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Reverend Horton Heat

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Photo By: Gene Ambo

Not many bands have the creative stamina and indie credibility of Reverend Horton Heat, but then again, not every band has Jim Heath at the helm. With over three decades of writing, recording and touring under their belts, the psychobilly pioneers are showing no signs of slowing down, releasing their 12th studio album, “Whole New Life,” just a week ago on Victory Records.

We recently sat down with Heath to discuss the importance of persistence, inflatable reindeer, and why he’s looking forward to taking guitar lessons before hitting the studio for the next record.

TrunkSpace: “Whole New Life” is the 12th studio release for Reverend Horton Heat. How do you feel this album sets itself apart from your previous albums?
Heath: It’s the most positive album I’ve ever done. Some of my stuff in the past was dark, maybe too dark. I guess I’m not the awful vindictive jerk I thought I was!

TrunkSpace: A dozen albums is no easy feat. What has been the Reverend Horton Heat key to musical longevity? Is there a secret sauce?
Heath: Well, I’m not sure. Luck is part of the equation, but not as important as persistence. I’m not giving up – ever.

TrunkSpace: Speaking of longevity, you’ve stated that you’re on the Willie Nelson retirement program, meaning, you’ll never retire. As fans, we couldn’t be happier to hear that. Is it just as exciting for you to step onto the stage or slip into the studio as it was when you first started your musical journey? What keeps you going?
Heath: I actually enjoy playing music now more than when I was younger. Back then, there was always the pressure to perform well. Getting asked back for a return gig, agents, label reps and all that made every gig pretty important. Now, none of that stuff matters much at all. I get up there, let it rip and have fun, even if it’s 20,000 people. That being said, I don’t enjoy the travel as much, but that’s what has to be done. I do still love hanging out with the guys in my band and crew. We have a lot of fun joking around and stuff.

TrunkSpace: It’s difficult to say what the future holds though change is always a part of the equation. How do you feel your music – both lyrically and sonically – has changed over the course of your current 12-album journey?
Heath: Well, I think I’ve gotten better as a singer and storyteller. Certain aspects of my guitar playing have improved as well. But in general, there’s a lot of my style that is there and will always be there as long as I’m breathing. I’m still trying to improve though. I got a vocal coach before I started writing this new album. I’m going to keep going to him when I can, but I’m going to focus on guitar playing before the next one. I’m going to take guitar lessons Omaha.

TrunkSpace: Do albums become a bit like chapters of your life? Does it become, “Those were my ‘It’s Martini Time’ years and those were my ‘Revival’ years?” Are they musical yearbooks?
Heath: Maybe in a way that is subconscious. But in all honesty, I’m a fifties singles kind of guy more than a seventies concept album kind of guy. So, I’m more song by song. If I feel I’ve got a good song that doesn’t necessarily fit into the scheme of the album I’m still going to put it on there if it’s better than the ones that I think are weaker. In all honesty, sometimes the songs I think are not that strong are the ones people like.

TrunkSpace: The band tours relentlessly. With all of that time out on the road, do you create while traveling or is your writing reserved for specific spaces when you’re tour dormant?
Heath: I’m always thinking of concepts for songs. Either lyrics, a little melody, a chord sequence or a drum beat can hit at any time. Then, I have a little studio in Dallas where I go in and really work the concept into a completed song. I’ll crank my amp up and start caterwauling. I’m sure it sounds terrible, but something good always comes out when I least expect it.

TrunkSpace: With 200 shows annually, do you still experience firsts when you’re touring? Is there still some magic to be found beneath the wheels of that bus?
Heath: Yes. There’s always something new. Actually, we only play about 150 shows a year. Yesterday the new thing was that we have a giant inflatable Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer that’s 10 feet tall. It’s huge. We got a lot of laughs yesterday setting that thing up.

TrunkSpace: Your music is so infectious it could make Bernie from “Weekend at Bernie’s” get up and dance! When you set out to establish your sound all those years ago, was there a plan of attack or did the band’s sonic identity come together organically?
Heath: I wanted to have a fun band and play fast rock and roll songs and fast rockabilly and country type stuff too. So, I had this in my head before I even started the band. My albums have slow songs that I think are some of the best songs I’ve ever written, but live we don’t play very many slow songs. We keep the energy as high as possible.

TrunkSpace: Every time we fire up our phone, television or computer, it seems we are bombarded with terrible news that gives us yet another reason to escape through music. Having a band like Reverend Horton Heat around during those moments is a breath of positive, foot-tapping, fresh air. Is playing music as much of an escape for you as it is for the audience to listen?
Heath: Yes. After I read the news in the morning, I escape by reading about recording techniques, and recording equipment. I’ve built some microphones and microphone amplifiers. Then I go to my studio and listen to music, practice and record. The worst thing I can do is go on Facebook. That ruins my day. I feel sorry for people who are trying to learn to play a musical instrument nowadays. The smart phones are such a distraction. When I was a kid learning to play music, all we had was a television with only five channels, a radio and a record player. So music was kind of all we had.

TrunkSpace: What do Reverend Horton Heat fans have to look forward to in 2019? What’s next on the Willie Nelson retirement program?
Heath: This year is going to be deep into promoting the new album “Whole New Life.” We’re playing Viva Las Vegas Festival this year. Also, Summerfest in Milwaukee. Weâ™re going to Canada. Probably doing videos and such…and a lot of joking around.

Whole New Life” is available now on Victory Records.

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Listen Up

We Were Sharks

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Like certain shark breeds and their inability to remain still even while sleeping, Canadian pop/punk rockers We Were Sharks are constantly swimming, touring relentlessly in support of their infectious music. Their latest album, “Lost Touch,” was released earlier this year on Victory Records to both critical and fan praise.

We recently sat down with guitarist Jason Mooney to discuss the comfort of life on the road, how “Lost Touch” is directly influencing what they write next, and why they always try to make themselves as accessible to fans as possible.

TrunkSpace: Some bands hit the road out of necessity, but we get the sense that you guys still love it as much today as you did when you first got together. Do you find you’re still experiencing “firsts” out there on the highways and byways as you tour? Does it still feel fresh?
Mooney: That’s a really great question! Touring is definitely a necessity, but we definitely still love it. We still have firsts! Even if that means stopping into a different WaWa/Sheetz for the first time. For me, personally, I actually love coming back to the towns and venues that we’ve played before. There is this strange feeling of comfort and appreciation for this lifestyle that I get when I can navigate my way around a place that is so far from home.

TrunkSpace: A lot of people use writing music as a form of personal therapy – a way to work out whatever demons they have. Does performing have therapeutic benefits as well? Can you get in front of a crowd and come off the stage a different person than as you went on?
Mooney: I find performing to be absolutely therapeutic. I hit the strings a little harder, shout into the crowd a little louder, but that just describes aggression. There’s also the moments while performing when I look across the stage and share a laugh with one of the guys in the band. I can definitely say that there have been times where it feels like a “bad day,” then I look forward to the show because chances are I’ll get it all out within 30 minutes and come off feeling a little lighter and in a better headspace.

TrunkSpace: Is there a song that you dig playing live that maybe you weren’t as happy with on the record? Can a tune have a different personality on the stage than it does in the studio?
Mooney: I love all of the songs but there definitely are songs that take on a different personality when played live. For me, one song in particular is “Never Looked Better.” It’s a track that I love listening to, but I didn’t think it was going to make it into the live catalog. We began playing it live and it has had an awesome reaction. We’ve had show-goers tell us that it’s their favorite song, or they come up before the set and tell us that they hope we play it.

Instead of writing set lists, maybe we should just take requests live.

TrunkSpace: Your latest album, “Lost Touch” was released earlier this year, your first on Victory Records. Did having a label change give the experience, both in the studio and post release, that fresh car scent?
Mooney: It was definitely a different experience. What made it all the more different was having a team working on making sure that we have a successful release, as well as a team making sure the songs were the best they can be.

TrunkSpace: Do albums become a bit like chapters of your life? Does it become, “These were my ‘Lost Touch’ years and those were my ‘Not a Chance’ years”?
Mooney: I think that they show chapters of our experience of being songwriters. The experience we had writing and recording “Lost Touch” and seeing what works live has definitely influenced us in what we need to do next.

TrunkSpace: What do you get writing and performing within a band, and this band in particular, that you can’t access from a solo mindset? What are the benefits for you personally in having a group of people fighting the fight alongside of you?
Mooney: From a solo mindset, my voice sounds like nails on a chalkboard. So, solo for me is impossible. (Laughter)

But it’s the feeling of sharing your passion and drive with like-minded individuals. Nothing comes easy and being able to work together with a group to overcome challenges and then share those wins together — that’s what I have always loved about being in a band.

TrunkSpace: You guys have no doubt experienced a lot together over the years. After everything you’ve been through… and the point of view changes that come with age… do you see the band differently now than you did when it first came together? Does it serve a different purpose in 2018 than it did at the outset?
Mooney: I don’t think the point of view has ever changed. We accomplish goals and set new ones. Being in a band is a lot like pushing a boulder up a hill. When it comes down to the fundamentals, I think from the beginning it’s always been about writing music that we enjoy that can create a great live experience for those who come and see us.

TrunkSpace: What has been the highlight of your musical career thus far – the moment that you will carry with you through the rest of your life?
Mooney: There are dozens of highlights and we are always creating amazing new memories. I think the release day of “Lost Touch” is something that my memory always returns to. We worked so unbelievably hard to create a full album that we are so proud of, and on that day, it was made available for everyone to hear.

TrunkSpace: What are your thoughts on the status of the music industry as a whole in 2018? Are you optimistic for the future in terms of the torch being carried by the next generation of kids coming up in the musical ranks?
Mooney: I do feel optimistic. Popular music genres, styles and musical tastes will always change. Technology will always evolve. Music is the one thing that will always bring people together and no matter where a person is, or the state of the world, music will continue to be made, and someone will always want to share it. I never think that a torch is passed down, or passed along. I think we all carry the torch together, and every year, there’s new determined artists who want to join in carrying that torch.

TrunkSpace: Fan feedback can often be the fuel that powers the creative brain because its evidence that the art is hitting its mark. What’s the most powerful fan feedback or interaction you have received that has made it all worth the journey?
Mooney: Someone at a show in Long Island, NY once told me how much they appreciated how we interact with everyone when we’re off stage.

As an artist, we try to meet and thank as many show-goers as possible. We do our best to take time and speak to as many people as we can at shows. When someone comes to the merch table, we focus on the experience. Even for the band member who grabs a beer at the bar, you may have an opportunity to talk to someone hanging out nearby. We’re all human, I believe we all try to be good people. Meeting someone and taking the time to talk to them can do wonders. You never know what life experiences a person has gone through or the steps they took prior to getting to your show. We always have the opportunity to be the shining light in somebody’s day.

Lost Touch” is available now on Victory Records.

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Sit and Spin

Broadside’s Summer Stained

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Song Title: “Summer Stained”

From The Album: Paradise

Single Sentence Singles Review: “Summer Stained” is a melodic rock tune that pays homage to Broadside fans and the symbiotic relationship between artists and the people who follow their work with a passion.

Beyond The Track: Currently on tour in Europe, the band will soon return to the States for the final Vans Warped Tour. For tour dates and info, visit here.

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