The current king of crazed rockabilly dips into his jar of pomade and pulls out a new album
Bloodshot Bill is currently the most intriguing, not to mention flat-out wild rockabilly artist traipsing the globe. His one-man show – strumming and thumping away on his hollow body while kicking and slapping a barebones set of drums – intrinsically conjures up the screwiest underbelly masters of the original rockabilly era (Charlie Feathers, Herbie Duncan, Hasil Adkins). He physically flails his songs like he came up through the latter ‘90s garage trash scene. But most immediately astounding is his hooting vox that jabs and jumps and croons and croaks like nothing you have ever heard.
The title of his latest album, Come Get Your Love Right Now (Goner Records), is a great summation of his kookified live show. He rolls out a palm to invite you to come along on a ride of yalp-and-response songs, where he gets you to spontaneously call back to him some phrase of which you are only vaguely aware. A B-movie Martian version of sex appeal exudes, and the ladies gingerly stammer closer to the stage as the show proceeds, head a little down, eyes a little up. And while every fourth song is a spookier waddle through an ink-black woods, most of his ouvre is a foot-stomp wailing party, with energy that dares you to match it RIGHT NOW!
After an umpteen amount of previous releases and endless touring since the turn of the millennium, this new record is agog with expertly ladled reverb, twisting down and around everything like gnarled old tree roots; unknown crashes and fizzles peek out here and there. And of course there’re Bill’s pipes, which are at turns obscurely bawdy and haunted house heebie-jeebie – all of which continues to confuse the vintage car-hop crowd.
While this Canadian’s inviting charisma and big, bendy grin assume a good time from the get-go, there are deep recesses in his music that imply unknowable intentions, like the best of his hillbilly heroes. Listening to Come Get…, one can almost see storm clouds coming on the horizon, with wind whizzing past your ears. And Bloodhsot Bill’s answer to that conundrum? Pomade.
As anyone who’s seen him knows, Bloodshot Bill glops it up into a perfect poof just in time for the first strum of the next song, where he then proceeds to immediately rattle his noggin around so fast and hard, he may as well have put nothing in his hair but the sweat that’s flowing. Song ends, comb comes out, the locks get lifted, and after between song banter that goes from dance exhortations to, uh, I guess something about diving down, or chin scratching, or what have you, he’s back at it again. We were scratching our chins wondering about his hair regime, so we asked about it and more.
With the large number of releases you’ve put out there, and all the touring you do, it would be hard to imagine most trash rock fans don’t have a good idea of what you do. But for the uninitiated, please describe your musical aims.
Early style Rock & Roll, with everything thrown in. I’m really into ‘50s/’60s wild-type music, and I just try to add to that universe.
The new album – how / where did you record it, and what are some things about it that were new moves for you? Like I feel it is a little darker and spookier than before.
I recorded it in my living room, it’s where I usually record. I’ve always been into dark and spooky, if it sounds moreso, maybe my life was just weird when I did them? I did notice that an electric guitar doesn’t appear until track 3!
How many records have you released in total?
If not just counting my solo stuff, it’s about 20 albums and 30 singles/EPs.
When did you first discover the joys of pomade? And why did you start using it?
I guess in high school. Why? I don’t know, I like the look!
What was the first pomade brand you used? Or did you kind of inch your way in with ’90s gels?
I think it was Dax. I still use the same kind. I tried a gel one time in elementary school and HATED IT! Makes your hair all hard, and if you try to comb it after three minutes, it just turns dry. Yuck.
I believe there is no hair product on earth that can tame your head once it starts shaking during your set. But is there one you’ve used that has blown even you away with its ability to hold strong?
I don’t know if I want it to! It all depends how much you got in there for hold anyways. Personally, I don’t like stiff hair, that’s why I don’t use sprays or gel.
Are you not too proud to use a switchblade comb, if the situation demands?
Those are fun for novelty, but are really shitty for use as actual combs.
When we recently chatted, you said you weren’t into all the newer, more expensive, fancy kinds of pomades, and that a certain cheap brand is perfect – which one was that? Or just keep it cheap in general?
Ha, that was a can of Royal Crown for $2.33 at the dollar store – perfect! But yes, a tube of Vaseline will do as well.
You said pomade shouldn’t cost more than like five bucks. I have to admit, while working at a barbershop recently, I found what has been the best pomade I ever had — strong hold, not too matte / not too shiny, water-based, so it washes out well (mainly ’cause of the dreaded “all natural ingredients”), and it smells real nice. But damned if it isn’t $20! It lasts forever, and I’m in love, so what’re going to do?
Hey, if you like it, go for it! I can’t stand water-based ones. What if you’re out in the rain? But hey, there’s also people who’ll pay $16 for two tacos, so…
Any in-show hair nightmares, like a pomade that changed your hair color, or got in your eyes during a set and burned, or something like that?
None, but I did crush a ton of red chilis into my supper, rub my forehead, and then went to play a show. I hadn’t notice the pepper yet. During the show, my sweat made the pepper run down into my eyes, it burned hard and blinded me. Couldn’t open my eyes for the whole set!
Have you ever tried to get a sponsorship from a pomade company? I would imagine you must got through 20 tins a year. (Also, I think a banner hanging behind you at gigs with a pomade ad on it would be boss!)
I was sponsored by American Greaser Supply out of Kansas City. They put out my grease (Nice N’ Greasy) as a kind of Frankenstein mix of their stuff, and its own fragrance. Was top notch, still got a few cans left.
You have kids, no? Have they ever gotten into your hair product stash and played around with it?
Not so much right now, I think my daughter thinks it’s “yucky.”
You do a ton of touring. Any story of running out of pomade, and not being able to find any in some far-flung hamlet?
Yeah, I’ve had mine lost by the airline, and had to go scrambling. But even if I can’t find what I’m used to, I can get by with simple Vaseline, and that’s everywhere for a buck.
What’s next for you? Tours, releases, etc.
Always traveling somewhere for shows. Got some tours planned with the 126.96.36.199’s and Reverend Horton Heat, and a Tandoori Knights reunion in Europe. Lots of new music – 7″ collabs with the 188.8.131.52’s, Deke Dickerson, King Khan, and more!