For nearly 25 years, Reverend Horton Heat has been bringing its brand of punked up rockabilly to the masses around the world. With bits of humor tossed into the mix from time to time, singer Jim Heath felt it was time to focus on that side of the group and explore more of the country side of rockabilly. The band's latest release, Laughin' & Cryin' with the Reverend Horton Heat, is the result. We recently caught up with Heath by phone while he was spending a rainy day off in Omaha, Neb., to ask about the new album and the band's upcoming tour with Motorhead.
Creative Loafing: I know that Lemmy joined you on stage last year, but what's the history there -- have you ever toured with Motorhead or done any recording with them?
Jim Heath: With Motorhead, not at all. We did a recording that is yet-to-be-released. He wrote a couple of songs that were recorded backing him up. That led to the deal where he came out on stage with us. In the middle part of our set, the crew guys brought his amp out and set it up and played six or eight songs with us.
Any chance of you joining them or him joining you on the tour?
I don't know about that. We'll have to see how things go.
How did this tour come about?
I really think a lot had to do with Lemmy wanting us to be on tour with him. He wanted us and another of his favorite bands is Nashville Pussy and it's us and them. I imagine it had a lot to do with him. You know, the powers that be... who knows what all went on behind the scenes. I just heard it was going to happen and we're glad to be doing it. What's good for us to is -- once a year, we used to do some kind of a trip with a band that's way bigger than us and we'd go out and open up. That's always been something that's been good for us and fun to do and we haven't done that for a long time.
It's definitely an interesting pairing.
Yeah, considering where we're at right now -- we're releasing a country album and going on a heavy metal tour. I'm not exactly sure about that. One of the keys to my career is that I've always done stuff that -- the best stuff was the stuff that was different and odd and not the planned-out obvious stuff. I think it will somehow work. We have a pretty big following across the country in a lot of these markets so a lot of our fans are going to be there and want to hear some of the new songs. It'll be different, but, you know...hey.
As far as the new album, it's your first album in five years with Reverend Horton Heat -- you had the Rev. Organdrum album in there. Was that part of the reason for the delay?
Not necessarily ... Not musical things, but general life things that forestalled the album. I've been -- throughout most of my career -- diligent about getting a new album out every two years, every two years. We did that for so long that it almost kind of made our fans mad. When you come out with a new album, the sad thing is that it makes a lot of your old fans mad because, 'Hey these songs aren't like the other ones!' Well, they're not those songs. They have a preconceived notion of what it's going to be, but it's never that way because it's new material. They're not used to the new album, but then it grows on them and then by the time they start to really like it, you hit 'em with another new album. [laughs] And then they're mad again. I figured it was kinda cool to just wait longer anyway, but it was coupled in with a bunch of life issues -- my mother passed away and I had a lot to deal with with that and being there with my family. Another thing to that's bumming me out [laughs] -- Reverend Horton Heat is a fairly successful entity now and that means endless dealings with bookkeeping, taxes, lawyers ... stuff. Stuff that I never imagined. [laughs] That's why I play guitar and didn't finish business school. I'm not going to complain too much about any of that, but I have to make sure that the business side of Reverend Horton Heat is in order.
Why kind of outlet was the Organdrum stuff for you? Was it just to take a break from Horton Heat?
Yeah. At the end of every album cycle, I always look for something else to do that's going to make me a better musician/singer/songwriter. At the end of a particular album, I might have gone out and gotten a book about Nashville guitar style or maybe I wanted to read about music theory. We finished the album Revival around 1994 and I was sitting with the keyboard player, Tim Alexander, and going, 'I want to do some music theory stuff because I'm getting into the Hammond organ sound so I'd like to learn how to incorporate that.' He said, 'You know, I was always wanting to do an organ trio. If you and me got some songs together and found a drummer in the neighborhood, we could do some full-on gigs.' It's been a fun deal. When I get to do those gigs, I get to basically be a sideman. In Reverend Horton Heat, I'm the be-all, end-all -- not to take anything away from Jimbo or slight what the other guys do -- they are very, very, very crucial -- I'm not having to sing lead and be the front man the whole time. I'm able to show up and play little club gigs and it's fun.