This is getting ridiculous

Reverend Horton Heat finally embrace their less-than-serious side

“This is one of the first times in a while that we’ve opened for another band” says Reverend Horton Heat guitarist and vocalist Jim Heath of the band’s current stint with timeless rockers Motorhead. “We used to do it all the time but we haven’t been the opener for ages.”

Razing the world with their fine mixture of rockabilly country and modest intimations towards punk Reverend Horton Heat — Heath bassist Jimbo Wallace and drummer Paul Simmons — have become icons not only of the rock and psychobilly sub-genres but also to a vast array of other music fans. By combining the formative elements of such rudimentary scenes and coupling them with awe-inspiring technical ability and a rousing stage show the trio bridges many gaps in rock’s subcultures. Like Motorhead RHH is one of the few bands that punks metalheads rockers and greasers can agree on. It only makes sense that Heath and crew would feel quite at home as support.

“It’s pretty cool” he continues noting the band’s gratitude at being a part of the tour. “Sometimes it’s more pressure on us because it’s [Motorhead’s] fans that we have to win over. But we’re doing it. On the other side though it’s less pressure. We just set up play and we’re done. We don’t have to sweat ticket sales. It’s their show. Let them worry about that.”

Heath and crew have bigger fish to fry in that capacity namely seeing how their sonic shift on their 10th full-length release Laughin’ & Cryin’ with the Reverend Horton Heat is taking hold with fans. It’s a bona fide country album after all.

“I thought it was gonna be even more country than it turned out” Heath laughs. “I wanted extra players for a classic country album especially the late-’50s early-’60s era but nothing ever works out like you plan it. That wound up being a bit too difficult right now so we went with the flow. I think that was a good idea. It turned out well.”

Along with the deeper swing into country twang on Laughin’ & Cryin’ Heath says the album also boasts a great shift in lyrical direction. Gone is his long-standing penchant for heartfelt serious tunes on this affair.

“I had an epiphany” he reveals. “Early on in Reverend Horton Heat there weren’t a lot of bands with slap bass and cartoony music. I didn’t want us to be taken as a novelty act so I had some serious songs and some funny stuff. [The serious songs are] good but I realized that the funny stuff is way more entertaining and therefore more meaningful than the songs that try to be meaningful. I decided on staying away from the serious songs on this record.”

Which isn’t to say that Heath and crew are instantly turning into that aforementioned novelty act. He points out that many of the songs merely have an amusing anecdote or storyline to follow; they’re pieces of wisdom delivered in a lighthearted vein. Still while his future musical direction may not stick to Laughin’ & Cryin’s deeper country roots he’s adamant that after two decades of riding the line Reverend Horton Heat will certainly be more about kitsch in the coming years.

“[The album’s songs] aren’t drop-dead funny but all of them avoid seriousness.” he says. “People don’t wanna hear ‘Or Is It Just Me.’ It’s too depressing. They want ‘Bales of Cocaine’ not because they do cocaine but because the song is just so damned ridiculous. The value is in the entertainment.”

“It’s about balance” he continues. “I’ll find it one day but after 20 years I see the serious side isn’t totally working. I’ll never be a rollover comedy act but it’s definitely lighter than some songs have been in the past. A lot of artists lose sight of that. The posturing and self-importance of rock stars… people don’t want a political manifesto. They want to be entertained.”