Scott H. Biram Q&A – Loud and Rowdy at The Echo


Scott H. Biram Q&A –Loud and Rowdy at The Echo

By Jonathan Shifflett

Following his 2014 release, Nothin’ But Blood, Texas native Scott H. Biram takes his rough and tumble, one-man band act on a spring tour of twenty US cities and three European countries. For those who know the music of Scott H. Biram, they’ll come ready to hear his blues inspired, anti-gospel, rolling their eyes back in appreciation. For the newcomers to his fan base, appropriately titled the First Church of the Ultimate Fanaticism, they’ll be lined up to be baptized after hearing his apocalyptic rendition of “Jack of Diamonds.” Biram took a few moments away from his tour to talk with TJ about his new album, his music and his upcoming LA show at the Echo on March 13th.

On Nothin’ But Blood you’re doing your signature style of combining punk, bluegrass, country and early blues. Can you talk a little bit about the idea and theme behind this album?

ScottBiramBlood_400You know, I didn’t go into it with any kind of theme, it just kind of fell together as do most of my records. I came up with the title a couple years ago and thought it was a good title for a record even if it wasn’t a heavy record. Nothin’ But Blood sounds like it’s going to be a heavy record. That’s what really worked with it. Since I do the gospel songs and the heavy tunes, you can take it a few ways. And then that just opened up really good possibilities for cover art, you know? But, I didn’t go into it thinking this record is going to be based on this or that. I generally go into all my records with songs I’ve written lately that I feel I need to record before they are lost. I’m just trying to make an actual “record” of what’s going on with me musically at the time.

You portray both the sinner and the redeemed in your songs really well. Are people ever confused by that juxtaposition? Or are you ever confused by that?

I’m confused yes. I’m always confused. It’s just another thing I’ve been doing with all my records. I just want to get everything I do up there and out there. I don’t want to be cornered into being a traditional bluegrass player, blues singer or a country singer. It’s bothered people a few times and I’ve been criticized for having too much variation in styles on one record. But that kind of makes me happy that it pisses people off or that it confuses people. You don’t get bored as quick. The simplicity of the way I put songs together might get pretty boring quickly if I stuck to one genre. People might notice that they’re kind of all the same (laughs).

“Slow and Easy” seems like one of the more personal tunes on Nothin’ But Blood. The line in the beginning about the boy coming across the nudie magazine was great. Was that a real memory? Can you tell more about how did that track come about?

That was just a memory that I’ve had stuck in my head since I was a little kid and it crosses my mind every once and a while. I finally thought, “oh I’ll just write a song about that.” That song was kind of a struggle to write though. My best songs come to me in five minutes. I jot them down and they’re done. There are several records of mine where the most popular songs were recorded the day after I wrote them. With that song, I wrote down a few of the lyrics and tried to play it live a few times and it didn’t go over so good. I tried to add a bridge but I realized when I played it live I was having trouble keeping peoples’ interest cause it’s kinda slow. So I had to figure out another way to play it live which was to put a stomp pad in it. In the record it’s well produced so I can keep attention without the percussion but live it seemed a little to bare so I had to step it up. It was a struggle with that one though and I prefer the ones that just fall in to place real fast.

Can you talk about what it means to you to be a part of the Austin scene?

Yeah, Austin’s great, man. I love living in Austin. Unfortunately it’s being taken over by condos that all have a Starbucks in the bottom. They’re tearing down all the good stuff!

As a musician, I was lucky enough to have something fairly unique so I didn’t have as much competition. For a lot of bands in Austin they’ve got a lot of competition and that makes it tough. I don’t go out as much as I used to but you always know that there’s going to be forty or fifty good bands playing around town. Good bars, good food, good people.

But when I want good BBQ I go thirty miles southeast to Lockhart, Texas, where I was born. But mostly just because I don’t want to stand in line.

Most of your albums pay homage to early blues legends. When did you start listening to early country blues and what did you find inspiring about them?

When I was a kid, my dad listened to a lot of Leadbelly. They filmed the movie Leadbelly, which is pretty hard to find, down the street from us when I was a little tiny kid. My dad always had the soundtrack to that on vinyl. Which isn’t actually Leadbelly but was performed by Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee and someone named HiTide Harris. And so he played a lot of that and Lightnin’ Hopkins when I was a kid. He also took me to see Doc Watson when I was like six years old. My dad always played a lot of different kinds of music for me. The blues were always there with me.

Sometime around when I was in college, my buddy, my late friend, Steve “The Swede” Smith, got really into the blues and we shared that in common. He turned me on to Mance Lipscomb and Big Joe Williams. It’s funny, with the blues, I kinda started with the more obscure stuff and then picked up on Muddy Waters and Bo Diddley later on in my journey through the blues. I couldn’t pick a favorite, but I think Lightnin’ Hopkins is probably the coolest dude that ever lived.

It’s kind of amazing how easily you can change your vocal style to suit the style of the song. Is that just something that comes naturally to you?

It’s all about emulating for me. I prefer to have my own voice and I think I do but it’s all kind of like melded together to become my own. But the reason I sing with different voices is because the influences call for it. I feel like it’s the right way to sing it. If I sing a Leadbelly song, I feel like I have to sing like Leadbelly. Or if I sing a Howlin’ Wolf song, I have to sing like Howlin Wolf. But that’s from years of me playing old covers and I think now I’ve found my own voice somewhere in there.

You’re known as a proponent of the one-man band style. Can you talk about how that came about?Scott H. Biram performs at La Zona Rosa in Austin TX

I didn’t become a one man band by choice. I was in a punk band and a bluegrass band and then tried to do a solo acoustic thing. When the bands broke up and I still wanted to keep playing and touring, I just continued booking tours. I decided that I wanted to play at rock clubs so I started singing louder and more aggressively. Then I started stomping my foot on the floor kinda like John Lee Hooker. Then I started stomping on the microphone stand and that got a little louder. Then I started running my vocals through the guitar amplifier… and it just turned into what it did. There was no-one man band that made me want to become one too, it’s just how it fell into place. It’s pretty simple, I don’t say I’m a one-man band. I just say I’m a guy with too many speakers.

As a solo performer, you can play almost anywhere. What was the strangest gig you’ve ever played?

I’ve played in all kinds of places, from shows with five thousand people to three people. Those three people shows don’t happen as often as they used to, thankfully. You know they stick me in all kinds of places. In Europe I end up in pretty strange, little places one day and then I end up in big, giant festivals the next. Back when I was starting, they had me set up in a booth. They had taken the table out of a booth, and (laughs) they had me play the show there. And then all the way up to me playing at giant old theaters like Fillmore West. I’ve been all over. When I was first starting out I used to stick a harmonica microphone in a harmonica holder and run that through a little Pig nose amplifier with my guitar and I’d set up on Haight Street in San Francisco and busk for change. Then I got tired of pigeons shitting on me.

You are going to play at the Echo in LA. I’m sure there will be some diehard fans, but for the newcomers to your music, is there anything they should know about your fans who call themselves members of the First Church of the Ultimate Fanaticism?

We’re gonna get loud and rowdy. It’s always a good time and I rarely disappoint. Not that I haven’t ever disappointed.

What’s your most memorable LA experience?

One of my most enjoyable moments was when I was playing at the House of Blues and Billy Gibbons showed up and afterward I got to hang out with him for a half an hour or so. That was a big deal for me cause he’s been a big influence on me. I love ZZ Top. I’m from Texas, though, so I kind of have to.


Catch Scott H. Biram at the Echo March 13th. Click for Details. Nothin’ But Blood is available now.


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