HATCH OF THE DAY
Suvern Boogie may be in decline, but Jacksonville giants MOLLY HATCHET are still Bourbon to be wild, reports an ecstatic XAVIER RUSSELL
'New York City, you're so big and tough,
'New York City, you're so big and tough,
THE YEAR was I978, the band was Molly Hatchet, the kut was the 'Big Apple' and the music, well that's pretty obvious; if you've read the above waffle, it could only be Suvern Boogie. Now jump ahead six years and here I am in the 'Rotten Apple' to see and interview the Hatchets.
I've always felt the same way about New York as the Mollies have - yes, you guessed right first time, it's a shit hole! The only thing that made this trip bearable was the fact that a big black limo picked me up at JFK Airport. That and having the gorgeous Mary Anne Hobbs from Spunos [sic] along for the ride, not to mention my supply of Jack Daniels!
Well, New York hadn't changed a bit since I was last there in '79. Same old electric shocks in the hotels, and trying to order coffee on room service was a farce. "How long will it take?" I enquired. "An hour, sir." "Are you joking?" I replied. "This is a big hotel, sir," the voice came back. And to make matters worse, it was raining; but then it always rains in New York - at least when I'm whizzing through.
So what a relief it was to get out of Manhattan and on to Long Island, where the Mollies were staying. They were on the 'frog 'n' toad' with Billy Squier and roasting him alive every night (they're now touring with Triumph); when I met up with Messrs Dave Hlubek, Duane Roland, Bruce Crump, Riff West, John Galvin and Danny Joe Brown, therefore, they were all in fine form and ready for a serious chin-wag.
I BEGAN by asking how they felt about the state of Suvern Boogie these days. Main spokesperson Dave Hlubek picked up the story...
"Well, the general consensus, it would appear, is that Southern Rock is over with. It's a dead issue as far as being a saleable commodity in big numbers is concerned. But everything goes in a circle. It will come around again some day, I believe, just like fashions do; I mean, my sister's now wearing clothes my mother used to wear. So I guess I gotta wait all those years till it comes back."
So just where did Suvern Boogie originate from? Was it Jacksonville?
DH: "I think you have to go back to the early bluesers, you know, To me, the origin of it would be these people sitting on a back porch; people such as Earl Lee Hooker and all those cats, the real Southern blues artists. Then the Allman Brothers came along and made the sound heavier and started churning out these 15-minute songs (the Hatchets cover Gregg Allman's 'Dreams I'll Never See', which is on their first opus).
"Next, Lynyrd Skynyrd came along and refined that sound: made, it more powerful and crunchier. Then you had Marshall Tucker and Grinderswitch and they added a country flavour to it and then came Molly Hatchet and we were the first to put an almost Metal edge to it. That was the evolution of the things that were taking place then."
So are there any new bands coming out of Jacksonville these days?
DANNY JOE BROWN: "Shit no, we closed the door. Well, there is this new band called Molly Hatchet!"
RIFF WEST: "We're tired of hearing all that Jaconsville [sic] shit!"
So that just leaves 38 Special and Blackfoot...
DH: "Well, let's start with 38 Special. They had four albums out before our first one hit the streets in '78. And, oddly enough, our first LP went gold, when they were still waiting for gold. They had to bring in outsiders for help such as Jim Peterik from Survivor; he helped them get their first gold 'n' platinum album. They could then feel what Molly Hatchet had been feeling for four years - success!
"Now, of course, the roles have been reversed and we're just sitting waiting for it again on their coat-tails. It's just going to be an even swap-off. And once we get back there they'd just better watch out cos we're not going to give up the crown again.
I mean, as far as the hometown (Jacksonville) goes there is this rivalry; they're crown-holders now but we held it for a long time. We got a little sloppy with it, though; we got a bit too sure of our position, you know. We said, 'Well, we're here, man, we don't have to work at it anymore' and got real comfortable "
And what about Blackfoot..?
DH: "What about them? (General laughter ensues with everyone present ending up on the floor in hysterics) I read in a Kerrang! article, which I think you wrote Xavier, that Ricky (Medlocke) said we were unoriginal. Well, just look at this new 'Vertical Yawns' album cover of theirs. You know, I give it to them hands down for originality!
"Ricky and the guys, we've known them for a long time. We come from the same backyard. I even have the 'Strikes' album in my tape collection, but everything they churned out after that wasn't up to much. OK, so 'Tomcattin" had its moments, but that's about it."
HEY, LADS, let's not turn this into a slagging match; I think we'd better return to things Hatchet. The band's first two albums, released in '78 and '79, both did very well at the box office - mind you, Suvern Boogie was still popular at this time. But it was with the release of their third LP, 'Beatin' The Odd' [sic] in I980, that things started going horribly wrong for Hatchet... Why did Danny Joe Brown leave for a time and who the hell was his replacement Jimmy Farrar? Dave Hlubek takes a big gulp of Jack Daniels before answering this one...
"Why did Jimmy Farrar come in? Oh, Jesus.. ."
DUANE ROLAND: "Do we really have to open that closet?"
DH: "Let me pull something out of the hat. We were in the middle of a mega-stardom trip; in the space of two albums we'd become like one of the top five bands in the world out of nowhere. We were just a bar band from Jacksonville before that. Molly Hatchet had sold like two-and-a-half to three million albums in two years and we went bingo! Everything happened too quick, too soon. So all the habits and the trappings of success came and we got real sure with it... 'This is never gonna end, this is always gonna be'. Sure enough, we went down the pan...
"I just went completely schizo. I couldn't handle it. Too many German chocolate cakes (Eh? Ed). So Danny and myself had an entanglement between us where we couldn't see eye to eye on a few things musically and his lifestyle conflicted with mine. He had only just found out that he was a diabetic, which was very hard for him to handle. All of a sudden we were saying, 'We have to take this (Hlubek picks up my bottle of Jack Daniels) from you, Danny, you're not supposed to do this'. And he would say, 'Well, I've always been a party-hardy kinda guy, do you mean I can't drink with the boys anymore?' And then he just said, 'Well, fuck it! I'm gonna have my way or the highway... "
Danny took the highway, cleaned himself out and came up with a fine solo album in 1981, daftly titled 'Danny Joe Brown And The Danny Joe Brown Band'. In fact, it's spinning away merrily in the background as I'm bashing on the typewriter keys in time to the klassik 'Edge Of Sundown'. It was on this song that I first really noticed the delightful ivory playing of one John Glavin [sic], who now of course is a full-time member of Hatchet. Galvin replaced Steve Holland, turning the Mollies from a three to a two guitar band by adding his ivories, giving them a much richer sound in the process.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch, we pick up on the Jimmy Farrar saga; over to you, Dave...
"I SWEAR to God this is a true story. We were over at Jack (road manager) and Pat (manager) Armstrong's house in Macon, Georgia, one night. We'd flown in from Detroit where we'd just broken up a tour, and said, 'Pat, do you know anybody who can sing?'. 'Yeah, I know this guy up in Grange, Georgia - he's ugly but he can sing,' he replied. So we got him on the phone that night and I said, 'This is Dave Hlubek of Molly Hatchet'. And he had the cheek to come back with, 'Molly WHO?!' Then I said, 'Can you sing?' And he said, 'Yeah, I can sing, but I'm real ugly; I can clear a coliseum'. He did not lie!
"We managed to pull the wool over the public's eyes for one album ('Beatin' The Odds') but after that they wouldn't buy it anymore. Hatchet were going downhill fast and Jimmy couldn't handle the pressures. We started to lose millions of dollars and I got into drugs real heavy - I really did - because I figured we were losing everything, you know, and I didn't give a shit anymore because we were going into I7-20,000 seat coliseums and filling about a quarter of them. That's when the world started telling us, we ain't buying it no more, the fat man has gotta go or you're gone!
"Now we've got the four original members back together, because Bruce Crump, our drummer, bailed out after the fourth album; he could see that we were on the slide so he went off and recorded a gold album with (Suter faves) Streetheart. Bruce was the only one who had any real hint of success when he was gone."
Why did you give bass player Banner Thomas the elbow?
DH: "Well, Riff's prettier I guess; no, really, we wanted a different style of bass playing - Riff has a much cleaner sound."
Where did the idea come from to use the barbarian artwork of Frank Frazetta on your album covers - it's certainly proved a clever marketing ploy?
DH: It came from Banner, actually; this was Banner's big claim to fame. We'd just finished our first album and we had to pick a cover real quick. We were running out of time and Banner had this set of paintings by this dude called Frazetta, and the one that caught our eye was the Death Dealer sitting up on his horse. And then Pat Armstrong came up with this real neat logo to go on top (the logo has never changed) and said maybe we could make this a series type thing.
"It was good working with Frazetta on the first three albums, but by the time we came to the 'Beatin' The Odds' cover the price had trebled. His business manager was also his wife; I asked her why so much for the third cover and she said (in mock little ol' opry lady voice), 'My husband's paintings made your band!' Well, we've never had a hit album cover played across the radio waves so we stopped doing business with her."
RIGHT, LET'S get back to the new album, 'The Deed Is Done'. I noticed you finally did the right thing by giving Tom Werman the boot and bringing in ZZ Top's engineer Terry Manning
DH: "We wanted a big drum sound on this record and also it was time for us to have a parting of the ways because Tom was not giving us a fresh interpretation of Molly Hatchet. He'd done five albums with us and it was getting a bit stale; luckily, Terry was available. Bruce never thought his drums had been done justice on record, but Terry managed to give him this great kick and snare sound. I'm tellin' yer, he's the John Bonham of the South as far as I'm concerned on kick and snare.
"I'm also real pleased with the way that Terry has managed to bring up the background vocals and make them more upfront. He's also bent the guitar sound and made it a little crunchier in certain areas, and a little more refined in others. Overall, I think he's made the band sound a lot tastier on record."
I noticed that on the back of the album cover there's a toon called 'Rockin' Roll Fire' - what happened to it?
DH: "It's not there, is it? That was put there just to make you go through another bottle (read my album review in issue 8I to appreciate this joke). It's been recorded, though. We figured we had eleven songs on there already and the grooves were getting real thin and couldn't handle the extra cut. The record company thought it sounded a bit dated too, and I guess they're right. But I still like the song, it has a kinda cactus flavour to it."
Tell me more about 'Song For The Children', the instrumental number that closes the new LP. Is it supposed to be a piss-take?
DH: "Yeah, I wanna talk to you about that (clenching a new bottle of 'Jack' angrily). I was a bit pissed off with the way you slagged that song; and while we're at it, tell that Derek Oliver he's a DEAD man and not welcome at our shows when we tour Europe next year. I mean, 'Satisfied Man' (which Derek wrote off in his Singles reviews, issue 81) is one of our strongest songs... but anyway, back to 'Song For The Children'.
"I was sitting on the hood of my Corvette back home in Jacksonville strummin' on my guitar and as I was playing I was thinking that I've always admired records that have a twist ending, rather than just attack, attack, attack. And I've always admired Jimmy Page's work and the acoustic stuff he does. I mean, he can finger pick a guitar great. And I just said, 'Well, I want to do something like that'.
So I'm there one afternoon and I'm playing this song and I was watching my boys play with a ball in the front yard of my house and my wife came rushing up to me and said, 'Hey, that sounds like a song for the children', and that title kinda stuck with me. It's just a little something that my kids will have after I'm gone. 'My daddy wrote this for me,' you know. And they'll have their kids... 'Listen to what your grandfather wrote, he left something behind for us'. They know that 'Song For The Children' is for them, it's just a little feeling between me and my two sons - my eight year old and my four year old."
YOU MUST be one of the few rock acts to have put out six studio albums and still no live record - why is this?
DH: "Because we're making everybody wait; because there's a twist ending again. One of the reasons there's been no live album is because of all the changes line-up wise, especially with vocalists. We're not going to put out anything that had Jimmy Farrar on it. We'll probably record another studio album first, so then we'll have the first and second one to choose from with Danny Joe's material as well as the fifth, sixth and seventh.
"We've been recording live all along since Danny's been back. And all this stuff has already been done and mixed. So we're just sitting back and we're gonna hit the world with it. Boy, they're not gonna believe some of the stuff on there!"
So what sorta music are you listening to these days? What do you think of bands like Motley Crue and Ratt?
DH: "I don't!"
BRUCE CRUMP: "I like Ratt, they write good catchy Metal songs."
DH: "I think they're all rubbish flash-in-the-pan groups. They're here today, gone tomorrow. I don't see any reason why they'll have longevity in their careers just cos they look the part right now. They may look like what the kids want to see, but what happens when the kids get bored with that image? They move on to something else, right?"
BC: "It annoys me when I hear people say that Southern Rock is limited and dated; isnt Heavy Metal the same?"
DH: "Well, I do like the Scorpions; that band knows how to write good material and what a singer they have in Klaus Meine - why, he's almost as good as Danny Joe!"
I once read in 'Creem' magazine that you witnessed a strange event in Hawaii during a Black Sabbath concert - could you elaborate on this?
DH: "It was weird, man! I'll tell you what, all these Satanic bands are playing with fire. Black Sabbath were onstage and it was only raining inside the stadium onstage - the Big Boss was up there and he was pissed off, I'm telling you! We believe in the good Lord, otherwise we wouldn't be sitting here."
BC: "I can't figure out why a band like Motley Crue would want to promote the sign of the beast on their album covers and even warn the listener that their records may contain Satanic backward messages. Why?! I just don't understand."
DH: "I tell you what, to me, it's a very unjust thing to assemble a mass of people under the heading of a 'rock 'n' roll concert' and start preaching to the Antichrist! I think Lucifer's a piece of shit, you know, and that's how I was brought up. The Big Boss is up there and I'm against it I00 per cent. I don't care if these so-called Satanic bands can play or not 'cause kids take their albums home, run them back and forth and analyse the lyrics. It's sick, man!''
So why don't you put religious messages on your albums to try and cure the sick minds?
DH: "I dont think it's my place to be the saviour of the world and go out there and preach to all these people. It's like a double standard or something. You've got them there under the heading of 'Come and see Molly Hatchet play tonight for rock 'n' roll'. It's not a revival meeting. If you want to see something like that, go to church!"
WELL, IT would appear that the Good Lord is on your side at the moment; how much longer do you see Molly Hatchet carrying on?
DR: "Shit.... it could go on forever ... wheelchairs, man!"
DH: "Wheelchair-rock! No, I think that Molly Hatchet, like we've been saying all along, is a band interested in longevity until the end of this century at least! I mean, we're sitting here with six albums under our belt, and I think it will go to I6, maybe 20 albums, you never know. I'm sure the Stones or the Who never thought they were going to be 20 or 30 albums down the road. So as long as we keep adapting and bending our sound to keep up with the times, then who knows how long Hatchet can carry on?
I mean, the whole band is getting along great now, 'cause we just sat down and said, 'Hey, we're in this together, people'. We love each other and care about each other. This is what we do for a living and I'll be damned if I'm going to get these fat fingers on a computer keyboard, you know? This is what I do for a living - I'm a guitarist!"
Dave Hlubek - Click image for large version, here for huge version.
At this point, we were interrupted by the road manager who announced that it was show time. However, today was a special day - December 3, my birthday, a happy event shared by guitarist and fellow Sagittarian [sic] Duane Roland. So we cracked open a bottle of 'Crown Royal', a Suterian approved Kanadian Bourbon, and downed that before the Hatchets blew the roof off the Nassau Coliseum. It was a moving show, leaving me with the same feeling I'd experienced after Spurs' E.U.F.A. [sic] Cup win last season - numbness.
Molly Hatchet deserve success; hell, they've been on the circuit for more than ten years now and have finally found the right line-up. Maybe the long-awaited live album will put them back on the map. Meanwhile, pick up their new LP, 'The Deed Is Done', which has just been released by Epic Records in the UK.
On the live front, it now looks more than likely that Hatchet will be doing the festival circuit in the Summer all across Europe (Pink Pop has been mentioned). So see yer down the front with my Konfederate flag!
©1996-2009 Rick Gillyon