Kim Shattuck, Punk Musician Who Led the Muffs, Dies at 56


Kim Shattuck, the singer, guitarist and songwriter for the Muffs and other pop-punk bands, died on Wednesday at her home in Los Angeles. She was 56.

The cause was complications of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. Her death was confirmed by Cary Baker, whose publicity firm, Conqueroo, represents Omnivore Records, the Muffs’ current record label.

Ms. Shattuck made music that combined bubble-gum melodies with roaring guitars. Her lyrics could be tender, but she concealed her vulnerability behind a sneering veneer. And she was widely acclaimed for having one of the greatest screams in rock ’n’ roll — a loud, exuberant yowl that sometimes expressed unfettered joy, and sometimes just punctuated a chord change.

“She was always so cool and tough,” Billie Joe Armstrong of Green Day wrote on Instagram; his band regarded the Muffs so highly early in their career, it employed the same manager, label and producer. He called her “one of my favorite songwriters” and said that when Green Day was recording its breakthrough 1994 album “Dookie,” “we listened to the first Muffs record constantly.”

Ms. Shattuck explained her aesthetic to the website Potato Gibberish in 2007: “I’m a huge fan of sing-songy lyrics and loud guitars,” she said. “Whatever punk band does that gets a gold star!”

Kimberly Dianne Shattuck was born on July 17, 1963, in Burbank, Calif., to Kent and Betty (Hess) Shattuck, and grew up in Orange County. When she was learning to play guitar, her primary influences were John Lennon, Dave Davies of the Kinks and Brian Setzer of the Stray Cats. “I don’t like real fast intricate stuff,” she told Guitar World in 2011. “I’m not impressed by it and it doesn’t have any melody to me.”

In the 1980s, Shattuck played bass for the Pandoras, an all-female garage band. When she had written enough songs to start her own band, she and the keyboardist Melanie Vammen quit the group in 1990 and started the Muffs. After some personnel changes, including the departure of Ms. Vammen, the group stabilized with Roy McDonald on drums, Ms. Shattuck on guitar, and Ronnie Barnett, her ex-boyfriend, on bass. Ms. Shattuck said that all of the meanest songs on the group’s first record were about Barnett, but that when he asked who they were about, she dissembled.

With alternative rock and grunge exploding in the early 1990s, the Muffs signed to Warner Bros., a major label. “They have this job to break our band,” Ms. Shattuck told Rolling Stone in 1995. “And I totally feel sorry for them because it’s not going to happen.”

She was correct. In an era when some of the unlikeliest punk acts achieved mainstream success, the Muffs’ music proved to be more influential than commercially lucrative. After releasing three classic pop-punk albums, including, in 1995, “Blonder and Blonder” — the title taken from an insult directed at Ms. Shattuck by Courtney Love of Hole — and the 1997 record “Happy Birthday to Me,” the band and label parted ways.

The Muffs achieved their greatest prominence with their cover of Kim Wilde’s “Kids in America,” which provided the soundtrack for the opening credits of Amy Heckerling’s hit 1995 film “Clueless.” Despite this Ms. Shattuck wasn’t keen on the song. She told the website Culture Brats in 2015: “The lyrics are really stupid. It’s very embarrassing to sing them.”

The Muffs recorded fitfully in the next two decades, making four more studio albums; the last of them, “No Holiday,” is scheduled to be released on October 18.

“Kim was a true force of nature,” her bandmates Mr. McDonald and Mr. Barnett wrote yesterday on the Muffs’ Facebook page. “While battling A.L.S. Kim produced our last album, overseeing every part of the record from tracking to artwork.”

When the Muffs were on hiatus, Ms. Shattuck played with other groups such as the Beards. In 2013, she joined Pixies after Kim Deal quit the group; Shattuck served as the bassist for a few months before the band fired her.

“She’s very West Coast, she’s very extrovert,” the group’s singer, Black Francis, explained to Magnet magazine. “We’re very East Coast, very introvert.”

Ms. Shattuck told the NME she was surprised by the split. “Everything had gone well, the reviews were all good, and the fans were super-nice about everything. They were like, ‘We love you, New Kim!’”

Ms. Shattuck’s survivors include her husband of 16 years, Kevin Sutherland; her mother, Betty Shattuck; her brother, Kirk Shattuck; and her sister, Kristen Shattuck.

Earlier this year, Ms. Shattuck reunited with Ms. Vammen; they started a new band called the Coolies. The group announced that all proceeds from their self-titled debut EP would be donated to A.L.S. research.

Ms. Shattuck didn’t reveal that she was suffering from A.L.S. herself, only saying, to the website Audiofemme, that the disease “runs on my dad’s side of the family and I am super sick of seeing it take down my relatives without a cure.”

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