By LA Weekly
By Henry Rollins
By Weekly Photographers
By Shea Serrano
By Nate "Igor" Smith
By Dan Weiss
By Erica E. Phillips
By Kai Flanders
|Photo by Jack Gould|
THE FLUSH-FACED RANGE RIDERS OF DRUNK Horse are crammed in their van with a post-gig case of Budweiser. They've just laid down a sweaty slaminar in rock & roll at Spaceland, and here, in the misty chill of a January night, is their reward. For all you do, Drunk Horse, this Bud's for you.
|Listen to Drunk Horse:
Other things Drunk Horse are not: a joke band, or street-cred posers, or "purveyors of 'Fashion Music,' in all its ugly, soulless forms" (as a "no thanks" on their 1999 debut CD had it).
Or romantic balladeers. Eckert, the main songwriter, just never left his heart in San Francisco. "You can't fake that, you can't . . ." Crooning, he demonstrates: "'I remember, I saw you there . . . beautiful hair!'" He's right, it would not work. More like "Ain't got no use for my dignity/This temperamental woman is the one for me." That's about as close to amore as Eckert gets.
To describe what the Drunk Horse sound is . . . Well, there are riffs, riffs that could've been yanked from any early-'70s album by Aerosmith or Lynyrd Skynyrd, loads thereof. These are generally employed at the service of sleazy butt-burners like "Ass Out/Passed Out" (self- explanatory), "Lube Job" (subtlety itself) or "Tanning Salon" (about a UV booth with a peephole in it). Or several guitar figures can be linked together illogically but brilliantly in smoke-outs like the slow-building arpeggiated horror "White Lady of the Mesa" or the rock-kills-jazz epic "Is, Was . . . (And Ever Shall Be)" ("on the infinite, eternal and generally lengthy," expounds its CD caption).
If that last title sounds evangelistic, it is, being a selection from the second half of the group's 2001 CD, Tanning Salon/Biblical Proportions. Eckert comes by his Scripture honestly, having been raised Catholic and dragged into church twice every Sunday. He gleaned material aplenty from the pulpit, mining the Good Book for songs like "Manchild" ("history's first asshole"), which is about Cain, one would guess, though it's hard to tell given that his divinely rockrollin' but essentially unmelodious voice wails only just above the surface of the band's stormy flood, even on record.
Same goes for live, where Drunk Horse kick with a really impressive combination of togetherness and feel. Drummer Cripe Jergensen is all over the rhythmic accents and all over the cymbals, but with the help of bassist Cyrus Comiskey's lowdown slide he keeps the lurchy riffs driving forward and the female fans' asses shaking. Though the hunched, hair-in-face Eckert could hardly less resemble the erect, geeky Niles, they play like a unit, improvising a bit but not really soloing, their guitars delivering the beef through Ampeg amplifiers older than they are. (Horse members range in age from 24 to 28.)
What's the deal with these ancient tube amps, choice of the Rolling Stones in the early '70s? Do they endorse 'em?
Niles: "I endorse Ampeg. They don't endorse us!"
Eckert: "I endorse the V-4 head that they don't make anymore."
Niles: "We're basically endorsing the amp-repair technician."
Who's the group's responsible party? "We take turns being irresponsible."
Are their wives and girlfriends happy they're rock musicians? Niles: "Yes! I have neither." No comment from Eckert, who wears his wedding band onstage.
What do they do in the studio to get into the right mood to produce their inimitable sound? "What we're doing right now." "Yeah -- drink!"
Eckert: "We record the basic tracks as a full live band. We don't record the drums to a click track. We try not to do too many takes -- we use the first good take that doesn't have a major clam in it. Usually vocals are done in a very inebriated state.
"I'm a little bit of a control freak," Eckert admits. "I'll have a really precise idea of how I want the drums to fit in, in the context of a riff. A riff is like a blank canvas. You've got your colors on the side, and you've got your canvas, and it's what you do with those colors."
Niles: "Sometimes it's all pink and mauve."
Somebody jokes that Drunk Horse are influenced by Penderecki and Varèse -- mispronouncing the latter, as of course one should, though slipping into shameful accuracy with the former. And actually, some of their CD interludes suggest the remark isn't entirely facetious. All agree that Pink Floyd's Meddle is awesome. They divide, however, on the value of Dark Side of the Moon, half of them praising the songwriting, half saying the disc sucks. A small part of the Drunk Horse aesthetic perhaps echoes Floyd's early instrumental side.