Bobby Hussy estimates he’s lit his electric Fender Jazzmaster guitar on fire about 100 times in his band’s nearly 10-year run. Only once did it get out of hand.
He said he does it to entertain the audience and also to entertain himself.
Hussy, 31, whose real last name is Wegner but prefers to go by Hussy, formed his two-member punk-pop-garage-noise band the Hussy with Heather Sawyer in 2008 in Madison.
He compares his fire trick to one where people light their hands on fire, then put it out right away. It’s simply lighter fluid burning off. He does it when it feels right.
“If it seems like people will have a good time or if it seems like it might liven up the show or something.”
It’s unclear if he will pull the stunt Friday night at the High Noon Saloon when the Hussy opens for the two-member Chicago band Local H. Hussy said he never decides in advance. “If I’m feeling it, possibly, if not then no. It’s not really something I decide days before a show.”
His guitar always manages to survive the fire and still sounds good. “Maybe it adds to the crispiness of it, I don’t know. It’s a trick. It’s really not as wild as you’d think,” he said.
Still, the shtick got dangerous in New York City one time when someone smashed Hussy’s bottle of lighter fluid on the floor and fire began to spread in the club. The club’s owner put it out with a fire extinguisher and in the end, wound up loving the show and giving Hussy a hug.
He typically puts his guitar down to light it, and usually there is some fire on the ground from burning lighter fluid that goes out fairly quickly.
Sawyer said Hussy’s use of fire can make her really nervous, depending on how crowded the venue is, but she’s used to it by now. The New York show did scare her for a few nerve-wracking seconds. “We thought for sure we were going to be kicked out, but the guy who owned the place really liked it.”
Hussy has also been known to smash guitars on stage. He’s wrecked four Fender Stratocasters in total, just saving it for special shows. He knows audiences expect it, but feels he’s getting too old to do it regularly.
He doesn’t pick up cheap guitars to smash, either. Whenever he’s seen other musicians smash guitars, he’s always thought, it better be a good guitar, otherwise they’re faking it.
In Memphis, he destroyed a $400 guitar and called it probably his favorite show he’s ever played. At a festival the Hussy co-headlined in Indianapolis, he smashed a brand new Stratocaster that he later realized still had its original strings.
He usually buys guitars used for $300. He’ll play it on a recording, and then, if the show feels right, “I don’t know, it might go, it might not.”
Hussy’s been in bands since age 13, and has been recording music since 15. He met Sawyer in 2004 when she was in a group called Cats Not Dogs. He was then a student at UW-Madison who loved music, and was able to get into the group’s shows by selling merch for them. When the group’s bass player quit, he got to join the band and tour the U.S. and Canada.
He said he was excited to join a Madison band, having only played basements and VFW halls in his hometown of Plymouth.
The Hussy played its first show with the dance-punk band Screamin’ Cyn Cyn and the Pons in June 2008. It was one of the first shows at the Frequency when the club was new. A flyer for that show still sits in front of the club’s soundboard.
The Hussy has gone on to produce five LPs, 11 seven-inch vinyl singles, one 10-inch vinyl record and “too many tapes to remember.” Most songs are less than two minutes long.
“Galore” was the band’s last release. He and Sawyer put it out in early 2015, did a release party at the High Noon — complete with a guitar on fire — also with Cyn Cyn and the Pons. He and Sawyer went on a U.S. tour with that album for 30 days, followed by a 25-day tour of Europe.
Tyler Fassnacht joined the Hussy for the “Galore” release show and for live performances that year after Hussy and Sawyer were done touring. He was a natural choice because Hussy plays in Fassnacht’s band, Fire Heads, and Sawyer plays with Fassnacht in the band Proud Parents. Hussy has another band, the synth-punk Cave Curse, which he founded in 2014, and which plays the High Noon on Saturday with Proud Parents and three other bands.
Fassnacht will continue to perform with the Hussy, turning the band into a three-piece for most live shows.
When he’s not playing or recording music, Hussy works the door and as a barback at the High Noon. He’s also worked at the record store Mad City Music for seven years. Sawyer works for a dog day care and grooming business in Middleton.
Since “Galore,” Hussy and Sawyer have played with their other bands, but haven’t put out a full album or gone on tour as the Hussy. They have about 14 songs written for a new album, and are about to start recording, Sawyer said.
Part of the reason for the break is that Hussy is grieving the sudden and tragic loss of his mother, Barbara Wegner, who died in December 2015 at age 56. While walking near her home just outside of Plymouth a driver skidded on black ice and hit her.
While Hussy has been coping with his mom’s death, Sawyer, 40, who plays drums and shares the singing and songwriting duties 50/50, has also gone through a hard time, dealing with a divorce from her husband of 14 years. That life-changing event has led to more meaningful lyrics, she said.
“I used to write kind of nonsense stuff, and now I’m putting more thought into it,” she said while discussing the Hussy’s album-in-progress. “I think it will be a little more grown up, but still have the Hussy sound to it.”