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Teresa Taylor, Butthole Surfers Drummer and Face of Generation X, Dies at 60

Teresa Taylor, a drummer for the Texas acid-punk band Butthole Surfers who became an emblem of Generation X aimlessness and anomie with a memorable appearance in Richard Linklater’s 1990 film “Slacker,” died on Sunday. She was 60.

Her death was announced on Monday in a Twitter post by the band. The cause was lung disease.

Cheryl Curtice, her partner and caregiver, wrote on Facebook that Ms. Taylor “passed away clean and sober, peacefully in her sleep, this weekend.”

“She was so brave, even in the face of her horrible disease.”

Ms. Taylor, also known as Teresa Nervosa, addressed her long battle with what she called an “end stage” lung condition, which she did not identify, in a 2021 Facebook post.

“I don’t have cancer or any harsh treatments,” she wrote, detailing her daily use of an oxygen tank in a small apartment that had a television mounted on a swivel fed by “mega cable,” and that she lived with her cat, Snoopy. “I know I smoked like a chimney and this is to be expected,” she added. “My spirits are up.”

​​Ms. Taylor was born on Nov. 10, 1962, in Arlington, Texas, to Mickey and Helen Taylor. Her father worked for IBM as a mechanical engineer. In her youth, she honed her skills with the drumsticks performing with marching bands in Austin and Fort Worth with King Coffey, who would later join her as part of Butthole Surfers’s distinctive twin-drummer approach, each playing in unison on separate kits.

She never considered drumming as a career. “It was like, because you were a girl, you didn’t think of having any future in it,” she was quoted as saying in the 2007 book “Women of the Underground: Music” by Zora von Burden.

She eventually dropped out of high school and met the singer Gibby Haynes and the guitarist Paul Leary, who had founded Butthole Surfers in San Antonio in 1981 while renting them space in the downtown Austin warehouse where she was living. In 1983, they invited her on a tour of California.

During Ms. Taylor’s tenure, which lasted much of the 1980s, the band never scored a hit record although they eventually found success atop Billboard’s Modern Rock Tracks chart with the song “Pepper,” from 1996. But mainstream acceptance was very much not the point — as their name made clear.

Mixing a taste for Dadaism and Nietzsche with a cyclone-force howl, Butthole Surfers proved audacious even by punk standards. Concerts featured naked dancers, flames, bullhorns and slide shows that included morbid films of surgeries and garbage fires. “Their live shows were an assault on the senses,” observed the music site Rock and Roll True Stories in a 2021 retrospective.

With its hand-grenade musical approach and black humor (their 1987 album “Locust Abortion Technician” featured a cover image of eerily joyful clowns in greasepaint inspired by the costumes of the serial killer John Wayne Gacy), the band attracted an ardent cult following among Gen X ironists and hollow-eyed nihilists (not to mention Kurt Cobain of Nirvana).

As the decade drew to a close, Ms. Taylor left the band after experiencing seizures she attributed to the strobe lights the band used onstage. In 1993, she had surgery for a brain aneurysm.

Despite her exit from the band she had made her name with, her biggest taste of fame was yet to come.

In “Slacker,” she made a memorable appearance playing an addlebrained opportunist wandering the streets trying to sell a jar from a medical laboratory with purported pop-culture significance. “I know it’s kind of cloudy,” her character insists, “but it’s a Madonna Pap smear.”

The film was an artfully ragged series of vignettes about young eccentrics played largely by nonprofessionals knocking around Austin. Premiering in the early days of “Seinfeld,” it was a movie about nothing that captured the spirit of twentysomethings who, according to the clichés of the day, cared about nothing and aspired to nothing.

The film’s title became a nickname for a generation, and with her indelible appearance on the movie’s poster and other packaging materials, Ms. Taylor became a face of it — a slack-jawed youth, her skinny arms thrust into her pockets in a gesture both bored and rebellious.

“We talked about doing a drugged-out freak kind of character going on about Madonna,” Ms. Taylor said in a 2001 interview with The Austin American-Statesman, recalling her experiences on set. “I had a rock star attitude and a big ego. I demanded a hat and sunglasses for the scene. I did not want my face to be seen. And it became an image.”

She would go on to work at the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired in Austin, according to The Austin Chronicle, and was writing a memoir about her time with the band.

Information about survivors was immediately available.

As the years rolled by, her rock star swagger may have faded, but not, it seemed, her sense of irony. “I am the ultimate slacker,” she told The American-Statesman. “I’m on disability for depression, I get a check every month and I watch a lot of TV.”

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