Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Honeycreeper Interview

This interview is week 4 of Sean Claes' 52 Weeks of Austin Music Interviews.

Birds of a Feather ROCK together
By Sean Claes

I’ve known Billy Perkins of Austin metal band Butcherwhite for quite a few years. A few months ago, I attended a benefit for the victims of the wildfires held at Hanover’s in Pflugerville and he was there with a new band, Honeycreeper.

I believe it was one of their first gigs out in public, and I really got into the straight up ready-for-arena rock of their sound. I kept up with them over the last few months, and I learned they are about to enter the studio to record their debut album, and they’re continuing to get their footing in the Austin music scene by playing out regularly. In fact, on February 11, 2012, they will be taking the stage at Headhunters.

The band is made up of a collective of seasoned Austin musicians… members of the Black Crowe’s tribute band, Sometimes Salvation, the killer Razr 13, and the aforementioned Butcherwhite. Members include Billy Perkins (vocals), Eddie Mendoza (Bass), Chris 'JRAB' Thomas (Drums), and the twin guitar power of Danny Wright and Darrell (Doobie) Daugherty.

I talked with a few of the members about the formation of the band, their sound, and the future of Honeycreeper.

Sean Claes: Interesting name. Who came up with it?
Billy Perkins: We had tossed around a few names. Some we found out were already taken, and some just didn't stick. Finally one evening right before I left for rehearsal, my girl and I were watching a show on Hawaii's volcanoes. When the land is entirely covered with black volcanic rock, there's a certain kind of plant that is the first life to burst through the rock.

We learned that a bird called a honeycreeper is dependent on that plant, and vice versa. As soon as we heard the word "honeycreeper," we both looked up and thought maybe that was it. About an hour later, I presented it to the band and everyone dug it.

Claes: You’re all members of other local bands (Butcherwhite, Sometimes Salvation, and Razr13). How did you come together?
Chris “JRAB” Thomas: Darrell (Daugherty) wrote some songs and was wanting to record a record. We started jamming. I had wanted to jam with Billy for a while. With Danny (Wright) and Eddie (Mendoza) already playing with Darrell in the Black Crowes Tribute, Billy was the final piece...

Darrell “Doobie” Daugherty: I met Eddie and Danny in the Sometimes Salvation (Black Crowes) tribute band. I fell in love with these two guys' ability to play! When I started this band I already had my sights set on these two guys. JRAB came into the picture when he started dating a good friend of mine that plays for Marshall Dylan. After searching for a vocalist for quite a while, JRAB knew a cat named Billy Perkins that played with Butcherwhite. We asked him to come out and jam and I want to say he was hooked at that point. LOL

Claes: You’ve got that old school rock swagger to your sound. This is a departure from the sound of your other projects. Was this one of the reasons Honeycreeper came together?
Daugherty: Not really, but we liked the fact that even though Butcherwhite is a metal band, Billy can actually sing and not growl! We made it clear from the start that we were not looking for cookie monster for our vocalist!

Perkins: In the beginning, I had just agreed to fill in for a while until the guys found a permanent singer. I wasn't expecting to enjoy it as much as I did. There were a handful of existing songs that Doobie wrote, plus a couple of fun covers they had been jamming on. It didn't take very long for me to see the potential for something more, and I soon became very interested in writing some songs with these guys.

Whereas Butcherwhite is more primal, Honeycreeper allows me to explore a more visceral side. The guitars are in very capable hands, so since I don't have to play, I can focus on vocal melodies and try to write more poetic lyrics. I'm enjoying a different kind of creative process, while trying to become a better singer and showcase another side of myself vocally.

We're all huge fans of old-school rock bands like UFO, Robin Trower and more - back when bands had twin gunslingers on lead guitar, and singers who actually SANG. Eddie and Doobie are also great at harmony vocals. To get my game face on for Honeycreeper, I listen to a lot of vocalists like Mark Farner (Grand Funk) and James Dewar (Trower). That's how we roll.

Claes: It’s nice to hear a guitar solo again. That is something that is missing from much of today’s music.
Daugherty: Dude, when the grunge came into play and all the solo guitar was gone, I was soooo disappointed! I had worked years on my guitar solo playing. Regardless what other bands were doing, I was not going to stop ripping it up! Screw that! And when you hear our record or come to our show you WILL understand.

Perkins: There are times when we're playing that I'm so blown away by what Danny and Doobie are doing, that I just become a fan and stop and listen. We believe in letting a song breathe. If it turns out to be 8 minutes long, so be it.

Claes: How does a Honeycreeper song come into existence?
Daugherty: I will usually lay down a scratch track on my recorder with a simple beat on the drum machine, present it to the band to see how everyone jells with it, and then let everyone work their own magic.

Claes: You’ve got some heavy themes in your songs. Tell me about the track “Set Me Free.”
Daugherty: It's basically about the decision of war. Starting war for personal gain, money, oil etc. without thinking it through. Think before you strike. As the lyrics say, "Re-trace your thoughts and all these things you can surely avoid!"

Claes: I saw you perform “Day of the Eagle” at Hanovers in Pflugerville when you played Firestock. How’d you choose that cover?
Daugherty: I'm not sure who came up with the idea of playing that tune, but when we played it at rehearsal for the very first time, Danny played the ending solo and knocked it slap out of the park! It was an amazing solo! We have kept it in the set ever since then.

Perkins: OK, this is one of those tunes that I was referring to earlier, where the guitars are just so incredible and beautiful that I just have to step back, close my eyes and listen. First of all, it's a Robin Trower tune - one of the best rock guitar players on the planet.

You don't just nonchalantly cover a song like this. It's full of passion. It has to be sung accordingly, with as much soul as I can muster. But mainly, the guitars need to also reflect that passion.

Danny plays "Day Of The Eagle" like he just sold his soul to the devil. And that's pretty much how all of our guitar leads are in this band.

Claes: Your debut album is coming out Spring 2012. Who are you recording with?
Thomas: RAZR 13 recorded our record with Paul Soroski and ROCK ARMY RECORDS. I've known Paul since 2000. I drum teched for PODUNK (Pauls band) in 2004 when they were out with TESLA. They gave me the "JRAB" nickname....keeping it in the family!

Claes: Will it be a full-length or EP?
Daugherty: We were going to do an EP, but the new material that we were writing was being put together so quick that we decided to do a full length record.

Claes: Tell me about Rock Army Records.
Perkins: Rock Army is a local label manned by Podunk bassist Paul Soroski. Paul is gonna record us in his studio next month. Paul and I have been friends for years but have never worked together, so
this is going to be fun.

Claes: Billy, It’s hard to interview you without mentioning your day job. For the last 14 years you’ve been owner of Penhead Designs. You’ve done poster art for Cheap Trick, Widespread Panic, Hayes Carll, Alice In Chains, Willie Nelson, BB King, Slayer, and a host of others. Do you have a personal favorite?
Perkins: Well, after 20 years of doing rock poster art, I have a few favorites. I also have a few that I'd like to sweep under the rug. Although I've done work for some big name bands, I've found that I can get really attached to posters that I do for my own bands. I put a little more of my heart and personal character into those. I've done Butcherwhite's posters for years, and I'm looking forward to doing more for Honeycreeper, like this one.

I share artistic duties in Honeycreeper with JRAB, who does a lot of promotional flyers & posters around town and is a talented artist in his own right.

Claes: Your posters are something that goes past the definition of “gig poster” and more into the realm of artwork. Where can people buy prints?
Perkins: I highly encourage poster art fans to visit the coolest poster site on the planet, A lot of the artists, including myself often hang out there & chat about posters. I have some of my work for sale on that site, here's a link.

Claes: Back to Honeycreeper. Where are some of your favorite places to play in Austin?
Thomas: The Dirty Dog Bar for one, but....I will play in your kitchen if you wanna hear our music!

Daugherty: We play a lot at Dirty Dog, it has a good stage, lighting and kick ass system. Nice club.

Perkins: We're still pretty new, so there are a lot of places we'd like to play. I could see us ripping it up at the ROT Rally, or putting on a good show for an Antone's crowd. We're equally at home on Red River.

Claes: Do you guys see taking the band on the road at any point?
Daugherty: We would love to. It's something we need to talk about and put together, as we all have day jobs as well at this point. So buy this record so we don't have to! LOL

Thomas: I live for the road...fingers crossed!

Claes: You’ve got a show on February 11 at Headhunters (720 Red River) with A Good Rogering, Forever Town, Blarney Street Hooligans and Masikrator. What can you tell me about the bands on the bill?
Thomas: Skunk from A Good Rogering is a good friend, we played with them in San Marcos.
Daugherty: A Good Rogering is a very good band. They have a heavy funky sound that is very original.
Perkins: Masikrator is a great punk/metal instrumental trio. My buddy Ken Kemp, who was Butcherwhite's bassist for 5 years is part of Masikrator.

Claes: OK, if you had the chance to have Honeycreeper play a show and you got to hand pick the bands to play with (any bands in the world), what would the line-up be… and where would you play?
Thomas: King's X, Tesla and Kansas City, MO. That's where I'm from.
Perkins: Hmmm. It would need to be a guitar players bill. How about Michael Schenker, Thin Lizzy, Gov't Mule, Honeycreeper and ZZ Top (in no particular order) Auditorium Shores.

Claes: Would you like to add anything?
Thomas: Check out all the great bands on Rock Army Records.
Daugherty: I personally am very blessed to have the caliber musicians in this band that we have. We are kicking ass and we haven't even been together a full year! It will only go up from here!
Perkins: This is going to be a fun ride. I think people are gonna dig it.

Check out Honeycreeper at Headhunters on February 11, 2012.

Sean Claes is the owner of Austin's INsite Magazine and has been a freelance entertainment writer since 1996. If you like what you read... please share. To visit Claes' homepage, go here -

Monday, January 30, 2012

PR: 2012 Grounded In Music Benefit

(Repost of a Press Release from


(AUSTIN, Texas - January 2012) Country music stars Jack Ingram and Hayes Carll will be co-headlining at this year's Grounded in Music 2012 Benefit Concert to raise funds for the organization's music education program. This year's event will be held at the Gibson Guitar Showroom in Austin on Wednesday, February 15 and doors will open at 6:30 p.m., kicking off with a performance by Grounded in Music students. The event is open to the public, and prior to the show, there will be a reception for all sponsors and pre-party ticket holders. Immediately following the concert, an after-party with Jack Ingram and Hayes Carll will be held for event sponsors. General public tickets can be purchased online at Prices for general admission tickets are $35 and $50.

All event proceeds will be used to purchase musical instruments for under-privileged youth, provide education in musicianship, teach music theory, as well as offer music-related opportunities outside of performance.

"Grounded in Music has a very simple mission: to leverage the power of music to transform young lives by creating self-confidence, opportunity and hope. These kids are learning that they can do anything they set their mind to and developing the confidence to push themselves to achieve things they never thought they could," said Joe Stallone, Grounded in Music's Founder. "Some of the kids in the program have a hard shell to crack," remarks Michael Longoria, Grounded in Music's Program Director. "But as we mentor, teach, and share with them, the music dissolves that shell."

This event marks the second time that Ingram, the 2008 Academy of Country Music's "Best New Male Artist," has collaborated with Grounded in Music to raise funds for the program which continues to be a signature program of the Boys and Girls Club of Austin, where Grounded in Music's four-year relationship continues to build each year. Grounded in Music's students are taught a variety of skills in musicianship, which range from writing lyrics, playing instruments and exploring other areas of the music industry. The program has also provided exclusive opportunities for the students to be mentored by participating artists Patty Griffin, Blue October, My Morning Jacket, Suzanna Choffel, Zeale, Vallejo, Broken Teeth and Jonathan Tyler and the Northern Lights. Other artists such as Ray Wylie Hubbard and Cory Morrow have financially supported the program.

The founders of the Austin-based non-profit believe immersion into music at a young age has a positive effect on children's overall well being by boosting confidence. Statistics show that students who are involved in music programs early in life perform better academically in the areas of math and reading. The data also shows that students score higher on the SATs in the areas of math and verbal, regardless of their socio-economic background.

About Grounded in Music

Launched in 2007 in Austin, Texas, Grounded in Music is a 501 (c)(3) non-profit corporation whose sole mission is to leverage the power of music to transform young lives by creating self-confidence, opportunity and hope. Grounded in Music was founded by and continues to be led by Austin music-industry professionals Joe Stallone, Partner at Oaks, Hartline & Daly LLP and Front Gate Tickets Director of Sales and Marketing, Jeff Kreinik. The board and advisory committee currently consist of 3Fingers Founder and CEO Scott Murray, eSession's CEO Gina Fant-Saez, ACC Professor Geoffrey Schulman, DMX's Senior Vice-President Danny Gillespie, Bracewell & Guiliani's Attorney Tom McNutt and Juice Consulting President and Founder, Heather Wagner Reed. For more information about Grounded in Music please visit:

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Ransom Jack Interview

This interview is week 3 of Sean Claes' 52 Weeks of Austin Music Interviews.

Ransom Jack

Carrying the Party-Punk Torch Along the I-35 Corridor

By Sean Claes

I attended college in San Marcos at Southwest Texas State University in the late 1990s. It was not, as many are prone to say, a “party school” any more than any other college I’ve visited. But, being in such close proximity to Austin and the Hill Country, San Marcos had its share of great bands come through… and I was a budding music journalist, so I had the chance to interview a few.

I’ve always championed the locals, though. Bands that were ACTUALLY San Marcos based. I’ve always kept up with the scene down the road as well. I’ve never been disappointed as there’s always a great band around the corner at Triple Crown, Cheatham Street Warehouse, and now Texas Music Theater.

I tell you that to introduce the subjects of my interview today. The San Marcos-based Ransom Jack. They are currently carrying on the legacy of the “great local San Marcos Party Band.” And that’s kind of a big deal.

Ransom Jack has that reggae-infused rock band sound akin to that of the Red Hot Chili Peppers. They formed in late 2007 and have been slowly working the stages along the I-35 corridor and making fans along the way. In 2011 they released their debut self-titled album with a huge show at San Marcos’ Texas Music Theater.

Zach Taylor (guitar/vox), J.C. Alvarez (Drums/vox) and Jarrod “JRod” Nall (bass/vox) are the members of Ransom Jack and we talked about the origin of the name, their debut CD, Wild Turkey, and some of the charities they feel strongly about.

FYI Their next Austin show is February 25 at Maggie Mae’s, which is the bands favorite local venue.

Sean Claes: Where’d Ransom Jack, the name come from?

JC Alvarez: Funny story. We were throwing around some band names and since we all had grown our beards out at the time, Lumber Jack was joked about.

Jarrod “JRod” Nall: We liked “Jack”, being a combination of our three names, and then someone recommended Handsome Jack. Then the rhyming started. I don’t know how but “Ransom” came up and the concept of “to redeem from captivity” was perfect.

Zach Taylor: I always thought of Ransom Jack being the savior for us, from which our society holds us captive. Institutions teach us from an early age that we should become corporate sheep, lawyers, doctors, teachers, etc… When really, we should find our true passion in life, pursue it with all our might, and never give up no matter how many trials come our way.

Music is Ransom Jack’s means of deliverance from this captivity.

Claes: Zach and JRod, you’ve known each other for a really long time. How long have you played together?

Taylor: Actually, Jrod and I met in middle school… We helped each other on an essay during a test, got caught, and were friends ever since.

Nall: We were 11 or 12. Zach had a new guitar (which is still the same one he uses today) and I had just started playing bass. We’ve been jamming on and off for some 15 years now.

Claes: How did you hone your sound?

Taylor: We locked ourselves in the jam room for over 2 months straight… we would literally practice all day and all night.

Nall: We lived off sandwiches and coffee for those two months and it’s a miracle we weren’t sick of each other by the end. It just happened. There’s just good chemistry between us and we all have different styles to bring to the table.

You can practice for a year straight, but if there’s no chemistry there then it’s just not going to work.

Claes: Having formed in 2007, why did it take until 2011 to cut a debut CD?

Taylor: We needed more stage experience to solidify our originals and create a well-balanced show diet. We did a few recordings in the early years but they were not the quality that we knew we were capable of and consequently had falling-outs with the engineers.

Then in 2010 we hooked up with JC’s old friend Maestro, a hip-hop producer that had formed the production company Atiatsus Entertainment LLC, and the album process just came together. It took a good amount of time to get everything perfect, but in the end we finally had a product we were happy with.

Claes: Who did you record with?

Nall: We recorded at The Looney Bin Studio with engineer Bobby Mercer, had it mastered at Terra Nova by Jerry Tubb and it was Executive Produced by Matthew “Maestro” Sustaita. They did a great job.

Claes: I’m digging the bass line of “Wild Turkey.” The song reminds me of the 1991 song “Apple Pie” by White Trash for some reason.

Nall: Thanks man. Wild Turkey’s one of my personal favorites as you may guess.

Taylor: Ha, I don’t know whether to laugh or cry… Those guys were some funky hipsters. I can’t get enough of those 90s bands because that’s the era we are strongly influenced by. Actually, “Wild Turkey” kind of started as a joke song, but everyone loved it and it ended up becoming one of our more popular ones.

Do you have a favorite track off the album?

Nall: Tough one. I guess I would have to go with the Bonus Track “Jam Song”. We cut that track in one take and you can feel the energy.

Alvarez: We honestly love all the songs, and they all mean something different to each of us. It would be too hard to pick one… But, “Building Blocks.”

Taylor: Three way tie for me, “For Goodness Sakes”, “Interlude” through “Building Blocks” and “Good For Nothing.” Those songs just speak to me.

Claes: Your CD release party was at San Marcos’ Texas Music Theatre on October 5, 2011. Was that an epic night?

Alvarez: TMT was like a dream come true, it was organized so well, the turn out reminded me of our barn parties back in the days. We had G Clef, DANGER!CROSSFIRE!, and Victory March.

Taylor: That crowd and stage was sick! It was surreal thinking back to the beginning playing at Cancun Rob’s for free beer and tacos to playing in such a professional venue.

Nall: Epic would be a good word for it. It was great to see everyone who has jammed our songs over the past 4 years in one place together supporting local music.

Claes: Who are some of the bands you count as influences?

Taylor: A small list includes The Beatles, 311, Victor Wooten, Incubus, Sublime, NOFX, Foo Fighters, and Red Hot Chili Peppers. We grew up going to Warped Tour every year starting in middle school so pretty much the entire punk world.

Claes: Although you’ve got a pretty extensive catalog of originals, you’ve got some great covers as well. What are some of your favorite covers to play?

Taylor: Probably Sublime’s “Caress Me Down”, The Beatles’ “Revolution; Come Together”, and Aerosmith’s “Sweet Emotion”.

We really enjoy turning cover songs into our own style rather than just repeating what has been done. We have a live rendition of MGMT’s “Kids” which always seems to get a lot of attention as well.

Claes: After 5 years of playing out, what was your favorite Ransom Jack show?

Alvarez: A lot of favorite gigs…

Taylor: …but nothing rocked as hard as the barn parties!

Nall: Those were definitely the most fun. That was really what got us momentum in the early days. It was a series of five parties spread out over a little less than a year and we rattled the earth. It’s great to not only play the show, but organize the entire event.

Just say the words “barn party” to anyone who was there and you can tell by the look on their face how much fun those shows were. And we want to thank our friend Mike Wilkinson for making those possible.

Claes: Over the last few years, you’ve played a few charity gigs. In 2010 and 2011 you played for TX State’s Bobcat Build. Why did you choose that organization?

Taylor: It’s a great cause. They actually chose us and there was no way we could turn that down.

Nall: We like helping out, Bobcat Build is a great cause. Whenever we can do something to help the community that has done so much for us we take advantage of the opportunity.

Alvarez: Giving back and helping others is one of the big things that we stand for.

Claes: You also wrote a song for the State Employee Charitable Campaign (SECC) entitled “Together We Care” that became a video by the folks at UTSA. How’d that whole thing come about?

Taylor: Charles Davis, who had been working with UTSA, contacted our publisher and they decided we had the perfect sound. So we got the concept and recorded “Together We Care”.

We had been playing with that riff for a while and when we were asked to do the video we wrote the lyrics pretty much in the studio. It’s a little corny, but it’s for a good cause and we love it.

Claes: Three members live in three cities down the I-35 corridor. Any plans to consolidate Ransom Jack?

Alvarez: We all kind of like where we’re living now. Thanks to our team we are still organized even though we live in different cities.

Nall: It works out well because we have bases all down the I-35 corridor with Zach in San Antonio, J.C. in San Marcos and I in Austin. We’re not going to focus on one particular city. We get a good response everywhere.

However, San Marcos will always be Ransom Jack’s home.

Claes: What’s 2012 going to hold In store for Ransom Jack?

We will be out at every venue pushing our music and rocking shows, festivals, and ear canals! We’ve been adding some new aspects to our live shows and will be incorporating an amazing light spectacle. We’ll be releasing new tracks as well with some other great local musicians. We’ll hopefully be organizing more events as well, and be on the look out for our first professional video to be released, Summer 2012!

Ransom Jack will play in Corpus Christi at Doctor Rockets on 2/19/12 and at Austin’s Maggie Mae’s on 2/25/12. For more information or to download their debut CD, look them up at, or via Facebook or twitter:

Sean Claes is the owner of Austin's INsite Magazine and has been a freelance entertainment writer since 1996. If you like what you read... please share. To visit Claes' homepage, go here -

Monday, January 16, 2012

Heather Bishop Interview

This interview is week 2 of Sean Claes' 52 Weeks of Austin Music Interviews.

From Back-up Singer to Seasoned Singer-Songwriter

The Incomparable Heather Bishop

By Sean Claes
I've been playing this generations version of phone tag with Austin's
Heather Bishop for about a decade. We knew of each other when we were both involved in an organization called the Austin Indie Alliance, then we kept in contact via MySpace, then Facebook. She's been involved in the Austin music scene since the mid 1990s, and had been either lead vocalist or lent her talents to numerous local albums and bands. She even had a day named for her, when 10 years ago then Austin Mayor Gus Garcia declared February 7, 2002 "Heather Bishop Day." But, we've never met and I've never had the chance to interview her, until now.

Bishop, having grown up and cut her musical teeth in Travis County, has played at pretty much all of Austin's legendary music spots, including past haunts like Liberty Lunch and Room 710, and current landmarks like The Red Eyed Fly, Jovita's, and Opal Devine's. She has two gigs this month (the Whip In (1/17 @ 9:30) and Gypsy Lounge (1/24 @ 6:30).

She currently has 3 releases under her belt, two released in 2011. In addition to her music, she is currently performing one of her short stories at FronteraFest later this month.

Sean Claes: You’ve been playing in Austin for many, many years. What are some of your favorite places to play, both past and present?
Heather Bishop:
As a guest artist or with a band,
Liberty Lunch, the Black Cat and Steamboat are my favorite long gone places, largely because it was nice to play the same venue as some of my favorite bands. I’ll always love Saxon Pub, though I haven’t played there in years.

Room 710 was a good place for me to cut my solo teeth, because it took a lot for a solo female songwriter to earn respect opening for some of the punk and metal bands back then. The audience would see me walk in dressed like Whitney Houston with a guitar and you could tell they were thinking- why is she HERE? It really pushed my songwriting and delivery and I’ve got a lot of good memories from those days.

Today, places like One2One , Nomad Bar and Lucky Lounge are always fun, and I’m looking forward to collaborating on a show at Antone’s soon.

Claes: What was your first gig, and how did it go?
In 1993, someone found me at a college coffee shop in Georgetown, singing acapella, and asked me to do backup vocals for their band at an event on campus at Southwestern University. We covered Aretha Franklin, The Rolling Stones, The Black Crowes and more.

A year or so later, guitarist Lasse Savola and I formed an offshoot project called 2 A.M. Blue. Eventually we got a residency in Austin at the coffee shop that used to be in the foyer of the Paramount and State Theater- CafĂ© Solaire. We played Friday nights and Nathan Hamilton’s band The Sharecroppers played Saturday nights. Good times!

Claes: How did you end up getting into the music business?
I just fell in. I grew up singing, playing instruments and writing music and over time people asked and encouraged me to do it professionally. In the beginning it wasn’t so much a conscious choice, just a natural progression.

Claes: You’ve got a unique sound to you, kind of a folk/singer-songwriter with a blues influence, kind of like a velvet-voiced Shelley King. How did you arrive at your sound?
When I was a kid I would sing along to records and mimic the artists as closely as possible- everyone from Aretha Franklin and Tina Turner, Billie Holiday and Lena Horne, Dolly Parton and Tanya Tucker…too many to list.

I wanted to learn more than the lyrics, though. I wanted to learn how the songs felt- the inflections and emotions attached to the songs. Obviously I never sounded exactly like these artists, but I think the practice went a long way towards helping me find my strengths and limitations so that I could find my own vocal space.

Claes: Tell me a little bit about that beautiful guitar in your press photos. Very ornate.
The guitar is called Midsummer Night’s Eve and is part of Luna Guitar’s Fantasie Series. It’s spruce and mahogany with mother of pearl inlay, and features a painting by Edward Robert Hughes (1849-1914) that looks like a scene from Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream, which was my favorite of the Shakespeare plays that my mother read to me when I was a kid.

Claes: In 2011 you released 2 albums, a full length, Trains and Revolutions and The Story Sessions. This was your first solo release since 2001’s Graceful Riot At the 710. Why so long between recordings?
In 2011, Trains and Revolutions was unplanned and deeply personal- recorded with Cris Burns at Summit Studio in response to several sudden deaths among friends and family, and The Story Sessions was recorded specifically for the NPR program, because I had nothing else ready for them.

For at least part of the time after Graceful Riot at The 710, I was dealing with medical issues that required time and effort to address. It pushed plans out a few years, but it felt really great to eventually get back on track.

For the rest of the time I did session work for other artists and completed most of another album that was my most challenging to date. I worked with producer Yoggie Musgrove on a record called Equilibrium, and asked him to push me beyond my normal comfort zone, which he did. I couldn’t be more pleased with the result and look forward to the final touches and eventual release- I think it will surprise some folks.

Claes: What is your favorite track on Trains and Revolutions?
Wow, that’s a hard one. I really do love this collection. If I had to pick just one I guess I’d say “Cool As You.” The title is a subtle nod to Lucinda’s song “2 Kool 2 B 4-Gotten”, and although it could be a sad song, it doesn’t feel that way to me. It was written as the story of a couple parting, but was part of me processing the death of a family member. For me it has a hopeful “Hey – this is sad but I’ll see you around” vibe.

Claes: You’re one of the “Spirit Singers” for the Contemporary Christian FM radio station Spirit 105.9. How did that come about?
I was familiar with the agency that put out the open call for auditions and thought, “Why not?” I auditioned and lo and behold…a few weeks later I’m dancing on a rooftop in downtown Austin with a camera crew.

Claes: Did you have a spiritual upbringing? Does your faith play into your musical career?
Spirituality was always present growing up, but in a quiet, subtle way. My family is made of up different faiths, so the greatest thing I learned was respect for others and that it’s perfectly possible to love each other and get along despite differences.

Since those ideas shaped who I am I suppose they are present in my writing, but not usually in a conscious, overt way.

Claes: Who are you playing with these days?
These days I sit in with the bluesy duo Old Gray Mule and the mash-up cover band More Cowbell on occasion, and I’m looking into a few other projects right now. No new names quite yet…

Claes: Besides performing your music around town, you’re also performing your short play about online dating, titled “Miss Match” at Hyde Park Theatre’s Frontera Fest on 1/27. What can you tell me about the play?
Oh my…well it’s definitely a short, light-hearted comedy. After a divorce years ago, I tried online dating at the recommendation of some friends. It was hilarious!

To be fair, I made some truly great friends and I’m thankful for that. There were moments, however, when I realized I was no longer on a date, I was on an adventure. I had the option to stay and see how it ended, or leave and miss a good story. The funniest moments came from the worst dates, of course, and as I talked to people I realized that I wasn’t the only one who experienced this. The play is a highlight reel of sorts, of the best (worst) moments.

Claes: Who are some of your favorite local bands?
Oh wow..too many! That said, I tend to focus more on individual players than bands. For example, Ephraim Owens, Brannen Temple, Malford Milligan, Jeff Plankenhorn and those cats- I’ll always check out whatever projects they’ve got going on. No matter the style, I know it’ll be good. Two of my favorite vocalists are LZ Love and Lisa Tingle and I love a little Dale Watson for my country swing.

Claes: If you could plan your dream concert, who would be on the bill?
That always changes, but at the moment Over The Rhine, Lucinda Williams and The Rolling Stones. Yeah- I know. But hey- this is MY dream concert, right? Right.

Claes: Do you have any advice to up-and-coming Austin musicians?
Rehearse. Be respectful of your time and others. Enjoy, but treat it like a job- it is work. Challenge yourself- don’t be complacent in your skills. Do your homework. Don’t be offended if someone doesn’t know who you are or what you do- let your work and product speak for itself.

Austin is a big small town- how you treat people resonates in the community. Take advantage of the resources available- there are a lot of people with experience here who are willing to share what they know. Oh- and for session folks just starting out- make sure you get credited on the final product- it’s good to build your portfolio.

Claes: Anything you’d like to add?
Well…. I’m always working on multiple projects, and there are two I can mention at the moment. I’ve partnered with Chef Beau Been from Traveling Bistro Catering and we’ll have a new cookbook out later this year. Chef Been is a joy to work with and I’m very excited about the project! And lastly, I have a short story collection that will be out later this year. Very thankful, no complaints!

See Heather Bishop play on 1/17 at Whip In (9:30) and 1/24 at Gypsy Lounge (6:30). Find out more about Heather at

Here's her appearance as part of the Spirit 105.9 "Spirit Singers"

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Scott H. Biram Interview

This interview is week 1 of Sean Claes' 52 Weeks of Austin Music Interviews.

Scott H. Biram + Bad Ingredients = Great Music
Bringing his Dirty ‘ol One Man Show to Red Eyed Fly

By Sean Claes

It was 2006 when I first saw an anomaly of a performance at Stubb’s BBQ. I went there to see Hank Williams III (a musical anomaly himself), but the opener was just as interesting as the headliner that night. There sat Scott H. Biram, a dude that looked like he just stepped out of a semi-truck after dropping a load of BBQ sauce to the adjoining restaurant. His trucker-hat-wearing-Motörhead mustache sporting self got up on stage and sat down with a harmonica strapped around his neck, an acoustic guitar, a stomp box and an old-school Ribbon microphone.

Then he began playing a dirty blues riff, stomping his feet to create the beat, and growling through his set. He played like a man possessed, singing about “chickens,” death, whiskey, and.. yes.. truck driving. His style was raw, like punk-meets-metal through an acoustic guitar.

I got hold of his 2003 release Lo-Fi Mojo and it quickly became one of my favorite releases. Actually, when asked by Texas Music Magazine for my top 10 Texas releases for the last decade, I included Lo-Fi Mojo among them.

An interesting story about Biram is that in March of 2003 he was hit head-on at 75mph by an 18-wheeler. He suffered 2 broken legs, broken foot, a broken arm, and lost some of his lower intestine. There are photos posted (somewhat graphic, so you are warned) on his Forum.
In May 2003 he played a legendary set at Austin's Continental Club, still attached to an IV.

Fast forward to 2012. Biram is now signed to Bloodshot Records, has put out three albums for the label (in addition to his four previous self-releases) and has been a touring workhorse. His latest release is 2011’s Bad Ingredients. He’s playing a hometown show on January 20, 2012 at Austin’s Red Eyed Fly.

Sean Claes: When describing you to people, I usually fall back on the “If James Hetfield was raised on Merle Haggard” description. Is that a fair assessment? –
Scott H. Biram: Ha! Well, yeah maybe. I DID learn how to play guitar from listening to old Metallica records. Underline the OLD in Metallica because honestly I think they really suck now. I also grew up listening to Merle Haggard so… yeah… that's a decent assessment.

But, I've got to tell you, what I usually tell people is that I'm a one man band and if you mixed Muddy Waters, Bill Monroe, Jerry Reed, and Black Flag then you'd have a pretty good idea of what I sound like. It's punk blues...It's country...It's metal...It's bluegrass...It's dirty.

Claes: It seems like you’ve become just as confident in “real country” blues as the stomp-and-scream of your early years.

Biram: I had all that old country stuff in me all along. My solo music career started out on that stuff and on country blues. If you listen to my KnuckleSandwich Records self-releases from before I signed with Bloodshot you'll see that I was bangin' out all that old stuff for years before I was screaming.

Well… even THEN I was screamin' a little...then if you look back further to my older bands... I used to play punk rock and metal.

It's really been a big circle of styles. I'll go bluesy and country for a while then I'll start gettin' that metal itch again. I was in a few bluegrass bands before I went solo too.

Claes: Who are some of your influences?
Biram: I'm a huge fan of old style blues: Muddy Waters, Lightnin' Hopkins, Leadbelly, Mance Lipscomb, Sonny Boy Williamson, Big Joe Williams...on and on and on...

I also am a huge fan of old country and bluegrass music...Bill Monroe, Jimmy Martin, Merle Haggard, Woody Guthrie, George Jones, Gary Stewart...even some more mainstream stuff like John Anderson and Dwight Yoakum.

People would probably get a good laugh and maybe an "ugh" if they knew how much Bob Seger and Steely Dan I listen to.

Claes: Tell me a little about your songwriting process; are you a lyrics-first or melody-first man?
Biram: It just depends on my mood I guess. Some songs take forever to write. I'll have some little catchy guitar part that I've been jamming on during sound checks for years and then I'm like "Shit, I should use this for something!"

I'm constantly making up lyrics in my head though. I come up with ideas all the time. Alot of them start as little joke songs then I tweek the lyrics a little and they become "real" songs.

Claes: Where do you prefer to do your writing?
Biram: Anywhere. I make a lot of stuff up when I'm joking with my friends. I also write a lot in the van and my truck by myself...the shower...the toilet...ehhhh… wherever the words come in.

I do a lot of writing while sitting on my great-grandmother's old porch swing on my front porch.

I've also found that right when I get up and I'm half way in a dream state that things come to me pretty good. I've written some great songs in the middle of the night when I wake up and can't sleep. I just start writing lyrics and let them simmer over night.

Claes: You do a cover of Lightin’ Hopkins’ “Have You Ever Loved a Woman” for Bad Ingredients.
Biram: I recorded that song a year or so before I started working on the album. Lightnin' to me is the coolest man who ever lived.

I was just kinda screwing around in the studio one day and pushed record. That's what came out. Love Lightnin'.

Claes: You filmed a video for “I Want My Mojo Back” recently. Where is that car graveyard?
Biram: Well, I've been going over to that junkyard to get parts for my '65 Ford Falcon Ranchero for the last several years but I also have gone out there with other folks since I was a kid. It's just a cool place.

It's over near where I grew up but I don't really want to give away its location because it's a real treasure and I'd like to keep it on the low-down. Sorry. Any hot-rod mechanic within 100 miles probably knows exactly which place it is from the very first couple scenes.

Claes: The 13 songs on Bad Ingredients make up a well-rounded album, but I saw you’ve got several additional songs in the can that didn’t make the album, what’s happening with them?
Biram: I finished Bad Ingredients a month early, kinda unexpectedly. I had recorded about 6 songs between Nov. 2010 and March 2011.

Basically, went in the studio any chance I got between tours. I came home from Europe in May 2011 and went straight into the studio the next morning. I recorded a 7th song then started looking through some old files on my studio computer.

I started mixing down some experimental projects from the year before. After a few hours of mixing...I suddenly had 23 tracks! Well anybody who's ever dealt with a record label knows that they will most likely not want to put out a 23 song album.

My management and I picked out the ones we thought went best with the overall feel of the album.

Claes: Any plans for the ones you didn’t use?
Biram: We decided that the others would be best used for bonus tracks.

A lot of them were kinda weird and out there, so they couldn't just be pushed off to be used on a later record. I like to release stuff when it's still pretty fresh. So we put out a 7" single from Bad Ingredients and used one of the left over tracks as a B side.

Then we offered 5 of the other bonus tracks to people who pre-ordered the record before it came out. After a while a lot of people were sending emails about them even after the pre-order offer had expired.

Now, I think they're pretty easy to get ahold of if you join my newsletter-email list thingy. I've been on the road pretty hard for the last few months and I've actually lost track of what the deal is with those now.

Claes: In the last 10 years you’ve continued to hone your craft and, listening to Bad Ingredients, I would probably describe it as polished rawness. How do you feel your progression has advanced since Lo-Fi Mojo?
Biram: Part of that is due to the fact that I've been reading and studying about recording and production since I was 14. I've only had my hands on a full recording set up for about 6 or 7 years now. Before that I was using cassette 8 track recorders and 24 track HD recorders.

That old Lo-fi Mojo record was actually recorded live on an Austin Radio station. I learn a little more with each album so the production has been getting a little better each time. I have a thing I've been trying to achieve for a while that I call "overproduced lo-fi." It's kind of an oxymoron I suppose, but that's what makes it so cool.

I once bought an $8 microphone from radio shack and fed it through a $2000 pre-amp... It still sounded like shit though. I couldn't make that work. (laughs) I thought for sure I was on to something with that experiment but turns out....not so much.

My lo-fi sound is also probably due to the fact that I listen to mostly old blues and folk records and chain gang field recordings. I think my studio ear is conditioned to try to emulate that kind of thing. Add all the old classic metal and rock that I listen to and I think you get some kind of classic rock/folk/depression-era goo. I hear a lot of bands trying to sound like the Black Keys these days with their distorted vocals etc.

I been doin' that kinda shit for the last 15 years without any influence from anyone but the old dead guys.

Claes: Who are some of the bands/musicians you have shared a bill with that you recommend for those who are looking to advance their musical horizons?
Biram: I'm not so sure they're still together anymore but my old buddies, The Black Diamond Heavies on Alive Records have a great sound. You can still get their stuff. Also my friends, Left Lane Cruiser, Chili Cold Blood, and The Moonhangers are great bands.

I've spent quite a bit of time on the road with Th' Legendary Shack Shakers and The Dirt Daubers. That's always a pretty good fit and alot of fun! Turns out that alot of the stuff that comes up on the Scott H. Biram Pandora station is pretty good stuff. Not that I go around listening to my own Pandora station all day or anything but sometimes out of curiosity to see what pops up on there. Check it out!

Claes: You’re four albums deep working with Bloodshot Records. Seems like a good fit. What makes it work?
Biram: Most of the stuff on Bloodshot is a little more mature sounding than my stuff. I'm pretty sure I was the first band to record for Bloodshot that leaned toward any hardcore type music.

It works for me because it allows me to be the punk on the label. Not to say all my music is hardcore. In fact, most of it's very rootsy and blues oriented, but I do like to throw a little of that harder stuff on each record.

My stage persona is pretty raunchy. I mean I guess it's a persona. I'm pretty raunchy in general. I owe Bloodshot one more record on our contract, but I'm sure we'll work together on more. I get along with all those folks over there and it's pretty much a no-bullshit operation. Not nearly as much of the corporate pull on things at an independently owned label like Bloodshot. They've been real good to me.

Claes: You’ve got the reputation of being a no bullshit, slightly cocky performer who lives the songs he sings.
Biram: Hey if you're gonna sing...sing loud...sing it like you mean it...walk the walk. I was a punker for years. I learned my stage ethics from bands like Black Flag and Fear....and local Austin bands we looked up to like Crust and Ed Hall. I think I learned to spit and punch before I learned to play guitar. ha ha...

Claes: Jesus Loves Scott H. Biram.. it’s more than just a great t-shirt. It’s a proven fact. For all intents and purposes, you should have not survived the head-on collision with the semi in 2003. I saw the photos and it looks like you’re sitting inside a crumpled up piece of black paper. Has the fact that you were tapped to live fueled your passion for music and life?
Biram: I'm thankful every day that I survived. I already had a lot of fuel in me before the wreck ever happened. When I was laid up for 7 months recovering; I felt like I was falling behind. I've been trying to make up for it ever since. I think I probably caught up a long time ago but the momentum won't let me go. It's head-on forever now. Nose to the grindstone.

Claes: You’re going to play the Red Eyed Fly on Friday, January 20. Pulling anything special out for the night?
Biram: No, I'll be keeping my pants on (laughs)...

Actually, I've taken a little bit of a break for December and January. Been playing limited shows. So the show at The Fly will be more of a chance for me to get back into the swing of things.

Usually when I take a break for this long, the first few shows have longer sets so I can get back into it. I've got something like 400 songs so I don't think there will be a problem. Also, all the shows I play at Red Eyed Fly end up with good turnouts and just a great time in general.

Claes: Just for grins... what are your three predictions for 2012?
Biram: I predict I will keep on keepin' on. I predict we are going to have a blast on the road and get bigger crowds than ever. I predict I'll eat a shit-ton of beef jerky on the road.

Claes: There is no question 17. Use this as free space to write anything you want… or add anything you feel I missed.
Biram: Stay in school. Don't do drugs.

Catch Scott H. Biram at Austin’s Red Eyed Fly on January 20. Find out more about him at