Fulks finds inspiration in King of Pop, posers

Dave Rossetti

When alt-country singer/songwriter Robbie Fulks comes to town for a set at Shank Hall Friday, he’ll be bringing his guitar, his band and a razor-sharp sardonic wit that has endeared him to a small but devoted following during his career.

How can anyone say no to that?

Though he hasn’t released an album since 2001’s Couples In Trouble, an album that stretches the boundaries of the alt-country tag with quirky honky-tonks, energetic rockers and even a Celtic-sounding folk tune, don’t bet against Fulks’ tightly-knit fan base turning out at anything less than full force to see their hero.

Fulks said he’s pleased to have had such a loyal following for “almost 10 years now through labels big and small and none,” but said their extreme devotion has presented him with some interesting situations — both dreamt up and real.

“Oh yeah, you make love to a lot of the same girls from town to town pretty much,” he said. “Just kidding.”

“But it’s always a moment of self-loathing when you can’t remember the name of somebody you’ve seen every year for the last seven or eight years straight, but it happens.”

Though it might sound like another stroke of sarcastic genius, Fulks is dead serious about his next record — a collection of Michael Jackson covers entitled Dear Michael, Love Robbie that Fulks hopes will be released by May 2004. Among other tracks, the album will include recordings of “Billie Jean”, “Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough,” some Jackson 5 songs, and a song from Jackson’s 2001 album Invincible.

“You’ll see more recognizable songs than unrecognizable,” he said.

Fulks added that the idea for the album grew out of a gig “a couple years back” where he performed some Jackson songs and “had a lot of fun doing it.” He said he only finally decided to record a whole album out of feelings of spite for those who turned their noses up at the concept.

“People were so contemptuous of it that I decided it had to be the right idea,” he said. “People thought it was a joke and asked, ‘No what are you really doing?’ People underrate that guy. They underrate him at the same time that he saturates us. He’s got scads of great songs, I don’t think it’s even worth it to go through all of them, a successful career in music for over 30 years — it’s not like it’s all based on a charade.”

When he hasn’t been busy preparing his new album, Fulks has devoted some time promoting his hatred for alt-country darling Ryan Adams.

After a well-publicized incident last October in which Adams refused to continue his concert until a fan who requested Bryan Adams’ “Summer of ’69” left the venue, Fulks announced the “Piss off Ryan Adams, win a prize!” contest on his Web site. Fans who disrupt Adams’ shows with Fulks song requests could win Fulks merchandise and concert tickets.

Fulks said he heard of a fan who gave Adams one of Fulks’ “Country Is Not Pretty” t-shirts — which feature a large caricature of Fulks — to sign, but he was rebuffed and closed in on by bodyguards once Adams realized what was happening.

No one has taken him up on the song-request offer.

“I think by and large my fans are too well inclined and too polite to bother a celebrity like that, which is too bad,” he said. “It would have been nice to have some stories.”

Fulks didn’t back down from an opportunity to let everyone know how he really feels, calling the former Whiskeytown frontman, during tamer moments, a four-letter word that rhymes with prick.

“I hate him,” he said. “I hate him personally. I hate his music. He’s a pompous guy who believes all of his own press and thinks he’s the next Dylan. He poses on his records like a supermodel with handguns and I don’t like all that self-glorifying, pretentious, Winona Ryder-f—ing behavior.”

It looks like it’s your move, Mr. Adams.

Robbie Fulks plays at Shank Hall, 1434 N. Farwell St., at 10 p.m. Friday. Terry Vittone opens. Tickets are $10. All Shank Hall shows are 21 and over. For more information, call (414) 276-7288.