Thursday, June 16, 2011

INTERVIEW: Scott H. Biram

The Dirty Old One Man Band from Austin Texas, Scott H. Biram, rocked the best joint in St. Louis (Off Broadway) last Friday night, June 10th. You can expect a review of the show coming soon, and hear my interview with Scott on Dirty Roots Radio next week, but given that it's already a week past (I never claimed to be prolific), I wanted to get some of this out to you. Enjoy!

RYAN MIFFLIN/DIRTY ROOTS RADIO: I appreciate you takin’ some time to hang out, brother.

SCOTT H. BIRAM: It’s my great pleasure.

First off, describe what it is that you do…

I’m a one man band; I guess my moniker is “The Dirty Old One Man Band”. And I play the blues with a punk edge and throw some country and some heavy metal in there and mix it all up, stir it all up, and try to make some money.

Who are some of the artists in that mix that are influences?

There’s a lot all over the place, but the biggest ones, I guess, would be Leadbelly and Woody Guthrie and Bill Monroe and Lightnin’ Hopkins and Black Flag, Jerry Reed, Jimmy Martin, Doc Watson, Merle Haggard, Waylon Jennings. On and on and on and on and on.

It’s quite a stew then…

Yeah, definitely.

I know you were in bands before you did the one-man-band thing…how did you get from that to what you do on a stage every night now. How did you arrive at being a one-man-band and how did you arrive at the sound you’ve developed?

Well, it’s ever evolving and I’ve gotten closer to what I’ve been looking for, for a long time, recently. But, I originally started in punk bands. The first kind of guitar stuff I learned was blues guitar. I was in a punk band in high school and college and towards the end of my college career I was in two bluegrass bands, the last of which I toured with. All along I’d been doin’ a solo, acoustic thing; just singin’ and playin’ Dylan and Townes Van Zandt and Doc Watson covers and stuff.

When the bands broke up, I just took the info that I’d found for the tours we did with the bluegrass band and I booked more shows by myself and I kept pushing it and kept going out. I started stompin’ my foot on the floor and that wasn’t enough for me, so I started amplifying it by making this stomp box that I could run through speakers. I always had a dream of having a wall of beat-up speakers behind me.

Nowadays I have these two giant subwoofers right behind me and I sit down and stomp on this board that I made and it goes through those and gives me a big loud thud. I play guitar and some harmonica and put a little grit on the vocals.
I needed to compete with rock bands in order to play in rock clubs and the only way to do that was to turn it up and make it louder. I didn’t want to get stuck in coffee shops for the rest of my life, you know? I don’t drink coffee.

But you drink the stuff in the bars!

I drink all kinds of shit, but not coffee!

Homemade moonshine on the street and everything! {NOTE: Story on this coming soon, too}

Oh yeah.

I’ve been reading a lot about Jerry Lee Lewis lately and he had the whole thing of his cousin being a preacher, and he kind of believed in that, but he wanted to do the rock and roll thing. You were in this movie, “The Folk Singer”, with Possessed by Paul James, which had an element of wrestling with demons and working out faith. Even on your posters downstairs, one of the posters has “One Man Band from Hell” on it, but there’s Jesus imagery on a lot of the merchandise you put out. So, I feel like there’s some kind of that spiritual, or good and evil, struggle in what you do.

I’m not into organized religion. You can hear a little story about that in a movie I was in called “Seven Signs” that J.D. Wilkes from Th’ Legendary Shack Shakers put out. I’ve got a little spiritual side to me and I love gospel music. I say prayers and things like that, but I don’t know who the hell I’m talking to. I might be talking to myself, I don’t know. It just feels good to be able to ask for forgiveness or ask for help sometimes and hope that someone’s listenin’. I generally kind of revolve around the whole “energy flow of the universe” kind of way of thinkin’.

But I also have a tendency to…I feel like it’s my, uh…What did I used to say? “One of my purposes on earth is to offend the shit out of overly critical Christians”. I don’t know…that’s not exactly how I used to say it. It’s some other thing that sounded better before.

But I don’t know. I think people are just uptight and need to fuckin’ chill out a little bit and be cool, man.

Tell us about the life of a touring one man band. You tour internationally and go all over the place, but it’s not like you have Willie Nelson's tour bus sitting outside.

Right. I take a crew with me sometimes. Generally one person, sometime two people. And that helps out a lot. The last two tours I did in the states I went by myself and that was a real chore, especially when I was out west driving through all these blizzards after blizzards after blizzards and it was just really scary.

It’s a lot of work, even when I have help. The preparation for a tour; all the booking and all the getting ready for it and everything…rolling T-shirts and ordering things and running all over town tryin’ to get posters made and all this and that. That’s a lot of work and then you get in the van, you gotta drive six or seven hours a day a lot of the time. Get to the club. Try not to drink too much…which never works. Then play your heart out and load all that stuff back up and then do it all over again the next day. Maybe even party a little after the show and then do it all over the next day.

Meanwhile, while driving all those seven hours, eatin’ shitty food, unless you can find something good, but a lot of time you’re in a hurry and you don’t have time to…time to…Waffle House been killin’ me all day!

You have a new record, "Bad Ingredients", coming out in October. Tell us about that and what’s coming up next.

Worked really hard on this new record. I had six songs already recorded when I came home from Europe. I was gonna record five more songs. I recorded one more and then I started lookin’ on my computer and I found all of these songs from when I was stoned at three a.m. and I was like, “I don’t wanna forget this one!” and I went and recorded it. I ended up with 22 songs and I was like, “Oh, shit. This is a dilemma!” So, I ended up, the label let me put out 13 of ‘em and we’re saving the other ones for B-sides on some vinyl 7-inches we’re gonna put out and possibly an EP at some point.

I think I’ll start working on a live one once this one gets done. ‘Cause people been askin’ for that for a long time. Meanwhile, still trying to learn how to play guitar.

I’ve been tryin’ all kinds of different tunings for a while now. I’ve gotten to where a lot of the stuff I’ve been playin’ for so long – I’ve been playing guitar for 23 or 24 years now – and I’m branchin’ out and tryin’ to do other things. Play weird stuff that’s not really very traditional, but keep it with that roots sound in there somehow. A lot of it always leads towards metal, ‘cause I’m a metalhead at heart.

Thanks for taking the time to talk with us!

C'est mon grand plaisir! ["It's My Great Pleasure" in French. Biram recently returned from a tour in France and said he'd been picking up on some of the language.]

Keep your eyes peeled for a review of Scott's June 17th Off Broadway Show...

You can hear the audio from my interview with Scott H. Biram next Thursday, June 23rd on Dirty Roots Radio.

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