Reverend Horton Heat
I had the opportunity to sit back on the phone for a few minutes and talk to one of the premier guitar players of our day. Jim Heath, aka the Reverend Horton Heat. They’ve just released a new album “Lucky 7” and are currently on the road. If you haven’t been exposed to the Reverend and his message, I highly recommend it.
BT: What is the one thing you like to bring to the stage every night?
RHH: Energy, Craziness, Crazy melodies…
BT: Do you get the feeling that people don’t know what category to place you in?
RHH: Well, yeah I definitely do…you know I am proud of the fact that I can somewhat safely say that we have our own style. I have my own style of songwriting and as long as I hold on to that, I think if you do something different, it’s very difficult for people to understand sometimes..(laughs)
BT: You’ve said in the past that you like to go out on a limb artistically. Where has that limb taken you now?
RHH: Right now…music is such zany thing. Right now we’re playing the songs off the new album. We have a new album out and so this is the time when I don’t really focus on writing songs. Even though I still write all the time. I focus a lot on other music, trying to learn licks, and learn new music theory, new guitar techniques. My recent thing is that I’ve decided that I want to sing exactly like Ernest Tubbs. I’m also completely into jazz standards, not necessarily jazz standards, more singer standards. I’m working a lot with my sight reading, getting these lead sheets for all these songs from Cole Porter, the Gershwin Brothers, Henry Mancini, Johnny Mercer, you know, that kind of thing. That’s just kinda what I do in between albums. Before this last album I started getting into a lot of ragtime guitar techniques. I don’t really think it means we’re going to start playing ragtime stuff, and I don’t think it means the next album we do is going to be me trying to sing exactly like Ernest Tubbs either (laughs). I’m having a really fun career. Being on the road is great for me. I get to play my guitar all the time; I get to play my guitar more on the road than when I’m at home.
BT: Let’s call you a music historian. Do you think it’s more important with your style of music, to know history than with the modern pop thing that’s going on right now?
RHH: Qualifying everything, I’m not a real music historian. I love the old stories I get; I like a lot of the older music. One thing about it, is that there’s such a wealth of music that’s already been done, to keep current and completely abreast of all the new popping stuff, eventually you have to look back in the past and say what was really great. Some of it is stuff that’s made millions of dollars, some of it from bands who never really got their day in the sun you know? I think looking at roots and looking back at stuff like that is one of the best ways to learn music. You kinda have to know where stuff came from. If you hear a band that comes out now, like Stained, they sound like Tool to me. They’re a Tool influenced band, that’s okay I guess, but pretty soon it’s a road to nowhere. I don’t really want to get on my high horse about that either, because hell there’s a lot of music out there that I don’t understand either.(laughs)
BT: From a personal standpoint, if you could piece together a dream band to see live. Who would it consist of?
RHH: You mean musicians? Let’s see, lets get Junior Brown and Brian Setzer on guitars, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Tom Yearsley on bass from the Paladins, they’re one of my favorite bands. I have to think about this really hard now, who do I get on drums….how about Doyle Bramhall Sr. He’s one of the guys who co wrote all the Stevie Ray songs, and one of the coolest drummers ever.
BT: You’ve mentioned Brian Setzer. With both of you putting out new albums in the past year, do you think that Rockabilly has a chance for popular resurgence?
RHH: I’m not really sure how big it will get, like the whole swing thing that came and went. I don’t think it got as big as people thought it was. I think it was a lot of media perception. It’s all about the tides; you know the ebb and wane of the tides. The swing thing wasn’t as big as people said it was, and I don’t think it’s gone away as much as people say it has. You know, we’re kinda always here. I think it be really great if we had a big hit song on the radio but in the mean time if I had to somehow pander my songs to fit those people and that type of format, I’d be screwed basically. I don’t want to do that.
BT: If you had to pack in your music career today, what would you want your legacy to read?
RHH: I don’t know if I can talk about my legacy. Probably more than anything else… that I was a good father and a good husband, I know that sounds pretty dorky. In the big scheme of things music is a pretty frivolous activity.