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Published: 2009/07/31
by MIke Greenhaus

Multi-Tasking with The Drive-By Truckers

Patterson Hood is a busy man. Earlier this year, his longtime band appeared on keyboardist Booker T’s first album in a decade, Potato Hole, and this June he released his first solo album Murdering Oscar (And Other Love Songs). In addition, the Drive-By Truckers are set to release both a DVD, Live from Austin TX and a B-Sides collecation, The Fine Print (A Collection of Oddities and Rarities 2003-2008), as well as a new studio album in the coming months. Below, Hood and Truckers bassist Shonna Tucker give us an update on Truckers’ various studio projects and recent collaborations.

Patterson Hood is a busy man. Earlier this year, his longtime band appeared on keyboardist Booker Ts first album in a decade, Potato Hole, and this June he released his first solo album Murdering Oscar (And Other Love Songs). In addition, the Drive-By Truckers are set to release both a DVD, Live from Austin TX and a B-Sides collecation, The Fine Print (A Collection of Oddities and Rarities 2003-2008), as well as a new studio album in the coming months. Below, Hood and Truckers bassist Shonna Tucker give us an update on Truckers various studio projects and recent collaborations.

[For more on Patterson Hood please read his recent interview in the August/September issue of Relix.

Patterson, you are currently working on a number of different projects, both on your own and with the Drive-By Truckers. Can you start by giving us a little State of the Union on all that you have going on?

PH: We finished mixing the Drive-By Truckers collection of outtakes and oddities and rarities that we’re putting out in September. We’re gonna master it on Thursday and then Monday we’re back to work for two weeks on the next official Drive By-Truckers record, which will be coming out at the beginning of the year. Plus, I [just did] a few dates with my solo album and played with Booker T. So it’s all kind of in one direction and I can sleep in my own bed. Multi-tasking kills me. I’m a one thing at a time kind of guy. It was a brutal month. It was all cool, great stuff, but the whiplash effect from it all was kind of overwhelming for me. I’m glad that this month all that I really have to think about it just a few things and they’re all in the same direction. Plus, I taught a class at Princeton, did the Seeger birthday party at Madison Square Garden and covered a Collins song for some crazy benefit in Atlanta.

Some of the tracks on the new Drive-By Truckers album date back to 2005. What took so long to release this project?

PH: It’s more music business stuff. There’s a strange grey area in our last record contract about exactly what was allowed and not allowed concerning solo side projects and that led to a disagreement and a standoff and one thing let to another and of course my opportunities to put it out have been limited because I’ve been really, really super busy with the band. When I made it in January of ’05, I thought it would come out in the spring or early summer, pretty much the time the band would have been going in to start recording the album and that became a blessing and a curse. So when that didn’t work out, I was busy touring for a couple years behind that record. And then the next chance I got I still couldn’t come to an agreement. So, I got busy doing something else.

You have collaborated with so many musicians over the years. Who did you initially approach to work on Murdering Oscar?

PH: There’s kind of a mixture of things. Some of which has turned out a little ironic in the years since I’ve recorded it. There were a couple of people specifically that I wanted to record with for these songs on this record. One of whom is John Neff who was an original member of the band but left the band pretty early on around the time of the second album. But we stayed friends and continued working together on a part time basis. And particularly when I did solo shows around Georgia and when the band is off I’d play with him. I’ve always loved his playing and for these songs I particularly heard him on a bunch of them and now he’s in the band. And I guess about a year or so after I recorded Murdering Oscar he started playing the band again, now as a full time member. That was part of it. Part of it was I was gonna be home awaiting the birth of my daughter and couldn’t be on the road. I started working on this album right before she was born and now she is 4 and ½. We had toured so much and the band wanted a break. But the studio is five minutes from my house. Anyone that has a pregnant wife in her ninth month knows that sometimes having a place five minutes away to go to for a few hours a day is not a bad thing.

Also on the record are Scott Danbom and Will Johnson from Centro-Matic, who was one of my favorite bands and David Barbe, who has raised three wonderful kids who are now young adults. It wasn’t really a bad thing for me to hang out with him a bunch for a couple of weeks before the birth of my first child to get some good advice while we made a record. And he’s produced maybe four Drive-By Truckers records but I didn’t get to play with him as a musician at that point. And he’s one of my favorite bass players in the world. He’s phenomenal. I was a big Sugar fan. I was a big Mercy and fan and most of his other bands he’s played guitar in mostly for the last ten or fifteen years. He’s an incredible bass player. And so I kinda specifically wanted him to play bass on the record. I also wanted to record with my dad who’s a great bass player and we’ve never recorded together and it was a chance to work on that. So it kinda was all of the above all put together. The songs that were the foundation of the record all date back to before the Drive-By Truckers and the new songs I wrote for the record I wrote to go with those old songs. And that’s how the song cycle came about. So it just seems like a fitting project to do as a solo project even though all the band plays on it in various forms. It seemed like a good time to do something like that.

Were you continually working on the album over those four years?

PH: I recorded a chunk of it in 2005 and, every now and then, I would go back and revisit it or write a new song that I thought really fit the songs that I had so I’d go in and cut that. I just like to refer to it as music business bullshit. I have a life-long distaste for most of the music business shenanigans. I’ve never really held that high of a regard, which I’m sure made me not that easy to get along with sometimes from the point of view of the people in the music business. To me so much of what goes on in the business goes against what goes on creatively, and sometimes to the detriment of the business, in my opinion, is why the business has had so many problems in the last few years. I think it got into such a cycle of thinking short term profit they quit building artist careers. I think that led to the downturn of the music industry that we used to know. And ironically, since the industry kind of collapsed, we’ve done better. We’re not having to compete with the manufactured pre-programmed pretty boys that so much of the industry has been geared toward promoting. And taking that out of the equation has actually been kind of good for us.

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