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REV. HORTON HEAT lets the spirits move him.

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 minute.”

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 Homie.”

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.

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