Recently I had the good fortune [Sidenote: Thanks to the good folks at Red Eye USA and tour manager Jonny Ver Planck (he’s also the band’s manager) for granting me full access during the show.] to document the Reverend Horton Heat’s performance at Oklahoma City’s Wormy Dog Saloon in Bricktown. Five years ago, at a previous Horton Heat show, I was very pleased to discover the music of openers The Tossers, a Chicago-based band that melds punk rock with Irish traditional music. This tour’s opening act was no less exciting. The Goddamn Gallows, who blend rockabilly, roots, folk, Americana, and country music
with just enough hardcore and punk […] to make your parents hate it, poured out enough sweat and snot in their energetic set to fill buckets. The band’s biography is all over the inter-webs, so I won’t repeat it here.
In addition to the music, the audience were enthralled by the onstage antics of accordionist/washboard player TV’s Avery as he tormented bassist Fish-gutzzz, covering the bass player’s mouth while he struggled to sing, rubbing his dreadlocks in the bassist’s chest while the Fish-gutzzz attempted a solo, and giving his hapless bandmate a “Wet Willie.”
First row audience were drenched as snot cannons launched and beverages spewed. Immediately following one such incident, I ducked down from my position at the stage left corner, lest Avery aim for me and my camera gear. He looked straight at me and nodded in acknowledgement of my prudent action.
Their tour manager kindly passed my interview questions to band members Mikey Classic (lead vocal, guitar, upright bass), Fish-gutzzz the Ignorant (vocal, upright bass), Uriah “Baby Genius” Baker (vocal, drums), TV’s Avery (accordion, washboard, spoons, upright bass, drums, fire), Jayke Orvis (mandolin, banjo, guitar), and Joe Perreze (vocal, banjo).
Mercury Photo BureauMike, Since [the band is] so close to a string or jug band in [its] choice of instruments (and also […] material), would you ever consider adding old-time gospel or bluegrass harmony to the band’s sound?
Mikey ClassicWe do add some old-time elements to our songs sometimes, as we see fit. Especially on the 7 Devils album, where we began experimenting with our sound a whole helluva lot more.
MPBSince the raccoon incident at the Checkpoint Charlie show in New Orleans, have there been any other particularly exciting or memorable gigs?
Mikey ClassicJust last month, a good friend of ours [Sidenote: That would be Hog Luvdog of the Sleazetones] was at our show complaining about how one of his teeth was wiggly and falling out. He invited Avery to pull it for him onstage, foregoing expensive dentist bills. It turned out beautifully disgusting, and someone posted the event on YouTube under Goddamn Gallows dentistry.
MPB Fish-gutzzz, when did you first realize you wanted to play upright bass? — or was it more a matter of necessity?
Fish-gutzzzBack in 2001, my friend Dez and I went into a music store in Lansing, Michigan. We had been listening to a lot of classic country and psychobilly and wanted to look at upright basses. As soon as I played it, I knew I was doomed.
MPBHow’d you wind up playing Margaret Dumont to Avery’s Harpo Marx?
Fish-gutzzzDid you just call me a woman? Avery is a sick person and I got stuck next to him on stage. So basically I got f*cked.
MPB Uriah, did you ever fantasize about joining the circus when you were a kid?
Uriah “Baby Genius” BakerDidn’t care for the circus horses and goats. And elephants freak me out.
MPBGinger Baker, Keith Moon, Buddy Rich, Elvin Jones, Baby Genius. Sound about right?
UriahGinger Bread? Keith who? Buddy what? HAHAHA and I don’t know, maybe just Baby G is all they need to know, so stop asking! Love you; ’bye?
MPB Avery, did the “village idiot” routine exist from the start, or did it come about gradually? How have you refined it over time?
TV’s AveryThe village idiot routine. Well, let me first off applaud the rather indelicate way in which you phrased the inquiry.
Routine inherently denotes mechanical performance of an established procedure; what I strive to accomplish is a purely unique and spontaneous performance every night. Granted there is some repetition (regurgitation might be a more appropriate description) but in whole I think we accomplish something novel. So, to summarize, if you attend our show, I’ll bite your genitals.
MPB Please don’t bite my man bits.
MPBEveryone in the band is pretty heavily inked; no surprise for a band with its roots in Punk. Your arms are tattoo-free, and in the band’s press-kit you “complain” that your fellow band members lured you away from a good job. Are you holding off on arm tattoos as a safety net for future employment?
TV’s AveryYes, but purely in pursuit of criminal enterprises. I’m too far gone now to return to polite society. Visible tattoos and other such identifying marks would be a liability. I’ll still have to potato-peel the one off of my hand, however.
MPBJayke, you played an “F”-style mandolin at the Wormy Dog show, but I know that’s not the only mandolin you own. Which is your favorite, and why?
Jayke OrvisI started on an “A”-style because they’re, like, fifty bucks. The one I’m playing now is custom built for me by Weber. Out of the two mandolins I own, it’s my favorite.
MPBYou guys have all the instruments needed for a string band except the fiddle. Ever thought about adding fiddle to your own multi-instrumentalist resumé?
JaykeI’ve tried to play fiddle before, but it was atrocious. I rented one from a music store for twenty bucks and attempted sawing out notes. At the time, I had a Bluetick Coonhound who would start howling like crazy anytime I picked it up. It was awful, so to feel better I turned around and sold the rented fiddle for 150 bucks. Never look back!
MPB Joe, was the decision to inject more “Roots and Americana” influence into the group’s compositions/performances an organic one? How did it come about?
Joe PerrezeI’d say it was pretty organic. Before I hopped on full time, Jayke was taking care of the banjo work, giving us our strongest “roots” staple, 7 Devils. Before that, Mikey laid down all the banjo heard on Ghost of th’ Rails. When I joined for the recording and touring for 7 Devils, I was just an extension; an extra set of hands to enable us to have all the instruments all the time, all at once.
MPBDoes your style of banjo playing owe more to Earl Scrugg’s three-finger style, or to nineteenth-century “frailing,” or to something else entirely?
JoeIt’s mainly clawhammer and frailing banjo, with bits of finger pickin’ and flat pickin’ mixed in. I would say I’m a clawhammer player who switches up every couple of songs.
See these pictures + the Reverend Horton Heat on my Flickr photostream.