Hayseed Dixie Interview 9th July 2011
Interviewer – Phill Bruce
Phill’s Assistant/Fellow Interviewer – Emma Wilson
Photographer – Adam Astley
If you know heavy metal then you should know Hayseed Dixie. They have a unique blue grass style of heavy metal, covering all the great music from the rock and metal world. So it was my great pleasure when I was able to catch up with them on their busy tour schedule and ask them a few questions.
Phill – Thank you very much for doing this interview with us at Grave Concerns. Can we first start off by telling us who you are and what you do?
HD – I’m brother Barley Scotch I’m the singer, guitar and fiddle player. And I’m Jake “Bakesnake” Byers and I play bass and sing the back ups
Phill – How did you come up with the name of Hayseed Dixie?
HD – When we first started the band we were called AC Dixie, cause when we first started the band we weren’t out to start a band we were just making a one record project that we thought would be kind of fun. The first record was all AC/DC songs done in our style but someone at Electro Records that at the time owned the trademark to AC/DC’s name said it was going to be trademark infringement and they would sue us for it so we changed our name to Hayseed Dixie which was kind of beneficial, a door opener, as it allowed us to branch out and not just play AC/DC songs which we ended up doing. And we probably wouldn’t have foreseen ourselves doing that when we made the first record as we were doing something just kind of for fun one off. Then we suddenly grew a career and here I am 10 years later talking to you
Grave Concerns Interview Manager Phill with fellow interviewer Emma also Barley & Jake
Phill – So why did you decide to start a blue grass band doing metal and rock covers?
HD – The result of a lot of drink I think, it seemed like a good idea at the time. You see we’re the kind of guys that have those ideas at about 4 o’clock in the morning, you know after about 15 pints. Most people wake up the next day and say ‘no we shouldn’t actually do that’, we’re the kind of guys that say ‘we should actually do that’. In vino VERITAS, last night we probably had the right idea. So we got together to make the first record a little over 10 years ago, not trying to start a band or anything. We just thought these AC/DC are kind of fun and to play while we’re drinking beer in a hillbilly style, I mean we’re from the hills I’m not making this accent up or anything. We figured maybe other beer drinkers will enjoy listening to these tunes, we had no idea there was so many beer drinkers in the world.
Phill – In 2001 you released your first album ‘A Hillbilly Tribute to AC/DC’, what reaction did you get from the media and fans?
HD – It’s interesting at the very beginning most people were saying I can’t believe you’re desecrating this great music, I can’t believe you’re trying to make fun of this great band. Which we weren’t we were just playing songs we enjoyed. But when Brian Johnstone from AC/DC, they were on tour doing their Stiff Upper Lip tour in 2001 in the States, I guess somebody gave him a copy of the record. And Brian Johnstone started turning up at all these interviews talking about our record saying ‘We’re riding down the road on the tour bus listening to this Hayseed Dixie record and it’s great. It’s like all our songs done in Hillbilly style’. And after that the press completely changed cause what were they gonna do, say ‘AC/DC love them but we think they suck’. So actually cheers Brian thank very much mate.
Emma – Have you actually met Brian?
HD – I have not met Brian, I’ve talked to him a couple of times on the phone. He’s really into auto racing and he spends a lot of time at the NASCAR sites in the south. We did meet Cliff Williams, he actually hired us to play at a party for him. I say hired but we told him that we would do it for him for free, I think it was their end of year party for the Stiff Upper Lip tour. And he said I gotta pay you mate, you gotta make some money and we had this big argument at the end of the night on whether we were gonna get paid or not. He insisted on us taking the money which showed what kinda guy he was, then we drank until 3.00 in the morning and he fell backwards off the cooler and said ‘I’m wasted mate’. And that was it, he was a really good guy. You have no idea of what somebody like that’s gonna be like until you meet them. But he was really much like the kind of guys I went to high school with, he’s actually English not Australian he’s from around London somewhere. So he had an accent more like Jeremy Paxman or somebody, but he was a really good guy. Just like regular people, just like the kinda guys you would be standing around with in the pub which is refreshing.
Phill – So you guys have created your own genre of Rockgrass. Is there any other bands that you know of who play rockgrass?
HD – Well I certainly don’t know every band in the world but I’ve never heard anyone else do quite what we do. I mean doing a rock and roll song on a banjo is not something that we created. Flatt & Scruggs and people like that were doing Beatles songs blue grass songs in the sixties. But I think we may be the first band to put a personality with the blue grass stuff. Me (Barley) and Jake are from a rock and roll background, the other two guys in the band Dale and Don Reno are defiantly blue grass players. So I think the combination of the four of us is kinda what creates the sound of the band really. My approach to playing the guitar, may approach to singing, my approach to fronting the band and my attitude is definitely a punk and rock attitude which is what I grew up with. Whereas the Reno’s come at it with a very hillbilly, mountain point of view. We struggle with each other a little but when we meet in the middle, that combination is what kind of creates the validity of the whole thing if that makes sense.
Happy faces Barley shouted :)
Phill – You have played many festivals and smaller events. Which do you prefer to play and why?
HD – (Jake) I think the smaller venues are much for fun, of course if we play a festival it’s a much better pay day. But at the end of the day playing in a venue that people can touch you and spill beer on you is much more enjoyable than doing one of those festivals. (Barley) Well saying that I prefer the smaller festivals where they have one main stage and side stages that you can kinda roll up behind the main stage. You know something that has five or six thousand people, Guilfest or something like that. I like playing those of places, you know Glastonbury is just like a sea of people. These is kind of a rush when you see 70,000 people out there, it’s kinda cool. But you find yourself playing at them instead of to them cause you can’t make out individual faces, it’s kinda like white noise on a television screen. We were kind of talking about that yesterday about Sonisphere, bands like Metallica all they play is like these massive fifty or sixty thousand people events. You can’t go out and wonder around the crowd you don’t meet anybody, all you meet is your security guy your handler and he takes you to the stage. It must be a very lonely existence actually, where as I mean we can kind of just mill around the crowd. It’s not that we wanna be successful, everyone wants to get as people as they can to play to. We were talking about the trade off, if you became that big of star you know. Somebody like Elvis Presley who couldn’t even walk into a restaurant and order his own hamburger, it’s kind of no wonder the guy got into drugs because it must be terribly lonely you know. (Jake) I think the days of that are over because getting completely mobbed is just behind us. It’s the fan and band relation it just goes down differently. (Barley) I mean we are just pretty regular people, most of the guys that I have met that are big stars. You walk up and you talk to them at the catering tent at a festival, if you walk up and talk about the food and the weather the are regular guys. If you walk up giving it ‘Man I love your stuff’ then they just kinda switch off, of course they do they don’t want to hear that they don’t want to talk about their music. They just want to talk about regular stuff, they want to be real regular people. They don’t want to be put onto some pedestal and made to be a museum piece or whatever. My favourite size of venue honestly is about 800 people. If you can get that size of venue full I think everyone can feel anonymous, that means that they can go raise hell and have fun without feeling like anyone is looking at them specifically. But it’s also a small enough crowd that you can kind of see everybody from the stage so you feel like you still have a connection with them instead of just playing at a crowd.
Phill – And is there any venue you have played that you will always remember good or bad and why?
HD – (Jake) I remember blowing up the speakers on the left side of the stage in Ross Kilda when my bass was cranked up, I blew up some speakers. We blew up all the monitors and everything. (Barley) That was a pretty horrible gig. The worst venue we ever played was local something or other in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. That was an absolute pure hole. (Jake) What about Got Rocks? (Barley) Got Rocks was in Greenville South Carolina that was a horrible place. Best venue I think, when I walked out on stage at the Shepherds Bush Empire in London and realised that was the place where the Dixie Chicks had made their immoral statement about Bush. I thought what can I do to get that kind of publicity? But that is a gorgeous venue actually, I think we properly realised that we were professional musicians when I walked out and there were 1500 people on the floor and in the balconies of this beautiful Victorian theatre. I mean this place is big it’s nice, it’s way too nice for a bunch of Hillbillies like us. Why the hell we playing here? (Jake) The view from the stage is just amazing. (Barley) As far as my favourite place to play it’s the ABC in Glasgow hands down it’s my favourite venue, it’s got the biggest mirror ball in the world. They had to knock the wall down to bring that thing in it’s huge, we always find a way to work it into our show. And Glasgow audiences are some of the best in the world too, they’re just right with you from the first song hanging off the rafters. The venue is right on Sauchiehall Street so you got plenty to do after you have finished playing. (Jake) It’s straight across from the hotel, the sound is good in there and everyone is up for a good night. (Barley) And we usually sell it out so you got 1200 screaming Glaswegians.
Phill – I notice one of your fans is our own Radio 2’s Jeremy Vine. So do you have any other notable celeb fans that you know of?
HD – Um, that’s a good question. There’s Janice Long, she didn’t champion us like Jeremy Vine though he made it a personal mission. On a personal level she’s a rock and roll woman too. There’s a couple of cats in America that do a radio show called Bob & Tom that mostly try to promote a lot of stand-up comics and stuff like that. But that’s the first place we ever played the song Keeping Your Poop in a Jar, we played it just for their radio show. We never intended to record it for anything, but when it went over so well on their radio show we decided this is one of the songs we’re going to have to play on our records. I don’t think we have ever played a show and not done that song since. But they were the ones who encouraged us to do some humorous material along with our cover songs. They were saying clearly you guys can write interesting songs and you have got a unique perspective, you should bring that stuff out you should do that as well. They’ve been very supportive of us, not that many people in Britain will know about them but people in America know them because they are really big morning show guys. Let me think about that one, I’m sure there’s probably a lot of people that will start coming to mind. It’s in AC/DC’s autobiography that they were listening to our stuff and it said that it made them re-think some of their songs because they had been playing those songs for 20 years and when they heard our version of them. They were like you know these are actually good songs, it’s not just we’re a good band out playing them. Here’s another one Stephen King the author, he’s a big fan of ours. He sent me an autographed copy of one of his books just after our second record came out. I don’t know where he got my address, he just sent me a copy of the book The Gunslinger and written in the front cover of it ‘Hey I really enjoy your guys music, I hope you enjoy my book. I’m a big fan and I can’t wait to hear some new stuff’. And I thought, well that’s pretty cool. I sent him a letter back saying thanks very much, here’s a copy of our new stuff I hope you enjoy it. I didn’t try to kiss his ass or cultivate a relationship or nothing, I just thought you know that was kind of cool. That was just totally unsolicited, I guess he must have called his publicist to contact my record label to get my address. I do remember a guy at our record label calling me up and saying you might get something from Stephen King and I said the writer Stephen King. He said somebody called our office asking for your address and we figured it would be ok to give Stephen King your address, I said yeah give him my phone number sure.
Emma did like Jakes beard
Phill – You mainly cover rock and heavy rock as well as doing your own stuff, is there any band from a different genre that you would like to make rockgrass?
HD – Our criteria has always been that we want to sings songs about drinking, cheating, killing and hell essentially as those are the key elements of anything worth singing so that’s what we try keep it to. (Jake) That’s what it boils down to for me when I start thinking of any type of genre of music is what the song is actually about. When I can find good drinking songs or cheating songs I’ll suggest them. (Barley) Or the killing songs or hell songs. Yeah there’s not any particular thing we have our mark on right now. Does song meet the criteria about drinking, cheating, killing and/or hell? If you find one that’s got all four elements then you’re on to a winner in my book. (Jake) If you play a song that’s just we wanna rock, I wanna rock, and we all wanna rock that’s not very fun bluegrass.
Phill – I found a review of you done by the Guardian that described you as Southern Fried Metal which I must admit made me giggle. Is there press you have had that has made you laugh and why?
HD – Oh god in 2003 the USA Today, the national newspaper it’s kind of like the Daily Mail. The guy in USA Today he gave us the glory of the worst album of 2003. It was the Kiss My Grass album, he put the whole cover on the front cover. Then he wrote this long article about why it was the worst album of 2003, we must have really pissed him off. You know 2003 had like Britney Spears records. In 2007 we had the website Top Ten Worst Album Covers and they said like Weapons of Grass Destruction was at like No.6. It said the cover had been put together on some 10 year old version of Photoshop, I posted back and said yeah it was like a 15 year old version of Photoshop. It was supposed to look that lo-fi way, you know when I was a kid you would get the Dead Kennedys albums with that newspaper thing you know that cut montages cut out of newspapers. I was going for that kind of look you know, it seemed like it really offended this guy and I thought god I love my job.
Barley & Jake enjoying a good old British ale
Phill – Barley you have a recording studio, so what sort of music have you had produced there?
HD – Um in my studio all sorts of off the wall kinda country stuff, I used to do a lot of demos for song writers to make money too. Cause most of the country people write their own songs. That’s what we were doing when we started this band actually was recording that kinda stuff. And also lots of alternative country bands, kinda kicking shit southern rock sorta stuff. Bands you probably wouldn’t have heard of people like Ex Husbands, people who ploughed around the US club circuit. Nine Pound Hammer that kind of thing, that’s the kind of stuff I used to record. I don’t really do anything besides our own band anymore I don’t have time. The past 10 years I haven’t engineered anyone else’s music. (Jake) I haven’t been able to lend my talents out to anybody for that factor, no time. (Barley) I did just master a record for a band from Wakefield called Lock Hand who are like sort of club metal band which was fun. Just because I thought well they opened for us one time and I thought they were good, I just said give me your stuff when you got it recorded and I’ll try master it for you. But that wasn’t an income producing thing that was just like me trying to help them out.
Phill – So what are all your musical influences?
HD – (Barley) Oh my god what aren’t our musical influences. (Jake) I couldn’t even begin there’s no musical thing that’s like not influencing us.
Phill – So what sort of reaction did you get from the bluegrass musicians when you veered from the norm and started doing rock covers?
HD – Yeah we got a lot of that Bob Dylan Judas stuff, we don’t play a whole lot of bluegrass festivals. And I think that’s a real shame, we don’t want to see bluegrass music become a museum piece you know. There are rock bands out there that say all rock and roll should sound like Buddy Holly too, it’s this whole psycho billy thing that if it’s later than the 1960’s it ain’t cool. I perfectly respect traditions I’m all about guys like the Delmot Curry Band who are a very traditional bluegrass band, it suits singing into one microphone and I’m glad people are still doing that carrying that whole traditional element. I also think you have to move stuff forward or else it’s gonna die and become a piece of history instead of a living breathing thing. Hopefully we’re taking things like banjos, fiddles and mandolins to whole new audience who never see that music in a certain type of way. But they may get a banjo and do something that we don’t know so it keeps things going on. (Jake) Just like AC/DC keeps rediscovering their songs for new fans to discover. (Barley) They are just essentially a blues band with an attitude to it. All their songs are really Chuck Berry based, you ask Angus and he’ll tell you Chuck Berry is where he got it from. But he don’t sound like Chuck Berry and the Beatles were trying to sound like Karl Perkins and all Sun Record sort of stuff when they started out. But it didn’t sound like that at all it sounded like something completely different. I sometimes think that originally is coming up with something completely different, but it’s having your own unique perspective. You’re trying to do something that you don’t end up accomplishing but what you do accomplish is something completely different you know.
Jake, Bassist and all round funny guy
Phill – So what is Hayseed Dixie’s philosophy?
HD – Don’t get the police involved and don’t make the late surge early. Live by those two rules and you’ll be alright.
Phill – I notice beer is one fuel of Hayseed Dixie, so what is everyone’s favourite tipple?
HD – Me and Jake are ale drinkers. (Jake) I’m loving that ale, I’m making ale at home I’m missing that English ale so much I have some when I am home. (Barley) I like sort of Bavarian and eastern German Schwartz beer.
Phill – So is there any music out there at the moment that catches your ears?
HD – (Barley) I’ve been liking Rammstein a lot but that’s not really new. (Jake) I’ve been dining out to Pantera, kinda re-discovering that whole back catalogue.
Phill – Which person in history inspires you and why?
HD – (Barley) Arthur Schopenhauer, there was a man that wasn’t afraid to go against the whole academic establishment and say no you guys are all full of shit. Seriously that’s a guy who inspires me. (Jake) I don’t think I have an inspirational singularity from history. (Barley) I so like Epicurus, here’s a guy who said what can you be afraid of in the world? You can fear the gods but you shouldn’t because the gods don’t exist. You can fear pain but you shouldn’t because it’s slight or short lived meaning either it’s not that bad or it’s gonna kill you pretty quick. People can fear death but they shouldn’t because it’s just the end of sensation. And number one people can fear other people and that’s correct because you should fear other people they can screw up your world. But his solution is form units of like-minded individuals.
Phill – If you were a drink, what would it be and how would you describe yourself?
HD – (Barley) I guess I’d be a champagne drink with some raspberry poured in it with like 2 shots of vodka, you don’t taste then vodka it comes and bites you in the ass, on the top it’s bright and bubbly but underneath it’s kind of quite bitter. Maybe I’m just projecting what I wanna be. (Jake) I would be some sort of medium bodied beer, it sits there kind of unassuming but it hides some sort of character but then again I’m reaching for something I wanna be.
Phill - What’s your favourite Simpsons character?
HD – (Barley) I’m all about Lisa, she seems like a real air head and just floats through the world but then has these moments of clarity. Matt Goeing puts his words what he’s thinking into her mouth sometimes. She stands back and just says it how it is, Lisa’s the big picture chick and I like that. (Jake) I like Moe. Moe is just the lost fighter you know, stuck in a world that he created himself and he may not exactly enjoy and hooks out to some little kid who keeps prank calling him.
Phill – Thanks very much for giving Grave Concerns the interview.
Phill, Emma and Adam would personally like to thank Barley and Jake for the interview. We were treated like royalty by two of the music industry’s most funny and all round nice guys. We had so much fun doing this interview and really enjoyed the amazing gig Hayseed Dixie did.
Thanks so so much guys
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