Shrapnel Fluckiger, the troubled former lead singer for the seminal Alpine-Tejano-Punk band Necrophiliac Scourge, which inspired a generation of alienated Swiss-Chicano yodelers, died from complications related to the Coronavirus on Friday in Los Angeles at the age of sixty-two. The mercurial performer and songwriter had earlier suffered a series of disasters that left him blind and paralyzed from the neck down, but that did not stop his prodigious output. His conversion to Christianity had finally brought him some calm and stability, but the implacable virus claimed his life, leaving legions of grieving fans to ponder his legacy. National Public Radio shared the transcripts of his two most recent interviews with Terry Gross on her program “Fresh Air.”
March, 2010 Interview
TERRY GROSS: Shrapnel Fluckiger, welcome to “Fresh Air.”
SHRAPNEL: Thank you, Terry, it’s great to be here.
TERRY GROSS: You’ve suffered some calamitous setbacks recently, and yet, you’re still out there, touring.
SHRAPNEL: Well, Terry, being blind and paralyzed from the waist down sucks, but Alpine-Tejano-Punk music is forever.
TERRY GROSS: It seems like things started to turn sour for Necrophiliac Scourge during last year’s tour…specifically around the time you stabbed your bass player, Jeff Napolitano. What was it that created the feud between you two?
SHRAPNEL: I just sort of flew off the handle with Jeff because he was trying to get me out of bed to do a show in Venice. I’d had a rough night, there were groupies and gondoliers all over the floor, and Jeff was shaking me and shouting at me to wake up, and there was my buck-knife on the nightstand. It wasn’t anything personal, and I think Jeff understands that now, but there was some bad blood between us for a while there.
TERRY GROSS: Like when he tried to push that stack of amplifiers on top of you in Rome?
SHRAPNEL: Right, that was intense. The crowd thought it was part of the show, and I even got kind of a brush with death rush that gave my yodeling a real edge.
TERRY GROSS: You didn’t get the same kind of rush when he sabotaged that ramp you used during the concert in Amsterdam, did you?
SHRAPNEL: No, I didn’t, Terry, and if I’d known I was going to need a metal plate in my head after that fall, I wouldn’t have finished the show. But the crowd ate it up.
TERRY GROSS: This is kind of difficult question, Shrapnel, but do you think you showed good judgement in leaping headfirst into the crowd in Brussels?
SHRAPNEL: Well, I’ve done it all over the world, and the crowd always caught me, but I guess I caught them off guard because there wasn’t a Belgian within ten feet of me when I hit the concrete.
TERRY GROSS: Do you wish now that you hadn’t jumped?
SHRAPNEL: Well, I’d like to have my legs again n’ shit, but no use in second guessing myself.
TERRY GROSS: I don’t mean to dwell on the negative, but it must have been difficult for you after having a metal plate put in your skull, getting paralyzed, going through physical therapy and adjusting to life in a wheelchair, and getting the band back together and going on tour again when you accidentally rolled into that pyrotechnic explosion that blinded you during that ill-fated show in Austin.
SHRAPNEL: Oh, it was Terry. I mean, one second, I’m belting out the number one song in the country, and the next, I’m a raging inferno on wheels.
TERRY GROSS: What went through your mind when you, uh…?
SHRAPNEL: Burst into flames?
TERRY GROSS: Right.
SHRAPNEL: I remember thinking, “Shit, somebody put me out!”
TERRY GROSS: You were lucky your roady was right there with the fire extinguisher.
SHRAPNEL: Right, uh, Steve…Steve, uh, Steve something…he saved my life.
TERRY GROSS: It was sad what happened to him.
SHRAPNEL: Yeah, I mean, he was depressed before he was disfigured by the fire, but that kind of pushed him over the edge.
TERRY GROSS: I know when you were young, you split time living with your father, who was a Swiss cowherd and alphorn player, and your mother, who was a celebrated Tejano singer in Texas. But where did the punk influence on your music come from?
SHRAPNEL: A lot of people don’t know it, but there was a thriving punk scene up in the Swiss Alps in the mid-late 70s. Young people up there were fed up with the hardy, cheerful existence mountain people had been living for centuries, bringing their cows up to the alpine pastures every summer, playing their alphorns, yodeling and so forth. Some of us started wearing safety pins on our lederhosen. Where do you think Sid Vicious got that? He was up there on vacation, I think, in ’75. He was just a poseur.
TERRY GROSS: So what’s next for Necrophiliac Scourge?
SHRAPNEL: Well, as soon as Jeff gets out of the hospital–
TERRY GROSS: Jeff Napolitano is in the hospital?
SHRAPNEL: He had an altercation with the drummer from his other band.
TERRY GROSS: Oh, that’s right.
SHRAPNEL: And skin grafts take a while to heal.
TERRY GROSS: He threw scalding oil in his face?
SHRAPNEL: I warned Jeff about that drummer–he’s just bad news.
TERRY GROSS: So you’ll be working with Jeff again?
SHRAPNEL: We’re doing a benefit in Chicago for people injured in freak accidents. It’s called “Freaks for Freaks.”
TERRY GROSS: Wow, that sounds–
SHRAPNEL: Terry, did you know that every year almost two million people are maimed or injured in freak accidents in this country?
TERRY GROSS: No, I didn’t.
SHRAPNEL: This one construction worker fell off a building and was impaled on a protruding pipe. It went straight through his head so he has this giant hole in his head now.
TERRY GROSS: My God.
SHRAPNEL: His story is so inspirational. He still functions well enough to punch tickets at the movie theater.
TERRY GROSS: That is inspirational.
SHRAPNEL: So the performers are all people who’ve had freak accidents. Cora Phillips will be there–
TERRY GROSS: She also had a pyrotechnic accident, didn’t she?
SHRAPNEL: No, she fell off a building and was impaled on a pipe just like the–
TERRY GROSS: What?
SHRAPNEL: She was shooting a video up on this building and–
TERRY GROSS: That’s crazy.
SHRAPNEL: You’d be surprised, Terry. People get impaled on pipes. They fall into vats of beer or chemicals, they walk into propellers at airports, they fall into sinkholes or old chandeliers drop on them, their dogs sit on their guns and shoot them or their kid runs the power lawnmower over their feet. It happens almost two million times a year. So we’re trying to bring awareness about it, and raise some money for people who’ve lost arms or feet or had their noses ripped off.
TERRY GROSS: It’s great to see you turn your misfortune into something positive.
SHRAPNEL: Thanks, Terry. Don’t go up on any tall buildings…
June, 2011 Interview
TERRY GROSS: Shrapnel Fluckiger, welcome back to “Fresh Air.”
SHRAPNEL: Thanks, Terry. It’s great to be back.
TERRY GROSS: There have been some big changes in your life since the last time we spoke.
SHRAPNEL: Praise the Lord.
TERRY GROSS: Did it ever cross your mind that Jeff Napolitano still harbored resentment against you when you took the stage for your duet with him during the “Freaks for Freaks” benefit concert?
SHRAPNEL: Not really, Terry. He’d become a Buddhist while recovering from facial surgery, and I thought he was at peace with himself, but apparently he was still brooding over losing the lawsuit about getting the rights to some of the band’s songs.
TERRY GROSS: So that’s why he pushed you off the stage in your wheelchair?
SHRAPNEL: He may have still been pissed about the stabbing thing in Venice too.
TERRY GROSS: Shrapnel, after everything you’ve been through, getting your skull cracked in Amsterdam, being paralyzed from the fall in Brussels, getting blinded by the pyrotechnic explosion in Austin, being pushed off the stage in Chicago and losing the use of your upper body must have been a real blow to you.
SHRAPNEL: It was a real wake-up call, Terry. I wondered “Why was all this bad stuff happening to me?” It couldn’t just be bad luck. God was telling me to get me my soul in order so I gave my heart to Jesus Christ.
TERRY GROSS: What do you say to the cynics who say you only turned to religion when your body could no longer indulge in the epic debauchery you were notorious for most of your life?
SHRAPNEL: All I can do is pray for them, Terry.
TERRY GROSS: Are you working on any projects right now?
SHRAPNEL: Yes, my new album is going to be called “Responsible Rebel.”
TERRY GROSS: I like that.
SHRAPNEL: Let me sing a little of the title track for you…
TERRY GROSS: That would be great.
SHRAPNEL: (singing) I like working full-time, paying taxes and monogamy.
Going to my kid’s school night and volunteering at the library.
Now I don’t need lots of oral sex
From underage groupies
I get my kicks trying to build
My community…Cuz’ I’m a Responsible Rebel…
TERRY GROSS: That’s wonderful, thank you much, Shrapnel Fluckiger…