The Reverend hoped off the sleigh train this weekend to rip up the rock-and-roll stage planks of NYC's Stage 48. In what could only be described as a complicated set that would leave most performers a mental and physical wreck. But not the triple threat of the Reverend Horton Heat — amazing guitar skills, a great r-n-r voice and a larger than life stage presence — had the Rev. balancing a set list that included old favs like Galaxy 500 with cuts off the new Whole New Life album only to be peppered with Christmas songs (yes, I referred to them as Christmas songs) if you go to a Horton Heat show be ready to be transported back to the 50s...a weird version of the American 1950s
The crowd didn't skip a beat shifting gears between tempo speeds — most songs are way over the speed limit — singing (shouting) along with each song being rocketed from the stage. The Rev's guitar playing can cut through any combo’s sonic threat and as always Jimbo slapped everyone silly on his doghouse while their drummer RJ pounded away -- and their newest member -- Matt, a youthful looking piano player (Who my wife referred to as " the son of a preacher man". You get the Reverend reference, right?) Injected a cool new dimension to the band.
The Reverend is always out touring whether he has a new album out or not, but this tour did in fact have a new release to showcase. I let him give you the lowdown on Whole New Life available here.
Reverend Horton heat hits your hood you should check him out. And if you are so unfortunate not to have him gigging in your neck of the woods then stop off here and grab a Whole New Life.
The Rev was kind enough to sit with us because his NYC gig.
Did you ever really own a galaxy 500?
No, I had a station wagon, the 67 Ford station wagon. I took artistic license on that one.
How did your sound come about?
Well for me, I was already a professional musician, but I was a rock guy. The punk thing hadn't been around that long and I went to a Cramps show. I thought I was going to a punk rock show and it was. I mean it was, that was, but then they're playing all these songs like The Way I Walk by Jack Scott and Surfin’ Bird and the girls were doing these kind of weird dances and there’s a little bit of a fuzzed out Duane Eddy thing going on. And I was thinking, man, this blues, rockabilly can work in punk rock. That show kinda helped chart my course.
Was it hard to find band mates early on to play that kind of music?
Oh yeah. That’s always one of the hardest things. However, when I am looking for band members, I would defer to getting a guy who was a good player and a nice guy before it had to be the perfect guy that was into all the same exact music I was into.
Plus, because of the music I wanted to play definitely made it more difficult. You know, people in bands, they have dreams, they have high hopes and they want to be rock stars. Doing Reverend Horton Heat was a little bit of I just want to play and write my own songs that are in this style of the fifties and I know that it'll never make me a rock star. It’s kind of funny that’s what really worked. That resonated with people more than any other band I'd ever been.
For years when you played live and it was just the three of you on stage, and the band created a wall of sound. How do you accomplish that?
Well, you know when Reverend Horton Heat started out. It was just me. So, I had to adapt and come up with some kind of concepts and styles of playing that would kind of cover two bases at once. So, I would do the base notes with my pick and then I would use my fingers to play melodies. I had been developing other kinds of little tricks here and there to fill out the sound before I even had a band.
I liked being in a three piece. Less potential for tension and more money for everyone. We now have Matt Jordan, a piano player full time and he’s great. And Jimbo kind of pulls double duty because he slaps. He pulls the base notes and then slaps the backbeat. RJ keeps it rock steady and, well I'm covering a couple of bases. I think that all helps to fill out the sound.
How important is it for you to feed off the audiences’ energy.
We work off the crowd. The audience feeds off the band and the band feeds off the audience. That symbiotic reaction is an incredible feeling.
That's why so many bands, so many great musicians get into drugs. Man that is such an incredible feeling, especially with a great group of guys that are your friends. I mean, it's such a rush of adrenaline that, after that it's gone, and you're back in your hotel room, your apartment or at the laundromat. It’s a big come down.
How did you get “ordained” as the Reverend?
I was struggling to make ends meet so I started renting out this great PA systems doing sound for bands as well as having another one job, basically three jobs. I started renting the PA out at this place called Theater Gallery in Dallas. And the guy there had nicknames for everybody and he started calling me Horton.
One night he says to me, “I'm opening up a new bar and I want you to play there the first week. So, I said, okay and showed up with my guitar. I was setting my stuff up for the Gig in the afternoon before anybody was there. And then he came in and said, “Okay, your stage name is going to be Reverend Horton Heat. Okay.” And I said, what? No, no, no, no, no, no, no, but he walked off and then I realized he had already listed it in the paper as Reverend Horton Heat, made flyers with that name. I saw the flyers, but of course I didn’t realize that Reverend Horton Heat was “me”. The gig went great. I had people that liked my music and so, you know, I was grateful and I ran with it.