Panic, Ginsberg, The Velvets & Exile : Daniel Hutchens talks about Bloodkin’s One Long Hustle
From The Gospel Of Thomas :
“If you bring forth what is within you, what you bring forth will save you. If you do not bring forth what is within you, what you do not bring forth will destroy you.”
Daniel Hutchens and Eric Carter have spent their lives bringing forth what is within them – and still nearly destroyed themselves in the process.
Though the friendship between Hutchens and Carter goes back even further, their Athens, GA-based band Bloodkin has been in existence for 25 years. Anyone who knows the story will tell you it hasn’t been an easy 25 years – Hutchens and Carter have lost too many friends along the way; they’ve used themselves pretty hard at times; and though peers such as Drive-By Trucker Patterson Hood refer to them as a favorite band, Bloodkin has never received the mainstream attention that they should. (Making Spin Magazine ’s list of “The 100 Greatest Bands You’ve (Probably) Never Heard” pretty well sums it up.)
It matters not: though the lineups have changed over the years, Hutchens and Carter have remained at the nucleus of Bloodkin, churning out well-written tunes, playing sweat-soaked rock ‘n’ roll, and keeping it real – through good times and bad.
The new box set One Long Hustle is a collection of previously unreleased Bloodkin songs recorded between 1987 and 2012. The settings for these recordings range from late-night living room sessions with a cassette recorder to Bloodkin’s modern-day “home court” studio, Athens’ Chase Park Transduction – with long-time friend and producer David Barbe behind the board. Some cuts are simply Hutchens and Carter with acoustic guitars; much of the collection features the revolving Bloodkin lineups; and there are cameos by friends – including the Widespread Panic family. For years, these recordings were nothing more than a pile of tapes in cardboard boxes – one of the few things that Daniel Hutchens kept a grip on … in a number of ways.
We had the opportunity to talk with Daniel recently about some of the chapters in Bloodkin’s history – from amazing people who have crossed his path over the years to the recent one-take session that produced the epic “God’s Bar” that takes One Long Hustle home. Along the way, Daniel openly shared his thoughts about a number of subjects; the man speaks with the same kind of honesty and openness that he writes with.
Before we begin, let me share this note from producer David Barbe that he wrote to me regarding Daniel Hutchens and Eric Carter:
Danny and Eric are the two great lost souls of rock ‘n’ roll. Even at their most decadent depths, they were always great to work with – good humored, open-minded, generous to a fault, and above all creative as hell, always channeling themselves into their music. Working with them on the box was essentially like working with someone on their autobiography with nothing held back. Only true believers travel a path like theirs and stay on it for this long.
BR: Daniel, your essay “The Bloodkin Story” in the booklet that comes with One Long Hustle is worth the price of admission all by itself. That’s one honest and powerful piece of writing.
DH: I appreciate that, man. From when we started assembling this thing in the studio to when it was spit out was about seven years – off and on, you know. And a lot happened in those seven years (laughs) … so I updated this thing a lot, too. I worked as hard on writing that piece as anything, so I appreciate you saying that – it means a lot.
In that essay, you get the point across that no matter what else was going on in your life – even during some of the really hard years – you managed to keep the tapes of this music that’s on One Long Hustle safe, carrying them with you from place to place. To me, it’s a statement of how secure you are in your life these days to feel all right about doling this music out … it’s a tribute to your family, for one thing, that you’ve taken the music out of those boxes and put it into this box.
That’s a really good point.
I mean, for a while the band and the music was what my whole life was about. It was just really important to me and I kind of let everything else fall to pieces (laughs) … but the music was the thing I had to keep together, for my own peace of mind.
Once we started this box set project, then I had to see it through to completion … and to finish it and actually release it is kind of like a load off my mind. It was feeling incomplete up to that point – I had to see it through to its completion. In a way it was kind of bittersweet, you know? It was such a big chunk of my life … but I was really just glad to finish it.
So, yeah, that was my priority for a number of years. These days I have a family … hopefully, my horizons have expanded a little bit. (laughter)
I loved the line about when you finish writing a song these days – even if you hole up for a bit to do it – you said, “When I finish the song and walk out of that room, I’m actually walking back into a life.” That’s a great thing to hear, man – good for you.
That’s the truth. That was a little bit of my problem for a while. Just recently Eric Carter and I got in this conversation about obsessive-compulsive disorder – I don’t remember how we got into it – and how everybody has some degree of that. I mean, I’ve heard people that have known what they’re talking about say that … it’s just a matter of how much it affects your life, you know?
That was my example of that, I think – the music was my obsession.
What physical form were all these recordings in? I have this picture in my head of cardboard boxes of cassettes and reel-to-reels … this big pile that you lugged from place-to-place.
Just what you said: it was in every format that you could name … from 2” reel-to-reels to a lot of DATs [digital audio tapes] from back in the days when we used them … cassette tapes … just about anything you could think of. All told, it was quite a load to carry around and took up a lot of space (laughs). Especially all the reel-to-reels.
These days David Barbe is keeping lot of that stuff in his studio for me so I (laughs) don’t have to stumble over it anymore.
Did you ever come close to losing these recordings?
You know, for a couple years of my life, what I literally owned was just a van, my music equipment – some guitars and amps – some clothes, a few books, and these tapes. I had them in the van and took them wherever I went. If I was, like, staying with a friend somewhere for a while, the tapes were with me. That was my peace of mind – the one thing I kept watch over and took care of – including myself. (laughs)
I was at loose ends everywhere else, but for some reason, that was the thing that … I don’t know … I kept hold of.
It’s amazing – considering that some of the music dates back to the 80s and covers some pretty rough territory – that you were able to document and credit so many of the various players involved. There’s everything from stuff done in folks’ home studios to recordings made on a cassette sitting on the couch somewhere.
That’s another thing – and I’m not trying to be too light-hearted about the obsessive-compulsive disorder … I don’t have any reason to think I’m technically in that category, but who knows? – I was always meticulous about that kind of stuff. I had the masters; I had all the notes about who played on what; that was kind of my thing.
As you dug into the recordings to compile the box set, were there any surprises?
There were a whole lot of surprises. Not so much a song that we’d forgotten about, but just to hear some of the stuff that I hadn’t listened to for a long, long time. There are songs that I love very much – more than I remembered – and there were also some stinkers (laughter): “Man, that’s terrible!” So it was a matter of hearing it all again and my reaction to it – positive or negative.