Panic, Ginsberg, The Velvets & Exile : Daniel Hutchens talks about Bloodkin’s One Long Hustle
If you don’t mind, I’m going to share something that David wrote to me about you and Eric.
[I read the Barbe quote from the introduction to this interview.]
Man … that’s one of the best things I’ve ever heard said about us. That means a lot, coming from him.
Well, you know as well as I do that David wouldn’t say it unless he meant it.
Absolutely. And like you said, he was there for us when we were in really tough times. A good example of this was Last Night Out that we started working on in the fall of 2004. That was my personal low point, okay? Really fucked up. And David just called me one day and said, “We need to make a record.” (laughs) I was too out of it to really grasp it at the time, but looking back I realize David was doing that because he saw me in trouble. He knew I needed something to do – all I was doing was laying around Athens getting wasted and it was no secret. But he put me to work. We didn’t have any money to pay for it, but it was “on the tab.”
David makes things happen. He says, “Let’s make a record,” and I’m thinking, “Our band’s just broken up,” you know? The next day he calls me back and he’s found a drummer and a bass player. (laughs) That’s how we did Last Night Out – with Kyle Spence on drums and Jon Mills, who’s our full-time bass player now. They’d never played together before, but on the basis of that record, other people hired them to do records. That was all from David just knowing … he’s a big part of the team, man. And a big part of the Athens music scene and the community in general. He’s in his prime right now and everything he does sounds like a million bucks. People are picking up on that more and more; I can’t see a reason to ever go anywhere else.
With 88 tracks spread over the 5 discs in the One Long Hustle box set, there’s no way to talk about each song individually. The one tune I did want to be sure to ask you about is “God’s Bar”. Here it is: you have this epic song – close to 13 minutes – that you’d worked on for years, according to the liner notes. But when it got ready to come out – BANG! – you guys nailed it.
Here was the beautiful thing about that song – and it’s one of the highlights of making music in my life. I’d worked on the thing forever, as you said. It was a short story at first; I used to mess around with different writing styles – short stories, poetry or whatever – but I’d never done any of it enough to really be that good at it. (laughs) So I had this basic idea of a short story that I ultimately turned into a song because I figured I could do that better. But it was really long … and it was basically two songs.
We went into the studio with the idea that we were going to record the first part of “God’s Bar”; then record the second part; and then we’d splice them together. We went into the studio that day and played the whole thing through once. And that’s what you hear on the record – one take.
Yeah. And to this day, that kind of amazes me. I think it was because there was no pressure; it was like we were testing stuff out and really didn’t think that was going to be the take. (laughter) I can’t explain it; it just happened.
Sometimes you just have to accept things and not try to analyze them too much, I think.
Exactly – and I’d been over-thinking it, getting too complicated about how we were going to split it up and splice it back together and all. We just sat down and played the song – and it worked.
It goes from the stark, haunting vibe of the first section to the crunchy, Stonesy twang of the second portion …
And the great thing about the two contrasting parts is that Lancaster – the main character in the song – gets to the other side of what he’s been through … there’s some light at the end.
Yeah, that’s right.
I’m struggling for better words to describe that second half of the song … but I can’t come up with any. You know, when it comes to your rocking moments, you guys are forever doomed to be saddled with Exile On Main Street comparisons. (laughter)
Yeah, I know. (laughter) But we always loved that album –so it’s an okay curse to have. I think even the Stones are cursed with it. (laughter)
You know, to us – to a lot of people, man – that is the record. It’s the story; the mythology around it; hanging out at Keith Richards’ house and making a record in the basement … what could be greater? (laughter) Bobby Keys has been playing with us off and on for a few years and like he says, it wasn’t always a picnic, of course. But what a great rock ‘n’ roll album, man. There’s nothing else I’d rather hear as far as a rock ‘n’ roll record … it just sounds so great.
When we made our first record – Good Luck Charm – Johnny Sandlin was the producer. Great producer, but kind of old school, you know. He asked us to bring in some records to show him what we were shooting for and we brought in Exile.
Johnny was, like, “This sounds _terrible!_” (laughter) “We can beat this _right now!_”
And we said, “But you don’t understand …” (laughter) But yeah – it’s the high-water mark.
Well, then, I’m not going to worry about saying that “God’s Bar” could’ve closed out Exile On Main Street, then – just like it takes the box set out in this big burst of light.
You’re exactly right … it’s like reaching the end of a tunnel.
Towards the end of the essay you mention spirituality and its presence in your music right from the beginning – even as rough-and-tumble as things were at times. I think you refer to it as part of the quest. For you to acknowledge that out loud is another big part of you reaching a place of feeling settled.
Yeah – you’re right on the money. I’ve never been a church-going person or really involved with a particular religion, but I’ve always had a lot of questions. I’m not telling anybody what’s right or wrong – it’s very rock ‘n’ roll, if you can put it that way. It’s not like beautiful classical music; it has a lot of conflict and it’s loud and it’s messy. (laughs)
But it’s always been important to me. Going back through these recordings and putting this box set together, I realized how much it was always there. It was always a theme, but it was never like preaching to somebody, saying, “This is it” – or, “I’ve got the answer here.”
But yeah, that’s always been important to me.
And however you apply it, whether you have to be inside the four walls of a building or standing down here on the shore looking out over the water – wherever you feel the closest to whatever it is you believe in.
Yeah, and I think it’s different for different people. I was talking to someone who was a really hardcore fundamentalist – kind of an extremist. And they told me that what they were doing was like their “spiritual boot camp” and it’s what they needed … and I got that. I couldn’t last in that and it wouldn’t work for me. But it comes to different people in different ways.
And if the world could get ahold of that way of thinking and accept it … there goes so much of your conflict and turmoil.
That’s exactly right, man. It’s a huge percentage of the problems in this world.
Maybe if everybody listened to more rock ‘n roll …
Maybe that’s it – maybe that’s the answer. (laughter)
Brian Robbins keeps the faith over at www.brian-robbins.com