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An Interview with Jimbo of Reverend Horton Heat

by Alicia Downs, March 10, 2002

What exactly defines tolerance levels? Well, if you ask some Dallas people, rumor has it that Rev. Horton Heatís (aka Jim Heath), is a half a bottle of Jager, a case of beer, and a fifth of vodka. And that is before sound check. 

While the rumors of the Reverendís love of liquor, trucks, and all things Southern is a thing of wild speculation and party tales, when you get down to it, the band is more a bunch of good old time rock'n'rollers than temperamental alcoholics. So with that in mind, on a very cold and very rainy Saturday night, I entered the home of the Reverend Horton Heat - a tour bus parked on 10th and Arch - to talk with bass player Jimbo about the new album "Lucky 7" and all those rumors.

Rough Edge: One of the jokes is that your recurrent "theme" in music is liquor, beer, women, and big trucks. Is that about right?

Jimbo: (laughs) Yeah, that seems to be what our current theme is and throughout our entire career.

Rough Edge: So would you say that down home Texas pride is your biggest inspiration?

Jimbo: It would have to be. Texans are really proud of Texans...

Rough Edge: And their guns and liquor...

Jimbo: And their trucks.

Rough Edge: Speaking of liquor, let me get this rumor out there that I heard about the Reverend. Something to the effect that he can consume half a bottle of Jager, a case of beer, and a fifth of vodka before sound check?

Jimbo: (Laughs) Uh, not true! See everything become legendary but we have done our share of drinking but no ...

Rough Edge: No? At least not before sound check? Maybe after?

Jimbo: Well, on a good day.

Rough Edge: How are you enjoying this tour with Nashville Pussy?

Jimbo: Itís been really good. I watch those guys play every night. Itís just a lot of fun.

Rough Edge: How have the audiences been?

Jimbo: Crazy. Just really good.

Rough Edge: This tour is running through till May?

Jimbo: Yeah I believe so. We have some nine days off and then we go back out in April for a little while.

Rough Edge: Is that going to be another headlining tour?

Jimbo: Weíre not sure. Nashville Pussy might be continuing on and then weíre off for a couple of months.

Rough Edge: Looking to go back home to the big "D." Excited about that?

Jimbo: Yeah. We get a day off maybe one every six days so we are real excited when we get some time off.

Rough Edge: "Lucky 7" is the new release and what can everyone expect to hear this time around?

Jimbo: People have been telling me that it has been reminding them of some of our early stuff. I like every record and I think this one has got a lot of energy. Itís got the aggressive stuff that people like about us and itís also got mellow songs.

Rough Edge: This marks your debut with Artemis ...

Jimbo: Right...

Rough Edge: You guys were with Sub Pop / Interscope before. How is Artemis as a home?

Jimbo: Theyíve been great to us. They made the tour posters up and actually contacted Nascar and got one of our songs on the Daytona 500.

Rough Edge: Yes, "Like a Rocket."

Jimbo: Yeah.

Rough Edge: I watched. I was listening and I was like, "Did I just hear that?"

Jimbo: Yeah.

Rough Edge: So that was all Artemis? I was going to ask you about that.

Jimbo: Yeah. They are not afraid. Some of the other labels we were on donít really know what to do with us. But Artemis is brainstorming and coming up with things for us to do. The Conan OíBrian Show ...

Rough Edge: Very cool. Were you surprised to find that "Like a Rocket" had gotten chosen by Nascar? I mean, that is a HUGE audience...

Jimbo: Thatís right up our alley. You know a bunch of rednecks and race cars.

Rough Edge: Hey, I watch Nascar and Iím not a redneck!

Jimbo: (laughs) Well, you know!

Rough Edge: So that was definitely a highlight because I have no idea how many but there are just millions that see that.

Jimbo: I know, it is almost like the Superbowl. 

Rough Edge: One of the things I have heard is that "Lucky 7" is more of a return to the rockabilly roots . Was that intentional? I want to say that you guys were being a little more experimental with "Space Heater" and...

Jimbo: Oh yeah. We tried to keep it stripped down this time and not overdub anything that you canít play live. It turned out to be what we do best.

Rough Edge: So the strip down was very intentional?

Jimbo: Yes. Just do what we do live and not try to layer anything. Guitar, bass drums - keep it simple. 

Rough Edge: You guys are known as being a touring machine and have done some eight albums in ten years ...

Jimbo: Yeah.

Rough Edge: Do you ever get tired?

Jimbo: Oh, yeah. We get a day off tomorrow though.

Rough Edge: Ever feel like there is a day where you wake up and donít want to do it?

Jimbo: Well, sometimes. But when you finally walk on stage, if you have ever been on stage, your adrenaline gets going. 

Rough Edge: So it just pays off in the long run?

Jimbo: Yeah. Weíre constant professionals.

Rough Edge: It just seems like it would get old to me after a while.

Jimbo: Well, it does. But weíve got the best job in the world.

Rough Edge: I have heard the new album being labeled "Psychobilly." What exactly is that to you?

Jimbo: (laughs) well you take Rockabilly and I guess you speed it up a bit. It is traditionally rockabilly to another level. I think that is a European term that was coined actually a while ago...

Rough Edge: And I guess it was stolen by our unoriginal American writers.

Jimbo: Yeah. Actually I think it is meant to be a cross between like rockabilly and punk rock. Johnny Cash actually used that word in a song before any writers started using it. I canít remember the song but he coined the term "psychobilly Cadillac."

Rough Edge: Hey, Cadillacs are cool and Amarillo has the Cadillac graveyard.

Jimbo: Yeah, they do. I have driven past there I think once. 

Rough Edge: Yeah, that is about the highlight of Amarillo.

Jimbo: But itís pretty cool.

Rough Edge: Oh, yeah, it is cool. What do you think about the music scene in Texas, or more specifically, Dallas?

Jimbo: Well, I am hardly ever there so I donít really know what is going on. I know the Toadies finally broke up.

Rough Edge: I loved the Toadies and Tripping Daisy but now there seems to be a resurgence of the metal wave coming out of there.

Jimbo: Oh, really? Thatís cool - I love Pantera.

Rough Edge: Have you heard the new Down album?

Jimbo: No, not yet.

Rough Edge: Itís amazing!

Jimbo: So you listen to all types of music then?

Rough Edge: I try to listen to everything but, you know, Polka hasnít won me over just yet. Now, you guys have a cult like following of fans...

Jimbo: Thatís what they say.

Rough Edge: What is that like - do you have any psycho fan stories for me?

Jimbo: Hmm, psycho fan stories... I hate to reveal all my inner most secrets but you know there are some crazy fans out there.

Rough Edge: Anything in particular that stands out? 

Jimbo: I guess we have had near stalkers before. After about the third show of them being right up front but you know thatís cool...

Rough Edge: So you donít mind the stalkers?

Jimbo: Not at all. We had a girl, you know, jump on stage last night and take her top off on stage. 

Rough Edge: Thatís not too bad.

Jimbo: I know. But usually they do it from the crowd. But she did it on stage. And we started playing the stripper drum beat. Thatís just a typical night for us.

Rough Edge: One of the biggest things people talk about is the live show, of course. What do you hope people get out of the live show or more so when you get out there what are you thinking?

Jimbo: Weíre not out to really accomplish anything. We are good at what we do and we like playing music. We feel like if you had a good time then we did our job. (Interviewers note: Jimbo has this look on his face like what a stupid question.)

Rough Edge: Man, okay, so that was a lame question. I try but sometimes you just donít want to get too creative. Itís like I could ask you something along the lines of "If the three of you were on an island who would you eat first and why?" But why ask someone that? That just doesnít seem fair. 

Jimbo: (laughing) Well, you know, I feel like I am on an island sometimes with these guys on this bus. Well - itís more like a submarine.

Rough Edge: Really? Kind of like "Survivor" - vote him off and throw his ass out on 95?

Jimbo: Yeah. Some days, like right now, we have seen about enough of each other. We have played about six shows and we have about one left in us and we get a day off. And on our day off we just all go to our rooms and donít see each other (laughing).

Rough Edge: You guys blend a lot of genres in your music. And, although I do think the influence question is clichťd, anytime you have musicians that blend a lot of lines I like to ask it. So, what do you guys dig on?

Jimbo: Jim has a lot of different influences as does Scott and I. You know we all have completely different influences. I like a lot of like Buddy Holly, Ramones, Johnny Thunder, New York Dolls. Jim likes Jerry Lee Lewis and a lot of jazz guitarists. Of course we both like surf music and I think it kind of just blends together. 

Rough Edge: What is the weirdest CD I might find in your collection?

Jimbo: Oh. Well, I get a lot of CDs from people at shows. There is a lot of great bands out there that arenít signed and some of the best stuff I have gotten is from people at shows.

Rough Edge: Speaking of, what are your thoughts on the business aspect of it all? I know a lot of great bands that either donít get signed or get dropped and it seems like it takes away so much from the potential for good music out there.

Jimbo: Itís really funny because when you are a struggling musician you barely have enough money to scrape together to buy and amplifier and then when you finally make it big they want to give you everything and now you can afford it. When you couldnít afford it you had to buy it. 

Rough Edge: (laughs) Kind of like doctors - the poor sick people have to pay but the fellow rich doctors get comp-ed.

Jimbo: Exactly. 

Rough Edge: Professional courtesy supposedly.

Jimbo: Itís just crazy. A lot of people say that about the business. You know we try our best to wash our hands of the business side. 

Rough Edge: That is definitely an association with RHH that you are more into the music and more into the people then business and marketing but really how feasible is that when this is your livelihood?

Jimbo: You have to keep an eye on the business aspects of it but it is not something I dwell on. Not something that keeps me motivated you know?

Rough Edge: Well, you guys are making it so you must be doing something right. 

Jimbo: We are really lucky that we get to do this, we have done it without any hits on the radio or anything and yet for all these years we have been able to do it. 

Rough Edge: And I guess that goes back to having such a dedicated cult-like following. You have people that are going to buy the records and come to see the live shows and merch of course... 

Jimbo: Well, we have a whole flea market out there now.

Rough Edge: So, what are you listening to right now? Any new things?

Jimbo: Well, I just bought the ... well, itís not new itís reissued- Ramones record. So that is what I have been listening to. 

Rough Edge: Still not into the new scene at all?

Jimbo: Not really. I donít get a chance to go out and see a lot of the younger acts.

Rough Edge: Any song on "Lucky 7" you are particularly fond of?

Jimbo: I like "Big Blue Car" and "Like a Rocket."

Rough Edge: "Like a Rocket" is great.

Jimbo: Weíre going to be playing that tonight.

Rough Edge: I had wanted to ask you that considering all the material you have to cover how do you pick?

Jimbo: Well, we play for nearly two hours and sometimes we vary the set. You know we try to cover a little from all the records. I think we play six songs off the new album and then the stuff we have to play.

Rough Edge: Gotta play me something off "Liquor in the front, Poker in the Rear"-- that is my favorite.

Jimbo: Definitely. That is everyoneís favorite album.

Rough Edge: I think the first song I heard was "Five O Ford" after I had moved to Dallas. I had moved down there and I had listened to hip-hop before...

Jimbo: And itís a whole new world down there!

Rough Edge: When you started out did you guys set any goals and have you achieved them?

Jimbo: Well, when we started out I think we just wanted to be able to do this for a living and so far we have been lucky enough to be able to do that. Of course, everybody wants to be a rock star, but I donít feel like one of them and we donít act like one. You know, we are just doing what we love. 

Rough Edge: So you have accomplished the goal.

Jimbo: Yeah I guess so.

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Copyright © 2002 by R. Scott Bolton. All rights reserved.
Revised: 23 Aug 2016 22:57:11 -0400