Some words with Ian McLagan…

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We shared these words with Mac many years ago. I just reread it and it made me laugh many times. I had to share it. Mac always had time to talk to me when I saw him. He would makè sure I got introduced to everybody backstage. I will miss him. RIP MY FRIEND

 

AUSTIN DAZE: Why did you choose to be in Austin?

IAN MCLAGAN: To be honest with you I didn’t choose Austin so much as I was choosing not to be in Los Angeles any longer. My wife and I had been there sixteen years and I was on the road a lot of the time and she was stuck there while I was on the road and she didn’t like it any more than I did, but I was hardly there as much as she was. One day she called me, I was on the road, it was a Sunday, and she said, “I just heard gun shots and I could smell the gun powder.” I said, “That’s no good.” And then the earthquake in ’94 happened and they said that was the big one that we had all been waiting for to relieve the pressure. And the next day they said that wasn’t the big one. And we just said, “That’s it.” We left the next month to come here. And you ask why here? Well it has to be a music town and LA really wasn’t a music town. It’s good for recording but not for live music. There’s no overall friendly music scene. New York: too expensive; music scene, but too expensive, Chicago: too cold, Boston: much too cold, Seattle: music scene but English weather, San Francisco: earthquakes. Nashville? No f**king way. No music scene; no restaurants. Memphis: great city but you know. Miami: no f**king way. No music scene; temperature, all the same. So it was obviously Austin.It had to be Austin. No regrets.

AD: It just grabbed you.

IM: I’ve heard it said more than once: It’s a friendly town.

AD: How did the Bump Band come together?

IM: Well I had a BUMP band in LA since about 1980. I made an album called Bump in the Night-it’s from an old college prayer,

From ghoulies and ghosties
And long-leggedy beasties
And things that go bump in the night,
Good Lord, deliver us!

So that’s the title of the album and I thought, Oh it’s the Bump Band. And Bonnie Raitt came into the studio to check out the studio and we were recording and she liked the band. So she asked if we would play a couple of tracks and if we would record with her and see if she liked us still. She did so we played her album, Green Light. And then we went on the road with her as Bonnie Raitt and the Bump Band. So I just kept the name. Those were different players: Ricky Fataar who is playing drums with her now and Ray Ohara, a Japanese bass player. When I moved here I toured with Bonnie in Japan and we came and rehearsed here and then went off to Japan. And Don Harvey was his drummer-he had the Austin Rehearsal Complex (ARC) then. He and Wayne Nagel owned the rehearsal complex. I called Harvey and said, “Do you still play the drums?” And he said, “Yeah.” I said, “You’re my drummer. Now I need a guitarist and a bass player.” So he found me Scrappy. They’ve been with me almost 13 years. And Mark Andes joined three and a half years ago.

AD: What is special about an Austin audience?

IM: Well the thing about an Austin audience is that they come out to see you. I’ve had residencies in LA. I played Monday night at the Mint for ages and we got a decent crowd, but here it just clicked. People come out and they tell their friends. People support the music. People seem to really appreciate it. There are so many different kinds of music here. In LA, they have a band because they are trying to get a record deal. I’m not trying to get a record deal-not that I would get one even if I tried. It’s not important-the thing is to play. Everybody in LA it seems is a recording musician who has a band because it’s something to do with his evenings. But you can’t get people to come out.

AD: What are your thoughts when you hear Austin is the “Live Music Capital of the World”?

IM: I laugh. I call it the “Live Music Capital of Starving Musicians of the World.” The great thing is it’s true there are a lot of great musicians here but the musicians kind of figure they are going to just make music. Like, also, “keep Austin weird.” Leave it alone. You don’t have to keep it weird or make it weird-it has its own qualities. The variety is what makes it. I noticed that when I first moved here. You’d find a car body shop next to a church next to a café next to a bar next to a house. There’s no plan, it seems. That’s kind of good in some ways.

When I moved here people were coming here less for awhile there because a lot of the people that were moving into Austin were computer people maybe from Korea, Japan, India-anywhere-and they weren’t particularly music fans. I remember playing with Steven Bruton at Antone’s for awhile and we played to five or six people and they were computer geeks. “What is this?” But I think it’s gotten better. I mean the fact is, I was in Musicmakers ten years ago or so and this guy was talking to the guy across the counter and I said, “Where are you from?” And he said, “Finland.” And I said, “What are you doing here?” And he said, “Antone’s.” And I told Susan Antone that recently, actually just after Clifford Antone died, we were having lunch. It’s a fabulous thing that someone would come from Finland just to be here. They don’t come to Dallas or Waco. They come to Austin. To Antone’s. It’s important.

AD: Tell us your thoughts on SXSW.

IM: I think it’s a great thing but I just think there’s too many bands. Basically, limit it to bands that aren’t signed and let talent surface. Each year it’s more. The best year I had my truck broke down after playing the Lucky Lounge on a Thursday night. I’m outside on this beautiful night and I’m embarrassed. I’m thinking, look at me, and everyone’s walking past. But then I had more conversations that night than I’ve ever had. I saw Ian Hunter. I just stood still and they all came past me and I’m thinking I’m going to break down every year.

AD: You’ve played with everyone. Who has been the most fun?

IM: I won’t play a gig unless it’s going to be fun. I’ve turned down work because I don’t like the music or I don’t like the person. But the most fun at the moment: Patty Griffin. Very much fun.

AD: Who is the most difficult to work with?

IM: Least fun, Lenny Kravitz. I just did two quick shows with him and quit-I just knew I wasn’t going to like it.

AD: What makes a really good show for you?

IM: With my band? I attempt to have a good show every night. I work towards a show the whole day. My first waking thought is, show tonight. It’s like butterflies. I have every intention of making every show as much fun as possible because that’s my chance to have the fun. I don’t play for money. Every night is an attempt to have as much fun as possible.

AD: What advice would you offer a musician just starting out?

IM: Don’t sign anything until you get a lawyer to check it out. Understand your contracts, I never did. At the same time, I probably wouldn’t have made it if I had looked at my contracts. Sometimes it’s good that you don’t know and you get ripped off but you get that kick start. If you’re good, if you’re part of a really good band you’re probably going to get ripped off a bit anyway. Someone’s going to get behind you and think there’s money in this and they will make money and you may not make the money-they will-but you’ll get a kick start. Advice? Make sure it’s fun. Don’t do it for the money. Don’t do anything for the money because you’ll be disappointed, you won’t get the money probably, and you’ll have nothing. The music’s got to be what drives you. I’ve heard guys say, “I started the music because of the girls.” Girls are incidental. I got the girls later. I loved the music.

Sundaze Conversations #8: Matt Hubbard

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Get to know Matt Hubbard with us. Matt really has some cool things to say. I have only recently come to know him. Whîch is weird because I like the guy and also we have been on the scene for much of the same time. I wonder how many times we crossed paths. One thing I have learned from him is that you don’t need to return used ear plugs after a gig… Thanks Matt for sharing words. Our team this time was Alexîs, Rockslide and me (transcribed by Alexis Mathews) Thank you for reading…

 

AustinDaze: How did music become a part of your life? What influenced you? 

Matt Hubbard: Well, my parents had a piano before any furniture. I was born in Ann Arbor in 1970 and my parents were broke students but they bought a piano.  My twin sister and I started plinking on the piano probably around one, or something like that.  We took piano lessons at five.  Never wanting to be a professional musician or anything, I was just having fun with my sister.  We were always in church choirs, and I was in high school and junior high jazz band on trombone, and had a lot of other experiences in school which helped me play music.  I was in tons of bands in high school, then went to Oberlin Conservatory and got a composition and electronic music degree.  The summer after I graduated I attended the P-Funk show at the second Lollapalooza in Detroit, Michigan.  I had this vision of all these golden streaming lights around Austin, Texas, so I moved here.

AustinDaze: WAIT! You had a vision in Detroit, at Lollapalooza, of lights in Austin, during George Clinton? That’s awesome.

MH: Well, I would say he was partly responsible for the vision, but it was about 4AM when we made it back to the campus of Michigan State University where my father was a professor of biomechanical engineering. Dad invented the HANS device that protects auto racers’ necks.  He worked for General Motors before that and developed the crash test dummy head you see all the time. The dummies are on the cover of George Harrison’s last record…it’s his face.

AustinDaze: That’s amazing!

MH: So I can say my father was on the cover of a Beatles record. His face… sorta.

AustinDaze: That is too cool!  So, can we go back to your vision? A vision of Austin, Texas?

MH: Well, I was just looking up in a clearing in the woods, me and some friends, ‘cause Michigan is full of woods so it’s hard not to wonder amongst the trees.  I just looked up and saw North and South America, and sort of a map, and all these golden streaming lights coming around Austin.  I also heard there was a lot of music here…

AustinDaze: I’ve seen you play the organ and trombone. What came first? Ummm….(“He’ll read anything on the teleprompter. ANY THING…”-ANCHORMAN)

MH: Well, obviously piano came first, and then you usually start trombone around sixth grade, because your arms have to reach a certain length to maneuver the slide.  I think most band programs start in fifth or sixth grade. I wanted something that had no keys because I was so angry about having to take piano lessons all the time.  I was pretty good as a kid, and I was fortunate that my piano teacher Deena Agree taught me classical and jazz theory starting in third grade. I still pretty much use that knowledge today. I haven’t really gotten must past that actually.  So trombone was later but I learned how to play harmonica literally around the campfire.  My mom taught me some guitar chords when I was in ninth grade, and I ended up playing bass.  I played bass in several bands, like Paul Nelson and Calvin Russell. So… I play a lot of instruments. I got a theremin in the mail yesterday so we’ll be adding that to Golden Dawn Arkestra right away.

AustinDaze: So do have a favorite band you are playing in right now? 

MH: Not really. Well I play sporadically in 7 Walkers with Bill Kreutzmann, The Dead drummer, George Porter Jr. and Papa Mali. I’ve often played with older guys and you learn from them. We played a gig this past August 1st, a private party in Connecticut and that was a lot of fun. Wally Ingram was on drums as well as Bill. Keller Williams played with us too, as well as Eric McFadden and Colonel Bruce Hampton. I’m also in Greezy Wheels, I just joined that classic Austin Band.  I’ve been playing with the Texas Mavericks along with Speedy Sparks, Alvin Crow, his son Jason Crow, John X Reed, and Hector Molina, all of whom played with Doug Sahm at some point except me.  I recently had the honor of joining Edie Brickell and the New Bohemians at a reunion show in Dallas and look forward to working more with them.  And of course I’m in the Matt Hubbard Trio which plays every Wednesday at the Continental Gallery 8:30-10PM… I brought you a poster!

AustinDaze: Cool!  

MH: I’m also in Lechuza with poet and wife Martha Fowler and Mario Matteoli from the Weary Boys and his wife Cayce from The Preservation.  We are finishing up our second record as we speak.  It’s a haunting sound that reminds me of the Velvet Underground and Mazzy Star.  I know I’m in some other bands, I probably forgot…oh, and the Golden Dawn Arkestra, duh!

AustinDaze: Oh yeah! Of course! 

MH: And that’s kind of a bizarre on-the-rise project.

AustinDaze: How did you get involved with the 7 Walkers? 

MH: Austin briefly had a Hard Rock Cafe on 6th street, do y’all remember that?

Austin Daze: I remember hearing of that briefly… 

MH: Yeah, nobody really went in there. It couldn’t compete with the local businesses so it closed.  I was playing there with Jane Bond and we were opening for Jerkuleez which was a short lived instrumental funk project with Scrappy Jud Newcomb, Papa Mali, and Bruce Hughes.  Papa Mali said, hey, I like your sound, let’s work together sometime so I think about a year later I played with him.  He met Bill a short time afterwards at Oregon County Fair, and Bill’s then girlfriend soon to be finance and now wife Amy said, “Hey you need to check out this guy Papa Mali.” So they jammed all night and had a blast and then Bill wanted to form a band and Papa Mali asked me to be a part of it.

AustinDaze: So you have the Matt Hubbard Trio, you have Golden Dawn, what do you like better? Do you like a big group or a small group? 

MH: Well, it’s just like different sports. I went to Interlochen music camp and music school in Northern Michigan. I was playing the end of summer honors concert or something with literally  200 people. I was just playing trombone in this huge orchestra, and I thought I could be playing ”Old Rugged Cross” and no one would know!  I prefer a smaller combo, like basketball where there’s five people on the court at one time.  That’s always fun because with less people there is more room for spontaneous deviations and improvisation.  Golden Dawn Arkestra is a very special project as well with an element of organized chaos. I don’t really have any preference. I still play solo, but I would say my limit is like, 200 people… {laughter}

AustinDaze: {laughs} Okay, so no more than 200 people. 

MH: When I play at the Continental Gallery with Brad Houser and Robb Kidd every week, you know I can pretty much play anything I want and go anywhere and they can follow me.  That’s also true in a band like Golden Dawn because there is basically a framework for a party, and the party can always take different directions, and you have a lot of leeway doing sound effects and jumping around and stuff. So, that’s fascinating. But then I was in a band Fastball, briefly, which has very tight structured pop songs. So you know, every different gig and size of gig has it’s challenges and there’s no one favorite, or least favorite.

AustinDaze: Okay, well speaking of challenges, in Golden Dawn you guys are costumed, so how do you guys play so well with your faces covered by a costume? 

MH: My new one, which I have in the car, is sort of a third-eye weird goggle thing that Echo the dancer made for me.  It doesn’t cover my mouth at all, just my eyes, with these weird sunglasses with a third eye reflective surface…

AustinDaze: So you can’t see? 

MH: I can see, so it doesn’t really effect my playing at all. Robb Kidd, the drummer, has his face completely covered in a sheet, so he looks like a weird wizard or something, but since he’s not singing or anything it’s not a problem. Obviously the horn players have to have their mouths open.  Josh Perdue who plays guitar has sort of a veil on but doesn’t have to use his mouth.

AustinDaze: But when you’re playing in a band with five or 10 people, is it important to see the other players for visual cues as to… 

MH: Well… you’re in sort of this telepathic field, where you don’t have to see necessarily. I mean, blind musicians play like Stevie Wonder who’s show I will be attending in late November!

AustinDaze: Well, give us some advice from what you’ve learned in the music scene over the years, and for other musicians who are giving this a try.

MH: You mean specifically the Austin scene?

AustinDaze: Yes and…..

MH: Or of music in general? Hmm… I guess try to do your own thing and don’t try and be like everyone else, you know what I mean?  There are so many singer/songwriters in town who just strum a guitar and try to be like Townes Van Zandt.  That’s cool but I think trying to be different is probably a good idea. ‘Cause, you know, no one is going to be Willie, no one is going to be Townes Van Zandt, but you can be yourself.  The same is true for a lot of institutionalized jazz players who are so hung up on studying Charlie Parker and Coltrane, which is great, but you also have to be yourself too, not just emulate others.  Having the courage to discover who you are is always a journey in any style of music and the arts.

AustinDaze: Well, I know Willie Nelson is in your family, how does that relationship help you grow as a musician? And what have you learned from that relationship? 

MH: Um, well what I’ve learned from him is a lot. I met him recording his daughter Paula Nelson because I’m also a recording producer and eventually was running his home studio in Luck, TX. We recorded two albums that were up for Country Album of the Year Grammy, “The Rainbow Connection” on Island and “Run that By Me One More Time” a duet record with Ray Price on Lost Highway.  I’ve recorded with him on dozens of album projects, voiceovers, and duets.   Willie’s the real deal, he’s not fake at all. It’s not an act and no one scripts his public statements. He just takes the responsibility of being a star very seriously. He always tells people if you’re a star and in the public you have to be honorable 100 percent of the time.  Always do the right thing, it’s a huge responsibility you know?  Look, most of his friends are dead, but he’s still going strong. Still trying more than anyone at his age.  He’s definitely family-oriented and you know I have a 14-year-old son with his granddaughter Martha.  Willie is definitely a genius and a role model, but also a real person.  There is no BS-ing him, he can read anyone.  He is also very forgiving and wants to have peace in the world.  He’s a great role model of how to handle success, because it drives most people crazy when you’re that level. I mean, look at Michael Jackson, or whoever else you want to look at… Willie went through that insanity and came out the other side stronger. The same challenges would  totally diminish some people.  Willie’s from a poor background and was taken care of by his grandparents.  They lived a hard life in the Depression era, and a hundred dollars is still a lot of money to him. He’s very generous of course, but he doesn’t take anything for granted. I mean I could go on and on about what he’s taught me.  His faith in my abilities has given me confidence, obviously, and I’ve played on so many huge stages, under a lot of pressure.  That’s where I thrive, where I function my best so I never really get stressed out. I’m never afraid on stage, never have been you know. Fear has no part of me as a musician. I know that no matter what I face I can handle it.  That’s a great feeling to bring onto stage and I know it helps other people feel confident on stage as well. It’s a unified organism. Especially in Golden Dawn. And that’s something in Golden Dawn I push.  I keep saying this band has a huge potential.

AustinDaze: And it does!

MH: Yeah, I’ve been in a lot of buzz bands you know, played on Black Joe’s first record, “Bitch I Love You,” that’s me playing piano… I’ve been here for 20 years as of October, I moved here in October of ’94.  I’ve recorded a lot of stuff with Willie Nelson, 7 Walkers, meeting everyone in the world, so, you know, I think Golden Dawn could be a good third act.  Along, with of course, my Matt Hubbard Trio {laughter} every Wednesday at the Continental Gallery!

AustinDaze: John {Branch} was saying that was his favorite gig to play, the Continental Gallery.

MH: Well, it’s great.  Sniz and friends, the guys from the Greyhounds, are on Wednesday’s after me and it’s a huge jam.  Gary Clark Jr. sat in with all of us the other day. Tons of musicians stop in and I’ve played up there in the past with Charlie Sexton and David Garza and like everyone, you know?  So now I’m doing my own thing and about to release my own album.

AustinDaze: When will that come out? 

MH: Well, this year, it better! I recorded it with John Bush who along with Brad Houser play with me in Greezy Wheels.  Brad Houser is in the Matt Hubbard Trio as well and and they’re both from Edie Brickell and the New Bohemians. John actually produced my album and played percussion and drums on it as well as Robb Kidd on drums and Brad on bass. They are awesome.

AustinDaze: I think that’s all I had… Is there anything you want to add? 

MH: You know, I wanted to say that one of the hugest influences on me musically is George Porter Jr. the bassist from the Meters and also 7 Walkers.  He’s the total professional, and a role model musically and personally.

It’s a really exciting time in Austin as a musician now. Music and art are sacred to me and I think it can bring world peace.  That’s my main philosophy.

AustinDaze: Well that’s a good note to end on, world peace. 

MH: {laughter} Alright!

Sundaze Conversations #7: Dianne Scott

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Get to know Dianne Scott with us. We sat down with Dianne outside of The Continental Club just before Planet Casper took the stage.  To me and most people I know, Dianne is a part of the club.  Bricks, mortar, Steve and Dianne, etc.  I was excited that she agreed to talk with us. I am friends with Dianne on fb and was inspired to continue the “Fuck cancer” tattoo trend by getting myself branded in support of people battling this disease. Thank you Dianne. Our team this time was Belinda, Rockslide and me (transcribed by CC Bonney). Thank you for reading…

AustinDaze: How did you wind up in Austin?

Dianne: I had been a performer, talent buyer, booking agent, and band manager in Upstate New York. When I moved here in 1987 it was with the express purpose of working for C.B. “Stubb” Stubblefield. A radio DJ friend had given me Joe Ely’s first album. I was fascinated by the whole thing, including the photo on the back that was taken at Stubb’s first BBQ joint in Lubbock. Once I found out that Joe, and Stubb, and lots of other Lubbock and other well-known musicians were in Austin, that sealed the deal. I wanted to work for Stubb and meet all of them. And I did. Within a month of moving here I was working for him, and I developed a close relationship with him and many of those musicians. He loved introducing me to people because I got so excited about it! He took me to meet John Lee Hooker, and Bobby “Blue” Bland at Antone’s. Plus, people like Albert King, James Cotton, Buddy Guy, George Thorogood, and Tom T. Hall were regulars at Stubb’s when they were in town. It was intoxicating!

AustinDaze: Can you tell us the story about how you came to have one of the coolest jobs in Austin? Because not everybody gets to say they work at the coolest club in the world.

Dianne: Well, I was actually a booking agent here in town and a lot of the acts that I booked played here at the Continental Club. So I got to know Steve on a professional basis. And I knew that of all the club owners I had done business with, he was the one with the most fairness, and the most integrity. So this kind of became my home club where I hung out when I wasn’t working. And on the 5th anniversary of Steve having the club, at that time his current wife, Gabby, was the bar manager. And she called me that afternoon and asked me if I was coming to the club that night for New Year’s Eve. And I said, “Yes.” And she said, “Do you want to make some money while you’re here?” And I stopped for a second and said, “Doing what?” And she said, “Working the front door.” And then she started crying and she said, “It’s our 5th anniversary and we don’t have anybody to work the front door.” Ha ha ha. So I said, “Sure, I’ll do it.” And I worked the front door, then I moved to the back, and I’ve been at the back ever since. And that was 21 ½ years ago. Ha ha ha.

AustinDaze: Over the years, you’ve gotten to be around and met some really interesting people. What are some of your best stories you have?

Dianne: There is more than a handful, but the ones that come immediately to mind are the first year that we held our Wanda Jackson’s Birthday Bash. It was so spectacular because our dear friend, Rosie Flores, had just gotten Wanda out of retirement. And when she recorded her Rockabilly Filly album, she called on Wanda to come and do songs with her. So that South by Southwest, they ended up performing here together. And the following Fall, we had our very first Wanda Jackson Birthday Bash. And now we still have them every year. And then there was the time, also during South by Southwest, the back door opened up, and I looked and I immediately recognized the gentleman sticking his head in, and he said, “Um, I’m going to be playing here later, would it be okay if I came in and used your bathroom?” And I said, “Absolutely, Mr. Kristofferson, you are welcome to.” And meeting Robert Plant was wonderful, but having him come in the back door and say, “Hi Dianne, how are you today?” is the best. Hearing Robert Plant say your name is absolutely tremendous. And then there was meeting Dwight Yoakum. And there was having Buck Owens be here for his birthday bash one year. And seeing him with tears coming out his eyes while The Derailers were playing one of his songs. And hearing him duet with Kelly Willis. And having James Burton here. Having all these legends that I grew up loving, like Archie Bell and Roy Head, and Barbara Lynn and Barbara Mason, and all of these people, its just amazing that I now, in my 60’s, am meeting some of my heroes and actually getting to be friendly with them. Like Tony Joe White. He was just here. And I just ended up telling him that I’ve been telling everyone that he’s my boyfriend. And he said, “All right!” And that was pretty good by me. And there’s plenty more where that came from.

AustinDaze: Are you involved in booking these people?

Dianne: No, I don’t have anything to do with the booking at all, that is Steve’s and Celeste’s territory, not mine. What I do is the promotions and publicity after they’ve been booked. I write the Continental Confidential, which is our weekly newsletter. And I also do all of the PR. I do the press releases and I maintain the websites for C-Boys and The Continental Club and The Gallery. And I do all the social media sites, and I stay pretty active on all of those.

AustinDaze: So you’ve been around and seen Austin change so much. How do you see the changes affecting musicians in town?

Dianne: I think the affordability here is certainly an aspect of what made Austin so popular as a place for musicians to come and live and actually thrive with their art. Because first of all, there was no money to fight over here. So it became a very inclusive music scene, because there was no point in arguing over the $10 you were going to get paid at the end of the night. So everybody would show up at everybody else’s gigs and they were all very supportive of each other. And I see that fractured somewhat now, it’s not quite the same as it was. But then you let a musician get in trouble, and who’s there to help them? Every other musician in town. So there’s still a lot of that old ethic that still remains. But that’s the biggest change that I see is that the affordability has made it so difficult for musicians to continue to live here. The money still isn’t in Austin, the business still isn’t in Austin, it’s the creative process that’s here in Austin. So if they can’t be here, there goes the process.

AustinDaze: Well said. How do you feel when you think about our Austin music scene going global? For instance, Gary Clark Jr.

Dianne: Well of course, I’m especially proud of Gary. He’s a friend, and I’ve been watching him play at The Continental Club since he was 18 years old. So I almost have a vested interest in him doing well. And I love seeing our musicians getting the recognition they deserve. However, I know that it’s a double-edged sword. That along with it goes the accusations of selling out. And then you also have musicians who have lived in this Velvet Rut that is Austin, and now they’re having to face the cold hard truth of the real world. And they’re not being always told how wonderful they are. Sometimes they are being told they are a second rate somebody else, or they are not who they think they are. There is criticism now that was not so prevalent when they were in this Velvet Rut, as I call it.

AustinDaze: The musicians that move away seem to always come back.

Dianne: It’s true. Christopher Cross has been gone for 30 years and he is back. There are several musicians…

AustinDaze: Gary’s  coming back.

Dianne: Gary actually moved to New York because of his girlfriend, and he has never completely left Austin. As long as his parents and his sisters are here, he’ll always be back in Austin. Always. In fact, his father’s family grew up in the neighborhood right across the street, this was their home area.

AustinDaze: So your post about your cancer tattoo inspired me to get branded for all the people in my life that have been stricken with this disease. Have you influenced more people to get that tattoo other than me?

Dianne: There are actually several of us who have gotten it, and several more that say that they are going to get it. The actual “Fuck cancer” stamp was created when we did a benefit for Michael McCanless, who was known as “Fiddleboy,” and he was the fiddle player for Hank Williams III. When he was stricken with cancer, he ended up going on Hank III’s message board, and every day everybody would go on there and tell how they were going to fuck cancer that day. Sometimes it was, “Up the ass with a nail-studded telephone pole,” and sometimes it was something else. And so that kind of became the start of the “Fuck cancer” movement. So we had the stamp and it just got to the point where I started thinking, and one of our other doormen started thinking, you know, too bad that washes off, I guess it doesn’t have to. So we went next door and got our tattoos. The only difference between mine and some others is that I refuse to capitalize the “c” in cancer. I will never capitalize the “c” because I feel that words have power, and that particular word already has more power than it deserves. And so to take away some of its power I use a “smaaaall c” instead of a capitalized “c”. So Nick Curran when he got his tattoo done, followed suit, and there is another person who has done the same. But I highly encourage that.

AustinDaze: Is there anything else you want to add?

Dianne: Thank you Russ for keeping us in the news. It’s a wonderful thing that you do, it is much appreciated.

AustinDaze: Are there any other stories I should ask you about? Anything else you want to tell me?

Dianne: Boy, there are a lot of them I’d like to tell you, but I can’t. Ha ha ha.

AustinDaze: What do you think about the Continental Club expanding? It started with one club, and now there are three. What do you think of the expansion?

Dianne: I think that Steve is very, very good at what he does. What he has done is create a niche for all of his passions. This is his roots rock club, the Gallery is his jazz club, and C-Boys is his soul and funk club. He has managed to find a different place to suit all of his musical tastes, and fit more bands in! Because now in fact, C-Boys, you know it started out that we were only going to do music on Friday and Saturday night. Of course now its most Sundays, its Tuesdays, it’s Wednesdays, its Thursdays, its Fridays, its Saturdays. 8 ½ Souvenirs is even back for Tuesday Happy Hours. We also have Jitterbug Vipers doing a Friday Happy Hour residency. We’ve got all these different things going on. Sunday is devoid of residencies because that’s where we can do benefits and road shows that are looking for just a quick gig some place in town. We can put them over there on a Sunday night. So yeah, its shaping up very well.

AustinDaze: The TuesdaZe and WednesdaZe shows I’ve seen up in The Gallery are AlwaZe amazing!

Dianne: The Continental Club Gallery is an amazing space to begin with, there is something about that particular space.

AustinDaze: The acoustics are really good.

Dianne: Yes, exceptional acoustics considering there are so many windows, and all of that, and the high ceiling. But it has a really good sound to it. It is the perfect space especially for acoustic shows. And then there’s the Quarterly Tertulias every three months. It is a mixture of artists who are writers, poets, and musicians. They are given a theme for that particular presentation. And many of the musicians write to that theme, and then the writers write to that theme as well. We’ve had some comedy skits, and there have been what you could almost call some one-act plays, as well as the original songs. It is an amazing experience.

AustinDaze: All Steve has to do is open a coffee shop, and I wouldn’t go anywhere else!

Dianne: I know. I have suggested that we get Jo’s coffee to expand their kitchen to our Gallery. That hasn’t happened yet. But hopefully, eventually that’s gonna happen. Actually, I see the Gallery as a space very much akin to what Chicago House used to be. Chicago House during the 80’s and 90’s, downtown at 607 Trinity, was a music and art space. Music was divided into shows and open mic nights. Jimmie LaFave hosted the Wednesday open mic for ages. There was always art on the walls for sale, there were books in a bookshelf for sale. They served coffee and snack-type foods. And there were one-act plays, and poetry readings. And all of those things I see happening compatibly in the Gallery. But we haven’t moved quite in that direction yet. But it’s getting there. If Steve agrees to it.

AustinDaze: I’ve been at the Gallery just about every Wednesday. It’s so good, they always carry me upstairs.

Dianne: Well, I wish we had an elevator.

AustinDaze: Me too!

Dianne: Maybe somebody would donate us one of those ones that go on the stairway, and it could go up on the fire escape?

AustinDaze: Yeah, like at C-Boys. Well, thank you Dianne.

Dianne: Thank you.IMG_4165

Sundaze Conversations #6: Casper Rawls

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Get to know Casper Rawls with us. We sat down with Casper in the back room of my second home, The Continental Club. It was such an honor for me to share words with this legend. This has been a long time coming…I have known of him for a few years… If you know guitar players in Austin, you know this guy.  If you don’t, you must be new to the scene and I am glad you are here, reading this. Currently, Mr. Rawls owns the Sundaze afternoon residency at The Continental Club, with Planet Casper. Get over there and dig this show. Our team this time was Belinda, Rockslide and I (transcribed by CC Bonney). Thank you for reading…

AustinDaze: Can you tell us how you got involved with music and how you decided to make your life as a musician?

Casper: A lot of story right there. I’ve been playing music since 3rd grade. My dad bought me an acoustic guitar for my Birthday. We went to the toy store when I was in 3rd grade, and we didn’t have a lot of money, my dad was career Air Force. He told me I could have any toy I wanted in the place. And I picked the guitar. So I’ve been playing since then. My folks got me an electric guitar and an Alamo amp when I was 11. My first performance was around then for a Christmas/New Year’s party for our school at John T. Floore’s Country Store. That’s near San Antonio, a famous honkytonk. I ran into a guy from that first band at the grocery store about 10 years ago and he had a picture of us all playing there dated December 1966. Ever since then, I’ve wanted to play music and I always have off and on. I’ve had a lot of other jobs, and things, but I’ve always come back to music. I moved to Austin right out of high school in the summer of 1973.  A friend of mine I went to high school with, David Spellman, had a club over on West 5th I think. I can’t remember it was a lot of years ago; it was on the other side of Lamar right by the railroad tracks. Back in those days I was drinking quite a bit. High school and college years up until I quit around 1980 are kind of fuzzy because I was drinking a lot. I beg forgiveness from all the people who knew me back in those days, its a miracle I survived all that. Anyway, David Spellman first got me into playing music in Austin. I met up with a country band from a post on the bulletin board at Ray Hennig’s Heart Of Texas Music shop. I used to hang out there a lot. That band was called The River City Rounders and was led by a guy named William Johnson. He has passed now, but was always a big supporter of my playing, just a great guy. So I got into playing a lot of honkytonks with them like the Skyline Club, a place called Shorthorn Lounge, and Dessau Hall, they’re all gone now. They were old dance halls and bars. The Shorthorn was kind of a rough place, it should’ve had chicken wire around the bandstand, but it didn’t. And Dessau Hall was really a family place and the Skyline, well of course you know the history of the Skyline Club up on north Lamar, a very famous honkytonk. This was in the mid-seventies and I also played with another group called The Country Sound, a bigger country outfit. We played The Broken Spoke, Lumberyard and Silver Dollar Saloon. My friend Duane Hamilton was the drummer in that group and we recently played again together after all these years. Around 1977 I was hired to play in the house band of a club called The Shortline Station in McAllen, Texas. It was a big fancy dance hall and the band was led by a great honky-tonk piano player named Norman Swanson. We used to play Thursday through Saturday at The Shortline and me and some of the other guys played another club called The King’s X on the other nights of the week. We also played parties and dances in the daytime for all the winter tourists called snowbirds. At The Shortline we opened for all the touring acts like Mel Tillis, Ernest Tubb and Merle Haggard. Artists like Johnny Rodriguez, Mel Street and Moe Bandy would send their albums down and we would learn the music, be their band and back them up. I was down there about a year and a half and played some places that really did have chicken wire around the bandstand. Denny “Cletus” Blakely from the Hollisters was in that band too. Moved back to Austin, and got real lucky and a lot of people hired me to play guitar and I just continue to learn. To this day, every gig is a learning experience.

AustinDaze: Since you’re a master of both styles, which do you prefer, acoustic or electric?

Casper: Oh, it’s all music to me, I’m not a master of anything. I’m a master of learning. I’m a master student, I would say. I’m learning every day. I love to play acoustic; I love to play electric, whatever. I didn’t actually play a lot of acoustic guitar until I got the call from Toni Price. I never played much acoustic except occasionally on a session. And she needed someone to fill in on acoustic guitar. I didn’t even own an acoustic guitar since my little cowboy guitar that my Father bought me. So I went to South Austin Music, and they let me have one that I could make payments on because I was so broke. So I paid a little bit a month and finally paid it off. And when I paid it off, Billy Welker, my good friend at South Austin Music told me that guitar used to belong to Natalie Zoe. So I bought Natalie’s acoustic, I still have it, and have used it on a bunch of records. That’s how it works in Austin, it’s all connected.

AustinDaze: Another friend told me that you were a roadie for Supertramp?

Casper: Well, I wasn’t a roadie; I was on the crew, setting up the rigging. When I first started all that, I ran into a buddy of mine over there by campus where I was living. He asked what I was doing, and I said, “Well you know, trying to go to college.” I was going to UT, but I was getting my real education in the clubs around Austin like The Rome Inn and Antone’s on 6th. Anyway, they needed help and he asked if I wanted a part time job. I said, “Yeah, I don’t have a lot of hours, so I’d love to do it.” They had a big concert there off 290 with Peter Frampton and Carlos Santana, I don’t know what year it was, it was a big gathering up there, big rock concert. They said they needed some help setting up the speakers and helping on the stage. So I went to do that, helping out setting up the speakers. I got to have lunch with Carlos Santana. I was sitting back there eating lunch with Carlos Santana. Wow. Peter Frampton was on the show, and we talked about his guitar. He had a unique thing that hooked into the guitar so that he would play while he talked, and it would make a sound like he was talking through the guitar. He showed me how all that worked. Now I’m just a kid from UT, and was like whoa, this is cool. Fast forward a couple of years later when I moved back from McAllen I stopped by their shop to say hello. The company had just gotten the contract for the Styx tour, and one of the guys couldn’t go. So I went out on tour with them for the summer. That worked out okay; I went out on a full tour with them after that, like 115 cities basically rigging up speakers. Until then, speakers were just piled up on the side of the stage. Styx was one of the first groups that decided they wanted to lift the speakers up in the air, so people could see better and people could hear better in the higher sections of the arenas. And of course sell more tickets. So they figured out how to do that, the company I was working for, American Concert Sound, a guy named Bill Stephens. And he was the guy who initially hired me to work part time and help with the big rock show a few years earlier. He had a lot of faith in me. Basically, I went out on the road with Styx for about a year. Between Styx tours, I got hired to go on other tours with Heart, Kansas, Charlie Daniels, a bunch of folks. Amazing people. I was on the crew. So my job would be to set up this stuff up before they got there, and either fly on to the next date or stay there and tear it down. Most of the time we traveled on a bus the band leased that used to belong to Elvis Presley. We had a driver named Nowdy that used to be one of his bodyguards. Of course all this time I am still playing and practicing the guitar when I can. And all those bands were really supportive. I was still living in Austin, just constantly on the road. Around 1980 I moved to Mississippi to join a band with my friend Webb Wilder and Suzy Elkins. We had a band called The Drapes.

AustinDaze: Sweet. When was that?

Casper: It was 1980 through 1982. My mother got really ill, so I moved back home down to San Antonio after that group disbanded. She got stable for a while, and Supertramp called me to go on tour in the summer of 1983, and it lasted about a summer, so it was okay for me to go. So to answer your original question, yeah I did work for Supertramp. They were the greatest people you would ever want to work for. We used to fly all over Canada, they were really huge in Canada. And they would make us crew guys sit in first class. And they would go and sit in coach. They would give us their first class tickets. They were such great people; I have nothing but respect for them. Actually, one of the last shows they played was at the Irwin Center. After the tour was over, they broke up. That particular band of Supertramp didn’t want to do it anymore, so that was their last tour.

AustinDaze: So how did the Leroi Brothers come together?

Casper: Oh that would be another great interview, a whole book really The LeRoi Brothers. They were already going great guns before they contacted me. In the band I was in with Webb and Suzy, we came to play Austin at a place called the Back Room over there on Riverside. It was an itty bitty place. It was way different then, more of a singer songwriter’s bar for lack of a better term. And we played there and a couple other places, that band was called The Drapes, with Webb, Suzy and Gene Brandon who went on to drum for Omar.  And somehow the Leroi Brothers saw me play in that group. Don’t know what happened, but Don Leady left the band. The asked me to play a show with them around 1984 at a place called The Ritz on 6th Street. They cleared the place out of everything and put sand in there. They wanted to make the club like a beach. The band sounded great, but it was a horrible gig. Absolutely horrible. So I played that show with them and they had already been talking to Evan Johns about coming down to play guitar to replace Don. And Evan came down and played in the band. So I figured well, they’ve got it together; they got their path picked out. Then about a year later, I got a call from their manager, Gary Rice, saying we need you to be in the band. I don’t know how the band felt about it, but Gary said, “You’re going to be in the band.” I said “OK, we’ll give it a shot, if they like it and I like it, we’ll make it work.” My first gig with The Leroi Brothers was July 1985 at Liberty Lunch as a 4 piece. Joe Doerr had moved on. And I stayed with that group 25 years.

 

AustinDaze: Do you still playing with them, or do you and Steve play?

Casper: Me and Steve play. I left the group in 2010 I think, I don’t remember the exact date, summer I think, I got so busy with other things, Doyle Bramhall, Earl Poole Ball, James Burton and then I’ve got Planet Casper. It just wasn’t fair to the band for me to always not be there. So I made the decision to leave the group.

AustinDaze: Can you tell us the story of how you met Champ?

Casper: Champ I met with The Leroi Brothers early on. He would come and watch us play around town, when we were in town. We used to tour quite a bit when I first got in The Leroi Brothers. We were gone for months and months at a time. And Champ would come and bring his fiddle and sit in with us and play. He would always smile. Just being Champ. He would maybe sing one, just a real simple song with us, or just play on some of the Cajun-flavored numbers with us. And we would see each other around town. Not until I joined up with Kelly Willis did we become better acquainted. Champ and I played a couple of years with the Kelly Willis band. We went all over the place. We even went to Mexico, played a gig in Monterrey, Mexico. We played the weekly Toni Price show, played on all of her recordings and with whoever else would hire us. Champ and I played a bunch of shows together. I would say we played on a weekly basis, one or two times, maybe even more, a week for 10 or 11 years. We were always playing somewhere together, like when I would fill in at his regular Wednesday gig at Threadgill’s, or he’d call with parties, or a Union gig. I was real fortunate that he called me to fill in when somebody up there at Threadgill’s was gone. Like Marvin Dykhuis would be out on tour or Rich Brotherton wasn’t available. I was lucky to fill in up there. So we got to do a lot of playing. When young Warren Hood was … young. He still is young to me, but he was much younger then.

AustinDaze: Well, you’ve taken over Sunday afternoons with Planet Casper. Tell us what one can expect from a show, i.e. what are you trying to do with Planet Casper?

Casper: Planet Casper is a community gathering of my friends that want to come and play music with me. People I’ve worked with over the years and people I’ve always wanted to work with over the years. And of course the beautiful souls, who listen, dance and be a part. It’s my Austin family. It’s about getting together and playing pretty simple songs, nothing real hard, make it easy and just play and have fun. It’s a gathering, that’s how it started for me. We took over for Toni Price when she left for California. They wanted a real acoustic kinda thing because she had been doing the acoustic thing for so long. Steve Wertheimer called and said, “Can you come in and do something similar?” I said yeah, I’ll just call my friends that have been playing with Toni off and on through the years and played on her records and see if they want to do it, and other folks I wanted to play with forever. And so it just evolved from that. It became sorta like Toni’s deal. People kept coming every week, the same people. It evolved into a natural family. People that come all the time for 7 plus years now. God Bless them. That’s pretty remarkable. We moved from Tuesday to Thursday, then Thursday to Sunday afternoon. I am very grateful for Steve hanging in there with us and giving us the opportunity to keep going. Steve created the Sunday afternoon matinee for this show. He has the Saturday afternoons, of course Redd invented that. That was brilliant. Because there wasn’t music down here on Saturday afternoon. I don’t know if Guero’s was going, there wasn’t much until Redd started that.

AustinDaze: Guero’s used to do a Sunday thing on the front porch in the early 90’s. But in terms of a day gig, Redd’s Saturday is iconic.

Casper: For me it is, Saturday matinee on South Congress. Redd invented that. I’m grateful to him and Steve for doing that. I filled in on a couple of those Saturdays as well, and Steve said, well, let’s try it on Sundays. And so it seems to have worked.

AustinDaze: Do you know when he started that? It’s been a long time now.

Casper: I’m sure Dianne would know. It’s been quite a while, yeah. It’s an amazing thing. It just evolved for Redd and me with folks like you Russ, and everybody that comes and supports our shows. In my wildest dreams I would never think I could do something like this.

AustinDaze: Who are some of the people you’ve had play with you? I know you’ve had Scrappy, Marvin, Rich, Warren…

Casper: Sure, Scrappy, Marvin, Warren, Rich, Gurf Morlix, Shelly King, David Grissom, Robyn Ludwick, Rick Broussard, Ponty Bone, Carolyn Wonderland, Sarah Brown, most of The Derailers, Mandy Mercier, Webb Wilder. So many more, just a wonderful cast of friends. My friend James Burton has played with us a couple of times when he was in town. Albert Lee stopped in once, but didn’t feel like playing because he had been in the studio all day with Junior Brown.

AustinDaze: Any surprise people, eclectic people that have showed up, ones who stand out?

Casper: Recently, I’ve become acquainted with Susan Gibson. She’s fantastic. She came and just floored us. Especially me, because I wasn’t acquainted with her music except for her big hit record. My friend Aliya is a key ingredient in this, Aliya Rosegreen, she’s definitely the Keeper of The Planet. She made me a CD of Susan’s music and I was just astonished with the depth of it. Some of the guitar tunings, I was going like, “She really knows how to play guitar.” Carolyn Wonderland, she just knocked us out too…Robyn Ludwick, you know used to take care of the door here and now she makes amazing recordings. Tyrone Vaughan just tore it up, Gene Kurtz before he passed was so great.  I really love playing Cajun music with Charles Thibodeaux and I have a real musical connection with Shelly King. It just goes on and on. People I run into, I’ll ask them if they want to do it, and they’ll say, “Well, why not?” It works out really well, like today we have David Halley. I’ve always admired David’s guitar playing and his song writing. So you never know, I thought he might be polite and say he’d think about it. But he was like “Yeah, I want to do it!” Here we are years later, he’s been here several times. It’s just a great hang. And visitors have come from out of town, and this has happened multiple times, and they said, “You know, we’ve been in Austin for a week and this is the show we have liked the most.” And I was really knocked out by that. People from different parts of the world, “We’ve read about Austin, we’ve been in Austin for a few days and this is what we envision when we think about Austin music.” Oh yeah, and we’ve had Omar. I’ve known Omar since my early days here; I met him when he first moved to town.

AustinDaze: So how is the Kickstarter thing?

Casper: Kickstarter is kinda on hold right now. We’re going to start it up again this fall. My producer, R.S. Field is going to be free in December. We’re going to shoot for recording in December. But there is a way to do it online through Sessions on Mary. casperstarter.sessionsonmary.com I think. So it’s still going. Or you can go to my website planetcasper.com. I appreciate everyone who has donated, it’s amazing to me. John Loughran and Carol Cody have been instrumental in getting that together. Absolute angels. People have been so encouraging and so helpful. It gives me even more strength to get it going and finish it up. We got on hold because I got busy, the producer got busy, and I knew we couldn’t do anything until he was free. I don’t know if you know, but R.S. Field is a producer in Nashville, he produced Webb Wilder, Allison Moorer, Sonny Landreth, John Mayall, and Billy Joe Shaver. He’s the guy who nicknamed me Casper back in the mid-70’s when we were all hanging out at the Rome Inn. See that sign over there, Rome Inn? C-Boy used to run it. Bobby R.S. Field was the drummer for the original group Omar was in called The Howlers. That was a self-contained group. And Omar was the singer. So when that group broke up, Omar took the name and became the singer and everything else, it became Omar and The Howlers. But at that time, there were 5 other guys and they would all change instruments. One guy would play the horn, one would play piano, another would play guitar. Then they would switch. It was an amazing group I watched a lot at the Rome Inn. I spent a bunch of time at the Rome Inn, because I lived over by the Club on 29th Street. I first met Marty Stuart there when he was playing mandolin with Vassar Clements. And C-Boy was so cool, just a really great human.

AustinDaze: So that’s when you got your name?

Casper: R.S. Field, he named me Casper a long time ago. And it stuck in Austin. In my hometown, they don’t know me as Casper. I was just in Shreveport visiting some of my relatives and they don’t know me as Casper.

AustinDaze: Where did it come from, the name Casper?

Casper: You’ll have to ask R.S. Field. That’s your next interview. When R.S. comes here in December.

AustinDaze: So you’ve been here a while and seen Austin change so much. How do you see the changes affecting the musicians?

Casper: Hard question. I see it good and bad. Austin is always going to have a great component of cool music. It’s just getting harder to find because they are mowing a lot of the places down. It’s going to take some evolution for the music to find solid ground in all this growth. But it will. Of course over there in East Austin, they picked right up on it. So I have no worries about the Austin music scene. I miss the real cheerleaders though like C-Boy, Clifford Antone, Robin Shivers and Danny Roy Young.

AustinDaze: Do you think the grass roots thing might take over, things like Sessions on Mary, where people just say, “You know what? I want to have music, so I will just make it happen with no real commercial plan. We’re just going to have people that want to play music and you’re going to be here, and it’ll be awesome.”

Casper: I certainly hope so. I’m counting on it. That’s one of the beauties of Austin. People figure out how to do it. They don’t wait around for stuff to happen; they just go and do it. I’m remarkably upbeat about it.

AustinDaze: You’re optimistic.

Casper: Oh yeah, I’ve always been optimistic about Austin music. When I got here, I didn’t know anybody. I didn’t know anything. Amazing how far I’ve gotten in my life and career. Meeting all these wonderfully talented people through the years and getting to play with a lot of them. Then seeing them build their careers and go on to bigger things. I see that for the next generation as well. Is Austin changing? You bet, it always has been. Can musicians still afford to live here? I hope so, but that would be a whole other interview.

AustinDaze: If you could play with anyone you haven’t played with yet, who would it be and why?

Casper: Well, there are a lot of folks who have passed on that I’d love to have played with. Unfortunately, that’s not going to work until I’m lucky enough to get into heaven. That’s a good question. I’ve already been blessed to play with James Burton a lot. Talk about inspirational. I guess I’ve always wanted to play with Eric Clapton because he was a big influence growing up. Where I grew up, we were out in the country; we were in the middle of nowhere. There was a great dance hall by my house, and I’d ride my bike down there to John T. Floore’s Country Store and see and hear great country music. I’d just sit out there on the street and listen to it and actually meet some of the players. Just amazing. But somewhere along the way I got a record by Cream. And I loved that guitar playing. It made me really want to learn about blues music. Because it was approachable. I was listening to 45’s that my cousin gave me by Ricky Nelson with James Burton, Merle Travis, and Chet Atkins. That is really hard. You gotta really dig into that and know what you are doing. So I got into listening to Eric in addition to still trying to work out James Burton and Don Rich guitar parts. Eric Clapton opened the door for me to a lot of other blues guys that I later got to meet up here in Austin through Clifford Antone. I read an interview in Guitar Player Magazine about Eric, and he was talking about Freddie King, and I was lucky enough to meet and get to know Freddie King. And then he talked about Hubert Sumlin, I got to know him through Clifford over at Antone’s on 6th Street. So it’s just a big circle of wonderful music. Wild that a British guy led me to American blues players. So yeah, there’s a bunch of people I could name that I would love to play with.

AustinDaze: You’ve been doing the Buck Owens’ Tribute for a long time. How did that come about, that he played with you guys one time?

Casper: Well, I went out to interview Buck Owens with my friend Dan Forte for Guitar Player Magazine. It came out in the first part of 1989 I think. I am grateful that he let me tag along. I had written Buck before then, a couple of letters. Once after Don Rich died. And he wrote me back a real nice letter saying thank you for thinking of us; I appreciate you thinking about Don passing away. Then later on I wrote him one, I saw him in a magazine and he wasn’t doing anything, he was retired, and said, “What are you doing Buck? Are you going to play again?” He wrote a real nice letter back saying, “Yeah, I’m thinking about recording again.” So I went out to interview him with Dan Forte. And we talked and did the interview. Then The LeRoi’s made an EP with Charlie Sexton producing, we were going to tour Europe, so we made like a 6 song EP for our label in Paris. We cut this song called Rhythm and Booze. One of Buck’s rockabilly songs. Thanks to his keyboard player Jim Shaw, Buck heard it. And he called me up and said, “Man, I just love this track you guys cut, Rhythm and Booze, I just love it, I’m wearing it out.” And I said, “Cool, I’ve been out to see you Buck, and I’ve written you letters.” And he said, “Oh, you’re that guy!” He put two and two together, that I was the guy who had written him and been out to interview him. He put a face with the name. And that I played guitar on that cut. So we became fast friends ever since then. He was always accessible, it was great, you could just pick up the phone and if he wasn’t there or busy, they would find him. I always had questions about those recordings, the Capitol recordings, or about Don. He asked me to send him things I was playing on or projects I was working on. So I’d send him things. Sometimes I’d get a nice note back, “I like the guitar on that, love the singing, love the arrangement.” Sometimes nothing at all. It’s just a great thing to know you had a friend out there of that stature. We became good friends. We started the Birthday show and invited him. He showed up in 1995 and had a blast.

Austin Daze: Are there other young guitarists/musicians out there you’ve had a chance to play with that we should watch out for?

Casper: Yeah, All of them. There are so many gifted young players I would not want to slight anyone by only pointing to a few. Safe to say Austin Music is in some very capable and very talented younger hands.

Austin Daze:  Can you give us some wisdom or advice from what you have learned about making music I can pass on to other musicians?

Casper: First of all, I am the last guy anyone should take advice from. It is by the grace of God and the love of my wife Nancy that I am still earthbound. Buck told me to always be on time and wear a clean shirt. After fifty years with a guitar in my hands, that’s worked for me.

AustinDaze: Thank you very much.

Casper: Thank you Russ.

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oUr nEw CoVeR by Rockslide

This is the new cover by Rockslide. I Am so grateful to be on the same team. The DAZE is picking up steam again. We will release a new conversation every week… Thanks for reading. Get involved with us …

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Sundaze Conversations #5: John Branch

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Get to know John Branch with us. We sat down with John at Chez Russ. We talked music,friends and philosophy. And we laughed a lot. Three of John’s band are busting out nationally. We talk about that. With all of these positive things going on he is still just our friend, John; ”
people are just people…” Our team this time was Alexis, Rockslide, Gewel  and I.(Transcribed by Alexis Mathews)

Austin Daze:
So John, you are involved in three different bands on the verge of taking off. Spanish Gold and Hard Proof are on the ACL line up this year. And Golden Dawn Archestra, which is one of my favorite bands right now. What do you think of this popularity and how is this effecting your music?

 

John Branch: Right, I mean, I am very honored to be a part of three bands that are doing such cool things musically.  That’s definitely why I got involved in it. They’re all my friends, people I’ve played with for a long time and I think it’s great. The hard thing of course is managing a schedule but you know, maybe the consequence of getting older is you just use your calendar a little bit more {laughter} to figure that out.  There is definitely that crossover, more with Hard Proof and Golden Dawn, just because they are big bands.  I like those kinds of bands because the bands are the summation of a lot of little things happening all at the same time.  If you just did one part it wouldn’t have the same effect, but to get nine, ten, eleven people all on the same page, it’s a really powerful performance, you know? And with Golden Dawn, obviously it’s more enhanced with the visual aspect of it.  Hard Proof is more focused on the music where as Golden Dawn kind of has both and has more of a theatrical aspect.  Between all three I guess I should say, the other difference is in the other two bands I play guitar, in Hard Proof I play guitar and keyboard, and in Spanish Gold I play bass.  So, they’re all great because I get to do some different function within the band and contribute in a different way.  This year has been a big growth thing for me as a musician with other gigs I play.  Definitely my solo material I have been working on a lot this year as well.

 

Austin Daze: What’s really cool is that all three bands are so different musically.

 

John Branch: Yeah. Yeah, for sure. I mean the main thing I would say for sure with all three of them that is consistent is the groove. They’re all kind of danceable and they all kind of bring people together around a groove. In Spanish Gold, there is a lot more singing, there’s more hooks and chorus’, so that makes more people involved too. But if you go to any of those shows I’ve done the past six months, there’s always a sea of people dancing, they’re all tied in and they’re all kinda getting off. There’s other things that make each band individual and distinct but they’re all there because it’s a good vibe, groove, and not just in the sense of being a wild, crazy party, it’s more of an uplifting experience.

 

Austin Daze: How did you get involved with all the different bands?

 

John Branch:  Out of these three I first started playing with Hard Proof and I got involved with them maybe a little more than two years ago. For a little while I would sub, cause at the time there were two guitar players, and one of the guitar players played keyboard. So I subbed maybe two or three gigs over maybe six months playing one of those roles, where I was just playing guitar, or I played guitar and keyboard depending on which one of those guys wasn’t there.  Then Aaron, the sole guitarist, meaning he only plays guitar, he left for about five months for an internship for his graduate degree and he was in New York for five months so they needed a sub.  So he went and did that and I was just playing with them for five months just playing guitar.  Then when he came back they just said we really like what you do on guitar, you know, it was just another little element to the thing.  So, now it’s morphed even more to where there’s always two guitars and keyboard.

 

Austin Daze: Yeah.

 

John Branch: Yeah, cause if Gerardo is playing guitar, then I’ll play keys and vice versa. It’s better when there is some other kind of timbre, some other kind of texture going on. Gerardo does the Farfisa where I do the Wurlitzer.  They all have a distinct keyboard sound so that’s different.  And then Golden Dawn. I’ve known Topaz forever, we played together in Mudphonic, and we still do that every now and then.  He started doing that band {Golden Dawn} maybe, a year ago, and I played with him in his other project Hellfire Social, and then that led into Golden Dawn. He just started doing GDA for fun I think honestly just kind of to do something different.  I think it’s cool because it focuses on his strengths of what he used to do with just the saxophone, back to that afro influence he’s got and just kind of like chanting stuff, obviously still funky. I just said, hey man, I’d like to be involved in that anytime, and he just kind of approached it as a collective. It kinda still is although it’s more formulated, formed, come together more as just a big band, but not everyone that always plays is always on every gig.  He and Greg, the bass player, started working out ideas more regularly.  And then, Laura, she became involved, and the three of them are more the primary writers.

 

Austin Daze: Yeah, everybody in that band, everybody’s friends.

 

John Branch: Yeah, exactly, we…

 

Austin Daze: I love going to see y’all play cause everybody on stage is a friend

 

John Branch: Yeah, yeah, exactly, we’ve all done things and other projects and it’s cool to get everybody together.  Everyone really tries to make time and make it work when they can.  Sometimes, it doesn’t always work out but definitely more than 75% of the time I’d say we can get it together. And then with Spanish Gold, I’ve know Adrian Quesada for a long time, long time back to…

 

Austin Daze: Did Spanish Gold evolve out of, that, I forgot the name but it’s that band you were doing with Adrian awhile ago

 

John Branch: Oh, the Echocentrics? That’s a great project.  Echocentrics was really Adrian’s kind of solo project because it was all his music. Then he involved the singers.  He wanted to try a recording project. As he started getting things together, he wanted to perform and do it live.  Then that involves kind of another faction of musicians that all know each other and play together in bands. But Spanish Gold really came more from Dante, I think, contacting Adrian because Dante wanted to do a solo record and then he called Adrian just to bounce ideas off each other. They knew each other from, technically speaking from Laredo, but they didn’t really reconnect until a few years ago. Adrian knew about Hacienda.  Dante knew about Grupo Fantasma, Brownout, and those bands that Adrian’s involved in.  They were trying to bounce ideas about where to record and Dante quickly changed it to a collaboration. They were looking for studios {when} Dante came here to do some demos with Adrian.  Then Dante {said} I know a drummer who would be down for this.  So that’s how Patrick became involved.  They booked some time in Nashville for a couple of days and were literally like, lets just go record and see what happens. They tracked, like, half that record in a couple of days just being in the studio.  Dante had most of the song ideas.  He’s the lyricist.  The other guys bring the groove and kind of the production of things together. The two guys that are playing bass on the record are Tim Deaux, who plays in a band called the Whigs, and that’s through Dante’s connection in Nashville.  Then the other is Jesse Ebaugh from the Heartless Bastards, obviously living here in Austin.  They played on the record.  It took maybe three sessions or so, six to eight months to record and finish it because of everyone’s schedule, Dante with City and Colour, Adrian with his projects, Patrick with My Morning Jacket.  They really didn’t play live very much for almost a year, did a handful of gigs, and then SX came around. Jesse was doing that. Then really, they got the momentum and they were like let’s just put this record out and just see what happens.  I think it was unexpected.  They didn’t know how much they would like the record or what it would turn out to be.  But it just got better and better and kept improving, and it was really good, we should do something with this and see what happens.  So they put the record out and I became involved. I’ve known Adrian for a really long time. I recorded some solo records of my stuff with him in his studio.  I played on a bunch of different gigs with him where I was playing either guitar or keys in a lot of different sessions.  My stuff, I played the bass on, so I think he got an idea, well, he can probably do a bunch of different things. So Jesse and Tim, since they are associated with bands that tour a lot, they really just couldn’t commit to how much touring Spanish Gold was going to do this summer.

 

Austin Daze: What’s really interesting about that is that Spanish Gold has exploded differently than some other projects you are involved in, like Spanish Gold doesn’t even play that much, like, I’ve only seen Spanish Gold once at SXSW.

 

John Branch: Right

 

Austin Daze: And you guys are exploding so fast

 

John Branch: Yeah, yeah, I mean, you know, they really took the time. They knew when the record was going to come out. They had established some press stuff.  They really were good at building up the anticipation for that record.  They had the single, “Out on the Street” and just kept generating more and more interest in the band before the record came out. So when it finally came out, I think it was a pretty big release for a lot of people.  I think a lot of people were really looking forward to it ahead of time.

 

Austin Daze: So how did you get on Letterman?

 

John Branch: They had that booked already. I mean, when Adrian brought me in they already had their tour booked.  It was more, are you available for these dates?  They needed to work out whether one of the other guys was going to be able to do the tour, because they had recorded on the record and that sort of thing.

 

Austin Daze: Right, right.

 

John Branch: So, I’m very fortunate to say Letterman was a by-product of them just having a tour booked and they just ask me to do the tour.

 

Austin Daze: Nice. That’s a pretty sweet little perk there

{laughter}
John Branch: Not bad. Not bad. Not bad, no.

 

Austin Daze: No, not bad. And speaking of other big things that you’ve done, you’ve opened for Sting…

 

John Branch: I did open for Sting. I had a brief stint playing with T Bird and the Breaks, another big Austin band, and so that happened with them. I actually got to meet Sting, briefly.

 

Austin Daze: Yeah, tell us how that happened?

 

John Branch: I was trying to load out and he came up behind me {laughter}. There was all this equipment around, and there was this little path to the elevator, and I’m waiting there right in front of the elevator, and it’s kinda stuck, and I heard people behind me…, “We need to get this one, can you get the next one?”  I just didn’t think anything of it.  I kind of turned perpendicular and I’m just kind of standing there, looking around.   Then I look to see why I’ve turned, cause I didn’t even think about it.  Oh, oh.. that’s Sting. Oh, they want Sting, to get that elevator, and get him out of there.  Then something was wrong with the elevator, so we’re standing there for a while.  Finally, I just had my amp and my guitar, a big amp, and he kinda looked down at it. I had put my pass to the show on the amp and he looked me in the eye and says, “Do you need a hand with that?”  I kinda looked at him and he was trying to be funny.  But I was like, allright, if you’re being a jokester, okay.  So I said, “Well, if you’re offering, sure I’ll take you up on that,” that thing weighs 60 pounds!”  And then, well he one upped me, cause, you know, he’s Sting… {laughter} and he’s like, well, it does have my name on it… But then he came over and picked it up and obviously it’s heavy. He kinda groaned and was like, “Oh, nah, I don’t do that anymore.” And my girlfriend was there and she’s freaking out, cause she’s a huge Sting fan.  She couldn’t even talk to him

 

{laughter}… {laughter}

 

I mean, it was GREAT meeting Sting. He’s a phenomenal musician, a phenomenal music spokesperson. Just absolutely, iconic but… you know all and all in the end he’s still… I wasn’t going to talk to him, but since he talked to me, he’s still just a normal guy. I think in those situations, if you meet someone like that, you talk to them normally.  They’ll probably be more normal.

 

Austin Daze: {motioning across the room} we were talking about that earlier, Russ and I were, about, people, just being people…

 

John Branch: Yeah. Exactly so…

 

Austin Daze: Okay, how did music become such a big part of your life?

 

John Branch: So, I played piano, I got piano lessons like a lot of people when I was really little, and then I quickly became to hate it.

 

Austin Daze: Mmhmm!

 

John Branch:  I was probably five and then I started playing guitar, maybe 10? My dad had a guitar in the house.  I just liked it.  It just seemed cool.  I liked the sound of it and he had a book.  I was just into figuring things out and it was a book with pictures, where you put your finger and all this stuff.  I knew how to read music from piano.  So I could kind of put that together and I did that for a while. I loved it but I guess it was also to impress my parents, that I could do something.  I really did it for six months.  I got more into it and I was trying to get through the whole book. They got me lessons.  They got me an electric guitar and it was all over after that.

 

Austin Daze: Nice. Very nice.

 

John Branch: My dad had a bunch of records and so I can honestly say when I was eight… or nine years old, I got a walkman.  I think the first thing I bought was the Beatles Anthology ’62-66, so that was probably the first thing I had.  Really my dad’s musical influence, he had all those records and played them all the time.

 

Austin Daze: Okay, well tell us about some of the other gigs with you’re involved in around town. We’ve talked about a few

 

John Branch: Yeah, so I don’t play with T Bird and the Breaks anymore. We’re still buds, but the other things that I do, are, my own solo music, which is under my name, John Branch, and then I still play with Mudphonic from time to time, with Topaz.

 

Austin Daze: You’re playing with them… on December 2nd. 

 

John Branch: Yes I am, playing with them on December second. We’re actually doing a gig on October 24th at C Boys, I think it’s just going to be an amalgamation.  It’s going to be me and Greg {Rhoades}, and guests.  It’s really cool cause, that band, we used to tour so much and play together for years.  We really worked it hard.  We got involved with other things because we wanted to do different stuff, which have spawned Hellfire Social and now Golden Dawn.  I did Hard Proof and Alex started playing with a bunch of other people.  Now he’s in Brown Sabbath, doing that thing.  Now when we do a gig, we can make it a special thing and we try and get some other guests to come in. We definitely have lots of other guitar players.  The last gig we did we had David Jimenez on guitar.  He is just an amazing singer from Baby Atlas.  Eric Zapata from Gary Clark Jr., came and played with us.  We had some other friends. Nikki, she’s a great soul singer.  She came in.  We just try and do that every time we play.  We’ll definitely do that again on Oct. 24th. We’re still trying to round out the band but it will be under Mudphonic.

 

Austin Daze: It’s going to be under Mudphonic, love it.

 

JB: Yeah, I think it’s going to be the Mudphonic All Stars.

 

Austin Daze: Cool.

 

John Branch: Yeah, but the other things I do that are regular. Probably my favorite gig, is Wednesday nights at the Gallery.  I’m super tight, really good friends with the Greyhounds; Trube, Farrell, Snizz. When Anthony and Andrew are on the road with JJ Grey & Mofro, I usually play with Snizz and Bobbie {Perkins}

 

Austin Daze: Oh Yeah!

 

John Branch: Yeah, from Mudphonic, and then Josh Perdue, Matt Hubbard. It’s just a great.  It’s my favorite room to play in.  I mean that room is the perfect amalgamation that I am talking about, these bands, everyone just coming together and just having a great time.  Like, things were really shitty this week, but now I’m here, Wednesday night the Gallery, and everyone knows it’s going to be a great time.

 

Austin Daze: That’s really cool, that that’s your favorite out of everything you are doing.

 

John Branch: Yeah. I mean, I love the Continental Club in general, but that room has a really, really special vibe.

 

Austin Daze: Yeah, totally! It does.

 

John Branch: I love the Continental downstairs, it’s great, C Boys is great, there’s a bunch of great gigs, but that one’s always consistent. You see friends, you see new people, you see tourists and everyone’s always having a great time. You know, that’s really a special thing.

 

Austin Daze: We have known each other a long time, So back in the early days Ghandaia, which I always say wrong…

 

John Branch: Ganhn-die-ya {laughs}

 

Austin Daze: Yes! So since the early days of Ghandaia, things in Austin have really changed. How do you feel about these changes and how to you feel they have affected the music life in this town?

 

John Branch: Both ways, positive and negative. I guess.  I don’t know if I should start with negative or positive {laughter} I’ll say negative, so that way we can end on positive. Negative, I think with more oversaturation of musicians, because there are more places to play, they can’t keep up with the amount that Austin is expanding.  I think in general, culturally, it is harder make a living from music, particularly playing live.  But there are ways to do that being involved with music, but performing music is what I mean, making a living that way. It’s harder to get better paying gigs, let alone paying gigs, because there’s a whole plethora of people who will play for free. You know, so, it devalues the idea of live music because live music is just something you’re supposed to have in Austin.  At the same time, I think it’s really positive because the sonic scope of Austin music is way bigger now. There’s so many other different kinds of bands.  I’ve been in Austin, mostly on, and little off, since 1995. So I remember when Liberty Lunch was around and Antone’s was open on Guadalupe.  All that stuff and those were awesome times!  Granted, it was why I moved here because all the music at those places was music I was into but now there’s all sorts of different clubs that bring in all different types of music {and} musicians.  It’s brought people from all over the country. It’s positive because you get different perspectives and different styles but you also make connections with people who have connections that lead elsewhere. And I think for any musician nowadays, you need to make a wider net, cast a bigger spectrum to be working as a musician, you know? So, I really enjoy that. My experience with that has been what happened with Spanish Gold.  Adrian lives here, Dante lives in Nashville, Patrick lives in Louisville.  We did that tour.  We fly to Nashville, hope you learn the record, we rehearse for two days, and then a week later we were playing on Letterman. That’s it.  That’s just kind of what happens. Austin has grown, people are more interested in Austin from all over.  You get a lot more influence.  It’s not just Austin is the blues town, like it used to be twenty, thirty years ago. There’s still a lot of blues, but there’s a lot of rock.  There’s a lot of Indie stuff.  The Latin music thing has really taken off. There’s all sorts of much more developed pockets, scenes like that. It’s really, really cool.

 

Austin Daze: And you came here to Austin, or like you said, for college,

 

John Branch: Yes, yes I did go to college. Amazing.

 

Austin Daze: {Sarcastic} Wow. But yeah, you started playing in Austin in college, that’s when Ghandaia started, right?

 

John Branch: Yeah, after I finished college. I should have finished in ’99 but it ended up being 2000.  I got a classical guitar degree.  I sojourned to Spain for a semester sabbatical.  Then I came back and finished.

 

Austin Daze: Nice!

 

John Branch: I knew Freggie and Alex, Freggie because we went to the same college. I met Alex in 95, and I knew him.  I didn’t hang out with him much through college until I came back and I was finally really really living in Austin, not just {the} area of Austin. They started doing gigs.  I was actually playing bass {laughs}. They needed a bass player and they were like, “well, you can bring your guitar too.”  After we did that one time they were like, why don’t you just play guitar.

 

{laughter}IMG_4253

 

That was a great experience.  That was definitely a young band working it out. Lots of rehearsal, you know, not very many gigs, but definitely really satisfying, I moved to California after a couple of years and they really took off a lot more.  But it was all part of the process because Ghandaia went on to do a lot of great things. Not that what we did at first wasn’t great.  I love that record. But then I heard the second record and I was like, man, such an improvement, and that’s what you want as a musician.  You don’t want to put out a crappier record {laughter} if your first record was good.

 

Austin Daze: Okay, I ask Josh and Robb the same question, How do you play your instrument in GDA with your costume covering your eyes?

 

John Branch: Well, I think I gotcha on a technicality there… my face isn’t really covered in my costume. It’s just covered on the sides, so I still have my eyesight. Josh has definitely got the full on mask.

 

Austin Daze: Yeah, {laughter}

 

John Branch: But, at the same time I teach a lot of guitar.  I tell my students to close your eyes and you just try.  It’s a combination of seeing it in your mind, without, literally seeing it, you know?

 

Austin Daze: Yeah.

 

John Branch: And then you just get used to the feel of it, like how far something is from another thing.  Probably the best way to think of it is typing on your computer. It gets to the point where you are just looking at the screen and typing. Not that you don’t look at the typewriter, or the keyboard every now and then, but mostly you’re looking at the screen, correcting.  It’s kind of the same thing.

 

Austin Daze: Very nice analogy.

 

John Branch: Mmhmm. mmm.

 

Austin Daze: Okay, give us some advice, what have you seen over the years, for people trying to do what you’re doing.

 

John Branch: Definitely, definitely, definitely, you want to do it. You love to play music and you love to connect with other people.  I’m sure everyone has said this but don’t do it for the money because there are definitely better ways to make money.  As you get older, you think about maybe trying to do something a little bit different.  But ultimately I can’t make the commitment just to not play music or to just “kind of” play music. I wouldn’t know what to do. If I just kind of worked a job all the time that wasn’t music related at all and then kinda played music, I think I would go crazy. So there has to be that kind of…

 

Austin Daze: Passion.

 

John Branch: Passion or drive.  You really want to do it and you love making music with those sacrifices that come along with it. But, at the same time, you get all the reward of self-expression and just being creative and thinking differently.  Have a good attitude. {laughter} It depends on what kind of musician but if you’re going to be someone like me, who works with a lot of different people, you have to have a great personality. I mean, you want to be a strong personality but at the same time, you want to be able to relate to people.  If you’re a musician, that’s super opinionated and super judgmental of other people, it’s going to be really hard for you to do anything.

 

Austin Daze: Do you meet a lot of people like that?

 

John Branch: I have met people like that and it’s definitely not good because you’re not gonna connect with your band.  Even if you do have a band and you’re like that, crowds feed off of that really quick. Like, this guys kind of a dick, I don’t think he really wants us here.   Why are we here?

 

{laughter}

 

John Branch: And then they leave, well that’s not good right?

 

{more laughter}

 

Austin Daze: Right, right.

 

John Branch: You know, that’s the antithesis of all the stuff I’m talking about with the other bands.  You just want to be in this vibe, where everyone is getting along, feeling the music the same way, whether you’re listening, dancing or playing.  Those are the really, really important things.  The thing about music now, as I get older {is} there’s so many ways to do creative things with music. Obviously, it’s not like they just invented recording but it’s so much easier to do that on your own. Really learn new things, learn new approaches. I dig that. I think that’s cool to be creative in that format even though I’m not playing live. I teach guitar.  I think it’s really cool to connect with a kid or an adult, or whoever is taking a lesson, just to inspire music.

 

Austin Daze: Did you do School of Rock this summer?

 

John Branch: Rock camp! Yeah, you can inspire kids to do that, that’s really cool for you. I mean, it’s work, at times, but if you can inspire someone to start playing something they didn’t think they could play because you were able to impart on them, that’s cool. It gives me an idea to do this or just gives you more fire to keep doing what you’re doing.  You’re not staying stagnate, you know?   That’s a cool way, other than, I played this really awesome gig.  You just keep having kind of that positive energy around you and let it flow.

 

Austin Daze: Very Cool. Is there anything else you want to tell us that we didn’t ask, anything you want to mention?

 

John Branch: Um, Not really…

 

Austin Daze: Are you looking forward to ACL?

 

John Branch: Yeah! I’m definitely looking forward to ACL.  I’m excited.  There’s two things I’ve got coming up that I am excited about.  I’m definitely going to be putting out a lot of solo material.  I’ve been doing since the beginning of the year The Song Machine with Andrew Trube from the Greyhounds. It’s a group of musicians from all over the country.  You get a little phrase at the beginning of the week and then you have to write a song by the end of the week and record it.  Some weeks I do it on my iPhone  and I just do a song.  Other times, I really try and do a whole recording.  I’ve probably got, in some form or fashion, forty or fifty songs at this point.

 

Austin Daze: That’s awesome

 

John Branch:  I’m going to try and start whittling that down and release some new material soon within the fall. And then I’m doing and online guitar lesson thing, branchoutguitar.com

 

{Matt Hubbard walks in}

 

John Branch: Oh hey buddy! {laughs}

 

Matt Hubbard: Oh, this still going?

 

John Branch: No, no, we’re just finishing up. But those are the exciting things on top of all the other exciting things…

 

Austin Daze: Cool! Lots of excitement. Lots of good things. Cool. John Branch, check him out, go to www.branchoutguitar.com Cool. Thanks John.


John Branch: Thank you.

 

All ATX British Invasion at ACL Live BY ROCKSLIDE PHOTOGRAPHY 2014

.

LET’S TALK SOME HAAM!

Thanks to my friends at GIANT NOISE MEDIA, I was able to ask a few questions and  get some good answers from Reenie Collins, executive director of HAAM. THE AUSTIN DAZE LOVES HAAM! WE BOUGHT   OUR TICKETS TODAZE!image

AUSTIN DAZE: Why is HAAM such a beneficial thing for musicians in Austin?

Our city takes great pride in the fact that we are the “Live Music Capital of the World”. To this end, Austin boasts over 8,000 working musicians who imagebring in over $2 billion in economic activity annually to Austin. Musicians are very important to our community – not only culturally, but economically. The majority of these musicians are among the “working poor,” without the ability to purchase health insurance or afford even basic health care. Over 82% of Austin’s musicians fall under the 150% of Federal Poverty Level (FPL) guidelines meaning that a single person would earn $17,000 or less a year. The mission of Health Alliance for Austin Musicians (HAAM) is to provide access to affordable, quality healthcare for Austin’s low-income, uninsured working musicians, with a focus on prevention and wellness. By providing these safety net services HAAM enhances musician’s quality of life, in turn, enhancing the economic development of Austin. Since its inception, over 3,500 Austin musicians have received HAAM services and been provided with over $30 Million dollars in healthcare services.

AUSTIN DAZE: Tell us about what HAAM is and why it is so important for us all to support it.

Before HAAM, many musicians were not taking care of their medical, mental or dental health at all and instead would wait until, what could have been easily treated or prevented situations, turned into more costly and dangerous conditions that would then be seen by using the emergency room as their primary, and often only, source of care. The creation of HAAM changed that. HAAM is not insurance and it is not a provider – rather a community collaborative that facilitates access to effective medical, dental, mental health, hearing and vision health services. While the Affordable Healthcare Act (ACA) will provide much needed insurance coverage to those who are eligible, over 60 percent of HAAM members are not eligible for ACA because they make less than 100% of FPL. HAAM is still going to be needed to provide healthcare services for these musicians. For those that do opt to purchase market place insurance, there will still be dental, vision and hearing services which are not covered by ACA.

AUSTIN DAZE: Tell us about HAAM Benefit Day.

 

This is our 9th annual HAAM Benefit Day and to be honest, it like putting on our own mini SXSW! We have over 250 participating businesses and over 150 musical performances all over Austin. HAAM Benefit Day is sponsored by Whole Food who has been with us since the very first one. John T. Kunz – who is a member of the HAAM Board and owner of Waterloo Records – and Robin Shivers – our founder – actually came up with the idea as a way to raise both money and awareness about HAAM. HAAM Benefit Day now brings in almost a third of what we raise in a year! It is the one time of year, we ask our HAAM musicians to give back and they come out in full force; we always have more musicians than spaces to play. What a great challenge to have! HAAM Benefit Day 2014, on Tuesday, September 23, is a uniquely Austin event where businesses across Austin donate to HAAM in support of musicians’ health. Musicians perform throughout the day at businesses, retail stores, outside stages and more. Kicking off at 6am and running until well past midnight the day serves as a city wide celebration of Austin music and the community that supports the amazing musicians who call Austin home.

Donations during HAAM Benefit Day go even further, every dollar raised turns into $7 in direct services is provided to Austin musicians, who wouldn’t otherwise have access to health services that HAAM provides.

Over 200 Austin businesses participate in HAAM Benefit Day; including Whole Foods, SXSW, C3 Presents, Silicon Labs, Keller Williams, Frost Bank. HAAM Benefit Day enjoys strong local media partners that ensure that we have great coverage not only the day of the event but in the month leading up to it as well. Emmis Stations KGSR, 101.X, The Austin Chronicle, Do512, as well as other television and print media strongly support HAAM Benefit Day. For the past few years HAAM Benefit Day has attracted national and local media attention and even trended on Twitter! We are hoping to raise $350,000 this year! So every dollar counts. It is amazing to see how generous Austin is. All over town you will see our Gray Donation Boxes and just on that day alone we get over $25,000 cash from music lovers.

AUSTIN DAZE: What can we expect from HAAM Benefit Day and All ATX at ACL Live?

A rockin’ good time is what you can expect! Music, music and more music. All over Austin. As we mentioned, we have over 150 Live music performances on HAAM Benefit Day all over town. There are too many to list here, but you can download our free APP haambenefitday and see all the artists and where they are playing. You can sort by type of business if you want to find out who is giving back to HAAM on Tuesday or you can sort by area of town or type of music or even by a specific artist. It is really a cool app and we are hoping that people will use it and find out where they can support HAAM. We start the day out at Whole Foods Downtown at 6:00 am with Elizabeth McQueen and from there the day just gets better and better. KGSR is doing a live remote with us there that day and I will say that you are in for a surprise “KGSR speical guest” who will be arriving about 2 pm! But we have music going from 6:00 am – 2:00 am. There is probably not an area of town where you won’t find a HAAM show somewhere ranging from bank lobbies to restaruants to office buildings and all the Whole Foods Markets.

All ATX is also going to be incredible. This is the second Annual concert benefiting HAAM. Some of Austin’s best along with special guests Eric Burdon and The Animals and The Zombies will be playing songs from The British Invasion. You will hear songs by Alejandro Escovedo to Ian McLagan to Bruce Robison and Kelly Willis to Ruthie Foster. We will have Quiet Company, Christopher Cross and many more take the stage on Monday night. I think it is going to be a really special show mixing in some of Austin’s best with these music icons from across the pond. We are very grateful that for the second year in a row, All ATX has come out in support of HAAM.

 

Sundaze Conversations #4: Josh Perdue

imageGet to know Josh Perdue with us. We sat down with my friend at the swanky new bar/dining are at Hotel San Jose. This is really a nice place. It was very hot that day. My brain melted during this interview. It was all I could do not to throw myself in the pool.The team this time was John Grubbs, Caity Shaffer and I. We had a good time with Josh. He earned the nick name ACDC during this conversation. Josh is just an amazing guitar player. Josh is on the way to becoming a legend. Get out there and see him in action. He will blow your mind! You can see him play with the Lost Counts at Sullivan’s Steakhouse every Tuesday and Wednesday from 7-11 and he usually shows up at the Gallery to play for the late night set. (Transcribed by Alexis Matthews)

Okay {laughter)

Josh: Is this like, is this like, an interview? Oh Yeah.

Austin Daze: When did you get started playing guitar?

Josh: Um… Let’s see… I had a Mickey Mouse guitar when I was about five, I guess… I started playing that around fourth grade I was in band, and I was tall enough, I was the tallest in class, so they told me to play upright bass, so, I got serious around 8, 9, something like that.

Austin Daze: Wow. Cool.

Josh: I got addicted. I got the bug.

Austin Daze: Where are you from?

Josh: I am from Arlington, Texas. Dallas/Fort Worth area. The new home of the Cowboys.

Austin Daze: Who were your biggest influences when you were a kid?

Josh: When I was a kid? My dad’s band. They kinda got me started with it. Um, ACDC. {laughter}

Austin Daze: Yeah. That’s cool.

Josh: Let’s see…

Austin Daze: Your dad was in ACDC? Awesome.

Josh: He was in ACDC, Yeah.

Austin Daze: Wow.

Josh: No, my dad had a 12 piece band, like, rhythm and blues, Motown show band when I was growing up. I was always hanging around them when they were practicing; so, while he was in the garage playing his guitar, I’d go in his closet and get his good guitar out–the one I wasn’t supposed touch, secretly but… {laughter} Secretly… I didn’t tell him. And so I could play one day. He was like, “When did you learn how to do that?”

Austin Daze: Who else did you listen to besides ACDC?

Josh: Um. I listen to a lot of Freddie King, Ray Charles, Jimmy Reed, you know, all the blues guys. My first concert was Hall and Oats. I was a big Hall and Oats fan. A lot of that stuff.

Austin Daze: Where did you see Hall and Oats?

Josh: I saw them at Reunion Arena. Yeah. Even with binoculars they looked very tiny, I was WAY in the back, … it was still great.

Lots of blues guys, I listened to a lot of Stevie Ray Vaughan. And Jimmy Vaughan. I am a huge Jimmy Vaughn fan. Still. To this day. Still. Mr. Class. He’s very classy.

Austin Daze: Let’s see… So… your from Arlington

Josh: Yeah.

Austin Daze: So… One of the main questions we had was about your relationship with Robert Walter.

Josh: Uh huh.

Austin Daze: So, who hooked you up with Robert Walter? How did you become acquainted with him?

Josh: It was a combination of two different people, Barbara Prashner and  Anthony Farrell from the Greyhounds. Anthony kinda hooked me up. Robert was coming into town and was asking Anthony who he should use for a guitar player and he suggested me because Anthony knew I loved all his music and I knew a lot of it, so, it was a good little fit.

Austin Daze: How did you prepare for your first gig with him?

Josh: Um, I just studied the music over and over and over. Well, I got a little process, before I even pick up a guitar I just listen to the songs over and over and over, get em stuck in my head, and then, teach my hands how to do it, pretty much. Same process I’ve been using since I was a kid, so… if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. {laughs}

Austin Daze: Are you also a guitar teacher?

Josh: Yeah I teach private guitar, bass, vocals at um, Austin School of Music (North location).

Austin Daze: How long have you been doing that?

Josh: I’ve been doing that, for about, I guess, five years… so, yeah, I’ve got a bunch of students up there I teach. Just got finished doing the Rock Camp, which is all summer long, so that was really fun. Get to teach those kids how to be in a band and they get to play there gig, usually at Antone’s, but since Antone’s is closed, we did the Roost, so that was really fun. Very Rewarding.

Austin Daze:Do you have any stories from Rock Camp? Did you have a stand out students?

Josh: I have several there that just really really blossomed, this summer, and yeah, that’s just one of the greatest feelings, ever. Just like, I can only imagine what it would be like if that was your own kid, yeah so, that was pretty cool. Yeah, let’s see Eric Bitner, K.J. White. They are two up and coming guitar students, they are really getting in there, so.

Austin Daze: Who do you listen to now?

Josh: Little Walter {laughs} I listen to a lot a lot a lot of Little Walter, uh, Brewer Phillips, I listen to a lot of him. He was Hound Dog Taylor’s guitar player. I listen to a lot of Doo Wop, I love the fifties and sixties music, so I love all that stuff. I love all that Dap Tones stuff too, I am a big fan of of them like Menahan Street Band, Budos Band, Sharon Jones, Sugarman 3, love them.

Austin Daze: So specifically, what are some of your favorite albums?

Josh: Some of my favorite albums? Um… there is one band from the UK that I’m really really love and its weird because I like all the songs on all of there albums, which is rare for me to like, um, they’re called The Bees. They are really good. They’re sound is kinda like Indie Rock a lil bit. Everything I like about music they seem to mold into this beautiful package and sound so, I really dig that a lot.

Also, The first two Thunderbird albums are really good. The Fabulous Thunderbirds.

Austin Daze: I don’t know if I have any genius questions, I saw, somebody posted like, if you could play with anybody living or dead… someone that you really don’t have an opportunity to play with now, but if miracles and strings could be pulled, is there somebody you would really like the chance to play with? Or would have liked the chance, like I say, they don’t have to be living.

Josh: I’d really like to play with Jimmie Vaughan.

Austin Daze: Dude, so let’s make that happen. So We’ll call up Jimmie now. Hey Jimmie! Hey Jimmie! I think that can & should happen, sure!

Josh: I’m a HUGE Jimmie Vaughn fan, like all my guitar player buddies we go and see him and our mouths just open, I even ask them, I’m like, “Do y’all feel like lil kids when you go see him play?” It’s like yes, it’s beautiful. He’s just got this huge bag of tricks that he never pulls from, and every once in awhile he’ll pull from it and it just gives all of us chills. I just love that. Yeah, I’m a huge fan of his. I’d like to meet Paul McCartney one day. That’d be cool. I wouldn’t know what to say to him though… fellow Gemini…

Austin Daze: You know Jimmie? I mean, you know, ask Paul, hey, you know Jimmie?

Josh: I play with a lot of the same people he does, got booted from a couple of gigs that I was supposed to sub for because he showed up at the last minute. That made me feel good a little bit, and bad at the same time.

Austin Daze: How did you get involved with Chicken Strut?

Josh: Uh, Bobby Perkins. I was living with Bobby Perkins and the original guitarist and then they parted ways. I just happened to know all the songs that they played, I was right there so they ask me to come in, started playing with them, been playing with them ever since.

Austin Daze: What about Golden Dawn Arkestra?

Josh: Golden Dawn, um…, I started playing with Topaz with Bobby Perkins and Mudphonic. They called me up to sit in,then Topaz started a couple of other projects. He had me on guitar, and then slowly morphed into Golden Dawn. So.. {laughs} just been hanging on to that ride, that train for a little bit. Very very fun band to play with.

Austin Daze: So, for everyone who hasn’t seen Golden Dawn, can you describe, what is that experience?

Josh: It’s like Sun Ra meets Fela Kuti meets seventies disco. Something like that. I call it Texas Afrobeat, if there is such a thing. {laughter} I think it’s kind of funny. It’s fun, it’s just fun, I call it a good time because it’s some of the best musicians in Austin all in one band. All my favorites and then, you know, we just get up there and have a good time… and people seem to like it so

Austin Daze: People like a good time

Josh: Oh yeah

Austin Daze: It’s underrated sometimes people look for perfection or superior musicianship, you know, and those things are good, don’t get me wrong, but when they don’t bring that fun, good times

Josh: Oh Yeah.

Austin Daze: then there’s something lacking so you can hide a lot of stuff, uh, with good times, because people enjoy, that’s what, in the old times, the band was the party central, they would create the party and sometimes people turned the party into a concert, it’s not the same thing.

Josh: We like to make em dance. That’s kind of our goal. Sometimes I pretend my guitar is a remote control, like a body remote control {dinga-dinga-dinga} and I play a little lick, and try and make someone’s shoulders move.

Austin Daze: Does it work?

Josh: It does sometimes! It’s kinda funny that’s why you’ll see me staring at some people sometime like {dinga-dinga-dinga} playing something odd, and see if they shake to it. It’s kinda fun man. I like it.

Austin Daze: What about your costume for Golden Dawn? Where did you get it? And why did you choose it?

Josh: Which one of my costumes? I have a habit of leaving my costumes at the gigs.

Austin Daze: Oh really?

Josh: and then trying to go back the day after and they’re gone… so… I just did it this last gig too, but it was recovered safely, so… That was kind of a combination of Laura Scarborough and Topaz’s idea and uh, Echo, she had a big involvement in that too, it kind of, doing the Sun Ra thing, a little bit, kinda dress it up, space men thing, you know? It’s fun. It’s hot up there too!

Austin Daze: It won’t be summer forever.

Josh: No, we’ve been very lucky, at least it’s not 2011!

Austin Daze: Have you seen Sun Ra in concert?

Josh: I have not. That would, that would definitely be an experience.

Austin Daze: {laughs} yeah. Let’s see… you’re in a band called Lost Counts?

Josh: Yeah, that’s my main band, the Lost Counts.

Austin Daze: Can you tell us, kind of, how it got started? And where you are going with it right now?

Josh: Well, I had a band with Greg Rhodes, he’s the bass player for Golden Dawn, he plays in Mudphonic, and the Avocados. The Avocados play here, like on Tuesdays. We had a band called Honey Bread; it was me, Greg, and Johnny Radelat. Johnny plays with Gary Clark, Jr. now.  Bobby kind of parted ways with Mudphonic, then they stole my bass player, they stole Gregg from me. So, I found Nathan Basigner, my organ player, he moved into town, I found him on Facebook. Said, “Hey, you want to get together and jam.” We’ve been a band since. It started out with me on guitar, Nate Basinger on Organ, Nick Stephens on sax and Johnny Radelat on drums. Then… Gary Clark Jr. stole my drummer, they stole Johnny from me, {laughs} so now he’s touring with Gary and now on drums we have Bobby Trimble who I grew up listening to. He was in a band called Big Sandy and the Fly-Rite Boys. I heard he was in town, he was living here, so I called him up, said, “Hey you wanna be in the band?” And we’ve been playing since. The hits of the fifties. {laughs}

Austin Daze: What advice would you have for a musician just starting out?

Josh: Listen. Listen. Listen. Listen. Listen. Listen.

I mean, like, like really really listen. Because there is so much stuff, in one song, that most people like miss, you know, because it’s just for enjoyment, if you’re studying something, if you saturate your ears enough with it, you’re going to pick it up, you know? If you want to learn Spanish move to Spain, you know, kinda thing. And be respectful to other people. Be the yes man, you know? I was talking to Frosty about that the other day, um, and he was like, I didn’t get to be where I am at today and still playing because I’m good, it’s because I’m a ‘yes man’ I say, “I’m here to do my job that you want me to do.” So… Just be nice, and be cool, and don’t bring you’re shit to the stage. {laughs}

Austin Daze: That’s good advice

Josh: And and and just love it. Let your heart come out.

Austin Daze: How can you be rock and roll if you don’t bring your shit to the stage? That’s what it’s all about!

Josh: That’s right! That’s right! That’s right! I’m trying to change the mold. At a very young age I started noticing

Austin Daze: Rock and Roll people quite often, crash and burn too.

Josh: Oh yeah…oh yeah.

Austin Daze: With their shit on the stage.

Josh: I’ve always felt like that. I’ve always wanted to kinda like, change the game a little bit. Because I started noticing, at an early age, that all my influences are alcoholics and drug addicts, and just old blues men, and stuff like that, like, I wanna do that without all that stuff, so…

Austin Daze: I don’t know if it’s across the board, but it’s true for, a lot of this generation of musicians, is that they don’t have all the same troubles as the seventies rock and rollers did.

Josh: Oh no. No. They don’t.

Austin Daze: Some do. But, a lot of them just didn’t have that as part of their deal.

Josh: Right.

Austin Daze: You know like the stories of the Beatles, where they were like, before the, the dope and the acid and stuff, they were just doing pills and amphetamines and drinking crazy amounts of alcohol.

Josh: Oh Yeah

Austin Daze: Just to fuel their drive, and so like, some musicians, I’m not saying all musicians are pure now, but a lot of these younger kids, they stretch, they do yoga, they eat right.

Josh: Oh yeah.

Austin Daze: Vegetarian food and then they go home and they’ve studied all the the music, and so that they bring a different slant to it I guess. So, I’m glad you’re not going to fall apart tomorrow…

Josh: Good. Yeah, me too. Yeah, it’s a different time then it was back you know, back in the day. I was reading somewhere the other day about Brewer Phillips, mentioned earlier, who played with Hound Dog Taylor, he was telling stories about him and Hound Dog used to argue all the time and they’d get in a heated discussion, and you know, Hound Dog shot Brewer, like, three times, like on separate occasions  and stuff like that.

Austin Daze: You’d think you’d learn eventually!

Josh: Yeah! Like, you were still playing with him after he shot you three times. Huh… That’s devotion or something. {laughs} I hope my band members don’t shoot me.

Austin Daze: Some of those things are pretty tragic too, just like, beyond the…

Josh: Oh yeah

Austin Daze: …complete, disintegration of the person, someone super talented like Charlie Parker, for example. Just a tragic, tragic story, to channel that tragedy to play great music… So, glad you don’t have to channel that great tragedy to play great music.

Josh:  Oh yeah, he’s a big, Charlie Parker is a big, big like focused, slash practicing method had a big influence on me. I love his music, and I love his Be Bop lines, and I’d love to learn em legit one day but… I wanna, I wanna poster of Charlie Parker. My walls in my room are blank, and I just want one poster of Charlie Parker staring me down, so I know I need to practice (laughs) He would practice, like, 13, 15 hours a day. Like, that’s insane.

Austin Daze I saw some documentary that had some great footage of him, just doing something, that was, I don’t know, you could see it, he was one of those people that music just kind of seeped out of seemed like…

Josh: Oh yeah. Well, he was a very humble guy man, and he invented this style of music and he didn’t think anything was like, that different or that great about it. He was just like, this is what I think it should be you know, so this is what I’m doing, you know. Just an amazing influence, you know.

Austin Daze: You don’t play Bossa nova, or do you play Bossa nova?

Josh: Um, yeah we play a lot of, we kinda play like, soul Bossa type stuff in The Lost Counts. In the Lost Counts we play all kinds of stuff, we’ll do like early Ska, rock steady, fifties and sixties R&B, we’ll do some swamp pop, we do all that stuff too. So… it’s fun.

Austin Daze: I think we should all go jump in the pool!

Josh: Yeah!

Austin Daze: Well, we would make a scene. Speaking of Rock and roll, that’s kinda a rock and roll thing to do.

Josh: It is. We need a TV to throw in there, or a desk or something. That would be super rock and roll.

Austin Daze: That would be a cool, just have a TV, and a student desk under water, and you’re down there, in like a little scene, holding your breath, or just have bubbles coming out…

Josh: You’re on the phone…

Austin Daze: Let’s do it. I’ll go buy an underwater camera. We’d have a great time.

{laughter}

We’d need some weights, cause, it’s hard to stay underwater on the bottom.

Josh: {laughs} yes. I’ve heard it’s kinda hard to breath under there too.

Austin Daze: Is there an underwater make-up specialist in town?

Josh: Oh, mercy.

Austin Daze: Man, thank you man. Thank you for doing this.

Josh: Oh, thank you, I hope I’ve had some good information in there. {laughs} that was fun.

Sundaze Conversations #3: Ken Hoge

This is the third one. This was an awesome one to be a part of. Get to know Ken Hoge with us. We met Mr. Hoge at SouthPop for a conversation and that led to a privàte tour through his photos on display there… The stories behind the photos are the gold. If you have any interest in music you need to read this. Rockslide and I made a new friend that daze… Thank you Ken.
Check out his work : www.kenhoge.com

 

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Daze: How did you wind up documenting the Austin music scene?

Ken Hoge: I went to UT in Austin and graduated in 1977. I was in Radio-TV-Film. I wasn’t a really good filmmaker, but I enjoyed photography, which I had done in high school. I worked for the Daily Texan at UT, so I was shooting photographs. When I graduated I decided I wanted to go back one semester to take a class in the Art Department with Garry Winogrand who is a well-known photographer.

I was hanging around in Austin and decided to apply for work with the Austin Sun, which later became the Austin Chronicle. They hired me and, pretty quickly, I hooked up with Margaret Moser who was just beginning to work there at the same time. Well, we kind of became a team.

Basically, I would get $5 from the Sun for every photograph I published. We would go out. She would do interviews; and I would shoot pictures. It got to be a lot of fun and, eventually, I got press credentials from the city; so, we went and shot everything. From late 1976 to 1981 when I moved to Houston, that is just what I did—I went out every night and shot photographs and tried to get them published in as many publications as I could. I have about 400 concerts cataloged from that period.

On January 8, 1978, Margaret and I bought tickets for like $3.00 at Joske’s and drove to San Antonio to see the Sex Pistols play at Randy’s Rodeo. I took photographs of that, some of them are in this show. That show changed the music scene in Austin substantially. Within a few months, I shot the first performances at Raul’s, and a huge punk scene bloomed.

In 1981, I had been in Austin for 8 years and decided to go to LA or go to Houston–I wound up going to Houston. I have been doing Scientific work ever since then, but I had this body of work that had been published in lots of magazines, lots of books, album covers, documentaries, VH1, HBO… for everybody who was doing documentaries about the Armadillo, or Antone’s, or Soap Creek, or Austin back in the day, Willie Nelson, any of that stuff.

Daze: How did your show here at the Austin Museum of Popular Culture come about?

Ken Hoge: I have the old blues artists, I have the rock and roll, I have the world music, there’s Genesis, there’s Todd Rundgren. My work runs the gamut from Willie to the Sex Pistols.

I started to get a lot of interest. People would find me on the web and want to publish the pictures; so, a few years ago I went to Fotofest, a big photography festival in Houston that’s been going on for a number of years. It’s one of the bigger photography conclaves in the world.

I went through a process there where I took my portfolio, a large part of which is hanging on the wall here, and had it reviewed by collectors, and curators, and publishers–people from Russia, from Italy, as well as people from Texas. It’s great but it is a really weird experience. You go in this room, and there are 50 tables, and they’ve got numbers on them. They might be curators, or whatever. Before the process you make a list of these people and pick out the ones you want, and they go through a lottery. You get about half the ones you want, and half the ones you don’t. By the end of that process, I’d gotten a lot of positive feedback on the work. So, I thought, “I’m going to go with this. I’m going to share it.”

Daze: So what’s next?

Ken Hoge: I’ve been represented at Wild about Music for 4 years now. I am selling prints through them. I am going to try to carry this show…get as many bookings as I can across the country; and, I am looking at several different book deals.

I feel like I am preaching to the choir here because South Pop is all about preserving the culture that goes back to the Armadillo, sort of, as a core. Those were the days when I was twenty years old, and it was something I just did day in and day out.

I broke this show up into a couple parts. I did this (wall with large contact sheet surrounded by a jumble of left over prints) to show people that…you know, you walk into a gallery and everything is just framed and it’s all so precious. All you can do is go around and look at it; then, you are done. I wanted to make more context for it, so I came up with the idea of blowing up a contact sheet and, then, do all this (points to the prints) to show people that you shoot a lot of stuff, and you edit. Not everything makes it. Back then it would be one picture and I would move on.

I plumbed through my catalog. This photo of Muddy Waters and Angela Strehli right here was taken in 1978. That’s the final print right there on the wall just Ken-Hoge-MuddyWaters_AngStropposite. That was the choice I made, but you can see I had lots of choices. Here is Jimmy Vaughan playing guitar behind his back, while Muddy comes over and strums on it.   But I chose the print because I liked Muddy’s face so much. It’s like a contour map, and he’s just lost in the blues.

It was a magic time in Austin. I know people probably get tired of hearing that if they weren’t there, but it really was. It was awesome. We had so much fun. I was the typical slacker. I managed an apartment complex for free rent. Then I could afford to go out and do this kind of stuff. We had all kind of weird jobs. Margaret worked at Piercing Pagoda in Highland Mall for a while. I was like, “Don’t you have to go to a class or something to learn how to pierce ears.” And she was just like, “No. They just show you how to do it.” She’s in the mall just punching holes in little girls’ ears…but she never had a problem. I worked for the State. Oh, god, I worked in darkrooms. It was horrible because some client would come in with a precious photograph. It would be so hard to print; you’d spend all night to get this cibachrome print which is a nasty hard to do process, and they’d come in the next day and go, “No. no.” And you’d be like, “Shit…”

But going out was so much fun that I’d do anything to keep doing it. I wasn’t the writer, so a lot of times I was just going around taking pictures of stuff, and I didn’t necessarily get to know everybody’s story. I had the pleasure of meeting and hanging out with a lot of people, but I am very visual, so I just had the camera.

Daze: Did Margaret retire, so she could write the stories behind the photos?

Ken Hoge: No, that had nothing to do with her decision to retire. It’s possible, but she has lots of projects to juggle and so do I; so, we don’t know if it will ever come together. But, yes, we’ve discussed it. She has this incredible memory. She can remember the details. She was almost always there when I shot. I hope that comes true.

Daze: There’s that quote, “If you remember the Armadillo, you weren’t there.” If you were there, though, your photos are a cue that brings a lot back.

Ken Hoge: A lot of times I think my memory is manufactured from the photos. I don’t think I ever forget anything; I just can’t pull it up. I’ll have memories sometimes of the most obscure things. Sometimes somebody will ask me a question and two days later, I’ll remember the answer. But I won’t be able to remember a name of somebody I see on a daily basis. I will just blank. That’s just the way memory is. I’ve made my peace with it—I had dinner with a couple of friends the other night who are in my age group, and I took solace in the fact that they shared in this conversation where we all went, “Remember that place where that person was, and we did that thing.” The conversation kept stalling because we’d get to, “Oh yeah, we stayed at…” and we were all going, “What was the name of that?” It was a shared experience. We all have mental overload. All this is in your head, and you’re supposed to remember all these details. Sometimes, though, I think the fact that I took those pictures is the way I have any memory at all of a lot of these events. You remember specific things in your life, but you misplace a lot. Like, “What were you doing, you know, in the summer of 1992?” I don’t know.

Daze: That’s where you need cues, like this photo of the Armadillo.

Ken Hoge: That’s a 360º pan. Mose Allison the famous pianist and jazzy blues artist, that’s him up there on the piano. The Armadillo was a big place. It was an armory. It was huge; I mean it was freaking huge. My flash would barely reach back there. I was standing in about the middle of the room; so, I kind of centered on the stage. This would meet over there (points to either end of the panorama), and you would have the whole 360º.   They have software that can put that stuff together, but I just made a bunch of prints and just stuck it together the best I could.

That was sort of ground zero. I’d gone to the Armadillo three or four years, I came here in ’73, but I didn’t have a camera to take with me. The only camera I had was a twin lens reflex. I shot for the Daily Texan with that, but I finally got a 35mm and that was it…I took every single picture with the same Nikon FM2.

I had a beautiful Beretta 30 gage shotgun that my Dad had given me. I grew up in Waco, and I used to go dove hunting. I wasn’t a big hunter, but I had a friend who had a farm; so, I had frequent opportunities to go dove hunting. I had this beautiful engraved shotgun, and I hocked it to get $200; so, I could buy my first Nikon.   And I shot every picture with that kit.

I still pick up a camera, put it to my eye and, then, have to remember whether it’s a camera I have to look through the viewfinder, or look at this (the screen). I can’t tell you how many times I’ve pulled out a little point and shoot camera and tried to do that.   I have a Nikon D7000 that I love. It’s in the trunk, and I haven’t taken it out in like eight months. I just use my iPhone.

I even use my iPhone at work now doing documentary work for medical studies because it’s so easy. I can take my iPhone, take a picture of that tack from this far away (maybe the width of a hand) and have it come out sharp. That’s really hard to do with regular equipment. You have to have a macro lens; you’ve got to worry about the lighting. Or, you can just take your iPhone and go click. Nine times out of ten, it’s not a work of art, it’s just documentation.

This was serendipitous, this display (points to another collection of smaller prints mounted together in a collage).   I brought my show with me and it had pieces, and then there was this built in display area in the gallery and I didn’t know what to do with it.   I was going to have a photo album that was just stuff that I thought some people from back in the day would like to look at. We were going to put it on a table, so people could flip through it. And then it occurred to me to do this instead which is probably good because it forced me to edit.

Daze: What’s the story behind this photo of Stevie Ray?Ken-Hoge-4-78-SRV6th1000-p

Ken Hoge: That is one of my favorite photos. It’s in front of OK Records which was next to Cat Man’s Shoe Shine Parlor and the original Antone’s on 6th Street. You can see the Driscoll Hotel reflected in the glass. OK Records sold all the old blues records, Freddy King, Chubby Checker, Fred McDonald, Albert King.

Margaret was writing about the Vaughan brothers, so we took them both down there to 6th Street, which was the blues scene hangout, for photographs. Stevie and I were both 22 years old when I took that picture. Sometime in the ‘90’s, Sony Records put out a compilation of SRV recordings called Blues at Sunrise. They used that for the album cover. That was probably the most widely seen picture that ever I did.

Daze: Do you know who this is in the refection? Is that Margaret?

Ken Hoge: She is just standing to my right over here. You can see her outlines. That’s her head. She’s holding my camera bag or something. In fact, that’s an apt metaphor for the whole show because Margaret and I got married in ’78, I guess it was, and were married until ’83. That relationship opened a lot of doors for me, and once those doors were opened it was fun. She got us in, every show. It made it a lot easier to take interesting photographs.

Eventually, I did get press credentials, but she helped a lot. There were always shows that were like touring shows, the bigger names, that might have some restrictions. Having a press card got me past that. That was a big leap, and once I made that leap, I got access. And I took advantage of it.

Daze: What was your favorite show?

Ken Hoge: You know, that’s a toughie; but, the show that changed my life more than anything was the Sex Pistols. There’s the print from that show. I was right in front of Sid Vicious. It was a bowling alley; and, then they turned it into a country western nightclub. The marquee on the nightclub said the Sex Pistols tonight…Merle Haggard two days later. We’d never been there, you know. We drove to San Antonio for it. It was the craziest thing you ever saw. The thing I came away with was it wasn’t just a concert; it was performance art. They deliberately came out and insulted the crowd, provoked them. The crowd started participating. They started throwing things at the band. You can see there’re pieces of whipped cream on his outfit here; you can see where things have splattered there. Everybody was throwing empty beer cans at the band. In fact, at one point, somebody hit Sid in the head with a half full beer can. He got pissed, took off his bass, and stated raking it over the crowd. I was about this far away, just out of reach.

Ken-Hoge-SexP_1-8-78-1000-pThey stopped the show and there was all this hubbub, and Johnny Rotten looks over and says, “Oh, Sid dropped his guitar.” There was general mayhem, but believe it or not, they settled the crowd down…Sex Pistols came back out, and they finished their set. They didn’t really play worth a shit; but, I’d heard Never Mind the Bullocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols, and I loved that album—I still love that album. It’s one of the best albums ever made. I knew the songs in my head, what they were supposed to sound like, so I didn’t mind that they could barely play. It was performance art.

Six months later at Raul’s in Austin, it was the same thing. The Huns came out, and they would slash the banner behind them. It would be Jesus on a cross…all this really provocative stuff. Audiences would start throwing things at them; and the band would come out and go at the audience. It was participatory. It was all kind of a put on. Until I saw the Sex Pistols, I thought you go, and you are an adoring fan, and if you are lucky, maybe they’ll look at you, you’ll get a guitar pick. But this was different—at any moment chaos could have broken out, holy shit could have gone wrong. So, it was very exciting.

Groups like the Uranium Savages, I hung out with them. I took a bazillion pictures of them back in the day. People would dress up and go to the concert like it was Halloween—everybody dressed up. Whatever the occasion was, they turned it into a costume ball. Everyone participated. That was really cool. I was really attracted to that.

That was the big impression, that one concert. I bought a book once called the 50 concerts you should have attended, and one of them was the Sex Pistols in San Antonio. That’s the only one I attended, but I was like, “Yes! I got in the book. I was there.”

One other time that made a big impression on me was Townes Van Zandt. Margaret and I went to interview Townes Van Zandt and, as it happened, it was in Houston. I had family in Houston, so we decided to make the trip to see him at Liberty Hall. We got there that afternoon, we sat around with Townes, and I shot like three and a half rolls of film with him back stage, just passing the time. We got totally blitzed. This guy liked to drink vodka, so he is swigging vodka out of the bottle, smoking dope. By the time he went on, we were so plastered I only took three pictures of the performance—really bad pictures. But we had so much fun interacting with him; that’s one of my favorite photos, that portrait of Townes. I shot a whole lot of pictures that didn’t work, but I just love that portrait. It’s not posed at all. He just was there, and I was shooting.

Daze: What is this display about?

Ken Hoge: It’s a memorabilia wall that was really popular at my last show, so I decided I want to continue to do it. This is what my bedroom wall looked like at the time. Didn’t everybody, when they were young, stick the posters on the wall? Well, this is pretty much what mine looked like. I used to make posters sometimes. Here is a Raul’s poster we distributed on the drag. There’re song lists, there’re the old tickets, the old buttons, backstage passes. A lot of these posters were my photography, or somehow I was involved—I was at the show. Or sometimes it’s just zeitgeist stuff, like Bob Dobbs. Do you remember Bob Dobbs’ The Church of the SubGenius? You need to look up Bob Dobbs.

Daze: So when the poster artists made a poster, they would call you and say, “Do you have a print?”

Ken Hoge: Yes; or they would maybe ask me to come and shoot promotional work.   That’s the Neville Brothers up there at Antones, they asked if they could use that. I shot a lot of stuff of the Judys, the Uranium Savages, the Cobras. This is the B-52s backstage looking very bored, which is why I love that photo. They just look like they couldn’t care less. They did a great show that night at the Armadillo. I wanted to put stuff up so you could linger a little bit, and maybe find something of interest in all of this…a context for the pictures.

Daze: The people that come tonight will bring a lot of context, their own context.

Ken Hoge: That’s what I mean about preaching to the choir. I feel very honored to do the show at South Pop because these are the people who were around when I was enjoying this time in Austin. They were good times. I really don’t have any tragic tales. We were poor as dirt and skinny as hell, and twenty-two years old. You know, life was good. This is a picture of Margaret Moser and me about the time we got married. It was fun to hang out with her because she knew everybody. She had a way of getting us into any situation.

About the only negative thing that ever happened was I went to a Patti Smith concert once at the Texas Opry House. There were a lot of people there. This was when she was at the height of her popularity. Here is the ticket stub right here, July 1979. I positioned myself on a chair in sort of like the mosh pit area, there wasn’t a mosh pit, but in that area where that would be. I was over a little bit towards stage left. I couldn’t move because I was surrounded by people standing.   There was this huge bank of speakers on either side of the stage. And, she cranked that music up louder than any concert I ever heard. I didn’t remember to bring earplugs; and I was stuck there for the entire show, like ten feet from these speakers. I held my camera against my head to try and protect my ear. It was agonizing.   For at least two weeks I felt like, you know after you mow the lawn you have this buzz in your head?   It was like that. I blame her for my like 60% hearing loss in my right ear to this day. And, I didn’t forgive her for over twenty years. I finally forgave her when she put out an album I liked, Trampin’, and I thought, “Oh, I’ll let bygones be bygones.” There’s no reason to play music so loud that people’s ears bleed. But she did, and I guess it was kind of a punk thing. I know I have permanent hearing loss from that.

Daze: The show is called Man on a Mission, is that a reference to the mission you had when you went out every day in the ‘70s and ‘80’s?

Ken Hoge: That’s exactly it. Actually, the gallery came up with it, and I had to ask them what it meant too. That’s not unusual. The same thing happened at my show in Houston. It was an official Fotofest show, kind of like a dream come true for me because I had gone through that Fotofest process where I was judged over and over again.   I decided okay I think I got enough validation, I’m going to go ahead and push this.   But, they came up with the name for it, and it was called “A Day in the Life.”   And I was like, “Okay, you know, that works.”

When South Pop asked me to do the show, they knew my work; and, that’s what they decided they wanted to call it. What it refers to is that I was trying to shoot everything that was going on. I talk about it in my artist statement that the camera was my ticket. I got to where I’d get access to go back stage or something. I didn’t feel comfortable unless I had my camera there and was taking pictures. As long as I was doing that, I was cool, I had a place; but, a lot of times I was too embarrassed to talk to people. I wasn’t one of these real pushy, go up and try to chum with everybody guys… and it is the same thing in my current work.

What I do now is for the Texas Heart Institute. We do advanced cardiovascular research.   We’re working on artificial hearts, mechanical and biological hearts, stem cells, and all these things. I have to go in and move among these people. I can be sort of like a Red Cross person in a war zone because I’ve got an anesthesiologist, and surgeons, and nurses, and people to run the heart lung machine, and people who do all these other support services, and they’re all dickering with each other over this case or whatever it is. And I get to kind of float through like I have no rank, I’m just sort of there.

If I play my cards right, I get good access and people ignore me because it’s cool that I’m there. The trouble is if you come in and you don’t fit, if you interrupt or you bother the process; you don’t get good pictures that way.

When you see a good documentary film, you always sit there and wonder, “How did they get the people to ignore them?” I’ve seen wonderful documentaries that are so intrusive; and yet, it’s like the cameras not there. Well, that’s what you have to do. You have to get to the point where they are so comfortable with you that they don’t even look at you, and they forget that you are there.

Part of being ubiquitous when I was shooting music was people just started waiving me through when I’d show up at the Armadillo. People knew who I was, and why I was there; so, they’d ignore me backstage. I went through gauntlets at the beginning. “Who are you? Why are you here? What are you doing? Who are you taking pictures for?” But after a while, nobody asked those questions anymore. I learned to just stay out of the way and take pictures. I just think that’s the way. That was the accomplishment, honestly. It wasn’t so much the pictures although thank god I was able to take what I think are good pictures of that time. It was getting access and being part of it. That was the big deal.

I just wanted to be part of the scene. My role was as the photographer.

 

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Sundaze Conversations #2 Alex Marrero

Get to know Alex Marrero with us. Alex is currently exploding all over the national music scene as the frontmàn for BrownSabbath. We sat down with my old friend for a few words at 7 flags Coffee.. The team this time was John Grubbs , Caity Shaffer and I. Thank you to Alex and my team for helping me continue to do this. Here is #2:

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Daze: What was the first instrument you learned how to play? Was there any influence in your family to be a musician?

Alex: The earliest memory I have is of singing. I’ve been singing since I was about two years old. That’s probably the first thing I ever did, musically speaking. I don’t really have any other full time musicians in the family, but my mom is a great singer and there was always Cuban music playing in the house. She never had a chance to pursue it, but she sings beautifully. When I was thirteen I asked my parents for a drum set and they gave me a classical guitar. So, it worked out well in the sense that I learned how to play guitar and was able to sing and write songs. Then I got into heavy metal and got into being a shredder guitar player (not that I succeeded, mind you) when I was about 15. Then when I was 22 or 24 I put the guitar aside for a few years to focus strictly on learning drums and percussion.

Daze: What kind of guitar did you start on?
Alex: It was a cheap nylon string guitar and I still have it. It’s at my friend Pablo’s house! I taught myself, I never had any lessons or anything. I started with acoustic guitar and then graduated to the electric a few years later when I started playing in bands and recording in Mexico City as a teenager.

Daze: I’ve known you a long time. Everybody tells me not to ask you about this, but I want to hear from you: what happened to Ghandaia (gahn-die-ah)
Alex: (Laughs) They’re right! It just kind of ended, man. I put everything I had into that project for a very long time, as you know. It’s just hard to maintain something like that for so long. Eventually folks make life choices and we went our separate ways. But by the time one specific person left the band, I didn’t want to continue the project in that particular way. I felt that what we had built was made together. Frankly, I was burnt out. I’d spent years running the band and all those months working on producing the second record—which is amazing. It’s kind of heartbreaking because it never came out (although it’s up on youtube, Ghandaia: Evolucion). I think it’s a great record, I’m very proud of it. The project just died, so I secluded. I was exhausted and heartbroken. So I dove head first into the drums, full time. That was my therapy, you know? Just traveling the country and playing the drums with Topaz/Mudphonic, playing with amazing musicians everywhere and growing a lot as a musician myself. That was an amazing experience. I have some regrets about the Ghandaia thing but I’m at peace with everything that happened. Everybody gets along now and it’s an interesting & very important part of my musical history.

Daze: It’s something to learn from.
Alex: Absolutely. I learned a great deal. Things happen for a reason and we don’t always see why they’re happening when they’re happening. We don’t understand. That’s why bad experiences are there; to make us better, to make us grow.

Daze: From those days, I knew you as a frontman. Over the past many years, I’ve seen you in the back playing drums. What does it feel like to be a frontman again and which do you like better?
Alex: The drums are my favorite. Every instrument has its own vibe; the voice is a very unique thing that comes right out of your body and allows you to connect with people right away. People respond immediately to the voice. With rhythm, people respond in a more visceral way. It’s more instinctual, more primal. When I’m playing music I aim to be in that zen moment, completely away from everything. It’s about getting to a place where I’m in between consciousness, that place where I’m here but I’m not here— for me, that happens on the drums quicker than on any other instrument. So I cherish it. I mean, the guitar is a great instrument too and a great tool for songwriting, especially if you sing also. It’s just a fantastic way to express emotion in a way people can relate to. But with drumming I don’t have to be in the front. I don’t have to be trying to engage an audience. I can just play and I’m still in control. The drummer is a fundamental part of the band, the heartbeat. If I stop, the music’s gonna stop (for the most part). Yeah, I’m kind of a control freak. So, to answer your question, the frontman thing is definitely amazing as well, just in a different way. This whole experience [with Brown Sabbath] has been incredibly fun because I get to be this larger than life persona. I get lost in the character. But where it’s at for me musically is still mostly on the drums.

Daze: Do you ever get to that level of subconsciousness when you’re singing?
Alex: Yeah, but in a different way. Those moments are a lot shorter and fewer in between, because everyone is kind of looking at you. For example, in Brown Sabbath, I’m trying to rile everybody up and it’s all about an immediate energy exchange, rock n roll style. There are times when I can block that all that out and just be in the moment singing and experimenting with my instrument. I’ll reach some of those vocal/musical peaks and people will connect with me and that’s amazing. But there’s just something about being in the back, closing my eyes and being in that place for extended amounts of time. When you open your eyes and you’ve forgotten where you are because you’ve been lost in the music and in the moment. You express yourself without thinking, and that’s beautiful. It’s spiritual.

Daze: Are you going to bite the head off of a bat?
Alex: No, never. Ozzy didn’t intend to, either! He thought it was a toy. He bit into it and found out it was real, then had to get a bunch of rabies shots into his gut for weeks after that incident! It ended up being a great PR move but he didn’t plan it.

Daze: Tell us about your gig at the Continental Club Gallery and with whom else you’re playing with.
Alex: I’ve been invited by my friends in the Kalu James Band to play percussion up there on Monday’s. It’s a great scene up there on Monday’s too. It’s such dynamic music. Kalu’s songs are beautiful and they have a lot of dynamic range and different influences. It’s great for me to bring all sorts of percussion toys and just fit within in the cracks and add to the mood of songs. That’s another beautiful part about percussion. You get to approach music from a whole other perspective a lot of times. Especially if you’re playing soul or pop music or whatever, you’re adding texture and vibe. Whereas Latin music, you’re part of the foundation of the music. It’s interesting. I’ll be there on Monday’s when I’m not on the road. I sit in a lot on Wednesday’s too with Snizz & Friends. I’ll sing or El John will let me sit in on percussion. Fun nights. I also play percussion and sing back up’s for the amazing Nakia whenever possible, it’s a fantastic band and Nakia is a hell of a singer and frontman. I also play drums with a great guitar player from Amarillo named Cody Jasper. It’s a few of the guys from Kalu’s band, really good stuff. We’ve been playing the Continental every few months. I’ll be going to Norway with him in September.

Daze: We read the bit about Brownout/Brown Sabbath on NPR, so we know how you all came together to do Brownout/Brown Sabbath. But can you tell us how you got involved?
Alex: It’s pretty funny, because I’ve known those guys forever. Ghandaia and Grupo Fantasma started at the Empanada Parlor at the same time. I still play with those guys in other situations. I heard about the gig at Frank when they said they were having a different theme each week and the last one was going to be “Brown” Sabbath. So I called them and said, “Hey, I’d love to sing War Pigs.” And the answer was, “Ooh. I don’t know, man. There are so many singers who have come forth. I don’t know if we’ll be able to fit you in.” I said: “It’s all good. Just throw my name in the hat, if I can sing a song, great. If not, no big deal.” That was that. Then a week before the show, I ran into those guys and they said: “Hey, uh… so… do you still want to sing War Pigs?” I told them I would. Then they said, “Can you sing Sweet Leaf and the Wizard too?!” I asked what happened to all the singers and they said everybody fell through. It was pretty funny. Worked out well, I think!

Daze: Is Brown Sabbath planning to write original material?
Alex: Brown Sabbath is just this kind of alter-ego project. Brownout is the main band and it has existed as an entity for about ten years. Brown Sabbath just kind of happened and people reacted to it. There was interest from Ubiquity Records to put out a record, so we’re in this fun ride of a project right now. The main focus for the guys is still Brownout and Grupo Fantasma. I think there’s a window before we overstay our welcome, so it’s important to be mindful of that. Brownout will continue and I may do some guest vocals with them in the future, but this is just a fun side thing.

Daze: It’s awesome and weird how popular Brown Sabbath is all over the country right now. How do you feel about that?
Alex: Everybody knows Black Sabbath. It’s hard to go wrong. Black Sabbath is funky. It’s always been funky. What we do is just put a different kind of spin on it and people react because they know these songs and they dig the approach we took. That’s why it’s so easy for me to be up there and be this kind of big persona, because I know everybody knows the music. It’s great to be playing in this project.

Daze: What are you going to move onto next?
Alex: I’ve always got something going on. I’m always playing with a whole bunch of different people, whether it’s percussion, guitar or drums. This new project, “Clandestino All Stars” with Michael Ramos, Greg Gonzalez & Brian Ramos started as a fun way for us to re-interpret Manu Chao’s classic record “Clandestino”. But it’s been so fun that we’re starting to collaborate and want to turn it into an original project. We love playing with each other and it’s nice to have a small format of musicians who can do multiple things and play very dynamically. So, I think we’re going to explore that further. I’m also hoping to have some music of my own to put out by next year. I haven’t done that in a while.

Daze: You’ve been on highs and lows. What advice do you have for someone just starting out?
Alex: If you’re in it for the money, don’t do it! If you want money, get a real estate license, I heard somebody said that once. It’s absolutely true. You have to play for the right reasons: because you love it, because you don’t have a choice, because you need to express yourself. It’s a difficult life, especially with the state of the music industry right now. Nobody knows where it’s going to go. Making money from creating music has become next to impossible. My advice is to be passionate about what you do, to work hard on becoming a better person, musician and artist. That’s really what the endgame should be. If you want to be an instant pop superstar for 15 minutes, then get on American Idol. If you want to be a full-time musician, you have to realize that it’s not glamorous and it’s like anything else you do that’s worthwhile, it requires a lot of hard work.

Sundaze Conversations #1: Barfield- The Tyrant of Texas Funk

Get to know Barfield with us. We sat down with The Tyrant after Sinners Brunch at Jo’s. The team this time was John Grubbs , Caity Shaffer and I. We had a good time. Make sure you see the Barfield show live. Trust me, you will be entertained!

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Daze: When and how did you know that you’d be a channel for funky soul music?  Tell me a story of how it all started?

Barfield: It kind of morphed over years.  I started out in a garage band when I was in junior high school.  I came from the school of thought of how the classic 60’s guys like Mick Jagger and James Brown fronted those kind of bands.  Then I grew to love country music too, so I sang in some country bands, country rock bands.

I was born in Houston and was around a lot of that kind of music–high school soul, funk. It was all mixed, everything was kind of no holds barred.  It was like you can like anything.  So my dad didn’t play an instrument, but he liked whatever he liked.  He might like a rock song, and he might like some classic jazz song or something.  I grew up with that, but I think as time went on…

I was playing in Wisconsin with a little band when I broke off on my own, doing more R&B and blues and soul, and a little bit of funk with my other stuff. This guy billed me as Mike Barfield and said, “Hey, I hope you don’t mind, but I called you “The Tyrant of Texas Funk.”  I said,  “No.  That sounds good.”

When I came back here, that’s been ten years ago I guess, I told Steve about it.  That’s how I became billed as that.  I gradually started doing more and more of it, and met Johnny Moeller, the guitar player and Mike Flannigan, who plays organ upstairs.  Mike was originally in the band with me too, and when I was doing the funk thing we wrote songs together.  It just kind of came that way–we didn’t really consciously plan it as such.  We got into R&B and soul, then gradually started to morph it into the funk thing.  I think with me it’s like if I had horns and all, all the time, you’d watch it and someone with my persona would get lumped into Blues Brother things.  What we do, it’s not really pure funk and soul, it’s more of a garage approach, a small combo. I love all that stuff.  The fun of it is just doing it I guess.  Just being able to live life and enjoy it as much as you can.

Daze: You’ve always had a great band.  How did you meet all those people?

Barfield:   When I first moved back in here, in 2000, I was still playing with the Hollisters, and I was on Hightone.  We had a record, and the guitar player moved to Seattle. I had to grab somebody, and I grabbed Chris Miller.  He left the Marcia Ball band and came with me.  Chris’s kind of open, in the genre sense, and came up liking the same things even though he was from Portland, and I’m from Texas.  We did that for a couple years and I started wanting to make a record on my own.  I made a record called Living Stereo with Fort Horton Studios, and it had some covers on it, some country songs I wrote, and soul, R&B, a couple blues tunes.  That was kind of my stepping out thing.  I did a soul tune by a friend of mine and Chris and Dave Miller were on that.

I was playing one night with Chris Miller doing a little thing I don’t normally do, playing an acoustic gig at Flipnotics.  And Chris said, “Oh, Johnny Moeller is here, “ and was talking about Johnny’s guitar playing.  So, I went out to the Poodle Dog Lounge where Johnny happened to be playing and Lazy Lester came out.  That was the first time I met Johnny and his brother Jay, and Mike Flannigan. I started hiring Johnny a couple times, and we just got to know each other. I never believed that much in cornball destiny things; but, in some ways, you wonder why you connect with certain people or not.  It’s just happenstance. I don’t know, but as soon as I saw him play, I just knew I’d be playing with him, or I wanted to.

I met Nick Curran years ago too when he first moved to town; that’s how I met Damien.  Nick and Damien were playing together, and Damien goes “hey man, I’d like playing with you, give me a call.”  And, I called him.  I was a big champion of Nick and Gary Clark Jr.  I did a show opening up for Southern Culture on the Skids one time.  It was just me, Gary Clark, Jr., and Jay Moeller; we all set up in the front–the drums, and then Gary, and then me.  We had no bass player; I just played maracas and sang.  We did the opening show and called ourselves The Solution.  I’m proud of those moments.

It’s all kind of a good friendly big camaraderie here and that’s what I like–a lot of that kind of intermingling from people that play in different groups.

They (the band) are all inspiring to me.  They are younger than me, and you naturally feed off that energy.  I’m always looking for somebody that wants to have fun on stage too.  That wants to be original.  That is my thing as the band leader or front man- to have that freedom where you know that the guys you’re working with are all good at what they do.  You don’t want to press on anybody too much like, “I want you to it play exactly this way,” which would be more of the James Brown approach probably.  He was more of an architect in his way.  My blueprint is different. I have to let somebody do their thing and thereby get even more out of it, I think.  They enjoy it more ’cause everybody can take a little advice or something, but nobody wants to be told to play just “that.” They might take it for a while, but it’s more enjoyable to have freedom in music.  I call it just playing from the gut.  It’s strictly from your soul and from your insides.  Why would you want to hold that back in anybody?

Daze: You don’t hold back much.

Barfield: That’s great because I’m hoping that’s what’s happening. If you’re not feeling as good as you normally are…say you are feeling tired and what not, that will bring you up, make you feel better.  It helps the audience have a good time if you are enjoying playing, and I like whoever plays for me to always feel that.  You have parameters of course on the songs you are doing…

Daze: Do you have a preference between The Continental Club and C-Boys?

Barfield: I like both. I like the small, relaxed hang out at C-Boys with the little deck in the back.  So, that’s nice; it’s a little more intimate.  But, the stage sound on stage at the Continental Club is one of my favorites in town.  I love it, and I’m used to that site.  It’s got the perfect size.  The Continental has probably been my main stay and most favorite club in Austin for years.  I’ve been really lucky because I’ve been working there for a long time. Without that club, I think I would have had a rough time.  Steve Wertheimer is  a great club owner, the guy that owns both C-Boys and Continental Club. He’s been very, very good to musicians.

Daze: When did you decide to drop the guitar and be a front man?

Barfield: I never really was a guitar player anyway, really.  At first I started out as a front man only.  Then, later on when I started playing with this other band, the Hollisters, I had to get a chord book and learn basic acoustic rhythm to do that music; and so I did that for years.  I still enjoy that, still do it sometimes; but, when I’m doing this band, that just has no place at least right now.  There is something freeing about not having that to worry about.  Then, I can dance and I can do whatever I want to do.

Daze: Who taught you how to dance?

Barfield:  Just watching TV.  When I was a kid I used to love all of the dance shows on TV, even local in Houston–that would be the Larry Kane Show where they would just have dancers.  It would be like the old Dick Clark show.  You’d see kids dancing, and the bands would come on and play or they’d be taped and just had the music…and then Soul Train.  I grew up with that, my age group.  To me that was the epitome of free form dancing.  My last years in high school, the white kids wore platform shoes, long hair, and blacks had fros, whites too.  Those were the styles I grew up with in the 70s.  I think it’s timeless–I don’t think it’s ever gone out of fashion.

You can be free and ridiculous; you quit worrying about what people think.  If someone wants to laugh at me, that’s fine too.  I don’t really care.  It’s like I know that I’m going to enjoy my life as much as I can.  You want to make fun of that, that’s fine.  Some people just want to go “look at him” but I think it makes people relax too and they aren’t as inhibited about dancing.  Some people need somebody to be that for them, so that’s what I tell them, “I’ll take care of the embarrassment for you.  You don’t have to worry about it.”

Daze: Is that part of what’s behind lyrics like “Popping the Cooch?”

Barfield: Yeah, subconsciously, I’m sure that is a lot of what it is.  I got that because one of my friends used to talk about this guy he worked with, who would brag, kind of joking around humor like, “This is how you pop that cooch,” and make that sound and do it (clicks his tongue).  It’s nasty, but at the same time it’s harmless fun.  I had a whole group of girls in Lincoln, Wisconsin.  They came out and said, “We’ve got a surprise for you tonight.”  I was like, what is it?  “It’s about music.”   And I thought, are you gonna bring me a record.  So, I get to this show, and all of a sudden they’ve got this look on their face and they pull their shirts off and they all have tank top or a black t-shirt that said “Popping the Cooch” on the shirt.  My point there is that some girls don’t find that offensive.  It’s not my wife’s favorite song that’s for sure.

Daze:  You mentioned James Brown before.  How do you feel about being compared to him?

Barfield: I’m flattered if someone even thinks about comparing me to James Brown.  There are only a few musicians that have been giants, Mount Rushmore type figures in music.  He would be one to me.  He took some musical form like rhythm and blues and soul music, and all of a sudden he accents it another way.  Just by his natural instincts, and lack of formal training, comes up with this thing that nobody has come up with.  He truly is the Godfather of Soul.   He started out more as soul and became funk.   I can’t think of anybody I would say has been more influential.  There’s a movie coming out about him that Mick Jagger produced.

Daze:  Did you ever get to meet James Brown?

Barfield: No.  I saw him once in his later years, but even at that age, he was still very tough.  He was like 70 years old and still doing a couple moves.  Maybe he didn’t sing as good as he used to, but he was great.  The band was machine tight.  I mean, I wish I could have seen him way back.  A lot of my favorite singers are people of that era.  I wish I could have seen Jackie Wilson.  I love him.  He’s a singer, and his vocal range is so different from mine.  I am naturally a baritone, but I kind of have a high end to my voice; so, I have always admired someone who has that higher range.

Daze:  What is your writing process like?

Barfield: When I am writing for this band, or trying to, sometimes I will have an idea on my own; or, other times, Johnny will have an idea about a rhythm or chord progression, and I’ll put lyrics to that.   Sometimes I’ll have both.  “The Struggle” I wrote myself.  “Popping the Cooch, I wrote.  With the Struggle, I originally wanted a song that just stays on the one all the time.  And that’s what that song was.  Some stuff I will start off on the acoustic guitar.  Lately, I am writing a lot with Johnny.  And I used to write a lot with Mike Flannigan too.  I like having a partner in crime.  Sometimes the whole band will get in on it.  Sometimes they just help arrange it.  It just kind of depends.

That’s what’s fun about being in a group.  Feeling like if it is really going good on stage, or if you come up with something good, you almost feel like you are part of a big wheel that’s turning.  You’re making this whole thing go.  At the same time, you’re just a big spoke in it, part of the thing that’s pushing it forward.  When everybody is in that, and the whole band can feel it, there is nothing like that.  I love that feeling.  It is kind of like you are tripping in another way.  You are physically involved, and mentally involved, but it’s relaxed.  It’s just happening.  All those things you’ve worked on before.

But “good’ and “bad’ you know.  Some nights when I feel it’s not as great, that’s when everybody goes, “Man, that sounded so good!”   And you’ll think, “Oh, I thought we were a little bit off.”  It’s a strange thing.  That makes you realize, “I don’t have a whole handle on it either. The people out there; they are the ones making it too.”

Daze:  What’s next for you?

Barfield:  We are trying to get a little EP out.  We’ve got a recording we are waiting on to get mastered.  Hopefully, we’ll make some vinyl.   Some CDs.  Have a release party.  Try to get out more.  I am looking forward to that.  It’s always hard too—the waiting.  I just try not to worry about things like this as much as I used to.  Take it day by day…

Daze:  Do you have a lot of gigs this week?

Barfield: Tuesday night, at the Continental.  Just about every week.

Daze:  Your gig is one that, definitely, everybody in Austin needs to go out and see.  Thank you for doing this.

Barfield:  Ah, you bet.  Thank you, man.

We just will not STOP! ISSUE #86

IMG_3935This is the new cover by  Rockslide. It features Barfield. IT REALLY FELT GOOD TO TYPE THAT!

I will post our words with BARFIELD tomorrow and a new interview every week….

 

Vuelta del pulpo = return of the octopus

What is going on with The Daze?
Sweet . Thanks fôr Asking…

pulpo-cartoon

A hell of a lot of things are going on over here. We are trying to get in a solid groove with these conversàtions/interviews. We will get them up soon. 5 of them down so far! A new cover will hit ànd our site will get easier to use and have a new look soon. It sounds like I enjoy the word SOON becàuse I use it often here. In truth, I wish, soon was now. The way things háppen sometimes is slow but there is progress. There is alsô some tałk about a return öf Thè Daze Partièś. Asîde from thAt we are śtill out there covering things most nights.

If you want to help out or get involved, just message us…

Thanks to rockslide for the new mantra!
Vuelta del pulpo!

Stay Tuned…

Hard Working Americans at Stubbs 7.26.14

Todd Snider, Dave Schools, Neal Casal, Chad Staehly, and Duane Trucks have supergrouped themselves into a band known as Hard Working Americans. Here’s some pics from their Saturday night set at Stubbs. Special guest Elizabeth Cook on vocals.

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40 Years of Austin City Limits

When a TV show lasts forty seasons it’s because they are doing something right. Drop into random episodes of Austin City Limits and you’ll hear an impressive scope of different genres and sounds, yet it all feels handpicked for the same audience of discerning music lovers. The music at the recent Austin City Limits Celebrates 40 Years benefit concert is equally diverse, yet paired well: the slickback blues of Jimmie Vaughan, the ameritexacana roots music of Joe Ely and Robert Earl Keen, old school outlaw from Kris Kristofferson, the Latin funk orchestration of Grupo Fantasma, and the garage-soul of Alabama Shakes all appear to honor the show turning forty.

On the night of the taping the population of the ACL Live studio sits in anticipation. In the side stage area tonight’s key players are gathered in a moment of calm before the cameras start rolling. Host Andy Langer reads over his notes, beside him producer Terry Lickona and Jeff Bridges stand side by side talking. Sheryl Crow grins and looks up into the balcony. The music hasn’t even started but there’s electricity in the air. After quick stage introductions, the flood gates open with four hours of entertainment. Before the first notes you know it’s gonna be good, just by the talent assembled on stage for the opening song. Bonnie Raitt, Jimmie Vaughan, Gary Clark Jr., Brittany from the Alabama Shakes, and the Grupo Fantasma Horns deliver on that promise, ripping through a Fabulous Thunderbirds song. As they leave the stage emcee Andy Langer points out most shows end with a song like that, but they made it the opening shot. Did we forget to mention they are backed up by the all-star house band of Lloyd Maines, Rich Brotherton, David Grissom, Glenn Fukunaga, Riley Osbourn, and Tom Van Schaik? After sharing duties with Sheryl Crow on “Me & Bobby McGee”, and a solo take on his classic “The Pilgrim, Chapter 33”, grey-bearded sage Kris Kristofferson cedes the stage to his grey-bearded country twin Jeff Bridges. Bridges in turn plays a couple of songs penned by the late great Stephen Bruton, paying tribute to his old friend. After a couple of songs from the Alabama Shakes, the first set closes with Gary Clark stretching out on his hit “Bright Lights”. In rehearsals, Terry Lickona felt like something was missing, so he asked Gary to stretch the song another minute. The extra time allows Gary to add more firepower to his solo in a climatic first set finale. Andy Langer noted that while growing up, Gary Clark wore out a VHS copy of Stevie Ray Vaughn’s Austin City Limits episodes. The circle continues as Clark now has his own guitar licks documented for history on ACL. Second set highlights include a pair of Grupo Fantasma songs that move some audience members to dancing; a triple threat of Jimmie Vaughan, Doyle Bramhall, and Gary Clark together on a blues burner; and Robert Earl Keen with Joe Ely trading verses on “The Road Goes on Forever”. The show that started big ends big, with all musicians returning to the stage. The grand finale is Buddy Holly’s “Not Fade Away”, a Texas anthem for the entire cast and audience to rally around, multiple singers taking verses, multiple guitar players trading licks.

NotFadeAwayPhoto by Scott Newton Courtesy of KLRU-TV
http://acltv.com/2014/06/27/acls-all-star-40th-anniversary/

Calling Austin City Limits a local and national treasure is not PR speak or fan-blogger overenthusiasm; it’s for real. Most telling is the respect artists have for Austin City Limits. The traditionally calm cool Johnny Cash was a touch nervous before his historic ACL taping, he knew it was a big show and wanted to get it right. We may be forty years removed from the initial pilot episode, but the core vision of the show remains pure and in place: great music, intimate performances, and attentive audiences; all captured on camera and delivered weekly to the public.

As part of the PBS Fall Arts Festival, ACL Celebrates 40 Years will appear as a two-hour special on PBS on Oct. 3.

Austin City Limits Celebrates 40 Years

KLRUbenefitACLliveWeb

Austin City Limits Celebrates 40 Years on June 26th to benefit KLRU-TV, Austin PBS. This special night of music featuring Alabama Shakes, Doyle Bramhall II, Jeff Bridges, Gary Clark, Jr., Sheryl Crow, Joe Ely, Grupo Fantasma, Robert Earl Keen, Kris Kristofferson, Lloyd Maines, Bonnie Raitt, Jimmie Vaughan and more. Hosted by Jeff Bridges and Sheryl Crow. This benefit concert will be recorded and aired on PBS as part of the PBS Fall Arts Festival in October.

Doors: 6:30 PM · Show: 8:00 PM

Shots of the Daze # 46

Bill Frisell jams out at the Continental Club 5/23 and 5/24, 2014. This time Bill brought out a backup band with him;  Greg Leisz on guitar and pedal steel, Tony Scherr on bass & Rudy Royston on drums
I was very fortunate to be able to experience this show two nights in a row. Bill went through some great material, and with ease. I couldn’t take my eyes off his fingers as they moved up and down the strings on the neck of his guitar. I like to think of myself as knowing what’s going on at a show, but between Bill and Greg, I was having trouble figuring out who to pay attention to. They were tossing back and forth leads on guitar and it was pretty amazing. These guys will be releasing an album soon, and it is definitely an experience worth checking out. A side note: I have never seen folding chairs set up in this club before.

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Shots of the Daze # 47

Shinyribs live at Threadgills 5/24. This band blows my mind. Kevin Russell is one of the greatest performance artists around. The horns that they have onstage are some of the best around. The drummer also comes from The Gourds days. There was a mad keyboard player and a bass player on this night. I have long been a fan of the Gourds. This band takes what they were doing one step further. I think it’s because Kevin is able to write and perform material that is outside of what was the norm for the Gourds. The crowd’s faces were mesmerized and transfixed on Kevin as he performed Sweet Potato. Watching these people is almost as entertaining as watching Kevin go through the movements on stage. I was talking with my friend after a show, and he was saying Kevin Russell has “the flow.” Magic and grooves seemed to go through his body. I recommend catching these guys create.

www.shinyribs.org

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Shots of the Daze #45

Papa Mali Trio live at Cboys Heart&Soul. 5/22/14.

On this night, the trio was made up of Robb Kidd on drums, Brad Houser on bass, and the excellent Papa Mali on lead guitar and vocals. Ever since I heard about this show, I knew that it would be a reunion of many old friends. I was right. Papa Mali used to be a regular in the Austin music scene before he moved to New Orleans and this night brought out many of the musicians he used to play with as well as most of his Austin fanbase. I must have gotten hugs or shook hands with most of the filled room that night. The music was stellar. There were many guests. The first guest was Scrappy Jud on guitar. It’s been a long time since I have seen Scrappy tear it up and rock out. He is usually in a more subdued context. I really enjoyed watching him let loose. He is one of the greatest guitar players I know of.  Also joining the line-up was Martha, she added sweet vocals to the already-good sound. Then. Claude showed up and playing a melodica and Papa Mali kept the crowd moving with amazing licks. We took a break with them. He came back out with Kevin Russell from Shinyribs and the stage was on fire because both of these people have really incredible stage presence. They finished off the night with “Lovelight” and “Bertha” and  kept everyone dancing until 2am. This was a Thursday night but it felt like a Saturday because the movement of the crowd kept up til late. I hope Papa Mali felt the outpour of love from the fans and I hope this means that he’ll be returning often. We miss him…

Thanks to Cheryl for pictures :)IMG_3268 IMG_3203 IMG_3179IMG_3224