On Wednesday night in Columbus, radio station 99.7 The Blitz had a one year anniversary party and invited hundreds of fans to an appreciation party at the LC Pavillion to give feedback on the station and meet the members of the Blitz on-air team. Die hard Blitz fans were surprised with a live performance from one of the most popular bands on the station, Bobaflex. Bobaflex did an hour high energy set for the intimate crowd performing their hits like “Bury Me with Your Guns On.”
Bobaflex is an independent metal band from West Virginia that has been grinding through the music business since 1998. Over that time, they have released four albums and been on tour with National acts like Disturbed, Filter, Sevendust, among many others. In their thirteen years, they have gained a cult following centered in Ohio and West Virginia.
CityBeat caught up with Shaun McCoy, a vocalist, guitar player, and charter member of the band before the show to discuss the single that is gaining steam across Ohio in radio play and their unconventional view of the music business. Shaun’s anti-establishment view pairs with his innovative ideas to show where he envisions the music business is heading. This is seen in the upcoming release of their fourth album, Hell in My Heart.
CityBeat: I know you guys have the new album, “Hell in My Heart,” The 15 track album that came out in February.
Shaun: Well, it’s technically not out. There was some confusion about it. And now we’re re-releasing it this summer with some extra tracks. But we still have a few copies on us. We pulled it offline and stopped ordering it until this summer. We are looking at distribution deals with some investors. So we’re almost going to do our own label which is the safest thing to do these days. And using other people’s money because we don’t have that much. So we are almost doing the label thing but having more control in the band. And working with an investor or partner but not with an evil corporate label that’s going down the tube anyway.
CB: You guys have been pretty vocal about being independent and doing this on your own because you have been in the business a while. You’ve also talked about your management team and how they’ve helped out. What’s the process to go through to get the album out on your own?
Shaun: Well people are still holding onto the old, it has to be in the stores which is going to be over in the next five years. You still have to play that game and have an official release. So, we had a couple label deals on the table. They were a no-win situation for the band. So we kind of balked at them. And now, we’re doing a distribution deal. Which you’re not locked in legally with them. They just put it out in the stores and you just kind of pay for shelf space. You do all the marketing and promotions yourself. It’s up to you to promote the album. They just put it in the store. You get a way higher split on the album. You get a majority of the money and you keep the bailments. So basically they’re just a service. We took a long time picking a good distribution company because many are in trouble right now. I think we’re in talks right now with Mega Force and they may distribute us. The band ran into marketing and promotions trouble when we paid for it ourselves and it nearly killed us. So we are looking at the option of using an investor to make it easier on the band and split things down in different percentages and have someone else’s money and do like a label does and have someone else do all the promotions and marketing. And they get a piece for putting that much in and investing in the band. But still it will be a band-friendly contract. It’s not going to be a big corporate Atlantic Records thing where they get 12% of your record and you don’t see royalties for three years.
CB: Is that what the April 20th show is partly about? Are you looking for investors at the showcase?
Shaun: Yeah. I think CDs are like 8-Tracks in a few years. I mean kids don’t want to buy them unless they want something physical to be signed. That’s really it. Adults buy CDs. And it kind of kills me we still have to put it in stores because times are changing and we like to be ahead of the curve. But we’ll play that game for this album and put it in stores. It also opens up radio and touring options. People are still using that as a form of legitimacy. So we have to put it in stores. That’s the way it’s going to be. I’d prefer to have it online and at shows and you’d have to come to the shows to actually purchase it. And that would make the shows better. We’ll have it at shows but right now we have to play the CD game so we’re going to distribute it. There’s nothing finalized, now we’re in talks but nothings done but you can say we’re in talks with Mega Force for distribution.
CB: How long have you been doing this? I know you and your brother started this together.
Shaun: Legitimately, we started in ’98 but full force and making it a profession and barely working a job or not working a job and putting a 100% into from about 2003 until now.
CB: So now it’s full time for all of you.
Shaun: Yeah. Absolutely. It’s been full time for about six or seven years since we signed with TBT, our old label who went bankrupt. Once we got with them it was a full time job.
CB: If you weren’t in a rock band, what would you be doing?
Shaun: Wow, if I weren’t in a rock band, I’d probably turn to a life of crime to make a living. I’m 40 hours short of an advertising degree. I owe the government out the ying-yang. Either I’d be a criminal or I’d just work at Lowe’s.
CB: So you guys have this interesting thing where you let everybody sing. Do you get pushed to try to pick a lead singer or do people give you pressure around that or do people accept that this is how you are going to do it?
Shaun: Early on, when we had a record deal on the table, they actually liked that idea. Years ago, people asked, “Well who’s the lead singer?” Well nobody, we switch off and on. Even our bass player is singing lead on some songs. Well now, if they’re talking to me they say “Well you’re the lead singer.” Or if they’re talking to my brother “Oh you’re the lead singer.” It’s one of those deals. We kind of squash it. It’s whoever song it is. I’m a big KISS fan and I always like Ace songs best and he only sang a handful of them. That’s where we got the idea from. I’m a big Eagles fan and I like any band that has versatile lead singers. It makes the album more eclectic and it makes for better ideas. You don’t get bored or get stuck in a rut when you have three different guys and all three have a little different vibe. That helps for sure.
CB: Have you met KISS?
Shaun: I would like to meet KISS. I have not met KISS. Well, who have I met? We met Dave Mustaine of Megadeath. And that was a big deal. I met all of Anthrax, all of original Anthrax. That was cool. We have toured with Mudvayne and Sevendust but I would love to meet KISS. Absolutely one of my favorite bands.
CB: Have you ever been star struck when you met somebody?
Shaun: Yes, Jonathan Davis and Korn walked into our dressing when we were opening for Mudvayne and Sevendust and we were the openers in the Nokia Center in Dallas. Jonathan Davis had his dressing room across from us and we decided to leave him alone since he was a huge star. I was getting my tattoo worked on drinking and he walked into our room out of nowhere. I was like “What!” He said “Hey this where the party’s at. I smelled weed, I hear drinking and partying. I see you’re getting a tattoo. Does that hurt?” I was like “Noo!” I said “Thanks for having us on the show.” And I shook his hand. He said “Great having you on the show. I’ll see y’all around.” Then he walked out. Then everybody couldn’t even talk and were like “Oh my God! Jonathan Davis just walked into our room.”
CB: Yeah, I’ve interviewed Fieldy and Ray from Korn. They’re great guys.
Shaun: Absolutely. He was really cool to us. That’s the thing with the bigger tours, I’ve never really met an asshole rock star that wouldn’t talk to me or made a rule to “Don’t look at me, especially when I’m eating.” I’ve never seen that yet. That hasn’t happened on the bigger shows like Papa Roach or Megadeath.
CB: One of the things I always say when I’m doing interviews is the bigger the rockstar I talk to the more down to Earth they seem. It’s kind of been the exact opposite of how I envisioned it. Everyone is usually very nice and very down to Earth. One of the theories is that everybody has been at the bottom of this industry and worked their way up and people appreciate it a lot when you do make it and do well. Have you ever had any boyfriend or husband issues on the road?
Shaun: Well yeah, it’s happened. We’re really cool guys, we’re cool with the fans. But there have been weird situations where somebody’s girlfriend has liked someone in the band and then they come up and we don’t know them personally and the guy never comes to a gig again and sends us an e-mail, “I can’t believe you did this to me.” I don’t even know who they are or don’t even know their name. Our ex-guitar player used to have issues with that. He always had people showing up to gigs looking for him. Many times it was due to Facebook and Myspacing and meeting girls. But I personally try to be cool to the fans and I, personally have not or very minimally had that. It’s always been light and nobody’s said anything bad. I’ve had a couple guys try to steer me away from girls via Facebook or Myspace, mainly Facebook. And say, “That chick is trouble man.” And I say, “I don’t even know you man. Why are you contacting me.” I had a guy recently tell me a girl was dangerous. And I was like, “Dangerous? What is she, Al Qaeda? She’s 120 pounds. What are you talking about? Does she have a gun on her? Does she carry a knife and stab people?” I just ignored it. It’s really not too bad. Just our ex-guitar player. And all the guys at this point in the game have girlfriends. I’m the only one who doesn’t. So, on that front, I can’t say it happens too often.
CB: Well I think dating is scary these days anyway. Just meeting on Facebook or Myspace. You talk about music changing. Dating is definitely changing.
Shaun: Oh my God! In the band, you always have some nutball or weirdo a little bit. Or I’ll get stalked multiple times where I can’t get on Facebook without a thing popping up “What are you doing? Why haven’t you called me?” I’ve had that happen several times. I had an older lady, like forty years old, who showed up to gigs crying. She was a nice lady at first and really cool and ran merch for us. I thought she was a forty year old redneck mom who’s not gonna rob us. So we let her sell merch for us. Her and her daughter followed us all over the country spending so much money to follow us to gigs. I’m like “I guess they really like the band.” And they bought us beer. She was married and she started sending me weird lovey messages like “Oh Shaun I love you as deep as the ocean is blue.” So I sent her a message saying she was making us uncomfortable and chill out a little bit. A year later she started it again. She sent me these weird messages, “Oh you don’t know how much I think about you.” I finally told her that “You’re creeping me out.” Then I got this huge message of evil after I told her she was creeping me out. “Who are you to judge?” Then her son called me. And her family was “Why are you being mean to my family?” And I’m like “You’re mom is creeping me out.” It went on forever. Finally I had to quit speaking to her or looking at her. She still showed up to gigs in the front row and call out “You don’t know what you meant to me?” I’m afraid the people would think something is going on and she’s crying at the gig. She would text me for a while and I would never text her back. She got my phone number somehow. Her texts were like I was answering her calling me baby and honey and I wouldn’t answer her and she would send me, “Baby are you sleeping?” and I haven’t answered her but she would answer back like I was talking to her but never was. That was scary. That was weird. Then I found out she pulled a gun on her ex-husband. So that’s when I told the band she had a weird past and was creeping me out. There were a couple gigs that I said they had to keep that lady out of the building. That’s one of several stories.
CB: Wow. So, did somebody inspire the song, “Vampire”?
Shaun: The song, “Vampire,” my brother wrote about a needy girlfriend who wouldn’t leave him alone and needed so much attention and was draining his life and sucking his life force out of him. He’s had a few that were very needy. Read my mind all the time draining like a vampire sucking his soul away. That’s what that song is about.
CB: I’m sure she was really pleased that’s what inspired the song. Does she know?
Shaun: The girlfriend? No she doesn’t. There’s several songs about her. “Playing Dead” is about her too. He doesn’t really tell anyone about her. He’s writing about the same stuff I think in that song.
CB: Some of the best songs come out of bad relationships. Some people I talk to that say they should never get married or never get in a good relationship because they think the band will fall apart.
Shaun: Yeah, we’ve all been divorced. I’m currently separated and getting a divorce. We’ve been separated for two years. She’s had like two boyfriends. We’re good friends and everything but it was definitely hard to keep the marriage together being on the road so much. We had a child together and it was tough. There’s a song called, “On That Night”, and that’s about being betrayed by someone you loved which we’ve never really delved into too much in the past. And this album, it’s like all the things that went on during TBT’s bankruptcy and then we were owned by a bank for a year. It was hell getting a record together. We didn’t have the rights to do it. We thought of everything that happened the last few years. Jared’s song was about his and his ex-wife divorcing. There’s definitely some reality in this record.
CB: Sometimes those are the best songs.
CB: Do you guys write everything yourself?
Shaun: Yes. we worked with songwriters on a couple that weren’t singles. On this album, we definitely collaborated on everything with each other. On a couple songs, I might write the scale or my brother or Jared might but then everybody comes in and puts their ten cents into it.
CB: Where do you guys usually write together?
Shaun: Well we usually get a rehearsal spot or sometimes we’ll put it together at home. We have a nice rehearsal spot with a studio in it. We’ll just sit down from noon to five and go over the set list and some rifts. Everybody will critique everybody’s other songs. And go over them and hammer them out. We’re at the point that we’re mature enough no one will have their feelings hurt when someone doesn’t like someone else’s idea. You either like it or you don’t. We write songs a lot faster now. We know each other so well. There are still some bastards that you have to hammer out that just aren’t right but a lot of the songs come together pretty quick.
CB: Do you guys still live in West Virginia?
Shaun: Yes. I lived in Ohio for a while. Then now I live in West Virginia. Jared, I think lives in Ohio with his girlfriend. The others live half the time with their girlfriend in Ohio and the other half in West Virginia.
CB: I heard about you guys in Columbus. There’s a huge buzz about Bobaflex in Columbus. I thought you were from Columbus.
Shaun: That’s our biggest spot. That’s one of our favorite spots to play. We owe everything to Columbus and West Virginia.
CB: I was hoping you’d be at “Rock on the Range.” That’s one of my favorite festivals to shoot and go to.
Shaun: We were supposed to. We still have the number one requested song in the city. I don’t know what his prejudice was, the guy running it. He said “Oh you won’t draw 2000.” And neither does Egypt Central. We’ll draw about a 1000. Anywhere from 700 to 1000. I know all the promoters in Columbus and we outdraw all the bands when they’re out by themselves. To say all the lower bands outdraw us on “Rock on the Range” is a lie. That’s not true. I don’t know why they won’t have us on.
CB: Well sometimes they try to mix it up and want some new people.
Shaun: Yeah. And it also goes back to that release date. We don’t have a new CD in stores, not gonna be on there. We’re on the old model forever until there are no CDs left.
CB: I love the song “Bury Me With My Guns On.” I thought it was amazing that the song is all over the radio. Then I heard that you had no label and doing everything yourselves. I found the story to be so interesting from the music industry perspective. I hear the song in Cincinnati, I hear it in Columbus, I hear it in Cleveland. So you guys are doing a good job getting it out there on the radio.
Shaun: We’re number 50 on the rock charts right now and we’re paying a radio promoter like a label would. We are paying them to keep pushing it. That’s where we’re at right now. We’re on a teeter-totter at this point. We’re getting a game plan together quickly this week and next week to get this record out.
Cincy rockers Wussy are set to join the much-celebrated Afghan Whigs' reunion tour this fall when the band finally hits the U.S. for a string of dates. Another great exhibition of Cincy's rich music scene, again in the national spotlight. Wussy has been touring a lot more than usual lately, including its first West Coast jaunt, so this should help raise the group's national profile even more.
So far, Wussy is set to open for The Afghan Whigs for their homecoming show at Bogart's on Oct. 25 (sold out), as well as dates in New Orleans (Oct. 19), Atlanta (Oct. 20), Carrboro, NC (Oct. 21) and another sold-out affair in Detroit (Oct. 24). More dates are expected to be announced soon.
Wussy co-lead-singer/songwriter Chuck Cleaver is a longtime friend/mutual fan of the Whigs. Back in 1993, the local label Mono Cat 7 released a split single featuring the Whigs and Cleaver's former band, The Ass Ponys. The Ponys covered The Whigs' tune "You My Flower," while Greg Dulli and Co. tackled the Ass Ponys classic "Mr. Superlove." (That's the cover art, with former Short Vine mayor Archie acting as the model, above.)
Here's a fan-made video for the Whigs' take on "Mr. Superlove" (NSFW due to mild nudity).
More recently, Wussy recorded a great cover version of another early Whigs song, Up In It opening track, "Retarded," for an Afghan Whigs tribute compilation put out by fantastic Afghan Whigs site Summer's Kiss (listen or purchase here). The comp also included Whigs renditions by Mark Lanegan, Joseph Arthur and several other acts.
Give a listen to Wussy's "Retarded" below.
Before its current successful run of reunion concerts across the globe, The Afghan Whigs played its final live show at a New York City club called Hush on Sept. 29, 1999. But that was a private concert. The Whigs last public appearance was Sept. 25, 1999, at Cincinnati's Bogart's with special guests Howlin' Maggie. (The set list featured a large chunk of final album 1965, as well as lots of dips into cover tunes and snippets, including opener "The Boys Are Back in Town," and dashes of "Superstition," "In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida," "Little Red Corvette," "People Get Ready," "Hot for Teacher," "All You Need is Love" and Madonna's "Express Yourself," among others.)
Today it was announced that The Afghan Whigs will return to the scene of the crime and perform their first hometown show in over a decade on Oct. 25 at Bogart's, one month and 13 years after that final concert. Tickets are $33.50 ($45.86 with fees). The fan pre-sale starts this morning at 10 a.m.; tickets go on sale to the general public this Friday at 10 a.m. Click here for info. (Check The Afghan Whigs' official site for a password to get in on the pre-sale.)
Though the neighborhood has changed a lot since The Whigs roamed the earth originally, the band returning to Corryville is fitting. While frontman Greg Dulli would eventually bring his band The Twilight Singers to Newport's Southgate House frequently, Bogart's was the Whigs hometown concert home. Before that, the group played many shows at long-since-shuttered Sudsy Malone's across the street from Bogart's, while it and Top Cat's just a few blocks up the street were the sites of a few epic "secret shows," warm-up gigs for tours where the band would perform under a pseudonym like The Havana Sugar Kings or Gato Negro.
Update: The fan pre-sale password for Bogart's is uptownagain. Use it here starting at 10 a.m. today.
Update2: The pre-sale is now at noon today, according to the ticketing site.
Photo by Joe Lamb - View a gallery of images from the event here.
It’s a great time of year to live in a swing state like Ohio. At least if you’re a music fan. Last night, popular Ohio-affiliated bands The National and The Breeders played a free rally/concert for Barack Obama and packed Fountain Square front to back. Tonight, in Akron, Devo, The Black Keys and Chrisse Hynde are doing an Obama concert (cleverly dubbed “Duty Now for the Future”). And this coming Thursday, The Beastie Boys headline a “Get Out and Vote” concert at Dayton’s Hara Arena, with guests Ben Harper and Sheryl Crow.
I don’t know if I’ve just tuned it out this year, but there seems to be a lot less of that "shut up and sing” sentiment in the 2008 election cycle. I’ll credit the Dixie Chicks, the Pop Country band that lost a large chunk of its fanbase and was virtually crucified for daring to criticize the President. A film about their experience with crazed, angry former fans (and their successful rebound), Shut Up and Dance, perhaps provided enough embarrassment that the public has backed off of those damn “activist artists.”
Or maybe the “shut up and sing” crowd has backed away because, as always, artists were right in their demand for regime change four years ago.
There are a couple of things that have been on my mind of late, and this always seems like a decent forum to vent my musings, particularly since I'm not in therapy. First of all, what exactly constitutes medical attention for an erection lasting more than four hours? Does a stereotypically sexy nurse, um, give you a hand? Or does a mummified doctor from the bygone era of bone saws that could drop an oak tree and hand-cranked skull drills apply leeches to the affected area and then show you pictures of Yogi Berra and golf videos to bring down the swelling, so to speak?
While we wait for an answer to arrive, let's move on to the other, perhaps more salient issue that I've been pondering. As everyone knows, the end of the year brings the Cincinnati Entertainment Awards nominations, which then inspires a good deal of grumbling speculation about who has gotten nominated and, more importantly, who has not.
Look, no one understands better than I the elation that accompanies being recognized for your work. Six years ago I nabbed second place in the Non-Daily Newspapers Feature Personality Profile category of the Ohio Excellence in Journalism awards. I know, right? At the same time, I can count on fingers and toes the number of letters I've received over the years about things I've written, and many of those have been from the subjects I've written about just to say thanks.
My prized correspondence was from now-deceased Rolling Stone/Billboard editor Timothy White for getting the title of his Beach Boys biography wrong in a piece I wrote about Dick Dale. I had cited White's book as The Nearest Faraway Beach, largely due to my love of the Brian Eno song, "On Some Faraway Beach," and partially because I jotted down my notes in Joseph-Beth Booksellers when I was in the throes of a flu that would have eaten a vaccine for an appetizer. White's book was, in fact, The Nearest Faraway Place, and in it, he mentioned that Dale had been born in Beirut, Lebanon, among other interesting tidbits about the legendary guitarist. When I asked Dale about some of the entries in White's book, he countered with, "Does it say Dick Dale was born in Lebanon?" (he referred to himself in the third person, a lot). I said that it did, and he responded, "Then throw that book in the garbage."
It was a great quote so I used it in the story, which prompted White's letter, where he first corrected my idiot error and then clarified that he had interviewed Dale personally at a time when White speculated that Dale thought being born in Lebanon would make him seem more exotic (he was of Lebanese extraction), but when Beirut became synonymous with terrorism, he claimed Boston as his birthplace. All in all, though, he was very complimentary about the article.
As usual, I digress. As much as people love being hailed for their accomplishments, they are stung when they feel they've been passed over, for whatever reason, and that's completely understandable. It becomes slightly problematic when people demonize the process in an effort to explain their absence from the end result.
Here's the thing; those of us who comprise the nominating committee try not to take ourselves too seriously, but we are very serious about the task of establishing these nominations on an annual basis, for a variety of reasons. First and foremost, we love music and we respect the people who make it. We also feel it is extremely important to recognize great work and to share that recognition with the entire music community.
And that's pretty much it. We don't have an agenda to push. We don't nominate our friends (although our friends sometimes get nominated). Speaking for myself, I really try to set personal feelings aside when the time comes to look at the past year and determine who has done work worthy of CEA recognition.
Of course, that determination is open to a certain amount of subjectivity. We are human beings, after all. That's why we cast our nets as far as we can, to make sure the nominating process is as fair as humanly possible. Is it a perfect system? Not hardly. But I think we've gotten it pretty close to right. This year we involved the public in the process and that helped widen the focus even further, but there still seems to be a certain amount of dissatisfaction about the nominees and conjecture about how they got there. In the final analysis, it boils down to a few simple facts. If you're nominated, congratulations; you've distinguished yourself in a music community that I honestly feel is one of the best in the entire country. If you win, huzzah and holy shit, you've further distinguished yourself within a formidable slate of your musical peers.
And if you're just a spectator, keep working. Keep doing what you do. The accolades are nice, but put things in perspective; at the end of the day, the CEAs are a party with door prizes. Prestigious door prizes, but door prizes nonetheless. And whether you're a winner, a nominee or neither of the above, don't allow your recognition or lack thereof to overinflate or devalue your sense of what you do. What matters is the work. Your work. Whether it garners you a nomination or not.
It's the same in any field of endeavor. How many painters wind up in museums in their lifetimes? How many athletes give their lives over to the sports they love for an almost microscopic chance to get a plaque in their respective halls of fame? Celebrity, wealth and notoriety are all fairly illusory. What matters is the work.
The immortal and forever great Frank Zappa may have put it best: "Information is not knowledge. Knowledge is not wisdom. Wisdom is not truth. Truth is not beauty. Beauty is not love. Love is not music. Music is the best."
And there it is, in it's simplest and most potent form. If you are out there, turning words and melodies in your head into real music with your hands, heart and soul, you are contributing to one of the best things in life. Awards are the icing on a cake that doesn't necessarily need to be iced. When you make great music, we are the winners. And we'd like to thank you. And God and our families and friends and our eighth grade English teacher who said we'd never amount to anything, because he was sort of right. Thank you.
When I was 12 or 13, my dad told me a joke that has, over the years, become one of my all time favorites. A drunk is standing in a doorway to get out of the rain, and a guy and a woman are standing on the corner in front of him, waiting for the light to change. The guy leans over to the woman and says, “Tickle your ass with a feather?” And the woman says, “What did you say?” The guy replies, “Typically nasty weather.” The woman laughs, they strike up a conversation and walk off together. The drunk thinks, “That was amazing! I’m gonna try that!” Pretty soon, a woman stops on the corner, the drunk lurches out of the doorway, sidles up to the woman and says, “Hey! Shove a feather up your ass?” The woman says, “I beg your pardon?” And the drunk says, “Fucking rain.”
When I looked out of my window at around 4:30 this afternoon, I thought about that joke, particularly the punch line. Luckily, the rain passed through relatively quickly and cleared to a large extent, giving us a nearly perfect night two of MidPoint 2010.
Lightnin’ Malcolm is an emerging driving force in the genre of underground Blues as a member of the North Mississippi All-Stars and also as a solo artist. Alongside counterpart Carl Gentle White aka "Stud" on drums, the dichotomy of their two styles produces a rough, soulful sound that reminds folks of Blues legends like Lightnin' Hopkins and Howlin' Wolf. Audiences should be prepared to dance, party and delight in Malcolm’s deep Mississippi sounds tonight at the Southgate House Revival. Malcolm is opening for and playing alongside the North Mississippi All-Stars. Showtime is 8 p.m.
CityBeat: I know you have an album coming out on Sept. 10. Can you tell me a little bit about it?
Lightnin' Malcolm: Well, it is 14 original songs and they have quite a few different styles on them. It is all based on my style, which is based on the hard driving, raw boogie North Mississippi Hill Country style. It is mostly (the) guitar and drums duo but we add some horns on a few tracks. We have Luther Dickinson playing slide on a few songs. So it is a pretty good mix of stuff.
CB: I was listening to some of it this week. I love “My Life is a Wreck.” Can you tell me the story behind that song?
LM: Well, that is a semi-autobiographical piece. One of my greatest influences was T Model Ford and he recently passed and that song was based on a style he had on the guitar. His grandson Stud is playing drums with me now. That was the first song we did in the studio. That was his first song recording and I thought it was a great way to feature it. My music depends on a great drummer. Drums are so important to the music and he is one of the best. I have known Stud since he was like 1 years old. He grew up watching me play drums with his granddad. He knows the style of drums that I like, the raw, four on the floor, predator style, no messing around. Just raw and making people dance. By us knowing each other so long, he is like my little baby brother. We have this chemistry together that works so well.
CB: I watched some videos of you two playing together. It is super high energy and looks like a lot of fun.
LM: Yeah, that is the key to it all. We don’t have to hit a note exactly right or (do flashy) guitar solos. We just try to create as much … fun for the people as we can. We just want to see people party and have fun.
CB: How old were you when you picked up your first guitar?
LM: I was about 10 or 12. Before that, I really wanted to be a drummer. I used to beat on buckets and pots and pans, put the radio on and play along with them. I didn’t have any actual drums and I finally got a hold of a little piece of guitar. I didn’t know how to tune it or nothing, but I fell in love with the strings in my hand. It took a while to learn how to tune it because I didn’t have anybody around me to show me at that time. Once I learned how to tune it, I started learning pretty fast. It just became everything to me. I look at the guitar like some people look at The Bible. It is like a vehicle for something later. I leave Earth. I can go on a vacation in my backyard with a guitar. I can escape to a whole other world with it.
CB: I know you eventually moved to Mississippi after growing up in Missouri. How did you hook up with some of these great guitar and Blues players in Mississippi?
LM: I just made friends with them. They saw something special in me, I think. I wasn’t trying to blow them off stage. I didn’t ask them many questions, like how to do things. They noticed whatever they played, I could play back. They hadn’t seen too many white guys, or any guys, that could do that. So we just made friends. It was pretty easy. Those were the kind of guys I wanted to be around. They really took me in. They were really nice to me. They never said I wouldn’t be able to do it. There was everybody else saying, “You won’t be able to do it.” They were the guys saying, “You got it. Stick with it.”
CB: Alive or dead, what one person would you want to collaborate with if you could?
LM: That’s a good question. I think, you know what’s funny, there are a lot of people outside of the Blues I’d like to collaborate with nowadays. Of course, like, John Lee Hooker is one of my all time favorites, Howlin' Wolf, there are so many Blues guys. Out of living artists, I’ll tell you a guy I love right now, two guys I love, they are more like R&B. (One is an) artist named Lyfe Jennings, I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of him, he’s fucking awesome, he’s so sincere. Another guy is Anthony Hamilton who is a Soul singer. To me, even though their style is way different than mine, those are guys I really hear singing where I’m like, "Wow, they really hit the ceiling." You don’t hear it that much anymore. Everybody is using effects. You really don’t hear that wail in that voice. Otis Redding had that, you heard his voice and you just had to see him. You don’t hear anybody like that anymore. I know people wouldn’t expect that from me, but when I am riding down the highway listening to music, those are two guys I really listen to, that I look up to and would be great to collaborate with.
CB: That leads me into another question. There has been so much publicity recently around Pop music with Miley Cyrus and the VMAs. To me it shows how much more important it is to keep really authentic Blues music in front of people. What are your thoughts on that?
LM: I agree with that. I’m out here fighting the good fight doing what I can. It’s not always easy. People have to support what is going on. If people start throwing their money at garbage, you’re going to end up with a lot of garbage. I can’t speak for the next person but I can say this — there isn’t enough hours in the day to listen to great music. There is all the great music you can listen to. There is definitely no time for nonsense. I don’t waste time listening to stuff that sounds like garbage. That’s just me.
My drummer, Stud, he’s young. He was watching the awards the other night and I was laying on the couch trying to sleep. I didn’t miss much. The hours in the day are precious. I would use them wisely. You don’t have to listen to garbage. That’s about the best I can do. If anybody can make some money doing something, good for you, I don’t mean it the wrong way. If you ask me about serious music, there is great music out there being made. It is just underground. Maybe it is too real for people. I am not the expert on this type of thing, I just know what I like, I listen to what I like. Even when I was a kid in school, I was listening to way different music. I was listening to Lightnin' Hopkins and John Lee Hooker and would tell the other kids, “You have got to hear this. Check it out.” They just said, “Whatever.” I thought maybe when they grew up they would understand.
CB: What can the fans expect from you guys at the Southgate House Revival show?
LM: We are coming to rock y’all. We want y’all to come and have fun and dance and boogie. We want you to get in the groove and forget about everything in the outside world for a couple hours and get in the zone. We want to have a party for y’all. Being on stage can be the funnest thing in the world when it is going right. When it is going wrong, you just want to disappear. It is a funny thing. When it is right, it is right as a motherfucker.
Ted Nugent has been putting audiences in a stranglehold since he started touring nationally in 1967 with his crazy, energetic Rock & Roll. He's probably best known musically for giving us unbelievable, unstoppable guitar riffs, like the one featured in his smash hit “Cat Scratch Fever.” But he's probably more recently known best for his off-stage actions and antics. The outspoken Nugent is a confident free-spirit who prefers hunting wild game with big guns and lobbying for patriotism and his Second Amendment rights than blending into society's status quo.
Formed in 1978, Classic Punk band Social Distortion reached the height of its fame in the late ’80s and early ’90s. The band has seven studio albums beginning with its iconic Mommy’s Little Monster. Although there has been over a dozen ex-Social D members, the group — known as a touring juggernaut (sometimes at the expense of making new music) — has maintained a lineup that has been fairly consistent for the past decade.
CityBeat caught up with rhythm guitarist Jonny “2 Bags” Wickersham in anticipation of Social D's current tour. The group performs at Bogart’s on Saturday (Oct. 13) night and will surely wow fans new and old.
CityBeat: I know Mike (Ness) has said in the past we won’t have to wait seven or eight years for a new Social D record. Are you guys working on new music right now? How is that coming along?
Jonny Wickersham: In a perfect situation we would love to get a record out sooner than we have been putting them out. I don’t know that it looks like it will happen real soon. We have been really busy touring the last couple of years. As far as new material there are always new songs in the works. We will work on them at sound checks and rehearsals. When it comes time to get serious to put a record together, the songs that stick in our minds are the ones that are the best stuff and they typically make the record. We will finish it up. We will see. Conceivably we can get together and start really getting serious in the beginning of next year and have a record to follow shortly after that. It has to feel right. I have always felt it is a good thing not to rush records. I know that people like to see a record come out on a certain schedule with bands, but it is also good to evolve a little bit as people and as a band in between albums.
CB: You spend most of the time as a touring band on the road. Do you ever write down the tour stories or keep mementos from the tour to remember them all?
JW: I have never been a big journal keeper or anything like that. I don’t. Certain stories definitely do stick in your mind but not really.
CB: What current music or music you are listening to right now is currently inspiring you?
JW: You know what a really great record is, the new Hot Water Music Record, have you heard that?
JW: I have been listening to a lot of that in my car.
CB: Good driving music?
JW: Oh yeah. It is such a great album. It really is good. I also like the Drive By Truckers a lot. I don’t listen to a lot of new music to be honest. I listen to a lot of old Blues and stuff and old Rock N Roll.
CB: From your standpoint, what are the characteristics that make a good Social D song?
JW: I would have to say a good riff and a good lyric that is poppin'. You can’t go wrong with a good lyric. You can try to stretch that a bit, not just stay with our formula as a band. We have a different division of sounds with the band. We are not trying to re-invent sound in an extreme manner or anything but it is good to try to mix it up. I am hoping in the future, in the stuff coming up, we can do that and re-visit some of the earlier stuff.
CB: We are heading into a critical election year. Ohio is a crazy place to be during this whole thing. Do you guys have any political views or support for any of the candidates?
JW: Well, I am going to vote for Obama and hope for the best.
CB: What is the worst job you have ever had?
JW: I don’t know. I had a job at the Orange County jail once a long time ago. We had to cut the bunks down from three bunks to two and carry them all out to the loading dock and get them out of the jail. Any job where you are locked up is not a great job. I had so many jobs growing up. I started working in construction fields at a really young age because where I come from that is just what you did when you got to the age of going out to get a job, try to get a construction trade. I have also worked at Carl’s Jr. and Burger King as a teenager and neither one of those jobs lasted more than a couple weeks. I have worked as a stagehand. I have worked in an Art Department building sets for film production. Those are cool jobs. I really liked the Art Department work. Any job that anybody could have at this point is a good job is kind of how I feel. I definitely never want to think I am beyond any kind of work. You never know what is going to happen in life. There are times where being able to get any job is critical for you.
CB: Do you have any scars?
JW: I have a scar on my upper leg. When I was a little kid, me and a couple friends built this bicycle Motocross track on a dirt lot by our house in our neighborhood. We went out and worked really hard with shovels and built this really cool track and the enemy kids down the street, who were our nemesis, came over one day when we weren’t there and totally ruined our track, kicked in all our berms and jumps and trashed it. So we went down the street where they had built this really shitty tree fort that was like three stories tall off the ground into the tree. We went up there and we started hammering at it, we brought sledgehammers over and we started bashing in their tree fort. The stupid thing on our part was that we started on the bottom and climbed up to the next level and up to the next level. We were breaking this tree fort apart and we were way up at the top and the thing collapsed. I fell and my leg got clipped up on a nail. It ripped my leg open so I have a scar. I have a bunch of other scars too.
CB: What is the last thing you do before you go to sleep?
JW: Well it depends. Turn out the television if I have been watching the television. I don’t always watch TV at night. Sometimes I do. If I am on the bus on the tour, I listen to music on my iPod. The last thing I do is turn that on and I usually fall asleep listening to a record. Then I have to wake up and pull the headphones off and fall back asleep. If I’m reading a book, close the book and turn out the light. It can be one of many different things.