There’s a show on TV at the moment called True Detective, it’s a gritty, atmospheric drama about homicide detectives, a serial killer and a supporting cast of messed up, standing at the gates of hell kind of people. The show’s opening credits feature a track by The Handsome Family that lends itself well to the dusty, grungy and demonic title sequence – setting the scene and amping up the intensity of what is to come. I only bring this up as a way to explain that you could take any track of Scott H. Biram’s, especially off his new record Nothin’ But Blood, play it through the opening credits and not skip a beat.
Scott H. Biram knows a lot about standing at the gates of hell. Much has been written about his head-on collision with an 18-wheeler in 2003 that left him with metal rods and pins throughout his body. I am pretty sure he is sick of talking about it, but the truth is, it’s quite a story. The legend is only enhanced by the fact that within a month of that accident he was back on stage playing a show in a wheelchair with an IV in his arm.
Nothin’ But Blood is Biram’s ninth record, and fifth for Bloodshot Records, and it’s a perfect fit for night of debauchery, drinkin’, fightin’, gamblin’, headbangin’ and kneeling for forgiveness the next morning, not necessarily in that order.
As he heads out on tour, Scott was kind enough to answer a few questions for us:
Your new record – Nothin’ But Blood – features a baptism like scene on the cover, covers of John the Revelator and Amazing Grace, and more gospel influences, is this your most “religious” or “spiritual” collection of songs?
Maybe on an actual album, but I’ve been playing gospel songs for years. Gospel is definitely not my biggest genre but all my favorite traditional artists did them at some time or another. Bill Monroe, Stanley Bros., Doc Watson, Leadbelly, Lightnin’ Hopkins, Merle Haggard…
At what age did you pick up a guitar? Was music prevalent in your home growing up? Did anyone else in your family play?
My dad played sax when I was a kid. My uncles had a band called “Mile High”. I used to watch them practice and I’d pick up their guitars when they were done. I first started tinkering with guitars when I was 6 but I didn’t seriously play guitar until I was 14. I’m about to be 40. Arthritis is setting in. ugh. My dad is a big music connoisseur and played me all kinds of great stuff when I was a kid. My folks took me to see Doc Watson when I was 6 or 7. That was one of the most influential concerts I’ve ever been to.
Your music is often tagged as country, punk, blues, metal, and gospel soaked in whiskey and day-old wine – I know you were in a punk band The Thangs in the late 90s – what led you away from punk?
Nothing led me away from punk! If you listen to the latest record, or the last 5 records you’ll hear a lot of punk influence in there.
I play all kinds of music. I put it all in there.
I know live you’ve covered Budgie and Metallica and there are a couple of heavy songs on the new record (Around the Bend, Church Point Girls). What are your other metal influences?
Actually its Budgie and Diamond Head, but you got me anyway… I learned those from old Metallica records. I learned to play alot of guitar from listening to old Metallica when I was in high school, but let’s be sure and underline “old” on that. I realized the other day they’ve now been together twice as long, playing as a shitty band as they were together playing as a good band. Their shit for the last 25 years has sucked. heh. You’ll hear alot of Black Flag influences on my harder stuff too. I listened to alot of Misfits growing up. I love Slayer, Iron Maiden, Megadeth, Judas Priest… All the old classics. Pentagram, Venom, Dying Fetus, Pantera are stirred up in there too.
Was there a big metal – punk scene where you grew up?
Oh yeah, we lived down the road from Austin so we were always going to punk and metal shows in highschool.
We had a pretty good punk scene in San Marcos, where I grew up too. We used to open for this band Third Leg.
We hung out at this punk party house called Skull Manor. Those were fun times.
To me when I listen to your music it sounds American – it embodies America, not just lyrically because your songs aren’t necessarily political, but you tell stories and create a strong sense of imagery. In this context what are your thoughts where America is at in 2014?
Eh…. thanks for realizing I’m not too poltical. I wouldn’t want to alienate people too much and scare them off if I started in on what I think is right and wrong. Obviously, we’re having some troubles here in the states with the economy and the people are very divided on which way to go.
It’s really unfortunate that the right won’t work with the left at all. They’re throwing up road blocks the entire way instead of helping build bridges to the future and find compromises. To be perfectly honest.. I’m sick of it. But to try to stay in context of your initial statement….The people look great. heh. Buncha shitty drivers on the highway and shit birds in the city but the really genuine people are still looking good. Even when they’re struggling they’re beautiful. The landscapes are still inspiring, the stories of good and bad are still there. I’ll keep jotting them down as I go.
If you’re spinning records at a party of twenty-somethings, what do you play?
I guess it depends on what kind of twenty-somethings. I know alot of them that would love some Muddy Waters and some good old time music, but there are alot that couldn’t handle that. I like to play old 80s music and 80s hard rock alot of the time. I’m all over the place when it comes to spinning records. It could be alot of things at any given party.
What new music is catching your ear?
none….that was my first thought. heh. I don’t listen to too much new stuff actually. I like some of the bands we’ve taken on tour with us. Lydia Loveless, Black Eyed Vermillion, Whiskey Dick. Been listening to God Damn Gallows a little. Whitey Morgan is sounding great and hitting the nail on the head with that old country sound. I listen to mostly old stuff.
You’re going to be 40 in April (sorry man) but what does that mean to you? Is it slowing you down? Has it changed your writing?
Why sorry? I t doesn’t mean that much. I feel 78. heh. That wreck back in 2003 banged me up pretty bad. I’ve been feeling shitty ever since.
The road is wearing me down too. It’s not really slowing me down though. I’m possessed. Writing is getting better I think but I’m more critical so not as easy to just throw it out there anymore. I’ve got tons of lyrics just sitting here waiting for the write melody.
Scott H. Biram’s website
“Nothin’ But Blood” album
Scott H. Biram tour 2014
March 1 – The Garage—Salt Lake City, Utah
March 2 – Mangy Moose—Jackson, Wyoming
March 4 – Neurolux—Boise, Idaho
March 6 – Tractor Tavern—Seattle, Washington
March 8 – Hawthorne Theater—Portland, Oregon
March 10 – Harlow’s—Sacramento, California
March 11 – The Rickshaw Stop—San Francisco, California
March 12 – The Catalyst Atrium—Santa Cruz, California
March 13 – The Echo—Los Angeles, California
March 14 – The Casbah—San Diego, California
March 15 – Crescent Ballroom—Phoenix, Arizona
March 19 – Red 7—Austin, Texas
March 20 – Continental Club—Houston, Texas
March 21 – Gas Monkey Bar N Grill—Dallas, Texas
March 22 – Lizard’s Lounge—Wichita, Kansas
March 23 – Off Broadway—St. Louis, Missouri
March 25 – Brass Rail—Fort Wayne, Indiana
March 26 – Grog Shop—Cleveland, Ohio
March 27 – Reggie’s Rock Club—Chicago, Illinois
March 28 – The Frequency—Madison, Wisconsin
March 29 – Triple Rock—Minneapolis, Minnesota
March 31 – Bourbon Theater—Lincoln, Nebraska
April 1 – Mercury Lounge—Tulsa, Oklahoma
Apr 24 – Red Dirt Brewhouse, Ardmore, OK
Apr 28 – George’s Majestic Lounge Fayetteville, NC
May 15 – Scandic Malmen, Södermalm, Sweden
May 16 – Hotell Hulingen, Hultsfred, Sweden
May 17 – Dino’s Bar, Mariehamn, Finland
May 18 – TBD Torsby, Sweden
May 21 – Pipeline, Sundsvall, Sweden
May 22 – Moskus, Trondheim, Norway
May 24 – Buckley’s, Oslo, Norway
May 25 – Pustervic, Gothenburg, Sweden
Oct 17 – Deep Blues Festival, Clarksdale, MS
Photo by Sandy Carson