By John M. Borack
I didn’t know the Muffs’ Kim Shattuck well, but I did know her well enough for her untimely death to hit me pretty damned hard.
I’ve been a fan of The Muffs ever since they burst onto the music scene like a loud, brash breath of fresh air back in the early ‘90s. Their tunes—“Sad Tomorrow,” “Oh Nina,” “Weird Boy Next Door,” “Won’t Come Out to Play” and countless others—combined hum-along melodies and bratty lyrics with Shattuck’s roaring guitars and the talented, rock-steady rhythm section of Ronnie Barnett on bass and Roy McDonald on drums. The Muffs have influenced a ton of bands over the years, not the least of which is Green Day. But aside from being an influential musical presence and the leader and songwriter for one of the best pop-punk acts ever to hit the stage, there was another side to Kim Shattuck. It’s that side that I’ll remember most.
I first had the pleasure of meeting Kim when I was the drummer with an LA-based pop-punk band about six or seven years ago. (The leader of the band and Kim were good friends, so Kim and I would see each other now and again.) Our band opened for the Muffs at a show on my birthday back in 2013, and I remember us working up a version of Elvis Costello’s “The Imposter” for that particular gig because the song was one of Kim’s favorites. She told me afterwards how good we sounded, which really meant a lot. I also recall her joining us onstage for our closing song at another show, and me being extremely nervous while trying extremely hard not to screw things up. Again, Kim was very complimentary to me after that show. She didn’t have to be—she didn’t have to say anything—but she would always go out of her way to make me feel like I was doing a good job, which is one of things I’ll always remember about her.
When it came down to a choice of who would produce our band’s debut album and I was asked my opinion, I voted for Kim, hands down; I loved the vibe of the Muffs’ records and knew she would be an awesome producer for our band. I vividly recall being nervous as hell when I tracked all the drums one sweaty Saturday in the San Fernando Valley, but Kim was very encouraging, positive and great to work with; when one particular song started becoming an issue during the recording, she took me aside and told me not to worry because I was playing it just fine. That really took the pressure off and made me relax.
Anyway, the band decided to go in a different direction and my drum tracks were never used. I left that band shortly thereafter feeling a bit disheartened, but then I received a message from Kim: “You are a sweetheart and fun to be around. You rocked hard and did a great job on the recording.” Since everyone knew that Kim was a no B.S. type of person—one of her many great qualities—her note really boosted my spirits.
I saw Kim less frequently after that, but I still loved running into her, saying hello, and listening to her hilarious, decidedly non-PC banter with whomever she happened to be talking to. She played by her own rules, didn’t suffer fools gladly, and I absolutely loved being around her. My teenage daughter Kayla had the opportunity to meet her a few times and Kim was always super sweet to her, always asking how she was, remembering that Kayla was a swimmer and inquiring as to how that was going. Obviously, as a father, that meant a lot to me as well. It may not have meshed with the rock and roll image she had, but it was also who she was—a sweet and caring person.
My last interaction with Kim took place a few months ago when I interviewed her for a piece I was writing on females and power pop music. As always, she was more than willing to assist and her responses were typically hilarious and insightful—she told me, among other things, that she didn’t really relate to power pop because of what she called “the wussy factor.” That was Kim—straight up honest to a fault.
Kim passed away recently from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis at the way-too-young age of 56 and even though I’m being bombarded by online news articles that say, “Kim Shattuck Dies,” it still somehow doesn’t seem real. And even though offering condolences to her family, bandmates and close friends doesn’t feel like nearly enough, it’s all I can do. Godspeed, Kim—you were one of the good ones, in every sense of the term.