REV. HORTON HEAT lets the spirits move him.
LOSING THEIR RELIGION
By: Jancee Dunn
For the Rev. Horton Heat, every hour is happy hour. And as he and his band mates
lurch haltingly into the Old Homestead restaurant, New York’s premier red-meat trough
(it’s what’s for dinner!), they look very happy indeed.
“I’m so stoned,” announces the Rev. with a throaty (well, phlegmy) chuckle,
slumping into a chair and putting his head on the table. “Lemme just rest here for a
Uh-oh. Turns out the Rev. (known to his mama as Jim Heath), his drummer, Taz,
and his guitarist, Jimbo, took a little tour of High Times magazine, where it appears they
were given free samples. Maybe some drinks will help. After all, it’s - what is it, 6
already? Somebody order some gin and tonics! Waitress!
Cocktails arrive, the fog lifts, and the fun begins. The band, unsurprisingly, lives
the way it plays: at warp speed. Tonight’s myocardial-infarction-themed dinner is a gear-
up for a pool tournament and gala at Julian’s Pool Room (“Beer! Lil’ eats! Get it while
the gettin’s good!”). The bash has been put on to unleash the Sultan of Psychobilly’s third
album, Liquor in the Front, which was skillfully produced by Ministry’s own Al
Jourgensen in the time honored Heat tradition: loud and raucous - or as the Rev. terms it,
“fast drinking music.”
“In some ways, I think this album is harder and faster than our other records yet
more romantic,” says Heat. “I don’t know how that happened exactly, but I like it.” This
time around, the tunes reveal the Latin-music influence of Heat’s youth. Songs range
from the hilarious “I Can’t Surf” to the gentle ballad “In Your Wildest Dreams” to the
country-fried “Liquor, Bear and Wine” to the Rev.’s personal favorite, a twangy cover of
the Golden Gate Quartet’s “Jezebel.” Also is a boozy rendition of “The Entertainer,” with
sound effects (well, belches) dutifully supplied by Jourgensen.
“That song was out of pure boredom,” says Taz. “We were waiting around while
they were rewinding or something, and we were just like ‘Yaaah!’ Jim played drums, I
played piano, and they got it.”
The steaks arrive, unadorned by so much as a sprig of parsley. Just meat, pure and
simple. “I’ll tell you what,” says Heat, picking up his fork. “This is the biggest filet
mignon I’ve ever seen in my life.”
This is no mean feat, considering Heat is from Texas, land o” beef. He grew up in
Corpus Christi and first picked up a guitar at about 6 years of age. His first high-school
band was called Chantilly Lace, which did - you guessed it - ‘50s covers. “This whole life
that brought me here started out when I was about 13,” says Heat. “Hanging around the
bowling alleys where people were playing foosball, smokin’ cigarettes and tryin’ to get
the older guys to buy Boone’s Farm Strawberry Hill.” He hooked up with Taz and Jimbo
in 1987, put out the well-received Smoke ‘Em If You Got ‘Em, followed by The Full-
Custom Gospel Sounds Of The Reverend Horton Heat. In between releases, the band
tours tirelessly, playing more than 200 live shows a year.
The nonordained Heat was once given to preaching onstage, but now he finds that
a tad tiresome. “More than a tad,” he sighs, draining another drink. “Let’s say a whale
load. We’re a band not a novelty act.” He is often asked by friends to officiate at
weddings, but he turns them down flat. “Why would I want to marry somebody? I tell
‘em, ‘I’ll do your divorce.’ They look at me like ‘You cynical old bastard.’ “
Heat shovels in a hunk of steak, orders another round and unspools some
Jourgensen yarns. “When we were recording,” says Heat, “these video producers in
Dallas thought they were getting the biggest break in their career when MTV called ‘em
up to film us. They show up, and we’re so drunk.” There is plainly a theme here. “They
say, ‘Let’s get video of you guys actually recording.’ So they pan to Al, and he’s standing
up on the console with his pants down and a pencil up his ass!” The band busts a gut
laughing. “They left disgusted,” says Jimbo.
Heat claims the most surprising discovery he made about his producer was “how
well he could play the pedal steel guitar. He also loves Buck Owens.” Heat was
introduced to Jourgensen by the Butthole Surfer’s Gibby Haynes, the producer of Heat’s
last album. “Al was kind of out of it when I met him, but that was a pretty wild day,” says
Heat. “I think that was the night after Ministry set off that huge fireworks display inside
their bus.” Later in Chicago, Jourgensen got down and licked the band’s shoes after a
show, and a partnership was born.
Al stories give way to Heat’s special brand of slightly enhanced “I’m just tellin’
you what I heard” stories: Frank Sinatra’s hotel-room parties, in which golf balls were
putted into women’s… well, you get the idea. “We were all on acid, and we’re about to
walk onstage” stories. “We’re gonna be doing a rock opera next. It’s gonna be called
The story well eventually running dry, Heat draws stares throughout the restaurant
as he wobbles to his feet. Once up, he gropes for his cigarettes. “You got me drunk,” he
slurs approvingly at his inquisitor as everyone heads toward Julian’s Pool Room, where
members of Paw, Boss Hogg, the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion and others will file up to
him and profess their love.
And shoot some pool. And while being liquored up is a hindrance to some, it’s
not to the Rev., a renowned pool hustler (PLAY AT YOUR OWN RISK! warns the party
invite). He handily beats everyone, one by one.