Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Reverend Horton Turns Up The Heat in 2013 - An Exclusive Interview

Reverend Horton Heat by Frankie Tease

As a long time fan of the Heat, when I got the confirmation for the interview with the man live at Vegas's Vinyl at Hard Rock, December 2012, I almost had a private Psychobilly Freakout. Some of my friends and readers are very long-term and hardcore music devotees of Reverend Horton Heat, and in my Wildest Dreams I never thought I'd be interviewing someone who's provided me with so much entertainment over the years. I used my Martini Time to gather my best questions to make sure I could do the interview without Goin' Manic. Jim Heath has been a Texas Rockabilly Rebel for a long time, and his trio has been a mainstay on the American Stage since the late 80's. I had a lot of questions already in the queue. You Gotta Hand it To Me, this was one of those amazing opportunities.

Out of Dallas, Texas, Jim Heath (53) can still tear up the stage next to a modern psychobilly act or some of the top punk rock and roll groups of our time. His thing? Playing music live. But with ten albums released, he's also proven himself as one of The Baddest of the Bad songwriters of our era. Hilarious and gimmicky lyrics and album titles like "Liquor in the Front" will draw you in, and the music will keep you there throughout the years, like it has me. He put a Spell on Me back in 95, and I've been a Happy Camper ever since.

I arrived at the Vegas Hard Rock newer venue "Vinyl" in the afternoon of Friday Dec. 28 in anticipation of re-meeting the Reverend Horton Heat, and conducting a full interview. Like a Rocket ready to take off, I counted down the minutes. Thanks to Jessica Mayhew at Victory Records, Laura Bucklin at Hard Rock, and Johnny who mixes sound for the for Rev, it all came together. The Vinyl is a 600 room wood floor standing-only rock venue. The sound, stage, and lighting were great, which I'll get to later. "I Could Get Used to This" I thought, as I entered the showroom.

As I walked into the Vinyl green room with Jim Heath, I was greeted by a huge picture of Johnny Cash on one wall, a patent leather two-part couch, and on the other wall, hundreds of records plastered symmetrically in celebration of the venue's title. Fittingly, the artist I was about to interview offers his music on vinyl, a real demonstration of his throwback lifestyle and that of a lot of his fans. I sat down with the Rev and started a few recording devices to be on the safe side. It turned out to be over a 50 minute interview, and one of the most exciting discussions I've had with an artist of this stature. Jim Heath aka the Reverend Horton Heat proceeded to Put It To Me Straight about his new label Victory, the band's next album, and how he writes music. I open up and start with my long list of questions, not knowing how many I'd actually get through. 

FT: I thought I could ease in with some of the simple stuff. You have a new label and a three record deal with "Victory". What can we look forward to?
RHH: Well, um, I kind of made up my mind to kind of go back and do some more harder-edged stuff, more rock and roll. Our last album was really supposed to be pretty much a straight country album, and then it kind of ended up being a little bit different than that. A little bit more hard-edged stuff on this next one. So it kind of worked out that we got with Victory some how. They do a lot more punk and hard core stuff. 

FT: You've mostly been on independent labels am I right? 
RHH: We were on a major label from about 1994 through about 1999. Interscope. 

FT: Right, okay. Two of your albums in the 90's made it to top 200 Billboard. What does that mean to you, being that it's your own original music? 
RHH: Really, absolutely nothing. I didn't even know that. I don't really care. The thing about it is, is recording is a technology, and to me it's almost not a legitimate art form. But music is one of the more legitimate of all of art forms. Playing music isn't about, you know - I mean... The greatest music in history was never ever even recorded. Not until that technology became available. So I mean you know my thing is playing music. So, it's actually benefited us a lot.

FT: Is touring so much and playing live a way that you stay connected to your fans as the internet and piracy really changes the music business? I mean you can't copy a seat at a show. I'm there because of the experience. If I only had that twenty, sometimes I would go to the show.
RHH: Right. It goes with what I was just saying. Our bread and butter has always been playing live. We're kind of lucky in that respect. That was the way it's worked out for us. The internet piracy thing has just destroyed so many people's streams of income. A lot of bands that used to be able to sell out arenas are now - they never really had to play much because they sold so many albums. So now, they're not selling near as many. So, they're having to come out and play my venues and compete against us. It's going to be very hard for 'em. It's sad. It's not something that I'd like to see. I've got a lot of other friends who've recorded, produced, and released some of the biggest albums in history, and their money has just gone to nothing because of the internet piracy issue. We've dodged that a lot. It has hurt us, it has affected us. 

FT: I remember one time - I taught Swing and Ballroom Dance for 15 years - this one lesson a student said "Just get the song on You Tube", and I thought "Wow. I didn't have to buy this album and they didn't have to buy this album. Oh shit."
RHH: That's right.

FT: Many of your fans are fervent believers in certain equipment. I know you have a custom Gretsch guitar which is a gorgeous thing. What did you play before this? 
RHH: I've played several different guitars. I used to play several different guitars, but I used to play Fenders. Then I played Guild. In my whole career I've played Gibsons, and Fenders, and Telecasters. 

FT: Always the hollow-body?
RHH: No. Not always. I love - the Gibson Les Paul is a great guitar. 

FT: Are you still using the three-amp system to get so much sound out of your one guitar?
RHH: Well I used to use two amps, and it got to be too complicated. So, I basically for the last two years or more, three years, have just gone back to one amp. 

FT: Is it a Fender, the old one?
RHH: No, and actually I changed. It's interesting - well at least for me - maybe not to anybody else... I relied more on my one silver-faced super-reverb. It's like a mid-to late 70's super reverb. It sounds really good, really great. I almost needed that amp more than any one particular guitar. I had friends that built amps that were always trying to get me to change and it was like "Well, this amp is good. I can see how your amp is really killer, but it's not the same. I just don't know how to manipulate it. I know how to do this one". 

So then, a guy from Gretsch Joe Carducci, brought me one of these Gretsch Executive amps to try out. I plugged into it and thought "Wow - this is really close. Except the high end, the very high register, was a little bit clearer, and not quite so... [grimaces]". That was the one problem with my old amp was that when I got way up high it was a little blurry and I had to really try and pick really hard. This one is just really smooth. It's much more relaxing up there at the top. It's very similar to my Fender Super Reverb. 

FT: I can hear the slap bass and the triple bass with all the sound that's going on, I have always been impressed by that at your shows, it's a treat. I can hear the treble on those notes while you're screaming.
RHH: So many bands go beyond just being good and loud. They go into this mind warp ear split. Everybody in the crowd has to wear ear plugs. It's to the point where it's pretty ridiculous. I know just by virtue of playing live that right in front of the speakers, you can get hurt. So people wear ear plugs, and that's fine. But then we get a lot of complaints from people that are back at the mixing board and behind "It's not loud at all" and it's like "Well, good. But if you walk up there without earplugs you're gonna get hurt". 

Photo by Frankie Tease

FT: What guitar do you write new songs on?
RHH: My Gretsch or whatever I have available. 

FT: Can you write on the road? 
RHH: I try to, it's kinda hard. Lyrics are fairly easy to write anywhere. As far as trying to write and sing a new song, that's kind of hard to do anywhere when we're playing around live. But as far as just coming up with some lyrics then you know, I can kind of do that. That being said, I kind of have to wait for it to hit me. Lyrics and songs in general are kind of the things - it's kind of unexplainable - it kind of just comes from outer space, and you think "Wow!"

FT: I love your use of benign sayings from the 50's that when used now are double entendres like "Smoke 'em if you got 'em" used to mean "it's going to take a while, break out the cigarettes." How did you develop your knack for lyrics?
RHH: It kind of took awhile. When I really started evaluating and getting into the 50's music, I really discovered how funny the lyrics were, especially the 50's rockabilly. The 50's rhythm and blues and rockabilly. And then to me those types of songs made more sense than what was - anything that was going on at the time. We're still kind of in that world where you've got your academic college level super-brainiac people teaching kids to write lyrics like "the universe is the shape that will move, and the moon and the universe are in my shoe", and that kind of thing. It's like, "what the fuck are you saying?" And then you think about the song, the Beatles "I wanna hold your hand", and just the urgency of telling a girl "I wanna hold your hand" is much more exciting than "the universe in my shoe". And it has so much more meaning than the so-called meaningful academic idiot words. Then I was thinking "Okay, just write songs that people understand", and artistic license, I will vary a little bit and get a little bit, sometimes I will get a little bit more abstract here and there, but usually not. That kind of helped me develop my style a little bit. A lot is based around my whole lifestyle of rockabilly music and mid-century American stuff. Custom cars as well as atomic furniture as well as the tiki bars and surf guitar. 

FT: I heard in one of your previous interviews your statement about not wanting to be labeled as a certain type of music. Every great musician I've ever spoken to seems to share that. I think I realize why you guys don't want labels: Because you don't know where your realizations are going to go either, why limit that? But see for me I come from rhythm and steps as a dance instructor and I've used your music for swing and country waltz lessons, as well as two-step and more. I've heard you play, honky tonk, delta blues, jump blues, rockabilly, boogie woogie, and psychobilly. The lyrics and the comedy and the horror are very much traits of psychobilly. Do you shy away from the label of psychobilly?
RHH: Not really, it's just that I want to make sure people understand because when we came out with the song "Psychobilly Freakout" we were a band that also played blues, we played country bars, we had country songs. A psychobilly band - most of 'em - won't get bluesy, or won't get country. It's what it is, and out of respect for what it is - when we had the song "Psychobilly Freakout" come out, we started playing it around America like in 1989. But, psychobilly had been around for ten years before that mainly in Europe. 

FT: I remember reading that the label was created by Johnny Cash in a song when he used the term "psychobilly" but no actual genre existed at that time.
RHH: I don't know - that's a good question, but I just know from my point of view, psychobilly is a European thing, it started with bands like Germany's The Meteors, and the English bands Demented Are Go, The Fantom Rockers, those types of bands, Batmobile. Now we've got The Horror Pops, and the Nekromantix. Out of respect to them, when a writer says "So, you started psychobilly", it's like so "Noooo", and then I tell them "We're really not psychobilly. We will do that stuff, and I have respect for those bands". And we fit in with that scene very well. Those people understand blues, and understand country. So we fit in. We do quite a lot of psychobilly festivals. 
Your point that is really something that not many people I've ever heard [has said] - you were right: you don't really know where you're going yourself. So many writers and people in the industry, and people in general think "So, what was your plan for this album?" To me it's like well, that really doesn't make any difference, because I can plan all day. Then, it comes out being something completely not like I had planned. So like I said before it kind of has to hit you out of the blue. So maybe that is a good rationale for not wanting a label. You never know when all the sudden you're going to get into something that's um, like we don't want to limit ourselves to say "Hey, we can never do a jazz song."

FT: Some of the things you do are jazzy or like hard bop to me.
RHH: We can get a little jazzy sometimes too.

FT: "That's Showbiz" is jazzy and I love the comedy of it. Another song's lyrics I love from the song "Hand It To Me" is "If this bar was a school, I'd have a degree". What original song are you the most proud of and is it also the most popular?
RHH: Well, no, well, I don't know. I really can't say which one I'm most proud of.

FT: Are they all like your little babies?
RHH: Right and so many of them, some of my favorites are songs that aren't really that popular, and then some of the ones that are popular it's like "ehhh, it's okay". But I want to play what the people enjoy us playing. I think that I've got some pretty neat slow songs. "In Your Wildest Dreams", "Or Is It Just Me" is pretty neat. Playing all the slow songs will never happen unless we go and do a tour of just slow songs. We would really have to rethink. I mean, we probably couldn't tour on a bus because we wouldn't make enough money on a tour like that. It'd be like "Everybody yawn! Ok!" [laughs].

FT: One of the ones I wanted to touch on was "Devil is Chasing Me". I was thinking, the more I hear those lyrics... and the theatrical quality of your music: it's like little Three Penny Operas for working class. 
RHH: That's so nice of you, thank you very much.

FT: You're so dramatic. In that song I love you describing the devil "roll down your window - and look me in the eye". Is it like the music business trying to pin you down? You've been independent for so long.
RHH: You are hitting on something but I think one thing you need to know about me - and this is what I tell anybody that's trying to write a song - and of course rules are made to be broken - but one rule that I've had, that I hopefully will stick to, (but maybe not, who knows?) is that I never write a song about the music business. None of my songs are really about the music business. They're just about life. Like if you write a song about how tough it is to get signed. "Oh waaaaaahhhh. Oh boy - it's really tough when nobody hands you a million dollars, it's so sad" [laughs].

FT: Alright, I get you [laughing]. So it's more about life?
RHH: That's what I like to focus on, yes. Maybe another business, I would write a song about. And then maybe someday I will write a song about the music business but uh, in general that's one of my rules is to avoid that.

FT: What was the song that got featured on "Beavis and Butthead"?
RHH: Well, we were on two of them. We had "Psychobilly Freakout" was on one, and then another one called "Wiggle Stick".

FT: You get away with this stuff! I have a lot of pride in that fact. I've been studying comedy too, and there's only a few people who really have the balls to go do it. To get up and say "This is what I'm doing", and you're one of 'em.
RHH: Comedy is really hard. One thing that's really crazy is that me and Jimbo lived at this really old apartment building in a one bedroom apartment because we were gone all the time. Most of our junk was in storage, so we'd just like hang out there. The guy that lived upstairs was an aspiring stand-up comedian and he was a bartender. He would go to all the best open mics, and then eventually he started getting a regular gig at a couple places. And then eventually got on at the Improv. It had a circuit, and it was like having to balance between "Am I going to be a bartender or go do these gigs?" And eventually it went for him. And the weird thing is that I never saw his act. But he lived upstairs from us. But it's so weird because eventually he became - King of the Hill - have you ever seen that show?

FT: Yes.
RHH: Well those guys are from Dallas, and they were friends of his. Those guys are all friends. His name is John, and he eventually became one of the main writers for King of the Hill. He's the voice of Boomhauer. That's his voice. What's really crazy is that now we have a total in with Mike Judge and it's an inside deal. I think he got that show from us. Our manager was a guy that drove a bug truck, an Exterminator. We'd be sittin' around and he'd always say stuff like [lowers his voice] "You know how to get rid of ... I've got Chlordane. You can't get that, but I can." It was just like Dale Gribble. And then, my dad was one of these guys [imitates his Dad's voice] "I've worked in the oil company for 25 years. That's my life is the oil business". This is before there were cell phones. So, my dad would come over to the apartment just to see if we were there. Because we would be either gone or coming back or whatever. So he would go upstairs and got to be friends with John. And so I'm always wondering if Hank Hill is my dad [laughs]. He was actually smarter than Hank Hill though.

FT: The last show I attended, three or four of us were proud to see our bras hanging from the mic stand. Do you get many girls throwing their bras onstage during shows?
RHH: We used to more than we do now, but yeah it happens from time-to-time.

Reverend Horton Heat by Frankie Tease

FT: What's your relationship with the Hard Rock?
RHH: They hire us to play. The last time we played at the Hard Rock Cafe' that's on the Strip. And we have played the Joint on bigger shows that had other bands beside us. Now one of my best friends and our lighting director that travels with us, when we're not touring he works here. He's the lighting director and one of the coordinating guys here. We do have somewhat of a connection.

FT: Do you play other Hard Rocks?
RHH: Every now and then, but most are set up as restaurants not really as music venues.

FT: With all the festivals you've played, you play much more tour gigs that you book. Is that still true? It seems easier to manage your own headling tour schedule vs. being in a festival.
RHH: It does depend. A lot of those festivals can pay really really well. Honestly, it's all over the map what we get paid and how it works. But, we're kind of in a balancing right now because we love to go play music and go on these tours, but it's so expensive. When you factor in the bus, the driver, the rooms, the everything that we have to have. In other words, when we get back from a month tour, and I end up getting the money that I get for doing that tour, it sometimes is less than when we get hired to fly to Europe to play one festival. So, is it better for us? Then, it's weird because if we book a tour - which we'll book six months in advance - we're going to be on tour the whole month of March. We book that tour, so then they call us and go "We'll give you $30,000 to play March 15 for blah blah blah". This isn't gonna happen. We turn down really high paying gigs when we go tour. We want to tour. Like I said before, it's my art form is to play music, so we gotta go do tours.

FT: I've been able to see you about once a year for 15 years no matter where I was at the time. It's always a fun time when "The Rev is coming through". You've played at the Hootenanny a lot, but are you planning to play Viva Las Vegas Rockabilly Weekender? Is there an intent or an opportunity to do so?
RHH: The funny thing too is that another misconception here is people often-times say "What made you decide to play this place?" And my answer is "Because the Phone Rang." We toured with "X" last year. John Doe, lead singer of "X", he's a really smart guy. All of 'em are smart. I love those people. He told me he goes "Jim, you just gotta let life happen to you". And I said "John, it took me a long time to learn that lesson, but you're right."

FT: You've made it work. You're still doing it. So many people have stopped touring, it's almost like a lost art. I lived in Pasadena and learned to Swing Dance to live music at the Derby in Hollywood (which is gone now). The Wonder Ballroom in Portland, Oregon is another great venue where I've actually seen you several times. 
RHH: The Derby is an old historic place. That's a shame that the Derby is gone. It's great when a city supports maintaining the old venues. I remember, there was small place in North Hollywood that had swing dancing. We went over really well. We were more authentic sounding back then.

FT: How could you be more authentic sounding?
RHH: Well because we got more turned-up. More crazy. Louder type guitar sounds as opposed to a cleaner 50's chompier type guitar sound. We were like, oh they swing dance here. And we were doing that in Texas, but we couldn't believe how good they could swing dance in Southern California. So we had swing dancers. We did a lot of shows like we'd play the Palomino and there'd be swing dancers, and we'd cater our set to that. And not do so much the "Psychobilly Freakout". We wouldn't even do that song on those gigs. 

Then, we started getting turned-up, and as we went I'll never forget. There was this one gig at Bogart's in Long Beach. And we had some great shows there, but it was one of those times where - there were swing dancers going on - and we went into another song - and I don't think it was like "Psychobilly Freakout" or anything like that, I think it was just a good rock and roll song, and a mosh pit broke out. 

So it was an instant mayhem because sweaty punk kids were slamming into these girls with their nice hair and their petticoats and that stuff. Then the guy would hit him, and there was like five fights broke out all at once. We were going "This is weird. What do we do man?" Basically the two crowds started beating each other up. We had always played punk rock places but we were going like "Man, this is really out of control now". That's when we knew we kind of had to be careful.

FT: Was that the first mosh pit you remember?
RHH: No that really wasn't the first mosh pit. It was the first really bad crowd violence that we'd seen [huge laugh]. We were like "Long Beach is rough".

FT: I remember when you used to have the "Hotlist" about venues that wouldn't run the A/C to cool things down, or didn't have any A/C.
RHH: Yeah and then a lot of times it was the venues don't want to turn it on because they're trying to save money, or they don't want to fix it. Slacker promotions. There were some gigs where people were passing out, it was life threatening. If you just pass out you can knock yourself out and hit your head and die. Some places - well up there in Oregon and Washington, a lot of houses don't even have air conditioning. Venues think it's okay. You get a small room and cram 300 people in there, you know it's 110 degrees in there. Then the guys are back there going "we'll probably sell more beer".

FT: How do you stay in such good health with as much as you tour, and how many days a year are you touring now?
RHH: Well about 120 maybe I think we did more than that last year. Well, you know a long, quite a long time ago me and Jimbo we were just killin' ourselves. We'd be really on one night, but then get so drunk and wasted that the next two nights would be fun and okay, and, actually we were a band that could pull it off. But, it was still causing a little degradation to the music. We toured America so much that every town we had old friends "Hey, alright Jimbo let's go drink, c'mon let's go let's go". And Jimbo would say "Well I really can't". "Oh, c'mon let's go". You know so we said "We're here to play music, we're not here to party with these people". They can be friends. We said "Okay, let's do this, let's not drink before the show". So, once the show starts, having a beer, having some drinks... 'cause really one or two drinks and you try to go up there and just start shredding, it's, you know - it's not going to be as good as if you're on top of things. That's kind of our thing too. We're here to play music, we're not here to be everybody's party pet.

FT: I'm sure that phase has had its time.
RHH: We're lucky we lived through that, honestly Frankie.

FT: People don't realize the life of austerity you live to make yourself a vessel for so much music, and to sign so confidently a three-year record deal.
RHH: It really does take a lot of work. But thank you, I appreciate that. Basically that's all we do.
[I give the Rev some gifts I brought and I begin to wrap up my equipment. I turn the recorder back on as the conversation resumes on the topic of what genre RHH fits in].
RHH: If some random old guy in our neighborhood says "So you play music, what kind of music do you play?" Then I'd tell him "Well, we play rock and roll but it's influenced a lot by mid-century American stuff especially music called rockabilly". But they understand rock and roll. So I say "We're rock and roll". Even though most of our stuff is so different than just standard rock and roll.

FT: Growing up in Long Beach, I guess I'm pretty spoiled because I really have seen a lot of great music there. I miss it. 
RHH: Yeah. When we got out to Southern California we were pretty blown away by how many vintage roots and rockabilly bands there were. There were way fewer than there are now. We loved Big Sandy. I already new about the Paladins  and of course the Blasters, and that's from way back too.

FT: It's a haven. They remake the venue and it's back to 40's and then wow. There is a vintage band and it's a total experience. 
RHH: Even Royal Crown Revue. Some guy was telling me that some of those guys are playing with a singer in town named Jennifer Keith at the Cosmopolitan. That's a whole different thing. When we started out, at the beginning of Reverend Horton Heat, we had a lot more swing music, and then we kind of got a little more turned-up and aggressive. And so at the time that the dance band really started coming in, like Royal Crown started to tour outside their region, was really the same time we started getting away from the swing dance thing. The swing dance thing was fun and we would still do that. And actually, we still will go and play venues like that and try to tailor like more swing rhythms. But gosh it's just so... I don't know. Our latest thing is around Texas, we're getting asked to do really straight country bars. Where they just want our country stuff. It's weird to see old couples out there two-stepping to us.

FT: I learned all my good dance stuff from old folk.
RHH: I've also got in the back of our mind, this new album with new original stuff is gonna be pretty hard-edged, but we'll of course have our country songs on there, and of course have some swing beats. But I'm kind of thinkin' about doing an album of rockabilly covers. Which that would be a lot of swing and early rock and roll beats. It just kind of depends, like I said I can't really plan stuff, it has to happen to me. Somebody else is planning it for me and I just do it.

FT: Isn't that what everyone wants, to be a good vessel for creativity? Somehow you've figured out how to get in line. It's a gift.
RHH: You just gotta kind of wait for it to hit you, and wait for things to happen. Like that song "That's Showbiz". I dreamed that whole song, the lyrics and everything.

FT: From the beginning?
RHH: From the beginning to end. And I woke up at four in the morning and I was going ahhh. "Jim, you've got to wake up and write that down". 'Cause I would not remember it the next morning. So I got up and I'm out there at four in the morning and I wrote "Oh yeah, to the little people". Actually I dreamed a guy doing that. And then the other night, I dreamed I was watching the Brian Setzer Orchestra play this song.

FT: Recently?
RHH: Yeah, the other night. And I won't tell you the title of the song, but I was dreaming this song "like yeah wow cool" and it was a swing beat. And I woke up and I was like going "That's not a real Brian Setzer Song". And so I got it googled and I was googling and it's my own - it's just a song I dreamed. So I wrote down the lyrics.

FT: An original? That's crazy.
RHH: I wrote down the lyrics. Yeah I was like - I wish stuff like that happened to me more often - your subconscious is so more creative than your conscious. You know what it is, it's a combination, because - and I think that's why so many artists get into drugs - because, if you have a few beers and all the sudden you'll have this great idea for a song, the problem is: if you don't write it down you'll forget it by the next day. And then, the hard work of taking that concept - which might be a great verse and chorus, or even just a great title - taking that, your drunk idea which is great, to make it a real song, you have to be really clear-headed and sober. To actually say "Okay, I'm gonna sit here and finish this song today". And then clear-headed-ness, sobriety, discipline, all those are what you have to have at that point. So that's what makes it really hard.

FT: That's not glamorous.
RHH: Right Because the people that are completely sober and so on-point sometimes have the hard time. That being said, that's why idiot savants and people like that can do stuff because they're basically letting their minds work on both sides.

FT: We need stimulus sometimes, but maybe at this point you don't depend on that stimulus, because you're in the zone.
RHH: No, yeah. Right, and then basically I've been doing it so long that I've learned to realize certain tricks. And certain tricks are really - like the most obvious one is - when you have the idea, even if you woke up and dreamed it, don't go back to sleep because you'll never remember it. The next morning you'll go "I had a great idea for a song last night, oh well". It's gone. So you have to have the discipline to write it down.

As we said our goodbyes I walked out to the venue where the sound check was in progress, and began to descend from cloud nine and back to reality. I am headed to recharge for the evening's concert. An amazing conversation in the can, it was almost time to see the Rev live again, but this time somewhat sober so I can tell you, my readers, what happened. 

Read the concert revue of Vinyl Hardrock Dec. 2012 here. Please visit for merch. and tour dates. They never stop. See Reverend Horton Heat at the LVCS Oct. 4, 2013 in Las Vegas.

This article was originally published in the ebook The Best of Frankie Tease Magazine Vol.2 during 2012 via Book Baby. More info here

Reverend Horton Heat Concert Review Vinyl, Las Vegas, NV

L-Scott Churilla (long time rock drummer extraordinaire returned), C- Reverend Horton Heat aka Jim Heath (Founder, Composer Namesake, Guitarist, Singer), R- Jimbo Wallace (Upright double bassist longest term member other than the Rev.) Photo by Frankie Tease Dec. 28, 2012. Read the Reverend Horton Heat Interview HERE.

I arrived at the Vinyl at Hard Rock (Las Vegas) to tons of people getting ready for the revival to start. I missed the opening band Tijuana Panthers, and arrived about ten minutes prior to the Reverend Horton Heat (Texas) taking the stage. I found my place at front of stage and started to get anxious with the rest of the crowd. A lowish stage, and hanging speakers were great conditions. The sound was amazing with just the interim recorded music. 

The house lights go down and a stage-hand leads each band member to their place on stage with a flashlight. As the stage lights go on, we are treated to "Hey Las Vegas, it's a Psychobilly Freakout" spoken by Singer and Songwriter Jim Heath. The slap upright bass crackles maniacally to our right with long-time side-kick and band member Jimbo Wallace (since '89). He smiles, and energetically jumps while playing his huge upright double-bass. Drummer "Psychobilly" Scott Churilla handles the percussion with precise rolls, bangs and bops. Next, we are toured through a winding path of songs from the band's earliest (Subpop) releases to the most recent (Yep Rock) album.

One of my faves The Devil is Chasing Me (Subpop '93) rang out with a sound quality heard from no other band. Shredding more than anyone I've ever seen on any guitar, the audience sang along with Mr. Heath and showed a hypnotized quality. They came to worship. You stand out if you don't know the words at a Reverend Horton Heat concert, but that's okay. Everyone is just glad you have finally been baptised. "Comin' out of my rear-view mirror, looks like Satan's limosine. You sell your soul to the devil to give you everything you see, when the devil comes collecting, you're gonna be payin' for eternity, the Devil is chasing me" Heath scowls. Ripping through upper and lower neck guitar solos like he's teaching a lesson.

"The Baddest of the Bad since you've been gone, the baddest of the bad since you've been gone, I lay around here and I just drink beer", sang the crowd with the Rev to a triple-time speed that tore up the mosh pit, and found every type of person feeling the revival (kids were present too). One of the best break-up songs ever (Sub Pop/Interscope '96).

Heading to more cherished stuff we got Martini Time (Interscope '96). Instructional and fun, the Rev patiently explains how important martini time is. Jungle drums, jump swing, slap bass, set the tone with surf guitar elements as the Rev informs us the martini will be "Made with Alero, the vice of its time" in his sexy and deep tone.

The Jimbo Song (Interscope '98) is a sing-along and is met with the fervor of the devoted. Jimbo Wallace is a superior upright slap double bassist with the versatility to boggle any musician. His zany personality mixed with humility over the years, have garnered him many undying fans. Not to mention, he still tears it up on stage. Yelled one letter at a time, this tribute to: J-I-M-B-O describes his "Pompador skull tattoo on his arm, but Jimbo never did nobody no harm" which cued Jimbo to roll his sleeve up to display the tattoo. "Nature boy Jimbo get in your pick'em up truck, go cruise around with Lady Luck J-I-M-B-O, J-I-M-B-O". Then the song's star gets right back to ridiculously fast bass, slapping a triple beat. The best sound ever. Fists are in the air in tribute to Jimbo as the song comes to a halt.

Time to chat. The Rev. confirms by announcement that his longest-time drummer (11 years) has just come back to the Rev from playing with the Supersuckers for many years. The audience cheered, as did I. This guy can really rip up a drum kit. A welcome return, as five year touring drummer Paul Simmons has left the band. The RHH label is changing too. "The new label Victory is out of Chicago and is well-known for punk and harder rock music" Reverend says. He also mentions (as advertised) that special guest Jello Biafra will be coming on stage to perform later. Exciting stuff. But I just wanted more Rev now.

I got more with smash hit Party In Your Head, (Timebomb,'00) another searingly upbeat tempo with dramatic drum rolls and precise musical stops. The song races like you're high speed in a first generation '53 Pontiac Chieftain on open road, so smooth. Stunning guitar and upright double-bass solos, as well as manic drum demonstrations dominate every cell of the air while we hear "why the gala ball at the party in your head?" echo ominously. 

Band mate Jimbo Wallace 'assumes the position' and lays the bass on the floor sideways while Reverend Horton Heat steps up on top of the bass creating a wild and continuous reaction from the crowd. A traditional rockabilly trick that's ever-so-satisfying to see this duo perform live every time, it never gets old. He plays the guitar lick while yelling "Yeah"! triumphantly. All the cell phones come out.

Rev played the number-one-fan game and started taking suggestions for the next request. He went through many and landed on Where the Hell Did You Go With My Toothbrush (Sub Pop, '99). The band went straight hee-haw with "you left with my very best friend our dog Smokey" during verse, moving to "And where in the hell have you been for the last three days?" making sounds of slide guitar nonchalantly. A real hilarious honky tonk and country crowd-pleaser, and actual true story for Jim Heath, down to the name of the dog - a slickly sad and yet really funny song.

The train kept a-rollin so hard it smashed right into Galaxy 500 (Time Bomb '00). "You take the dog, I get the Galaxy 500" launched into a punk-rock rhythm to lift the whole lid off the place. "I'm in my own Galaxy-1973... you probably woulda wanted this too, but it's not air conditioned" were impeccably sung by Rev and every person in attendance. This turned up the mosh pit to high, and everyone in the crowd let loose. The song is highly recognized by many from the band's appearance on Dave Letterman, circa '96.

A kick-ass rock lament with scorching surf-guitar-like licks and passionate story telling (Yep Roc '04) was next from the "Revival" album. Lyrics like "Really didn't know until the bitter end... heroine stole my Indigo Friends" topped smoldering minor chords, chunky guitar strums, and hot stops for a fun and heavy trip.

An announcement was made that even though it's a few days after Christmas, Jimbo wants to play a Christmas song , so they decided to switch guitar and bass for Run Run Rudolph (Yep Roc '05). The Rev sang while Wallace played the guitar and everybody knew the words and had to sing along.

Hilarity returned with Please Don't Take My Baby to the Liquor Store (Yep Roc '09) which is a song written by someone other than Heath, as an exception. Jimbo Wallace's song and story is hilarious with "it's not that kind of bottle he's been cryin' for" keeping the joke going amidst classic 50's guitar rhythms that were unshakable. A transition audio is met with darkness while public service announcements from the 50's play, sometimes mixed with female vocals.

But then we were in for a treat as the hard rockin' trio became the backing band for Jello Biafra (Dead Kennedy's). A dramatic entrance was a purple shiny super-hero cape and voila, Biafra had arrived. Amazingly, he sang with the Rev's band for several songs, so we got to hear the very capable band playing punk rock and with a legend. Anyone who'd held back had to get wild now with Jezebel a melodically complex song where Biafra teased the crowd as though he'd jump into it. Rev's band had also covered this song on Liquor in the Front's album (SubPop/Interscope '94). John Dillinger came next, then Guantanamo School of Medicine and onto Holiday in Cambodia as Biafra tore up the house and had everyone giving him punk energy right back. During the crescendo he sang Too Drunk To Fuck and we saw a stage dive by Biafra like no other. It was a sight, and something to tell your grand kids about. A small band at front of stage kept time with fists and words and made virtual love to Biafra like no one but true fans could. As he left the stage the Rev said "Stick around, you never know what could happen". You got that right Rev.

I asked for a set list, and was told it wouldn't be right, they change it all the time. Rockin' to one of your faves can distract you a lot while reviewing. The band played a couple more songs and then came back to stage as the audience demanded an encore. 

The trio got right into the hot tempo pace of Big Red Rocket of Love. Every member took a solo including the longest drum solo ever from Churilla. He was finally the star of the show as he ravaged the skins in front of him leaving every drummer dreamer in the crowd star struck, and the rest of us in complete admiration. Wallace ripped it up next on upright bass, but not for too long - anxious to re-introduce Heath. He says "Do you want to know a secret about the Rev? He loves country" as the Rev begins to shred the custom Gretsch guitar which is named after him, to the song he made famous by an appearance on Late Night with Conan O'Brien in the 90's. Hearing the song live leaves nothing to be desired, except seeing it again soon. This lead to a famous little cover tune called Folsom Prison Blues (SubPop '99) by Johnny Cash for their closing encore. 

I left the venue thinking "How different the show is from the point of view other than the front of the stage", and "How did these poor folks stand being in the back?" I vowed to go right back up-front at the next show where I belong. I thought about all the upcoming Colorado dates. "Mmmm... If I got 400 Bucks together, maybe I can see him again soon". That's an amazing show that gets you planning your return upon exit, after your 16th time. Ah, but that's the "Rev Effect". After the huge honor of interviewing the Reverend Horton Heat for an hour earlier that day, I was already flying high and feelin' blessed. Turns out there is a cloud ten after all. I wondered if the Rev would Remember Me and how many people present would be Callin' in Twisted to work tomorrow. Good times.

Reverend Horton Heat at Hard Rock's Vinyl Photo by Frankie Tease

See the Reverend Horton Heat Exclusive Interview on this site here with details about his new label Victory and album release in 2014. This show review was originally published in The Best of Frankie Tease Magazine Vol. 2 in 2012 (Bookbaby). See about the ebook here Check with the tour dates of this power trio at

Friday, September 20, 2013

Absinthe Co-Host Penny Pibbets Shows Why She's Been Named the Funniest Woman in Vegas

Absinthe Co-Host Penny Pibbets Shows
Why She's Been Named 
 the Funniest Woman in Vegas
An Interview from 2012's 
Best of Frankie Tease Magazine Vol.2

There once was a show called Absinthe, it took New York stages by storm and it moved to Las Vegas, its premise outrageous, a side-show side-kick star was born. This co-host wowed and horrified audiences with an unorthodox comedic puppet show, and relentlessly inappropriate foul mouth. Nothing was off limits for the Queen of Sock Puppetry Penny Pibbets, especially after year one.
In 2012 Penny Pibbets was named the "Funniest Woman in Vegas" in the show's second year being named the "Best Show" in Vegas several times over. The show was signed at least through Oct. 2013 to remain at the Roman Plaza at Caesers Palace, with a possibility for a contract through 2014. Pibbets continues to present her own brand of zany antics in her secondary spotlight as the Gazillionaire's assistant in the Speigelworld tent ten times a week at Ceaser's Palace. The distinct voice she uses for her sexually explicit sock puppets will stick with you. After seeing the show, hers is a voice friends and I tried to replicate on a daily basis. The puppet's ornation will inspire you, and the child-like spoutings about adult topics mixed with odd fairy tale imaginings (like unicorns and jizz) will surprise you.  But alas, there can be only one. I sat down with the inventive and wildly in-character-at-all-times Penny Pibbets. This is how it went.

FT: First of all, what's a Pibbet?
PP: Pibbet is my grandma's maiden name. She comes from a long line of Pibbets' who had changed it from the Piblosckia's because of the war. Although, I do have a strange feeling that I'm adopted because my mother always used to whisper that in my ear before I'd go to bed.

FT: How long have you been Penny Pibbets on stage? 
PP: I've always been.

FT: Where did you get your stage start? Have you always been comedic? 
PP: You're hilarious. I started performing when I was 3 and I'd do productions for my stuffed animals. They were great shows. I had pyrotechnics and everything! I still do it for them from time to time although, the animals have gotten really bitter and critical. They're not shy to give me notes and they've thrown tomatoes.

FT: Part of your character is being the verbal punching bag for the Gazillionaire. What's that like? 
PP: Oh, I'm so lucky that the Gazillionaire is as nice as he is. I'm sure I can be annoying and quite an idiot. Yesterday I really spilled the beans. He was so upset. He loves Mexican food.

FT: How did you get caste for Absinthe the stage show and are you part of the New York original cast members?
PP: I was never really cast in the show. I was hired as an intern and now I'm The Gazillionaire's (self appointed) assistant. I follow the Gazillionaire around until he yells at me. Then I do whatever he's yelling at me to do. One day in New York The Gazillionaire decided to give me a chance ( I think because he was drunk/had to pee) and I hopped onstage and said whatever came out of my mind... and people laughed.

FT: How did you develop the hilarious voice for Pibbets? It's like Word Girl meets an imbalanced sexual teen-age deviant.
PP: What voice?

FT: What is your weirdest audience moment to date as Penny Pibbets? 
PP: Someone had a heart attack while I did my puppet routine. That was awesome!

FT: Are you writing your own material? How do you come up with these wild concepts? 
PP: When you use your imagination, the possibilities are endless. (Ooohhh...that sounds like something that would be written in a Lisa Frank notebook.)

FT: What is your favorite word ever? 
PP: Gargantuan.

FT: Let's talk sock puppets. Sock puppets are an underground tradition in America and you can get away with almost anything because it's fictional. It seems to go really great with burlesque and having sexy dirty sock puppets is totally amazing for some of us. How did you get into the sock puppet portion of your act? 
PP: It came to me in a dream. Then I woke up and I had sock puppets on my hands. They told me to make them pretty. So I did.

FT: Do some people not 'get it'? 
PP: Yup. Wait....get what?

FT: How many sock puppet characters have you created and do they all have names? 
PP: Millions. They'd be pretty ridiculous without any names, don't you think?

FT: What's national sock puppet day about? 
PP: A day to celebrate your inner voice then, try not to kill too many people.

FT: How long are you contracted to play in Absinthe and how long is the show scheduled for at this point?
PP: Forever and ever!

FT: Would you ever do your own album? 
PP: I'm writing a musical right now. It's going to be epic. I also have bands I play with from time to time (Fish Circus).

FT: What are your plans for the future and will you always be Penny Pibbets? 
PP: Who else would I be? Charro? Oooh, that would be pretty cool because she's nuts and her boobs are awesome!

FT: Oh yeah, what sign are you and are you single (for all the ladies and gents reading this)? 
PP: I would probably be a YIELD sign. Like "slow down and be careful cuz you don't know what the fuck is happening." I am also single.

Haven't seen Absinthe? You are in the minority. Check out for more information. Find out about Penny Pibbets band at Read this character on Twitter @PennyPibbets.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Frankie Tease Magazine is Going National

For Immediate Release Sept. 15, 2013.

Over the last five years, I have spent many off-hours covering in person and then writing about the entertainment field and stage, related to burlesque, comedy, and music and the culture surrounding them. I studied English Composition in Pasadena at PCC circa 1994-1997, did tons of event production, then began seriously as a columnist in Portland, Oregon circa 2009,  all the while writing my own show copy, press releases, and helping others with the same. I have spent two years now (as of September) doing this job in Las Vegas and am in my fourth year producing (usually) a weekly article with photos and an interview of my subject or an editorial piece and have been published by, (online) Vegas Seven (print),  "The Best of Frankie Tease Magazine" ebooks Vol. 1 and Vol. 2 (Bookbaby / iTunes, Amazon, Nook), The Guardian Express LV (print), and other smaller unmentionable publications. I am finding that it is still important for me to do articles that shed light on the amazing people I encounter who are veteran performers, or more importantly, I find that I don't want to lose contact with these types of people. People that change audience's lives daily by being on stage for a living. People who really love what they do, and take a lot of shit to do it. I like writing the articles that I remember searching for in indie mags throughout the west coast to find out about my favorite artists like Royal Crown Revue, and others.

So though I've made very little profit from the efforts I've put into writing thus far, I am happy to have a voice with the level of artist I have had the privilege to encounter and that makes it rather addictive. If you could have the chance to speak with people such as Reverend Horton Heat, Lisa Lampanelli, Dirty Martini, Melody Sweets, Ian Ziering, Tonya Kay, Claire Sinclair, Michelle L'Amour, Kalani Kokonuts, Murray Sawchuck, Amy C. Hanley, Sublime, Mondo Durame and Jennifer Keith, Si Cranstoun (UK) and hundreds of other stage, tv, radio and film stars, wouldn't you find it hard to quit? Perhaps over time it will grow into more. And with no advertising, this site still receives over one thousand hits per day on average with over 150 of those being uniques (thanks in part to Project Wonderful referred to us by Illustrator David Herrick). If you like what is going on with these articles, feel free to jump into sponsoring us here.

So, for now I will be modifying the format of this online magazine. I will be doing less on-site on-location coverage or limited and national event coverage and more email, phone interviews, and online interviews and or podcasts, and moving away from writing about only the city I live in, Las Vegas. I feel that the world has changed with the lessening of printing, and the morening of the internet news spews (yes I know morening is not a word). I also find that there is very little work as a journalist right now, so I can't make it a priority, but I won't be quitting. Wherever I am, I'll be doing this periodically now Here I'll continue to cover the things and people that make my heart soar. Elsewhere I will be doing more press release writing, editorial narrative writing, copy writing, and freelance work, to continue with my writing career, and developing a richer, deeper, more complex voice. Please email me if you are interested in my writing services (

So readers, thank you for reading and sharing my articles to date on Portland, Oregon, and Las Vegas, Nevada. Thank you for your love of human interest stories, thank you for surprising me constantly with what you find entertaining, and interesting. Thanks to those of you who've written me to encourage me to be informative not assumptive, and who've thanked me for being professional and keeping my word as a journalist. Thank you to Tom Ingram for letting me cover Viva Las Vegas Rockabilly Weekend 15 and 16 so far. Thank you to the cool press crews I've met here on Vegas red carpets. I'll be seeing you again sometime. Thank you to the people who bought my ebooks, which will not be re-issued on BookBaby at this time. News will be forthcoming about the 2012 interviews and articles. I believe by December you will be able to read both Vol. 1 and Vol. 2 of "The Best of Frankie Tease Magazine" online. If you want it in ebook form via iTunes, Nook, or Amazon Kindle now, please visit  each Mag. Vol. $3.99)

Now, you may look forward to continuing informative and journalistic interviews by me as well as national editorial, including where most of my contacts are, the West Coast. But I'll be keeping a pulse on the same type of content I have, only I'm casting a wider net than just Las Vegas. I'm going national. I'll be serving up an interview with Famed Burlesque Star of Vegas: Kalani Kokonuts soon -a work in progress now- as well as doing an editorial on the upcoming film about Tempest Storm. Thank you and see you at the next story via Frankie Tease Magazine.