Friday, January 13, 2012

INTERVIEW: Jason and the Scorchers

Jason and the Scorchers are a legendary band, often cited as the purveyors of what has since become roots-rock/Americana/alt.country/cow punk/ what have you.

They’re currently on a 30th anniversary tour and will be playing tonight (Friday, January 13) at Off Broadway in St. Louis. Brian Henneman, of the Bottle Rockets, opens.

I had the chance this afternoon to speak with original guitarist with the group, Warner E. Hodges.


RYAN MIFFLIN: When you guys started out, did you imagine you’d be celebrating a thirtieth anniversary?

WARNER E. HODGES: I don’t know if as Jason & the Scorchers if we were thinking that way, but for me personally, I’ve always wanted to be in something that would last and had some longevity to it and 30 years deep is kind of cool.

Anytime I hear anything about you or read anything about you guys, I always hear “cow punk” and “alternative country” and 15 other genres are mentioned…

Nobody knows what the hell to call it!

What did you guys call it when you started out?

Well, I just wanted to be in a rock band, but I do have to be dead up honest…I’ve been in the Scorchers 30 years and I still don’t have a nice two-word answer to that question.

I just wanted to be in a rock and roll band, but we’re a country band and we’re a punk band and we’re a rock and roll band and we’re a folk band. I try to think of it more like my dad did; there was to kinds of music…good and bad.

What were some of the influences that got you guys to that sound you achieved?

Well, as kids, when we put the band together, all four of us came from a different place. Jeff was really into the punk rock thing, Perry listened to radio, I was listening to the Stones and AC/DC and Jason was a folkie. And when everybody threw their quarter on the table, it just kind of came out the way it did.

We were all listening to rock stuff, but we lived in Nashville, TN. We also listened to George Jones and Hank Williams and Johnny Cash. It just kind of came out that way, trying to play rock music from Nashville.

And at the time, when you guys came out, there wasn’t much of that going on…

Oh, we were – what did they call it? – alt-country and Americana about 15-20 years before they had a name for it.

Exactly! That makes me think of Bo Diddley…You know, as well known as he was, he never really achieved the level of success that the people who took his sound and did his thing after he did it. Do you guys ever feel like that?

I don’t think there’s a bitterness to it. There is sometimes…like, “Wow, it would have been…could have been”, you know? But the band is what it is. We just ought to be happy 30 years later, that there’s a few people who care.

A few years back the Old 97s had Charlie Louvin open for them, and [Old 97’s singer] Rhett Miller said, “In a just world, we’d be opening for Charlie.”

That’s part of it. I play with Dan Baird [formerly of the Georgia Satellites] also [in Dan Baird & Homemade Sin]. And Danny would tell you flat out if he were sitting here that us and the Replacements kicked open the door that he was able to run through.

We were a square peg in a round hole when we came out. We were too rock for country and too country for rock.

Now, I think, 30 years later if we came out, we’d be a country band. But in those days, we were just so radical.

I love your music, but I’ve never been able to see you guys live…for anyone else in the same boat as me, can you describe the live experience?

Oh, we love first-timers! The band works a lot better live than it ever really did in the studio. The last record we kinda “got it”. But all the parts actually work life.

Jason and the Scorchers is best in a bar 10-11 o’clock at night with a beer in your hand. That’s when the band does what it does. Either that or no beer in your hand, driving down the road, really loud. One of the two.

What’s next for Jason and the Scorchers?

We finish up this weekend and kinda shut it down so we can edit and mix a live DVD we shot in Nashville on New Year’s Eve. We’ll get that out and then we have a big European run in September.

So you’re just gonna keep on goin’…

Oh yeah. Good Lord willin’ and the creeck don’t rise. As long as we’re havin’ fun we’re gonna keep goin’!

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Hosted by Ryan Mifflin, Dirty Roots Radio is a Quentin Tarantino-ization of a spaghetti western style old-school record show featuring renegade country, vintage gospel, raw blues, greasy soul, punk, and funk. Tune in to Dirty Roots Radio every Thursday night from 8 to 10 p.m. (central) on WGRN 89.5 FM. Listen online from anywhere in the world at www.wgrn.net.


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