The Healing Powers Of The Heat
By Daniel Coston
In these times of soul-searching and yearning for enlightenment, some find healing in the form of therapy, while others have discovered strength through religion. However, there any many others that have found religion through Heat, as in the Reverend Horton Heat, a Texas-born and bred trio that has become a savior to many a listener.
For nearly ten years, the Heat, made up of guitarist and lead singer Jim "Reverend" Horton Heat, bassist Jimbo Wallace and drummer Scott Churilla, have burnt up and torn down people's expectations. Their mixture of rockabilly roots, punk attitude and a wild live show has brought many a fan to their knees, and their legion of converts is continuing to grow.
Along with continuing to play over 200 shows a year, the band made a high-profile guest appearance this past spring on "The Drew Carey Show." The band also recently released their fifth album, Space Heater, on Interscope Records.
With the band's hectic tour schedule, it was no surprise to find that Jimbo Wallace was calling in from the road. In this case, Mizoula, Montana. "We're at the local university here," said Wallace. "One of those places where they send up the 90-pound entertainment director to help you load equipment."
EW: Tell me about the new record.
J: It's a little bit of a departure for us. This time, I think that we leaned towards our punk influence a little more. A little more aggressive guitar, more guitar chords, instead of the lightning country picking. It's cool for us. We never play it safe. We always try to do different stuff, and pretty unpredictable.
We had Ed Stasium produce it. He did a lot of Ramones records. We've been known for our crazy producers, from Al Jourgensen to Gibby Haynes. [laughs]
EW: Who's been your favorite producer to work with?
J: I would have to say Ed Stasium. He was the most level-headed. Gibby Haynes was a lot of fun to work with, and Al Jourgensen was a nightmare. [laughs] But we somehow got that done. Every story you've ever heard about him is probably true. [laughs] But some people think that's our best record. [Liquor In The Front, 1994] Something went right.
EW: Was the change on this record a conscious decision?
J: No. I think that we get bored sometimes. [laughs] We had a limited time frame for this record, so we just locked ourselves in a studio and tried to write a song a day. We came up with about thirty of them, and used what we thought was worthy, and threw away the rest.
It was kind of a challenge with this record, because we did have a limited time period. Of course, working with Ed Stasium, he's a slavedriver. I hope that he reads this. [laughs] If we messed up, or if he didn't like a part, he made us do it over. [laughs]
EW: You guys recently appeared on the Drew Carey show.
J: Yeah. We first did on his HBO "Mr. Vegas" special, and that was pretty cool. We got to meet Wayne Newton, who was also a guest on the show. We were backstage, and Wayne was waiting to come [onstage]. I had on a silver tux jacket, and I walked up to him, and said, "Wayne, look. I'm sorry that I outdressed you tonight. You're going to have to do something about that," 'cause he just had a black [tuxedo jacket]. And he said, "Yeah, I'm been wanting to talk to you about that, Jimbo." [laughs]
But he was the nicest guy you'd ever want to meet. "Take all of the pictures that you want," and he was just real down to earth. Since that thing turned out successful, Drew asked us to be on his sitcom.
I guess the whole scenario was that the bar where they hang out was having a Battle Of The Bands, and they had an actor that they added to our band as a fourth member. We were called the Underprivledged. It ended up that we won the contest, but they stole the trophy at the end of the show.
As the credits were rolling, he announced, "Rev. Horton Heat," and let us play a song as they took the credits out.
EW: There's a lot of different influences in your music. Where do some of those influences come from?
J: I don't know. Growing up in Texas, of course, there's a lot of great guitar players, and I'm sure that it inspired the Rev., or Jim, in his early years. Growing up, I was into all different types of music, like heavy metal. And then punk hit, that was all I would listen to. And then the Stray Cats came out, and that's what inspired me to play the upright bass.
It all kind of melts together. It's nothing we really planned. Each one has a different kind of music we like, and once we get together, you can hear traces of it in most of our songs.
Also, there's a little truth in every song. I don't know if everybody knows that, but a lot of our songs are true stories. I know the "400 Bucks" girl. It's a long story. The Rev loaned this ex-girlfriend of his some money while we were on the road to buy this car, and we get back home, and she breaks up with him, with the car and the 400 bucks. So he wrote a song about it. [laughs]
EW: I loved the last song on It's Martini Time (1996), "That's Showbiz."
J: We're doing that as an encore. Guess there's a lot of truth in that song, too. There's a line in that about "rats the size of loaves of bread." That comes from a club in Washington, DC called the 9:30 Club, which is now big and beautiful since they moved locations.
They used to be in this little basement behind the Ford Theater, where Lincoln got shot, and the alley back there was just full of rats, and they'd come and steal the pizza out of your dressing room while you were on stage.
EW: At one point in your show, you turn the bass on its side and play it while the Rev stands on top of it. Where did that all start?
J: Back in the fifties, the bass players used to be pretty crazy with their upright bass. They'd stand on it and play. We've been fans of Bill Haley and the Comets, and they did tricks like that, so we kind of reintroduced it back in.
Although, [The Rev's] put his foot through my bass a couple of times. Of course, he never offers to pay for it. I'm always paying for it, so I might stand on his guitar next show. [laughs] No, he fixed my bass.
I've been in the band ten years now, and I guess that it's taken ten years to be an overnight success. Good things are starting to happen for us, finally. For a band that's never had a hit on the radio, we've got a pretty big following as compared to bands that do have hits.
Our following is pretty big, and we're real excited about that, 'cause we put many years of hard work into that, and it's paying off. A lot of our loyal fans are still with us today. We still see their faces at the show, and that's cool.
EW: How important is it for you guys to have that loyal fan base? Those people who have been with you five, ten years?
J: That's number one. Record companies come and go, but they'll still be there, and that's the main reason we do this. Interscope's been pretty good to us so far, but I trust all record companies about as far as I can throw them. [laughs].
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