the Stinky Cheese Man. He and the “Fairly Stupid Crew” were staples of the New York hardcore scene of the late 80’s and early 90’s, their exploits famously adapted as a book 30 years ago. We sat down with him to talk about the height of trash culture and sleeping on bowling balls.
The Hard Times: It’s an honor to sit down and speak to someone as integral to the scene as much as the music itself. How does a sentient cheese man end up in Manhattan?
The Stinky Cheese Man: I was obsessed with the youth crew movement. I grew up in the middle of nowhere in Wisconsin, it was straight up Reagan country. It also didn’t help that everyone from cows to children were repulsed by my stench. So I just bolted one day and ran, ran, ran. No one tried to stop me, so I kept going until I hit the East Coast.
You haven’t reached out to your family since then?
No, I’ve never been back home, my parents were straight up tweakers. They stuck me in an oven the day I was born. Would you go back to that? I never looked back. It wasn’t until I met Loosey Goosey and Chicken Licken at an Earth Crisis show in ’91 that I felt part of a family again.
Well it was a hell of a family, you were practically the faces of the scene.
Ha, fuck yes we were. The original ‘fairly stupid crew’ was originally spearheaded by Jack, he would do all the talking for us to get into shows and distract the cops while we lifted copper wire. Ugly Duckling was a crazy motherfucker, he lived life like he had nothing to lose. Mostly I guess because he just looked like an absolute abomination. We loved him anyway.
But I think most people would agree you stood out the most at shows. What made you stand out from the rest of Fairly Stupid?
Well it was easy to open up the pit and be the center of attention when you smell like rotting food 24/7. But those shows were the only places I felt like I could be myself. I do think Red Running Shorts, and Little Red Hen deserves some credit too, they ignored that “no pussy in the pit” bullshit and fucked a lots of dudes up (laughs).
When do you think it all started coming apart? There was a lot of death in such a short time.
I’m not saying it was entirely Rudy Guliani’s fault, but once he became mayor he started cracking down on squatters and petty theft and really killed the vibe and things were tense. The Giant had a schizophrenic episode, crippled Jack and then killed Little Red Hen. But the nail in the coffin was Ducky Lucky, Chicken Licken, Goosey Loosey, Foxy Loxy, AND Cocky Locky getting crushed by the Table of Contents. After that everyone left except for me and Cinderumpelskilstin. She’s the only one who could work.
I guess you’re the last of a dying breed. Has your outlook on life changed after all these years?
We’re just living in a pigsty, with a glossy coat of paint on it. This whole fucking civilization man, it’s just garbage people in a garbage city. People still shun me after all these years because I smelllike brie fucked by a corpse, but I didn’t have a choice. You think anyone would voluntarily want olives for eyes? But there is some solace in knowing that I left my mark regardless.
Do you think you’ll ever leave New York City?
No way man, I can’t imagine living anywhere else. Besides, even if I tried to leave I’d probably melt trying to cross the Hudson anyway.