Schooley Rouses the Rabble at the Sympathy Showcase
John Schooley: Hard Feelings, Hard Thoughts
I know no one more straight-razor serious about proper rock noise than John Schooley, the driving force behind Austin’s premiere garage outifit, the Hard Feelings. Straight outta the nothing of Niangua, Missouri, he helped craft the greatest band Columbia, Missouri’s ever known, the Revelators, who musically mugged the Oblivians at the Down Under Bar at their first-ever gig and waxed We Told You Not to Cross Us (click for our review)
for Crypt Records, a raging slab of venom topped only by Ike Turner and the Bottlerockets (barely) in the annals of state rawk history. After the Revelators unfortunately self-destructed, Schooley packed his six-string and headed to the Lone Star State, where his new band’s Sympathy for the Record Industry release, Fought Back and Lost, chewed through Garage Nation like a pissed-off wolverine. The band’s sophomore release is imminent.
Schooley pulls no punches. Nevertheless–or should we say, consequently–the Reverend decided to wade into an interview situation last month, armed only with an inquisitive mind and the desire to bring some excitement to the congregation…..
You’ve been at “the rock and roll thing” for a long time for somebody so
young. What first lit that fire in you, and how have you kept it lit?
Well, actually, I always thought I got a late start. I was always interested in music, but I didn’t have much access to it. I grew up in an isolated, rural community (Niangua, MO, pop. 450, Sa-lute!) I had wanted to play guitar for awhile, but my folks didn’t wanna drive me somewhere to take lessons (the next biggest town being 15-20 miles away) so I didn’t start until I turned 16. I never got a chance to play with anybody else until I was in college, I just practiced in my bedroom. I always figured most people were in bands in high school, but there was really nobody to play with.
So the Revelators was the first band I was in. I had been playing long enough by then that I kinda knew what I was doing, and I had been doing it in isolation for so long I didn’t have anybody who tainted my “vision”, (ha ha). And actually, my One Man Band 7″ on Goner was the first record I ever did, it came out awhile before the first Revelators single. So the die was cast, so to speak. I was doomed from the beginning!
It helped that the Revelators enjoyed some moderate success right off the bat, so that was encouraging. Since we did put out a record, and get to tour, I wasn’t ready to quit when the other guys did. I was just getting warmed up.
What distinguishes the Hard Feelings, your current band, with the plethora
of other so-called garage rockers out there?
We mean it!
Ha! To elaborate a little, it seems like there are lots of bands out there right now that are jumping on the “rock” bandwagon. Some of these bands are loud, some of them are fast, some of them play hard. Some even play loud, hard and fast. This is enough to fool the average dumbass into thinking he is watching a rock n’ roll band. And he is, but it’s a BAD one. I think what separates us from these other wankers is
1. We actually have SONGS. Bands used to have these long ago, now they mostly have gimmicks or a formula or sumthin’. I think every song on the album is good, no filler.
2. Good guitar riffs. Repeating the same thing twice does not make it a RIFF. A riff is something that makes the song!
3. Some distinctive musicianship. I like to think I have my own guitar sound. Trey’s one of the best drummers around. And when you hear the new album with Will’s playing on it, you will be impressed. We aren’t afraid to actually play our instruments
and, finally (and perhaps most importantly)
4. We have ROOTS. Most bands sound like they never listened to anything past a few years ago, so you get a third or fourth generation interpretation (of something that usually sucked to begin with!). And most people don’t know anything about music older than when they first started buying records, so both band and audience are in pretty shallow waters. We bypass the puddle of contemporary historical blindness to explore the lost rivers of American musical experience, from blues, country, and soul to unknown garage and punk rock. (We also like AC/DC).
You’ve always been pretty eloquent about what you do and what you like, so let me play devil’s advocate for awhile. One theory about garage rock is that it’s seeking after that “amateur epiphany” that you hear in so many ’60s groups (like, say, the Monks or the Sonics or the Music Machine), but that, in being self-conscious about something that lacked self-consciousness to begin with, it’s a doomed pursuit. What’s your take?
Well, I’d hardly say the Monks lacked self-consciousness at all! They very much knew what they were doing and the sound they were creating. I feel the same way. I’d be pretty pissed if anybody described my guitar playin’ as “amateurish”. I think this kind of attitude is what you get from people who think, say, Eric Clapton is a great guitar player. Their assumption is that technical competence makes for acceptable music.
I don’t know anyone in a so-called punk or garage rock outfit who is “holding back” so as to appear more amateur. It’s not like I can play like Yngie Malmsteen at home and I’m dumbing it down on stage. It has to do with a whole different attitude towards music, that drive and passion take precedence over the technical aspects. Some may just have a hard time accepting that we mean for it to sound that way.
The Sonics, Monks, all those bands knew what they were doing, they didn’t just stumble across their sound blindly. Their sound was a reaction against the bland pop of the day, a rejection of the status quo, or maybe it just made ’em fuckin’ happy. I think people seem to have a hard time accepting that you can make music that is simple, direct, and brutal like that and still be a thoughtful, intelligent person. People either seem to assume that it must take an idiot to do it and are interested in a sort of freak show way, or that it takes some sort of genius and are all misty-eyed and reverent. It’s really neither one. Incredible music can be made by normal people. Iggy, Jerry Lee Lewis, Bo Diddley, Hazil Adkins, Cap’n Beefheart, all the “greats” attain a sort of hero status. But it’s really a cop out ‘cuz if you think that way, then there’s no way YOU could do anything as worthwhile ‘cuz you are either 1.) a mere mortal or 2.) simply not “crazy enough” to be able to do something like that. The reality is that Iggy, Jerry Lee, and you and me all put our pants on one leg at a time like everybody else. That’s not to diminish what they’ve done, or to ignore the fact that they were some pretty forceful and fucked-up personalities. But in order to recognize that YOU have something to contribute, as well, you have to get past all that fan-boy baggage.
But I think what so-called modern “garage rock” has in common with it’s 60’s forebears is that the people makin’ it, at least those that don’t suck, are really doing it for their own amusement. I hope they all know enough to know they aren’t gonna be rock stars and be rich! It’s more like a modern folk music, moved from the front porch to the punk rock bar. It’s the same concept of making music for yourself and yer friends, but you can get more people drunk and turn the amps up louder.
How ’bout the possibility that striving for the perfectly raw sound reduces“raw” to a cliché?
Well, I can agree with that on some level. On the one hand, there can be alotta charm in recordings with less than perfect fidelity (Back From the Grave comps, etc.). One of the reasons we’re into punk and blues and rootsy musics is that we want to avoid the artificial polish of mainstream pop. (Or even mainstream so-called “roots” music- Keb Mo may be blues to some folks, but it sounds like pop to me. Yech.) On the other hand, I hear some bands that maybe are shooting for that Back From the Grave ideal and instead they make something that just sounds shitty.
Cost can be a factor. I mean, why is it “authentic” if a band 30 years ago made a shitty sounding record, but one this week does it and it’s clichéd? I’d love to go into a real expensive studio and take a week to record an album. I think we sound raw to begin with, you’d just get a much better recording of what we really sound like, our “rawness.” But that’s not an option money-wise for us, and for most bands in the “garage-rock/punk” world. I mean, every 7″ I’ve ever done has been recorded for free, either in somebodys basement home studio or on a boom-box or something. So it’s authentic, in that we were trying to get it to sound as good as we could with the shit we had available to us.
I like the Mummies, the Gories, Billy Childish, and these folks seem to make it work (and my One Man Band singles both really sound like shit). But generally I wanna hear everything that’s going on. Alotta the time a “raw” sound can just be covering up a bands lack of ability! I think our album is raw, but you can still hear everything. It’s the performance itself that’s raw. So sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.
What about the caveat that lots of the trademarks of garage (misogyny, stoopid lyrics) are indicative of modern guys pretending to know less than they actually do?
Once again, you may have a point, but I also disagree a little. I’m a fan of some of yer singer-songwriter types or some folks who are known for their lyrics (Dylan, Merle Haggard, Elvis Costello, Townes Vand Zandt, etc.), but I still like plenty of rawk with what some may deem “stoopid” words. The thing is, it ain’t poetry, it’s rock n’ roll! “Louie Louie” is not supposed to read like fucking Leaves of Grass on the printed page!
Here’s an exercise: take any great rock n’ roll song and write down the lyrics (if you can understand ’em). Fer example, take “All Day and All Night,” by the Kinks, which I don’t think anybody can argue is a great song:
Girl, I want to be with you in the daytime
Girl, I want to be with you all of the time
The only time I feel allright is by your side
Girl I want to be with you
All day and all of the night
All day and all of the night
Notice the lack of resemblance to Emily Dickinson! The words are worthless if you take ’em off by themselves, they’ve gotta have the riff, the beat, the screamin’ to go along with ’em. Not to say that some lyrics don’t hold up without all that, but the point is they DON’T HAVE TO, and even that they AIN’T SUPPOSED TO. Most of yer so-called “poetic” rock lyrics, usually liked by English majors or folks who want to appear smarter or more sensitive because they listen to A, B, and C, are crap! We’re talking about Jim Morrison and Morrissey, here!
Anyway, rock n’ roll is supposed to be visceral, dynamic, of the moment, an experience. Lyrics are just a part of it. Hearing Iggy sing “Nineteen sixty-nine okay, all across the U.S.A.” with the Stooges is not the same as seeing the words on the page. Not that rock can’t be intellectual, but it can be over-intellectualized. I generally find it’s yer so-called “rock critics” who need to have some “intelligent” lyrics so they have something to write about. And some indie-rock wankers need these to prove how smart they are to themselves and their friends.
And yeah, I like alotta songs with misogynist lyrics. If it works in the context of the song, it works, and some women will sing along with it and some will be offended. So be it. You gotta have a sense of humor about some of this shit, after all! Besides, hip-hop has pretty much taken the honor of being “most misogynist music” at this point. Most rap records make “Under My Thumb” or whatever might have been considered sexist at the time sound downright quaint.
Now, all that being said, I don’t really think my lyrics are misogynist or stupid at all. There are a lot of bottom-feeder bands out there whose “lyrical themes” center around drugs, sex, and clichéd aspects of rock n’ roll. Are these people genuinely as stoopid as they make themselves out to be? Well, maybe they are that stupid or maybe they are just playing to the audiences expectations.
I think it comes down to two things: image vs. music. Some people are into Johnny Thunders ‘cuz he wrote good songs, some people are into him ‘cuz he was a junkie fuckup who died, they’re into this rock n’ roll martyr image. I’m into music more than image, so I want a well-written song. The thing is, you can still write a good song about getting drunk, or being horny, or whatever tired “rock n’ roll” kinda topic that comes to mind, ‘cuz these things are still part of the human experience. It just takes some talent!
I know you’re a harsh task-master, and probably even more so with yourself. When you’re playing or recording, what does it take to produce something you yourself can live with?
Actually, I like things to be loose, I don’t care if you can hear the mistakes as long as the feeling is there. I’ve never had a lot of time in the studio, it’s always been a git-in-&-git-out-quick situation, so I usually have to settle for getting through the song without fucking up too bad. That makes a good take: not TOO MANY fuck-ups.
Live, I like it when bands are sloppy. I don’t think The Hard Feelings are usually that sloppy, but we can be. I assure you, depending on the beer intake, the potential is there! I think the key is that you practice enough that you have shit down, and then you just cut loose and try to have fun with it live. I don’t sweat the small stuff.
I know that, economically speaking, the music you make isn’t a going concern. Being a veteran of two of the coolest garage rock labels (Crypt and Sympathy), were you able to turn much of a profit and, if not—if making a simple living doesn’t keep you going, what does?
A profit? (Insert laughter here) I’m always surprised when some delusional folks think we make any money! I could’ve gotten the same return on my “investment” if I took all my money, pissed on it, and then doused it in kerosene and set it ablaze. I’ve never turned anywhere near a profit being in a band. You get some money here and there, but compared to all you spend in the long run you are way in the hole. Really, I try not to think about it that much!
Crypt made some pretense of giving you a royalty statement, but the Revelators never sold enough to actually get anything. With Sympathy, we never signed anything, it was strictly a handshake deal, and Long Gone John doesn’t even bother with the pretense of giving you a royalty statement. If he reprints the record, he’ll send us some more copies, and that’s all we can expect to see from it in the future. I’d say on our record Long Gone covered the advance he gave us, and he may have actually made a profit on top of that. So somebody is making something, at least. And Long Gone is pretty generous with the money he gives you up front, unlike a lotta other labels, so I got no complaints.
With most small labels, and I’m talking about the ones small enough to be in our ballpark, all you get (if you are lucky) is enough dough to cover the recording expenses and maybe a pittance on top of that. And they put out your record and give you some copies. They print (maybe) a couple thousand copies of the record. So you aren’t gonna see any royalties, ‘cuz they may recoup the expenses (i.e.: the pittance mentioned above) but after that there won’t be much left. You make some money selling yer records off the stage, usually enough to buy gas to get to the next town and get some tacos.
That’s it. And that’s with Crypt and Sympathy, the “big” labels. Most don’t even give bands that much. Most small labels also go out of business on a pretty regular basis ‘cuz nobody buys their releases!
So, it’s pretty obvious that it AIN’T about the money. The way I look at it, most of the bands I love were never very popular and never made any money. I mean, some, like the Stones or CCR were big, but overall we’re talking about bands that nobody cared about then, and nobody knows about now. I’m grateful that these folks bothered putting out records, because their music means a lot to me, even if I never got to meet them and tell them that. I guess I’m just doing it assuming there are people like me out there who will find it and dig it. So this will sound lame, but it’s for the fans! I’m a rock n’ roll fan, and I’m making music for people like me and my friends!
And, it’s also a chance to do something creative that will maybe outlast you. A good rock n’ roll album lasts forever. I was reading the liner notes to that recent Saints compilation on Raven and the writer was talking about seeing one of the Saints’ first shows at a Communist party function. Think about that: The Berlin wall has fallen, Communism is dead in it’s homeland, but people are still listening to the Saints! And ask Chris Bailey and Ed Kuepper if they ever made any dough. Or guys from a lotta my favorite bands. Ask John Felice. Or Jeff Connoly.
When the Revelators first started out, I asked Steve Mace if Untamed Youth ever made any dough and he just laughed, too! He pretty much said we were doomed, and I remember his words quite clearly: “You’ll never make shit playing garage rock. It’s all for the glory!”
Were you pleased with the reception of your first record, Fought Back and
Well, everybody who’s heard it seems to like it, but of course I’d like it to reach a wider audience. I think we are hindered by our lack of a gimmick. No matching outfits, no fire breathing, no black chick lead singer, not Scandinavian. It’s a problem for some, ‘cuz there’s nothing ‘cept the music.
With no gimmick and a maybe a record that’s a little subtle that you have to take time to get into, no reviewer is gonna care! That’s why you should never trust record reviews – they get them for free, listen to ’em once, and they prob’ly have a big stack of ’em to go through. So of course what sticks out is the gimmicky shit. With us, there’s nothing to write about, just three guys in jeans and t-shirts. There’s no angle! We’re a pretty straightforward rock n’ roll band, so there’s not “snob appeal”. We do reference alotta things (country, soul, r&b, blues, rootsy shit etc. that indie-rock types avoid like the plague) but I think that the average rock critic or punk zine writer isn’t familiar enough with that stuff to appreciate it. We are both too lowbrow and too highbrow at the same time!
But I say put “Fought Back and Lost” up against any so-called garage rock, punk rock, or indie-rock release to come out in the past couple years and it will totally slay and lay waste to it! It is a good record, I feel pretty confident. So even though we’ll probably never be any more popular than we are right now, I’m satisfied.
What inspires your songwriting? Do you start with music first or lyrics?
A little of both. Usually, it’s the guitar riff first, and then I’ll come up with a melody line. Then I’ll just sing with that melody and see what words fit. Sometimes it springs forth fully formed, sometimes we’ll play a song live for quite awhile before I actually finish writing the lyrics. I’ll have an idea, a topic, for the song and then just see what I can come up with. Most of the clubs we play have shitty PA’s, so live you can’t hear the vocals anyway. So that gives me a chance to play with things and see what works. Usually a “hook” will come to mind, and I just have to fill in the blanks.
Is there a song you’ve written in particular where you’ve really hit the
ball with the fat of the bat, so the speak?
On the Hard Feelings album I really like “We Need Another Vietnam”. I got the idea from a Bart Simpson quote, and I think it’s just hilarious. A very broad indictment of the youth of America, who deserve it. It seems to be a popular live number, it’s our usual set closer. I never get tired of playing it.
I also liked “Roger Peterson’s Blues” ‘cuz it was an attempt at a “story song,” at least in my mind. And it was written from the perspective of someone else, which made it an interesting exercise. I was reading a book about Buddy Holly and there was a bit about Roger P., who piloted the plane Holly, Valens, and the rest died on. I thought it was really interesting, and sad, that this guy was a footnote in history. He got called outta bed on a cold shitty day to go to work, died, and his death was totally overshadowed by the death of his passengers. And it added an extra tinge of tragedy that it was probably his fault, too.
Who are the guitarists who’ve most inspired you?
Link Wray is the main one. Before I heard him I was a bedroom wanker, practiced a lot of scales. I was mostly into classic rock. I was just getting into rockabilly, like Cliff Gallup and Scotty Moore, and somebody told me I should check out Link. I bought Missing Links Vol. 3 on Norton, on LP ‘cuz that’s the only way it was available and it was the only one I could find. I didn’t even have a turntable. When I finally played it, I started it on side two and played “Growlin’ Guts” ‘cuz I liked the song title. Immediately I knew I’d never practice a scale again! It was really a revelation, it was so easy you could figure out how to play it as you heard it, but it was so ballsy and so much fun. It was how guitar was supposed to sound. It was more punk than punk. I was hooked.
My other big influence is probably Hound Dog Taylor. He’s like the Link Wray of slide guitar! Quoth Hound Dog: “When I die, they’ll say ‘He couldn’t play shit, but he sure made it sound good!'” That says it all right there. And in keeping with that spirit, I’ve never sat down and tried to “learn” a Hound Dog song. I have all the records, but I can’t do like a note-for-note “guitar in the style of Hound Dog Taylor” impersonation. I also learned a lot from R.L. Burnside when I toured with him, and that helped my slide playing immensely.
And though I play some leads, I really think of myself more as a rhythm player. I guess from my Revelator days when I had to fill up all the space. So Malcolm Young is a big one, ‘cuz he is the best rhythm guitar player in the world. And R.L. plays great rhythm guitar, he can really lock into a simple groove that could just go on forever.
So those are the big ones, but I’m a (reformed) guitar nerd, and a record collector nerd, so I’ve listened to A LOT of guitar players. Bukka White is a big one as far as slide. Grady Martin’s playing on Johnny Horton’s early records kicks my ass. Travis Wammack. Johnny Ramone. Paul Burlison. Ike Turner. Danny Gatton. Billy Gibbons (the solo on “Just Got Paid” is what made me wanna play slide in the first place!). Angus Young. Ed Kuepper. Lots of players.
I know you’ve had some interesting touring experiences here and abroad, with both the Revelators and the Hard Feelings. What have been some of the highlights of your life on the road, and, as someone who has to work for a living…how do you do it?
Getting to tour Europe was the biggest thrill, it was also the first real tour the Revelators had ever done. Crypt paid our way. We were with the Oblivians, a band I really liked, and so we got to see Europe and see the Oblivians every night.
The sights and smells of Europe! I remember in Rome we played this hippie punk squat, and couldn’t find a bathroom that didn’t make us nauseous. We had to go out in this vacant lot/field to take a dump! Making shit like a bear in the middle of Rome. We played in front of probably 1000 people at that show. We got to see Paris, Germany, we went to about 10 countries in two months.
The tour really made me a lot more aware politically, after seeing Sweden and Holland and all the countries with more socialist economic systems. It was eye-opening to see how much better the average person lived there than in America. The quality of the floors we were sleeping on were much improved. Then we came back to the U.S.A. and did a miserable month and a half tour. That pretty much broke up the band.
I’d love to get to Europe with the Hard Feelings, but we’d have to buy our own tickets over there and then hope we made enough from the shows to make that back. We can’t really afford to lay out that much cash with no guarantee right now.
The Hard Feelings have done some brief U.S. tours, we’ve hit the west coast a couple times. I know, having lived there, that I can avoid the mid-west and the Revelators toured the east coast and nobody cared, so the west coast looked like the best option. We’ve been decently received. We played the Vegas Shakedown, and we played to more people at that one show than at all the shows on our tours combined!
We haven’t done any extended tours like the Revelators did, ‘cuz that seems to be just a good way to drive yer band into the ground. It’s a catch-22, ‘cuz you can’t reach more people if you don’t tour, but if you tour too much your band breaks up or you get burned out. You can’t make any money doing it unless that’s all you do. Otherwise, you have to quit your job so you can lose money for a couple weeks.
I’ve tried to keep our tours short, so we can keep our jobs. We use our vacation days, ask for time off, fake family emergencies, etc. Touring for an unknown band these days is trench warfare. You can stick your head out to fight a little, then dive back in the trenches where it’s safe. Or maybe guerrilla warfare is a better metaphor. If you launch some big campaign to take over North America you’ll be defeated. You have to sneak around, do a little damage by skirmishing here and there, and then get back home to lay low. We are an underground band, and always will be, so guerrilla warfare is our only option.
I know you probably don’t wanna talk about this, but what’s the chances we’ll ever see the 2nd Revelators record? (EDITOR’S NOTE: We’ve seen it, and it is GREAT!!!)
Tim Warren claims it’ll come out this year, probably September. I wrote some liner notes for it. There is even an ad for it in the new Gearhead. But he about went broke doing these new Pagans reissues, if those don’t sell the Revelators album won’t get released. So if you wanna see the 2nd Revelators LP, you better buy Shit Street and the Pink Album!
Your one-man band singles are the cat’s ass (click to see our review of the latest one). I’m lucky to have ’em both–how can the curious but unlucky obtain ’em? Any more in the future?
The Goner one is out of print (and going for thousands on E-bay). The new one you can get from Goner’s web site or from Ball Records directly (PO Box 152,Gardiner, ME 04345).
I’ve been messing around with the one man band shit a lot lately, since I moved out of an apartment and into a house. Now I can be as loud as I want. I’ve added a snare drum, and I play a little harmonica as well. I should have enough material for an LP pretty soon. That should annoy lotsa folks. I figure the one man band is the only way I’d ever be able to make any money touring, and it would probably be more popular ‘cuz all the records (by necessity) would all sound the same! I’m pretty much reached the conclusion that too much variety just confuses people. They want every song to sound the same, or they don’t know what to think. The one man band could be my cash cow!
You’re a pretty voracious reader and record-collector. What’ve been some books and records that’ve been keeping you alive recently?
Just finished Noodling For Flatheads by Burkhard Bilger. The concept sounds shakey (New York writer travels the south in search of “lost” southern traditions) but he’s good and pulls it off. Great essays on cock fighting, squirrel brain eating, catching catfish with your bare hands, and a marble game called Rolley Hole. I’d recommend it.
I picked up a few AVI re-issues of various artists (Wynn Stewart, the Hightower Brothers) that I was missing. Anything that AVI re-issed is good, and they’re all out of print, too. Sometimes you can find ’em as cutouts or markdowns. Whoever it was at MCA that deleted all these records (when MCA bought AVI) should be hunted down in the street.
Also recently picked up a cd comp of Moon Mullican called “Moon Over Mullican” that’s his more rock n’ roll songs. It’s pretty incredible.
But mostly I’ve been listening to Bo Diddley and Jerry Lee Lewis, ‘cuz I finally nabbed the out-of-print Charly box sets for both those artists. I like the Bo one better as far as sequence, ‘cuz it’s more or less chronological, whereas the Jerry Lee one is grouped into various categories by cd (all his country covers on one, all his r&b covers on another, etc.). But both of ’em are killer and it’s such an overload of music to have all at once that it’s hard to take it all in.
Your championing of unsung rock and roll bands have led me to some great listening experiences. Any bands you’ve played with or been exposed to you feel are worthy of better exposure?
Just saw Tyler Keith and the Preacher’s kids. Their record is great and they killed live. It’s Tyler from the Neckbones’ new band. It sounds like the Neckbones, but without the Soul-Asylum sounding tunes. Tyler always wrote the most trashy songs, and was the craziest on-stage. And now it’s all his show. They are brilliant, but I’m afraid nobody is gonna care because they are on an “americana” label (Black Dog) and I don’t think the people who’d like it are gonna hear it. And the Neckbones never got any breaks, they never sold many records and I thought they were a great band. The Revelators played with them some, both bands were active around the same time, and I think more people know about the Revelators than the Neckbones. (That should give you some perspective: lesser known than the Revelators!) So “featuring ex-Neckbone Tyler Keith” isn’t gonna be much of a selling point for most. But they rock.
The Deadly Snakes record was one of my favorites from the last couple years. Talk about records that sound like shit! But it works, and I saw ’em and they rocked mightily. I’d like to see ’em getting the kind of attention that the White Stripes are getting.
The Country Teasers just came through town again not too long ago, and I always enjoy seeing ’em. They’re the other white guy band on Fat Possum that didn’t sell diddley-squat, but I dig ’em.
Jon Wayne just played here, too, and it was one of the better live shows I’ve seen for awhile. Talk about a totally underground band. I’ve never seen anybody review them, never even seen ’em mentioned in print. But the place was packed, and everybody knew the songs, so word got out somehow. Very drunken show, very funny, lotsa fun.
I’ve heard mixed reviews about what it’s like to be a musician living in Austin. How’s it for you?
Well, I for me it’s great, especially compared to Missouri. People actually go out to see music here, there is a healthy scene as far as bands and clubs. Emo’s has improved a lot in the past few years, the guy who does the booking there now really knows his shit. Also, a friend of mine who used to book the Bates Motel is opening his own club (Beerland!) and it should be a great place to play.
And there are quite a few good local bands around town and in nearby cities.When we tour, I always hope we’ll play with some cool band I’ve never heard, but usually it’s an endless parade of lame combos. I haven’t seen any town that can sport as many cool rock n’ roll bands as Austin. I hear Detroit has quite a few, but it’s too fucking cold up there, so I haven’t seen for myself. Texas has a fine roster: The Crack Pipes, Damn Times, Titz, Big Foot Chester, Deadites, Sons of Hercules, Gospel Swingers, Boozers, Teen Cool, Ignorance Park, lots of bands that can provide a good evenings entertainment are from around here. Also, there’s Sweatbox, a great studio that’s pretty cheap. Bands come from all over to record there. As far as making money, it stinks, but I never made any money in Missouri and at least we can attract a crowd here.
My friend D.B. Harris is a honky-tonk country singer here, and it’s harder for him ‘cuz he has to pay his band every night (he uses some of the same players as Dale Watson). Austin also has a good honky-tonk scene but it’s pretty competitive. The “professional musician” types might have a hard go here, but if you give up the idea of ever making any dough (like I have) you can have a good time.
Austin is changing, the tech boom hit it like it hit San Francisco and raised rents and the standard of living. I’m hoping the music scene will survive, but it has been tainted by lots of yuppie bullshit (if you ever hear the name Bob Schnieder, RUN!!!). Luckily we exist so far from the mainstream that we don’t have to worry about Dell and Intel tech-yuppie types flooding our shows. The scene we’re a part of has survived and I hope it will continue to do so.
What’s the current activity on the Hard Feelings’ radar screen?
We’ve got a new single coming out on Dropkick, the Onya’s label out of Australia. It’s got an original on the a-side and a Flamin’ Groovies cover (“High Flyin’ Baby”) on the flip.
We’ll record the new album this summer. Will is real anxious to get an LP out with his bass playing on it, ‘cuz at this point he’s been in the band longer than Andy was but it’s still Andy’s picture on the cover of the only record.
I want the new album to be shorter, probably only ten songs, ‘cuz I think the first one suffered by being too long. All the songs were good, but people’s attention span starts to wander after too many songs, so I think some of the tunes get overlooked. I’d also like to be able to spend a little more time on the production.
I can’t really describe it in too much detail, ‘cuz of course we haven’t recorded it yet. But we’ve got lots of new songs, some in a familiar vein and some a little different. At least in that they have more chords or are shooting for a different mood or whatever. Not a radical departure, but I’d like to think we have a distinctive sound as a band and so anything we do is going to sound like The Hard Feelings. When the White Stripes were in town, I asked Jack White about his next record, ‘cuz Long Gone had said it wouldn’t have any slide guitar or blues songs on it. He said yeah, that was the case, ‘cuz he didn’t wanna repeat himself, didn’t wanna make the same record twice, etc. I told him we were plowing the same tired ground with our next record! There’s something to be said for originality, but there is something to be said for consistency as well.
How would you describe the Hard Feelings’ mission in the rock and roll universe?
The Hard Feelings are a real rock n’ roll band. Our music is not for poseurs, squares, or lames. We will not dumb it down to make it more accessible, we will not fatten it up with pretensions to make it seem more intellectual. We play music which is rooted in country, blues, punk and other forms of American roots music, but we never try to outright copy or imitate those who came before us. We play rock n’ roll for those who like rock n’ roll. Our mission is to annoy as many folks who don’t as possible!
What are your Top Ten Desert Island Discs (as of today)?
I dunno, I’ve listened to all of these so much I’d probably get sick of ’em if stranded with ’em, but here goes I guess if you’re looking for an “all time favorites” kinda list…
Saints – Wild About You (Ha! This is really cheating ‘cuz this collection
has their first three albums on it).
Link Wray – Mr. Guitar (Norton collection)
Bob Dylan – Blonde on Blonde
Hound Dog Taylor and the Houserockers – s/t
AC/DC – Live at Atlantic Studios
Bo Diddley – Any of the Chess albums
Jerry Lee Lewis – Live at the Star Club
Slim Harpo – Hip Shakin’ (AVI collection)
Captain Beefheart – Safe as Milk
Heartbreakers – L.A.M.F.
Ahh, I hate this kinda shit! No room for the Oblivians (Popular Favorites) or Tennessee Ernie Ford (Ol’ Rockin’ Ern)! Or George Jones! Soloman Burke! Jerry McCain! My desert island would have to have a large record library.