Texas Rockabilly respective frontrunners, Reverend Horton Heat, have yet to stop evolving musically over nearly three decades of combining elements of swing, punk, surf, country and more. The Godfathers of Rockabilly charged out of the gates with their 1990 debut, ‘Smoke ‘Em If You Got ‘Em’ and are currently writing the follow-up to their 2014 eleventh studio album release, ‘REV’. I had the pleasure of catching up with bassist, Jim Wallace, to discuss opening up for Johnny Cash, being signed to Victory Records, upcoming performances, tattoos and more.
First and foremost, is there a follow-up to your 11th studio album, ‘REV’, in the works? Give us the scoop.
Yes, we are currently writing songs for a new album right now. Jim “The Rev” Heath has acquired lots of old and new gear for us to experiment with in the studio. I’m really looking forward to getting back in the studio.
You have been one of the ringleaders in the Rockabilly/Psychobilly world for decades. Any up and coming acts that you are really diggin’ at the moment that you’d like to give a shout-out to?
I really like The Brains from Canada and another band called The Koffin Kats from here in the States. On the country-side of music, I just got turned on to Ags Connolly.
Any upcoming tour or festival appearances that you can fill us in about?
Yeah, we have some festivals coming up and some tours on the books right now. We are playing a great festival in Las Vegas on April 15th called “Viva Las Vegas” and another in Cincinnati on June 4th called “Bunbury Festival”. I’m sure we have more but those are the ones that come to mind now.
What do you perceive is the essential Rockabilly gear guide? What kind of guitars do you guys use on stage?
Well, The Rev uses Gretsch guitars and amps of course, and I use “Blast Cult” upright basses and GK bass amps. Upright bass is essential to the “Rockabilly” sound because it was there in the beginning of that style of music. The Elvis ” Sun Studio” sessions are a prime example of “The” sound. Bill Black was slapping that bass!
Let’s talk tattoos. Tell us about some of your favorite personal pieces and the artists that brought them to life.
I’ve been trying to have my Tattoo artist, Adam Fuscaldo, tattoo all of the basses I have ever owned on my arms and legs. I have three so far. He’s working out in California and I don’t get enough downtime to sit for my next one. I think I’m gonna see him at the Viva Las Vegas festival in April though.
In the studio, are you use vintage recording methods or do you embrace the advances in technology that have come about throughout your career?
We have used all the latest tech gear in the past but I think The Rev is leaning toward incorporating the old with the new this time around. He’s been collecting and building microphones and “tape” machines lately so we have an arsenal of stuff to work with this time. That’s coming up pretty soon I think.
What do fans of Reverend Horton Heat have to look forward to in 2017?
Our Fans are the best! They are such a diverse group of people – young, old, punk, metal, rockabilly. I think it’s because our music covers a wide spectrum of real “Rock and Roll.” We have a new album in the works and of course many more great live shows coming up! Plus I’m writing a “Tell All” book about our time on the road! ( just kidding! )
Is there one memory of traveling and touring the world that stands out amongst the rest aka a memory that you’ll be telling your grandchildren about?
Yes! I’ll never forget the time that we got to open the show for the great Johnny Cash at the world famous Fillmore West in San Francisco! The true story I like to tell is that he visited our dressing room before the show and introduced himself in that legendary voice of his. “Hi, I’m Johnny Cash”. We were in awe of his presence and were hoping he would stay around and have a beer with us until his wife June Carter Cash came in and literally dragged him out of our dressing room by his earlobe! I think that’s an old country traditional way of extracting him from our booze filled room! We were in shock after that but at least on cloud nine from being in that man’s presence. I’ll never forget it. I still talk to his bass player Dave Roe to this day.
How has being signed to Victory Records influenced your artistry as a musician?
The great thing about our label Victory Records is that I think they get what we do and pretty much let us make the records that we want to hear. They are genuinely into the music and you can feel that energy when you walk into the office. They’ve got great “digs” in Chicago by the way. We even filmed a video there. Great support from everybody on the team there.
Last but certainly not least, any closing messages for your fans?
I want our fans to know that it is always worth all the traveling that we do every time I see another smiling face ( familiar old friends or new first time fans )! I’ve got a reason to rock because of you! Thanks for showin’ up! See ya down the road!