You are probably scratching your heads wondering who Otis Hughes is. You’re probably scratching your heads even more wondering just who the hell Animal Bag is. If you know who Animal Bag is, than you already know that they were a band that was like none other. They had a sound that was melodic and psychedelic and then all of the sudden would be as heavy as a sledgehammer to the face. After releasing three albums, Animal Bag disappeared leaving fans like me wondering what the hell just happened. I’ve been lucky enough to not only track down Animal Bag’s two surviving members but I’ve also had the chance to get to know them as people in a way I never thought possible. Bassist Otis Hughes took a chunk of time out of his day to talk to graciously speak with me and fill in some gaps in the history of one of my all time favorite bands. If you’re not already and Animal Bag fan, do yourself a favor and become one after reading this.


Otis, thanks so much for the package of Animal Bag stuff you sent me and for your latest band M4Messenger’s album. It’s fantastic.

You’re welcome brother. It’s kinda Animal Bag-ish. This guy who runs the Evening Muse has a recording studio in this run down house and we cut it there. It took us probably, in bits and pieces, most of 2009.

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You were the bassist for Animal Bag one of my favorite bands. How did you guys come to be a band?

Rich (Paris; guitar) and Boo ( Duckworth; drummer) were jamming together so I joined them and then we started looking for a singer. We started looking for a singer and actually had one before Luke (Edwards; vocals) for about 3 years. He used to sing for a band called New York who was a huge cover band. Bruce went off to school so we had to find another singer. This girl we knew told Luke that we were looking for a singer. When Luke came by, he had the tips of his hair dyed like Bon Jovi or something [laughs]. We weren’t really sure about him but he had a PA. The first time he was supposed to audition he cancelled because his grandmother had died. I thought he was flaking out on us but he came back and when he did, he had learned all the songs on the tape. Well, back then it was “tape” [laughs] and he didn’t need lyrics. Rich and I were technically better singers than Luke but he was such a team player. This was 1988 so yeah, Luke joined in ‘88.

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When did you guys make the pilgrimage out to LA?

We did that in 1989.

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Being from NC,was going to LA like going to Mars pretty much?

It was a total culture shock. I remember being pretty scared but I had a couple of friends out there that let us sleep on their floor. We all got jobs. There are so many bands that did the exact same thing [laughs]. I remember living in the rehearsal room for like two years. When Boo broke up with his girlfriend, he moved into the rehearsal room with me. We made a little shower stall with this garden hose and we even had hot water for a while [laughs]. There are so many people that did shit like that out there. It wasn’t that uncommon. I guess you could call it suffering for your art ? [laughs]

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Did you guys bond with any of the bands on the scene?

We did have a couple of good friends. We were friends with another band called Tipper Gore from North Carolina. They were kind of like a Metallica kind of band. We were pretty bad acid heads and we got to be good friends with a band called Tribal Sex Cult. They were kind of a cross between the Chili Peppers and Zeppelin [laughs]. Those guys liked to trip so we tripped with them all of the time.

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That’s cool man. That’s what it’s all about. You find people who are into the same things you are and you bond with them and just do your thing.

Yeah. We were friends with a lot of the bands that practiced where our rehearsal room was. One of our roadies we ended up stealing from the band next door [laughs]. When we got signed we just said, “Why don’t you come with us? [laughs]

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[laughs] That’s hilarious. Speaking of, when did you guys actually end up getting signed.

We got signed in 1992.

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Wow, you guys were out there that long before singing a deal?

Yeah, we were out there almost five years. When we first got out there we were kinda scared. In Charlotte, we weren’t the biggest band in town by any means when we left but we had a strong following. We could have stayed there and been a big fish in a small pond. We were drawing pretty well and while we weren’t the biggest band in town, we were one of the biggest bands doing the music that we were doing.

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So Animal Bag gets signed and you guys hit the road and basically started picking up fans from town to town. At what point did you start to see that your music was making a connection with audiences?

I think any time that we played we could feel that. Most people were surprised a little bit because in the video we came across kind of hippie-ish and I guess they were kind of surprised that we were heavier than expected.

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Of the bands Animal Bag toured with, who was the coolest and who was the no-so-coolest?

We played some really cool gigs. We had opened for some bands before like Blue Oyster Cult, Anthrax, Candlebox. We played with Great White, Bullet Boys, Winger. When we were still in LA before we were signed we played quite a bit with Stone Temple Pilots who were called Mighty Joe Young. We also played with Blind Melon a lot but they were called Headtrain. We were playing a lot of these festivals with all these bands but the only band we really toured with was Ugly Kid Joe. They were pretty cool to us actually. Personally I didn’t love their music but I did like hanging out with those guys. Their bassist Cordell (Crocket) was a pothead [laughs]. I remember me and Boo hanging out with Whitfield Crane [UKJ singer] going out in NYC. At that time Ugly Kid Joe was hitting huge and just because we were them we could get into all these places for free [laughs]. I remember being at The Limelight at like 4am and needing to puke so I just moved this couch cushion and just threw up behind it and put the cushion back [laughs]. That place was full of White Zombie looking people with shaved heads, tattoos, piercings and dreads [laughs]. Back then it was pretty hardcore.

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Animal Bag released an amazing debut album and then all of the sudden you guys disappeared sometime after releasing your acoustic EP “Offering.” Where did you go?

Well, we were still around. “Offering” was recorded in the middle of a tour but didn’t come out until the tour was done. We moved back to North Carolina and started working on the 3rd album “Image Damage” and continued to play gigs as a band for a few years. We recorded “Image Damage” in Seattle with Terry Date who had recorded White Zombie, Mother Love Bone and Soundgarden. We chose him mostly because of his work with Mother Love Bone and Soundgarden. He was really cool. He kept a bag of weed on his mixing deck and that was right up our alley [laughs].

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So why was “Image Damage” never properly released?

The record company kept pushing back the release date and Mercury/Polygram didn’t really seem to know how to break a band except through radio as that was their specialty. They were still in that Bon Jovi kind of mentality. We weren’t like that and they just didn’t hear any radio songs on the album. They asked us to go back in and do a cover song like they did with Ugly Kid Joe and “Cat’s In The Cradle.” We were grumbling about it so we went in and a cover of The Doors’ “Waiting For The Sun” and they were going to add it to the album. They continued to push back the release date and eventually they were in breech of contract. We told them if they were going to keep dilly dallying around that we wanted out of our contract. Our management thought she wouldn’t have hard time getting us another deal especially with an album already in the can but the price of the album was too much for another small label to afford but ended up getting dropped along with like 12 other bands.

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“Image Damage” was such a sharp turn from the debut and the “Offering” EP. Was this a natural progression for you guys?

We went into the studio with about 25 songs but because we had Terry Date, we recorded all the heaviest ones. Image Damage ended up being pretty epic. It was our artistic statement that was bordering on prog rock. We probably could have made it more commercial sounding. We just felt like we had something to prove. “Image Damage” was only 9 of those 25 songs and those other songs were a bit more melodic and even somewhat commercial.

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Were those songs recorded in the studio?

Yeah. We do have some of those songs recorded actually. They weren’t recorded by Terry Date but we recorded them ourselves. When we moved back to North Carolina we ended up rehearsing in this guy’s basement recording studio and we recorded a bunch of stuff. We probably have a whole other albums worth if not two albums worth of other songs. The quality isn’t that great but we recorded them.

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So why did you guys actually disband?

It was kind of weird. Once we got dropped there was a lot of disenchantment. Rich got into other forms of music and he had started going back to school. We worked with another guitar player for a little bit but then it just kind of fizzled from there. Luke started Tater (Charlotte area bluegrass/rock band) and I played in a band with my girlfriend called Less Than Stellar and I also played in a punk band called Throws Like A Girl. I then started a band with Boo called Jack Acid and played bass and sang lead. Animal Bag got back together in 2000 and we had maybe 10 rehearsals and then Boo passed away. I kept bugging Rich to do something else with me and finally around 2007 we stared M4Messenger together.

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Rich has since passed away as well correct?

Yeah. Rich passed away in March 2010. We finished the album in February 2009 and he passed away in March. He died within 3 weeks after mastering the album. He heard the completed album but didn’t get to see the artwork or anything.

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What a terrible loss man. With all due respect, does the loss of both Boo and Rich rule out any chance of a future with Animal Bag?

Yeah, I would say it does. Every now and then when Tater does a show in town I’ll go up and join him on stage for an Animal Bag song or two which you can actually see on YouTube. We’ve done “Hello Cosmo” and “Mirrored Shades.”

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If you could do it all again, would you have done anything different?

There probably are some things that we could have done better or smarter. You actually said that our debut album was a lost treasure. We definitely ended up being a “fallen through the cracks” kind of band.

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Otis, thanks so much for doing this. It was really cool to talk to you and fill in some gaps in the history of one of my favorite bands.

Thanks man. I hope you enjoy the M4Messenger album. Give it a listen and call me sometime so we can talk about. I think you’ll really dig it.

 

Thanks so much to Otis for taking the time out to do this interview. Animal Bag’s albums are long since out of print but fear not, you can still get them and for FREE. Click the links below to download ZIP files of the Animal Bag albums:

Animal Bag – Self Titled Debut

Animal Bag – Offering

Animal Bag – Image Damage

As for Otis’ new band M4Messenger, check them out on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/pages/M4-Messenger/350659538790?ref=ts&sk=wall. Otis has also been doing some solo material under the moniker Dear Druid which you can check out on MySpace at http://www.myspace.com/deardruid. Be sure to check these tunes out as it’s really some great stuff.

About The Author

The Brainfart

Don (aka. The Brainfart) has been a heavy metal fan since hearing it for the first time in 1983. Don is also repsonsible for all of the typos, shitty grammar, and kick ass content on this site. Don likes cheap beer, whiskey, Coca Cola Icees, going to shows, and hanging with his kick ass wife, two cats (Drusilla & Coltrane) and dog (Cassie). He originally wanted to name his dog Shandi but his wife said, "No fucking way."

Jared Coffey says:

> I’ve been searching for years, but could only find low quality demos.

Register at animalbag.com, go to the bottom of the music page and there is a lik to their FTP site.

5 releases, not three…

M says:

Wow! Thank you so much for the third Animal Bag release link. I’ve been searching for years, but could only find low quality demos. I’ve been a fan since I first heard the ‘Everybody’ single on the radio. I’m from Boston, so the funky vibe of that song drew comparisons to Boston band EXTREME, making the song pretty popular. As a result, when they played the Axis club with popular local band ‘Moodcrush’, the place was packed. A great show and their live vocal harmonies were dead on. Thanks for keeping the ‘bag alive!