LIFESTYLE - Sun-Sentinel, Tuesday. May 4, 1993

Scraping Teeth drummer James Rite of Pembroke Pines pounds away while screaming a tune.

Band on the ruin

They were just another group out of South Florida. Then they went from bad to Worst.


The bass player moved to Oregon. Someone stole the drummer's drums out of Toyota. The band has no gigs booked. But we didn't let that stop us. After all, Scraping Teeth is the Worst Band in America, so it makes sense that things would go from Worst to worse since last month, when Spin magazine named the trio the baddest (as in the most horrible) band in the land. The "Cream of the Crap."

"I feel like I just won something on the Dating Game," James Rite, 31, of Pembroke Pines told Spin. "I hope my screams had something to do with it." Then he took the $500 prize and bought a set of electronic drums, a true hallmark of a band in decline.

"The great thing about Scraping Teeth that I'm really happy about is that they weren't trying to be bad," says Mark Blackwell, a senior editor at Spin. He and his coworkers endured seven garbage bags full of "music" before they chose the Teeth. "There were nights," Blackwell says, "when I went home with headaches."

Scraping teeth's pain inducing songs include Death by Refrigerator, Life Without Soap, Torture and Stuff and titles we won't print in a family newspaper. As Spin put it, the trio's repertoire is one long dissonant, atonal, relentless ache." The band that got together in 1989, actually performed regularly at Washington Square in Miami Beach and Churchill's Hideaway in Miami. Then bass player Isaac Ersoff moved to Oregon to become, of all things, a lawyer. "He said, 'If you get to go on Letterman or do any tour, I want to be involved,'" Rite says. Letterman hasn't called. Guitarist Frank Falestra of Miami Beach, didn't show last week for an interview at drummer Rite's apartment. So we just talked to Rite, who is married, has a job in computers and is not as scary as we thought he would be.

A few weeks ago you were a relatively unknown band....

I guess so. Do you want something to drink, by the way? Do you want a -- all I have is Samuel Adams as far as beer goes. Otherwise I have iced tea or water.

Iced tea would be fine. Thanks. A few weeks ago you were a relatively unknown band...

I guess.

Can I ask this question?

Go ahead.

Now you're the Worst Band in America. Does that hurt?

No. No. It doesn't. Just to win something is nice... And I've told people, it's better then being in the best band in America, whatever, because usually you have to be on Star Search or something like that, and I don't like that kind of music.


It's almost like when you're scraping chalk on a chalkboard. Well, Scraping Teeth has almost the same kind of effect, I guess, to really kind of drive people away. That's what we try to do.

So you're the drummer.

And I scream. Screaming vocals. Real loud. I pound -- and like Animal from The Muppets? I gett like that on the drums. I just go crazy. [He glances toward the bedroom.] My wife's in the background, snickering. She's listening to all this. [Kathy Rite is not a Teeth fan... "I listen to country music", she says.]

Do you guys ever practice?

Um, no. The first time we ever played on stage was the first time we did anything. We don't even tune our instruments. Were that bad.

So you've actually performed.

We use to play all the time. But it got to the point where a lot of bands would complain. Not all of them. But there were certain ones: "Oh, I not going to follow that band. I hate that band." Sometimes the owner would come up to us at one of the places: "Can you turn it down a little bit? People are complaining." It got to that point. And eventually my mic on the soundboard, they would turn my volume level all the way down, where I'd be screaming and whatever. And nothing. You couldn't hear anything, because they turned my mikes down. The DJ did that because I don't think he liked me.

Churchill's, they use to have wine glasses hanging upside down. I remember one time they started breaking. They were falling of the bar thing, we were so loud. I remember screaming and I heard smashing and we saw them as they were falling. I got into it. I wanted them to keep breaking.

Your screaming, where does that come from?

It's just this loud, experimental, frustration type of attitude. ....It's just something, suddenly I felt like doing. It just sounded cool to me. And I enjoyed it. I always felt like I wanted to scream live to see how people....[He leaves the thought hanging.]

Do people dance?

I always thought people should thrash to our music, because we get real intense. I can keep a real fast beat going and get real wild. One time one guy hit his head on a whatchamacallit, one of those fan things.

A ceiling fan?

But they were skinheads, and they actually hated us, though. I couldn't figure that out.